Aki Kaurismaki


Best films:
  1. Calamari Union (1985)
  2. I Hired a Contract Killer (1990)
  3. Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989)
  4. Drifting Clouds (1996)
  5. Hamlet Goes Business (1987)
  6. The Man Without a Past (2002)
  7. The Match Factory Girl (1989)
  8. Ariel (1998)
  9. Take Care of Your Scarf Tatiana (1994)
  10. Lights in the Dusk (2006)
  11. Le Havre (2011)
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Aki Kaurismaki was born in Finland in 1957. He started out writing screenplays for his brother Mika's films: Valehtelija/ The Liar (1981), Arvottomat/ The Worthless (1982), Klaani - Tarina Sammakoitten Suvusta/ The Clan Tale of Frogs (1984) and Rosso (1985). His debut as a director was an adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment (1983).

Calamari Union (1984) is the surreal comedy that revealed his mad imagination and dark humour. Filmed in black and white, it tells the allegorical fable of a group of nameless people who are looking for a magical place that has not been created yet.

The homeless of Helsinki hold a conference in a warehouse and decide to migrate to another part of the city, Eira. They share the same name: they are all called Frank. They also share what little money they have. In the middle of the night, they walk underground to the subway and steal a train. They get off at a subway station (the hijacker is shot dead by a guard and smokes a last cigarette before dying, while the others abandon him, more or less indifferent). Now they spread in the city. Two of the Franks walk into a theater and watch a silent movie, and steal the food of a girl. One of the Franks steals a briefcase and walks into a nice hotel, pretending to be a guest. Two wander in a museum of art. One of the Franks drops dead into the harbor. Another one hitches a ride by jumping onto the hood of a car as it is passing by. One comes out of a manhole and talks to one who is sleeping on a tree. There are Franks everywhere. The two who slept in the movie theater get breakfast in a small restaurant and meet other Franks (one of them makes love to the waitress behind the counter, while the others eat and talk). Other Franks walk in, including one who speaks like an American. The Frank who was riding on the hood of the car is dumped in front of the same cafe`. The little crowd of Franks decide to buy a bus and walk into a bank to get a loan, but the director calls the police. Two of the Franks steal a vespa and ride into a bar. The Frank at the hotel promises a better life to one of the maids. Two Franks take a taxi and rescue a suicidal Frank who was lying on the road. The taxi driver takes them to a bar and gives them drinks and cigarettes, even if they don't pay him. The Franks discuss other Franks as if the name "Frank" was not ambigous at all among them. The taxi driver takes his two passengers to the harbor where they can sleep with other homeless people. The Frank at the hotel kisses his maid and then leaves the hotel from the service exit. A Frank steals a limo with a politician inside. A Frank dies and another Frank stops a hearse to load the dead body, and drives away in it. In the morning, the Franks shoplift food and then eat it under a bridge. Frank took a doorman's job at the hotel. A Frank buys a new suit. The suicidal Frank visits a psychologist who advises him to commit suicide. One of the Franks does hang himself in a bathroom. The taxi driver is now begging for money because someone stole his taxi. The Frank who speaks like an American is shot dead by gangsters in a fast-food joint. All the Franks (including the dead ones) get on stage and sing a punk anthem. A blonde picks up a Frank. Frank tells her they want to go to Eira, and she laughs because there are no houses in Eira yet. A Frank lectures a secretary in a bar and she, bored, shoots him dead and takes off in a Porsche. A Frank tries to seduce a widow but she chooses another Frank instead (the rejected Frank walks on stage and plays guitar with the band that was packing its instruments). The suicidal Frank and another one steal a boat to go to Estonia and, after fighting for it, take off together in the sea.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Valentina Filippis)

Aki Kaurismaki nasce a Orimattila, Finlandia, nel 1957.

Calamari Union (1984) è la commedia surreale che per prima ha fatto conoscere al grande pubblico la folle immaginazione e l’umorismo nero del suo regista.

Girato in bianco e nero, il film narra le vicende allegoriche di un gruppo di persone senza nome alla ricerca di un luogo magico che, però, ancora non esiste...

