Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Jussi Awards for 2009

The Finnish cinema awards for films premiered in 2009.

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR
Kuulustelu [The Interrogation] - P: Misha Jaari, Mark Lwoff
* Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob] - P: Lasse Saarinen, Rimbo Salomaa
Täällä Pohjantähden alla [Under the North Star] - P: Timo Koivusalo

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
* Kielletty hedelmä [Forbidden Fruit] - Dome Karukoski
Muukalainen [The Stranger] - Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää
Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob] - Klaus Härö

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Haarautuvan rakkauden talo [The House of Forking Love] - Hannu-Pekka Björkman
* Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob] - Heikki Nousiainen
Väärät juuret [Wrong Roots] - Pertti Sveholm

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Haarautuvan rakkauden talo [The House of Forking Love] - Elina Knihtilä
* Kuulustelu [The Interrogation] - Minna Haapkylä
Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob] - Kaarina Hazard

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
* Rööperi [The Red Hill] - Peter Franzén
Täällä Pohjantähden alla [Under the North Star] - Heikki Nousiainen
Täällä Pohjantähden alla [Under the North Star] - Esko Roine

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
* Kielletty hedelmä [Forbidden Fruit] - Amanda Pilke
Maata meren alla [Earth Under the Sea] - Marja Packalén
Täällä Pohjantähden alla [Under the North Star] - Miia Selin

SCREENPLAY
Kuulustelu [The Interrogation] – Olli Soinio
* Skavabölen pojat [The Boys from Skavaböle] - Antti Raivio, Jan Forsström, Zaida Bergroth
Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob] - Klaus Härö, Jaana Makkonen

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Kuulustelu [The Interrogation] - Pirjo Honkasalo
* Muukalainen [The Stranger] - Tuomo Hutri
Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob] - Tuomo Hutri

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC
Liikkumavara [The Leeway]– Ville Riippa
Muukalainen [The Stranger] - Helena Tulve
* Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob] – Dani Strömbäck

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND DESIGN
Muukalainen [The Stranger] - Micke Nyström
* Skavabölen pojat [The Boys from Skavaböle] - Janne Laine
Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob]– Kirka Sainio

ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
Haarautuvan rakkauden talo [The House of Forking Love] - Jukka Nykänen
* Muukalainen [The Stranger] - Mervi Junkkonen
Postia pappi Jaakobille [Letters to Father Jacob] – Samu Heikkilä

ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
Kuulustelu [The Interrogation] - Pentti Valkeasuo
Muukalainen [The Stranger] - Kaisa Mäkinen
* Rööperi [The Red Hill] – Pirjo Rossi

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Kuulustelu [The Interrogation] - Auli Turtiainen
* Rööperi [The Red Hill] – Tiina Kaukanen
Täällä Pohjantähden alla [Under the North Star] – Leila Jäntti

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM
* Kansakunnan olohuone [The Living-Room of the Nation] - Jukka Kärkkäinen
Liikkumavara [The Leeway] – Annika Grof
Magneettimies [The Magnetic Man] - Arto Halonen

LIFE AWARD
Lasse Pöysti, actor, director, since 70 years, still active

The Jussi Gala for 2009

The Jussi Gala took place at the Merikaapelihalli of the Kaapelitehdas on 31 Jan 2010. The place was packed with film professionals. Before the beginning I had the pleasure to meet Lasse Pöysti, with a film career of 70 years, and counting. He was maybe the only one present who had attended already the first Jussi Gala in 1944. He reminisced old greats of the Swedish theatre and cinema such as Lars Hanson, Victor Sjöström, and Ingmar Bergman. I was co-hosting Mario Van Peebles, who had arrived from Los Angeles, and was often gloriously bored, as all the talk was in Finnish only. There were two standing ovations. For Heikki Nousiainen, who after retirement is at the top of his game with four film roles last year, including two Jussi nominations, both in the supporting role of tailor Halme in Under the North Star, and in the leading role of Letters to Father Jacob. And for Lasse Pöysti, of whom every Finn has fond memories, including as a favourite teller of children's fairy-tales.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Marilyn: The Last Sessions

FR (c) 2008 Les Films d'Ici. D: Patrick Jeudy. Based on the book Michel Schneider (2006). "I'm Sorry" sung by Brenda Lee. A tv documentary. 91 min. Viewed on dvd at home, 30 Jan 2010.

There is a lot of rare authentic footage in this film, as well as fabrications and simulations.

The main source of Michel Schneider's book is John Miner, who claims to have heard tapes made by Marilyn Monroe at home free-associating for Ralph Greenson in 1962, the year she died. Miner, then deputy district attorney of Los Angeles County, says he listened to the tapes with Greenson on 6 Aug 1962. Miner claims to have made transcriptions of them later.

John Miner, now ca 90 years old, is the only witness to the claim that such tapes have existed. His transcriptions, first published in Los Angeles Times (5 Aug 2005), and subsequently in the world press, do not feel credible. They would only make sense if MM would have taped interviews for publication. It is highly improbable she would have made tapes anyway. If she had, their publication would be macabre and tasteless and against the principles of the confidentiality of the medical profession. John Miner is reportedly a decent man who wants to protect Greenson's reputation, but unfortunately his transcriptions sound like fabrications. He says that he believes that Greenson, who died in 1979, destroyed the tapes.

Although the film does not claim to present the tapes, there are illustrations of a magnetic tape, and a simulated woman's voice. There is also the MM lookalike Arline Hunter's The Apple, Knockers and the Coke nude film; Jeudy hints that it might be MM, herself.

My personal comment to this: the truth of Marilyn's last sessions we'll never know, but one can guess that it was much more terrible than is generally known, and certainly no entertainment.

