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CEUFF 2017: Louise by the Shore, Mythopathy, & Austerlitz

March 26, 2017

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The unforgettable impact of the past on the present is at the forefront of these three films. From powerhouse EU countries France, Germany, and Greece, these films remind us of the importance of the past and how it affects everything we do in the future. Whether the film is silently condemning the inhabitants of the present like “Austerlitz,” or celebrating dreamers that are able to learn from their past like “Louise by the Shore” and “Mythopathy,” it’s easy to see that there’s no escaping the past. This trio show us different ways forward, but they all acknowledge that if we are to forget the past altogether, we’re certainly doomed to repeat it.

With the last week of the Chicago European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center upon us, you have only one final chance to see these film in Chicago…for now. Hopefully, they’ll get an official release here in the States. Below are my thoughts on all three….

 

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LOUISE BY THE SHORE (2016)—France

“You see, everything falls back into place. Let it go. You have time now.”

 

Using a gorgeous watercolor animation style, reminiscent of the old H.A. & Margret Rey “Curious George” books, this captivating little film is a pure delight for animation fans. Stranded in seaside town after missing the last train out of town for the season, curmudgeonly septuagenarian Louise (brought wonderfully to life by the expressive Dominique Frot) is forced to fend for herself in a tourist trap. With no one to keep her company at first, Louise’s mind wanders back to her childhood replete with some genuinely creepy and unsettling imagery. The later portions of the film, when Louise is joined by a talking dog (voiced by the film’s director Jean-François Laguionie), have a wistfulness and sorrow to them that is not readily found in the genre. This is an utterly charming and captivating film with Jacques Tati’s indelible fingerprints all over it, but despite the breathtaking animation, this is most certainly not a film for the very young.
(in French with English subtitles)
RATING: ***1/2
Thursday, March 30th at 6:15pm
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MYTHOPATHY (2016)—Greece
“If your son is careful in what he says, a beautiful life is ahead of him.”
 Known as “Notias” in its home country of Greece, this high-concept dramedy concerns that mythical place where our imagination and history collide. Stavros (Giannis Niaros) is a photographer whose childhood was spent ruining ancient Greek myths for everyone around him by twisting the legends to fit his own melancholy disposition. His parents, desperate for answers as to why he is the way he is, take him to specialist after specialist before finally ending up in the home of a tea leaf reader who explains that Stavros is a very special child with a rare condition that allows him to reshape reality whenever he suffers a broken heart. The film loses its footing a bit once Stavros moves into adulthood and the conceit stretches beyond the point of believability, but there is some genuinely enjoyable stuff in here. Had the film perhaps sought to go beyond the bounds of reality, it might have felt more fully realized, but in its current state, it’s a beautiful but deeply flawed film. (in Greek with English subtitles)
 
RATING: **1/2
Thursday, March 30th at 8:15pm
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AUSTERLITZ (2016)—Germany
“Guys, if you could just not eat in here, that would be great.”
An absolutely essential documentary, this film is a masterclass in a filmmaker conveying their point through editing. It’s odd to say that in a film that features roughly fifty static shots lasting anywhere from two to five minutes, but presuming that director Sergei Loznitsa shot hundreds of hours of footage, his assemblage of that footage speaks volumes. Working as a beautifully depressing companion piece to Alain Resnais’ “Night and Fog,” this film takes you Dachau and Sachsenhausen, concentration camps turned tourist traps in modern day Germany. I have much, much more to say about this film in the near future, but trust me when I say that this will rank among the more unforgettable viewing experiences of your life. By simply presenting vignettes with no narration and no music, it allows the actions of a handful of obviously insensitive tourists to speak for themselves. Brilliantly, it allows both those who feel these people do it to themselves as well as those who blame the filmmaker for manipulating the footage plenty of ammunition to bolster their argument of why the film works. As both a condemnation of humanity and the audiences’ own self satisfaction, it’s as close to essential viewing as films get. (in German, English, and Spanish with English subtitles)
 
RATING: ****
Wednesday, March 29th at 6:00pm
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