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Man Without a Past

Reviewed By Greg Muskewitz
Posted 04/21/04 08:04:40

"Absurdist Finnish comedy? Who knew."
5 stars (Awesome)

After a brutal beating and mugging resulting in Amnesia, our mystery man (Markku Peltola) remains in the doldrums of Helsinki without rushing to get his bearings back.

But he is certainly one to move forward in terms of getting on to doing something, even if he can’t remember what is should be. (It sounds grimmer than it is, once you get past his suggested death and reawakening.) The viewer, as well, has little more information to go on besides the victim, outside of a welder’s mask and some of his possessions, but similarly, the attitude that Aki Kaurismäki is painstaking to achieve, if not demand, is the cavalier manner in regaining the lost identity, and just moving along with the way life presents itself. It doesn’t take long to catch on to the black comedy with its sparsely absurd dialogue (“What do I owe you?”/ “If you see my face in the gutter, turn me on my back”), the perversity of chain-of-events (like karma?) working out, and an unexpected but palatable romance that blossoms out of the blue. But all of these elements put together form one quiet, unassuming comedy that garners more laughs for its austerity than a collection of sketches from something like SNL. It, or Kaurismäki, manages to raise questions as well as to the underexposed representation of Finland’s cinema, and what appears to be a level of smirkish comedy with an unstrained amount of sophistication. For all of its hesitance in getting where it’s going, there is very little wear once the effort to get there is all over and done with. With Kati Outinen, Juhani Niemelä, and Kaija Pakarinen.

[Absolutely to be seen.]

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