MM's diagnosis confirmed by her two psychiatrists in 1962 was of a grave borderline psychic disorder that was beyond the domain of psychoanalysis. Her desperate doctors were aware that it was a matter of life and death and did their best to save her life. They were not able to follow the rules of their profession, and they jeopardized their careers to rescue a woman.

Aho & Soldan 3: The Nation

Aho & Soldan 3: Kansakunta. Compiled by Ilkka Kippola, Jari Sedergren, Erkko Lyytinen, and Jarmo Nyman. 93 min. One 35 mm print and a Digibeta. Introduced by Jari Sedergren. Viewed at Cinema Orion (DocPoint), Helsinki, 30 Jan 2010.

35 mm:
Finland kallar / Suomi kutsuu / Finland Calling. FI (1932, 1936, 1937) 1940. Ministry for Foreign Affairs. PC: Aho & Soldan. M: compiled from 22 compositions by Jean Sibelius, arr. Jussi Blomstedt, perf. Helsingin Teatteriorkesteri. 22 min. - Swedish version. - A good definition of light in a used print. - The forest, the winter, the spring, the lumberjacks, the lumber industry. - Explosions, the mining industry. - The metal industry. - Pottery, ceramic industry. - Sailing, the lakes, the sea. - Helsinki, Torni, the market square. - Beach life. - Addendum: the Winter War.

Digibeta:
Finland försvarar Nordens frihet [Finland Defends Nordic Freedom]. SE/FI 1940. Commentary read by Ella Eronen. 9 min. - In Swedish. - The Winter War.
Tasavallan presidentti puhuu 26.6.41 [The Address of the President of the Republic on 26 June 1941]. FI 1941. PC: Puolustusvoimat (Finnish Defence Forces). M: selections from Jean Sibelius. 5 min. - President Risto Ryti's address for the war between Finland and the Soviet Union that started on 25 June 1941. He talks about the arch-enemy which Finland has fought for centuries. "This is our second battle of defense. Now we have a better chance than ever for a final victory".
Sireenien kukkiessa 1941 [Lilac Time 1941]. FI 1941. PC: Valtion tiedoituslaitos [The State Information Centre]. D: Hannu Leminen. Commentary read by Hilkka Helinä and Turo Kartto. M: The Jäger March by Sibelius, etc. 10 min. - The weeks before the start of the war on 25 June 1941. - The Soviet Embassy evicted. - The German General Erfurt pays a visit to the graves of the brothers in arms. "That brotherhood is still going strong". - Midsummer at the Observatory Hill. - The war breaks.
"Elämä alkaa taas Karjalassa". Kuvaus sotilashallintoalueelta. Puolustusvoimien katsaus 42 ["Life Begins in Karelia Again". An Account from the Military Command District. Finnish Defence Forces Newsreel 42]. FI 1942. D: Björn Soldan. ED: Heikki Aho. M: Jussi Blomstedt. Commentary read by Kaarlo Marjanen. 19 min. - Devastation in Karelia: ruins, refugees, reconstruction. Noble music, a calm tone in the commentary.
Lappi rakentaa 1-3 [The Reconstruction of Lapland 1-3]. FI 1946. Maatalousministeriö / Asutusasiain osasto; Lapin Maakuntaliitto. PC: Aho & Soldan. M: selections from Jean Sibelius. Featuring Kaarlo Hillilä, Emil Luokka, Veikko Vennamo, Alvar Aalto. 21 min. - Devastation in Lapland. The retreating Wehrmacht burned and destroyed everything they could in the Lapland War that started in September 1944. - Ruins. -  Roads, railways, and railway stations destroyed, mines everywhere. - The faces of children. - 90.000 people had been evacuated, 48.000 into Sweden. Reconstruction is much more difficult. - Life below the hunger limit. - Alvar Aalto plans the new Rovaniemi. - Veikko Vennamo on settlement. - Dams and power plants need to be re-built. - This film was for me the discovery of this programme, an important Finnish entry to the Germania anno zero theme.
Kaikkien aikojen vappu [The All-Time First of May]. FI 1946. PC: Aho & Soldan. SC and reader of his commentary: Arijoutsi. 8 min. - Incorporating vintage Oscar Lindelöf footage, reportedly from 1917, 1913, and 1906 (ending with the oldest images of great partying).

An excellent and deeply moving programme of great historical value.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Aho & Soldan 2: Claire Aho

Compiled by Ilkka Kippola, Jari Sedergren, Erkko Lyytinen, and Jarmo Nyman. 79 min. A Digibeta and one 16 mm print. Viewed at Cinema Orion (DocPoint), Helsinki, 29 Jan 2010.

Introduced by Jari Sedergren, interviewing Claire Aho, born 2 Nov 1925, who has come from Stockholm for this tribute. The bright artist is in good spirits.

