Tuesday, May 31, 2011

George Eastman House opens an online cinematheque

George Eastman House has opened an online cinematheque, reports Luke McKernan on his excellent The Bioscope website. Exciting stuff including a Georges Méliès film and a condensed version of the legendary German fantasy film Homunculus (1916), the full version of which is lost. Luke's comments are worth reading!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Miral

Miral / Miral. FR/IL/IT/IN © 2010 Pathé, Eran Riklis Productions, Canal+, CinéCinéma, Eagle Pictures, India Take One Productions [tbc]. EX: François-Xavier Decraene. P: Jon Kilik. D: Julian Schnabel. SC: Rula Jebreal - based on her novel La strada dei fiori di Miral (2005). DP: Eric Gautier. PD: Yoel Herzberg. Costumes: Walid Mawed. M: Olivier Daviaud. S: Adam Wolny. ED: Juliette Welfling. Casting: Yael Aviv. CAST: Freida Pinto (Miral), Hiam Abbass (Hind Hussein), Yasmine Elmasri / Al Massri (Nadia), Alexander Siddig (Jamal), Omar Metwally (Hani), Stella Schnabel (Lisa), Willem Dafoe (Eddie), Vanessa Redgrave (Bertha Spafford), Juliano Mer-Khamis (Seikh Saabah). 108 min. Released in Finland by Scanbox with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Nina Ekholm [tbc]. DCP 2K viewed at Tennispalatsi 12, Helsinki, 28 May 2011.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Aaton Penelope, Cooke S4 Lenses. - Film negative format: 35 mm (2-perf). - Cinematographic process: Techniscope. - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI). - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

Rest in peace: Juliano Mer-Khamis, *29 May 1958 Nazareth (West Bank, Palestine), †4 April 2011 Jenin (West Bank, Palestine). To quote English Wikipedia,  "He was shot to death in his car outside a theatre he had established in a Palestinian refugee camp".

Based on a true story, the experiences of the writer Rula Jebreal and the people who raised her, this is a compelling movie that cannot leave the spectator indifferent. A work of Jewish-Palestinian collaboration, it strikes a conciliatory note in the tradition of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.

The complex story takes us from 1948 until 1994. It does not matter that Miral is not a perfect work of art in which Julian Schnabel's signature is unrecognizable. Miral moves me, and her story is impossible to forget. No matter that some performances are clumsy, some dialogues too expository, and that there is a sense of a film à thèse.

Daringly, the film-makers have selected a Palestinian bias. The film-makers know but they don't tell us in Miral that millions of Jews were forced to find a new place to live because anti-semitic persecution went on in Europe after the Holocaust and was viciously launched in some Arab countries. They don't tell us that a Palestinian state was set by the UN to be established in 1948 but some Arab countries refused to accept it and instead started a war against Israel, which they refused to recognize. The strategy of some Arab countries until the 1967 Six Day War was to destroy Israel with military force. And that has been also the PLO, Hamas, and Fatah strategy. Not only the Palestinians but also the Israelis have lived in constant mortal peril since 1948. It is magnanimous of the film-makers to ignore all this in Miral.

I saw a DCP in 2K of Miral, shot on 35 mm film according to IMDb. Visually, Miral could have an epic look with its powerful location work. Unfortunately the low definition digital video look of the 2K dilutes the visual impact considerably. Especially potentially magnificent long shots fail to work because of this. There is a lot of needless handheld camera-shaking, and I cannot help thinking that this is to distract us from noticing the low definition of the image.

Despite this Miral presents unforgettable images of the harassment, persecution, and torture of the Palestinians. And it is not a hate-mongering film. There is a sense that a new generation may overcome the hawks and that the Oslo process can be completed. Miral is more than just a film, it is an important political act. Freida Pinto is also profoundly moving in the leading role.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lady Gaga: Born This Way (music video)

Thanks to Walter de Camp for tipping me on Lady Gaga: Born This Way (2011). The seven minute electropop video directed by Nick Knight starts with the Bernard Herrmann overture to Vertigo. The song's genesis was in Lady Gaga's Monster Ball tour last year. The lyrics are a celebration of pride of one's identity. But the video is also a "manifesto of Mother Monster", celebrating both good and evil. There is a strong affinity with Alexander McQueen's "savage beauty" themes. Another instance of the current "the monster inside" obsession in Western culture.

P.S. 28 May 2011. In Financial Times Weekend there is a two-page Lady Gaga interview by Stephen Fry worth reading. Even more interesting is Peter Aspden's Lady Gaga column.

Peter Aspden observes that Lady Gaga has launched a reverse trend to the disastrous course of the traditional pop music industry, ruined by piracy. Lady Gaga's (born 1986) income is soon expected to exceed the total lifetime earnings of veteran rock giants.

"What Lady Gaga has brought to her own party is a supreme sense of how to do 21st-century business. So say Jamie Anderson, Jörg Reckhenrich and Martin Kupp, a group of management academics whose recent paper for the Antwerp Management Scool "Lady Gaga: Born This Way?" enthuses over their subject's deft ways with self-promotion and marketing."

"For this trio, Lady Gaga is a true innovator, whose instinctive understanding of how to handle social media and digital platforms has lasting significance."

"Zealous protection of copyright? All of Lady Gaga's video clips are free to view or download on her own website. She likes her fans. They like her back and buy her material from iTunes. An industry insider is quoted in the paper: 'Maybe Gaga points a way to the future - to make your fans your trusted friends. After all, who steals from friends?'"

"Catfights in the headlines? Lady Gaga does not do feuds, and happily shares her platform with potential 'rivals'".

"Gaga as product ambassador? But she does not endorse brands, preferring instead to create new products in the companies that have asked her to come on board." "The objects with which she is identified are circumscribed by her own values. They sell relentlessly well."

"Sticking tightly to her own discipline? Lady Gaga understands other art forms, and the benefits of synergy."

"Lady Gaga's recipe for her phenomenal success? 'I was and I am a freak, a maverick, a lost soul looking for peers'."

The innovators "intuitively grasp the mechanics of mass adulation, the economics of brand loyalty, the importance of leadership projection. They are unfazed by the oxymoronic riddle that is 'mass intimacy'. All the buzzwords of good management practice - innovation, reinvention, distinctiveness - come naturally to them."

Lars von Trier to Haaretz: My Danish sense of humor did me in

Listening on the radio a concert recorded two weeks ago, Sinfonia Lahti playing sublimely, with Dima Slobodeniouk as conductor, Pieter Wispelwey on the cello: Antonin Dvorák's Cello Concerto in b minor, discovering the Israeli newspaper Haaretz's Lars von Trier article, copied here in extenso:

By Uri Klein
Published 02:11 20.05.11

Director booted out of Cannes for calling himself a Nazi, identifying with Hitler; the 55-year-old was brought up thinking he was Jewish until his mother revealed his German heritage on her deathbed.

CANNES, France - Lars von Trier, the award-winning director who was kicked out of the Cannes Film Festival for telling reporters he "understood" Hitler, was upended by his Danish sense of humor, he told Haaretz in an interview yesterday.

Von Trier caused an uproar at a press conference on Wednesday when he jokingly declared himself a Nazi. The 55-year-old was brought up thinking he was Jewish until his mother revealed his German heritage on her deathbed.

"I lived most of my life as a Jew. I wore a skullcap when I had to and laid stones on tombstones in cemeteries. My mother wasn't Jewish, but my father, or the man I thought was my father, was. But then I found out that my father wasn't my father and my real father was German," he told Haaretz.

"And instead of saying I was actually German at the news conference on Wednesday, in my characteristic haste and because I couldn't stand the man who turned out to be my biological father, despite my mother's telling me he was charming, I said with a kind of typical Danish humor that most people don't understand that I was a Nazi. But I'm not."

Von Trier's latest movie "Melancholia" is in competition in Cannes this year, and had been seen as a possible prize-winner before his remarks appeared to snuff out its chances.

"It was a stupid joke. But that's the kind of humor I use when I talk to my friends, who know me and know I'm not a Nazi. I apologize profoundly for offending people. It was not my intention. I've also offended Germans, when instead of saying 'German' I used the word 'Nazi,' as though every German is a Nazi," he said.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/lars-von-trier-to-haaretz-my-danish-sense-of-humor-did-me-in-1.362897

Tamara Drewe

Tamara Drewe / Tamara Drewe. GB © 2010 Ruby Films / BBC Films / UK Film Council / Notting Hill Films [tbc]. EX: Maya Amsellem, Sharon Harel, Christine Langan, Eve Schoukroun. P: Alison Owen, Tracey Seaward, Paul Trijbits. D: Stephen Frears. SC: Moira Buffini - based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds (2005-2006) - reworking the novel Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) by Thomas Hardy. DP: Ben Davis. PD: Alan MacDonald. Costumes: Tina Jones. Make-up & hair: Tapio Salmi. M: Alexandre Desplat. S: Joakim Sundström. ED: Mick Audsley. Casting: Leo Davis. CAST: Gemma Arterton (Tamara Drewe), Roger Allam (Nicholas Hardiment), Bill Camp (Glen McCreavy), Dominic Cooper (Ben Sergeant), Luke Evans (Andy Cobb), Tamsin Greig (Beth Hardiment), Jessica Barden (Jody Long), Charlotte Christie (Casey Shaw). 113 min. Released in Finland by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Staffans. DCP 2K viewed at Tennispalatsi 8, Helsinki, 27 May 2011.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Arricam LT, Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo Lenses. - Laboratory: DeLuxe, London, UK. - Film negative format: 35 mm (Fuji Eterna 250D 8563, Eterna 400T 8583, Reala 500D 8592). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format). - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

I admire Stephen Frears, especially Gumshoe, My Beautiful Laundrette, Prick Up Your Ears, and The Grifters. His films are always worth seeing, including the entertaining Tamara Drewe. There is an affinity with John Schlesinger's amusing adaptation of Cold Comfort Farm, which for me was the revelation of Kate Beckinsale. Gemma Arterton has already appeared in several films, and now Tamara Drewe is a vehicle for her. It is also a humoristic ensemble film, which satirizes amicably the world of all kinds of literary people and the Thomas Hardy literary tradition (also parodied in Cold Comfort Farm). Quality entertainment.

A transitional 2K digital look. Tamara Drewe is a film where we would need to feel the sublime of the nature. Faces look fine but nature footage sucks.

Vares - huhtikuun tytöt / The Girls of April

Aprilsflickorna. FI © Solar Films 2011. P: Jukka Helle, Markus Selin. D: Lauri Törhönen. SC: Katariina Souri - based on the novel Huhtikuun tytöt (2004) by Reijo Mäki. DP: Jari Mutikainen. PD: Antti Nikkinen. COST: Janne Karjalainen. Makeup: Hannele Herttua. Hair: Minna Pilvinen. M: Samuli Laiho, DJ Slow. S: Panu Riikonen. ED: Kimmo Kohtamäki. Casting: Tutsa Paananen, Pia Pesonen, Pauliina Salonius. LOC: Turku. CAST: Antti Reini (Jussi Vares), Taisto Oksanen (Tristan da Cunha), Riitta Viiperi (Sirkku Aaltonen), Marjaana Maijala (Anne Airismaa), Tuomas Uusitalo (Karvanoppa), Davide Giovanzano (Gianfranco), Mikko Reitala (Kurt Metto), Ismo Kallio (Gunnar), Jasper Pääkkönen (Kyypakkaus), Ilkka Heiskanen (Inspector Hautavainio), Maria Järvenhelmi (Anna Huttonen), Matti Onnismaa (Pastori), Eppu Salminen (Juhani Luusalmi), Mikko Leppilampi (reporter Ruuhio). 95 min. Distributed by Nordisk with Swedish subtitles by Markus Karjalainen. DCP 2K viewed at Tennispalatsi 5, Helsinki, 27 May 2011.

The second film in the new series of exploits of private eye Jussi Vares, the permanent characters played by the same ensemble. This is light entertainment with a run-of-the-mill approach, and the plot feels particularly familiar from the previous Vares adventure. Young sexy women get killed, and the tracks lead to the rich and the powerful of Turku. They seem to be as obsessed with bunga bunga as Silvio Berlusconi. (Having seen The Battle Over Turku I realize a lot can be said about the powers-that-be of Turku, but hardly that they would be callous about beautiful women being killed). The film-makers don't take these issues seriously, and neither do we in the audience. But I can ignore the clichés and find things to like. The pro forma beating of Vares complete with ketchup "blood" to take impressive photographs to the employer. The meeting of the Anonymous Erotomaniacs. "I felt like I was participating in bad summer stock". The nightmares of Vares. The special travelogue aspect of the Vares movies: taking us to a tour of the actual top bars of Turku. Riitta Viiperi, a favourite actress of Lauri Törhönen's, returns to the screen after a long time, and gives the best performance of the movie, a funny parody of the puma lady. I like the relaxed aspect of the Vares cycle and hope the film-makers would have more ambition, at least they should try to compete with the Palmu films.

The DCP has a 2K transition digital look. The sharpness is often impressive, and there is no trouble with close-ups and shots of faces and buildings only. Aerial shots and nature footage lack the vibrant liveliness of photochemical film.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Gold Rush (cinema concert Charles Chaplin, Timothy Brock, RSO, Frank Strobel)

Kultakuume / Guldfebern. US 1925 © renewed Charles Chaplin © renewed Roy Export. PC: Chaplin-United Artists. P+D+SC: Charles Chaplin. Ass. D: Charles Riesner, Henri d’Abbadie d’Arrast, Eddie Sutherland. DP: Roland Totheroh. AD: Charles D. Hall. M: Charles Chaplin - borrowed themes include "The Flight of the Bumble Bee" by Rimsky-Korsakov, "The Song to the Evening Star" by Wagner (Lohengrin), the William Tell Overture by Rossini, "Grande valse villageoise" by Tchaikovsky (The Sleeping Beauty) [the saloon ball with the dog attached], and "Auld Lang Syne" [New Year's Eve]. CAST: Charles Chaplin (the lone prospector), Georgia Hale (Georgia), Mack Swain (Big Jim McKay), Tom Murray (Black Larsen). [Pre-release version 2974 m, original release version 2607 m, the 1942 sonorized version 1982 m.] On display was the 1993 Photoplay reconstruction of the 1925 release version by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill. For it Chaplin's 1942 music was then first arranged by Carl Davis. In 2006 Timothy Brock created a new arrangement now played for the first time live in Helsinki. A Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO) concert, at a strength of ca 58 players, conducted by Frank Strobel. The film was screened in 35 mm with electronic subtitles in Finnish by Teija Harjaluoma. Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, 26 May 2011

Carl Davis conducted his arrangement of Charles Chaplin's The Gold Rush score as a Centenary of the Cinema event in Finlandia Hall in 1995. Now we got to hear Frank Strobel conducting the Timothy Brock arrangement in a magnificent film concert. As a bonus, "Auld Lang Syne" was sung live by the RSO in the film's most poignant sequence: the New Year's Eve.

