Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Abbas Kiarostami 1940-2016

The Wind Will Carry Us. The title of Kiarostami's film is from a poem by Forough Farrokhzad. Please click to enlarge the image.

Sohrab Sepehri
Address

“Where is the friend’s house?” asked the horseman just at dawn.
The heavens paused.
A wayfarer took the bright branch from his lips,
conferred it on the darkness of the sands,
pointed with his finger to a poplar tree and said,

“Just before that tree
there is a garden path greener than God’s dreams.
In it there is love as wide as the blue wings of true friendship.
You go on to the end of the path that takes up again
just beyond maturity,
then turn toward the flower of loneliness.
Two steps before the flower,
stop at the eternal fountain of earthly myth.
There a transparent terror will seize you,
and in the sincerity of the streaming heavens
you will hear a rustling.
High up in a pine tree,
you will see a child
who will lift a chick out of a nest of light.
Ask him,
“Where is the friend’s house?”

(trans. Jerome Clinton.)

The friend = God in Sufi tradition.



Sohrab Sepehri
Osoite

"Missä on Ystävän talo?" kysyi ratsumies aamun hämärässä.
Taivas pysähtyi.
Kulkija otti valonkorren suustaan, antoi sen hiekan pimeyteen
ja osoitti poppelia, sanoi:

"Ennen kuin tulet puun luo,
kääntyy lehväkuja, Jumalan unta vehreämpi.
Siellä rakkaus on vedensininen, ystävyyden levitettyjen siipien kokoinen.
Kulje sen kujan päähän, joka näkyy murrosiän jälkeen,
käänny sitten yksinäisyyden kukan suuntaan.
Kaksi askelta ennen kukkaa
seisahdu maan ikuisten kertomusten lähteelle.
Läpikuultava pelko valtaa sinut.
Kuulet kahinaa avaruuden virtaavassa avoimuudessa,
näet lapsen korkean kuusen latvassa, viemässä poikasta valon pesästä.
Kysy häneltä: Missä on Ystävän talo?"

– Sohrab Sepehri, runoelmasta Veden askelten ääni (1964)

Vain ääni jää. Runoja Iranista (suom. ja toim. Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, WSOY, toinen laitos 2006) sisältää mm. Kiarostamin ja Sepehrin runoja.



سهراب سپهری
نام شعر : نشاني

"خانه دوست كجاست؟" در فلق بود كه پرسيد سوار.
آسمان مكثي كرد.
رهگذر شاخه نوري كه به لب داشت به تاريكي شن‌ها بخشيد
و به انگشت نشان داد سپيداري و گفت:

"نرسيده به درخت،
كوچه باغي است كه از خواب خدا سبزتر است
و در آن عشق به اندازه پرهاي صداقت آبي است
مي‌روي تا ته آن كوچه كه از پشت بلوغ، سر به در مي‌آرد،
پس به سمت گل تنهايي مي‌پيچي،
دو قدم مانده به گل،
پاي فواره جاويد اساطير زمين مي‌ماني
و تو را ترسي شفاف فرا مي‌گيرد.
در صميميت سيال فضا، خش‌خشي مي‌شنوي:
كودكي مي‌بيني
رفته از كاج بلندي بالا، جوجه بردارد از لانه نور
و از او مي‌پرسي
خانه دوست كجاست."

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Afraid to Talk



Merry-Go-Round. US 1932. D: Edward L. Cahn. Based on: dalla pièce Merry-Go-Round di Albert Maltz e George Sklar. SC: Tom Reed. Cinematography: Karl Freund. ED: Maurice Pivar. AD: Charles D. Hall. C: Eric Linden (Ed Martin), Sidney Fox (Peggy Martin), Tully Marshall (Anderson), Louis Calhern (Wade), Edward Arnold (Jig Zelli), George Meeker (Lennie). P: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. [The film was not released in Finland]. 35 mm. 69′. B&w
    US © 1932 Universal Pictures
    C also: Gustaf von Seyffertitz (attorney Harry Berger, Ed's defense lawyer)
    Print from Universal Pictures
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Universal Pictures: The Laemmle Junior Years
    E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra
    Cinema Jolly, 2 July 2016

Dave Kehr (Bologna catalog): "Where, as the critic Robert Warshow famously noted, the Warner Bros. gangster films presented their protagonists as tragic heroes, their generic equivalents at Universal present no trace of the romantic individualism of a Cagney or Robinson; instead, they are cogs in a cold machine of corruption, functioning without conscience, remorse or even much sense of personal volition. Based on Merry-Go-Round, a controversial, widely censored play by Albert Maltz and George Sklar, Edward L. Cahn’s film remains faithful to the structuring principle implied by the title, portraying a closed circle of venality that seems to include every major institution in the nameless city in which it is set. When a bellboy (Eric Linden) witnesses a gang chief (Edward Arnold) rubbing out a rival, he dutifully reports to the District Attorney (Tully Marshall) – who promptly frames the boy for the killing."

"As an editor at Universal, Cahn made his reputation for his rapid re-editing of All Quiet on the Western Front, working in an editing suite set up on the train that was carrying the preview print from Los Angeles to New York. His assignment: to remove all traces of ZaSu Pitts, who had originally been cast as the hero’s mother but had to be replaced by Beryl Mercer when test audiences, accustomed to Pitts as a comedian, laughed when she appeared. Promoted to director, Cahn was soon working with Universal’s top stars (including Walter Huston in another portrait of civic corruption, the western Law and Order). Cahn’s mastery of tempo and counterpoint is quite evident here thought not unexpected; more surprising is his visual flair, which finds him revisiting some of the more abstract moments of German Expressionism with the cameraman Karl Freund."
– Dave Kehr

AA: The first true cycle of the gangster film as a genre started with Josef von Sternberg's Underworld. The Racket, Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, and Scarface all belonged to that stylized line of the gangster film. As did City Streets, which, however, was different in portraying gangsters as businessmen, launching a trend that culminated in the Godfather trilogy.

Startlingly different were the films by Rowland Brown: Quick Millions, Hell's Highway and the extraordinary Blood Money. These sinister films were not based on other fiction but apparently on the writer-director's first-hand knowledge. Brown's brief career as director ended with Blood Money.

Edward L. Cahn's Afraid to Talk belongs to the same rare class of the gangster film as the movies of Rowland Brown. It is a genre movie, but there is never a feeling of safety within genre convention. Instead, there is a pervasive sense of corruption and danger. Afraid to Talk contains the first screen credit of Albert Maltz who rose to the top of Hollywood's screenwriting profession, became a victim of the blacklist but finished his career with work for Clint Eastwood.

The hotel bellboy Ed Martin is an eye-witness to the gangland murder of Mr. Slansky who is in the possession of incriminating records of corruption. Ed Martin identifies Jig Zelli (Edward Arnold) as the killer. But soon tables turn. Ed is fired, and he is himself framed and accused of the murder. The police, the justice system, and the city administration has been corrupted by the gangsters, and they use the records to blackmail their victims. When Ed does not confess he is put through a third degree interrogation. He almost dies of the brutality and is taken to a hospital bed at the prison. But then Ed gets a top lawyer, Harry Berger, feared by the gangsters.

The most shocking sequence is the murder attempt of Ed while on hospital bed. Might this be the first appearance of a motif that reappears in Criss Cross and The Godfather? The plot is to have Ed "found hung", but uncorrupted policemen rescue Ed in the nick of time and the corruption ring is exposed.

Interesting faces include Louis Calhern and Tully Marshall as corrupt lawyers. The opening credit music (not credited) is impressive, there is a torch singer and a chain gang dancing girl number. The story is contemporary with news flashes on breadlines and unemployment.

The good print does justice to the cinematography by Karl Freund.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Weda'an Bonapart / Adieu Bonaparte (2016 digital restoration in 4K by Misr International Films, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels and La Cinémathèque française)




وداعًا بونابرت FR/EG 1985. D+SC: Youssef Chahine. Cinematography: Mohsen Nasr. ED: Luc Barnier. AD: Onsi Abou Seif. M: Gabriel Yared. C: Michel Piccoli (Caffarelli), Mohsen Mohieddin (Ali), Patrice Chéreau (Bonaparte), Mohsena Tewfik (la madre), Mohamed Atef (Yehia), Christian Patey (Horace), Hoda Sultan (Nefissa). P: Humbert Balsan, Marianne Khoury, Jean-Pierre Mahot per Misr International, Ministère de la culture (Cairo), Lyric International, Ministère de la culture (France), Renn Productions (Paris), TF1 Films Production. [The film was not released in Finland]. DCP. 115’. Col.
    C also: Gamil Ratib (Barthelemy), Taheya Cariocca (la sage femme), Claude Cernay (Decoin), Mohamad Dardiri (Sheikh Charaf), Hassan El Adl (Cheikh Aedalah), Tewfik El Dekn (Le Derwiche), Seif El Dine (Kourayem), Hassan Husseiny (le père), Farid Mahmoud (Faltaos), Hoda Soltan (Nefissa), Salah Zulfakar (Cheikh Hassouna).
    Restored in 2016 by Misr International Films, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels and La Cinémathèque française with the support of CNC, Fonds Culturel Franco-Américain, Archives audiovisuelles de Monaco e Association Youssef Chahine at Éclair laboratories and at L.E. Diapason studio, from the negative and the sound magnetic tapes
    Restored in 4K
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Ritrovato e restaurato
    DCP from La Cinémathèque française
    Introduce Gian Luca Farinelli, Frédéric Bonnaud (La Cinémathèque française)
    Arabic and French version with English subtitles
    Cinema Arlecchino, 1 July 2016

Frédéric Bonnaud (Bologna catalog): "Thirty one years after being presented in the official competition of the Cannes Film Festival, Adieu Bonaparte returns in a new restored version. At the time, the film received a lukewarm, if not downright hostile, reception: several journalists judged the project ‘anti-French’ and it would not have been completed were it not for the direct support of the Cultural Minister Jack Lang, who was in the line of fire in almost all the attacks. In France, History is never written with a cool head and the idea that an Egyptian dared pit himself against Bonaparte (not yet Napoleon) could only provoke polemic."

