Saturday, March 26, 2011

Aki Kaurismäki

I'll re-watch some Kaurismäki films, starting with I Hired A Contract Killer. Jean-Pierre Léaud, a Frenchman living in London, is fired from his job after 15 years of service. He decides to kill himself, but is not able to go through with it it and hires a contract killer to do the job. Then he meets Margaret, a flower seller.

Aki Kaurismäki is sort of a Finnish Jim Jarmusch. His characters don't talk much, but drink and smoke a lot and listen to tango music or rockabilly. His films are melancoly, but also very funny in a deadpan way. The films have a timeless quality, looking as if they could take place in the fifties or the seventies, since Kaurismäki tries hard not to put anything modern on the screen. People drive around in old cars and listen to vinyl records. There are no cell phones or computers in his universe. And like Bresson, he doesn't allow his actors to show any emotions.

The film is at heart a love story, with Léaud re-valuing his life after he meets Margaret. There's often darkness in his films, but with some hope in the ending. The film also stars Serge Reggiani in a small role. Reggiani in his old French films, with his moustache, is almost a prototype for the Kaurismâkian hero. Joe Strummer also appears in a musical number and Kaurismäki himself has a cameo, selling Léaud a pair of sunglasses. The film has one of the funniest lines in all of film history. Léaud walks into some dump of a bar, and all conversation stops as the customers look him over. Léaud meets their stares and then proclaims, Where I come from we eat places like this for breakfast.


  1. hahaha. I forgot that. I have to watch this one again. I was too young when I saw it and didn't get the deadpan humour.
    Poor Jean Pierre Léaud was orphaned once more after Truffaut died.

  2. Apparently Léaud was rediscovered in France after appearing in this film.

  3. I love posts like this because it about a director I've never heard of but seems right up my alley. Unfortunately, "I Hired A Contract Killer" appears to not be available in the states on DVD. Any other recommendations for someone approaching his films for the 1st time. Criterion has put out a boxed set that includes: SHADOWS IN PARADISE, ARIEL & THE MATCH FACTORY GIRL (sorry about the all caps, I copy/pasted from their site). Ariel is described as a "drolly existential crime drama", so that seems pretty promising.

  4. Ariel is very good. Another good place to start is Man Without A Past.

  5. I loved Ariel and Mand Without A Past. I need to see more of his films.

    Checking imdb I see Léaud hasn't been twiddling his thumbs precisely. Hmm.

    It was funny to see him in Dreamers demonstrating for Langlois... It didn't matter that he looked thirty years older than he was at the time. Then I thought "Maybe he's playing Truffaut..."