Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Varjoja paratiisissa (Shadows in Paradise) (1986)

Nicotine-lovin' Fins Strangely captivating garbage man Nikander (Matti Pellonpää) has terrific hair, but not much stirring in his life. When his colleague decides to start his own business, he asks Nikander to join him. Nikander contemplates and decides it's an excellent idea. But, before he can take action, his pal dies. Nikander goes on a bender. He meets a grocery store cashier, Ilona (Kati Outinen). It's love at first sight. He asks her out, but their differences get in the way. They part. They reconnect and navigate their unlikely coupling. Their connection is powerful because they are stoic yet they convey their complex feelings to one another and the viewer.

The soundtrack includes blues, honky tonk and loads of singular songs. The characters are peculiar and their conversations are entertaining. You find yourself caring about their goals, desires. The shots are long and halting--many reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The smoking is constant. In almost every scene (maybe all), at least one character is smoking. If they aren't actively smoking, the scene contains a burning cigarette. Toward the end, the main characters take a smoke break. Ilona even cracks an elusive smile. Loved this oddball dram-com.

Part of Aki Kaurismäki's Proletariat Trilogy, the next two movies (Ariel--1988 and Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö--Match Factory Girl--1990) are excellent. Each gets darker. Match Factory Girl is the darkest and most disturbing. Trilogy is part of the Eclipse offering from the Criterion Collection. "Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer."


Writer/Director: Aki Kaurismäki

Country: Finland

Genre: Drama/Dark Comedy/Romantic Comedy

Run time: 76 minutes

Scale: 5

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