Tuesday, September 30, 1997

The Merchant of Venice (1973)

V-003331 / G / GB / 1973 / Sichel, John / / TV drama

Merchant of Venice, The / Venetsian kauppias. PC: ATV Network. An ITC release. EX: Cecil Clarke. P: Jonathan Miller. D+SC: John Sichel - from the play by William Shakespeare. Based on Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre From England production. M: Carl Davis. CAST: Laurence Olivier (Shylock), Joan Plowright (Portia), Jeremy Brett (Bassanio), Anthony Nicholls (Antonio), Louise Purnell (Jessica). 128’ at PAL speed. DIST: Finnkino. Big screen projection of a timecoded VHS video at VET, Helsinki, Tuesday, 30 September 1997. *** A powerful and moving interpretation of the play with Laurence Olivier as a tragic Shylock and Joan Plowright as the cunning Portia. Portia is the winner, first with her three caskets: the gold casket of death, the silver casket with the mirror and the lead casket of love. Then, masquerading as the attorney, she saves Antonio, the Merchant of Venice, from having to give up his pound of flesh to Shylock. As Shylock perishes utterly, the flow of sympathy moves to his side even while we watch the victors rejoice. The final image is of Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, crying as a haunting Kaddish is heard on the soundtrack.

Monday, September 29, 1997

Anna (1997)

A-27780 / G / FI / 1997 / Lehmuskallio, Markku & Lapsui, Anastasia / documentary

Anna. PC: Jörn Donner Productions. D: Markku Lehmuskallio, Anastasia Lapsui. FEATURING: Anna Aleksevna Momde. Location: Taimyr - the city of Dudinka at the Jenisei. 58’. 1,85. Shot in 16mm, viewed in 35mm at VET, Helsinki, Monday, 29 September, 1997. Spoken in Russian, with Finnish commentary, and English subtitles by Merja Talvela and Leslie Hyde. ** A requiem for the lost culture of the Nganasan, the second most northern people in the world. Anna Aleksevna Momde belongs to the Loon Clan, which believe that the loons created the world. She went to school, became a Pioneer, a Komsomolets, and a Party Secretary. ”I called my tribal folk to a new life. They were invited from the tundra to the village. I committed a fatal mistake. We deprived them of their traditional life and gave nothing instead. They were proud, strong, brave, unbowed, invincible, rulers of their own land. We ruined everything. My soul was thrown into turmoil, my heart cast into dirt before my very eyes”. The grim confession is accompanied with images of decay in the Taimyr, underlined with ugly lighting, ugly set-ups, and ugly camera angles. The sacred sledges and the beautiful traditional costumes have been left to rot. The only beautiful modern images are those from the traditional Loon Dance. In striking contrast to the misery of the present 1954 documentary footage shows the traditional ways of the Nganasan with classic dignity worthy of Flaherty. Even the Communist footage displays pride and confidence, in contrast to the desillusion of the present. Anna is a great and eloquent central subject, but the film is marred by lack of focus and depressing ugliness of the visuals.

George of the Jungle

100415 / 8/5 / US / 1997 / Weisman, Sam / comedy

George of the Jungle / Viidakon Ykä. PC: Walt Disney Enterprises. D: Sam Weisman. Based upon the cartoon characters created by Jay Ward. CAST: Brendan Fraser (George), Leslie Mann (Ursula), Thomas Haden Church (Lyle Van de Groot). John Cleese as the Voice of Ape. MPAA 35373, Rating: PG. 91’. 1,85. Finnish subtitles by Timo Porri. DIST: Finnkino. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, Monday, 29 September 1997. ** George of the Jungle meets his mate, Ursula, in this Tarzan parody. Trouble is, I find the original Tarzan stories already so funny they are difficult to spoof. This one tries hard. Crude, clumsy, predictable, with laughs in it.

Sunday, September 28, 1997

Germinal (1913)

004819 / G / FR / 1913 / Capellani, Albert / historical drama

Germinal / Germinal eller den stora grufkatastrofen. PC: Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et Gens de Lettre (SCAGL). A Pathé release. D+SC: Albert Capellani - from the novel by Emile Zola. DP: Louis Forestier. CAST: Henry Krauss (Etienne Lantier), Sylvie (Catherine), Jacquinet (Chaval). B&w, silent. A brilliant print of the 1986 restoration from La Cinémathèque Francaise by Renée Lichtig. 3017 m /18 fps/ 146’, projected at /24 fps/ 110’. Somnambulistic piano accompaniment by Jasse Varpama. Well rehearsed Finnish earphone translation by Leena Talvio. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, Sunday, 28 September 1997. ** It was a joy to see an exquisite print do justice to the archaic long-take, deep-space tableaux of Germinal. The furious depiction of the war between labour and capital invites comparison to Griffith’s Intolerance: here, too, finally, armed forces crush the rebels. In Germinal, seeing the carnage, the commander bursts into tears. In contrast to Griffith the camera is static, there are no close-ups, and there is no montage. The intertitles give away the action in advance. On the other hand, the composition is impeccable, the movement of the masses dynamically conveyed, and Germinal has documentary fascination as a portrait of a primitive phase of the industrial society. Interestingly, the actors are relatively subdued, and the sadness at the death of both of the leading ladies is moving.

Friday, September 26, 1997


GB / 1996 / computer game

Carmageddon. DIST: Sales Curve Interactive. A linear showreel of the computer game. PAL video monitor viewing at the British Board of Film Classification in London on Friday, 26 September, 1997. The player is in the driver’s seat. The more other cars he wrecks and the more passers-by he kills, the higher he scores. A lot of blood splashes on the road and on the windshield. In contrast to Death Race 2000, this game does not pretend to social satire of any kind.

Les Jeux Olympiques à Chamonix, 1924

FR / 1924 / documentary

Jeux Olympiques à Chamonix, 1924, Les / The Olympic Games Held at Chamonix in 1924. PC: Rapid-Film. Released by Les Films Sportifs. P: Jean de Povera. FEATURING: Vallenius, Tapani Niku, Haugen, Thams. 619 m /24 fps/ 23’. Viewed on the moviola at the Imperial War Museum in London on Friday, 26 September, 1997. *** The first Winter Games arranged by the Olympic Committee of Paris. Skating, ice hockey, the 50 km ski Marathon, figure-skating, bobsleigh riding, and ski-jumping. The Norwegians are the heroes, but Finns score medals, as well. Good clean fun in the magnificent surroundings of Mont Blanc.

Thursday, September 25, 1997

Mean Guns

US 1996 / Pyun, Albert / action

Mean Guns. PC: Mean Guns, Inc. D: Albert Pyun. CAST: Christopher Lambert, Ice-T. 110’. Scope. MPAA 35141. Rating: R. The film has not been released anywhere. Viewed at the British Board of Film Classification in London on Thursday, 25 September, 1997. BOMB. Gratuitous violence: dozens of L.A. gangland traitors kill each other in a deserted office building. Meaningless slaugher is conveyed with stylish lensing and accompanied with a cynically hilarious mambo track.

Tuesday, September 23, 1997

Guinea Pig 6

R-003678 / 18 / JP / 19-- / sadism, splatter

Guinea Pig 6. A MAD Video release. In Japanese without subtitles. 80’. VHS PAL big screen video projection for a police investigation at VET, Helsinki, Tuesday, 23 September 1997. September has been amazingly free from the video nasties and hard core pornography that usually fill the largest part of the office’s viewing schedule. Well, here then is a reminder of what’s it’s all about. In stark hand-held cinéma vérite style a young, bound woman is brutalized by men. They hit her face till she spits blood, they kick her and tear her skin with pincers. They rotate her in a revolving chair and force her to drink a large bottle of liquor till she vomits. They torture her with a headset bombarding her ears with amplified industrial noise till slime drips from her mouth. Further atrocities include spikes on fingers, boiling oil on arms, white maggots on burned flesh and eyelids, raw bloody meat thrown all over the victim, and eyesockets pierced till they are filled with blood, and finally, eyeballs pierced. Thus ends the first episode of several. In the end credit sequence the special effects are revealed. The Japanese schlockmakers indulge even in actual sadism, but the Guinea Pig series is known as fictional.

The Scarlet Letter

014195 / 16 / US / 1926 / Sjöström, Victor / drama

Scarlet Letter, The / Tulipunainen kirjain / Punainen kirjain. PC: MGM. P: Irving Thalberg. D: Victor Sjöström. SC: Frances Marion - from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850). CAST: Lillian Gish (Hester Prynne), Lars Hanson (Arthur Dimmesdale), Henry B. Walthall (Roger Prynne). 2508 m /24 fps/ 91’. Silent, b&w. Unfocused piano accompaniment by Peter Reynolds. Pretty complete safety print from Cinemateket / Svenska Filminstitutet, from a partly decomposed original. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Tuesday, 23 September 1997. **** Great direction of a great screenplay of a great story of ”bigotry uncurbed”. The film is somewhat marred by melodramatic excess like bulging eyeballs. On the other hand, the grim story is leavened with humour. The atmosphere of the Puritanical Boston of the 1650s is effectively detailed and humanly gripping. As a drama about civil courage it belongs in the same canon as the plays of Henrik Ibsen and Arthur Miller. In the cinema, Hitchcock’s The Manxman, influenced by Sjöström, is thematically close; Anny Ondra was his Hester Prynne. (Print status: no better print is available, but a restoration is under way in 1997 at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.)

