Monday, April 14, 2014

Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana (Pidä huivista kiinni, Tatjana)

TAKE CARE OF YOUR SCARF, TATJANA (Pidä huivista kiinni, Tatjana)   A             
Finland  (65 mi)  1994  d:  Aki Kaurismäki

It’s impossible not to like this film, one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, maybe even the funniest, a completely original, wacky comedy in extreme deadpan that even has the actors laughing at themselves by the end of the film.  Simply a delight to watch, written, directed, and produced by Aki, with fabulous black and white photography by cinematographer Timo Salminen.  The film opens with Valto (Malto Vatonen) locking his mother in the closet because they’re out of coffee.  For him, there’s no greater crime.  He places his newly acquired 12 Volt Electric Coffeemaker into his black Volga stationwagon, which has just been rebuilt with a new engine.  Then he and the mechanic Reino, (Matti Pellonpää, an actor who literally drank himself to death, or Aki’s version of the Grateful Dead’s Pigpen), are off on a little test drive through Southern Finland sometime in the mid 60’s.  He guzzles coffee while his friend the mechanic drinks vodka.  These boys barely speak, but consider themselves rockers due to their love for early and very primitive sounding Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rockabilly music, which plays throughout the film, sounding like the innocence of the early Beatles.  We hear groups named The Regals or The Renegades sing classics like “Bad Bad Baby, I guess you’ll mend your low down ways,” or “I’m just a red-blooded boy, and I can’t stop thinkin’ about Girls, Girls, Girls.”

More of a plotless character study of sly observations, showing plenty of Finnish character, one day, we see them lost in thought, studying smoke rings in a roadside cafe when two women walk in, one Russian, Klaudia (Kirsi Tykkyläinen, actually an executive from the Finnish Film Foundation), and one Estonian, Tatjana (Kati Outinen).  We hear the girls decide to try to pick up these “dumb Finns” in order to get a ride to the sea, despite the fact they don’t speak the same language.  When they introduce themselves, these macho guys haven’t a clue how to approach the opposite sex, totally ignoring eye contact, staring out the window in awkward and ponderous silence, incessantly smoking cigarettes or drinking, conveying a wealth of emotions simmering just under the surface.  What ensues is a bleak, yet hilarious adventure on how to ignore one another, yet be totally dependent on one another’s company.  Therein lies the premise to the film, which is, according to Aki, a tribute to “a Finland that no longer exists, a film about the amazing frame of mind of the Finnish man, and an almost surgical cutting investigation into Finnish-Estonian-Russian relationships.”

Though barely over an hour, this quietly melancholic film is wonderfully unconventional, a masterclass of comic understatement, something of a freewheeling exploration of insurmountable love, where there is a perfect shot near the end of the film of Reino and Tatjana, having said nothing to one another throughout the entire film.  They sit together on a bench, as she puts her head on his shoulder, and instantly the music shifts from this continuous Rock ‘n’ Roll soundtrack to Tchaikovsky’s soaring, romantic strings from his 5th Symphony.  We immediately recall Reino’s earlier romantic notions, when offering his views on travel:  “I don’t get it.  We have a bus full of vodka and they go looking at ruins.  We have ruins back home.”  It’s almost like driving through the Finnish countrysides with a coffee and vodka-guzzling Penn and Teller and two strange girls, each one incapable of understanding the other, all alienated by language and differing cultures, add to this strange brew the common factors of poverty and the monotonous, industrialized urban areas, which are contrasted against vast stretches of empty, gray landscapes where “there’s nothing out there but reindeer.” 

Musical soundtrack:

"If I Had Someone to Dream of'' (Lindskog, Feichtinger) performed by The Renegades

"Sabina" (Karu, Jauhiainen, Lasanen), performed by Veikko Tuomi

"Old Scars" (H.Konno) performed by The Blazers

"Kun kylmä on" (trad. Russian) performed by Viktor Vassel

"Hold Me Close" (Brown, Gibson, Johnson, Mallett) performed by The Renegades

"Think It Over"(B.B. King) performed by The Regals

"Bad Bad Baby" (Brown, Gibson, Johnson, Mallett) performed by The Renegades

"Etkö uskalla mua rakastaa" (Lindström, Saukki) performed by. Helena Siltala

"Tanssi, Anjuska" (Kemppi, Husu) performed by Veikko Lavi and Pertti Husu

"Muista minua" (Pedro de Punta, The Esquires) performed by The Esquires

"Symphony No.5".(Peter Tchaikovsky)

"I've Been Unkind" (Brown, Gibson, Johnson, Mallett) performed by The Renegades

"Girls Girls Girls" (Leiber, Stoller) performed by The Renegades

"Mustanmeren valssi" (Feldsman, Salonen, Berg) performed by Georg Ots

"Köyhä laulaja" (Kärki, Kullervo, Johansson) performed by Henry Theel

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