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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: January 21st, 2014 Movie Release Year: 1992

La vie de bohème

Overview -

This deadpan tragicomedy about a group of impoverished, outcast artists living the bohemian life in Paris is among the most beguiling films by Finnish master Aki Kaurismäki. Based on stories from Henri Murger's influential mid nineteenth-century book Scènes de la vie de bohème (the basis for the opera La bohème), the film features a marvelous trio of Kaurismäki regulars, André Wilms, Matti Pellonpää, and Karl Väänänen, as a poet, painter, and composer who scrape by together, sharing in life's daily absurdities. Gorgeously shot in black and white, 'La vie de bohème' is a vibrantly scrappy rendition of a beloved tale.

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
French Uncompressed Mono
Special Features:
A booklet featuring an essay by critic Luc Sante
Release Date:
January 21st, 2014

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


If you're not familiar with Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki, then you're in for a real treat. Kaurismaki is an excellent filmmaker who has won countless awards for his directing efforts. His films have also won Best Picture at numerous film festivals and other award ceremonies over the years. He is perhaps most known for his film 'The Man Without A Past', which was nominated for an Oscar and won Best Film at other festivals. He has a great resume of movies, but in this particular instance, his film 'La Vie De Boheme' was well received by most critics and spawned a sequel almost twenty years later.

This was Kaurismaki's first French film and was released in 1992. I imagine starving artists today watch this film and wish they had friends and a community like the one portrayed in this movie. Kaurismaki shows a brilliant glimpse into the life of three new friends in Paris who are all trying to make it in the art world, and will not give up their dream not matter how poor or homeless they become.

We first meet a man named Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms), who is a writer and playwright. He is a lonely fellow and has just been evicted from his small apartment. But luckily he meets another man named Rodolfo (Matti Pellonpaa), who is great painter from Albania, but his temporary citizen status has expired and he must return to his home country. The third man who becomes a part of this unlikely duo is Schaunard (Kari Vaananen), a music composer and piano player who now lives in Marcel's old building. These three men all love what they do so much that they have sacrificed their own well-being to keep making art.

This friendly trio pools their money together to stay in the same place and share meals when they can afford it with one another. There are some genuinely funny moments throughout the film with a sack full of dry wit and humor. Soon after spending time with one another, the three men believe that they were drawn together for a purpose.

Rodolfo meets a young girl named Mimi (Evelyn Didi), and the two fall in love, however shortly after their love affair begins, Rodolfo is deported back to Albania. But after six months, Rodolfo makes his way back to Paris only to find out that Mimi is with another man. But Rodolfo's two friends are there for him and are still true to their passion, which is making art and looking out for one another. But Rodolfo might just have a second chance with Mimi, but at a heavy price.

Kaurismaki has done an exquisite job with 'La Vie De Boheme' by making Paris a character in itself, much like how Woody Allen has made New York a central character in a lot of his films. The performances are amazing by everyone involved. They make you want to leave your day job and focus on your passion, whatever it may be, and no matter the sacrifice, because these characters truly believe that art can change the world. Be sure to keep an eye out for Samuel Fuller and Louis Malle in great cameos.

Video Review


'La Vie De Boheme' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. According to Criterion, this new high-definition transfer was supervised by Aki Kaurismaki himself, and was made from a 35mm fine grain positive. This is the best this movie has ever looked. Criterion has done an outstanding job, as usual with this transfer.

The detail is very sharp, but still has that filmic quality to it. There is almost a quality of noir in this picture. The black and white colors are well balanced here as well. There doesn't seem to be an over abundance of digital restoration, as the film itself looks very organic. Great video presentation here.

Audio Review


This release has a French LPCM 1.0 audio track and sounds great as far as dialogue goes. This is a dialogue heavy film with almost no score or music to accompany the story, which is strange as this is a movie about artists. The dialogue is very crisp and clear with some great English subtitles.

There were no pops, cracks, or hissing throughout. The dynamic range is not as wide as I wanted it to be and there is almost nothing in the way of ambient noises that flutter here or there. Everything is just straight and center with this one.

Special Features

  • Interview with Andre Wilms (HD, 12 mins) - This is a 2012 interview with actor Andre Wilms where he discusses his work and relationship with Aki Kaurismaki. Good interview.
  • Where is Musette? (HD, 53 mins) - This is an hour long documentary on the making of the 'La Vie De Boheme'. It features some interviews with the cast and crew, some on-set footage, and some behind the scenes information. If you're a fan of the film, then definitely watch this extra.
  • Criterion Booklet - The booklet has an essay by critic Luc Sante along with information on the film.

Aki Kaurismaki's 'La Vie De Boheme' is a great and beautiful film. It's style and pace are unique and welcomed. The dry humor in this film will have you laughing and talking about it for days, and you will want to revisit these characters often. Criterion has knocked it out of the park once again with this release. It has stunning video and a decent audio track. While there are only a couple of extras, they're great ones. This comes highly recommended, and if you like Kauismaki, I highly suggest you look for one of his first short films called 'Rocky VI', which is a short parody where a giant Russian knocks Rocky Balboa out cold at the beginning of the fight.