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Chicago's European Union Festival 2012 (Week Three)

by Peter Sobczynski & Erik Childress

The 15th Annual European Union Festival continues at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center and here are some films you can see in Week Three (March 16-22).

Beatrice Dalle, best known in these parts for her iconic performance in the title role of "Betty Blue," stars in this odd drama from Patric Chiha in which she plays an alcoholic mathematician who takes her gay teenage nephew (Isaie Sultan) under her wing to help him make the final transition to adulthood, only to sink further into drunken depression when he does exactly that. As coming-of-age dramas go, this one is only okay at best--the nephew's difficulties turn out to be nothing much an the notion of Dalle as a math genius is almost as difficult to comprehend as her theorems--but Dalle is still such a forceful and compelling presence that she single-handedly makes it come alive whenever she is on the screen by virtue of her still-magnetic personality. (March 16, 6:00 PM and March 19, 6:00 PM) (Peter Sobczynski)

Acclaimed French filmmaker Andre Techine returns with this tale about a French pulp novelist (Andre Dussollier) who rents a villa on the outskirts of Venice in order to complete his latest work. Thanks to a number of distractions involving his real-estate agent (Carole Bouquet), a daughter who has left her husband to run off with a junkie and who has unexpectedly dropped her own child in his care before taking off and the detective he hires to track down said daughter, the book suffers from any number of delays but I suspect that he winds up learning important lessons about living and loving life in exchange. I must admit that I have not yet seen this film yet but while the story itself may sound a little cheesy--if you close your eyes, you can practically see the English-language remake just from the above description--but seeing as how it comes from a director as gifted as Techine (whose credits include "Wild Reeds," "Thieves" and "Strayed"), I am at least guardedly optimistic about it. (March 17, 7:00 PM and March 21, 6:00 PM). (Peter Sobczynski)

After his strange detour into English-language filmmaking with the horrific horror film "Gothika" and the largely disastrous sci-fi epic "Babylon A.D.," French actor-director Mathieu Kassovitz returns to his native land to tell this true story of in which he portrays the leader of a police negotiating unit dispatched to the colony of New Caledonia in 1988 to handle a political uprising that could have an impact on the upcoming French presidential elections. The film finds Kassovitz back in the hard-nosed, politically and socially committed cinematic style of his 1995 breakthrough "La Haine" and needless to say, it still makes for a far better and more gripping fit for him than those gumdrops with Halle Berry and Vin Diesel ever did. (March 18, 2:30 PM and March 22, 6:00 PM). (Peter Sobczynski)

When one thinks of coming-of-age comedy-dramas, one doesn't necessarily think of the Czech Republic but that is what filmmaker Ondrej Trojan has given us here with this look at four friends growing up in the 1970s who find themselves torn between their new status as adults (as prescribed by their recently acquired state I.D. cards) and the lure of such corrupting Western influences as rock music and hippie nonsense. Some viewers may be a little put off by the film's length (137 minutes) and the way that it whipsaws between high comedy and dark drama but for the most part, this is a compelling and fresh look at a point in time that everyone can relate to regardless of the circumstances of their own adolescences. (March 18, 2:30 PM and March 20, 6:00 PM). (Peter Sobczynski)

For more details you may go the Siskel Film Center Website

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originally posted: 03/17/12 04:37:41
last updated: 03/24/12 06:50:41
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