When It Comes To Film, No Compromise For Two Local Programmers

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 2, 2013 5:00PM

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Billy Wilder's classic comedy screens tonight at the Portage Theater
Yes, 2012 was the year film died. Long live film. As long as there's a print out there capable of running through one of their projectors, you can bet that Northwest Chicago Film Society programmers Kyle Westphal and Rebecca Hall will find a screen somewhere to show it on. Their new schedule is out and it's brimming with goodies, from the rare 1931 Spanish-language version of Dracula to Sam Peckinpah's cult item Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

In Part 1 of a look at the state of film, Westphal writes, "Film historians will likely look back on 2012 as the year that spelled the death knell for film as a mass medium." Between Kodak's bankruptcy and Fuji's announcement that it will cease production of most of its film stocks, Westphal paints a pretty grim portrait. In his view, directors like Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson are bravely tilting at windmills inexorably whirling into a digital future. So, can cinema be saved? "Not until we acknowledge the character of what we’re dealing with," he writes. "The tension between personal expression, corporate profit, artisanal craft, industrial economy-of-scale, technological innovation, built-in obsolescence, and physical frailty and decay is what makes film worth talking about in the first place." Part 2 hasn't been posted yet, but we're looking forward to reading the conclusion of his argument.

Meanwhile, in a nifty sketch from the Chicago Reader's 2012 People Issue, Rebecca Hall recounts her own personal journey to film exhibition. Because she was not allowed to watch TV as a kid, she did not see a lot of movies growing up. Then she moved to Chicago, where DOC Films at University of Chicago pulled back the curtain (as it has for so many of us). After sketching out the genesis of NWCFS, she summarizes their uncompromising perspective on exhibition: "Our priorities are weighted in such a way that if it was born on celluloid and we can't get celluloid, we won't show it." Then she sheepishly admits, "God, I don't know how to say any of this without sounding like an asshole."

If you're anxious to see some honest-to-God celluloid in action, get down to the Portage Theater this evening, where Some Like It Hot screens at 7:30. Tickets are $5.