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European Union Film Festival 

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The ninth European Union Film Festival continues Friday through Thursday, March 24 through 30, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members.

Beneath Her Window

Polona Juh plays a 30ish dance instructor stuck in a dead-end relationship with a married man and enmeshed in the ongoing dramas of her promiscuous, larger-than-life mother. As she drifts into an alcohol-soaked nightclub scene she realizes she's being stalked, but no one, least of all her mother, seems to care very much. Writer-director Metod Pevic uses clever, funny dialogue to inject a healthy dose of levity into this 2004 story of urban alienation. In Slovenian with subtitles. 91 min. (JK) a Fri 3/24, 6:15 PM, and Sat 3/25, 6:45 PM

R Crossing the Bridge

This lively 2005 documentary by German-Turkish director Fatih Akin (Head On) follows bassist Alexander Hacke of Einsturzende Neubauten through the crumbling streets of Istanbul to present a dynamic and wide-ranging portrait of the ancient city's musical riches. The intimate performance footage ranges from more traditional sounds to Turkish iterations of global styles like rock, hip-hop, and electronica, delivering commentary on the nation's conflicted status as a bridge between Europe and Asia that's even more poignant than the passionate and informative interviews. Among the featured artists are rock pioneer Erkin Koray, the powerful Kurdish singer Aynur, polyglot DJ Mercan Dede, and arabesk legend Orhan Gencebay. 92 min. (Peter Margasak) a Sat 3/25, 6:30 PM

Illusive Tracks

A pastiche of Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, and screwball comedy, this 2003 Swedish film is delivered with such gusto that one can forgive its lack of originality. Most of the action takes place aboard a train from Stockholm to Berlin, where a pompous doctor and his nubile mistress are plotting to kill the doctor's wife; among the other characters are an elderly spinster who befriends the wife and a klutzy literary critic who inflicts a number of increasingly debilitating injuries on a returning war hero. Sumptuous black-and-white cinematography enhances this genre exercise, which is engaging despite a rather predictable "surprise" ending. Peter Dalle directed. In Swedish with subtitles. 100 min. (JK) a Tue 3/28, 6 PM

Isolation Billy O'Brien directed this 2005 Irish horror movie. 95 min. a Sat 3/25, 8:30 PM, and Mon 3/27, 8 PM

R Lemming

Brilliantly conceived and competently executed, this disturbing psychological thriller by German-born French filmmaker Dominik Moll (With a Friend Like Harry) has been compared to Lost Highway, in part because of its uncanny two-part construction. But it also suggests an original spin on Eyes Wide Shut in the unspoken understandings of its married couple (Laurent Lucas and Charlotte Gainsbourg) and its ambiguous mix of reality and fantasy. Andre Dussollier and Charlotte Rampling play another couple who arrive for a dinner party, and the unpredictable transactions among the four kept me engrossed and curious throughout. In French with subtitles. 129 min. (JR) a Sat 3/25, 8:15 PM

Modigliani

This overwrought 2004 biopic needlessly sensationalizes the life of early-20th-century painter Amedeo Modigliani, the poster boy for Parisian bohemian excess. Most of the film is about his last tumultuous affair, but lead Andy Garcia is less effective opposite Elsa Zylberstein, as the doomed lover, than when he spars with Omid Djalili, who gives the film's best performance as rival Picasso. It's an authentic-looking period piece, but writer-director Mick Davis so poorly develops the characters that if not for the constant name-dropping ("Are you the famous artist Maurice Utrillo?") they'd be completely unidentifiable. Ironically the only scene that conveys a glimmer of the artistic process involves a fictitious competition between the Montmartre greats. R, 128 min. (AG) a Sun 3/26, 3 PM, and Thu 3/30, 6 PM

Odete

Like O Fantasma, the previous feature by Joao Pedro Rodrigues of Portugal, this 2005 drama is a dark love story exploring the connection between the sexual and the spectral. Ana Cristina de Oliveira plays the title character, a roller-skating price checker at a supermarket who breaks up with her boyfriend because he doesn't want children. In her despair she's drawn into an uneasy friendship with a young gay man (Nuno Gil) who recently lost his lover in a car accident, and before long the neurotic woman begins to develop a morbid fascination with the deceased. In Portuguese with subtitles. 101 min. (AG) a Fri 3/24, 8 PM, and Tue 3/28, 8 PM

Opa!

