Mar 19, 2008

European Union Film Festival

The 11th European Union Film Festival continues Friday, March 14, through Thursday, April 3, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members. Following are selected films screening through Thursday, March 20; for a full festival schedule visit

Darling An enjoyable if paper-thin Swedish drama about a vain young beauty (Michelle Meadows) whose callous indifference finally catches up with her, causing a precipitous fall in her social and economic standing. Forced into a job at a fast-food restaurant, she’s befriended in the workplace by an aging divorcee (Michael Segerstrom) whose optimism and kindness in the face of his own trials prompts her to reevaluate her priorities. Writer-director Johan Kling rescues the story from sentimentality with a welcome dose of ambiguity toward the end, and Meadows turns in a subtle performance, finding complexity beneath her character’s chilly self-absorption. The movie’s one misstep is Segerstrom’s unlikely character, whose decency borders on saintliness. In Swedish with subtitles. 90 min. (Reece Pendleton) Arrow Fri 3/14, 8 PM, and Wed 3/19, 6 PM.

The Inner Life of Martin Frost Relaxing at a friend's empty country house, a reclusive New York novelist (David Thewlis) is inspired to write a new story and the next morning wakes up alongside a mysterious and seductive graduate student (Irene Jacob) who quickly becomes his muse and lover. Paul Auster, who made his directing debut with Lulu on the Bridge, provides the voice-over narration for this 2007 second feature, which was drawn and expanded from an interpolated story in his own novel, the engrossing Book of Illusions. The sad irony is that his storytelling gifts, Thewlis's resourcefulness, and Jacob's beauty only postpone one's awareness that the material is too literary to work as cinema. The plot becomes increasingly arch (with the arrival of characters played by Michael Imperioli and by Auster's teenage daughter, Sophie) and self-consciously metaphysical, and mannerism gradually overtakes visual and narrative invention. 94 min. (JR) Arrow Sat 3/15, 7 PM, and Tue 3/18, 8:15 PM.

It’s a Free World . . . Writer Paul Laverty and director Ken Loach have produced some powerful dramas—My Name Is Joe, Bread and Roses, Sweet Sixteen—but this 2007 feature doesn’t compare with them despite its timely subject, the exploitation of illegal aliens. Newcomer Kierston Wareing is strong as the lead character, an unscrupulous but not entirely unsympathetic single mother who loses her job at a London employment agency and then partners with a flatmate (Juliet Ellis) to open her own such establishment. But Loach and Laverty’s didactic side ultimately becomes obtrusive, even as they challenge our identification with the heroine. I emerged from this story feeling sadder and wiser but was never fully engaged. 93 min. (JR) Arrow Sat 3/15, 7 PM, and Thu 3/20, 6 PM.

The Rest Is Silence Nae Caranfil, whose Philanthropy (2002) satirized contemporary Romanian capitalism, leaps back to the early days of cinema for this ambitious but rather unwieldy 2007 historical drama. A young movie director in Bucharest wins the financial backing of a vainglorious theater owner to shoot an epic about the Romanian struggle for independence against the Ottoman Empire. Caranfil based his script on the true story of Independenta Romaniei (1912), a two-hour film that at the time was the longest movie ever made, and clips from the real-life film are sprinkled throughout this fictionalized tale. The comic scenes are deftly handled, but a subplot involving the director’s relationship with an aspiring theater actress goes off the rails, and chronicling the birth of a national cinema proves too weighty a burden. In Romanian with subtitles. 140 min. (JJ) Arrow Sat 3/15, 4:15 PM, and Thu 3/20, 7:45 PM.

Roman de Gare After a series of missteps (e.g. The Courage to Love), French New Wave veteran Claude Lelouch bounces back smartly with this masterful and constantly surprising thriller (2007). The multilayered plot involves a celebrated crime novelist (Fanny Ardant), her missing ghostwriter, and a serial killer. Slyly exploiting audience expectations and prejudices, Lelouch calls into question our very ways of seeing, even as he and his longtime writing partner, Pierre Uytterhoeven, craft an elegant meditation on loss and rebirth. With Audrey Dana and Dominique Pinon (Delicatessen). In French with subtitles. 103 min. (AG) Arrow Sun 3/16, 3 PM.

The Sky Turns Distinguished only by Alberto Rodriguez’s impressionistic cinematography, this 2004 documentary by Mercedes Alvarez surveys her hometown, the fading rustic village of Aldealseñor in northern Spain. The filmmaker makes some ambitious thematic leaps: the Roman conquest of nearby Numantia is compared to the imperial ambitions of George W. Bush (as bombers soar overhead to Baghdad), dinosaur fossils are likened to elderly villagers, and a medieval Moorish castle being redeveloped as an upscale hotel is linked to new Moroccan immigration. But Alvarez’s pacing is tortured, and her metaphor of a nearly blind painter recording a dying culture is heavy-handed. In Spanish and Arabic with subtitles. 106 min. (AG) Arrow Sun 3/16, 3 PM, and Tue 3/18, 6 PM.

Summer ’04 Martina Gedeck (The Lives of Others, Mostly Martha) powers this unnerving 2006 drama as a woman vacationing on Germany’s Baltic coast with her husband (Peter Davor), her teenage son (Lucas Kotaranin), and the boy’s much younger girlfriend (Svea Lohde). Their idyll is disrupted when the young woman goes sailing alone with a handsome new neighbor (Robert Seeliger) and the mother, feeling responsible for her underaged guest, confronts the stranger, only to plunge into deeper waters than she imagined. Stefan Krohmer directs with remarkable sophistication and dexterity, particularly in his quicksilver shifts from nature’s allure to its menace. In German with subtitles. 97 min. (AG) Arrow Sun 3/16, 5:15 PM, and Mon 3/17, 6 PM.


Autumn Ball Arrow Sat 3/15, 4:30 PM, and Wed 3/19, 8 PM.

Dying in Athens Arrow Fri 3/14 and Mon 3/17, 8 PM.

Ex Drummer Arrow Fri 3/14, 6 PM, and Tue 3/18, 8:30 PM.

56 Drops of Blood Arrow Mon 3/17, 8:15 PM, and Thu 3/20, 6 PM.

Return of the Storks Arrow Sat 3/15, 9 PM, and Mon 3/17, 6:15 PM.

Saturn in Opposition Arrow Sun 3/16, 5 PM, and Thu 3/20, 8 PM.

Tell No One Arrow Sat 3/15, 9 PM, and Tue 3/18, 6 PM.

To the Limit Arrow Fri 3/14, 6 PM.


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