Saturday, September 04, 2010


Vesku / Vesku / Vesku from Finland. FI 2010. PC: Marianna Films. P+D: Mika Kaurismäki. SC: Pete Eklund, Mika Kaurismäki. DP: Tahvo Hirvonen, Jari Mutikainen - HD Post. M: songs interpreted by Vesa-Matti Loiri. Lyrics: poems of Eino Leino, composed by Perttu Hietanen. S: Joonas Jyrälä. ED: Jukka Nykänen. LOC: Inari (Lapland). Featuring: Vesa-Matti Loiri and Lily Loiri (mother), Jenni Loiri and Joonas Loiri (children), Ukko Toljander and Sampo Toljander (children), Kalle Holmberg (theatre director), Perttu Hietanen (composer), Hannele Lauri, Lenita Airisto, Marita Hakala, and Stina Toljander (loved ones), Esko Salminen (actor), Risto Meronen (boxer), Aulikki Oksanen (poet). 109 min. Released by FS Film on 3 Sep 2010, screened without subtitles in 35 mm at Kino-Palatsi 7, Helsinki, 4 Sep 2010

A documentary portrait on Vesa-Matti Loiri (*1945), Finnish theatre actor, tv actor, film actor, sportsman, singer, flautist, comedian, star, and celebrity.

Loiri has had a strong and unique presence in Finnish public life since 1962. He has declined to write his memoirs. Instead he has confided to Mika Kaurismäki in this candid documentary portrait. Mika has also gained the confidence of Vesku's children and four loves of his life.

Loiri is a great performer in completely different media. Currently he is most admired as a live singer. His theatre performances are legendary. He is a tv actor and comedian also remembered because of his commercials. And he is a first-rate film actor. Loiri has a special insight in projection: he knows how to magnify in live performances, he knows how to create gross caricatures for television, and he knows how to understate in a cinema film. It is a challenge to capture Loiri's scope of projection in a documentary portrait, and the viewer has to keep adjusting to the range of excerpts from different media.

Also as a comedian Loiri's scope is wide: from subtle humour to gross-out. The versatility of the excerpts is impressive. I would have appreciated more samples of Loiri's subtle cinema acting. He's better than can be seen in the evidence of this documentary portrait.

The film gets more personal and gripping towards the end, after the live performance at Province Rock (Seinäjoki) in 2009. One of Vesku's children died in a car accident; the distress is always insurmountable. By the fireside Vesku tells about a profound dream he had shared with his late son. He reflects on the encounter with a wolf on his yard in his Lapland home. He reminisces about his own encounter with death as a goalkeeper with two broken shinbones. He had a dream where he balanced on the wall between life and death and felt the pull to the other side, but then he heard the question "have you measured up yet?". He woke up, "and my active consciousness started then and there".

An intimate look into a charismatic artist, one of the Finnish artists we can call shamans (there are even connections with Leif Segerstam), also dealing with the curse of fame, not forgetting troubles with health, and facing the question of the sell-out (because of well-paid commercial projects Vesku did not always pursue his theatrical career as ambitiously as he could have). Most importantly, the film conveys the one hundred percent cordial and dedicated personality of Vesku. In Finnish, he is called a "heittäytyjä", one who throws himself to the task completely and fearlessly.

Variable visual quality: digital video and compilation quality.

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