B&W, 1969, 105 mins. 13 secs.
Directed by Risto Jarva
Starring Arto Tuominen, Ritva Vepsä, Tarja Markus
Deaf Crocodile (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.75:1) (16:9)
The fusion of Pop Art and science fiction produced some striking and often wildly eccentric films out of Europe, with Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville leading the pack on an international scale. Coming at the tail end of the phase is the Finnish production Time of Roses, a combination of Warholian chic and socio-political commentary set in the far-off year of 2012. The film was one of the more widely exported titles from director Risto Jarva, who died far too young in 1977 just after completing one of his most acclaimed films, the satirical The Year of the Hare. Given a marginal art house release in 1970 in the U.S., Time of Roses largely fell into obscurity outside of Finland for many years but turned up in a hard-coded subtitled transfer from a worn print by Something Weird in 2009, who likely chose this one because it has more nudity than the average sexploitation title of the time. In 2023, Deaf Crocodile released a striking 4K restoration of the film on Blu-ray, bringing it to a much larger potential audience than ever including fans of heady sci-fi and '60s eye candy.
After numerous upheavals and social disruptions, society has obliterated class structures and become dedicated to the progress of humanity, at least in theory. Assigned to cover Finnish culture in the '60s, TV documentarian Raimo Lappalainen (Tuominen) becomes fascinated by tragic nude model Saara Turunen (Vepsä), who died very young after publicly seeking aid for an abortion. When he comes across a Saara lookalike, engineer and Edie Sedgwick imitator Kisse (Vepsä again), Raimo comes up with the idea of using her to recreate the model's too-short life for his program, which unfolds against the backdrop of unrest at a nearby nuclear plant where tragedy is also about to strike.
Watching this film immediately brings to mind some other stylized films from the latter half of the '60s, most obviously Robert Aldrich's The Legend of Lylah Clare (which also involves a filmmaker using a female celebrity's doppelganger to restage her life), William Klein's Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, and the swooning tragedy of Radley Metzger's futuristic Camille 2000, also released in 1969 and featuring similar prominent use of transparent inflatable furniture. However, the undercurrent of class tensions still churning beneath the surface here gives it a jittery tone at times in conjunction with the often fractured editing style.
In keeping with their excellent track record to date, Deaf Crocodile's Blu-ray edition looks exceptional with the restored transfer retaining the deep black and textured grain of the original film quite nicely. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 Finnish mono track is also in mint condition and features optional English subtitles (not SDH, contrary to the packaging). A new audio commentary by Olaf Möller contextualizes the film within the Finnish film industry of the time, pointing out trademarks of the director's working and noting some cultural jabs that could easily fly past the viewers. There's quite a bit of useful info here but there are many long silent gaps as well, so fast forward accordingly. The heftiest video extra here is Risto Jarva, My Colleague 6(1m38s.), a 1984 Finnish TV documentary by Antti Peippo featuring archival interviews and production footage of the director along with interviews with many of his colleagues, plus plenty of clips of course. You also get two Jarva shorts starting with 1969's Pakasteet (Frozen Foods) (11m50), which uses the shooting of a TV commercial as the framing device for a cheeky look at the production and marketing of freeze-dried food. (Especially peas. Lots and lots of peas.) In a similar vein, 1968's Computers Serve (Tietokoneet palvelevat) (14m37s) takes a whimsical look at the role of modern computers in everyday life, especially banking, including lots of coverage of punch cards and disks -- complete with an aggressive electronic soundtrack. Both shorts (shot in color) are newly restored and look superb. Also included are a 3m57s deleted scene from an SD source showing a chain of conversations about progress, a deleted song called "The Swallow Tower" performed by Otto Donner (3m37s) for a scene at a Japanese restaurant, and the original trailer. The package also comes with an insert booklet featuring a new essay by Ville Suhonen of the Risto Jarva Association about the film's balance of visual playfulness and social statement, plus extracts from Jarva's essays.
Reviewed on May 3, 2023