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European Union Film Festival Part Four, by Aaron Pinkston

15 Apr

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Everyday (United Kingdom, dir. Michael Winterbottom)

Michael Winterbottom’s other film at this year’s European Union Film Festival, Everyday, is a micro-budget drama about the lives of a woman and her four kids after her husband is imprisoned on drug charges. Using a barebones documentary style, Everyday was filmed over five years with actors Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter, Meek’s Cutoff), John Simm (Doctor Who) and four real-life siblings. The production is certainly ambitious, with few (but growing number of) projects taking this approach to show time on film, but the results here are particularly modest. The film is in the traditional British “kitchen sink” style, focusing on normal people living normal lives and dealing with normal issues.

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European Union Film Festival Part Three, by Aaron Pinkston

14 Apr

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The Expedition to the End of the World (Denmark, dir. Daniel Dencik)

We’ve seen many recent documentaries about climate change and the melting ice caps. We’ve seen talking head films shoving in expert after expert warning us what is around the corner because of human folly. We’ve seen nature docs that try their best to capture the beautiful things that are slipping away. The Expedition to the End of the World is a documentary about the subject that is strikingly unlike the others. It uses this very significant subject matter almost entirely only as background to introduce a number of typical scientific and artistic types we see spring up in these films and then studies them instead.

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European Union Film Festival 2014 Part Two, by Aaron Pinkston

31 Mar

Each March, the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, Illinois brings a wide variety of new films from around Europe during the European Union Film Festival. This year marks the 17th annual festival, with films from 26 countries and 64 Midwestern premiers. Each week of the festival, I will bring a few select reviews from the schedule’s diverse selections.

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan

The Trip to Italy (United Kingdom, dir. Michael Winterbottom)

A few years back, Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip was among my biggest discoveries at the European Union Film Festival. I had heard the praises of Winterbottom and Steve Coogan’s other collaborations, but they were a blind spot for me. By this year’s festival, the comedy team wasn’t going to be surprising anyone with their sequel, which reunites fictionalized Coogan with frenemy Rob Brydon. This time, they get right into the road trip hijinks after a brief opening scene. Since the last film, Coogan has made the move to Hollywood to star in his generic procedural and Brydon has continued his quiet and moderately successful life with his family. We’ve also learned that Brydon ended up taking over the journal series for the Observer, which now wants the two to come together for a new series — this time, following the footsteps of British scribes Percy Shelley and Lord Byron along the beautiful coasts of Italy.

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European Union Film Festival 2014 Part One, by Aaron Pinkston

19 Mar

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Each March, the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, Illinois brings a wide variety of new films from around Europe during the European Union Film Festival. This year marks the 17th annual festival, with films from 26 countries and 64 Midwestern premiers. Each week of the festival, I will bring a few select reviews from the schedule’s diverse selections.

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Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas (France, dir. Arnaud des Pallières)

Mads Mikkelsen has been an actor on the rise the past few years, solidified by his role as the famous serial killer on NBC’s Hannibal. Though he has recently crossed over to be recognized by mainstream U.S. audiences, his many roles in small, intense European films have always been where he’s at his best. The title role in Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas suits all of Mikkelsen’s strengths as an actor. It’s a period film from the middle ages, a time from which he feels transported. I think he is fine in modern roles, but there is something naturally otherworldly about him which plays really well in an environment like this.

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