This original 1925 version of The Gold Rush is definitive. When Chaplin made his sonorized version in 1942 he replaced the intertitles with his spoken commentary, upsetting the rhythm of his film and diluting his silent poetry with wordy prose.

I have never understood the "which is better, Chaplin or Keaton" question. Both are great. Chaplin's uniqueness lies in emotion. He dares to be starkly heartbreaking. He knows how to combine grand emotion with drama, satire, and comedy.

With music, Chaplin's emotion is amplified, and in a live cinema concert it is maximized. Ten points to RSO, Frank Strobel, and Timothy Brock!

This was RSO's farewell concert in Finlandia Hall before the move to Musiikkitalo, Helsinki Music Centre, in August. There was excitement backstage about the fantastic acoustic circumstances at Musiikkitalo.

I was personally moved by the farewell concert. I have been contributing to live cinema events at the Finlandia hall since 1985, The New Babylon (Shostakovich / Omri Hadari), Napoléon vu par Abel Gance (Carl Davis conducting his score), these two launched by Peter von Bagh... Die Nibelungen (Huppertz / Heller), The Thief of Bagdad (Carl Davis), The Song of the Scarlet Flower (Armas Järnefelt)... many unforgettable events despite unfavourable screening circumstances. The white walls of Finlandia Hall are anathema to cinema presentation. Happily, The Gold Rush is a starkly graphic movie. Its visual impact survives Finlandia Hall.

P.S. 4 Aug 2011. A friend asked me who has composed the funny music to the poignant "Oceana Roll" sequence. In Bologna after The Phantom of the Opera I had the chance to ask Timothy Brock, and he confirmed that the music is composed by Charles Chaplin.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Verna

FI 2011. PC: Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu: Elokuvataiteen ja lavastustaiteen laitos. P: Kaisa ”Kaika” Astikainen. D: Mirkka Kallio. SC: Ilona Ahti. DP: Hans Barck - film by Kodak - equipment: P. Mutasen Elokuvakonepaja - lab: Finn-Lab - Bestlight transfer and colour definition: General Post Inka Ruohela - light equipment: Tazu Ovaska Valofirma. AD: Santtu Toivola. COST: Marianne Siponmaa. Make-up: Reetta Peltokangas. M: Mari Sainio. Flute: Johanna Martikainen. Songs of the curtains: Iida Antola. M post-production: Mari Sainio, Olli Halonen. S: Meri Tikkala. ED: Heikki-Pekka Vaara. CAST: Lotta Kaihua (Verna), Manuela Bosco (Selma), Olavi Uusivirta (von Bismarck), Annu Valonen (Satu), Satu Mikkelinen (Heli). - Möykyt / the blobs: Juho Sarno, Ilona Ahti, Jussi Hartonen, Niko Liinamaa, Irati Godostidi. - The dancing curtains: Dana Benlakhdar, Ting-Yun ”Bubble” Huang. - Verna's body double: Miila Sillfors. 14'11". Viewed on Vimeo, 22 May 2011

A double dream film. In the first dream, photographs attached to a mirror are retouched by a marker pen and the female dreamer takes the lyre away from the Musidora reincarnation. In the second dream, there is a black and white Caligari-Cocteau-Feuillade world beyond the mirror, and the male dreamer is lured by the Musidora creature to play on a 1980s game computer. The female avatars of the night are clad in black tights like the superheroines of the screen since Protéa and Irma Vep. Between the dreams we witness Verna's day at the office with gossiping female colleagues (how magic is Make?).

There is a sense of play in this student movie. Mirkka Kallio appropriates cinematic references and makes them her own, avoiding pastiche. Transitions from scenes awake to scenes dreamt are fluid. The soundscape is rich and musical. There are singing curtains in the second dream. The end credits are sung.

A true tribute to Maria Schneider (1952-2011)

The wonderful Maria Schneider had unhappy experiences in the supposedly liberated film world of the 1970s. The misrepresentation of her work continued in "tributes" by film critics after her death of cancer this year. Moira Sullivan sets records straight in her affectionate piece.
http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2011/feature-articles/a-tribute-to-maria-schneider/

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tous les palmarès de Cannes 2011

_____________________________
Palmarès de la Sélection Officielle 2011
_____________________________
PALME D'OR :
THE TREE OF LIFE de Terrence Malick
Remis par Jane Fonda

Grand Prix du Jury (ex-aequo) :
IL ETAIT UNE FOIS EN ANATOLIE de Nuri Bilge Ceylan
LE GAMIN AU VELO des frères Dardenne
Remis par Emir Kusturica

Prix d'Interprétation Masculine :
Jean Dujardin pour THE ARTIST
Remis par Catherine Deneuve

Prix d'Interprétation Féminine :
Kirsten Dunst pour MELANCHOLIA
Remis par Edgar Ramirez

Prix du Scénario :
FOOTNOTE de Joseph Cedar
Remis par Rosario Dawson

Prix de la mise en scène :
Nicolas Winding Refn pour DRIVE
Remis par Nicole Garcia

Prix du Jury :
POLISSE de Maïwenn
Remis par Chiara Mastroianni

Caméra d'Or :
LAS ACACIAS de Pablo Giorgelli
Remis par Marisa Paredes et le président du jury de la Caméra d'Or, Bong Joon-Ho

Palme d'Or du Court Métrage :
CROSS-CROSS COUNTRY de Maryna Vroda
Remis par Ludivine Sagnier et Michel Gondry
___________________
Un Certain Regard 2011
___________________
Prix Un Certain Regard (ex-aequo):
ARIRANG de Kim Ki-Duk
ARRET EN PLEINE VOIE de Andreas Dresen

Prix de la mise en scène :
BE OMID E DIDAR (AU REVOIR) de Mohamed Rasoulof

Prix spécial du Jury :
ELENA du Russe Andrey Zvyagintsev
______________________
Semaine de la Critique 2011
______________________
Grand Prix de la Semaine de la Critique :
TAKE SHELTER de Jeff Nichols
_________________________
Quinzaine des Réalisateurs 2011
_________________________
Label Europa Cinemas
ATMEN de Karl Markovics

