21 September 2010 | Karl Self
Kaurismäki is to the Kaurismäki lover what George Lucas is to the Star Wars-aficionado
This is a hypothermic look at three dropout artists (a writer, a painter, a musician) who live in an undefined time and place (from the look and feel of it, maybe the suburbs of Paris in the 1950ies). The painter (an Albanian) is actually quite good, the writer distinguishes himself by using an overly florid language ("We'll be right back, like arrows thrown by hand."), the musician doesn't know how to play an instrument. They unerringly define themselves as unrecognised (as opposed to untalented) artists, they never have any money, and they give their devoted women a hard time. Kaurismäki portrays them in his unique style which uses pristinely arranged images in conjunction with absurd humour.
Some people may not get the point. I loved it. I first saw it when it came out in 1992, which was before the internet. I have since managed to google that the movie is based on the same book as Puccini's opera "La bohème". Kaurismäki adopted the book the other way around than Puccini, whereas the opera is colourful and melodramtic, the movie is dour, black-and-white, and minimalistic -- but also funnier.