Thursday, April 28, 2011

MoFest: A Chicago Cinema Event

Young Kubrick and I arrived at MoFest. The Portage Theater is a lovely throwback theater, all dripping and red and gold, with pretty art nouveau on the walls and columns that line the halls around the building. Truly lovely. As we walked in we took it all in and tried to decide what exactly it was we would do.



We got in line for the free liquor. The beer was being provided by Half Acre Brewing, and there was unlimited (or at least limited by the number of bottles they had on hand) red and white wine. I got a red, Kubrick a white, and then we walked into the packed little foyer where the food was being served. I was actually quite hungry, so I was happy to get in line and get some things to snack on from the buffet-style spread.

After hitting up the food bar, we walked into the actual theater proper. It was, in a word, absolutely HUGE. It was massively oppressive, make-you-feel-small huge. It was ominous. We walked down the slopping aisle toward the front and the art gallery taking place on either sides of the absolutely massive screen sitting center stage. The entire effect was one of the awesome power of cinema. Which is probably to be expected as the theater was built in the 1920s and is one of the oldest running theaters in the city of Chicago. It is lush and decadent and I admired it for those reasons. It is more lush in design than the Music Box, and more intelligently structured as well, with the floor designed to tilt toward the stage.

It took a minute to walk down to the floor and stand in front of the art from local artists. We saw a few collages that were well thought out, while being pretty to boot.

What caught the eye of Young Kubrick and I first though, were the semi-sculpted built structures. These pieces were combination of found art and female bust, and the detail was exquisite. It seemed possible that it was molded plaster on skin. The face was so real, down to pores and poc marks it seemed rather probably that it must have been, but it was hard to be sure. This perhaps made it so exquisite. The color was lovely, as was the composition, the wires for hair, and the settings in an old bronze fuel gauge. There were two, one on both sides, both different, but with some similarities in composition. We found them quiet interesting and unique.

During this first pass we glossed over the other pieces, before taking the long walk back up to the top of the theater to munch again, drop coats onto the coat racks, and head back for more wine.

I asked Young Kubrick what his agenda might be.

“Well, I need to meet a cinematographer.”

“Well then, we should find one.”

Which was easier sad then done, as this theater was starting to crowd with people, but it did seem that many were already in groups of friends and we were having trouble breaking in a bit.

“See all the people wearing plaid?” Kubrick pointed out to me.


“They are all in film.”

We smiled and giggled to each other while trying to work out exactly how it is that we should meet his cinematographer. Around that time we decided to get another glass of wine and check out some of the photo collections in the front of the theater. We found one series of photos just a bit too bland, too many people staring straight into cameras. Another collection from rundown buildings in Gary, Indiana was absolutely exquisite, however. Here each photo was clearly of a find, something that had been carefully worked out. The photos were exquisitely planned, lovely. We enjoyed them immensely.

We moved around to the other side of the theater to discover some different photos and it was at this point that we noticed a collection of bags, neatly laid out on the table. As I was looking at pictures Kubrick voiced a good question “I want to know how to get one of those bags.”

So I looked around for two people that had bags, went up and asked. They said the bags were for the taking, and as we circled back around to the table, this was confirmed by another person there. "Take them and enjoy them with our appreciation.”



We decided to not pick through the bags trying to find just the right one, but instead to choose one entirely at random, and see what we got.

So Kubrick and I both reached in and grabbed our swag.

Now, feeling rather complete, three drinks in, with a touch of food and swag, it seemed most appropriate to go out and have a smoke, and that was just what we did. It was also around this time that Kubrick started to talk about the lovely handsome man in the tie.

“Which man in the tie?”

“He’s gorgeous. I want to talk to him.”

“Well, keep an eye out and I’ll see what I can do.”

I have very little fear of going up and talking to strangers in many situations, and being that the original way I was coming to this event was alone, I had already geared myself up to do a lot of talking to strangers. With Kubrick there I was feeling bolder than usual.

“Let’s go smoke.”

I’m not much of a smoker. I will on very rare occasions now, mostly as a way of starting conversations. Smoking is the great equalizer. Anyone who smokes is, at least in Chicago in this day and age, saying that they are willing to be entirely outside the norm and completely judged by everyone else. They are also saying they don’t care.

I love that about smokers in the city of Chicago.

So, when I need to meet random strangers in the city of Chicago I find smoking to be an excellent way to do it.

We went outside with our swag bags, and rather than allowing Young Kubrick to light me up, I walked straight over to the nearest strangers and asked for a light. The stranger in question was wearing a set of sunglasses with flashing lights. A handsome, scruffy, bald gentleman. I liked his flair, but sadly realized within seconds that all my gusto would go to waste, as the first thing he wanted to tell me about was getting back inside to see his girlfriend.


“There he is.”

“What?” I turned to see what, or who, it was that Young Kubrick was pointing at, and there was attractive man in a tie, also smoking, wearing a walkie-talkie, and running around talking to trucks.

“Sweetie, he's working.”

“I know; he’s so dedicated.”

“All right.”

I could work with this. Talking to service people was even easier than talking to smokers. As he was headed back in our general direction I figured now would be a good time to ask a question I had been dying to ask: When do the movies actually start?

And I did.

Mr. Tie stopped and told us that the festival, while it said 6:00 to 9:00, was actually going to run to something like 1 a.m and that in reality we were in the drink-and-mingle stage, at which point they would eventually push people into the theater for the shorts. Once that had settled we mingled and got details about the history of the festival and the of course, details about Mr. Tie.

It turned out, that he was, in fact, a cinematographer. From there, Young Kubrick was able to properly network, exchange numbers, and flirt.

Following this we had to let Mr. Tie get back to being a good volunteer for the festival, and we went back to working on mingling. This sent us for a fourth round of drinks and one more look at the beautiful gallery at the bottom of the theater. It was at this point that we were rather impressed by just how beautiful one of the photos was, a photo we had only gently glanced at before.

The more we looked into it, the more we could see. It’s really difficult to describe it so, please enjoy seeing it.

As we were finishing up our turn in the gallery I was suddenly stopped by a thrumming “Sara!” and turned to see the Actress, who had finally arrived. I introduced her to Young Kubrick and we quickly caught up while she dragged us back up the theater to meet her director and the person responsible for the film she was showing tonight, Diversions. This was a short piece made on a small budget, but beautifully done. ( The Director, Chris, was an absolute sweetheart who had flown in from LA for several things, and happened to be in town for MoFest as well. We also met her costar Barret, who was nice, if shy, and several other people. Young Kubrick had more to talk about in this realm then I did, so I mentioned to the Actress that she really should get a swag bag.

As she was busy, and everyone else was talking, I made the trip round for it, and then went back to chat some more before checking the time and noting that we really were going to have to leave soon. Somehow we lost our group and were unable to make contact again, but the hour was fast approaching 9 p.m. and we had to get moving to make round two for the evening.

We made a last run through the theater to try to run into the Actress, with no luck. Who we did run into was an organist, playing a most excellent turn-of-the-century organ in the front of the room. The kind of full-body playing that is so rare to see anymore and so moving when you have the chance; the piece was one I recognized from film, but not I can’t recall the exact piece of movie the piece was from. Though I suspect it was one by Kubrick; however, that could just be my own blended memory.

We made our goodbyes to Chris and Barret and ran out into the cold crisp night to look for a cab for our second stop on Milwaukee Ave.


gryffan said...

man, for all the wine we grow here there is like no place that serves it! more theaters and museums and other temples of art worship need to sling the booze.

Saradevil said...

Maybe you should start a wine bar.