Death, drugs, dysfunction and sex are as inevitable in life as they are at this year's Chicago International Film Festival, bringing filmmakers (and film lovers) from around the world to the windy city from October 6 through 20. The festival, featuring more than 100 of the world's newest films from more than 36 countries, is book-ended by two world premieres: Cameron Crowe's romantic comedy "Elizabethtown" kicks off the 41st annual festival as the opening night film and Gore Verbinski's "The Weatherman" serves as the grand finale, closing the fourteen day event. Other festival highlights combining one or more of these themes include, Victor Gaviria's "Addictions and Subtractions," Noah Baumbach's "The Squid and the Whale," Cristi Puiu's "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," Amos Gitai's "Free Zone."
Brought together by the sudden death of his father, Drew (Orlando Bloom) and Claire (Kirsten Dunst) find true love despite their respective shortcomings in Crowe's "Elizabethtown." Similarly, popular weatherman David Spritz (Nicolas Cage) grapples with mortality and finding meaning his own life, walking a tenuous line between stability and disaster, in Verbinski's "The Weatherman."
"The Death of Mr. Lazarescku" directed by Puiu, is the story of a man plagued by a mysterious illness who is subjected to a series of dehumanizing medical treatments.
Gaviria's "Addictions and Subtractions" deals with the harsh realities of drug dealing and the destructive life of crime that goes along with it. Drugs play a more light-hearted role in Rolan Vranik's comedy "Black Brush" as four stoned chimneysweeps chase after a goat who's eaten a winning lottery ticket.
Family dysfunction and a break from tradition unite Rebecca (Natalie Portman) and Hanna (Hana Laszlo) in Gitai's film. The two women embark on a road trip from Jerusalem to the "Free Zone" to pick up a large sum of money that has mysteriously vanished. In Baumbach's "The Squid and the Whale," winner of the Sundance Film Festival's director's and screenplay awards, two young boys deal with their parents' divorce and life as joint-custody kids.
Other films set for this year's festival include: "Mongolian Ping Pong," a submission from the People's Republic of China about a boy's journey to Beijing. Hungarian filmmaker Kornel Mundruczo's operatic interpretation of the passion of Joan of Arc, "Johanna." "The Hidden Blade" by Japanese director Yoji Yamanda, about a Samurai struggling to hang on to his humanity. And the Mexican film, "Stories of Disenchantment," by Alejandro Valle about a couple in the midst of a sexual awakening after meeting an eccentric artist with bat wings.
[ For a complete listing of festival screenings, please visit their website. ]