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Chicago's European Union Festival 2012 (Week Four)

by Peter Sobczynski & Erik Childress

The 15th Annual European Union Festival continues at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center for its final week and here are some films you can see in Week Four (March 23-29).

The Belgian comedy duo of Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon co-star and co-direct (with Bruno Romy) this goofy comedy about a dopey hotel clerk (Abel) who instantly falls in love with a new arrival, a seemingly ordinary woman (Gordon) who has no money but who claims to be a fairy who well grant him three wishes in exchange for a room. Oddly enough, she makes his first two wishes come true before taking off and the besotted clerk goes off in pursuit of her. While the premise may sound intolerably twee to some of you, this is a genial enough fantasy-comedy and while it may have a few too many whimsical touches for its own good (such as the number of wacky supporting characters hanging around on the fringes), the generally amusing sight gags and the likable presence of the two leads is enough to make for an entertaining, if ultimately inessential, night at the movies. (March 23, 6:00 PM and March 27, 6:00 PM) (Peter Sobczynski)

Based on a short story by Barry Gifford, best known in film circles for collaborating with David Lynch on "Wild at Heart" and "Lost Highway," this drama from Romania concerns an American professor who begins investigating his family's roots, specifically those belonging to his grandfather, a notorious Roaring 20's mobster. This search takes him back the small Carpathian town where his grandfather was born and winds up uncovering any number of unexpected secrets. This may sound like a feel-good, heart-warming entertainment but director Lucian Georgescu offers up something a little darker and weirder (almost Jarmuschian at some points) and while some of this may drive potential viewers up the wall and out of the theater in frustration, it does make for a somewhat more memorable viewing experience. Both Georgescu and Gifford are scheduled to appear at both screenings for post-film Q&A's. (March 23, 8:00 PM and March 24, 5:00 PM). (Peter Sobczynski)

As anyone who remembers the extremely grim "Twentynine Palms" can attest, one does not go to a film by French director Bruno Dumont expecting whimsical fun and games and his latest blast of darkness is certainly no exception. This time around, he focuses on a mysterious drifter (David Dewaele) who roams the countryside alternately performing inexplicable acts of brutality with equally inexplicable acts of mercy and healing and the young girl (Alexandra Lemotre) who becomes his sort-of disciple after he kills her stepfather. As things progress (slowly--this is a Dumont film, after all), the question arises--is he Good or Evil and, perhaps more intriguingly, is it possible to have one without the other. While this film is certainly as grim as anything you could possibly hope or fear to encounter (those who are put off by films featuring little dialogue and violence towards animals are duly warned), the metaphysical questions that Dumont asks are intriguing and should inspire any number of fascinating post-film discussions after the near-requisite drink and shower. (March 24, 2:45 PM and March 28, 6:00 PM). (Peter Sobczynski)

The idea of transplanting Emily Bronte's classic novel from the supernatural romanticism of William Wyler's 1939 film version to the stark realism of a Yorkshire landscape is certainly intriguing. Especially in the hands of Andrea Arnold, the Oscar-winning short filmmaker who has gained further acclaim with features Red Road and the even better Fish Tank. And for a while it looks as if she might pull it off. Again, using untrained actors Heathcliff (Solomon Glave) is now a runaway slave and Cathy is the child that befriends him. The film works as their friendship grows despite the opposition of the family that "adopted" him, but there is a real ugliness (punctuated by the film's weather-induced palette) that makes it hard to find any emotional attachment. Especially with Heathcliff, who has every right to be standoff-ish and angry, but not to the point of being unpleasant enough to make us almost side with brother Hindley. Chalk this one under the heading of "interesting failure" as Arnold's ambition with the early chapters of Bronte's table is to be admired, but not when its presented so coldly that we need two jackets to combat both the weather and the emotional viability. (Sunday, March 25 at 4:45 PM) (Erik Childress)

More whimsy from Belgium (who knew?), this comedy involves a salesman whose attempts to peddle his company's latest creation--a robot pig meant to help aid in the fertilization process--unexpectedly land him in the remote hamlet of Madonna (so named because of a rumor that the pop icon once spent the night there many years ago) and embroil him in long-running community battles that he attempts to resolve. At least that sounds easier than what he is up against with the local woman that he falls in love with--she refuses to have anything to do with him until her grandfather returns from the dead. I can see where some may find this to be charming and delightful and whimsical as all get out but I must confess that I found it to be quite tiresome and annoying almost right from the start and whatever charms it may possess, they were pretty much all lost on me. (March 25, 7:15 PM and March 26, 8:00 PM). (Peter Sobczynski)

For more details you may go the Siskel Film Center Website

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originally posted: 03/24/12 06:49:30
last updated: 03/24/12 06:54:50
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