"During the press conference Youssef Chahine, Michel Piccoli and Patrice Chéreau had to strenuously defend a film that didn’t respect the academic rules of historical reconstruction. It was judged a confused work and its absence from the Palme-winners forewarned of its failure at the box-office, where it was seen by little more than 50,000 people. But this matters little: the French-Egyptian alliance between Youssef Chahine and the producer Humbert Balsan was set, and would last for twenty years."

"It is its richness and complexity that makes Adieu Bonaparte a strangely contemporary film. It is as if History had validated all of Chahine’s intuitions, especially the most pessimistic ones about disaster in the Middle East, in particular in light of the mad hopes raised by the Egyptian revolution of 2011."

"Showing the people of Cairo asking how they should resist the French (under what banner? In the name of what?), Chahine is simultaneously a historian and a prophet. He does not condemn anyone, even if it is clear that he prefers the ardent humanism of General Caffarelli to Bonaparte’s genius for publicity, and he multiplies characters and points-of-view so that none of them is ever completely wrong or completely right. This interior split is typical of an Egyptian who had studied in California, an Arab intellectual possessing a universal culture, who was the greatest Egyptian filmmaker, free and cosmopolitan, hated by the powers-that-be and adored by the people. This is where the Renoir-like genius of Chahine resides. Adieu Bonaparte is his Marseillaise." – Frédéric Bonnaud

Cinando synopsis: "In 1798, Napoleon lands his army in Egypt, defeats the Mamluk [Mamelouk] warlords (the remnants of Ottoman rule), and goes on to Cairo. Three brothers, who are Egyptian patriots, chafe under Mamluk rule and reject the prospect of French domination. Bakr, the eldest, is a hothead, quick to advocate armed rebellion; Ali is more philosophical and poetic; Yehia is young and impressionable. One of Napoleon's generals, the one-legged intellectual Caffarelli, wants to make Frenchmen out of Ali, Yehia, and other Egyptians, opening a bakery where their father works, becoming a tutor, and declaring his love for them. Is tragedy the only resolution of these conflicting loyalties?"

AA: As the show started a half an hour late, and there were also long introductions, I could not stay until the end of the film because of another scheduled appointment. I saw 80 minutes of the film.

An epic on Napoleon's Egyptian campaign directed by the master Youssef Chahine. In the 1970s Chahine had founded his Misr production company. His films had considerable range from personal semi-autobiographical films to big budget historical epics. Starting from the 1982 French-Egyptian cultural exchange agreement Chahine's films were French co-productions. Adieu Bonaparte was produced on the biggest budget so far of an Egyptian film.

Patrice Chéreau creates a convincing performance as Napoleon, but although Napoleon is the primus motor of the action, he is not the protagonist of the narrative. In this Chahine is following the guidelines of Walter Scott on the historical novel: never make a great personality of history the protagonist of fiction.

Instead, we have an Egyptian family, and especially the three brothers Bakr (the rebel who incites the entire family to move from Alexandria to Cairo), Yehia (the literate one who has learned French from a young Alexandrian woman of Greek background), and Ali (the youngest one, the director's alter ego played by his favourite actor Mohsen Mohieddin).

Egypt is still under the last remains of rule of the Ottomans, the Mamluks, and the resistance both against the Mamluks and the French invaders who present themselves as liberators, is incoherent.

The French protagonist is General Caffarelli (Michel Piccoli), a fearless soldier, scholar, and man of culture whose affection to the Egyptians is genuine. He has lost one leg by the time the film starts. During it he will lose an arm, and he will die in the siege of Acre in the Egyptian campaign.

Adieu Bonaparte belongs to Chahine's studies of the cosmopolitan tradition of Egypt, his vision of a great heritage where Muslims, Jews, and Christians co-exist. Instead of building a drama of clear-cut demarcation lines it blurs them by showing Caffarelli's profound sympathy with Egyptians, and also, characteristically for Chahine, developing a love story between men in Caffarelli's close relationships with Ali and his brothers.

Napoleon's campaign led also to the rediscovery of Egypt's magnificent history in Europe. In the big picture of history ancient Egypt was probably the first truly universal civilization. Chahine belongs also to this great tradition.

The historical reconstruction feels faithful, and the epic battle scenes are impressive.

The digital restoration is impeccable, the image is sharp, the colour is bright. The purity even borders on the clinical in its sharpness and brightness.

La mano dello straniero / The Stranger's Hand


La mano dello straniero / The Stranger's Hand. Alida Valli as Roberta and Richard Basehart as Joe.

Rapt à Venise / La Main de l'étranger. IT/GB 1954. D: Mario Soldati. Based on: dal racconto omonimo di Graham Greene. SC: Giorgio Bassani, Guy Elmes. Cinematography: Enzo Serafin. ED: Tom Simpson, Leslie Hodgson, Leo Cattozzo. AD: Luigi Scaccianoce. M: Nino Rota. C: Alida Valli (Roberta), Trevor Howard (maggiore Court), Richard Basehart (Joe), Richard O’Sullivan (Roger Court), Eduardo Ciannelli (dottor Vivaldi), Arnoldo Foà (il commissario), Guido Celano (questore), Jacopo Tecchio (Giorgio Luzzi), Guido Costantini (Peskovitch), Nerio Berardi (direttore dell’albergo). P: Peter Moore per Rizzoli Film, Milo Film. [The film was not released in Finland]. 35 mm. 87’. B&w .
    Versione italiana
    Print from CSC – Cineteca Nazionale
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Mario Soldati, a Writer at Cinecittà
    E-subtitles in English by Sub-Ti Londra
    Cinema Jolly, 1 July 2016


Emiliano Morreale (Bologna catalog): "One day, for fun, Graham Greene adopted a pseudonym and took part in a competition for stories written in the style of Graham Greene. He came second. His friend Mario Soldati asked him to produce a film story based on this idea, and thus La mano dello straniero was born. It is a classic story of the loss of childhood innocence set against a backdrop of espionage and intrigue: a sort of cross between The Third Man and Fuga in Francia. A child is searching for his kidnapped father in a noisy and hostile Venice with the help of a beautiful nurse and an ambiguous doctor. The cinematic encounter between Soldati and Greene is a curious one, and the story was perfect. Both men shared a Stevenson-like taste for adventure and a Catholic sense of suspense. Unfortunately, the production suffered from serious financial difficulties, while the Cold War espionage backstory had to be modified for political reasons until it was barely intelligible. However, the characters’ disorientation in the city remains one of the film’s strong points, together with the extraordinary figure of the villain, played by Eduardo Ciannelli. He is the heart of the film: an actor born in Ischia who became one of the great character actors of Thirties and Forties Hollywood (he had worked with Walsh, Hitchcock and Ford, amongst others) and was now promoted to the rank of protagonist. His character of a nihilist who reads The Decline of the West, aided by his worn features, is one of the details which, as is often the case in Soldati, unifies and justifies the whole film." – Emiliano Morreale

AA: Graham Greene had had his finest success in the cinema in Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol and The Third Man. The Stranger's Hand, directed by Mario Soldati, has elements of both. It is a Cold War story set in Venice, bringing back Alida Valli and Trevor Howard from The Third Man to another Graham Greene thriller. And it is an "end of childhood" story like The Fallen Idol. While The Stranger's Hand has not a great reputation, it is an exciting and well-made film, and a treat for us interested in Graham Greene in the cinema.

I was only able to see the first 60 minutes of the film due to an overlap with Youssef Chahine's Adieu Bonaparte at Cinema Arlecchino.

