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Other Side of Hope, The

The Criterion Collection // Unrated // May 15, 2018
List Price: $27.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted June 1, 2018 | E-mail the Author


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The Other Side of Hope Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review


The Other Side of Hope is the latest film
from
acclaimed Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki (Leningrad Cowboys,
Le
Havre
). It is produced by Kaurismäki alongside associate
producer Reinhard
Brundig (Whale Rider, Samsara) and co-producers Misha
Jaari (The
Interrogation
) and Mark Lwoff (The Good Son).


Khaled (Sherwan Haji) is a Syrian refugee trying
to find a
new beginning in Finland. Attempting to leave behind the dangers of
Syria, where
a bomb could fall on his head during his day to day routine, Khaled
seeks peace
and work in Helsinki. The Syrian refugee struggles to find a way to
live a
normal life in this land with many opposed to the refugees in the
country and
hate-crimes being committed by anti-immigrant groups. In one moment of
the
film, Khaled is attacked by a group wearing jackets with the words
"Liberation Army Finland" emblazoned on the back.


Waldemar Wikstrom (Sakari Kuosmanen) is a somewhat
bumbling Finnish
salesman who is trying to do something new for a change by buying a
restaurant.
Thinking he got himself an excellent deal (though he didn't as the
business was
suffering to start), he takes up the bar's reigns and tries to up the
ante on
the meal offerings from canned goods to the likes of the significantly
more
trendy sushi (though the staff has a terrible time of trying to adapt
to it).


As Khaled attempts to get by on a day-to-day
basis, he
pursues his mission of trying to also bring over his sister to Finland
as well.
Along with the help of a friend he meets and gets to know over the
course of
the story, Khaled navigates the country with as much vigor as he can
muster.
The film eventually intersects the two opposing storylines into one
when Khaled
find himself right outside of Wikstrom's restaurant. They have a quick
fist-fight before deciding to work together. Wikstrom gives Khlaed a
job and
helps to give him a new chance at life in Finland, with other staff
members
lending their hand.


The film is both a deeply serious and moving drama
and a
curiously humorous comedy with the unique voice its filmmaker,
Kaurismäki. The
film alternates between remarkably tender moments and moments that are
so
surprisingly funny that it's amazing the film can blend together these
elements
so seamlessly. The film has a humanistic and sincere heart to it as it
looks at
the ways in which refugees are so often mistreated by foreign
countries. Kaurismäki
lends his voice to why Finland should embrace and help the Syrian
refugees for
their strife and with this film makes a statement against the
hate-crimes and
discrimination faced by many of the Syrian refugees in his country.


The film has an immaculate production design and
aesthetic.
The art direction by Markku Patila (Lights in the Dusk, A
Man's Job
)
is notable with great sets and attributes. As with all films by
Kaurismäki, the
film has a distinct style which is aided by the superb work of the
production
team. The cinematography by Timo Salminen (I Hired a Contract Killer,
The
Man Without a Past
) is also exquisite and gives the film a
beautifully
melancholic atmosphere which leaves several lasting and beautiful
moments in
mind.


The film is also marked by its remarkable music.
Without a
doubt, The Other Side of Hope has one of the best soundtracks
of the
entire year. With one superb music selection after another, with many
songs performed
live, the music feels energetic, exciting, and undeniably cool. The
Finnish
musicians gathered for this film all bring their own distinctive
flavors the
piece and it helps to make the film even more refreshing.


Written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki (La
Vie De Boheme
),
The Other Side of Hope is another brilliant masterpiece from the
Finnish
director. His films have such a clear vision and style. The sensibility
of this
master director is impeccable. Each frame feels essential to the story.
There
is no wasted moment. From the quiet, almost wordless beginning of the
film to
the rewarding final shot, Kaurismäki's film is the kind that
reminds audiences
of why cinema is so important. It will stay with you long after the
credits have
finished.


The Blu-ray:


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Video:


Presented on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection
in the
original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, this 1080p
MPEG-4 AVC
encoded presentation is a director-approved release of the film with a
2K scan.
The film was shot on 35mm Kodak film and has an undeniably impressive
quality
to it on this release. The film keeps to the sensibility of photography
present
in each of Kaurismäki's efforts. Cinematographer Timo Salminen
gave the film
beautiful photography which enhances the experience.


Audio:


Presented in Finnish
and Arabic 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English subtitles. This is a
quality
lossless high-definition sound presentation with strong clarity and
fidelity overall.
Though the film is not one to have a very active surround sound
presentation, the
audio is pleasing for it's great dialogue reproduction and clarity for
the
excellent music featured throughout.


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Extras:


Inside of the package is a leaflet with a printed
essay
about the film written by critic Girish Shambu.


On disc supplements include:


Interview with Sherwan Haji (HD, 15 min.)
is a newly
recorded interview with the lead actor of the film about how he became
involved
in the production. He also discusses what it was like working with the
great Kaurismäki
and explores their collaborative process.


Press Conference Footage (HD, 29 min.) style=""> as taken from the premiere of The Other
Side of Hope
at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival,
featuring
writer/director Aki Kaurismäki, actor Sherwan Haji, and actor
Sakari Kuosmanen discussing
the film with the attending audience. Featuring great insight from
director Kaurismäki,
this is a must-see behind-the-scenes feature.


Aki and Peter (HD, 12 min.) is a video
essay
featuring excerpts from the words of film critic Peter von Bagh about
filmmaker
Kaurismäki and his films. The Other Side of Hope was
dedicated by
director Kaurismäki to Peter von Bagh, who passed away, and had
been a big supporter.
Bagh even wrote a book about Kaurismäki's work (that book, alas,
has yet to be
translated to English).


Music Videos are provided in their full
length
versions (as featured in part during the main film) as follows:


Kaipuuni Tango
(HD, 3 min.)


Music by Marko Haavisto and Poutahaukat


Title translation: "The Tango of my Longing"


Midnight Man
(HD, 3 min.)


Music by Ismo Haavisto


Skulaa Tai Delaa
(HD, 3 min.)


Music by Dumari & Spuget featuring Esa
Pulliainen


Title translation: "I Play or I Die"


Tama Maa
(HD, 4 min.)


Music by Harri Marstio and Antero Jakoila


Title translation: "This Land"


Trailer (HD, 2 min.)


Final Thoughts:


Kaurismäki is a remarkable filmmaker who
continues to
demonstrate why he is such a huge figure in foreign cinema with his
latest
masterpiece The Other Side of Hope. This Criterion Collection
edition
features an excellent presentation and a number of absorbing extras.


Deftly blending together the deeply personal and
comic, The
Other Side of Hope
is a must-see film.


Highly Recommended.



Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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