21st Chicago European Union Film Festival

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From March 9 through April 5, the Gene Siskel Film Center welcomes you to the 21st Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival. This largest festival in North America exclusively showcasing films originating in the European Union brings the vibrant cultures of Europe to the comfort of your theater seat, with 61 Chicago premieres representing all 28 EU nations.

The festival will feature 8 films from France:


CATCH THE WIND
PRENDRE LE LARGE
2017, GAËL MOREL, FRANCE, 104 MIN. WITH SANDRINE BONNAIRE, MOUNA FETTOU, LUBNA AZABAL.
Fri, Mar 9 | Wed, Mar 14

Sandrine Bonnaire proves once again why she is one of the world’s finest working actors, in a role that channels the fierce, even perverse sense of independence that has characterized her memorable performances in such films as VAGABOND and LA CÉRÉMONIE. She plays Edith, a 45-year-old widow whose life is centered on her job in a French textile factory. When the factory closes down, she astonishes everyone by choosing the relocation option over a tidy severance package. Relocation means a transfer to Tangiers, where she doggedly confronts hostility, culture shock, and sweatshop-like working conditions. Equal parts heroic, foolish, and mysterious, her struggle is devoid of self-pity or masochism, embodying what director Morel (APRÈS LUI) describes as a "tribute to the working class, where I come from." In French with English subtitles. Courtesy of UniFrance Films, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Europa International, and Europa Cinemas. DCP digital. (MR)


GODARD MON AMOUR
LE REDOUBTABLE
2017, MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS, FRANCE/ITALY, 107 MIN. WITH LOUIS GARREL, STACEY MARTIN.
Sun, Apr 1 | Wed, Apr 4

Michel Hazanavicius (director of the Academy Award-winning THE ARTIST) chronicles the relationship between legendary French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard (played by an unrecognizable Louis Garrel) and his second wife, AU HASARD BALTHAZAR actress Anne Wiazemsky (Stacey Martin), in this breezy, comedic adaptation of Wiazemsky’s autobiographical novel "Un an après." When Godard’s first collaboration with Wiazemsky, the Maoist-flirting LA CHINOISE, is met with wide antipathy, the notoriously temperamental director is flung into a personal, artistic and political crisis that is only exacerbated by the student riots of May ’68. In the midst of Godard’s attempts to reinvent himself in the image of the political revolutionary, Wiazemsky finds herself less and less enthralled with the wearying antics of French cinema’s former wunderkind. Rife with homages to many of Godard’s classic films, GODARD MON AMOUR is a fascinating and irreverent peek at one of the key transitional moments in the life and career of one of international cinema’s great iconoclasts. In French with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Cohen Media Group. DCP digital. (CW)


THE GUARDIANS
LES GARDIENNES
2017, XAVIER BEAUVOIS, FRANCE, 135 MIN. WITH IRIS BRY, NATHALIE BAYE, LAURA SMET.
Sun, Mar 25 | Thu, Mar 29

The year is 1916, and rural France is an empire of women. The men are either fighting at the front or already dead. It is the women who till the fields, harvest the crops, and fill the church on Sunday, many wearing the black veil of mourning. The Sandrail family needs a farmhand, but, since all the able-bodied men are gone, they hire a housemaid named Francine (Bry). The strapping red-headed orphan proves equal to the task, becoming a fixture in the family and falling in love with one of their soldier sons, until allegiances of class and blood trump those of gender and affection. Adapting Ernest Pérochon’s 1924 novel, director Beauvois (OF GODS AND MEN) delivers a model of absorbing, classical storytelling, set against a ruggedly beautiful backdrop of rural life. Baye is commanding as the Sandrails’ iron-willed matriarch, but the film is dominated by newcomer Bry’s revelatory tough/tender performance as Francine, the farm girl who quietly but firmly carves out her place in the world. In French with English subtitles. Courtesy of Music Box Films. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)


