Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Professor (2018 "reconstruction" by Roy Export of the unreleased 1922 Charles Chaplin film)

The Professor. Charles Chaplin as Professor Bosco, Loyal Underwood as the dosshouse proprietor.

US 1922. Roy Export "reconstruction" 2018. P+D+SC: Charles Chaplin. CIN: Roland Totheroh. C: Charles Chaplin (Professor Bosco), Edna Purviance (customer buying a mousetrap), Albert Austin (barbershop customer in Sunnyside outtakes / Dr. Francis Maud in Shoulder Arms outtakes), Loyal Underwood (dosshouse proprietor). Charlie's sons are played by True Boardman Jr., Frankie Lee, and Marion Feducha.
    25'27", no soundtrack.
    Released in YouTube by Roy Export.
    Viewed on a laptop at the summer cottage, Punkaharju, 18 July 2018

Steve Massa's alert on Facebook yesterday led me to view this new Roy Export "reconstruction" of The Professor, an unreleased Charles Chaplin film. I register here my first impressions having just viewed the film on YouTube where it has been legally released.

The Professor consists of the Professor Bosco sequence which we have seen in Kevin Brownlow and David Gill's Unknown Chaplin (1983) plus rejected outtakes from Shoulder Arms (1918: Charlie's family life and the recruitment bureau) and Sunnyside (1919: the barber scene also seen in Unknown Chaplin).

The Professor was compiled by Chaplin in 1922 as an alternative for First National while arguing on the terms of release for The Pilgrim (1923). The Pilgrim, a four-reeler, was Chaplin's last short film.

Pay Day (1922) was Chaplin's last released two-reeler. The Professor was his last completed two-reeler, but it was never released.

The Professor is not a masterpiece. The compilation is highly episodic but fun to watch.

We are introduced to Chaplin as a family man with three kids. They perform Chaplin's signature sharp streetcorner turn in unison like in a musical number.

At home Chaplin is immediately hit by a frying pan and a hail of heavy kitchenware. A rolling pin is the lightest item. We never see the harridan wife, but when Chaplin, who apparently has to perform all the hard work, hangs her laundry on the clothes line, we register her XXXL underwear.

It's off to work. Charlie runs a small store with a barbershop service. The barber's chair is incredibly decrepit, coming apart all the time. The customer (Albert Austin) barely manages to be seated. Charlie splashes his entire face with shaving cream and blinds him because he is also simultaneously reading the customer's magazine. Every now and then he performs splendid knife-sharpening rituals. Fire is burning in a stove in the middle of the floor.

A customer (Edna Purviance) asks for a mousetrap, and Charlie produces a huge one. The comic possibilities of Albert Austin blinded by shaving cream, a burning stove, a pretty woman, and a ferocious mousetrap are not ignored.

It's war time, and Charlie receives a letter from the army celebrating the "romantic life of a soldier".

"He sought the army to find peace".

An episode at the draft office focuses on Charlie's overdone shyness in undressing, especially when he notices the text "Francis Maud, examining physician" on the door. There are two innovative scenes in this episode. The first is based on deep focus choreography with Charlie playing hide and seek in a maze of rooms with glass partitions. He mistakes the nurses for Dr. Francis Maud who is actually a bearded male (Albert Austin).

The second is a silhouette scene seen through a bevelled glass door where the doctor examines Charlie with forceps and other formidable instruments, all of which Charlie swallows and which need to be fished back with a line. The verdict: "your feet are too flat". There is "no turning back home when he failed to qualify".

Years later he has turned to Professor Bosco with his Flea Circus. Because the "public is unappreciative of true art" he stays at a dosshouse, its proprietor played by Loyal Underwood. The misery of the dosshouse is heartbreaking. When Bosco goes to bed he accidentally kicks his Flea Circus box, and immediately everybody is scratching. With his whip and his formidable drill approach Bosco gets his act together and the fleas back into the box in no time. But then enters a curious dog...

Chaplin is not instantly recognizable as Professor Bosco, his face puffy, his moustache thicker, his attitude commanding, yet fundamentally resigned. The most moving aspect is the change of his character. The gentleman tramp has turned coarse. His spirit has been broken by the hard times.

Visually the compilation is for short moments based on footage with damage marks.

Friday, July 06, 2018

The 50th anniversary of Rosemary's Baby

Watching Hereditary I was disappointed by the presence of Satanism in the finale. I felt it watered down a potentially shattering psychological account of a family curse, a history of madness.

One of Ari Aster's influences is evidently Rosemary's Baby, the novel by Ira Levin filmed masterfully by Roman Polanski 50 years ago in the "crazy year 1968".

That film also introduced Satanism into mainstream cinema permanently. Rosemary's Baby was also one of the movies which brought horror back into the mainstream. Since 1935 horror had not been a mainstream genre, but Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski changed that in the 1960s.

The demon child became a central figure in horror films such as The Exorcist, The Omen, and It's Alive! with their sequels. Interestingly, also Ingmar Bergman introduced a demon child in 1968, in The Hour of the Wolf. A child infested by a zombie / vampire / rabiatic dog was a new figure in horror.

A child is someone whom we instinctively want to protect. But the demon child is there to destroy.

The appearance of the demon child coincided with new rules of narrative for horror. Happy end was no longer required in the 1960s. Instead, there was the ironic end (Psycho), the ominous end (The Birds), or the apocalyptic end (Rosemary's Baby). When the evil is spectacularly defeated there is the inevitable ominous hint that it will never die.

This year we also remember the 50th anniversary of the end of the Production Code Administration (PCA) in Hollywood. Until 1968 there were no ratings for films in the U.S., and all films produced for general theatrical release had to have a PCA seal of approval. This had a profound impact on the conventions of mainstream film narratives. The MPAA film rating administration was introduced on 1 November 1968, and a new era of American mainstream cinema started at full blast.


After WWII there was a widespread feeling of the death of God in the Western world. Judeo-Christian communities were getting secularized. It was hard to believe in God after the world wars, the Holocaust, the Gulag, and Hiroshima.

In the 1960s the figure of the Devil became more prominent in popular culture, not only in horror films. 50 years ago, in June 1968, The Rolling Stones recorded "Sympathy for the Devil", their recording sessions documented by Jean-Luc Godard in his eponymous film.

Also 50 years ago, heavy metal music started as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin were founded. Blasphemy and devil worship belonged to many currents of heavy metal music.

I remember the year 1968 from the perspective of a 13-year-old. The play with the devil was about defiance and irreverence, and also about agony and anxiety. It was about Weltschmerz. We were a generation of the Cold War under a permanent sense of the world going under. The Western world lost its respectability in Vietnam. The Thaw of the Eastern bloc ended when Warsaw Bloc tanks crushed the Prague Spring. We were aware of nuclear horror but also of ecological horror since Rachel Carson's A Silent Spring.

Devil worship was an act of defiance in that moment, but I do not know what to think about it now that the current trend has lasted for 50 years.

I am also at loss with the trend of vampire films, where the vampire, the incarnation of the Devil or worse, becomes a love object and an identification figure.

I try to interpret this as a postmodern phenomenon where the Devil and the vampire have been reduced to empty signifiers which have lost their content.

But I also sense that unconsciously they reflect a fatalism, a sense that we are already beyond hope, that the end of the world cannot be prevented. Which is why we are living like there is no tomorrow.

When I try to raise these issues I invariably draw a blank. When I try to discuss Twilight in these terms people do not know what I'm talking about. Maybe I'm a square. But unless someone convinces me otherwise I think that the cinema and music I have referred to reflect a twilight period in popular culture.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


Hereditary – pahan perintö / Hereditary [Swedish title].
    US © 2018 Hereditary Film Productions, LLC. PC: PalmStar Media. With: Finch Entertainment / Windy Hill Pictures. P: Kevin Frakes, Lars Knudsen, Buddy Patrick. D: Ari Aster. SC: Ari Aster. CIN: Pawel Pogorzelski – camera: Arri Alexa Mini – master format: 2K – colour – 2.00:1 – release: DCP. PD: Grace Yun. AD: Richard T. Olson. Set dec: Brian Lives. Cost: Olga Mill. Makeup: Greg T. Moon. Hair: Megan Danner. VFX: Eran Dinur, Lucien Harriot, Ryan Sonderegger. M: Colin Stetson. S: Lewis Goldstein.  ED: Jennifer Lame, Lucian Johnston.
    C: Toni Collette (Annie Graham), Alex Wolff (Peter Graham), Milly Shapiro (Charlie Graham), Ann Dowd (Joan), Gabriel Byrne (Steve Graham).
    Loc: Utah.
    127 min
    US premiere 8 June 2018.
    Finnish premiere 20 June 2018, released by Nordisk Film Finland on DCP with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Nina Ekholm.
    Viewed at Tennispalatsi, Helsinki, 4 July 2018.

Hereditary is a remarkable entry in the new wave of original horror films that started about five years ago. There is a strange feeling of majestic splendour in this study of loss, deprivation and madness.

Hereditary is an image-driven film. The director Ari Aster, his cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski and his team create haunting visions out of ordinary elements. They discover original ways to explore the uncanny: how a little difference can change something familiar into something unfamiliar.

Hereditary is also a sound-driven film. The sound team with Lewis Goldstein as the supervising sound editor enhances and expands the chamberpiece with puzzling and dramatic aural dimensions.

But most of all Hereditary is a character-driven film. Toni Collette as Annie Graham, Alex Wolff as her son Peter, Milly Shapiro as her daughter Charlie, and Gabriel Byrne as the father Steven create memorable characters whose lives are horribly shattered. In a film worth revisiting some of the most ordinary situations are among the most effective such as Annie's funeral speech at her mother's grave. Annie's character is a great performance by Toni Collette.

