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European Union Film Festival 

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The eighth annual European Union Film Festival, with entries from all 25 member states, continues Friday through Thursday, March 18 through 24, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members.

FRIDAY18

R Omagh

Originally broadcast on Irish TV, this 2004 drama chronicles the events surrounding the August 1998 car bombing that claimed 29 lives in Omagh, Northern Ireland. The crime occurred four months after the Good Friday agreement, carried out by a group of IRA hard-liners who felt that negotiation amounted to capitulation. Using handheld camera, director Pete Travis renders the events in a flat, unemotional style, telling the story from the perspective of the Gallaghers, who lost a 21-year-old son to the bombing. The first half casts them as grieving victims, though the second traces their gradual empowerment as they demand that the bumbling local police identify, arrest, and prosecute the culprits. With Gerard McSorley, Michele Forbes, and Brenda Fricker. 106 min. (JK) (6:00)

The Friend

German director Elmar Fischer makes his feature debut with this 2003 digital video about the friendship between a German college student (Antonio Wannek) and his Yemeni roommate (Navid Akhavan), who mysteriously vanishes from their Berlin apartment a few days prior to the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Jumping back and forth in time over a two-year period, Fischer shows how the strong bond between the roommates is tested as the Yemeni falls under the sway of a militant Islamic ideology. The film's elliptical structure seems little more than a device to compensate for the thin dramatic material, but it's saved by a fine ensemble cast and Akhavan's convincing transformation from a naive romantic to a disturbing reactionary. In German with subtitles. 105 min. (Reece Pendleton) (6:15)

Crying?

Alexander Voulgaris, the 23-year-old son of Greek director Pantelis Voulgaris, directed this romantic comedy about a randy young accountant. In Greek with subtitles. 100 min. (8:15)

Made in Estonia

The eccentric residents of a small Estonian village are characters in a live radio soap opera voiced by two dorky actors (Henrik Normann and Madis Milling) in this 2003 comedy. As the actors read their lines, director Rando Pettai intercuts staged scenes, with the leads playing their characters (some in drag). Something must have been lost in translation, because the wackiness is severely strained, and the farce, which for the most part consists of absurd plot developments precipitated by studio mishaps, falls flat. In Estonian with subtitles. 100 min. (Reece Pendleton) (8:30)

SATURDAY 19

Back to the Reich

Claude Lahr's perfunctory 2004 documentary chronicles the Nazi occupation of Luxembourg (1940-'44) and considers the emotional scars left on a generation of Luxembourgers who came of age during the war. This account would have trouble passing muster on the History Channel; Lahr's approach is so dutiful and pedantic that he undermines the power of his interviewees' recollections. The film raises interesting questions about the immediate aftermath of the occupation, especially regarding the role of Nazi sympathizers and collaborators, but fails to explore them. In English and Luxembourgish with subtitles. 120 min. (Reece Pendleton) (1:30)

The Best of Youth, Part One

Originally planned as a TV miniseries, this six-hour drama (to be shown in two parts) was released theatrically in Italy to enormous success. Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, it follows two brothers, one a policeman, the other a psychiatrist and political activist, through 40 years of Italian history. In Italian with English subtitles. 180 min. (2:00)

Passionfruit

Armin is living with his longtime girlfriend and son by his late first wife when he learns that he's always been sterile. He becomes obsessed with finding his son's biological father, but he's driven less by concern for the boy than by his own hurt pride at discovering that his wife had an affair. This 2003 film, based on the novel of the same title, has some dramatic moments and some mordantly comic episodes. But director Maarten Treurniet's intercut flashbacks and fantasy sequences--Armin imagines hitting one person, making love with another--don't add psychological depth, since everyone's feelings and actions are predictable. In Dutch with subtitles. 105 min. (FC) (3:45)

Brothers

In this 2004 Danish drama cowritten and directed by Susanne Bier, a woman (Connie Nielsen) bonds with her black-sheep brother-in-law when her husband (Ulrich Thomsen) goes missing from a UN mission in Afghanistan. In Danish with subtitles. 110 min. (5:30)

