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Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana
(Pida huivista kiinni, Tatjana)
Finland - 1994
Directed by Aki Kaurismäki

A review by Damian Cannon.
Copyright © Movie Reviews UK 1997


Straight out of Finland comes this amusing and poignant look at the legacy of getting old when you haven't achieved much as a youth. Middle-aged Valto (Mato Valtonen) still lives and works with his mother, seemingly in a submissive role -- he's the one operating the sewing-machine while she just packs the finished shirts. All Valto has are his faded memories of being a rocker and his love of coffee. Unfortunately, just at this moment, the coffee has run out and Mother refuses to get any more until tomorrow! Fuming, Valto locks his mother in the cupboard, puts on his jacket and walks out of the door. After stocking up on coffee, he collects his car from Reino (Matti Pellonpää); another like-minded, aging rocker. Together they decide to give the car a test drive, to nowhere in particular.

As they drive along, Reino guzzles vodka straight from the bottle while Valto downs even more caffeine from his in-car coffee maker. Being men of few words they are content to observe, rather than participate in, their surroundings -- no matter how surreal they seem. Their bubble is punctured when they are forced into giving a lift to Tatjana (Kati Outinen) and Klavdia (Kirsi Tykkyläinen), friends who are making their way to Estonia. However, in spite of the language barrier, Valto and Reino paradoxically make no attempt to communicate with their passengers; instead, their favourite companions are caffeine and alcohol.

The result of the days spent travelling together is that we can see just how like little boys Valto and Reino are. Since they don't understand how to talk to women they just ignore them! Of course, they would both like to get to know Tatjana and Klavdia but the sidelong glances between them show how they just can't take the risk of embarrassing themselves in front of each other. Their passengers can see this and even seem to have something of a soft spot for the boys, despite there being no conversation. However, the lugubrious pair had better make a move else they'll be returning home to Mother!

The beauty of Aki Kaurismäki's film is that instead of being downbeat (which you might expect, given the story), it is full of funny, deadpan moments which spring from the characters and their environment. For example, the constant drinking gives Valto the shakes and sends Reino to sleep -- much to the chagrin of Tatjana. Simply watching the performances provides numerous laughs; Reino trying to hide a bottle down his trousers, Tatjana taking snapshots of food (to show to friends back home?) and Valto demanding more coffee from Klavdia. Together with the subtle emotional undercurrents, the result is a movie which can show us of the danger of not seizing the moment.

Runtime:  65 minutes

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