Every year in the month of March, the Gene Siskel Film Center hosts the Chicago European Union Film Festival. I’ll give capsule reviews of as many of the films as I can. All films are shown at the Film Center, 164 N. State Street, right across State St. from the Chicago Theater. See you there!
Flamenco, that southern Spanish art form incorporating dancing, singing and instrumental musicianship in culturally-crucial detail, has been masterfully presented, both as documentary and stylized fiction, by the great Spanish director Carlos Saura in a number of films over the last thirty-five years or so. His latest film, J: Beyond Flamenco (Jota) (Spain, 2016) returns him to the artistic styles of his more northern homeland, Aragon, following other explorations of Argentinean Tango, Portuguese Fado, and his Flamenco, Flamenco from 2010. Jota, as presented by Saura, seems to be a little freer in technique (there are specifics that define the style, though) – some Arabic Mediterranean and even ‘Oriental’ influences – but the movements seem more like folk dancing than urgent and rigorous expressions of Passion with a capital ‘P,’ and the style lends itself well to pairs, solos and groups. Saura sets all of the film’s short episodes on obvious studio soundstages, with simple visual backgrounds of color and image, projections and mirrors, and seamless camera movements that keep the focus on the superb performers. Also note the graciousness with which he treats the musicians here – it’s primarily a dance film, but the players are thrilling as well. This is a splendidly creative and engaging film, and, if you’re not already familiar with Saura’s dance films, this will be a great introduction. They’re unlike much else of what you’ve seen, and there’s an impressive back catalogue to pursue when, not if, you get hooked.
‘J: Beyond Flamenco) screens on Saturday, March 11th at 6:30 pm and Thursday, March 16th at 8:30.