Mika Kaurismaki's "Three Wise Men" is quite reminiscent of John Cassavetes "Husbands," as accessorized with a Finnish twist.

Defiantly uncommercial but deeply felt, film vet Mika Kaurismaki’s “Three Wise Men” is quite reminiscent of John Cassavetes “Husbands,” as accessorized with a Finnish twist: A trio of old friends, all in crisis on Christmas Eve, reunite, drink and share their feelings. Except they’re all lying to each other, and for at least half the movie.

Kaurismaki apparently made the film in five days without a script, having his actors improvise, and it shows. And yet there are moments of profound feeling that erupt among the three not-so-wise men, one of whom has just become a father, one of whom has just lost his ex-wife and son, and one of whom wants to kill himself. The entrance into their bar of a mysterious woman (the ravishing Irina Bjorklund) elevates the film to a level of vodka-sodden spirituality that can’t be denied by all the dangling boom mikes and missed cues in the world. Kaurismaki (“Tigrero,” “Zombie and the Ghost Train”) may be doing an ironic riff on male bonding, but the sincerity is there regardless.

Three Wise Men

Finland

Production

A Marianna Films Oy presentation. (International sales: Wide Management, Paris.) Produced, directed, edited by Mika Kaurismaki. Screenplay, Kaurismaki, Petri Karra.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Rauno Ronkainen. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 8, 2008. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Kari Heiskanen, Pertti Sveholm, Timo Torikka, Irina Bjorklund, Tommi Eronen.

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