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Aki Kaurismäki's Proletariat Trilogy (Shadows in Paradise / Ariel / The Match Factory Girl)

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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  • Aki Kaurismäki's Proletariat Trilogy (Shadows in Paradise / Ariel / The Match Factory Girl)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The poignant, deadpan films of Aki Kaurismäki are pitched somewhere in the wintry nether lands between comedy and tragedy. And rarely in his body of work has the line separating those genres seemed thinner than in what is often identified as his Proletariat Trilogy, Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl. In these three films, something like social-realist farces, Kaurismäki surveys the working-class outcasts of his native Finland with detached yet disarming amusement. Featuring commanding, off-key visual compositions and delightfully dour performances, the films in this triptych exemplify the talents of a unique and highly influential film artist.

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Editors of the Eclipse series appear to taking some critical political stances these days judging from their selection of Aki Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy as follow-up to the equally dour Larisa Sheptiko boxed set. Whereas Sheptiko’s films portray Soviet soldiers and workers toiling in war-ravaged Russia, Kaurismaki’s films are set in and around bleak working-class neighborhoods in Helsinki, and star characters who resort to lives of crime because it is impossible to make ends meet. However, similarities between the directors more or less stop there. Kaurismaki’s more modern social critiques mercifully employ deadpan humor to rescue the viewer from utter hopelessness and to shield one from the bitterness his characters suffer. Like Robert Bresson’s films, Kaurismaki’s rely upon understated acting and long scenes in which the camera hardly moves, to allow plot development that is slow, emotionally resonant, and ultimately realistic. His three films included here are mid-career works that share basic plots and even actors, though, of course, each film merits close viewing. Shadows in Paradise (1986) is the oldest film, and sets in motion the archetypal tragic character who tries and fails at earning money honestly under depressed economic conditions. Opening with shots of dumpsters being emptied during a snowstorm, one senses instantly that Nikander’s (Matti Pellonpää) life may be the ultimate drag. When his partner invites him to start a new company, using the slogan "Reliable garbage since 1968," and Nikander replies, "But that’s now," it becomes clear that neither he nor his peers are extremely bright. His new girlfriend Ilona (Kati Outinen) leads an equally dreary life as a grocer, and the pace speeds only slightly. Not until Nikander meets Melartin (Sakari Kuosmanen) in prison does one experience his adventurous side. Similarly, Ariel (1988) opens with a wry scene starring Taisto Kasurinen (Turo Pajala), a Finnish coal miner who witnesses his father’s suicide after his father wills him a fantastic vintage car. Taisto, dreadfully impoverished, leaves for the city, where he meets Irmeli (Susanna Haavisto), a kind-hearted woman who doesn’t necessarily have ambitious taste in men. As Taisto digs himself deeper into trouble with the law, no thanks to his friend Mikkonen (Matti Pellonpää), Irmeli chooses loyalty over protecting her son from a man who is ultimately a criminal.

The most compact and stylistically impressive of Aki Kaurismäki's perversely minimalist Finnish comedies, The Match Factory Girl stars his blond, blank-faced Garbo, Kati Outinen, as a downtrodden factory worker whose attempts to discover love and companionship are constantly thwarted by her possessive parents and a succession of cloddish, exploitative men. Kaurismäki's deadpan style--the carefully inexpressive acting, motionless camera, and rigidly geometrical compositions--avoids both sentimentality and sarcasm. Although the girl's plight is taken seriously, there is something in the extremity of the situations, and in the lovingly depicted hideousness of her Helsinki home life, that is irresistibly comic. Inspired by the Tiananmen Square uprising, the match factory girl resolves to take a revolutionary stand, arms herself with a packet of rat poison, and sets out for revenge. The video includes an equally hilarious music-video rendition of "Those Were the Days" by Kaurismäki's house band, the Leningrad Cowboys. In each of these films, the director relies on the public’s understanding of poor economy to order empathetic viewing. If one doesn’t prescribe to blaming government for societal hardships, his characters seem pathetic and borderline idiotic. This gray area between sympathy and contempt is Kaurismaki territory, and viewing his films reminds one how the personal is political. --Trinie Dalton and Dave Kehr


