European Union Film Festival: Puffball and Fear Me Not
By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 13, 2009 5:40PM
The European Union Film Festival continues at the Siskel through April 2. Here are reports on two more titles.
Puffball (screens 3/14 and 3/17)
It's bad enough that there's a movie named Dodgeball. But Puffball, directed by veteran genius Nicholas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth, Don't Look Now), might actually be better if Vince Vaughn was in it. When an ambitious young architect and her beau move into a remote farmhouse you know that it's only a matter of time until the disturbed old woman living next door goes off the deep end, especially after said architect becomes pregnant. It's a drably-miscalculated thriller in the vein of The Wicker Man and Straw Dogs. The cast, including Miranda Richardson and (in two pointless scenes) Donald Sutherland, valiantly does its best. And a few ornery sex scenes briefly enliven things, reminders of a time when Roeg was a master of disturbing sensuality. One has a right to expect more from him than mediocre CGI effects (which include animated sperm plumes) and stale plotting. Let's hope he fares better with his adaptation of Martin Amis' novel Night Train.
Fear Me Not
Mikael is on sabbatical from his job, using the time to catch up with his wife and teenaged daughter. Yet he's vaguely dissatisfied with life. So when his brother-in-law offhandedly mentions that his company is about to start drug-testing a new antidepressant, Mikael volunteers, figuring he's got nothing to lose. Much like James Mason in Bigger Than Life, he starts acting strangely, becoming obsessed with his newfound sense of freedom. But, in a rare example of a plot twist that actually works, things are not what they seem. Ulrich Thomsen (who resembles Robin Williams and Rod Taylor) plays Mikael as both a victim of society and of himself, making us squirm by dividing our sympathies. Further ratcheting up the tension, director Kristian Levring locates the action in orderly, sterile settings and underplays the moments of violence. Nothing that happens is as bad as we'd imagined. Yet that only makes it worse.