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.

The Chef (Comme un Chef)

The Chef, written and directed by Daniel Cohen (Les Deux Mondes 2007) who is better known as an actor has acquitted himself well here. This is probably best described as a romantic comedy in the sense of a light nice story line regarding the following of one’s dreams and aspirations; there is at least one marriage proposal, but that’s only in support of the overall story.

What we have in this movie is a young self-trained chef “jacky Bonnot” ( Michaël Youn, Les 11 Comandements, 2004) who cannot keep down a steady job because his standards are too high and as such often takes offence at the eating habits of his customers when they order the wrong wine or side accompaniment to the main dish. With a child on the way and a large overdraft he needs to find regular work, his girlfriend manages to arrange a six month contract painting windows at an upmarket retirement home.

Meanwhile Alexandre Legarde (Jean Reno) is a multiple starred chef in the restaurant holding his name. The only problem is that he no longer owns the establishment, having sold it to in international restaurant chain. The chain wants Legarde to modernise his menu and include a selection of  modern gastro dishes which he is totally against.  The powers are bringing in a new English chef to provide a modern ambience . With only a matter of days before he has to launch his spring menu the pressure is on – can he keep his stars and reputation.

Circumstances bring the two chefs together at the retirement home where Legarde is visiting his old mentor who also happens to be the father of the owner of the restaurant chain now in command. Jacky has struck-up a friendship with the home’s chefs and they have tried some of his recipe suggestions, one of those recipes is one developed by Legarde some years previously but with some slight modifications which actually work. Legarde offers his the job as his deputy immediately ( the company owning his establishment has offered his deputies head chef roles in restaurants around the world which they obviously took, leaving him short key staff)

I’m trying not to give too much away here, as it is one of those movies which just swims along and it is best if you just follow the current with it. The two men  start working together, along the way they must save relationships, create the new menu, keep the restaurant out of the English chef’s hands and keep their sanity.

The long awaited/feared arrives and a menu is presented; but does it work? Watch and find out.

Reno is one of those actors who can turn his hands to different  characters from hard, in-control assassins, police investigators  to hapless husbands. Best known internationally for his roles in productions such as Leon (1994), Ronin (1998)  or Crimson Rivers (Les Rivières Pourpres, 2000), I would consider Roseanna’s Grave (1997)  as one of my favourite of his roles.

Michaël Youn who plays Jacky is a well known comedian in France and his talent shows. Typical of what I think is a very French way the comic hero is almost manic with his straight man being calm and solid but no less flawed and open to the help of the junior partner. Such is the nature of this movie that you know the ending almost from the start, you know it is going to be a happy ending, the only question is how do they make it happen? This movie answers that question in a relaxed almost comfortable manner which brings the viewer along with the offering.

Rating = 6/10, a firm 3 star rating, it entertains as well as making you hungry, just perfect for a night in with that special somebody.