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Sunday, March 2, 2014

PAHA MAA / FROZEN LAND (2005)

This award-winning Finnish pic is like LA RONDE of Misery, a strung together collection of hard luck tales as friends, lovers, fathers & sons, spouses & complete strangers bump into each other’s lives amid the modern morass of cold, cruel life in Finland. It’s both impressive . . . and a bit much, an unending parade of lost jobs, empty cash accounts & broken relationships. What keeps you watching is that director Aku Louhimies is such a natural, a technical sharpie able to handle any mood. From drab realism to glitzy action, plus a straightforward manner that lets wild coincidences seem inevitable instead of the dramatic contrivances they really are. (It's less BABEL/’06 than AMORES PERROS/’00, thank goodness.) He even manages a wisp of gallows humor when an instrument of bloody murder finds a second use in the clean-up. (You’ll feel guilty for laughing.) If only the script didn’t keep hitting the reset button every time things stop looking wretched. The bad turns begin to feel arbitrary.

DOUBLE-BILL: Finland must rival dentistry for suicide rates. Why not an Aki Kaurismäki pic to lighten the mood? He also travels thru darkness, but manages to move toward the light in spite of setbacks & bad karma. Try an early fable like ARIEL/’88 as an antidote to Louhimies’ ultra-Hobbesian view.

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