The Chicago International Film Festival is the city’s grand showcase of international cinema. Presented by Cinema/Chicago, the two-week fest starts Thursday with “La La Land,” an original yet old-fashioned musical.
The auspicious line-up includes 138 new features (plus six older ones) and 47 shorts. Noteworthy documentaries with longish titles reflect on cinema itself: “My Journey Through French Cinema,” “One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich & the Lost American Film” and “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.”
Guests include Geraldine Chaplin in conversation with festival founder and artistic director Michael Kutza at Essanay Studios, where Chaplin’s father Charlie made films in 1915. Actress Taraji P. Henson (“Empire,” “Hidden Figures”), director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and producer Jim Stern (“Snowden”) are slated to appear too.
For more talk, there are panels on “State of the Art-House,” “Black Lives Matter and the Media” and “The Money is Here! Chicago Financiers, Angels and Instigators.”
52nd Chicago International Film Festival
When: Oct. 13–27
Where: AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois
Tickets: $15 regular screenings, with discounts for Cinema/Chicago members, students, seniors. After 10 p.m.: $10. Weekday matinees through 5 p.m.: $8.
Info: (312) 332-FILM; chicagofilmfestival.com
Ten recommended titles follow.
‘La La Land’ (U.S.)
The opening night film by writer-director Damien Chazelle co-stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It’s a dazzling delight that opens in theaters Dec. 16. Tickets to Thursday’s screening are $50, and a $150 VIP ticket admits you to a 5 p.m. pre-screening reception and premium theater seating. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13
‘The Confessions’ (Italy/France)
A world-famous economist with a world-changing formula invites a monk (Toni Servillo) to hear his confession at a deluxe resort. Writer-director Roberto Ando crafts a sly send-up of free market fixers. 6 p.m. Oct. 14; 6 p.m. Oct. 17
Antonio Campos directs Rebecca Hall evoking damaged soul Christine Chubbuck, a TV news reporter in Sarasota, Florida who terminated her career on-air in 1974. This nuanced, unnerving character study comes to the Music Box on Nov. 18. 5:45 p.m. Oct. 15; 8:15 p.m. Oct. 16
‘The Swedish Theory of Love’ (Sweden)
Lars Tragardh’s clickbait theory about 1970s state-imposed individualism is lithely illustrated with poignant irony by documentarian Erik Gandini (“Videocracy”). 4:30 p.m. Oct 16; 3:45 p.m. Oct 17
‘The Salesman’ (Iran)
Asghar Farhadi (“The Separation”) writes and directs a gripping tale of two actors playing the couple in a Tehran production of “Death of a Salesman.” After the wife is assaulted in the shower, the husband tracks the intruder. A superb moral melodrama ensues. 5:45 p.m. Oct. 16; 6 p.m. Oct. 19
A chimerical if unlucky detective (Gael Garcia Bernal) tracks poet, lover and senator Pablo Neruda (1904–1973), a communist celebrity on the run from Chile’s rightwing regime. Pablo Larrain (“The Club,” “NO”) pulls off a lyrical caper with reflexive flourishes in the vein of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16; 8:15 p.m. Oct. 1
‘The Daughter’ (Argentina)
Writer-director Luis Sampieri coolly eviscerates the vicious manners of an upper-middle-class family on holiday. Hiding her pregnancy, the maid births a daughter and everyone’s response — her own too – flays pretensions of decency. 6 p.m. Oct. 17; 6 p.m. Oct. 19; 4:30 p.m. Oct. 20
‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’ (U.S.)
Slicker than usual for a Kartemquin documentary, this “Frontline” production directed by Steve James (“Life Itself,” “The Interrupters”) chronicles the prolonged court proceedings endured by the stalwart Sung family that owns the Abacus Federal Savings Bank in Chinatown. This report on family and community bonds indirectly indicts New York City prosecutors. James and three family members will attend. 6 p.m. Oct. 18
It’s impossible to unfix your gaze on Isabelle Huppert playing the daughter of an anti-Catholic psycho-killer, co-owner of a video game company purveying sexual violence, and victim of a black-masked trespasser acting out violent rape scenarios. Paul Verhoeven (“Black Book,” “Basic Instinct”) directs an acidic, droll critique of her friends, family, employees and customers. This must-see near-masterpiece opens Nov. 18 if you miss this fest screening. 8:30 p.m. Oct. 20
Inspired by a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Barry Jenkins’ film portrays a Miamian en route to manhood at three ages with three nicknames: 10-year-old Little, 16-year-old Chiron and adult Black. Beautifully shot, acted and scored, this remarkable saga comes out Oct. 28. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26
Look for more capsule reviews during the festival at chicago.suntimes.com.
Bill Stamets is a Chicago freelance writer.