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  • Colin Fraser


FOUR STARS Two lonely souls are on a path to love beset with obstacles including alcoholism and a stray dog.


Starring Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen

Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki is the king of deadpan. His storytelling is so inscrutable you can never be sure when he’s turned a corner from comedy and is actually being dramatic or melancholic. As he mines that space between the absurd and the everyday, he presents funny in a sad kind of way, or indeed sad in a very funny kind of way, often at the same time.

There’s no one else making films quite the way he does. Take a scene in which a hopeful lover loses the address of his intended just seconds after she gave it to him. There was an ‘awww’ from the audience yet it was also kind of funny given the inevitability of the moment. No one else makes loss seem so droll.

Kaurismäki’s film are rarified. He works with a small cast - this is mostly a two hander chamber piece with the occasional extra - to keep our focus super tight on the action. His sets are little more than a painted wall and a lightbulb, there’s nothing to them. Nor is there much in the way of action either, his characters are typically locked together at a table or standing in a door way. Dialogue is teased back to a bare minimum with long pauses in which nothing much is said while, paradoxically, they speak volumes. There’s not much need for words, the scene is doing all the work often supported by a musical score of crooners underlining the emotional heft of a scene.

FALLEN LEAVES is a deceptively simple will-they-won’t-they romance in which two virtually monosyllabic people manage to find one another. Circumstance has her lurching from job to job while alcoholism has him doing the same. They navigate the pain of loneliness and social awkwardness to find a kind of companionship that might also be love. There’s more of course, the cute stray dog for one, and bigger themes hard at work in the corners of the film. 

Many find Kaurismäki impenetrable when it's not simply boring. But if you’re in, you’re in a delightful world of cinematic refinement that is the director’s own. Think Wes Anderson without the chat and the fiddly bits. Here's proof that a picture tells a thousand words; his character’s certainly don’t but his film most certainly do.

FALLEN LEAVES is sweet, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s poignant and deliciously deadpan. It's quite unlike anything you’ll see from any other director, ever.



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