The Dark Side of the Dream

Films from last century foretelling the rise of the Terran Empire in future centuries, at the Roxie starting Friday.

Humphrey Bogart in ‘Black Legion’—a film sued by the KKK.

There’s a theory that at some point in the recent past — most likely between June 16, 2015 and Nov. 8, 2016 — we shifted into a mirror universe in which humans are fundamentally evil and uncompassionate. We may never know for sure, but it does make the film series The Dark Side of the Dream: Subversive Cinema for Subversive Times: 1933-1964 feel especially relevant right now. Joseph Losey’s pulpy 1951 remake of Fritz Lang’s M is fascinating for many reasons, not the least of which is its location-shooting in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill neighborhood, so familiar from Robert Aldich’s Kiss Me Deadly that it’s easy to expect Ralph Meeker to round a corner and kick someone’s dog. More directly relevant to today’s dumb era is Frank Capra’s seldom-seen Meet John Doe, about a populist hero created as hoax who becomes co-opted by corporate and political interests. It’s a stronger and far less dated film than his overpraised It’s a Wonderful Life, and the way Barbara Stanwyck’s character is reduced to a gibbering ninny may be unfortunate, but it’s also very Capraesque. Meanwhile, making the repertory rounds a lot lately is Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, a darker take on faux-populism that’s somehow still not as dark as what’s happening on our side of the screen. 

Starts Friday at the Roxie Theater.

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