I liked:

– the engrossing, operatic score by Nino Rota
– the wonderful cinematography by Enzo Serafin, who had a special talent in transforming a landscape into a soulscape (see Viaggio in Italia)
– the way Venice has been turned into a protagonist of the story, in a way similar to the use of Vienna in The Third Man. In this case the concept is not to turn Venice menacing (like in Don't Look Now). On the contrary, its friendly, beautiful and touristic ambience is an unpredictable background to the sinister plot.
– the plot belongs to the same tradition as Roman Polanski's Frantic: the disappearance of a person (in this case the little boy Roger's father, played by Trevor Howard) seems unbelievable, and the first problem is to have others believe that a disappearance has occurred in the first place
– there is still an atmosphere of post-war unrest; for instance Roberta (Alida Valli) is a refugee
– Roger has not seen his his father, who is a major, in three years, and at first he does not even recognize him when he lies drugged in hospital bed with a thick stubble
– this is Roger's lonesome quest at first, but then there is a team of three, a kind of an ad hoc family, consisting of Roberta, Joe (Richard Basehart), and Roger (this is where I had to leave for the next screening)
– the film is well cast to the tiniest parts, and as Emiliano Morreale states above, there is an interesting performance by Eduardo Ciannelli as the dubious doctor

The print is watchable, with a duped visual quality.

Narayama bushiko / The Ballad of Narayama (1958) (2012 digital restoration by Shochiku)


The Ballad of Narayama (1958). Tatsuhei (Teiji Takahashi) takes his mother Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka) to the mountain to die.

楢山節考 / La ballata di Narayama. JP 1958. D: Keisuke Kinoshita. Story: based on the novel by Shichiro Fukazawa. Cinematography: Hiroshi Kusuda. ED: Yoshi Sugihara. AD: Kisaku Ito, Chiyoo Umeda. M: Rokuzaemon Kineya, Matsunosuke Nozawa. C: Kinuyo Tanaka (Orin), Teiji Takahashi (Tatsuhei), Yuko Mochizuki (Tamayan), Eijiro Tono (il fratello di Tamayan), Seiji Miyaguchi (Matayan), Yunosuke Ito (il figlio di Matayan), Danko Ichikawa (Kesakichi), Keiko Ogasawara (Matsuyan). P: Shochiku. [The film was not released in Finland]. DCP. Col. 98 min
    Fujicolor, Shochiku Grandscope 2,35:1
    Restored in 2012 by Shochiku
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Richness and Harmony. Colour Film in Japan (part two)
    DCP with English subtitles from Shochiku
    E-subtitles by Sub-Ti Londra
    Cinema Jolly, 1 July 2016

Alexander Jacoby, Johan Nordström (Bologna catalog): "Having helmed Japan’s first full-colour feature, Kinoshita became something of an expert in the new medium, as witness this extraordinary fable shot in exquisite and experimental Fuji- color, shown to best advantage here in a new digital restoration. Recounting a story based on a traditional legend about a community requiring its elderly people to go away to die on a mountain on reaching the age of seventy, Kinoshita, working in the age of postwar liberal humanism, fashioned a critique of traditional culture, but also expressed a sympathetic understanding of patterns of thought and feeling in the imagined community he depicts."

"The film draws deliberately on the style and atmosphere of classical Japanese theatre. Keiko McDonald writes: “Using a wide screen and taking particular care with colour, spotlighting, curtains and sets, [Kinoshita] recreated the atmosphere of the classical Kabuki stage – even its blackhooded kurogo, which Kinoshita introduces as stagehands conventionally ‘invisible’”. Colour, she notes, is used in the film “to signal shifts in psychology”. Kinoshita himself declared, “This is my first work in which I tried a unique manner of presentation and colourization based on the Japanese traditional artistic style”. The great actress Kinuyo Tanaka gives a stunning performance in the lead role. Her dedication as a performer is exemplified by the scene where she sells her teeth; for the sake of realism, it is said that she had several of her own front teeth removed. Teiji Takahashi, playing her son, lost 15 kilos of weight during the shooting."

"Kinoshita’s colour experimentation did not end with this film; in Fuefukigawa (The River Fuefuki, 1960), he established mood by applying vivid strokes of colour to monochrome footage. A quarter of a century later, the story of The Ballad of Narayama was retold, in a contrasting style of harsh realism, by Shohei Imamura in his film of the same name, which scooped the Palme d’Or at Cannes." – Alexander Jacoby, Johan Nordström

AA: This first film adaptation of Shichiro Fukazawa's novel is the diametrical opposite to Shohei Imamura's naturalistic interpretation. Keisuke Kinoshita's version is boldly stylized, and there is an atmosphere of a ritual and ceremony in it. There is also so much song and music that there is an aspect of the musical.

The subject is the mythical practice of ubasute (obasute, oyasute, 姥捨て): in the distant past, in conditions of poverty, a very old parent was taken to the mountain to die in a form of euthanasia.

As Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström state above, Kinuya Tanaka's performance is powerful as the old mother. Her transformation is so total that I had a hard time recognizing in her the vibrant star of Kenji Mizoguchi and many others.

Keisuke Kinoshita and his cinematographer Hiroshi Kushuda use Fujicolor in the Shochiku Grandscope format in a bold and stylized fashion. The maple leaves are burning red in the autumn. The field is shining in gold in harvest time. There is an emphasis on bright colour until in the finale the mountain top is full of skeletons and black vultures, and finally snow covers everything.

There are powerful performances and visions in the film, but the sense of duration is overstated and the long journey is needlessly prolonged.

The digital restoration is fine.

Anno uno 9 [B]: Lumière vedute colorate a mano

Exécution de Jeanne d’Arc (1898). Catalogue Lumière 964.

THIS SHOW I MISSED AS IT STARTED A HALF AN HOUR TOO LATE AND THE INTRODUCTIONS WERE VERY LONG. I include the list here to keep a complete record of the Anno uno shows in this blog. I only saw Néron essayant des poisons sur des esclaves screened also in the I primi Neroni show.

Ritrovati e Restaurati: Collezione Auboin-Vermorel – Lumière!
PROGRAMMA 9. LUMIÈRE: VEDUTE COLORATE A MANO

[Défilé du 96° de ligne, II] (Francia/1896-1898)
Danseuses des rues
Danse égyptienne
Le Lit en bascule
Néron essayant des poisons sur des esclaves

Mort de Marat (1897). Catalogue Lumière 749.
Mort de Marat
Entrevue de Napoléon et du Pape. Catalogue Lumière 750.
Entrevue de Napoléon et du Pape
Les deux ivrognes
Ballet: ‘Le Carnaval de Venise’, II
Sérénade interrompue
Evian: Procession de la Fête-Dieu II
Evian: Procession de la Fête-Dieu, IV
Barbe-Bleue
Querelle de matelassières
Exécution de Jeanne d’Arc
[Une rue à Naples]
[Procession à Capri]
Touristes revenant d’une excursion

Introduce Céline Ruivo
Accompagnamento al piano di Stephen Horne e alla batteria di Frank Bockius

Workshop: Antiquity in Cinema: The First Twenty Years (1897-1916) / 2: 1897-1909: I primi Neroni

Quo vadis? (1901, Ferdinand Zecca, Lucien Nonguet). Please notice "the Roman salute", a recent invention of D'Annunzio, soon to be adopted as the Hitler salute. Please click to enlarge the image.

Workshop: Antiquity in cinema: The first twenty years (1897-1916) / 2. 1897-1909 I primi Neroni
Introduce Maria White
Accompagnamento al piano di Stephen Horne e alla batteria di Frank Bockius
Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, 1 July 2016

Neron essayant des poisons sur des esclaves (1897) 1’. - AA: Nero tests poisons on slaves. Maria White introduction: Inspired by paintings. The intensity of Nero's look. The interest in death. The sadistic pleasure in death and suffering.

Quo vadis? (FR 1901) D: Ferdinand Zecca, Lucien Nonguet. 1’. Did. francesi. - AA: A hand-painted tableau. The duel of the slaves. The women dance for Nero. - The first of the many film adaptations of Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel is a one minute tableau. - Might this be the first appearance on the screen of "the Roman salute" (see image above), a recent invention of Gabriele D'Annunzio, soon to be adopted as the Hitler salute?

Nerone (1909).

Nerone (IT 1909) D: Luigi Maggi. 13’. Did. italiane. - AA: PC: Ambrosio. Tableaux, long takes, long shots, b&w print. A touchingly stiff representation. A histrionic acting style. Marks of decomposition on the print. Il trionfo di Poppea: Poppea incites Nero to slaughter. From a low contrast, worn source. Octavia is killed without further ado with a sword in the back. The people rises into mutiny. To quench the mutiny Nero lets burn Rome. Nero sees the people flee in horror. Nero sings while Rome is burning. Nero's remorse. He sees visions. The people demands revenge. Amore di libertà.

AA: In the introduction we learned that the first topic of antiquity in the cinema was Emperor Nero.

We remember André Bazin's remarks about "the Nero complex" in the cinema: the fascination of catastrophe. And Susan Sontag's essay on The Imagination of Disaster. Those observations are still valid.

Now we learn that they are among the cinema's earliest preoccupations.

I have been recently reading Seneca's essays and letters. Seneca was Nero's tutor and adviser, and as long as Nero was under-age, probably a key influence in Roman affairs. But when Nero came of age he turned out not to have been an apt pupil to the Stoic philosopher. Accused of conspiracy, Seneca was forced to commit suicide. Nero has been a warning model of mad autocracy ever since.

Let's observe that in the Nero story there has been little or no interest among film-makers to the wise part of his reign (the Seneca influence). And in filming Quo vadis? the interest in the Christian message is tamer than in the sadistic excess of Nero, and in the cinema's very first Quo vadis? the focus is solely on Nero. Let's also observe that Seneca belongs to the pre-Christian philosophers that have been among the most highly regarded during even the most purist stages of Christianity.

It would be interesting to learn whether Hitler had seen Enrico Guazzoni's film adaptation of Quo vadis? (1913).

The Last Warning (2016 digital restoration by Universal Pictures)



Viimeinen varoitus! / Le dernier avertissement / Die letzte Warnung. US 1929. D: Paul Leni. Based on: dal romanzo The House of Fear di Wadsworth Camp. SC: Alfred A. Cohn, Robert F. Hill, J. G. Hawks. Cinematography: Hal Mohr. ED: Robert Carlisle. AD: Charles D. Hall. M: Joseph Cherniavsky. C: Laura La Plante (Doris), Montague Love (McHugh), Roy D’Arcy (Carlton), Margaret Livingston (Evalinda), John Boles (Qualie), Mack Swain (Robert), Slim Summerville (Tommy). P: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. DCP. 78′. B&w.
    2016 digital restoration by Universal Pictures (see restoration bulletin beyond the jump break)
    DCP from Universal Pictures
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Universal Pictures: The Laemmle Junior Years
    ♪ electric piano Maud Nelissen (not Donald Sosin as announced)
    E-subtitles by Sub-Ti Londra
    Cinema Jolly, 1 July 2016


Dave Kehr (Bologna catalog): "Merrily rifling through a whole bag of tricks, from animated intertitles to careening camera movements, director Paul Leni seems to anticipate the cinematic exuberance of Orson Welles in this comedy thriller from the tail end of the silent era (although the film was released with a score, sound effects and a dialogue sequence, the print that survives, and has been beautifully restored by Universal’s in-house digital team, is the silent version Universal provided for theaters not yet equipped for sound)."

"A veteran of the German expressionist cinema in its humorless hard core years (Hintertreppe, Waxworks), Leni revealed a lighter side when he arrived at Universal in 1927 to direct the ‘old dark house’ comedy thriller The Cat and the Canary. The Last Warning features the same star, Laura La Plante, in a similar context, though this time the murder mystery is set backstage at a haunted Broadway theater – Leni’s imaginative redressing of Universal’s already-venerable Phantom of the Opera stage."

"Secret passageways, trapdoors, a masked villain, clutching hands – The Last Warning has them all, served up in high style by Leni and cameraman Hal Mohr. Even the identity of the killer is, by the standards of the genre, a delightful surprise. Sadly, it would prove to be Leni’s last film – the director died of sepsis a few months after its release, at the age of forty-four."
– Dave Kehr

The Last Warning. Margaret Livingston as Evalinda.

AA: Paul Leni was a veteran artist – artist blacksmith, painter, graphic artist, caricaturist, illustrator, adman, Expressionist, and perhaps a member of Der Sturm, who had worked for Max Reinhardt, Joe May, Ernst Lubitsch, and the military film unit Bufa – before he started to direct after WWI. He kept getting better. He mastered the Kammerspiel in Hintertreppe with Leopold Jessner. He directed the beautiful horror dream fantasy Das Wachsfigurenkabinett, for Kracauer the last summit of the golden age of Weimar cinema. With Guido Seeber he designed animated short riddles (Rebus-Filme). At Universal Studios he launched the haunted house trend with The Cat and the Canary and The Last Warning. He also directed the Charlie Chan thriller The Chinese Parrot (believed lost) and the Victor Hugo masterpiece The Man Who Laughs. Paul Leni died young but he left a mark on both Weimar cinema and Universal horror.

I only saw 30 minutes from the beginning of The Last Warning due to an overlap with one of Bologna's Anno uno screenings. Paul Leni displays his delight in animation and art graphics from the start. The camera is unhinged, there is a whirlpool, caleidoscope impression of the bright lights of Broadway with neon montages, dancing follies, and superimpositions. The acting is overdone, there is a bit too much of eccentricism. There is an image (see above) that feels like an anticipation of Mummy Bates (a central figure in the Universal Studio Tour).

(I rushed to see that Anno uno screening. It started 30 minutes too late, and there were so many introductions that I never got to see the films I wanted to see before I had to leave again to the next appointment. I should have stayed to see The Last Warning to the end).

A top restoration job from Universal Pictures. The visual quality of the sources used is variable. In the beginning the quality is weak, but it gets much better.

Khest o ayeneh / The Brick and the Mirror (2015 digital restoration)


Khest o ayeneh / The Brick and the Mirror. The taxi driver Hashem (Zackaria Hashemi) and his girlfriend Taji (Taji Ahmadi)

خشت و آینه / Khesht va ayeneh / Mudbrick and Mirror / Adobe and Mirror / Brique et miroir / [Mattone e specchio]. IR. Years of production: 1963–1964. Year of premiere: 1966. D+SC: Ebrahim Golestan. Cinematography: Soleiman Minassian. ED: Ebrahim Golestan. C: Zackaria Hashemi (Hashem), Taji Ahmadi (Taji), Jalal Moghadam, Masoud Faghih, Parviz Fannizadeh (uomini nel caffè), Manouchehr Farid (il poliziotto), Mohammad Ali Keshavarz (il dottore rapinato), Jamshid Mashayekhi (il poliziotto con il braccio rotto), Mehri Mehrnia (la donna delle rovine), Forough Farrokhzad (la passeggera del taxi). PC: Golestan Film Studio. [The film was not released in Finland]. DCP. 130 min
    Black and white in scope
    Restored in 2015 from the Chicago Film Studies Center’s 35 mm release print
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Golestan Film Studio, between Poetry and Politics
    From: University of Chicago Film Studies Center.
    Farsi version with English subtitles
    Cinema Lumiere – Sala Scorsese 1 July 2016

Ehsan Khoshbakht (Bologna catalog): "Iranian cinema’s first true modern masterpiece, Brick and Mirror explores fear and responsibility in the aftermath of the Coup."

"With its title alluding to a poem by Attar (“What the old can see in a mud-brick/ youth can see in a mirror”), Golestan’s first feature mixes dream and reality, responding to the changing climate of Iranian society, the failure of intellectuals and corruption in all walks of life. It was also the first use of direct-sound in the Iranian cinema, with minute attention given to environmental sound (emphasised by the lack of score) which complements the claustrophobic use of widescreen."

"The film’s production began in the spring of 1963 with a small crew of five, and without a finished script. The only written part – the driver and the woman in the ruins – became the basis for the first shoot, followed by improvised scenes in the vegetable market of Tehran. The breakage of the anamorphic lens during the shooting of a scene in the Palace of Justice delayed production. On June 5, 1963, while the crew awaited the shipment of a new lens from France, a protest arose against the arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini. This added to the atmosphere of tension and fear depicted in the film."

"With production resumed, the interior shots of Hashem’s room (comprising 40 minutes of the completed film) took five weeks to shoot, followed by a four-week shoot for the precinct and orphanage scenes. The film was premiered on January 12, 1966 at the Radio City cinema in Tehran. It played there for three weeks, but was dismissed by critics as “arty” and “pretentious”. Those who saw The Brick and the Mirror as a realist film were baffled by the long soliloquies given by characters. Jonathan Rosenbaum has described the spirit of the film as “a mix of Dostoevskij and expressionism”. The soliloquy form reflects both Golestan’s regard for Orson Welles and the oral storytelling and frequent use of metaphor in Persian culture."
– Ehsan Khoshbakht

آنچه در آينه جوان بيند، پير در خشت خام آن بيند
What the old man can see in a brick, the young one can see in a mirror

– Attar

AA: The story has some affinity with Charles Chaplin's The Kid, Eduard Johansson's Naslednyi prints respubliki [The Crown Prince of the Republic], and Coline Serreau's Trois hommes et un couffin. A baby is abandoned on a taxi driver's back seat. The film is about the baby's fate, how she turns everything upside down in the taxi driver Hashem and his girlfriend Taji's lives. The adventure with the baby is also a journey of exploration in society: Tehran, Iran, the mid-1960s. Ebrahim Golestan had worked in non-fiction for 15 years, and The Brick and the Mirror has also great documentary value.

Ehsan Khoshbakht reports above that the title of the film is derived from a poem by Attar (Abū Ḥamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm (ca 1145 – ca 1221;  ابو حامد بن ابوبکر ابراهیم‎‎) / Farīd ud-Dīn (فرید الدین) / ʿAṭṭār (عطار, "the perfumer" / Attar of Nishapur). What young ones can see in a mirror, grown-ups can see even in a brick.

Watching Michelangelo Antonioni's "trilogy of solitude" my mother (who had seven children) once remarked: "they don't have children". (Meaning: if they had some, there would be no problem of solitude). There are children in Golestan's film which has an affinity with Antonioni. The ending of The Brick and the Mirror can be compared with that of L'eclisse. And the presence of children (and the decision about the responsibility for them) is the essential difference between Antonioni and Golestan.

Iranian cinema, more than any other, is famous for the centrality of children, and it is interesting to observe the centrality of the baby in this, the foundation film of modern Iranian cinema.

