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The fourth annual European Union Film Festival continues Friday through Thursday, February 16 through 22, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson. Admission is $7, $3 for Film Center members. For further information call 312-443-3737. Films marked with a 4 are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16

Leak

An honest young cop (Cas Jansen) is led into a web of corruption in this Dutch policier (2000). Detectives pressure him to recruit a childhood friend as an informant, but someone on the force begins leaking information to the bad guys. Jean van de Velde directs efficiently, and Jansen is reasonably convincing as the fresh-faced cop fighting corruption that goes right to the top. But the story is pretty old, and aside from canals in the background there's not much to differentiate this from a long line of Hollywood films, making it a sad tribute to cultural globalization. 109 min. (FC) (6:00)

Pandaemonium

Julien Temple (Absolute Beginners, The Filth and the Fury) directed this 2000 BBC chronicle of the intense, uneasy friendship between romantic poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. Energized by the political tumult following the French Revolution, the duo embraced democracy and rural utopia and collaborated on Lyrical Ballads, but Wordsworth's move toward Tory respectability ended the friendship. Temple's Coleridge (Linus Roache) is a gentle, excitable genius who loves nature, questions authority, and uses opium to fuel his work, sort of a precursor to today's pop-music wonders; his Wordsworth (John Hannah) is a whimpering villain who refuses to publish "Kubla Khan." But the film is less notable for its biographical insights than for its look and mood, its sequences of a drugged-out Coleridge turning his surroundings into poetry reminiscent of the delirious biopics Ken Russell made for the BBC in the 1960s. Much of the film was shot on location, and John Lynch's crisp, sensuous cinematography beautifully evokes paintings from the period. 120 min. (TS) (8:00)

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17

Bye Bye Bluebird

Director Katrin Ottarsdottir has expressed admiration for the films of Aki Kaurismaki, Hal Hartley, Wim Wenders, and Jim Jarmusch; this 1999 Danish road movie has a familiar mix of hipness and absurdity, but at its core lies an appealing and distinctly unironic tenderness. Two young girlfriends return to their (and Ottarsdottir's) native Faeroe Islands to confront unresolved conflicts with their families. A fisherman down on his luck after exposing corrupt practices in the local industry gives them a lift, but it's not always clear where any of them is going. Sexy and silly, often breaking into dance, the girls raise eyebrows and attract superficial judgments with their brightly painted faces and loud clothes and hair, their attire a way of turning life into performance. Ottarsdottir draws a "violent contrast" between their color and the isles' placid grays and greens, but in the end the girls want only to be loved, a universalizing message rescued from treacle by the film's ongoing vivacity. 93 min. (FC) (2:00)

I Know Who You Are

Patricia Ferreira's 2000 Spanish thriller, said to echo Hitchcock's Spellbound, concerns a woman heading a psychiatric clinic who suspects that an amnesiac patient may be a murderer. 104 min. (4:00)

Alaska.de

The suburbs of eastern Berlin provide a desolate landscape of weedy lots and anonymous apartment blocks in this 2000 film about a teenage girl who gets mixed up with a killing. Sabine, walking alone on her way to live with her father, asks an apprentice window washer for directions; they edge toward romance, but she's placed in jeopardy after she sees his older friend fleeing with a bloody knife. Director Esther Gronenborn, a veteran of music videos and documentaries, frequently drains her wide-screen images of color, creating a sometimes dreamlike shadow world for her alienated teens. 89 min. (FC) (6:00)

