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A Guide To The 19th Annual European Union Film Festival: Week Three
by Peter Sobczynski

Now in its 19th year, Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center once again presents the European Union Film Festival, a month-long program designed to highlight the newest films coming out of the EU member nations by offering a canny mix of highly anticipated titles and lesser-known films that may never again be seen in these parts. This year’s iteration offers up 62 titles from all 28 EU nations that include the latest efforts from such acclaimed filmmakers as Alexandra Sokurov, Mattero Garrone, Terrence Davies, the Taviani Brothers and the late Chantal Akerman. 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. All screenings will be held at the Gene Siskel Film Center at 164 North State Street. For a full schedule of films and showtimes, you should log on to the Film Center website at siskelfilmcenter.org

Here are some of the highlights of the coming week, including the latest work for one of the most acclaimed director in the world, what would prove to be the last film from another world-class director, post-punk music celebrations and a film with a vampire seeming psychiatric counseling from Sigmund Freud himself.

SUNSET SONG[/i\b]: In his first film since "Deep Blue Sea," acclaimed filmmaker Terence Davies adapts Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel about a strong-willed Scottish woman (ex-model Gayness Deyn) who survives a harsh upbringing at the hand of her brutish father (Peter Mullan) and inherits the family farm, only to find her own happy marriage and family threatened by the effects of World War I. From a thematic standpoint, the film often feels like a companion piece to Davies’s masterpiece "Distant Voices, Still Lives" but never comes close to approximating its predecessor. It is beautifully filmed (the outdoor scenes were shot in 70mm and are ravishing) and Deyn makes for a credible heroine (though her Scottish brogue is occasionally a bit suspect), but some of her fellow actors are guilty of over-emoting (let us just say that we get the full Mullan here) and the story falters badly with the onset of the war. It is probably still worth a look but you can’t help but come away from it thinking that it could have been so much better. (March 18, 19)

B-MOVIE: LUST & SOUND IN WEST BERLIN 1979-1989: This odd but entertaining documentary looks at the vibrant music and art scene that flourished in West Berlin from 1979, when arty types from all over flocked to the city after David Bowie recorded a trio of albums there in the late Seventies, to 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, through the eyes and ears of British-born music insider Mark Reeder. Even those without much of a working knowledge of the period under discussion will be entertained by the film's combination of fascinating archival footage, dramatic reenactments and cameos from famous faces running the gamut from Tilda Swinton to David Hasselhoff. (Mar 18, 23).

NO HOME MOVIE: In what would ultimately prove to be her final film, feminist filmmaking icon Chantal Akerman (the woman behind the landmark "Jeanne Dielman") follows the dying days of her own mother, Natalia, a concentration camp survivor, as the two talk and Skype about religion and political ideology as well as their family history. The film more than lives up to its title—Akerman has gone to great to avoid even the slightest hint of sentiment—and while it may not have necessarily been intended as such, it plays as a fascinating summation of many of the concerns that Akerman oftentimes explored throughout her career. (March 19)

I DON’T BELONG ANYWHERE:Screening just before “No Home Movie” is this fascinating documentary by Marianne Lambert on Chantal Akerman’s own life and work. Of course, it is impossible to watch this film without thinking of Akerman's suicide last fall but as unintentional eulogies go, this is a good one that more than adequately makes the case for Akerman’s standing of one of the true latter-day pioneers of the world of international cinema. (March 19)

THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE: In this comedy from Austria, a vampire from the 1930s—one who is bored with the afterlife, unhappily married and still carrying a torch for the woman who turned him into a bloodsucker—decides to seek psychiatric counseling from none other than Sigmund Freud himself. Things get goofy when the vampire finds a young woman who appears to be the reincarnation of his lost love while his self-absorbed wife takes a fancy to the younger woman’s faithless boyfriend. As vampire-based comedies of late go, it goes without saying that this one is no "What We Do In The Shadows"—there are some funny jokes here and there but it is a little too wacky for its own good at times and never quite as amusing as it clearly believes itself to be. (March 19, 24)

MARGUERITE:In this lavish period piece from French filmmaker Xavier Giannoli that was inspired by the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins (who is getting an official biopic with Meryl Streep in the lead role) about a wealthy baroness who goes to great lengths to achieve her dream of being an acclaimed opera singer—the only drawback, as the friends and family she regularly showers with her performances, is that she couldn’t sing a note to save her life. It sounds like a cruel joke but one of the most impressive things about this funny, touching and handsomely mounted film is the way that it makes its heroine seem somehow heroic for pursuing her dream without making fun of her for her complete lack of talent while saving its scorn for those who refused to tell her the truth, either out of politeness or so as not to rock the boat in their social circles. This will be opening commercially in a couple of weeks but why not see it early and be ahead of the cultural curve for once? (March 20, 23)


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3950
originally posted: 03/18/16 08:03:36
last updated: 03/18/16 08:05:47
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