Steam of Life
Cleveland International Film Festival Day 8 was ruled by the grace and eloquence of Kawasaki's Rose and Steam of Life.
Kawasaki's Rose - A film about love, revenge, deceit and the need to face each. The winner of national recognition, Pavel Josek is the subject of a documentary to be shown in his honor as the award recipient. The award is honoring his role as a dissident during communist occupation. However, as the documentary of his life is being shot, facts emerge that herald him as something more, something in conflict with his apparent honor as a dissident.
The film revolves around decisions he made years earlier and the lies he perpetuated and lives affected by them. He is not heroic father of an only daughter. He is a psychiatrist who gave intelligence about his clients that helped authorities chase them from the country. The main victim the story highlights is his wife's former lover and the true father of his daughter. Like the origami creation of the Kawasaki Rose, this tale folds in on itself again and again, unfolding and refolding to make the beautiful creation that is the film. The constant barrage of revelations about each character prevents the viewer from casting any longstanding, solid judgments about who is to blame.
A nearly flawless film, Kawasaki's Rose earns an "A".
Steam of Life - As the film begins and you realize that it will be a series of vignettes about Finnish men conversing in saunas - a staple of Finnish life - you wonder how it could maintain a solid pacing. The 81-minute film feels like 30, tops.
Finnish men have traditionally been revered as 'men's men' in the culture, and perhaps globally. Typically, the Finns are the victors of the "World's Strongest Man" competitions, contributing to this stereotype. The film does nothing to emasculate them, but reinforces their strength and honor by showing their brazen honesty in these saunas. Tales of loss and tears of sadness accompany the continual presence of sweat and water, which are used in the film as a symbol of cleansing. Naked men bearing their naked souls to one another in an environment of cleansing and healing.
These vignettes are carefully stitched together to show the strength of being honest and vulnerable about life's struggles. It shows this as an imperative as important and inherent to the culture as the saunas themselves.
This film is so enjoyable that it makes you want to run naked all the way to Finland! It earns a solid "A".