Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Ilkka Koivula, Nuppu Koivu, Simon Hussein Al-Bazoon, Niroz Haji, Kaija Pakarinen
Written by: Aki Kaurismäki
Directed by: Aki Kaurismäki
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Finnish, English, Arabic, with English subtitles
Running Time: 99
Date: 12/08/2017

The Other Side of Hope (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Food for Thought

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki (The Man Without a Past, Le Havre) has been at it since the 1980s, rarely changing his style of droll, lowdown deadpan comedy, and his stuff is always welcome. His first film in some six years, The Other Side of Hope is, happily, more of the same, but with some themes relevant to today's confused world. It starts, following two completely different stories. Khaled Ali (Sherwan Haji) is a Syrian refugee that has escaped Aleppo but has become separated from his sister. The first time we see him is a memorable image; he emerges from a pile of coal, smeared in black from head to toe. He tries to hide and find word of his sister, but he is eventually caught and told that he will be sent back. Then, a middle-aged shirt salesman, Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), decides to leave his wife, dryly dropping his ring on the kitchen table as he walks out. He plays some high-stakes poker and wins enough to realize his dream of owning a restaurant. There are some comic adventures as Wikström and the existing staff attempt to get the business going, including a hideous re-invention as a sushi joint. Finally, Khaled escapes and is found hiding in the restaurant's trash bin; Wikström hires him, and eventually helps him. It's easy to compare Kaurismaki to his American counterpart, Jim Jarmusch, but at the other end, there are comparisons to the Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson as well; Kaurismaki's film is funny, weird, and drab, but it's artful and deliberate, and it has its heart in the right place.

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