‘Goldstein’ and ‘Intolerance’ back on Chicago screens
By BILL STAMETS For Sun-Times Media October 3, 2013 9:24PM
Emerging from Lake Michigan, an old man (Lou Gilbert) travels Chicago before returning to the waters in “Goldstein,” which includes a Nelson Algren cameo.
Old Man Lou Gilbert
Sculptor Tom Erhart
Jay Ben Carruthers
Himself Nelson Algren
Montrose Film Productions presents a film written and directed by Benjamin Manaster and Philip Kaufman. Running time: 84 minutes. No MPAA rating. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park.
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:04AM
More a historical curiosity than a screen treat, “Goldstein” (1964) was the first feature-length art film made in Chicago. Shot in black-and-white a half century ago, this “mystical comedy” delivers local scenery and a Second City cast. Although ranking as a lesser specimen on the New American Cinema scene, it shared the Prix de la Nouvelle Critique with Bernardo Bertolucci’s debut at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival.
On Friday at the Patio Theater, the Northwest Chicago Film Society and the Chicago Film Archives present a 35mm print of “Goldstein” restored by the George Eastman House from co-director Philip Kaufman’s personal copy.
Kaufman and fellow University of Chicago grad Benjamin Manaster also co-wrote the elliptical lark about an Elijah-like old man who walks out of Lake Michigan and ends up there, after tossing stuff from a Goldstein’s Paint & Glass truck. Kaufman draws upon his unfinished novel and Martin Buber’s “Tales of the Hasidim” for a madcap chase with a Klezmer score that detours to Marina Towers for an abortion. Nelson Algren turns up to regale a visitor with a story about a local character.
Kaufman claims French auteurs Jean Renoir and Francois Truffaut lauded “Goldstein.” One French critic obliquely noted: “Nothing is harder to draw well than a parabola.”
The director next made “Fearless Frank” with Jon Voight, Ken Nordine and assorted “Goldstein” cast members, including Algren and Second City’s Severn Darden. Kaufman is better known for his later films “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The Right Stuff” and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”
Also in revival this weekend is D.W. Griffith’s 1916 epic “Intolerance,” screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center with a new recorded score by Carl Davis and the Luxembourg Radio Symphony Orchestra. This 167-minute digital version is shorter than the 210-minute version that screened in 1993 at the University of Chicago, when a student symphony performed Joseph Carl Brell’s score.
“Intolerance” parallels a modern story of reformers, partly modeled on Jane Addams, with the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of French Protestants in 1572 and Persia’s attack on Babylon in 539 B.C. Melodramas about intrepid women drive the plots. Shorter interludes stage the crucifixion of Christ to frame martyrs through the centuries. A wacky cosmic finale sports bombardiers in zeppelins dropping bouquets of flowers on soldiers in trenches.
“It is not as human as [Griffith’s] ‘The Birth of a Nation’; it is superhuman and the biggest show in the world,” rhapsodized a critic from the Chicago Examiner. Griffith’s folly now looks like a forerunner of the essay film. His grandiose agenda was a self-defense against censors like “a man of the mental caliber of the captain of police of Chicago.”
Bill Stamets is a Chicago free-lance writer.