The Claire Aho compilation on Digibeta:
[Claire ja elokuvakamera] [Claire and the Movie Camera] (1950), footage on Claire Aho shot by her father Heikki Aho, 3 min [with Freeplaymusic 2010]
Elokuvaaja kesälomalla [The Cinematographer's Summer Holiday] (1936), excerpts including footage on Heikki Aho the avid fisherman, the young Claire Aho clearing nets, and her grandmother, the painter Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, excerpt 5 min [with Freeplaymusic 2010]
Laulu meren kaupungista [A Song About the City by the Sea] (1950), D: Heikki Aho, DP: Claire Aho, based on a poem by Toivo Lyy, recited by Ella Eronen, music a Sibelius compilation, 11 min
Suomi - värien maa [Finland - a Land of Colours] (1951), Ministry for Foreign Affairs, PC: Aho & Soldan, DP: Claire Aho, pioneering colour views of Finland, excerpts 26 min
Muistojen kisakesä 1952 [The Memorable Summer of the Olympics 1952] (1956), Olympia Filmi, one of the cinematographers: Claire Aho, excerpts 23 min. - Fascinating aspects on the biggest Olympics so far, in Helsinki during the Cold War, with the Soviet Union participating for the first time, their Olympic Village decorated with a big portrait of Stalin. This international event was very important in Finland, which was struggling successfully to emerge from the devastation of the war and its bitter losses. Coca Cola came to Finland. But paradoxically, in Helsinki Finland lost irrevocably its status as a major country of Olympic winners (made possible also by the exclusion of many countries so far).
...
On 16 mm:
Jean Sibelius kodissaan [Jean Sibelius at Home] (1962), Sibelius-Seura esittää, P: Martti Vuorenjuuri, Claire Aho, 12 min. - Nb. there are three different Aho & Soldan films by the same name (1927, 1945, and 1962). This is the colour film, incorporating footage from the two previous ones. - I saw this film for the first time, and loved it. The excerpts from the letters and notebooks of Sibelius are selected well. - The composition is like a butterfly. If you touch it with your fingers, something is lost. Why I had to move out from Helsinki in order to concentrate on composing. - The reader is Kaarlo Halttunen. - The music was recorded in 1958, with Paavo Berglund conducting, during the Sibelius Weeks (nowadays known as Helsinki Festival). - Unfortunately, the print has turned red, and the film would be worthy for restoration.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Aho & Soldan 1: The Spectrum of Genres

Aho & Soldan 1: Lajien kirjo. Compiled by Ilkka Kippola, Jari Sedergren, Erkko Lyytinen, and Jarmo Nyman. 80 min. A Digibeta with Freeplaymusic. Viewed at Cinema Orion (DocPoint), 28 Jan 2010.

Introduced by Ilkka Kippola and Jari Sedergren. In the presence of Claire Aho and Jussi Brofeldt.

Outokumpu (1933) 22 min
Raudan jalostusta Suomessa [Iron Refining in Finland] (1934) (a fragment) 21 min
Atlas (1931) 13 min
Kaakko-Junnon parannustaikoja [Kaakko-Junno's Magic Cure] 12 min
I.S.K. 40 v. riemujuhlanäyttely Pieksämäellä [The I.S.K. 40th Anniversary Jubileum Country Fair] 12 min [I.S.K. = Itä-Suomen Karjanjalostusyhdistys = The Cattle Breeding Society of Eastern Finland]
Partiointia pakkasessa [Patrolling in the Cold] (1938) 6 min

The great variety of the output of the Aho & Soldan company. The source materials are extremely difficult, and I'd look forward to seeing these works on film, but Kippola, Sedergren, and Nyman had done a great work with this compilation.

Moana

Moana, auringon poika / Moana, solens son. US 1926. D: Robert J. Flaherty. 97 min. The Monica Flaherty sound version (1980). Print: Sami van Ingen, 16 mm (the Monica Flaherty sound version only exists on 16 mm). Viewed at Cinema Orion (DocPoint), Helsinki, 28 Jan 2010.

The first public screening in Finland of the Monica Flaherty sound version of Moana.

Introduced by Sami van Ingen. He told the long story of the production of Moana and of Monica Flaherty's work to produce a soundtrack to it from original Samoan songs, music, and sounds.

Revisited the vision of the paradise island produced when it was still just barely possibly to reconstruct the traditional way of life of the Samoans. A dream-like reconstruction with profound roots in ancient reality, in ways of life completely different from modernity.

See my previous Moana remarks on 9 Feb 2009.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tempo Film Concert

The films, a selection from Aho & Soldan:
Tempo (1934) 23 min
Savutupien mailta [From the Land of the Chimneyless Huts] (1936) 8 min
Malmin lentokentän vihkiäiset [Inauguration of the Malmi Airport] (1938) 5 min
Aulanko - Hämeenlinna (1932) 9 min
Kun elohopea laskee [When the Mercury Sinks] (1933) 9 min
Raudanjalostus Suomessa [Iron Refining in Finland] (1934) 7 min
Suomen puu- ja paperiteollisuus [The Finnish Paper and Wood Industry] (one part) (1930) 11 min
Total 65 min
Compiled by Ilkka Kippola, Jari Sedergren, and Erkko Lyytinen.
New prints from KAVA (2010) viewed at Bio Rex (Doc Point Aho & Soldan Gala Concert), 27 Jan 2010

Music: The Five Corners Quintet. Jukka Eskola, Teppo Mäkynen, Antti Lötjönen, Mikael Jakobsson, and Timo Lassy. - Saxophone, trumpet, double bass, drums, piano.

A wonderful tribute to Aho & Soldan with an inspired performance by The Five Corners Quintet, a jazz approach to the spirit of the 1930s.

The Land

US 1941. PC: The Agricultural Adjustment Administration of the United States Department of Agriculture. D+SC+DP: Robert J. Flaherty. Ass: Irving Lerner. M: Richard Arnell. ED: Helen van Dongen. Commentary read by Robert J. Flaherty. 42 min. A BFINA print viewed at Cinema Orion (DocPoint), Helsinki, 27 Jan 2010.

Flaherty's sole work of social criticism appeared belatedly during WWII. It is a grand vision of the state of agriculture in the U.S.A. after the devastating Depression of the 1930s. A main topic is erosion. The loss of the soil. In every state. This is a parallel work to The Grapes of Wrath: the dust bowls, the migrant workers, the effective farming where there are four crops a year, the alienation of labour, the alienation of man from the land. The film ends with images of the mechanical world. The music is too heavy. The images are unforgettable.

