11 July 2007 | MaxBorg89
Kaurismäki's funniest film: a subtle, gripping, far from ordinary comedy
Even though there tend to be some incredibly funny scenes in his films, Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki has only done three proper comedies in his career thus far: the hilarious Leningrad Cowboys Go America, the less inspired, but still watchable sequel Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses and Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana. It is the last of these that stands out as the funniest (read: best), largely because it doesn't try to be openly amusing most of the time.
At first it looks like a road movie, since we've got two average Finnish blokes going on a trip together: one of them, the coffee-addicted Valto (Mato Valtonen), is trying to escape from his boring daily routine (he lives with his mother, whom he locks up in a closet at the beginning of the movie); his pal, Reino (Matti Pellonpää), a mechanic with a soft spot for Koskenkorva (the Finns' favorite booze), comes along just for the fun. The two don't do much aside from driving and drinking, that is until they run into Klavdia (Kirsi Tykkyläinen) and Tatjana (Kati Outinen), two women from the former Soviet Union who ask if they can join the odd couple.
This is where the film really comes to life, as Kaurismäki sets to emphasize, and thus subsequently erase, the difference between two cultures: Klavdia and Tatjana enjoy chatting and dancing, whereas Reino and Valto prefer to shut up and keep drinking (the longest either of them ever speaks is when the former brags about breaking some guy's teeth). And yet their silence says more than all the dialogue Kaurismäki has ever written (which, Bohemian Life notwithstanding, isn't that much), and through that non-communication something deeper starts to take shape between the otherwise rude Reino and the sweet Tatjana, leading to a beautiful shot (also used as the film's poster) where the two of them are shown sitting together on a bench. This stunning image (which is quite similar to a shot in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation), relying solely on the actors' faces and (minimal) gestures, not words, is one of the most touching the Finnish master has ever filmed, and invites obvious comparisons with Shadows in Paradise, also featuring Outinen and Pellonpää. The latter, in particular, gave his best performances on those occasions, being to Kaurismäki what Robert De Niro used to be to Martin Scorsese, and his premature death at age 41, which occurred a year after this film was completed, adds an extra emotional punch to the movie, especially the aforementioned scene and the oddly (for the director, that is) optimistic, heartfelt epilogue.
Kaurismäki's films are, admittedly, a bit of an acquired taste, something not everyone might enjoy (I wasn't actually that big a fan either at first, before I understood how captivating his works can be), though Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana, is the kind of movie non-fans could give a try, its magic lying in the director's trademark minimalistic approach: things are kept real and simple, meaning that the movie may be very short (59 minutes), yes, but also that every single one of those minutes is unmissable.