Review: ‘Little Rose’

A melodramatic expose of how government agents infiltrated and informed on groups of writers and artists.

Inspired by real events in mid-1960s Poland, vet helmer Jan Kidawa-Blonski’s “Little Rose” is a melodramatic expose of how government agents infiltrated and informed on groups of writers and artists. Becoming progressively more gripping in spite of its soap-opera look and unnuanced thesping, this film a clef is ultimately about the price one is willing to pay for love. With its unfashionable topic and style, pic attracted only modest business during March domestic rollout, but should draw more in ancillary. Offshore, it’s slated to compete at the Moscow fest in July, with further fest travel to follow.

Pressured by his superiors to disgrace public intellectual Warczewski (Andrzej Seweryn), a professor and respected writer whom they believe to be a “camouflaged Zionist,” rough security-services colonel Rozek (Robert Wieckiewicz) enlists his sexy but naive girlfriend, Kamila (pert blonde Magdalena Boczarska, a TV actress in her first dramatic feature role), to insinuate herself into the distinguished older man’s life and report on his every move. Not particularly interested in serving communism but eager to please her domineering lover, Kamila accepts the mission, pledging her loyalty to the state under the code name “Little Rose.”

As quick scenes contrast Kamila’s crude pleasures with Rozek and her more refined experiences with Warczewski, it becomes clear that the more time the unschooled young woman spends with the professor, the more she comes to have true feelings for him, her change of heart mirrored in her visible transformation from cheap tart to elegant young matron.

As the title suggests, the script by Kidawa-Blonski and Maciej Kapinski privileges the experience of the female character, finding histrionic but effective ways to depict her political education and late-dawning awareness of how Rozek has used her. Likewise, the anti-Semitism of the times is evoked crudely but clearly.

Helmer Kidawa-Blonski inserts black-and-white archival footage from 1967-68 throughout to heighten the authenticity of his tale, but the juxtaposition of the docu material mostly serves to highlight pic’s lack of subtlety on visual and performance levels.

At the recently wrapped Gdynia fest, where 21 titles competed for Polish cinema honors, “Little Rose” nabbed kudos for best film, actress and sound.

Little Rose

Poland

Production

A Monolith release of a WFDiF production, in co-production with Telekomunikacja Polska, Monolith Films, with the support of the Polish Film Institute. (International sales: Monolith Films, Warsaw.) Produced by Wlodzimierz Niderhaus. Co-producers, Mariusz Lukomski, Dominique Lesage. Directed by Jan Kidawa-Blonski. Screenplay, Maciej Kapinski, Kidawa-Blonski.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W), Piotr Wojtowicz; editor, Cezary Grzesiuk; music, Michal Lorenc; production designer, Joanna Bialousz; costume designer, Ewa Krauze; sound (Dolby Digital), Wieslaw Zynk, Joanna Napieralska. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 19, 2010. (Also in Moscow Film Festival -- competing; Gdynia Film Festival -- competing; Montreal World Film Festival -- World Greats.) Running time: 118 MIN.

With

Andrzej Seweryn, Robert Wieckiewicz, Magdalena Boczarska.
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