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Kaurismaki please.

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I noticed jrobert came across a goldmine of these on VHS. I was wondering if he could gives us a few insights he gleaned from seeing so many in a row.

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Well since I am from Finland I can't resist to give you this link to an Aki Kaurism

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I always feel a little strange just posting a link to a review. But I actually like this review a lot. It captures my feelings on Kaurismaki. So rather than just repeat what I wrote last night, here it is.

http://www.tollbooth.org/2003/movies/aki.html

Thanks for that link, edi. That was nice.

J Robert

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Nice stuff, as usual. Looks like I'll need to add DRIFTING CLOUDS to my "Gotta See" list - I loved THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST so much, and it sounds like the two films are close relatives, yes? I was particularly drawn to the Christian (and nearly Christian?) characters and the non-condescending treatment of their faith in TMWAP, but even if DC is without that particular aspect, it sounds like it has the same gracious humanity. Have you seen Peter's beloved NOT OF THIS WORLD? A similar sense of respect and affection for its characters. The write-ups always call it humanism, but I call it divine.

Ron

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Ron wrote:

: Looks like I'll need to add DRIFTING CLOUDS to my "Gotta See" list - I

: loved THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST so much, and it sounds like the two

: films are close relatives, yes?

What, my article wasn't enough to get you to see Drifting Clouds!? smile.gif (I must sheepishly admit that these are the only two Kaurismaki films I have seen, so far.)

: I was particularly drawn to the Christian (and nearly Christian?)

: characters and the non-condescending treatment of their faith in TMWAP,

: but even if DC is without that particular aspect, it sounds like it has the

: same gracious humanity.

DC is not as explicit as TMWAP, but it has a few interesting biblical references, for whatever that's worth.

: The write-ups always call it humanism, but I call it divine.

Hey, isn't humanism itself Christian, on some level? smile.gif

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Who is up for a CAFKANFaSDBG on Monday night, Aug. 18?

Facets has Drifting Clouds and The Match Factory Girl, both of which received highest praises from our own Mr. Parks.

-s.

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What, my article wasn't enough to get you to see Drifting Clouds!? smile.gif

Ah yes! Actually, it was your say so that got me to see THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST. But I do remember the crossword puzzle bit, looking back at the article now. Nifty. I'll think of BOTH of you when I see it.

The write-ups always call it humanism, but I call it divine.

Hey, isn't humanism itself Christian, on some level? smile.gif

A few years back Greg Wolfe over at IMAGE was advocating for Christian Humanism. Sounded good to me. I think I are one.

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Who is up for a CAFKANFaSDBG on Monday night, Aug. 18?

Facets has Drifting Clouds and The Match Factory Girl, both of which received highest praises from our own Mr. Parks.

-s.

I am there. I think we are going down on that Friday as well.

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I am there. I think we are going down on that Friday as well.

Did you go on Friday?

Who is going to Facets tonight for the two Finnish flicks? I know that Leary and his gal, me and my gal, and Mike H are going. Anyone else?

I'm hoping beyond all hopes i can make it there by 7pm. It'll all depend on rush hour. And i ain't talking about Chan, if you know what i mean.

-s.

Edited by stef

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Hey ya'all. Due to time and sleep constraints i was never actually able to report about the time we had at Facets Monday night. It turned out to be only a two person CAFKANFaSDBG summit -- Mike H. and i -- but i think i can speak for both of us in that we had an extremely enjoyable evening. Although i know Mike has previously seen The Man Without a Past, i've never experienced an Aki Kaurism

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<sing-songy voice>

Oh Ro-on ...

</sing-songy voice>

Me, I'm curious to know how a director known for his humanism (in the most positive sense of that word) and his biblical allusions etc. can make a film that "filters Dostoevsky through Bresson" yet turns out to be "his one genuinely nihilistic film."

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<sing-songy voice>

Oh Ro-on ...

</sing-songy voice>

Yee - haw!!! Another look at TMWAP, and a kick at DRIFTING CLOUDS, and... Who knows what else? Yippeee!

(I saw HELSINKI COWBOYS a few years back, and it left me cold. Wonder if I'd like it better now? Shakespeare fan that I am, I'm wondering about the HAMLET riff.)

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So, Ron, seen any of these yet?

I caught Ariel and Leningrad Cowboys Go America tonight and, um, I think I've found the parents who sired and gave birth to The Man without a Past. Kaurismaki has said that Drifting Clouds and TMwaP are the first two installments of an 'unemployment trilogy', but Ariel, produced way back in 1988, has many of the same elements -- a guy comes to Helsinki looking for work, gets mugged, finds love, gets thrown in jail, and so on, and there are isolated suicides and bank robberies besides. The protagonist in THIS film, however, has no religion and even breaks a window so he can steal a portrait to hang next to his bed instead of the painting of Jesus that the hostel has placed there. (BTW, are there any jail scenes in Drifting Clouds? I can't remember, but if not, then that would be the ONLY one of the four Kaurismaki films I have seen so far that has no scenes inside a jail.)