Helsinki. Un gruppo di persone, chiamate tutte con il nome fittizio di Frank Armoton (il che non sembra però turbarli: sembrano infatti in grado di riferirsi ora a questo ora a quel Frank senza che ciò crei la minima confusione) e che condividono fra loro i pochi soldi che possiedono, si raduna in un magazzino e prende la decisione di lasciare Kallio per dirigersi verso Eira, un quartiere situato dalla parte opposta della capitale finlandese.

Durante la notte, i Frank scendono nei tunnel della metropolitana e salgono su un treno, dirottandolo; nel corso dell’azione uno di loro viene colpito a morte da un vigilante e, mentre si concede un’ultima sigaretta prima di morire, viene abbandonato dai suoi compagni, che sembrano incapaci di provare alcun sentimento. A questo punto tutti i Frank si separano e si dileguano per la città, seguiti dagli occhi degli spettatori. Due di loro entrano in un cinema e, dopo aver assistito alla proiezione di un film muto, si impossessano del pranzo di una ragazza e dormono lì, sulle poltrone della sala cinematografica. Un altro Frank ruba una ventiquattrore ed entra in un lussuoso hotel, facendosi passare per un cliente. Due Frank visitano una mostra d’arte. Un Frank muore nel porto della città. Un Frank si fa scarrozzare da un’auto sulla quale è saltato mentre passava per strada. Vediamo un Frank sbucare da un tombino e mettersi a parlare con un altro che sta dormendo su un albero. Ci sono Frank dappertutto. I due che avevano passato la notte al cinema decidono di fare colazione in un piccolo bar nelle vicinanze, dove incontrano altri Frank; mentre mangiano e chiacchierano fra loro, vediamo un Frank fare l’amore con la cassiera dietro al bancone. Poco dopo entrano nel bar altri Frank, uno dei quali parla come un americano. Il Frank che si era fatto dare un passaggio viene scaricato di fronte al bar all’interno del quale gli altri stanno finendo di mangiare. La decisione che viene presa è quella di entrare in una banca con l’intenzione di chiedere un prestito, ma come tutta risposta il direttore chiama la polizia. Due Frank rubano una vespa e con essa entrano in un bar. Il Frank dell’hotel promette una vita migliore a una delle cameriere. Due Frank prendono un taxi e soccorrono un loro compagno che, dopo aver tentato il suicidio, giace nel mezzo della strada. Sebbene non fosse stato pagato, il tassista li conduce in un bar e offre loro dei drink e delle sigarette, per poi condurli al porto, dove decidono di dormire con dei senzatetto. Ritorniamo al Frank dell’hotel, per vederlo baciare la cameriera e lasciare l’albergo dall’uscita di servizio. Un altro Frank ruba una limousine a bordo della quale si trova un uomo politico. Vediamo poi un Frank morire, e un altro caricarne il corpo su un carro funebre e allontanarsi con esso. Il mattino successivo alcuni Frank entrano in un negozio, rubano del cibo e vanno a mangiarlo sotto a un ponte. Un Frank ottiene un posto come usciere all’hotel. Un Frank compra un nuovo abito. Il Frank che aveva tentato il suicidio si reca dallo psicologo, il quale lo consiglia di suicidarsi. Un altro Frank si impicca in bagno. Il tassista è costretto a chiedere la carità dopo che qualcuno gli ha rubato il taxi. Il Frank che parla come un americano viene ucciso da dei gangster in un fast food. Tutti i Frank, compresi quelli che sono morti, salgono sul palco e si mettono a cantare un inno punk. Una bionda abborda uno dei Frank, il quale le dice che lui e i suoi compagni sono diretti a Eira; a quel punto, la donna scoppia a ridere: nel quartiere di Eira, infatti, le case non sono ancora state costruite. In un bar un Frank intavola un discorso con una segretaria la quale, annoiata a morte, gli spara alla testa e si allontana a bordo di una Porsche. Un Frank cerca di sedurre una giovane vedova ma, dal momento che gli viene preferito un altro Frank, sale sul palco e inizia a suonare la chitarra, mentre il resto della band sta mettendo via i propri strumenti. Il Frank aspirante suicida e un altro rubano una barca e salpano in mare, diretti alla vicina Estonia.

Shadows in Paradise (1986) is a sort of realistic melodrama.

