Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now
Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kaurismäki's hilariously absurd, surrealist romp, 29 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Calamari Union [DVD] (DVD)
Calamari Union (1985) was the second feature-length film from Finish auteur Aki Kaurismäki following on from his somewhat dour, contemporary-set adaptation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (1983). Right away, Kaurismäki is showing his extraordinary range as a filmmaker; moving away from the low key, minimalist realism of Crime and Punishment to the surreal, improvisational, black and white playfulness of the film in question. This sense of imagination and ability to move from one stylistic reference point to the next - all the while retaining his deadpan style and coolly ironic use of character and dialog - would be further reinforced over subsequent films, such as Shadows in Paradise (1986), Hamlet Goes Business (1987) and Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989). Though Calamari Union lacks the more refined and iconic Kaurismäki style of those particular films, it does show his early interest in surrealism, broad, absurdist humour, and an ensemble setting.

Like many of his films, such as the aforementioned Leningrad Cowboys and his underrated masterpiece Ariel (1988), the plot of Calamari Union is episodic and picaresque; following the misadventures of fifteen men, fourteen of them named Frank Merciless, and an idiot man-child named Pekka, who one day decide to leave behind the hopeless working class world of Eira and quest to the near-mythical borough of Kallio. As you can possibly deduce from the description, Calamari Union is not necessarily a film to be taken entirely seriously, with Kaurismäki taking the silliest plot and the most bizarre of caricatures and creating this wandering tale filled with strange scenes, disconnected vignettes, slapstick humour and even, a rock n' roll performance piece! In the past, Kaurismäki has claimed that this is the only film he's ever directed whilst being either drunk or hung-over, which does makes sense. Then again, knowing Kaurismäki's fondness for exaggeration and self-deprecation, it would be best not to read too much into this. Although the film is obviously not intended to be taken on a completely serious level, that's not to say that it isn't open to deeper, more analytical interpretations.

For me, there's a definite air of Luis Buñuel here - both in terms of the plot and, I suppose, some of the more sub-textual ideologies - not to mention the clear influence of Bertrand Blier's fantastic film Buffet froid (1979), which follows a similarly episodic tale of strange men having strange adventures. Calamari Union perhaps isn't as great as that particular film, though it does show Kaurismäki and his crew to be on top creative form; filming in luminous black and white as a nod to the French New Wave and creating a great atmosphere on an obviously limited budget. In fact, it feels more like a first film than Crime and Punishment, with the highly original, idiosyncratic story, small cast of central characters, inventive use of sound, location and cinematography and low budget production all adding to the rough and unpolished charm. It's still unknown what Kaurismäki's actual intentions were with this film, whether he simply wanted to produce something quite silly and outlandish as a bit of fun with his friends, or whether there is some hidden depth to the film just waiting to be discovered and re-interpreted.

Obviously, I have my own ideas. To me, the film can be seen as a representation of the cycle of life; with the characters emerging from the womb-like warmth of their local pub and beginning their bizarre journey into life, before breaking away, meeting new people, forming relationships, making decisions and finally dropping dead. You could also see the film as a treatise on the notion of individuality; with the earlier scenes showing the group to be very much of a singular "union" - both anonymous to themselves and to the audience - and all with the same goals and desires. Eventually, as they continue their journey they discover individual interests and passageways through life until they finally come to form their own unique personality. Failing that, it really could be just a simple work of surrealist fun, with no greater meaning or interpretation hidden beneath the madness and often hilarious scenes of ridiculous frivolity.

Regardless of this, Calamari Union is still something of a great film; perhaps not as good as later films by Kaurismäki, such as Hamlet Goes Business, Ariel, I Hired a Contract Killer (1990) and The Man without a Past (2002), but nonetheless, a good place to start for those new to his particular blend of bold, unique and always eccentric world cinema.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]


Review Details

Item

4.3 out of 5 stars (3 customer reviews)


3 star
0

2 star
0

1 star
0

Out of stock
Add to wishlist
Reviewer


Location: Dublin, Ireland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 39,517