“I learn ‘Sister Carrie’ once I was 18 or 19 and thought it was horrible,” says filmmaker and professor Daniel Nearing. Then he picked it up once more in his 50s. “And within the intervening years,” he says, chuckling, “Theodore Dreiser had in some way matured as an writer.”
Traditionalists be warned: Whilst you’d be sensible to attend one of many world premiere screenings of the Nearing model of “Sister Carrie” this weekend on the Gene Siskel Movie Middle, you’d be a dope to count on a simple adaptation of the 1900 masterpiece of social realism. He doesn’t work that approach. He’s a steadfast impressionist, a poet, not a prose man.
Nearing’s newest characteristic rounds out a hypnotic trilogy of Chicago movies and Chicago tales, begun with “Chicago Heights” (2010), a relocation and reimagining of Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” tales. The trilogy continued 5 years later with “Hogtown,” graced like its predecessor with stunning black-and-white photos bridging historical past and poetic creativeness.
“Sister Carrie” presents Nearing’s newest and, in some ways, riskiest and most evocative train in working “period-less” (his phrase). It is just partly indebted to the novel of its title. Dreiser was impressed by nice French romantic tragedians who had a behavior of confining their tragic heroines to sufferer standing, “with out a lot company,” Nearing says.
That bought him rethinking the notion of adapting Dreiser with relative constancy, which he tried, however … 400 pages later, the outcomes together with his co-writer Sabrina Doyle felt sludgy. They usually hadn’t solved the problem of creating Carrie, the Wisconsin farm lady braving the imply streets of Chicago and past, an agent of her personal story.
So “Sister Carrie” pulls narrative threads and concepts from three different sources: Anderson’s quick story “Brothers”; Alexandre Dumas’ “La Dame aux Camélias”; and Antoine François Prévost’s downfall saga “The Story of Manon Lescaut.” Within the movie, which, true to Nearing’s latest type, runs simply over an hour, Carrie — performed with eloquent focus by Eve Rydberg — drives one man, her manufacturing facility foreman (Cameron Knight), to homicide for love barely requited.
Then, as an alternative of New York Metropolis from the novel, Carrie is whisked off by Unfortunate Man #2 (performed by Joffrey Ballet star Fabrice Calmels) to Paris for the second act of her societally thwarted life.
The outcomes, Nearing hopes, have a approach of “calling out centuries of romantic literature the place girls who had been ostensibly the protagonists had been, actually, victims of their authors.”
Nearing works methodically, with extra time than cash. He started filming footage for transitional sequences, in Greece, Italy and Montreal, Canada, in 2016. The Paris footage got here in 2018. Then he filmed the final of the prison-set footage of the manufacturing facility foreman, performed by Knight, in Crown Level, Indiana, in late November — lower than three weeks in the past.
Chicago footage consists of scenes set in downtown Chicago alleys; gracefully eccentric pinhole-camera photos of Carrie arriving in Union Station; and, in a dance sequence filmed beneath the Tiffany Dome within the Chicago Cultural Middle, 25 “alternate Carries”, heightening the eager for freedom the principle characters on this dreamscape can not attain.
All that magnificence deserves a wealthy musical rating, and “Sister Carrie” has it. Composer Paul Bhasin, whose work is joined on the soundtrack by compositions offered by co-star Calmels, met Nearing when Bhasin labored at Triton School in River Grove. The composer and conductor is now at Emory College in Georgia, and as together with his rating composed for “Hogtown,” the “Sister Carrie” soundtrack is stuffed with piquant melody and subterranean ache.
For 3 of this weekend’s Movie Middle screenings, Bhasin will lead a reside 12-person ensemble within the accompaniment to what’s, largely, a silent film. (The movie’s recorded soundtrack bumps the Emory College Symphony Orchestra dimension as much as 70 in some locations.)
“My movies,” Nearing says, “are form of tendentiously bleak, as you might have seen.” (I’ve, however I like them.) Composer Bhasin, he says, has “a approach of elevating them, with a gentleness and empathy whatever the harshness of the characters, or their circumstances.” With “Sister Carrie” you gained’t be getting the Dreiser version. However then, the Dreiser version has existed for 122 years. The world can accommodate a cinematic riff that goes its personal approach looking for every thing Carrie wished: reality, magnificence, love and its personal approach of telling a narrative.
Our picks for issues to do and locations to go this weekend
“Sister Carrie” on the Gene Siskel Movie Middle, 164 N. State St. Director Daniel Nearing and solid members current for all showings; extra at siskelfilmcenter.org.
6:30 p.m. Dec. 16 in a Movie Middle fiftieth anniversary profit presentation with reside 12-piece orchestra and Champagne reception, “Artwork Movie Formal” gown code of “black T-shirt to black tie”; tickets $25-$50.
4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17, each with reside orchestral rating (6:30 p.m. screening is adopted by a Champagne reception; “Artwork Movie Formal” gown code). Then 2 p.m. Dec. 18 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 20; tickets $6-$12.
Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.
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