Industrial Britain

GB 1931. Gaumont-British. PC: Empire Marketing Board Film Unit. P: John Grierson, Robert J. Flaherty. 22 min. Print: British Film Institute National Archive. Viewed at Cinema Orion (DocPoint), Helsinki, 27 Jan 2010.

Revisited: a vision of the tradition of skilled labour, traditionally in arts and crafts, now in heavy industry, in Flaherty's opinion. This is about labour as love. The emphasis on quality, the tradition of skill. The vision of unalienated labour must have seemed very strange at the age of Depression. Flaherty blithely ignores the contemporary crisis of industry. His perspective is timeless.

The Twenty-Four Dollar Island

US 1926. P+D: Robert J. Flaherty. Unseen Cinema Dvd with music by Donald Sosin (35 mm print was not available) (this version based on material from Nederlands Filmmuseum, Robert and Frances Flaherty Film Study Center, and Gosfilmofond), 13 min, viewed at Cinema Orion (DocPoint), Helsinki, 27 Jan 2010.

The history of Manhattan, starting in 1626 when Dutch merchants established New Amsterdam having bought the island with 24 dollars from the Indians. Flaherty's attempt in city symphony. Montages of the harbour, the ships, construction sites, skyscrapers. A vision of the mechanical, urban, man-built world.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Man of Aran

Aransaarten mies / Mannen från Aran. GB (c) 1934 Gainsborough Pictures. P: Michael Balcon. D+SC+DP: Robert J. Flaherty. M: John Greenwood. ED: John Goldman. FEATURING: Colman "Tiger" King (A Man of Aran), Maggie Dirrane (His Wife), Michael Dirrane (Their Son), Pat Mullin (Shark Hunter). 77 min. Print: Cinemateket / Svenska Filminstitutet. Viewed at Cinema Orion (DocPoint), Helsinki, 26 Jan 2010

Revisited the great film about people facing the elements on the islands of Aran, to the West of Ireland, in the special circumstances of which the storm waves of the Atlantic Ocean reach the sky. The film was criticized in its time of neglecting contemporary concerns and problems, but Flaherty had a completely different perspective.

It is a reconstructed vision based on the timeless theme of the battle of survival. The islanders perform a family and reconstruct ancient ways to catch basking sharks. There is Melvillean dignity in the shark sequence.

A poetic vision with a sense of the elements and a story of perseverance.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Just One Kiss - The Fall of Ned Kelly (Film Concert)

Just One Kiss - The Fall of Ned Kelly. An expansive cinema work by Sami van Ingen. FI 2009. PC: Jinx Oy. P+D+SC+ED: Sami van Ingen. A meta-film based on The Story of the Kelly Gang (John Tait, Nevin Tait, AU 1906). Thanks: National Film and Sound Archive (Canberra). 35 mm. 47+ min. Film Concert at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 Jan 2010 (Finnish premiere)

The new experimental feature film by Sami van Ingen has already been shown in Canada (Victoria, Toronto), Belgium (Mechelen), and Edinburgh. Each time the music has been different.

In Helsinki, we heard Nieminen & Litmanen. Sami Nieminen and Juha Litmanen played on a Hammond organ (1953 vintage) and a drum kit.

Just One Kiss is Sami van Ingen's experimental reconstruction of the first feature length narrative film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, co-directed by the Australian brothers John Tait and Nevin Tait in 1906. The film is lost, and based on the very short surviving fragments and the synopsis Sami van Ingen has constructed a playful meta-text replacing the missing film with found footage.

Nieminen & Litmanen responded to the film with their live performance of groove, lounge, jazz, and soul music. A joyful experience.

Bronenosets Potyomkin (Film Concert)

SU 1926. D: Sergei Eisenstein. Deutsche Kinemathek (Berlin) restored version (2005) /18 fps/ 70 min, with e-subtitles in Finnish by Kirsi-Annele Vähälä. Film concert at the Finlandia House, 22 Jan 2010.

Introduction before the concert: Jarko Tirkkonen at the Elissa-Sali.

Music: a new compilation by Frank Strobel from symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovitch: especially No. 11 (The Year 1905), but also No. 4, 5, 8, and 10.

Performed by: The Radio Symphony Orchestra of Finland with 92 musicians.

A magnificent surprise, fresh musical insight into the familiar classic. The music was great, but with the full orchestra there was a little too much light on the screen. I look forward to hear more of Frank Strobel.

Finnish Film Foundation: Opening of the Film Year

Speeches by
Irina Krohn, CEO of the Finnish Film Foundation
Aino Sinnemäki, Minister of Labour
Timo Koivusalo, film director
The house was packed with the who's who of the Finnish film scene.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nanook of the North

Nanook, pakkasen poika / Nanook, köldens son. US/FR (c) 1922 Pathé Exchange. PC: Révillon Frères. D+SC+DP+ED: Robert J. Flaherty. Featuring: Allakariallak (Nanook), Nyla (Nyla, Nanook's wife, the smiling one), Cunayou (Cunayou), Allee (Nanook's son), Allegoo (Nanook's son), Comock.1534 m /20 fps/ 67 min. A 1968 SEA (KAVA) print with Finnish subtitles by Eeva Kurki, source: British Film Institute / National Film Library, duplicated from a 1920s release print. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 19 Jan 2010.

Revisited the first 20 minutes of this immortal film. It is a loving reconstruction of the ancient ways of life of the native people from the North of the Hudson Bay. The whole family and the dog packed into a kayak. The huskies. The inland, the land of death, if there is no catch of deer. Fishing.

The Flahertyan hallmark: a feeling for the joy of life.

The Pottery Maker

The Pottery Maker. An American Episode of the XX Century. US (c) 1925 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. D: Robert J. Flaherty. A documentary film. /18 fps/ 16 min. Print: MoMA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 19 Jan 2010.

A print with a beautiful definition of light. Slight water damage signs from the source for a short while.

A classic Flahertyan documentary film.

Synopsis: The Greenwich house pottery. One of the earliest crafts, and one of the first of the arts. The potter's wheel as it has been used since thousands of years. - A grandmother and a little girl visit the potter. - The girl breaks the still moist clay vase by accident. - The potter starts from the start. He prepares the clay. He wedges the moist clay to take our air bubbles. Then we see how he works at the potter's wheel. He lets the clay rise and pushes it down. The clay is slowly shaped into a vase. - Glaze is poured over the dried vases. The vases are packed in the kiln and fired. The potter lays bricks to close the oven. - The little girl gets a little vase as a goodbye gift.

The art of the hand. The total concentration of the craftsman. The Flahertyan philosophy: to catch the person when he is totally immersed in what he is doing.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Veikko Huovinen: Havukka-ahon ajattelija (novel)

A Finnish novel. Porvoo / Helsinki: WSOY 1952. I read the tenth edition from 1958.

Re-read the most famous novel of Veikko Huovinen (1927-2009), this reading inspired by Kari Väänänen's film. Veikko Huovinen is one of my favourite writers in any language, and he belongs to the special brand of Finnish writers whose work is based on word magic. They create new words and expressions which have onomatopoietic, magical, almost carnal relations to the things they describe. They are also interested in animism. Yet they also have a sober and humoristic viewpoint. Writers in this tradition include Aleksis Kivi, Pentti Haanpää, and Veikko Huovinen. They are prose writers whose language has special qualities of poetry. I don't think there has ever been a good translation of any of their works, and the task of translation may be impossible.

Konsta Pylkkänen, Veikko Huovinen's favourite character, appeared in three books of his, the last one written six years before his death. In the deep forest he thinks big thoughts. He is a free wanderer but not a hermit. In his observations there is a view of the history of Finland from the great hunger years of the 1860s (Aleksis Kivi's era) to the present day of the nuclear danger. His mother had died of hunger during the Great Depression.

Despite the gravity of his basic themes Veikko Huovinen can also be enjoyed as pure word gravy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Havukka-ahon ajattelija

[Konsta (name of the novel in translation)]. FI (c) 2009 Matila Röhr Productions. P: Marko Röhr, Mikko Tenhunen. D+SC: Kari Väänänen - based on the novel by Veikko Huovinen (1952). DP: Timo Salminen -colour. Aerial camera operator red stab c: Peter Degerfeldt. Digital intermediate 2K: Generator Post. AD: Markku Pätilä. COST: Johanna Heikkilä. Make-up: Terhi Väänänen. M: Pessi Levanto. S: Jyrki Rahkonen. ED: Benjamin Mercer. LOC: Kuhmo. CAST: Kai Lehtinen (Konsta Pylkkänen), Ilkka Heiskanen (Mooses Pessi), Hannu-Pekka Björkman (Magister Ojala), Tommi Korpela (Magister Kronberg), Konsta Pöyliö (little Nikke from Havukka), Vesa Vierikko (Ooke Iso-Kilpukka), Aake Kalliala (Kuoliaaksinaurattaja [= the one who can make you die of laughter]), Kati Outinen (Kuoliaaksinaurattajan tytär [= the daughter of the one who can make you die of laughter]), Juhani Niemelä (master of the house of Ukonkuivuuvaara), Maria Aro (mistress of the house of Ukonkuivuuvaara), Kari Väänänen (Severi). 110 min. A Nordisk Film release, print without subtitles, viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 15 Jan 2010 (day of the Helsinki premiere; the national premiere was some weeks earlier in cities of the North)

Obviously from a digital intermediate. There is a loss of natural feeling of colour and fine soft detail.

Veikko Huovinen's Havukka-ahon ajattelija is one of the most beloved Finnish novels, and Kari Väänänen has succeeded in his interpretation very well. The film is faithful to the novel. The main arrangement is that the role of Little Nikke has been expanded, and Konsta's long monologues have been turned into dialogues between Konsta and Nikke.

Veikko Huovinen has inspired Kari Väänänen to create a humoristic, pantheistic film that is set in the forests of Kuhmo, in the region of Kainuu, in Eastern Finland. The strong feeling for nature is one of the most appealing things in this film.

The character of Konsta Pylkkänen belongs to the lumberjack tradition of the Finnish literature and cinema. But Konsta is completely original. He is a slightly eccentric character. He is an expert lumberjack, forester, hunter, and fisher. He knows the nature very well. He is also a philosopher and raconteur who likes to contemplate the mysteries of the universe. Väänänen brings the dimensions of the microcosmos and the macrocosmos to the story in humoristic special sequences and dream sequences.

The actors are first-rate and authentic in their roles from the viewpoint of a Helsinki-dweller.

One omission I regret. The story takes place in the late 1940s or the early 1950s, and Konsta is deeply concerned about the nuclear catastrophe. This theme, organic to the novel and to the work of the committed pacifist Veikko Huovinen, is missing from the film. Also the episode with Konsta planning a nuclear shelter in the caves has been omitted. And the detail of Kronberg's missing finger (lost during the war).

The name of the novel and the film is untranslatable, but a clumsy literal translation would be "The Thinker from Hawk Meadow". The theme of the hawk is central. "The thought is free as a hawk" is one of Konsta's mottoes. The sense of freedom and of the widening of perspectives is conveyed visually in the film via magnificent aerial views (but presented with lossy digital compression).

