2.5 Stars
Year Released: 1999
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 78 minutes
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Aki Kaurismäki, the Finnish director behind Leningrad Cowboys Go America and last year’s Drifting Clouds, has created a movie more ambitious than Eyes Wide Shut, more audacious than South Park… it is silent. I suppose this has been done a handful of times since the death of intertitles, most memorably Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie, but Kaurismäki isn’t going for laughs here. Juha and Marja are happy as puppies living in the country when the fast, dangerous Shemeikka comes roaring out of Helsinki offering Marja the chance to live the fast life. Naturally, she accepts Shemeikka’s offer and Juha goes through a heavy bout of alcoholism (as is bound to happen to the hero of any given Kaurismäki film). At first I enjoyed the film’s sentimentality for the times of silent movies, for the return to the roots of filmmaking: telling a story with moving images. But the film is littered with lots of intertitles to tell the story (to me, that’s cheating) and only Kuosmanen as Juha truly expresses himself in the grand pantomime tradition. I can appreciate Kaurismäki’s love for the silent medium, but I think it may truly be a lost art.

Posted on April 11, 2000 in Reviews by

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