Nikander is a dull man who lives in a small decaying apartment by himself. His only friend is his colleague: they are garbage men, who every morning leave the depot on their truck to pick up garbage around the city. His friend is planning to start his own company and wants Nikander to join him. Nikander gets hurt while fixing his car and walks into a supermarket while still bleeding. A cashier, who looks as dull and lonely as him, takes care of his arm. Nikander's only hobbies are taking English lessons (each student practices in his/her own cage) and playing bingo (each player plays by him/herself). The only possible change in his lifestyle would come from his friend's business ideas, but he has a heart attack and dies. Nikander is so shocked that he gets involved in a brawl and ends up in jail. In jail Nikander meets a nice man and offers his the job of the dead friend. Nikander invites the cashier to an evening out, but he is so boring that she walks home. The following day she is laid off because her boss needs to find a job for his daughter, and, in retaliation, she steals the cash box and then asks Nikander to take her out of town. They take two single rooms in a hotel, but he helps her open the cash box. When they return home, the police arrests her (Ilona) but she doesn't have the cash box anymore: Nikander has returned it to the supermarket. Released, Ilona moves in with Nikander. She finds a new job, working in a department store, but her boss doesn't like the garbage man who comes to talk to her (she is ashamed of Nikander and pretends it is just a cousin). The boss is courting her and she eventually decides to leave the dull Nikander. Nikander, back to his solitary life of playing bingo, gets very depressed. Nikander goes to visit his sister at the mental hospital where she lives. Ilona dumps her boss and walks back to Nikander's apartment but he is out drinking. He is beaten by punks and then taken to a hospital. When he is released from the hospital, Nikander picks up Ilona at the department store and takes her to a cruise, calling it their "honeymoon".

Hamlet Goes Business (1987)

Tulitikkutehtaan Tytto/ The Match Factory Girl (1989) is a bleak portrait of an ordinary meaningless blue-collar life against the backdrop of the flow of history to which this kind of lives don't seem to belong at all. it follows the melancholy daily ritual of an alienated worker and shows how it turns into a different kind of ritual, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of ritual, a homicidal one; a parable akin to Bresson's L'Argent (1983).

The first few minutes are a visual and audio symphony for machines of the assembly line, then we finally see the plain-looking female worker who is checking the final product: white cubic matchboxes, all identical. She takes the bus home. She starts cooking. She serves food to her parents. Not a word is exchanged while the tv set broadcasts the evening news (notably the Chinese student demonstrations in Tiannamen Square and the death of Iran's "supreme leader" Khomeini). She dresses up and hits a dancehall. She sits politely against the wall waiting in vain for a man to invite her to dance. She goes back home and to bed (or, better, to her couch). The following day she enters a bar and orders a beer. In the evening she irons her clothes while her parents watch the new (this time the Polish Pope kissing the floor of the 80th country visited in his life, besids more of the Chinese protests). Impulsively, one day she spends all her salary on a red dress. When she shows the dress to her parents, her father slaps her in the face and calls her a whore. She cries and walks out with the box, but, instead of returning it, she wears it at a bar. It works: this time a man picks her up and, after dancing, takes her at his place, where she spends the night. In the morning the man leaves for work leaving a banknote for her (clearly he thought she was a whore). She writes on a piece of paper her work phone number for him (and learn that her name is Iris). We still haven't heard her say a word. She visits her brother, a chef who offers her free food and can't believe that she still supports their parents, especially the man, who apparently is not their real father (this is the first scene in which she speaks). When she's done with work, she patiently waits for the factory phone to ring but eventually she has to accept that he won't call and she walks home as usual. She finds a gift from her mother with a note that says "Congratulations!" It is a book and she simply files it in a bookcase without even opening it. In a restaurant she eats dessert by herself. In a movie theater she watches a Marx Brothers comedy but cries instead of laughing: obviously she is not paying attention to the screen. Finally she resolves to visit the man she slept with. She sees a woman leave his place. He promises to pick her up from home the following day. His parents treat him formally, but he doesn't seem interested in their company, annoyed that he has to wait for Iris to get ready. The date goes horribly wrong because he coldly tells her that he has no intention of having a real relationship. It gets worse when she finds out that she is pregnant, but she stoically continues her diligent silent work at the factory. She writes a letter to the man, Aarne, to tell him that she is having his child as if they had been lovers for years when in fact they slept together only once. She does not mail the letter, she physically hands it to him at his workplace (he seems to have a much better job, at least one that requires a suit and tie in an office building). He replies with a typewritten one-sentence letter that she should have an abortion and attaches a cheque. Upset, the girl gets hit by a car. Her "father" only visits her at the hospital to tell her that they are ashamed of her and want her to move out. Her brother helps her pack her few belongings and lets her stay at his place. She buys rat poison and returns to Aarne's apartment, where she has to wait again for a woman to come out. Aarne lets her in and she tells him that she had the abotion, and even returns the cheque; but it is just an excuse to pour the poison into his drink. She leaves and he drinks. She then walks into a bar, orders a drink and sits by herself to read her book. A man comes to sit next to her and smiles at her. She pours the poison in his drink and leaves without saying a word. He drinks. She visits her parents late at night. She doesn't say a word. She poisons their drinks, then she lights a cigarette and turns on the radio. The following morning she is at work as usual, expression-less as usual, when two police officers come to pick her up.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989)

