|by Peter Sobczynski
An overview of some of the notable titles on display during the second week of Chicago's European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Now in its 22nd year, the Chicago European Film Festival returns to the Gene Siskel Film Center for a month-long program consisting of 60 local premieres of films from each one of the 28 EU nations. Running March 8 through April 4, the festival is the largest dedicated solely to presenting films from the European Union, many of which may never screen in these parts again and which cover a wide variety of genres and subjects. Over the next four weeks, I will be offering up a weekly highlight reel of some of the more notable titles on display that I have had a chance to preview. For a full schedule of titles and times as well as ticket availability, go to the Siskel Center website at www.siskelfilmcenter.org or call them at (312) 846-2800 or visit the theater box office, located at 164 North State Street. If you somehow cannot find at least one title among those being screened that attracts your interest, it is almost certainly your problem.
WEEK TWO HIGHLIGHTS
A FAITHFUL MAN (March 17, 21): As this film opens, amiable schnook Abel (Louis Garrel, who also directed) is informed by his long-time girlfriend Marianne (Laetitia Casta) that she is now pregnant with the child of his best friend Paul, they are getting married in a few days and that Abel will have to move out. Eight years later, Paul unexpectedly dies and after returning for the first time for the funeral, Abel and Marianne reunite and resume their romance. Two minor complications--Marianne's young son keeps insisting to Abel that his mother actually murdered Paul and Paul's younger sister (Lily-Rose Depp) turns up all grown up and determined to make her childhood crush on Abel into a reality. Although the film flirts with elements of rom-com, noir and those oh-so-French films in which a wan guy is torn between the array of super-gorgeous women who want nothing more in life than to sleep with him, it never quite settles on what it wants to do before finally grinding to a halt. Still, it has a few funny moments here and there (especially the stuff involving the kid and his various insinuations), the cast is certainly easy on the eyes and at 75 minutes, it doesn’t last long enough to completely wear out its welcome.
LOVE AND BULLETS (March 17, 21): For those who have been waiting in vain for a film version of ''Legs Capone'' to arrive to satisfy their desire for a gangster-musical-comedy hybrid, this Italian import, the winner of five Donatello awards should at least temporarily satisfy those desires. After getting shot in the hind quarters by members of a rival gang, a mob boss decides to fake his death by having a lookalike killed and buried in his place while he slips away with his wife and his millions. Alas, there is one witness, Fatima (Serena Rossi), who needs to be eliminated for the plan to work but when hit man Ciro (Giampaolo Morelli) finally tracks her down to take care of her, he is shocked to discover that she is his childhood sweetheart and when their romance begins anew, they both find themselves in danger from a wide variety of gunmen. This film by Antonio and Marco Manetti starts off amusingly enough (there is a very funny opening musical number sung by the deceased from within his coffin) but the joke wears very thin very quickly, the attempts to satirize the recent vogue for entertainment inspired by the Camorra crime organization (including a guided tour inspired by ''Gomorrah'') largely fall flat and the whole thing runs so long that you may suspect that the editor got whacked somewhere along the way.
THE SOWER (March 16, 18): Inspired by real events, this first film from Marine Francern, set in the mid-19th-century, begins as all the men in a remote mountain village in France are rounded up by government forces and led away to an unknown fate, leaving the women and children behind. Not surprisingly, the women prove to be more than capable of running things and bringing in the harvest but they inevitably wind up developing yearnings of another nature. One day, they jokingly agree that if a man ever wanders into their town, they will keep him there in order to provide sexual gratification and children. Almost immediately after making this vague pact, the handsome-but-mysterious Jean (Alban Lenoir) arrives. Violette (Pauline Burlet),the woman who came up with the plan helps him settle in and the two soon fall in love, which makes things a bit complicated when the other women remind her about honoring the agreement. Although it sounds like a cross between ''The Beguiled,'' ''Black Narcissus'' and a letter to Penthouse Forum, the film, inspired by a story written by Violette Ailhaud in her eighties in 1919 that was published with great fanfare in 2006, is a quietly powerful work that eschews melodrama for something smarter and more effective and is brought beautifully to life by Francern’s strong direction and the performances by Burlet and Lenoir. Perhaps someone will one day be inspired by this movie to do a full documentary on the real Ailhaud, who seems to have lived a fascinating life herself.
THE WALDHEIM WALTZ (March 15, 17): In this fascinating and now strangely timely documentary, filmmaker Ruth Beckermann takes a look at former U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim’s 1986 for the presidency of Austria and how both his campaign and his image as a humanitarian was called into question when evidence came to light regarding his role in Nazi atrocities during WWII. Utilizing archival material and footage that she shot herself on the streets during the demonstrations protesting his candidacy (which also attract a number of counter-protestors perfectly content to display their blatant anti-semitism in public), Beckmann presents a compelling portrait of a once-revered figure forced to come to terms with the sins of his past (Spoiler Alert--he handles it as badly as can be) that also serves as an eye-opening look at how the monstrous mindset that was thought to have been destroyed with the conclusion of the war have continued to fester and develop over the past decades in ways that connect directly to what is unfortunately happening in the world today, both abroad and at home.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=4167
originally posted: 03/16/19 01:13:16