The Chicago European Union Film Festival runs through the end of March at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. See Colin Smith’s preview. Each week, we’ll provide brief reviews of some of the next week’s films. Details and ticket info here.
Francofonia by Aleksandr Sokurov almost plays like a stream of consciousness film, but this would not give enough credit to the editing. The auteur pasted together archival footage of Parisians while under Nazi occupation, his own shots of Napoleon Bonaparte’s spirit walking among the Louvre’s great halls, and history lessons of the Louvre’s construction. The composite of the footage examines the importance of capital “A” Art. Though ambitious and at times self-indulgent, Francofonia is not without tongue-in-cheek and playful humor. Sokurov narrates some of the film, which risks pretension, but in doing so he shows us how the Louvre is the “path of European art.” Given his works on Hitler, Lenin, Emperor Hirohito, and a film interpreting Faust, Francofonia also examines power and history. But it is theme without narrative. In one scene, a Napoleon stands in front of the painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Paul Delaroche and declares “I went to war for art.” Here, the auteur narrates that the state cannot exist without museums. And through the film he asks: does Art make civilization? Between his loose and light narrative threads, the film can often feel grand and heavy. But, after all, this is the Louvre.
Francofonia will be shown at 6pm Wednesday, March 16, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. 88 minutes. In Russian, French, German, and English with English subtitles.
Recap by Colin Smith.
The Taviani brothers—Paolo and Vittorio—have re-created Boccaccio’s Decameron. Just as in the 14th century original, 10 young men and women flee from Florence where the Black Death is taking its toll in lives and civilization. They stay on a country estate and decide to pass the time taking turns telling stories (which we then see them re-enacting in costume). The Taviani film is a framing story, just as Boccaccio’s was—and so was the version produced in 1971 by Pier Paolo Pasolini—usually considered a great film, if not a masterpiece. This Boccaccio isn’t a masterpiece, although it has many fine attributes. It’s an homage to the art of storytelling. The scenes are beautifully lit and framed, like an early Renaissance painting. The stories are mostly silly, but some are charming and poignant. The Tavianis match Boccaccio’s and Pasolini’s distaste for the church and organized religion. The acting seems wooden and clichéd but that’s not easy to judge when you’re reading subtitles.
Wondrous Boccaccio will be shown at 2pm today and 7:45pm Wednesday, March 16, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. 116 minutes. In Italian with English subtitles.
IN Recap by Nancy Bishop.
INGRID BERGMAN–IN HER OWN WORDS
Ingrid Bergman may always be an icon forever stuck on celluloid and cinematic history as Ilsa Lund, Humphrey Bogart’s lost love and better half in the now classic Casablanca. Growing up, I’ll admit, I wanted to be Ingrid Bergman, mostly because she was strikingly beautiful, endearing and ballsy as all get out as she stuck a gun in Bogart’s face. Bergman was the ultimate dream girl—my ultimate dream girl—although that wasn’t always the case in popular culture. By 1950, Bergman was more so defined by her affair with director Roberto Rossellini and less so for her status as an actress, if even a woman. However, the self-proclaimed “saint to whore and back to saint again” was not merely a product of the men she loved, but the love she gave, the love she lost, and the love she was eternally trying to reclaim. Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words, directed by Stig Björkman, is the product of Bergman’s nearly childlike approach to affection and loneliness as immortalized in various diary entries, letters and personal interviews, many of which are narrated by Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander if not by Bergman herself. Björkman also gathers interviews and anecdotes from Bergman’s beloveds and acquaintances alike, including the Rossellini children (Isabella, Ingrid and Roberto) and her first child, Pia Lindstrom. Most notably, the film manages to reflect both the intimate and revealing—the public and private—lives of Bergman almost as much as the diaries and letters left by the woman herself do. Behind-the-scene images and home videos also give one a rare glimpse of an Ingrid Bergman who too desperately wanted to grow up to become the “Ingrid Bergman” I once so wanted to become. Drenched in a vulnerability not unlike our own, this is a must-see for any classic film fan or just for the moviegoer who wants to know what happened to the woman who flew out of Casablanca.
Ingrid Bergman—In Her Own Words will be screened at 2pm today and at 4pm tomorrow at the Gene Siskel Film Center. 114 minutes. In Swedish and English with English subtitles.
Recap by Lauren Garcia.
SUMMERTIME (LA BELLE Saison)
Summertime, directed by Catherine Corsini, is a love story of two women torn in their relationship with each other and between life in the city and the country. Delphine (Izїa Higelin) moves from the family farm to Paris where she finds herself in the midst of the rowdy French politics and the feminist movement of the early 1970s. Delphine is an active lesbian but she’s been closeted at home. At the first feminist meeting she attends, she’s inspired by the movement for women’s liberation and abortion rights, and becomes an activist. They plot strategy, march and protest during an anti-abortion event. In one scene, activists, both women and gay men, break into a mental hospital to rescue their friend who is being held captive and treated for his homosexuality. Delphine becomes close to Carole (Izїa Higelin), who lives with a boyfriend. The two spend time together and fall in love. When her father has a stroke, Delphine has to go back to the farm, where she does the hard physical labor of farming; she milks cows, drives the tractor and bales hay. Carole comes to stay and participate in the farm work, but their love relationship is discovered and met with animosity by neighbors and family. De France and Higelin seem to have an authentic chemistry and their performances are superb. Their love scenes are beautifully filmed, especially in the country where their two naked bodies lie in the grass. Director Corsini is openly gay but this is her first film to deal with the topic.
Summertime will be screened at 6pm today and 6:15pm tomorrow at the Gene Siskel Film Center. 105 minutes. In French with English subtitles.
Recap by Nancy Bishop.
FREE ENTRY (ONE DAY OF BETTY)
Writer-director Yvonne Kerékgyártó’s first film is a coming-of-age story about a 16-year-old who gets her first taste of adult freedom at a Budapest music festival. The film won the Gamechanger Award at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival.
Betty (Luca Pusztai) goes to the Sziget Festival with her best friend V (Ágnes Barta), who is the same age but more sophisticated in the ways of boys, drinks and drugs. The Sziget Festival (which takes place every summer on an island in the Danube) is your typical colorful music festival with hundreds of bands, sensory overload and many adult temptations. Betty and V have counterfeit festival passes and buy some pot on the way to finance their festival stay. They meet guys, ride on the Sziget Eye, eat “spiced brownies” and pick up food leftovers. Betty makes some unsubtle efforts to sell weed to passersby, but she’ s so inept that she gets tossed out of the festival by security guards. Director Kerékgyártó creates an authentic teenage girl relationship between Betty and V. They argue as friends do, but at the end, they’re together again, singing as Betty strums the guitar that she lifted from their weed dealer. The lyrics may make more sense in Hungarian.
Guys fall away from me in rows.
All of them have better things to do.
Oh my god how hard it is to love.
There’s so much bullshit I have to fight.
I’m in a storm of hostile windmills.
Free Entry will be shown at 5pm Sunday and at 8:15pm Thursday, March 17, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. 70 minutes. In Hungarian with English subtitles. The film is preceded by To My Little Turtle (2015, Martin Bonnici, Malta, 14 minutes).
Recap by Nancy Bishop.