Art Cinema Award
LES GEANTS de Bouli Lanners

Prix SACD
LES GEANTS de Bouli Lanners

Séance "Coup de coeur"
PLAY de Ruben Östlund
________________
Prix FIPRESCI 2011
________________
En Compétition :
LE HAVRE de Aki Kaurismaki

Un Certain Regard :
L'EXERCICE DE L'ETAT de Pierre Schoeller

Autres sections parallèles :
TAKE SHELTER de Jeff Nichols
_____________
Queer Palm 2011
_____________
SKOONHEID d'Oliver Hermanus

ex aequo = on equal footing

http://festival-cannes.canalplus.fr/news-cannes/tous-les-palmares-de-cannes-2011.html

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thief

Violent Streets / Suurkaupungin hait / Storstadshajar / Gatans lag (SE). US © 1981 United Artists Pictures. PC: Caan Productions / Michael Mann Company. P: Jerry Bruckheimer, Ronnie Caan. D+SC: Michael Mann - based on the novel The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar by Frank Hohimer [= John Seybold] (Chicago, 1975). DP: Donald E. Thorin. PD: Mel Bourne. FX: Russel Hessey. COST: Paul Cain, Dennis Fill. Makeup: Frank Griffin. Hair: Edie Panda, Kathe Swanson. M: Tangerine Dream. Mighty Joe Young Band. Special thanks: Willie Dixon. S: David M. Ronne. ED: Dov Hoenig. LOC: Chicago (Illinois), Los Angeles (California). CAST: James Caan (Frank), Tuesday Weld (Jessie), Willie Nelson (Okla), James Belushi (Barry), Robert Prosky (Leo), Tom Signorelli (Attaglia), Dennis Farina (Carl), John Santucci (Urizzi). 117 min. A vintage print (Violent Streets / Gatans lag) with Swedish subtitles by Kersti Landfeldt viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 21 May 2011

IMDb synopsis: "Becoming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safecracker agrees to do a job for the mafia, who have other plans for him."

Thief was Michael Mann's first cinema feature film, although already his tv movie The Jericho Mile was released theatrically for instance in Finland.

Based on the novel by an actual Chicago safecracker, John Seybold (1923-2005) who also acted as the technical advisor on the film's Chicago set with FBI warrants outstanding and who was later convicted to a long prison sentence according to English Wikipedia.

The cinema debut of actors James Belushi, Dennis Farina, William Petersen, and Robert Prosky. John Santucci was also a recently paroled thief and a technical advisor on Thief.

Michael Mann's official cinema debut film has stood the test of time.  It proceeds as the tragedy of Frank, a Chicago criminal with a long history of accumulating prison sentences. Frank is having success as a freelancing safecracker who runs a bar and a car dealership as fronts. But he is caught in the web of the Chicago mob led by Leo (Robert Prosky) and simultaneously blackmailed by corrupt policemen led by Urizzi (John Santucci). There is a final big caper in California, but Frank is double-crossed by Leo, and there is an ultimatum on Frank's family. There is a final showdown, not with a logical tragic outcome but a wish-fulfillment ending.

A great performance by James Caan, who can convey the desperation of the criminal, his sense of urgency of starting a normal life with Jessie (Tuesday Weld). There is a powerful blend of gravity and comedy in his big proposal scene at the cafeteria with Jessie, and at the adoption bureau, where Frank makes a complete fool of himself. Tuesday Weld is also good in her deglamorized yet genuinely attractive performance evoking her "twisted, ugly, empty" life with a drug dealer. Willie Nelson plays Frank's criminal mentor Okla, or David ("he taught me everything"). Jessie cannot have babies, but Leo helps them adopt one from the black market, and they name him David after the old mentor's death just after his release from prison.

The vintage print is intact, serviceable and with no colour fading but it looks like it was to begin with too many generations removed from the negative (mediocre, soft, with weak black levels).

Des hommes et des dieux / Of Gods and Men

Jumalista ja ihmisistä / Gudar och människor. FR © 2010 Armada Films / Why Not Productions / France 3 Cinéma. P: Pascal Caucheteux, Étienne Comar. D: Xavier Beauvois. SC: Étienne Comar - dialogue adaptation: Xavier Beauvois. DP: Caroline Champetier - post-production numérique: Éclair. PD: Michel Barthélémy. Make-up: Pierre Olivier Persin. S: Loïc Prian. ED: Marie-Julie Maille. Casting: Brigitte Moidon. LOC: the monastery of Toumliline (Morocco). CAST: THE NINE MONKS: Lambert Wilson (Christian), Michael Lonsdale (Luc), Olivier Rabourdin (Christophe), Philippe Laudenbach (Célestin), Jacques Herlin (Amédée), Loïc Pichon (Jean-Pierre), Xavier Maly (Michel), Jean-Marie Frin (Paul), Olivier Perrier (Bruno). AND: Abdelhafid Metalsi (Nouredine), Sabrina Ouazani (Rabbia), Abdellah Moundy (Omar), Farid Larbi (Ali Fayattia), Adel Bencherif (le terroriste). 125 min. A Cinema Mondo release with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Liina Rajala / Joanna Erkkilä. 35 mm print viewed at Kino Engel 1, Helsinki, 21 May 2011

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Aaton Penelope, Zeiss Standard Lenses. Laboratory: Laboratoires Éclair, Paris, France. Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision2 500T 5218) (2-perf). Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (master format), Techniscope (source format). Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic). Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

IMDb synopsis: "Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay." From the English Wikipedia synopsis: "It centers on the monastery of Tibhirine, where nine Trappist monks lived in harmony with the largely Muslim population of Algeria, until seven of them were kidnapped and assassinated in 1996 during the Algerian Civil War."

A strong religious film, a strong Christian film. Serving God means serving people, helping them even when the social structure has broken down, and there can be no safety from violent terrorists.

A turning-point is when the terrorists invade the monastery and Christian does not give up to a single one of their demands but shows respect to their religion. Another turning-point is when the monks say they are like birds but the villagers say no, they are the birds, and the monks are the branch that gives them some safety. A third turning-point is when the monks contemplate leaving the monastery for safety, but Christian states that they have already given up life when they have taken the oath.

A point of comparison would be John Ford's final film Seven Women (1966), about missionaries in China in 1935 attacked by a Mongolian warlord with his cut-throat gang.

During their last supper the monks listen to the Black Swan theme from Tchaikovsky's The Swan Lake, a theme whose cinematic associations run from Bela Lugosi's Dracula to the current Darren Aronofsky movie.

Based on a true story, this is a film about courage as the strength of the spirit, without hate. It is also about the mutual respect between people of different religions.

Shot on 35 mm film by a talented cinematographer. In the [apparently 2K] digital intermediate no harm is done to the stone walls of the monastery and the close-ups of faces, but in the nature footage the juicy detail is lost.

Lars von Trier acting like a schmuck

Kalle Kinnunen writes in his blog (in Finnish) about how Lars von Trier made a fool of himself in the Cannes Film Festival with his "ok, I'm a Nazi" remarks. I participated in his blog debate, and I copy my comments here.

