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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