Saturday, November 22, 2014

Guy de Maupassant: Bel-Ami (a novel)

Bel-Ami. Illustration de Ferdinand Bac, gravure sur bois par G. Lemoine for Œuvres complètes illustrés de Guy de Maupassant (1906). Reproduction in Billeskov Jansen - Stangerup - Traustedt: Verdens litteraturhistorie 9
Guy de Maupassant: Bel-Ami. [A novel]. FR 1885. Finnish translation: Bel-Ami. Translated by Arvi Nuormaa (Kansanvalta 1926, Tammi 1944, 1955, 1980). Read in the 1945 Finnish edition, Helsinki: Tammi.
    Originally published as a serial in the Gil Blas magazine.

A satirical Bildungsroman (un roman d'apprentissage, un roman de formation, un roman d'éducation). The novel is told by a neutral narrator. The protagonist, the subject and the central consciousness is the journalist Georges Duroy, a veteran of the French military in Algeria. The action takes place in the recent present in Paris, and there are excursions to Cannes and Rouen / Canteleu.

Bel-Ami is the story of a playboy, arriviste and opportunist - "l'arriviste absolu". In the beginning, Georges is an insecure, poor country lad from Normandy who has interrupted his military service as he has interrupted his studies before. In Paris he discovers he is irresistible to women. The women protagonists include: - Miss Rachel, a dancer at Folies-Bergère - Mrs. Madeleine Forestier, the wife of Charles Forestier, an army buddy of Georges, a journalist - Mrs. Clotilde de Marelle whose husband is seldom home - Mrs. Virginie Walter, the wife of the owner and editor-in-chief of the Vie Française newspaper - and Miss Suzanne Walter, their daughter. In the finale there is a wedding between Georges and Suzanne. Georges is rising fast to the top of the society. The result of this novel of education is what we in Finland call "a political broiler".

Georges is active and clever, but in the beginning the aspiring journalist cannot write well, and his famous articles are ghost-written by Madeleine Forestier whose approach connoisseurs recognize not only in the writings of Georges but also of Charles Forestier and even in a successor in another newspaper much later. In the beginning Clotilde helps Georges with money, which he later pays back.

Appearances are deceptive. Articles are ghost-written. Marriages are facades behind which affairs take place. The official government policy is a front for a completely different agenda. Thanks to the double play cunning investors can buy property at ridiculous prices, and when tables turn, they become the richest men in the world. The Vie Française newspaper is a formidable tool in the power game. Georges the playboy is at first a pawn in a big game, but he learns the rules of the game and is becoming a key player in his own right.

Sex in this story is both a means to an end and an end in itself. It is not all instrumental. There is true attraction between Georges and Rachel. There is genuine admiration between Madeleine and Georges. There is real tenderness in the affair of Clotilde and Georges. The only mostly instrumental relationship is between Virginie and Georges. The marriage of Georges and Suzanne is based on calculation but not exclusively; they really love one another.

There is cynical dimension in the story, but it would be wrong to call the novel cynical. It offers a rich perspective into life. It tells about corruption in society, in the government, in financial affairs, in the news media, and in the institution of marriage. One can interpret the account cynical, but I would call the novel a satire. People get power, wealth, and sex, but do they find happiness?

As a counterpoint to the high society of Paris there is an episode of a visit to the countryside in Normandy, as Madeleine insists in visiting the parents of Georges. But the cultural gap is insurmountable. Georges loves his parents, but his mother and Madeleine and cannot stand each other.

The account of the sex drive is a celebration of the life force. The counterpoint to that is the naturalistic death sequence in Cannes of Charles Forestier who perishes with TB. There is also the warning example to Georges of his colleague at the newspaper, the ageing poet Norbert de Varenne, now bitter and lonely, urging Georges to get married and have children.

The counterpoint to the profane goings-on is in the episodes with the sacred, the holy. The main rendez-vous between Virginie and Georges takes place in a church where Virginie also gives her confession. A central setpiece is the artwork of the decade, a painting of Jesus walking on the water, bought by the newly rich Walter family. Belatedly they realize that Jesus looks like Georges.

The main power player behind the scenes is Monsieur Walter. There is a touch of anti-semitism in the way in which his Jewish background is emphasized.

"Bel-Ami c'est moi" said Maupassant who named his yachts Bel-Ami and Bel-Ami II. But there is something profoundly paradoxical, incredible and unconvincing in such an identification. Maupassant is not Bel-Ami. Rather, Bel-Ami is something Maupassant might have become. A dark, twisted, satirical and self-mocking double.

Leo Tolstoy wrote about Bel-Ami and Maupassant in general in his Fundamentalist "What Is Art?" period. If we skip the excesses there is something there that is difficult to ignore.

The almost 90 year old Finnish translation is still a page-turner. My French is not good enough for art fiction, but occasionally glancing at the original I had a feeling that the translation is faithful. The original novel is of course in public domain as is the delightful illustrated edition, for instance at the address

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bel Ami (1939)

Quelle: DIF / Filmportal
Bel Ami. Komödie aus dem Paris der Jahrhundertwende [the title on the print viewed] / Bel Ami. Der Liebling schöner Frauen / Bel Ami / Bel Ami – kaunis ystäväni / Bel Ami. DE 1939. PC: Deutsche Forst-Film Produktion GmbH (Berlin). P: Hans L. Somborn (Gesamtleitung), Walter Lehmann (Produktions-Assistenz), Josef Aschenbrenner, Fritz Renner (Aufnahmeleitung). D: Willi Forst. Ass D: Viktor Becker. Dialogue D: Otto Fliedner. SC: Willi Forst, Axel Eggebrecht – based on the novel (1885) by Guy de Maupassant, Finnish translation by Arvi Nuormaa (Kansanvalta 1926, Tammi 1944, 1955, 1980). DP: Ted Pahle. Camera operator: Erich Rudolf Schmidtke. Assistant cinematographer: Günther Peters. AD: Werner Schlichting, Kurt Herlth. Cost: Luise Lehmann, Walter Leder. Makeup: Charlotte Pfeffermann, A. Paul Lange, Martin Gericke. M: Theo Mackeben. Song: "Bel Ami" (Theo Mackeben, Hans Fritz Beckmann), perf. Lizzi Waldmüller & Eva Busch. CH: Rudolf Kölling. S: Erich Lange. ED: Hans Wolff. C: Willi Forst (Georges Duroy), Olga Tschechowa (Madeleine Forestier), Ilse Werner (Suzanne Laroche), Hilde Hildebrand (Clotilde von Marelle), Lizzi Waldmüller (Rachel), Marianne Stanior (Grisette), Johannes Riemann (Laroche), Willi Dohm (Charles Forestier), Aribert Wäscher (Walter), Huber von Meyerinck (Varenne), Hans Stiebner (Stranoff). Premiere: 21.2.1939 (Berlin). Helsinki premiere: 22.9.1940 Capitol, distributor: Kosmos-Filmi – re-release: 21.8.1964 Kino-Palatsi, distributor: Suomi-Filmi – classification 22719 – K16 – 2749 m / 100 min – Finnish classification length 2680 m / 98 min
    A 1964 re-release print deposited by Suomi-Filmi with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Annikki Arni / Aina Forsström viewed at Cinema Orion (Helsinki, French Literature Adaptations), 19 Nov 2014

Watched in its own right this is a fine Willi Forst film, one of his best, a continuation of his Viennoiserie after the Anschluss of Austria, an act of inner resistance, a celebration of love, an expression of a joy of life during a sinister period of history, after Kristallnacht, during a year in which Hitler's Germany was proceeding step by step to a Nazi domination of Europe following his divide and conquer strategy.

Willi Forst believed himself to be the first to produce a Bel-Ami adaptation having acquired the rights from the heirs of Guy de Maupassant, but filmographies recognize an earlier interpretation directed by Augusto Genina in 1919.

As a director Willi Forst is in full form. He belongs to the rare group of film-makers of true elegance in stories of romantic and erotic affairs. His touch is so assured that he can be compared with Lubitsch and Ophuls. There is a musical comedy approach in this adaptation, always in high spirits. Such art is the easiest to view and the hardest to achieve.

Guy de Maupassant has been well treated by film-makers. Partie de campagne by Jean Renoir and Le Plaisir by Max Ophuls belong to the immortal masterpieces of cinema. As Maupassant adaptations they are equal and parallel to their sources of inspiration.

To that league Willi Forst's Bel Ami does not rise. It is a light entertainment version of the satirical novel about its arriviste anti-hero. The subtitle of the re-release version announces the film as comedy.

    1. The theme song is sung by Lizzi Waldmüller as Rachel, the lady of the cabaret, the first conquest of Georges in the story. (A good question: who conquers whom?)
    2. Madeleine Forestier, the brain and the ghost-writer behind star journalists and the well-connected mastermind of the political games, is played by Olga Tschechowa (Olga Knipper, whose aunt was married to Anton Chekhov - and who herself married Michael Chekhov, the son of Anton's brother Alexander Chekhov with his second wife, Natalia Golden).
    3. Omitted from this adaptation is Mrs. Virginie Walter, the wife of the financial magnate, newspaper owner and power broker Walter, himself marginalized in this version. This is interesting because Maupassant's account of the Jewish financier Monsieur Walter borders on the anti-semitic. There is nothing anti-semitic (and nothing about Jews) in Willi Forst's Bel-Ami, released after Kristallnacht.
    4. Consistently, the young charming teenage girl Suzanne - the one whom Georges finally marries - is here not a daughter of the Walters but of Laroche.
    5. Maupassant's plot has been changed. Georges does not play according to the masterplan that makes everybody rich in Maupassant's novel. Instead, he exposes the scheme. There is a great political scandal, and the screenwriters proceed beyond Maupassant's narrative. Georges himself becomes the new Colonial Minister, but just for one day, to end all financial speculation.
    6. There is a musical comedy ending where Georges, still as Minister, receives all his women via different doors - Madeleine - Rachel - Clotilde - and a nude statue of Madame la France - and bids them farewell. To all he adds: "Aber Du warst mein schönstes Erlebnis" ("But you were my most beautiful experience"). He now only belongs to Suzanne. In the novel at the wedding Georges already plans his next rendezvous with Clotilde, his truest soulmate and bedmate.
    7. The dark side is missing - the death scene of Charles Forestier, and the unforgettable confession of the ageing roué, the poet Norbert de Varenne. Even Tolstoy found them gripping.
    8. The sacred dimension, important in Maupassant (La Maison de Tellier) is missing: the rendez-vous at the church and the painting of Jesus walking on the water.
    9. The rustical side, the visit to the countryside in Normandy, also important for Maupassant, also in La Maison de Tellier, among other works, is missing.

The screening ran 99 minutes, and thus the print seemed complete. Some members of the audience were irritated by the highly selective subtitling. At first with low contrast or a duped look the print got better towards the end. Perhaps the first reels had been duped by the distributor due to wear. There was an applause after the screening.

Theo Mackeben (composer) and Hans-Fritz Beckmann: "Du hast Glück bei den Frau'n, Bel Ami!" (song, 1939)

Theo Mackeben (composer) and Hans-Fritz Beckmann (lyrics): "Du hast Glück bei den Frau'n, Bel Ami!". DE 1939. Theme song to the film Bel-Ami directed by Willi Forst. First sung by Lizzi Waldmüller. Soon also recorded by Willi Forst himself and many others.

Ein kleines Liedchen geht von Mund zu Mund.
Es ist beliebt, und das hat seinen Grund,
denn es besingt den Liebling vieler Damen,
die ihm zuliebe fielen aus dem Rahmen.
Gott Amor selber hat es komponiert
hat es den schönen Frauen dediziert,
und weil’s bezaubernd klingt und süß,
singt man in ganz Paris:


    Du hast Glück bei den Frau’n, Bel Ami!
    Soviel Glück bei den Frau’n, Bel Ami!
    Bist nicht schön, doch charmant,
    bist nicht klug, doch sehr galant,
    bist kein Held,
    nur ein Mann, der gefällt.
    Du verliebst jeden Tag dich aufs Neu,
    alle küsst du und bleibst keiner treu.
    Doch die Frau, die dich liebt,
    machst du glücklich wie noch nie,
    Bel Ami! Bel Ami! Bel Ami!

    (Zweite Strophe)

Ich kenne einen netten jungen Mann,
der gar nichts ist und nichts Besondres kann,
und den die Damen dennoch heiß verehren,
weil er das hat, was alle Frau'n begehren.
Er macht die andern Männer ganz nervös
mit seiner tollen Chronique Scandaleuse.
Er nimmt die Frauen wie er will,
bei ihm hält jede still.


Copied from the German Wikipedia. They comment that the huge success of the song during WWII was remarkable because of the unheroic nature of the text.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Suomi-animaatio 100 vuotta 5: Nuket hämärän rajamailla / Centenary of Finnish Animation 5: Puppets in the Twilight Zone

Uralin perhonen. Anastasia Mannerheim. Click to enlarge.
International Animation Day – 28th October
October 28th is proclaimed International Animation Day, commemorating the first public performance of Emile Reynaud’s Theatre Optique at the Grevin Museum in Paris in 1892.

Curated by Tuula Leinonen. Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Centenary of Finnish Animation), 28 Oct 2014.
    All on 2K DCP except Uralin perhonen on 35 mm
    Total duration 114 min

Programme note by Tuula Leinonen: "Nukke-elokuvissa animaation taianomaisuus tiivistyy. Animaattori herättää hahmon eloon, ja me katsojat samaistumme sen tunteisiin; epätoivoon, rakastumiseen, pelkoon ja iloon. Näytöksen palkitut animaatiot myös murtavat todellisuuden rajoja. Ne nostavat mielikuvituksen hämäristä esiin maisemia ja antavat niille oivaltavan muodon.  Näytöksen alussa esitetään kimara vanhoja mainosanimaatioita."

Mainoskimara 5 / A commercial mix
Hjamar Löfving: Leijona. - AA: Tobacco commercial. Animation by drawing. Vihtori or Jiggs from Jiggs and Maggie (Bringing Up Father / Vihtori ja Klaara), "I smoke the Leijona" = the Lion tobacco brand.
Antti Peränne: Barnet-kampa (1961, Studio A). - AA: A comb commercial. The Barnet comb is even good enough for a music instrument. Ten year guarantee.
Heikki Tiiainen: Valio piimä herätyskello (Filmitalo). - AA: A sour milk commercial for Valio. In colour. "Drink sour milk when tired."
FA-animaatio: Setterit "Vahingonilo". - AA: A sock commercial. Regular socks roll down. The Setteri socks stay up. Dancing socks.
Nightshift. FI 2004. PC: Turun ammattikorkeakoulu / Taideakatemia, Yleisradio Oy. D+SC+AN: Simo Koivunen, Sara Wahl, Samppa Kukkonen. S: Sara Wahl. DP: Lotta Suistoranta. ED: Samppa Kukkonen. VET A-50003 – S – colour – 6 min
    Lintujen ja lepakon erilainen elämäntahti koettelee pesäpuun naapurisopua. Jameson-lyhytelokuvapalkinto Tampere 2005.
    AA: A bold, fine colour world. A funny story about the bat who gathers a lot to eat for the little birds at the nearby nest in order to be able to sleep at daytime.

Varjoja margariinissa
Skuggor i margarin / Shadows in the Margarine. FI 1996. PC: Turun taiteen ja viestinnän oppilaitos TuTVO. P: Eija Saarinen. D+SC+DP+AN+ED: Leena Jääskeläinen, Pekka Korhonen, Kaisa Penttilä. M+S: Timo Muurinen. VET A-27639 – S – 16 mm, colour – 164 m/ 6 min
    Marketta on joutunut vankilaan ja ikävöi Frankia. Rakkaustarinan käänne yllättää. Nuorisoraadin palkinto Tampere 1996.
    AA: The DCP for the screening was mastered from a Beta SP. A macabre margarin tale with the ultimate message from beyond the prison walls. There is a Tim Burton affinity in the tender horror atmosphere.
Pizza Passionata
Pizza Passionata
Nightshift. FI 2001. PC: Kinoproduction Oy. P: Petteri Pasanen. D+AD+puppets: Kari Juusonen. SC: Kari Juusonen, Leo Viirret. DP: Jussi Eerola. S design: Kirka Sainio. M: Markus Lahtinen. ED: Riitta Poikselkä – colour – 14 min 
    Arka lähiömies Toivo kohtaa sattuman oikusta naapurinsa Britan, ja romanttiset tunteet viriävät. Prix du Jury, Cannes 2001.
    AA: A love story between two extremely timid ones, in suburbia and in the tundra. Elements of the story: a pizza delivered at the wrong door, solo ping pong, the roaring of the bear.
Eläköön markkinatalous
Eläköön markkinatalous
The Last Supper. FI 2001. PC: LR Film Productions Oy. D+SC+DP+AN: Christian Lindblad. S design, S recording: Risto Iisalo. M: B. B. Lindström. The voice of Kete: Ville Virtanen – colour – 5 min
    Työttömyys ja tukien varassa sinnittely ovat nakertaneet Keten elämänuskon. Viimeisenä viestinään hän lähettää päättäjille terveisiä. Kettu-palkinto 2001, Kotimaisen kilpailun pääpalkinto (alle 30 min) Tampere, 2002.
    AA: The suicide video testament of the terminally unemployed Kete. His suicide fails. Let's go to the bar. An excellent monologue performance by Ville Virtanen.
FI 2009. PC: Turun ammattikorkeakoulu / Taideakatemia. D+SC: Elli Vuorinen, Pinja Partanen, Jasmiini Ottelin – colour – 8 min
    Mies löytää kainalostaan kasvaimen ja saa siitä itselleen ystävän. Kansainvälisiä palkintoja mm. vuoden 2010 yleisöpalkinto Rio de Janeiro ja Berliini, paras opiskelijaelokuva Fredrikstad sekä paras animaatio Budapest ja Pietari.
    AA: The strange tumour emerging from the man's armpit becomes his best friend. They even play Batman and Robin. 
Nenäliinoja myytävänä
Nenäliinoja myytävänä
Handkerchiefs for Sale. FI 2003. PC: Indie Films Oy. P: Tomi Riionheimo. D+SC+ED: Jan Andersson. DP: Jan Andersson, Anna Cadia, Tero Tolvanen, Christer Lindström. AN: Jan Andersson. Kim Helminen, Christer Lindström, Tero Tolvanen. S: Pirkko Tiitinen, Anne Tolkkinen. ED: Jan Andersson, Ykä Järvinen. VET A-29340 – S – colour – 17 min
    Paavo kaupittelee nenäliinoja, kun masentunut isä köllöttää kotona. Poika hahmottelee iloisempia aikoja piirroksissaan. Nuhainen mummokolmikko tarjoaa maksuksi väriliidut, mutta isä suuttuu. Jameson-lyhytelokuvapalkinto, Tampere 2004.
    AA: Music by Cleaning Women. An original imagery of urban decay. A poor boy sells handkerchiefs. The camera is subjective. Ancient creatures emerge. With his colour crayons the boy cconjures sunlight. A visually rich achievement.
Katja Kettu and Jan Andersson at work: Mankeli
The Mangel. FI 2011. D+SC: Jan Andersson, Katja Kettu - based on a poem by Katja Kettu. AN: Jan Andersson, Katja Kettu, Risto Jankkila, Mikko Torvinen. DP: Antti Takkunen. S design, S recording: Pirkko Tiitinen. M: Eero Turkka, Mamo Ensemble. Voice talent: Hannu Nurmio – colour – 11 min
    Rakkaustarina yhdistää taivaan ja maan, kun mankeli eli miespuolinen enkeli menettää siipensä, putoaa maahan ja rakastuu puuhun. Grand Prix Fredrikstad Animation Festival, Norja 2011.
    AA: I have written about this film twice before: Mankeli at Tampere Film Festival and Mankeli as the short screened before Saunavieras. There is Tibetan sounding throat singing on the music track. There is a sense of the primordial in the landscape. The story of the angel without wings.
Many Happy Returns
Many Happy Returns
Onnea merkkipäivän johdosta. GB 1996. PC: Tricky Films Ltd. D+SC+AN: Marjut Rimminen. DP: Timo Dan Arnall. S: Nigel Heath. ED: Tony Fish – colour – 8 min
    Lapsuuden käsittelemätön trauma varjostaa elämää. Marjut Rimminen yhdistää nukkeanimaatiota live-kuvaan ja kerrostaa ajan ja mielen tasoja runollisiksi näyiksi. Pääpalkinto mm. Tampere, Los Angeles, Krakova. Krok, Baden 1997.
    AA: The original format is 35 mm but we had to screen this from a DCP from a dvd. Music: Erik Satie. A subtle, powerful, multi-layered meditation on a childhood trauma, combining puppet animation with live acted narrative. Deeply felt, with a high artistic quality.
Katariina Lillqvist: Uralin perhonen. The battle of Tampere in the Finnish Civil War in 1918.
Uralin perhonen
Far Away from Ural [the title of this print] / The Butterfly from Ural / Le Papillon de l’Oural. FI 2008. PC: Osuuskunta Camera Cagliostro. P: Jyrki Kaipainen. D: Katariina Lillqvist. SC: Katariina Lillqvist, Hannu Salama - based on their radioplay (2004). DP: Miloslav Spála. AN: Alfons Mensdorf-Pouilly. ED: Katariina Lillqvist, Tatu Pohjavirta. S design: Tero Malmberg. M: Hannu Kella, Alik Kopyt – colour – 27 min
    Käsikirjoittajat kuulivat legendan Mannerheimin ja kirgiisipalvelijan rakkaussuhteesta alun perin Tampereen Pispalassa. Paras animaatioelokuva, Tampere 2008.
    AA: We screened the English language version in 35 mm. Inspired by a folk tale heard in the Pispala neighbourhood in Tampere, Uralin perhonen was seen by some a piece of slander on the national hero Mannerheim, depicted as a submissive fairy. Maybe it is slanderous for someone, but anyone who is by this offended is easily offended, with weak confidence in the respect enjoyed by the Marshal of Finland. Anyway, Uralin perhonen transcends such narrow concerns, and there is a great deal of empathy both for the kirghiz valet and Mannerheim, as well as for Anastasia Mannerheim, the frustrated wife. Among other things, Uralin perhonen is a tragedy of repression. A hauntingly poetic work of art that refuses easy classification even as a satire.

Programme notes in italics by Tuula Leinonen, 28.10.2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Alice Guy and the French Pioneers. Treasures from Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet

Alice Guy
"All of the world's audiovisual heritage is endangered." UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage 2014.

Alice Guy and the French Pioneers. Treasures from Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet. Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (History of the Cinema), 27 Oct 2014.
    All made in France, all in 35 mm. Piano: Joonas Raninen. Total duration: 95 min

Alice Guy / ten of her films included in the collection Sieurins franska bilder, total 392 m /18 fps/ 19 min * colour
    AA: All toned beautifully in sepia except the last one multi-coloured, hand-coloured. All in plan-séquence, all in long take and long shot. A beautiful la belle époque compilation.
Entrée et sortie de la mine (1899). - AA: Non-fiction. Miners about to enter the mine.
Paris: Exposition universelle – Panorama de la Seine (1900). - AA: Non-fiction, city view. A phantom boat ride panoramic take.
L'Hiver: Danse de la neige (Cabaretnummer, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Non-fiction, a recorded performance of a snow dance, complete with theatre snow flakes.
Au cabaret (1899). - AA: Fiction. "Vins, liqueurs". An outdoor table of the bar. Card players share drinks and engage in a fight.
Paris: Exposition universelle (1900). - AA: Non-fiction, city view. A 360° panoramic shot.
Chez le maréchal-ferrand (En hovslagare, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Non-fiction. A pleasant composition. In the foreground, a horse is being shoed. In the background, a horse-shoe is being forged against the anvil.
Avenue de l'Opéra (Framför Operan i Paris, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Non-fiction, a city view with a twist: the film is being played backwards. (Or was it just our projection?)
La bonne absinthe (Den härliga absinten, Alice Guy, 1899). - AA: Fiction, comedy. An absent-minded customer at the outdoor table of a café, immersed in his reading, drinks from the wrong glass.
L'Aveugle fin de siècle (En stackars blind man, Alice Guy, 1898). - AA: Fiction, comedy. The blind beggar has a good eyesight, but the policeman exposes him. The scoundrel plays a trick to an innocent passer-by happening to sit on his bench, framing him to be the fake blind beggar.
10  Panorama circulaire sur le pont d'Iéna (1900). - AA: Non-fiction, city view. A long panoramic shot over the Seine.
11  Chapellerie et charcuterie mécaniques (Hattfabrik, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Fiction, comedy, trick film. The miracle machine can produce both hats and sausages.
12  La Fée au choux, ou la naissance des enfants (Blomkålsfest, Alice Guy, 1896). - AA: Fiction, féerie. A motherly fairy in the garden produces babies from cabbages.
13  Pédiluve (1899). - AA: Non-fiction. Horses' feet are bathed.
14  La Concierge (Ett upttåg, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Fiction, comedy. The stern female concierge is harassed by mischievous children. When she revenges, the target is an innocent man.
15  Chez le photographe (Hos fotografen, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Fiction, comedy. The impossible customer with his mad ways of posing at the photographer's. *
16  Expo 1900: le vieux Paris (1900). - AA: Fiction, city view. Another phantom boat ride.
17  Charge à la baïonette d'un régiment de ligne (1899). - AA: Non-fiction, a record of military manoeuvres. The infantry charges straight towards us, and they come real close.
18  Dans les mines: Entrée des bennes dans la mine (1899). - AA: Non-fiction, the circle closing from the first film of this show. The miners emerge from the mine. There is a change of shift.
19  Danse serpentine (1900). - AA: Non-fiction, a record of a dance performance. A fine sample of the popular subgenre of the serpentine dance. In splendid colour.

Les Frères Lumière: Scènes de la vie * acquired by SFI from La Cinémathèque française (1965) –  total 125 m /18 fps/ 6 min * [no titles]
L'Arroseur arrosé (1895)
Le Repas de Bébé (1895)
La Sortie des usines (1895)
Partie d'écarté (1895)
Débarquement des congressistes à Neuville-sur-Saône (1895). - AA: They greet us.
Barque sortant du port (1895). - AA: The might of the sea. Quite good visual quality.
Arrivée d'un train à La Ciotat (1895). - AA: Quite good visual quality.
Démolition d'un mur (1896). - AA: Another view of working men, now not in their Sunday best. Ok visual quality.
    AA: Non-fiction. A delightful compilation of some of the most legendary films ever made. A duped quality and slightly low contrast especially in the first five. Never mind. These are among the primal images of the cinema.

Le Coucher de la mariée (Joly-Normandin, 1896) 36 m /16 fps/ 2 min * hand-coloured * [no titles].
    AA: Fiction, comedy, erotic. Last year I wrote about the Pordenone Joly-Normandin screening with two prints of Le Coucher de la mariée. This time I was thinking about the complete - and completely innocent - strip-tease of Gypsy Rose Lee in Stage Door Canteen. Here Louise Willy takes everything off - while re-dressing into a nightgown.

Georges Méliès
Le Chaudron infernal (1903) 38 m /18 fps/ 2 min * acquired by SFI from: Les amis de Georges Méliès (1976) * hand-coloured. - AA: A fragment.
Le Voyage à travers l'impossible (1904) 370 m /18 fps/ 18 min * acquired by SFI from: Prague (1958) * hand-coloured * [French intertitles]
La Fée carabosse (1906) 234 m /18 fps/ 11 min * acquired by SFI from: Prague (1959) * hand-coloured
Les quatre cents farces du Diable (1906) 317 m /18 fps/ 15 min * acquired by SFI from: La Cinémathèque française (1966) * b&w
Le Locataire diabolique (1910) 143 m /18 fps/ 7 min * acquired by SFI from: Les amis de Georges Méliès (1976) * hand-coloured
     AA: Fiction, féeries. Another set of legendary films, now from the master of magic, the first film artist, Georges Méliès. These prints are dupes of original hand-coloured prints except Les quatre cents farces du Diable which is in black and white. There is as a rule one bright red climax, an explosion or something similar, in the films.

Le Spectre rouge (Segundo de Chomón, 1907) 180 m /18 fps/ 9 min * hand-coloured.
    AA: Fiction, féerie. In this film Segundo de Chomón still clearly imitates Méliès. The Devil, introduced as a living skeleton, inflicts a wild and crazy series of metamorphoses: will-o'-the-wisps, levitations, conflagrations, shrinking, disappearing, switching, apparitions, thunderstorms. But finally the gentle fairy overcomes the Devil.

Le Serment d'un prince / Prins De Lacerda (Max Linder, 1910) 104 m /16 fps/ 6 min * Desmet colour * [French intertitles]
    Restored by SFI in 2008.
    AA: Fiction, drama. The poor girlfriend of the wealthy prince gives birth to their baby out of wedlock. Max and the girl are thrown out of the house by the callous parents of Max. "Pour gagner sa vie": Max starts as a clown in utterly humble circumstances. Three years later: "une grande vedette de music hall". His muscles are prominent in a dangerous act. The parents appear, there is a reunion, and a happy end. - It is interesting to see Max Linder in a non-comic role. The main theme is dignity: Max does not abandon his sweetheart. Instead, he abandons his own safe world.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Marika Mäkelä (exhibition at Sara Hildén Art Museum)

Verhoutuneena yön kobolttiin / Clad in the Cobalt of the Night (1993). Öljy ja pigmentti kankaalle / Oil and pigment on canvas, 160 x 285 cm. Pyynikinlinnan kokoelma © Jussi Koivunen. Click to enlarge.
Marika Mäkelä 20.9.2014 - 25.1.2015. Sara Hildén Art Museum, Laiturikatu 13, Särkänniemi, Tampere.
    Visited on Saturday, 25 October 2014

The book to the exhibition:
    Marika Mäkelä. Tampere: Sara Hildén Art Museum, 2014. Articles written by Timo Valjakka and Hanna Johansson. Introduction by the museum director Päivi Loimaala, Marika Mäkelä interviewed by the intendent Sarianne Soikkonen, biography by Timo Valjakka and Tomi Moisio. Bilingual in Finnish and English. Fully illustrated. 256 p. 40 €. 

The official introduction:

"Marika Mäkelä is one of the foremost Finnish painters of her generation. Primary characteristic of her richly colourful, multilayered oil and acrylic paintings are their sensuality and decorativeness. She paints a humanity that is mirrored in nature, but equally frequently the work can spring from a feeling of perfect happiness, or even from a difficult stage in life. The retrospective exhibition in the Sara Hildén Art Museum presents works from the late 1970s to 2014."

"Marika Mäkelä (born 1947 in Oulu, Finland) studied fine arts in the Liminka Folk School and in the School of Fine Arts Academy in Finland in Helsinki. She graduated in 1973 and started her professional painting career in the early 1970s. She lives and works in Helsinki and Pernaja. In this retrospective exhibition the earliest works are from the 1970s and the most recent ones from 2014. Marika Mäkelä is one of the artists represented in the Sara Hildén Foundation's collection."

"Ornament plays a principal role in Marika Mäkelä's art. Her painting is mostly abstract. The figurative elements in her works involve ornaments, cultural symbols, and human-like figures. Impressions of nature and the representation of light have always been important to her. Her works display a tangible sense of the material achieved by thick layers of paint and carved wooden surfaces."

"Early in her career Marika Mäkelä was an abstract colorist, and went then through a red period. In her breakthrough exhibition in 1983 she introduced works in an earthy and subdued palette. Paintings from this period, for example All Is Quiet, the Night Approaches (1982) are abstract only tokenly, with obvious allusions to natural elements such as caves, rain, and lichen. In the mid-1980s Mäkelä started using gold leaf. Dark Light (1984) is a prime example of the new dimension that gold leaf brought to her studies of light. She also began to paint on wooden boards. The theme of mother and child, based on a symbolic image used by the African Yoruba people, was her central motif in several works in the 1990s. Inspired by the sculptor Tapani Kokko, Mäkelä started to carve wooden boards and create works that look like reliefs, for example The Officer's Daughter (2006). Co-operation between the two artists continues to this day. Her latest works, the The Secret Garden series (2014), Mäkelä refers to as constructed paintings."

"Marika Mäkelä was awarded the Finnish State Prize for visual arts in 1974 an 1984. She was shortlisted for the Ars Fennica Award in 1992. In 1994 The Finnish Cultural Foundation awarded her a prize for outstanding cultural achievements, and in 2006 she received the Pro Finlandia Medal."

"Mäkelä was shortlisted for the Carnegie Art Award 2014 with three works: Eastern Flowers, Tibetan Bridal Saddle, and Three Times Warm." (Official introduction)

AA: Marika Mäkelä is a key Finnish abstract painter and artist since forty years, still going strong and progressing to new discoveries as is evident in her The Secret Garden series (2014), with influences and affinities with late Matisse, yet quite original.

Marika Mäkelä is not afraid of the ornamental and the decorative - she embraces those qualities, conscious of the fact that the realistic impulse and the abstract impulse are equally fundamental and primordial in the human art urge. Her works have references to ancient signs of old cultures and traditions all over the world.

There is at first glance a distancing effect in that ornamental and formal quality, with finishes in gold leaf and glitter. This year I have been reflecting on the death drive aspect in Andy Warhol (in the memorable previous exhibition at Sara Hildén Art Museum) and in the pop art exhibition curated by Timo Valjakka in Mänttä - in both the King Midas touch seemed to be at first sight a celebration of wealth, at second thought a chilling reminder of the lethal impact ot that touch.

The deeper impact of Marika Mäkelä's art is different. Beyond the chilly glitter and ornament surfaces, and, in this exhibition, often cold or at least broken colours they are a celebration of the life force. Their very surface is often very physical, rugged, alive. With multiple viewings the numerous giant abstract oil canvases in broken colours look different every time. They start to evoke the mysterious interior of an old, rainy forest in the autumn, the leaves no longer green, the sun starting to fade. They also evoke the underground, the underneath: what lies beneath the surface of a forest or a meadow. Although they do not convey the sense of blossoming life, they convey a sense of fertility, of a latent potential to growth.

There is an earthy dimension in many of these paintings, a feeling of nature conveyed via abstraction. There is also a subtle element of sexuality in several of the artworks: in the egg forms, ovular forms, spiral forms, flower forms and other inspirations from plants (like in the pioneer of abstract art, Hilma af Klint), yoni symbols, womb forms, and the theme of the mother and child, all abstract, yet with subtle figurative references. Many of the paintings are explorations into and reflections on the physical interior of the woman.

The colour blue introduces to such earthy forms an element of intelligent meditation, of sublimation, perhaps a little like in the art of tantra, in which the primal sexual force is elevated to the entire sphere of being. In fact, Marika Mäkelä has created sculpted works that evoke the various chakras.

The titles of the paintings are often inspired by poems or film titles, such as À bout de souffle, a huge gold-leaf creation with no obvious connection to Jean-Luc Godard's film, yet with a backstory essential to the painter herself, who was highly impressed by both the film and the location of the finale of the film in Montparnasse which she happened to visit.

The book to the exhibition is excellent and worth reading from cover to cover. The colour of the reproductions is superb. Studying the book it struck me how different many of the works and series of them looked although the colour reproductions are faithful. Part of the exhibition is not fully lit, and some works remain in shadow. But the more fundamental revelation is that Marika Mäkelä's works do look different depending on the way they are hung and on the environment they are in.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tuula Leinonen: 100 vuotta suomalaista animaatiota / [100 Years of Finnish Animation] (a book)

Tuula Leinonen: 100 vuotta suomalaista animaatiota / [100 Years of Finnish Animation]. A book. Helsinki: Aalto-yliopisto / Aalto ARTS Books, 2014. Graphic design: Camilla Pentti, Jani Pulkka. Editor of illustrations: Kyösti Mankamo. Hard cover, 245 x 215, almost a thousand illustrations, 510 pages.
    Link to Aalto ARTS Books web store

The supreme highlight and a lasting achievement of the centenary of Finnish animation, Tuula Leinonen's book 100 Years of Finnish Animation, was published today by Aalto ARTS Books at Restaurant Adams at Erottaja in Helsinki.

Dozens of key animation artists and producers from several generations were celebrating, many of them appearing as major players in the book for which Tuula Leinonen conducted about a hundred extended interviews. The book is based on first hand research. 30 years ago Juho Gartz and Lauri Tykkyläinen conducted indispensable groundwork on the pioneers, some of whom they managed to get on record in the nick of time for their priceless documentaries. Tuula Leinonen has now brought the history up to date.

The chapters: - 1: The early development - 2: Commercials - 3: Cut-out animation - 4: Puppet and wax animation - 5: The living drawing - 6: Animation on the tube - 7: Experimental animation - 8: Sound in animation - 9: Professional education at animation schools - 10: The conquest of the computers - Keywords - Register of persons - Glossary.

Tuula Leinonen's book on Finnish animation is as large as the best general histories of world animation. It is in Finnish but thanks to the almost one thousand wonderful illustrations it makes sense also to a non-Finnish reader. The visual quality of the book is high, the colour register is refined, the book itself is a work of art. It can be recommended to film and art schools everywhere.

This year I have been learning a lot of new things from the rich heritage of Finnish animation. From this book I realize that there is still much more that I need to see.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Suomi-animaatio 100 vuotta 4: Tietokoneanimaation alku / Centenary of Finnish Animation 4: The Dawn of Computer Animation

Heikki Paakkanen: 19084 (1985)
Curated by Tuula Leinonen. Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Centenary of Finnish Animation), 15 Oct 2014.
Total duration 75 min.

Programme note by Tuula Leinonen: "Näytös valaisee tietokoneanimaation alkutaipaletta Suomessa. Usein animaationtekijät ovat olleet keksijöitä, jotka ovat myös soveltaneet uutta teknologiaa nopeasti tuotantoihinsa. Mediakulttuurin pioneeri Erkki Kurenniemi loi jo 1960-luvulla analogista tietokonegrafiikkaa elokuvaan Spindrift (1966, Mika Taanilan rekonstruktio 2013). Kun teollisuuspiireissä ryhdyttiin käyttämään 3D-mallinnusohjelmia piirtimineen, helsinkiläinen Tööt-Filmi kehitti laitteiston pohjalta valopiirturin animoinnin avuksi. Pieni taiteilijakollektiivi nousi tietokoneanimaation kehityksen kärkeen 1980-luvun alussa jopa maailmanlaajuisesti arvioituna. Juho Gartzin ja Lauri Tykkyläisen dokumenttisarjan viimeinen osa esittelee näiden tietokoneanimaation pioneerien lisäksi parisenkymmentä animaatiotaiteilijaa sekä runsaan kirjon esine-, pala-, piirros-, siluetti- ja nukkeanimaatiota. Näytöksen alussa pyöräytetään värikäs kimara lyhyitä mainosanimaatioita."

Mainoskimara / A commercial mix
Antti Peränne: Nokia Musta Retu, FA-animaatio: "Potkulauta" Setterit, Onni Rivakka: Esso kesätie cartoon, FA-animaatio: Fazer-Ikäneito.

Vielä pikkuisen piirrettyä elokuvaa
Still More Animated Film
FI 1983. PC: Työryhmä Juho Gartz & Lauri Tykkyläinen. P+SC+D: Juho Gartz, Lauri Tykkyläinen. DP: Kari Kekkonen, colour / b&w. S, animation reconstructions: Erkki Salmela. ED: Juho Gartz. FX: Eero Jaakkola, Antero Honkanen. Sound mixing: Tuomo Kattilakoski. Narrator: Lauri Tykkyläinen. VET 24867 – S – 1020 m / 37 min
    Juho Gartzin ja Lauri Tykkyläisen sarjan viimeisessä osassa suomalainen animaatio näyttäytyy monipuolisempana kuin koskaan aiemmin. Riitta Nelimarkka ja Jaakko Seeck valmistivat ensimmäisen täyspitkän ani-maatioelokuvan Seitsemän veljestä (87’, 1979) palatekniikalla. Yleisradio tuotti nukke-elokuvia omassa studiossaan, ja sen lastenohjelmissa nähtiin liperiläisen Ateljé Seppo Putkisen mittavia kalvoanimaatiosarjoja. Heikki Prepula ahkeroi tahollaan mm. Kössi Kengurun parissa. Dokumenttisarja on ansiokkaasti tavoittanut sittemmin pitkän uran tehneet taiteilijat heidän kultaisina nuoruusvuosinaan.
    AA: Screened in 2K DCP. A delightful, masterful documentary survey of the then latest period of Finnish animation. Interviews with Marja Seilola, Riitta Nelimarkka, Jaakko Seeck, Riikka Tuomari, Camilla Mickwitz, Elina Katainen, Marjut Rimminen, Reino Niiniranta, Seppo Putkinen, Mirja Skarp, Hannu Virtanen, Tarmo Koivisto, Jan-Eric Nyström, Jukka Ruohomäki, and Antti Kari, among others. Its value keeps growing. Full, warm colour.

Mennyt manner
The Lost Land / The Lost World / Le Continent perdu / Izgubljeni svijet
FI 1982. PC: Tööt-Filmi Oy, Helkavirsi-työryhmä. D: Antti Kari, Jukka Ruohomäki. SC: Harri Kaasinen, Antti Kari, Kyösti Mankamo, Heikki Paakkanen, Jukka Ruohomäki - based on the epic poem "Mennyt manner" in Helkavirsiä: Toinen sarja (1916) by Eino Leino. DP: Antti Kari, Kyösti Mankamo, Ville Mäkela, colour. AN: Harri Kaasinen. Antti Kari. Heikki Paakkanen. Jukka Ruohomäki. M: Jukka Ruohomäki. Reader: Harri Manner. Trick photography: Antti Lahtinen. VET 24368 – K8 – 345 m / 13 min
     Helkavirsityöryhmä toteutti Eino Leinon runojen pohjalta kokeellisen elokuvatrilogian Orjan poika (1979), Mennyt manner (1982) ja Ukonlintu ja virvaliekki (1982). Tekijöitä kiehtoi runojen kaksijakoisuus: ”Kerronnallisen loistokkuuden lävitse pureudutaan johonkin syvään, pimeään ja kiellettyyn johon runoilija kehottaa totuudenetsijää astumaan." Elokuva yhdistelee animaatiota, still-kuvaa ja tietokonegrafiikkaa. Linnasalikohtauksen kamera-ajo teki vaikutuksen yleisöön. Mennyt manner voitti tietokoneanimaatiosarjan (elokuvat yli 12 min) Zagrebissa 1983.
    AA: Screened in 16 mm. A poem cycle from Eino Leino's Kalevala-inspired magnum opus, the epic poem Helkavirsiä is read aloud, giving inspiration to dark imagery, also using computer graphics. A used print with colour slightly fading.

FI 1985. PC: Tööt-Filmi Oy. D: Heikki Paakkanen. SC: Harri Kaasinen, Heikki Paakkanen. DP: Pekka Aine, Antti Kari, colour. AN: Harri Kaasinen, Kari Paakkanen, Jukka Ruohomäki - computer graphics: Antti Kari, Jukka Ruohomäki. ED: Antti Kari. M: Jukka Ruohomäki. Actor: Tommi Kitti. VET 25233 – S – 16 mm, colour – 200 m / 9 min
    Heikki Paakkasen abstrakti tieteiselokuva sisälsi tajunta-avaruuden maisemia, jotka haastoivat Tööt-Filmin työryhmän. He yhdistelivät kekseliäästi perinteistä selluloiditekniikkaa ja savianimaatioita kuvamanipulaatioihin. Tietokonegrafiikka valopiirtimineen otettiin myös käyttöön, mutta graafikot Kaasinen ja Paakkanen jäljittelivät myös käsin tietokonemaista viivaa. Syntyi painajaisunen kaltainen kuva miesnäkökulmasta, pakoyritys psyykkisestä kahlevankeudesta. 19084 sai Tampereen elokuvajuhlilla sekä Risto Jarva -palkinnon että Kotimaisen kilpailun erikoispalkinnon 1985.
    AA: Screened in 35 mm. An adventure in consciousness, expressed in abstract and figurative imagery - light dots, light contours, grids, an actor model. The music is persuasive. Print ok.

FI 1997. PC: Taideteollinen korkeakoulu / Medialaboratorio, Taideteollinen korkeakoulu / Elokuvataiteen ja Lavastustaiteen osasto ETO. D+SC+DP+AN+ED: Kai Lappalainen. M, sound rec: Kepa Lehtinen. Colour, sound – 2 min 
    Kai Lappalaisen ”43” on ensimmäisiä 3D-tietokoneanimaatioita Suomessa. Tekniikkaa oli käytetty jo mainoksissa ja ohjelmatunnuksissakin. Lappalaisen pariminuuttisessa animaatiossa Jänis kokeilee painonostoa. Se sai kunniamaininnan Tampereen elokuvajuhlien kotimaisessa kilpailussa 1998.
    AA: Screened in 2K DCP (from a Beta cassette from Kai Lappalainen, for the moment as good as it gets). A pioneering Finnish 3D computer animation; the technique had already been in use in commercials and tv channel idents. A rabbit, a soulmate of Bugs Bunny, weightlifting.

FI/SE 1966. PC: SVT (Sweden). P+D+S+M: Jan Bark. AN: Erkki Kurenniemi. DP: Måns Reuterswärd, Wulf Meseke. ED: Thomas Öhrström. Sound technology: Bengt Nyqvist. Musicians: Bengt Berger (tabla), Jan Bark, Bengt Ernryd (tambura).
    Reconstruction and editing: Mika Taanila 2013. PC: Kiasma. Coordination: Perttu Rastas. Sound mastering: Petri Kuljuntausta. 16 mm, b&w – 14 min
    Analogiset tietokoneet olivat digitaalisten laitteiden rinnalla toinen ja oma kehityslinjansa, joka usein unohtuu tietokoneanimaatiosta puhuttaessa. Analogitekniikalla toteutettu Spindrift on Suomen ja todennäköisesti Pohjoismaiden varhaisin tietokoneanimaatio. Erkki Kurenniemi ohjelmoi animaatiot, jotka on kuvattu suoraan tietokoneen monitorilta 16 mm:n mustavalkofilmille. Osa animaatiosta päätyi elokuvaan sellaisenaan, osa käsiteltiin rasterimaiseksi tekstuuriksi optisella printterillä. Säveltäjä Jan Bark tähtäsi teoksessaan musiikin ja liikkuvan kuvan tasavertaiseen liittoon. Alkuperäinen esityskopio on tuhoutunut, mutta rekonstruktio pyrkii olemaan sille mahdollisimman uskollinen.
    AA: Screened in 35 mm. See my Spindrift blog remarks of 2013. It keeps getting better. This time I thought about the tension between the computer-generated quality of the movie and the organic feeling it still manages to convey. There is a cosmic and oceanic feeling, of natural forms of eggs, jellyfish and spiders. There is a psychedelic affinity. There is also an undercurrent of feminine sexuality: the oceanic, opening, swelling, pulsating, vibrating, gyrating, and contracting quality, like in intercourse or childbirth.
    After the show at Corona Bar Mika Taanila pointed out the friction between the image and the music which is intentional: the music is not accompanying the image but creating a tension, too. There is an epic grandeur in the score.
    There is no full black. Mika told me that this was the original visual concept as the film was photographed from a computer monitor and the concern was to sustain the grayscale.
    An early assured accomplishment in the international development of computer animation.

Programme notes in italics by Tuula Leinonen 15.10.2014