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Chicago 10
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by brianorndorf

"Power to the People...in Living Color"
4 stars

The trial of the “Chicago Eight” was an explosive moment in courtroom history where the mighty hand of justice was turned into a pathetic cartoon. Considering the volatile nature of the event, it seems appropriate that director Brett Morgan literally reduces the proceedings into an animated feature. “Chicago 10” is an art-house rarity that manages to visually dazzle while peeling away the layers of this contentious moment in time, giving viewers an eyeful of social unrest and wondrous screen fantasia.

As the 1968 Democratic National Convention neared its commencement in Chicago, leaders for both the MOBE and Yippie anti-war movements elected to stage a formal protest in the heart of the city. What resulted from that provocative intent was complete chaos, spreading violence across Chicago, souring the event and furthering the discontent of a war-torn America. The resulting trial of the demonstration’s figureheads (Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Dave Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale) was an event marked by confusion and blaring injustice, showcasing a court system unable to contain a new wavelength of radical thought and anti-establishment behavior.

Morgan, who directed the magnificent Hollywood valentine “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” brings his inventive sensibilities to “Chicago 10,” a complex picture that falls somewhere between hypnotic exaggeration and stark recount.

While primarily carved out of media footage of the Convention explosion and all the brainstorms that led up to the nightmare, the film turns to the forgiveness of animation to step inside the courtroom. Using rotoscope technology (similar in style to Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life”), Morgan works off court transcripts and eyewitnesses to imagine the movement of misconduct the stained the trial. The vivid coloring and thick character lines bring a sense of reality to the unreal, attempting to reconstruct the unmanageable mess of prosecution and the prejudice of elderly Judge Julius Hoffman, who couldn’t keep up with the freebird mentality of the defendants, preferring to scrape away their basic rights to maintain order.

The amalgamation of aesthetics is exceptionally implemented, instilling a profound mood to the feature, allowing Morgan to fill out the corners of the story that only exist in audio form. The animation fits right into the stream of intention here, but the real firepower of “Chicago 10” is the media coverage of the era, showcasing cameras stuck in amazing places to observe the moment. It’s questionable to hear the use of Rage Against the Machine and Eminem to backdrop the unrest, but Morgan saves himself by concentrating his bursts of violence, balancing the horror out with generous snapshots of Rubin and Hoffman, the latter essentially becoming the voice (and a tiresome one at that) of the whole incident.

“Chicago 10” observes the remarkable mistreatment of Bobby Seale in the courtroom; touches on Allen Ginsberg’s hilarious calming techniques and general spiritual grace; counts down the Convention carnage like a doomsday clock; focuses on Hoffman’s showboat routines; and is quite generous with violent detail once the Chicago police turn on the protesters. It’s a vivid primer on this portion of shaggy-haired, radical history, digging into the psychology and absurdity of the Convention fallout, manufacturing a remembrance piece that thickly underlines the cultural shock as the impotent hippie movement entered its waning years.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15684&reviewer=404
originally posted: 08/22/08 14:12:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/10/08 Colleen H I loved this format. A remarkably well done movie about a tragic time in our lives. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Feb-2008 (R)
  DVD: 26-Aug-2008

UK
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Australia
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  DVD: 26-Aug-2008




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