The Gene Siskel Film Center’s European Union Film Festival continues through April 2. My best bet for week two is La Sapienza, a unique French-Italian co-production by American-born director Eugene Green (The Portuguese Nun).
Eugene Green creates a singular filmgoing experience with La Sapienza, the study of a middle-age Swiss architect, Alexandre (Fabrizio Rongione), who rekindles both his professional passion and his marriage while on a trip to Italy to study the work of his hero, the Baroque master Francesco Borromini. Much like Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours, however, the story here is a mere framework in which the director has enfolded a series of art history lessons. Green’s style is definitely not for all tastes. His sense of extreme compositional symmetry and perfectly calibrated camera movements outdo even the likes of Wes Anderson and the de-dramatized dialogue sequences play out according to a predictable but bizarre formal pattern: They begin with master shots, progress to over-the-shoulder reverse angles and, disorientingly, climax with P.O.V. shots in which the characters address both each other and the camera.
His rigorous approach to style creates a fascinating tension that is only relieved in the transcendental final scene, where the clichéd image of a kiss is re-infused with an awesome sense of mystery, romance and power. In other words, you may feel as though you are watching a screen kiss for the very first time.
You can check out the complete European Union Film Festival line-up (as well as find ticket info and showtimes) at the center's website.