The 13th European Union Film Festival continues Friday, March 12, through Thursday, April 1, at Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800. Tickets are $10, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members. Following are selected films screening through Thursday, March 18; for a full festival schedule see siskelfilmcenter.com.
R Bluebeard Like Eric Rohmer near the end of his career, French director Catherine Breillat has begun to experiment with costume drama as a way of recasting her signature themes, and she’s found a perfect property in Charles Perrault’s tale of a fearsome nobleman who murders his wives. A narrative frame, set in the 1950s, shows two young sisters bickering as they read “Bluebeard” from a book they’ve found in the family attic; the main story centers on teenage sisters who are divided when the younger one, hoping to save their family from penury, agrees to marry the hulking noble. Breillat has described “Bluebeard” as “a story that teaches . . . little girls to love the man who’s going to kill them,” but as in her most notorious film, Fat Girl (2001), any hatred of men is counterbalanced by a thick streak of resentment between siblings. In French with subtitles. 80 min. —J.R. Jones
Cell 211 A newly hired guard at a Spanish penitentiary (Alberto Ammann) gets knocked out by falling plaster during orientation; by the time he regains consciousness, the prisoners are rioting, but he manages to pass himself off as an inmate and becomes the protege of the rebellion’s leader (persuasive tough guy Luis Tosar). The plot takes some increasingly unlikely turns in the third act, but director Daniel Monzon more than compensates with gritty prison atmosphere and a superbly intimidating cast of plug uglies. I wouldn’t call this art, but it’s good fun and an effective antidote to sentimental schlock like The Shawshank Redemption. In Spanish with subtitles. 111 min. —Cliff Doerksen
The Collectress Traumatized by her father’s death, a leggy blond speech therapist (Gabija Jaraminaite) loses all capacity for human emotion, then discovers that can access her feelings by watching herself on video. She hires a cameraman and orchestrates a series of stunts designed to complete her collection of human passions, but the law of diminishing returns compels her to stage increasingly hair-raising scenarios for the lens. Writer-director Kristina Buozyte fuses elements of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, and Allen Funt’s Candid Camera into a overwrought, artsy mess. In Lithuanian with subtitles. 84 min. —Cliff Doerksen
R Father of My Children A French film producer (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) begins to buckle under the weight of his financial problems, taking care to conceal his growing desperation from his devoted wife and three daughters. This warm, understated 2009 drama by Mia Hansen-Love devotes roughly equal time to the main character’s work and home lives, which he keeps rigidly compartmentalized. When the two suddenly merge, one begins to ponder whether a man’s artistic legacy can ever be as important as that part of himself he invests in his family. In French with subtitles. 108 min. —J.R. Jones
R Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Suss A darling of the Third Reich, German director Veit Harlan became infamous for the anti-Semitic propaganda film Jew Suss (1940), which was seen by some 20 million Germans and another 20 million people across Europe. He later claimed he’d been coerced by Joseph Goebbels, the Reich’s propaganda minister, and he was twice acquitted of crimes against humanity. But it’s pretty hard to see Harlan as anything but an eager opportunist whose postwar career slide was scant punishment for the misery he encouraged. For this 2008 documentary, Felix Moeller interviewed the filmmaker’s children and grandchildren, and their stories form a fascinating mosaic of anger, shame, denial, and weary resignation. As an artist, Harlan wanted his name to live on; unfortunately for his family, it has. In German with subtitles. 99 min. —J.R. Jones
Katanga Business The Congolese province of Katanga is a major supplier of the world’s gold, copper, and uranium, but precious little of the profit trickles down to the ordinary folk who live and work there, and multinational competition has intensified lately with the arrival of Indian and Chinese interests. Directed by Thierry Michel, this Belgian documentary provides an engrossing take on neocolonial economics and some of angriest muckraking to hit the screen since Darwin’s Nightmare (2004), the drama heightened by larger-than-life personalities on every side of the complex political equation. In French with subtitles. 120 min. —Cliff Doerksen