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Teuvo Tulio

December 6, 2008

The Way You Wanted Me, 1944

way_wanted.gifIn a pivotal encounter in Teuvo Tulio's Song of the Scarlet Flower, a lovesick Olavi seeks solace in a brothel and instead finds himself confronting past transgressions when his abandoned lover Elli, now working as a prostitute, challenges him to follow through on his empty promises of marriage by arguing that, in her provocative dress and easy virtue, she embodies his ideal woman. Her mocking, desperate plea is similarly echoed by the star-crossed heroine of Tulio's subsequent film, The Way You Wanted Me. Like Kenji Mizoguchi's Life of Oharu, the film also incorporates an extended flashback to chronicle a fallen woman's plight in her delusive search for love and acceptance. And like Mizoguchi's film, The Way You Wanted Me opens to a scene of identification - in this case, the fallen woman, Maija (Marie-Louise Fock) emerges from the shadows of a dockyard into the harsh light of her humiliated station. Once a naïve, love-struck girl forsaken by her lover, Aarne (Ture Ara) in a moment of weakness, Maija would leave the insular island to work as a housemaid in the city, only to be seduced by her employer's son Erkki (Kunto Karapää), then forced to leave the household in order to avoid the scandal of a pregnancy. With few prospects for a decent job, Maija is reduced to working as a bar hostess to make ends meet, ever fending off the advances of disreputable clients, even as she continues to hold out hope for an enduring love that will redeem her from her fate. Curiously, inasmuch as Mizoguchi's film converges towards a spiritual transcendence in Oharu's retreat to monastic life, Tulio's film is imbued with a certain level of quasi-spirituality, where a cherished cross represents both existential burden and eternal love, and salvation lies in the symbolic act of communion. Within this framework, Maija's character hews closer to the titular heroine in Carl-Theodor Dreyer's Gertrud than Oharu in its sense of intractable, self-inflicted tragedy, where the idealization of the token gestures become the intranscendable barrier to the realization of love itself.

Posted by acquarello on Dec 06, 2008 | | Filed under 2008, Teuvo Tulio

Song of the Scarlet Flower, 1938

scarletflower.gifThe recurring imagery of turbulent waters in Teuvo Tulio's films reflect a kinship with early Norwegian (and more broadly, Scandinavian) cinema in the use of rugged landscape as a metaphor for the paradoxical nature of the human condition. In Tulio's Song of the Scarlet Flower, a daredevil log ride through the swift currents of a river becomes a metaphoric crossing of the Rubicon for handsome and rakish drifter, Olavi (Kaarlo Oksanen). The brash, coddled son of a well-to-do landowner, Olavi's youth had been spent sowing, then promptly abandoning his proverbial wild oats throughout the countryside: from his first love, Annikki (Mirjam Kuosmanen) who is quickly cast aside when she rejects his sexual advances, to a girl at the fair, Elli (Nora Mäkinen) who, too, is spurned when his parents disapprove of his half-hearted intention to marry her (after being caught together in the servants' quarters), to a dark haired peasant girl (Birgit Nuotio) who is left behind when the lumberjacks leave the village at end of the logging season, to the fair haired Pihlajanterttu (Maire Ranius) whose seduction is vulgarly punctuated with his pre-emptive declaration that she surrender her love to only one other man - her chosen husband - after him. However, the tables are soon turned when the disinherited Olavi, now working as an itinerant lumberjack, falls for the daughter of a prosperous farmer, Kyllikki (Rakel Linnanheimo) against the wishes of her father, and is forced to prove his mettle in order to win her love and, in the process, confront the real and imagined ghosts of his disreputable past. Representing his earliest extant film, Song of the Scarlet Flower reveals Tulio's penchant for kitschy melodrama that converges towards Kenji Mizoguchi's preoccupations in its healthy (albeit heavy handed) dose of social criticism and empowerment. Like Mizoguchi, the marginalized role of women in society also becomes a recurring theme in Tulio's cinema, and in Song of the Scarlet Flower, the glaring dichotomy between the fates of the "fallen" women of Olavi's past and his own redemption serves to reinforce the disparity. It is interesting to note that Olavi's final encounter with his former lovers is marked by Annikki's unexpected visit to his new home as he awaits the birth of his child: in a way, coming to a figurative full circle that reflects an illusive return to innocence.

Posted by acquarello on Dec 06, 2008 | | Filed under 2008, Teuvo Tulio