UP AND ABOUT AGAIN
UP AND ABOUT AGAIN is moved by motion, laid back in the outback
Dreamlike images depict a saloon car driving, covered in a thick layer of snow and ice, through a summer landscape. Something inexplicable has turned an otherwise ordinary day upside down. Pain is hidden.
|director, script, edit||Maarit Suomi-Väänänen|
|sound design and mixing||Kyösti Väntänen|
|stunt, car specialist||Risto Hämäri|
|snow and special effects||Konsta Mannerheimo|
|editing, assistant director||Ville Väänänen|
|still photos, camera assistant||Jarkko Liikanen|
|soundtrack composer||Tapani Rinne|
|recorded, mixed, arranged by||Verneri Lumi|
|Kohu-63: Wake Up|
|composer, lyrics, arranged, translation
||Arto Lättä Hyytiäinen|
|guitars||Purtsi and Jypi|
|Stay free underground records 2004|
|online editing||Heikki Kotsalo, Parastus|
|colorist||Inka Ruohela, Generator Post|
|graphic design||Ville Kiiski, Medusa|
|catering||Laura Indren, Hilla Productions|
|camera equipment||P. Mutasen Elokuvakonepaja Oy|
|support||AVEK / Milla Moilanen, Ulla Simonen|
|Finnish Cultural Foundation|
|Arts Council of Finland|
|in association with||YLE Co-production / Sari Volanen|
|producer & production||Maarit Suomi-Väänänen, 2009|
|dvd support||Finnish Film Foundation|
|Arts Council of Finland, FRAME, Medusa.fi|
|format||16:9 anamorfinen PAL|
|aspect ratio||1:2.35 cinemascope|
|sound||5.1. multichannel audio, 2.0. stereo|
|original name||Jalkeilla taas|
|distribution||Finnish Film Foundation, Frame, AV-arkki|
The Globe and Mail, Canada 11.11.2011:
If my take on Finnish artist Maarit Suomi-Vaananen’s film Up and About Again, currently showing at Women’s Art Resource Centre Gallery, is accurate, Herbie, like many child actors (I know Herbie was a car, but he was a baby-fat chubby little VW Beetle) has gone to seed.
Herbie is now a boxy busted relic, a craggy shadow of his former self, and living in rural Finland. Beats the scrap heap, I guess.
But Maarit Suomi-Vaananen gives the once loveable little car (or, okay, a close facsimile) a final kick at the fame can, via her strange half adventure, half meditation road movie – a movie starring a small white bubble of a car with a rounded hood, a car we quickly learn to read as a human stand-in.
The award-winning artist’s act of anthropomorphism starts off with a long pan of a grubby, ill-tended quarry circled by hearty green trees and spots of moss. Enter the white car, seemingly covered in snow – though the climate seems summery. Clearly, the car is a fish out of water, to mix metaphors. Indeed, even the car windows are blanketed, making all interior action opaque (and, simultaneously, making the car appear self-activated).
Eventually, after crashing into some rocks, the car stops in the middle of the quarry, where it instantly triggers a series of land-mine like explosions. Then it makes its way to an abandoned gas station, where it does a few goofy doughnut circles, and then heads for the deep, mossy forest, wherein a back wheel snaps off. But on the little car goes, now a wounded hero, into the evergreens, oblivious to its inevitable collapse.
All along its brief journey from the pits to the pastoral, we are shown that the car has seen better days. The front bumper is hanging off, a light is broken, the windshield wipers are twisted like broken legs (but still make agonized attempts to work), and whole hunks of the car’s body are close to unhinging.
So, what’s going on in this mini-epic? Rather a lot.
First, the obvious: As the title of the film suggests, Suomi-Vaananen’s road movie is a metaphor for life’s struggles, and the ability humans have to constantly pick themselves up and move forward. We all know that bomb-infested quarry pit, psychologically speaking (and the dreamy forest too).
Secondly, the film finds a unique way to talk about self-inflicted blinders, willing acts of not-knowing. The car is so thickly covered in white (paint? frost? candy floss?) that whoever is inside cannot see or be seen, and yet on they drive, oblivious to both hazards and consequences. We’ve all been there psychologically too.
Finally, the car itself is an embodiment of a failed dream.
Just as Herbie the Love Bug arrived at a time when North America’s economy was built on manufacturing and energy appeared cheap and plentiful, along came a semi-human car, a metal baby with wheels. Now, that baby is a fractured adult, falling apart at both ends and spewing blue fumes – just like neoliberal capitalism.
