Film Scouts Reviews

"Kauas pilvet karkaavat (Drifting Clouds)"

by David Sterritt

Bertolucci and Cronenberg may be turning into more conventional stylists as they grow older, but you can't accuse Aki Kaurismaki of any such problem. "Drifting Clouds" carries his deadpan directorial demeanor to heights of minimalism hitherto undreamed of, even by Aki himself. The story is "ripped from today's headlines," as studio publicists used to say--laid off from their jobs, a wife and husband suffer various torments and uncertainties before blundering into a happy ending as preposterous as it is gratifying--but Kaurismaki's storytelling is anything but fashionable, reducing montage and mise-en-scene to bare-bones necessities as if he had to economize right along with the penniless protagonists, themselves played with Bressonian rigor by the sort of glamourless performers Aki has favored throughout his career.

Although it's dedicated to the late Matti Pellonpaa, whose acquaintance I made (along with Aki's) during my years with the New York Film Festival, this dark-and-dour romp has less humor than a full-fledged Kaurismaki masterpiece like "La Vie de Boheme" or some of that movie's immediate predecessors. But if it's not one of his most enjoyable pictures, it's certainly one of the most impressive in its sheer stylistic tenacity. It isn't every day you find a movie that makes the glacial "Match Factory Girl" look like "Speed."

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