una commedia musicale che ricorda Blues Brothers. Nella campagna russa un combo di musicisti, con capigliatura alla Presley, scarpe grottescamente a punta e portamento impassibile, eseguono musiche folkloristiche durante un'audizione preparata dal loro manager (sempre in pelliccia). L'audizione fallisce, ma viene loro consigliato di provare in America. I musicisti usano trattori per spostarsi da un luogo all'altro. Uno dei suonatori muore congelato mentre sta provando di fuori, ma decidono di portarlo egualmente con loro in America. S'incamminano per prati innevati portando la bara e i loro strumenti. Un muto calvo vorrebbe seguirli ma lo bastonano. Sull'aereo studiano inglese. Il muto riesce a viaggiare di nascosto con i bagagli. A New York il manager si mette subito a caccia di scritture, ma l'audizione e` un fiasco: viene loro consigliato di andare in Messico. Comprano un'auto e si mettono in marcia, due nel bagagliaio e la bara sul tetto, mentre il muto li segue a piedi. Imparano il rock and roll e cominciano a suonare nei club che incontrano, schiavizzati dal manager che tiene per se` tutti i magri proventi e li sperpera in lattine di birra (nascoste nella bara). Cominciano a far soldi e decidono di seppellire il morto, ma durante la processione la polizia li arresta. Il muto continua a seguirli a piedi e in una palude pesca un grosso pesce che si porta dietro. I musicisti, scarcerati, si ribellano al manager quando viene loro rubato il motore della Cadillac. Lo legano e con i soldi comprano un'altra Cadillac. Il muto offre loro il pesce e viene accettato, ma poi il manager offre al muto un posto di potere se lo libera e il muto li tradisce. Tutto torna come prima, con il manager che li tratta peggio che animali. Trovano un cugino anche lui con lo stesso ciuffo e le stesse scarpe a punta che si unisce a loro. Il cugino rivitalizza la loro carriera. Arrivano in Messico, dove gli sposi li stanno aspettando per festeggiare il loro matrimonio. Il muto asciuga il congelato nella bara e lo resuscita con un po' di tequila. Sempre a meta` strada fra Zavattini e realismo magico, Kaurismaki si concede un apologo puramente umoristico sul sogno americano.

I Hired A Contract Killer (1990)

La Vie de Boheme (1992)

Pida Huivista Kiinni Tatjana/ Take Care of your Scarf (1993) is a road movie.

Kauas Pilvet Karkaavat/ Drifting Clouds (1996) achieves an odd balance between domestic humor and almost suicidal melancholy. His warm attention for the small events of the soul of these ordinary people of the middle class is reminiscent of the Italian comedy of the 1960s; while the almost demonic humor leans towards the farcical and the slapstick.

