Friday, September 13, 2019

Olen suomalainen

Olen suomalainen. Tatu Sinisalo as the young Kari Tapio at a dance pavilion in the countryside in the 1960s. Please click on the images to enlarge them.

Olen suomalainen. Matti Ristinen (Kari Tapio), Tiina Lymi (Pia Viheriävaara).

Mitt hjärta är finskt.
    FI © 2018 Solar Films. Selin / Mäkelä elokuva. PC: Solar Films / Nummela Films. EX: Joona Jalkanen. P: Markus Selin, Jukka Helle. D: Aleksi Mäkelä. SC: Marko Leino, Tomi Tuikkala. Dramaturge: Tiina Lymi. DP: Pini Hellstedt F.S.C. AD: Pirjo Rossi. Cost: Anu Pirilä. Makeup: Laura Rantaniemi. Special makeup: Lars Carlsson. M: Lasse Sakara, Kalle Chydenius. S: Jyrki Rahkonen. ED: Kimmo Taavila.
    Line P: Hanna Virolainen. Snakes: Michael Ayling / Minibeasts. Casting: Tutsa Huuhka & Pia Pesonen. Post production: Post Control Helsinki / Jukka Kujala. VFX: Tuomo Hintikka. DCP mastering: Ari Rusanen.
    C: Matti Ristinen (Kari Tapio), Tiina Lymi (Pia Viheriävaara), Tatu Sinisalo (young Kari), Talvikki Eerola (young Pia).
    Iikka Forss (Danny), Pekka Huotari (Mosse Vikstedt), Heikki Silvennoinen (Orvonmaa [Harry Orvomaa?]), Joanna Haartti (Chrisse Johansson), Ilkka Heiskanen (Ilkka Vainio), Mikko Kouki (Veikko Samuli), Mikko Töyssy (Fredi), Janne Raudaskoski (Tapio Rautavaara), Aake Kalliala (Toivo Kärki), Santeri Kinnunen (Eino Viheriävaara), Marjo Kivi (Tyyne), Jussi Lampi (Järveläinen), Joni Leponiemi (Reijo Taipale), Kerli Kyllönen (a friend of young Pia), Sakari Kuosmanen (roadie Pussinen), Eeva Litmanen (taxi driver), Elsa Saisio (journalist), Antti Jaakola (supervisor at the printing house), Hämis Hämäläinen (mixer), Jaana Saarinen (Elli Jalkanen), Raimo Grönberg (Jaakko Jalkanen), Teo Lihtonen (Joona Jalkanen at 7), Kerkko Rämö (Jani Jalkanen at 13), Aarni Rämö (Jiri Jalkanen at 15), Lenni Sundholm (Jiri Jalkanen at 2), Väinö Aalto (Jani Jalkanen at 9 months), Ukko Tarkiainen (Jani Jalkanen at 4), Eevert Hytti (Jiri Jalkanen at 6), Antto Hinkkanen (Jiri Jalkanen grown up), Antti Lauri (Jani Jalkanen grown up), Anssi Lindström (Joona Jalkanen grown up), Pekka Kauhanen (lobby clerk), Mikko Mäkinen (accordionist), Hani Polyakov (Pia's friend at the dance pavilion), Simo Reilimo (usher), Juho Keskitalo (presenter), Jarno Huuhtanen (man in the audience), Kimmo Saarelainen (taxi driver), Jari Korhonen (log boss), Väinö Makkonen (man next door), Tom Nyberg (press photographer), Aino-Leena Juutinen (woman in the window), Jannina Pumalainen (cleaning lady), Katri Aksola (secretary), Johanna Ruonala (air hostess), Marko Seuranen (studio photographer).
     Songs include:
"Olen suomalainen" ("L'italiano", 1983, comp. Toto Cutugno, lyr. Cristiano Minellono, arr. Pinuccio Pirazzoli, perf. Toto Cutugno), 1983 Finnish lyr. Raul Reiman & Kari Tapio, arr. Kaj Westerlund, perf. Kari Tapio.
"Myrskyn jälkeen" (1995, comp. Veikko Samuli, lyr. + perf. Kari Tapio).
    "Pitkät päivät täällä", "Satumaa", "Juokse sinä humma", "Kylähäät", "Et mennä saa", "Sata kelloa", "Rekkakuski", "Lupasin liikaa", "Kapeeta vakoo, leveätä tietä", "Ainut maailmassa", "Tonttujen jouluyö", "Talven yli", "Mun sydämeni tänne jää", "Ringo", "Ei koskaan rakastaa voi liikaa", "Paalupaikka", "Valoon päin", "Laula kanssain" ("Sing Me a Love Song").
    Bass: Jani Jalkanen. Drums: Joni Leino. Keyboards: Petri Nikkinen. French horn: Tatu-Pekka Paukkunen. Cello: Sampo Sundström. Bass and programming: Kalle Chydenius. Guitar and programming: Lasse Sakara.
    Music post-production: Miikka Huttunen / NEO-music – Kalle Chydenius – Lasse Sakara.
    Archival material: Jalkanen family archive, Finna, Iltalehti (Ilpo Lukus), the city of Suonenjoki.
    Premiere: 13 Sep 2019, distributor: Nordisk Film, Swedish subtitles, rated K12, 113 min
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 13 Sep 2019

