Monday, April 22, 2013

778. ARIEL (1988)

Running Time: 74 minutes
Directed By: Aki Kaurismaki
Written By: Aki Kaurismaki
Main Cast: Turo Pajala, Susanna Haavisto, Matti Pellonpaa, Eetu Hilkamo, Erkki Pajala


Even though I'm due at work at 7:00am and it's currently twenty minutes till midnight, I've decided to pop in and write up my thoughts on the film I've just finished: "Ariel". This movie had been sitting near the top of my Netflix queue for some time now and finally, after being on a wait, the red and white film distributing company decided to send it to me.

This is my very first Aki Kaurismaki film and since I've heard a lot of great things about him, as a director, I went into the film with hope and I'd say I got my money's worth. The main character is Taisto Kasurinen (T. Pajala), a coal miner who inherits his father's convertible, just minutes before he (the father) takes his own life. Before his suicide, Taisto's father is filled with dread about the world they're living in and tells Taisto to get out of town and try to find something better for himself. Taisto takes his now deceased father's advice and splits, but not before withdrawing 8,000 marks from the bank. Once on the road, Taisto is soon robbed of his savings and left with no tender to live by. He gets a temporary job at the docks, loading sacks of grain onto wooden pallets and that gets him by for a little bit, giving him enough money to get a room at a local, Red Cross-type place. After a while, he meets Irmeli (Haavisto), a woman whom he picks up right away and strikes a relationship with. Irmeli has a son and holds down several different jobs, just to make ends meet. Later, Taisto encounters the man who robbed him of his 8,000 marks and in an attempt to try and beat it back out of him, he is arrested and sent to prison for twenty-three months.

I wasn't totally blown away with "Ariel", by any means, but nor was I disappointed. I found his atmosphere to be one that I'd normally embrace - somber and droll. However, I found his characters to be completely devoid of any sort of emotion - almost like the types of characters you'd find in a Hal Ashby feature. In fact, I kind of like that Hal Ashby reference, so I think I'll run with it, because the story even fits into a, sort of, Hal Ashby mold as well. Had the film been filled with just a little more emotion and a director that coaxed "just a little more" out of his actors, this could've been a grand slam with me. As it is, I'd call it a nice double play (damn, I really need to lay off the baseball; either that or just keep the damn references out of my movie reviews). The film certainly didn't sour me on Aki Kaurismaki, as I'd be totally up for taking in a few more of his movies and really getting a taste for what he's all about. I almost wish THE BOOK had included a couple of more, because just one taste and I can't decide whether he's a genius or not. If anyone has any good suggestions for a second Kaurismaki film, that would be a good follow-up to "Ariel", drop me a comment and I'll see what I can do.

Anyway, this was kind of one of those movies that I can neither praise, nor beat down, because it deserves neither. Therefore, the review suffers because I really can't take one side of the fence or the other and I'm left babbling on, trying to pick a side: thumbs up or down. After a while (days, weeks), I may sweeten a little bit on "Ariel", but for now, I'll call it a slight success, as it introduced me to Kaurismaki, a director who seems to have potential - at least as far as MY personal tastes are concerned.

RATING: 6.5/10  Maybe once recap time rolls around I can up that to a '7' or better, but for now that seems like a fine number to give "Ariel".


April 22, 2013  12:01am


  1. Ah!
    I was wondering when you would get to this one...
    And great that you... sort of.... liked it. Pleased for you.
    This, and Aki K. in general, is one of those 'Thank you, book, for introducing me to' films.
    I loved this one.. and immediatly went and bought two box sets.
    I got .. 'The Match factory Girl'.. a good one to follow up with, simular mood, 'Lights in the dark'.. quite good and his most well known one, 'Leningrad cowboys go America', which is perhaps his most accesssable. I also got Leningrad cowboys meet mMoses'.. a follow up to Go America, which is not as good. I also have 'Shadows in paradise', but haven't watched it yet.
    You do have to be in the right mood to enjoy him.. feeling relaxed, and in no hurry for the film to 'get on with it'

    1. Thanks to you (and Marie) for the suggestions. I'll try to check out some more of his stuff when I get a chance, but I doubt that will be for a while, as I'm really focused on finishing THE BOOK now (less than 350 to go).

      Thanks again Ray!

  2. I love Kaurismaki. When you have time, I'd highly suggest The Man Without a Past. Another one that is on the current version of the list is La Havre. My favorite of his is Drifting Clouds but that is harder to get hold of.

    I also love your blog. We don't always agree on our reactions to the movies but I love the way you write.

    1. Thank you Marie. I'm glad that even though we don't agree, you still find enjoyment here. Feel free to use the comments section to "set me straight" whenever we're differing greatly...

      Thanks again.

    2. And a hello to Marie from another correspondant. Good to see someone else making replies, but very good to find someone else who has even heard of Kaurismaki. I am very new to him and his film, and also appreciate suggestions.

  3. You could get fed up with this, but I just wanted to say i have just seen another Aki K film.. 'Hamlet goes business'.. Shakespears' hamlet done Film Noir in a Rubber Duck factory.
    If watching 1001 films was worth anything, it was making me watch Ariel, and thus catching up with his other stuff. I have now bought 4.. count them - 4 box sets...

    1. Yeah, Ariel didn't blow me away or anything, but I certainly wouldn't be opposed to checking out some other Aki K films.


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