ISMAEL’S GHOSTS
LES FANTÔMES D’ISMAËL
2017, ARNAUD DESPLECHIN, FRANCE, 135 MIN. WITH MATHIEU AMALRIC, MARION COTILLARD, CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG.
Sat, Mar 17 | Thu, Mar 22

One of the most important and original French filmmakers of his generation, Arnaud Desplechin (A CHRISTMAS TALE, MY GOLDEN DAYS) is known for rich, multileveled films that combine stylistic flair with deep character exploration. ISMAEL’S GHOSTS is his most extravagant and ambitious film yet, a wild mélange of 8½ and VERTIGO, with a dash of spy thriller thrown in. The main character is Ismaël Vuillard (Almaric in his seventh Desplechin film), a filmmaker on the verge of a creative breakdown as he struggles to complete a tale of diplomatic intrigue supposedly based on the exploits of his late brother Ivan (Louis Garrel). Off the set, stability is provided by Ismaël’s lover Sylvia (Gainsbourg), but that stability shatters when his first wife Carlotta (Cotillard), missing for 20 years and presumed dead, unexpectedly shows up. Is she real, a ghost, or an extension of Ismaël’s imagination? Everything is up for grabs in this personal, playful, and utterly unpredictable take on the instability of identity. This director’s cut is twenty minutes longer than the version that played as the opening night film of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. In French with English subtitles. Courtesy of Magnolia Films. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)


JEANNETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC
JEANNETTE, L’ENFANCE DE JEANNE D’ARC
2017, BRUNO DUMONT, FRANCE, 108 MIN. WITH LISE LEPLAT PRUDHOMME, JEANNE VOISON.
Sun, Mar 11 | Thu, Mar 15

In 1425 in the small village of Domrémy, the future Joan of Arc is still Jeannette, an impetuous 8-year-old shepherdess troubled by France’s ongoing war with England who communicates her spiritual crises to her family, her neighbors, and the relentlessly bleating flock of sheep she tends through song and dance. Setting Jeannette’s laments to a pounding, electronics-heavy score by French metal musician Igorrr, the resolutely unpredictable Bruno Dumont (LI’L QUINQUIN) directs one of the strangest musicals in recent years, a humanizing and massively endearing portrait of one of French history’s most iconic figures, complete with rapping, head-banging, and all manner of goofy, amateurish dancing. Indulging in many of his artistic signatures, including utilizing non-actors (performing their songs live for the camera to add an extra bit of verisimilitude), shooting on location in picturesque French countryside, and lacing the film with an oblique, deadpan mysticism, Dumont’s latest is another unclassifiable left turn from one of contemporary cinema’s most exciting voices. In French with English subtitles. Courtesy of KimStim. DCP digital. (CW)


MONTPARNASSE BIENVENÜE
JEUNE FEMME
2017, LÉONOR SERRAILLE, FRANCE, 98 MIN. WITH LAETITIA DOSCH, NATHALIE RICHARD.
Fri, Mar 30 | Mon, Apr 2

Rising star Dosch (AGE OF PANIC) and first-time director Serraille took the 2017 Cannes Film Festival by storm with this unruly-young-woman-on-the-loose saga built around Dosch’s whirlwind performance. After being muse, lover, and appendage to a hotshot photographer for ten years, Paula (Dosch) is abruptly dumped. She scrambles to rebuild her life by embracing impulse and improvisation - bouncing from one crash pad to another; faking her way through job interviews; taking shameless advantage of friends and family; playing along when a complete stranger misrecognizes her as a long-lost schoolmate; and juggling unlikely gigs as a rich family’s babysitter and a salesgirl at a posh knicker bar. Then her ex’s repentance and an unplanned pregnancy seem to offer this recovering trainwreck a chance to get her life back on track. Is it a trap, or is there such a thing as too much freedom? In French with English subtitles. Courtesy of UniFrance Films and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. DCP digital. (MR)


NUMBER ONE
NUMÉRO UNE
2017, TONIE MARSHALL, FRANCE, 110 MIN. WITH EMMANUELLE DEVOS, SUZANNE CLÉMENT.
Sun, Mar 18 | Mon, Mar 19

Like CATCH THE WIND (playing March 9 & 14), NUMBER ONE serves as an example of the meaty, unconventional roles available to mature actresses in recent French cinema. César-nominated Devos (READ MY LIPS, KINGS AND QUEEN) plays an ambitious and highly effective senior executive in a sustainable energy company who is scouted by a feminist caucus to vie for a job that would make her the first-ever female CEO of a CAC 40 (the French equivalent of Dow Jones) company. At first, she is reluctant to "play the feminist card," but, with the glass ceiling looming in her present position, she throws her hat in the ring. Her decision plunges her into a ruthless arena of corporate hardball, filled with dirty tricks, blackmail, and character assassination. Drawing upon real-life models, director Marshall (VENUS BEAUTY) and her screenwriters do a superb job of dramatizing the games that a woman must play (and put up with) as the only female in the boardroom, further complicated by responsibilities of marriage and motherhood. In French with English subtitles. Courtesy of Pyramide Films. DCP digital. (MR)


THIS IS OUR LAND
CHEZ NOUS
2017, LUCAS BELVAUX, FRANCE/BELGIUM, 118 MIN. WITH ÉMILIE DEQUENNE, ANDRÉ DUSSOLLIER.
Fri, Mar 23 | Wed, Mar 28

With its explicit references to Marine Le Pen and the Front National, THIS IS OUR LAND quickly became the most controversial film of the year in France, although its convincing depiction of how right-wing "populist" movements soft-pedal their extremist positions has much wider relevance. The story centers on Pauline (Dequenne, who debuted in the Dardenne Brothers’ ROSETTA), a well-liked nurse in a northern French town who is recruited by the "Renewed Nation Party" as an ideally inoffensive candidate to run for mayor. Flattered, the essentially apolitical Pauline goes along, submitting to an image makeover that includes dyeing her brown hair a more electable blonde. But her burgeoning political career begins to conflict with her personal life - when her left-wing union-loyalist father disowns her, and when her image-conscious political handlers try to quash her rekindled romance with an old high-school sweetheart who, unbeknownst to her, has ties to a neo-Nazi movement. In French with English subtitles. Courtesy of Distrib Films. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)


Francophone Films:

MADEMOISELLE PARADIS
2017, BARBARA ALBERT, AUSTRIA/GERMANY, 97 MIN. WITH MARIA DRAGUS, DEVID STREISOW.
Sun, Mar 25 | Wed, Mar 28

In 1777, in a last-ditch bid for a cure, a wealthy Viennese couple commits their ungainly blind daughter Maria (Dragus, of Haneke’s THE WHITE RIBBON), a self-taught harpsichord prodigy, to the care of Dr. Franz Mesmer (Streisow), notorious for his unorthodox experiments with hypnotism and magnetic fields. Eschewing romanticism, director Albert (FREE RADICALS) combines historical accuracy and a sumptuous production design with an acutely contemporary sense of class and the mechanics of manipulation, as the talented Maria becomes a pawn between her parents and the ambitious society doctor, but discovers that the possibility of sight comes at a terrible price. In German and French with English subtitles. Courtesy of First Run Features. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)


BLIND SPOT
DODE HOEK
2017, NABIL BEN YADIR, BELGIUM, 105 MIN. WITH PETER VAN DEN BEGIN, SOUFIANE CHILAH.
Sat, Mar 31 | Tue, Apr 3

