Saturday, June 1, 2024


It’s almost as if Fallen Leaves was tailor-made for the type of Kaurismaki fan that’s been patiently waiting for him to leave behind the overtly political messages in his films and return to more personal, smaller-scale storytelling. I'm talking about anything after Lights In The Dusk. There’s nothing wrong with being a political filmmaker but I find it interesting that once Kaurismaki’s work became overtly political, they became less interesting. I say overtly because just about any Kaurismaki film is going to have some layer of social and/or political commentary (most of his characters are lower income or homeless with low-paying thankless jobs in some type of oppressed position). I just personally feel he works best when the social issues and politics serve as the backdrop instead of being the main story. In the case of Fallen Leaves, class, poverty and & abuse of power certainly play a role in the film. But at the end of the day this is a love story first
I like for artists to stay in the lane they’ve mastered rather than try something new and fail. That’s just me. Now…I don’t want anyone to make the same exact thing over and over but I do like when filmmakers do slightly different versions of the same and/or similar things they're great at. Again - that’s just me. And to be clear - Aki Kaurismaki will always be a voice for the voiceless. 

Fallen Leaves is a love story about a lonely working class woman and a homeless alcoholic. It feels like an updated version of both Shadows In Paradise and Match Factory Girl but with newer actors. His standard formula is there: a deadpan dramedy where boy meets girl, boy and girl hit it off, a conflict/tragic event happens and things eventually get sort of resolved. Aki Kaurismaki’s films aren’t for everyone but I could see this is a good entry-point for folks unfamiliar with his work (definitely check out Shadows In Paradise and Match Factory Girl if you enjoy Fallen Leaves).

It should be noted that this is one of Kaurismaki’s best looking films. The colors reminded me of a late period Ozu film which makes perfect sense considering how much of an Ozu fan he is…

If I go to lonely island with only one film it would still be Tokyo Story - Aki Kaurismaki, Film Quarterly
Tokyo Story / Fallen Leaves

There’s a lot of banal Ozu-esque imagery all throughout the film (factories, kitchens, teapots in the background, etc). This is quietly one of Kaurismaki's greatest homages to his Japanese idol...

I refuse to go to my grave until I have proved to myself that I’ll never reach your level, Mr. Ozu - Aki Kaurismaki, Talking With Ozu
Late Autumn / Fallen Leaves

The Only Son / Fallen Leaves

Fallen Leaves also has a lot of easter egg references to everyone from Bresson & Visconti to his good friend Jim Jarmusch (besides a scene where the two lead characters go and watch The Dead Don't Die, the minimal dialogue between the two love interests is reminiscent of the sparse dialogue in Jarmusch's Ghost Dog)...



Film Quarterly: Which directors reign supreme in your pantheon of influences? 

Aki Kaurismaki: Robert Bresson

some Bresson-ian moments in Fallen Leaves...
Four Nights Of A Dreamer / Fallen Leaves

L'Argent / Fallen Leaves

L'Argent / Fallen Leaves

Une Femme Douce / Fallen Leaves

Now that we’ve got the old Kaurismaki back, I’d like for him to stay put and stay in his lane for as long as possible. I know that sounds incredibly stifling and selfish, but I’m an only child and sometimes we can get a little self-serving.


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