It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Ingmar Bergman made a film at the dawn of his career named "It Rains on My Future," and I thought of that title while I was watching "Ariel." This is the new film by Aki Kaurismaki, the director from Finland whose work has been winning festivals and inspiring articles in film magazines calling him the best young director from Europe. I went expecting to see the new Fassbinder or Herzog or Almodovar, and what surprised me was how traditional the film is; it's a despairing film noir with a "happy" ending that taunts us with its irony.
The story involves Taisto, a miner from northern Finland who loses his job when the mine closes. He sits in a cafe with a depressed friend who gives him his old Cadillac convertible and then walks into the men's room and blows his brains out. Taisto drives the convertible to southern Finland, where he is quickly relieved of his life savings by muggers. He gets a day-labor job, gets a bed in a Skid Row mission, and then strikes up an instant romance with a metermaid, who throws away her parking tickets and goes for a ride in the Cadillac.
Meeting the metermaid is a stroke of luck for Taisto, but life is not going to be kind to him, and the plot of "Ariel" involves one crushing misfortune after another. It's like one of those 1940s B movies - "Detour," maybe - where the hero tells you on the soundtrack that his luck is always rotten, and the story proves that he's right.
One of the special qualities of the movie is the physical clumsiness of most of the characters. They move like real people, not like the smoothly choreographed athletes we see on TV and in American movies. When the hero runs, he looks like he's not accustomed to running. When cops race up to nab somebody, they run flat-footed, and grab him in an awkward and uncoordinated tussle.