There are many enigmas in The Brick and the Mirror. Why was the baby abandoned? Why do Hashem and Taji not move together? Why do they have to keep absolutely silent at night? Behind all this there is a profound sense of unrest. There is no feeling of hope for the future.

Against all odds Taji would like to keep the baby and establish a family with Hashem. Immediately Taji is very good with the baby. She knows what to do and takes the initiative. She is deeply hurt and disappointed when Hashem takes the baby to the orphanage. "I thought the child would bring us together".

Hashem is not the irresponsible scoundrel that we expect from the "three men and a baby" stories in which men are rascals – adolescents – at first, until the baby grows them into men. Hashem acts responsibly from the start, and he is deeply disturbed when he hands the baby over to the authorities.

Shaken by Taji's powerful reaction Hashem returns to the orphanage taking her with him, but it is no longer possible to identify the baby. There is a frisson like in Italian neorealistic films (the endless rows of pawned sheets in Ladri di biciclette) when Taji scans hundreds of orphan babies, smiling, crying, rhythmically moving. "Babies need touching, proximity".

The ending is open. Hashem cannot wait any longer, and he disappears into the traffic of the big city. Taji remains at the orphanage.

The milieux in The Brick and the Mirror are memorable. The abandoned construction site. The crowded café, a center of social life. The police station. Hashem's room with very little privacy. The orphanage.

The visual style is based on stark realism, with forceful cinematography in black and white and scope by Soleiman Minassian.

There is a dynamic structure between the noise and bustle of the big city and spaces and moments of silence and emptiness.

Hashem is a survivor. He is wary of promises, as "a man's word is like a pit". At home, "behind each window, an evil eye, a wicked tongue". He exercises. On his walls are images of musclemen. He works hard. He is not cynical but he does not want to take a responsibility that he is unable to carry.

Taji would desire nothing more than a baby, to be a mother.

Hashem cannot sleep with the lights on. Taji cannot sleep with the lights off. Perhaps a sufficient reason why they cannot live together.

The satirical account of bureaucracy brings to mind Russian classics like Tolstoy and Chekhov.

The Brick and the Mirror is a film based on a sense of duration, durée in the sense of Bergson. In studies of Russian literature an essential term is "being", byt (быть). For instance: "to be or not to be" = быть или не быть.

To convey the sense of being in a real place in a real period of time is the highest achievement of the cinema. That was what Abbas Kiarostami was famous for. But he belonged to a distinguished pre-existing tradition, and the highest level had already been reached by Ebrahim Golestan, for example in The Brick and the Mirror.

There is in contemporary film criticism a misleading discourse on "slow cinema". For me a film can be slow in the sense of boring when it is based on fast edit and ceaseless action. And a film of the highest intensity can be made without plot or action, like Béla Tarr did in The Turin Horse.

There are prolonged episodes of no action (the abandoned construction site, the overcrowded orphanage) in The Brick and the Mirror, but it always emanates a high intensity of being.

The visual quality of the DCP is clean and fair, but it has perhaps not been manufactured in the highest possible resolution.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

King of Jazz (2016 digital restoration in 4K by Universal Pictures)




Il re del jazz. US 1930. D: John Murray Anderson. SC: Harry Ruskin. Cinematography: Hal Mohr, Jerome Ash, Ray Rennahan. ED: Robert Carlisle, Maurice Pivar. AD: Herman Rosse. M: Milton Ager, Harry De Costa, George Gershwin, Billy Rose, Mabel Wayne, Jack Yellen. C: Paul Whiteman and His Band, John Boles, Laura La Plante, Jeanette Loff, Glenn Tryon, William Kent, Slim Summerville, Merna Kennedy, The Rhythm Boys featuring Bing Crosby. P: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. [The film was not released in Finland]. DCP. 100′. B&w .
    Two color Technicolor1,2:1
    DCP from Universal Pictures
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Universal Pictures: The Laemmle Junior Years
    E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra
    Cinema Jolly, 30 June 2016


James Layton and David Pierce (Bologna catalog): "After years of being available in only poor quality and incomplete copies, Universal has digitally restored King of Jazz closer to its original form. Using the original soundtrack negative as a guide, the new restoration aims to recreate the film’s 1930 general release. The two-color Technicolor camera negative (cut for a 1933 reissue) was scanned at 4K resolution and then blended with additional footage from multiple dye-transfer prints. A small amount of missing footage has been reconstructed with stills over the original audio. For the first time in close to 85 years, audiences will be able to see and hear King of Jazz in a form more faithful to its original length, running order and visual quality."

"King of Jazz was one of the most ambitious musicals ever to emerge from Hollywood. Universal’s super production brought together Paul Whiteman, leader of the country’s top dance orchestra; John Murray Anderson, director of spectacular Broadway revues; a top ensemble of dancers and singers; sparkling early Technicolor; and a near unlimited budget. The end result was a unique mixture of the stage and screen – with no plot and nearly no dialogue – presenting an unparalleled cinematic interpretation of jazz music and stage spectacle."

"At the time Paul Whiteman was at the peak of his celebrity, having recruited the country’s premier roster of jazz performers, including a young Bing Crosby on vocals. The rotund orchestra leader signed with Universal for an extraordinary $200,000, but the studio struggled to find an appropriate story. After two stalled attempts to make the film, first as a biopic, then as a backstage drama, Universal eventually settled on the revue form. With Flo Ziegfeld unavailable, the studio approached the next best: John Murray Anderson, the man behind the innovative Greenwich Village Follies series on Broadway. Anderson – who had no prior experience with film – enlisted a host of exceptional stage talent to realize his vision for the film, and teamed them with Universal’s contract stars. At a total expense of $2 million, the film stood no chance of returning its costs. It performed poorly in the US – where musicals were no longer in demand – but found its audiences internationally, raking in $1.2 million."
– James Layton and David Pierce


AA: One of the greatest restoration projects of recent years, a dream come true for lovers of the film musical. King of Jazz was a case of une folie de grandeur of Universal Pictures, a giant musical spectacle released at a moment when the market was over-saturated with musicals, a half a year after the stock market crash. Commercially King of Jazz was an expensive flop, but the result was also a lasting achievement, a fascinating anthology of American popular music, although the lapses of taste and judgement are also monumental, starting with the title of the film.

King of Jazz is one of the foundation works of the grand revue format of the Hollywood musical, still followed by MGM in Ziegfeld Follies fifteen years later in which comedy sketches and huge production numbers alternate in the same way. In the beginning the pyknic Paul Whiteman opens his scrap book – which turns out to be the very movie we are watching.

King of Jazz is all Technicolor, an important achievement in the development of the two colour Technicolor film. A special feature is a Technicolor animation right at the start, full of crazy transformations. Paul Whiteman "in darkest Africa" is there crowned King of Jazz.

The players in Paul Whiteman's orchestra are introduced, as are the chorus girls. Between popular music numbers are also passages of classical music ("Danza degli spiriti beati" from Gluck's Orfeo ed Eurydice). A magnificent wedding fantasy is among the first production numbers. Among The Rhythm Boys we detect Bing Crosby in his first film performance. His strong screen presence is already evident. The imagination sometimes borders on kitsch, and sometimes indulges in it. There are straight overhead shots of a complex choreography executed in the same way that Busby Berkeley would soon cultivate into a form of art. Paul Whiteman's rotund face transforms into a Mélièsian moon. Before becoming a Howard Hawks regular Walter Brennan was a vaudeville veteran among many other things; he was also a war veteran. He had also made a fortune in real estate and lost most in the Great Depression. Here he toils in several numbers.

"Rhapsody in Blue" had been commissioned by Paul Whiteman from George Gershwin, and perhaps the most valuable asset of King of Jazz is the performance of this great composition by the original band.

King of Jazz climaxes with "The Melting Pot of Music". "Melodies of all nations" form a new rhythm: jazz. There are tributes to music from Britain, Italy, Scotland, Spain, Russia, France, etc. There is a special effects passage about the magic cauldron which leads to the grande finale of melting metal, and kaleidoscopic visions – leading to the birth of jazz in the reign of the king, Paul Whiteman.

Very impressive, and incredibly offensive. No Africa, no New Orleans in the melting pot of jazz. It cannot be said that King of Jazz totally ignores the black origins of jazz. There are fleeting references to Africa and the black man in the "Rhapsody in Blue" sequence. But when a film is called King of Jazz with such a huge cast of musical talent, and not a single black artist is participating, it is deplorable.

The two colour Technicolor of course has its limitations. The colours are red and green, no blue. This famously creates a problem with "Rhapsody in Blue".

The restoration is marvellous, and visually the film is a great pleasure to watch.



