I am a huge fan of Aki Kaurismäki so the latest film he’s made was a correspondingly large disappointment: Lights in the Dusk is the story of a remarkably stupid and stubborn man who goes to jail rather than betray the woman who has betrayed him. It carries familiar themes to the point of self-parody: the bank manager laughs as he refuses a loan; the hero is sacked, strong and silent. I think he smokes more cigarettes than he has lines of dialogue.
It is visually gorgeous; but it looks to me like a drunk’s film: the extraordinary passivity and uselesness of the hero is inexplicable on any normal reading of psychology; so too is the patience and forebearance of the heroine. No one fights back except by banging their heads even harder against the wall. The contrast with his earlier films could not be greater in this respect: in those the pivot of the action was always someone trying something new, however disastrously. You might say that the final scene, where he grips the heroine’s hand while slumped against a bulldozer, shows him trying something new. But it could have come as the climax of a ten minute film, not an eighty minute one.
None of the above should discourage anyone from his other films.