For Reel

Shadows in Paradise (1986)
August 16, 2017, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Aki Kaurismäki
4 Stars
Shadows in Paradise.jpgAki Kaurismäki’s third film plays with the tropes one might expect of an American romantic comedy—a man and a woman, who are both at a dead end in their lives and have seemingly abandoned all hope, find solidarity in each other that quickly becomes romantic. Nikander’s (Matti Pellonpää) affection seems clear from the beginning, if only because Ilona (Kati Outinen) holds his blank stare for half a second longer than most anything else, but she is flummoxed by him when he doesn’t make a move on her as soon as he takes her home. Like the films of Jim Jarmusch, Shadows in Paradise both dwells in working-class existentialism and savors itself in nostalgia—dingy bars, jukeboxes, and cigarettes evoke a noir atmosphere by way of Nordic deadpan tragi-comedy. Amusingly, the film deals with two people who seem to develop a genuine connection, and yet their romantic highpoints are entirely absent from the film. Instead of pleasant first dates, Kaurismäki shows the couple expressionlessly struggling to communicate. The film ends with a cruise sailing off in the distance—in a Hollywood comedy, this would be a romantic image, but in this world, both the cruise and the horizon seem impossibly grey and depressing.

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