La provinciale / The Wayward Wife




Rakkauden harhapoluilla. IT 1953. D: Mario Soldati. Based on: dal racconto omonimo (1937, in L'imbroglio) di Alberto Moravia. SC: Giorgio Bassani, Sandro De Feo, Jean Ferry, Mario Soldati. Cinematography: G. R. Aldo, Domenico Scala. ED: Leo Cattozzo. AD: Flavio Mogherini. M: Franco Mannino. C: Gina Lollobrigida (Gemma Foresi), Gabriele Ferzetti (professor Franco Vagnuzzi), Franco Interlenghi (Paolo Sartori), Nanda Primavera (madre di Gemma), Marylin Buferd (Anna Letizia Sartori), Barbara Berg (Vannina), Alda Mangini (contessa Elvira), Renato Baldini (Luciano Vittoni). P: Attilio Riccio per Electra Compagnia Cinematografica. 35 mm. 115’. B&w.
    Camera operator: Giuseppe Rotunno
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Mario Soldati, a Writer at Cinecittà
    Print from CSC – Cineteca Nazionale
    E-subtitles in English by Sub-Ti Londra
    Cinema Jolly, 30 June 2016


Emiliano Morreale (Bologna catalog): "According to Soldati, it is his best film. At a time in which he was busy producing genre cinema (Walter Chiari comedies; pirate movies), he managed to complete a project from a few years earlier: the first film adaptation of a novel by Alberto Moravia, whom Soldati had known since childhood. The screenplay, written together with Giorgio Bassani, reworks the novel’s narrative though a complicated flashback structure. Beginning with a striking initiating event, the film narrates the life of an unsatisfied middle-class woman from differing points-of-view, adopting the perspective of various characters who, each in their own way, fail to comprehend her. It is another great portrait of a female character, which transposes Moravia’s realism into the classic suspense-mechanism typical of Soldati’s films. In so doing, it joins an elite company of ‘modernist’ melodramas of the period: the first films of Antonioni, certain works by Vittorio Cottafavi, Antonio Leonviola, Claudio Gora and Mario Monicelli. The modernism of its narrative structure is complemented by an elaborate style dominated by lengthy sequence-shots, a sophisticated use of music and a depth of field that places Gemma and her ‘narrators’ on the same plane, making it impossible to judge one without simultaneously judging the other. As Jean Cocteau stated at the time: “The film as a whole is part Maupassant and even part Marcel Proust; but the filmmaker’s skill and the economic use of dialogue and gestures saves the operation. Every second exhibits a power without recourse to tricks or expediencies, a mastery before which we should all bow down”. Perhaps the film also contains Gina Lollobrigida’s best dramatic performance." – Emiliano Morreale

AA: Alberto Moravia had written screenplays and contributed to them since 1940, but La provinciale is the first film adaptation based on a story by him. It is a story of Gemma Foresi (Gina Lollobrigida), a woman from the provinces languishing in a marriage with a scientist. The non-linear screenplay takes us soon to the climax of the drama, and then a series of flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks illuminate us how it all started.

A woman pianist in the corner apartment practising Beethoven provides musical continuity to the story.

With a long establishing shot and some expressive panning we get acquainted with the world of the narrative. G. R. Aldo and Domenico Scala are in charge of the cinematography. Giuseppe Rotunno was in this phase working with the best of them as camera operator. The camera movements in La provinciale are expressions of a high level of cinematic thinking. The visual intensity of the film is remarkable.

The performances are first-rate, and Emiliano Morreale's remark that this film perhaps contains Gina Lollobrigida's best dramatic performance is easy to believe.

In the beginning there is a love affair of youth, but it has to stop. Paolo Sartori (Franco Interlenghi) is the Count's son. Then Gemma's mother reveals that Gemma is the Count's illegitimate daughter. Gemma gets married with professor Franco Vagnuzzi (Gabriele Ferzetti) as a substitute. The marriage is very one-sided. "I am for you for that one thing only", complains Gemma.

A refugee from socialist Romania, Elvira (Alda Mangini), who claims to be a countess, provides some diversion, but slowly it turns out that she is really a hostess for "discreet meetings" with selective gentlemen. Gemma has misunderstood the discreet meetings at first as true relationships based on affection. The spidery Elvira gradually transforms into a blackmailer who even infiltrates into Gemma and Paolo's household while they are on vacation in Switzerland.

In Switzerland, from reactions of students, Gemma for the first time understands that Franco really is an outstanding, internationally recognized scientist working on cosmological research. There are interesting spatial 3D representations of the cosmos in Franco's study.

Having returned from Switzerland and meeting at home Elvira who has moved in without permission Gemma has had enough. But even Gemma's violent reaction is not sufficient. Franco, having heard the full story, throws Elvira's belongings to the street and asks her to get out. There is a breath of fresh air and a crescendo on the Beethoven piano piece.

There is some affinity with Madame Bovary in this story but there are also crucial differences. Gemma is not sexually neglected, on the contrary. And her husband is not provincial, on the contrary. Rather, La provinciale resembles some stories by Anton Chekhov, such as Poprygunya / The Grasshopper where a gentle doctor is married to a woman who fails to rise to his same wavelength.

La provinciale is a quality production and a well made film, but I have my reservations about the story. Without having read Moravia's original story I suspect that the limitations stem from it.

Il ventaglino (episodio di Questa è la vita) / [The Fan] (an episode of Of Life and Love)


IT 1953. D: Mario Soldati. Based on: dal racconto omonimo di Luigi Pirandello. SC: Mario Soldati, Giorgio Bassani. Cinematography: Giuseppe La Torre. ED: Eraldo Da Roma. AD: Peppino Piccolo. M: Carlo Innocenzi, Armando Trovaioli. C: Miriam Bru / Myriam Bru (la ragazza madre), Andreina Paul (signora borghese), Pina Piovani (popolana), Mario Corte (Ninì), Giorgio Costantini (soldato), Antonio La Raina (venditore ambulante). P: Fortunia Film. [The film was not released in Finland]. 35 mm. 14’. B&w .
    Pirandello's short story was originally published in 1903. It is a part of his project Novelle per un anno (1894–1937), comparable to A Thousand and One Nights and Decamerone. Pirandello finished 246 stories, published in 15 volumes. Il ventaglino was published in 1922 in the collection Scialle nero (Novelle per un anno I). Besides Questa è la vita Pirandello's stories have also been filmed by the Taviani brothers (Kaos).
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Mario Soldati, a Writer at Cinecittà
    Print from CSC – Cineteca Nazionale
    E-subtitles in English by Sub-Ti Londra
    Cinema Jolly, 30 June 2016

Emiliano Morreale (Bologna catalog): "The most famous episode of Questa è la vita, the episodic film based on novellas by Luigi Pirandello, is Luigi Zampa’s La patente starring Totò. However, Soldati’s little ‘one-act’ written together with Giorgio Bassani, is also worthy of mention. Like all the novelists of his generation, Soldati had been influenced by the Sicilian writer and had even had an unfortunate encounter with him on Ruttmann’s Acciaio. In this film, he turns the novella into a concentrate of his own themes, from the detailed observation of class relations to the malicious female characters and the nostalgia for the Belle époque. Above all, however, he employs his free-roaming gaze to its fullest extent in a virtuoso play of little figures and camera movements." - Emiliano Morreale

AA: The episode takes place in a park in hot Rome. Myriam Bru plays the 20 year old mother of a little boy. The country girl has been seduced and abandoned, and now she is in Rome with no place to go. She has left her man because he had asked her "to be nice to a gentleman friend. My milk dried of rage". She is too proud to beg, but her little boy must have something to eat. From an old woman she gets a piece of bread. The boy of a rich mother takes the bread and throws it into the fountain. The rich lady compensates for it with two coins. With them the woman buys a paper fan.

A well made production. A moving performance by Myriam Bru. Beautiful cinematography by Giuseppe La Torre. An enchanting score by Carlo Innocenzi and Armando Trovaioli; there is also a melismatic song (Roman? Sicilian?) backed by a guitar, and a military band. There is an atmosphere of great beauty for a story of injustice and desperation so great that the young mother contemplates jumping into the river with her son. The class divide between the rich and the poor is severe. Mario Soldati brings all this together with sophistication.

A print so brilliant that it looks like it might have been struck from the original negative.

Anno uno 9 [A]: 1895-1995-2016: Latest Updates on the Lumière Brothers

Autruches

1896. Cinema anno uno – Lumière!
1896. Year One of Cinematography
Programma 9[A]: 1895-1995-2016: Ultimi aggiornamenti sui Lumière
Programme 9[A]: 1895-1995-2016: Latest Updates on the Lumière Brothers

Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
Dominique Moustacchi (CNC) presenta il Work in progress sul catalogo Lumière
♪ grand piano Maud Nelissen
There are no intertitles in the films
Cinema Lumiere – Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, 30 June 2016

Béatrice de Pastre and Dominique Moustacchi (Bologna Catalog): "In view of the celebrations for cinema’s centenary in 1995, an international project to reconstruct and restore the entire output of the production company A. Lumière et fils was undertaken in France by the Centre National de la Cinématographie. In collaboration with the University of Lyon II, this wide-ranging project, which started with elements belonging to archives throughout the world, led to the identification of 1408 views (of which only 19 are considered lost) and the publication of a catalogue, La Production cinématographique des frères Lumière, edited by Michelle Aubert and Jean-Claude Seguin and published by BiFi, Editions Mémoires de cinéma, 1er siècle du cinéma."

