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Chicago Film Festival Opens With One Of 2016’s Most Heralded Films

Opening Night of the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival featured one of the year’s most heralded movies, a musical entitled “La La Land.” The film’s opening musical sequence set on a busy freeway ramp received a standing ovation at the August 31st Venice Film Festival and was equally warmly received in Telluride and Toronto. Emma Stone won the Best Actress Award for her role in “La La Land” in Toronto and Oscar buzz is not premature.

Damien Chazelle

Damien Chazelle

Along with the Writer/Director of “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle, Rosemarie DeWitt, who plays Ryan Gosling’s older sister, was present on the Red Carpet for the strongest film to open the festival in at least the last eight to ten years. The inventive and original film will please musical lovers and those who simply want to see the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone displayed in the 2011 film “Crazy, Stupid Love” (in which Gosling told Stone that his “signature move” was the lift from “Dirty Dancing”) will be happy to see them paired again.

In addition to one of the most-talked about films of today in “La La Land”, another film that premiered here in 1986 was brought back. The indie film “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” has become a cult favorite and has endured for 30 years. This brought out Director John McNaughton and star Michael Rooker.

The 60-year-old Rooker always turns in good work, most recently in the “Guardian of the Galaxy” movies (one in post-production now), as well as depicting Merle on television’s “The Walking Dead.” For those with longer memories, you may know him from “The Bone Collector” based on the Jeffrey Deaver novel or as Tom Cruise’s racing mate in the 1990 film “Days of Thunder,” notable chiefly because Tom Cruise starred opposite his wife-to-be  (now ex) Nicole Kidman in the film.

When asked what advice indie film maker McNaughton had for other young directors wanting to make a film, he said, “I’ll give them the same advice my dad gave me: become a dentist.”

Geraldine Chaplin

Geraldine Chaplin

Chairman of this year’s Festival Jury is living film legend Geraldine Chaplin, who is receiving a Tribute on Saturday, October 15, at the Essanay Studios at 1345 W.Argyle Street, where her father once worked. (Tickets are $75). Another member of the International Competition Jury is actor Chin Han, one of the stars of “The Dark Knight.”

Also walking the Red Carpet this night was French director Claude LaLouch, best known for his 1966 film “A Man and a Woman,” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and went on to win 2 Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category. He was accompanied by Valerie Perrine,  73,who co-wrote his latest picture,  “Un + Une” starring Jean Dujardin, which is showing at the festival. Film buffs may better remember Valerie Perrine for her Oscar-nominated role as Honey Bruce, Lenny Bruce’s wife in the Bob Fosse-directed 1974 film “Lenny.” (For an R-rated Tribute of Perrine’s Great Hits see www.WeeklyWilson.com ).

This year’s audiences will see 140 films from 41 countries and 25 of those films will enjoy their North American Premiere while 30 will be having their U.S. Premiere. There are also 604 documentaries from 90 countries and 3,03 shorts representing 97 countries at this year’s festival.

But tonight belonged to the opening film “La La Land,” which received a standing ovation for the opening scene at the August 31 Venice Film Festival, followed by warm responses at Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. Actress Rosemarie DeWitt, who plays Gosling’s older sister in the film, put it this way, “I think Damien made something very beautiful and very fresh that is going to make you very happy and maybe even make you cry.”

Chicago Film Festival Opens With One Of 2016’s Most Heralded Films

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Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com) was the Quad City Times film and book critic for 15 years and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970. She also publishes books (31 at last count) in a variety of genres (www.quadcitieslearning.com), has taught writing or literature classes at every Quad City college or university as adjunct faculty, was Yahoo's Content Producer of the Year for Politics  and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com.

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