Monday, September 22, 1997

Disraeli - Portrait of a Romantic

V-03324 / G / GB / 1978 / Whatham, Claude / TV drama

Disraeli - Portrait of a Romantic / Disraeli. PC: ATV Network Limited. An ITC release. P: Lorna Mason, Cecil Clarke. D: Claude Whatham. SC: David Butler. CAST: Ian McShane (Disraeli), Mary Peach ( Mary Anne), Rosemary Leach (Queen Victoria), John Carlisle (Gladstone). 258’ at PAL speed. DIST: Finnkino. Big screen projection of a timecoded VHS video at VET, Helsinki, Monday, 22 September 1997. *** The four part television drama is to be released on video in the large ITC series. Its viewpoint is revealed by the subtitle: how the Romantic novelist becomes Prime Minister. It is about the romance of the British Empire. Ian McShane (best known to me as Lovejoy) is excellent both as the dashing dandy and the brandy-sipping gout-ridden buck. The screenwriter relishes in recounting the legend, and the actors enjoy uttering witty dialogue. It is about world history as a chamber piece. It is about the theater of politics. It is also about political wisdom, and about diplomacy. ”Intrigue is for the second rate. Honesty is for the great minds”. What was the secret of Disraeli, what helped him win seemingly insuperable obstacles? The answer of the makers of this film is: love.

Saturday, September 20, 1997

Twin Town

100425 / 16 / GB / 1997 / Allen, Kevin / / crime

Twin Town. PC: PolyGram Films UK. D: Kevin Allen. CAST: Llyr Evans, Rhys Ifans. MPAA 34969. BBFC: 18. 99’. Nihilistic Welsh film on juvenile delinquency. The Tarantino lesson profoundly misunderstood.

Friday, September 19, 1997

Hamlet (1996)

100404 / 12/9 / US / 1996 / Branagh, Kenneth / drama

Hamlet / Hamlet. PC: Castle Rock Entertainment. D+SC: Kenneth Branagh - from the play by William Shakespeare. CAST: Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet), Kate Winslet (Ophelia), Julie Christie (Gertrude), Derek Jacobi (Claudius). 242’. Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Hannele Vahtera. Filmed in 70mm. Viewed in 35mm scope at VET, Helsinki, Friday, 19 September 1997. ** The first complete film version of Hamlet is an experiment that probably won’t be repeated. It is great to see an all star cast fill even minor roles. It is exciting to see the unabridged Mousetrap, the play within the play. But mostly this is a version for completists and scholars. Branagh as Hamlet is dynamic and rather obnoxious. As a director he tries to create visual excitement by striking images and flashbacks, but the efforts remain superficial. The use of widescreen gives the impression of wasted space. There are too many empty stares and rigid poses. This is not one of the three best screen Hamlets, my favorites being Kozintsev, Olivier, and Käutner. The Kozintsev / Pasternak / Shostakovitsh / Smoktunovski version, also in glorious widescreen, is still the one above all because of its strong physical vision of the sea and the castle, its cinematic sense of the space of drama, its forceful score and Smoktunovski’s immortal interpretation as the Prince.

La Loi du Nord

026437 / 16 / FR / 1939 / Feyder, Jacques / drama

Loi du Nord, La / La Piste du Nord / The Law of the North / Pako pohjoiseen. PC: Filmos / Ciné Alliance. P: Gregor Rabinovitch, Roland Tual, Adolphe Osso. D: Jacques Feyder. CAST: Michèle Morgan, Pierre Richard-Willm, Charles Vanel, Jacques Terrane. 101’. B&w. Safety print from La Cinémathèque Francaise with a mostly brilliant image and a damaged soundtrack. Fine earphone translation by Leena Talvio. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, Thursday, 19 September 1997. *** An American millionaire (Richard-Willm) kills his wife’s lover and flees to the Frozen North with his secretary (Morgan). They are chased by a Canadian Mountie (Vanel). The exposition is boring, but the Jack London style adventure in the snowy wilderness is effective. It is also fun to see Morgan visit an Indian sauna. The scenes with Morgan are shot with reverence worthy of Garbo, whose director Feyder had been. Also Vanel is excellent. Swedish Lapland passes for Canada in the production. The film is little known. Its release was delayed by the Occupation; the producer was non-Aryan, and there was the problem of deference towards the ”Northern Law” embodied in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. While no masterpiece, the film is different and memorable.


054894 / 16 / DD / 1959 / Wolf, Konrad / drama

Sterne / Zwezdy / Stars / Poljettu tähti. PC: Progress-Film / DEFA. D: Konrad Wolf. SC: Angel Wagenstein. Songs include ”Es brennt” (Mordechai Gebirtik 1941) and ”Eli Eli”, performed by Gerry Wolff. CAST: Sascha Kruscharska, Jürgen Frohriep, Erik S. Klein. 92’. B&w. Fair print with rainswept changeovers. Mostly in German, with occasional Bulgarian, Greek, and Yiddish dialogue. Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marjatta Leskinen / Doris Harkimo with fatal errors of translation. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, Thursday, 19 September 1997. *** A few days during the Nazi occupation of Bulgaria. Greek Jews are being transported to Auschwitz. Walter, a German Unteroffizier, is moved from his complacency by the meeting of Ruth, the keeper of the spirit of the deported. This is a film about the dawn of conscience. The simple realistic scenes in deep focus, the expressive close-ups, the lively moving camera, the haunting songs, and the gentle style of acting are effective, the passages of symbolic images misguided. But this film by a German Jew who survived in the Moscow exile is a valid contribution to the mystery of ”Hitler’s ordinary executioners”. (In order to pass for Cannes in 1959 it had to pose as ”a Bulgarian entry” to avoid West German protests, but actually it is an East German film.)

Wednesday, September 17, 1997

Withnail & I

V-000063 / 16 / GB / 1986 / Robinson, Bruce / drama

Withnail & I / Onnen kiertolaiset. PC: HandMade Films. P: George Harrison. D+SC: Bruce Robinson. Tracks include ”All Along The Watchtower”, and ”Voodoo Chile” performed by Jimi Hendrix. CAST: Richard E. Grant (Withnail), Paul McGann (… & I), Richard Griffiths. 108’. 1,66. Impeccable restored National Film and Television Archive print. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Wednesday, 17 September 1997. ** The events take place in Britain 1969. Two hippies - Withnail & I - cool off in the countryside before returning to Camden Town. Personal, whimsical, laid back? Yes. Also bleak, talkative, and boring.

Nuoruus sumussa

A-02197 / 16 / FI / 1946 / Särkkä, Toivo / drama

Nuoruus sumussa / Youth In Fog. PC: Suomen Filmiteollisuus (SF). P: T.J. Särkkä. D: Toivo Särkkä. SC: Toini Aaltonen. CAST: Leif Wager, Topi Ruuth, Hannes Häyrinen, Kirsti Hurme, Marjatta Uski, Toini Vartiainen. 117’. B&w. Beautiful archival safety print. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, Wednesday, 17 September 1997. BOMB. The war ends. Three young veterans return from the front to Helsinki. They immediately face the perils of love-hungry women, drink and crime. Heavy-handedly directed the actors are often reduced to overblown gesticulating and eyeball-rolling. The dialogue is lifeless; there is no cinematic rhythm, imagery, or style. Miraculously, the film still conveys a sense of fun. It is all part of the SF house style, of the warmth of its great ensemble, which even a small child can feel. Leif Wager does a fine job as the veteran who is neglected by his parents and who during his escapades contracts syphilis. The wordless sequence where he realizes this is the highlight of the picture. Hannes Häyrinen is also a saving grace with his humoristic portrayal.

Event Horizon

100413 / 18 / GB 1997 / Anderson, Paul / science fiction

Event Horizon / Viimeinen horisontti. PC: Paramount. P: Lawrence Gordon. D: Paul Anderson. SC: Philip Eisner. DP: Adrian Biddle. CAST: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan. 97’. Panavision. Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Eirik Udd. DIST: UIP Finland. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, Wednesday, 17 September 1997. *** Solaris meets Hellraiser. Starting as an intelligent scifi epic in the Star Trek tradition the film turns into a straight splatter horror film. Breathtaking imagery, technical solutions and production design keep Event Horizon interesting on the most basic level. The title refers to the boundary of a black hole. A new solution to deep space travel by creating an artificial black hole has been invented, but something has gone wrong. The corridors of the spaceship are covered with blood and human remains. ”Where we are going we don’t need eyes to see”. They have visited ”another dimension: pure chaos - pure evil”. Hell, perhaps? ”Hell is only a word”.


A-27774 / 8 / FI 1997 / Lahtela, Atro / crime comedy

Keikka / The Gig. PC: Talent House ”Vittu! Ton sä teit tahallas” / Marko Röhr Productions. D: Atro Lahtela. P: Johannes Lassila, Pauliina Valpas. DP: Timo Heinänen. CAST: Jukka Rasila, Petteri Summanen, Irina Björklund. 18’. 1,66. DIST: Talent House. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, Wednesday, 17 September 1997. *** Two brothers arrange a big holdup in the popular shopping mall Itäkeskus in East Helsinki. Everything goes awry in the parking hall, and Mommy gets very angry. Wry humour and fine acting performances.

Tuesday, September 16, 1997


025872 / 16 / SE 1944 / Sjöberg, Alf / drama

Hets / Frenzy / Torment / Kiihko. PC: Svensk Filmindustri. P: Harald Molander, Victor Sjöström. D: Alf Sjöberg. SC and assistant director: Ingmar Bergman. CAST: Stig Järrel, Alf Kjellin, Mai Zetterling, Stig Olin, Gunnar Björnstrand, Birger Malmsten. 102’. B&w. Nitrate print with Finnish subtitles, good definition. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, Tuesday, 16 September 1997. *** A graduate’s confrontation with a tyrannical teacher is portrayed in Expressionist style. The figures of the fallen woman (Zetterling) and the demented authority figure called Caligula (Järrel) bring to mind The Blue Angel, but Hets is completely original. The graduate (Kjellin) is not without support: the other teachers and his classmates hate Caligula - learning should stem from ”heart, joy, insight” - but he chooses the lonesome route of battling his demon. Hets can also be seen as a topical contribution to the fight against authoritarian rule. It is fascinating to see a cast of familiar Bergman faces together this early.

Pekko ja unissakävelijä

A-27773 / G / FI 1997 / Koivusalo, Timo / comedy

Pekko ja unissakävelijä / Pekko and the Sleepwalker. PC: Artista Filmi. CAST: Timo Koivusalo, Satu Silvo, Esko Nikkari. 92’. 1,66. DIST: Finnkino. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, on Tuesday, 16 September 1997. BOMB. An affable atmosphere, the magic light of the never-setting sun of the Finnish summer, the sanguine beauty of Satu Silvo, and the ensemble playing of a reliable cast of popular actors are among the joys provided by the fifth installment of the Pekko series. The twin plot is about Pipsa (Satu Silvo) being drugged to a sleepwalker by a scheming doctor and about the village policeman’s fits of jealousy as his wife visits a health spa. In the finale Pipsa meets her mother she never knew. The comedy of Pekko, himself, the Finnish Tora-San, the sympathetic loner, is an acquired taste. Taste is the keyword: it requires taste to handle bad taste. This often gets only vulgar and embarrassing.

Monday, September 15, 1997

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

093037 / 16 / AU 1985 / Miller, George / science fiction

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome / Mad Max 3 - ukkosmyrsky. PC: Kennedy Miller Productions. D: George Miller, George Ogilvie. CAST: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner. 106’ An MTV3 television transmission, PAL speed, cropped to full frame from Panavision, with ample commercial breaks, Finnish subtitles by Markku Kenttä, viewed in Helsinki on Monday, 15 September 1997. **** Often seen as a weaker sequel to The Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome in fact rises to a different level. Miller not only had access to the holy grounds of the Aborigines, but the whole film is shot through with the spirit of Dreaming, the ancient religion of the continent. While The Road Warrior was about action, Beyond Thunderdome is about meditation. The Road Warrior had a run-of-the-mill script but was original in execution. Beyond Thunderdome both has an unique script and develops the audacious production design of the Mad Max saga further. The arts, the crafts, and the costumes still look stunning. Maurice Jarre composed one of his more experimental scores for this one. Tina Turner is a worthy adversary to Mel Gibson. She belongs to the few rock stars who really stand on their own in a narrative film. Her reaction to the demolition of her city and the fact that the opposite tribe has escaped? Homeric laughter.

The Peacemaker

100401 / 16 / US 1997 / Leder, Mimi / action

The Peacemaker / Rauhantekijä. PC: DreamWorks LLC. P: Branko Lustig. D: Mimi Leder. CAST: George Clooney, Nicole Kidman. 125’. Scope. Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Eirik Udd. DIST: UIP Finland. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, on Monday, 15 September 1997. *** Breathtakingly produced gung-ho action extravaganza. The US Nuclear Smuggling Group (= Kidman) and the Army’s elite Special Forces (= Clooney) save New York City from nuclear holocaust by thwarting a doomsday scenario of raving Russian and Serbian lunatics who seize a missile transport train in darkest Siberia. Brilliant production values can’t hide fundamental confusion of style. The Peacemaker is too bitter and militaristic for a James Bond / Indiana Jones style adventure and too cliched and facile to be taken seriously. Clooney and Kidman are not at their best, nor is there much spark between them. Mimi Leder creates exciting situations but the basic flow is not strong enough.

Friday, September 12, 1997

Bullet in the Head

100395 / 18 / HK 1990 / Woo, John / action

Bullet in the Head / Diexue jietou. PC: John Woo Film Productions. Copyright renewed in 1995 for Star TV. A Media Asia Film Distribution release. P+D+SC+ED: John Woo. CAST: Tony Leung, Jacky Cheung, Waise Lee, Fennie Yuen, Yolinda Yam. 136’. 1,85. Canton Chinese with Finnish subtitles. DIST+TRANS: Cinema Mondo. Viewed in a 131’ version at VET, Helsinki, on Friday, 12 September 1997. **** Hong Kong and Vietnam, 1967-1970. A mythical quest for fortune of three young friends during the Vietnam war. During the extreme ordeals everyone is badly burnt, and only Ben (Tony Leung) survives the final ballet of blood and fire. Not only a violent film, this is a film about brutalization. The historical context is portrayed in epic scale. The scenes of war, demonstrations, suicide missions, and mass evacuations have an authentic touch whereas the actions of the three adventurers are stylized, even glamorized. The glamour, however, only serves to make the final desolation more shattering.

When We Were Kings

100359 / G / US 1996 / Gast, Leon / documentary
When We Were Kings. PC: DASFilms. A PolyGram release. P: David Sonenberg. D: Leon Gast. ED: Taylor Hackford. Theme song ”Rumble In The Jungle” performed by The Fugees. FEATURING: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman. 84’. DIST: Scanbox Finland. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, on Friday, 12 September 1997. **** Kinshasa 1974, ”the rumble in the jungle”: Muhammad Ali (32) contends for the heavyweight championship of George Foreman (25). The young guy is the stronger one, but Ali wins in strategy, driving his adversary mad, wearying him out and beating him with a few ferocious blows. The film is more about spirit than brute force. Ali ”the marvellous mouth” is in top form as a showman and spiritual leader. There is great Kinshasa concert footage with B.B. King, James Brown, and Miriam Makeba. Behind all this is President of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko, who happened to die this week.

Thursday, September 11, 1997

Konets Sankt-Peterburga

015281 / 12 / SU 1927 / Pudovkin, Vsevolod / drama
Konets Sankt-Peterburga / 7@>,P E">8H-A,H,D$JD(" / The End of St Petersburg / Pietarin viimeiset päivät. PC: Mezhrabpom-Rus. P: Moisei Aleinikov. D: Vsevolod Pudovkin. SC: Nathan Zarhi. DP: Anatoli Golovnja. CAST: Ivan Tshuveljev, Vera Baranovskaja. Ca 2500 m / 24 fps / ca 90’. Silent, b&w. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, on Thursday, 11 September 1997. Fumbling musical accompaniment composed and conducted by Johannes Raumonen: Johannes Raumonen (synthetizator, computer), Niina Tamminiemi (voc), Lasse Tervo (perc). Brilliant print with Finnish/Swedish subtitles of the short 1960s reissue version, 72’ at 24 fps. **** Great naive epic about the ghostly capital founded by Peter the Great. The characters are vignettes or caricatures, and the film is like a musical composition built on visual contrast, slow and fast movement, the major and the minor. The wandering clouds and the restlessly flowing Neva surround the towering monuments of autocracy. Its implacable power is shattered by war and revolution. The film’s drawback is the clumsiness of the propagandistic caricature. Visual music in itself, the film is a challenge for musical accompaniment. Last year in Pordenone I hated the absent-minded improvisation and missed great popular music themes in the Russian cycle. The Russians have no shortage of stirring ballads and marches. It would be interesting to see the original full version of this film, some sequences of which I only know as reported by Jay Leyda.

Wednesday, September 10, 1997

Nuoria ihmisiä

A-001770 / 16 / FI 1943 / Elstelä, Ossi / comedy
Nuoria ihmisiä / Young People. PC: Suomen Filmiteollisuus. P: T.J. Särkkä. D: Ossi Elstelä, Toivo Särkkä. SC: Mika Waltari. CAST: Hannes Häyrinen, Mervi Järventaus, Laila Jokimo, Kyllikki Forssell. 74’. B&w. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, on Wednesday, 10 September 1997. Brilliant safety print. BOMB. The daffy Hannes Häyrinen vehicle was written for him by the great Mika Waltari, who was not above hack work for the cinema. The comedian plays a lunatic inventor who keeps falling in love at first sight. Among the performers of the rapidly changing episodes we meet the Tango King of Finland, Olavi Virta, who sings a song written by Waltari. He is not at his best, nor anyone else of the talent involved. The film gets annoying, but the cast and the photography are enjoyable.

Max Havelaar

088771 / 16 / NL/ID 1976 / Rademakers, Fons / historical drama
Max Havelaar / Max Havelaar. PC: P.T. Mondial Motion Pictures, Fons Rademakers Productie. P+D: Fons Rademakers. Based on the novel (1860) by Multatuli. DP: Jan De Bont. CAST: Peter Faber, Sacha Bulthuis, Rutger Hauer. 167’. 1,66. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, on Wednesday, 10 September 1997. Fine print with Finnish/Swedish subtitles. Probably ***. I caught only the latter half of the stark epic about the bloody oppression and corruption of the Dutch colonialists in Java in the 1850s. Exciting photography by Jan De Bont, later famous for Basic Instinct, Twister, and Speed.

Den vita lejoninnan

100394 / 16 / SE 1996 / Berglund, Pelle / thriller
Vita lejoninnan, Den / Valkoinen naarasleijona. PC: Sveriges Television. P: Gertrud Bengtsson. D: Pelle Berglund. Based on the novel by Henning Mankell. CAST: Rolf Lassgård, Charlotte Sieling, Jesper Christensen. 104’. 1,85. DIST: Walhalla. TRANS: Janne Staffans. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, on Wednesday, 10 September 1997. *** Capetown, South Africa and Ystad, Sweden, in 1994. A South African contract killer is caught in the city of Ystad. Inspector Kurt Wallander, portrayed for the third time by Rolf Lassgård, gets to solve the international mystery. The story is exciting and the film-makers have a feeling for the several locations. The momentum is somewhat lost in the middle but rises again in the final reel when the Jackal-style assassination plan is about to be realized. The center of the action is the bear-like Wallander, a brave and clever man who is shy and clumsy with those closest to him. This is a fine Nordic contribution to the detective genre.

Tuesday, September 09, 1997

L.A. Confidential

100393 / 16 / US 1997 / Hanson, Curtis / thrillerL.A. Confidential / L.A. Confidential. PC: Monarch Enterprises, Regency Enterprises. P: Arnon Milchan. D: Curtis Hanson. Based on the novel by James Ellroy. CAST: Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell, Danny De Vito. 136’. Scope. DIST: Warner Bros. Finland. TRANS: Anna-Lisa Holmqvist. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, on Tuesday, 9 September 1997. *** Los Angeles, mid-1950s. Mickey Cohen goes to jail. The fight for the gangland throne starts. Two young LAPD cops first clash with one another, then join forces to fight corruption. The narrative is thrilling. Two strong new Australian actors lead, established stars carry supporting roles. We are asked to regard Kim Basinger ”a Veronica Lake lookalike”. The action is violent, the tempo often laid-back.

Sunday, September 07, 1997


38085 / G / US 1952 /Chaplin, Charles /drama
Limelight / Parrasvalot. PC: Celebrated Films.
P+D+SC+M: Charles Chaplin. CAST: Charles Chaplin, Claire Bloom. 140’. B&w. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, on Sunday, 7 September 1997. The print was fine. The screening ran 137’. **** I had had difficulty adjusting to Limelight because Chaplin is not funny in it. But the point of the film is that Calvero the comedian no longer makes people laugh. Even more importantly, Chaplin no longer is the center of everything. This is a film about devotion to another. Claire Bloom radiates in her difficult breakthrough role. Previously I resented the emotionality of Limelight. This time, I cried as soon as Chaplin’s ”Song of Life” started to play during the opening credits. The sets are sometimes distractingly makeshift and the screenplay is too wordy. But faces speak more eloquently than words, and the whole cast is great.

