On the poster for “Dead Leaves”, Jussi Vatanen, the actor with the tractor

Finnish actor Jussi Vatanen, in Cannes (Alpes-Maritimes), May 22.

To readers who don’t mind clichés, we could present him as the “Finnish Jean Gabin”, the “polar Richard Gere”, the “Donald Glover of ice”, even the “Isabella Rossellini who came from the cold”. Like them, Jussi Vatanen simultaneously works as an actor and a farmer. In the city, he plays the main role of Dead leavestwenty-first feature film by Aki Kaurismäki, Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (Alpes-Maritimes). In the fields, this son of a farmer from Northern Savonia took over the family farm a few years ago, with his sister, a horse trainer. Dad made milk; him, cereals.

Also read the review: Article reserved for our subscribers “The Dead Leaves”, the meeting of two lonely hearts

Playing one day for the “sacred cow” of Finnish cinema had never crossed his mind, swears Jussi Vatanen. “As a kid, when I was kicking my soccer ball against the stable wall, Aki was already at all the big festivals”rewinds the 45-year-old guy, met in May, on the Croisette. At the start of filming, the actor shared his surprise with Alma Pöysti, his acting partner in Dead leaves. “We pinched ourselves to convince ourselves that we weren’t dreaming. It was like meeting Elvis. Aki lives in another dimension. »

Not that Jussi is a partridge of the year. Before the filmmaker The Man Without a Past (2002) name it, Vatanen had made a name for himself in the booming Finnish audiovisual sector. “Our country produces twenty-five films per year – a volume unimaginable when I enrolled in my first theater cles in 1999. There are even Finnish horror films! » He owes his pion for the game to his mother, a municipal employee. “She took me to the theater from time to time. We have to believe that it worked. »

And how: Jussi has been nominated several times for the aptly named Jussis – the Finnish equivalent of the Caesars. His appearances on French screens illustrate the full extent of his range: schoolboy comedy (Very Cold Tripin 2010, multi-award winning at the Alpe-d’Huez Festival, in Isère, in 2011), series with great thrills, plowing the furrow of the Scandinavian thriller (The Man from Room 301, in 2019, broadcast on Arte in 2021), blockbuster warrior (Unknown Soldierin 2017), also the biggest budget in the history of Finnish cinema.

Accomplished manners

Jussi Vatanen focused on purity to work with Aki Kaurismäki. “Aki’s style is so clear and precise that you just have to adaptpraise the actor. He is a master of conciseness, a poet. Some of his lines are known to every Finn – even those who have not seen his films. » Despite all the invariants of his cinema – alcohol, matches, coma, rock’n’roll… –, by what miracle does Aki Kaurismäki manage, at 66 years old, to surprise again? “There is something timeless about him, and at the same time very current, replies Vatanen. His previous films evoked migrants, this one the war in Ukraine. »

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