Ariel (1988) (Not Rated)
I've often said that a movie can not be defined by genre because of how it happily skips from style to style. It's true of many movies, though none so cheerfully employ it as "Ariel" which I see as one of the chief and rarely seen movies that formed the indie film as we know it today—hipster guitar music and all.
Aki Kaurismäki wrote and directed this piece which does seem like a hot mess when you first get into it.
Starting off when a mine is closed and its workers fired, the movie follows the doings of a man named Taisto Kasurinen (Turo Pajala) who seems to have the worst luck in the world. After he gets laid off, he returns home to his dad, who gives him the keys to his convertible and then goes into the other room and kills himself. Kaurismäki is very keen that there is no sentimentality with this and a word I came across when I was researching the film that seems very applicable is "droll". Taisto takes the car and leaves town, withdrawing all of his money from the bank before doing start. The movie doesn't tell us what his motivations are so we have to assume for ourselves. It would make sense that he's trying to start over, to wipe the slate clean. With the money he got, he could get a nice place and hopefully a nicer job...but things don't always go according to plan.
When ordering a hamburger, he gets attacked by two wannabe-thugs who take his money and leave him with a headache. He passively resigns himself to his lot and goes to work the next day at the docks, vying for a job.
His car brings him a lot of attention, including the advances of a woman who writes tickets. Her name is Irmeli Pihlaja (Susanna Haavisto) and she says that she will gladly rid him of the ticket if he shows her a nice night...which he does his best to do.
Irmeli has a son, who is probably the most rational and adult character in the film, obviously predating some of Wes Anderson's creations.
As the days go by, Taisto's luck continues to plummet until his finds himself between a rock and a iron bar. He gets sent to prison for trying to bring justice to the world, which, he finds out, doesn't sit well with Justice herself.
"Ariel" seems like the saga of the underprivileged and the middle-lower class. Irmeli has a least four jobs and she seems to be content with this. "I need the money" she tells our main character, not complaining, just informing.
A comedy too funny to laugh at and too sorrowful to cry, "Ariel" is a movie about failure and self-righteousness in the face of terrible situations. It's about trying to right the scales.
Above all, it's a quest-like adventure movie that somehow blends its odd style into a cohesive, and very well thought-out film.
The jarring cuts are very reminiscent to the hipster movie of today; but "Ariel" is much more than a movie known just for its influences. It's a movie that demands to be seen, simple because it's a delight to watch. Silent, sullen, and humorous—it is essential.
Posted by Micah Jones