Aki Kaurismäki has been marching to the beat of his own distinctively offbeat drummer for so long, it only makes sense that his most acclaimed movie would be accompanied by a suitably unconventional soundtrack. In that regard -- and most others -- the Finnish filmmaker's The Man Without a Past does not disappoint. Kaurismäki's 23rd film (including shorts) won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes and was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. As in the rest of his work, music plays an important role in this deadpan comedy. It is alternately sad, loopy, and timeless, just like the film and its main characters: M, the amnesiac of the title, and Irma, the Salvation Army worker who helps him build a new life to replace the one he lost. The songs cover a variety of styles (including jazz, classical, and rockabilly) and eras (including a Blind Lemon Jefferson track from the 1920s). Highlights include the Beatlesque contributions from 1960s band the Renegades -- especially the exuberant "Shake," which Irma likes to listen to before turning for the night -- Marko Haavisto and Poutahaukat's sweet, summery "Paha Vaanii," and Masao Onose's lively surf instrumental "Motto Wasabi."
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AllMusic Review by Kathleen C. Fennessy