Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Must-See Chicago

A heads-up for Chicago-area readers: screening for only five more days at the Art Institute, which is free all month, is Chicago-Scope, a collection of incredible films by Chicago filmmaker Tom Palazzolo that I can't possibly recommend highly enough. My friend Chip and I had the pleasure of a long chat with Tom Palazzolo on Vocalo in 2008, when we were organizing our '68 Democratic National Convention re-enactment. We knew that Palazzolo had been on the streets in '68, shooting the carnage, but I hadn't the faintest idea that he was such a legendary experimental filmmaker.

Palazzolo's footage from '68 is prominent in Love It/Leave It, the most haunting and effective of the four films shown here. It's a gaudy and disorienting collage of late-60s foment and excess, psychedelic cinema-verite that takes in the whole universe of weird vibrations going around that hot Chicago summer of '68--interweaving hippie marches and riot-squad training exercises with vaudevillian footage of suburban nudist contests and clown conventions, Independence Day parades and skid-row winos, all set to a whirling musique-concrete score featuring both Richard J. Daley and Merle Haggard.

Less political but equally mind-melting is O, made in 1967 and one of Palazzolo's earliest films--a dizzying paean to high-wire acrobats and Dada filmmaking. The other two films, while more stylistically conventional, are highly entertaining slices-of-life from a long-lost Chicago. Jerry's profiles a alarmingly manic south loop deli-owner whose epic berating of customers makes the Wiener's Circle look like a game of patty-cake, while Ricky and Rocky takes in a suburban, Polish-Italian wedding shower. The garish, early 70s fashions on display here--rayon floral-prints, severe eyewear and terrifying bouffants--are alone worth the price of admission. Which, as previously mentioned, is free.

Seriously--these films are absolutely brilliant and extremely difficult to find. Do yourself an enormous favor! Chicago-Scope runs through 1/9 in the Art Institute's modern wing.

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