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European Union Film Festival

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The seventh annual European Union Film Festival continues Friday, March 12, through Thursday, March 25, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. Tickets are $9, $5 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2800. All films will be screened in 35-millimeter, and films marked with an * are highly recommended.

The schedule through March 18 follows; a full festival schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

FRIDAY, MARCH 12

* Sea of Silence

Jacqueline Epskamp's screenplay about a ten-year-old girl with an alcoholic father might easily have become grim or treacly on-screen, but veteran Belgian director Stijn Coninx translates it into a moving and comical account of a family in spiritual crisis. The story takes place in the summer of 1969, mostly on the family pig farm, which is quaintly lacking in modern conveniences; the latter half of the 20th century intrudes only when the girl's aunt gives the family a television, on which they view the first moon landing. This 2003 feature ably evokes its era without going overboard, aided by sundry period details and a subtle use of pastel colors by cinematographer Walther Vanden Ende. In Dutch with subtitles. 120 min. (Joshua Katzman) (6:00)

Upswing

A jaded yuppie couple looking for an exotic vacation pay for the privilege of spending a month in a Helsinki housing project. After moving into their crummy new place they discover their travel agent has stolen their identities, cleaned out their bank accounts, and sold their upscale home. Like John Landis's Trading Places this 2003 comedy exploits the always appealing spectacle of complacent young swells being humiliated; I found the preposterous premise easier to swallow once I remembered Jane Byrne's month at Cabrini-Green. Johanna Vuoksenmaa directed. In Finnish with subtitles. 98 min. (JJ) (6:15)

Think It Over

The heroine of this verbose, hyperbolic Greek comedy (2002) is an unmarried woman nearing middle age who runs a pastry shop; once widely regarded as a promising mathematician, she now busies herself with petty grievances while her two sisters, the beneficiaries of her numerous sacrifices, enjoy solid careers. After collapsing in the street she reviews her life, and the twist is that she's more than content with how it has turned out. Director Katerina Evangelakou overloads her film with ranting eccentrics, but it's still charming. With Mania Papadimitriou. In Greek with subtitles. 100 min. (Joshua Katzman) (8:30)

SATURDAY, MARCH 13

Bright Young Things

Evelyn Waugh's satirical novel Vile Bodies seems a natural property for Stephen Fry, an urbane actor (Gosford Park) and litterateur in his own right, but under his direction this 2003 British feature becomes a flat, depressing affair. Its central characters, the financially strapped vanguard of the Jazz Age, are too well connected to be bohemians but flaunt convention as they veer drunkenly from private gaiety to public notoriety. Endlessly chronicled by the local gossip sheets, they're more self-involved than self-aware, unprepared for the suicide, madness, scandal, and war that shatter their glittering circle; if only they'd learned to transmute their personal tragedies into cold, hard cash like today's media-savvy bons vivants. 105 min. (Andrea Gronvall) (3:00)

* The Suit

An African immigrant (Eugenio Jose Roca) working as a parking lot attendant in Seville helps a man change a tire, receives an expensive suit as compensation, and discovers that it wins him more respect than he's ever before experienced in Europe. This 2002 feature by Spanish writer-director Alberto Rodriguez is a droll social parable with a winning performance by Manuel Moron as a hyperactive hustler named Bread and Cheese, who meets the hero in a shelter and opens his eyes to the myriad ways people can be separated from their money. In Spanish with subtitles. 102 min. (Joshua Katzman) (3:15)

Solino

Fatih Akin's two-hour domestic drama (2002) spans two decades in what somehow feels like real time. In 1964 a loving Italian couple and their two boys move to Germany in search of a better life; ten years later prosperity has brought material comfort but unraveled the family bonds. The theme of sibling rivalry taken to cruel extremes is undermined by the opacity of the characters' motivations and cliched evocations of 60s and 70s atmosphere. Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola, Run and Das Experiment) is wasted in the underwritten role of the older brother; Barnaby Metschurat is cloyingly earnest as the younger son. Allusions to Cinema Paradiso only accentuate the hollowness of the film's sentimental denouement. In German and Italian with subtitles. (Andrea Gronvall) (5:30)

