Thursday, March 31, 2011


Turo Pajala is a mineworker losing his job. He goes to Helsinki trying to get a new one, but life is tough in the big city. He meets a woman and her son, but ends up in jail. Together with another prisoner, Matti Pellonpää, he escapes and hopes to start a new life in Mexico.

The film continues Kaurismäki's interest in the working class or the factory workers and their concern about holding onto their jobs and creating a life worth living. In some way the film is a variation on Shadows in Paradise, ending with the same image, a ship, their opportunity for escape or a better life. The film also shows Kaurismäki as the master of the laconic conversation, and at the end has one of the best visual jokes I can remember seeing, that involves the roof of a convertible. Finally, as with all his films, it really makes you want to start smoking.

The cover...

... for Mjau Mjau #9.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Match Factory Girl

Kati Outinen is a wallflower leading a miserable life working at a match factory. Her paycheck goes directly to her parents where she still lives. She meets a man in a bar and thinks that some happiness is finally coming her way. It's not.

The title reminds you of H. C. Andersen, and the film is part fairytale, part dark comedy and one of the best revenge films ever. It's also Kaurismäki at his most minimalistic. The first piece of dialogue, "A small beer.", comes 13 minutes into the film, the next, "Whore!", at 18 minutes. All the dialogue in the film would fit on a single piece of paper. The film is also a study in economical storytelling, like the scene where she's run over by a car: She walks along the pavement, then out of the frame and then there's the sound of a breaking car. We never see the actual acccident. Outinen gives a very touching performance, and as a viewer you can't help but cheer for her when she finally seeks her revenge.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A strip...

... done for a French magazine.

Shadows in Paradise

Matti Pellonpää, a garbage collector, meets Kati Outinen, a supermarket checkout girl.

It's a good film, a sympathetic look at the lives of two lonely souls in an uncaring world and the dreams of the working class, but it's not one of Kaurismäki's best films. For one thing I missed the humour from films like Contract Killer and Ariel. And he doesn't flirt with melodrama or genre as he does in those two films. As always, nothing is dragged out, the film clocks in at 71 minutes. There could be a drinking game for this film if you watch it at home. Have a drink every time someone in the film takes a drag from a cigarette, and then see if you can stand on your feet when it's over.

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.

... and back cover.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jeremy

This is a strip I made for James Kochalka, based on his characters, Peanut Butter and Jeremy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A page not used...

... in Werewolves of Montpellier. It was supposed to come right after the page where Audrey and Sven get drunk, showing their hangover, but it didn't really achieve the effect I was hoping for. So I took it out and rather put back in the umbrella page that I originally had taken out, finding it a bit too cute, but then liking that and thinking it sort of could have been an outtake from Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bubblegum cards packet

I've earlier shown the bubblegum cards I did as promotion for my comic book, Mjau Mjau, in the late 90s. I found this unopened packet. So this is what the cover looked like. Each packet consisted of five cards + a slice of gum, costing 10 Norwegian kroner. A bargain, if you ask me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another page...

... from the next book, Athos in America. This is a page from the sixth story, drawn with a lettering nib and colour pencil. I'm not sure how the redbrown colour pencil will affect the colouring by Hubert, if the colour will be included or if it will be scanned in black and white.
-Jack has escaped from prison, boss. He will be on his way here to get his cut of the money.
-Maybe, maybe not.
-Whose house are we burning down, boss?
-My mother's.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Character sketches

Things to do in Paris

1. Step in some dog shit
2. Fall in the Seine
3. Read A la recherche du Temps Perdu
on the subway
4. Straighten all the croissants
5. Kiss a French woman
6. Punch out a French policeman
7. Run naked through the Luxembourg Gardens
8. Tear down the Eiffel Tower
9. Smoke a cigarette
10. Say "C'est la guerre..."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tin Machine

An illustration of David Bowie's back to basics rock band for a Norwegian music magazine, late 80s.

Sleepless in Seattle

Tom Hanks is a widower, an architect living in Seattle. Meg Ryan is a reporter living in Baltimore. Will they meet at the top of the Empire State Building? Also starring Bill Pullman and Rob Reiner, cinematography by Sven Nykvist, directed by Nora Ephron.

I can't help it, I like this film. Hanks is not the hippest actor in the world, he does safe Hollywood movies, he doesn't play heroin addicted serial killers. But neither did James Stewart. I think this is maybe Hanks' best performance, not that I've seen all his films, and Meg Ryan is... well, Meg Ryan, I guess. Bill Pullman is funny in the Ralph Bellamy part. Actually, the film has the class of an old 40s film. Since Hanks and Ryan only meet at the end of the film, Hanks' partner in this film is rather the son, and they found a good, natural acting kid for the role, not one of those child actor horrors. The scene of Hanks talking about his dead wife is quite touching. The scene of Hanks and Reiner talking about Cary Grant is very funny. If you think about the story of the film too much it kind of falls apart, but I always enjoy watching it. It's not easy to make this kind of film. They tried again later with You Got Mail, and it didn't work.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An ex libris...

... done for a French comic book store.


I'm about halfway into the Selected letters of Jack Kerouac, 1940-1956. I'm currently reading his long, confessional letters to Neal Cassady. A couple of things: Kerouac was a bright guy; even the letters he wrote at age 20 are impressive. I try to think of what I possibly could have written in a letter at that age. Not much. He was also a dreamer. He's constantly telling Cassady of his plans for the future, that they should work together on a ship going around the world, they should move to Mexico or they should live on a farm.

Reading these letters or the letters of Hemingway and Bukowski, Facebook suddenly seems like the silliest thing in the world. Will there one day be Collected e-mails, or Collected Facebook postings? If Facebook had existed then, back in the fifties, would the letters of Kerouac and Cassady be lost, never written? If Facebook broke down one day, I don't think people would automatically start writing each other long letters, but I can't help but think that something is lost when not written down on paper.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dead Man

It's Jim Jarmusch's western, starring Johnny Depp as an easterner who is shot, chased by a posse and travels with an indian named Nobody. Cinematography by Bobby Müller, music by Neil Young, also starring Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop, Gabriel Byrne and hey, whaddayaknow, Billy Bob Thornton!

The first twelve minutes of this film are brilliant, pure visual storytelling. The first five minutes don't have any dialogue, it's just Depp on the train, and the others passengers slowly changing from cityfolks to cowboys and trappers. He then arrives in the city of Machine, walking down the main street, an image of hell on earth. When he has to run away from the city the film gets more episodic and uneven, it loses some of its focus. It becomes sort of a spiritual journey for Depp, but I'm not sure if the film is as deep or meaningful as it wants to be.

Monday, March 14, 2011

... and back cover.

The illustrations were a bit too big to fit on the scanner, so they are a slightly fuzzy.

Sling Blade

Billy Bob Thornton is released from an institution after having killed his mother as a kid. He has to try to make sense of a new world. Also starring Dwight Yoakam and Robert Duvall, directed by Billy Bob Thornton.

This is turning into a Billy Bob Thornton festival! The story is the kind of Southern Gothic that someone like Nick Cave could have come up with. Jim Jarmusch has a small role and might have been an influence in the long, static takes. Country and western singer Yoakam is a revelation in his role, and so is the kid actor, Lucas Black, playing a boy Thornton meets and befriends. Thornton himself is almost unrecognizable in his part. It's too bad he ended up in director's jail after the expensive flop All The Pretty Horses. Sling Blade is a great film, one of those magical times in the darkness of the cinema. Should have been 3D, though.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


... for the Norwegian edition of You Can't Get There From Here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Simple Plan

Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Whatshisname find a plane with 4,4 million dollars. They decide to keep it. They shouldn't have. Also starring Bridget Fonda, directed by Sam Raimi.

Since everybody has been talking about this film I guess I should re-watch the damn thing. It's Sam Raimi walking into Coen country. There's the snowy midwest, but also everything going wrong for the main characters. Raimi steps away from his previous style. There are no frenetic camera moves, like in his horror movies or his western, The Quick and The Dead, rather a classic, understated direction. The opening of the film, with Paxton going through the small town and saying hello to everybody also brings back memories of It's A Wonderful Life.

