Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Jason Segel Takes On David Foster Wallace in Controversial 'End of the Tour' (VIDEO) Jason Segel Takes On David Foster Wallace in Controversial 'End of the Tour' (VIDEO) Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) Read Martin Scorsese's Column on His Favorite Hollywood Leading Ladies Read Martin Scorsese's Column on His Favorite Hollywood Leading Ladies A Woman in Charge: Warner Bros. Names Sue Kroll Head of Global Distribution A Woman in Charge: Warner Bros. Names Sue Kroll Head of Global Distribution 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

TIFF Review: Pirjo Honkasalo's 'Concrete Night' One of the Most Gorgeous Films at Toronto (TRAILER)

Photo of John Anderson By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood September 12, 2013 at 12:05PM

Included in the Toronto Film Festival’s “Masters” selection -- and for very good reason -- “Concrete Night” marks the return of the Finnish filmmaker Pirjo Honkasalo (“The Three Rooms of Melancholia”) to the realm of fiction for the first time since 1998, with a story that explores the poverty of the soul; the poverty of the pocketbook; life, death, Helsinki and the cosmos.
0
"Concrete Night"
"Concrete Night"

Included in the Toronto Film Festival’s “Masters” selection -- and for very good reason -- “Concrete Night” marks the return of the Finnish filmmaker Pirjo Honkasalo (“The Three Rooms of Melancholia”) to the realm of fiction for the first time since 1998, with a story that explores the poverty of the soul; the poverty of the pocketbook; life, death, Helsinki and the cosmos. 

Based on a novel by Honkasalo compatriot Pirkko Saisio, “Concrete Night’ is a mood piece and a poem, a coming-of-age story and a parable about how one generation warps the next. It’s also, not coincidentally, one of the most gorgeous things to appear at TIFF.

Pirjo Honkasalo
Pirjo Honkasalo

Shooting in widescreen black-and-white (a distinctly Finnish gesture), DP Peter Flickenburger’s camera creates a look that suggests B&W social realist films of a bygone era, perhaps one of the great ‘50s films of Elia Kazan, or something shot by Haskell Wexler (like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”), or Otello Martelli (“Stromboli”). For any student of world cinema, the look of “Concrete Night” pulls the trigger on an explosion of visual memories and subconscious references, most of them linked to films of social importance, progressive thought, neo-realism and film as an art of visual nuance. 

The story itself is about the troubled coming of age of a 14-year-old boy named Simo (Johannes Brotherus), who lives in squalor with his brother, who will soon be going off to jail. Simo’s problems may seem smalltime, but the look and frame of the film makes them epic.

“You have to choose a face,” the voiceover says, and as Simo stares into a mirror, he’s trying to figure out who’s staring back. Such moments of duality are rampant in “Concrete Night.” Honkasalo exploits every reflective surface she can find, suggesting alternate identities and possibilities, juxtaposing the what-ifs of a parallel existence, where Simo might have been born and better educated and made less morally porous, and where the influences on him might not have been so poisonous. 

The dust, spores, feathers and bits of airborne effluvia that fly around in the air, and which puzzle Simo at the outset of the movie (and which recur throughout) seem to suggest the loose particles of his life. Or maybe pixie dust. You can choose a face, you can choose to see things this way or that; you can choose your life. But it requires strength and a moral barometer. Whether Simo has those qualities is a question that creates the not-inconsiderable tension of “Concrete Night,” as well as its considerable echoes.

This article is related to: Toronto, Reviews, Trailers, Trailers, Reviews, Festivals


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.