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New Films from the European Union

While the film world focused its critical lens during the late 1990s almost exclusively on the extraordinary work emanating from Asia and the Middle East, a new generation of filmmakers has emerged across Western Europe. Less burdened by the "Tarantino effect" than their North American counterparts, these young directors have modeled a new cinema on the innovative work of filmmakers like Ken Loach in Great Britain and Nanni Moretti in Italy. Often combining the political commitments of the former with the sly reflexive humor of the latter, they have created works of striking originality, which have earned them not only film festival awards but broad acceptance among audiences who have grown weary of the bombast of American-made movies. This survey provides a preview of this latest arena of cinematic achievement from a familiar region, which has been hiding its new talent in plain sight.

Special thanks for their help in organizing this series go to Olivier Bouin and Eric Jausseran of the French Consulate in Boston, Dino Siotis of the Consulate General of Greece, Claudia Hahn-Raabe of Goethe Institut Boston, and both the Forum of European Cinema in Strasbourg and the European Film Academy.


December 1 (Friday) 7 pm
December 6 (Wednesday) 9:15 pm

April (Aprile)

Directed by Nanni Moretti
Italy/France 1998, 35mm, color, 78 min.
With Nanni Moretti, Silvio Orlando, Silvia Nono
Italian with English subtitles

Considered the most important auteur in current Italian cinema, director Nanni Moretti (Dear Diary) strikes again in this delightful satire on the state of contemporary society in Italy. The film’s central character (played by Moretti himself and also, significantly, called Nanni) is a filmmaker in mid-life crisis, beset by anxiety, indecision, and egotism and awash in contradictions from within and without. He really wants to make a musical about a Roman pastry cook, but the political scenario—for the first time in Italian history, leftists have gained control of the government—compels him to try a serious documentary instead. In the midst of it all, he goes off to film the birth of his son. The brilliant mixture of documentary and fiction, images and sound, contribute to this comic meditation on conflicts between the personal and the political, adulthood and infancy.

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December 1 (Friday) 9 pm

Thomas in Love (Thomas est amoureux)

Directed by Pierre-Paul Renders
Belgium/France 2000, 35mm, color, 98 min.
With Benoit Verhaert, Magali Pinglaut, Aylin Yay
French with English subtitles

Belgian filmmaker Pierre-Paul Renders studied classical philology, worked for Belgian television, and wrote four documentaries for the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders before directing this highly inventive first feature film, in which the latest in digital communications meets the oldest story in the world. Thomas is a pathologically reclusive thirty-something tied to the candy-colored graphics of his computer screen. His hermetic world is turned upside down when his psychiatrist signs him up for an Internet dating service and his big-brother insurance company provides him with on-line prostitutes for the emotionally impaired. As low-grade video-conferencing images begin to invade his carefully controlled world, we log on to Renders’s fascinating reflections on the aesthetic and philosophical implications of the information age.

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December 2 (Saturday) 9:15 pm

Angels of the Universe

Directed by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson
Iceland/Norway/Germany/Sweden/Denmark 2000, 35mm, color, 95 min.
With Ingvar E. Sigurdsson, Baltasar Kormákur, Björn Jörunder Fridbjörnsson
Icelandic with English subtitles

This Icelandic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is based on Einar Már Gudmundsson’s book about his schizophrenic brother. Acclaimed director Fridriksson (Cold Fever) has translated it into a graceful, compassionate, and often light-hearted investigation of the fine line between sanity and madness. Paul lives a seemingly normal life with his parents in Reykjavik until increasingly erratic behavior compels them to commit him to an institution. There we meet a patient who claims to have written and telepathically communicated the entire oeuvre of the Beatles, an aristocratic gent who sometimes adopts the persona of Hitler, and a drug-abusing expert on the works of Friedrich Schiller. In this finely wrought character study, Fridriksson presents the humanity of mental illness and suggests the possibility for personal triumph over its control.


December 2 (Saturday) 7 pm

Bread and Roses

Directed by Ken Loach
Great Britain 2000, 35mm, color, 112 min.
With Pilar Padilla, Adrien Brody, Elpidia Carrillo

With Bread and Roses, British director Ken Loach brings to America his extraordinary ability to find human drama amidst the turmoil of social unrest and injustice . Set in Los Angeles during the recently settled janitors’ strike, the story focuses on the character of Maya (Padilla), an illegal alien from Mexico who has found work cleaning the high-rise offices of lawyers and entertainment executives. Her political awakening comes at the hands of a union activist (Brody), who convinces her that the need for justice must override her fears of dismissal. Loach, one of the pioneers of the British neo-realist movement of the late 1960s, continues to mix actuality with fiction, activism communicated the entire oeuvre of the Beatles, an aristocratic gent who sometimes adopts the persona of Hitler, and a drug-abusing expert on the works of Friedrich Schiller. In this finely wrought character study, Fridriksson presents the humanity of mental illness and suggests the possibility for personal triumph over its control.