Archaeologist Matthew Modine, hoping to excavate a fabled biblical site on the Greek isle of Patmos, is too immersed in satellite photos and thermal tracking to appreciate the alluring landscape, but he's set right by Agni Scott, the beautiful owner of a taverna that sits atop some buried ruins. This innocuous 2005 romantic comedy recycles countless other movies in which an uptight intellectual collides with a sensual woman, though it's enlivened by the epic scenery (including one sequence of the leads skinny-dipping in the crystalline Mediterranean) and a droll chorus of peripatetic widows whose references range from Sappho to Broadway musicals. Udayan Prasad directed. In English and subtitled Greek. 97 min. (AG) a Fri 3/24, 8:15 PM, and Sat 3/25, 3 PM

Other People's Lives

Nicola de Rinaldo wrote and directed this 2002 Italian crime drama about a retired mob boss whose past comes back to haunt his comfortable mountaintop existence. Old colleagues show up, a judge pressures him to turn on his former associates, and a rival boss starts making death threats. It all plays out against the backdrop of an impending geological disaster as neighboring Vesuvius threatens to erupt. Ludicrous as these narrative threads may sound, the director weaves them into a surprisingly nuanced tale of atonement. In Italian with subtitles. 92 min. (Reece Pendleton) a Sun 3/26, 5:15 PM, and Mon 3/27, 8:15 PM

R Persona Non Grata

Veteran character actor Zbigniew Zapasiewicz gives a brilliant performance in this character study of an elderly Polish dissident turned diplomat whose career and personal life are unraveling. He's devastated by the death of his wife, haunted by suspicions of her infidelity, resentful that Poland is just as corrupt and inefficient as in the Soviet era, and increasingly fearful that his staff and colleagues (many of them holdovers from the old regime) are scheming against him. Rumors that he's a mentally unstable drunk gain credence as his behavior becomes more erratic--yet his inability to function in an absurdly dysfunctional society marks him as saner than the devious incompetents surrounding him. By turns somber and ironically detached, this 2005 drama by writer-director Krzysztof Zanussi moves slowly but accumulates great power. In Polish with subtitles. 117 min. (Albert Williams) a Sun 3/26, 5:30 PM, and Thu 3/30, 8:30 PM

R The Porcelain Doll

Hungarian writer-director Peter Gardos cites Borges and Garcia Marquez as major influences, and his wistful, whimsical 2005 feature is steeped in magic realism. Its three stories take place in a small farming village: in the first and best an amiable teenager wins a series of athletic events against some soldiers but is shot to death by their irate commander; in the second a state party member claims he can resurrect several long-dead children; and in the third an elderly husband and wife, threatened with deportation, literally fade into a wheat field. Gardos's depiction of miracles trumping interlopers in the first and last story is both poignant and inspiring. In Hungarian with subtitles. 75 min. (JK) a Sat 3/25, 5:15 PM, and Thu 3/30, 8:15 PM

R Shark in the Head

The sublime Czech actor Oldrich Kaiser (Dark Blue World) stars as a scruffy, middle-aged eccentric who, clad only in undershirt and boxer shorts, greets everyone who passes by his street-level flat in Prague. Like Don Quixote, he's a romantic with a tenuous grasp on reality, though his Dulcinea is a respectable and unusually compassionate bourgeois matron (Jana Krausova). Director Maria Prochazkova, making her feature debut, draws on her animation background for this 2005 portrait of a man overwhelmed by the beauty and terror of mundane life. In Czech with subtitles. 70 min. (AG) a Sat 3/25, 5 PM, and Wed 3/29, 6 PM

Short Order

The intimate relationship between food and sex isn't exactly a fresh idea, but Irish writer-director Anthony Byrne infuses this 2005 musical comedy with color, wit, and intelligence. Among the international cast are Emma de Caunes as an alluring young chef slumming at a short-order joint, John Hurt as an absurd French waiter, Jon Polito as a hot dog merchant making all the expected allusions, and Vanessa Redgrave as a mysterious bar patron with the secret to immortality. 97 min. (JJ) a Sat 3/25, 3:15 PM, and Mon 3/27, 6 PM

Silentium

Directed by Wolfgang Murnberger, this 2005 absurdist thriller set in Salzburg stars Josef Hader as a disheveled private detective hired by a widow to investigate her husband's violent suicide. The gumshoe gets in over his head as he discovers the death might be part of a larger conspiracy orchestrated by the local Catholic bishop and higher-ups at the Salzburg Music Festival. Wolf Haas's darkly comic script, based on his popular mystery novels, gets in some good digs at two of Austria's most revered institutions. In German with subtitles. 116 min. (Reece Pendleton) a Mon 3/27, 6 PM, and Wed 3/29, 8 PM

R Yiddish Soul and Yiddish Soul

Concert A rousing double bill of Belgian videos that document Europe's Yiddish music revival. Yiddish Soul (2005, 53 min.) explores the songs' attraction for both Jews and non-Jews seeking to reclaim a culture destroyed by Hitler. The Italian ensemble KlezRoym introduces some lyrical innovations, but most of the artists, like the celebrated Karsten Troyke of Germany, strive to interpret the wide repertoire as faithfully as possible. The companion piece Yiddish Soul Concert (2005, 43 min.) features crowd-pleasing performances from some of the musicians interviewed in the other video, including chanteuse Myriam Fuks, a firecracker with a flair for cabaret. Turi Finocchiaro and Nathalie Rossetti directed both videos. In various languages with subtitles. (AG) a Sun 3/26, 3:15 PM, and Wed 3/29, 6 PM

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