EU Film Fest: Films We Watched for You, March 18-24
The Chicago European Union Film Festival continues 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.
I DON’T BELONG ANYWHERE: THE CINEMA OF CHANTAL AKERMAN
Interviews with Belgian feminist director Chantal Akerman are the highlight of this documentary by director Marianne Lambert. We see Akerman sitting cross-legged on a messy bed talking thoughtfully and cheerfully about her filmmaking and her nomadic life. (It’s a punch in the gut to know that Akerman, 65, committed suicide in October 2015.) She was best known for her films about the inner lives of ordinary women, using long, meditative takes, such as those in her best-known film, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. The documentary shows many clips from Akerman’s films, such as in Jeanne Dielman, where we see the title character methodically doing housework, preparing meals for her teenage son and providing sex for pay to her male customers. The long slow take of Dielman peeling potatoes is a classic example. Akerman was considered a film innovator and made some 40 documentaries, essays, musicals and literary adaptations, as well as videos and installations. Other Akerman films are News From Home, The Rendez-Vous of Anna, From the East, and From the Other Side.
I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman (67 minutes, French with English subtitles) will be shown at 2pm tomorrow (3/19), followed by Akerman’s final film, No Home Movie, at 3:30pm. No Home Movie is Akerman’s portrait of the last days of her mother Natalia, an Auschwitz survivor, in her Brussels apartment. (The trailer for this film is not available for posting.)
Recap by Nancy Bishop.
THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE
Austrian director David Rühm’s Therapy for a Vampire is a mash-up of classic vampire tropes set in 1932 Vienna featuring a mopey bloodsucking Count Geza von Közsnöm dealing with the ennui of immortality and an unhappy marriage. Bela Lugosi is fused alongside F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, generously sprinkled with Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire and the theme of vampires with problems spilling their guts out on the therapist’s couch. The Count longs to reconnect with his old flame, Nadila, a deceased vampire reincarnated in Lucy, the girlfriend and model of the noncommittal painter Viktor, who attempts to paint Countess Közsnöm’s likeness so she can finally see herself after centuries. This fusion works for the initial half hour and the overall conceit is best summarized when the Count meets Sigmund Freud for psychoanalysis sessions and proclaims: “I’m not good at self-reflection.” This is a fine line to follow and leads to a number of engaging and surprising scenes where one of the central conundrums of being a vampire is the inability to see one’s self, both in a literal, emotional, and metaphorical sense. Maybe Freud could help? Regardless, the tone of the film is wildly inconsistent and moves from soul-searching drama, to domestic farce, to horror, to slapstick comedy, to B-grade vampire action with superpowers, not only scene to scene, but shot to shot. There’s a series of satisfying nuggets here but improved clarity of vision on Rühm’s part is needed to set this film in clearer focus.
Therapy for a Vampire will be screened at 8:15pm tomorrow and at 6pm Thursday, March 24. 87 minutes. German with English subtitles.
Recap by James Orbesen.
Director Syllas Tzoumerkas’ 2014 film blends personal and family crises with the Greek financial crisis, but ends up being a mystifying blend of themes and stories, flashbacks and flash-forwards. Maria (Angeliki Papoulia) meets and marries Yannis (Vassilis Doganis, a sexy Greek hunk) when she’s 20 and they have three children. Yannis is a sailor on a container ship and spends six months at a time at sea, communicating with Maria via Skype. The periods before their marriage and when Yannis is home are punctuated by exuberant sex scenes, filmed to show two beautiful bodies. Maria’s family stories include her wheelchair-bound mother, who runs the family grocery store and holds the mortgages on their city and country homes. Her sister Gogo is married to a garbage dump manager with Nazi sympathies. Her father is a weak and ineffectual man. When Maria finds out her mother has not paid taxes or other family debts, she tries to sort out the family finances. Eventually, for reasons suggested but not clear, Maria despairs of everything about her life, gives up her children, husband and family and goes rogue, driving off to the coast alone.
A Blast will be screened tomorrow at 8:15pm and Monday at 8:15pm. 83 minutes. Greek with English subtitles. Suggested for adult audiences.
Recap by Nancy Bishop.
Directed by Jan Cvitkovič, this comedy about three bumbling entrepreneurs has a goofy charm. Mile, Zekir and Fedr live sort of aimlessly in Ljubljana until Mile inherits a dilapidated storefront. His mother, Olga, who grows weed in her window box, wants to get out of that business and provides seed money for the guys’ new business. They consider opening a sewing shop but then decide on a pizzeria because Zekir loves to make pizza. They open Pizzeria Šiška but things don’t go well for the business at first. Jana, a homeless woman, applies for a job and suggests they try offering a Šiška Deluxe: Pizza with whatever the customer desires. Business takes off from there. In one scene Fedr delivers a pizza with a swan from the Ljubljana Zoo. He’s stopped by the policia, who consult headquarters and decide Fedr’s pet swan is not breaking any laws riding in the front seat without a seatbelt. Fedr finally delivers pizza and swan (or goose?) to a painter who wants the swan to pose with his semi-clad model. The three friends all have endearing qualities and the rest of the cast—mom, her friends, hoodlum turned nice guy, male stripper, Fedr’s daughter Kristina—add color and warmth to the film.
Šiška Deluxe will be screened at 6pm tomorrow and at 7:45pm Tuesday, March 22. 108 minutes. Slovenian with English subtitles.
Recap by Nancy Bishop.