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‘Fallen Leaves’ Review: Aki Kaurismäki Stages a Tiny Sliver of a Romance in a Quirky Finnish Kaurismäki Land That Hasn’t Changed in 30 Years
Owen Gleiberman Chief Film Critic Aki Kaurismäki, the deadpan cockeyed minimalist of Finland, has become the ultimate illustration of the principle that if you make movies in the same mood and style, with the same monosyllabic bombed-out hipster vibe, for a period of 30 years, your movies may not have changed — but the world around them has, so the films will have a totally different effect. In “Fallen Leaves,” the Kaurismäki bauble that’s showing at Cannes this year, there’s actually a scene in which a character uses a computer. The film’s heroine, Ansa (Alma Pöysti), loses her job as a supermarket worker, and to find another gig she rents an HP laptop at a makeshift Internet café that charges 10 Euro for half an hour. Apart from that, the movie unfolds in that scruffy and sparsely decorated so-familiar-it’s-cozy pre-tech Kaurismäki zone, where people still use electric adding machines or listen to a bulky kitchen radio that looks like it’s from the early ’60s. “Fallen Leaves” is set in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, but to our eyes it’s a weirdly underpopulated place where shopping, as a pastime, doesn’t exist, and neither, in any meaningful way, does conversation.
Cannes Critic’s Take: From Martin Scorsese to Wes Anderson, This Year’s Lineup Is Faithful to Old Friends
“Elemental” and Martin Scorsese’s Apple-produced “Killers of the Flower Moon” an additional veneer of vindication. As to the box-office futures of the 20-odd films competing for this year’s Palme d’Or, certainly none will reach the international highs of James Mangold’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” but then, none were ever expected to.Instead — and at its best — Cannes works as a sophisticated shell game, channeling the glamour of the red carpet and the frenzy of 40,000 accredited guests to make glitzy international events out of existential Turkish dramas like Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “About Dry Grasses,” existential Finnish dramedies like Aki Kaurismäki’s “Fallen Leaves”or intimate two-headers about 19th-century French gastronomy like Tran Anh Hung’s “The Pot au Feu.”Other Palme d’Or contenders will come with built-in SEO, as Wes Anderson’s more-star-packed-than-usual “Asteroid City”threatens to saddle red-carpet rubberneckers with a permanent case of whiplash once the Texan auteur’s full repertory company mounts the Palais steps alongside new additions Tom Hanks and Scarlett Johansson.That all the aforementioned filmmakers could walk those Palais steps in blindfolds is another notable element of an official competition marked by staggering high fidelity.