Over four once-a-month screenings this calendar, we will provide a sampling of the feature film work by Wisconsin’s Own Michael Schultz, a pioneering African-American filmmaker who sustained a successful career within the Hollywood studio system over five decades. Born (in 1939) and raised in Milwaukee, Schultz developed a reputation as one of the most versatile feature film directors of the 1970s and 80s, and became particularly renowned for his comedies. A specialist with large, multi-character casts, Schultz also revealed a deftness for handling issues of race with a gentle, kind humor, and unexpected bursts of poignancy. Also at the Chazen on February 19, we will pay tribute to the late avant-garde artist Paolo Gioli (1942-1922) with a selection of his experimental short films. 

  • Sun., Jan. 29 | 2:00 PM

Set in and around Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing projects, Cooley High presents the seriocomic adventures of two best friends, Preach (Turman) and Cochise (Hilton-Jacobs), as they navigate their way through the humdrum of high school and the hazards of North Side 1964’s mean streets. Labeled the “Black” American Graffiti for years, Cooley is looser, grittier, and less nostalgic than the comparison suggests, with an energy and vibe that has proved influential in the ensuing decades. Director Schultz’s movie inspired the long running tv sitcom What’s Happening, and left its fingerprints all over subsequent big screen portrayals of Black teens, including, notably, 1991’s Boyz n the Hood. (BR)

  • Sun., Feb. 19 | 2:00 PM

An avant-garde artist whose work was completed between the late 1960s and his death in 2022, Paolo Gioli occupies a unique spot in the history of Italian cinema. Gioli's films explore the mechanical, chemical, and perceptual elements of the cinema that, while often overlooked, are nevertheless essential to the cinematic experience as we have known it. This selection of Gioli’s short films, curated and presented by UW Madison Professor of Italian Patrick Rumble, offers examples of the filmmaker’s playfully archeological attitude towards the medium and its technology, resulting in Rumble's description of Gioli as "among the last of the first filmmakers."  The program of 8 Gioli short films spans between Traces of Traces (1969) and Natura Obscura (2013). (PR)

  • Sun., Feb. 26 | 2:00 PM

Schultz’s box office hit offers a day-in-the-life of the workers, customers, and strange visitors at a busy Los Angeles car wash. The Grammy-winning pop soundtrack features Rose Royce’s chart-topping title song, of course, and the talented cast also includes Antonio Fargas, Melanie Mayron, Jaws’s Lorraine Gary, Garrett Morris, Clarence Muse, The Pointer Sisters, Ivan Dixon, Bill Duke, Brooke Adams, and Danny DeVito. A multi-character laugh riot with moments of poignancy in the tradition of American Graffiti, Car Wash is a “sunny, lively comedy…[with a] tremendous sense of life” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times).

  • Sun., Mar. 26 | 2:00 PM

Thirty-something delivery man Dexter Jackson’s (Carson) greatest dream is to be a television news anchor, a gig he spends every free moment practicing for. His big break comes during an active hostage situation where his heroic efforts earn him the respect of his community and a cushy reporting gig as the only Black newsman at a highly rated local network. Soon enough, though, he’s pushed by a craven, ratings-hungry producer to deliver sleazy exposés on his friends and neighbors, and he begins to see a grotesque, Dorian Gray-like transformation in his on-air appearance. In hindsight, Livin’ Large! looks like a stepping stone between Sidney Lumet’s Network and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, a media satire as broad and crass as the industry it’s skewering, and another Schultz-directed winner that pins its wacky hijinks to an uncommon sensitivity regarding matters of race and work. Print courtesy Chicago Film Society. (CW)

  • Sun., Apr. 30 | 2:00 PM

Aspiring to the kung fu mastery of Bruce Lee, martial artist Leroy (Taimak) rescues TV personality Laura (Vanity) from an evil businessman (Murney). To keep Laura safe, Leroy faces a showdown with Sho’nuff (Julius Carry III), The Shogun of Harlem. Produced by Berry Gordy, this light and funny action-romance has a Motown soundtrack featuring Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and Debarge, performing Rhythm of the Night. “The Last Dragon is first and foremost a romantic comedy, and a very sweet one at that, and that's why its martial-arts combat scenes work so well. We've been given enough time to care about who's kicking the stuffing out of whom” (Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune).