Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wałęsa. Czlowiek z nadziei / Wałęsa. Man of Hope

PL © 2013 Akson Studio SP. / Canal+ Cyfrowy SP. / Narpodowe Centrum Kultury / Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. / Telewizja Polska S.A. P: Michal Koriecinski. D: Andrzej Wajda. SC: Janusz Glowacki. DP: Pawel Edelman. PD: Magdalena Dipont. S: Jacek Hamela. ED: Milenia Fiedler, Grazyna Gradon. C: Robert Więckiewicz (Lech Wałęsa), Agnieszka Grochowska (Danuta Wałęsa), Zbigniew Zamachowski (Nawiślak), Maria Rosaria Omaggio (Oriana Fallaci). Languages: Polish, Italian. 127 min
    DCP with English subtitles from Akson Studio
    Screener dvd viewed at home.
    [vaˈwɛ̃sa]
    First Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) screening at Kino Engel 2, Helsinki, 21 Sep 2014

HIFF Catalogue: Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: "At the age of 87, that remarkable Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda has directed a movie with terrific gusto and a first-rate lead performance from Robert Więckiewicz. It’s a full-tilt biopic tribute to the trade-union leader Lech Wałęsa, founder of the Solidarity movement: bullish, cantankerous, with an exasperating charm and the gift of the gab. Wałęsa’s defiance of Poland’s Soviet masters removed the very first brick from the Berlin Wall."

"Wałęsa. Man of Hope is a belated companion piece to his Man of Marble (1977) and Man of Iron (1981), respectively about a Stakhanovite bricklayer and his son in Poland; it discloses now an unexpected trilogy, and somehow suggests, in retrospect, that the heroic »Man» of those first two films really was Wałęsa all along. The almost Napoleonic career of Wałęsa looked at the time like a kind of miracle; Wajda sets out to examine how that miracle came about."

"(…) It’s an invigorating and very enjoyable film from a director who shows no sign of slowing down."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (HIFF Catalogue)

Wikipedia synopsis: "Wałęsa, an electrician at the Gdańsk Shipyards, participated in local demonstrations during the 1970s. Following the bloody aftermath, which remains with Wałęsa, he concentrates on his day-to-day duties. Ten years later, a new uprising occurs and he becomes an unexpected and charismatic leader of Polish dockworkers."

"Wałęsa's leadership role signified the beginning of a new movement that successfully overcame the communist regime of the period, and Wałęsa is pushed into representing the majority of Poland's population. The Soviet Union, previously regarded as too powerful to confront, eventually grants the movement a degree of acceptance. The Polish example of solidarity then caused a domino effect throughout Eastern Europe: people in Eastern Germany followed the Polish example, starting demonstrations for freedom that achieved the German reunification peacefully. The Soviet Union then dissolved alongside Yugoslavia."

"While Europe is reshaped, Poland remains stable and peaceful. Yet a huge variety of political parties unfolds and Poland is on the brink of becoming as ungovernable as the late Weimar Republic. Wałęsa is subsequently elected as the first president of the new Polish democracy; but, this is followed by feelings of resentment among the Polish people who start to think that Wałęsa is becoming privileged. Consequently, the Polish people start to seek out ways to diminish Wałęsa's significance, until they finally accomplish their goal through uncovering actions from a past period."
(Wikipedia)

Wikipedia remarks: "Wajda announced his intention to blend real contemporary news material with the fictional content of the film to "give testimony to the truth". The contemporary footage was adapted by superimposing the face of Robert Więckiewicz on Wałęsa's real face. The re-enacted scenes were shot "on location in Gdańsk, including in the historic shipyard and its surroundings, as well as in Warsaw". As Wajda told the Chicago Tribune, the raison d'être of his work was not to entertain the Western world, but to disclose the historic truth for a Polish audience."

"Głowacki assured journalists that his script was not meant to be an apotheosis, but instead showed Wałęsa "as a man of flesh and blood, a leader of great strength but also someone who has his weaknesses". The screenwriter was significantly affected upon discovering that Wajda sought to pursue the same approach and consequently "thought it would be an interesting project"."
(Wikipedia remarks)

"Nie chcę, ale muszę" ("I don’t want to, but I have to") - Lech Wałęsa's motto

Andrzej Wajda has been for 60 years a versatile director. He has been a Romantic, Expressionist, and Baroque visionary. He has been a director of epic works covering centuries of Polish history - also of contemporary history.

The Man of Marble belongs to the films that have changed the world. It was the harbinger of the final thaw in the Eastern bloc, before glasnost and perestroika, leading to the fall of the wall, and the entire so-called real existing socialism, because the system was then too corrupt to be reformed. Wajda was together with Krzysztof Kieslowski the main founder of the Polish school of moral concern in the cinema of the 1970s.

The Man of Iron was a sequel to The Man of Marble, and Wajda's Danton was a companion piece, reflecting contemporary Polish reality so much that Frenchmen had a hard time recognizing their history in it. Everybody understood that Gérard Depardieu really played Lech Wałęsa. And Wojciech Pszoniak was Wojciec Jaruszelski as Robespierre.

Wałęsa. Man of Hope is a logical continuation to those three films. Its strengths include a lot of fascinating documentary material. Its problems include an inclusion of fake documentary material, undermining the power of the real thing. Its weaknesses include the casting. One need only think about Gérard Depardieu to understand what charisma is - a charisma with all too human contradictions and weaknesses. I don't feel that Robert Więckiewicz believes in himself as Wałęsa. Daringly, there is also authentic documentary footage of Wałęsa, showing the true compelling person.

The structure resembles The Man of Marble which in turn reflected Citizen Kane and Rashomon. Here the journalistic quest, again by a female investigating journalist, is conducted by Oriana Fallaci. We see the Wałęsa story - the story of Solidarność - as flashbacks. It is a good structure for an epic story that proceeds in leaps and bounds. The difference to The Man of Marble is that here there is only one interviewee, Wałęsa himself.

The funny running joke: the Typhus sign at the Wałęsa family door when there are too many visitors.

The pop soundtrack feels out of place.

Le meraviglie / The Wonders

IT/DE/CH 2014. P: Carlo Cresto-Dina, Karl Baumgartner, Tiziana Soudani, Michael Weber. D+SC: Alice Rohrwacher. DP: Hélène Louvart. PD: Emita Frigato. M: Piero Crucitti. S: Christophe Giovannoni. ED: Marco Spoletini. C: Alexandra LUNGU - Gelsomina, Sam LOUVYCK - Gelsomina's father, Alba ROHRWACHER - Angelica, Sabine TIMOTEO - Coco, Luis HUILCA - Martin, Monica BELLUCCI - Milly Catena. Languages: Italian, French, German. 111 min.
    A DCP with English subtitles from Match Factory.
    Screener dvd viewed at home.
    First Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) screening at Kinopalatsi, Helsinki, 21 Sep 2014.

The HIFF Catalogue: Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter: "Wise beyond its years, like the teenage protag Gelsomina, The Wonders (Le meraviglie) is a wistful but no-tears swan song recounting the disappearance of traditional rural lifestyle in Italy. It’s also the story of an inexperienced country girl looking to bust out of her family’s limited horizons as bee-keepers and honey-makers (…)."

"The tone hovers mysteriously between dream and reality and Rohrwacher pins the film on stark and striking images, like the haunting one of bees crawling over the expressionless face of a young woman."

"[I]n a dilapidated old stone farmhouse, live Gelsomina aka Gelsi (Maria Alexandra Lungu) with her parents, her aunt and three younger sisters. Her stern German father Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck) is determined to keep the modern world far away from his family, but rather inevitably his little band of outsiders ends up in an anachronistic clash with the encroaching »real» world."

"(…) Cinematographer Helene Louvart boldly opts for a realistic look that doesn’t hide the ugliness of peasant life in all its poverty, cloudy skies and mud."
Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter (The HIFF Catalogue)

Cannes 2014: "Nothing will be the same at the end of this summer for Gelsomina and her three younger sisters. She is the designated heir of the strange, secluded kingdom that her father constructed around them to protect his family from “the end of the world”. An extraordinary summer, when the strict rules that hold the family together, are beginning to break: in part due to the arrival of Martin, a German boy on a youth rehabilitation program, and in part the local community’s participation in a TV competition for big prizes “Village Wonders”, presented by the mysterious Milly Catena." Cannes 2014

Like Alice Rohrwacher's wonderful debut feature film Corpo celeste, Le meraviglie starts with a light in the darkness.

In Corpo celeste, the Bildungsroman was related to confirmation, to the process of spiritual education into adult womanhood provided by the Catholic Church.

In Le meraviglie the frame of reference is the family bee farm which hovers on the brink of catastrophe but all problems are solved in the last instance - almost miraculously, maybe.

At the same time, there is the loud commercial television programme about Village Wonders being produced. Ancient rites from Etruscan times are evoked.

Tradition and modernity clash mercilessly. Miraculously, again, a sense of wonder emerges in many instances.

There are those for whom there are no wonders. And there are those for whom there are wonders everywhere. Alice Rohrwacher belongs to the latter category.

Rohrwacher has an original insight in imagery. She is a poet who is spellbound both by things extraordinary (a camel in the yard) and ordinary (toil at the bee farm). There are aspects of the Platonic cave in the final shots. And maybe allusions to cave paintings beyond history.

We are a mystery to ourselves, and share a common destiny with bees, who are a barometer of the state of the earth. Like Markus Imhoof (More Than Honey, 2012), Alice Rohrwacher comes from a beekeeping family. There is a special tender approach in the documentary scenes of the process of the modernization of beekeeping.

The young actors are compelling and believable, and Rohrwacher elicits an untypical performance from Monica Bellucci, now for once liberated from the look of us ogling males.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Maidan

Майдан. NL/UA © Atoms & Void 2014. P: Maria Baker, Sergei Loznitsa. D+SC: Sergei Loznitsa. DP: Sergei Loznitsa, Serhiy Stefan Stetsenko, Mykhailo Yelchev. S: Vladimir Golovnitzky. ED: Danielius Kokanauskis, Sergei Loznitsa. Language: Ukrainian. 131 min
    A documentary about the events at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square, Kiev, Ukraine, during the winter 2013-2014.
    A DCP with English subtitles from Atoms & Void.
    A screener dvd-r viewed at home.
    First Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) screening at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 20 Sep 2014.

The HIFF Catalogue: Jay Weissberg, Variety: "In contrast with most documentaries made in the wake of an historic event, Maidan will last beyond the current Ukrainian upheaval to stand as compelling witness and a model response to a seminal moment too fresh to be fully processed. Kiev-raised Sergei Loznitsa uses almost exclusively fixed master shots filmed from December 2013 to February 2014, capturing in an emotionally gripping, minimalist way the protest’s trajectory from euphoric to besieged."

"The protests that began in December, following Yanukovych’s unpopular rejection of closer EU ties, began peacefully, as crowds in the square demonstrated their solidarity (…)."

"The atmosphere changes drastically after Jan 19 and the introduction of repressive anti-protest laws. (…) Tensions escalate as a water cannon is introduced, and then live ammo. (…) Loznitsa’s fixed positions immerse audiences in the commotion, making us eyewitnesses to the shifting tensions and providing a chilling immediacy often lacking in common reportage (superb sound editing also helps). When announcements from the stage exhort doctors and medics to make themselves known, there’s no need to actually see the speaker, since the importance lies in the myriad sensations that build within each shot."
Jay Weissberg, Variety (The HIFF Catalogue)

The HIFF Catalogue: "Sergei Loznitsa is a director born in the Soviet Union (in current Belarus) in 1964. Loznitsa has graduated from the Kiev Polytechnic Institute and he has worked as a scientist specialized in cybernetics. He also has a degree in filmmaking after studying at the Russian State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. Loznitsa has been directing documentaries since 1996.
    Filmography: Maidan (2014), Bridges of Sarajevo (2014), In the Fog (2012), My Joy (2010), Severnyy svet (2008), Sweet Sixties (2008), Revue (2008), Blockade (2006), Landscape (2003), The Settlement (2002).
(The HIFF Catalogue)

Cannes pressbook 2014: "MAIDAN chronicles a civil uprising which took place in Kiev (Ukraine) in the winter of 2013/14.The film follows the progress of the revolution: from peaceful rallies, half a million strong, in the Maidan square, to the bloody street battles between the protestors and riot police. MAIDAN is a portrait of an awakening nation, rediscovering its identity. Director Sergei Loznitsa rises above current political issues and looks at the nature of the popular uprising as a social, cultural and philosophical phenomenon. A powerful mix of enthusiasm, heroic struggle, terror, courage, aspiration, people's solidarity, folk culture, passion and self-sacrifice, MAIDAN is a stunning cinematic canvas combining classical film making style and documentary urgency." (Cannes pressbook 2014)

A record of a revolution. The Ukrainian revolution of 2014 was recorded in extenso by the master documentarist Sergei Loznitsa, in full awareness of the significance of what was going on. In December 2013 Loznitsa interrupted everything that he was doing and went to Maidan, the central square of Kiev. The result is this account of the revolution until the collapse of the Yanukovich government.

There is a majestic, epic quality in this movie, often filmed in long takes and long shots. As much as possible it is realized as a straight record, without comments, and without montage interpretations. We need to see the full picture.

It is an account of "we have had enough": of a government based on corruption and, literally, crime. It is a record of the ascent of self-respect, pride and courage. There is no way going back to slavery and oppression.

Although Loznitsa's movie records the development from a peaceful demonstration to violence inflicted by the powers-that-be, there is also always a sense of a fundamental tranquillity, an assured sense that the final victory is ours. "Heroes never die". This attitude also brings to mind Alexander Dovzhenko, the great poet of Ukrainian cinema.

There are memorable images of many kinds: building barricades, establishing canteens, mobile phones used as torches by the peaceful crowd.

In sociology, there are essential distinctions between a crowd, a mass, and a mob. Here we see the formation of a noble, self-disciplined revolutionary crowd.

There are no cinematographic records (not even fictional) of Finland's revolutions of November 1905 (see the image of the general strike on the town square of Tampere in November 1905) and March 1917. While watching Maidan I was thinking that the jubilant, liberated spirit in Finland must have been like this in those glorious months.