Kari Tapio (1945–2010) was one of the most popular Finnish singers, a hard-touring performer and recording artist during six decades. He sang pop hits and iskelmä (schlager) songs. He can be compared with the grittier of the chanson singers, or country and western singers such as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristoffersson. In the 1950s and the 1960s his models included Tapio Rautavaara and Elvis Presley. A major fan of Kari Tapio was Peter von Bagh who wrote his four-page eulogy for the Iltalehti newspaper.

Quentin Tarantino lamented in the 1990s the predictable rise and fall formula of pop biopics. After the rise to stardom through overwhelming hardships follows an inevitable descent into drug abuse or similar. Finnish pop biopics (there are many, they are popular) are no different, and neither is Olen suomalainen [I'm a Finn]. A hallmark of Finnish biopics is that the fall is usually due to alcoholism, as it is here.

In Timo Koivusalo's Rentun ruusu (2001) about Irwin Goodman (Antti Hammarberg) the fall was so spectacular that the film was quasi an epic about alcoholism, and there was an unforgettable performance by Martti Suosalo in the leading role.

There is a similar aspect in Olen suomalainen, directed with an assured touch by Aleksi Mäkelä. In Rentun ruusu and Olen suomalainen the psychotic and self-destructive dimension of alcoholism is met with startling directness. There is in the despair and the death drive something more than private agony.

There can be no simple explanation to the dark enigma. I offer only one clue: both Irwin Goodman and Kari Tapio grew up during the "big move" of Finland, the belated industrialization and urbanization of Finland in the 1960s. People of this generation were children of soldiers. Their parents were traumatized by wars.

It is extremely difficult and usually impossible for an actor to convey the charisma of a legendary performer, but Matti Ristinen rises to the occasion as Kari Tapio. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about impersonators of Tapio Rautavaara and Danny in this film. Almost all characters are real, but the aspect of caricature is too heavy in some performances.

A special distinction is the attention given to gatekeepers of the music industry: producers and impresarios such as Toivo Kärki, Mosse Vikstedt, Chrisse Johansson and Harry Orvomaa [as Orvonmaa?]. A particularly memorable scene is the devastating diagnosis given by Toivo Kärki to the young Kari Tapio about the inadequacy of his voice. Kari took it seriously and received voice lessons with the best teachers such as Ture Ara.

It's a true story, it's a love story, it's a survival story. Although Kari Tapio never doubts his talent, he loses hope after too many crushing rejections by the music industry. But his wife Pia never loses hope, although Kari repeatedly succumbs to alcoholism. The solution: the Kari Tapio act becomes a family affair. Tiina Lymi is convincing in the essential role of the undaunted Pia.

Kari Tapio's signature song "Olen suomalainen" ("I'm a Finn") that gave the name to this movie is based on Toto Cucugno's hit "L'italiano". Both are parodies about national stereotypes, yet sincere about core values. Mika Kaurismäki in his film Rosso (1985) staged a bilingual a cappella scene where both versions are sung by Kari Väänänen as the Italian mafioso Rosso and Martti Syrjä as his Finnish buddy.

The Finnish lyrics are about a people whose tears could create many oceans (building on a popular tango phrase), where many are lonely but forbidden love abounds, where life is full of hard work but seldom rewarded with success. Nevertheless the singer sings about love, perseverance and friendship that defies death and authority. We fight an uphill battle, although around the bend we observe that it was not worth the effort. It's a gritty and stoic song in its Finnish version, with affinities with c&w classics.

Another Kari Tapio signature song is "Myrskyn jälkeen" ("After the Storm"), written by himself. The captain-singer has wandered on the high seas alone far too long, but having lost his direction too many times and survived a storm he realizes that nobody can last alone.

The film can be seen as an illustration of both songs. The private drama is about a terrible father rescued by his loving wife and three sons. But it seems Kari Tapio was rescued also as a singer and performer by his supportive family.

Astoundingly, after the grind of many decades of exhausting tour life, Kari Tapio's voice kept getting better. It was a weathered voice full of grit, experience and tenderness. He sang from the heart, with his full being, and audiences knew that they were getting the real thing.

American and international aficionados of country & western music, also fans of the original "L'italiano" song, might find this Finnish biopic rewarding.

No comments: