Can one truly great scene save a boring film? Czech filmmaker Jan Hrebejk puts that to the test in his latest feature: Kawasaki’s Rose. It’s a film about the entangled lives of one well-to-do Czechoslovakian family. The daughter, Lucie (Lenka Vlasakova), is a recent cancer survivor returning from hospital to her supposedly loving hubby and parents. Her father, Pavel (Martin Huba), is a famed political dissident who is having a documentary made about his time working against the Communists. That one great scene comes early, when Lucie’s outrageously self-righteous husband Ludek (Milan Mikulcik) comes home to his wife with a surprise: it’s his girlfriend, and he assumes the trio can come to an understanding and work out a scenario where they can all live together happily ever after. It’s every young girl’s dream come true!
But not Lucie’s. She’s unwelcoming to her husband’s lover – and the husband, well, he can’t believe how unreasonable she’s being. This darkly comic sequence captures everything the rest of the movie tries, and ultimately fails to say. The relationship between Lucie and Ludek is an uneasy alliance that ultimately falls apart following the revelations of Ludek’s cheating ways. She has had a tumour removed, and now she wants her no-good husband gone too. Regardless of the charmed memories of their past, the truth has perverted them forever, and they can never go back.
The blame can’t be laid at the feet of the fine actors, but instead Hrebejk and screenwriter Petr Jarchovsky (who previously worked together on the Oscar nominated Divided We Fall). Halfway through the film, they drop a massive bombshell … but what’s the point? They reveal it by drowning it in what seems like a 20-minute sequence of pure exposition; an interminable excerpt from the documentary. They may as well have simply put up a title card and shared the information that way, and offered audience members an opportunity to use the bathroom. I haven’t seen so much information so lazily and clunkily delivered since the finale of the 2007 French film Tell No One. It doesn’t matter if you’ve not seen it; just know that it should have really been called: Tell Everyone. Everything. Ever.
Kawasaki’s Rose never recovers from this intrusion, and despite the hugeness of the truthbomb revealed during that sequence, the film politely darts around it and crawls to its finale. If you’re a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s melodramatic masterpiece Magnolia, you may be intrigued by this overlapping story of perverted memories and interfamilial intrigue. But take heed: although Kawasaki’s Rose is merely 94 minutes compared to Magnolia’s 180, it feels twice as long.