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Revulsion in the Grocery Aisle: Explorations of Consumer Culture

December 7, 2019 ,  7pm

Chicago Filmmakers
5720 N. Ridge Avenue
Chicago IL 60660 , go to map

Admissions: Suggested donation, $8

The supermarket is arguably the most “American” of inventions. One would be hard-pressed to find a more succinct representation of consumerist culture run amok than in the aisles of a nutritional wasteland. The very existence of a supermarket as mega-structure offers the mirage of easily accessible wealth, even as it disguises a sense of dissatisfaction and perhaps, disgust.

Revulsion in the Grocery Aisle is a program of short films from Chicago Film Archives’ vault inspired by the questions cleverly set forth in Kenji Kanesaka’s 1966 film Super Up. A beautiful 16mm preservation print has been struck from the original elements in CFA’s archive, which was made possible through the generous support of the National Film Preservation Foundation and our friends at Colorlab. This photochemical preservation project began in 2018 and was completed in the fall of 2019.

We are thrilled to share the premiere of this new print, and present a program featuring other notable works from CFA’s collection that provide a distinctive view of American consumerist culture in the 1960s and ’70s.

Still from "Could You Eat Just a Little Bit of Shit"
Could You Eat Just a Little Bit of Shit
James Benoit Collection
16mm, black-and-white, sound
7 min, 9 sec

A student film that was perhaps initially intended to be an elaborate joke, this stoner comedy fittingly sets a tone of both revulsion and defiance. Conceived by filmmaker Benoit while he was a student at the University of Iowa, the movie asks the question “Could you eat just a little bit of shit?” meaning, how much is one willing to swallow for a quick fix? Never has a vending machine or grocery aisle filled with heavily processed junk food looked more ominous than in this hilarious and slyly subversive film.

Arrival Supermarket Architecture
(ca. 1967)
Camille Cook Collection
16mm, color, silent
8 min, 40 sec

Filmmaker and founder of The Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (now The Gene Siskel Film Center), Camille Cook made the intriguing Arrival Supermarket Architecture in the late 1960s, during her time managing the Magick Lantern Film Society, a club that screened experimental films throughout Chicago. This structuralist film explores the facades of various architectural landmarks juxtaposed against the purely capitalist edifices ensconced within supermarkets.

Jerry’s Deli
Bill Stamets Collection
Dir. Tom Palazzolo
16mm, color, sound
9 min, 52 sec

For 29 years Jerry Meyers screamed and yelled at the customers who came into his deli, and this documentary short directed by Tom Palazzolo attempts to explain why people keep coming back for more. Beneath his rough-and-tumble exterior, Jerry is surprising kind to his customers, who crave an intimacy that is hard to find in other spaces from which they need to purchase their food.

Daytime Television (ca. 1973)
JoAnn Elam Collection
16mm, color, sound
3 min, 20 sec

Set to the Beatles 1965 song “You Like Me Too Much,” Daytime Television consists of a series of close-up handheld pans of cleaning supply labels and packaging. Elam refuses to pull back and the abstracted visual effect is both dizzying, hypnotic, and full of rapidly flashing colors. The film looks at the feminist discourse of the “politics of housework,” and the anti-consumer sentiment baked into the counterculture of the day.

Still from SUPER UP
Super Up
Sue and Marv Gold Collection
Dir. Kenji Kanesaka
16mm, color, sound
12 min

Kenji Kanesaka, one of the founding members of the “Film Independent” group and the Japan Filmmakers Co-op in Tokyo, was commissioned by Chicago producer Marv Gold to direct Super Up in 1965. The film is an exceptional and striking critique of structures of racial and class segregation, consumerism and lust, sexual energy and desire, and the domination of (and link between) advertising, consumption, sexuality, and the police.

Total program runtime: 42 minutes


Chicago Filmmakers
5720 N. Ridge Avenue
Chicago IL 60660
go to map
Admissions:Suggested donation, $8
Public Transport:If traveling by CTA, Chicago Filmmakers is accessible by bus routes 84 Ridge and 36 Broadway. Chicago Filmmakers is also a 7 minute walk from the Bryn Mawr Red Line Stop.
Parking:If you're traveling by car there is a lot on the NW side of the building off of Hollywood Ave.