(dir. Andrey Tarkovsky, 1983)
There are few directors as universally revered as Soviet Union’s grand master of cinematic impenetrability, Mr. Andrey Tarkovsky. While I pretend to enjoy selected parts of his œuvre to appear more intelligent than I really am, the more advanced epics are, sadly, beyond my stamina. Hence, the acid test is easily administered: did I fall asleep during the movie? Solaris, Stalker, and even Zerkalo get a pass, while Andrey Rublev and now Nostalghia do not.
(dir. Damien Chazelle, 2014)
A fairytale of New York, wherein a young and ambitious drummer tries to make it in the topsy-turvy world of jazz as practiced in the fictitional “Shaffer” Institute of Advanced Jazz and Cymbal Throwing. J.K. Simmons won the “best supporting actor” Oscar for his portrayal of the sadistic band leader Clarence Fletcher, and quite rightly so – he’s easily the best movie villain since Colonel Hans Landa and his milk-drinking antics. The pace is pretty intense, which makes up for the cartoonish characters and lack of logical plot.
Check out also DJ Wh1pla$h, where “a young DJ struggles to make it at Skrillex Academy.” And while you’re at it, although it has nothing to do with Whiplash, shiver with anticipation as James Bruschetta and Adam van Busen are about to drop the bass in 2MNYBTNS.
(dir. Marjut Komulainen, 2015)
It’s easy to make a movie for children, right? Just dress up a bunch of actors in funny clothes – extra points for a cool theme, like dinosaurs or pirates – and get them to overact even more than usual, throw in a couple of kids the target audience can relate to, crib a script from a book (helps if the book is popular, but it’s not a requirement) and make sure it’s full of plot holes, and viola! A summer blockbuster is born, or at least something that can be used to show the Finnish Movie Foundation that their generous grants bought more than just gummy bears for the wrap party.
By the way, the pirate van is clearly influenced by the plane flown by Truman Sparks in Fandango.
(aka The White Reindeer, dir. Erik Blomberg, 1952)
Full of “Wait, what?” moments, Valkoinen peura remains to this day as the only Finnish movie to ever win a Golden Globe. It’s also – as far as I know (spoiler alert!) – the only movie made anywhere to feature a leading lady who is not only a vampire, but also a reindeer. Oh, and a succubus, but that’s sort of implied by the vampire bit, isn’t it? Lots of reindeer action and beautifully photographed snowy vistas.
(aka The Punk Syndrome, 2011, dir. Jukka Kärkkäinen & J-P Passi)
Finland’s entry in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest was Aina mun pitää by Pertti Kurikan nimipäivät, a punk four-piece from Helsinki. Much has been made of the fact that all the band members have learning disabilities. Four years earlier their unlikely story was made into a documentary, in places funny, in others insightful. Well, mostly funny, because life is.
(1980, dir. Peter von Bagh)
Tapio Rautavaara, the Elvis of Finland. Wait, that didn’t come out quite right. Elvis could have been the Tapsa of America, if only Elvis had been a world-class athlete in addition to being a rock slash movie star. The late, great Peter von Bagh got the camera rolling on the man of the hour and probably went down the pub to wait out the rambling. You’d be well advised to stick around for the stories though. Where else are you going to hear an Olympic champion in the javelin recount how he won the gold for his archery team at the World Championships, and what the team did to celebrate afterwards?