The gorgeous visual approach to the depressive story lifts it towards the realm of the sublime. Ari Aster's touch in his extremely difficult subject is assured until before the finale.

The account of the hereditary family curse is compelling as long as it remains within plausible psychological dimensions.

The switch to Satanism in the finale is a letdown. Less would have been more. Otherwise Ari Aster had in his hands the makings of a masterpiece.

The digital quality of the movie is used as a means of expression. The digital unreality, the hypersharp lack of atmosphere is consistent with the introduction in which real houses and Annie's miniature houses are juxtaposed to create of a sense of a cosmic marionette theatre.


Mullin mallin / Helter Skelter

Mullin mallin / Helter Skelter. Ville-Veikko Salminen, Leni Katajakoski, Esa Pakarinen (in drag as Impi Umpilampi), Eemeli.

Mullin mallin / Helter Skelter. Bluff Brothers: Matti Kuusla, Spede Pasanen, and Pentti Nevaluoma parodying television.

Upp och ner.
    FI 1961. P+D+CIN: Veikko Itkonen. SC: Reino Helismaa. AD: Roy. M: Toivo Kärki. S: Eija Itkonen. ED: Armas Laurinen.
    C: Esa Pakarinen (Severi Suhonen), Eemeli, Kokemäen Uuno, Leni Katajakoski (Anja), Ville-Veikko Salminen (Ville), Spede Pasanen, Matti Kuusla, Pentti Nevaluoma (cooks / Bluff Brothers), Heimo Lepistö (Heikku, youth priest), Pentti Irjala (Topi, hotel proprietor), Reino Helismaa (Repe), Matti Louhivuori (Matti), Erkki Brandt (Saku / acrobat / companion of Aatu ja Iitu), Tatu Asumaniemi (roadman / acrobat / Aatu and Iitu), Matti Heiskanen (Kalle), Aimo Paapio (Jopi, doorman), Toivo Gerdt (boss), Eero Manner (roadman).
    Premiere: 7.4.1961 Helsinki (Capitol, Tuulensuu), Tampere (Hällä), Turku (Casino), Lahti (Ilves). Muiden kaupunkien ensi-iltoja: 9.4.1961 Pori (Jaarli), Kuopio (Kuvakukko), 10.5.1961 Oulu (Bio Kiistola), 27.5.1961 Jyväskylä (Fantasia), 3.6.1961 Vaasa (Kinema). Telecast: 22.8.1991 TV2, 1.5.1999 TV2, 1.3.2005 TV2, 21.4.2009 TV2, 30.11.2010 Yle Teema, 3.12.2010 Yle Teema, 5.12.2010 Yle Teema, 2.10.2012 TV1, 4.2.2014 TV1, 3.11.2015 TV1, 8.11.2017 TV1 – VET A-11050 – S – 2050 m – 75 min
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Veikko Itkonen), 4 July 2018

Helter Skelter is a treat for completists of the Finnish cinema only. One of the worst Finnish films ever, there was instant consensus that it had no redeeming qualities. It has never been rehabilitated, and now in our Veikko Itkonen retrospective no reason was found to revise the verdict.

Petteri Kalliomäki links it with three other pure "cinema of attractions" vehicles produced by Veikko Itkonen. The three previous ones had been directed by maestro Jack Witikka as Spartan bread-and-butter assignments.

Now the director was Veikko Itkonen himself, also busy as producer and cinematographer. The art of direction and cinematography is non-existent, but next year, in his last film as director, Vaarallista vapautta / Dangerous Freedom, Itkonen was at his best again.

A revue film with a nominal plot, Helter Skelter is relevant mostly as a quasi-documentary record of a popular entertainment form that was vanishing due to the growing popularity of television. A Finnish term for that culture is iltamat (soirée). They were local events with touring and local artists, comedians, singers, athletes, quizzes, and dancing.

Helter Skelter also includes parodies of television shows and commercials in the sketch comedy numbers of the Bluff Brothers team.

Esa Pakarinen, born in 1911, was the old-timer of the cast, a clown and a singer, a true original and a veteran of the rillumarei subgenre of popular farce, here in his last movie role before a stand-alone comeback film ten years later. Here he also presents his drag number as Impi Umpilampi.

Eemeli, born in 1920, was a latecomer to the popular film farce of the studio era: discovered for the cinema by Veikko Itkonen in 1959, he managed to appear in nine films in four years before the demise of the studio era.

A younger generation of entertainers is represented by none other than Spede Pasanen, born in 1930, here in one of his most prominent roles before film stardom. The screenwriter, the prolific Reino Helismaa, one of the giants of Finnish entertainment history, appears in a supporting role as a kind of guardian spirit. Add acrobats and contortionists with some incredible numbers, and a beautiful woman, Leni Katajakoski, radiating wonderfully although the screenplay provides her with nothing to do.

Helter Skelter is less than the sum of its parts. Not even the cinematography is adequate. Veikko Itkonen is taking the premise of everything happening in a deserted hotel too literally, and the performances are poorly lit.

The unfulfilled promise of Helter Skelter is a rousing reconstruction of a roadmen's entertainment evening with wild and wonderful artists and performers.

A good vintage print.


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Luciano Emmer: Goya, Picasso, Leonardo

Luciano Emmer: Picasso (1954).

Luciano Emmer: Leonardo da Vinci (1952).

From: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia / Cineteca Nazionale.
E-subtitles in English and Italian.
Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Luciano Emmer 100: The Art of Gazing, 30 June 2018.

Before the show, two commercials by Emmer for Carosello: Lancrossi fabrics; Totò and a bank robber, were screened.

Paola Scremin (quoted in the Il Cinema Ritrovato catalog): "Luciano Emmer began working as a documentary filmmaker in 1938 and for twelve years, before turning his attention to the cinema, shot several documentaries, including some dedicated to art. Emmer is the pioneer of the ‘film on art’, rather than art documentaries as we normally understand them. Indeed, given the cinematic nature of his narratives, it is appropriate to talk about them as real fiction."

"Ever since his debut, Emmer demonstrated an almost ‘experimental’ approach to cinematic writing: the rapid montage, sinuous camera movements, and even one-shot sequences, animations and audacious and innovative pictorial details bestowed the paintings with a markedly ‘realist’ value and earned his films the label of ‘naturalism’. In the Giotto of Racconto di un affresco, Emmer frames a detail of a face painted by Beato Angelico to evoke a particular state of mind. "

"Rejecting a purely scholarly approach, he transformed the paintings into virtual sets, suitable for a mise-en-scène. For this reason, too, at the end of the Forties, the main protagonists of his stories were great ‘narrators’ like Giotto, Bosch, Simone Martini, Paolo Uccello, Beato Angelico, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca and Carpaccio." [...]

"However, from the perspective of the theoretical debate around film technique in the art documentary – a debate promoted by the critic Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti – Luciano Emmer’s films on art did not emerge particularly well. Only the art historian Lionello Venturi and André Bazin understood that the fundamental contribution of Emmer’s ‘films on art’ was their ability to communicate on multiple levels: both to the general audiences who filled post-war cinemas in search of escapism and to the film specialists concerned with the relationship between form and content. [...]"

"Emmer always sought out unique subtleties and this is typical of the discretion which is integral to his cinema. In 1948, he asked Jean Cocteau to write and narrate a commentary for Carpaccio’s Sant’Orsola; and in 1950 he got Andrés Segovia to perform music by Albéniz, Torroba and Tárrega on the guitar for Goya, occasionally even shooting his hands as he played. "

"By 1952, Emmer was already an established filmmaker. Leonardo won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The filmmaker had managed to animate Leonardo’s drawings to create the magical impression of a maturing oeuvre. In 1954 he made Picasso documenting the exhibitions in Roma and Milano and for this project, he wanted to meet the most acclaimed and talked-about artist of the time. Thus Picasso appeared, for the first time, on Italian screens, in the guise of both man and artist, while he sketched his dove of peace in real time.

– Paola Scremin, Luciano Emmer e il film sull’arte, in Omaggio a Luciano Emmer, Regione Siciliana, 1999.

AA: Ever since I read André Bazin's essays "Peinture et cinéma" and "Un film Bergsonien: Le Mystère Picasso" I have been looking forward to see Luciano Emmer's classic art documentaries. (They are available on dvd, but I can wait for years to see films on screen). I love Alain Resnais's art documentaries, inspired by Emmer. In fact, Emmer's art documentaries inspired Resnais to become a film-maker. They were an inspiration for the Italian, French and Belgian schools of art documentaries. Emmer's insight is generally that once we enter the world of the paintings we stay there and explore the painter's world focusing on the paintings themselves. Unfortunately the quality of the prints did not do justice to the painters, Emmer, or his wonderful cinematographers, including Mario Bava.

In Il Cinema Ritrovato's Luciano Emmer retrospective also the documentaries Racconto da un affresco (1940, on Giotto), Paradiso terrestre (1940–1946, on Bosch), Il cantico delle creature (1943, on Giotto), Venise et ses amants (1948, on Venice), Isole nella laguna (1948, on Venice), La leggenda di Sant'Orsola (1948, on Carpaccio), and I'invenzione della croce (1948, on Piero della Francesca) were screened as pre-films.

Francisco Goya, Capricho n.º 43, «El sueño de la razón produce monstruos»; penna e inchiostro su carta, 23×15,5 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Title: The sleep of reason produces monsters (No. 43), from Los Caprichos. Object type: Print. Date: 1799. Medium: Etching with aquatint and other intaglio media, 1st. ed. Height: 188.98 mm (7.44 in); Width: 149.10 mm (5.87 in).

GOYA. LA FESTA DI SANT’ISIDORO. Director: Luciano Emmer. Year: 1950. Country: Italia. F.: Mario Bava. Prod.: Sergio Amidei per Colonna Film. 35 mm. D.: 8’. Bn.
    AA: A spiritual biography of Goya. The camera enters the painter's world unconditionally: a world of secret beauty and horror, a sense of the grotesque, a blessed door of heaven, the horrors of the 1808 war against Napoleon. The Spanish court as a gallery of grotesques. The Duchess of Alba, clothed and nude. La vida es sueño, as in Calderón. Andrés Segovia plays classic Spanish tunes for Emmer, and a glimpse of his playing is filmed in the same way as Carol Reed filmed Anton Karas for the credit sequence of The Third Man. This music score was my favourite at Il Cinema Ritrovato, together with the Chaconne theme of When Tomorrow Comes. (And I was naturally inspired to listen to Segovia's sublime guitar interpretation of the Chaconne, as well). Visual quality modest.

Pablo Picasso: La Vie. 1903. Oil on canvas. Cleveland Museum of Art.

PICASSO. Director: Luciano Emmer. Year: 1954. Country: Italia. Testo: Renato Guttuso, Antonello Trombadori, Antonio Del Guercio. F.: Giulio Giannini. Mus.: Roman Vlad. Prod.: Sergio Amidei per Rizzoli. 35 mm. D.: 44’. Col. French version.
    AA: The commentary is a bit hagiographic in this beautiful tribute to Picasso, inspiring for educational purposes as well as for Picasso converts. We meet Picasso in the process of creation and get a wonderful résumé of his artistic development with its several different periods. It's a good idea to screen Goya and Picasso back to back thanks to their significant connections. We follow the colombe motif through all the periods. In the finale we return to Picasso creating today. The child inside is alive. "Je ne cherche pas. Je trouve". The commentary is overdone in this otherwise beautiful film which may have inspired Henri-Georges Clouzot for Le Mystère Picasso (1956). The print is not brilliant.

Leonardo da Vinci: Codex Windsor. A page showing Leonardo's study of a foetus in the womb. Royal Library, Windsor Castle. Created: circa 1510-13.

LEONARDO DA VINCI. Director: Luciano Emmer. Year: 1952. Country: Italia. Anim.: Luciano Emmer. F.: Mario Craveri. Mus.: Roman Vlad. Testo: Gian Luigi Rondi. Voce: Gino Cervi. Prod.: Luciano Perugia per Documento Film. 35 mm. D.: 47’. Bn. Italian version
    AA: A wonderful and original educational film on Leonardo, an inspired résumé on his life and works. Emmer's interpretation of Leonardo's notebooks is particularly engrossing, including animation. A filmed essay on the enigmatic genius. This bad black and white print of a Gevacolor film does not do justice to Leonardo or Emmer.


Wu jiaqi / Spoiling the Wedding Day

Wu jiaqi / Spoiling the Wedding Day. Han Fei (Xiao Laba) and Li Lihua (Ah Cui). On a blind date they immediately discover they are childhood friends. But they cannot marry because there is no place for newlyweds to stay.

誤佳期 / [Matrimonio rimandato]
    Directors: Zhu Shilin, Bai Chen. Year: 1951. Country: Hong Kong.
    Scen.: Lu Jue. F.: Cao Jinyun. M.: Wang Chaoyi. Scgf.: Bao Tianming. Mus.: Li Houxiang, Chun Zhi. Int.: Han Fei (Xiao Laba), Li Lihua (Ah Cui), Li Ciyu (Wang Dagu), Lan Qing (la madre), Liu Lian (Wang Dasao), Jiang Ming (il padre), Ren Yizhi (A Ying). Prod.: Longma yingpian gongsi. DCP. D.: 110’. Bn.
    Mandarin version with French subtitles.
    DCP from Centre de Documentation sur le Cinéma Chinois (Paris).
    DCP provided by Wu Xingzai and deposited at CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée.
    E-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, The Rebirth of Chinese Cinema (1941-1951), 30 June 2018.

Tony Rayns (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Director Zhu Shilin came under professional and political attack in Shanghai after the war and moved to Hong Kong – soon followed by his friend and collaborator Fei Mu. His work in Hong Kong’s nascent Mandarin-language film industry (most of it for leftist companies) ranged from historical dramas and earnest literary adaptations to sprightly comedies, the latter reflecting his long-time enthusiasm for Lubitsch movies. Case in point: Wu Jiaqi, which combines the ‘shining through’ qualities of the pre-war Shanghai classic Malu Tianshi (Street Angel, Yuan Muzhi, 1937, itself influenced by Borzage movies) with some smart, inventive plot twists and turns that are clearly indebted to Lubitsch. The direction is co-credited to Bai Chen, but no-one doubts that Zhu was the auteur."

"Fellow refugees from the mainland film industry Li Lihua and Han Fei star as tough-minded factory girl Cui and a naïve young trumpet-player respectively. Friends in childhood, they meet again as adults and decide to marry – only to face unforeseen obstacles every time they name the day. There is little or no reference to the realities of Hong Kong life in 1951 (in Hong Kong almost everyone speaks Cantonese!), which confirms that the story remains rooted in a Shanghai sensibility. In fact, as the mainland’s new government moved to bring film production under complete state control in the early 1950s, films like this represented a direct continuation of the Shanghai traditions that were being superseded in China."
Tony Rayns

Marie Claire Kuo and Kuo Kwan Leung: "Wu Jiaqi was directed by Zhu Shilin and Bai Chen. It was set in Hong Kong just after the War. The main protagonists were two young lovers, interpreted by Li Lihua and Han Fei. The girl was called Ah Cui and her fiancé held the nickname of ‘Little Trumpet’ (Xiao Laba), because he plays the trumpet. It is a clin d’œil to the character played by Zhao Dan in the famous Street Angel. Both of them were workers and because they were very poor, which was the situation of many refugees at that time in Hong Kong, their marriage was always postponed by some material difficulties. When he saw the film, Georges Sadoul said it reminded him of Il tetto by Vittorio De Sica (1956). It is true that the film has a flavor of neo-realism, although at that time, in Shanghai as in Hong Kong, Chinese directors knew very little of Italian cinema. Wu Jiaqi is a charming comedy in which the influence of Lubitsch can also be felt, full of good spirit and very merry, even if, as in a De Sica film, the optimism of the protagonists is sometimes mixed with bitterness. It is one of the best films Zhu Shilin (1899–1967) made in Hong Kong. He was a famous writer and director in Shanghai in the 1930s and early 1940s. He went to Hong Kong in 1946 and worked for several movie companies, first at Dazhonghua, then at Yonghua where he made Qing Gong Mishi (Secret History of the Qing Court) in 1948. Later he joined Longma and Fenghuang where he directed some of his most significant films." Marie Claire Kuo and Kuo Kwan Leung

AA: The blind date meeting at the tea house is good-humoured. It immediately turns out that the partners are childhood friends. Yet they are shy in a funny way. The grip of the directors Zhu Shilin and Bai Chen is assured in a restless, bustling sequence.

Wu jiaqi is a comedy of hardships. The guy Xiao Laba (Han Fei) is a trumpetist, a wedding player but he cannot wed himself because every time there are obstacles that make marriage impossible. Most seriously, there is no place for the newlyweds to live. A highlight of the movie is a rousing montage of building a room for the young lovers. Alas, it is immediately demolished as it was built without permission on land in development.

The father is a construction worker, but he falls from the scaffold and is badly injured. Nevertheless, he offers his own room to the young ones, but when he is found sleeping on the street that plan is discarded.

Just when the adversity starts to seem daunting the girlfriends of Ah Cui (Li Lihua) join forces and collect funds to prepare a room for the couple. There is a happy wedding celebration.

"We poor folk must look on the support of others. If we count on individual effort we never go anywhere. Stick together, help each other."

Xiao Laba finally gets to play in his own wedding. He plays "Solidarity Forever" (the same tune as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") which we also heard two days ago in John M. Stahl's When Tomorrow Comes (1939); the connection is meaningful. "Solidarity, my sisters. Unity is strength".

The DCP has been created from difficult sources, and there is even video static for a while.

One More Spring (MoMA restoration)

One More Spring. Roger Imhof (Michael Sweeney), Warner Baxter (Jaret Otkar), Janet Gaynor (Elizabeth Cheney), and Walter Woolf King (Morris Rosenberg). Mr. Sweeney, the park maintenant man, lets these outcasts stay over the winter in the stable. Jaret  and Morris have carried "Napoleon's bed" from Jaret's bankrupt antiques house. Mr. Sweeney at first has difficulty allowing Elizabeth to join. Photo: MoMA.

One More Spring with Janet Gaynor. Photo: Il Cinema Ritrovato.

Ritornerà primavera.
    Director: Henry King. Year: 1935. Country: USA.
    Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Robert Nathan. Scen.: Edwin Burke. F.: John F. Seitz. M.: Harold D. Schuster. Scgf.: Jack Otterson. Mus.: Arthur Lange. Int.: Janet Gaynor (Elizabeth Cheney), Warner Baxter (Jaret Otkar), Walter Woolf King (Morris Rosenberg), Grant Mitchell (Mr. Sheridan), Jane Darwell (Mrs. Sweeney), Roger Imhof (Mr. Sweeney), Rosemary Ames (Miss Weber). Prod.: Winfield R. Sheehan per Fox Film Corporation. DCP. D.: 87’. Bn.
    Not released in Finland.
    Restored by MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation with funding provided by George Lucas Family Foundation.
    DCP from MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, William Fox Presents: Rediscoveries from The Fox Film Corporation, 30 June 2018.

Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "One of the last films to be released by Fox Film Corporation before the financially endangered studio merged with Darryl Zanuck’s independent 20th Century Pictures, One More Spring was a personal project for its director, Henry King, who considered it “probably his best picture, in a way”, according to a 1937 interview in the “New York Times”. Adapted from a literary novel by Robert Nathan, the film is set in a studio stylized Central Park, where a tool shed becomes a shelter against the raging Depression for a group of assorted outcasts – including an unemployed actress (Janet Gaynor), a bankrupt antiques dealer (Warner Baxter), a Jewish musician in exile from Hitler’s Europe (Walter Woolf King) and a banker who has defaulted on his depositors (Grant Mitchell). Staged with King’s characteristic simplicity and sincerity, this gently uplifting comedy has some of the flavor of the Popular Front film emerging simultaneously in France, imagining unexpected alliances across class barriers in the face of economic devastation (“The photoplay”, sniffed the “New York Times”, “is abnormally kind to the banking profession, revealing its members as misunderstood altruists whose hearts crack with sympathy when their savings institutions fail”). Filmed as the Depression was taking a new, freshly devastating downturn, the film’s minimalistic settings seem also to reflect the economic reality of Fox Film, as the leaderless studio drifted through its final year of existence." Dave Kehr

AA: A Fox retrospective would be incomplete without a film by Henry King, the house director of the company from 1930 until the end of his career.

In the female lead is the big Fox star Janet Gaynor whom Frank Borzage and F. W. Murnau had directed in some of the greatest romantic films of all times. In sound films, Henry King had already directed her in Merry Mary Ann, State Fair, and Carolina. Soon, when Fox merged with 20th Century, Gaynor was superseded in A-list stardom by Loretta Young and Shirley Temple.

In the leading male roles are Warner Baxter (Dr. Samuel A. Mudd in The Prisoner of Shark Island) and Walter Woolf King (Rudolfo Lasparri in A Night at the Opera).

It's a romantic fairy-tale from the deepest Depression, to be compared with Borzage and Capra, but with a different flavour. Henry King had his own sober approach, in which some have discovered "a style without style".

In this series we have seen several Pre-Code films from Fox Film Corporation, but since 1 July 1934 all films in general theatrical release in the U.S. needed a Seal of Approval from the Production Code Administration (PCA), an office of self-regulation of the American film industry.

Under the impact of the PCA all references to Elizabeth's activities as a streetwalker were omitted. (While the question inevitably lingers).

As Dave Kehr observes in his remarks there is an affinity with the French Popular Front cinema in the emphasis on solidarity, "one for all, all for one". They have nothing, yet they help each other, and everybody wins.

There is also an affinity with Chaplin in this movie.

A brilliant DCP from MoMA.


Holy Matrimony

Holy Matrimony. Una O'Connor (Sarah Leek), Gracie Fields (Alice Chalice, married to who whe believes is Henry Leek), Monty Woolley (Priam Farll posing as Henry Leek). Sarah makes an accusation of bigamy. "I hope there are not more of them", states Alice to her husband after she has scared the real Leek family away.

Eläköön avioliitto / Leve äktenskapet / Una moglie in più.
    Director: John M. Stahl. Year: 1943. Country: USA.
    Sog.: dal romanzo Buried Alive [1908] di Arnold Bennett [in Finnish: Elävältä haudattu, 1921]. Scen.: Nunnally Johnson. F.: Lucien Ballard. M.: James B. Clark. Scgf.: James Basevi, J. Russell Spencer. Mus.: Cyril J. Mockridge. Int.: Monty Woolley (Priam Farll), Gracie Fields (Alice Chalice), Laird Cregar (Clive Oxford), Una O’Connor (Sarah Leek), Alan Mowbray (signor Pennington), Franklin Pangborn (Duncan Farll), George Zucco (signor Crepitude), Eric Blore (Henry Leek). Prod.: 20th Century-Fox. 35 mm. D.: 93’. Bn.
    Print from 20th Century Fox.
    Courtesy of Park Circus.
    Introduce Ehsan Khoshbakht.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Immortal Imitations: The Cinema of John M. Stahl, 30 June 2018

Ehsan Khoshbakht (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "In 1905, Priam Farll, a nationally celebrated English painter who has been living in seclusion on a remote tropical island, is drawn back to civilisation having received notice from the king of England that he is to be honoured with a knighthood. Upon his arrival in London, Farll’s loyal valet Leek unexpectedly dies. By a curious mix of honest mistake and mischief, Farll swaps his identity for the dead valet’s, which leads to chaos, confusion and trickery. All attempts to correct are ineffective: people believe what they want to believe."

"Holy Matrimony is a supreme variation on Stahl’s favourite theme of concealed or mistaken identities. Here the secrecy is twofold. Despite their amiable relationship, Farll is oblivious to the married Leek’s correspondence with another woman, a widow named Alice Chalice, whom he meets at his ‘funeral’ at Westminster. Alice is also kept in the dark about the true identity of the man she meets, having only seen a photograph of the painter and the valet together beforehand."

"While comic touches are never absent in Stahl’s work, even in his sombre melodramas, here, unlike less successful comedic efforts such as Our Wife (1941, screwball comedy/melodrama) and Oh, You Beautiful Doll (1949, musical/comedy), Stahl’s economical and invisible style is close to perfection."

"The film is aided by a superb cast. Monty Woolley, who repeats some of the earlier success he had with The Man Who Came to Dinner (William Keighley, 1942), is wonderful as the fussy, arrogant artist who gradually comes to earth and learns to like more than just himself. As is Gracie Fields as the strong-willed Alice, who tames and charms Farll. A personal favourite of screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, the same story had previously been filmed at least three times under the titles The Great Adventure (1915 and 1921) and His Double Life (1933)."
Ehsan Khoshbakht

AA: At Twentieth Century-Fox John Stahl expanded his horizon to new genres and discovered new kinds of stars. In 1943 he directed a war film (Immortal Sergeant) and a comedy (Holy Matrimony).

Nunnally Johnson's brilliant screenplay based on the novel by Arnold Bennett is directed with a good sense of humour by Stahl. The film is story-driven and character-driven. The humour arises both from situations and characters.

Priam Farll is England's greatest living painter, but he wants to live in peace, hates public attention and is grateful for being presumed dead. Yet he is profoundly moved when he attends his own funeral as a gate-crasher in Westminster Abbey and cries so loud at the wonderful eulogy that he disturbs the ceremony.

Alice Chalice has been in romantic correspondence with Henry Leek, Farll's valet, whose identity Priam has assumed. Alice immediately takes command of the relationship, steers Farll ingeniously back to the Abbey as a guest of honour, and fields impeccably the intrusion of the family of the real Henry Leek. They create a happy home together although Alice does not know who her husband is.

That insight makes the comedy of Holy Matrimony special. When Alice and Priam meet in front of Westminster Abbey they are perfect strangers. But immediately they become partners in non-conformism, and that is a good point to start. Priam is very happy that Alice does not know who he is in public life. Their holy matrimony is based on their happiness as private human beings.

Complications arise when Priam cannot stop painting, and his paintings start to leak back to the marketplace. Alice has no sense of art, and even in this dimension she does not know who her husband is, but that, too, is fine with Priam, who wants to separate his public life from his private life. For Alice 15 pounds is a high price for a painting whose actual market value is 5000 pounds.

The film is also a satire of the art market. A fine painting may be worth little, but when there is a master's signature, there is a 10 000% profit. Accusations of forgery lead to a trial, and Priam finally must come back from the dead. He also has to give up his happy home in Putney, but together with Alice they move to Australia.

"Home is where the heart is" is the final motto of this conventional and unconventional story.

Holy Matrimony introduces to me two great performers, Monty Woolley and Gracie Fields, whose work I know previously from supporting roles only. Their performances are wonderfully original, humoristic and surprising. Holy Matrimony is also a film with a consistently great cast where everybody seems to be relishing their parts.

A fine print from 20th Century Fox.


Friday, June 29, 2018

1898: Anno Tre: Sujets composés or Scènes de Genre. La Vie et la Passion de Jésus-Christ (Lumière 1898)

Le Tentation de Saint Antoine (1898) with Georges Méliès as Saint Antoine and Jehanne d'Alcy as Temptation.

Grand piano: Mie Yanashita.
Introduce: Béatrice de Pastre (CNC).
    Sala Mastroianni, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, 29 June 2018.


Registi del 1898: Hatot e Breteau
Directing films in 1898: Hatot and Breteau

Mariann Lewinsky (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Georges Hatot and Gaston Breteau (or Bretteau) directed scores of vues Sujets composés (also Scènes de genre) on behalf of Frères Lumière in 1897 and of Léon Gaumont & Co. in 1898. Moreover Breteau begins to appear in the account books of Pathé Frères in 1898, paid for prises cinematographiques and would continue to work for Pathé Frères until 1904, as we know from the detailed history of the enterprise by Stéphanie Salmon, Pathé: À la conquête du cinéma (1896-1929)."

"Breteau and Hatot, who directed, edited and sold films on a contractual basis to several companies, were key figures in these early years of cinematography. They had worked together at the Théâtre de l’Odéon as stage coordinators and engaged an eminent set designer and scene painter, Marcel Jambon (1848-1908), for their cinematographic productions."

"It was Jambon who created the sets for the series of Vues historiques directed by Hatot in 1897 on behalf of the Frères Lumière and for the Life of Christ of 1898 (“after famous paintings of religious art”); these would be used again for the Passion series Breteau directed for Gaumont in 1899. Breteau also acted: he appears on-screen as Jesus Christ in the Lumière series and as the woman smuggling ham and roast chicken under her skirt in L’Utilité des Rayons X."

"The Frères Lumière added ‘genre scenes’ directed by Hatot and Breteau and often shot by Alexandre Promio, such as Barbe-Bleue or Jeanne d’Arc, to add variety to their catalogue. Pathé Frères and Gaumont in 1898 were suppliers of photographic and phonographic merchandise. In 1898 the two companies bought films from the external cinématographistes Hatot and Breteau a ‘software’ for their apparatuses; they would venture into film production seriously only later." Mariann Lewinsky

Barbe-Bleue. Catalogue Lumière Vue N° 946. Barbe-Bleue s’apprête à décapiter son épouse qui a découvert son secret, mais deux hommes l’en empêchent. Opérateur: inconnu. Date: [1897] - 20 novembre 1898. Lieu: France, Paris. Projections: Programmée le 20 novembre 1898 à Lyon (France) sous son titre (Lyon républicain, 20 novembre 1898). Technique: [Décorateur : Marcel Jambon]. Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 copie Lumière. Lieu: décor. Objet: costumes.

BARBE-BLEUE. Catalogo Lumière n . 946, Gaston Breteau, Francia, 1898 Scgf.: Marcel Jambon. Prod.: Lumière DCP. D.: 1’  Da: Cinémathèque française (coll. Olivier Auboin-Vermorel)  Digitalizzato nel 2015 in 4K da Cinémathèque française e Institut Lumière a partire da un nitrato 35 mm con perforazioni Lumière conservato da Cinémathèque française / Digitalized in 2015 in 4K by Cinémathèque française and Institut Lumière from a nitrate 35 mm print with Lumière perforations preserved at Cinémathèque française. – AA: Fiction, fairy-tale, horror. Pochoir colour. Bluebeard is about to behead his wife who has revealed his secret.

Exécution de Jeanne d’Arc. Catalogue Lumière Vue N° 964. Jeanne d’Arc est amenée devant l’évêque Cauchon puis installée sur le bûcher. Titre issu du Catalogue des vues - Septième Liste. Opérateur: inconnu. Date: [1897] - 20 novembre 1898. Lieu: France, [Paris]. Projections: Programmée le 20 novembre 1898 à Lyon (France) sous son titre (Lyon républicain, 20 novembre 1898). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 contretype Lumière. Lieu: décor. Objet: costumes.

EXÉCUTION DE JEANNE D’ARC Catalogo Lumière n . 964, Gaston Breteau, Francia, 1898  T. int.: Execution of Joan of Arc. Prod.: Lumière DCP. D.: 1’. Col Da: Cinémathèque française (coll. Olivier Auboin-Vermorel) Restaurato nel 2015 da Cinémathèque française e Institut Lumière a partire da un positivo nitrato 35 mm imbibito e colorato a mano con perforazioni Lumière / Restored in 2015 by Cinémathèque française and Institut Lumière from a positive nitrate 35 mm print tinted and hand-colored with Lumière perforations. – AA: Fiction, a historical moment. Possibly the earliest film on Jeanne d'Arc. Jeanne d'Arc is brought to Bishop Cauchon and taken to the stake. Pochoir colour.

Serie: La Vie et la Passion de Jésus-Christ
Series: La Vie et La Passion de Jésus-Christ

Dominique Moustacchi (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Louis and Auguste Lumière shot fiction as soon as the Cinematograph came into being, producing everyday domestic scenes performed and recorded, either at home in Lyons’ Monplaisir neighbourhood or in the family’s holiday villa at La Ciotat on the south coast, from 1895 onwards. During these early years, however, through 1896 and 1897, ‘drama’ occupied only a very small proportion of the company’s catalogue. It was not until 1898 that the genre took off. That year, fully one third of the films produced fell into this category, as awareness of competition from Pathe Frères and Léon Gaumont & Cie grew. Having produced various comic shorts and historical tableaux or reconstructions, the Lumière Bros company then decided to embark on a major series called La Vie et La Passion de Jésus-Christ (‘Life and Passion of Jesus Christ’) in 13 tableaux. This was shown at Lyons over the Christmas period and again during the 1899 Easter season. Michelle Aubert & Jean-Claude Seguin’s catalogue raisonné, La Production cinématographique des frères Lumière (published by BiFi –Editions Mémoires de cinéma, 1996), credits Alexandre Promio as sole camera operator, though it seems the series was in fact directed by Georges Hatot, with Marcel Jambon as production designer and Promio as cameraman. Such an arrangement would represent a step forwards in the Lyons-based company’s production mode, considering that camera operators had previously worked alone, with the occasional help of an assistant. Thus, with this first team the Cinematograph, originally designed for individual use, became cinema, a collective undertaking." Dominique Moustacchi

Francia, 1898 Regia: [Georges Hatot] Operatore: [Alexandre Promio]. Int.: Gaston Breteau (Gesù). Prod.: Frères Lumières 35 mm. – AA: One of the earliest multi-shot Passion Plays of the cinema, conveyed with a tableaux vivants approach, respecting conventions established in pictorial presentations of the life of Christ.

La Passion I. L’adoration des Mages. Catalogue Lumière Vue N° 933. “Dans l’intérieur de la crèche, la Vierge veille auprès de l’enfant Jésus. Un esclave vient annoncer à Joseph, qu’il précède les Rois conduits par l’Étoile auprès de l’enfant-né. Entrée des Rois mages, qui viennent se prosterner devant la Crèche et déposer au pied du Divin Enfant les dons en hommage qu’ils ont apportés avec eux.” Opérateur: Alexandre Promio. Date: [1897] - 5 décembre 1898. Lieu: France, Paris. Projections: Déposée au Greffe du Conseil des Prud'hommes de la Ville de Lyon le 5 décembre 1898.Programmée le 25 décembre 1898 à Lyon (France) sous le titre L'Adoration des mages (Le Progrès, 25 décembre 1898). Technique: Décorateur: Marcel Jambon. Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 contretype Lumière - 3 copies Lumière - 2 copies Edison. Lieu: décor. Genre: art, comédie, religion. Sujet: animal, comédien. Objet: costumes. Séries: La Passion, Les scènes reconstituées tournées par Alexandre Promio (1898).

I. L’Adoration des Mages (n . 933). – AA: The gestures of the Magi are telegraphed in the manger.

II. La Fuite en Égypte (n . 934) – AA: Modelled after Luc-Olivier Merson's painting as explained in Valentine Robert's Tableaux vivants show.

III. L’Arrivée à Jérusalem (n . 935) – AA: Starring Gaston Breteau, an early case of an actor portraying Jesus Christ on the screen.

IV. Trahison de Judas (n . 936) – AA: The gestures are telegraphed to emphasize the betrayal.

V. Résurrection de Lazare (n . 937) – AA: Jesus is portrayed as a great magician, a bit like Georges Méliès.

VI. La Cène (n . 938) – AA: The model is Leonardo da Vinci.

VII. L’Arrestation de Jésus-Christ (n . 939) – AA: Histrionic overacting as Judas points Jesus to Herod.

VIII. La Flagellation (n . 940) – AA: Jesus whipped.

IX. Le Couronnement d’épines (n . 941) – AA: The Crown of Thorns.

X. La Mise en croix (n . 942) – AA: A powerful view as the nails are hammered through the arms.

XI. Le Calvaire (n . 943) – AA: Crucified between the two thieves.

XII. La Mise au tombeau (n . 944) – AA: The casket is heavy.

XIII. La Résurrection (n . 945) – AA: Jesus rises from the grave.

Francia, 1898 Regia: Georges Méliès Int.: Georges Méliès, Jehanne d’Alcy Prod.: Star Film (n. 169) 35 mm. L.: 21 m. Bn Da: La Cinémathèque française
    AA: One of the first blasphemous works in film history. Visions of wonderful women torment Saint Anthony. Even the Christ on the cross and angels turn into seductive women. There is a direct line from here to Luis Buñuel and Simón del desierto.

Wo zhe Yibeizi / This Life of Mine / This Whole Life of Mine / Life of a Beijing Policeman

我这一辈子 / [Era la mia vita].
    Director: Shi Hui. Year: 1950. Country: Cina.
    Sog.: dal racconto The Life of a Peking Policeman di Lao She. Scen.: Yang Liuqing. F.: G Weiqing. M.: Fu Jiqiu. Mus.: Huang Yijun. Int.: Shi Hui (il poliziotto), Wang Min (sua moglie), Li Wei (suo figlio), Wei Heling (Zhao), Cui Chaoming (Sun), Shen Yang (Sun Yuan), Cheng Zhi (Huli), Lin Zhen (signora Qin). Prod.: Wenhua. 35 mm. D.: 109’. Bn.
    Print from Centre de Documentation sur le Cinéma Chinois (Paris).
    Print provided by Wu Xingzai and deposited at CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée.
    Chinese version with French subtitles.
    E-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Introduce Tony Rayns.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, The Rebirth of Chinese Cinema (1941–1951), 29 June 2017.

Tony Rayns (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Trained in theatre from his teens, Shi Hui hit his stride as a film actor when he joined Wenhua in 1946. After taking both comic and serious roles in a string of movies, often playing characters significantly older than he actually was, he directed his first film in 1949. Wo zhe Yibeizi was his second film as director/star, adapted from a short story by the Peking novelist Lao She which has been translated as The Life of a Peking Policeman. Like the story, the film is narrated in the first person: the unnamed protagonist traces his life in flashbacks as he lies, destitute and dying, on the winter streets of Peking in the late 1940s. The account of forty turbulent years in the city’s early-20th-century history plays fast and loose with some of the facts for dramatic effect, but the film’s fidelity to the sights and sounds of Peking’s street-life through the decades is scrupulous."

"It’s a chronicle of defeats, the ‘little man’ buffeted by a succession of inhumane, authoritarian bosses, a policeman who looks for ‘natural justice’ but never finds it. The tone is often seriously gloomy. The production company Wenhua was still in private hands at the time, but the Shanghai authorities requested a more upbeat ending: hence the rather obviously tacked-on closing images of the policeman’s son (Li Wei, from Xiao Cheng zhi Chun) contributing to the communist victory. A big popular success in China, the film was invited to the Karlovy Vary Film Festival." Tony Rayns

Marie Claire Kuo and Kuo Kwan Leung: "Based on a story by Lao She, the film described the turbulent period of the first half of the 20th century, from the end of the Manchu dynasty until the establishment of the communist regime. Against the background of a series of major events over which they had no control, it depicted the suffering of ordinary people, and helped the spectators, Chinese or foreigners, have a better understanding of the birth of modern China."

"On one wintry night in Peking, an old beggar on the point of dying fell down on the pavement and his whole life came back to him. In a flashback he saw himself as a young policeman and he remembered all the extraordinary events that took place during his life: the fall of the Manchu dynasty and the foundation of the Republic; the conflicts between the war-lords; the students’ demonstrations against Japan’s ‘21 Demands’ in 1915; the reunification of China by Chang Kai-Shek in 1927 and the moving the capital to Nanking; the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, and the declaration of war in 1937 after the Marco Polo bridge incident; the surrender of Japan in 1945, and the civil war from 1946 to 1949."

"Shi Hui played the main role in this first person story, moving from a fresh young man to a dying old man with an extraordinary veracity. His great talent as actor is demonstrated in all the films he has interpreted. We should not ignore that he was also an important director who continued to make films till 1957, but his promising career and life came to a sad end during the Anti-Rightist Campaign." Marie Claire Kuo and Kuo Kwan Leung

AA: I caught the first half of this fascinating film. Through the first person narrative of a Peking policeman we are invited to an epic account of Chinese history during many of its most dramatic turning-points. I regret having had to leave early to catch an Anno Tre screening. The print looks quite watchable.

Revolutionens datter / Daughter of the Revolution

Revolutionens datter: folkekomedie i 4 akter.
    Director: Ottar Gladtvet. Year: 1918. Country: Norvegia.
    Scen., F., M.: Ottar Gladtvet. Int.: Joh. Price (il proprietario terriero Dalton), Solveig Gladtvet (Claire Staalhammer), Waldemar Holberg (l’operaio Albert Fjeld), Fred Boston (Jack, il figlio di Dalton), Thomas Boston (Tommy, il figlio di Albert e Claire). Prod.: Gladtvet Film A/S 35 mm. L.: 910 m. D.: 44′ a 16 f/s. Imbibito / Tinted.
    Norwegian intertitles.
    Print from Nasjonalbibliotekket.
    E-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Grand piano: Antonio Coppola. Alla batteria: Frank Bockius.
    Viewed at Sala Mastroianni, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Cento anni fà: 1918, 29 June 2018.

Karl Wratschko (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Revolutionens datter is a love story by the Norwegian film pioneer Ottar Gladtvet. Gladtvet started his career as a projectionist and later became a cinema director, photographer, film director and founder of the production company Gladtvet Film A/S. Gladtvet made several commercials, documentaries, actualities / newsreels, and travelogues from Norway and exotic areas around the world. Revolutionens datter is his second fiction film and his only silent feature to survive."

"Claire is the beautiful daughter of the director of the steelworks. Revolutionaries from the steelworks storm the director’s estate during a strike, and the director is killed. Steelworker Albert Fjeld remembers that Claire helped him earlier, and he helps her to escape from the mob. She dresses up as a revolutionary and after several fistfights, they manage to escape, steal a boat and flee the country. On the run they meet an associate of Claire’s father (Mr. Dalton, a landowner) and stay with him. Mr. Dalton plans for Claire to marry his son Jack, especially when it becomes clear that she is the heir to her father’s millions. She promises to marry Jack if he can beat Albert in a boxing match. At first, the two fighters are evenly matched, but in the fourth round, Jack goes down. Claire admits her love to Albert, and they get married." (Karl Wratschko)

AA: Revisited Daughter of the Revolution which I last saw in 1999 in Sacile at the Nordic Explorations series of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, accompanied by Casper Tybjerg's illuminating introduction in the eponymous book.

The Finnish civil war in 1918 and its brutal aftermath had a shattering impact in other Nordic countries, also reflected in fiction films, most famously in Carl Th. Dreyer's Leaves from Satan's Book (1920). Daughter of the Revolution, which had its premiere already in October 1918, is one of these films.

It is a naive love story, but the vision of the workers of Kristiania (Oslo) on revolutionary rampage is startling. And this vision was created long before the classic views of Russian revolutionary cinema of the heroic period.


Wiederherstellung der Ordnung in Finnland durch finnische Weisse Garde und deutsche Truppen / [Restoration of Order in Finland by Finnish White Guards and German Troops]

Wiederherstellung der Ordnung in Finnland durch finnische Weisse Garde und deutsche Truppen. Photo: Bundesarchiv.

This photo in Wikipedia is not from the film but is from the same camera position as some shots in the film. Deutsche Soldaten der Ostsee-Division in einem Panzerzug, auf einer Bahnstrecke bei Lahti, Finnland im April 1918. Deutscher Panzerzug bei Lahti, Ende April 1918, die eingebauten Geschütze stammten von der „Aufklärungsabteilung Hamilton“ bzw. ihrem Autokanonenzug. Unbekannt - Verlag von K. F. Köhler, Leipzig 1920: Meine Sendung in Finnland und dem Baltikum. (Bestand: Reichsarchiv)

Järjestyksen palauttaminen Suomessa suomalaisen valkoisen kaartin ja saksalaisten joukkojen avulla
Suomen valkoinen armeija ja saksalaiset joukot palauttavat järjestyksen Suomeen v. 1918
    Year: 1918. Country: Germania.
    Prod.: Bild- und Filmamt (BuFA) / Ufa 35 mm. L.: 199 m (incompleto, l. orig.: 272 m). D.: 9′ a 20 f/s. Bn.
    Featuring: Ostsee-Division / Baltic Sea Division of the Imperial German Army under the command of Generalmajor Rüdiger Graf von der Goltz. Das Detachement Brandenstein (Landungsabteilung Brandenstein) war ein militärischer Verband, der vom Oberbefehlshaber Ost aufgestellt wurde. Der Verband unterstand dem Befehl von Oberst Otto von Brandenstein.
    The KAVI print is 244 m with Finnish intertitles.
    German intertitles.
    Print from Das Bundesarchiv.
    Grand piano: Antonio Coppola. Alla batteria: Frank Bockius.
    Viewed at Sala Mastroianni, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Cento anni fà: 1918, 29 June 2018.

"The festivities to mark Finnish independence didn’t last long. As so often happens after new nations are born, various factions emerged from the woodwork to try and fill the power vacuum, and the country fell into a period of civil war which lasted five months, cost thousands of people their lives, and left the country bitterly divided for decades to come. On one hand there were the Reds, a working class movement armed and funded by the Russians which began a revolution in January 1918 aimed at creating a new Social Democratic Republic. And on other hand there were the Whites, a bourgeois movement which was funded and armed by Germany and which was determined to thwart the revolutionary Reds and seize power for themselves. As the title suggests, “Order Is Restored in Finland by the Finnish White Guard and the German Troops” is a propaganda piece which glorifies the fight against Communism by noble and brave Western Europeans – a common theme in many movies from this period. The film takes us on a ride across Finland in an armoured train. We see the German troops ‘restoring order’ (a speciality for which they are renowned throughout the world), as well as various battle scenes between the Whites and the Reds – battle scenes which, given the position of the camera, have obviously been staged for the occasion. Truth, as ever, is the first casualty of war, whilst no mention is made of the approximately 12,500 Reds who died of disease and malnutrition in internment camps." Karl Wratschko

AA: We saw a short version of this war propaganda newsreel shot by Bufa for the Imperial German Army. In it we see Finnish White Guards greeting German troops, White women at the canteen, "Panzerzug der 2. Pioniere zur Ausfahrt bereit" (the armoured train of the 2. Pioneers ready to go), German troops in an armoured train on its way to Lahti and Riihimäki, Germans fixing railway damage by the Red Guards, fighting the Red Guards, and taking prisoners.

In a longer version we see the armoured train in full action, German troops shooting from the moving train, and stopping for a more serious battle scene. The camera is often mobile either on the moving train or giving us a panoramic shot from the ground. Near Lahti we see an epic panoramic shot of captive Red Guards with their horses and vehicles. In another panoramic shot on a city square we see cannons seized from the Reds. Finally we see the Riihimäki barracks set on fire by the Reds. German troops next to the train participate in extinguishing the fire.

The camera position is ideal, the composition in depth excellent and the view of the action always clear and uncluttered. Only the Riihimäki fire cannot be staged.

The armoured train of the 2. pioneers belonged to Detachment Brandenstein "commanded by the German Baron Otto von Brandenstein, a 3,000 man unit which landed at Loviisa April 7, 1918. Its assigned mission was to cut the Reds' railway connections by attacking to the East, thus cutting the railway between Helsinki and Viipuri. The major operation for Detachment Brandenstein was the Battle of Lahti in 19 April – 1 May. Later the unit was attached to the Baltic Sea Division." (Wikipedia).

There was no Communist organization in Finland until after the civil war. The Finnish Communist Party was founded in Soviet exile.

Durch das malerische Finnland / [Through Picturesque Finland]

Durch das malerische Finnland (1918). The Punkaharju ridge. Photo: Bundesarchiv.

Durch das malerische Finnland. Punkaharju. Photo: Bundesarchiv, BArch_B 46867 1R.

Year: 1918. Country: Germania.
    Prod.: Bild- und Filmamt (BuFA) / Ufa 35 mm. L: 264 m. D.: 10′ a 22 f/s. Bn.
    German intertitles
    From: Das Bundesarchiv.
Viewed at Sala Mastroianni, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Cento anni fà: 1918, 29 June 2018

"On the surface, ‘A Journey Through Picturesque Finland’ is a standard travelogue, no different than any of the other travelogues piled to the ceiling in archives throughout the world (and not much different from lots of YouTube content today). Viewers gets to experience the most impressive monuments and must-see places in a particular region from the comfort of their armchairs (or cinema seats), and maybe enough of them will actually head there for a holiday to offset the production costs. These kinds of films were enormously popular during the Early Cinema period and were already standard fare by 1918 – so why would we be showing it? As ever, context is king. After the collapse of Tsarist Russia, Finland emerged as an independent nation in 1917. By the time this film was released, a bloody civil war had begun which would cost in total about 35,000 people their lives. So please, sit back and soak in the views of a beautiful and blessed new-born nation, but remember: what the proud parents don’t say is just as telling as what they do." Karl Wratschko

AA: According to Jari Sedergren, this travelogue was shot in the summer of 1918 in Finland after the civil war, during the period when Finland was tightly connected with Germany. It could not have been earlier since until 1917 Finland was a part of Russia, at war with Germany.

The film is a classic selection of Finland's major sightseeing attractions.

The print on display looks like it has been duped in many generations.


Waqai sanawat al-djamr / Chroniques des années de braise / Chronicle of the Years of Fire (2018 restoration by The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project)

وقائع سنين الجمر‎ / De glödande åren / Cronaca degli anni di brace.
    Director: Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina. Year: 1975. Country: Algeria.
    Scen.: Rachid Boudjedra, Tewfik Fares, Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina. F.: Marcello Gatti. M.: Yussef Tobni. Mus.: Philippe Arthuys. Int.: Yorgo Voyagis (Ahmed), Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina (Milud), Leïla Shenna (moglie di Ahmed), Cheikh Nourredine (Si Larbi), Larbi Zekkal (Smaïl), Sid Ali Kouiret, Nadia Talbi, Taha El Amiri, Abdelhalim Rais, Brahim Hadjadj, Hassan El Hassani. Prod.: ONCIC (Office National Commerce Industrie Cinéma). DCP. D.: 157' and 177’. Col.
    Arabic and French version with English subtitles.
    Section Cinemalibero.
    DCP from The Film Foundation: World Cinema Project.
    Restored in 2018 by Cineteca di Bologna and The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project at L’Image Retrouvée and L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratories. Restoration funded by the George Lucas Family Foundation. Restored in 4K from the original camera and sound negatives and a first generation 35 mm interpositive. Color grading supervised by Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina. This restoration is part of the African Film Heritage Project, created by The Film Foundation, FEPACI and Unesco in collaboration with Cineteca di Bologna.
    E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Introduced by Cecilia Cenciarelli. In the presence of Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina after the show.
    Viewed at Sala Scorsese, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Cinemalibero, 29 June 2018.

Before the screening we were informed that the 157 minutes French cut preferred by the director would be screened. But in reality the 177 minutes Algerian cut was on display.

Guy Hennebelle: "No, Waqai sanawat al-djamr is not a Hollywood movie: what we disapprove of Hollywood cinema is not its spectacular quality, but the fact that it manipulates emotions, creates fictitious universes and it distils a flawed ideology (among other things). This is certainly not the case with Lakhdar Hamina’s film. We have a great need for anti-imperialist films to reply to the innumerable lies of imperialist films […]"

"No, Waqai sanawat al-djamr is not, as someone said lately, a politically moderate film. Nor is it correct to say that “this is a film that spare the French”, quite the opposite, what can be objected is that colonial society is more complex than it is represented here, however, that was not the purpose of the film. Hamina shows the Europeans as ‘we’ showed Native Americans or third world citizens in ‘our films’: from a distance. And if this film serves to bring France (once Giscardian) closer to Algeria, so much the better, since it’s clear that it does go to the detriment of the latter. If the official France believed that it was clever to award this film in Cannes, we must take advantage of this contradiction, as it will allow the French to get a clearer idea of what the Algerian people’s liberation war really was." Guy Hennebelle, “Ecran”, n. 40, 1975

Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina: "I tried to recount, with dignity and nobility, this uprising that then became the Algerian Revolution, an uprising not only against the coloniser, but against a certain human condition. I wanted to avoid any kind of Manichaean, caricatural and demagogic approach, which risked turning Waqai sanawat al-djamr into a sort of Western; good against evil, Algerians against French. What guided me was the quest for honesty: I looked inside myself for the honesty of a child, the eyes of the child I once was, the memories of my childhood. […] It would be a serious mistake to distinguish Algerian Cinema, the cinema of the Maghreb, from African Cinema. The cinema of the Third World is one – the Arab World, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia – as we share the same motivations, the same difficulties, and a common destiny, on an artistic level and on an expressive level. We have suffered hunger and thirst. We will reclaim our image." Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina, interviewed by Claude Dupont, “Cahiers de la cinémathèque”, Summer 1975

Wikipédia: "Le film est composé en 6 chapitres :

    Les Années de Cendre
    Les Années de Braise
    Les Années de Feu
    L'Année de la Charrette
    L'Année de la Charge
    Le 1 novembre 1954

L'histoire du film commence en 1939 et se termine le 11 novembre 1954 et, à travers des repères historiques, démontre que le 1er novembre 1954 (date de déclenchement de la révolution Algérienne) n'est pas un accident de l'histoire, mais l'aboutissement d'un long processus, de souffrances, de combats d'abord politiques et puis militaires, qu'entreprit le peuple algérien contre le fait accompli qu'est la colonisation française débutant par un débarquement à Sidi-Ferruch le 14 juin 1830.

AA: I sampled the brand new restoration of the Algerian epic which I have seen a long time ago and need to see again. The digital quality is bright and clear.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

L'Île de mai

Directors: Michel Andrieu, Jacques Kébadian. Year: 2018. Country: Francia.
    Sog.: da un’idea di Michel Andrieu. Immagini: Renan Pollès, Jean-Pierre Thorn, Jean-Denis Bonan,  Jean-Noël Delamarre. M.: Maureen Mazurek. Mus.: René-Marc Bini. Prod.: Matthieu De Laborde, Iskra. DCP. D.: 81’. Bn.
    Soundtrack includes: "Let's Go" (Lanny & Robert Duncan, 1962).
    DCP from Iskra.
    Introducono Michel Andrieu and Jacques Kébadian.
    E-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Viewed at Auditorium DAMSLab, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Documents and Documentaries 2018, 28 June 2018

Jacques Kébadian, Il Cinema Ritrovato: "I was twenty-eight years old, an alumnus of Paris’ Institut Cinématographique (IDHEC). I had been Robert Bresson’s assistant director on two films (Au hazard Balthazar, Mouchette). I had also shot my first medium-length film, Trotsky, starring Patrice Chéreau […]. In this repressive context, together with other filmmakers, I helped set up an organization called l’ARC (Atelier de Recherche Cinématographique), out of which came forth a series of political and revolutionary films. In those days l’ARC was a politically committed cooperative, heavily engaged in the campaign against the war in Vietnam. The cadres all came from anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and anti-Stalinist backgrounds. Some were situationists or anarchists. I was the only person connected with the Jeunesse communiste révolutionnaire. Our means were initially limited: a Coutant camera, a Nagra plus a few wind-up cameras, a Pailland Bolex, a Pathé Webo and a Uher sound-recorder. When the police surrounded the Sorbonne, we were right there, in the Latin Quarter, with our gear. No one was expecting such revolutionary events to blow up. We lived through them in a daydream, even as our cameras were rolling […]. We all felt we were experiencing our very own October revolution!"

"May 1968 was a month of oratory, a month of egalitarian decision-making and direct democracy in every group and committee. It was like a fugue, a vibrant and living heightening of spirits, a break with the past, heady with the magic of saying no, the joy of sharing and caring for others and for each other. A people was rising and saying no. At last, a people was impacting on its own history."

"For the fiftieth anniversary of May 1968, we felt that the time had come to make a film to show what it was like to have experienced these events as filmmakers, and not just produce ex-post-facto work based on hindsight commentary and archival material. Our idea was not to generate analysis, not to teach the history but to offer a film distilled from all the films shot within our collective, as well as work made by other politically committed filmmakers who were able to donate images and sound. Personally, I was keen from the start that this should come without any form of comment on voiceover; and gradually, as the editing process proceeded, this radical approach did come to make sense, as if sequences shot fifty years ago might only reject alien material grafted from another era. Indeed, we had to erase the ideological commentary of the time in order to make the material work for today’s audiences, retaining only factually objective information." Jacques Kébadian

AA: This is a year of many anniversaries. In Finland we are remembering our fatal year 1918, and also the crazy year 1968. The more one thinks about those years in perspective the more complex they turn out to be. Collateral damage was immense.

