Lights in the Dusk

"Excellent"

Lights in the Dusk Review


Like the fast food joints scattered in its minimal landscape, Aki Kaurismaki's Lights in the Dusk owes a small debt to American culture. A neo-noir in setup and structure, Kaurismaki's latest, the closer for his "Loser" Trilogy, evokes America in its story and, in a way, in its editing and cinematography that suggests Norman Rockwell at moments. And yet, Kaurismaki's look, touch and skill with actors are all still here without even a whiff of fatigue.

Finland's Kaurismaki makes movies about schlubs, morons and grade-A dopes. In a way, all the male protagonists in his films have the traits of classic cinematic monsters, except here they are stripped of any power and left just with their wandering purpose and a small glimpse of hope. If the husband in Drifting Clouds was Dracula and the forgetful man from the excellent The Man Without A Past was Frankenstein, Koistinen (Janne Hyytiainen) easily qualifies as the mumbling, staggering Mummy of the group. Strolling through his night-watchman job for a local mall, Koistinen dreams of owning his own security force, giving a cut of his earnings to a chain-smoking codger who recites lectures on business management. Before he goes home, he stops to say hello to Aila (Maria Heiskanen), the girl who runs the local hot dog stand and grill.

Only Finland could produce an actress like Maria Jarvenhelmi. Like some provocative gene-splice of Bryce Dallas Howard and Brigitte Nielsen, Jarvenhelmi embodies femme fatale Mirja, who struts into the small café where Koistinen is taking his lunch and bullies him into asking her to the movies. He's smitten; she just needs a patsy. Mirja's real boyfriend, a gangster named Lindholm (Ilkka Koivula), wants to get the blueprints for a jewelry store in Koistinen's quadrant and notices the loneliness and pathetic hope in the security guard. Without fail, Lindholm plays Koistinen like Wynton Marsalis in a trumpet store, continually preying on the poor fool until the man has nothing left.

The emotional beguilement of both Kaurismaki and his hapless protagonist comes off as misgiving at first but slowly works itself into lather. Helped endlessly by cinematographer Timo Salminen, the director lights his shots in a seductive tone that suggests an affinity for painting and photography and a backseat approach to narrative motion. That is not to say, however, that Dusk doesn't keep one fascinated by its character dynamics. Hyytiainen had to be chosen for that hangdog expression and those defeated, lazy eyes, so much so that his ability to make Koistinen's hope palpable is all the more impressive.

There are no thrills to be found in Kaurismaki's concoction, but the drained desperation of its strange world delivers a strange and sublime smoke-ring to the current cinematic climate. The rock-and-roll dropkicks that are littered in its soundtrack reinforce the Americanism of Lights in the Dusk, but in every other way this is Kaurismaki dumbfounding the audience once again, mixing the metaphysical with the meanderingly amusing.

Aka Laitakaupungin valot.



Lights in the Dusk

Facts and Figures

Run time: 78 mins

In Theaters: Friday 3rd February 2006

Budget: $1.4M

Distributed by: Strand Releasing

Production compaines: Sputnik Oy

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Fresh: 29 Rotten: 13

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Aki Kaurismaki

Producer: Aki Kaurismaki

Starring: Janne Hyytiäinen as Koistinen, Maria Heiskanen as Aila, Maria Järvenhelmi as Mirja, Ilkka Koivula as Lindström, as Verkäuferin, Vesa Häkli as Gangster

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