Saturday, December 17, 2011

Books on my night table this week

My night table at the rehabilitation section of the trauma department at Laakso Hospital, Helsinki, has been filled with good reading matter.

1. Sidney Lumet: Elokuvan tekemisestä (Making Movies, 1995). Translated into Finnish by Petri Stenman. Helsinki: Like, 2004. As we are launching our memorial tribute to Sidney Lumet (1924-2011) at Cinema Orion I am recovering from my traffic accident two weeks ago at the rehabilitation department of Laakso Hospital with a scenic view over Southern Helsinki. There's plenty to read, and via my laptop I can access the YLE 1 and YLE Classic channels with top music programming. Music can be good medicine. I have never read a better hands-on book on film-making than Sidney Lumet's Making Movies. It is a sober account of the utterly demanding art and craft of directing movies, a collaborative art where success is dependent on good rapport with the fellow artists in all departments. Chapters are devoted to direction, screenwriting, style, actors, cinematography, art direction and costume design, principal photography, screening rushes, editing, music and sound design, mixing, check prints, and the studios. In the Finnish edition the special advantage is a "Sidney Lumet's three careers" supplement edited by Matti Salo with unique and detailed information on Lumet's incredible career in the theatre (from the 1920s: he started as a child actor), television (1950- ), and the cinema (1938- ). I used this book as the basis for our program note on Long Day's Journey into Night, Lumet's favourite film, which he discusses memorably in the most important chapters.

2. Frank R. Cunningham: Sidney Lumet: Film and Literary Vision. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1991. A fine scholarly study on Sidney Lumet as a director of film adaptations, many of which were based on distinguished literary sources, including the major modern American playwrights Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams. I used Cunningham's book as the basis for our program note on Vu du pont / A View from the Bridge.

3. Winsor McCay: Pikku Nemo Höyhensaarilla II osa: 1907-1908 (The Complete Little Nemo in Slumberland [Vol. II]). Helsinki: Otava, 1991. Translated by Juhani Tolvanen, lettering by Jukka Heiskanen, introduction by Richard Marschall translated by Jukka Kemppinen, sleeve notes by Bo Carpelan. Timeless dream imagery by the great visionary. Winsor McCay's The Sinking of The Lusitania (1918) is the greatest silent animation in my opinion. It started to haunt me, so I started to read this miraculous comic strip.

4. Nicholas Carr: Pinnalliset: mitä internet tekee aivoillemme (The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, 2010). Translated by Antti Pietiläinen. Helsinki: Terra Cognita, 2010. A key book of our time. Printed media focuses our attention and endorses profound and creative thought. Internet encourages quick, distracted browsing. I agree. I have experienced this thrice this autumn. 1) reading David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson's printed blog book Minding Movies I realized their insights more profoundly than in reading their original blog entries. 2) Reading Pordenone's printed Le Giornate del Cinema Muto catalogue I had a more intensive engagement in the excellent program notes than in studying the pdf file of exactly the same publication online. 3) Here at Laakso hospital in the early hours I sometimes read the digital Helsingin Sanomat online, but first when I read the printed broadsheet newspaper version I really get the full sense of what is being written in these times of European and global financial turbulence.

5. Charles Baudelaire: Pahan kukat / Les Fleurs du mal (1861). Suomeksi tulkinnut / interpreted into Finnish by Antti Nylén. Turku: Sammakko 2011. Bilingual, dual page edition in French and Finnish. My French is not so very good, and I have studied Baudelaire with frequent help from the dictionary. Now for the first time the complete Les Fleurs du mal appears in Finnish. Antti Nylén has abandoned the metre, so the primary text in this edition remains the original French, which Nylén's interpretation helps to make sense of. For instance certain famous Baudelaire poems such as L'Albatros and L'Invitation au voyage convey the rhythm of the sea, but in the interpretation it is not even attempted. Thus, a remarkable edition, yet not the final word in Finnish.

6. Juri Joensuu, Marko Niemi, Harry Salmenniemi: Vastakaanon: suomalainen kokeellinen runous 2000-2010 [Anti-Canon: Finnish Experimental Poetry 2000-2010]. Helsinki: Osuuskunta Poesia, 2011. An impressive and explosive volume of 490 pages of radical questioning of poetry. If there is a tradition involved, it's Dada. In some poems words and even letters become incomprehensible, bordering on abstract visual art. The new approach has to do with the cyberworld: many poems have appeared first in the internet, in the blogosphere, for instance. Also the new world of desktop publishing and book-on-demand has made possible any approach without the filtering system of the established publishing houses. Browsing through the volume I have to laugh. I feel the energy but cannot always relate to the poems. The five introductions are eminently readable. The writers have royal fun with the incomprehension of the established, horribly withered "cultural sections" of today's print media and the dreary attempts at "bunch reviews" of new poems. On a more serious note the editors state that never in the history of Finland has so much new poetry been published as during 2000-2010. This delightful volume seems like a good introduction, although some of my favourites are missing, such as Miikka Mutanen (Mäkärä, särmä, Hindustani; Esikko, klassikko; her bold and promising project to translate Finnegans Wake into Finnish online).

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