The Cinema of Aki Kaurismäki

The Cinema of Aki Kaurismäki: Contrarian Stories

Andrew Nestingen
Series: Directors' Cuts
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/nest16558
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  • Book Info
    The Cinema of Aki Kaurismäki
    Book Description:

    Aki Kaurismäki is an enigma, an eminent auteur who claims his films are a joke. Since 1983, Kaurismäki has produced classically-styled films filled with cinephilic references to film history. He has earned an international art-house audience and many prizes, influencing such directors as Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarantino, and Wes Anderson. Yet Kaurismäki is often depicted as the loneliest, most nostalgic of Finns (except when he promotes his films, makes political statements, and runs his many businesses). He is also depicted as a bohemian known for outlandish actions and statements. The Cinema of Aki Kaurismäki is the first comprehensive English-language study of this eccentric director. Drawing on revisionist approaches to film authorship, the text links the filmmaker and his films to the stories and issues animating film aesthetics and history, nostalgia, late modernity, politics, commerce, film festivals, and national cinema.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85041-4
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION ‘Who the Hell Are You?’: Aki Kaurismäki’s Cinema
    (pp. 1-17)

    Film critic Andrew Mann relates an anecdote about Aki Kaurismäki in his review of Mies vailla menneisyyttä (The Man Without a Past, 2002) for the LA Weekly. He tells of an incident that occurred at the Cannes International Film Festival in May 2002. It makes evident four stories that are ever present in Kaurismäki’s filmmaking and films, as well as in the discourse that comprises the filmmaker as a public figure – Kaurismäki the auteur, Kaurismäki the bohemian, Kaurismäki the nostalgic, and Kaurismäki the Finn.

    When Kaurismäki took the stage at Cannes in May to receive his Grand Jury Prize,...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Auteur
    (pp. 18-54)

    The posters for Aki Kaurismäki’s films tell us a surprising amount about those films. The posters’ large, silhouetted figures and their grim expressions evoke the films’ anti-heroes. The slanted titles, hand-drawn lettering, and bold colour schemes echo film noir posters, and in so doing bring to mind the noir register of Kaurismäki’s films: the low-key lighting, the characters’ doomed fates and unwavering yet troublesome moral convictions, the films’ shadowy streets, inhospitable cities, and false-hearted authorities. The correlation between posters and films points to an overarching consistency in Kaurismäki’s film authorship. What is the character of that consistency?

    One of the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Bohemian
    (pp. 55-86)

    Aki Kaurismäki’s life and cinema find a source in bohemia. In the Kaurismäki discourse and films, the director and his characters often appear to opt out of their society, refuse many of its values, affirm itinerancy, disregard the mores and aspirations of the middle class, and inhabit and embrace the demimonde with its wild characters. Evidence of bohemia turns up throughout Kaurismäki’s career. Most obviously, the director adapted a principal text of literary Bohemia, Henri Murger’s The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter from 1852. Bohemian elements can also be seen in the itinerant ‘losers’, tricksters, and artists that make up...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Nostalgic
    (pp. 87-112)

    Many critics have argued that Kaurismäki’s cinema opposes the culture that surrounds it and that nostalgia defines the films’ oppositional stance. One Finnish critic writes, ‘a sharp oppositional attitude to mainstream films has been characteristic of Kaurismäki from the very beginning. That comes from Robert Bresson and Luis Buñuel. Kaurismäki’s films are completely different from the mainstream…’ (Koski 2006). In this account, a nostalgic affirmation of these idiosyncratic filmmakers positions Kaurismäki outside contemporary cinematic culture. The Finnish film critic Peter von Bagh makes a similar point about The Match Factory Girl, arguing that the film’s minimalism is antagonistic to fashionable...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Finn
    (pp. 113-140)

    How does nation, or more specifically Finnishness, figure in the cinema of Aki Kaurismäki? Finnish and non-Finnish commentators routinely understand Kaurismäki and his films as figures of nationality. Indicative titles include K/K: A Couple of Finns and Some Donald Ducks (Connah 1991), ‘Do the Right Finn’ (Floyd 1991), ‘Original Finn’ (Andrew 1997), ‘The Mighty Finn’ (Andrew 2003), ‘Finnish Character: An Interview With Aki Kaurismäki’ (Cardullo 2006), and ‘The Finnish Touch’ (Coslovich 2003). Finnish critics sometimes employ the same frame when writing about Kaurismäki: ‘Suomi-elokuvan suuri hiljainen puhuu’ (‘Finnish cinema’s silent man speaks’, Sallinen, 1998), ‘I melankolins finska ruinlandskap’ (‘In a...

  9. APPENDIX: A Conversation with Aki Kaurismäki
    (pp. 141-152)
  10. FILMOGRAPHY
    (pp. 153-160)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 161-171)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 172-176)