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.

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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