The 16th European Union Festival runs Friday, March 1, through Thursday, March 28, 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 7; for a complete schedule see siskelfilmcenter.org.
Carmina or Blow Up Slight but entertaining, this low-budget Spanish comedy presents a documentary-style portrait of tough-minded, foul-mouthed, 58-year-old Carmina Barrios, who manages a run-down tavern in Seville. Her son, Paco León, wrote and directed the film, casting Carmina and some of her family members and friends as themselves. Though León claims to have based some of the episodes here on actual events, he's kept mum as to which ones, likely out of respect for his mother's reputation: in the course of the movie she shits in her own car, gets violent with a debt collector, and worse. Regardless of whether these incidents really happened, Barrios (who had never acted in a movie before this) is a good sport, throwing herself into the low comedy with vulgar good cheer. In Spanish with subtitles. —Ben Sachs Wed 3/6, 6:30 PM, and Sat 3/9, 5:15 PM.
Everybody in Our Family Radu Jude's first feature, The Happiest Girl in the World (2009), was so astute in its comedy of family dysfunction that it was almost too uncomfortable to be funny; in this third effort the Romanian writer-director pushes things even further, walking a tightrope between domestic farce and psychodrama. A divorced dentist goes to his ex-wife's apartment to pick up their daughter for the weekend, but a series of misunderstandings prevents him from leaving, and the afternoon spirals into chaos. Jude never reveals whether the man is crazy, driven to extremes by his ex's vindictive behavior, or locked in a cycle of aggressive codependent behavior with her. Obscure as the character's motives may be, Jude grounds the action in the sort of claustrophobic, intricately realized settings that have become a hallmark of Romanian cinema. In Romanian with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 107 min. Sun 3/3, 7 PM, and Mon 3/4, 6 PM.
Sightseers With Down Terrace (2009), Kill List (2011), and now this gory black comedy, British director Ben Wheatley has carved out a niche all his own, combining exploitation-movie narratives with exquisite, Mike Leigh-style ensemble acting. Here he takes on the old killer-couple-on-the-run premise, making the murderous lovers sensitive lower-middle-class eccentrics reminiscent of Leigh's Life Is Sweet (1991). The result, however nervy, is less than the sum of its parts. Alice Lowe and Steve Oram (who also wrote the script) are compellingly weird as the lovers, though their performances oscillate from cuteness to psychosis, never suggesting fully realized characters. Wheatley is strikingly effective in his manipulation of tone, establishing a queasy intimacy that only intensifies as the movie progresses. —Ben Sachs 89 min. Sat 3/2, 5:15 PM, and Thu 3/7, 6 PM.
Superclasico Worn out perhaps by the Nazi-era tensions of Flame and Citron (2008), Danish writer-director Ole Christian Madsen vacations in Argentina with his next film, a forced and overlong romantic comedy. Presented with divorce papers, a Copenhagen wine merchant (Anders W. Berthelsen) resolves to fly to Buenos Aires with his moody teenage son and win back his wife (Paprika Steen), a sports agent who has moved in with an Argentinean soccer star (Sebastian Estevanez). When they arrive, dad bickers with the lovers and gets crazy drunk with the locals while the boy hooks up with a pretty tour guide and bonds with her gruff dad over Kierkegaard. This is pleasant and smart, but the romantic-triangle gags are so familiar that no amount of flamenco hand claps on the soundtrack will goose them to life. In English and subtitled Danish and Spanish. —J.R. Jones 99 min. Sat 3/2, 7 PM, and Tue 3/5, 6 PM.
Tabu This strikingly beautiful black-and-white feature by Miguel Gomes (Our Beloved Month of August) considers the legacies of early cinema and Portuguese colonialism in Africa, suggesting that both were rooted in false illusions of remaking the world. The film takes its name and many of its themes from F.W. Murnau and Robert Flaherty's classic ethnographic drama Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931) but inverts that movie's two-part structure, starting in a contemporary "Paradise Lost" before flashing back to the 1960s to tell a tragic love story ironically titled "Paradise." The first half, shot in Lisbon in luminous 35-millimeter, is quietly bittersweet; the second, shot in 16-millimeter in the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique, looks like a gritty documentary but is wildly romantic in tone. The film is rife with suggestive off-rhymes like these; they elude easy interpretation while yielding rich, sensual surface textures. In Portuguese with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 118 min. Sat 3/2, 3 PM, and Wed 3/6, 8 PM.
The Wall In this low key sci-fi drama, Martina Gedeck plays a woman who travels to a secluded cabin in the mountainous Austrian countryside; one morning she finds that an invisible wall surrounds the valley on all sides, and after numerous attempts to escape she resolves to lead a life of solitude. Based on the 1963 novel by Marlen Haushofer, a sort of transcendental character study, the film is an elegant, slow-burning exercise in narrative minimalism; director Julien Pölsler never fully explains the origins or purpose of the wall, favoring mood over logic. In German with subtitles. —Drew Hunt 108 min. Sun 3/3, 5 PM, and Wed 3/6, 6 PM.