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European Union Film Festival

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The sixth annual European Union Film Festival continues Friday through Thursday, March 21 through 27, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. Admission is $8, $4 for Film Center members. For further information call 312-846-2800. Films marked with an * are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, MARCH 21

The State I Am In

A moody drama of adolescent alienation, this 2000 German feature recalls Sidney Lumet's Running on Empty with its story of a 15-year-old girl living on the run with her parents, ex-radicals wanted by the police. Julia Hummer is striking as the lonely teen, whose mother and father forbid her to make friends and whose sense of isolation is aggravated by having to hear them make love in the next room. At one point her father coaches her on the best way to survive a police interrogation: utter silence. When she later pursues a clandestine relationship with another lost soul, a fast-food worker obsessed with Brian Wilson, silence is the best she can offer him. Director Christian Petzold cowrote the script with documentary filmmaker Harun Farocki. In German with subtitles. 106 min. (JJ) (6:15)

Step on It

Evi (Henriette Heinze) is a waitress on the verge of a nervous breakdown in this 2001 film set in a swinging Austrian ski resort. Regretting having spent a night in bed with two men, Evi swears off drinking and demands the day shift in order to take proper care of her six-year-old daughter. But soon she's mixing alcohol with pills and spinning out of control. Heinze, a former waitress, is convincing in that capacity, but she's unable to project whatever inner turmoil it is that causes her character to fall apart. Sabine Derflinger directed. In German with subtitles. 96 min. (FC) (8:15)

SATURDAY, MARCH 22

* Boxed

A young priest in Northern Ireland (Tom Jordan Murphy) is kidnapped by an IRA cell whose masked members want him to hear the last confession of an informer before they execute him. Believing that Christ has been preparing him for this moment all his life, the priest locks himself in a room with the condemned man, tries to convince the terrorists to spare him, and compounds their predicament by recognizing one of them as a parishioner. Marion Comer, who wrote and directed this gripping 2002 British feature, seems to have taken her inspiration from Graham Greene's metaphysical hostage drama The Honorary Consul, but hers is a far leaner affair: where Greene ruminates and ponders, Comer succinctly covers the moral and spiritual dimensions of the situation with crisp dialogue. Murphy is superb as the troubled young priest; also impressive are Catherine Cusack as his guilt-stricken parishioner and Jim Norton as his crusty pastor, whose faith has long since been corrupted by the realpolitik of Northern Ireland. 78 min. (JJ) (4:00)

* Oporto of My Childhood

Manoel de Oliveira's 2001 masterpiece explores the Portuguese city where he's lived for more than 90 years, though it concentrates on the first 30 or so. It's remarkable for its effortless freedom and grace in passing between past and present, fiction and nonfiction, staged performance and archival footage (including clips from two of his earliest films, Hard Work on the River Douro and Aniki-Bobo) while integrating and sometimes even synthesizing these modes. He's mainly interested in key images, music, and locations from the Eden of his privileged youth, and some of the film's songs are performed by him or his wife--though we also get a fully orchestrated version of Emmanuel Nunes's Nachtmusik 1. In Portuguese with subtitles. 61 min. (JR) (4:15)

* Sweet Sixteen

See Critic's Choice. (5:30)

* Mapmaker

In this scenic 2001 thriller from Irish director Johnny Gogan, a cartographer (Brian F. O'Byrne) comes to a town on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland to prepare a tourist map for the local heritage society. In the course of his survey he finds a corpse, that of an alleged informer executed by the IRA, and soon finds his own life in danger as he is unwittingly drawn into the sectarian intrigues simmering just below the surface of the community. While not above cliche--stare downs in the pub, the headstrong local lass (Susan Lynch) who falls for the hero--the picture works both as a whodunit and an insightful look at a divided community. 93 min. (TS) (5:45)

Don't Tempt Me

Penelope Cruz and Victoria Abril (Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down) both play angels in this 2001 satirical fantasy from Spain, but Cruz is of the fallen variety. The two are sent to earth by their respective employers to battle over the soul of a boxer (Demian Bechir). Writer-director Agustin Diaz Yanes envisions heaven as a Parisian nightclub shot in black and white and hell as a multinational corporation run by Brits, and thickens his batter with lots of cinematic quotes and references to film noir, John Woo, and Martin Scorsese. The color-coded cinematography is nice but the jokes are obvious and the dialogue drags whenever metaphysics gets brought up. In Spanish, French, and Latin with subtitles. 113 min. (TS) (7:45)

SUNDAY, MARCH 23

The New Country

A middle-aged Iranian man and a teenage Somali marathoner meet in a Swedish refugee facility and decide to run rather than leave their fates to the immigration authorities in this uneven road movie (2000), a condensed version of a Swedish miniseries. Dramatic and narrative balance may have been lost in the editing room: the tone of the picture careens between pathos and light comedy; subplots and side characters abound, but none are fully developed. Despite these flaws and some hyperventilated acting, the film's vision of Sweden as a flawed promised land is amusing and sometimes even scary. Lukas Moodysson (Show Me Love) wrote the screenplay; Geir Hansteen Jorgensen directed. In Swedish with subtitles. 137 min. (TS) (3:30)

* Neapolitan Heart

This enchanting documentary (2002) is a valentine to the popular musical traditions of the city of Naples, which gave the world of song lovely schmaltz like "O sole mio" and "Funicoli, funicola." Director Paolo Santoni interviews wedding singers, subway troubadors, retired vocal stars, American crooner Jerry Vale, and a host of others who wax rhapsodic about the spell of the songs and bemoan the demise of the style. Many of the songs are synchronized to rare archival footage and clips from silent movies shot in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. In Italian with subtitles. 94 min. (TS) (4:00)

MONDAY, MARCH 24

Family

A Dutch family reunites in an Austrian chalet to be together one last time before the mother succumbs to cancer; a riot of dysfunction ensues. Son Nico, who can't hold his liquor, hits the bottle and laments that his dying mother never loved him; daughter Bibi avows her hatred for her sister-in-law; and things go downhill from there. Willem van de Sande Bakhuyzen's film (2001) has its affecting moments, but in the absence of the stylization that successful melodrama requires, the plot is too contrived to be emotionally convincing. In Dutch with subtitles. 95 min. (FC) (6:00)

* Sweet Sixteen

See Critic's Choice. (6:15)

* Mapmaker

See listing for Saturday, March 22. (8:00)

TUESDAY, MARCH 25

Step on It

See listing for Friday, March 21. (6:15)

The State I Am In

See listing for Friday, March 21. (8:15)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26

Don't Tempt Me

See listing for Saturday, March 22. (6:00)

* Boxed

See listing for Saturday, March 22. (6:15)

* Neapolitan Heart

See listing for Sunday, March 23. (8:00)

Family

See listing for Monday, March 24. (8:15)

THURSDAY, MARCH 27

* Oporto of My Childhood

See listing for Saturday, March 22. (6:00)

The New Country

See listing for Sunday, March 23. (6:15)

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