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Unformatted text preview: BORN IN 1957 , Aki Kaurismäki has become one of the world’s most prolific and most impudent moviemakers. At first, he stood far apart from the Finnish establish- ment in that his parodies and farces lampooned the conventions of his society. Nonetheless, as he became known and respected on the international film scene, Kaurismäki quickly came to be regarded as the leading talent of his country’s miniscule motion-picture in- dustry. Certainly, his success has helped to educate cineastes to the fact that Scandinavian films do not come only from Sweden and Norway. Kaurismäki began his career in the early 1980s and established himself internationally by 1990 or so. His films are linked in that they are straightforward, serio- comic studies infused with a unique sense of the ridicu- lous and even the absurd. His characters are removed from the mainstream, in some cases to the point of being isolated and completely alone; occasionally they take to the road, roaming across frozen landscapes in which they remain eternal outsiders. Yet their feelings of alienation or despondency rarely become the princi- pal force at work in the filmic action. Instead, even as Kaurismäki elicits poignancy in the charting of his characters’ sad lives, he gives special emphasis to a kind of humor that evokes the simultaneous strangeness and familiarity of their situations. A number of Kaurismäki’s protagonists are de- jected blue-collar types driven to desperate acts and outrageous behavior by a repressive society. Such is the case in Ariel (1988), a comic–existential road movie about a mineworker who loses his job and sets out on an odyssey across Finland. This picture offers an exam- ple of the manner in which Kaurismäki drolly observes the life of a character whose existence is outwardly de- pressing. Similarly, The Match Factory Girl (1990) is a sharply drawn black comedy about a dreary, oppressed young woman. Her job is tiresome, her life monoto- nous, and then she becomes involved with a man who is destined to drop her. He expects her to squirm back into her shell, but her response—indeed, her revenge— is anything but meek and predictable. Retaliation or revenge is also a prominent theme in the first film Kaurismäki directed by himself (after co- directing The Saimma Gesture  with his brother, Mika), Crime and Punishment (1983). A reworking of the Dostoyevsky novel, this picture is set in Helsinki in the 1980s, and the hero, Rahikaainen, murders a pow- erful businessman who was responsible for the hit-and- run death of Rahikaainen’s fiancée. By far, Crime and Punishment is Kaurismäki’s most somber film; at the other end of the emotional spectrum is I Hired a Con- tract Killer (1990), in which his estranged protagonist is outlandishly depicted. Kaurismäki tells the story here of a nebbish with nothing to live for, yet who haplessly fails to kill himself. He then hires a professional to do the job but changes his mind after unexpectedly falling...
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- Spring '10
- Finnish, films, Aki Kaurismäki, Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Match Factory Girl, Leningrad Cowboys