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2011 — 47th Chicago Film Festival

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Finland

The Good Son The Good Son

Seventeen-year-old Ilmari has spent most of his young life looking after his mother, Leila, a renowned actress who loves to be the center of attention, and his younger brother. After a recent scandal, Leila takes all three of them to a distant island for a quiet weekend but soon grows bored and invites all of her friends over for a party. There, she falls for scriptwriter Aimo, and soon Ilmari’s resentment explodes in this tragic portrait of a dysfunctional family.

Finnish with subtitles, 87 min

Le Havre Le Havre

Humanity and dead-pan wit triumph in Aki Kauriskmäki’s magical tale of an aging Bohemian shoeshine and a young African refugee. When fate lands Idrissa at Marcel Marx’s doorstep in the French port city of Le Havre, Marcel knows what has to be done. Enlisting the help of the whole neighbourhood of eccentrics and in defiance of all authority, he embarks on a risky plan to reconnect the boy with his mother.

French with subtitles, 93 min

France

American Translation American Translation

Why is it always the cute ones who harbor the deep dark secrets? When Aurore, the daughter of a wealthy American, falls for sexy Frenchman Chris, she has no idea what adventure lies ahead. Escaping the doldrums of life in the city, the two set out on a road trip with some unexpected, unsavory detours. A thrilling blend of passionate devotion and degeneracy, this French Natural Born Killers asks how far you would go for love.

English, French with subtitles, 109 min

Amnesty Amnesty

An unemployed mother of two with a convict for a husband and a meddlesome father-in-law, Elsa’s life could not get any harder. When a new law coerces her into joyless conjugal visits, she unexpectedly finds a kindred spirit in Septim, whose monthly visits to his wife coincide with Elsa’s. Their newfound joy, however, has an expiration date. This unconventional, pathos-filled love story probes the possibility for solace in companionship in the face of adversity and poverty.

Albanian with subtitles, 83 min

Artist, The Artist, The

A darling at this year’s 2011 Cannes Film Festival, The Artist is a black and white love song to silent cinema, and movies. Directed by  Michel Hazanavicius (the OSS 117 films), The Artist tells the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin, best actor at Cannes) a very successful silent movie star who meets Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a young extra, and helps her on her way up the Hollywood ladder. But when talking pictures arrive, disaster strikes not only George’s career but also the blossoming romance between the two. A visually stunning film with arresting performances, The Artist perfectly captures the silent film era while staying relevant today.

Silent with intertitles, 100 min

Bonsai Bonsai

To read Flaubert and Proust with your girlfriend after a passionate bout of lovemaking…what more could a young intellectual want? How about, years later, being asked by a veteran novelist to type out the handwritten notes for his next novel? Julio is in literary heaven. But life, like literature, can be surprising, and very soon Julio is forced to live up to the lies he has been spinning. Bonsai presents a charming Chilean spin on Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.

Spanish with subtitles, 95 min

Crazy Horse Crazy Horse

Frederick Wiseman’s latest documentary takes us inside the legendary 60-year-old Parisian cabaret club, presenters of the “best nude dancing show in the world,” as they rehearse and perform a new titillating show called Désirs, staged by famous French choreographer Philippe Decouflé. The third in Wiseman’s trilogy of films about iconic French institutions, Crazy Horse reveals the intense pace these young women must maintain to perform 15 shows a week for hundreds of tourists from around the world.

French with subtitles, 120 min

A Dangerous Method A Dangerous Method

Seduced by the challenge of an impossible case, the driven Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes the unbalanced yet beautiful Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) as his patient in A Dangerous Method. Jung’s weapon is the method of his master, the renowned Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Both men fall under Sabina’s spell.

99 min

From One Film to Another From One Film to Another

The irrepressible, enigmatic outlaw of the Nouvelle Vague, Claude Lelouche, takes the viewer on an intimate cinematic tour of his prolific career. Turning the camera on himself, the director of A Man and A Woman bares his soul as he frankly confronts the lessons of failure and the spoils of success.

French with subtitles, 104 min

Goodbye First Love Goodbye First Love

There is nothing quite like first love-or the heartbreak that follows. Camille and Sullivan are head over heels, but his longing for independence and her need for security drive a deep wedge between them, and they part ways. Eight years later, Camille has finally moved on and found new love-until Sullivan reenters her life. This perfectly pitched tale of pathos and passion captures the ardor, intensity, and anguish of love.

French, German, Danish with subtitles, 110 min

His Mother's Eyes His Mother's Eyes

With ambition and charm matched equally by a complete lack of remorse, best-selling author Mathieu will do anything for a good story. To write the unauthorized biography of celebrity news anchor Lena Weber (Catherine Deneuve in a career-topping performance), not only does he secure a job as her assistant but also seduces Lena, her estranged daughter who is searching for her own son, and anyone who gets in his way, regardless of gender.

