The 15th European Union Film Festival continues Friday, March 16, 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 22; for a full schedule see siskelfilmcenter.org.
Blood of My Blood This sprawling drama about a Portuguese family combines melodrama and social realism so inventively that it practically occupies a genre of its own. Writer-director Joao Canijo grounds the movie in vivid observations of the Lisbon public housing complex where much of the action occurs, and his characterizations—developed, Mike Leigh-style, in close collaboration with the cast—have a similarly gritty authenticity. Yet the movie is also richly stylized, with old-fashioned tracking shots and compositions that allow for two conversations at once, and some narrative developments have the force of Greek tragedy. What emerges is an operatic portrayal of the working poor in which each character's struggle seems monumental. In Portuguese with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 133 min. Sun 3/18, 6:45 PM, and Wed 3/21, 7:45 PM
The Christening The hood trying to go straight has been a staple of the gangster movie almost since its inception, but the premise still resonates in this first-rate crime thriller from Poland (2010). In the opening scene, Michal (Wojciech Zielinski) rescues his friend Janek (Tomasz Schuchardt) from drowning; a few years later Janek gets a chance to repay the favor when Michael—now married and preparing to christen his first child—enrages the merciless crime lord who once employed both men. Director Marcin Wrona paces this beautifully, and the movie is full of small pleasures both visual (widescreen framing that makes geometric use of the rail yards and rooftops of Warsaw) and aural (a spare soundtrack with jarring cuts between noise and quiet). I once swore I'd never sit through another Catholic-themed mob movie, but just when I think I'm out they pull me back in. In Polish with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 87 min. Sun 3/18, 7 PM, and Thu 3/22, 8:30 PM
Domain Beatrice Dalle, who made her screen debut as the title character in Betty Blue (1986), gets a showcase role in this 2009 French drama, as a despondent, middle-aged mathematics professor clinging to her college-age nephew as she drinks herself to death. The promise of incest hangs over their story, but writer-director Patric Chiha is more concerned with tenderly observing the characters' ardent, age-inappropriate relationship, in which the wisdom of experience seems scant recompense for the potential of youth. In French with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 110 min. Fri 3/16, Mon 3/19, and Thu 3/22, 6 PM
The Graveyard Keeper's Daughter Rural Estonia looks gorgeous in this well-intentioned hokum (2011) about an adorable eight-year-old girl and her negligent parents. Her father is a small-town grave digger constantly leaving home in search of work; her mother is a hard-partying alcoholic. With the help of a social worker and a compassionate female pastor, the girl comes to escape her parents' bad influence. Writer-director Katrin Laur wants to tell an uplifting story about the good work performed by church and state in the lives of children; unfortunately she isn't interesting enough as a storyteller to convey her sentiments persuasively. To make matters more embarrassing, the little girl playing the lead, Kertu-Killu Grenman, seems unable to grasp the demands of her difficult role. In subtitled Estonian, Finnish, and Russian. —Ben Sachs 98 min. Sat 3/17, 9:15 PM, and Mon 3/19, 8:15 PM
Hot Hot Hot A shy middle-aged virgin who works at a theme park aquarium gets transferred to the park's nude sauna and belatedly comes out of his shell. For all the sex-related humor, this Luxembourgian comedy is quite innocent—in fact, it often plays like a fairy tale. Writer-director Beryl Koltz makes each of the sauna employees a charming eccentric, and he's generous enough in his direction that none of them (except for the hotheaded boss) comes across as a mere caricature. Imagine The Shop Around the Corner rewritten by a bunch of Playboy cartoonists. —Ben Sachs 90 min. Fri 3/16, 6:15 PM; Sat 3/17, 4:45 PM; and Thu 3/22, 8:30 PM
Madly in Love Recent Belgian cinema has leaned toward surrealistic fantasy (Small Gods, The Misfortunates, Mr. Nobody), but you'd never guess that from this vapid 2010 sex comedy about the stilted love lives of an aging actress, her younger sister, and her two daughters. The glossy cinematography and cloying dialogue are straight out of the current Hollywood playbook, and the movie's take on love and relationships recalls the rom-coms of Nancy Meyers. Director Hilde Van Mieghem occasionally ventures into a more fanciful aesthetic, but only to suit the screenplay's sentimentality, and she fails to make the most of a spritely ensemble. In Flemish with subtitles. —Drew Hunt 90 min. Sat 3/17, 7:15 PM, and Tue 3/20, 8:30 PM
Unforgivable This 2011 melodrama by French writer-director André Téchiné may not achieve the profundity of his Rendez-vous (1985), Thieves (1996), or The Witnesses (2007), but it's clearly the work of a master storyteller, conveying a rich, novelistic sense of character and a poetic feeling for the passing of time. The characters include an aging, insensitive novelist (André Dussollier), his wayward daughter, the former model who becomes his second wife (Carole Bouquet), a world-weary lesbian detective, and the detective's convict son. As usual in Téchiné's work, these people interact and change in surprising ways, reminding us how unpredictable human nature can be, and the intoxicating style—based on graceful, near constant camera movement—conveys the director's deep curiosity about them. In French and Italian with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 107 min. Sat 3/17, 7 PM, and Wed 3/21, 6 PM