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European Union Film Festival

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The ninth European Union Film Festival runs Friday, March 3, through Thursday, March 30, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members. Following are films screening through Thursday, March 9; for a full festival schedule visit www.chicagoreader.com.

R The City of the Sun

Four factory workers who've lost their jobs try to find new livelihoods while coping with families or girlfriends in this 2005 comedy with tragic undertones, a coproduction of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Director Martin Sulik has an unfortunate taste for stuttering zooms and bargain-basement rock, but what he gets from his actors is so fine and textured that this gradually won me over. Also known as Working Class Heroes. In Czech and Slovak with subtitles. 99 min. (JR) a Sat 3/4, 3:15 PM, and Mon 3/6, 8:15 PM

Crash Test Dummies

A young Romanian couple arrive in Vienna for a no-budget holiday, get into a spat, and go their separate ways, the man hooking up with a horny blond travel agent and the woman falling under the wing of a balding nebbish who monitors surveillance cameras at a supermarket. In a feeble attempt to impose some sort of theme on the meandering story, writer-director Joerg Kalt sets this 2005 German-Austrian feature on the eve of the European Union's recent expansion to include ten eastern countries. One of the oddball characters works as a test subject for a car company, and her daily routine of simulated crashes provides an ironic contrast to the movie's limited impact. In English and subtitled German and Romanian. 93 min. (JJ) a Fri 3/3, 8 PM, and Mon 3/6, 6 PM

R Heading South

This bold departure by French director Laurent Cantet (Human Resources, Time Out) follows three middle-aged Americans (Karen Young, Charlotte Rampling, Louise Portal) whose vacations in Haiti during the brutal reign of "Baby Doc" Duvalier include encounters with male prostitutes. Cantet is concerned not only with the women's psychologies and complex interrelations as they compete for the same local hunk (Menothy Cesar) but also with the global economics at work. The film tackles more than it can master, but it's never less than fascinating, and all three leads are exceptional. Screenwriter Robin Campillo adapted three short stories by Dany Laferriere. In English and subtitled French and Creole. 106 min. (JR) a Sat 3/4, 8:45 PM, and Wed 3/8, 6 PM

R Hidden Flaws

Incest figures heavily in this complex 2004 psychological drama, based on an acclaimed novel by Renate Dorrestein. A ten-year-old Dutch girl vacationing with her family accidentally kills the teenage brother who's been abusing her. She and her frightened younger brother run away, hiding in the car of an elderly woman en route to her second home on the Scottish isle of Mull. The virginal spinster harbors her own guilty secrets involving a recently deceased brother, and her new charges give her the courage tostand up to those who've used her. Paula van der Oest directed. In English and subtitled Dutch. 92 min. (AG) a Sat 3/4, 5:15 PM, and Wed 3/8, 8:15 PM

The Intruder

Like many other films by the gifted and original Claire Denis, this ambitious and mysterious 2004 French feature is something I admire without especially liking. Michel Subor (Beau Travail) plays a man who gets a black-market heart transplant and goes to Tahiti in search of his long-lost son; the difficult story, inspired by philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy's book about his own transplant, might be called French to a fault, though I'm not convinced that the most fruitful approach to this brooding and provocative work is through its narrative. The impressive 'Scope cinematography is by Denis' frequent collaborator Agnes Godard. With Gregoire Colin. In French with subtitles. 130 min. (JR) a Sun 3/5, 2:45 PM

Love & Happiness

This Swedish tale of adolescent longing (2005) benefits greatly from Henna Ohranen's performance as a motherless teen. After her father's new lover pushes her out of the nest, she tries to make a life for herself in her hick town, but the only available jobs are menial and her romantic opportunities are limited to fumbling teenage drunks and a feckless middle-aged driving instructor. First-time director Kristina Humle doesn't manage to sidestep every cliche of the genre, and the feel-good ending is decidedly pat--although the lovely Ohranen is so winning that anything less than a happy resolution would seem downright churlish. In Swedish with subtitles. 85 min. (AG) a Sat 3/4, 7 PM, and Thu 3/9, 8:15 PM

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