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Reviews for November 24th, 2010

Kawasaki's Rose

Directed by Jan Hrebejk.

In Czech with subtitles. Ludek (Milan Mikulcík) works for a crew of documentary filmmakers who film Pavel (Martin Huba), a psychiatrist awaiting an imminent award for his role as a dissident during Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime many years ago. Pavel also happens to be Ludek’s father-in-law and doesn’t quite get along with him. Ludek clearly has marital problems because he’s cheating on his wife, Lucie (Lenka Vlasáková), with a coworker. When Ludek discovers evidence that proves that actually Pavel had collaborated with the secret police, the dark secrets of Pavel’s family gradually unravel leading to even further instabilities and revelations. The screenplay by Petr Jarchovský remains character driven as you learn more and more about past of Pavel, his wife and what they’re both going through on a psychological and emotional level and, concurrently, how that’s affecting their daughter and son-in-law. Occasionally, the film feels too dialogue-heavy at times and it does tend to drag a bit whenever it loses its focus Pavel and focuses it on Ludek’s infidelity instead. One particular scene comes across as more awkward than anything else when Ludek introduces his mistress to his wife in an attempt to try to have an open and understanding discussion. It’s much more compelling and provocative to observe Pavel’s innate struggles as he faces the harsh realities of his past which he had bottled up so long without checking with his moral conscience. The awakening of that conscience is quite poignant and believable. Director Jan Hrebejk allows each actor and actress to have his/her moment to shine and, compounded with the well-written, complex characters, their raw performances make for a very powerful, unflinchingly true-to-life experience. Hrebejk does a great job of avoiding scenes that could have easily felt melodramatic with a less competent director. He also includes an exquisite musical score and interesting uses of metaphors, i.e. the titular rose which becomes a very meaningful symbol towards to the end. At running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, Kawasaki’s Rose occasionally loses its focus and drags, but it nonetheless remains compelling, provocative and, for the most part, emotionally resonating thanks to raw performances and a delicately woven, character-driven screenplay.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens at the Film Forum. Center.
Released by Menemsha Films.

The Legend of Pale Male

Directed by Frederic Lilien.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Opens at the Angelika Film Center. Center.
Released by Balcony Releasing.

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