I predict that this film will become an evergreen in Finland. For the non-Finnish viewer it can be warmly recommended, with the reservation that the film is language-driven. Almost every sentence is language gravy, impossible to translate.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Väärät juuret

[Falska rötter] / Twisted Roots. FI (c) 2009 Edith Film. P: Liisa Penttilä. D: Saara Saarela. SC: Selja Ahava-Foster, Saara Saarela. DP: Rauno Ronkainen - colour - 2,35:1 - digital intermediate 2K: Generator Post / Tommi Gröhn. AD: Anu Maja. COST: Tiina Kaukanen. Make-up: Marjut Samulin. M: Marko Nyberg. S: Janne Laine. ED: Harri Ylönen. Production manager: Mark Lwoff. LOC: Oulu. CAST: Pertti Sveholm (Mikko Kuura), Milka Ahlroth (Mirjami), Niko Saarela (Sakari), Emma Louhivuori (Pihla), Silva Robbins (Lumi), Johannes Holopainen (Kosmo), Vieno Saaristo (grandmother Maikki Savio), Antti Litja (grandfather), Jarkko Pajunen (Janne), Meri Nenonen (Marlene). 99 min. Screener dvd from Edith Film with English subtitles by Aretta Vähälä viewed at home, Helsinki, 9 Jan 2010.

I caught on dvd this movie which I had missed during its theatrical run.

Mikko Kuura (Pertti Sveholm), owner of an antique store that has belonged a hundred years to the family, has been diagnozed with Huntington's disease, a genetic disorder which causes dementia. In old times it was called "the dancing disease", and its carriers were burned as witches. Only Mikko's wife Mirjami (Milka Ahlroth) is aware of it, and Mikko finds it impossible to tell their two children. There is a 50% risk for the children to inherit the disease.

But everybody else has their secrets, as well. Mirjami has not told about a 150.000 E collateral she's taken for her rascal brother, which threatens to collapse the family's finances. The daugher Pihla (Emma Louhivuori) fears she's pregnant. The adopted Chinese daughter Lumi (Silva Robbins) has "a China syndrome" of her own: she starts to dig a tunnel into China. Mikko's grown-up son, the peacekeeper Sakari (Niko Saarela) from a previous marriage, has not told about his child out of wedlock.

Top actors. Top cinematographer Rauno Ronkainen catches wintry visions around Christmas and the New Year. Wonderful music by Marko Nyberg brings a feeling of elevation to the somber subject.

Unfortunately the direction by Saara Saarela fails to achieve momentum.

Magneettimies

Magnetmannen / The Magnetic Man. FI (c) 2009 Art Films. P+D+SC: Arto Halonen - based on the poems, letters, and writings of Pekka Streng. DP: Hannu-Pekka Vitikainen. AN: Hanna-Leena Kartano. S: Heikki Innanen. ED: Joona Louhivuori. Documentary film, colour, widescreen, 79 min

Pekka Streng (lyrics and composition): "Gilgameš", "Kaukana", "Auringon lapsi", "Olen eläin", "Makea Sandra", "Pitkä kieli", "Takaisin virtaan", "Puutarhassa", "Kylmä kaupunki", "Pelle", "Sammakko Sim", "Sinua ikävöin", "Luumupuupoika", "Kanttorinpoika Max", "Keijut", "Sisältäni portin löysin", "Olen erilainen", "Matkalaulu", "Olet onnellinen", "Roope hattu", "Emmauslaulu", "Ahnehtiva Kud", "Katsele yössä", "Muumipeikon tassuttelu".

"Perhonen" (comp. Pekka Streng, lyrics from a Czech children's poem, Finnish translator Eeva-Liisa Manner), "Suruperhonen" (comp. Pekka Streng, lyrics Arja Kanerva), "Mutta minä lähden" (comp. Pekka Streng, lyrics Semjon Kirsanov, Finnish translator Markku Lahtela), "Sinä aamuna" (comp. Pekka Streng, lyrics Arja Kanerva).

"Puutarhassa" perf. Emma Salokoski & Olympia-Orkesteri.
"Sisältäni portin löysin" perf. Vesa-Matti Loiri; Eero Raittinen; Ritva Oksanen & Pedro Hietanen; Outi Popp, Paavo Kerosuo & Jiri Kuronen; Lasse Aitokari, Sami Lamppu & Pilvi Hämäläinen.
"Katsele yössä" perf. Olavi Uusivirta, Jarkko Martikainen, Kärtsy Hatakka, Pauli Hanhiniemi, Emma Salokoski.

Olavi Uusivirta (the voice of Pekka Streng).

Featuring: Matti Streng (father), Sonja Lehto (sister, album cover artist), Juuso Salokoski (cousin), Lasse Streng (brother), Jori Sivonen (friend, composer), Vilho Sääksjärvi (friend, photographer), Sinikka Haapanen (friend), Jukka Lindfors (webmaster of www.pekkastreng.com), Emma Salokoski (artist, Juuso Salokoski's daughter), Irmeli Isomäki (friend), Keijo Siekkinen (friend, writer), Joonia Streng (son), Juha Hurme (director, screenwriter and writer inspired by Pekka Streng), Calle Lindholm (colleague, artist), Jukka Hakoköngäs (producer of the posthumous Pekka Streng album), Jonna Tervomaa, Atte Blom (co-founder of Love Records), Tapio Korjus (impresario, conducted the only Pekka Streng interview), Vesa-Matti Loiri, Kaarina Valoaalto (writer, friend), Nanna Varrio (schoolgirl, a Pekka Streng aficionado), Timo Kämäräinen, Mikko Oinonen, Jukka Perko, Jasse Hast, Arto Halonen.

Screener dvd from Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus viewed at home, Helsinki, 9 Jan 2010.

