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Monday, February 3, 2014

LA VIE DE BOHÈME Criterion DVD Review

LA VIE DE BOHÈME Criterion DVD Review
1992, 100 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Aki Kaurismäki's La Vie de Bohème is a deadpan tragicomedy about three men living a Bohemian life in modern-day France.  As delightfully bizarre as it is beautifully crafted, this movie won't be for all tastes, but for those who like their comedies a bit on the dry side, this will be perfect for you.

La Vie de Bohème is the first film Kaurismäki made about Marcel Marx, a failing writer.  The follow-up to La Vie de Bohème is 2011's Le Havre, a fairy tale-like story set in the French port town of Le Havre.  Much of the draw of these films are the characters.  Kaurismäki fills his films with great actors with memorable faces.  André Wilms leads the cast as Marx, with Matti Pelonpää, Evelyne Didi, Christine Murillo, and Kari Väänänen rounding out the cast.  Truffaut regular Jean-Pierre Léaud and director Samuel Fuller also make appearances.

La Vie de Bohème is technically set in the modern day (of 1992, when the film was made), but it always feels like the world of a time gone by.  The beautiful black-and-white cinematography gives the film an expressionistic, dream-like quality.  La Vie de Bohème is the most romantic view of poverty I've seen.  The shadowy images intoxicate as the story of the modern-day Bohemians at its center takes hold.  The characters in La Vie de Bohème aren't rich, but they don't care.  They like living their lives however they please.

Included on this disc is a 50-minute documentary shot during production on La Vie de Bohème that includes interviews with Kaurismäki and much of his crew including a brief interview with the cooks on set.  Because there were so many nationalities represented on the set of La Vie de Bohème, the chefs tried their best to make sure to serve food that would remind the crew of home.  This is a fairly inconsequential interview but one that I liked because it is a point of view that we don't normally get to hear.  I wish the documentary said who each interviewee is, but it was always interesting to hear how much they all love Kaurismäki and his film shoots.  Considering what a dour film La Vie de Bohème is, it was amusing to see and hear how much fun the cast and crew had working on it.

Also included on the disc is an interview with André Wilms, which is extremely entertaining.

Overall, this is definitely not a film I'd recommend as a blind buy since it's offbeat sense of humor and meandering plot won't be for all.  However, if you're a Kaurismäki fan, as I am, this would be a good edition to buy.  La Vie de Bohème is a slight film, but a very enjoyable one that I'm thrilled Criterion has brought back.

Film: 3/4
Special Features: 3.5/4

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