A man beaten half to death in a random act of street violence wakes up with amnesia and drifts to a languid existence at the outskirts of Finnish society. It's not without good reason if the movie seems to be the most widely seen Kaurismaki film, not because it's the fierce white hot culmination of everything he worked towards in his career but for the summation it provides of all those individual quirks and idiosynchracies that make up the Kaurismakian mythos, not the towering elephantian masterpiece that can only be approached in its own terms but the polished user friendly introduction to Kaurismaki's world. A world populated by laconic expressionless faces and grimy locations, stiff dialogue wooden acting and deadpan humor, mullets and mustaches, glacial minimalism and American-bred rock'n'roll, using as vessels stoic characters picked from the mid-lower class not for the reason of parting with some particularly cutting insight into human nature and the workings of the world because Kaurismaki's films never delve deeper than distanced observation but to present the life of the alienated and disenchanted, the anonymous misfits inhabiting the margins of society for whom there's no glory to be had and no real sense of tragedy or triumph to make their mundane lives into big drama even for a short while, and to do this in a poetic way. We see the squalor of Helsinki's poorer districts but only fleetingly and in a smooth romantic glow. Gone are the harsh/drab colors of THE MATCH BOX GIRL. The emphasis here is not on the social/collective but the individual. Not on grand incisive remarks but small passing observations. His characters barely utter a word to each other. They don't have the uncanny ability of Bergman's protagonists to psychoanalyze themselves with such eloquency, and as such, the film is one of pauses and glances, small gestures and few lines. In THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST, Kaurismaki reworks his auterial work of a lifetime but in a more accessible way. Newcomers who pick the thread here are well advised to drift down towards the exhilarating TATJANA YOUR SCARF and ARIEL. Kaurismaki's is a minimalism unashamedly cool, funny and poetic in a low-key way.