The Seven Movies You Should See at the Chicago International Film Festival

Finnish boxing, New Jersey and a “lesbian revenge thriller”

October 12, 2016 9:00 am

Pass the popcorn, gents.

Tomorrow, the Chicago International Film Festival rolls into town for the 52nd time with 138 features and 47 shorts in tow.

By all means, go see Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie. And Amy Adams investigating alien life forms in Arrival. And Emma Stone dancing and Ryan Gosling doing whatever he does in La La Land.

But we’ve got the lesser-known gems worth seeing — along with the trailers to prove it.

Here’s your guide to the best movies at CIFF.

The Handmaiden (South Korea)
A twisty three-part revenge thriller with feminist undercurrents set during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s from director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy), The Handmaiden tells the story of a young thief who schemes as a handmaid to swindle a wealthy Japanese heiress out of her fortune, only to fall into a highly erotic lesbian love affair. Expect Park’s signature style of violence intertwined with depraved sexual kinks.

Screening 10/23, 8:15 p.m. and 10/25, 8:30 p.m. TICKET HERE

Moonlight (United States)
Having garnered plaudits from Telluride to the Toronto Film Festival, this artful film about a queer black man coming to age in Miami is being praised for its thoughtfully brilliant portrayal of sexuality and the black identity.

Screening 10/26, 7:30 p.m. TICKETS HERE

Paterson (United States)
Adam Driver (Star Wars) shows his range as an introspective bus driver and amateur poet named Paterson working in Paterson, New Jersey, who spends his routine days indulging in one-off encounters and searching for creativity. Jim Jarmusch devotees will certainly rave.

Screening 10/15, 8:30 p.m. TICKETS HERE

Elle (France)
The most controversial of the festival’s high-profile screenings, Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher) plays a woman with a complicated response to sexual assault. Yes, there is a rape scene. Yes, it will make you uncomfortable. That sexual aggression, however, is met with Huppert’s character’s own sadomasochistic fantasies, and the result is a film that will certainly ignite debate.

Screening 10/20, 8:30 p.m. TICKETS HERE

Christine (United States)
If it bleeds, it leads. Antonio Campos directs Rebecca Hall (The Prestige) in this nuanced character study. Hall plays Christine Chubbuck, the on-air correspondent for a news station in Sarasota, Florida, who shot herself on live television in 1974.

Screening 10/15, 5:45 p.m. and 10/16, 8:15 p.m. TICKETS HERE

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Finland)
Shot gorgeously on black-and-white 16mm film, the first full-length film from Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen is a lovable sports biopic about legendary Finnish boxer Olli Mäki’s 1962 world championship bout against featherweight titleholder Davey Moore. This is unlike any boxing movie you’ve ever seen, trust.

Screening 10/19, 5:45 p.m., 10/20, 8:30 p.m. and 10/24, 3:15 p.m. TICKETS HERE

Daughters of the Dust (United States)
Cited as the inspiration for Beyoncé’s visual album for Lemonade, director Julie Dash’s powerful 1991 film Daughters of the Dust is being re-released for its 25th anniversary. Not to be overshadowed by Beyoncé, however, it stands as the first feature film directed by a black woman to receive a national release.

Screening 10/23, 3:00 p.m. TICKETS HERE

Nota bene: More, you say? You want more? Then head on over to InsideHook’s 2016 Fall Movie Guide.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.