The Chicago European Union Film Festival, a highlight of the entire film-going year for many Chicago-area cinephiles, is returning to the Gene Siskel Film Center for its 19th edition on Friday, March 4, and will run through the end of the month. The festival features an impressive and diverse lineup of 62 feature films from all 28 EU member countries, kicking off with The Paradise Suite from the Netherlands on opening night and concluding on Thursday, March 31 with France's The Phantom Boy—an acclaimed animated film from the makers of A Cat in Paris. All 62 films are Chicago premieres.
No Home Movie, the final film of the great Belgian director Chantal Akerman, is arguably the most important film playing the festival. It's a deceptively simple, extraordinarily powerful documentary about Akerman's relationship with her elderly mother. The movie slowly, almost imperceptibly, expands into an essay on Akerman's quest to better understand her own Jewish roots and identity. It unfolds as a series of conversations between the two women—sometimes in their homes, other times via video chat—and is punctuated by lengthy traveling shots of landscapes in both Israel and the U.S., contrasting the emotional closeness of mother and daughter with the physical distances that sometimes exist between them. As with Alain Resnais' Life of Riley (which premiered locally at the EU Film Fest last year), it's hard to imagine a more fitting final film from this giant of international cinema.
Chevalier, an absurdist comedy originating from Greece, is another highlight of the fest, and a quantum artistic leap forward for writer and director Athina Rachel Tsangari. The premise involves six men embarking on a fishing trip aboard a luxury yacht on the Aegean Sea, but these ostensible friends soon become bored and engage in a competition to determine who among them is the "best in general." This contest involves the men rating each other on everything from the most impressive erection to the best at building IKEA bookshelves. It's a hilarious satire of the male ego gone wild that also functions as a sly allegory for Greece's recent financial woes. The way the ship's working-class crew can be seen imitating the shenanigans of their masters offers a pungent class critique worthy of comparison to Jean Renoir or Luis Bunuel.
For more information, including the complete lineup, ticket info and showtimes, visit the Siskel Center's website.