"Twenty years later, in an era characterised by the global sharing of information online and the internationalisation of cataloguing standards, what is the current state of knowledge on the earliest productions in the history of the cinema?"

"For the CNC, the Institut Lumière and the Cinémathèque française, the commemoration of the 120 anniversary of this exceptional material marks an opportunity to continue this work, reprising the indexing of the films according to current cataloguing standards, and, above all, to study the so-called ‘out-of-catalogue’ films: a corpus of about 600 views that principally comprise those that were indicated as never having been marketed. Comparing them with the ‘catalogue’ views allows us to reflect both on the distribution of images – why was one view preferred over another? – and on the production of ‘series’ like Arroseur et arrosé or the various Entrées d’un train en gare. Moreover, these unpublished images allow us to adopt new cultural and ethnographic approaches to reading the films."
– Béatrice de Pastre and Dominique Moustacchi

[Toboggan aquatique] / [Water Slide]
fuori catalogo n. [4006], Alexandre Promio, [FR 1896]. - AA: a modest print, scratches.

Water toboggan (montagnes russes sur l’eau). Catalogue Lumière. Vue N° 98. “Cette vue représente la scène bien connue du bateau qui descend rapidement sur des rails et se précipite dans un bassin rempli d’eau ; débarquement des passagers.” - Graphie originelle du titre : Water-to-bogant.- Sur une bouée suspendue à une barrière, il est inscrit “H.HEIDISLAND”, qui pourrait peut-être suggérer le nom d'un parc d'attraction. En raison de ce terme que l'on peut rapprocher des nombreux lieux portant le nom “Island” aux alentours de New York, cette vue est classée aux États-Unis.- Le numéro originel 98 et le titre de cette vue sont absents du Catalogue des vues - Première liste (n° originels 1 à 358), paru en [mai] 1897. Il en est de même dans la liste en anglais (n° originels 1 à 358) de la firme Philipp Wolff for Films, parue en août 1897 dans la revue The Photographic Dealer (Londres). Dans le catalogue anglais (paru vers septembre 1897 puisqu'incluant les n° originels 1 à 619) de la firme H. Jasper Redfern (Sheffield), le numéro 98 apparaît sans titre. À notre connaissance, ce n'est que dans le Catalogue des vues - Listes 1 à 4 réunies que le titre et le numéro sont présents pour la première fois.- Une première version non cataloguée de ce sujet, tournée lors de l'Exposition nationale suisse de Genève, a été programmée le 14 juin 1896 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Le Water Tobogant (Exposition de Genève) (Lyon républicain, 15 juin 1896). Opérateur: inconnu. Date: [printemps 1896] - [1er mai 1897]. Lieu: [États-Unis]. Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 4 copies Lumière - 1 copie Edison. Pays: États-Unis. Lieu: parc. Genre: distraction. Objet: manège.

Water toboggan (montagnes russes sur l’eau) / [Water Slide (Roller Coaster on Water)]
n. 98, US 1896. - AA: Two Lumière versions of a favourite subject of the earliest cinema. We had seen yesterday the American Mutoscope version of Shooting the Chutes probably shot by William K. L. Dickson. Scratches.

Autruches. Catalogue Lumière. Vue N° 4. “Promenade des autruches dans une allée du Jardin des Plantes, à Paris.” Une autruche et deux ânes, attelés à des charrettes, puis deux chevaux, un dromadaire et trois éléphants promènent des enfants. - Erreur dans le sujet du Catalogue des vues pour Cinématographe : la vue n'est pas tournée au jardin des Plantes.- Une autre prise non cataloguée du même sujet, tournée au même moment, révèle le recours à des prises multiples lorsque la vue semblait insatisfaisante. En effet, dans cette vue non retenue, un homme retient un petit garçon qui tente de traverser le champ au moment où l'autruche entre dans le champ (le même petit garçon d'ailleurs saluera l'opérateur à la fin de la vue cataloguée). Nombre de vues contiennent quelques présences importunes, mais ici la relation de ces deux vues est telle qu'il est permis d'imaginer que l'opérateur a décidé sans attendre de reprendre une vue devant ce léger contretemps. La volonté de laisser la vedette à l'autruche semble évidente. Opérateur: inconnu. Date: [juin 1896] - [12 juillet 1896]. Lieu: France, Paris, jardin d'acclimatation. Projections: Programmée le 19 juillet 1896 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Paris. - Au jardin d'acclimatation : l'autruche (Lyon républicain, 19 juillet 1896). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 copie Lumière. Lieu: parc. Genre: distraction. Sujet: animal, enfant. Séries: Promenades au jardin d'acclimatation de Paris.

Autruches / [Ostriches]
n. 4, Paris, FR 1896. - AA: A good print.

[Autruches, II] / [Ostriches, II]
fuori catalogo n. [4506], Paris, FR 1896. - AA: A fair print.

Scène d’enfants. Catalogue Lumière. Vue N° 94. “Deux enfants jouant dans un jardin avec un chien et un chat.” Opérateur: [Lumière]. Date: [printemps 1896] - 23 août 1896. Lieu: France, Lyon, Monplaisir, maison Koehler. Personnes: Marcel Koehler et sa petite soeur Madeleine, assise. Projections: Programmée le 23 août 1896 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Enfants, chiens et chat (Lyon républicain, 23 août 1896). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 copie Lumière - 1 copie Edison. Lieu: domicile. Personnes identifiées: Madeleine Koehler, Marcel Koehler. Genre: distraction. Sujet: animal, enfant. Séries: À Monplaisir.

Scène d’enfants / [A Scene with Children]
n. 94, [Lumière], Lyon, FR 1896. - AA: A fair, darkish print.

[Enfants jouant avec chat et chiens] / [Children Playing with a Cat and Dogs]
fuori catalogo n. [4587], [Lumière, 1896]. - AA: A closer view.

Enfants pêchant des crevettes. Catalogue Lumière. Vue N° 45. “Des enfants traînent leurs filets sur la plage à mer basse : les fillettes, les jupes relevées, rivalisent d’entrain avec les garçons dans cet exercice.” - Un des personnages porte un panier sur lequel est inscrit “Shrimp” [crevette].- Une vue supplémentaire et non cataloguée représente le même sujet. Opérateur: [Alexandre Promio]. Date: [juillet 1896] - [9 août 1896]. Lieu: [Grande-Bretagne]. Projections: Programmée le 7 novembre 1896 à Nîmes (France) sous le titre Les Pêcheuses de crevettes (La Chronique mondaine, littéraire et artistique, 7 novembre 1896).Programmation d'Enfants s'amusant sur la plage le 20 septembre 1896 à Lyon (France) (Lyon républicain, 20 septembre 1896). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 3 copies Lumière. Genre: distraction. Sujet: enfant. Séries: Premier séjour d'Alexandre Promio (1896).

Enfants pêchant des crevettes / [Children Fishing for Shrimp]
n. 45, [Alexandre Promio], GB 1896. - AA: Scratched.

[Enfants pêchant des crevettes, II] / [Children Fishing for Shrimp, II]
fuori catalogo n. [4514], [Alexandre Promio, GB 1896]. - AA: Better visual quality, easier to see detail.

Via Roma. Catalogue Lumière. Vue N° 281. Circulation dans la rue. Opérateur: inconnu. Date: [12 mars 1896] - [20 décembre 1896]. Lieu: Italie, Naples, via Roma. Projections: Programmation de La Plaza de San Fernando en Nápoles [La place de St-Ferdinand à Naples] le 10 janvier 1897 à Séville (Espagne) (El Noticiero sevillano, 10 janvier 1897). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 copie Edison. Genre: villes et paysages. Objet: voiture hippomobile.

Via Roma
n. 281, Napoli, IT 1896. - AA: Low contrast.

[Circulation via Roma à Naples] / [Traffic on Via Roma in Naples]
fuori catalogo n. [4011], Napoli, IT [1896]. - AA: Reverse direction. Better definition of light. Duped.

[Toulouse: Place du Capitole, II]
fuori catalogo n. [4017], Toulouse, FR [1896]. - AA: Traffic with streetcars. A fair print, with flicker.

[Les Bains Pane de Mexico] / [The Pane Baths in Mexico]
fuori catalogo n. [4559], Gabriel Veyre, MX 1896. - AA: Divers.

35 mm. Da: CNC – Archives français du film

AA: Quoi de neuf sur les Lumière? A screening of comparisons of different takes of the same subject, and samples of Lumière films hors catalogue.

The captions are copied from the Catalogue Lumière website.

Remember Last Night?