L'Île de mai by Michel Andrieu and Jacques Kébadian focuses on France and presents only original imagery from May 1968 and selected essential footage from before and after. We are reminded of Berkeley 1964, Berlin 1967, and 1968 events in Warsaw and Nanterre before May. Student revolts set the world on fire.

This material is astounding, and I sat humbled because most of this I did not know or had forgotten. The demonstrations are furious, the police violence brutal. The scale is epic. Starting from student demonstrations the events escalated to strikes at major factories. The simple method of chronological cataloguing is effective.

Charles de Gaulle disbanded the National Assembly and won the election. The counter-demonstrations were even more massive than the student demonstrations.The aims of the rebels were not achieved, yet the world changed.

This film presents a sober chronology of documentary footage and invites the viewers to think and draw their own conclusions.

The rare original footage, often handheld, has been processed with loving care, and the sound effects, probably created for this work in post-production, are striking.

1898. Anno Tre: Vues Scientifiques: Science and Science Fiction. Fantastic Scenes: Méliès and the Art of the Marvellous.

Une scène d’hypnotisme, I. Catalogue Lumière Vue N° 990. Délire réel ou simulé d’une femme. Opérateur: inconnu. Date: [1897] - [décembre 1898]. Lieu: France. Personnes: Lina de Ferkel. Projections: Programmation d'Effroi ! Scène d'hypnotisme le 2 juin 1901 à Lyon (France) (Le Progrès, 4 juin 1901). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière. Pays: France. Genre: spectacle. Sujet: comédien. Séries: info-five-32, Lina de Ferkel

Introduce Mariann Lewinsky.
    Musical interpretation: Stephen Horne on the grand piano and other instruments.
    Viewed at Sala Mastroianni, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Anno Tre, 28 June 2018.


Mariann Lewinsky: "Albert Londe (1858–1917) was an important medical researcher, chronophotographer and pioneer in X-ray photography. He used a camera with nine (and later twelve) lenses to make sequential photographs of movements, explosions and ocean waves. A colleague and collaborator of Marey, Charcot and Richer, he worked for many years at the Salpêtrière hospital and published influential collections of chronophotographs."

"The brilliant surgeon and immunologist Eugène-Louis Doyen (1859
1916) used cinematography very early on for educational purposes, and in July 1898 presented three films (among them Manoeuvre du lit opératoire and Hystérectomie abdominale) to the British Medical Society. He produced a collection of about sixty surgery films, with Clément-Maurice and Ambroise-François Parnaland as collaborators. When Parnaland secretly distributed some of the films, with copies turning up at fairground shows, Doyen successfully prosecuted him. It is extraordinary that we know the name of the young woman who appears – or does she act? – in the Scènes de Hypnotisme I and II, Lumière Catalogue nos. 990-991. She was a painter’s model and a professional performer of Poses passionnelles, or Emotional Postures “responding in hypnosis to musical or verbal suggestions. She is able to fall asleep and wake up by herself ” (says her business card). Parapsychologist Albert de Rocha’s book on musical suggestions (1900), designed in pure Art Nouveau style by Alphonse Mucha, includes her portraits by Nadar. She lived in Paris, 84 Rue des Écoles, and the Lumière Catalogue gives away her unconceivable name: Lina de Ferkel. ‘Ferkel’ is German for piglet. Did she know?" Mariann Lewinsky

FEU D’ARTIFICE. Francia, 1898 Regia: Albert Londe. 35 mm. L.: 40 m. Bn Da: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée. – AA: Non-fiction. Reduced, expressive, pure vision. Motif: fireworks.

MARCHE DE L’HOMME N. 1. Francia, 1898 Regia: Albert Londe. T. alt.: Démarche pathologique, piste de la Salpêtrière. 35 mm. L.: 15 m. Bn Da: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée. – AA: Non-fiction. Stark, reduced, basic observation. Motif: Walking.

[MANOEUVRE DU LIT OPÉRATOIRE] Francia, 1898 Regia: Louis Doyen T. copia: Eine schwierige Behandlung. F.: Clément-Maurice, Ambroise-Françoise Parnaland. Prod.: Louis Doyen 35 mm Da: Filmarchiv Austria. – AA: Non-fiction. A straight record of a surgical procedure. Associations run to torture and surrealism.

[OPÉRATION CHIRURGICALE DU DOCTEUR DOYEN: HYSTÉRECTOMIE ABDOMINALE, ABLATION DE LA TUMEUR] Francia, 1898 Regia: Eugène Louis Doyen F.: Clément-Maurice, Ambroise-Françoise Parnaland. Int.: Eugène Louis Doyen. Prod.: Eugène Louis Doyen 35 mm. L.: 112 m. D.: 6’ Da: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée. – AA: Non-fiction. The camera look and camera smile of the surgeon is unsettling as he is conducting a dangerous operation. Many of us were certainly reminded of trick films of Méliès with similar situations of disjecta membra.

UNE SCÈNE DE HYPNOTISME, I Catalogo Lumière n . 990, Francia, 1897 o 1898 Int.: Lina de Ferkel 35 mm Da: Institut Lumière. – AA: A spectacle with a trained performer. A stark and haunting trance scene, real or staged.

UNE SCÈNE DE HYPNOTISME, II Catalogo Lumière n . 991, Francia, 1897 o 1898 Int.: Lina de Ferkel 35 mm Da: Institut Lumière. – AA: A spectacle with a trained performer. A scene of histrionic trance. Associations run to early cinema acting styles with exaggerated gestures.

L’UTILITÉ DES RAYONS X. Francia, 1898 Regia: Gaston Breteau Int.: Gaston Breteau. Prod.: Léon Gaumont et Cie DCP. D.: 1’. Bn Da: Lobster. – AA: Fiction. A thief with his loot hidden inside his clothes is arrested with the help of X-rays.


Mariann Lewinsky: "Georges Méliès made twenty-seven titles in 1898; about ten of them are known to exist. The seven screened in our section are marvellous: a beautiful phantom ride, a cleverly reconstructed actuality (of the USS battleship Maine which sank on 15 February 1898) with some live goldfish and five transformations or trick scenes – which Méliès himself preferred to call scènes fantastiques. They are not only fantastic, astonishing and inventive, they radiate a unique charm of exuberance, of fun and bravura that makes them more enjoyable than anything else in the 1898 strand. And also more enjoyable than most of Méliès’ later productions. Theirs is the irretrievable charm of perfection achieved for the first time in a new thing. These films were screened on Sunday nights in the Théâtre Robert-Houdin. It is important to repeat on every occasion that Méliès did not bring theater or fiction to the cinema. It is the other way round; he put cinematography at the service of the theatre, as he wrote in 1906 (in Les Vues cinématographiques), and for him it was a means to expand the limits of his Art of the Marvellous as he wrote in 1926 (in En marge de l’histoire du cinématographe). Using cinematography he accomplished tricks like replacing Christ on the Cross with seductive Jehanne d’Alcy, the Greek sculptor Pygmalion chasing a hobbling skirt (the recalcitrant lower half of Galatea) and himself disappearing, leaving a little wisp of smoke in the air." Mariann Lewinsky

PANORAMA PRIS D’UN TRAIN EN MARCHE. Francia, 1898 Regia: Georges Méliès. Prod.: Star Film (n. 151) DCP Da: Lobster Films. – AA: Non-fiction. A phantom ride.

LE MAGICIEN Francia, 1898 Regia: Georges Méliès Prod.: Star Film (n. 153) DCP Da: Lobster Films. – AA: Fiction, trick film, of rapid and fantastic metamorphoses.

PYGMALION ET GALATHÉE Francia, 1898 Regia: Georges Méliès Int.: Georges Méliès, Jehanne d’Alcy. Prod.: Star Film (n. 156) 35 mm. L.: 30 m. Bn Da: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée. – AA: Fiction, trick film, of transformations. Pygmalion falls in love with Galatea. Heads and bodies keep trading places.

VISITE SOUS-MARINE DU ‘MAINE’ Francia, 1898 Regia: Georges Méliès Prod.: Star Film (n. 147) 35 mm. L.: 32 m Da: BFI – National Archive. – AA: Fiction, trick film, reconstructed actuality conducted with goldfish. An undersea adventure.

ILLUSIONS FANTASMAGORIQUES Francia, 1898 Regia: Georges Méliès Prod.: Star Film (n. 155) 35 mm. L.: 23 m. D.: 1’ a 18 f/s. Imbibita / Tinted Da: Filmoteca Española (collezione Saraminaga). – AA: Fiction, a magician conjures people from his haunted chest.

L’HOMME DE TÊTES OU LES QUATRES TÊTES EMBARRASSANTES Francia, 1898 Regia: Georges Méliès Prod.: Star Film (n. 167) 35 mm. L.: 20 m. D.: 1’ a 16 f/s Da: BFI – National Archive. – AA: Fiction, a trick film with multiplying heads which finally form a musical chorus.

AA: The third of my three favourite shows at the Ritrovato was this show of Anno Tre, a marvellous piece of curatorship, with a strange feeling of exploration and discovery.

The art and craft of simple and basic observation. These films are about learning to see.

 In the surgical records there is a sense of something primal, something sacred.

The theatrical and camera-conscious act of the legendary surgeon, Dr. Doyen, is similar to the performance of Georges Méliès the magician.

The histrionics in the hypnotic trances resemble the gestures of early cinema actors.