Three unappreciated artists, all kindred spirits, share their views of the world, their financial travails and love stories. They are: Marcel, an unsuccessful writer who has a penchant for monumental drama, Rodolfo, an Albanian painter, and Schaunard, an avant-garde composer. Wandering in the footsteps of their freewheeling artistic precursors in early twentieth century Paris, they scrape together their last few coins to buy a bottle of wine over which they exchange melancholy glances and far-sighted nuggets of wisdom. Only Rodolfo’s dog Baudelaire seems to be able to outdo their maudlin expressions. At one point things seem to look up briefly for the trio; their money problems appear to be solved and Rodolfo falls in love with shy country girl Mimi. But their transitory high soon comes to an end when reality catches up. Unfurling his bohemians’ story in the deep focus black-and-white of poetic realism, Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s idiosyncratic editing style is reminiscent of Godard’s early work and Jean-Pierre Léaud turns into a white knight. This film was to mark the beginning of a productive collaboration and friendship between this Finnish director and German producer Karl Baumgartner, who this year is being honoured with the Berlinale Kamera Award.
Finland / France 1991, 100 min