Films & Schedules

  • Three Wise Men
    Kolme viisasta miestä

  • Mika Kaurismäki

98 minutes

Production Company:
Marianna Films Oy
Mika Kaurismäki
Mika Kaurismäki, Petri Karra
Rauno Ronkainen
Mika Kaurismäki
Joonas Jyrälä, Miia Nevalainen
Principal Cast: Kari Heiskanen, Pertti Sveholm, Timo Torikka, Irina Björklund, Tommi Eronen

International Sales Agent:
Wide Management

Friday September 0505:30PM AMC 6 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Monday September 0807:45PM AMC 2 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Wednesday September 1002:00PM AMC 6 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Tolstoy wrote that happy families are all alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. This does not necessarily apply to men on an individual basis, however, as evinced by the heroes of Mika Kaurismäki's Three Wise Men, an unvarnished, intimate and often amusing drama about masculinity. On one level or another, each of these characters makes the same mistakes, or is about to.

Matti is a paranoid expectant father who is crippled by self-doubt. Erkki is an inveterate ladies' man who is battling an unnamed illness and emotionally wounded by his estrangement from his young son. Rauno is a tired, failed actor who has returned to Helsinki from Paris in an attempt to reunite with his own twentysomething son.

It is Christmas Eve, a time generally reserved for family, and the trio's inability to connect with the people closest to them is very much on their minds. It doesn't help that they're all nearing middle-age, or that their lives haven't entirely worked out the way they expected. A chance meeting at a hospital brings the three old friends together, and they head out in search of a place to drown their sorrows. They manage to bully the owner of a karaoke bar into letting them in, setting the stage for unexpected breakdowns, emotional revelations and possible redemption.

Shot over the span of a week, with the three principal performers heavily involved in how the script took shape, Three Wise Men is reminiscent of John Cassavetes's groundbreaking work in its emphasis on emotional nakedness and impromptu confessions. This unconventional creative process has imbued the narrative with a palpable uncertainty, as if neither the actors nor the director knew exactly where they might be headed. The opening sequence, during which Matti viciously hectors his hugely pregnant émigré wife, is utterly electric, and Kaurismäki and his collaborators seldom let up.

Like Cassavetes, Kaurismäki smashes at the facade of masculinity without any reservations. He does not go easy on his characters, subjecting their supposed confessions and breakdowns to tough scrutiny. Three Wise Men is a genuinely rewarding, sometimes hilarious and frequently harrowing trip through the male psyche from one of Finland's most celebrated filmmakers.

Steve Gravestock

Mika Kaurismäki was born in Helsinki. He and his brother Aki were the subject of a spotlight programme at the festival in 1988. His filmography includes The Liar (80), Amazon (90), Zombie and the Ghost Train (91), The Last Border (93), Tigrero – a Film That Was Never Made (94), Condition Red (95), L.A. Without a Map (98), a Gala presentation at the 1998 Festival, Highway Society (99), Moro No Brasil (02), Honey Baby (03), Brasileirinho (05) and Sonic Mirror (06). Three Wise Men (08) is his latest feature film.

Cadillac People's Choice Award