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THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST

An unemployed man travels to Helsinki in search of work and is robbed and brutally beaten soon after stepping off the train. Unable to remember who he is or where he came from, he must now depend on the kindness of strangers.


CAST:Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen, Juhani Niemela, Kaija Pakarinen, Sakari Kuosmanen

DIRECTOR: Aki Kaurismaki


"‘The Man Without a Past’ has a sly, controlled silliness that recalls Preston Sturges and a vision of resilience and nobility in hard times that suggests Charlie Chaplin without the sleeve-tugging sentimentality, or Frank Capra without the weakness for speechifying. And like the great films of the 1930's and early 40's, it is at once artful and unpretentious, sophisticated and completely accessible, sure of its own authority and generous toward characters and audience alike—a movie whose intended public is the human race." --A. O. Scott, The New York Times

"Amnesia as a plot device is certainly nothing new, but when Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismaki funnels one man's memory loss through his lens, the result is brilliantly idiosyncratic. Kaurismaki shuns Hollywood bluster to construct a modest fable full of subtle grace notes and deadpan wit, a survival story that gently uncurls to reveal an affecting romance at its core…A love affair with a withdrawn Salvation Army officer (Kati Outinen) begins almost mechanically but flowers beautifully as they pick mushrooms in the countryside and hold hands on the sofa…Using saturated colors reminiscent of '50s Technicolor, Kaurismaki directs ‘The Man Without a Past’--a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at last month's Oscars--with the assuredness of a master, letting his pearls of whip-smart dialogue drop gently and reverberate. --Megan Lehmann, The New York Post

"...a surprisingly touching and simple story about human dignity in the most trying of circumstances: "Life goes on, not backwards," as someone observes about the uselessness of regret. The humor is deadpan and dry, but there is also a great deal of heart in this deceptively low-key venture." --Marshall Fine, The Journal News

"‘The Man Without a Past," Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki's celebration of lower-depths esprit, is a deadpan comic romance rendered as a series of poker-faced arabesques…The movie's terrific opening sequence — wherein the nameless hero (Markku Peltola), identified in the credits only as M, arrives in town and is almost immediately mugged, bludgeoned, and left for dead in a park near the Helsinki train station—is as tense and spare as any '50s B movie…The movie's sardonic tone is increasingly muted by a Wenders-ish sentimentality manifest largely in the filmmaker's propensity for lovable canines and gruff landlords who turn out to be softies, as well as a maudlin, weary faith in the redemptive power of rock and roll…Kaurismäki's temperament may be sweeter than Fassbinder's, but his mode of address is no less cool. His camera moves are precise; his blocking is impeccable; his laconic sight gags are perfectly uninflected…This may not be Kaurismäki's masterpiece, but it is a movie of sustained stylistic integrity—and it has the power to make you laugh." --J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

"As Kaurismäki's protagonist ferrets out beauty and energy in the midst of austerity and inertia, ‘The Man Without a Past’ becomes a gently seductive parable about the human impulse to make flowers grow in cement. It's the most reluctant triumph- of-human-spirit movie you are likely to see, since it refuses to wear its heart on its sleeve, or anywhere else for that matter." --Jan Stuart, Newsday

"With a dark forelock falling over his wide, bony features, Peltola could be Liam Neeson’s long-lost Nordic cousin, and he’s morose and bearish enough to ward off pathos. Watch him enter a café, order a cup of free hot water, then slowly extract a dry, much used tea bag from a matchbox, ready for re-dunking. Chaplin would have transformed the deed into a miniature ballet of self-pity, whereas Peltola’s air of resigned practicality reminds you that Kaurismäki prefers to stake his comedy in the glacial and the glum." --Anthony Lane, The New Yorker