The Cannes Film Festival was founded after the Second World War in an atmosphere of liberation and reconstruction. The Nazi occupation hit the French film community severely. Many top artists including Jean Renoir left the country. Harry Baur, one of France's best-loved actors, died after Gestapo torture. Charlotte Gainsbourg's father was among the ones in peril. Olivier Assayas's father was saved from the gas chamber thanks to going to exile in Chile and Argentine.

All "non-Aryans" were persecuted, including the Eastern European "slave people", not to speak about Africans. All left-wingers were harassed. Modern art was banned as "entartete Kunst".

The Danes behaved very well helping all Jews to Sweden, including Ulf Trier, Lars's family father. Lars's biological father Fritz Hartmann was no Nazi but a Resistance fighter in the Frit Danmark movement.

P.S. 22 May 2011. Of course everyone realizes that Trier does not mean what he said. The father who raised him was of Jewish heritage. His radical, anti-authoritarian views are profoundly non-Nazist. So is his modernist, avantgardistic, taboo-breaking film work. His blunder, however, is unfortunately not funny. In Hungary, for instance, neo-Nazis are threatening artists and Jews. Sadly, after the Holocaust Mein Kampf has been a bestseller in some Arab countries [CORRECTED 19 Jan 2012 and] Turkey.

P.S. 13 Aug 2011. Moira Sullivan writes on Lars von Trier's misogynia in Senses of the Cinema, Issue 59, 2011.

Taistelu Turusta / Battle for the City

Kampen om Åbo / [The Battle for Turku]. FI 2011. PC: Illume Oy. P+D: Jouko Aaltonen. SC: Jouko Aaltonen, Rauno Lahtinen, Olli Vesala. DP: Pekka Aine. M: Markku Kopisto. S: Martti Turunen. ED: Tuula Mehtonen. 79 min. Distributed by Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus with Swedish subtitles by Maria Wirén-Malo. DCP 2K viewed at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki, 21 May 2011.

Interviewees include Benito Casagrande, Helena Soiri-Snellman, Pekka Pitkänen, Suvi Auvinen, Pekka Sivula, Knut Drake, Ilkka Kanerva, Martti Kuitunen, Tapio Jokinen, Elina Rantanen, Janna Rancken, Heli Astala, Pertti Paasio, Ensio Laine, Pekka Aalto, Annika Lapintie, Jukka Paaso, Armas Lahoniitty, Matti Ijäs, Eugen Parkatti, Osmo Kivivuori, Raimo Puolimatka, Kaarlo Lundmark, Toini Leinonen, Veikko Keto, Kari Malinen.

Cases of demolishing old valuable buildings with "before and after" comparisons include the Bass House, the Nobel House, the Richter House, the Old University Building, The Phoenix House, the Julin City Block, and the Hamburger Börs. There is a sequence of the fall of the Vartiovuori Park. The final episode is about the saving of the Portsa Neighbourhood.

A special jubileum movie of Turku, European Capital of Culture in 2011.

The subject is the infamous "Turku Disease" of demolishing historical buildings, some of them dating to the 17th century, having survived the Turku fire of 1827. The demolition derby took mostly place from the late 1950s to the 1980s.

All political parties were involved, all financed by construction companies. This is not even a secret. The interviewees talk about it openly. The financial rewards were substantial. There were some special aspects, though, as the role of the Freemasons. And there was the ritual of the summer trek to the islands, where new members of the lobby (invariably men) were initiated by coating their balls with tar (you read right).

When the city museum compiled priority lists of valuable buildings to be saved, those buildings got top urgency in being demolished.

The film is based on the contrast of the story of corruption on the one hand and the story of resistance on the other. The contemporary squatters try to save buildings for sites of "autonomous culture". The main activist: "what is left if you are not an idealist?".

Compilation video look. New footage in low resolution, archival footage also copied in low resolution, sometimes from used prints. There are special animation effects in some photographs.

An effective and memorable documentary with a strong standpoint.

End credits beyond the jump break:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Elma ja Liisa / [Elma and Liisa]

[Elma och Liisa]. FI 2011. PC: Mutanen Enterprises Oy / Sherpa Agency. P: Artturi Mutanen, Pauli Waroma. D+SC+Casting +Costumes+Makeup+Props: Pamela Tola, Pihla Viitala. DP: Jean-Noël Mustonen. AD: Tommi Kortesniemi. S: Pietu Korhonen. ED: Antti Reikko. Starring: Pamela Tola, Pihla Viitala. With: Kasimir Baltzar, Aleksi Bardy, Elina Knihtilä, Tommi Korpela, Mikko Leppilampi, Rauha Puntti, Anneli Sauli, Juha Veijonen. 40 min. Distributed by Finnkino. No subtitles in the screening. DCP 2K viewed at Tennispalatsi 9, Helsinki, 20 May 2011.

The title is an homage to Thelma and Louise. The film also brings to mind Sedmikrásky / Daisies, Boys on the Side, and other "women on the road" movies. The basic premise of Y tu mamá también / And Your Mother Too is also parodied (the women claim occasionally that they are on their final journey with only months to live). Finnish points of reference might be Neitoperho / The Collector and Taulukauppiaat / The Painting Sellers. Elma ja Liisa is completely original, though.

Pamela Tola and Pihla Viitala, two top young actresses of Finland, decided to make a movie and not to wait the three years it usually takes to convey things through the system. They just did it.

Elma ja Liisa might be a riposte to the "young man's odyssey" cycle of films that has been a staple of Finnish film production since the 1980s in the contemporary era, and since forever if we count the lumberjack sagas. The current example is Elokuu / August. Although the young woman is the active party and the young man is a sleepwalker, it is basically a traditional, patriarchal summer love story, where the summer romance is a part of the young gentleman's education.

Pamela Tola and Pihla Viitala's protagonists are wild and nihilistic women. A blonde and a brunette. They steal and rob and kill and speak about further killings. They harass hitch-hikers. They sell fake art at 2 E apiece for an "art happening for the depressed". One of them is a teacher taking a walk on the wild side. The other has had a baby in France, but now it's dead. There is no romance, no love, no sex, no nudity.  It's about the road to nowhere.

There is a low definition video look in the movie.

It is dedicated to the memory of Rauha Puntti (1926-2010). I met Rauha Puntti a few years ago at Cinema Orion, when we screened Kultainen kynttilänjalka / The Golden Chandelier (1946). She told she was then the only survivor of that film's cast and crew.

P.S. 22 May 2011. The final impact of this movie two days after is that it is about profound depression.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Movie 2 (online 16 May 2011) with a tribute to Robin Wood

Movie 2 (the legendary magazine reborn as a web publication, this issue online 16 May 2011) pays tribute to Robin Wood in the best possible way: by publishing seven previously uncollected articles by him.

"Psychanalyse de Psycho". Cahiers du Cinéma 113, Novembre 1960 - his first film essay - also re-translated into English!
"Attitudes in Advise and Consent". Movie, 4, November 1962.
"In Memoriam: Michael Reeves". Movie, 17, Winter 1969-1970.
"Sense of Dislocation". Times Educational Supplement, 23 March 1973 - Ultimo tango a Parigi (Bernardo Bertolucci).
"Signs and Motifs". Times Educational Supplement, 28 September 1973 - High Plains Drifter (Clint Eastwood).
"Moments of Release". Times Educational Supplement, 2 March 1973 - Viskningar och rop (Ingmar Bergman).
"Call Me Ishmael". Canadian Forum. November 1983 - Fanny och Alexander (Ingmar Bergman).

