Blowing in the wind: "Fallen leaves" review

English Daily #2
Fallen Leaves (2023) / Yerevan Premiere
Aki Kaurismäki
10.7 19:00 Cinema House, Grand Hall
12.7 22:00 Moscow Cinema Red Hall

There’s a certain pleasure to be gotten from seeing esteemed film directors honing in on their signature style. To witness an auteur maturing like that has an almost alchemical quality to it, as if, through the process of distillation, they reach the bare essence of what their cinema is about. Aki Kaurismäki has attained this masterful level of reduction with recent Cannes-entry Fallen Leaves, a modest film that nonetheless gets to the heart of the Finnish director’s singular oeuvre. Drawing from the same well as his brilliant Proletariat trilogy (Shadows in Paradise, Ariel and The Match Factory Girl), Fallen Leaves sees Kaurismäki at familiar terrain, but arguably also at his best. It’s not the tragicomic meet-cute story in itself that will surprise you, but the way that Kaurismäki approaches the feeble romance between our two introverted protagonists. As the title suggests, it’s a film about little tragedies in a world dealing with big problems, like seeing the phone number of your date being swept away by the wind. With the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis as the socio-economic backdrop for this gentle story, Kaurismäki is there to put things in perspective for us again. His film is one of love, empathy and dignity — terribly funny, heart wrenchingly sad and incredibly moving. As such, it’s a stirring reminder that every single human life is like a leaf in a tree, vulnerable to being swept away by the wind at any notice.

Hugo Emmerzael