This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Irma (Kati Outinen) and M (Markku Peltola) face an uncertain future in Aki Kaurismäki’s The Man Without a Past

Irma (Kati Outinen) and M (Markku Peltola) face an uncertain future in Aki Kaurismäki’s The Man Without a Past

THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST (Aki Kaurismäki, 2002)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Tuesday, April 9, 4:00 & 8:00
Series runs through April 11

Metrograph celebrates the career of Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki with the fab series “Total Kaurismäki Show,” consisting of seventeen features and an evening of nine shorts by the uniquely talented writer-director who sees the world like nobody else. On April 9, Metrograph will be screening The Man Without a Past, Kaurismäki’s touching, funny, dark, and satiric film that won the 2002 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. In the brutal opening, an unidentified character gets severely beaten and dies, then wakes up with amnesia. M (Markku Peltola) is soon taken in by a desperately poor family who lives in a shack they call a container. He meets Irma (Kati Outinen, in a small role that won her Best Actress at Cannes), and their potential romance is both sweet and absurd. Kaurismäki wrote, produced, and directed this splendid example of the offbeat nature of his work, which is always intelligent, challenging, and rewarding.

Lights in the Dusk

Mirja (Maria Järvenhelmi) and Koistinen (Janne Hyytiäinen) consider their future in Lights in the Dusk

LIGHTS IN THE DUSK (Aki Kaurismäki, 2006)
Tuesday, April 9, 6:15 & 10:15

The final installment in his self-described Loser Trilogy (following Drifting Clouds and The Man Without a Past), Lights in the Dusk is another existential masterpiece from Kaurismäki. Janne Hyytiäinen stars as Koistinen, a pathetic little security guard who has pipe dreams of starting his own company. A lonely man with no friends — except for Aila (Maria Heiskanen), who runs a late-night hot-dog van and whom he continually shuns — Koistinen is easily taken in by Mirja (Maria Järvenhelmi), a romantic interest who has ulterior motives. But no matter how bad things get for Koistinen — and they get pretty bad — he just wanders his way through it all, preferring to simply accept the consequences, no matter how undeserved, rather than take a more active role in his life. The character has a lot in common with Kati Outinen’s sad-sack, trampled-upon Iris from Kaurismäki’s The Match Factory Girl — in fact, Outinen makes a cameo in Lights in the Dusk as a cashier at a grocery store.

Marcel (André Wilms) and Arletty Marx (Kati Outinen) face life with a deadpan sense of humor in Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre

Marcel (André Wilms) and Arletty Marx (Kati Outinen) face life with a deadpan sense of humor in Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre

LE HAVRE (Aki Kaurismäki, 2011)
Wednesday, April 10, 5:00 & 8:30

For more than thirty years, Kaurismäki (Leningrad Cowboys Go America, The Other Side of Hope) has been making existential deadpan black comedies that are often as funny as they are dark and depressing. In the thoroughly engaging Le Havre, Kaurismäki moves the setting to a small port town in France, where shoeshine man Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a self-described former Bohemian, worries about his seriously ill wife (Kati Outinen) while trying to help a young African boy (Blondin Miguel), who was smuggled into the country illegally on board a container ship, steer clear of the police, especially intrepid detective Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), who never says no to a snifter of Calvados. Adding elements of French gangster and WWII Resistance films with Godardian undercurrents — he even casts Jean-Pierre Léaud in a small but pivotal role — Kaurismäki wryly examines how individuals as well as governments deal with illegal immigrants, something that has taken on more importance than ever these days. Through it all, Marcel remains steadfast and stalwart, quietly and humbly going about his business, deadpan every step of the way. Wouter Zoon’s set design runs the gamut from stark grays to bursts of color, while longtime Kaurismäki cinematographer Timo Salminen shoots scene after scene with a beautiful simplicity. Winner of a Fipresci critics award at Cannes and Finland’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Le Havre, the first of a proposed trilogy, is another marvelously unusual, charmingly offbeat tale from a master of the form.

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