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Catch 130 Hot New Films At the Chicago International Film Fest

By Joel Wicklund in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 23, 2015 3:49PM

John Turturro in CIFF opening night feature, “Mia Madre” (Photo © 2015 Le Pacte)

With the full schedule finally released, Windy City movie junkies can now plan how to best feed their habit at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival (Oct. 15-29). While it may not be as easy to overdose as it was at the recently completed Toronto International Film Festival (where a ridiculous 400-plus films were shown), devoted attendees do have a healthy menu of over 130 features to choose from.

Of the films selected for the main competition, 45 Years has probably received the most buzz. Star Charlotte Rampling is already being mentioned as an Oscar contender for her performance in this British film about a married couple facing new stresses on their 45th anniversary. But My Golden Days, from much-admired French auteur Arnaud Desplechin (My Sex Life…or How I Got Into an Argument), and The Treasure, directed by Romanian New Wave favorite Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest) will also draw big crowds.

Though the changing and often unpredictable course of film distribution makes it harder, it's always a smarter strategy to pick out promising movies unlikely to play anywhere other than the festival. In that light, as high as anticipation is for films like Todd Haynes' Carol, Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, or Jacques Audiard’s Deephan (all highlighted in our recent look at the festival's “Sneak Peek”), there's no need to rush to see these at CIFF, as all will get prominent local releases down the line. Ditto for The 33 and Brooklyn, both of which will get big Oscar pushes along with Carol.

As a fall festival, CIFF always books a few buzzworthy films that open commercially very shortly—sometimes only days—after the festival concludes. But the real head-scratcher this year is The Assassin, which won Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien Best Director honors at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The Assassin will play Oct. 21 and 23 at CIFF, while the film's American distributor Well Go USA currently lists it as opening officially in Chicago on Oct. 23 at The Music Box and AMC's River East 21—the latter being home base for CIFF. We're not sure if this means the movie will play at the River East as part of the fest and simultaneously a standard release, but either way it seems a little late to the party to list it as one of the festival's "Highlight Films."

But why quibble about a few questionable inclusions when there is so much of interest—and so much relatively unknown—to explore? Beyond the features, the too-often neglected short films will also get a generous spotlight, with eight different programs, as well as select shorts playing before some features. Documentaries, both feature-length and short form, are also well represented, including In Jackson Heights, the latest from doc legend Frederick Wiseman, still going strong at age 85.

After last year's enticing inclusion of Alfred Hitchcock’s underrated Jamaica Inn and the rediscovered silent comedy Why Be Good?, there was hope more revivals would be included in this year's program, but the number looks about the same. The restored, shot-in-Chicago Sherlock Holmes (recently given its regional big screen premiere at the Northbrook Public Library) and a showing of the Barbra Streisand favorite Funny Girl are among the stand-alone revivals. Others will show as part of tributes to composer Howard Shore (Martin Scorsese’s Hugo) and director Charles Burnett (To Sleep with Anger).

CIFF launches its second 50 years with its traditional gala opening night presentation. The featured film will be Mia Madre, from veteran Italian director Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room). Neither the director nor any of his stars (including John Turturro) have been announced as attending, but a prominent guest often appears on opening night, so stay tuned. The complete schedule and info on passes and tickets can be found at the CIFF website.