Sixteen-year-old Lilja and her only friend, the young boy Volodja, live in Estonia, fantasizing about a better life. One day, Lilja falls in love with Andrej, who is going to Sweden, and invites Lilja to come along and start a new life.
A story about a troubled boy growing up in England, set in 1983. He comes across a few skinheads on his way home from school, after a fight. They become his new best friends even like family. Based on experiences of director Shane Meadows.
Koistenin is a sad sack, a man without affect or friends. He's a night-watchman in Helsinki with ideas of starting his own business, but nothing to go with those intentions. He sometimes talks a bit with a woman who runs a snack trailer near his work. Out of the blue, a young sophisticated blonde woman attaches herself to Koistenin. He thinks of her as his girlfriend, he takes her on her rounds. She's in league with a crook who's planning a jewel robbery, and Koistenin is their patsy. Will he ever wise up? Written by
[Bank manager is reviewing Koistinen's application for a small-business loan]
Tell me, Koistinen... Are you some kind of comedian?
Did you come to cheer us up? What are these papers? A trade school diploma... Did you think it will give you a loan of two hundred thousand - without any security, any guarantors?
I'll guarantee it myself, until the company gets going and...
Guarantees from trash like you are worthless.
But I've got an account here.
I won't even take your ...
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At the center of this film is a man named Koiskinen (Janne Hyytiainen). He is an isolated security guard and his story is one of cruel deception and eventual, utter downfall.
Though Koiskinen's slicked-back hairstyle wouldn't seem fashionable outside of a Forties gangster film, he's really not a bad-looking guy; he just isn't a leading man. But Koiskinen's outcast status is a given we can't question. He has a slightly hangdog quality. He has dreams of starting his own company, but this seems a laughable illusion; he is scorned even by his coworkers. He has no life. The uniform, cigarettes, the lockers, the cold nightly guard duty, a dreary flat. These are the boundaries of his existence.
In fact what's curiously enchanting about Kaurismäki: the analytical certainty of his downbeat riffs.
Quite inexplicably, Mirja (Maria Jarvenhelmi), a well-dressed, striking, enigmatic woman, almost albino in her blondness, picks Koiskinen up in a bar and begins dating him. How can he resist? Her motives, however, are none too good. In fact they are of the worst kind. She is the agent of a nefarious higher power. You might not think Finland had gangsters but this is Helsinki, and the wide shots of the dark city at night are luminous and powerful, underlined by haunting tango music -- not an arbitrary but an indigenous choice, because after Argentina, Finland is the first capital of the tango. The movie is drenched in romantic music -- Puccini, Manon Lescaut, Gardel's "Volver," and Finnish tangos. There is a sweep about it, but the sweep is ominous.
Koiskinen has no part of the city's power, except as its victim. He exists to be exploited -- and with rigor. It's sad, because no matter how bad things get, he goes on dreaming. But his life is a dream, and he is unaware of what's happening to him. Out of deference, Finns don't like to look you in the eye when they speak. Aila (Maria Heiskanen), the woman who cares about Koiskinen, who runs a refreshment stand in a vacant lot, he has little use for.
Kaurismäki's sequences of scenes are as bold and assured as they are ironic. This is a pessimistic, but curiously vibrant view of life. There was never a more willing dupe than Koiskinen. This film has the squirming life of a pool full of sharks devouring carp.
Laitakaupungin Valot, called Les lumières du faubourg or "suburban lights" in its French release and Lights in the Dusk in Canada, is in fact a coolly ironic reference to Charlie Chaplin's City Lights. It is a devastating finale to Kaurismäki's "Loser Trilogy," which began with Drifting Clouds and continued with A Man without a Past. This may be the best of the three. Its mood of twilight doom is unforgettable.
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