Ilona e` la capo-cameriera di un ristorante un po' decaduto, la cui clientela e` invecchiata negli anni. Il cuoco ubriacone e il portiere in livrea sono ormai dei vecchi amici piu` che dei subordinati. Il marito di Ilona e` un conduttore di tram. La loro vita coniugale e` molto umile. Lui le ha appena comprato il primo televisore a colori con telecomando. Non possono permettersi lussi, ma vanno d'accordo e si accontentano. Tutto cambia quando lui, Lauri, viene licenziato. All'improvviso si ritrova fra i disoccupati in una nazione in cui non ci sono posti di lavoro. Tenta invano di trovare un lavoro, ma tutte le strade sembrano chiuse. Si ubriaca. Come se non bastasse la padrona del ristorante convoca lo staff e annuncia che il ristorante cambia gestione e lei deve licenziare tutti. Anche Ilona e` senza lavoro. Finalmnete sembra che Lauri abbia trovato un buon impiego come conducente di autobus, ma invece non passa l'esame medico. I due sono sempre piu` depressi, anche se mantengono una loro dignita`. Lei trattiene le lacrime a stento. Ilona incontra il buttafuori, anche lui mal ridotto. I tempi sono cambiati, non c'e` piu` bisogno di capo-cameriere e di portieri. La gente non ha soldi da spendere e non c'e` neppure piu` bisogno di ristoranti di lusso. Anche per lei e` in serbo una crudele delusione. Il padrone di un bar malandato la assume come tuttofare. Lei fa del suo meglio per elevare lo standard del posto. Una sera rivede il cuoco, che e` ormai un barbone alcoolizzato. Se non altro, lei si impegna a trasformare quel buco in un posto rispettabile. Invece arriva la Finanza a chiudere il posto e spiegarle che e` tutto illegale. Smette di lavorare senza essere stata pagata. Lauri si reca di persona dal padrone a chiedere che le paghi lo stipendio, ma viene invece pestato a sangue. Rimane per una settimana lontano da casa, per non farsi vedere insanguinato. Nel frattempo pignorano i mobili dell'appartamento. Il portiere convince Ilona che l'unica via d'uscita e` di mettere su il loro ristorante. Ma le banche non sono disposte a prestare loro denaro. Si offre invece la vecchia padrona. Con i suoi soldi, Ilona e i vecchi compagni trasformano il piccolo bar in un ristorante di lusso. Il giorno dell'apertura la suspence e` terribile. Passano le ore e non arrivano clienti. Quando gia` Ilona sta per lasciarsi andare alla disperazione, arriva il primo cliente, seguito da un altro e un altro e un altro. E` fatta.

Ariel (1998) is one of Kaurismaki's oddball melodramas, in which lonely characters of the working class (or of the lumperproletariat) can make drastic decisions on the fly, and aspire to leave their city (that they perceive as a jail) to start a new life in another land.

Taisto is a man who lives in a poor town of the snowy countryside and takes random jobs. His life changes when his friend decides to commit suicide (he shoots himself in the restrooms of a cafe`) and leaves him the keys of his big convertible car. Taisto takes the car (the garage collapses after he drives away), cashes his salary and takes off, driving with the open roof (he thinks it doesn't work) and with a radio in the back seat. Two punks rob him when he stops to get some food. In the morning, he has to stand in line to get a job. In the evening, he sleeps in a dormitory. While he keeps looking for jobs, he meets a lonely woman (working as a parking enforcer, she's about to give him a ticket, but he bribes her with a dinner) who is divorced and has a child. She does not hesitate to quit her job to spend the evening with him, and he is almost ready to marry her after a few seconds. After they make love, they introduce each other properly. He promises eternal love, and she seems to believe him. The child wakes him up with a gun and offers him breakfast. A hard-working woman, she has another job in a slaughterhouse and another job as a night watchman at a bank.
The three spend a day by the sea. The hostel kicks him out because he can't pay rent. Taisto finds one of the men who robbed him and chases him in the subway, but the police arrests him, Taisto, for trying to murder the thief. Taisto is condemned to two years in jail, but he and his cellmate, an odd murderer called Mikkonen, plan to escape. After Taisto attacks a guard who has insulted him, he is locked in solitary confinement. Irmeli and her son send him birthday presents. When he returns to his cell from confinement, he finds Mikkonen eating one of them, the birthday cake. Except that it is not his birthday at all: the woman and the child sent him a saw hidden in the other present, a book. The two use the saw to escape. Taisto and Irmeli get married. At night, the police storms the apartment but Taisto flees in time.
The two fugitives now plan to emigrate to Latin America. In order to do so, they plan to rob a bank, and promise half of the loot to the gangsters who help them get a car and a gun and passports for the trip. The robbery succeeds, despite their awkwardness. Mikkonen brings the money to the gangsters and wants to pick up the passports, but they shoot him to keep all the money. Taisto shoots them and takes the mortally wounded Mikkonen with him. As he is dying, Mikkonen finds a button in the car that closes the roof. Taisto and Irmeli dig a grave for Mikkonen in the woods. Then the couple picks up the child and boards the ship, whose destination is Mexico.

