FILM preview Finnish Lines
Finland's top director, AKI KAURISMI'SKI, has produced another gem in Drifting CIOUdS. Words: Trevor Johnston
Huddled over a cup of black coffee, ciggie in hand, Aki Kaurismaki looks rough. After three hours sleep, he started the day at home in Portugal. This afternoon he’s doing press in London, before another flight takes him to Holland to meet Dutch journalists. Bless him, he's hanging in there and, like his films, his conversation moves with a certain lugubrious rhythm, spiked by downcast looks and a slow—burning sense of the ridiculous. Veteran Aki-
‘As I continue making movies, I realise I've said everything I've had to say, so now it's just a case of repeating myself in different ways.’ Aki Kaurism'a'ki
watchers assure me that this is him in relatively upbeat mode.
Indeed, there's no reason why Drifting Clouds, his newest and one of his best movres, shouldn’t clean up on arthouse screens. It should even appeal to a generation that doesn’t have fond memories of Ariel, The Match Factory Girl and the truly wonderful / Hired A Contract Killer — the run of late 80$ exercises in hang-dog cool that made
him a name on the international circuit in the first place.
Drifting Clouds trades in the same ironic miserablism but a few years on: there's a genuine heartbeat to this story of a head waitress and a tram company worker’s travails at the hands of sudden unexpected unemployment, which perhaps heralds a new emotional maturity at work.
‘I call the film a kind of stylised realism combined with Frank Capra hyper-optimism in the final stages, which is something new for me,’ reflects the man himself, a week on from his 40th birthday. ‘The Frank Capra thing subjugates unemployment, which is the subject of the movie. In Finland, it doesn't just affect factory workers anymore, it's everywhere. You can’t believe what you’re told about this so-called economic recovery. There are so many sad stories around, it would just be
cruel to make another downbeat movie. i like to give people a chance . . . but, of
course, nobody knows what happens the next day.’
The Kaurismaki method has a set form: on seven packs of cigs a day, the bleary eyed Finn writes, produces, directs, edits and prepares the locations. It's his taste that turns 905 Finland into a desolate, Edward Hopper-ish realm of SOs tack and yearning tango music, and his trusty
colour chart that brings about the striking visual stylisation that shifts his movies just off the realist axis.
'I go on set with my colour map and tell them I want the walls this colour, the sofa that colour. I do one picture in my head at a time because I can’t deal with two things at once. As I continue making movies, I realise I've said everything I've had to say, so now it's
Under a cloud: director Alti Kaurisméki
just a case of repeating myself in different ways. Which is okay. I relax with my Leningrad Cowboys pictures, so that means I have two styles. Two styles more than a lot of directors, if i can say that.’
Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 27 Jun. Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 4 Jul. See review on page 24.
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22 THE “ST 27 Jun—10 Jul 1997