"...a quirky little buried treasure."

Dreams, Poetry and Death on Grand Avenue

(100320) Dreaming Grand Avenue is a decidedly odd and thematically ambitious romance with elements of noir and surrealism thrown in. The film was shot in Chicago (mostly Uptown from the look of it) and the whole thing takes place there as well. It is currently playing at the Music Box Theatre at 3733 S. Southport. It is also available for downloading in several web sites. See below for link information for this film.

I must qualify the high rating slightly. Although I enjoyed the film greatly, I am definitely part of the film’s target audience. Viewers who do not know the Chicago poetry scene, or the city itself might appreciate the film a bit less (maybe this would be a three-star film for them.) But the film has plenty of good aspects including its highly original story and its non-showy, convincing performances. It should appeal to both art film aficionados and genre film lovers.

The director, Hugh Schultz previously produced another poetry themed film, Look and See: A Portrait of Wendall Berry a documentary about (you guessed it) Wendall Berry as well as the family drama, Cass (2013).

Dreaming Grand Avenue is about Maggie (Andrea Londo), and Jimmy (Jackson Rathbone), a romantic couple that does not meet in the usual way. They don’t meet up in reality, but they frequently pair up in the dreamscape. It all begins when the characters run into each other in a train station (in a dream) when we get to find out about their contrasting artistic interests. Maggie is reading Emily Dickinson’s Sounds of the Soul, while Jimmy is a drawing a bird person when they start eyeing each other. The basic premise of people meeting in dreams reminded me slightly of On Body and Soul (2017), a Hungarian Netflix film I put on my top ten list a few years ago, but the tone here is much lighter.

It turns out that Jimmy is averse to working, and he may be intentionally messing up his job interviews. Of course, his girlfriend does not appreciate this. The long unemployed Jimmy also have one strange hobby that occupies his time which gives him pleasure . He likes to snorkel in the bathtub while wearing a weird apparatus on his face. Which may sound odd but is at least better than the man whose hobby is to slow dance with his son in his dead wife’s clothes in a similar 1999 film Julian Donkey Boy .

They film suggests they both recently had tragic encounters with death in their lives. After the train door opens Jimmy recalls his half-brother in a coffin and Maggie sees a coffin with the name Sarah on it.
There is another parallel aspect of their lives, parental issues. Jimmy feels anguish because of the death of his father while Maggie continually argues with her combative dad (he is completely unsympathetic). He continually berates her (like many parents) for not having a better job. She graduated law school with top grades, but she watches kids for a living.

The film is filled with literary allusions. Jimmy’s half-brother has a tattoo on his arm which contains one of Joseph Campbell’s (read The Power of Myth you won’t be sorry) most well-known quotes “Follow your bliss” which ties directly into the theme of the movie.

There is also a subplot involving missing kids which ties into a sinister conversation about Mayan blood sacrifices (Maggie’s dad bizarrely claims that child blood sacrifices are the cornerstone of every human civilization). Not coincidently Jimmy is hired to draw a mural near the old remains of a Mayan temple. Not all these threads are adequately tied together or resolved well enough but they sure are interesting.

A dream detective named Jack Yancy (played by Tony Fitzpatrick) goes into a darkly lit bar owned by Andromeda (Wendy Robie from Twin Peaks), It turns out that Andromeda wants Yancy to hire Jimmy for a mysterious task The detective is a variation on a traditional film noir dick. He is gruff and tough on the inside and he conceals a caring side.

The main reason why I wanted to see the film was it contains a substantial role for local Chicago art celebrity, Tony Fitzpatrick and he is convincing in the film. Fitzpatrick is known for his riveting spoken word performances his appearances on the radio, and his marvelous art. (I went to see his fine Secret Birds paintings show.).

There is even a scene shot in the Green Mill Lounge with an extended cameo by Chicago poetry legend, Marc Smith who is known for his dynamic performance skills and his humorously abrasive comments (unfortunately rumor has it that Smith has retired from MCing ). Marc’s Green Mill show was the entrance point for many (including me) into the Chicago spoken word/performance poetry scene. The Green Mill was also the first place I saw Tony Fitzpatrick read.

The film has many brief interesting and magical moments. One of the highlights is when Jimmy who is about to be interviewed for a job, practices in front of his girlfriend. When he answers the questions in a mock interview, he impersonates Christopher Walken and Marlon Brando (although I think few post millennial's would get it). Oh, and get this the spirit of Walt Whitman (Troy West) appears to Jimmy as a kind of poetic mentor (in real life Whitman has been a great influence on almost all post-Civil War poets.) In one scene Whitman reads from Leaves of Grass onstage (before I teach this book, I always try to read part of this pantheistic text in the woods.)

At one point one of the characters says that there are less and less dreamers, and that she hopes the dreamers will find each other. Here’s hoping that some of them also find this film which qualifies as a quirky little buried treasure.

Directed &Written by:   Hugh Schultz
Starring:   Andrea Londo, Jackson Rathbone, Tony Fitzpatrick
Released:   9/27/2020
Length:   99 minutes
Rating:   Unrated

You can view this movie at the Revo Gamers website:

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

DREAMING GRAND AVENUE © 2020  Newcity's Chicago Film Project
Review © 2020 Alternate Reality, Inc.