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CIFF: "You, the Living" and "Heartbeat Detector"

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 9, 2007 4:50PM

This is part of Chicagoist's continuing coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival.

2007_10youliving.jpg If you like comedy that's drier than a Churchill martini then You, the Living needs to be on your CIFF list. A hilarious, frequently surreal series of deadpan tableaux that may or may not take place in the afterlife is the even better follow-up to director Roy Andersson's acclaimed debut, Songs from the Second Floor. Picture Salvador Dali running amok in an Ikea showroom populated by (among others) a lovesick teenage girl who's infatuated with a goth guitarist, a tuba-playing psychiatrist, a melancholy carpet salesman, and an Arab barber. Each scene is captured in a single shot, and characters in one scene sometimes reappear in another. In the second half, people keep pausing from their actions to look up at something we finally discover to be both elegant and terrifying.

2007_10heartbeat.jpgThe oddly-named Heartbeat Detector is a French thriller that examines corporate morality and accountability. A slick psychologist at a multinational chemical firm has to determine the cause of the CEO's erratic behavior. When the movie begins, he's really more concerned with efficiency than people's mental health, but as he begins to uncover some disturbing facts concerning the management's involvement in WWII his perspective changes. Director Nicolas Klotz, whose background is in documentaries, uses a clinical tone to make some cogent points about conformity -- conveyed in one shot by a row of execs standing shoulder to shoulder at several urinals -- and lets the story unfold at a meticulous pace. But an awkward shift in the last act overplays his hand, and the main character's motivations remain murky. Even so, it's a compelling portrait of ruthless corporate discipline.

You, the Living screens tonight and again on 10/11; Heartbeat Detector screens Friday. Call 312-332-FILM for details and ticket info. (Images via CIFF)