Juha (1999) is a silent, black-and-white film.

Mies Vailla Menneisyytta/ The Man Without a Past (2002) is one of his most existentialistic and cryptic meditations on the human condition.

A middle-aged man rides a train to a station at night. He gets out carrying a suitcase. He picks a bench in in a public garden and falls asleep. Suddenly, he is attacked by three punks who mercilessly beat him up and rob him. He walks bleeding copiously into a shopping mall and collapses in the restrooms. He dies at the hospital and the doctor coldly comments that it's better that way than to be left a vegetable for life. Then he suddenly wakes up and walks out, all bandaged and still bleeding. He wanders to the bank of a river and falls asleep again. Two children find him and call their father. THe family lives in a humble container with steel walls. They take him in, feed him and cure him. Finally one day he talks. He says he didn't talk before he had nothing to say. The wife tells him that her husband is a night watchman. The stranger does not remember who he is. The watchman is poor but nice and compassionate. He takes the stranger to a free meal served by the Salvation Army. The watchman tests the stranger's memory and realizes that he can still do math. The stranger feels that he's not from the city because it doesn't look familiar. Anttila the guard in charge of the camp is easy to bribe: the stranger is given the container of a man who froze to death the winter before. Another man helps bring an old jukebox into the container: he doesn't have a kitchen but he has a jukebox to play old blues records. A bum who lives inside a garbage truck (and complains that the garbage collectors are on strike and therefore he can't eat) sends him to the employment agency. He can't fill the form because he does't remember his name and the bureaucrats don't believe his story. The owner of a restaurant pity him and gives him leftovers to eat. Irma, the kind middle-aged lady of the Salvation Army, gives him clothes on credit. He doesn't cry, he doesn't beg: he takes what he is given. The guard of the camp demands his bribe, and threatens to evict him or have his dog maul him, but the dog is clearly harmless (and in fact will sleep on his bed like an affectionate pet). He receives money from the Salvation Army and finds an excuse to walk her home (he tells her that the streets are not safe at night... for him). She lives in a dormitory. He kisses her goodnight. He pays the guard and asks to borrow his car. The guard dog now follows him everywhere. The stranger cooks for Irma, who is clearly lonely. He now remembers something that has to do with a fatory and a fire. He talks to the acoustic quartet of the Salvation Army, specializing in traditional music, and trains them to play the rock'n'roll records of jukebox. He wants to be their manager. Irma and the Salvation Army quartet play for the homeless. He goes mushroom hunting with Irma. He has regained his joy of life, and credits her with inspiring him. He now stands up to the guard who wants more money. He is attracted by wielders and realizes that he is an expert wielder. He is immediately offered a job. He needs a bank account, though, and still doesn't have a name. He walks into a small bank and argues with the only employee. A man walks in with a gun: he wants his money (his account has been frozen). He forces the grl to open the vault and gives him the money, and then locks both the girl and the stranger in the vault. The bank is going bankrupt: the alarm doesn't work, the air conditioning doesn't, etc. She starts the fire alarm to call the police. The police need to write a report. He gets in trouble because he doesn't have a name and no identity papers. They arrest him. He calls Irma. A lawyer shows up who expertly defends his case. he man who robbed the bank shows upi a bar. He feels sorry that he got him in trouble with the police. He reveals that he was the owner of a construction company that went bankrupt. He has a job for the stranger: to track down the workers who have never been paid for their work, and deliver their last paychecqe. He's an honest man. He doesn't care about being ruined: he just wants to settle his debts with his former workers. Meanwhile the police post a note around town with his picture, asking if anyone can identify him. The police detective comes to visit him: they discovered his identity. His wife called that his name is Jaakko and he is a metal worker. He doesn't remember the wife, and the detective doesn't know why she never reported his disappearance. Irma is devastated at the news that he has a wife. Irma confesses that he was her first love. Jaakko visits his wife, who tells him that they separated years earlier. She has a new man and he's happy for her. On the way back he accidentally meets the same three punks, who are beating aother victim. His friends come out of the containers and start chasing the punks. It turns out that the punks have beaten many of the bums before. He returns to Irma. There is no passion and no romance, just a quiet determination.

