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Ticket giveaway – The Rooster

LSJ and Bonsai Films have 10 double passes to give away to THE ROOSTER, starring Hugo Weaving and new rising star Pheonix Raei. THE ROOSTER opens nationally in cinemas on February 22.

Written and directed by award-winning actor Mark Leonard Winter, who makes his feature filmmaking debut with THE ROOSTER. Produced by Logie-nominated actor Geraldine Hakewill (Wanted, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries), and AACTA award-winning producer MahVeen Shahraki (Ellie and Abbie, The Translator) for Thousand Mile Productions, THE ROOSTER follows small-town cop Dan (Phoenix Raei). When the body of his oldest friend is found buried in a shallow grave, Dan seeks answers from a volatile hermit (Hugo Weaving), who was the last person to see his friend alive. Watch the trailer here.

For a chance to win, email your address and LawID to [email protected] with the subject line THE ROOSTER before COB Monday 19 February.

Fallen Leaves

If you do not know the filmography of Finnish idiosyncratic filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki, Fallen Leaves is an excellent place to start.

It’s a simple, slow-paced story of two souls finding a place for their love in a modern Helsinki about to plunge into dystopian melancholia – like it’s edged between Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and a Jim Jarmusch film.

Ansa (Alma Pöysti) is a lonely supermarket stockist who survives with out-of-date products she takes home instead of throwing away. One night at a karaoke bar, she meets Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), a lonely, stoic tradie with a severe alcohol problem. The two could not be more different, yet complement each other in that mysterious way only love can describe. They go on a date to see Jarmusch’s oddball zombie comedy, The Dead Don’t Die, and that is enough to decide they like each other enough to exchange phone numbers. There’s no need to see them connect superficially; there’s something profound and emotional at work to the point that we can’t see it yet still understand it.

Kaurismäki’s deadpan style is on full display here. I understand if someone is put off by this, but given time, it’s easy to be charmed by his vision. The shots are framed to accentuate the naked sets, lit with grand shadows like he’s reminding us this is a studio. Outside, we don’t see much of the city or its people; everything looks desolate and constraining, yet the few people we see are happy in their own way.

Society feels broken, and everyone in it is in a state of worthlessness. Everyone goes to the pub after a fruitless day at a job they hate. No one complains; that’s how life is. It’s all oddly familiar.

There’s no music on the radio, only reports from the war in Ukraine. It accentuates how much we live in our own bubble because we’re constantly told that outside of it, things are way worse. It also made me think about how the invasion of Ukraine would have affected Finland. Our collective agency goes down the drain when we face the end of things as we know them.

So it is in cinema that Kaurismäki finds solace. It’s where the lovers first fall in love – watching an absurdist zombie comedy, of all things – and meet again after a series of accidental unfortunate misses. The film is filled with cinematic references, from the obvious – a poster of Jean Lucy Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou next to Holappa – to the concealed to be unpacked by nerdy film buffs. Fallen Leaves is not only a love story; it’s a love letter to the cinema that dares to be anti-establishment. Cinema that stands beyond escapism, it provides a solution.

The end, a beautiful homage to Chaplin’s Modern Times, an openly communist filmmaker who dared to expose progress as a tool to benefit the bourgeoisie, rounds up Kaurismäki’s soft heart with where he wants us to be – even if broken, trudging onwards together.

If this can alienate the audiences, so be it, though I did sometimes feel that Kaurismäki, like Jarmusch, indulges a bit too much in over-intellectualising his work to the point of diminishing returns. The films he references are a reminder of other filmmakers who didn’t have to do that, so aware of the philosophical statement they were making.

And yet, none of that detracts from the charm of Fallen Leaves. I was delighted after seeing it, and the more I think about it, the more I realise how much I appreciate it. At little over 80 minutes, it makes its point succinctly and still has time for a musical interlude with a duo of ladies playing a Finnish synth-pop banger like a scene from Twin Peaks directed by Wes Anderson.

Verdict: 4 out of 5
For Nordic immigrants missing deadpan humour and the romantic cinephile searching for a perfect Valentine’s treat.