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EU Film Festival Kicks Off With A Bang

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 4, 2011 7:40PM

2011_03_Amer.jpg For film buffs, March does indeed come in like a lion, as a month of European films gets underway tonight at the Gene Siskel Film Center with the 14th annual EU Film Festival. 64 films from 24 European Union nations will offer quite a menu of cinematic delicacies. Things get underway tonight as the Academy Award contender Bibliothèque Pascal. We're looking forward to Álex de la Iglesia's festival favorite The Last Circus, Michael Winterbottom's Steve Coogan vehicle The Trip, films from Manuel de Oliveira, Catherine Breillat and plenty of others. For an appetizer, we took a peek at a Belgian giallo-homage, Amer.

In Amer, film-making duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani have made flashy debut exploring three distinct episodes from the life of a young woman, employing the styles and tropes of vintage Italian horror movies to chart key moments in her the evolution of her understanding of death, her body and desire. The first chapter (childhood), which showcases a young girl's terrifying, confused experience of her grandfather's death as a pitch-perfect Dario Argento homage (complete with expressionist lighting, lurid imagery, reliance on strong editing, and spooky/groovy music), is the most successful. The second part, exploring the adolescent Ana's awareness of her burgeoning sexuality, and the final act investigating her own desires (think Meshes of the Afternoon remade by Mario Bava) are more uneven. The plots of Italian horror movies are typically preposterous scaffolds to hold up a few bravura sequences where experimental techniques dramatize the suffering of a psychologically wrought individual, invariably a vulnerable female. Cattet and Forzani have gambled that doing away with the flimsy wooden script and implying that the dangers depicted onscreen are manifestations of dangers the protagonist feels within will be enough to sustain viewers interest. The stylistic flair showcased here is first-rate, but on its own is just not enough to keep one's attention from flagging for 90 minutes. Hardcore fans of exploitation and horror (and especially anyone into Italian horror) will find much to love; anyone else had better know what their getting into.

Festival passes (6 movies + 6 popcorns) are available for $50, a good value with tickets for individual films being $10 apiece. Amer plays Saturday, March 5, at 9:15 pm and Wednesday, March 9, 8:45 pm. The festival runs through March 31. See the Film Center's website for details.