Friday, August 24, 2012

Tie pohjoiseen / The Road North

Tie pohjoiseen [Swedish title in Hufvudstadsbladet]. FI © 2012 Marianna Films. P+D: Mika Kaurismäki. SC: Sami Keski-Vähälä, Mika Kaurismäki. DP: Jari Mutikainen - digital post-production: Post Control Helsinki Oy. AD: Sasu Joutsi. Cost: Riitta-Maria Vehman. Makeup: Marjut Samulin. M: Mauri Sumén. "Kuolleet lehdet" ("Les Feuilles mortes", Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert, Finnish lyrics by Kullervo) perf. Vesa-Matti Loiri, Samuli Edelmann. Jean Sibelius: Piano quintet in G minor: grave - allegro & moderato vivace (1890). Franz Schubert: Klaviersonate G-Dur D 894: molto moderato e cantabile. S: Joonas Jyrälä. ED: Jukka Nykänen. C: Vesa-Matti Loiri (Leo Porala), Samuli Edelmann (Timo Porala), Peter Franzén (Pertti Paakku), Mari Perankoski (Minna Paakku), Eila Roine (Irja), Irina Björklund (Tiia), Elina Knihtilä (Maarit), Ada Kukkonen (Janette), Rea Mauranen (Pirkko), Aake Kalliala (Kalle). With: Amira Khalifa (nurse), Krista Kosonen (Elina), Marja-Leena Kouki (hotel manager), Eeva Litmanen (Anja), Pertti Sveholm (Keke), Leena Uotila (Margit), Eija Vilpas (Birgit), Jukka Virtanen (uncle Rintapanttila). The restaurant orchestra: Kaihon Karavaani. 113 min. Distributed by FS Film. 2K DCP with Swedish subtitles by Markus Karjalainen viewed at Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 24 August 2012 (day of premiere).

Having seen a few weeks ago a film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road directed by Walter Salles I was reminded of the centrality of the road movie concept in the cinema (including in movies by Dreyer, Bergman, and Fellini) and its long roots in the picaresque novel and in the tradition of the Odyssey. According to one theory, the Iliad and the Odyssey are still the two basic concepts in epic and long form fiction.

In Finland Mika Kaurismäki turned out from the start to be our main director of road movies. His feat in Tie pohjoiseen is to have convinced Vesa-Matti Loiri, a big national star (highly respected for his live performances as singer and flautist), to return to a leading role in a fiction film after a pause of seven years. He plays Leo the granddaddy who has been on the road all his life, and apparently on the other side of the law, as well. He surprises everybody by returning to his native Finland after an absence of 35 years. Samuli Edelmann, another big national star, like Loiri with a high profile both as an actor and a singer, appears in the other leading role as Timo, the son of the rogue father; Timo has become an acclaimed concert pianist. Reluctantly Timo follows Leo to a road trip from the south (Helsinki) to way up north in a stolen Pontiac convertible and learns about the whole mess of their family history for the first time during the quest. To the end Leo remains a compulsive liar who gets lost in his own fabrications, yet he manages to bring estranged family members together during what turns out to be his final voyage.

Expectedly there is a big duet sequence with Loiri and Edelmann.

The movie is underwritten, interesting situations in the story remain underdeveloped, and there are missed opportunities in many vignettes with top actors. The slimeball played by Peter Franzén feels false. Eila Roine gives a fine performance as Leo's demented but very funny mother. It is a masterful humoristic vignette of a potentially depressing situation.

The visual quality of the close-ups and medium shots is excellent, but limitations of the digital intermediate become apparent in long shots.

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