Remember Last Night? In the middle: Robert Young and Constance Cummings

Una notte d’oblio. US 1935. D: James Whale. Based on: dal romanzo The Hangover Murders di Adam Hobhouse. SC: Harry Clork, Doris Malloy, Dan Totheroh, Murray Roth. Cinematography: Joseph A. Valentine. ED: Ted Kent. AD: Charles D. Hall. M: Franz Waxman. C: Edward Arnold (Danny Harrison), Robert Young (Tony Milburn), Constance Cummings (Carlotta, sua moglie), George Meeker (Vic Huling), Sally Eilers (Bette, sua moglie), Reginald Denny (Jake Whitridge), Louise Henry (Penny, sua moglie), Arthur Treacher (il maggiordomo), Gustav von Seyffertitz (prof. Karl Jones). P: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. [The film was not released in Finland]. 35 mm. 81 min
    US © 1935 Universal Pictures
    Print from Universal Pictures
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Universal Pictures: The Laemmle Junior Years    E-subtitles by Sub-Ti Londra
    Cinema Jolly, 30 June 2016

Dave Kehr (Bologna catalog): "James Whale followed The Bride of Frankenstein with this equally mordant black comedy, although the sympathy he found for Boris Karloff’s lonely monster finds no equivalent in the director’s attitude toward his characters here, a group of aggressively alcoholic New York socialites who awake after a wild bash to find a corpse among their number, and no memory of how the murder (or anything else) occurred. Whale seems to be deliberately deconstructing The Thin Man, offering another cocktail-swilling, crime-solving couple (Robert Young and Constance Cummings), though they never seem quite as delightful to the audience as they do to each other. Casually racist, openly contemptuous of their servants (it is perhaps the British butler played by Arthur Treacher who represents Whale’s point of view, muttering sarcastic asides as soon as his employers turn their backs on him), and appallingly self-involved, Young, Cummings and their friends (among them Reginald Denny, one of Universal’s biggest stars of the 1920s, returning to his old studio in a character part) seem like caricatures of capitalist decadence. As “The New York Times” reviewer wrote, “Probably it was not the intention of Universal Pictures to offer the photoplay as an argument on behalf of temperance, but the halfwit behavior of the roisterers in the film should commend itself to the W.C.T.U. as an example of the horrors of drink”."

"The film is dominated by a gigantic set representing the Long Island weekend home of the central couple, a mansion that seems to rival the Radio City Music Hall both in scale and its superb Art Deco design. Whale makes his characteristic careful use of the set’s interconnected spaces, with his camera gliding through walls as it follows the actors from room to room and between floors. When Gustav von Seyffertitz turns up as a hypnotist – his skills will be needed to pry memories from the characters’ befogged brains – Whale slips into witty self-parody, with a swirl of shadows and canted camera angles that evokes the gothic style of Frankenstein."
– Dave Kehr

AA: I only saw 30 minutes of this Bologna screening due to an overlap with an Anno Uno screening, but I may have seen this film before (perhaps in 16 mm, perhaps with William K. Everson); at least it felt familiar.

There is little to add to Dave Kehr's remarks above. Surprisingly, in this 1930s mainstream film there is no sympathetic identification figure – or, even more radically, no identification figure at all.

The period: the Great Depression. We follow the Long Island jet set partying like there is no tomorrow. But there is one, and in the morning Vic, the host of the party, is found as a corpse, dead from a gunshot. Everybody has been drinking too much, and they literally "don't remember anything". Everybody has a hangover. And Vic's death is just the beginning of a series of murders.

The police arrives – with charges of disturbing the peace, drunken driving, and resisting the officer. When the police learns about the murder, the homicide unit (Edward Arnold) arrives, but the complicated chain of crimes is solved by Tony and Carlotta Milburn (Robert Young and Carlotta Cummings) in Thin Man style.

This is a story of deaths, but there is no life in the party, either. Instead, there is a sense of futility. The joy is heartless, hollow, and soulless. The racism and the contempt towards servants come naturally.

Judging by the 30 minutes I saw, a brilliant print.

The Kiss Before the Mirror



The Kiss Before the Mirror. Nancy Carroll (Maria Held) and Frank Morgan (Paul Held).

Il bacio davanti allo specchio. US 1933. D: James Whale. Based on: dalla pièce Der Kuss vor dem Spiegel di Ladislaus Fodor. SC: William Anthony McGuire. Cinematography: Karl Freund. ED: Ted Kent. AD: Charles D. Hall. M: W. Franke Harling. C: Gloria Stuart (Lucy Bernsdorf), Walter Pidgeon (l’amante di Lucy), Paul Lukas (Walter Bernsdorf), Frank Morgan (Paul Held), Nancy Carroll (Maria Held), Donald Cook (l’amante di Maria), Jean Dixon (Hilda). P: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. [The film was not released in Finland]. 35 mm. 68'. B&w.
    US © 1933 Universal Pictures
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Print from Universal Pictures
    E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra
    Universal Pictures: The Laemmle Junior Years
    Cinema Jolly, 30 June 2016

Dave Kehr (Bologna catalog): "James Whale’s classic Universal horror films will always overshadow his extensive other work for the studio, but his non-horror work is no less personal and often more formally inventive. The Kiss Before the Mirror is perhaps his most radical film, taking both cinematic and theatrical stylization to the edge of abstraction. In the extraordinary opening sequence, a married woman (Gloria Stuart) arrives at the home of her lover (Walter Pidgeon) and begins to disrobe, as her husband (Paul Lukas), mad with jealousy, spies through a window, a revolver in his pocket. Whale films these events as an elaborate, dreamlike dance of sexuality and death, precisely matching camera movement, blocking and dialogue delivery to the swooning rhythms of a tango."

"The play on doubles and reflections suggested by the title continues both as a visual motif (mirrors reflect mirrors, within studiously symmetrical shots) and as a narrative strategy: no sooner has Lukas’s best friend, a celebrated attorney (Frank Morgan), agreed to defend him on a charge of murder, then does the attorney discover that his own wife (Nancy Carroll) has been unfaithful to him, and he is drawn into an identical emotional maelstrom. Morgan’s performance in the courtroom scenes is spectacularly and appropriate histrionic; when he applies the same melodramatic excess to more private moments, the films suggests that his great show of pain is only a pretense, meant to cover a possessive, misogynistic rage – a cover that Morgan’s junior associate, a ‘lady lawyer’ coded as a Lesbian and played with a no-nonsense attitude by Jean Dixon, penetrates immediately. The camera work, by Karl Freund, includes a spectacular example of that rara avis, a perfectly executed 360-degree pan. Deployed during the courtroom scene as Morgan delivers his impassioned defense to the jury, the circular shot completes the film’s sense of claustrophobia and entrapment, of lives doomed to endless repetition."
– Dave Kehr

AA: I saw The Kiss Before the Mirror for the first time.

James Whale is today best known as a director of Universal horror (Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein), but he always fought against being typecast as a horror director. His other high profile films included Journey's End and the first, Pre-Code, film adaptation of Waterloo Bridge – WWI stories both. Whale himself was a war veteran who had also been a prisoner of war on the Western front. In his films for Universal Whale had the backing of Carl Laemmle, Jr. until his last major works, the 1936 film adaptation of The Show Boat (starring Irene Dunne, Paul Robeson, et al.), and The Road Back, a peace time sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front.

The Kiss Before the Mirror and Remember Last Night?, both screened in Bologna today, are among James Whale's most personal films. Most of Whale's films were released in Finland, but not these two. I think both were favourites of William K. Everson, and I believe I have seen Remember Last Night? on Everson's personal 16 mm print (tbc). Whale did not want to make a war film, but I find a peculiar sense of urgency in his horror films which might be tracked down to a need to work out war traumas.

Much of the film, including the stunning opening sequence, is purely visual, backed only by music, with a Viennese mélange to remind us that we are in Vienna, and the sensual tango theme of the movie. The cinematography by Karl Freund is marvellous with spellbinding camera movements and long takes. The mirror motif is haunting in the present tense and as a pathway to the past in flashbacks. The 360° pan was a signature device of James Whale. Some claim it was invented by him but that I find hard to believe. If memory serves, it was already used in the panorama effects of the earliest cinema. Whale used the 360° pan memorably in Frankenstein; and in the "Ol' Man River" number in The Show Boat a similar pan also appears. Here it is used electrifyingly as the defense lawyer Paul Held (Frank Morgan) is about to give his shocking speech.

But The Kiss Before the Mirror is also a filmed play with a dialogue full of irony, dry wit, and shocking revelations. "There is murder in the heart of everybody", declares Paul Held. "The greater the love the greater the hate". The dialogue is theatrical; the courtroom sequence is theatrical by definition. Giving his stunning speech Paul Held is so over-involved in it that he is completely exhausted.

This is a case of non compos mentis, of being not of sound mind while committing murder. Committing a crime of passion the perpetrator is not of sound mind and can therefore be acquitted. This is the legal surface level of the narrative. On a deeper level it is about the insanity of being possessive of another human being. On these terms, getting married you are in mortal danger. Love itself is dangerous. There is a profound sense of unrest in the film.

Another subtext is forbidden love. There is the official facade life and the true, secret life of freedom in passion.

The assistant attorney Hilda Frey (Jean Dixon in a brilliant performance) is an outsider in this world of possessive relationships, exhilaratingly free from the obsessions of the others. She might be James Whale's alter ego.

Some of Alfred Hitchcock's films made later have affinities with The Kiss Before the Mirror, especially The Paradine Case. John Williams in Hitchcock's films resembles Frank Morgan here. The 360° pan was used memorably by Hitchcock in Vertigo, another story of lethal possessiveness.

A brilliant print.