|by Peter Sobczynski
A look at some of the titles appearing at the fourth and final week of the 22nd European Union Film Festival, playing this week at Chicago's 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, 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 FOUR HIGHLIGHTS
ALEXSI (March 29, 30): Proving that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope recognizes no borders, real or metaphorical, this whimsical Croatian comedy centers around an adorably self-absorbed twenty-something (Tihana Lazovic) who loafs around her parent'’ villa, shirks even the vaguest of responsibilities and finds herself torn between three romantic prospects--an older-but-rich playboy, a slick American tourist or the poor-but-honest local who dreams of being a musician. If you cannot guess who she winds up with, perhaps you are the perfect audience for this slim and decidedly lame work that offers up some pretty scenery but precious little else.
EMMA PEETERS (March 29, April 2): The trope returns, albeit with a slightly darker bent, in this Belgian romantic comedy of sorts. The title character (played by Monia Chokri) is a struggling actress who decides on the eve of her 35th birthday that she is going to mark the occasion by committing suicide. Being the conscientious type, she decides to plan her demise to the smallest detail and this leads her to cross paths with Alex (Fabrice Adde), an adorably eccentric funeral director and I think you can figure out where this one is going from here. One the bright side, it is slightly more tolerable than ''Alexsi'' but I confess to finding myself losing patience with both the character and the film fairly early on and never recovering it.
TOUCH ME NOT (March 30, April 3): Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival, this narrative/documentary hybrid from Adina Pintille that focuses on three people--a woman who has intimacy problems that are clearly rooted in her relationship with her dying father, a man dealing with alopecia and another man who has not allowed his battle with spinal muscular atrophy--as they struggle to get in touch with their various physical and sexual challenges and hang-ups. This description may make it sound like a high-flying version of one of those ''documentaries'' that turns up on late-night cable from time to time but I promise you that there is more to it than just that. How much it will work for you will depend to a great degree for your tolerance for hearing other people talk at length about their sexual problems. However, while I cannot quite consider it a total success, it is nevertheless interesting enough for those curious by the description (not to mention those not put off by a serious depiction of adult sexuality) to consider checking it out.
WE (March 30, April 1): In this would-be screen scandal from the Netherlands, a group of eight bored teenagers decide to amuse themselves by indulging in a number of sexually charged debaucheries, ranging from flashing motorists from a bridge straddling a highway to opening a makeshift brothel and videotaping local citizens for blackmail purposes, and it all proves to be fun until someone inevitably gets hurt. Yes, there is plenty of material on display here that might conform to the dictionary definition of ''shocking'' but it is all so devoid of any point, purpose or meaning that you will walk out of it feeling as benumbed as the characters. You should only go if you ever wondered what might result if someone tried to make a Larry Clark-style project under the old Dogme 95 parameters but without the warm human spirit that those films were so famous for having.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MY REVOLUTION? (March 30, April 1): Judith Davis (who also makes her directing debut) stars as a young and dedicated radical who finds herself standing increasingly alone--her dad is too old to help carry the flame, her sister is too capitalistic and her boyfriend is too complacent. Hoping to find some answers, she decides to go off and search for her mother, a radical herself who took off years earlier, in order to get some answers to her life and inevitably winds up with more questions. There is nothing especially new or radical being presented here but Davis helps things along considerably by approaching her character in a way that uses her as a focus for satire regarding inflexible mindsets while at the same time demonstrating a certain sympathy towards her as well.
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originally posted: 03/29/19 11:01:13