The Brag

Archive for June 7th, 2010|Daily archive page

[Sydney Film Festival 2010] Review: Kawasaki’s Rose

In Arts, Film Reviews, Sydney Film Festival 2010 on June 7, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Kawasaki’s Rose (CZECH)
Next screening: Saturday June 12 / 12.15pm / State Theatre

Director-writer team Jan Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovský have made a bunch of successful ‘festival’ films together, the best known (in Australia) being Divided We Fall (2000), and Beauty in Trouble (2006). This latest, reportedly inspired by Oscar-winner The Lives of Others, explores memory and guilt in the post-communist Czech Republic – but with a great deal more humour; despite the heavy subject matter, Hrebejk and Jarchovský mine the darkly comic potential of dysfunctional families throughout the film.

Just as East Germany had the Stasi, Czechoslavakia’s communist government had not-so-secret police, who identified and weeded out dissidents, often with the help of citizen ‘collaborators’ (many of whom are alive and powerful in the modern Czech Republic). Kawasaki’s Rose explores this situation through the microcosm of a three-generation-strong family, whose patriarch – Pavel (Martin HubaI Served the King of England, Beauty in Trouble) – is being honoured with the annual ‘Memory of the Nation’ award, for standing up to the Communist state, and being part of the Velvet Revolution.

However, when a film crew (which conveniently includes his son-in-law) set about documenting Pavel’s life, they discover that his past has been ‘airbrushed’, to cover up a period in his early career where he was a collaborator. The filmmakers uncover new, conflicting, narratives – an old friend of Pavel and his wife, who was exiled to Sweden in the ‘70s; a former State interrogator, who suggests Pavel was directly responsible.

The film takes us on a somewhat circuitous route towards its final destination, dropping clues along the way, and taking detours into the collapsing marriage of Pavel’s daughter Lucie and son-in-law Ludek (who is cheating) – the point being that lies and guilt on any level, if covered up, have the potential to corrode a person (or a state’s) soul. It is an early conversation between Pavel and his granddaughter Bara which first alerts us to the rot: she has just been arrested for petty theft; her grandfather is trying to persuade her why confessing her crime to her parents is not just a moral obligation, but imperative for her mental health.

The film lightly touches on how memory and morality intersect within psychiatry, different religious philosophies (Buddhism), ideologies (Communism or Nazism), and even the documentary filmmakers’ ‘production of story’. Finally, Pavel – a professor of degenerative brain diseases, by the way – is forced to admit that if memory is lost, we cease to exist; and the only way to preserve memory is to acknowledge it (cue climactic scene).

At the heart of Kawasaki’s Rose is this profound but simple thesis; but what makes it so compelling is the richly created family situation. By sucking us into the different relationships, which shift and shudder as their foundation stones – memory, family history – are re-examined, the filmmakers make their point. Interestingly, the film ends on an unsettling note: a single shot of the birthday party of Kafka, the elderly ex-interrogator – which suggests that for every repentant from Pavel’s generation, there is another who is equally remorseless. [DJ]


[Sydney Film Festival 2010] Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

In Arts, Film Reviews, Sydney Film Festival 2010 on June 7, 2010 at 11:52 am

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (UK)

Next screening: Tuesday June 8 / 8.45pm / Dendy Opera Quays

It is quite frankly nice to see Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia) not in a mythical-themed film. This stunning British actress has for the past few parts played little more than a prop for her leading men, with her obvious talent going to waste. In this British thriller, Arterton, as the title character Alice, is one of only three actors on screen, with her cast-mates Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky) as Vic and Martin Compston (Red Road) as Danny, her two kidnappers. This film shows not only how good Arterton truly is, but also how much can be done with a small budget, committed actors and an excellent script.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed is tense and enthralling viewing. Set almost entirely in a flat with three rooms, writer/director J Blakeson plays a clever psychological game with his audience, utilising a basic crime premise. Rich girl, Alice is kidnapped and is held for a two million pound ransom by two ex-cons, who have meticulously planned the crime. But as with all of the best laid plans, in practice everything starts to slowly unravel, as the characters’ motivations become increasingly convoluted and entangled.

The fact that as a viewer you are unable to leave the flat, much like Alice, lends suspense to the film as you ponder what is happening outside. This heightened level of claustrophobia is intensified by the menace exuded by Vic and the jittery energy of Danny. Each actor gives as good as they get in this brutal, shocking and at times darkly funny film.

If you get the chance to watch The Disappearance of Alice Creed, which is J Blakeson’s feature debut, take it- you won’t be disappointed. [BW]

[Sydney Film Festival 2010] Review: Moloch Tropical

In Arts, Film Reviews, Sydney Film Festival 2010 on June 7, 2010 at 9:00 am

Moloch Tropical (FRANCE/HAITI)

Haitian director Raoul Peck was at one time his country’s Minister for Culture, which makes watching his latest film, a scathing political satire, all the more intriguing.

Covering a 24-hour period, which also marks Haiti’s Independence Day, President Jean de Dieu (French actor, Zinedine Soualem) is having a major meltdown. His people no longer want him in power, he is dangerously close to losing the vital support of America, he has a media personality to torture and he is severely sexually frustrated. Set in the stunning mountainous fortress of Citadelle Laferrière of Henri Christophe (a key figure in the 1804 revolution, who became King Henri I) this film critically looks at the perversion of power within the politics of modern democracies.

Although there are obvious similarities between Haiti’s first democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the central character, Jean de Dieu, this film’s criticism is not confined to the Haitian experience and also takes direct aim at American and European leaders.

The corrupting influence of power and the extent that political language can be manipulated are explored through Peck and Jean-René Lemoine’s biting script. The lengths that politicians go to to maintain the status quo is laid bare (at time literally) on screen. Although exaggerated beyond the point that the film could be read as a true account, its cast of players certainly have a disturbing basis in reality. Peck, who has accompanied his film to Sydney, asked Soualem to channel certain well-known politicians for different key scenes in the film; Clinton, Sarkozy, Berlusconi – these analogies come through loud and clear.

Moloch Tropical’s visual beauty is in sharp contrast to the grotesque nature of its characters. This film shows that when the gap between the theory of democracy and its practice is scrutinised, none of the players can escape untainted.

Raoul Peck will be talking with Jason di Rosso (ABC National Radio, Movietime ) about his career as a filmmaker at 12:15pm on Monday 7th June at the Statement Lounge. This free talk is an excellent opportunity to hear from the engaging director. [BW]