Laitakaupungin Valot/ Lights in the Dusk (2006), that completed the trilogy of working-class melodramas, is basically an old-fashioned melodrama, replete with roles of the the classic melodrama such as the femme fatale and the caring next-door girl. The sullen and rigid protagonist is exploited by all forms of power: by business, by gangsters and by government. He is addicted to losing. And therefore accepts everything with resignation. He even ignores the good girl who could rescue him from alienation and loneliness. He is a robot programmed for losing. Here Kaurismaki shows no humor, only gloom and doom. The anti-hero of Drifting Clouds has no job, the anti-hero ofThe Man Without a Past has no home, and the anti-hero of Lights in the Dusk has no friends. Nonetheless, the stereotype of the melodrama wins and the film ends with a happy ending of sorts. It is the least original of the trilogy, and also the most serious of the three chapters.

Koistinen, a security guard who works the night shift in a shopping mall, and is clearly annoyed with the dehumanizing bureaucracy enforced by his superiors, tries to talk to a woman in a bar but backs down when a bigger man confronts him. Later, however, as he is sitting at a table alone, a blonde sits next to him and strikes a conversation, plainly inviting him to invite her out. After being beaten up by three punks because he tried to save their dog from starvation, Koistinen goes to the movies with the blonde. He then takes her to a disco, but he can't dance. The only person who listen to his dreams of starting his own business is the girl who sells fast-food outside the shopping mall. When he tells her that he has a girlfriend, which he seems to do precisely to upset her, she is clearly upset. He is rudely rejected and insulted by the bank manager when he applies for a loan. Meanwhile, we learn that Mirja, the blonde, works for a gangster who has a deal with Russian gangsters to carry out a heist in the shopping mall. As instructed by her boss, she asks Koistinen to give her a tour of the shopping mall, and he gladly does so. She memorizes all the codes as he opens doors for her. Later she drinks in the office of the gangster in a highrise building, and she sleeps with him when he commands her to. Koistinen is seriously in love: he spends what little money he has on her, and prepares nice dinner at his humble apartment. She tells him that she has to visit her sick mom. Disappointed, Koistinen gets drunk. The girl of the fast-food van, Alia, takes him home. The following day Koistinen has an argument with coworkers who make fun of his sex life. That night someone breaks into the shopping mall using his keys, disables the alarm system, and steals all the jewelry. The police detective has no doubts that Koistinen is the thief because his code and keys were used, but he refuses to cooperate and implicate the girl. Imprisoned, he is soon released for lack of evidence. The gangster, however, wants him framed. He instructs Mirja to visit Koistinen and plant jewelry in his apartment. Koistinen sees her do so in a mirror. Now he has final evidence that she used him. Nonetheless, he doesn't react. When she leaves, he pulls out the jewels and lays them down on the table, and patienty waits. The police come (called by the gangsters) and find the loot that incriminates him. Koistinen is sentenced to one year in jail. Alia is the only friend who attends the trial. Alia writes him letters, but Koistinen simply throws them away. Finally, he is released. His building has been demolished. He rents a room elsewhere, a shelter for poor people, and finds a job as a dishwasher. Alia finds out where he works but he shuns her. She visits him at the shelter and he only tells her that he has plans for the future. One day the gangster and Mirja happen to sit at a table of the restaurant while Koistinen is bringing clean dishes into the main room. They stare at each other but no word is exchanged. The gangster coldly calls the manager and tells her that Koistinen was in jail for theft: he is soon dismissed. He grabs a knife at home and waits for the gangster to come out of the restaurant. He doesn't cause much damage because the thugs who protect the gangster catch him and beat him up before his knife can reach the boss. Mirja simply stares. A black boy who knows him has witnessed the beating and alerts Alia. Koistinen tells Alia he doesn't need help while he is bleeding badly. But he holds her hand.

Le Havre (2011), set in France, is a fairy tale in the vein of Chaplin and DeSica. There is a happy poor childless couple that is content with the little they have and their uneventful life. There is the usual cast of wacky characters, all of them with a golden heart except one vicious jealous informer. There is a sad inspector, whom everybody despises but who is actually willing to risk his career to help people. Miracles happen and everybody is happy.