Shades of Happiness

This tedious drama from Finland cuts back and forth between two professional women, each deafened by the ticking of her biological clock and determined to make her man listen. The coolly reasonable Helena (Milka Ahlroth) turns down a big promotion at work in order to become a mother, but then her husband declares that he's sterile; Paula (Tiina Lymi), a histrionic schoolteacher, gets pregnant after years of trying but then loses the child and takes it out on her meek spouse. Screenwriter Anna-Leena Harkonen, a veteran of Finnish TV, joins these two narratives when the women cross paths at a high school reunion, but the ensuing complications are numbingly predictable, and the teacher is so repellent that she overwhelms the other three characters. Claes Olsson directed. In Finnish with subtitles. 103 min. (JJ) (5:45)

R Not on the Lips

Alain Resnais' best work since Melo (1986) is, like that film, an eccentric and highly personal adaptation of a 1920s French stage hit--in this case, a farcical 1925 operetta with a jubilant and inventive score by Andre Barde and Maurice Yvain. A happily married society woman (Sabine Azema) is terrified that her industrialist husband (Pierre Arditi) will discover that his new American business partner (Lambert Wilson) was her first husband; a subplot charts the coming together of two other couples (including Audrey Tautou and Jalil Lespert). The actors do their own singing, and the theatrical trappings of the original--including lavish sets and asides to the audience--are embraced rather than avoided. As lush as an MGM musical, this 2003 feature is both moving and strange, with one of the funniest ever French portraits of a prudish American. In French with subtitles (often rhyming couplets). 117 min. (JR) (7:45)

Daybreak

This bleak 2003 Swedish melodrama finds its footing through an adroit ensemble cast led by Pernilla August as the wife of a philandering heart surgeon whose indiscretions cost him his job. Across town, in intersecting story lines, a ferocious divorcee terrorizes her ex-spouse and his much younger new wife, and a workaholic contractor faces a moral dilemma when a dotty elderly couple offers him a large sum to wall them into their house. Writer-director Bjorn Runge orchestrates the mounting tensions to an almost unbearable pitch as his characters lay waste, purging themselves through cruel games. In Swedish with subtitles. 108 min. (AG) (8:00)

SUNDAY 20

Made in Estonia

See listing for Friday, March 18. (1:30)

The Best of Youth, Part Two

See listing for Saturday, March 19. (2:00)

Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

A love story with dark threads of madness, this 2003 feature is surprisingly lighthearted, as Denmark's Natasha Arthy, who got her start directing kids' films, taps the inner child of her adult characters. At first the only cloud over the impending nuptials of spirited Katrine (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is her jilted and clinically depressed sister Mette (Lotte Andersen), but when Mette's vagabond lover Thomsen (Bjorn Kjellman) arrives on Katrine's doorstep following a two-year romp through Kenya, the bride herself becomes unhinged. Arthy embraces the Dogma 95 manifesto with savvy, keeping emotions raw through her peripatetic handheld camera and introducing witty musical numbers by conjuring a pop trio out of Mette's delusions. In Danish with subtitles. 91 min. (AG) (3:30)

A Way of Life

Set in Cardiff, Wales, this 2004 British drama by first-time director Amma Asante looks at the life of a fiercely devoted, but resentful and racist, 17-year-old single mother. With Stephanie James and Brenda Blethyn. 88 min. (5:15)

Colossal Sensation!

Twin circus clowns survive the ups and downs of Hungary in the 20th century, with most attention paid to the 1956 uprising against the Soviets. Robert Koltai, who wrote and directed this tragicomic 2004 feature, also stars as the more childlike of the pair, who takes advantage of the uprising to free his wiser brother from prison. The lightly absurdist mood is entertaining (two lost Russian soldiers drive around Hungary in a tank looking for Suez), but the story feels rushed, as if this were highly condensed from a hefty novel. In Hungarian with subtitles. 95 min. (HSa) Koltai will attend the screening. (5:30)

MONDAY 21

The Friend

See listing for Friday, March 18. (6:00)

Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

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

Back to the Reich

See listing for Saturday, March 19. (8:00)

Crying?

See listing for Friday, March 18. (8:15)

TUESDAY 22

Passionfruit

See listing for Saturday, March 19. (6:00)

Shades of Happiness

See listing for Saturday, March 19. (8:00)

WEDNESDAY 23

R Not on the Lips

See listing for Saturday, March 19. (6:00)

Daybreak

See listing for Saturday, March 19. (6:15)

R Omagh

See listing for Friday, March 18. (8:15)

THURSDAY 24

Brothers

See listing for Saturday, March 19. (6:00)

A Way of Life

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

Colossal Sensation!

See listing for Sunday, March 20. (8:15)

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Agenda Teaser

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