Somehow, over the course of its impressive 18-year-run, the Gene Siskel Film Center’s European Union Film Festival has become the most important film festival in Chicago. This is, quite frankly, astonishing, especially when one considers that the EUFF is only drawing on movies from a single continent and that the Siskel Center undoubtedly has a smaller budget to operate with than some of the city’s other longer-running festivals. Yet the evidence is undeniable: year in and year out, the EUFF brings in the films that local cinephiles are most excited to see, the ones that are routinely missing from the Chicago International Film Festival’s fall lineup. Movies playing this year’s EUFF that could’ve conceivably played last October’s CIFF but didn’t include Alain Resnais’s Life of Riley, Bruno Dumont’s L’il Quinquin, Pedro Costa‘s Horse Money, Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Park Bench Reflecting on Existence, Christian Petzold’s Phoenix, Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou, Mia Hansen-Love’s Eden, Eugene Green’s La Sapienza, Ann Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery and Serge Bozon’s Tip Top. And those are just the films by established auteurs. The EUFF is also a great place to take a chance on movies you’ve never heard of, some of which may wind up with U.S. distribution, others of which may vanish as mysteriously as they arrived. (Two of my favorite films of this decade, the Spanish Aita and the Italian Pretty Butterflies both briefly played the EUFF but remain sadly unavailable in the States.) For the next four weeks I’ll have reviews of EUFF movies at both Time Out Chicago and Cine-File Chicago. In contrast to previous years, when I was reviewing films expressly for my site, I will only be writing up movies this year that I highly recommend. For the EUFF’s first week, I already have reviews of Li’l Quinquin and Gemma Bovery at Time Out and a review of Amour Fou at Cine-File.
In other news, Andy Miles has asked me to curate a new film series at Transister Chicago. For my inaugural screening, I’ve chosen to present Thomas Arslan’s In the Shadows, a terrific German heist picture in the vein of Jean-Pierre Melville. Originally released in 2010, In the Shadows tells the story of “Trojan” (Misel Maticevic), a career criminal who emerges from prison only to immediately embark on a new heist job. Meanwhile, both the cops and a former gangster-nemesis plot to bring about his downfall. Arslan’s mastery of the heist movie here is every bit as impressive as his mastery of the Eric Rohmer-style intellectual rom-com in his superb earlier film A Fine Day (2001). Every element of this minimalist film fits together with the precision of a Swiss watch and yet, after In the Shadows has marched inexorably to its finale, the conclusion still manages to surprise in its supremely cool irony. This FREE screening of In the Shadows, its Chicago premiere, will occur on Saturday, March 21 at 8pm. More info at the Transistor website here: http://www.transistorchicago.com/32115