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Kaurismaki please.


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#1 M. Leary

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Posted 11 August 2003 - 03:06 PM

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.

#2 edi

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Posted 11 August 2003 - 06:08 PM

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

There can be some beauty in the gloomy ugliness surrounding us.

Here the translations and background info has been prepared well so I don't have to work hard this time.

Regards,
edward

#3 jrobert

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Posted 11 August 2003 - 11:51 PM

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...movies/aki.html

Thanks for that link, edi. That was nice.

J Robert

#4 Ron Reed

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Posted 12 August 2003 - 12:19 PM

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



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

#5 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 August 2003 - 02:53 PM

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

#6 Persona

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Posted 12 August 2003 - 09:14 PM

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.

#7 Ron Reed

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Posted 13 August 2003 - 12:46 AM

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.

#8 M. Leary

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Posted 13 August 2003 - 11:17 AM

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.

#9 Persona

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 09:53 AM

QUOTE
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, 19 April 2005 - 09:33 PM.


#10 Persona

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Posted 21 August 2003 - 11:19 AM

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 Kaurismäki film, and i found the event a rewarding and culturally engaging affair. And having spent somewhere close to eight months of my life in Finland, i can say from the bottom of my heart that these films are truly, truly Finnish.

Drifting Clouds is a great example. Ebert refers to the Finnish style as "dry" and "deadpan." That is a great description for the husband and wife team in this story, who have a very real reserved aura about them. They seem bonded together thru their struggle for survival more than anything else. But even if they are more repressed in regard to showing their true feelings, there is a very real tenderness between them. When the husband loses his job he doesn't tell his wife for a month. Why? Because it's bad news that will only clutter up her life. Later, after being disappointed in the job hunt, he collapses on the floor after a drinking binge. She cares for him by dragging his heavy body across the living room floor, into the bedroom, and putting him to bed. Others might have just left him there, but she loves him even in his difficult times.

After the wife loses her job we watch in desperation as things get worse and worse for them. They lose the TV and furniture they couldn't make payments on. Jobs in their lines of work are scarce, and finding one in their field is a daunting, seemingly impossible task. The saddest of all their mistakes is when they try to gamble the last of their money in the hopes for a higher return. They lose everything right in front of our eyes.

I guess that's what makes the ending of the film so enjoyable. Somewhat predictable, but quite enjoyable. Yes, there's a happy ending. But while i couldn't stand the happy ending in the Whale Rider thread, here it just seems to fit so well. And it's interesting to watch our duo achieving the "American dream" in Finland, of all places. Some ideals are obviously universal.

The Match Factory Girl was quite different, and ultimately not as rewarding as Drifting Clouds, but again a very coy film told with deadpan appeal like one bluffing in a game of poker. Kati Outinen, the wife from Drifting, plays a quiet girl who works at a factory to support herself and her unemployed parents, and is forced to suppress many of her real desires in order to -- again -- ensure survival. She is a great actress -- there's a huge difference in roles between the parts in the two films. Although, both films do require that Finnish, shy demeanor. I wonder how much of that comes naturally. Without getting too much further into the plot let me just say that i did not expect this film to go where it went, and felt rather disappointed when it went there. But it had it's merits, especially the opening sequences of all the machines she worked with. Somehow Kaurismäki took these everyday manufacturing instruments and made them look so unique and cool at the start of the film. It almost made you want to work in a factory. (Almost.)

Kaurismäki has a real love of shadows and a great sense for frame and composition. Each character in both films was dressed believably, and all of the elements of their surroundings served to further the depressed nature of their setting. It's interesting to surmise whether or not any of the characters have a love for their homeland. Sometimes it feels they are trapped there and haven't the will to do anything about it (like move to Sweden). I can remember from my travels, mostly to Turku, having the same impression about Finns in general. I can also remember thinking to myself that, much like Atanarjuat the Fast Runner, the winter hardships they face mold them into the culture they are. When you fight hard to not freeze to death seven months out of the year, you save up energy for when you need it most. Hence, less wasted words, less unnecessary movement, less emotion shown. Drinking starts young to stay warm and provide some kind of cheer, or at least comfort, but it ends years later in alcoholism, defeat and darkness. I played a lot of the club scene in Finland and have seen nightly puking on a regular basis. That was another interesting scene -- the reality of Kati Outinen's character having had too much to drink.

I've heard that the director deals with some of these same issues...

My, my... This has turned into a long post. That wasn't really my intention. I think i'll quit now, copy some of this and review it on my site.

If you get the chance to see any of this director's films, take the time and do it. He is a solid writer/director who brings harsh realities about Finnish life to the screen in wonderful ways. It is a great way to gaze into a culture very different from ours.

-s.

#11 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 August 2003 - 06:06 PM

<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."

#12 Ron Reed

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 12:14 AM

QUOTE
<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.)

#13 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 October 2003 - 12:41 AM

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).

#14 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 October 2003 - 03:01 AM

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.

#15 Christian

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Posted 21 October 2003 - 10:05 AM

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/p...ams/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.

#16 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 October 2003 - 12:52 PM

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.

#17 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 07:32 PM

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.

#18 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 11:08 PM

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.

#19 Persona

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Posted 25 October 2003 - 11:45 PM

Great comments, Peter.

QUOTE
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 Kaurismäki showed the beauty of this environment more than any other factory scene in film. Come to think of it, most other factory scenes we see are when people are trying to shoot each other and end up there with guns-a-blazing. But Kaurismäki’s factory shots in the intro were a great setup that later contrasted the mundane feel of Outinen’s character’s actual job.

QUOTE
SPOILERS
...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...


Well, i guess you've got a point, but then again, the goal of the new restaurant was that after they paid off their loan the place was going to be their own, and being a successful business owner can be much more rewarding than being a jobber somewhere else.

Your updates are making me wish i'd gone to Facets a few more nights when the series came thru, but oh well, as you would say, whatchagonnado.

-s.

Edited by stef, 19 April 2005 - 09:32 PM.


#20 DanBuck

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Posted 24 April 2004 - 04:14 PM

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.