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European Union Film Festival

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The eighth annual European Union Film Festival, with entries from all 25 member states, runs Friday, March 4, through Thursday, March 24, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 175 N. State, 312-846-2800. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members. Following are listings through Thursday, March 10; a full schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

FRIDAY 4

R Gilles' Wife

Set in the 1930s, this entry from Luxembourg stars Emmanuelle Devos as a mother of three young children who slowly comes to suspect that her foundry-worker husband (Clovis Cornillac) is having an affair with her beautiful younger sister. Initially she avoids confronting the situation, but her fierce devotion and attachment to her spouse lead her to make a destructive compromise. While the outcome is never really in doubt, director Frederic Fonteyne illuminates the wife's inner world with a rich sense of atmosphere, and Emmanuelle Devos' riveting performance manages to convey every shift in her character's suppressed emotional life with the subtlest of gestures and expressions. In French with subtitles. 108 min. (Reece Pendleton) (7:00)

SATURDAY 5

Portugal S.A.

A powerful multinational executive becomes the victim of blackmail in this 2004 Portuguese thriller by Ruy Guerra, one of the founders of the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement. With Diogo Infante and Cristina Camara. In Portuguese with subtitles. 90 min. (1:45)

R Private Madness

In Joachim Lafosse's 2004 Belgian feature, based on Euripides' Medea, a wife tries to break up with her husband, who refuses to go away, saying he still loves her and their young son. A live-in boyfriend complicates the picture, as does the son's love for both men--he turns down his father's proposal to "hunt" for the boyfriend. Kris Cuppens is extraordinary as the father, seething with rage as he gradually loses his grip on reality, and the intensity of all the performances is magnified by the handheld camera. Swerving about in close-up, it connects the characters in rapid pans that capture both the emotional volatility of their confrontations and the hard-to-dissolve bonds of a family. In French with subtitles. 67 min. Shot in DV and transferred to 35-millimeter. (FC) (2:15)

R In Your Hands

The monkish aesthetic of the Dogma 95 manifesto--handheld camera, natural light, no music score--enhances this probing 2004 spiritual drama by Danish writer-director Annette K. Olesen. The new chaplain at a women's prison (Ann Eleonora Jorgensen) hopes to bring some light to the convicts with her ministry, but she has some competition: a new arrival (Trine Dyrholm) who quickly gains a reputation among the other prisoners as a psychic and a healer. Like a character from Carl Dreyer, the chaplain finds her faith tested when she and her husband finally conceive a child and doctors tell them that chromosome damage may leave it deformed and retarded--a development foretold by the prison-house messiah. In Danish with subtitles. 101 min. (JJ) (3:30)

R Millions

Faith, love, and filthy lucre propel this richly comic fable (2004) set on the eve of Britain's currency change from the pound to the euro. Pint-size Damian (charmer Alex Etel) chats up the saints he adores, hoping one will bring news of his departed mum. When a duffel bag stuffed with cash falls out of the blue, the boy's imagination and generous impulses set him at odds with his mercenary older brother, who believes charity should begin--and stay--at home. Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) brings a visual inventiveness and light touch to Frank Cottrell Boyce's deft screenplay, making this the most gleeful movie about a single-minded kid since A Christmas Story. 97 min. (AG) (3:45)

Visions of Europe

Commissioning a director from each of the 25 European Union countries to make a five-minute work displaying a vision of Europe sounds like a swell idea, but the result is more problematic: I'd hate to see these films and videos scattered to the winds as filler in state TV broadcasts, yet this 138-minute mara-thon (some directors went over the limit) is a bit of a glut. Still, it pinpoints what I like about Finland's Aki Kaurismaki (facetious folklore) and Hungary's Bela Tarr (an endless, sorrowful tracking shot) and don't like about Peter Greenaway (a disgusted fascination with nudity) and the recently assassinated Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (crude derision). Other contributors include Barbara Albert (Austria), Christoffer Boe (Denmark), Tony Gatlif (France), Sharunas Bartas (Lithuania), Teresa Villaverde (Portugal), and Jan Troell (Sweden). In English and subtitled European languages. (JR) (5:30)

In the City

Though sometimes predictable, this 2003 Spanish feature by Cesc Gay has much to recommend it, including a strong ensemble cast (Monica Lopez, Eduard Fernandez, Maria Pujalte, Alex Brendemuhl, Vincenta N'Dongo) and a wryly understated screenplay by Gay and Tomas Aragay. A group of Barcelona friends, their lives in flux, thrash about in confusion over sex, love, and relationships. The premise may seem both familiar and contrived, but Gay negotiates most of the intersecting dramas without resorting to soap opera histrionics, gradually homing in on the muted despair of his modern urbanites. In Spanish with subtitles. 95 min. (JK) (5:45)