Police Woman

A grieving young widow (Amelia Coroa) discovers that her eight-year-old son (Ludovic Videira) has joined a gang of young thieves. Rather than lose him to reform school, she flees their backwater town with him and another child in tow. What seems at first like a bucolic journey through the countryside becomes an inescapable nightmare, and the final act unfolds almost exclusively after dark, reflecting writer-director Joaquim Sapinho's sense of human depravity. The resolution is heartbreakingly tragic, though the modest narrative ultimately buckles under its own existential weight. In Portuguese with subtitles. 84 min. (Joshua Katzman) (8:00)

* Haute tension

This 2003 French feature, cowritten by director Alexandre Aja and art director Gregory Lavasseur, infuses the slasher film with a distinctly Gallic sensibility, pumping vats of new blood into a genre Hollywood has nearly exhausted. The opening sequence, in which a young woman (Maiwenn Le Besco) and her college pal (Cecile de France) arrive for a visit at the former's country home, lasts long enough to establish their isolation, then a rampaging killer arrives in the dead of night. Inspired by American gore fests like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Aja and Lavasseur have brought the horror flick back to its Grand Guignol roots. In French with subtitles. 85 min. (Andrea Gronvall) (8:15)

SUNDAY, MARCH 14

Free Radicals

Unavailable for preview, this 2003 Austrian feature by Barbara Albert tracks the fate of a woman after she survives a plane crash. In German with subtitles. 120 min. (3:00)

* Angela

Ripped from Sicilian headlines, this 2002 feature by Roberta Torre recalls the verite-style improvisations of John Cassavetes, and Donatella Finocchiaro brings a smoldering earthiness to her role as the young wife of a Palermo drug dealer. Marginalized by her husband and his Mafia associates, who allow her to cut cocaine and make drops but exclude her from business talk, she's a tenacious beauty, as flashy and resilient as her lacquered nails but not tough enough to resist the sexual advances of a predatory colleague. Andrea Guerra's music underscores the ache of betrayal, and Daniele Cipri's cinematography is frequently ingenious: in one point-of-view shot the husband, his pupils dilated after an eye exam, is literally blindsided by love. In Italian with subtitles. 87 min. (Andrea Gronvall) (3:15)

Tomorrow's Weather

Befuddled Polish everyman Jerzy Stuhr stars as a Catholic monk expelled from his order after 17 years when his superiors learn that he's abandoned a wife and three children. Emerging into the postcommunist world with nothing but a jogging suit, he moves into his family's garage and learns to his dismay that his younger daughter is a junkie, his son a conniving political campaign strategist, and his elder daughter the star of a sleazy reality show. Stuhr, who directed and cowrote this 2003 comedy, has called it a response to the "enormous generation gap" between himself and his children; the protagonist's pain at his kids' degradation is all the more poignant when one realizes this is the freedom Poland so craved a quarter century ago. In Polish with subtitles. 94 min. (JJ) (5:30)

MONDAY, MARCH 15

* The Suit

See listing for Saturday, March 13. (6:00)

Upswing

See listing for Friday, March 12. (6:15)

Darkroom

Irish photographer Harry Thuillier Jr. found his artistic vision with troubling images of his girlfriend, Jennifer Daniels, and produced a bizarre and inventive body of work that included images of small boats on a desolate shore, a hand on a plate, and bound women. He lost part of his sight when attacked by a punk in an alley, and in 1997, at age 33, he died in Milan under mysterious circumstances involving narcotics and a prostitute. This video (2003, 52 min.) by his brother, Ian Thuillier, outlines his troubled life and unusual work without adding much spark. Also showing is another Irish video, Jason Figgis's Pallida Mors (2001, 26 min.), about an artist who returns to the scene of his wife's death; its imagery is overwhelmed by leaden, pretentious voice-over narration. (FC) (8:00)

Think It Over

See listing for Friday, March 12. (8:15)

TUESDAY, MARCH 16

Police Woman

See listing for Saturday, March 13. (6:00)

* Sea of Silence

See listing for Friday, March 12. (7:45)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17

* Angela

See listing for Sunday, March 14. (6:00)

Tomorrow's Weather

See listing for Sunday, March 14. (6:15)

Solino

See listing for Saturday, March 13. (8:00)

THURSDAY, MARCH 18

Bright Young Things

See listing for Saturday, March 13. (6:00)

Darkroom

See listing for Monday, March 15. (6:15)

* Haute tension

See listing for Saturday, March 13. (8:15)

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