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CEUFF 2017: Cézanne and Me, The Sense of an Ending & 20,000 Reasons

March 3, 2017

 

March is the month I lose the most sleep. That’ll happen when you’re trying to catch up with 62 films from 28 countries in 4 weeks. Thanks to programmers at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago, a place which provides one of the most eclectic and exhaustive annual month-long festivals in the city. Okay, not “one of the”, more like “the only” one. This is the 20th edition of the theater’s Chicago European Union Film Festival (CEUFF), running from Friday, March 3rd through Thursday, March 30th, which will include Chicago premieres of the latest from such notable directors as Olivier Assayas, the Dardennes brothers, Doris Dörrie, Francois Ozone, Carlos Saura, Albert Serra, Lone Scherfig and Thomas Lilti. I have no idea how many films I’ll be able to see, but my unattainable goals are lofty.

Below are my thoughts on three of the films that are showing on on Friday, March 3rd. You can find out more about the festival by visiting the theater’s site.

 

 

 

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CEZANNE AND ME (2016) – France

This absorbing two-in-one biopic left me wishing more infamous friendships were brought to the big-screen. The story follows the lifelong turbulent friendship between two artists in French culture, painter Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne “Yves Saint Laurent”) and writer Émile Zola (Guillaume Canet “Tell No One”), who would go on to be two of the greatest in their respective fields. Filled with rich, vibrant colors and picturesque settings, writer/director Danièle Thompson (“Cousin Cousine”, “Avenue Montaigne”) starts out in 1888, when a frustrated Cézanne confronts Zola about the thinly-veiled depiction of him as a failed genius in the novel “The Masterpiece.”From there, Thompson backtracks to 1852, to their childhood together in the hills Aix-en-Provence and proceeds to navigates back and forth, sharing their complex and volatile friendship, while balancing ample time to the temperamental painter and the more reserved writer, both of whom are subjected to their own professional tortures. It’s a fascinating look at the commitment of two artists, to each other and their work. (in French with English subtitles).

RATING: ***

  • Fri, Mar 3rd 2:00pm
  • Tue, Mar 7th 6:00pm

 

 

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THE SENSE OF AN ENDING (2017) – UK

If I was only to tell you that this is a drama starring Jim Broadbent, that should be enough to motivate you to see it. If you need more to go on, the veteran English actor plays Londoner Tony Webster, a widower who runs a specialty camera shop, while keeping in touch with his divorced wife, Margaret (Harriet Walter) and their pregnant lesbian daughter (Michelle Dockery). His structured life is interrupted when a message is delivered to his door that sends his memory reeling to his college college days when he (Billy Howle) and his friends, befriended brilliant classmate Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn) and became hopelessly involved with the alluring upper-class Veronica Ford (Freya Mavor). The message is an inexplicable bequest of £500 from Veronica’s mother (Emily Mortimer) and the bequest of Adrian’s diary, which the long-unseen Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) refuses to release. Wracked with nostalgia and opened wounds of unrequited love, Tony is compelled to confront his past and in turn discovers how the mind can shape images and events to form truths and also learns more about the man he’s become and wants to be. An adaptation of a 2011 award-winning novel of the same name by Julian Barnes, by British playwright Nick Payne, this feature is a confident sophomore effort from director Ritesh Batra (“The Lunchbox”), supported by an excellent cast and a fine score by Max Richter. (in English)

RATING: ***

  • Fri, Mar 3rd 2:00pm
  • Thu, Mar 9th 7:45pm

 

 

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20,000 REASONS (2016) – Malta

There’s a couple of things this romantic-comedy has going for and that is it’s location and it’s tone. It showcases the beauty of Malta and is unafraid to balance silliness with real characters, even though the overall story is quite predictable. While it is basically a story with a happy ending, the lead actors make up for anything we can see coming. Maria Pia Meli plays Sophie, a self-in-the-making career woman trying to get her fledgling PR firm off the ground and land a contract with a notable client. She comes from money, but is determined to make her own way. Sophie gives kicks her gold-digger fiancé to the curb (with good reason), which her matriarch grandmother frowns upon, motivating the old lady to manipulate either Sophie or her sister to get married by the time their 30-years-old or they will forfeit their inheritance. No pressure. If this were an American comedy, I would end it here by saying, “hilarity ensues”, but director Jameson Cucciardi gives his actor’s time to shine in this rollicking plot, not at the service of it. These characters, a charming gardener (Aldo Zammit), Sophie’s weak-willed dad, and an awkward priest, still feel real while acting ridiculous. Ultimately, it made me want more from Malta. The often very funny film represents an early step in fostering an indigenous Maltese film industry; it was produced through a training program initiated by the Malta Film Commission and made possible through funds awarded by the European Social Fund. (in English and Maltese with English subtitles).

RATING: ***

  • Fri, Mar 3rd 6:00pm
  • Mon, Mar 6th 6:00pm

 

Immediately following the Opening Night film and program on March 3rd, the audience is invited to a reception in the theater’s Gallery/Café generously hosted by The Hopleaf Bar and the Consulate General of Malta, Detroit. Coffee sponsored by Intelligentsia.

 

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