In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_split_ver3

Split

It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Festivals & Awards Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Lights in the Dusk

Lights in the Dusk Movie Review
  |  

More and more I am learning to love the films of Aki Kaurismaki, that Finnish master of the stories of sad and lonely losers. Like very few directors (like Tati, Fassbinder, Keaton, Fellini), he has created a world all his own, and you can recognize it from almost every shot. His characters are dour, speak little, expect the worst, smoke too much, are ill-treated by life, are passive in the face of tragedy. Yes, and they are funny.

Advertisement

It is a deadpan humor. Kaurismaki never signals us to laugh, and at festivals there is rarely a roar of laughter, more often the exhalation people make when they are subduing a roar of laughter. His characters are lovable, but nobody seems to know that. "Lights in the Dusk," now on DVD from Strand, is the third film in his "loser trilogy," preceded by "Drifting Clouds," the story of an unemployed couple hopelessly in debt, and "The Man Without a Past," the story of a homeless man who has no idea who he is. How can I convince you these stories are deeply amusing? I can't. Take my word for it.

In "Lights in the Dusk," everybody on the screen smokes more than ever, perhaps because it is the highlight of their day. We meet Koistinen (Janne Hyytiainen), a night watchman who says "I have no friends" because it is true: He has no friends. Well, there is the woman who runs the late-night hot dog stand. She is nice to him, but he is cold to her.

Koistinen is shunned at work by his fellow security guards. After three years, the manager cannot remember his name. People stare at him in restaurants. One night he is approached at his solitary table in a cafe by an attractive blonde who asks, "Is this seat taken?" He asks her why she sat there when the cafe is empty. "Because you looked like you needed company."

Advertisement

They date, if that is the word. They sit rigidly through a movie, almost silently through a dinner, and he stands in the corner at a disco. He invites her to dinner in his basement flat, which has large pipes running through it. He offers her a fresh bagel: "The roast is in the oven." She says, "Koistinen, I have to make a trip. My mother is ill." He asks, "When?" She says, "Right now," and stands up and leaves.

He protests to three bruisers that their dog has been tied outside a bar for days, without water. They take him off-screen and he returns beaten. Most of Kaurismaki's beatings are off-screen, mercifully. There is a plot behind all of his misfortune, which leads to jail time, and then a cot in a homeless shelter. He disastrously tries to take action against those who have used him. The hot dog girl seeks him out. The dog finds a new owner. There is a happy ending, lasting about 30 seconds. 

It isn't what happens, it's how it happens. You'll have a hard time finding Kaurismaki in a theater in most cities (and states), but he's waiting for you on DVD. Put a Kaurismaki in your Netflix queue. Most any film will do. You will start watching it, and feel strangely disoriented because none of the usual audience cues are supplied. You're on your own. You will watch it engrossed and fascinated right up until the very end, which will not feel much like an ending. You will for some reason feel curious to see another Kaurismaki film. If by any chance you dislike the film and turn it off, let it wait a day, and start it again. You were wrong.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Films to Get Us Through The Trump Presidency

Chaz Ebert highlights films with the potential to get us through the confusing political times of the Trump presidenc...

Netflix's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" an Unfunny Parody of Sadness

A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.

The Audacious "Something Wild" Comes to Criterion Blu-ray

One of the most audacious American films from the 1960s is now available via the Criterion Collection.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus