SHADOWS IN PARADISE (VARJOJA PARATIISISSA) (Aki Kaurismäki, 1986)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
October 7-10, $13, 11:00 am
In celebration of writer-director Aki Kaurismäki’s first feature film in five years, Le Havre, which just played the New York Film Festival and opens at the IFC Center on October 21, IFC is screening several of the Finnish auteur’s earlier works as part of its Weekend Classics series. On October 7-10 at 11:00 am, the first film in Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy, Shadows in Paradise, will be shown, a marvelous example of Kaurismäki’s trademark deadpan humor set amid a bleak world filled with lonely characters. Matti Pellonpää, a regular in the films of both Aki and his brother, Mika Kaurismäki, stars as Nikander, a garbage man who is offered a job as a foreman in a new company being started by a coworker (Esko Nikkari). But when the coworker suddenly drops dead of a heart attack, Nikander drinks himself into the drunk tank, where he meets Melartin (Sakari Kuosmanen), an unemployed married man with a child. Melartin takes the dead man’s place in Nikander’s original garbage truck. Meanwhile, Nikander is interested in going out with Ilona (Kati Outinen, in her first of many Kaurismäki films), a shy supermarket cashier who has just been fired and evicted and so has decided to steal her boss’s cash box. Nikander and Ilona are a terrible couple; he is far more interested in her than she is in him, and he lets her use and abuse him, all taking place in short, slow scenes with little dialogue and movement. Every time she leaves, she comes back, much to his chagrin, or delight — it’s often hard to tell, as neither character displays much emotion or reveals anything of their inner selves. It’s all wildly funny, the dark humor offset by the bright blues and oranges of Tuula Hilkamo’s costumes and Pertti Hilkamo and Heikki Ukkonen’s art direction. In many ways it’s reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984), just in color; interestingly, Pellonpää went on to play a major role in the Helsinki section of Jarmusch’s Night on Earth (1991). Bleak but beautiful, Shadows in Paradise is a charming romantic black comedy about two lonely souls who are neither charming nor romantic. The Weekend Classics series continues at the IFC Center with the last two parts of the Proletariat Trilogy, Ariel (1988) on October 14-16 and The Match Factory Girl (1990) on October 28-30