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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: The 48th Chicago International Film Festival Awards



Holy Motors

Holy Motors, Leos Carax’s  surreal French fantasy-drama-thriller-romance (and then some) about a chameleonic actor and his weird limousine journey through nearly a dozen alternate lives, was the big winner at Friday night’s award ceremony for The 48th  annual Chicago International Film Festival.

Carax’s film, his first since Pola X in 1999, won the fest’s top prize, the Gold Hugo for Best Film,  from the festival jury. (See below.) Holy Motors also took Silver Hugos for Best Actor, won by Carax regular Denis Lavant for his magnificently weirdo part as the versatile impersonator M. Oscar, and Best Cinematography, awarded to Yves Capes and Caroline Champetier  for their poetic, eerie view of Paris in Carax’s film.

Ulla Skoog of Sweden was named Best Actress for her moving and beautifully observed role as Puste, tragic wife of the uncompromising anti-Nazi Swedish journalist Torgny Segerstedt in writer-director Jan Troell’s superb biographical drama, The Last Sentence.

The Last Sentence

The other awards in the international competition went to Michel Franco’s Mexican-French entry, After Lucia, a wounding indictment of high school bullying that took the Special Jury Prize, and to Merzak Allouache’s The Repentant (Algeria/France ) which won a Silver Hugo Special Mention for its exploration of the aftermath of atrocities.

The documentary top prize, the Docufest Gold Hugo, was won by the American film The Believers, a study by directors Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross of the controversy over the 1989 discovery of the “safe energy” process, cold fusion — while the runner-up Silver Hugo went to Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai’s Numbered (Israel), which examines genocide, its record and its survivors.

The New Directors Competition Gold Hugo was won by Peter Bergendy’s The Exam, a thriller about the dangers of police state surveillance set in ‘50s Hungary. The runner-up Silver Hugo was awarded to Zdenek Jiraski’s Flowerbirds, a dark look at contemporary family life in the Czech Republic.


The After Dark Competition, devoted to horror movies, was won by a familiar name: Brandon Cronenberg, the son of one-time scary moviemaker supreme David Cronenberg, took the Gold Hugo for Antiviral (Canada/USA), his dystopian futuristic shocker about an industry devoted to celebrity disease. The runner-up was Jaume Balaguero’s Sleep Tight (Spain), a psychological thriller about a Barcelona doorman with too many apartment keys.


The Gold Hugo for the Chicago festival‘s best short film overall was won by s Shay Levi of Israel for Return, a story of breakdown and recovery. The short film Silver Hugo honorees included the following:  Best  Narrative/Live Action Short:  Adam Bizanski’s Paul. Best Short Documentary: Nadav Kurtz’s Paradise. Best Animated Short: Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels’  Oh, Willy (Belgium).

Gold and Silver Plaques for short films were won by Sascha Fulscher’s Next Door Letters (Sweden), Franck Dion’s Edmond was a Donkey (Canada/France) and Martin Rosete’s Voice Over (Spain)., with a Special Mention going to Ritesh Batra’s Café Regular, Cairo (Egypt).

The Chicago Award, given annually to a Chicago filmmaker or artist, was won this year by Chris Sullivan’s Consuming Spirits. The Intercom Gold Hugo for industrial films went to Handtmann — Idea for the Future by Naumann Film.

The Career Achievement Award was given this year to a familiar Chicago face and a wonderful actress, one time Steppenwolf Theatre mainstay and now much-praised movie actress Joan Allen, and other career honorees during the 2012 festival included actresses Helen Hunt and Viola Davis and directors Andy and Lana Wachowski (once Larry and Andy Wachowski,  and Juan Antonio Badoya.

This year’s Chicago International Film Festival, an excellent one, offered around 175 films from over 60 countries. The CIFF awards ceremony was held in properly festive surroundings in the refurbished environs of an old Chicago landmark, the (Renaissance) Blackstone Hotel, and it featured speeches and presentations by CIFF founder/artistic director Michael Kutza, programming director Mimi Plauche and others. The main feature jury, there for the celebration, included directors Patrice Chereau of France and Joe Maggio of the U.S.A., actress Alice Krige of the UK and South Africa, actor/producer Amir Waked of Egypt, and Daniele Cauchard of Canada, general director of the Montreal World Film Festival.

I talked briefly to Patrice Chereau, who recently spent seven years working  on a Napoleon film, a subject which was also a Waterloo for Stanley Kubrick and (of sorts) for Sergei Bondarchuk. But Chereau’s take on Bonaparte is a movie, coming from the maker of the splendid Queen Margot, that I would really have liked to see.

I spent more of my socializing time at this mini-gala gabbing with the marvelously gifted Jan Troell, who, at 81, is in the midst of one of his best career stretches (bravo for both Everlasting Moments and The Last Sentence), and who was with his his charming actress daughter Johanna, and also to the very sharp Charles Sturridge, who was at this year’s CIFF with an admirable, shining adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s The Scapegoat, and who was also the co-director (with Michael Lindsay-Hogg), of one of my favorite TV mini-series, the 1981 Brideshead Revisited. (Sturridge said he directed almost all of Brideshead, though he seemed prouder of his later 2000 and 2002 bio-dramas, Longitude and Shackleton.)

It was a pleasure to talk to brilliant people like these, who loved movies, and were in a position to make them, if everything fell right. Chereau was thinking of other projects, maybe. Sturridge was on his way to Los Angeles. Troell is working on (or thinking of) an autobiographical drama about his small-town Swedish youth, a movie I really can’t wait to see.  As usual. it was a great time. I love this festival.  As Roger Ebert is fond of saying: Cheers.

Michael Kutza and Mimi Plauche





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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon