In fact, about half the cast of the second movie is in the first one.
I know this because, miraculously, the MFA held an Aki Kaurismäki film festival this past month, and they showed Drifting Clouds on Saturday.
It's fun to watch and recognise the actors from the second film in this. The one addition to the main cast is Kari Väänänen as Lauri, the husband. He was in Night on Earth as one of the drunks in the back of the Helsinki cab. (In an incredibly amusing nod, a scene in a movie theatre features a movie poster for Night on Earth. Well. I found it amusing.) He's just so...reassuring as the husband who's been laid off, cruelly, by a bad cut of the cards.
Kati Outinen, Irma in Man, is Ilona, Head Waitress at a closed restaurant. She's not a classic beauty, but she's captivating to watch. She's the main focus of the picture, as we follow the couple from employment to unemployment and back again.
Markku Peltonen is a chef, Lujanen (the same name that he has in the second film...when he learns what it is), who suffers from the "occupational hazard" of alcoholism. He has the best line of the movie: "I am on a journey to the end of Vodka."
This is a study of what marriage is about. This is what we all want...a partner, a lover, a helpmeet and soulmate. Lauri, after getting laid off, goes out drinking, comes home, and passes out in the entryway; Ilona merely drags him to bed. Ilona drinks herself into a stupour on the sofa, watching TV in her coat, after she loses her job and Lauri leaves her to it with the gentle observation that she smokes too much; later he covers her up and turns off the TV. They never blame each other, they never give up hope...they have one another, and they'll get by. That's what it's all about...that's what we're all looking for.
There's also a sense of community. Ilona's restaurant colleauges, when they meet her after the restaurant closes, still call her "boss," and they are all friends who do whatever favours they can for each other. At the end, they all come together once again to support each other; a family of choice, not birth.
There are the usual Kaurismäki trademarks in this film: deadpan dialogue, ironic scenes, a dog and a photo of Matti Pellonpää (as the couple's dead child; he died just before this film came out and it was dedicated to his memory). It's marvelous. It's awe-inspiring.
And, despite the bleakness...it has a happy ending.
I cannot wait for the final part of this Trilogy...