peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2024 03 03 FallenLeaves

Kuolleet lehdet (Fallen Leaves) (2023)

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Prompted by Jason Di Rosso's interview with lead actress Alma Pöysti and thumbs-up review. Jury Prize winner at Cannes 2023. Finnish writer/director Aki Kaurismäki is widely feted but I don't know why.

This is about being single and unskilled in middle age and getting an unexpected shot at joining the (axiomatically) happily coupled up. Pöysti and candidate bloke Jussi Vatanen are not exactly in the precariat — the scenario is more old school in there always being industrial work and social support in a Nordic monoculture. There are no families, no Ken Loach social activism or commentary, no politics apart from the war on the Ukraine on the radio; this pair are just lonely in the timeworn way. As Leonard Cohen used to say, there ain't no cure for the lovelorn except perhaps by going to these sorts of movies.

The style is arch like Hal Hartley; I suggest his closest is The Unbelievable Truth with Adrienne Shelly and Robert John Burke. The humour is amusing but very very dry and the whole show continually teeters on the brink of cliche. Their first date is Jarmusch's Bill Murray / Adam Driver zombie flick, at the Ritz of course. The posters out front must be Kaurismäki's faves: Fat City (!), some Brigid Bardot classic. The punchline is that she dug it.

There are many scenes of the bloke and his mate bantering. There are fewer scenes of the women talking, but when they do they express the stale "all men are rotten" tropes. (The men are not as unsubtle; they do not slag the women off as a class. Or is it that the Finnish ladies share no common flaw? I ascribe this unevenness to Kaurismäki and felt it marred the scenario beyond repair.) She wants him to be different in some way (from the other men in Helsinki?) but it's unclear that he is or can be. Apparently smoking is still OK but drinking is not. She cuts her losses by rescuing a dog.

Di Rosso observed that this gets a bit David Lynch by embedding musical performance in the film. I'm pretty sure Jarmusch did this too somewhere. It reminded me a bit of Lukas Moodysson (Bara prata lite? — nothing brutal) or von Trier (nobody gets anything but don't give up just yet!). There's a dash of Amelie: the romantic lost, the relentless search, serendipity. It's OK but slight, mostly gentle, pointless. The cinematography functions but doesn't wow; Helsinki does not receive her close up.

Glenn Kenny: four stars. Manohla Dargis made it a Critic's Pick. Lives of quiet desperation. Brief Encounter. Peter Bradshaw: four stars of five. An Affair to Remember. Absurd and cartoony.