An urban thriller set in after-dark Antwerp, this policier by Moroccan-Belgian director Ben Yadir utilizes amped-up tension between the immigrant population and native Europeans as the explosive backdrop to a story centered on a ruthlessly corrupt police commissioner. Jan Vanderbeeck (Van den Begin, of KING OF THE BELGIANS in a savage performance) uses his track record as a narcotics enforcer as a springboard into conservative politics, parading his mentor relationship with a young Moroccan cop to defuse public distaste for his nativist views. On the eve of announcing his candidacy, Jan plots the showboating capture of a Turkish drug lord, a plan based precariously on intelligence from a murky source. In Flemish and French with English subtitles. Courtesy of Indie Sales. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)


SOUVENIR
2016, BAVO DEFURNE, BELGIUM/LUXEMBOURG/FRANCE, 90 MIN. WITH ISABELLE HUPPERT, KÉVIN AZAÏS, JOHAN LEYSON.
Sat, Mar 10 | Mon, Mar 12

Isabelle Huppert (ELLE) dares once again to work outside her comfort zone, playing a has-been chanteuse unexpectedly courted by a man young enough to be her son. Anything but a cougar, buttoned-up, intensely private Liliane (Huppert) works a prep line in a catering firm’s food factory, her glory days as the rising star who lost out to ABBA on a European TV talent show far in the past. A workplace flirtation with Jean (Azaïs), a twenty-something amateur boxer who still lives with his parents, turns into more when he coaxes her back into the limelight for what promises to be a risky and emotion-fraught reinvention for both of them. Huppert gamely gives her all in the musical numbers, especially the bouncy "Joli Garçon." In French with English subtitles. Courtesy of Film Movement. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)


THE YOUNG KARL MARX
DER JUNGE KARL MARX
2017, RAOUL PECK, GERMANY/FRANCE, 114 MIN. WITH AUGUST DIEHL, STEFAN KONARSKE.
Closing night film! | Sat, Mar 31 | Thu, Apr 5

From LUMUMBA to I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, Raoul Peck has sought to bring complex political issues to vivid, undiluted life. His latest film, a passion project many years in gestation, takes on one of the most influential figures in modern history and finds the sweet spot between a compelling biopic and a substantial treatment of Marx’s thought. The film begins in 1843 with Europe on the brink of political revolution. Marx (Diehl) is an impoverished journalist struggling to support his family while his inflammatory writings keep them on the move, from Prussia to Paris to Brussels to London. His path crosses that of wealthy mill-owner’s son Friedrich Engels, and, after a contentious first meeting, they join forces to shape a theoretical foundation for the political ferment that is boiling over in Europe. The film bristles with forceful debates and the memorable personalities involved in them. Marx is seen not as a solitary prophet but a thinker whose ideas evolved in dialogue with those around him, including the dandyish Engels (Konarske), Marx’s high-born but politically astute wife Jenny (Vicky Krieps of PHANTOM THREAD), Engels’s Irish labor-activist wife Mary Burns, and the radical father-figures Bakunin and Proudhon (the latter played with scene-stealing gusto by Dardenne favorite Olivier Gourmet). In German, French, and English with English subtitles. Courtesy of The Orchard. DCP digital. (MR)


THE NOTHING FACTORY
A FÁBRICA DE NADA
2017, PEDRO PINHO, PORTUGAL, 177 MIN. WITH JOSÉ SMITH VARGAS, CARLA GALVÃO.
Sun, Mar 18 | Tue, Mar 20

A famous strike in a Lisbon factory became the inspiration for this hybrid of a strike drama that veers freely and unexpectedly from its prevailing cinéma-vérité style to include unorthodox musical numbers. The morning shift shows up at an elevator factory only to find their production equipment being loaded onto trucks. Management claims there’s nothing to worry about, but the workers are soon faced with the impossible choice between accepting a severance package or digging in their heels. Incorporating non-professional actors in a large ensemble cast, director Pinho approaches the drama from every angle, from the collective to the personal, and from the hardcore realism of workers’ meetings to the whimsy of impromptu dances on the factory floor. In Portuguese and French with English subtitles. Courtesy of Memento Films International. DCP digital. (BS)

Last modified on 07/03/2018

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