A Story of Children and Film

GB 2013. P: Adam Dawtrey, Mary Bell. D+SC: Mark Cousins. DP: Marc Bénoliel. ED: Timo Langer. Non-fiction. 101 min
    DCP from The Festival Agency
    Screener dvd viewed at home
    First festival screening at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 20 Sep 2014

HIFF Catalogue, quoting Peter Debruge (Variety): "Having paved the way two years ago with his 15-hour cine essay The Story of Film (and before that, the handsome coffeetable volume of the same name), film critic-cum-director Mark Cousins returns with a 100-minute companion piece focused entirely on the depiction of kids onscreen, a (…) captivating spinoff A Story of Children and Film. This latest collage of film clips and personal footage shares the earlier project’s principal virtue – namely, its capacity to enrich casual moviegoers’ way of consuming cinema – as well as its harmless little idiosyncrasies."

"One part evangelist for the noble cause of humanist cinema, the other part giddy teenager itching to share the most esoteric selections on his iPod playlist, Cousins seizes this opportunity to introduce auds to some of his favorite international films and filmmakers, (…) using the common thread of children to tie everything together."

"Cousins appeals to his audience’s sense of poetry, not logic, offering the slenderest of connections between films. (…) [He] includes less of the canon than one might expect, creating room for discovery. Even the most dedicated cinephile is sure to come away with one or two new titles to add to the old Netflix queue." Peter Debruge, Variety quoted in the HIFF Catalogue

"Movies are like kids. Kids are like movies." This is the thesis of Mark Cousins in his new work, in which he contemplates the vision of Vincent Van Gogh, stays at home with the kids of his sister, wanders about the landscapes of the United Kingdom, and launches a chain of cinematic associations around themes of - the child's look (the look on a child's face) - class - performance - viewpoint - the joy of destruction - adventure - loss - the flight of the balloon - and dreaming.

This is an approach essential to all artistic creativity: seeing everything anew and taking nothing for granted. But a further thesis of Cousins is that no art has loved children more than film.

This film is an essay based on a montage of clips across the history of the cinema everywhere around the world. Cousins is delighted to make discoveries and display clips from India, Iran, Burkina Faso, and Albania, always worthwhile, always too little known in the West. He is equally delighted to juxtapose them with obvious examples like E.T., The Kid, and Les quatre cents coups. A concrete result is that I realize that I need to see more Iranian films such as Willow and the Wind and The Boot, and the work of the Albanian artist Xhanfise Keko.

Another concrete result is that the film inspires me to create lists of my own, perhaps more obvious selections such as - I bambini ci guardano - Ladri di biciclette - Por primera vez - Seryozha - Pojat - Astrid Lindgren films in Sweden - Jacques Feyder's Gribiche and Crainquebille (both with Jean Forest) - the many child stars of the early cinema, often with special series of their own, starting perhaps with the Willy series at Éclair - continuing in the Our Gang series - the cinema of independent Finland starting with Ollin oppivuodet - Det stora äventyret - Treasure Island and Jackie Cooper - not forgetting Freddie Bartholomew - street child stories staring with Putyovka v zhizn and Wild Boys of the Road - Gerhard Lamprecht and Die Unehelichen - the Holocaust stories: The Search, Unszere Kinder, Au revoir les enfants - Louisiana Story - Goodbye My Lady - Fritz Lang: M - Alice in den Städten - the contemporary child soldier stories - Bimal Roy: Do bigha zamin / Two Acres of Land - Germania anno zero - Maurice Tourneur: The Blue Bird - Herbert Brenon: Peter Pan - the Mary Pickford phenomenon (masterpieces still too little known) (but Mary Pickford was a grown-up who became a star by playing a child) - The Window - The Man Who Knew Too Much - Pocahontas - Jungle Book - Little Red Devils - The Three Godfathers - Trois hommes et un couffin - The Fallen Idol - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Henry Spofford III). --- Obviously, Cousins has left out Umarete wa mita keredo / I Was Born, But... and selected other great Japanese films from the 1930s. --- He has selected Katok i skripka and not Ivanovo detstvo from Tarkovsky.

The Finnish selection in A Story of Children and Film is from the non-fiction official travelogue Finlandia (1922) by Erkki Karu - a screening print of which has not existed since generations (we were not able to screen Finlandia in our extensive Erkki Karu retrospective this year), although a reconstruction is now being planned. The unassembled footage of the film has survived. It has been preserved and made available for viewing, and Peter von Bagh selected for Helsinki Forever the clip that Cousins uses here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tombouctou: le chagrin des oiseaux / Timbuktu

MR/FR 2014. P: Sylvie Pialat. D: Abderrahmane Sissako. SC: Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall. DP: Sofiane El Fani. PD: Sébastien Birchler. M: Amine Bouhafa. S: Philippe Welsh. ED: Nadia Ben Rachid. C: Ahmed Ibrahim dit Pino, Toulou Kiki, Abel Jafri, Fatoumata Diawara. In Arabic, French, tamasheq. 100 min.
    DCP with English subtitles from Le Pacte
    Screener dvd viewed at home.
    © 2014 Les Films du Worso / Dune Vision / Arches Films / ARTE France Cinéma / Orange Studio. Visa d'exploitation 138.089. Dépot Légal 2013.
    First Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) screening at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 19 Sep 2014

HIFF Catalogue: Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: "Abderrahmane Sissako’s passionate and visually beautiful film Timbuktu is a cry from the heart – with all the more moral authority for being expressed with such grace and such care. It is a portrait of the country of his childhood, Mali, and in particular the city of Timbuktu, whose rich and humane traditions are being trampled, as Sissako sees it, by fanatical jihadists, often from outside the country. The story revolves around the death of a cow, affectionately named “GPS” – an appropriate symbol for a country that has lost its way."

"These Islamist zealots are banning innocent pleasures such as music and football, and throwing themselves with cold relish into lashings and stonings for adultery. The new puritans appal the local imam, who has long upheld the existing traditions of a benevolent and tolerant Islam (…)."

"Sissako creates an interrelated series of characters and tableaux giving us scenes from the life of a traumatised nation, historically torn apart and prone to failures in communication between its three languages: Touareg, Arabic and French. At the centre of this is the tragic story of one family: a herdsman Kidane, his wife Satima and their 12-year-old daughter. Kidane angrily confronts a fisherman who has killed his cow, with tragic results."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (HIFF Catalogue)

Like Férid Boughedir in Halk-el-wad / A Summer in La Goulette, Abderrahmane Sissako creates a vision of generous and life-affirming tradition of Muslim life.

But unlike in that movie, the focus here is primarily on the intolerant, fanatical, and violent fundamentalism. First a young deer is slaughtered, then ancient images of indigenous worship are destroyed. I have a special interest in the prohibition of the image. Religious image ban and iconoclasm belongs to the themes of Timbuktu. First, images are crushed. Then, people.

Women's hair has to be covered, football is forbidden... there is no end to the bans. The oppression of women by the reactionary rebels is a major issue in this story. Transgressions are punished with whiplashes in the mildest cases, by executions by stoning in graver instances.

Sissako displays a fine judgement in his approach, balancing views of a harmonious approach to life with vicious eruptions of fundamentalist violence.

An epic, tragic, haunting movie. Sissako has an assured artistic sense in his mise-en-scène and in the cinematography by Sofiane El Fani in scope - both in impressive long shots and in tender close-ups. They know how to use silhouettes and reflections effectively in long shots. The score by Amine Bouhafa is beautiful.

Ida

PL/DK 2013. P: Erik Abraham, Piotr Dziecliol, Ewa Puszczynska. D: Paweł Pawlikowski. SC: Paweł Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz. DP: Lukasz Zal, Ryszard Lenczewski. PD: Katarzyna Sobanska, M: Kristian Selin Eidnes Andersen. Marcel Slawinski. S: Miroslaw Makowski. ED: Jaroslaw Kaminski. C: Agata Kulesza (aunt Wanda), Agata Trzebuchowska (Anna / Ida Lebenstein), Dawid Ogrodnik, Jerzy Trela, Adam Szyszkowski. 80 min
    DCP with English subtitles from Portobello Film Sales
    Screener dvd viewed at home
    M: W. A. Mozart: the Jupiter symphony. John Coltrane: "Naima", "Equinox". J. S. Bach (a theme also familiar from Tarkovsky). Black and white in Academy.
    Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) first screening at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 19 Sep 2014

HIFF Catalogue: Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: "Paweł Pawlikowski has returned with an arresting period movie from the heart of postwar Poland – and from his own heart, too. Every moment of Ida feels intensely personal. It is a small gem, tender and bleak, funny and sad, superbly photographed in luminous monochrome: a sort of neo-new wave movie with something of the classic Polish film school and something of Truffaut, but also deadpan flecks of Béla Tarr and Aki Kaurismäki."

"It is the early 1960s, but in the freezing countryside of central Europe it could as well be the 1860s or 1760s. Newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska plays Anna, a novice nun about to take her final vows in a convent where she was left on the doorstep as a baby in 1945 by persons unknown. But Anna has one surviving relative, (…) [who] turns out to be her aunt, tremendously played by Agata Kulesza: a worldly hard-drinking woman who lives on her own, and who is evidently something of an embarrassment to the authorities."

"Drunken, bleary Wanda reveals the truth to her niece: Anna’s first name is Ida and she is Jewish. Now Ida and Wanda – the oddest of couples making the most daunting of road trips – must set out to discover what happened to Ida’s parents during the war."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (HIFF Catalogue)

A stark personal journey into what the Germans call Vergangenheitsbewältigung - dealing with the past. As Peter Bradshaw states above, there are connections with the Polish new wave films of the late 1950s and the early 1960 - Andrzej Munk, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Roman Polanski, and their contemporaries.

We are taken to a country village, to a restaurant where pop and jazz are being played, and to a deathbed victim at a hospital. "Why am I not here?", asks Anna / Ida, when a grave of Holocaust victims is opened. She was tiny, not dark, not circumscised, left into the custody of a priest, and taken to a convent.

Aunt Wanda had been known in the 1950s as "Red Wanda", the prosecutor against the "enemies of the people" during the Stalin era.

What is the impact on Anna / Ida of the revelation of her true identity remains a mystery. But after their journey is finished, Wanda jumps out of the window while Mozart's Jupiter symphony is playing. Anna makes a plunge into life, dressing as Wanda, tasting a drink, spending a night with a jazz player, and walking on towards us, back in the habit, while J. S. Bach is playing and the image fades into black.

A touching tribute by Pawel Pawlikowski to a moment of freedom in the Poland of his youth in 1962 when many roads seemed to open.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dazed and Confused

Surutta? Sekaisin (video title). US © 1993 Universal City Studios. PC: Alphaville Films. P: Richard Linklater, Sean Daniel, James Jacks. D+SC: Richard Linklater. DP: Lee Daniel - negative: 35 mm (Eastman) – lab: Allied/WBS Film & Video Services, Texas, DeLuxe (prints) – colour – 1,85:1. PD: John Frick, AD: Jenny C. Patrick, set dec. Deborah Pastor. Cost: Katherine Dover. Makeup: Jean Ann Black. Hair: Bob Harper, Sally J. Harper.
    Songs: soundtrack album: "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" perf. Rick Derringer, "Slow Ride" perf. Foghat, "School's Out" perf. Alice Cooper, "Jim Dandy" perf. Black Oak Arkansas, "Tush" perf. ZZ Top, "Love Hurts" perf. Nazareth, "Stranglehold" perf. Ted Nugent, "Cherry Bomb" perf. The Runaways, "Fox on the Run" perf. Sweet, "Low Rider" perf. War, "Tuesday's Gone" perf. Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Highway Star" perf. Deep Purple, "Rock and Roll All Nite" perf. KISS, "Paranoid" perf. Black Sabbath - also in the movie: "Hurricane" perf. Bob Dylan, "Hey Baby" perf. Ted Nugent, "Sweet Emotion" perf. Aerosmith - and more.
    S: Sandy Gendler, Val Kuklowsky – Dolby SR. ED: Sandra Adair. Casting: Don Phillips.
    C: Jason London (Randall "Pink" Floyd), Wiley Wiggins (Mitch Kramer), Rory Cochrane (Ron Slater), Matthew McConaughey (David Wooderson), Sasha Jenson (Don Dawson), Michelle Burke (Jodi Kramer), Christine Harnos (Kaye Faulkner), Adam Goldberg (Mike Newhouse), Anthony Rapp (Tony Olson), Marissa Ribisi (Cynthia Dunn), Catherine Avril Morris (Julie Simms), Shawn Andrews (Kevin Pickford), Cole Hauser (Benny O'Donnell), Milla Jovovich (Michelle Burroughs), Joey Lauren Adams (Simone Kerr), Christin Hinojosa (Sabrina Davis), Ben Affleck (Fred O'Bannion), Parker Posey (Darla Marks), Deena Martin (Shavonne Wright), Nicky Katt (Clint Bruno), Esteban Powell (Carl Burnett), Jason O. Smith (Melvin Spivey), Mark Vandermeulen (Tommy Houston), Renée Zellweger (Nesi White). Loc: Austin, Texas.
    No theatrical release in Finland – vhs: 1994 CIC Video – tv: 3.11.2011 MTV3 – VET 98732 – S14 – 102 min
    The title is taken from the Led Zeppelin version of the song with the same name (not played in the movie) (original: Jake Holmes, 1967 – The Yardbirds, 1967 – Led Zeppelin, 1968).
    A 2K DCP from Universal screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Teenage Movies of the 1990s), 18 Sep 2014

For us who appreciate Richard Linklater's Before trilogy - the three duets between Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke - it is a pleasant revelation to discover him here, before the first Before film, as a director of a large ensemble cast.

There are no protagonists and no starring roles, but instead, every role matters, and the good judgement in the casting has been proven retroactively by the fact that so many of the then little known performers have since established themselves on solid careers and even risen to stardom.

I was thinking about Satyajit Ray (Days and Nights in the Forest), Yasujiro Ozu, and Anton Chekhov during this film. On the surface nothing happens. Beyond the surface, everything happens.

The title is important. During the teen years everything is in turbulence, and it is hard to get support from anywhere. The ones who are a bit older and who could be the most helpful are here the worst enemies. It is the last day at school before the summer holiday, and the ritual is that freshmen are punished: boys with special spanking paddles, and girls via other humilating acts (being soiled, ordered to crawl and to offer themselves as slaves to boys).

I understand why Dazed and Confused has achieved cult film status (I generally hesitate to use the term, but here it is apt). The narrative is seemingly trivial (the anticlimactic finale is about getting to an Aerosmith concert), but full of meaningful detail.

Of the wonderful cast Cynthia (Marissa Ribisi) is the thinker. She sums up the decades starting from the 1950s (innocent?), 1960s (great), and the 1970s (they suck). "Maybe the 1980s will be radical". But she also crystallizes the carpe diem philosophy. What are we waiting for? Death.

A house party is cancelled since the parents realize what is being planned and decide to stay at home. Instead, some of the youngsters party in the wood. It is a brilliant sequence. There is an ascent into a tower. On the ground, young girls pass out.

The protagonists are not grown-up yet. At home, parents are waiting. "Next time you come in the sunrise we got problems".

The film is built on many elements that are ordinary but better realized here than almost anywhere else. One of those elements is the soundtrack: the tracks are largely familiar but feel perfect here. In the end there is an impressive dramatis personae sequence; I confess I missed Ben Affleck in the narrative itself but caught him up in that sequence.

The digital quality is brilliant, bright and clear, and slightly airless. No problem with close-ups and interiors. This is a difficult film to digitize because of the large ensemble shots and the exterior night shots.

Whiplash

Miles Teller, J. K. Simmons
US © 2013 Whiplash, Inc. Year of release: 2014. P: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak. D+SC: Damien Chazelle. DP: Sharon Meir. PD: Melanie Paizis-Jones. M: Justin Hurwitz. S: Thomas Curley. ED: Tom Cross. C: Miles Teller (Andrew Neyman), J. K. Simmons (Terence Fletcher), Melissa Benoist (Nicole), Paul Reiser (dad), Austin Stowell, Nate Lang. 105 min
    DCP from Sony Releasing International, to be released by Sony Pictures Finland.
    Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) opening gala.
    2K presentation at Bio Rex, Helsinki, 18 Sep 2014

Peter Debruge (Variety) quoted in the HIFF catalogue: "Miles Teller drums his heart out—and then some—in writer-director Damien Chazelle’s stellar career-starter, Whiplash, which demolishes the clichés of the musical-prodigy genre, investing the traditionally polite stages and rehearsal studios of a topnotch conservatory with all the psychological intensity of a battlefield or sports arena. Chazelle proves an exceptional builder of scenes, crafting loaded, need-to-succeed moments that grab our attention and hold it tight, thanks largely to co-star J. K. Simmons as the school’s most intimidating instructor (…)."

"Whiplash is not about drumming, after all, but rather just how far someone will go to be the best. Teller’s 19-year-old Andrew descends from a long line of mediocrity, but he is determined to add his name to the short list of widely known jazz greats. Andrew is certainly dedicated enough, practicing until his fingers bleed on more than one occasion."

"(…) Fletcher is intimidating in front of the studio band, where he lets fly torrents of emasculating and openly homophobic invective directed against any and all who disappoint. The character is capricious and cruel, making him a volatile force in Andrew’s life, even in scenes where the conductor isn’t physically present. Peter Debruge, Variety" (HIFF catalogue)

AA: A powerful jazz film, one of the most powerful ever made. But if jazz has always often evoked notions of freedom, improvisation, and a relaxed attitude to life, the activity seen in Whiplash comes closer to a military drill exercise such as depicted by Stanley Kubrick in Full Metal Jacket.

There is the demonic taskmaster, the bandleader-teacher Terence Fletcher, interpreted with sadistic glee by J. K. Simmons.

There is the 19-year old drummer genius Andrew Neyman (his model: Buddy Rich) played with a mix of vulnerability and perseverance by Miles Teller. Unfortunately, Andrew is influenced by Fletcher also in his private life, breaking up his relationship with Nicole and insulting his family imperiously. There is no room for love in a life dedicated to his kind of art.

Damien Chazelle has written a gripping screenplay, and he directs it like a thriller. Whiplash has been compared with Black Swan, and common to both is that they chart the territory where merciless drill can lead to mental breakdown. But there is no final descent into madness in Whiplash, and no surreal nightmare visions.

Whiplash also brings to mind the "putting on the show" tradition of film musicals from Forty-Second Street to All That Jazz. It dramatizes the extremely hard work behind the smooth performance.

Here the rookie survives the final sadistic trap of the bandleader and proceeds to a glorious proof of what he can.

Members of the audience were laughing at the cruel insults which are the main educational method of J. K. Simmons. The insults are worse than the ones I remember from my army days. They are monstrously personal and deeply humiliating.

J. K. Simmons claims that that is how a Charlie Parker is born - after an insulting remark that he could not ignore Parker reinvented himself after a year of merciless practice. In this movie the insulting method seems to work.

The fate of jazz is a theme of the film. Although Whiplash is a success story on the surface, more fundamentally it is a tragedy of a brutalization of the spirit.

Visual quality: no problem with the digital projection. The movie has been conceived so that there is no imagery difficult for digital.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Suomi-animaatio 100 vuotta 2: Pioneerit / Centenary of Finnish Animation 2: The Pioneers

A stamp honouring Hjalmar Löfving in 2011
Curated by Tuula Leinonen. Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Centenary of Finnish Animation), 17 Sep 2014.
Total duration 73 min.

Programme note by Tuula Leinonen: "Näytös johdattaa katsojan suomalaisen animaation alkujuurille. Keksijän mieli ja palava into uutta ilmaisumuotoa kohtaan yhdistivät pientä tekijäjoukkoa, jonka vaiheita Juho Gartz ja Lauri Tykkyläinen ovat  dokumentoineet filmissään Muutama metri piirrettyä elokuvaa. Näytöksessä esitetään kaikkein varhaisimmat pala-, piirros- ja nukkeanimaatiot. Myös niitä seuraavat lyhytanimaatiot ovat Suomen animaatiohistorian merkkiteoksia."

Mainoskimara / a commercial mix. Drawn animations edited on 2K DCP.
Antti Peränne: OTK Punahilkka-kerma. 1960. Colour.
Onni Rivakka: Kultapossukerho. Postisäästöpankki. Colour. - AA: The ugly duckling joins the Golden Piglet Club.
FA-animaatio: Fazer käkikello. - AA: The cuckoo clock that cries "Fazer, Fazer, Fazer".

Muutama metri piirrettyä kuvaa / A Few Meters of Animated Film. FI 1981. PC: Työryhmä Juho Gartz & Lauri Tykkyläinen. P+D+SC: Juho Gartz, Lauri Tykkyläinen. DP: Juha-Veli Äkräs. AN: Erkki Salmela. FX: Antero Honkanen. M (pianist): Asser Fagerström. Narrator: Lauri Tykkyläinen. VET A-24222 – S – 35 mm, colour/b&w – 615 m / 23 min. "Kolmiosaisen sarjan ensimmäinen osa kattaa vuodet 1914–39. Haastateltavina ovat mm. Kurt Vasström, joka auttoi elokuvanteossa isäänsä Ericiä – ensimmäisten kotimaisten animaatioiden luojaa, sekä legendaarinen Yrjö Norta. Monipuolinen elokuvamies teki animaatioita 1920-luvulla. Ola Fogelbergin Pekka Puupää -animaatiosta kertoo hänen tyttärensä Toto Fogelberg-Kaila." - AA: Screened in 2K DCP. A priceless documentary the value of which keeps growing. Interviews with Kurt Vasström, Yrjö Norta, Armas Vallasvuo, and Toto Fogelberg-Kaila. There is a true spirit of animation, the joy of movement, the sense of humour. Excerpts and reconstructions from the highlights of the early decades of Finnish animation. The development from drawn animation to cut-out animation and to cell animation. The masterpiece: Muutama metri tuulta ja sadetta by Hjalmar Löfving.

Aito sunnuntaimetsästäjä / En äkta söndagsjägare / A True Sunday Hunter. FI 1924. PC: Lahyn-Filmi. P: Alvar Hamberg, Lennart Hamberg. D: Yrjö Nyberg [= Yrjö Norta]. AN: Harald Salén. Classification number 12747 – S – 35 mm, b&w, silent – 217 m / 3 min. - "Harald Salénin piirtämä metsästäjä hiihtää nokkelan jäniksen perässä kollaasielokuvassa, jota pidetään ensimmäisenä suomalaisena draamallisena animaationa. Säilynyt pala välittää uranuurtajien hilpeät terveiset nykykatsojille." - AA: 2K DCP. A three minute fragment from the film that was originally 13 minutes long. The rabbit is not as crazy as Bugs Bunny but it, too, has a true survivor spirit.

Muutama metri tuulta ja sadetta / Sataa, sataa / A Few Meters of Wind and Rain. FI 1932. P+D+AN: Hjalmar Löfving. Classification number 22397 – S – b&w, silent – 76 m/ 3 min. "Tuottelias taiteilija Hjalmar Löfving piirsi lukuisia sarjakuvia ja pilapiirroksia. Hän teki myös toistakymmentä mainosfilmiä, pääasiassa 1930-luvulla. Ainoaksi vapaa-aiheiseksi animaatiofilmiksi jäi lennokas Muutama metri tuulta ja sadetta." - AA: 2K DCP. The masterpiece of early Finnish animation. A brilliant, cinematic vision of wind and rain.

Professori Nerokeino: Toro
Professori Nerokeino: Vilustop - Hamlet has caught a cold, but the whisperer has cough drops.
Professori Nerokeino: Krinal-hiussaippua - the conductor discovers the head issue: Krinal shampoo.
Professori Nerokeino: Multi-Vitan - at books, a crossword, a typewriter - the cure for vitality, to combat fatigue.
Professori Nerokeino: Toiveista totta - colour - a Finnish dream of the young couple - how do we pay all this? - via a Postisäästöpankki saving account.
 FI 1951-1952. PC: Finlandia-kuva. D+DP+AN: Holger Harrivirta, Vilho Pitkämäki, R. O. Raimela, Harri Takala. The first four in b&w, the fifth in colour – 5 x 1 min. "Holger Harrivirran into nukkeanimaatioon kantoi esteiden yli. Kun tietoa ei löytynyt, materiaalit ja nuken liikkeet piti opetella kantapään kautta. Nerokeino liikkuu jo mallikkaasti; sen suosiosta kertoo mainosten skaala saippuasta arpoihin." - AA: 2K DCP. Stop motion puppet animations, well made.

Le Chien imbécile / Tyhmä koira / A Stupid Dog. FI 1970. PC: Studio A. P+D+AN: Antti Peränne. AN: Elli Rissanen, Esko Michelsson. VET A-21061 – colour – 58 m / 2 min 7 sec. - AA: 2K DCP. A "stupid" dog and its master trade places, and along comes the dogcatcher.

Smile / Hymy. FI 1974. PC: Studio A. Team: Antti Peränne, Maire Peränne. D+AN: Antti Peränne. M: Reginald G. Wale. 2 min. - AA: 2K DCP. Limited animation (drawn, painted). A satirical study of all kinds of smiles.

Isä ja poika / Father and Son. FI 1987. PC: Studio A. D+SC+AN: Antti Peränne. Colour [monochrome with a blush] – 1 min. - AA: 35 mm. Drawn animation. Father neglects son. Son asks why wars start. A sharp statement.

"Mestarianimaattori Antti Peränne teki satoja animaatiota. Jokunen itsenäinen lyhytelokuva syntyi tilaustöiden välissä, ja ne Peränne suuntasi suoraan kansainväliselle yleisölle. Le Chien imbécile, Tyhmä koira, osoittautuu isäntäänsä ovelammaksi, ja Smile esittelee hymyn eri muotoja. Isä ja poika kuuluu itsenäisten töiden helmiin; se välittää ajatuksensa kirkkaasti ja nasevasti. Lapsi kysyy isältä, miksi sodat syttyvät. Peränteen työ valittiin Best of World Animation -sarjaan vuonna 1987."

Alkoholi ihmisruumiissa / Alkoholen i människokroppen / Alcohol in the Human Body / Alko 15. FI 1961. PC: Fennada-Filmi Junior. P: Felix Forsman. SC: Henrik Walgren. DP: Jarmo Mustonen, Esko Nevalainen. AN director: Robert Balser. AN cinematography: Esko Nurminen. S: Ensio Lumes. ED: Ossi Skurnik, Juho Gartz. Narrator: Carl-Eric Creutz. CH: Heikki Värtsi. Layout: Martti Jännes. Colour: Seppo Suo-Anttila, Aune Paulin. VET A-10804 – S – 35 mm, colour – 400 m / 15 min. "Piirrosukkeli esittelee katsojalle seikkaperäisesti alkoholijuomien vaikutuksia ihmisen elimistössä. Varoituksen sanaa korostetaan myös tanssikoreografialla. Valistusfilmi palkittiin Salernossa 1962 ja Milanossa 1963." - AA: A stark and humoristic public information short film with limited animation, animated chemistry and medical information shots, and choreography in silhouette (a choreography of the rising alcohol per mil from full sobriety to death). In colour, a used 35 mm print.

Impressio. FI 1967. P: Gert Roose, Seppo Suo-Anttila, Oy Mainos-TV-Reklam Ab. SC+D+DP+AN+S: Seppo Suo-Anttila. DP+AN+S: Gert Roose. ED: Juho Gartz. VET A-19937 – 35 mm, b&w 440 m / 16 min. "Impressio teki suomalaista animaatiohistoriaa: se voitti kansainvälisen, vuosittain järjestettävän animaatiofestivaalin pääpalkinnon Kultaisen Pelikaanin Mamaiassa, Romaniassa vuonna 1970. Esineanimaation aihe on edelleen ajankohtainen: hirmuvaltiaan nousu ja tuho. Näyttelijöinä toimivat erikokoiset ja -muotoiset pullot." - AA: 2K DCP. A stop motion animation starring dancing and fighting bottles. The two main setpieces are a ball of the bottles with waltz and jive numbers, and the emergence of the poison bottle monster threatening to destroy all. A tiny jar foils the monster bottle with its wit. An anti-totalitarian parable.