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Kati Outinen, Matti Pellonpaa
  • Directors: Aki Kaurismaki
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English, Finnish, Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: September 23, 2008
  • Run Time: 215 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001BEK8F6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,285 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Aki Kaurismäki's Proletariat Trilogy (Shadows in Paradise / Ariel / The Match Factory Girl)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Mattsson on July 20, 2008
Format: DVD
I must say I've been crossing my fingers, lighting candles and doing voodoo mojo ceremonies in the hope that when these titles are finally released Stateside that they would be in Criterion Collection editions. And here they come! Aki Kaurismäki's three best films in one box! Oh, joy! Even though I spent an obscene amount of US dollars to obtain these and the rest of his oeuvre as standard (Region 2) Finnish imports, I will get this as well. Nothing beats a lovingly curated and assembled Criterion box set!
But is it too much to hope for the rest?
I'll light some candles and do a jig (or better yet, a tango) and see what happens...
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
DVD quality for all three is fine, and again very reasonably priced. Widescreen, 16 x9, rich colour.

No culture is more taciturn than that of the Finns.

These films appeal to fans of Mamet scripts that are slowed down, and to fans of Jim Jarmush films.
Jarmush much admires Kaurismaki, and the last episode of his movie "Night on Earth" is a tribute to the director.

If you liked "The Man With No Name" you will like all three of these movies, although for me they are much better, as they are earlier and more simplistic films where "less is more" is well demonstrated.
You probably will dislike these films if you disliked the Oscar nominated "The Man With No Name".

In all of his movies, the story and actors move slow, yet beautifully, in their workers' "low" blue collar world.
Excellent use of color keeps the environment from being visually depressing, and subtle and consistent humor gives hope and uplifts these romances...
yes..all three are romances.
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Format: DVD
Here's yet another prize package from Criterion's Eclipse line -- these wonderful films by Aki Kaurismäki deserve the widest possible audience, and this set will undoubtedly garner the Finnish director a brand new gaggle of fans. Although his influence can be seen in the work of many American independent filmmakers, nobody does it quite like Kaurismäki -- his style's classical, laconic, and, somehow, often deeply moving. (When the po-faced heroine of SHADOWS IN PARADISE finally breaks into a smile at the film's end, the effect is dazzling.) The humor here (and there's plenty of laugh-out-loud moments) is never forced or artifical but rooted in character, wonderfully eccentric, and always compassionate. Kaurismäki knows his terrain, literally and figuratively, extremely well, and he honors these working-class lives by his treatment of them. Mention must be made of the wonderful soundtracks, too -- rock, tango and blues never sounded better than in these Finnish versions. If you've ever cracked a smile at Jim Jarmusch, grab this box. An absolute delight.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
With this box set, the Criterion Collection has brought together for American audiences three 1980s films by Aki Kaurismäki. With a label like "Proletariat Trilogy", one might expect a political message, but the first two films are focused on interpersonal relationships, and only the third is politically overt. This is part of Criterion's Eclipse series, a budget line which lacks commentary or other extras, but the three films are presented in a lovely transfer and have quality English subtitles.

Seeing these three films as a trilogy doesn't really make sense. What they have in common is lower-class characters ignored by the system, 1950s decor and music even though they are ostensibly set in the present day, and some amount of violence and deadpan humour. But in fact, these features are found in nearly all of Kaurismäki's work over the last three decades, and not at all unique to these efforts from 1984, 1986 and 1990 respectively.

VARJOJA PARATIISISSA (Shadows in Paradise) is one of the most idiosyncratic romantic comedies of all time. The painfully shy Nikander (Matti Pellonpää), a garbage man, means the moody Ilona, a supermarket checkout girl. The film tracks their bumbling attempt to establish a lasting relationship: dates that end as soon as they've begun, a romantic getaway where they each retreat to separate hotel rooms, and rare conversations which employ the absolute bare minimum of words. Nikander's best and only friend Melartin (Sakari Kuosmanen), whom the garbage man only recently met through a spell in jail, gives some needed encouragement. VARJOJA PARATIISISSA will touch your heart and make you laugh just as much as it weirds you out.
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Format: DVD
I have two of these films in the Finnish releases which I was surprised to find have much better picture quality. The stories are classic Kaurismäki and show Finland in the bad old days of the seventies with astonishing clarity. Erinomainen! No Finn will use two words if one will do and Kaurismäki is the master of this characteristic. Beautiful and touching insights into a time and culture far removed from most of the rest of us. Only the Russians might identify with some of this but of course they have been linked for many centuries. Great film making but a pity the discs are not a bit better.
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