Movie's recommended links to Robin Wood obituaries:
http://filmstudiesforfree.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/crossing-the-wild-river-r-i-p-robin-wood-1931-2009/
To Robin Wood bibliography:
http://dkholm.typepad.com/cinemonkey/2010/04/robin-wood-bibliography-introduction.html

There is also a Fritz Lang dossier with Michael Walker's essay on the new reconstruction of Metropolis.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (exhibition catalogue)

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. May 4, 2011–July 31, 2011. Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, 2nd floor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty [exhibition catalogue]. Andrew Bolton, with contributions by Susannah Frankel and Tim Blanks. Photography by Sølve Sundsbø. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011.

English Wikipedia: "Lee Alexander McQueen, CBE (17 March 1969 – 11 February 2010) was a British fashion designer and couturier best known for his in-depth knowledge of bespoke British tailoring, his tendency to juxtapose female strength and sensuality with fragility in his collections, as well as the emotional power and raw energy of his provocative fashion shows. He is also known for having worked as chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and for founding his own label under the name Alexander McQueen. His achievements in fashion earned him four British Designer of the Year awards (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003), as well as the CFDA's International Designer of the Year award in 2003."

Laila came back from New York and brought this exhibition catalogue. The cover already is a moving image, a hologram close-up of Alexander McQueen's face transforming into a skull.

Reading the catalogue, cinematic associations emerge.

Federico Fellini's Roma, the ecclesiastical fashion show, not the modern innovations ("Short Cut to Paradise", Las Vegas style neon-lit habits), but the macabre visions with mummified corpses and skeletons.

Tim Burton.

Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, the lavish parties where joy has left the building.

Edgar Allan Poe's oft-filmed The Masque of the Red Death, the grand banquet in the seven rooms of Prince Prospero's abbey. After the uninvited guest's visit no one is left alive.

The Black Swan: Darren Aronofsky has perhaps been inspired by Alexander McQueen.

Reading further, it comes as no surprise that Tim Burton's work is revealed to be one of McQueen's inspirations. On the last spread there is even a list of McQueen's ten favourite films: Barry Lyndon; Death in Venice / Morte a Venezia; They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; Lady Sings the Blues; La Reine Margot [1994]; Paris, Texas; Picnic at Hanging Rock; Coppola's Dracula; The Hunger; and The Abyss.

Alfred Hitchcock was central to McQueen, and he liked to listen to Philip Glass's music from The Hours or Michael Nyman's music from The Piano. Explicit cinematic links in McQueen's collections include The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock), Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (the song title is from Mary Poppins but the style refers to Tim Burton), Sarabande (Barry Lyndon), and Plato's Atlantis (The Abyss). "The Color scheme of La Reine Margot was a constant", says Sarah Burton. Laila told that a memorable feature in the exhibition is a hologram of Kate Moss defying gravity. The accompanying music that still lingered in her mind was the theme from Schindler's List.

Collections displayed in the exhibition catalogue include The Dance of the Twisted Bull, Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims, Nihilism, No. 13, Plato's Atlantis, Dante, Joan, La Poupée, It's a Jungle Out There, Highland Rape, Banshee, What a Merry-Go-Round, Eclect Dissect, The Horn of Plenty, VOSS, Widows of Culloden, The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, Scanners, It's Only a Game, Eshu, Irere, Sarabande, The Hunger, Eye, La Dame bleue, Joan; In Memory of Elizabeth How, Salem 1692; Pantheon ad lucem, The Search for the Golden Fleece.

P.S. 17 May 2011. The cover of the book may be an homage to Psycho. This occurred to me reading Robin Wood's first film article (on Psycho). Towards the end of Psycho we see the famous image of Norman Bates superimposed with his mother's mummified skull. - Alexander McQueen, who said he "went straight from his mother's womb to the gay parade", committed suicide nine days after the death of his mother, a day before his mother's funeral.

P.S. 18 May 2011. Laila told that the text accompanying the Kate Moss hologram was to the effect that it's about taking us to a journey with no return. I found the video online: Kate Moss is an angel who finally disappears in the galaxy, and the video ends with a big bang in infinity.  The video and Kate's dance evoke a favourite theme of the first films by Edison, Skladanowsky, and Lumière, the Serpentine Dance created by Loïe Fuller.- Kaj Kalin dubs the Kate Moss video a "holo(caust)gram".

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Never Let Me Go

Ole luonani aina / Never Let Me Go. GB/US © 2010 TCF Hungary etc. PC: DNA Films / Film4. EX: Alex Garland, Kazuo Ishiguro. P: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich. D: Mark Romanek. SC: Alex Garland - based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005, Finnish translation by Helene Bützow in Keltainen kirjasto / Tammi 2005). DP: Adam Kimmel. PD: Mark Digby. Cost: Rachael Fleming, Steven Noble. M: Rachel Portman. S: Glenn Freemantle. ED: Barney Pilling. LOC: Fife (Scotland), Bexhill-on-Sea (East Sussex), Clevedon, Weston (Somerset), Docking, Holkham Beach and Estate (Norfolk), Richmond (Surrey). CAST: Carey Mulligan (Kathy), Andrew Garfield (Tommy), Keira Knightley (Ruth), Charlotte Rampling (Miss Emily), Sally Hawkins (Miss Lucy). 106 min. Released in Finland by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Suvi Jyrkilä / Carina Laurila. 35 mm print viewed at Maxim 1, Helsinki, 15 May 2011

Technical specifications (IMDb): Camera: Arricam LT, Zeiss and Angenieux Lenses; Arricam ST, Zeiss and Angenieux Lenses; Arriflex 235, Zeiss and Angenieux Lenses. Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision2 100T 5212, Vision2 200T 5217, Vision3 500T 5219, Vision2 Expression 500T 5229, Vision2 500T 5260). Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format). Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic). Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

Mark Romanek has been a top music video director since the 1980s, and he is one of the real artists on the scene. The Work of Director Mark Romanek (2005) is a dvd showcase of his short format work (I'm a happy owner although I have no dvd collection to speak of). I have now seen two of his feature films, One Hour Photo (2002) and Never Let Me Go. Static (1985) I haven't had the chance to see. Never Let Me Go is based on Kazuo Ishiguro's acclaimed psychological science fiction novel which I haven't read. It is a melancholy growing-up story of three young people who realize that they exist as a medical experiment. They are laboratory products destined to become organ donors for mortally ill patients. But this is just a backstory to a psychological tale of the three young people's relationships. It is evident from the start that this is an artistically ambitious picture, and my sympathies are with the talented artists who made the film. Unfortunately I found it impossible to connect with the resignation of the young protagonists.

