Do This: The Phantom Father At The EU Film Festival

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 21, 2012 3:15PM

2012_3_20phantomfather.jpg There's about one week left of the 15th Annual European Union Film Festival at the Siskel Film Center, and among the remaining treats is The Phantom Father. This wistful comedy from Romania, making its US premiere, was inspired by Barry Gifford's story "Almost Oriental." Robert Traum, a professor in the autumn of his life, decides to take a sabbatical and search for his roots in Eastern Europe. He ends up in a Carpathian backwater, crossing paths with a mixture of quirky characters.

There's not much more of a plot than that. Like many other films of the Romanian New Wave, atmosphere, texture, and character are more important than story. As Traum, veteran actor Marcel Iures is commanding; and if he's not exactly believable playing an American, director Lucian Georgescu wisely downplays his dialog and concentrates instead on his magnetic presence. There's a weary lifetime in every sad smile and casual shrug. Unlike his compatriots, filmmakers such as Radu Muntean or Corneliu Porumboiu for instance, Georgescu is not primarily concerned with fashioning a moral statement on life after Communism. Genealogical themes aside, at heart The Phantom Father is a gentle road comedy, complete with moments that border on slapstick. Some picture postcard scenery is icing on the cake.

For the past few years Chicago native Barry Gifford has shared some Christmas stories with us, so we're doubly psyched that he'll be in attendance alongside Georgescu at both screenings this weekend: Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m.

The Gene Siskel Film Center is at 164 N. State St.