I had read the book the film is based on before seeing it the first time, so that sort of ruined it a bit for me, knowing already what would happen. And there are scenes in the book that I thought were believable, but that I had some trouble with in the film. Like the first death. It was just a bit hard to believe when put into images. There's another killing at the end of the book, maybe the most horrific, that they maybe wisely left out of the film. It's possible that Thornton overdoes it a bit as the idiot brother. It's not a bad film, though. It has an effective dread right from the beginning, and for the sequence with the FBI agent I think even Hitchcock would have nodded with approval.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The king of comics

This was a strip done for a Norwegian newspaper to illustrate an interview they did with me. A little explanation might be required: The Phantom, Donald Duck and Beetle Bailey are very popular comic book characters in Scandinavia and have their own magaines.


Jason Schwartzman is a student at Rushmore Academy. He falls in love with one of the teachers there, Olivia Williams. So does tycoon Bill Murray. Directed by Wes Anderson.

Ah, pure magic! I watch it about once every year. Of the Depressed Bill Murray films, I think this is the best one. I was never that crazy about Lost in Translation, really. Good actors and direction, but a weak script. And what was that Lip my stockings about? Anyway... What a great cast this film has! Schwartzman and Murray are brilliant. There's Brian Cox and Seymour Cassel, and Olivia Williams... yes, I can understand why everybody was so besotted by her.

It's still my favourite Anderson film. The later films were more and more visually stunning, but also less interesting, the characters less believable. Rushmore is a quirky film, but you believe in the characters and care about what happens to them. Quirky is a tricky thing. Overdo it and it rings false, like in Garden State. I've wondered about directors who early have a strong voice. Do Wes Anderson or Tarantino ever write a script, stop and say, I can't write that, that's too Wes Anderson, that's too Tarantino? Because with that recognizable voice I would imagine there's always the risk of tipping over into parody. Not that that has happened. And I thought Fantastic Mr Fox was a return to form from Anderson.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The nineties

Well, I guess they made a couple of good films in the nineties as well. This is one of them: One False Move. Billy Bob Thornton is a ruthless killer. Him and his girlfriend and his partner are headed back to his hometown in Arkansas. What they don't know is that the town sheriff, Bill Paxton, and two cops from LA are waiting for them. Co-written by Thornton, directed by Carl Franklin.

It's a small masterpiece, a mix of modern film noir and a variation of High Noon. The story follows the two cops and Paxton, but also the killers and the woman as they are travelling south, slowly building tension. All of the characters seem real, none of them simply clichés. In the beginning Paxton plays the kind of happy go lucky-guy he is very good at, but with a dark secret, and gradually becoming more somber. It's a great, layered performance. There is some violence in the film, and it's not pretty, but violence shouldn't be. The film ends in a calm, strangely poetic scene, that could easily have been too sentimental, but that like the rest of the film finds the right tone.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Another page...

... from the next book, Athos in America. The page is drawn with a lettering nib that gives a bigger variation in the line, the horizontal lines being wider than the vertical ones. Of the six stories in the collection, I've finished... oh, four and a half. There's still some work left on the fifth, and I will then start the sixth, which is sort of a film noir story.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Audrey Hepburn's husband is killed. He had stolen some money that now are missing. George Kennedy and James Coburn want the money, so does Walter Matthau and Cary Grant. Who can she trust? Directed by Stanley Donen

It's another film I remember seeing on tv as a kid! But I think it's more than just nostalgia that makes this a great film. I'd say it's the best Hitchcock film not directed by Hitchcock. Hell, even including his films it would be close to the top of the list in my mind. For one thing, Hepburn is more appealing than the cool blondes Hitchcock liked. Donen lets the actors have fun and not simply replicate the storyboards. The Grant taking a shower - with his clothes on! - scene would probabably not have been allowed in a Hitchcock film. I wonder if it was scripted or something Grant came up with. Walter Matthau is very funny in his part. And the climax in the theater is genuinly thrilling. Even after you know the sollution of the mystery it's an entertaining film.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011