Kaurismaki and his cinematic poetics
There are those who discovered the movies of Aki Kaurismäki relatively recently. Perhaps with the very remarkable Miracle in Le Havre (2011) or with The other face of hope (2017). And that would already be fine, in a world that the magic of the big screen is gradually replacing the assembly line of television series.
But the writer is among those who were waiting for the Finnish genius Kaurismäki at the gate already when, in the mid-90s, he showed up at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, to accompany a full-bodied retrospective of his works.
On the Italian screens, however, certain jewels he directed had passed like meteors, see the enchanting and melancholy Vita da bohème (1992).
But although his bewildered humor could be glimpsed there too, perhaps the peaks of insanity, madness and irreverence sometimes reached by the Kaurismäki were not so well known.
Well, the tasty Capitoline appointment also served to become familiar with these aspects, present both in his personality and in the most eccentric results of that filmography, so out of the box as to appear unique, inimitable.
Let’s start with the man. Suffice it to say that at the highly anticipated meeting with the public Aki Kaurismäki did not want to start speaking, remaining silent in the face of the first questions, until several bottles of beer had been distributed among the speakers.
At first the organizers thought he was joking. But he continued to keep quiet.
And then those who hosted him had to resign themselves to ordering a lot of Peroni bottled at the museum bar, including the one that the undersigned, with a cheek that was immediately appreciated, managed to grab and get autographed on the label … Almost unique relic, in the panorama of autographs granted at festivals.
In short, there would seem to be a rush of healthy madness that from the Kaurismäki spreads slyly, spreading in the surrounding air as well as in his cinematic stories, in his surreal inventiveness, in his most absurd, stylized, improbable characters.
And this was even more evident at the beginning, when the refined black and white of a feature film like Calamari Union (1985) lent itself, for example, to host a noir fatally ethereal and bizarre.
Enough to deploy at the starting blocks 15 unscrewed, linked together by a delusional plan, fourteen of which have the name Frank and only one Pekka. Nobody worries, everything under control: the rest of the plot will in fact be no less crazy than the premises.
Kaurismaki’s short films
Yet, it is in the shorts that Kaurismäki’s extravagances are at their best, blending that eccentric and naive vein with a rebellious instinct. With the emergence of a frozen humor and with a musicality with sinuous, elegant features, albeit anchored to the picturesque estates. And the light-hearted rock of the Leningrad Cowboys . Rebellious tufts. Toe shoes.
Clothing and iconographic references mockingly halfway between Soviet mythology and the 1950s United States. The original Finnish band, muse of picaresque and zany films like the absolute cult Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989) and the less fortunate sequel Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (1994), has also animated a fair supply of shorts and video clips, truly devilish sarabande, in able to slip with swashbuckling euphoria from the poignant ballad to daring reinterpretations of rock’n’roll classics.
And if Thru the Wire (1987) paraphrased the stereotypes of old Hollywood with class, Those Were the Days (1992) made fun of the charm of Paris and These Boots (1992) proposed a bizarre, colorful, irresistible counter-history of Finland in music, the most unforgettable of the stilettate had arrived at the very beginning of the imaginative tour: in 1986, to be precise, with Rocky VI . Or how to make the myth created by Sylvester Stallone creak with red stars, balalaike, sledges in the tundra and heavy punches!
Punches suffered in bursts and without an adequate reaction, to tell the truth, by the too thin American boxer. Until the much-desired catastrophe with stars and stripes. Evidently in Aki Kaurismäki the defeat suffered just a year earlier by the legendary Ivan Drago had not really gone down.
How could a Yankee grown up on burgers and coke overwhelm the energetic son of the steppe, who emerged powerfully in the shadow of the Kremlin? Heresy!
And to put things right he invented, with the complicity of the aforementioned Leningrad Cowboys, this crazy and stalwart parody, whose dry black and white drags the viewer into a stylized boxing revenge, which smacks of mockery from first to last framing. But with indisputable directorial skill, amplified by the overwhelming soundtrack and a very easy editing, both during the preparation of the match and in the grotesque scenes shot in the ring.
Rocky VI you can find it easily on Youtube and, whether you love Stallone or not, you cannot help but indulge in a grin, in the face of the tragicomic outcome of the challenge launched to his alter ego by the extremely effective, even if very crude, Soviet champion.