The 49th Chicago International Film Festival kicked off last night with a gala celebration at the Chicago Theatre, featuring Bill Kurtis hosting and Festival Founder and Artistic Director Michael Kutza and Chaz Ebert sharing stories about Roger Ebert’s commitment to the world of film, and his many years with the festival.
Filmmaker James Gray, whose The Immigrant opened the festival, took the stage to share early tales of himself as an overconfident, fledgling filmmaker harangued by his father’s devotion to Siskel & Ebert, who offered a split assessment on his first film, Little Odessa. “Roger was right,” the director admitted.
Gray, best known for 2008’s terrific Two Lovers, confessed that he “didn’t sleep last night,” in anticipation of showing The Immigrant in front of our Chicago audience, launching into a very funny litany of excuses film school directors make for why their movies fall short. “If you don’t like it, I have no more excuses,” he quipped.
I didn’t care much for The Immigrant, starring a terrific Marion Cotillard as a Polish nurse who arrives at Ellis Island circa 1921 and almost immediately falls on hard times and is forced into prostitution in a rapid fall from grace. Featuring a gloomy, theatrical expression of lower Manhattan and turns from Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner as huckster brothers vying for her allegiance, the picture is deliberately paced, repetitive and lacks heat; there’s much talent onscreen but little engagement, and the film never comes to life, save Cotillard’s fine work.
Stay tuned for capsule information on the weekend’s upcoming films. For a full schedule of the weekend’s films and ticket information, please visit Chicagofilmfestival.com.