The tenth European Union Film Festival runs Friday, March 2, through Thursday, March 29, 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 selected films screening through Thursday, March 9; for a full festival schedule visit chicagoreader.com.
The Ax A comedy thriller without many laughs or thrills, this 2005 French feature by Costa-Gavras (Z, Missing), adapted from a Donald E. Westlake novel, follows the machinations of a middle-aged engineer downsized from the paper industry who proceeds to murder all of his likeliest competitors in the job market. Jose Garcia, known for roles more comic than this one, brings a certain intensity to the part, but the story's satirical possibilities remain largely untapped. Given the overall slickness, I was surprised to see Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (L'Enfant) credited among the coproducers; their signature actor Olivier Gourmet turns up in an effective cameo. In French with subtitles. 122 min. (JR) a Sun 3/4, 4:45 PM, and Mon 3/5, 6 PM.
RColor Me Kubrick Alan Conway, a gay con artist in England who successfully impersonated Stanley Kubrick in the 90s, died in 1998, only a few months before Kubrick. His exploits are fascinating because the people he fooled, seduced, and/or exploited knew even less about the filmmaker than he did when he brandished Kubrick's name and promised to hire or help them. This 2005 British feature by writer Anthony Frewin and director Brian Cook, both former Kubrick assistants, uses Conway's unlikely saga to mount an appreciative send-up of a certain style of gay extravagance, with John Malkovich having a field day as Conway. 86 min. (JR) a Sun 3/4, 3 PM, and Thu 3/8, 8:15 PM.
Deep Dutch coming-of-age story (2005) about a brooding 14-year-old heroine (Melody Klaver) whose budding sexuality is overshadowed by her parents' divorce and rapid attachment to new partners. Director Simone van Dusseldorp favors lingering close-ups of the nubile teen, who yearns for a tender love but sparks only lust in the boys she encounters and malice in the gal pal she spurns. Adapting a novel by Hendrickje Spoor, screenwriter Tamara Bos (Hidden Flaws) shows an affinity for the dark passages of adolescence, however tiresome these kids may be. In English and subtitled Danish and French. 83 min. (AG) a Sat 3/3, 7:45 PM, and Wed 3/7, 6:15 PM.
Eastern Sugar Three bored and aimless friends from a small town in eastern Hungary spontaneously head to a posh lake resort to land summer jobs in this 2004 film by Ferenc Torok. Hunger for sex and drugs dooms their chances at progress, and after one gets fired and another quits, the trio head for Budapest, where one of them (Ervin Nagy) auditions for an adult film in what passes for humor. The characters are so simplistic and transparent that when they screw up, you only wonder what took them so long. In Hungarian with subtitles. 89 min. (Peter Margasak) a Sun 3/4, 5 PM, and Tue 3/6, 6 PM.
FC Venus A battle of the sexes played out on the soccer field provides the climax to this slight 2005 romantic comedy from Finland, directed by Joona Tena. The wives and girlfriends of an obsessive low-level team learn that the men plan to spend their summer vacation at the World Cup in Germany; incensed, the women challenge the men to a match on the condition that they give up soccer if they lose. Along with the cliched transformation of the women's team--which includes one of the men's gay boyfriend--comes a strained subplot involving one woman (Minna HaapkylŠ) and her soccer-pro dad, who arrives on the scene to coach the women after abandoning her 15 years earlier. In Finnish with subtitles. 107 min. (Peter Margasak) a Sat 3/3, 5 PM, and Tue 3/6, 7:45 PM.
RFour Minutes A dowdy old piano teacher at a women's prison (Monica Bleibtreu) discovers a star student in a beautiful but violent young convict (Hannah Herzsprung) and persuades the warden to let her train the woman for an upcoming contest. As corny as this 2006 feature may sound, German writer-director Chris Kraus puts it across with a resolutely drab visual style and vivid characters that refuse to be entirely sympathetic. The script is overstuffed with backstory--the old woman's past (a lesbian relationship during the Nazi era) is dramatized in flashback and the young woman's (incest at the hands of her father and worse) is unconvincingly sketched in dialogue. But this ignites whenever Herzsprung is on-screen, and Sven Pippig contributes a memorable performance as a weak, pudgy guard who's beaten senseless by the young woman and aches to get even. In German with subtitles. 112 min. (JJ) a Fri 3/2, 7 PM, and Thu 3/8, 6 PM.
