Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Influences part 5: Aki Kaurismäki

- He's a Finnish auteur filmmaker,
- He has an absurd/dead-pan sense of humour,
- And his films have New Wave elements...
How could I not like Aki Kaurismäki!?

I started watching films by Aki Kaurismäki in December 2008 because I wanted to make my graduation film in Finnish.
Why in Finnish you ask?
I dislike Scottish accents in the media, whereas I have grown up hearing lots of great Finnish racing drivers giving interviews on TV and I have always loved their accent, so that is my reason for using Finnish voices rather than French, German, English (or anything more "predictable").
I originally used Kaurismäki's films to check what Finnish dialgoue sounds like on film, but I found his work to be really interesting so I have continued to borrow his films from the college library on a near-weekly basis so that I can watch them all (I've currently seen about 8 of the available 12).

Below are some short reviews about some of the films I've seen so far:

Calamari Union (1985) follows a group of 15 strange men (14 of them are called Frank!) as they try to make their way to the mythical land of Eira. It is full of silly little things (perfectly suited to my sense of filmic humour) that, for me, make it such a delight to experience... It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'd strongly recommend it just for the absurdity of it all!

Hamlet Goes Business (1987) is loosely based upon Shakespeare's Hamlet, but it also features a Swedish mafia trying to corner Finland's rubber duckie market! That story premise sounds fantastic, unfortunately it didn't live up to my high hopes.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989) is a ridiculous road movie about a 9-piece polka band with trademark foot-long pompadour hairstyles and long pointy shoes, that decide to leave the tundra to try making the big-time as a rock n roll band in America. This is perhaps his most commercial film, and for this reason is perhaps the easiest for general audiences to get into, but other than the absurdity of the band, I do not think it does the director justice. I would describe this film as This Is Spinal Tap meets The Blues Brothers translated by Borat...

Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana (1994) focuses on a roadtrip across Finland between a coffee addict and a vodka addict accompanied by two foreign women trying to reach Estonia. I would describe it as a minimalist New Wave film (having little in the way of dialogue or action), but it was really captivating! (I thought that one of the protagonsits was like a Finnish version of John Travolta in Pulp Fiction - which further enhanced the comedy element!)

The Man Without a Past (2002) opens with a man getting ruthlessly attacked as he sleeps on a park bench, he then goes through the film without any memories and making new friends with the poor whilst living in a cargo container and falling in love with a woman from the Salvation Army.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 98% rating, while Metacritic classifies it as deserving Universal Acclaim.

Related websites:
An in-depth biography at Virtual Finland

The Guardian interview, January 2003: 'I am a lousy film-maker'

Director info & DVD reviews at http://www.moviemail-online.co.uk/film/dvd/The-Aki-Kaurismaki-Collection-Vol-1/?tag=5|80

Film stills for Shadows In Paradise (1986)

Film stills for Ariel (1988)

Film stills for The Match Factory Girl (1990)

Film stills for The Man Without A Past (2002)

Film stills for Lights In The Dusk (2006)

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