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LA VIE DE BOHÈME

Finland / France (MIFF 1992)

Director: Aki Kaurismäki

Aki Kaurismaki (subject of a 1990 MFF Spotlight) returns with a deadpan remake of La Boheme, which seems to owe as much to the comic bonhomie of Lubitsch's Design For Living, or the romantic black-and-white Paris of the Nouvelle Vague, as it does to the triple-hanky Puccini opera adapted from Murgers's 1851 novel (Kaurismaki claims this is his revenge on Puccini).

The story follows three artist types — Rodolfo the painter (Matti Pellonpaa), Marcel the writer (Andre Wilms) and Schaunard the composer (Kari Vaananen), who are thrown together by a series of coincidences involving a repossessed apartment and a two-headed trout. They join forces, as partners in deadbeat desperation, to make their way to fame and fortune.

Kaurismaki plots a lurching curve of then-rise and fall, charting the points in his laid-back style of cheap jokes and low-key buffoon­ery, artfully extracting humour from his characters, their situations and even from inan­imate objects. And speaking of inanimate objects, one of the best laughs comes from guest star Jean-Pierre Leaud as a wide-eyed, quizzical face in a portrait painted by Rodolfo for a bargain basement price and two tickets to the opera.

Kaurismaki's work displays a love affair with the cinema, and this latest film is no different, evoking with abandon misty black-and-white images of pre-war Paris a la Renoir —just as our vagabond heroes motor off in a three-wheeled mini-car. Revenge has never been so sweet.

• Tait Brady

See also...

SHADOWS IN PARADISE

Shadows in Paradise borrows its title from an Erich Maria Remarque novel about wartime refugees. It is an attempt by director Aki Kaurismaki at a realistic love story with scenes taking place in the ... More »

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Another screen version of Dostocvsky's novel, and one of the best Finnish films of recent years. Raskolnikov here is Rahikainen, a former law student, who now works in a slaughterhouse in Helsinki ... More »

ARIEL

Ariel is the second film in a trilogy of films depicting Finland 1986-1989 that began with Shadows in Paradise (1986), and was completed with The Match Factory Girl (1989). It is the story of a young ... More »

HAMLET GOES BUSINESS

A "black and white underground, B-movie classical drama" born out of serious drinking with a friend, Hamlet Goes Business is the only one of Kaurismäki's films winch the director professes to like ... More »

LENINGRAD COWBOYS GO AMERICA

The Leningrad Cowboys do not enjoy a great deal of success or talent. The boys are used to playing Russian songs written for an all-male choir. What they lack in talent or marketability, is ... More »

LIGHTS IN THE DUSK

“Brilliantly efficient storytelling.” - BBC Passive and isolated, our hero Koistinen is a night watchman, an outcast rejected by the other security guards and snubbed by strangers at the local ... More »

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