Finnish programme note written by Tuula Leinonen 17.9.2014

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Suomi-animaatio 100 vuotta 1: Satuja ja lauluja / Centenary of Finnish Animation 1: Songs and Fairy-Tales

Animaatio-Suomi 1: Satuja ja lauluja. Curated by Tuula Leinonen.
Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 7 Sep 2014.

Tuula Leinonen has curated for us a centenary tribute of Finnish animation in 12 programmes.

Tuula Leinonen: "Näytökseen on koottu hyväntuulisia animaatiosatuja ja -lauluja. Ne tarjoavat paitsi makoisat naurut myös kansanviisauksia ja uusia oivalluksia, kun pollen, porsaan ja suden nokkeluus punnitaan. Näytöksen pisin elokuva Ella ja Aleksi – yllätyssynttärit kannustaa laulamaan mukana. Animaatioelokuvien tekniikat vaihtelevat piirros-, pala- ja nukkeanimaatioista tietokoneanimaatioon. Esitettävät animaatiot sopivat kaiken ikäisille."

Mainoskimara / a commercial mix. Drawn animations edited on 2K DCP.
Hjalmar Löfving: SOK Voiman Paahtimo. Silent. Coffee commercial.
Hjalmar Löfving: Knut Posse. Sound. Pamaus-Pastilli. Pamaus [Boom] drop commercial
Hjalmar Löfving: SOK ja Kuu-ukko / [SOK and Old Man Moon]. 1935. Jalokahvi coffee commercial.
bonus: Hjalmar Löfving: Kiilto [Loisto LUX Kiilloke]. Shoe polish commercial.
bonus: Hjalmar Löfving: SOK [kylpytakit ja naisten alusvaatteet]. A women's bathrobe and lingerie commercial. The sun himself turns bashful.
[not screened: Antti Peränne: Bueno-kahvi OTK. 1959]
    AA: Hjalmar Löfving (1896-1968) directed early Finnish drawn cartoon commercials. They are humoristic and well-made. Rain is a recurrent motif, as are the sun and the moon personified in Méliès style. In Löfving's universe a coffee pot appears as an animated character. The first film of this mix was silent, the rest have buoyant music.

Polle / Horsie. FI 2006. PC: Turun Ammattikorkeakoulu, Suomen Elokuvakontakti ry. P: Eija Saarinen. D+SC+M+ED+S+AN: Sara Wahl, S – 2K DCP, colour – 2 min. "Sara Wahlin sympaattisessa piirrosanimaatiossa Polle korvaa nokkeluudellaan sen, minkä koossa häviää. Elokuva valittiin parhaaksi animaatioksi Kettupäivien Hinku ja Vinku -kilpailussa 2006." - AA: A drawn animated joke in which a little foal conquers a giant horse by wiping its outlines.

Pieni porsas / The Little Pig / Piglet. FI 2006. PC: Osuuskunta Animaatiokopla, Suomen Elokuvakontakti ry. P+D+ED+S+AN: Kim Helminen. SC: Reetta Pasanen, Kim Helminen. M: Juha Virta. S – 2K DCP with English subtitles, colour – 1 min. "Animaatio pohjautuu 4-vuotiaan Reetta Pasasen tarinaan, joka aikanaan tallentui onneksi nauhalle. Autenttinen lapsen ääni inspiroi yli 20 vuotta myöhemmin Reetan puolison, ohjaaja-animaattori Kim Helmisen luomaan siitä oman tulkintansa. Pieni porsas nousee estradille, ja äiti-porsas hikoilee katsomossa." - AA: Based on a story of Reetta Pasanen, 4 years, now 33 years and the wife of the animator. The little pig takes the floor and mama pig sweats in the first row. A nice brass band.

Jääkarhu soitti kerran Afrikkaan / Bear It and Grin. FI 1997. P: Taideteollinen korkeakoulu /  Elokuvataiteen ja Lavastustaiteen osasto ETO. Yleisradio/ TV1/ Yhteistuotannot. P: Mariko Härkönen. D+SC+puppets: Ismo Virtanen. DP: Tero Makkonen. AD: Iri Leino. Salla Leino, Ismo Virtanen. AN+puppets+dramaturgy: Mariko Härkönen. M: Ismo Virtanen (Konginkankaan Kantri). S: Kepa Lehtinen, Pasi Peni. ED: Samu Heikkilä. VET A-27768 – S – 35 mm, väri, 1,37:1 – 139 m / 5 min. "Jyväskyläläisen Konginkankaan Kantrin lastenlaulusta 'Jääkarhu soitti kerran Afrikkaan' valmistui myöhemmin musiikkivideo, jonka ohjasivat Ismo Virtanen ja Mariko Härkönen. Laulun esitti Rane Rautiainen. Yksinäinen jääkarhu vaihtaa gorillan kanssa iglunsa kuuteen banaaniin, mutta postitus ei suju suunnitelmien mukaan. Animaatio voitti 1998 Tampereen elokuvajuhlilla erikoispalkinnon ja napinpainajien palkinnon. Sen englanninkielinen versio Bear It and Grin, laulajana Billy Carson, voitti 1998 pääpalkinnon Ranskassa Rennesin lastenelokuvafestivaaleilla." - AA: A puppet animation, a music video for children. The gorilla orders an iglu from the icebear, in exchange of six bananas, but the ice melts and the bananas freeze. Good colour in the 35 mm print.

Koiran ja suden ystävyys / The Wolf and the Dog. Satuja II / Fairytale Series II. FI 1974. P: Partanen & Rautoma, MTV Oy, Power Pictures Partenen & Rautoma. P+D: Heikki Partanen, Riitta Rautoma. DP: Heikki Patanen. AN: Riitta Rautoma. M: Sifferi Grönfors, Kustaa Järvinen, Antero Launis. S: Timo Lapila. Narrator: Vesa Mäkelä. VET 21964 – S – 35 mm – väri – 367 m / 12 min. "Heikki Partanen ja Riitta Rautoma animoivat sarjan eläinsatuja, jotka pohjautuivat Kaarle Krohnin 1800-luvun lopulla taltioimiin kansansatuihin. Rautoma väritti rasvakynillä pala-animaation hahmoille elävän pinnan. Susi pelastaa vanhan koiran nälkäkuolemalta, ja koira kutsuu suden salaa herkkujen ääreen häätaloon, jossa susi juo sahtia ja ryhtyy laulamaan kohtalokkain seurauksin." - AA: Grease pencil animation. The old dog is evicted, but the wolf offers to "abduct" a child which the dog can then "rescue". In the winter the dog gives a good turn and lets the wolf in to have dinner. The wolf manages to escape badly beaten. Since then there is quarrel between dog and wolf. Good colour in the 35 mm print.

Kolme pukkia / Three Bucks. FI 2001. PC+P+D+AN+S: Heikki Prepula. M: Trio Päkättäjät. ED: Matti Markkanen. VET A-28685 – S – väri – 4 min. "Pikkupukki, Keskipukki ja Isopukki lähtevät ylittämään siltaa, jonka alla asuu hirmuinen hiisi. Heikki Prepula tunnetaan pala-animaation suvereenina mestarina ja mm. Kössi Kengurun luojana. Kun hän tarttuu kansansatuun, loppukohtaus voi olla toisenlainen kuin olemme tottuneet kuulemaan. Kolme pukkia voitti pääpalkinnon Isfahanin elokuvajuhlilla Iranissa 2002 ja se palkittiin parhaana lasten lyhytelokuvana Interfilm-lyhytelokuvafestivaaleilla Berliinissä 2004." - AA: A witty cutout animation, brilliantly made from painted images. Three bucks are about to cross a bridge under which a scary monster lives. A fine 35 mm print.

