You could almost think of this as the Czech The Lives of Others; a country still coming to terms with it's days under Soviet rule and the constant surveillance of the Secret Police. But while The Lives of Others was placed in the time during Soviet rule, Kawasaki Rose is placed in the modern day where the secrets of the past arguably carry more weight.
This was, again, a film I had an initial trouble becoming involved. I'm sure that is, in part, to ushering it and having to usher late-comers to seats. That's alright, comes with the volunteering. My main issue was with one of the main characters. The son-in-law of a hero of the Velvet Revolution, who works as a sound man on a film crew shooting a documentary about said hero and father-in-law, he's a bit of a selfish asshole. And by "a bit", I mean unrepentant: the guy's wife is just getting out of hospital and he's dicking around on her, and decides to tell her when she's still recovering. It does all tie, thematically as well as plot-wise though. He projects his insecurities onto his father-in-law and it is because of this asshole, and the documentary, that some secrets come to light. Secrets that could destroy the family and everything the father has worked for.
Once the focus shifts away from this guy and onto his wife and daughter, things definitely improve. I'm still considering this film and would enjoy seeing it again, from start to finish. I'm not sure if it fully connected with me, but there's something there. Something in this story of secrets, lies, betrayal and redemption.
Holy shit am I glad this was at the Festival. I had no idea what to expect with this when I rocked on in, and boy. It's the type of film I wouldn't imagine coming back for a cinema release (unfortunately), but it's Hollywood remake would. And it's a film with such a great, simple premise I'm almost surprised it wasn't made in the Siegel/Bruckheimer heyday: the new guard at a prison comes for a visit the day before he's due to start. While there a prison riot starts and he has to pretend he's an inmate to survive.
BAM. There it is, your concept all wrapped up for you. This is high-grade B movie stuff, a high-concept prison thriller, made with such precision and skill it grabs hold and doesn't let up. Juan is our nominal hero, the prison guard who finds himself in the middle of the riot, and he's the audience identification character. At first, he's pretending to be an inmate to survive, but he gets pulled deeper and deeper into the situation and the violent men behind the riot.
Juan is like the Ethan Hawke character in Training Day, a young family man caught up in a crazy situation. And while you can identify with Hawke, you're really there to watch Denzel. And Cell 211's Denzel, and secret weapon, is Luis Tosar's Malamadre. The leader of the prison riot and a magnetic, violent presence. Sounding like he's smoked fifty packs of cigarettes a day for twenty years, with his shaven head and beetle-eyebrows he commands instant respect and fear in the prison. He seems to take Juan under his wing and may even start to consider him a friend. But what happens when he finds out the truth?
The growing tension becomes palpable as Daniel Monzon places his characters in prime situations for things to go wrong. The stakes keep getting raised for Juan, and you're ultimately unsure what side he's going to end up on. The film may raise some questions around the treatment of prisoners, but it's less concerned with that than having you on the edge of your seat. I even found myselff what the heel could possiblyy happen next when I saw it again the next day.
It's a damn cracking film, and I am very glad the Festival saw fit to include it in the program. Maybe it's not a serious minded film, with oblique references and disorienting camera-work (or, as Cartman would put it: "a bunch of gay cowboys sitting around eating chocolate pudding") but I'm glad I got to see this at a cinema. I think it's right up there with other fantastic Spanish genre films of late like Timecrimes. Check it out if you can. Before Hollywood get a hold of it.