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Lugubrious Finns Valto and Reino take to the road in search of coffee and vodka, without which their lives are not worth living. But their reveries are interrupted by the arrival of garrulous Russian Klaudia and Estonian Tatiana - who are clearly interested in the two men, despite the language barrier. But what are the chances of getting a response from men who prefer staring at vodka bottles to talking?Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki is up to his usual deadpan business with one of his most enigmatically-titled features, Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana, a title which remains a mystery, to me at least, long after the credits have rolled. Shot in black-and-white, the film appears to be Kaurismaki's version of a road movie, often resembling the early films of Wim Wenders, such as Alice in the Cities and The American Friend, although the influence of Jim Jarmusch can also be felt throughout. As is often the case with Kaurismaki, dialogue is delivered with little emotion and passion, story is an afterthought, and the main characters are what many people would refer to as losers. Still, even with all the restraint on show and a running time that that barely touches the hour mark, this is one of the director's funniest features, and certainly one of his most relatable.
We open with Valto (Mato Valtonen), a huge doorstop of a man who resembles Eugene from The Walking Dead with an even more ridiculous haircut. He seems to run a clothing business with his mother, and when parent and son have a tiff over the lack of coffee (he has a serious coffee addiction), Valto locks her away in the cupboard and heads for the auto garage. Here he hooks up with his vodka-swigging friend Reino (Matti Pellonpaa), who has just finished work on Valto's car, and the odd couple head out on a road trip with seemingly no destination in mind. They stop at a bar and are spotted by Russian Klavdia (Kirsi Tykkylainen) and Estonian Tatjana (Kati Outinen), who see these two miserable-looking Finns as their free ride to the harbour for their journey home. And so begins one of the cinema's strangest road-trips, which mainly consists Valto and Reino sulking and ignoring their guests, even when they are forced to sleep in the same room.
Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana may frequently surprise those not accustomed to Kaurismaki's distinct auteur style. Not in a dramatic sense of course, but in the way it refuses to veer off into more comfortable genre territory. You keep expecting Valto and Reino to break their silence and start a romance with their new lady friends, but despite the presence of some romantic undercurrents, these men remain a mystery. This doesn't mean that they're unrelatable however, as anybody with the slightest social anxiety will recognise the awkwardness of their interactions, and get a good laugh from it. There's actually more going on here than I realised before reading up about the film after it had finished. Kaurismaki layers this incredibly slight tale with satire and social commentary, but this will fly over the head of most non-Finns such as myself. However, this doesn't dilute the sheer joy to be had with Tatiana. If the characters in Alexander Payne's Sideways were introverted and shy, it may have come out something like this. This is a low-key pleasure and surprisingly upbeat for Kaurismaki, and proves that happiness can be found in unhappiness.
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