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A Guide to the 12th European Union Film Festival: Week Three
by Peter Sobczynski

A look at some of the highlights of the third week of screenings at the European Union Film Festival at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center.

In 1998, Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center first presented the European Union Film Festival, a month-long program designed to highlight the newest films emerging from the EU member nations. Over the years, it has grown into an annual event that is one of the largest such showcases and has offered viewers a canny mix of previews of highly anticipated films as well as smaller titles that might otherwise never be seen in these parts. This year, the 12th Annual European Union Film Festival kicks off on March 6th and will be screening 59 films from all 27 EU nations, including new works from such noted filmmakers as Agnes Varda, Peter Greenaway, Olivier Assayas, Shane Meadows, Nicholas Roeg and Francois Ozon.

Over the next four weeks, I will be presenting a brief highlight reel of some of the more notable titles that will be unspooling and the guests that are scheduled to appear. If you would like more information on the films and their showtimes, you should log on to the Film Center’s website at All screenings will be held at the Film Center (164 North State Street) and outside of the opening and closing night films, the ticket prices are $9 for non-members, $7 for students and $5 for members.

Here are some of the highlights from the festival’s third week of programming

THE BAKER: In this dark comedy from England, a hit man (Damian Lewis) finds it imperative to lay low for a while and attempts to do so by hiding out in a tiny Welsh village while working as a baker. Inevitably, his secret is revealed and it turns out that the locals are more interested in his way with a bullet than his way with a baguette. (3/21 5:30 PM and 3/23 6:00 PM)

FRONTIER OF DAWN: In this surreal and slightly supernatural love story from acclaimed French director Philippe Garrel, a photographer (Louis Garrel, Philippe’s son and one of France’s rising young stars) has a passionate affair with a movie star (Laura Smet) that ends abruptly with her suicide. Later on, he begins a new romance with another woman but finds himself haunted by what he believes to be messages from his former love. (3/21 5:30 PM and 3/26 8:30 PM).

NIGHTWATCHING: Having thoroughly baffled even his most ardent followers with his multi-part, multi-media head-turner “The Tulse Luper Suitcases,” the always-provocative and always-interesting avant-garde filmmaker Peter Greenaway (still best known in these parts for the audacious “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover”) returns with this slightly more accessible, though no less audacious work that is partly a biopic of the great painter Rembrandt (Martin Freeman) during the period in which he created his epic work “The Night Watch” and partly a deconstruction of that work in which each piece of the painting is investigated to reveal the secrets that it contains. (Okay, when I said it was more accessible, I suppose I should have said that it was accessible by his standards.) While it may not reach the heights of such masterpieces as “Prospero’s Books” or “The Baby of Macon,” this is a thoroughly engrossing work and for Greenaway fanatics--I can only hope such people still exist--it is a must-see. (3/21 7:30 PM and 3/26 6:00 PM)

FEAR ME NOT: Former Dogme 95 (remember that film movement?) follower Kristian Levring returns with a new thriller that starts off as a modern-day take on the Nicholas Ray classic “Bigger Than Life” and then moves into newer and darker waters. Bogged down in the middle of a mid-life crisis, a Danish businessman (Ulrich Thomsen) volunteers to participate in a trial study for a new anti-depressant drug--things go well for a while but when the study is abandoned because of the dangerous side effects, the man (who hasn’t told his family about his participation) continues to take them and finds that his previously repressed emotions and instincts are beginning to take over with increasingly nasty results. (3/21 10:00 PM and 3/24 6:15 PM).

LEFT BANK: Borrowing elements from such genre classics as “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Tenant” and “The Wicker Man,” this horror entry from Belgium starts off innocently enough--after temporarily being forced out of competition after an injury, a track star passes the time by plunging into a passionate love affair with a new boyfriend that culminates with her moving into his secluded high-rise on Antwerp’s left bank. Once she discovers that the previous tenant disappeared under mysterious circumstances and that her lover is the head of a strange organization that has been around since medieval times, she decides to investigate and uncovers all sorts of horrifying secrets. (3/21 10:00 PM and 3/24 8:15 PM).

ANGEL: Director Francois Ozon, who became an international sensation thanks to such films as “8 Women” and “Swimming Pool,” returns with this change-of-pace period drama about a young woman (Romola Garai) who dreams of becoming a famous novelist and whose vivid imagination allows her to look at her real life with the same kind of creative vision that she brings to her fiction. Admittedly, I haven’t seen this one as of yet and many of the reviews that it received when it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival a couple of years ago were on the harsh side, but to these eyes, any Ozon film (especially one featuring longtime collaborator Charlotte Rampling in a supporting role) is worth checking out. (3/22 2:45 PM and 3/23 8:00 PM).

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originally posted: 03/20/09 09:17:41
last updated: 03/20/09 09:31:13
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