The Man Without a Past | Chicago Reader

The Man Without a Past

Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki perfects his trademark formula of deadpan humor and arctic circle pathos in this brilliantly ironic 2002 comedy. After arriving in Helsinki by late-night train, a thuggish middle-aged man is beaten to a pulp, left unconscious in a park, and ends up an amnesiac shell in a waterfront squatters' camp where Scandinavian practicality and rock 'n' roll thrive side by side. The drifters and bums, doleful losers all, make the stranger one of their own, and against this postindustrial vista his angel of mercy appears, in the form of a wispy Salvation Army lifer (Kaurismaki regular Kati Outinen of The Match Factory Girl) who's so devoid of hope that she rouses a spark of compassion from the bottom of his soul. Kaurismaki slyly builds to a funny and joyous ending, as his unlikely hero is transformed into a man with a sliver of a future. In Finnish with subtitles. PG-13, 97 min.


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