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FALLEN LEAVES: A QUIET GEM

I’m a relative latecomer to the charms of Aki Kaurismäki’s work, but I’ve become a proselytizer to make up for lost time. The Finnish writer-director who brought us Le Havre and The Other Side of Hope is backwith a thoroughly entertaining, completely unpredictable love story called Fallen Leaves.

Kaurismäki’s sense of humor is infectious and unmistakably his own. Some people would call this kind of comedy “dry,” and I suppose that’s as good an adjective as any. Yet it made me laugh out loud.

Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen perfectly portray two lonely, working-class people who carry on a fitful courtship. Their relationship, which gets off to an especially rocky start, isn’t pretty. They are completely believable; the director has guided them through his world with nary a misstep. 

The filmmaker has also earned my admiration for another reason: he believes that movies should be short. This one runs 81 minutes, but it doesn’t leave one feeling shortchanged—quite the contrary. Fallen Leaves is one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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