Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Three Wise Men

Mika Kaurismäki | 2008 | 98 mins | Finland

Three Wise Men had a lot of promise when it started, but unfortunately its tendency to be reeeeeally self indulgent won over its tendency to be poignant and cleverly observant.

Three men find themselves drinking together on Christmas Eve - Matti's wife has just had a baby, but he is convinced that his friend Erkki is actually the father. Meanwhile, Erkki is contemplating suicide because of a rapidly progressing illness. Old friend Raumo is in town to visit his estranged family only to find out that his ex wife has just killed herself and his grown son blames him.

Matti decides to invite Erkki out for a drink to celebrate the birth of his daughter, but secretly intends to murder the man who has cuckolded him. However, he runs into Raumo at the hospital and the third man ends up coming along, somewhat thwarting the original plan, but actually just adding more tension to the mix.

The Finns are good at a depressing set-up!

The three men end up at a karaoke joint (the only open bar on Christmas eve), having a long, drunken and at times philosophical conversation about their lives, their masculinity, their loves and regrets. Pretty good stuff, punctuated by overly lengthy karaoke numbers (perhaps the Finnish songs they sing have a significance that I couldn't grasp, but the scenes got dull quickly. Watching men tunelessly sing ENTIRE SONGS was a weird choice. Three and a half minutes (repeated four or five times) doesn't seem like much when you're drunk at a bar, but it's pretty tedious when you're watching a 90 minute movie.

In conclusion, Aki is the more talented brother, and the hotter Finnish pick of the year was definitely Sauna, if you'll pardon the pun.

2 comments:

emis said...

It would be wise for you not to reveal the whole plot of a film you are writing the review about - like you do with Mika Kaurismäki's Three Wise Men.

With me the film worked quite well by the way. But hey, I'm finnish after all!

katarina said...

Well, most of the setup that I reveal is also revealed in the first 15 minutes of the film. What the men talk about and the ultimate outcome of their evening is the real point of the movie, and I tried not to talk too much about it, but fair enough - perhaps I said too much about the plot.

Still, I'm not sure it's a Finnish thing, unless those karaoke songs have particular cultural significance. I've been there a few times and love the country (and Finnish films), but I really didn't think this one was a deep enough exploration of masculinity or of friendship, which I think was Kaurismäki's goal.

However, as you can see in my other reviews, I thought Sauna was one of the best films I saw at the Toronto festival this year.

So, you win some, you lose some.