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Directors in Focus

AK North: Recent Films by Aki Kaurismäki

Call it synchronicity or mere happenstance, but three masters of modern cinema share the same initials: AK. Back in 1985, when French filmmaker Chris Marker released his brilliant portrait of Akira Kurosawa, those two letters were sufficient to identify the great Japanese director. Since then, however, two major figures have emerged who share not only the same initials but also a visionary approach to the medium. One is the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, who has achieved such universal critical acclaim that he plans to decline all future festival awards. Less heralded but no less gifted, the Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki has written and directed a dozen feature films over the past two decades that manage to blend deadpan humor with an extraordinary humanist engagement with life’s less fortunate souls. This series reprises three of Kaurismäki’s masterpieces from the 1990s.

March 3 (Friday) 9 pm
March 4 (Saturday) 7 pm
March 5 (Sunday) 7 pm


Boston Premiere!
Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Finland 1999, 35mm, b/w, 78 min.
With Sakari Kuosmanen, Kati Outinen, André Wilms
Silent with English intertitles

Based on Finnish writer Juhani Aho’s celebrated novel, Kaurismäki’s Juha has the distinction of being the last silent film made this century. Although previous adaptations had been made, Kaurismäki was nevertheless drawn to Aho’s melodramatic tale, which for him was "straight and strong, yet full of detail, just waiting to be ruined by cinematic means." The story revolves around a classic romantic triangle involving the rural bumpkin Juha, his much younger wife Marja, and an urbane stranger who is brought fatefully into their lives when his car breaks down in their village. Deeply influenced by Murnau’s Sunrise, which similarly pits the innocence of rural life against the dangerous allure of the city, Kaurismäki heroically attempts to recapture the power of film before "the easyness of explaining all by words . . . polluted our storytelling to a pale shadow of original cinema."

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March 4 (Saturday) 8:45 pm

Drifting Clouds (Kauas Pilvet Karkaavat)

Boston Premiere!
Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Finland 1996, 35mm, color, 96 min.
With Kati Outinen, Kari Väänänen, Elina Salo
Finnish with English subtitles

One of Kaurismäki’s most acclaimed but least seen works, Drifting Clouds is an intimate portrait of a couple facing the emotionally enervating consequences of economic dislocation. As the film opens, Ilona works as a restaurant hostess, while Lauri is a motorman on the city’s tram system. They live in a modest highrise apartment and are about to purchase a television on credit. What ensues is a series of humiliating experiences and defeats that reveal the precariousness of their lives as the couple scrapes the bottom of the barrel to survive. As Piers Handling writes, "what ultimately transpires, a minor epiphany in both their lives, shows Kaurismäki to be a master of the understated hopes and dreams of the working class."

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March 5 (Sunday) 8:45 pm

La View de Bohème (Bohemian Life)

Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Finland/France 1992, 35mm, b/w, 100 min.
With Matti Pellonpää, Evelyne Didi, André Wilms
French with English subtitles

Based on the Henri Murger novel that Puccini adapted for his celebrated opera, La Vie de Bohème is an inspired update of the original that shifts the narrative into contemporary times and the stock company of Kaurismäki characters to Parisian locales. These new bohemians include a French poet named Marcel, an Albanian painter, and an Irish composer—men who are as luckless in life as they are in love. By turns hilarious and tragic, La Vie de Bohème is a deeply funny and emotionally potent work that blends the formality of the nineteenth-century French text with Kaurismäki’s compassion for his band of outsiders. Look for cameo appearances by such notable Parisian film figures as Jean-Pierre Léaud, Sam Fuller, and Louis Malle.

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