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Lugubrious Finns Valto and Reino take to the road in search of coffee and vodka, without which their lives are not worth living. But their reveries are interrupted by the arrival of garrulous Russian Klaudia and Estonian Tatiana - who are clearly interested in the two men, despite the language barrier. But what are the chances of getting a response from men who prefer staring at vodka bottles to talking? Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
Two misfits go on a journey to nowhere, accompanied by a pair of Russian women hitching a ride. Reino (Matti Pellonpää), an alcoholic car mechanic who fancies himself a "rocker," and Valto (Mato Valtonen), an uptight Java-addicted refugee from a dominating mother, couldn't be more inchoate, confused, desperate, or lame. They are Lumpen Humanity, Flaky Foont's, absolute Prisoners of the Moment. It's impossible to separate the sorrow from the comedy. We're in a retro-land of old cars, beat-up hotels, a perpetual tobacco haze, and every road movie ever made, but one opposite to all cinematic convention, every film lie. Just as there's anti-matter, this is anti-Hollywood, a mirror image opposite.
Valto makes his car his palace, installs a portable coffee maker, has an underdash record machine into which he slips old rockabilly 45's like CD's. He's tense, takes a torch to the suit he always wears to iron out the creases, and only speaks when absolutely necessary. Reino, his alter ego, is voluble, brags about the doomed and dangerous life of a "rocker," greases his hair AND moustache, and is completely helpless around the Estonian woman, Tatiana (Kati Outinen), he's attracted to. For mementos' sake, waiflike Tatiana arbitrarily snaps photos of objects around her, like the car's engine which the men are bent over. Her companion, Klaudia (Kirsi Tykkläinen), is more stolid, tougher, calls the men dummies to their faces in Russian. The couples' match-ups are fitting, the failed dreamer with his spacey waif, the repressed nerd with a heavyset shrew, proxy for his bossy mother. They offer an exercise in disconnection.
We laugh, feel sure of our superiority to these fools, but Kaurismäki forces us to look at them, over and over, in real time, as they sit there, each in his or her own shabby envelope of silence. Right before our eyes, Valto, the braggadocio clown, slowly gets sadder and sadder, more and more crumpled and broken. The lines of his face deepen, tufts of hair stick out from his head. His reaching out to Tatiana is Chaplinesque, as innocent as the clumsy gropings of an infant. They retreat together into a ramshackle unpainted wooden house on the stoop of which a few children loiter like unkempt angels, a foreshadowing of the couple's own. Valto isn't so lucky, can't break free, as is expressed in a violent dream, which comes out of nowhere and breaks the silence with shattering glass.
Oddly, perhaps because most unencumbered by plot, this is the warmest, most tender of Kaurismäki's movies I've seen.
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