Friday, January 19, 2024

Warm Bodies

Fallen Leaves (2023) - Kaurismaki Screen Shot 2024-01-19 at 3.45.23 PM Screen Shot 2024-01-19 at 12.08.29 PM Screen Shot 2024-01-19 at 12.15.43 PM Screen Shot 2024-01-19 at 12.37.38 PM Screen Shot 2024-01-19 at 12.54.18 PM Screen Shot 2024-01-19 at 3.49.23 PM Screen Shot 2024-01-19 at 12.50.27 PM Screen Shot 2024-01-19 at 1.00.47 PM Aki Kaurismaki's micro romance Fallen Leaves isn't revolutionary or anything, but it nevertheless succeeds in warming your heart. It concerns two lonely working class Helsinkians crossing paths and falling for each other in that driest, most deadpan Kaurismaki way possible. And as usual with his recent films (Le Havre and The Other Side of Hope), the state of the world (Russian invasion of Ukraine just began at the time the film was being made), is always on the airwaves reminding us how f'd up the world around us is.

Ansa (Alma Pöysti) is first seen stocking the shelves in a grocery store under the watchful eyes of a bulldog-like security guard. She sometimes takes expired food home and also gives away expired items to others. Her daily routine is pretty monotonous and uneventful. Holappa (Jussi Vatanen) is a construction worker who is constantly drinking at the job. He drinks because he is depressed. He is depressed because he drinks. They first exchange glances in a karaoke bar, accompanying their more sociable friends. But they are not talkative types. Then they meet again on the street. They go out for coffee, then to movies. They watch Jim Jarmusch's zombie comedy The Dead Don't Die. She gives him her phone number which he immediately loses. They lose their jobs for stealing and drinking. They go through one low wage menial jobs to another. After waiting at the movies, he meets her again and she invites him for dinner. This time he puts her address in his wallet. Dinner goes well. But losing many family members to alcohol, she can't allow someone with drinking problems in her life.

I'm glad Kaurismaki is getting a lot of accolades for this film, but Fallen Leaves is not too different from any other of his deadpan comedies. While his fellow deadpan comedy comrade Jarmusch is delving into zombie genre, Kaurismaki is making romance. While sad songs punctuate and homages to many great romantic films where two would be lovers are separated and need to find their ways to one another play out, the Finnish master makes room in our darkest times for us to smile, even for a short while.

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