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European Union Film Festival 

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The seventh annual European Union Film Festival continues Friday through Thursday, March 19 through 25, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. Tickets are $9, $5 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2800. All films will be screened in 35-millimeter, and films marked with an * are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, MARCH 19

Good Morning, Night

Widely and perhaps justly regarded as a comeback for director Marco Bellochio (China Is Near, Devil in the Flesh), this somber docudrama (2003) reflects on the kidnapping and murder of Italian prime minister and Christian Democrat party head Aldo Moro in 1978, concentrating on the four Red Brigade members who sequestered Moro and in particular the woman in the group. Critics have called Bellochio's treatment of the event both detached and engaged, balanced and slanted. Lacking the historical knowledge that would enable me to judge, I can only testify that over two separate viewings I found this troubling and absorbing. In Italian with subtitles. 105 min. (JR) (6:00)

* Presence

See Critic's Choice. (6:15)

Loser Takes All

Hoping for one last score, a world-weary criminal (Yannis Angelakas) enlists three women--a hooker, a drunk, and a hostile ex-lover--to defraud a violent drug gang in this sluggish 2002 Greek noir by Nikos Nikolaidis. Unfortunately, any momentum generated as the morose antihero navigates an underworld of strip clubs and shady characters is vitiated by dreary folk-pop interludes that sound like Leonard Cohen on lithium. References to other movies, like a prominently displayed poster for White Heat, telegraph the climax of this nihilistic exercise, and the misogyny endemic to noir is particularly nasty here, which makes the leading man's inexplicable gallantry at the end ring hollow. In Greek with subtitles. 120 min. (Andrea Gronvall) (8:15)

SATURDAY, MARCH 20

Dogville

This experimental drama about the cruelty of a Rocky Mountain community toward a woman (Nicole Kidman) in flight from gangsters, shot with an all-star cast on a mainly bare soundstage, bored me for most of its 178 minutes and then infuriated me with its cheap cynicism once it belatedly became interesting--which may be a tribute to writer-director Lars von Trier's gifts as a provocateur. The fact that he spends most of his time in Denmark as a porn producer seems relevant to his exploitation instincts, yet those who have called this blend of Brecht and Our Town anti-American may be overrating its ideological coherence. As in Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, the heroine suffers greatly, but whether this is at the hands of humanity or von Trier himself isn't entirely clear. With Harriet Andersson, Lauren Bacall, James Caan, Patricia Clarkson, Ben Gazzara, Philip Baker Hall, Udo Kier, and Chloe Sevigny; John Hurt narrates. Rated R. (JR) (3:00)

The Galindez File

Saffron Burrows stars as a university student investigating the disappearance of a Basque nationalist in the 1950s, a project that draws the attention of the CIA. Gerardo Herrero directed this Spanish political thriller (2003); with Harvey Keitel. In English and subtitled Spanish. 126 min. (3:30)

Song for a Raggy Boy

Aidan Quinn is duly pensive and charismatic as a veteran of the Spanish civil war who's hired to teach at one of Ireland's notorious reform schools and finds it nearly as violent, thanks to its sadistic prefect (Iain Glen). Except for the outbursts of graphic violence and sexual molestation, this 2003 Irish feature is muted by Aisling Walsh's bland direction; only Quinn's bonding with the wayward boys, which leads to terrible consequences, accounts for the sense of tragedy and uplift. 93 min. (Joshua Katzman) (6:15)

Love Me If You Dare

Yann Samuell directed this 2003 French romantic comedy, originally titled Jeux d'enfants, which is slated for a U.S. theatrical release in May. In French with subtitles. 94 min. (6:30)

* Interview

This 2003 drama from the Netherlands exploits both our worship of celebrity and our distrust of the media, as an angry political reporter (Pierre Bokma), traumatized by a tour of duty in Bosnia, is assigned to write a puff piece about a stunning young film and TV star (Katja Schuurman, playing a version of herself) who's hostile toward the press. Their immediate antipathy escalates into a hotbed of seduction and betrayal as they deploy Mamet-like stratagems on a battlefield (Schuurman's real-life apartment) no less dangerous for its luxury. This may resonate differently in its native land than it does here, but Theodor Holman's script artfully toys with our expectations about gender, money, and power, springing a diabolical trap. Theo van Gogh directed. In Dutch with subtitles. 89 min. (Andrea Gronvall) (8:15)

