Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Proletariat Trilogy bookends

[Nikander (Matti Pellonpää), Ilona Rajamäki (Kati Outinen), and Melartin (Sakari Kuosmanen), out for a drive in Shadows in Paradise. Click for a larger view.]

Our household’s Aki Kaurismäki spree (if spree is the right word) now includes the other two thirds of the Proletariat Trilogy, the first and last films of the series, Shadows in Paradise (1986) and The Match Factory Girl (1990). Like the middle film Ariel, they take up familiar narrative possibilities in a world of working-class poverty filled with ancient radios, makeshift tables and chairs, cracked and peeling walls, and sofas doubling as beds. Shadows in Paradise is the romantic comedy of the trilogy — tracking the relationship between an inhibited garbageman (Nikander, played by Matti Pellonpää) and an inhibited supermarket cashier (Ilona Rajamäki, played by Kati Outinen). One might think of the film as a painfully awkward variation on Marty (dir. Delbert Mann, 1955): compared to Nikander and Ilona, Marty Piletti and Clara Snyder are players. In The Match Factory Girl, a revenge tragicomedy, Outinen returns as Iris, a cipher of a factory worker who takes calm, indiscriminately murderous action in intolerable circumstances. (Part of the pleasure of watching Kaurismäki is seeing his people reappear from film to film, as in, say, the work of Preston Sturges.)

Elaine and I found all three films greatly rewarding, but we also thought that things improve from one to the next. And the trilogy’s ending is both satisfying and hopeless: nothing should follow that.

Other Kaurismäki posts
The Man Without a Past

comments: 2

Fresca said...

Did you say garbageman?
This could count as research!

Michael Leddy said...

I should have realized that! They’re in the truck in that screenclip.