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European Union Film Festival

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European Union Film Festival

The third annual European Union Film Festival runs Friday, February 4, through Sunday, February 20, at the Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson. Admission is $7, $3 for Film Center members. For further information call 312-443-3737.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 4

Place Vendome

See Critic's Choice. (6:00)

Ambush

This handsomely mounted antiwar saga from Finland (1999) is so classical in form and visually meticulous that it suggests a David Lean epic. But its story, loosely based on novels by Antti Tuuri, is more modest in scope: a young and conscientious lieutenant fighting in the Russo-Finnish War in 1942 is sustained through the cruelties of battle by love for his fiancee, an army nurse. This is less violent than recent Hollywood movies that have revisited World War II (the soldier's detachment ventures behind enemy lines on bicycles), but director Olli Saarela cranks up the suspense before each bloody skirmish. Unfortunately his languid pacing undercuts the urgency of the lovers' climactic and ambiguous reunion. Tuuri collaborated with Saarela on the script. (TS) (8:00)

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 5

Washington Wolves

A 1999 Spanish comedy about would-be thieves, directed by Mariano Borroso (My Soul Brother, Ecstasy). (4:00)

Am I Beautiful?

Doris Dšrrie wrote and directed this angst-ridden 1999 social comedy, an Altman-esque tapestry in which a motley assortment of Germans wreak emotional havoc as they bump into each other in Munich and Seville. Like many characters in her earlier films (Men . . . , Me and Him), they're unhappy eccentrics enthralled by the past who babble endlessly about identity and fulfillment; the men are romantic, deceitful idiots preying on vulnerable but realistic women. Some of the vignettes are biting, but the plot careens so wildly that it's hard to sort out the various dalliances and dilemmas. As usual, Dšrrie relies on a fine cast--including Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) and Senta Berger--to supply the emotional depth missing from her script. (TS) (6:00)

The Nanny

Marco Bellocchio directed this 1999 Italian historical drama about a psychiatrist in Rome who hires a wet nurse for his newborn son and finds himself and his wife drawn into the social protest of the early 20th century. (8:00)

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6

A Time to Love

Giacomo Campiotti's 1999 Italian film is presented in three episodes, each a story in which an estranged couple arrive at some kind of understanding: in the first, set in South Africa during the Boer War, they're divided by class; in the second, set in Paris during the Nazi occupation, they're divided by nationality and language; and in the third, set in contemporary Turin, the boy is in a coma. Campiotti says they're not discrete episodes but "one story, a story about love between Man and Woman," which is presumably why he fuses the narratives so that a character from one episode transforms into a character from the next. The film is diverting and uses period detail reasonably well, but it tends to efface the very real cultural differences between the settings, which threatens to reduce the narrative to a sappy tale of love conquering all. (FC) (4:00)

I Could Read the Sky

Nichola Bruce's 1999 debut feature, based on an illustrated novel by Timothy O'Grady and photographer Steve Pyke, presents in roughly chronological order an aging Irishman's recollections of the past. Played by poet Dermot Healy, the old man sits in a chaste one-room apartment, remembering how he grew up impoverished on the island's west coast, fell in love, sailed to London in search of wages to send home, and wound up trapped in a bleak urban existence. Like Chris Marker and Alexander Sokurov, Bruce aims for an evocative memory film, but she lacks their discipline, purposefulness, and insight: the old man's memories are presented as blurry, multilayered images accompanied by his cadenced voice-over. The film favors impressionistic poetry (courtesy of cinematographer Seamus McGarvey) over emotional empathy and is much the poorer for it. With Stephen Rea and Maria Doyle Kennedy; the sound track features music by Sinead O'Connor, Ron Aslan, and Tommy McMenanam of Shane MacGowan and the Popes. (TS) (6:15)

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 8

Goodbye Father

Luis Filipe Rocha's 1999 Portuguese feature follows a troubled father and son as they travel to the Azores. (6:00)

The One and Only

A young beautician discovers that she has a rival for her fiance's affections in this 1999 romantic comedy, a box-office hit in Denmark. Susanne Bier directed. (8:00)

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