The European Union Film Festival continues 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 14; for a compete schedule see siskelfilmcenter.org.
Berberian Sound Studio This crafty British feature starts off as a meta-movie romp and a loving tribute to 70s Italian horror; eventually, director Peter Strickland reaches for something more significant that he never quite finds, but by then you may be too entertained to care. A mild-mannered audio technician from the UK (Toby Jones) arrives in Italy to mix the soundtrack for a cheapo shocker about witches and warlocks; before long, the loutish filmmakers (Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino), the shadowy, decrepit studio, and the movie's stomach-turning violence begin to get to him. Strickland never shows the in-studio projection screen, so the picture is left to the imagination; the sound component is completely visualized, however, down to the crew's endless evisceration of fruits and vegetables to create the Foley effects for all the chopping and slashing. I haven't seen something so in love with its own sound design since The Conversation. In English and subtitled Italian. —J.R. Jones 88 min. Sat 3/9, 7 PM, and Mon 3/11, 6 PM.
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 Sat 3/9, 5:15 PM.
Flicker Set in the small-town headquarters of a large telecom company, with interlocking vignettes about the various eccentrics who work there, this Swedish comedy spins out familiar comic premises like a sitcom pilot. Writer-director Patrik Eklund devises some funny narrative complications here and there, and gets an amiable vibe from his ensemble cast, but nothing is clever or outrageous enough to make this more than a diversion. In Swedish with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 95 min. Sat 3/9, 7 PM, and Mon 3/11, 6 PM.
Gulf Stream Under the Iceberg Inspired by the writings of Anatole France and the myth of Lilith, this Latvian feature tells three stories, set in the 17th, 19th, and 20th centuries, about artists undone by mysterious temptresses. Director Yevgeny Pashkevich seems to be going for a dreamlike tone, filling the frames with symbolic imagery and providing little explanation for many of the narrative developments. The result is ponderous and obscure—it feels like hearing someone describe a dream rather than experiencing one. Even the erotic imagery dull, failing to convey the mad passion the characters prattle on about. In Russian with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 125 min. Sun 3/10, 4:30 PM, and Tue 3/12, 7:30 PM.
The Last Time I Saw Macao A nameless voice-over narrator (codirector João Rui Guerra da Mata) recounts his efforts to save an old friend from mysterious danger in Macao and, in the process, muses on how the island has changed since it returned from Portuguese to Chinese rule. This experimental Portuguese feature employs very few staged scenes, conjuring the story through a mix of narration, documentary images, and complex sound design. The approach (which sometimes recalls Chris Marker's personal essay films) illustrates how memory and imagination can distort real events into fiction; it also makes palpable the narrator's longing for a Macao that no longer exists. João Pedro Rodrigues (To Die Like a Man) codirected. In Portuguese with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 82 min. Fri 3/8, 6 PM, and Sat 3/9, 5:15 PM.
Oma & Bella Sweet but minor, this intimate documentary profiles two cheerful Jewish grandmothers, both Holocaust survivors, in Berlin. Director Alexa Karolinski observes the lifelong friends as they mill about their shared apartment, cracking jokes and reminiscing about their past as they prepare various dishes. Happy memories abound, but every conversation trails back to their horrific memories of various concentration camps. Reverent toward her subjects, Karolinski allows the women to broach difficult subjects on their own terms; her approach results in some uneven pacing, but the subjects compensate for any formal shortcomings. In German with subtitles. —Drew Hunt 76 min. Sun 3/10, 3 PM, and Tue 3/12, 6 PM.