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Hella W.

The life of one of the most fascinating femmes of the 20th century looks lush, but is otherwise sadly short-changed in Finnish biopic "Hella W."

With:
With: Tiina Weckstrom, Hannu-Pekka Bjorkman, Matleena Kuusniemi, Maria Heiskanen, Antti Litja, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, Svante Martin, Petri Manninen. (Finnish, Estonian, Swedish, Russian, English dialogue)

The life of one of the most fascinating femmes of the 20th century looks lush, but is otherwise sadly short-changed in Finnish biopic “Hella W.” Writer-director-producer Juha Wuolijoki (“Christmas Story”) has boiled down the eventful, complex life of his great-aunt, Hella Wuolijoki, the left-wing politico, thinker and writer, to an overly brisk and reductive series of highlights. Neat $915,000 home B.O. won’t be replicated offshore.

Active in Finland, the Estonian-born Wuolijoki (Tiina Weckstrom, steely) amassed great wealth with her business savvy, remained a political lefty and was an intellectual who expressed her first-wave feminist ideas through stories and plays (frequently later adapted for the screen) under a male pseudonym. Many of the major events are mentioned, including her dramatic 1943 trial for treason, but the 78-minute pic has no time to explore her persona’s many contradictions or sketch a wider view of society that could have shown, by contrast, how exceptionally ahead of her time Wuolijoki was. Though the drama remains small and choppy, the old-fashioned score, lensing, production design and costumes are impressive. After WWII, Wuolijoki was also head of Finnish state broadcaster YLE, which co-produced this docu.

Hella W.

Finland

Production: A Sandrew Metronome Finland Oy release of a Snapper Films presentation and production, in association with Amrion, YLE. (International sales: Film Sharks Intl., Buenos Aires.) Produced by Juha Wuolijoki. Executive producer, Joseph Scarpinito. Co-producer, Riina Sildos. Directed by Juha Wuolijoki. Screenplay, Outi Nyytaja, Wuolijoki.

Crew: Camera (B&W/color, widescreen, 35mm-to-HD), Peter Flinckenberg; editor, Harri Ylonen; music, Panu Aaltio; production designer, Kari Kankaanpaa; costume designer, Anu Pirila. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 15, 2011. Running time: 78 MIN.

With: With: Tiina Weckstrom, Hannu-Pekka Bjorkman, Matleena Kuusniemi, Maria Heiskanen, Antti Litja, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, Svante Martin, Petri Manninen. (Finnish, Estonian, Swedish, Russian, English dialogue)

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