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December 3 (Sunday) 7 pm

Human Resources (Ressources Humaines)

Directed by Laurent Cantet
France 2000, 35mm, color
French with English subtitles

Frank, a Parisian business school student, takes an internship in the Human Resources department at the factory where his father has labored for the past 30 years. When Frank's efforts to better the company lead to the firing of many employees, including his father, a furious confrontation ensues, forcing father and son to ponder their relationship. This stunning film, by first time director Laurent Cantet is one of the most interesting films of the New French Cinema, and has won numerous festival awards this past summer. "Human Resources" will replace the film "Skin of Man, Heart of Beast" as part of the European Union Film Series.

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December 8 (Friday) 7 pm

Earth and Water (Homa ke nero)

Directed by Panos Karkanevatos
Greece 1999, 35mm, color, 112 min.
With Girogos Karamichos, Fotini Papadodima, Lena Kitsopoulou
Greek with English subtitles

A former cinematographer, Panos Karkanevatos has constructed a ravishing portrait of the stark contrast between rural and urban life in modern Greece. The protagonist is an illiterate shepherd who lives in the wilds of Macedonia, on the Balkan border—where life is pure and people still live close to the elements. He develops a passionate relationship with a local girl but must flee to the city when her family violently rejects him. There he becomes acquainted with the corrupting influences of urban life and becomes involved with a vulnerable young Russian woman en route to Canada. A subsequent meeting with his former lover reveals that the changes in both their lives have made a return to innocence impossible.

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December 8 (Friday) 9:15 pm

Night Shapes (Nachtgestalten)

Directed by Andreas Dresen
Germany 1998, 35mm, color, 104 min.
With Dominique Horwitz, Michael Gwisdek, Meriam Abbas
German with English subtitles

This bitter, hard-edged comedy set in contemporary Berlin weaves together three stories over the course of one night during the Pope’s visit to the German capital. A homeless couple tries to find a hotel room in the overbooked city; an office clerk is carjacked as he helps a newly arrived Angolan youth find an address; a provincial farmer spends the night with a young prostitute and tries unsuccessfully to save her. Reminiscent of Scorcese’s After Hours, Andreas Dresen’s Night Shapes is nonetheless much darker in tone. Against the backdrop of the papal visit, we see the darker side of the country’s utopian aspirations as we mingle with the city’s various "night creatures," for whom there is little salvation.

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December 9 (Saturday) 9 pm

Alone (Solas)

Directed by Benito Zambrano
Spain 1999, 35mm, color, 98 min.
With Ana Fernández, María Galiana, Carlos Álvarez-Novoa
Spanish with English subtitles

In his debut feature, Cuban-trained filmmaker Benito Zambrano has crafted a compelling story about the relationship between an estranged mother and daughter, set in his native Andalusia. The mother (played exquisitely by María Galiana) comes to Seville from her rural village to bring her tyrannical husband to a hospital for surgery and installs herself in the apartment of her long-independent daughter (Fernández), an equally ill-tempered alcoholic of unsteady means, who is pregnant by an itinerant trucker. The relationship is strained, but the mother’s gracious ministrations to an old man in the building and her indefatigable attempts to bring hope back into her daughter’s life leave an indelible impression after her departure.

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December 9 (Saturday) 7 pm

Aberdeen

Directed by Hans Petter Moland
Norway/Great Britain 2000, 35mm, color, 102 min.
With Stellan Skarsgård, Lena Headey, Charlotte Rampling

Norwegian-born director Petter Moland spent his formative years in the United States and studied film right here in Boston at Emerson College during the 1980s. His third feature film is a pitch-black comedy that examines the relationship between a snobbish young professional woman (Headey) and her long-estranged alcoholic father (Skarsgård). The bliss of Kaisa’s champagne promotion party at her London law firm is interrupted the morning after by a phone call from her mother in Scotland: she wants the daughter to fetch the father from Oslo and deliver him to Aberdeen for an experimental detox program. The reunion of father and daughter is more bitter than sweet as the mission derails on series of tumultuous conflicts. An extended car trip, however, goes a long way toward achieving emotional rehabilitation for both parties.

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