I missed the theatrical screenings of this deeply felt documentary film by Arto Halonen on Pekka Streng (1948-1975, died young of cancer), talented Finnish artist of progressive rock, who published only two albums, Magneettimiehen kuolema [The Death of the Magnetic Man] (1970), with the band Tasavallan Presidentti, and Kesämaa [Summerland] (1972), with Olli Ahvenlahti and Hasse Walli among others. In 2009, the posthumous album Unen maa [Dreamland] was produced based on demo tape recordings with Olympia-Orkesteri.

Inspired by Pekka Streng's lyrics and music, the documentary is built on reminiscences of his family and friends. Arto Halonen has a sensitive touch, and he has managed to create an atmosphere of confidence in his interviews.

I'm not a Pekka Streng connoisseur, but I have always respected his songs such as "Sisältäni portin löysin" [I Found a Gate Within].

The film succeeds in the essential: the spiritual dimension.

http://www.magneettimies.com/english

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Täynnä Tarmoa

[Full av Iver] / [Full of Vigour]. FI (c) 2008 Tuotantoyhtiö Kuvaputki Oy. P+D+SC: Oskari Pastila. DP: Jarmo Tahvanainen, Janke Öhman. Colour definition: Juha Laine (Generator Post). Graphic design: Eevaliina Rusanen, Miikka Poutiainen. M: Shinge Joonas Shigeki Tamura. S: Kimmo Vänttinen. ED: Jukka Nykänen. A documentary film. LOC: Porvoo. Featuring: The Porvoon Tarmo basketball team and its foreign guest players, coaches, guardians, and fans. 72 min. Print: Bio Rex Distribution, English dialogue sections with Finnish subtitles, viewed at Cinema Orion, 7 Jan 2010.

The title is a wordplay. "Tarmo" is the name of the team, and the word means "vigour". "Täynnä Tarmoa" means both "full of vigour" and "fed up with Tarmo".

Elias Anhela, our doorman, commented that this film is the Spinal Tap of basketball. But, incredibly, this is an actual documentary film. It is an amazing account of gross incompetence in basketball management. Bafflingly, the people featuring in this film have apparently given their consent to film the most embarrassing moments... the new manager is a walking definition of dishonesty... he lacks elementary budgetary skills... the manager and the new coach are not on speaking terms... they read about each other's essential decisions from the newspaper... but they slander each other... black athletes from Africa and America are grossly exploited... nobody is responsible for their budget... their lodgings are uninhabitable, or the rental agreement has been terminated... the squirming sponsors want to cut their participation... beautiful female basketball fans waste little time in checking out new athletes... fiscal fraud is chronical... cooked account books are exposed...

One of the documentary films that prove that truth is stranger than fiction.

In 2006-2007 the quota restricting foreign players in Finnish basketball was abolished. Porvoon Tarmo doubled its budget and hired a new manager and a new coach.

The new manager also commissioned Oskari Pastila's team to produce a reality tv series about the team. The series never happened, and maybe this film is the vengeance of Pastila's team.

The film is not a real sports documentary, and it neglects to tell that Porvoon Tarmo, which had so far been a minor team, actually succeeded well despite all this.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Lotat

[Lottorna] / [The Lottas]. FI (c) 1995 Kinotar Oy. P: Lasse Saarinen. D: Taru Mäkelä. SC: Taru Mäkelä, Irma Taina. DP: Jouko Seppälä - colour - 1,66:1 - shot on 16 mm - printed on 35 mm. M: Pekka Sirén. S: Ulla Turunen. ED: Irma Taina. Featuring: Aino Meriläinen, Aini Kaprio, Laina Ojaniemi-Hakala, Martta Arffman, Eeva Tapio. 50 min. The Kinotar 35 mm print was temporarily missing, and we had to screen a Digibeta without subtitles. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 6 Jan 2010.

The final film of our tribute to Lotta Svärd, the Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women (1918-1944). Lotta Svärd and other women's organizations were indispensable in saving Finland in the hell of WWII.

The five interviews with Aino Meriläinen (catering lotta), Aini Kaprio (air defense lotta), Laina Ojaniemi-Hakala (signal corps lotta), Martta Arffman (medical lotta), and Eeva Tapio (young lotta) cover a lot of ground. There is room to get profound, to the hard and terrible experiences.

Aino Meriläinen transported a field kitchen between the lines on the front, and the stunned enemy ceased fire. Aini Kaprio tells she was too young to be afraid, but a woman changes after childbirth.

Laina Ojaniemi-Hakala reports that sometimes the lottas had to beware of their own soldiers, who threatened with violence having gotten drunk. She also tells that there was an initial shock at the start of the actual front duty, a hardening and brutalization even for the lottas.

Martta Arffman conveys unforgettably the task of facing the huge piles of corpses which needed to be washed, identified, and shipped home. Corpses with limbs missing, faces blown away. Reason ceased to function, but one has to get used to anything.

Eeva Tapio was a young lotta, only 13 years. The age limit for actual lottas was 16 years, but she was accepted to the emergency room, as her father was a doctor. She fainted immediately, and soon again at an amputation, but she decided to stay. Among the tasks of the lottas was to write soldiers' letters by dictation. There was little lament in those letters.

It all unwound first when it was over. There were many nightmares, even much later. But one rather smiled. It was the end of childhood.

The artistic level of this documentary film is high. The decision to focus on these five women is well-considered. There is enough time for depth. The faces come alive in the cinematography.

