MPAA rating (or equivalent): PG-13contemplation of death
The triumphal hymn of Orthodox Pascha says repeatedly, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life." Though certainly not in the New Testament sense, "trampling down death by death" could be called the theme of both films I'm reviewing this week: For Roseanna, and Dream with the Fishes. Both "trample" death by looking it straight in the eye and saying "no! You may win in the end, but until the end you won't own me."
Though much different films overall, both share a religious sensitivity that's unusual enough to be refreshing. For Roseanna unapologetically professes a robust Catholicism that was more familiar in the days of Frank Capra; Dream with the Fishes has the most memorable young-man-finding-God character since Pulp Fiction. Though I'm giving both seven points on my 10 point scale and I've vowed not to start using fractions with my points, "Fishes" rates a very high seven, "Roseanna" very low. Your mileage may vary, of course (I rather suspect that the majority of film-goers, especially those of my generation, would take the opposite view on this, as the sweet village romance of Roseanna is easier to swallow than the gritty urban realism of "Fishes").
"Roseanna" is a romantic comedy starring Jean Reno as Marcello, a man in love with his wife, who is dying of a heart condition. Marcello is obsessed with granting Roseanna's last wish, to be buried near their daughter in one of the last three plots left in the cemetery of their breath-takingly beautiful Italian village. As plots are allotted as needed and cannot be reserved, Marcello spends much of his time trying to keep alive others in the village who may die of terminal illnesses, old age, or accidents. Roseanna, meanwhile, begins plotting some of her husband's future to assure that he is not left alone after her departure.
The village rich man owns many acres adjacent to the cemetery but is unwilling to sell even a half-acre to enlarge it, out of spite for a past slight by Roseanna. Throw in a local banker who has supposedly been hiding, but actually spending on his mistress, the ransom money from a 20-year-old kidnapping whose perpetrator is about to be released from prison, and you have enough complications for a madcap 99 minutes. This isn't La Cage aux Folles, but it is pretty funny, and even better is the tender poignancy of the relationship between husband and wife. Though filmed in the Italian village of Sermonetta, this is an American-produced film with a British director (Paul Weiland), the dialogue in English with easy-to-follow Italian accents.
An excellent date movie or diversion, this film treats the seemingly universal Catholicism of the villagers with respect, the priest and church playing realistic parts in the life-and-death considerations of the storyline. When Marcello decides to freeze the body of an accident victim to guarantee that his wife will not lose her bid for the burial plot, things get a little macabre, and there's one fairly explicit under-covers scene of love-making, but nothing really offensive here. Highly recommended and except for children who might be upset by the treatment of death, suitable for all ages.
Photo © by the film's distributor
© 1997, Jon Kennedy