The tragi-comedy by Finland’s master filmmaker marks his fifth entry in the coveted Cannes competition, presided over this year by the two-time Palme d’or winner Ruben Östlund.
After last year’s record five-title Nordic presence at Cannes’ main competition and Un Certain Regard (see our story All time high Nordic entries in Cannes Official Selection) the 76th Cannes Film Festival will be rolling out its red carpet to only one Nordic film, in a year where the selection was widened-geographically, and dominated by US and Italian entries in the main competition, as underlined by artistic director Thierry Frémaux at his hotly anticipated press conference April 13.
As always, the Cannes official selection slate - picked out of 2,000 film submissions - includes a mix of newcomers - mostly in the Un Certain Regard section - and established names, such as Aki Kaurismäki, who will compete against other celebrated veteran filmmakers including Ken Loach, Nanni Moretti, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Wim Wenders and Todd Haynes.
Fallen Leaves is Kaurismäki’s latest instalment in his proletariat series alongside Shadows in Paradise, Ariel and The Match Factory and his fifth feature vying for a Palme d’or, after Drifting Clouds (1996), The Man Without a Past (Grand Prix winner in 2002), Lights in the Dusk (2006) and Le Havre (2011).
The film is also a perfect fit for the French film showcase, as it was inspired by the famous French song ‘Les feuilles mortes’, composed by Joseph Kosma with lyrics from Jacques Prévert.
The tragi-comedy stars Alma Pöysti (Tove, Four Little Adults) and Jussi Vatanen (Unknown Soldier, Forest Giant) as two lonely people who meet by chance at night in Helsinki and try to find their first, only and last love.
Ansa is a supermarket shelf-stocker on a zero-hour contract, later a recyclable plastic sorter, and Holappa, a sandblaster, an alcoholic - later ex-alcoholic. Their paths accidentally cross and despite adversity and misunderstandings, they try to build a relationship on the harsher side of the welfare state.
Speaking about his film, the veteran filmmaker said: “Although until now I have created my dubious reputation by making mostly unnecessary violent films, I finally ended up, oppressed by all the pointless and criminal wars, writing a story about the subjects through which humanity might have a future: the longing for love, solidarity, hope and respect for other people, nature, and anything to the living or the dead.”
Kaurismäki went on saying, in his typical humorous style: “In the film, I tip my too-small hat to my own film god [references] Bresson, Ozu and Chaplin, but I am still solely responsible for this catastrophic failure!”.
The film was produced by Kaurismäki for his company Sputnik, and Bufo co-founders Misha Jaari and Mark Lwoff, in association with Germany’s Pandora Film, co-financing from Yle, ZDF/Arte, and support from the Finnish Film Foundation. The Match Factory handles world sales. The film will be released by Bufo’s distribution arm B-Plan in Finland in the fall 2023.
Besides Finland’s Fallen Leaves, Sweden and Denmark are represented by two co-productions.
Both About Dry Grasses and The Settlers did their post-production in Sweden’s Västra Götaland.
A total of 19 films have been selected - so far - for Cannes’ main competition, set to open May 16, with the French out-of-competition period piece Jeanne du Barry by Maywenn, starring Johnny Depp. Another 17 films will screen at Un Certain Regard, including the French opening film Le règne animal by Thomas Cailley.
The out-of-competition strand includes the star-studded Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny by James Mangold, Killers of the Flower Moon by Martin Scorsese, as well as The Idol by Sam Levinson and Cobweb by Kim Jee-woon.
Another four films will screen at the Cannes Premiere strand - including Kubi and Cerrar los ojos directed by the giant filmmakers Takeshi Kitano (Zatoichi, Outrage Coda), and Victor Erice (El Sur, Dream of Light).
Other sections include the Midnight screening and Special Screenings, with the anticipated documentary Occupied City by British director Steve McQueen and Anselm (Das Rauschen det zeit), by Germany’s celebrated auteur Wim Wenders.
The selection of the 62nd Critics Week and 55th Directors’ Fortnight will be announced next week.