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European Union Film Festival week two: teens run amok

Tales of desire and duplicity screen this week at Gene Siskel Film Center

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The 15th European Union Film Festival continues Friday, March 9, through Thursday, March 29, at Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800. Tickets are $11, $7 for students, and $6 for Film Center members. Following are selected films screening through Thursday, March 15; for a full schedule see siskelfilmcenter.org.

Avé Hitchhiking across Bulgaria to attend a friend's funeral, a college boy falls in with the title character, a 17-year-old runaway and compulsive liar. They share a boundless curiosity that causes them to make dumb mistakes, and director Konstantin Bojanov, working mainly in level-headed long takes, depicts their foolhardiness neither romantically nor pathetically. This quiet road movie derives its strongest effects from the diverse terrain: as the characters travel from cities to plains to the Balkan foothills, Bulgaria comes to seem like a wide canvas on which they're painting themselves. In English and subtitled Bulgarian. —Ben Sachs 82 min. Fri 3/9, 8 PM, and Sat 3/10, 5:30 PM

Beats Being Dead Christian Petzold, director of such German neonoirs as Yella (2007) and Jerichow (2008), delivers the first installment of the Dreileben Trilogy, three movies by different directors that function as discrete narratives but are linked by the peripheral movements of a serial killer. In this one, a young male nurse (Jacob Matschenz) pursues a heavy-breathing romance with a comely hotel maid (Luna Zimic Mijovic) after furtively watching her fellate a biker at a midnight lakeside party. There isn't much more to the plot than that, but Petzold—whose Jerichow managed to approximate the primal lust of The Postman Always Rings Twice—proves that the urgent physical needs of attractive young people generate their own kind of narrative momentum. In German with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 87 min. Sat 3/10, 2 PM, and Tue 3/13, 6 PM

Belle Epine France has produced so many naturalistic dramas about teenage delinquents that the films practically constitute their own genre. This 2010 debut film by Rebecca Zlotowski may not be a genuine breakthrough like Maurice Pialat's À Nos Amours (1983) or Olivier Assayas's Cold Water (1994), to cite two apparent influences, but it's confident, well-paced, and inventive in its use of wide-screen photography and multitrack sound design. Léa Seydoux plays a 16-year-old girl experimenting with bad behavior after her mother's death; she gives the sort of performance critics like to call "courageous," which is to say she strips frequently and submits to a fair amount of onscreen humiliation. In French with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 80 min. Fri 3/9, 6:15 PM, and Sat 3/10, 3:45 PM

Beyond Camp enthusiasts should have a grand time with this 2010 Scandinavian coproduction, which features Noomi Rapace (star of the European thrillers adapted from Stieg Larsson's books) in a role that could have been written for Elizabeth Taylor in 1965. She plays a housewife who has it all—a big suburban home, loving children, a darkly handsome spouse (Rapace's then husband, Ola, in the Richard Burton part)—but can't get beyond her upsetting childhood memories. Director Pernilla August precedes each of the overwrought flashbacks with a close-up of Noomi's pained face, to stress her inner torment. The childhood scenes take place in a 1970s Sweden that looks just like the present except that everyone wears tacky vintage clothes; as the heroine's alcoholic parents, Ville Virtanen and Kaurismaki regular Outi Mäenpää are almost as loud as the costumes. In Swedish with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 98 min. Sun 3/11, 3 PM, and Thu 3/15, 6 PM

[Recommended] Innocence A moody, self-dramatizing 14-year-old accuses her middle-aged doctor of having violated her sexually. In a rather unlikely development, the police detective assigned to investigate has a storied past with the suspect: once good friends, they haven't been close since the cop's wife left him for the doctor. This messy personal situation might have been the entire movie, but Czech writer-director Jan Hrebejk (Kawasaki's Rose) has fashioned a crafty, undulating plot line in which the deepening characterization of the doctor's family members (especially his flaky sister-in-law and his wife, who considers the criminal case a personal vendetta of her ex-husband) dispels, and then invites once again, our suspicion of the respected medical man. In Czech with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 98 min. Sun 3/11, 7:15 PM, and Mon 3/12, 6 PM

Letters to Angel This 2011 Estonian drama lacks focus, but there's an exceptional lead performance from Tõnu Oja as an erratic soldier who deserts the Soviet war in Afghanistan and begins looking for his missing wife and daughter. The film relies far too heavily on hallucinatory imagery, meant to question the protagonist's reliability; before long, what's real and what's imagined become indiscernible. Most of the supporting characters seem extraneous and only muddle the narrative further. The film has a unique sense of place, though, with its ominous concrete walls and rocky, infertile landscapes. Sulev Keedus directed. In Estonian with subtitles. —Drew Hunt 118 min. Sat 3/10, 9:15 PM

Putin's Kiss See J.R. Jones's review. 85 min. Sat 3/10, 2 PM, and Thu 3/15, 8:15 PM

Welcome to "All Saints" Set at a dysfunctional public hospital, this Greek feature centers on an idealistic intern who resists the endemic corruption of the place. The stock supporting characters include a hard-ass hospital director, a neurotic doctor from Cyprus who serves as comic relief, and a beautiful female surgeon who everyone refers to as a "tough cookie." Like a TV sitcom, this offers flat visuals, weak characterization, and a narrative parceled out in 20- to 30-minute segments. Sotiris Goritsas directed. In Greek with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 84 min. Fri 3/9 and Mon 3/12, 8 PM

Related Film

Putin's Kiss

Director: Lise Pedersen

Producer: Helle Faber and Martin Dalgaard

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