Ron wrote:

: I saw HELSINKI COWBOYS a few years back, and it left me cold. Wonder

: if I'd like it better now?

That's Leningrad, not Helsinki. smile.gif

Of the four Kaurismakis I have seen so far, this one engaged me the least -- perhaps because the spiked shoes and hairstyles were just TOO removed from reality. I did like the songs, but the stuff BETWEEN the songs didn't do much for me. Still, having said that, I think this movie helps me to understand TMwaP a bit better -- in the case of TMwaP, I had sometimes wondered if Kaurismaki was portraying Christians as hopelessly out of touch with the world, in that scene where the guy in the Salvation Army band says "We've heard of rock and roll" as though it were some vague, distant rumour. Well, in Leningrad Cowboys, the band's manager approaches the band and asks if THEY have heard of rock'n'roll -- and they haven't, so he gives them a book on the subject to study before their next concert. So I'm now thinking that his portrayal of the Sally Ann band was nothing personal -- Kaurismaki just likes to make movies in which people discover rock'n'roll for the first time (as implausible as it may be that anyone has never heard of it in this day and age, even in Finland).

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Caught two more tonight.

Hamlet Goes Business (1987) is a very interesting adaptation of the Shakespeare play (the story, that is, not the dialogue), transposed to a modern industrial corporation in Finland. (The corporation runs mines and sawmills, but Klaus -- this film's Claudius -- wants to sell it all off and get into the rubber-duck business.) The film follows the general outline of the play very well, except for some MAJOR differences near the end, but it also tweaks the play in various deadpan-funny ways, like having Polonius tell his son that he CAN borrow, and that if he does, he should wait before paying it back, just in case the lender dies and he doesn't have to pay it back any more. It makes some of the deaths seem kind of funny, too; when Ophelia drowns in the bathtub, we see one of those rubber ducks bobbing on the water, and one other character dies in a way that immediately made me think of the "Death by stereo!" line from The Lost Boys. Ron, if you haven't seen this yet, I think you should track it down; I'd be interested in hearing your take on it.

The other film was Juha (1999), which almost certainly lives up to its billing as "the last great silent film of the 20th century". It's not ENTIRELY silent, of course -- there is music throughout the film, as well as occasional sound effects and, on one song, a female vocalist. But it's at least as silent as Chaplin's Modern Times, and arguably more so. The film is an entertaining exercise in the silent form, and the story is a true-to-form expressionist melodrama about a woman who leaves her seemingly happy life as a farmer's wife to run off with a seductive man in a fancy car, only to find that he's a pimp for some sort of gentleman's club and he expects her to be one of the professional escorts. I don't think there's anything in this film that will stay with me, the way some of Kaurismaki's other films have done, but I liked it -- and I liked the music in particular; the film is only 78 minutes long, so they COULD fit the entire soundtrack, effects and all, onto a single CD if they wanted to.

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I just read this thread after learning that many of these films will be coming to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, in December:

http://www.nga.gov/programs/filmdec.htm

If you had to pick from "Crime and Punishment," "Calamari Union," "Ariel," "Leningrad Cowboys," and "Matchfactory Girl," which would you go for?

I may be to attend more than one of these Saturday and weekday screenings, but I don't do movies on Sunday, which, unfortunately, eliminates "Drifting Clouds," "Juha," "Total Balalaika Show," "La Vie de Boheme," "Hamlet Goes Business," "Shadows in Paradise," and the lecture on Kurismaki. Still, I'd like to see one or more of the Saturday shows.

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Christian wrote:

: If you had to pick from "Crime and Punishment," "Calamari Union," "Ariel,"

: "Leningrad Cowboys," and "Matchfactory Girl," which would you go for?

I missed C&P and CU when they came to Vancouver (I hope they're on video), and MFG doesn't play until this weekend, so the only films in that list that I have seen are A and LCGA (I assume it was Go America, and not Meet Moses, that you were referring to). Of those two films, I would recommend Ariel, since it's a better movie (and an interesting precursor to The Man without a Past), unless you are really into the offbeat-music-group-with-a-cult-following thing, in which case I would recommend Leningrad Cowboys Go America.

I know it's probably the lamest film in the whole series, but I really do want to see Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses, just cuz I go for movies with a biblical hook, especially the wacky ones. Alas, though, it is showing one night only here, and I'm working that night.

