Movie Review: 2001 CUFF: The Biograph Theater
My favorite part of the documentary Coffin Joe is when Jose Mojica Marins walks around his hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil, to show us his favorite movie theaters. Except, all these grand old bijous have been torn down and transformed into parking lots and garages. An apt metaphor for the declining state of modern cinema.
I can picture this fate befalling the host of the Chicago Underground Film Festival, the Biograph Theater in Lincoln Park. This was the first year the CUFF was being held in this grand old movie palace and I was shocked to discover that it does not show movies anymore on a regular basis. It is only a venue for special events these days, which, to me, seems like a tremendous shame.
There are 2 floors to the Biograph and 3 theaters. The first floor has one of the most gigantic movie screens I have seen in a long, long time, with a tremendous seating capacity. It may seem a bit “old-fashioned” by today’s multiplex standards, but I think places like the Biograph feel more welcoming and homey. The 2 upstairs theaters are considerably smaller, about ¼ the size of the downstairs, but have a very nice art house theater feel to them.
It was my suggestion, to nobody but myself, to turn the Biograph into a film “museum,” much like my beloved Anthology Film Archives in NYC. And as much as I adore the Anthology and would love to live in their basement, its theaters are a bit lacking and on the low-tech side. That does give the Anthology a certain charm, but not only does the Biograph have one more screen than the Anthology, but it has a more pleasant feel to it — plusher, bigger lobby and more comfortable seating.
A terrific venue for the CUFF.
And by the way: Amy Beste, CUFF’s Programming Director, said that there are plans to turn the Biograph back into a regular commercial theater. At least that’s better than a parking lot, I guess.