Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lights in the Dusk (2006, Aki Kaurismäki)

I would be tempted to call this “minor Kaurismäki” but for the fact that that sounds almost redundant. The “minor-ness” Kaurismäki’s work in general is the source of much of its charm- it’s not so much love-it-or-hate-it as it is be-on-his-wavelength-or-just-shrug-him-off. His work is fascinating in its low-key way, and even his best movies (like his masterpiece Drifting Clouds) aren’t great due do their ambition but rather because the usual Kaurismäki ingredients have combined to make something particularly tasty. Lights in the Dusk, by comparison, is minor even by Kaurismäki standards, possessing most of his trademarks- sad-faced put-upon heroes, offscreen violence, jukebox classics, and the like. Plus it’s gorgeous in the usual Timo Salminen way (although I always imagine Aki’s lighting directions sounding like “OK Timo, let’s light this scene like we did on The Match Factory Girl, OK?”). But I missed the other stuff that distinguishes his best work from the rest. For one thing, where is his usual stock company? The film’s hero seems too young and unformed to have arrived at that patented Kaurismäki worldview. Meanwhile, the great Kati Outinen is relegated to a bit part, and guys like Sakari Kuosmanen and Markku Peltola are nowhere to be found. In addition, the inspired offhands bits of business are relatively sparse. The hero’s response to the question “what was [prison] like?” is a strong contender for the year’s best line, but nothing else quite equals the scene in Juha where a gunshot rings out and none of the extras seem to notice (since it’s a silent movie and all), or the drinking scenes in Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana. Also, I miss Matti Pellonpää. Just wanted to get that out there. Rating: 6 out of 10.

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