The 13th European Union Film Festival continues Friday, March 19, 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 25; for a full festival schedule see siskelfilmcenter.com.
Just Anybody Toying with the accepted dynamics of French sexual melodrama (e.g. Betty Blue, L’Ete Meurtrier), whereby a sensible chap is knocked off his bearings by a crazy sexpot, Jacques Doillon’s odd but entertaining psychodrama (2008) concerns a goodhearted knockout (Clementine Beaugrand) unaccountably determined to redeem the weedy ne’er-do-well (Gerald Thomassin) who’s just ditched her after a one-night stand. She tracks him to an off-season resort town, where her stalking behavior is passively abetted by a local cop (Guillaume Saurrel) who’s known the bad boy since childhood. This is talky and existential as the day is long, but the acting is terrific and Doillon extracts great value from his wintry beach location. In French with subtitles. 121 min. —Cliff Doerksen
Rembrandt’s J’Accuse In much of this 2008 video, director Peter Greenaway appears in a little box near the center of the image to lecture viewers (perhaps hector would be a better word) on his theory that The Night Watch, Rembrandt’s most celebrated painting, is actually an indictment of a murder. Marshalling nearly every part of the large group portrait as conspiracy evidence, Greenaway argues well but is perhaps too sure of himself. He’s fascinated by systems and intellectually playful in the extreme, arguing that our culture has learned to read but not to see, which explains how we’ve missed Rembrandt’s narrative. But when Greenaway argues for visual literacy, what he really means is treating pictures as texts; the amazing use of line, light, and rhythm that distinguishes Rembrandt from any prose writer go unmentioned. 86 min. —Fred Camper
A Year Ago in Winter The members of an upper-middle-class German family are devastated by the suicide of the cherished 19-year-old scion (Cyril Sjostrom) but lack the capacity to process their pain. Comparisons to Robert Redford’s Ordinary People (1980) are inevitable, but instead of turning to a menschliche Jewish shrink, the tightly wound mother (Corinna Harfouch) commissions a painter to create a portrait of her dead son and living daughter (Karoline Herfurth). The daughter derides the project as an exercise in ghoulish kitsch, but her sessions with the artist become an inquest into her family’s emotional pathologies; the painter, meanwhile, is trying to decipher his complicated sexual nature and work through the wreckage of his own past. Director Caroline Link (Nowhere in Africa) eschews sentimentality, but her 2008 film, however well-acted, suffers somewhat from the same coolness and bloodlessness it purports to dissect. In German with subtitles. 129 min. —Cliff Doerksen