The King Is Alive

This Danish survival drama (2000) by Kristian Levring is the fourth film certified by the authors of "Dogma 95," a manifesto that calls for natural lighting, digital cinematography, and improvisational acting. Those principles seem to work best in films that strip down the psychology of a dysfunctional group in a single location and a limited time span (The Celebration), and true to form, Levring examines 11 passengers of a tour bus (including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Janet McTeer, Bruce Davison, Brion James, and Romane Bohringer) that breaks down at an abandoned mining town in the Namibian desert. Awaiting their rescue, the passengers endure primitive conditions and decide to stage King Lear, whose lines one of them (David Bradley) knows from memory. The project unleashes fear and loathing among them, and the film wastes no opportunity in drawing parallels to Shakespeare while also referencing Lifeboat, Apocalypse Now, and Lord of the Flies. Most of the confrontations are shot in close-up, dragging us into the melee as the grungy-looking actors spit out their venomous dialogue. Yet the script, by Levring and Anders Thomas Jensen, flits from one encounter to the next, leaving behind only gut-wrenching performances and a vivid feel for the locale--forlorn stretches of desert and dark, humid interiors, both symbolizing recesses of emotion that have otherwise eluded us. 109 min. (TS) (8:00)

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18

Harry, He's Here to Help

Dominik Moll's sly French thriller (2000) is almost too clever for its own good. At its center is Michel, a nice-guy husband and father who finds--given a heat wave, three querulous little girls, a broken-down car, an even more broken-down country house--that a vacation can be far more stressful than any kind of work. Enter Harry, a forgotten schoolmate from 20 years ago, who believes that every problem has a solution. He also believes, fervently and inexplicably, in Michel, whose adolescent poetry he can recite verbatim and whose high school sci-fi epic, "Flying Monkeys," he yearns to see completed. So he sets about making Michel's familial problems "disappear." We're in twisty Highsmith, Strangers on a Train territory, with Harry carrying out what could be the hidden, dark, evil yearnings of Michel's soul. Yet nobody's particularly dark or evil. Harry--played by the open, beaming Sergi Lopez, gentle hero of many a Poirier film--genuinely wants to help, though with friends like this . . . Moll sticks closer to his characters than Hitchcock or Chabrol and aspires to a less overweening God's-eye view. His vision of the evil accomplished in the name of love finds its best expression in more mundane and down-to-earth details, like Michel's parents' surprise gift to his family: a blindingly bright bathroom in a particularly gruesome shade of fuchsia that seems to spread like a malignant rash through the somber old house. 117 min. (Ronnie Scheib) (3:00)

Inferno

Ten middle-aged guys, veterans of Portugal's colonial wars in the 70s, meet for their annual reunion in this 1999 buddy movie with a touch of Fight Club--they're still trying to prove their masculinity, as crudely and brutally as possible. A silly subplot about drug dealing provides yet more violence, but the characters seem so drunk or brain damaged that they barely know what's happening, and director Joaquim Leitao's poorly composed images are so disorienting that they rarely supply any sense of place. I most enjoyed the scene in which an enraged wife smashes the car of her whoremongering husband--but not for the right reasons. 120 min. (FC) (5:00)

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22

Rent-a-Friend

A painter (Marc van Uchelen), dumped by his girlfriend because he lacks ambition, hits on the idea of renting himself out as a pal and counselor to the lonely, and his business unexpectedly takes off. This charming, effervescent, and paper-thin romantic comedy from the Netherlands (2000) is clearly influenced by Woody Allen; director Eddy Terstall pokes gentle fun at soap opera addicts (the girlfriend is a scriptwriter who uses her life with the protagonist as source material) and the parade of emotionally needy types who make the novel business a success. But his satire is sometimes too cute to be effective, and the hero's relationships and fantasies are so treacly and predictable that they make Allen's films seem weighty by comparison. 90 min. (TS) (6:00)

Peppermint

The European coming-of-age drama has become a staple of international film festivals in the U.S.; this dutifully heartwarming contribution from Greece (1999), written and directed by Costas Kapakas, follows a trouble-prone rascal as he tries to make sense of the adult world (gruff but loving parents, charmingly eccentric aunts and uncles, and a doddering grandparent thrown in for comic relief and the inevitable funeral scene). The story unfolds through a series of flashbacks as the main character, now grown, drives to a reunion to meet his boyhood friends and sweetheart. If you haven't seen this story already, you've probably been living under a rock, and while this isn't a bad retread, it hasn't much to recommend it by way of the direction or performances. 105 min. (Reece Pendleton) (8:00)

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