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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Finnish DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with actor Sherwan Haji
  • Footage from the 2017 Berlin Film Festival press conference for the film, featuring Aki Kaurismäki and the film’s actors
  • Aki and Peter, a new video essay by Daniel Raim about the friendship between Kaurismäki and film critic Peter von Bagh, to whom the film is dedicated
  • Music videos
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic Girish Shambu

The Other Side of Hope

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By:
2017 | 100 Minutes | Licensor: The Match Factory

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #922
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 15, 2018
Review Date: May 14, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

This wry, melancholic comedy from Aki Kaurismäki, a response to the ongoing global refugee crisis, follows two people searching for a place to call home. Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a displaced Syrian, lands in Helsinki as a stowaway; meanwhile, middle-aged Finnish salesman Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen) leaves his wife and his job and buys a conspicuously unprofitable seafood restaurant. Khaled is denied asylum but decides not to return to Aleppo—and the paths of the two men cross fortuitously. As deadpan as the best of the director’s work, and with a deep well of empathy for its down-but-not-out characters (many of them played by members of Kaurismäki’s loyal stock company), The Other Side of Hope is a bittersweet tale of human kindness in the face of official indifference.


PICTURE

Criterion releases Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope on Blu-ray, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation has been sourced from a 2K transfer scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

The image, predictably, looks great. Like a lot of Kaurismäki’s films (at least of the ones I’ve seen) it does have cooler, somewhat dreary look to it but colour saturation is still excellent and clean. Black levels are pretty strong themselves, helping in the shadows of the photography (quite a few “noir-ish” looking shots here), but a few sequences have blacks that come off a little milky.

Film grain is there but barely noticeable, and detail is excellent, the digital presentation keeping things natural, no noise or artifacts coming to the forefront. The print is also very clean, but considering the film came out last year (2017) that was pretty much expected. A nice film-like image for a new film when all is said and done.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film receives a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround presentation and like the 5.1 track on Criterion’s own Le Havre I can’t say it’s an aggressive or overly dynamic mix. Clarity is superb, everything sharp and crisp with some decent high and lows (though it’s a quiet film overall) but just about everything stays focused to the fronts. Moments featuring music are where the track gets a bit more down to business, sounding louder with a more obvious spread between speakers, but on the whole it’s a fairly simple (but very clean) soundtrack.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion throws on a few special features, including some interviews, starting off with an exclusive interview with actor Sherwan Haji. It’s an excellent 15-minute conversation, Haji explaining his background before talking about the Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis, while also addressing Kaurismaki’s way of handling it in the film. Much more amusing (though probably less informative) is footage from a press conference after a screening of the film, with Kaurismaki taking questions. The director, though, doesn’t seem too concerned about answering questions, blaming his bad hearing brought on from filming a rock documentary on his inability to properly answer the questions (though I assume this is his dry wit at play). When he does answer, though, they are usually snappy one-liners. He does, briefly, address what he was trying to do with the film, either change the minds of certain members of the audience around the refugee crisis and pointing out the games that politicians play around the subject. It’s about 29-minutes long though probably only contains a few minutes’ worth of actual insight, but it’s all incredibly amusing and even features actor Sakari Kuosmanen suddenly breaking out into song.

Criterion then includes four music videos around songs that appear in the film, presenting them here in their entirety. Featured here are: “Kaipuuni Tango” (“The Tango of My Longing”) by Marko Haavisto & Poutahaukat, “Midnight Man” by Isko Haavisto, “Skulaa Tai Delaa” (“I Play or I Die”) by Dumari & Spuget featuring Esa Pulliainen, and “Tama Maa” (“This Land”) by Harri Marstio & Antero Jakoila. The videos use the performances recorded for the film with some other sequences edited in. All of the songs, particularly “Midnight Man,” are catchy.

There is a new video essay by Daniel Raim on the collaboration between Kaurismäki and his friend and writer Peter von Bagh, the memory of whom this film is dedicated to. The essay looks at the proletariat trilogy (Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl) and Drifting Clouds, covering the common themes between the films around its representation of “people on the margins” and the socio-political climate of Finland at the respective times of the films. It’s a nice 12-minute piece that may also work well as a decent introduction to the director for newcomers, but I was a little annoyed that it looks like Criterion is using newer high-definition masters to provide clips from the proletariat trilogy (which Criterion released on DVD only a decade ago). Not sure if those will ever get a new edition from them.

The Janus Films trailer closes off the disc and an included insert features a new essay by Girish Shambu, who writes about how Kaurismäki moves his focus on “displaced people” from his fellow Finns to migrants (with his same humour and style) with this film and Le Havre.

It’s disappointingly a bit sparse but the couple of exclusive features found here (the Haji interview and the video essay) are both terrific additions.

6/10

CLOSING

Not a stand out edition by any means but it offers a solid audio/video presentation and a handful of worthwhile features.


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