A comic beginning introduces us to the protagonist: an old man (the protagonist) and a young Asian man wait patiently at a train station. A well-dressed man approaches and sits down in front of the old man. The old man bends and starts shining his shoes. Two young men appear, one of them wearing sunglasses. The well-dressed customer pays and gets up. The two young men kill him. Marcel, the shoeshiner, comments that luckily the man had time to pay for the shoeshining. On the way home Marcel steals a loaf of bread from a kind baker, Yvette, to whom he owes a lot of money. Another shopowner quickly lowers the shutters when he sees Marcel approach. Marcel proudly brings home the little money he made during the day. His wife seems proud of him and sends him out to get a drink while she cooks dinner. When he gets back home, she serves him dinner and watches him eat. She doesn't eat anything. She is sick, but he doesn't know. Later he goes to bed while she irons his pants and even shines his shoes.
Meanwhile, at the docks the authorities discover a container full of illegal immigrants from Africa. When the inspector arrive, they open the door and find the Africans staring at them silently. An old man nods at a child and the child runs away before the police can stop him. The following day the newspapers talk about armed terrorists when in fact they were peaceful and starving.
Chance has it that Marcel is eating a sandwich at the port and sees the boy hiding in the water. He doesn't have time to offer food to the boy because the inspector shows up. Marcel is forced to leave. At the bar he watches the news: the police are destroying a camp built illegally by illegal immigrants. He chats with his Asian friend, Chang, and he confesses that he also immigrated illegally. Marcel doesn't tell anybody about the black boy. At night he drops food and water where the boy will find them. Back home he finds that his wife Arletty has collapsed. He calls Yvette and she gives them a ride to the hospital. Since he's alone now, Marcel takes the boy home. His name is Idrissa . At the hospital the doctor tells Arletty that she has an incurable cancer. She begs him not to tell her husband. Her husband comes bringing flowers. They are an elderly couple, but in love like teenagers.
A neighbor sees Marcel with the black boy and calls the police. The following day the inspector talks to Marcel. Marcel is afraid, but it turns out that the inspector is not interested in arresting the boy but in warning Marcel that one of his neighbors has called the police. On the way home Yvette and the other shopkeeper give him extra food: they know about the boy and want to help Marcel (who has barely money to pay for his own meals).
Marcel looks for Idrissa's family while he teaches the boy the profession of shoeshine boy. Looking for Idrissa's family, Marcel takes a night bus to another city. He arrives at the bus station in the middle of the night and sleeps on a chair till the stores open. He finds Idrissa's grandfather in a refugee camp and learns that Idrissa's father is dead and the address of his mother. Meanwhile the whole neighborhood has been alerted to the presence of the black boy and everybody is offering help (Marcel had told Yvette to keep it a secret). Idrissa shines shoes in the subway: the informer calls the police but luckily Chang is there to help.
To keep him in the dark about her cancer, Arletty tells Marcel that he has to stop visit him because of medical reasons. The inspector is under pressure from his superiors to arrest the boy, although his life's mission is to arrest criminals, not immigrants. The inspector obtains no cooperation from Marcel's neighbors. It turns out the inspector, Henri, is an old friend of the bar owner: he is the cop who sent her husband to jail. Henri continues the investigation but shows no desire to find Marcel and the boy. At the hospital the quiet tragedy of Arletty continues: she's waiting to die.
Meanwhile, Marcel has bargained the price to take Idrissa to England where his mother is. To raise the money, Yvette suggests that they organize a charity concert. Marcel convinces an aging rocker, Bob, to perform. The day of the concert he sends Idrissa to the hospital and Arletty sees the boy for the first time, not knowing anything about him. Marcel makes enough money to pay for the passage.
The inspector shows up and Marcel is ready to attack him, but Henri has come only to give advice: get rid of the boy as soon as possible. The warning is precious: soon a whole truck of cops breaks into the house and turns it upside down to find the boy. But the boy is already safely hidden in a cart of vegetables on his way to the port. The cops show up just before the boat can depart, but the inspector arrives in time to save the situation (he physically sits on the trap door of the place where the boy is hiding so that the cops will not search inside).
The boy leaves. Marcel finally visits his wife at the hospital: a miracle happened and she is ready to go home, healed. The cherry tree is blossoming and she starts cooking.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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