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SPOILERS

Caught Drifting Clouds last night; this and TMwaP were the only Kaurismaki films I had seen before the 'theque began its retrospective. The first time I saw the film, I think I came away with the feeling that the married couple had 'bounced back', as it were; it seemed like a rather happy ending, and the closing song, which talks about our dreams always being out of reach, seemed like an oddly down note on which to end the film. But seeing it again last night, the thing that stuck with me was that, for all the bouncing-back that takes place in the film's final minutes, there IS still a sense of loss there -- in a way, the over-riding theme of this film is not poverty, but PRIDE (consider the way the husband takes a week to come home after being roughed up by the gangsters, just so he won't have to show his face to his wife), and at the end of the film, these people have had to settle for the fact that the restaurant they now run is nowhere near as swanky as the restaurant from which they were fired. They have had to appeal to a lower-class clientele, if you will, and you can see how the wife has to swallow her pride and accept her lot in life when she accepts the reservation for 30 truckers (or whatever) at the very end of the film. I find that very interesting -- that Kaurismaki, a filmmaker that some have called 'humanist' because of the compassionate element in many of his films, would not simply elicit our pity for these fine, upstanding people who have been let down by the system, but that he would emphasize (if subtly) the way that even those who have lost their work through no fault of their own have some repenting (in the sense of 'turning away') to do; that is, the couple at the heart of this film need to repent of (turn away from) their pride, in order to become the sort of people who, in a spirit of inclusivity, can keep their tables open for everyone.

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Well, The Match-Factory Girl is certainly one of Kaurismaki's more serious films -- though there is something about the ending that is oddly humorous in a very bleak sort of way. No one speaks a word in this film until nearly 25 minutes into it, and when that dialogue comes, the word that is spoken is an angry and accusing one. (Well, okay, we do hear people talking on TV -- in fact, the news reports regarding the crackdown on Tiananmen Square and the death of the Ayatollah and the visit of the Pope, etc., bring to mind the news reports regarding the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria etc. in Drifting Clouds, which Kaurismaki directed seven years later -- but TV voices don't count.) I wasn't entirely sure what to make of the opening sequence, in which we see how matches are made, from the stripping of the logs to the packaging of the matchboxes -- I suppose it could be that we are supposed to find it dehumanizing, how all these devices run so mechanically and efficiently, and yet I found the rhythm of it all (not just the machines themselves, but the way the shots of them are edited together) almost musical or poetic. The trick in these mechanistic environments (as in bureaucratic environments or any other environment that places such a strong emphasis on the FORM of one's work) is to keep your human connections open, but because the characters in Kaurismaki's films are so deadpan and formal no matter WHERE they interact, I couldn't take his depiction of the factory as any sort of indictment of the factory system, per se. If people fail to relate to one another, that's just how they are in ALL of his films. How strange to think that this film was made the same year as Leningrad Cowboys Go America.

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Great comments, Peter.

I wasn't entirely sure what to make of the opening sequence, in which we see how matches are made, from the stripping of the logs to the packaging of the matchboxes -- I suppose it could be that we are supposed to find it dehumanizing, how all these devices run so mechanically and efficiently, and yet I found the rhythm of it all (not just the machines themselves, but the way the shots of them are edited together) almost musical or poetic.

Yeah, Mike H. and i talked about that opening sequence and its "industrial" musical feel. I think Kaurism

Edited by stef

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Got to Man without a Past last night and I loved it.

I laughed right out loud at the scene where the band is listening to Rock and Roll in the main character's storage crate. In their uniforms, heads all turned staring at the juke box. Truly hysterical. So dry, the laughing cracked my lips.

This might be the most foreign film I've ever loved. (I know that's a ridiculous superlative.)

And is it just me or is this guy the Finnish Liam Niesson?

Love the "fresh start" feel of this film. Appeals to the gypsy in me. And some interesting things to note about the influence of kind people on the remaking of this man.

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Got to Man without a Past last night and I loved it.

I laughed right out loud at the scene where the band is listening to Rock and Roll in the main character's storage crate. In their uniforms, heads all turned staring at the juke box. Truly hysterical. So dry, the laughing cracked my lips.

This might be the most foreign film I've ever loved. (I know that's a ridiculous superlative.)

And is it just me or is this guy the Finnish Liam Niesson?

Love the "fresh start" feel of this film. Appeals to the gypsy in me. And some interesting things to note about the influence of kind people on the remaking of this man.

Amen to all of that, Dan. It's a delight, isn't it? And, without giving anything away, I was so surprised by that whole "final chapter" of the story, and how much power it held. Both an entertaining and a potent film.

(By the way, will I see you at CITA this June?)

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Alas, you will not. National CITA is too far, too long and thusly too expensive for me. I'll probably settle for the Southeast regional cita.

On a related theatre (notice the nose in the air spelling) note, check out the Literature section. I have a question you may be able to answer.

Edited by DanBuck

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Aki Kaurismaeki will be completing his "unemployment trilogy" with a film called Vartija (The Guard). The first two films being Drifting Clouds and The Man Without a Past.

Story here.

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Thanks for nudging this. The Man Without a Past is on top of my television, waiting to be watched.

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yw biggrin.gif

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