Roseanna’s Grave


Ah yes. This was the movie that convinced me that Jean Reno (Empire of the Wolves, 2005)is one of Europe’s best actors. Equally as comfortable in high-octane action roles as he is in comedic roles such as this. Classed as an America film, it was directed by English man Paul Weiland (City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, 1994). This is not the most important movie of the 20th century and does not overly challenge us with deep insights into the human condition but it does entertain. You will laugh (deliberately), possibly cry but certainly enjoy this movie. This is another one of those “under the radar” movies which deserves to be remembered, watched and appreciated.

For Roseanna is a bitter-sweet comedy, set in a small Northern Italian town. Our Hero, Marcello, Loves his wife and will do anything for her, theirs is a happy marriage, which unfortunately has been touched by more than its fair share of sadness. After the loss of their only daughter some years earlier, they are now faced with the news that, Roseanna (Mercedes Ruehl, Doubt, 2013) is dying, her heart can give out at any time. Marcello who adores his wife, will do anything for her. The only problem is that he has to do anything. There is one very serious issue. More than anything Roseanna wants to be buried in the same graveyard as her daughter and there are only three graves left. The graveyard is full, there is no room for expansion.
There are a couple of options to solve this, firstly buy the land next to the cemetery and expand. This of course is the obvious solution, except for one issue. The owner of the land knows exactly how important the sale is to Marcello and point blankly refuses to sell the land; many years ago was in love with Roseanna, but she had only eyes for Marcello, decades later he still burns a torch for her and refuses to allow Marcello a final happiness, he still regards him as his love rival.
Added to this is Marcello’s one man mission to save everybody in the village. Not from any altruistic love for humanity but rather to ensure there is a grave left for his wife. This mission obviously causes some great comedic moments which also manage to add to the emotion of the total production.

So, faced with caring for his dying wife, ensuring the town-folk don’t die and trying to get the land for the cemetery, Marcello is under pressure. So much so that Roseanna decides he needs help and so enlists her sister Cecilia (Polly Walker, John Carter, 2012) to not only help around their bar, but also to “take care” of Marcello once she is gone. Marcello is having none of it.Marcello is running himself into the ground trying to make life as easy as possible for his wife, while saving the locals from their various dangers, often to the amusement of the villagers.
As Marcello struggles to find a solution for his ailing wife, there are multiple challenges thrown their way, with Marcello and Roseanna deftly overcoming them and never losing sight of the future. As with all good movies, there is a twist near the end, one which perfectly compliments the overall production and finishes the movie off nicely.
A good movie can be like a good meal, made of simple, but perfect ingredients, well produced with care, the end product is unassuming but excellent. That’s what this movie is like. Ask anybody to name a few Jean Reno movies and the usual selection will appear, but look to his credits and you’ll notice a number of films you may not recognise, the vast majority of them excellent, this first among them.

Kolya

From 1997, the film is set in the dying days of the old Soviet “empire” in what was then Czechoslovakia. It is about 15 years since I first saw this film and it still brings a smile. Directed by Jan Svĕrák (Dark Blue World, 2001) and staring his brother Zdenek SvĕráK. It was written by Zdenek and Pavel Taussig. Our hero is Louka (Jan SvĕráK, Empties 2007). Louka used to be a cellist with the Czechoslovak Symphony Orchestra but was removed for reasons falling somewhere between deliberate and mistake, this was in the days of bureaucratic decisions being made by the technocrats regardless of the effects. Light-hearted and warm it tackles the events of the time in a manner which might just bring your finger to your eye to wipe away something…nudge nudge. You will laugh.

Being unemployed, our confirmed bachelor, must have an income. He manages this by performing at weddings and funerals. He also supports himself by painting tombstones. In with all of this is his relationship with his on/off girlfriend. Between performances which to say the least, he has no interest in, he talks with his friend the gravedigger. It is here that he learns of a way to make some money fast; marry a Russian bride so she gets her visa out of Russia. Sounds like it could be done, so he agrees.

The arrangements are made and before long, Louka is married to his Russian bride. At this stage we could say they lived happily ever after, but then there would be no film, in fact things go down-hill at an appreciable rate. His Russian bride has her heart elsewhere, namely with her boyfriend I West Germany. Before long she leaves Louka and heads to Germany leaving her son, Kolya behind. Kolya goes to live with his grand-mother for a while but she dies and the authorities decide the child must live with his step-father; Louka

After some resistance, from all side, Louka and Kolya begin to settle down together with room being made in his dingy garret flat. The fact that neither of them speaks the other’s language doesn’t help either. As they progress slowly coming to terms with each other, fate throws another spanner in to the works, Kolya contracts meningitis which requires specific medication for him. This all brings the situation for the two into focus with the authorities. Louka is threatened with prison.

As the world is about to come tumbling down around him, events in the outside world gather pace and the old regime is swept away by the Velvet Revolution. This together with the events in Germany, Kolya’s mother is able to be reunited with him. Things end well for Louka also, he and his girlfriend soon have a new family member to care for.

This is an easy going film, looking at life from the point of view of somebody who despite having things go against him, is determined to get on with things. There are some great moments of simple verbal and situational comedy scattered in here, which make it a cut above the rest. Dig it up, watch it and feel better about life.