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13th Annual EU Film Festival: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 3, 2010 4:40PM

poster via Music Box Films
The thirteenth edition of one of Chicago's best-kept secrets unspools at the Siskel Film Center from March 5 to April 1. The European Union Film Festival presents an eye-popping total of 59 movies this year, spanning just about every possible type of narrative film you can imagine. And because of the distribution logjam now plaguing the film business (unlikely to ease up any time soon, if ever), this could be your only chance to see many of these films in Chicago on the big screen.

The Siskel is making attendance more attractive than ever with a festival pass: 6 movies for $50, and at the end of the festival you can turn in the pass for a $5 discount on a Film Center membership. (The pass must be purchased in person at the box office.)

We start off our coverage with the long-awaited adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a film which is already Sweden's highest-grossing release of all time. It's based on the hugely popular novel by Stieg Larsson, and even if you're unfamiliar you've probably seen someone reading it on the L.

We ourselves haven't read it, so we can't vouch for the movie's faithfulness to the book. But it isn't hard to see why it's a blockbuster. The setup: a disgraced investigative reporter trying to clear his name gets an assist from a spunky goth girl (the character of the title) in solving a 40-year old mystery. Namely, the sudden disappearance of a young woman during the annual gathering of a dysfunctional family of powerful industrialists with Nazi ties. It's a sort of John Grisham/Thomas Harris mash-up, one of those mysteries where each new clue takes a half-step closer to silly implausibility. But it's so slickly executed in such a convincingly Hollywood-like fashion that the action never flags, and a few twists in the formula definitely elevate it from stateside product. The bleak Swedish countryside adds a uniquely spooky aura to the proceedings, for one. Then there's the title character. Lisbeth is a street smart hacker whose photographic memory and aggressive intelligence mask a troubled past. Her candor and unapologetic badassery make her a refreshing heroine, and Noomi Rapace turns in a strong performance.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo screens March 6. It opens March 19 at the Landmark Century.