The Bohemian Life Screen 4 articles

The Bohemian Life


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  • I'm no expert on Aki Kaurismaki's films, but this 1992 poker-faced black-and-white adaptation of Henri Murger's novel Scenes de la vie de boheme(the source of Puccini's opera La boheme) is certainly the most boring one I've seen. It shares with some of Kaurismaki's better features the conviction that attitude is an adequate substitute for sensibility, and its employment of minimalism a la Jarmusch begins with the dubious notion that black-and-white cinematography is a minimalist technique.

  • British audiences have thus far shown stoic indifference to the work of Finnish fashion victim Kaurismäki, and this straight-faced adaptation of Henri Murger's melodramatic novel (1851) is unlikely to quicken their pulses... The one-note joke palls fast, and Kaurismäki's endless quest for emotional truth at the heart of miserabilist clichés winds up in its usual cul-de-sac.

  • As thoroughly enjoyable as the milieu and performances are, there’s something fundamentally soft about La Vie De Bohème, which in certain respects plays to Kaurismäki’s greatest weakness: his sentimentality. While he’s plenty capable of facing grim facts—few movies are bleaker than The Match Factory Girl, available as part of Criterion’s Eclipse box set called Aki Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy—he’s also prone to utopian wish fulfillment, especially where collective poverty is concerned.

  • Its sensuality is all but sterile, its exoticism unambiguous... its humor droll to the point of stupefying. And yet the film remains acutely aware of not only its place within cinematic tradition (furthering the cross-continental connection is a cameo role for Samuel Fuller, in what must be a nod to Godard's Pierrot le Fou), but also its responsibility to its director's own singular thematic and formal preoccupations. And in that sense, maybe it isn't so different after all.

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