The Boys and Girl From County Clare

Like many Irish imports that win U.S. distribution, this uninspired comedy-drama seems to have been bankrolled by the state tourism board, yet the Celtic music sequences provide welcome relief from the reheated plot. Colm Meaney and Bernard Hill, both imposing character actors, are estranged middle-aged brothers, each leading a band in competition at a music festival in western Ireland in the late 1960s. Many years earlier Meaney stole his brother's girlfriend, got her pregnant, and skipped town for Liverpool; now mother and daughter perform in the brother's band, and the young woman (pop musician Andrea Corr) is reunited with the father she never knew, etc. John Irvin directed a script by Nicholas Adams, which deflects any truly uncomfortable moments with blarney. 90 min. (JJ) Meaney will attend the screening. (8:00)

R Mix

A young native of southern California (Alex Weed), who's both a classical pianist and a club DJ, flies to Budapest with his Hungarian father to attend his grandfather's funeral. While there he gets caught up in two local subcultures--the porn industry and the technopop rave scene--until those worlds disastrously collide. Hungarian writer-director Steven Lovy favors flashy jump cuts and a wildly roving camera, but eventually this settles down into a fairly entertaining youth movie with plenty of music. In English and subtitled Hungarian. 97 min. (JR) (8:15)

SUNDAY 6

Utterly Alone

An earnest but muddled account of the popular resistance movement against the Soviets' post-World War II occupation of Lithuania. The flimsy story centers on one of the movement's true heroes, Juozas Luksa (played by Saulius Balandis), beginning with his decision to join the resistance and concluding with his 1951 death in an ambush planned by the KGB. Director Jonas Vaitkus seems to have a substantial budget, but in his eagerness to catalog the atrocities inflicted on the Lithuanian people he dispenses with any real plot or character development until the last half hour, opting instead for endless sequences of Soviet soldiers and local collaborators harassing and torturing peasants. In subtitled Lithuanian, Russian, German, and French. 90 min. (Reece Pendleton) (2:30)

Caterina in the Big City

Rome may be the Eternal City, but when provincial teenager Caterina (Alice Teghil) moves there with her parents, she finds only impermanence. At school she's embraced by warring cliques of gal pals and then falls out of favor with both, thanks in part to the meddling of her neurotic father (Sergio Castellitto). An accounting teacher inflamed by delusions of grandeur, he fires salvos at his students, the government, the well-to-do, and especially his long-suffering wife (Margherita Buy). Like the father, this dyspeptic 2003 coming-of-age story from Italy often seems on the verge of nervous collapse, veering from giddy adolescent romps to adult shenanigans and shrill political discord. Paolo Virzi directed. In Italian with subtitles. 106 min. (AG) (3:00)

The Whore's Son

Near the beginning of this 2004 Austrian drama, director Michael Sturminger shoots through the bars of a large crib as a beautiful Vienna hooker (Chulpan Khamatova) curls inside hugging her infant son. It's an appropriate image given the feelings of imprisonment that eat at mother and child as the years pass--she advances into the ranks of high-priced call girls, but the son (Stanislav Lisnic) eventually discovers and rues her occupation. Adapted from a novel by Gabriel Loidolt, this is most interesting for its textured family history and pained religiosity: Croatian by birth, the woman has fled the former Yugoslavia with her widowed sister and alcoholic older brother, a bitter philosopher who tells the teenage boy that God and the devil get together every night for meatballs and shots of slivovitz. In German with subtitles. 86 min. (JJ) (4:15)

Adam & Paul

Mark O'Halloran and Tom Murphy star as Dublin junkies in this 2003 Irish feature directed by Lenny Abrahamson, which also screens this week as part of the Chicago Irish Film Festival (see sidebar in this section for full capsule commentary). 86 min. (5:15)

R Rustling Landscapes

An unemployed photographer abandons his girlfriend after learning that she's pregnant, then returns to her summer cottage, claiming that she misinterpreted his reservations. She's already aborted the child, and she banishes him to sleep in a tent on the lawn. What follows is the slow unspooling of their seven-year relationship, including her dalliance with a good-natured soldier (Grega Zorc). Shot without a script in just two weeks, this debut feature by Janez Lapajne has drawn comparisons to the work of Mike Leigh, and despite several prolix interludes, it shows depth and maturity. The mostly handheld camerawork by Matej Kriznik adeptly probes the darkened interiors as well as the sun-dappled landscapes of rural Slovenia. With Barbara Cerar and Rok Vihar. In Slovenian with subtitles. 90 min. (JK) (6:00)

MONDAY 7

In the City

See listing for Saturday, March 5. (6:00)

Adam & Paul

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

R In Your Hands

See listing for Saturday, March 5. (8:00)

Utterly Alone

See listing for Sunday, March 6. (8:15)

TUESDAY 8

R Rustling Landscapes

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

Portugal S.A.

See listing for Saturday, March 5. (7:45)

WEDNESDAY 9

R Millions

See listing for Saturday, March 5. (6:00)

R Private Madness

See listing for Saturday, March 5. (6:15)

The Whore's Son

See listing for Sunday, March 6. (7:45)

Caterina in the Big City

See listing for Sunday, March 6. (8:00)

THURSDAY 10

R Gilles' Wife

See listing for Friday, March 4. (6:00)

R Mix

See listing for Saturday, March 5. (6:15)

Visions of Europe

See listing for Saturday, March 5. (8:00)

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