Shot on 35 mm film, the movie has gone through the 2K digital mangle. The colour palette is melancholy brownish.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Source Code

Source Code / Source Code [Finnish / Swedish translations would be Lähdekoodi / Källkod]. US/FR © 2011 Vendôme International. P: Mark Gordon, Philippe Rousselet, Jordan Wynn. D: Duncan Jones (= Zowie Bowie). SC: Ben Ripley. DP: Don Burgess. PD: Barry Chusid. Visual Effects, Special Effects: huge staffs from Data Wranglers, Rodeo FX, Fly Studio, Oblique FX, Mr. X Inc, etc. Costumes: Renée April. Makeup: Kathy Kelso. Hair stylist: Michelle Côté. M: Chris Bacon. S: Tom Belfort, Branden Spencer. ED: Paul Hirsch. LOC: Chicago (Illinois); Montréal (Québec) posing as Chicago. Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor at the Millennium Park (Chicago). Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Colter Stevens), Michelle Monaghan (Christina Waren), Vera Farmiga (Colleen Goodwin), Jeffrey Wright (Dr. Rutledge), Michael Arden (Derek Frost). 93 min. Released in Finland by Sandrew with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Anna-Leea Kahila / Carina Laurila. DCP 2K viewed at Tennispalatsi 6, Helsinki, 13 May 2011 (day of Finnish premiere).

Technical Specifications (IMDb): Cameras: Iconix Camera, Panavision Panaflex, Millennium XL2, Panavision Primo Lenses, Phantom HD Camera, Red One Camera, Panavision Primo Lenses. Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak), Redcode RAW. Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Digital (source format) (some scenes), Redcode RAW (4K) (source format) (some scenes), Spherical (source format). Printed film format: 35 mm (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

IMDb synopsis: "An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train."

This original cyberthriller has been compared with Groundhog Day, Brazil, Lola rennt, Moon, Memento, The Butterfly Effect, Déjà vu, Vantage Point, and Inception. I would also add La Glâce à trois faces, Seconds, Przypadek / Blind Chance, Sliding Doors, and cyberpunk films including Blade Runner, Videodrome, The Terminator, Twelve Monkeys, The Matrix - and Avatar. Cyberthrillers are about inner reality being mingled with or replaced by computer code or virtual reality. Despite its many familiar connections Source Code represents a fresh approach to the cyberthriller genre.

The script by Ben Ripley is strong, directed by Duncan Jones with inspiration. I look forward to seeing Moon, Jones's first film, which went straight to dvd in Finland.

Source Code makes no scientific or logical sense. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan are the attractive leads, both in top form. (But I paused to think that for over 40 years now men have been sexual magnets in mainstream American films, and the women's role has been to look at them adoringly). I would see Source Code as a satire about disorientation in the modern world ("It's the new me". "How well did you know him?" "I'm a dumb luck kind of gal".)

There is a fairy-tale wish-fulfillment ending as Colter Stevens manages to create a parallel reality, to change the past. I would have preferred the freeze-frame ending. But certainly the encounter at Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate is a brilliant image for this movie.

The clean digital look serves this vision of the cyberspace perfectly.

P.S. 15 May 2011. My first instinct was to call Source Code cyberpunk, but there is no punk ambience of alienation and no vision of social breakdown (although themes of extreme alienation and Big Brother surveillance are central). Finally, Source Code is feelgood entertainment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Latterday vampires

Outi Hakola writes about contemporary vampire movies in the Lähikuva [Close-Up] magazine of the Finnish film scholars, in its issue 1/2011, that has just come in the mail. She examines the phenomenon of the Twilight movies (US 2008, 2009, 2010, two more forthcoming), the True Blood tv series (US 2008- ), and the Vampire Diaries tv series (US 2009- ).

Outi Hakola observes that in contemporary vampire fiction the male vampire has become an identification object, and an ideal partner for the female lead. She refers to an impressive amount of current research in which this phenomenon has been examined.

Personally, as my knowledge of the horror genre lags largely a quarter of a century behind, I have been puzzled. Even the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In I found incomprehensible. Hakola's remarkable essay confirms that a volte-face has taken place. The ultimate monster has become a love object.

The traditional vampire movies, including Coppola's Dracula and Interview with the Vampire, were clear about the evil of the monster. The vampire is the Devil, an incarnation of death, whose erotic fascination makes him even more dangerous. In more psychological terms, the vampire was a manifestation of the death instinct, the death drive, or a catalyst for them.

In social and historical terms, the modern vampire was a monster of Romanticism, which developed a counter-imagery to the rationalism of the Industrial Revolution. In the cinema, the early vampire figures seemed to reflect indirectly the fall of the European empires (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia), and post-WWII Hammer vampires seemed to reflect the fall of the British empire. Those decadent noblemen still radiated a power and a glory that, however, had no longer any foundation in reality. They were ghosts from a vanished world. Since the 1960s it has become difficult to make traditional vampire movies except in pastiche.

In agreement with Stephen King's reasoning in his excellent study Danse Macabre my angle to horror fiction has been that it gives us approaches to discuss the issues death and madness, those overwhelming issues that we cannot help confronting but that exceed the limits of our comprehension. Horror fiction may be serious or ridiculous, but the issues it deals with are among the greatest.

The traditional vampire is an incarnation of death, but is this the case with the contemporary vampire, as well? Life is a struggle, death is easy. Life is messy, death is cool. If the contemporary vampire is still an incarnation of the death drive, is American vampire fiction telling us to stop fighting, to succumb to it, to fall in love with the death instinct? To love death?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Elokuu / [August]

Augusti. FI © 2011 Bronson Club. EX: Jukka Helle, Markus Selin. P: Jesse Fryckman. D: Oskari Sipola. SC: Oskari Sipola - from an original idea by Harri Paananen - incorporating Shakespeare's sonnets 46 and 73. DP: Joonas Pulkkanen - Cameras: Canon 5D Mark II (B Camera), Canon 7D (second unit), Red One Camera - cinematographic process: digital - 2.35:1. PD: Heini Kervinen. Cost: Jenni Rousu. Makeup: Hanna Minkkinen. M: Joel Melasniemi. S: Karri Niinivaara. ED: Antti Reikko. LOC: Espoo, Helsinki, Joutsa, Jyväskylä, Kajaani, Kemijärvi, Kirkkonummi, Mäntyharju. CAST: Eppu Pastinen (Aku), Lina Turkama (Juli), Zagros Manuchar (Freda), Niina Koponen (Erika), Pihla Viitala (Johanna), Ilkka Heiskanen (father), Henrika Andersson (mother), Juha Lagström (Hannu), Markku Maalismaa (Risto), Heikki Ranta (Timppa), Timo Torikka (Eero), Matleena Kuusniemi (Sari), Jaana Joensuu (Sointu), Mika Kurvinen (Kalle). 111 min. Distributed by Nordisk Film. In Finnish with some Swedish with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Aretta Vähälä / Saliven Gustavsson, Shakespeare translations Aale Tynni / C.R. Nyblom. DCP 2K viewed at Tennispalatsi 4, Helsinki, 7 May 2011

"That time of year thou mayst in me behold" is one of the Shakespeare sonnets read to each other by the young summer lovers, perhaps surprisingly as it is about an old man reflecting on young love. Oskari Sipola has made his debut feature film about the first summer of the young man after the ylioppilastutkinto (matriculation examination after high school, necessary for starting academic studies in a university) and before military service. His pregnant girlfriend leaves for the summer to an Interrail trip via St. Petersburg. Aku (Eppu Pastinen) is like a sleepwalker, profoundly confused, and at a Midsummer party he gets stone drunk and wakes up at home with a strange girl, Juli (Lina Turkama). Nothing has happened because Aku has passed out. He gives her a lift home, but gets carried away to an all-summer road adventure with her with no destination, losing car, money, and telephone on the way. Aku is the son of a well-to-do family, and Juli says that his problem is that he does not realize with how big a silver spoon in his mouth he was born. The story structure is familiar, from Ingmar Bergman's summer love films for instance, and there is no problem with that, as it is a good structure. Another point of comparison is Something Wild with Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels. Oskari Sipola invests the movie with personal feeling and observation, and I predict that Elokuu will have lasting value at least in our country. I keep wondering what one should think about Aku's prim character, which is reinforced towards the end. And what about the wild ones, Aku's best friend Freda (Zagros Manuchar) and Lina who completely explodes Aku's regular life albeit just for the summer? All the grown-ups seem disenchanted.

