Aki Kaurismäki's Proletariat Trilogy
The poignant, deadpan films of Aki Kaurismäki are pitched somewhere in the wintry nether lands between comedy and tragedy. And rarely in his body of work has the line separating those genres seemed thinner than in what is often identified as his Proletariat Trilogy, Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl. In these three films, something like social-realist farces, Kaurismäki surveys the working-class outcasts of his native Finland with detached yet disarming amusement. Featuring commanding, off-key visual compositions and delightfully dour performances, the films in this triptych exemplify the talents of a unique and highly influential film artist.
For series 12 of Criterion’s Eclipse series they have released three films by Aki Kaurismäki, together called the Proletariat Trilogy. The films included here are Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl. All three are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 over three single-layer discs and have been enhanced for widescreen televisions. Ariel looks to have been slightly pictureboxed.
The films themselves are barely over an hour each so the single-layered discs are not an issue. All three films look quite good and the quality is pretty consistent through all of them.
Sharpness and detail is incredibly strong over the three films, there’s great definition in close-ups and even long shots come off looking pretty sharp. The films overall have a more drab look to them, with lots of blues and grays, but yellows, reds, and other bright colours are beautifully saturated and look wonderful. Blacks are pretty deep and dark scenes are very easy to see.
The prints are all in great condition, though there is still some damage over all of the films with little bits of debris raining through, and other blemishes creeping up, but overall it has been cleaned up nicely. Grain is present and can get heavy on occasion but overall is not troublesome.
Overall I was quite pleased with the transfers found here and I think for those waiting for these films (or any Kaurismäki film) to be released on DVD will be quite pleased.
Shadows in Paradise and Ariel both present Dolby surround tracks, while The Match Factory Girl (despite being the newest of the three) is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. All of the tracks more work perfectly for their respective films. P>
The two Dolby Surround tracks are, surprisingly, quite active. While they are both front heavy there are some subtle sound effects in the rears including background city noise and even some louder effects during bar sequences, filling the soundfield naturally.
The tracks overall are quite clean, with no distortion or damage. Voices can sound a little weak but music is strong as are background noises. Another surprisingly nice aspect of this release.
And since this is an Eclipse release there are no special features to speak of, other than the liner notes found inside each slim case.
I am a little disappointed that these films didn’t get bigger releases but the transfers more than make up for that. This is an excellent Eclipse set and one I strongly recommend.