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« 20th Chicago European Union Film Festival (March 3-31, 2017), Report No. 2 (SLACK BAY and THE UNKNOWN GIRL) | Main | JEAN DE FLORETTE and MANON OF THE SPRING (on CINE-FILE Chicago) »

20th Chicago European Union Film Festival (March 3-31, 2017), Report No. 1 (THE DEATH OF LOUIS XIV, PERSONAL SHOPPER, and JUST DROP DEAD!)  

The month of March is always sunny for Chicago's cinephiles, in that it brings the Gene Siskel Film Center's signature Chicago European Union Film Festival. For this, its 20th season, the fest offers 62 features hand-curated by ace programmers Barbara Scharres and Martin Rubin. Exploring Europe is one of my very favorite things to do. If the same is true for you, grab your passport and hie for the Siskel. (For more info, go to I'll be bringing you communiqués throughout the month; here's the first. 
Over at CINE-FILE Chicago, I wrote about Albert Serra's bold and beautiful THE DEATH OF LOUIS XIV (France, 2016), playing Sunday, March 5th at 3pm. To check out my capsule review, go here and scroll down, down, down to the "European Union Film Festival" section.
Olivier Assayas' PERSONAL SHOPPER (France/Germany, 2016)
The thematic scope of this haunting, fascinating film encompasses grief, fear, forbidden desire, shame, technology, fame, suspense films, and the brother-sister bond. Kristen Stewart gives a furtive, conflicted performance as the titular Paris-based personal shopper. She and her recently-deceased twin brother were mediums: whoever died first was to send the other a sign. In her brother's tenebrous house, she finds a portal into the spirt world. An anonymous texting partner suddenly appears, becoming both her incubus and confidante. When asked what scares her, she texts: being alone...and horror movies. Soon, she's living one. Assayas's parts may not add up to a sum, here. I've seen this twice, and I'm still left with much to mull over. It's a moving, riddling thriller and an Antonioni-esque metaphysical mystery: expertly choreographed, subtly erotic, and scary. Stewart makes her acting choices like a good short-story writer chooses words.
(105 min, DCP Digital) 
Saturday, March 4th at 4pm and Wednesday, March 8th at 6pm 
Zoltán Kamondi's JUST DROP DEAD! (Hungary, 2016)
Here's a playful, razzle-dazzle trifle, a crime comedy in a flavor I associate fondly with CEUFF: the Hungarian romp. A newly-widowed middle-aged woman confronts her husband's mistress, and meets the estranged, punk-rock teenager he fathered. Turns out their guy, a conductor on the high-speed trains out of Budapest, was also a smuggler: soon, the three women are in big trouble with colorful gangsters. Bedecked with cinematic bells and whistles, the film is colorful itself, and fast. Much of it even takes place in the characters' imaginations and their tricky memories of the communist era. It was the last work of Zoltán Kamondi, who died last March at the age of 55. He had fun with the camera. If you've had your fill of realism, this is a nice change of pace. See it if you have extra time after taking in the festival's essential sights.
(105 min, DCP Digital widescreen)
Saturday, March 4th at 4pm and Tuesday, March 7th at 8:15pm


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