Thursday, September 04, 1997

Eurodisc Playdisc for 10.39.08

100386 / G / US etc. 1997 / various / music video
Music Video Laserdisc - Eurodisc Playlist For 10.39.08 / Musiikkikooste 10-39-08. Laserdisc. DIST: Ulkokaupat Oy. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, on Thursday, 4 September 1997.

Puff Daddy & Faith Evans: I’ll Be Missing You **

Meredith Brooks: Bitch ***

Eternal Featuring Bebe Winans: I Wanna Be the Only One ***

The Wallflowers: One Headlight ***

The Brand New Heavies: You Are the Universe **

Az Yet: Hard To Say I’m Sorry **

Michael Jackson: History ***

Sheryl Crow: A Change Would Do You Good ***

En Vogue: Whatever ***

Shola Ama: You Might Need Somebody ***

German Natdisc Playlist for 17.15.08

100387 / G / US etc. 1997 / various / music video

Music Video Laserdisc - German Natdisc Playlist For 17.15.08 / Musiikkikooste 17-15-08. Laserdisc. DIST: Ulkokaupat Oy. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, on Thursday, 4 September 1997.

Members of Mayday: Sonic Empire ***

Nalin & Kane: Beachball ***

Chilli Featuring Carrapicho: Tic, Tic, Tac **

Black Attack: Bang Bang (2 Shots in the Head!) ***

DJ Bobo: It’s My Life **

Foxy Brown: I’ll Be **

Organized Noize: Set It Off **

Sweetbox: I’ll Die For You **

RMB: Break the Silence ***

Heath Hunter & The Pleasure Company: Walking On Clouds **

Wednesday, September 03, 1997

Once a Thief

100384 / 16 / HK 1991 / Woo, John / thriller
Once a Thief / Zongheng sihai. PC: Milestone Pictures. D: John Woo. CAST: Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung, Cherie Chung. 110’. 1,85. Canton Chinese version with Finnish subtitles by DIST: Cinema Mondo. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, on Wednesday, 3 September 1997. ** Lunatic cat burglar story more resemblant of Hudson Hawk than Trouble in Paradise. The ballet-like action sequences and Chow Yun-Fat’s wheelchair dance are a joy to watch.

Tuesday, September 02, 1997


100382 / G / PL 1976 / Kieslowski, Krzysztof / drama
Blizna / The Scar / Arpi. PC: Film Polski.
D: Krzysztof Kieslowski. CAST: Franciszek Pieczka, Mariusz Dmochowski, Jerzy Stuhr. 104’. 1,66. DIST: Finnkino. TRANS: Jaana Wiik / Janne Staffans. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, on Tuesday, 2 September 1997. ** Kieslowski’s theatrical feature debut is clumsy - the second one, Amator (The Amateur, 1979), was already remarkably assured. Blizna shares the disconsolate realism of K’s documentaries. It experiments sparingly with sound and vision, and does not introduce very compelling characters. Kieslowski, himself, defined the film a case of ”socialist realism against the grain” with a major script problem. Worth seeing for Kieslowski aficionados.

Maschera di cera

100383 16 IT 1997 Stivaletti, Sergio horror
Maschera di cera / The Wax Mask / Vahanaamio. PC: A Cine 2000. P: Dario Argento. D: Sergio Stivaletti. Story: Lucio Fulci. CAST: Robert Hossein, Romina Mondello, Riccardo Serventi Longhi.
95’. 1,66. DIST: Finn Innovation Productions. Dubbed in English. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, Tuesday, 2 September 1997. BOMB. A remake of the 1932 The Mystery of the Wax Museum, already remade in 1953 as House of Wax, etc. The only new elements are nudity and gore. The director lacks talent, the actors are wooden, the photography is a far cry from the stylish heights of Bava and Argento, and the somnambulistic dubbing is the final nail on the coffin.

Monday, September 01, 1997

Conspiracy Theory

100381 12 US 1997 Donner, Richard thriller
Conspiracy Theory / Salaliittoteoria. PC: Warner Bros. P: Joel Silver. D: Richard Donner. CAST: Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart. 135’. Scope. DIST: Warner Bros. Finland. TRANS: Timo Porri. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, Monday, 1 September 1997. *** Offbeat thriller plays its Manchurian Candidate premise for comedy. Mel Gibson stars as the deranged conspiracy theorist whose worst nightmares prove true. Julia Roberts performs strongly as the agent who has to face a major case of suspension of belief. Reasons to like this: the two fascinating performances and Carter Burwell’s surprising score.