The digital cinematography is clean, sharp and restrained. There is sometimes a subdued and low-contrast look. Not bad, but the feeling is digital. Warmth is difficult in 2K.

Océans

ΩCEANS [title on screen] / Oceans / Oceans. FR/CH/ES 2010 © 2009 Galatée Films / Pathé / France 2 Cinéma / France 3 Cinéma / Notro Films / JMH-TSR. EX: Jake Eberts, Don Hahn. P: Nicolas Mauvernay, Jacques Perrin. D: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud. SC: Christophe Cheysson etc. DP: Simon Christidis, Luc Drion, Laurent Fleutot, Philippe Ros, Luciano Tovoli [13 DP's credited on screen]. S: Jérôme Wiciak. ED: Catherine Mauchain, Vincent Schmidt. 104 min

Technical specification (IMDb): Camera: Arriflex 435, Zeiss Master Prime, Ultra Prime and Lightweight Zoom Lenses. Panavision Cameras and Lenses. Sony CineAlta HDC-F950, Zeiss DigiZoom Lenses. Sony CineAlta HDW-F900/3, Zeiss DigiZoom Lenses. - Laboratory: Arane, Paris, France. Source format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision2 50D 5201, Vision2 250D 5205, Vision2 100T 5212, Vision2 200T 5217, Vision2 500T 5218, Fuji Super F-64D 8522). Video (HDTV). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format) - HDCAM SR (1080p/24) (source format), Super 35 (also 3-perf). - Print format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

Released in Finland by Atlantic Film. DCP 2K with Finnish commentary read by Juhani Rajalin, translation by Håkan Mäkelä, Swedish subtitles by Catharina Kisch. DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 8, Helsinki, 7 May 2011

There is a sense of wonder in this magnificent documentary about the ocean, in the spirit of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his successors, realizing that our "Earth" is actually mostly an "Ocean". And the ocean is mostly a secret space which we are busy destroying.

Filmed on the seven seas, visiting all the continents - covered on film and digital - and conveying a sense of the richness of life-forms.

This is a great movie for children, teaching that the diversity of the species is a condition of our existence. Today we are living like there's no tomorrow. It is not too late to save life on earth from destruction, but there is not much time to waste.

(I prefer the singular for "ocean". Even walking by the shore of our little, tame Baltic Sea I am conscious that it is a part of the one global ocean. We cannot be proud, either, what we have done with the Baltic Sea.)

The 2K DCP looks fine. It is clean and sharp, but slightly clinical, unlike life.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Kohayagawa-ke no aki / The End of Summer

Perhetarina / En familjehistoria / [The Autumn of the Kohayakawa Family]. JP 1961. PC: Toho. P: Sanezumi Fujimoto, Masakatsu Kaneko. D: Yasujiro Ozu. SC: Kogo Noda, Ozu. DP (Agfacolor): Asakazu Nakai. AD: Tomoo Shimogawara. M: Toshiro Mayuzumi. ED: Koichi Iwashita. Cast: Ganjiro Nakamura (Manbei Kohayagawa), Setsuko Hara (Akiko), Yoko Tsukasa (Noriko), Michiyo Aratama (Fumiko), Keiji Kobayashi (Hisao), Chieko Naniwa (Tsune Sasaki). 103 min. A 1981 Diana-Filmi release print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (50 Years Ago), 5 May 2011

Revisited Ozu's penultimate film; the colour print is intact and looks ok. For Ozu, an unusually complex family story about a widowed man with four daughters, three with his legal wife and one with his mistress. The husband of the second daughter runs the family business, a sake plant, facing modernization and corporate competition. The old man gone, the family business will probably also close. But the family itself is no simple and straightforward thing. The old man prefers to stay with his ex-mistress. Setsuko Hara as the oldest daughter is again a woman postponing the advances of a suitor, but this time they are both widowed with children. The character named Noriko, the youngest of the legal daughters, is now played by Yoko Tsukasa, and she is free to follow her heart to her loved one at Sapporo. There is a different look and sound to the film due to the fact that Ozu, the Shochiku house director, this time directed at Toho. The modernity of Osaka is displayed via neon signs at night. The family business is in the countryside outside Kyoto (Osaka and Kyoto are neighbours). The mistress's inn where the old man dies is in the old, traditional Kyoto. The story is humoristic, but in the end the death of the pater familias is faced with gravity. His smoke rises to the sky from the chimney of the crematorium. "Only the crows remain" (Donald Richie).

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

At Perniö High School

Visiting Perniö High School I gave two classes, one about working in the field of film culture generally, and another about the music video. Although I have stopped following music videos actively, I still find it an exciting phenomenon from the viewpoint of film culture, because it can give a short-cut to the avant-garde of the cinema.

Recorded sound and recorded images have profound parallels in their development. The father of the cinema, Thomas A. Edison, was also the inventor of the phonograph. His original vision was to make sound films, combining film with the phonogram, but mostly sound and image recordings went separate ways until the late 1920s.

Interestingly, in France, the Pathé brothers, Charles and Émile, also combined the interests of music and image recordings. Pathé-Frères had two divisions, of which the recorded sound division was bigger first. Charles Pathé started to produce films in 1902 and built the first global movie empire before the First World War.

Interestingly, great film directors usually fail with music videos, and great music video directors have a hard time with feature films. But there are exceptions: Aki Kaurismäki made great music short films with Leningrad Cowboys. David Fincher, who started with videos for Madonna, is one of the best film directors today (The Social Network). On Friday in Helsinki there is a premiere of Never Let Me Go directed by Mark Romanek, a top director of music videos (and commercials) (and even he has made videos for Madonna!).

I don't know if the bright students at Perniö High School benefited from my ramblings, but for me the encounter was stimulating. It also put things into perspective. When I wrote my book on the music video, Sähköiset unet ([Electric Dreams], designed by Ilppo Pohjola), they had not been born yet.

PS 6 May 2011. In the 1980s it was still relatively easy to spot creative, worthwhile music videos, but the current mainstream video rotation has been tediously banal for a long time. I fully expect there are now more good videos than ever, but they are harder to find.