Furthermore, we can’t control the cursed thing (or our downward economic spiral), because our earlier oblivion to the larger implications of making emotional investments in objects – in creating, for instance, a “car culture” (men still call their cars by women’s names, weird as that is) – has made the objects of our affection opaque to us and ourselves unable to discern a way forward. We are trapped within and by our seductive objects.
For the most part, however, you can leave the semiotic unpacking for after the screening, because Up And About Again is primarily a long sight gag, a slapstick riffing on optimistic, keep on truckin’ recipes for living; maudlin self-help culture parodied via a clumsy, junkyard prop.
Be prepared to laugh out loud, even if you’re laughing in resigned recognition. As tiresome as just-do-it pop culture pronouncements are, it’s also true that forward is the only (albeit with only three wheels) option. The paradox is abjectly funny.
For such a tiny and downtrodden object, Suomi-Vaananen’s protagonist sure can carry a lot of viewers’ projections. Maybe that’s why it’s covered in movie-screen white.
IS THERE SOMETHING FUN ON?
Datsun plays leading part
A small Datsun 100A, completely covered in snow, rides through a desolate rock quarry. The little car avoids colliding with a big rock and evades a couple of explosions. At a gas station it circles around at great speed and finally gets thrown into a lovely green wood. There the Datsun continues its crazy ride, while losing more and more parts. Very daring, to cast a car as the leading figure. But never be surprised with Finnish director Maarit Suomi-Väänänen. She has been in the Paradocs programme before with an equally absurd short film on felling a tree near a Finnish lake. A metaphor for the documentary, which broadens our view of the world.
Up And About Again can be explained in various ways. It can be the ironic version of the plot of an average Hollywood film, where the main character has to conquer a series of obstacles. Or human life in short: after various setbacks one accomplishes heavenly rest. Worn out and shaken, be as it may. Unbearable? Not in the least. Suomi-Väänänen brings the film with typical Finnish humour: very dry and with a sharp bite. Thus she makes you smile.
Niels Bakker, Idfa Daily - DagKrant 26.11.2009, translation: Katja Kuper
Randolp Jordan, offscreen.com, Volume 13, Issue 12
Bad Lit: THE JOURNAL OF UNDERGROUND FILM. San Francisco. Written by Mike Everleth
Up and About Again, dir. Maarit Suomi-Vaananen. Forget the Fast and the Furious, this is the slow and the mysterious. One of those mini European cars painted all in white — yep, that includes the windows being painted over — gently rolls into a gray rock quarry. Once down there, the car slowly dodges explosions and does donuts around an abandoned gas station while death metal blares on the soundtrack. This could be a commentary on the blind directionless-ness of life or the bleakness of car culture, but on it’s surface, it’s just really cool to watch and try to figure out why somebody drove around with a painted windshield.
On the horizon, a sweet graceless creature appears, a Datsun 100A, propelled by a cloud of dust. The world grows broader, the journey continues bouncing and striving forward in an insanely rugged, rocky world. Maarit Suomi-Väänänen’s (b.1966) three-part short film, Up And About Again (2009) is a many-layered coming-of-age story. Although there’s a biographical structure to the film, related both to the life of an individual and to the battlefield of society and global politics, it leaves ideological disputes aside. The message is rather that precisely at a time of individual and shared fear, it is the person and the person’s heart that should be put forward. This melancholic short film is a narrative whose ending doesn’t really matter. If it did, it would be ordinary, simple, and flatten the meanings: I grew up, endured, left, began a life of my own...
The first part of the film, entitled Rock Field, emphasizes loneliness, perhaps also through sympathy with the sweet, graceless little blind car. The main character’s appearance in the film calls out: Look at me, look at me! This creature, covered in snow and struggling sightlessly forward, is at once beginning a life, and one who has seen it all. In the Rock Field section, the being hovers a moment as death and rebellion play on the threshold. One can feel suspense in the air, like after a moment in which death may have been just one word or one wrong step away. A hard and merciless journey lies behind. Yet we survive, and go on rebelling to forget the moments when we have to live horribly close to death.
As in a bad dream, the changes often come in a rush and full of contradictions, awakening you to rebellion. In the second part, Service Station, the being leaps ahead at full speed, powered by the punk song Kohu-63: Wake Up. Anger propels it even faster across the asphalt lot of the gas station, asking who paved over paradise? But what this being resisted, he had to resist even within himself, because resistance is about the struggle for one’s identity, both as a personal strategy and as a social attitude. According to the cultural anthropologist