Aki Kaurismäki is a master of the deadpan. Finland’s most celebrated filmmaker was born in the small town of Orimattila, north-east of Helsinki, in 1957 and as a young man discovered the films of Bresson, Ozu and Melville. He formed a production company, Villealfa (after Godard’s Alphaville) with his older brother, Mika, and directed his first film, Crime and Punishment, in 1983. He is the complete auteur, producing, directing, scripting and usually editing his films.
Kaurismäki’s studies of Finland’s battlers unfold without resorting to histrionics or overt emotion. Often using the same actors, he has created a world in which ‘ordinary’ people overcome all the odds stacked against them to achieve modest successes. The dialogue in his films is laconic and laced with stoic humour; he is committed to the use of plain language. There isn’t a streak of sentiment, despite the presence of a loveable dog in almost every movie.
Apart from canines, Kaurismäki’s love for music, and especially jazz and rock, comes across clearly in his work. There’s always time for a musical interlude, and his invention of a fictional rock ’n’ roll band for the 1989 road movie Leningrad Cowboys Go America proved to be so popular that the Cowboys stayed together as a group after the movie.
Kaurismäki resisted the shift from film to digital for as long as possible, claiming it was ‘a devil’s invention’.
Kaurismäki has created a body of work inhabited by some of the most modest yet endearing characters to be found anywhere in contemporary cinema. This retrospective will be a revelation to those unfamiliar with the work of an exceptional director.
David Stratton, Retrospective Programmer
Film critic, lecturer and author David Stratton AM is a former director of Sydney Film Festival and former host of ABC TV’s At the Movies. He is a recipient of the Raymond Longford Award and was named Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has served on the juries in Venice and Berlin and as President of the FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) jury in Cannes.
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