Aki Kaurismäki

Posted on June 6, 2011

Aki Olavi Kaurismäki; born 4 April 1957, Orimattila, Finland) is a Finnish script writer and film director.

After studying Media Studies at the University of Tampere, Aki Kaurismäki started his career as a co-director in the films of his elder brother Mika Kaurismäki. His debut as an independent director was Crime and Punishment (1983),Dostoyevsky’s famous crime story set in modern-day Helsinki. He gained worldwide notice with his movie Leningrad Cowboys Go America.

His style has been influenced by the French directors Jean-Pierre Melville and Robert Bresson, as he relies on low-key acting and simple cinematic storytelling to get his message(s) across. Critics have also seen an influence fromRainer Werner Fassbinder but Kaurismäki – a keen film buff himself – has said that he somehow never got around to seeing any Fassbinder movies until quite recently. His movies have a unique downplayed humorous side that can also be seen in the films of Jim Jarmusch, who has a cameo in Kaurismäki’s film Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Jarmusch also used frequent Kaurismäki actors in his film Night on Earth, a part of which takes place in Helsinki, Finland.

Much of his work is centred on Helsinki, his native city, particularly Calamari Union which is largely set in the working class neighbourhood of Kallio, and the trilogy that comprises Shadows in ParadiseAriel, and The Match Factory Girl. His vision of Helsinki is, it should be noted, both critical and singularly unromantic. Indeed, the characters often speak about how they wish to get away from Helsinki: some end up in Mexico (Ariel), others in Estonia (Calamari Union and Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana). The setting is the 1980s, even in the more recent movies, or there are references to the 70’s and 80’s eras.

Feature films

  • Crime and Punishment, 1983
  • Calamari Union, 1985
  • Shadows in Paradise, 1986
  • Hamlet Goes Business, 1987
  • Ariel, 1988
  • Likaiset kädet (Les mains sales), 1989 (production for Finnish TV)
  • Leningrad Cowboys Go America, 1989
  • The Match Factory Girl, 1990
  • I Hired a Contract Killer, 1990
  • La Vie de Bohème, 1992
  • Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana, 1994
  • Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses, 1994
  • Drifting Clouds, 1996
  • Juha, 1999
  • The Man Without a Past, 2002
  • Lights in the Dusk, 2006
  • Le Havre, 2011
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