Glastonbury Founded in 1970, the bucolic music festival in Glastonbury, Scotland, has hosted a phenomenal array of artists over the years, and this documentary by Julien Temple (The Filth and the Fury) only scratches the surface with its performance footage of Nick Cave, Toots and the Maytals, Morrissey, Billy Bragg, the Skatalites, Cypress Hill, Babyshambles, Bjork, Coldplay, Chemical Brothers, Blur, Radiohead, Pulp, Ray Davies, Joe Strummer, Richie Havens, and many others. Despite the 138-minute running time, Temple holds all the artists to one song
(or less), devoting about half the movie to kaleidoscopic--and ultimately wearying--montage of festivalgoers past and present. R. (JJ) a Sat 3/3, 7:30 PM.
Manual of Love In the style of La Ronde, this frothy 2005 Italian comedy by Giovanni Veronesi consists of four overlapping stories, each covering a different aspect of love: infatuation, crisis, betrayal, and abandonment. All four contain hilarious moments, but the most endearing is the first, about an unemployed young man (Silvio Muccino) smitten with a beautiful woman (Jasmine Trinca). Undeterred by her brush-offs, he pursues her until she agrees to date him, and the story gradually begins to explore how attraction can become indistinguishable from obsession. In Italian with subtitles. 108 min. (JK)
a Wed 3/7, 8:15 PM.
The Method This mordant corporate drama from Spain (2005) comes across like an episode of The Apprentice scripted by Neil LaBute. Seven candidates competing for an unspecified executive position undergo a battery of increasingly cruel and arcane tests apparently designed to suss out their leadership, team-player skills, and predatory instincts. Once eliminated, they're ignominiously shown the door, their computers shutting off before they've exited the room. Argentinean director Marcelo Pineyro smartly underplays the inherent tension among the candidates, though he and screenwriter Mateo Gil, adapting a play by Jordi Galceran Ferrer, fail to transcend the story's more theatrical aspects. In Spanish with subtitles. 115 min. (JK)
a Sat 3/3, 5:15 PM, and Wed 3/7, 6 PM.
RPleasant Moments The blighted relationships explored by a Prague psychologist with marital troubles of her own (Jana Janekova, excellent) are the focus of Vera Chytilova's 2006 Czech feature, her best in many years. With its aggressively mobile camera and abrupt editing, the movie seems to lurch from one miniplot to the next as if in a punch-drunk trance. Like much of Chytilova's best work (Daisies, The Apple Game), it sometimes verges on hysteria, but it's clearly enhanced by the experience of screenwriter Katrina Irmanovova, a therapist herself. And her fictional patients evoke the letter writers of Nathanael West's novel Miss Lonelyhearts in their cumulative misery, suggesting some poetic yet plausible version of the modern world. In Czech with subtitles. 108 min. (JR)
a Sat 3/3, 3 PM, and Mon 3/5, 8:15 PM.
Song From the Other Side Heavy on mood but light on credibility, this 2006 Dutch drama by Andre van der Hout and Adri Schrover concerns a caddish anthropologist who gets more than he bargained for when he inherits a cottage in the fenland hamlet of Drenthe. Intending to rehab his new property, he disingenuously tells his boss he's researching an eerie ballad based on an unsolved triple murder that occurred there 80 years ago. Gradually he becomes obsessed with the mystery, though most of the locals aren't talking. A ghost story sans apparition, this is occasionally gripping but ultimately unsatisfying. In Dutch with subtitles. 95 min. (JK) a Sun 3/4, 3 PM, and Mon 3/5, 8 PM.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Four Minutes.