European Union Film Festival
The 14th European Union Film Festival continues Friday through Thursday, March 25 through 31, 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; for a full schedule see siskelfilmcenter.com.
9:06 Igor Sterk’s 2009 psychological mystery focuses on a police detective who’s investigating the apparent suicide of a gay musician. The cop, estranged from his wife following the death of their child and unable to commit to his new girlfriend, gradually begins to assume the dead man’s identity even as he struggles to comprehend the meaning of the number 9:06—the suicide victim’s presumed time of death. Good performances are the main reason to see this slow-moving Slovenian puzzler. In Slovenian with subtitles. 71 min. —Albert Williams
The Sleeping Beauty Catherine Breillat’s second adaptation of a Charles Perrault fairy tale, after Bluebeard (2009), is even darker and stranger than its predecessor, though it’s no less personal. Again a children’s myth becomes an allegory about girls’ fear of adulthood and sexuality, though the more foreboding tone here only underlines the spontaneity of Breillat’s mostly nonprofessional players. Honing the sparse, controlled framing that’s always been central to her work, Breillat comes closer than ever to one of her models, Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses: like that movie, this one keeps the action at an analytic distance even as the characters’ behavior becomes more irrational. Breillat makes the story even more enigmatic by beginning it in the early 1800s and concluding it, with the same characters, in the present. In French with subtitles. 82 min. —Ben Sachs
RThe Strange Case of Angelica When you’re a centenarian, everything you say has a higher probability of becoming your last words, but this fanciful Portuguese drama from Manoel de Oliveira (born 1908) still feels particularly like a filmmaker’s valediction. The protagonist is a Jewish photographer summoned to the mansion of a wealthy Catholic family to shoot a posthumous portrait of the lovely Angelica, and no sooner has he focused his viewfinder on the young woman’s body than she opens her eyes and gives him a radiant, come-hither smile. Haunted by this vision, the photographer begins to detach from reality, and it’s no big surprise when he ultimately goes thither. De Oliveira’s classical style lends the film a funereal dignity, and his motif of locating open windows and doorways at the center of the frame—an idea borrowed from John Ford’s The Searchers—heightens the sense of a beckoning beyond. However, de Oliveira has already begun another feature since completing this 2010 release, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he wound up holding the door for most of us. In Portuguese with subtitles. 97 min. —J.R. Jones
R The Woman With the 5 Elephants This Swiss-German coproduction (2009) documents the life of Svetlana Geier, a teacher and translator noted for her German editions of Dostoyevsky’s mammoth novels (the “five elephants” of the title). Born in Ukraine—where her father was a victim of Stalin’s 1938 political purges—Geier moved to Nazi Germany after Hitler invaded her homeland, and her skill at languages enabled her to survive World War II and its aftermath. When Geier is invited to Kiev to teach, director Vadim Jendreyko chronicles her bittersweet homecoming after a 65-year absence. This is a thought-provoking, unsentimental portrait of an extraordinary woman who has endured some of the most tragic events in world history, partly through her ability to differentiate between the politicians who lead nations to war and the artists who enrich their spirit. In German and Russian with subtitles. 93 min. —Albert Williams