Ella & Aleksi – yllätyssynttärit / [Ella & Alex - a Surprise Birthday Party]. FI 2011. PC: Bronson Club. P: Jukka Helle, Markus Selin, Jesse Fryckman. D+ED: Juuso Syrjä. SC: Katri Manninen. AN: Janne Roivainen. S: Magnus Axberg. M: Sampo Haapaniemi, Markus Koskinen. VET A-81831 – S – 35 mm, väri – 47 min. "Markus Koskisen ja Sampo Haapaniemen musiikkiprojektissa lapset räppäsivät konemusiikkitaustojen päälle. Uudenlaisista lastenlauluista syntyi neljä hittialbumia vuosina 2004–2009. Niiden pohjalta on luotu musiikkivideoita, ja vuonna 2011 pitempi 50-minuuttinen sing along -elokuva Ella & Aleksi – yllätyssynttärit. Isoveli Aleksi (äänenä Antti Luusuaniemi) ja pikkusisko Ella (Malla Malmivaara) järjestävät juhlat ystävälleen Tarkastaja Lerppu Koiraselle (Jarkko Tamminen). Sisarukset ymmärtävät eläinten puhetta ja voivat mielikuvituksensa voimalla kutistua ja kasvaa tai taikoa jopa junan. Tarina sitoo toisiinsa tutut hitit MC Koppakuoriaisesta Lenni Lokinpoikaseen. Kappaleiden sanoituksissa käsitellään tärkeitä teemoja kuten ystävien ja ympäristön arvostamista." - AA: I blogged about the delicious cut-out animated featurette Ella & Aleksi - yllätyssynttärit when it had its premiere three years ago. Today I revisited the beginning, including the first sing-along-subtitled music number "Huhuu, kuka puhuu", the city owl song. Witty and wonderful. One of my favourite films of this decade. A bright 35 mm print.

There was also a real birthday party in our cinema: a group of 15 children celebrated it by watching Ella & Aleksi today.

The Finnish programme note for this 7.9.2014 screening was written by Tuula Leinonen.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Heathers

Fatal Games / Heathers (Finnish release title) / Häxor, läxor och dödliga lektioner.  US © 1988 New World Pictures. In association with: Cinemarque Entertainment. P: Denise Di Novi. D: Michael Lehmann. SC: Daniel Waters. DP: Francis Kenny – camera: Arriflex 35 BL4, Zeiss Lenses – negative: 35 mm (Eastman 125T 5247, 250D 5297, Fuji AX 500T 8514) – lab: DeLuxe (Hollywood), Technicolor (Hollywood) – colour – 1,85:1. PD: Jon Hutman. AD: Kara Lindstrom. FX: Martin Bresin / Marty Bresin. Cost: Rudy Dillon. Makeup: Julie Hewett, Kenny Myers, Carrey Gibbons. Hair: Scott Williams. M: David Newman. S: Jerry Ross – mono. ED: Norman Hollyn. Casting: Sally Dennison, Julie Selzer. C: Winona Ryder (Veronica), Christian Slater (J. D.), Shannen Doherty (Heather Duke), Lisanne Falk (Heather McNamara), Kim Walker (Heather Chandler), Penelope Milford (Pauline Fleming), Glenn Shadix (Father Ripper), Lance Fenton (Kurt Kelly), Patrick Labyorteaux (Ram), Jeremy Applegate (Peter Dawson). Loc: Pasadena, Laurel Canyon, Griffith Park, Santa Monica, Tujunga, Hollywood Hills, San Fernando Valley (California). Not theatrically released in Finland – vhs: 1991 Karelia Food – tv: 29.8.2001 Nelonen – dvd: 2005 Future Film – VET V-01919 – K16 – 2824 m / 103 min
    A DFI print with danske tekster by Dorte Rytter Fredersen viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Teen Movies of the 1990s), 3 Sep 2014

Heathers is a black sheep among high school films. Based on a screenplay by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann (both at their best here), it is unclassifiable any more precisely than being simply a "high school film". I hesitate to call it a "dark comedy". The themes of school bullying, revenge mentality, vigilante justice, suicide, and school massacre are meant to be taken seriously, although the dramatis personae are caricatures and although the brilliant dialogue is full of dark wit. Despite its grotesque and macabre aspects neither is Heathers a horror film. It is a high school film with a unique approach.

I have been intrigued by the fact that several movies of "the school of 1999" seem relevant to the tragedy of Columbine, and, in Finland, to the tragedy of Jokela. But Heathers, made more than a decade before, was there already. To me, the key lines of dialogue in it are those by J. D. during his attempt to execute the school massacre: "Nobody loves me. So I'll kill everybody". He is wearing a long coat and carrying enough explosives to blow up the entire school building while everybody is gathered in the gym in a pep rally.

The high school is deeply divided. There are the ostensibly popular Heathers, three stylish and self-assured girls who are more feared than loved. There is the "geek squad", clumsy, nerdy and confused youngsters with the bad coordination that belongs to the age. The geeks are mercilessly bullied. Somehow the Heathers have managed to lure into their team Veronica (Winona Ryder) who really loves the geeks more. Then there is the outsider, J. D. (Christian Slater), son of an industrial tycoon whose childhood and youth has been fragmented into "seven schools, seven states". He seems to promise a protection of individuality, until Veronica realizes that his revenge plans are no jokes.

There are darkly satirical twists in the revenge story. After her death (framed as a suicide) the main Heather becomes more popular than ever. Two homophobic school bullies (their deaths framed as a double suicide of gay lovers; an aggravating piece of evidence of their gayness is a bottle of mineral water) become gay martyrs.

There are memorable lines and witty ideas in Daniel Waters' dialogue. In love scenes, protagonists copy their dialogue from pop songs. In Veronica's defiant encounters with her parents the key sentence is about "being treated like a human being" and the different senses of what that means. "I shop therefore I am" is a motto of the leading Heather. J. D.'s planned school massacre is supposed to become "the Woodstock of the 1980s". "You look like hell", is the comment of Veronica's friends after J. D. has blown himself up. "I just got back". She seizes the red scrunchie, the emblem of the Heathers: "there is a new sheriff in town" - one who is with the geek squad. - Most I liked the satirical play with self-awareness in the dialogue. "I died knowing no one knew the real me", writes Veronica in the main Heather's fake suicide note. "My teen angst bullshit has a body count". - I confess I had difficulty in following some of the dialogue.

The performances are perfect. The electronic score by David Newman is expressive. The design by Jon Hutman and Kara Lindstrom is effective. The cinematography by Francis Kenny is subtly exaggerated with high angles, special lenses and colour stylization. Michael Lehmann as the director knows how to forge a powerful whole of the unique nightmare vision.

The print is clean and complete. The visual quality: there is the regular slightly duped / speed-printed look.