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

A look at some of the highlights of the final 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 fourth and final week of programming

SERAPHINE: This French-made biopic tells the story Seraphine de Senlis, a self-taught outsider artist who claimed that her artistic inspiration was due to a guardian angel. After years of spending her days working as a cleaning woman and creating her artwork at night, her life changes forever when her creations catch the eye of a famous German art critic. Having recently swept the Cesars (the French equivalent of the Oscars), the film is getting a preview screening here before hitting the art-house circuit. (3/27 6:00 PM and 3/28 3:00 PM).

BOOGIE: In this Romanian comedy-drama, a one-time party animal arrives at a seaside resort with his wife and child for a vacation when he runs into a couple of old pals from his wild and wooly past. Missing out on the fun of his younger days, he leaves his wife and kid behind to go off on a bender with his buddies like he used to do and makes some surprising discoveries about himself. (3/28 3:15 PM and 3/30 8:00 PM).

IL DIVO: Italian politics are the focus of this acclaimed biopic on the life and career of Giulio Andreoti (played by Toni Servilo), a man who may not be known to you but who has been a leading and controversial figure in his home country for over 50 years, a time that saw him elected prime minister seven different times despite constant rumors of his alleged involvement with the Mafia. Though I haven’t gotten a chance to see this one yet, the program describes it as a cross between “Goodfellas,” “Nixon” and “The Conformist”--a combination that makes the film sound awfully intriguing all by itself. (3/28 5:30 PM and 3/30 8:00 PM).

SUMMER HOURS: Having spent the last few years making ultra-kinky international thrillers like “demonlover” and “Boarding Gate,” acclaimed French filmmaker Olivier Assayas returns to the world of straightforward drama with his latest effort and the results have been hailed as his best work in years. In this one, a trio of estranged siblings (Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling and Jeremie Renier) who reunite following the death of their mother in order to handle the disposal of the family art collection and find themselves coming to terms with their own lives and with each other. (3/28 7:45 PM and 3/31 6:00 PM).

APRES LUI: Face it, you can’t possibly have a festival dedicated to European films and not have one featuring the legendary Catherine Deneuve, who stars in this French melodrama about a woman whose grief over the loss of her son in a car accident leads her to become obsessed with her son’s best friend, the guy who was behind the wheel during said accident. Truth be told, Gael Morel’s film is a little too gloppy and soapy and times for its own good but the central performance from Deneuve, which manages to be heartbreaking without tripping over into mawkishness, is so good and true that it makes the entire thing worth watching. (3/29 5:15 PM and 3/30 6:00 PM).

PATRIK, AGE 1,5: The festival concludes with this crowd-pleasing comedy from Sweden about a married gay couple who finally manage to overcome any number of bureaucratic hassles in order to fulfill their dream of adopting a child. Alas, thanks to a slight typographical error (the that the title is derived from), when they receive their child, he is not the 18-month-old toddler that they were expecting but a 15-year-old teenager who just happens to be wildly homophobic to boot. Tickets to this screening also include admission to a post-screening (4/2 6:30 PM)

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originally posted: 03/27/09 07:07:27
last updated: 03/27/09 08:20:01
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