For Reel

La Vie de Bohème (1992)
November 22, 2015, 11:45 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Aki Kaurismäki
3.5 Stars
La Vie de BohemeThe three outcasts of La Vie de Bohème live in a ramshackle apartment and possess items that might as well be a century old. In this way, director Aki Kaurismäki seems to have no intention of “updating” the famed Henri Merger short stories or the Italian opera on which the film is based. Instead, this story of three struggling artists is incorporated into Kaurismäki’s worldview seamlessly, suggesting a certain timelessness to his outsiders. Both artists and castaways seem to exist within their own sense of temporal space, often invested in a sort of sentimentality and simplicity that suggests a very particular type of idealized “honest” living. Yet Kaurismäki’s envisioning of this space is not grimy as a director like Shirley Clarke might have portrayed it, rather one that prides itself on both a sense of naturalism and a certain Hollywood stylization in the high contrast lighting techniques. If Frank Borage’s depression-era dramas were updated for this generation, they would probably look something like this. La Vie de Bohème’s deadpan humor is effective, but what leaves a greater impression is actually the doomed romances–this is a film that thrives on contrasts, and no greater is the contrast between the dark, fatalistic Finnish humor and the melodramatics of a tragic romance.

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