Dead leaves, the beautiful melodrama of Aki Kaurismäki (review)

Dead leaves, the beautiful melodrama of Aki Kaurismäki (review)

Faithful to his poetic-burlesque style, the Finnish filmmaker creates a beautiful melodrama that won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Finnish Chaplinesque cinema does not move. The world may get excited, wars may break out, the vintage neon lights of Helsinki continue to light up the night. A universe made of formica and bakelite that makes fun of the present time, a universe where cell phones rarely exist, where local cinemas display old posters of Fu Manchu, Godard And Bressonwhere dilapidated rock rubs shoulders with bluettes… And yet, in these Dead leaves, news of a bombed Ukraine comes out of the transistor radios and the songs that attempt to cover them up on the neighboring channel express the same heartbreak. When everything is sad enough to cry, love can save us. Aki Kaursimäki believes in it.

So here is a melodrama. Two silent, lost souls – a lonely supermarket cashier and an alcoholic worker – meet in a karaoke bar. It’s love at first sight. Destiny is not kind. Between repeated layoffs, accidents and twists of fate, life, as in the song by Prévert and Kosma which gives its title to the film “ separate those who love each other…» We have already seen this at Kaurismäki, but much more inspired (The Man Without a Past, The lights of the suburb…) and more tragic (The match girl….)

If his cinema doesn’t move, neither does Aki. On the steps as red as his already misty eyes, the 66-year-old filmmaker is still this soft-hearted hound who hides his shyness with burlesque tricks. In this way, Aki resembles his characters, wild and discreet beings, not very comfortable in a reality that imposes conformism. We must therefore recreate a strict framework in which to evolve without being subject to the vagaries of the outside world. The deliberately static staging owes its tension to the bodies that inhabit it awkwardly seeking a point of support. It is indeed Chaplin that we are resurrecting. Here he has the appearance of a lost dog without a collar, bearing the famous surname. Aki would be much more comfortable with a Palme Dog than a Palme d’Or.

By Aki Kaurismaki. With Jussi Vatanen, Alma Pöysti… Duration: 1h21. Released September 20, 2023.

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