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European Union Film Festival 

Friday, March 4 through Thursday, March 31 at the Gene Siskel Film Center

The Army of Crime

The Army of Crime

The 14th European Union Film Festival runs Friday, March 4, through Thursday, March 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 through Thursday, March 10; for a full schedule see siskelfilmcenter.com.

Amer This French-Belgian feature (2009) pays tribute to the Italian giallo, a flashy horror genre of the 60s and 70s whose breast-and-blade fetish helped birth the American slasher film. Writer-directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani present three 30-minute segments that follow their female heroine from childhood to adolescence to adulthood; the first places the girl (Cassandra Foret) in an eerie old house with her grandfather's corpse and nicely encapsules the sex/death vibe that made the giallo tick, but the directors' mostly wordless narrative, with its endless close-ups, more than wears out its welcome in the last hour—it's the horror movie as sports-car commercial. The last segment concludes in classic giallo style, with the heroine (Marie Bos) being chased through the forest by a razor-wielding killer, and provides a suitable cherry to this dubious sundae. —J.R. Jones  Sat 3/5, 9:15 PM, and Wed 3/9, 8:45 PM.

[Recommended] The Army of Crime Jean-Pierre Melville's French thriller Army of Shadows (1969) angered some with its frank depiction of the moral compromises sustained by French resistance fighters during the Nazi occupation; two generations later, French Armenian filmmaker Robert Guediguian delivers another epic drama of the resistance, though his 2009 film stresses the commitment and sacrifice of a real-life terror cell commanded by the Armenian poet Missak Manouchian (Simon Abkarian). Before Manouchian's crew were captured and executed in February 1944, they carried off dozens of successful small-scale attacks around Paris, and these give Guediguian plenty of ordnance to play around with. Yet the movie's real power lies in his careful development of Manouchian and two others in the cell: the communist propagandist Marcel Rayman (Robinson Stevenin) and the Jewish teenager Thomas Elek (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet). With Virginie Ledoyen. In French with subtitles. —J.R. Jones  Sun 3/6, 3 PM, and Wed 3/9, 6 PM.

Bibliotheque Pascal A genuine oddity, this 2010 drama by Szabolcs Hajdu deals with hate crimes and sex slavery but maintains the whimsical tone of a Grimm Brothers fairytale. The babe-in-the-woods heroine is a Hungarian Gypsy who crosses paths with one dangerous man after another, all of them as insidiously charming as the Big Bad Wolf. Ultimately she winds up in the title bordello, a chic Liverpool warehouse where the prostitutes, many of them illegal immigrants, pose as characters from literary classics. This section of the film recalls Peter Greenaway at his most unpleasant and stands in sharp contrast to the lighter first half, but the shift doesn't feel like a betrayal; Hajdu demonstrates a serious fascination with the passage between fantasy and nightmare—not to mention Eastern and Western Europe. In English and subtitled Hungarian and Romanian. 110 min. Screening on Friday as part of the opening-night program, with Hajdu and star Orsolya Torok-Illyes attending. —Ben Sachs  Fri 3/4, 6 PM, and Mon 3/7, 8:15 PM.

Jane Eyre Umpteenth screen version of the Charlotte Bronte novel, with Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) as Jane and Michael Fassbender (Hunger) as Rochester. Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) directed this UK feature, which begins a commercial run March 18. 120 min. Fukunaga and Wasikowska will attend the screening. Sun 3/6, 7:30 PM.

 R The King of Escape Though often cast as a heavy (2 Days in Paris, District B13), plus-size Ludovic Berthillot is persuasive here as a sweet but naive gay man stuck in a midlife crisis. Weary of cruising and unable to perform in bed (or on the job), he wonders how hard it might be to settle down with a woman. He gets his chance when, aided by powerful woodland aphrodisiacs, he romances a headstrong 16-year-old girl, but soon he's on the run from both the law and an ardent elderly lothario of legendary endowment. Set in the scenic Midi-Pyrenees region of southwest France, this sublimely daffy sex farce (2009) presents a warm if cockeyed vision of the region as a pansexual playground. Alain Guiraudie directed. In French with subtitles. 93 min. —Andrea Gronvall  Sat 3/5, 9:15 PM, and Tue 3/8, 6 PM.

The Portuguese Nun For this 2009 French drama, the eccentric, American-born director Eugène Green follows an actress (Leonor Baldaque) around Lisbon as she works on a film adapted from the 17th-century novel Letters of a Portuguese Nun. Taking his cues from the later works of Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu, Green has developed a rigorous style that uses editing to isolate lines of dialogue; because nearly every sentence is followed by an audible pause and then a cut, the characters often seem to be reciting their words in a vacuum. The movie may sound like a dry academic exercise, but Green (who plays the film-within-the-film's director) has a mischievous sense of humor, and his affection for the setting makes the film proudly earnest and subtly romantic. In Portuguese and French with subtitles. 127 min. —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky  Sun 3/6, 3 PM, and Wed 3/9, 6 PM.

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Agenda Teaser

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March 26

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