French, Spanish with subtitles, 105 min

Holidays by the Sea Holidays by the Sea

Invoking the elliptical whimsy of comedic legend Jacques Tati, this playful, wordless romp sends up the French pleasure in summer holidays. Wandering in and out of a series of scenarios, each tinged with a touch of the absurd, the film follows a motley crew of vacationers enjoying a spell at the beach. The more than half dozen stories are cleverly propelled by the cast’s brilliant physical performances, witty comic-book inspired cinematography, and swift pacing.

French with subtitles, 77 min

Land of Oblivion Land of Oblivion

To the citizens of Prypiat, April 26, 1986 began just like any other day. Anya (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace) and Piotr celebrate their marriage while young Valery spends time with his physicist father, oblivious to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that is irrevocably changing their lives. What follows is a lyrical, pathos-filled portrait of the next ten years of those powerless to separate themselves from the town and its defining tragedy.

French, Russian, Ukranian with subtitles, 107 min

Léa Léa

Léa, a young student from the provinces, dreams of attending the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Sciences and being fully independent. The sole caretaker of her resentful, Alzheimer’s-suffering grandmother, Léa becomes a stripper in order to afford her university studies and her grandmother’s nursing home. When things start to spiral out of control, Léa discovers that easy answers can come at a hefty price.

French with subtitles, 93 min

Nobody Else But You Nobody Else But You

The ambiguous suicide of local beauty, weathergirl, cheese model, and Marilyn Monroe look-a-like finds an eager sleuth in David Rousseau, best-selling crime novelist. When Rousseau visits a remote Alps village for the reading of his friend’s will he unwittingly, but irresistibly, gets caught in the tangled web of murder and small town politics in this off-beat mystery.

French with subtitles, 102 min

On the Bridge On the Bridge

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can be a whole new kind of war for our young men and women returning from Iraq and Afhghanistan. The opposite of fighting alongside your brothers and sisters in arms, this battle is often fought alone, against demons the soldier hides from others. The power of the documentary form is strongly felt as On the Bridge not only gives voice to the personal trauma our warriors endure but also as a means to help them honor their service and move forward as Americans.

96 min

The Screen Illusion The Screen Illusion

In this contemporary adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s brilliant, eponymous 17th century play, the enigmatic Alcandre is now a hotel concierge who uses the myriad in-house high-tech security cameras to show worried father Pridamant the whereabouts and travails of his son, Clindor. As Pridamant witnesses the conflicting romances involving his estranged son, Corneille’s modernist meta-narrative is transposed to contemporary Paris, underscoring the ambiguous nature of love, wealth and desire in an age of consumerism.

French with subtitles, 77 min

Tomboy Tomboy

Gender identity and friendship lie at the heart of this sweet, heartbreaking film. After moving into a new home with her mother and sister, 10-year-old Laure willingly poses as a boy after being confused for one by neighbor Lisa. As Michael, Laure soon wins the admiration of neighborhood boys for her soccer skills and girls for her sensitivity. No matter how imaginative Laure is in dealing with boy issues, keeping her true identity secret will prove difficult as she and Lisa become closer.

French with subtitles, 84 min

Top Floor, Left Wing Top Floor, Left Wing

It was supposed to be just a routine day for respected bailiff Francois Echeverria. But when he arrives at an apartment in the Parisian projects to collect unpaid rent, he is unexpectedly taken hostage by an edgy teenage son and his reluctant Algerian father. Word of terrorist activity spreads quickly, and with trigger-happy cops waiting outside and the media closing in, they have to decide what to do about their hostage, five kilos of cocaine, and closely guarded secrets in this comedy.

French, Arabic with subtitles, 93 min

What Love May Bring What Love May Bring

The 43rd film from Academy Award®-winning director and French New Wave maverick Claude Lelouch (A Man and a Woman) elicits a vision that is as potent as ever. Driven by a spirited will, the turbulent life of Ilva Lemoine, from her delight-filled childhood through the Great War, the French Resistance, liberation, and memories of soldiers loved and lost, is recounted in this spectacular epic drama.

French with subtitles, 120 min

Woman in the Fifth Woman in the Fifth

Reality and imagination become indistinguishable in this loose adaptation of Douglas Kennedy’s novel. Tom (Ethan Hawke in an extraordinary performance) arrives in Paris to reconnect with his daughter, even though his ex-wife has placed a restraining order on him. To make ends meet, Tom accepts a job as a watchman for a seedy operation. Life takes a strange turn when he meets mysterious Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas), and down the rabbit hole he goes in this strange Kafka-esque tale.

English, French with subtitles, 84 min

Hellville Hellville

Hellville seems to have found its bizarre balance through a traffic system exclusively made of pedal vehicles...Until the day the roaring engine of a motorbike resonates through its streets. Hellville’s futuristic urban landscape is like an animated love letter to Jacques Tati’s Playtime.

4 min

Dream of 1st April 1999 Dream of 1st April 1999

A little boy goes for a walk in the forest with a mysterious, yeti like creature in this bizarre and highly creative animation which takes us on a dark, nightmarish journey which becomes increasingly abstract and surreal. 20’s style intertitles add to the dreamlike, nostalgic feel of this unique film.

6 min