Twentynine Palms

An American who speaks only English (David Wissak) and an eastern European who speaks only French (Katia Golubeva) travel to Twentynine Palms, California, and the neighboring Joshua Tree National Park, barely communicating apart from their sexual encounters. Considering how much Bruno Dumont's first two features (The Life of Jesus and L'humanite) were geared to his French hometown, I worried that he would lose his bearings in this 2003 foray to the U.S. Like many a European filmmaker before him, he seems transfixed by the landscape, deserts in particular, and his minimal story held me as long as the scenery was allowed to speak more than the characters. Alas, the plot eventually takes over, and it's exceptionally ugly and unpleasant. 119 min. In English and subtitled French. (JR) (8:30)

SUNDAY, MARCH 21

Good Morning, Night

See listing for Friday, March 19. (3:00)

* I Always Wanted to Be a Saint

Luxembourg writer-director Genevieve Mersch makes her feature debut with this compelling 2003 drama about a smart, acerbic teenager (Marie Kremer) who, abandoned by her mother and neglected by her hardworking father, finds an imaginary friend in a race car driver killed during a televised match. Hungry for spiritual purity and largely motivated by maternal rejection, she busies herself by helping others, but her neatly ordered world starts to collapse when her grandmother arrives unexpectedly, bringing news of her mother's whereabouts. Mersch nicely calibrates the teenager's fall from grace, and Kremer is utterly convincing in the lead role. In French with subtitles. 92 min. (Joshua Katzman) (3:15)

* Success

This 2003 first feature by Polish filmmaker Marek Bukowski is armed with a recklessly scattershot punk sensibility, using animation, grainy 16-millimeter, and kinetic hand-held camera to convey the turbulent coming-of-age of its hero (Krzysztof Banaszyk in a droll, deadpan performance). First seen as a child during the final years of the communist regime, he grows up to become a struggling young actor, competing with his best friend for roles as well as for the love of a beautiful actress. Ultimately he wins the woman but sacrifices his career, working menial jobs to support her while his friend achieves fame and fortune. Stylistically ambitious in the extreme, this is a hit-or-miss endeavor, but it's still well worth seeing. In Polish with subtitles. 90 min. (Joshua Katzman) (5:15)

MONDAY, MARCH 22

Twentynine Palms

See listing for Saturday, March 20. (6:00)

* Presence

See Critic's Choice. (6:15)

Orwell: Against the Tide

British documentarian Mark Littlewood stages scenes from George Orwell's life, emphasizing his heroism during the Spanish Civil War, and from his fiction, including the torture of the hero in Nineteen Eighty-Four, with Orwell's texts as voice-over. I'm sufficiently interested in the left-wing novelist and essayist to find any account of his life absorbing, but this 2003 film is so reductive that even I have to admit the same 54 minutes might be better spent reading or rereading his work. Also on the program is Stephanie Sinclaire's ten-minute The Tell-Tale Heart, the umpteenth adaptation of the Poe story, with Stephen Lord in the lead and a similar weakness for literalism that eschews the literary. (JR) (8:15)

Loser Takes All

See listing for Friday, March 19. (8:30)

TUESDAY, MARCH 23

Love Me If You Dare

See listing for Saturday, March 20. (6:00)

* I Always Wanted to Be a Saint

See listing for Sunday, March 21. (8:00)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24

Orwell: Against the Tide

See listing for Monday, March 22. (6:30)

Dogville

See listing for Saturday, March 20. (7:00)

THURSDAY, MARCH 25

Song for a Raggy Boy

See listing for Saturday, March 20. (6:00)

* Interview

See listing for Saturday, March 20. (6:15)

The Galindez File

See listing for Saturday, March 20. (8:00)

* Success

See listing for Sunday, March 21. (8:15)

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