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La Vie de Bohème (1992)

La vie de bohème (original title)
Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 29 July 1993 (USA)
Three struggling artists try to make passable livings in Paris despite knock backs and tragedies.


Aki Kaurismäki


Henri Murger (based on the novel by: "Scènes de la vie de bohème"), Aki Kaurismäki

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5 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Matti Pellonpää ... Rodolfo
Evelyne Didi ... Mimi
André Wilms ... Marcel Marx
Kari Väänänen ... Schaunard
Christine Murillo Christine Murillo ... Musette
Jean-Pierre Léaud ... Blancheron
Laika Laika ... Baudelaire
Carlos Salgado Carlos Salgado ... Garcon de café
Alexis Nitzer Alexis Nitzer ... Henri Bernard
Sylvie Van den Elsen Sylvie Van den Elsen ... Mme. Bernard
Gilles Charmant Gilles Charmant ... Groupe rock
Dominique Marcas Dominique Marcas ... Brocanteuse
Samuel Fuller ... Gassot
Jean-Paul Wenzel Jean-Paul Wenzel ... Francis
Louis Malle ... Gentleman


Three penniless artists become friends in modern-day Paris: Rodolfo, an Albanian painter with no visa, Marcel, a playwright and magazine editor with no publisher, and Schaunard, a post-modernist composer of execrable noise. Rodolfo falls in love with Mimi, a barmaid. The day he asks her to move in with him, he is deported. Six months later, he sneaks back to Paris, and Mimi leaves her new boyfriend to be with him. Conflicts arise, especially around their poverty, and soon Mimi and Rodolfo separate, as do Marcel and his Musette. The three men scrape together a meal to celebrate All Saints' Day, and Mimi arrives, ill. Can her friends bring her back to health? Can love rekindle? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Comedy | Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »



Finland | France | Sweden | Germany



Release Date:

29 July 1993 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La Vie de Bohème See more »

Filming Locations:

Paris, France

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The filming on the Paris Central Train Station would have cost so much that avoiding to spend too much money Kaurismäki decided to create an illusion of the train station: he reflected a shadow of a train wagon against garage doors. See more »


Version of La vie de bohème (1945) See more »


Chanson de truite morte
Composed and arranged by Mauri Sumén
Performed by Mauri Sumén
See more »

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User Reviews

Classic French stories about wily starving artists adapted for modern times with a heavy dose of Finnish dark humour and pathos
19 November 2016 | by crculverSee all my reviews

Aki Kaurismaki's 1992 film LA VIE DE BOHÈME is the Finnish auteur's loose adaptation of Henri Murger's classic 19th-century collection of short stories, set in contemporary Paris with an eclectic cast of French and Finnish actors, all speaking French. As the film opens, the penniless aspiring writer Marcel (André Wilms) is being evicted from his apartment. Though a series of amusing events, he falls in with the equally aspiring and penniless painter Rodolfo (Matti Pellonpää) and composer Schaunard (Kari Väänänen). The film then tracks their comical struggles to make money, gain lasting fame, or charm women in spite of their lack of a stable existence (Evelyne Didi plays a major supporting role as Rodolfo's girlfriend Mimi). Though the three men are perennially underdogs, their firm friendship and readiness to share what little they have makes the film a heartwarming experience.

The poorly spoken French of the foreign actors, as well as the mismatch between the ostensibly 1992 setting and the decaying interiors, must have seemed bizarre for viewers who didn't know Kaurismäki before. However, it is quite of a piece with this director's prior work. Kaurismäki had made a number of films in his native Helsinki that are ostensibly set in the present day, but feature ramshackle tenements, working-class struggles, and antique appliances that are all right out of the 1950s. At some point, a band will appear on a stage playing high-energy rock music from a bygone age. In LA VIE DE BOHEME, Kaurismäki has reused the exact same elements in a Parisian context. He managed to find decrepit places one would have never expected in the modern city, and in one scene a punk band perform even if it has little relevance to the overall plot. While Rodolfo and Schaunard are explained as Albanian and Irish immigrants, respectively, they are really bringing to this film a typically Finnish quality.

One of the quirks of Kaurismäki's Finnish-language output is that the actors deliver their deadpan, almost robotic lines in the Finnish literary language, which is vastly different from the ordinary Finnish spoken language. Kaurismäki has managed to create a similar effect here by lifting dialogue from Murger's original book, as in 19th-century stories the actors often speak with elaborate constructions and literary flair that is completely unrealistic for the particular setting. There's also an amusing opposition between the garrulous Marcel and -- remember, the characters' Irish or Albanian back stories need not be taken seriously -- the silent, stony other characters, as the Finns are an infamously taciturn race.

Still, Kaurismäki's applications of his perennial formula are usually very entertaining, and I never tire of his darkly humorous vision. And even if most of the other elements are the same as always, LA VIE DE BOHEME features an unexpected ending. Usually in Kaurismäki you can foresee the nice little ending that's going to come from a mile away, but here he takes the viewer by surprise.

Cinema aficionados will enjoy the small roles of a sugar baron, played by legendary French New Wave actor Jean-Paul Léaud, and a publishing magnate, played by American director Samuel Fuller. (Viewers who don't know who Fuller is will think it odd that he exits the stage with some profanity spoken in English and a distinctive old-timey New York Jewish accent!) This might not be the best introduction to Kaurismäki -- the films making up the so-called "Proletariat Trilogy" of the late 1980s might work better for that. Still, for me LA VIE DE BOHÈME was a funny and touching picture.

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