The Man Without a Past: Marja-Leena Hukkanen
Lisa Schwarzbaum
April 02, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Man Without a Past

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
97 minutes
Limited Release Date
04/04/03
performer
Kati Outinen, Markku Peltola
director
Aki Kaurismaki
distributor
Sony Pictures Classics
author
Aki Kaurismaki
genre
Drama, Foreign Language

We gave it an A

Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki’s serious sense of social compassion doesn’t get in the way of great dark jokes in The Man Without a Past. In this delicate, deadpan comedy about homelessness — a best-foreign-film Oscar nominee — a man who lost his memory during a mugging (Markku Peltola) creates a new life for himself on the fringes of Helsinki. It’s the fringe-folk who help him: the poor family, living in an abandoned container by the docks, who feed him soup; the shy Salvation Army worker, Irma (Kati Outinen), who feeds him hope.

Irma’s not as dour as she looks, however; no Kaurismäki character ever is. At night, in the privacy of her tiny room, for example, she blares rock & roll on her radio. Indeed, the message, if there must be one, of this marvelous, stubbornly personal movie is that there is a spark in every soul. And that music is as important as soup. And that there is beauty to be found even in the colors of a shanty picked out against the scudding clouds of Helsinki.

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