Chicago French Film Festival at the Music Box
The Music Box imports a few noteworthy films from Gaul.
The Music Box calls it the Second Annual Chicago French Film Festival, but based on the titles we sampled, the program’s most striking feature is its pronounced global influence. The most well-regarded feature showing may be Sleepless Night (Friday 27), a propulsive thriller in the vein of Hong Kong’s Infernal Affairs. The plot concerns a cop (Tomer Sisley) with a sideline in drug theft who’s forced to scramble after his son is kidnapped. Over a frantic evening, he darts through a crowded, mob-run nightclub, trying to pass off flour as coke and untangling a thicket of double crosses. If the movie can’t quite sustain the energy of its first half, it’s admirably single-minded in its efforts to keep up the pace.
Closing the fest, Lucas Belvaux’s 38 Witnesses (Sunday 29) is based on a novel inspired by the “official” version of the Kitty Genovese story—the 1964 case in which a Queens bar manager was murdered as 38 neighbors allegedly listened to her screams, afraid to get involved. In reality, doubt has been cast on how many heard or understood her cries for help, but Belvaux (The Trilogy, Rapt) is less interested in a true-crime narrative than a moody study in guilt, as a Le Havre port worker (Yvan Attal) is tormented by his and his apartment block’s failure to intervene in a murder outside. The film has only one point to make, but it builds to a climactic reenactment of significant power.
38 Witnesses is not to be confused with 17 Girls (Sunday 29), also based on an American incident—the 2008 “pregnancy pact” in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Teen girls somehow convince themselves it’d be a great idea to get pregnant simultaneously and raise the children as a group. Directors Delphine and Muriel Coulin make no more sense out of the kids’ motivations than the parents do, but it’s interesting to see material that stateside served as the basis for a Lifetime movie treated as a sober study in the failure of institutions.
The Second Annual Chicago French Film Festival runs Friday 27 through Sunday 29 at the Music Box.