Suomenlahden sisaret

FI 2009. Imbi Paju's new groundbreaking documentary film Suomenlahden sisaret was first screened in the opening seminar of our Lotta Svärd series curated by Tiina Suutala, and in the final show of the series, on the Holiday of Epiphany, it was screened again to an appreciative audience. Memorable interviews with Elisabeth Rehn, Kyllikki Villa, Hanna Eckert, Greta Kupiainen, Ulla-Marita Rajakaltio, Helvi Hödejärv, Laila Auer, and Helmi Visnapuu.
Digibeta from Film Magica with Finnish subtitles, 55 min, at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 6 Jan 2010.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Catarina Ryöppy: Time - Borders (exhibition)

Exhibition at the Amos Anderson Art Museum, 13.11.2009–4.1.2010. Viewed 2 Jan 2010.

From the official presentation: "Catarina Ryöppy layers moving images and still photos with objects creating singular settings and moods. Mysterious scenes materialize as the past intertwines with the present. Her works examine concepts such as longing, marginalization and transience, and form poetic entities that elude fixed readings."

"The exhibition comprises four installations. The latest piece Time – Borders, photographed and shot in Alaska, takes borders as its theme. Borders – tangible or conceptual – are endemic to human existence. By building unyielding barriers we often create antagonism; someone or something is excluded. But a life without boundaries falls on its own absurdity.  "In Time – Borders... birds specifically symbolize freedom and independence. Their flight through blue eternity seems to be unrestricted. Yet they congregate to form large flocks, in which individuality disappears and merges with others. Apparent freedom ultimately proves to be a prelude to unity based on diversity. This is also the case in human existence. Differences to the contrary, other people are a necessary part of meaningful life", writes art critic Leena Kuumola in the accompanying publication."

"Catarina Ryöppy (b. 1939) lives and works in Helsinki. She studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts (1957–1961) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and debuted in 1960 at the Young Artists' Exhibition, Helsinki as well as at the Salon des Jeunes, Lausanne. Her works are represented in Finnish collections such as Helsinki City Art Museum, Museum for Contemporary Art Kiasma, Amos Anderson Art Museum, and international collections such as Ecole Cantonale des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne and the Pablo Neruda collection, Prague."

A meditative experience, my first encounter with Catarina Ryöppy. The exhibition was accompanied by a fine book with an essay by Marja-Terttu Kivirinta: "Humanity That Breathes Through Pictures. Disappeared, Lost, Or Otherwise Absent".

Friday, January 01, 2010

Rachel, Rachel

Rachel, Rachel - haluan rakastaa / Rachel, Rachel - jag vill älska. US (c) 1968 Kayos Productions. P+D: Paul Newman. SC: Stewart Stern - based on the novel A Jest of God (CA 1966) by Margaret Laurence. DP: Gayne Rescher - Technicolor - 1,85:1. AD: Robert Gundlach. COST: Domingo A. Rodriguez. Make-up: Robert Phillipe. Hair: Colleen Callaghan. M: Jerome Morosss. S: Alan Heim. ED: Dede Allen. LOC: Bethel, Connecticut. CAST: Joanne Woodward (Rachel Cameron), James Olson (Nick Kazlik), Kate Harrington (mother Cameron), Estelle Parsons (Calla Mackie), Donald Moffat (Niall Cameron), Terry Kiser (preacher), Frank Corsaro (Hector Jonas). 101 min. Released by Warner Bros. with Finnish / Swedish subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion (Paul Newman in memoriam), Helsinki, 1 Jan 2010.

A heavily used vintage print, complete, with colour (real Technicolor?) intact.

The story of an adult woman's awakening, growing up. Ein Bildungsroman.

I saw for the first time Paul Newman's first film as a director; he directed six. Rachel, Rachel is completely different from the mainstream films in which Newman starred. It is un-melodramatic, intimate, psychological, sensitive, non-commercial. Constantly through the film there are childhood memories, dreams, and visions.

In a little country town the 35-year-old Rachel is a teacher at an elementary school. Although a teacher, she is also herself still partially stuck in the world of childhood.

During the summer vacation, her colleague Calla invites Rachel to a revival house, a tabernacle, where the preacher teaches that we are all alone, cut off, and we all need love. Against her will, the shocked Rachel is invited to the circle of believers who hold hands, hug each other, and declare that they need love.

The next shock is Calla's quick revelation of her lesbian affection. This is directly but discreetly handled. The women soon arrive at reconciliation after Rachel's rejection.

The third shock comes in the form of a direct pick-up invitation of a male teacher colleague from the city, Nick, who has come to spend a part of his holiday in the country. Nick and Rachel are childhood friends, and they have not seen each other in a very long time. Nick invites Rachel to the movies, to a bar, and to a night of lovemaking.

Rachel turns out to be a virgin. Nick treats her with respect, although she is clumsy during the first night of love-making. "It's never so good the first time". The next time is beautiful. But Nick leaves the town without saying good-bye.

Rachel thinks she is pregnant and goes to the doctor's, but instead she has a harmless cyst. This is the definitive shock, as Rachel had already decided to keep the baby.

In the conclusion Rachel decides to move to Oregon. Her mother is devastated but joins her. During the closing credits we see Rachel with a little child on a seashore.

Memorable in the film:
1. Joanne Woodward's performance as the grown-up woman who experiences a complete change in her life.
2. Estelle Parsons as Calla. Lesbianism is treated sincerely. Rachel congratulates Calla for "pushing things out of their cages". Rachel's final words to Calla: "I hope you'll find what you want".
3. The revival house sequence is powerful. The tremendous force of religion is evident.
4. Rachel's initiation to love-making is beautifully depicted in two very different sequences.
5. As a teacher, Rachel has been taking care of "temporary children"... "but so are everyone's".
6. The music by Jerome Moross is sensitive in the same way as Elmer Bernstein's for To Kill a Mockingbird.
7. The editing by Dede Allen.