Today at the Chicago International Film Festival: the travelogue ‘It Must Be Heaven,’ a fest highlight

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and “Fire Will Come” also highlight the weekend

SHARE Today at the Chicago International Film Festival: the travelogue ‘It Must Be Heaven,’ a fest highlight

Elia Suleiman (also the director) and a scene-stealing bird star in “It Must Be Heaven.”


The Chicago International Film Festival continues at AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois.

‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ (France) Beautifully conceived and crafted, Céline Sciamma’s film pairs a woman hired to paint the portrait of another woman. The canvas is for a prospective husband in Milan, a loveless transaction. Set in 1770 Brittany, this love story offers a veritable syllabus of art historical observations about desire, gazes and reverse angles, mythological lovers, idealized memories and erotic souvenirs. For a counterpoint to the film’s visual focus, the women, both of whom left convents, embrace music as a medium of freedom. 2:30 p.m. Oct.19

‘It Must Be Heaven’ (France/ Qatar/ Germany/ Canada/ Palestine/ Turkey) Elia Suleimanwrites, directs and stars as himself in my favorite discovery — so far — in this year’s fest. Speaking just two or three words, I think, Suleiman travels from his native Nazareth to Paris and New York City and then back. It’s a sublimely witty and politically wise essay on finding one’s home and one’s bearings, and losing them too. Heaven must be where he is, wherever. This lightly surreal travelogue keeps surprising us with its choreography ofpeople in public places. A must-see for Jacques Tati fans. 5:15 p.m. Oct. 19; 5:30 p.m. Oct. 20

‘Fire Will Come’ (Spain/ France/ Luxemburg) Oliver Laxe infuses lyrical interludes into a simple story of Amador, his aged mother Benedicta, and their dog and three cows. Nocturnal powers, at first mystifying, topple eucalyptus trees. Leonard Cohen’s song “Suzanne” accompanies a lengthy close-up of a cow’s face. Amador just served two years for arson and now the fire season looms. Casting first-time locals speaking Galician, Laxe notes: “We shot the film in my grandparents’ village, with villagers whom I have known since I was a child.”Spoiler: The title is true.6:30 p.m. Oct. 19; 5:30 p.m. Oct. 20; 1 p.m. Oct. 23

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