Cannes Film Festival 2023: Aki Kaurismäki true to himself and always cheerful, with “Les Feuilles mortes”, in competition

Aki Kaurismäki presented in competition Dead leaves like the fourth opus of a worker tetralogy begun with Shadows in Heaven (1986), Ariel (1988) and The Match Girl (1990). We find a gray Helsinki crossed by pure colors, very graphic, where the destiny of solitary people in search of recognition and love is played out.

city ​​lights

Ansa (Alma Pöysti), a cashier, and Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), a steelworker, meet one night in Helsinki, both looking for love. She gives him her phone number, but he loses it, without knowing anything about her, but in love. When they reunite after a long search, they have lost their jobs and she rejects him for his overconsumption of alcohol. Holappa will become sober to get closer to Ansa, in order to realize together a love that will lead them to a new life.

Aki Kaurismäki asserts his attachment to silent cinema, and particularly to Charlie Chaplin, from whom he explicitly quotes in Dead leaves, City Lights (1931), his first sound film, again with intertitles. The Finnish director exalts the image as cinematographic language, to the detriment of rare dialogues, while this 76th Cannes Film Festival aligns rather talkative films. A sobriety and a bias that do honor to the filmmaker.

poetic conciseness

Kaurismäki also has the talent to tell everything in 1h21, while the filmmakers in competition mostly present films of at least two hours, or even three and a half hours, often (not always) unjustified (delay, repetition, complacency, etc.) None of that in the Finn, but a nice conciseness, meaningful and beautiful shots, with constant creativity and a modest and poetic aesthetic. He also places his film in the news, here the war in Ukraine, echoed by the radio, while Finland, bordering Russia, has just joined NATO.

Aki Kaurismäki demonstrates the timelessness of melodrama, often inhabited by a social theme, and how much it always touches the heart. He doubles this adherence to references to the cinema he loves, ranging from classics, to genre cinema, in the posters on the facade of the cinema where Ansa and Holappa meet. His sincere empathy towards the underprivileged classes, while showing a poetic romance, always and again collects the favors of the festival-goers.

Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen in "The Dead Leaves" by Aki Kaurusmaki (2023) (MALLA HUKKAKEN/SPUTNIK)

The sheet

Gender : Romance
Director: Aki Kaurismaki
Actors: Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen, Janne Hyytiäinen
Country : Finland
Duration : 1h21
Exit : September 20, 2023
Distributer : Diaphana Cast

Summary: Two lonely people meet by chance one night in Helsinki and each tries to find in the other their first, only and last love. Their path to this worthy goal is obscured by the man’s alcoholism, loss of a phone number, ignorance of each other’s names and addresses. Life tends to put obstacles in the way of those who seek happiness.

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