The European Union Film Festival wraps up this week with another round of fine films to be screened through March 30 at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Most of them are screened only twice, so check your calendars and the film center’s schedule and get down to 164 N. State St. We have mini-reviews of some of this week’s films. There are documentaries of an Irish freedom fighter and a Lithuanian photographer who slept with a lion. Plus films from Estonia, Slovenia and Spain.
Tickets are $11 and $6 for members. The box office opens an hour before the first screening each day, but you can also buy tickets online.
Julián has nothing to lose but his dignity. Dying of cancer, but afraid of living incapacitated, he stops his chemotherapy treatments. He doesn’t have much time left, and director Cesc Gay makes each moment we spend with him real. Too serious to be funny, but too light-hearted to be serious, Truman occupies that grey space movies rarely succeed in transversing: the realistic tragedy. This is no bucket list adventure, nor existential look into death, but rather something much simpler, and thus much more difficult to accomplish. Yet, both Ricardo Darín as Julián and Javier Cámara as Julián’s best friend Tomás succeed in their roles tremendously. Both play characters unable to express their love, yet are so full of it in every scene. The movie may seem slow moving, but it moves miles in the small moments we get to witness.
Catch Truman at 2pm Friday, March 24, or 5:15pm Sunday, March 26.
— Recap by Sherry Zhong
Bobby Sands: 66 Days (Ireland/UK)
This documentary gives a multifaceted view of Bobby Sands’ 66-day hunger strike using passages from his diary, beautifully read by an Irish actor, witness interviews, historical footage, and animation. The story is three parts history, one part science, and one part art, creating an emotional tour de force. The plot spans all 66 days of Sands’ hunger strike updating his weight and condition on each day, narrating the current political climate, and telling us Sands’ backstory and the backstory of Northern Ireland. Sands’ martyrdom for the Irish Republican cause is a complex story and director Brendan Byrne does an excellent job of giving an unbiased, human view that doesn’t mitigate the violence of the IRA or the role of the British. This is a must-see film.
You can see it at 8:15pm on either Friday, March 24, or Wednesday, March 29.
— Recap by Emma Terhaar.
A Comedy of Tears (Slovenia/Italy)
The shadow of the Bosnian war clouds the story of Albert (Ivo Barisic), an elderly recluse who’s confined to a wheelchair and never leaves his flat in Trieste. At the beginning, we know little about him. He’s happy with his model train set and not much else. His housekeeper Ida (Marjuta Slamic) takes a bus across the border from Istria two days a week to clean and cook for him. But he verbally abuses her all day. The film takes place during one day and director Marko Sosič gradually teases out the images and illusions that show us the source of Albert’s bitterness and ethnic hatred. There are a few other characters, but the film is all Barisic and Slamic, with natural lighting and many tight shots on their expressive faces. Barisic, especially, has a hundred years of history in his eyes.
A Comedy of Tears will be screened at 8pm Saturday, March 25, and 8:15pm Thursday, March 30.
— Recap by Nancy Bishop
The Ghost Mountaineer (Estonia)
Genre films are having a great renaissance recently. It’s always nice to see when a film finds itself playing with or finding itself outside of typical tropes. The Ghost Mountaineer seems to find itself in that realm of superseding its genre, but mostly because it never truly sticks to any one genre. The film, based on a “true story,” follows a group of students as they venture out on a hike in search of nephrite and fall into some strange occurrences. There is a spooky atmosphere throughout the beginning of the film, seemingly laying out the ground work of what’s to come. Instead The Ghost Mountaineer veers off in every possible direction, serving up so many different ideas that it becomes overwhelming. The film starts off as an adventure thriller that turns into a straight-up murder mystery, before bringing elements of supernatural horror and political satire into the mix. The film’s constantly shifting tones and sometimes erratic editing end up making the experience feel disjointed. Despite this, The Ghost Mountaineer manages to feel gripping and intense. It goes a long way to keep our interest alive with some genuine strangeness and surrealism that proves to be an interesting film.
The Ghost Mountaineer will be screened at 5:15pm Sunday, March 26, and 7:45pm Tuesday, March 28.
–Recap by Julian Ramirez.
Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden (Austria/Luxembourg)
This tragically beautiful biopic by director Dieter Berner tells of the scandalous life of Austrian painter Egon Schiele (born in 1890), who painted intensely sensuous nudes, naked self-portraits and other figurative works. The film opens with his fatal illness in 1918 and shows his life in flashbacks. Schiele was the protégé of artist Gustav Klimt, from whom he lured his long-time model, Walburga (Wally) Neuzil (Valerie Pachner). They lived together and she was the model for some of his most famous paintings. (He dumped her to marry someone else.) The film is lushly beautiful, both in artist’s studio scenes and gloriously attractive people. Noah Saavedra plays Schiele, a handsome man with strong sexual proclivities and a fondness for very young girls, including, it’s implied, his young sister, Gerti (Maresi Riegner). Just before he’s conscripted into the Austrian army, he paints one of his most famous works. “Death and the Maiden” from the Renaissance theme, the dance of death shows two figures entwined. (The film shows that he originally titled the work “Mann und Mädchen,” but changed it to “Tod und Mädchen.” Schiele contracted flu during the 1918 epidemic and died at the age of 28, leaving 300 paintings and some 2000 drawings and watercolors. His works sell today for millions in international auctions.
The film will be screened at 3:30pm Saturday, March 25, and 6pm Monday, March 27.
— Recap by Nancy Bishop.
Master and Tatyana (Lithuania)
Director Giedrė Žickytė’s documentary reveals the life, work and partying habits of Vitas Luckus, a respected Lithuanian photographer who worked during the Soviet era. Because of KGB restrictions, he was never able to exhibit his photos the way he wanted to. As one of his friends says in an interview, he could have exhibited if he had just eliminated a few photos. His photos were moody black-and-white images of people in ordinary street and home scenes—and many beautiful nude portraits of his wife Tatyana as well as portraits of Vitas and Tatyana. Luckus, known for heavy drinking and wild parties, was famous for adopting and sharing his bed with a lion cub. He committed suicide in his early 40s in 1987, three years before Lithuania declared independence. The film features contemporary interviews with many of his friends and photographer colleagues as well as with Tatyana, who emigrated to the US with their adopted daughter. In some moving scenes, she inspects Vitas’ archive of contact prints.
Master and Tatyana will be screened at 5:45pm Saturday, March 25, and at 8:15pm Monday, March 27.
— Recap by Nancy Bishop