Sunday, July 31, 2011

2011 Norway Terror Attacks

Reflections after having read the morning papers at Punkaharju, 31 July 2011.

Over a week ago, 22 July 2011, the shocking news came from Norway about two terror attacks, a car bomb explosion in the government quarter of Oslo, and a massacre at the youth camp on the island of Utøya. 77 were murdered by the lone killer. As has been the case in school killings, the killer had prepared an electronic press kit complete with photographs and a manifesto. He committed the atrocities to obtain maximal media coverage. He succeeded completely even in quality media. Every time we mention his name, publish his photograph or discuss his "agenda" we fulfill his deranged mission, become accomplices to his crime and inspire future mass criminals.

J. Hoberman: An Army of Phantoms (a book)

J. Hoberman: An Army of Phantoms. American Movies and the Making of the Cold War. New York, London: The New Press, 2011. Summer reading at Punkaharju, July 2011.

An Army of Phantoms is J. Hoberman's new entry to a projected trilogy of books on American movies in the light of American politics during the Cold War. The first book published, The Dream Life, was dedicated to the Sixties. A final planned volume will take us to the fall of the Wall.

In An Army of Phantoms, the theme is the beginning of the Cold War, and the era discussed is 1946-1956. The Iron Curtain, the nuclear race, the Korean war, the black list, and the Eisenhower years are among the topics. They are reflected in science fiction (aliens from outer space), juvenile delinquency films, Westerns, Biblical epics, and films noirs (Pickup on South Street, Kiss Me Deadly).

In his sober prose J. Hoberman has the talent of finding the absurdity in real life. What actually happened in world politics and Hollywood was often as surreal as the most bizarre inventions of Hollywood fiction. Yet the film discussed in the introduction is The Next Voice You Hear (1950), where God instructs America via radio. The prologue is dedicated to one of the strangest films ever made in Hollywood, Mission to Moscow (1942).

There is new insight into well-known films such as High Noon, Quo Vadis, Rebel without a Cause, and The Searchers. Inspiring reading for anyone interested in popular culture.

Dave Kehr: When Movies Mattered (a book)

Dave Kehr: When Movies Mattered. Reviews from a Transformative Decade. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2011. Summer reading at Punkaharju, July 2011.

Dave Kehr is one of the best film critics in the world, currently a dvd critic for The New York Times. When Movies Mattered is a collection of his reviews from 1974 to 1986 for Chicago Reader. Kehr reviewed both new and old films. A special section in the book is devoted to what can retrospectively be seen as "the end of classical Hollywood". Old masters directed their last films, and New Hollywood was blooming. There is also an appendix of Dave Kehr's top ten lists of those years. The book is full of surprises. Many films discussed are not the obvious and familiar ones. After Hours is the Martin Scorsese film included, and Sudden Impact is the Clint Eastwood selection. Worth reading are Kehr's reviews on Manoel de Oliveira's Francisca, and Roberto Rossellini's Blaise Pascal. There is a section on Jean-Luc Godard's films of the period.

The reviews are from the golden age of American film criticism. There was a large, active audience for film culture, and there was ample space in newspapers and journals for extended, serious writing on the cinema. This book is another proof that the perception of the high quality of the writing of those times is not just a golden memory. Film writing such as this is great literature with lasting value.

Where I disagree is the use of the past tense in the title "When Movies Mattered". Movies still matter for new generations, but it is a disaster what has happened with film criticism in print media.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Harry Potter ja kuoleman varjelukset,osa 2 / Harry Potter och dödsrelikerna: del 2. GB/US © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. EX: David Heyman, Lionel Wigram. P: David Barron, David Heyman, J.K. Rowling. D: David Yates. SC: Steve Kloves - based on the novel by J.K. Rowling (2007), in Finnish by Jaana Kapari-Jatta / Tammi 2008. DP: Eduardo Serra. PD: Stuart Craig. COST: Jany Temime. M: Alexandre Desplat - Harry Potter theme by John Williams. AD dept big. Makeup dept big. Art dept big. Special effects dept big. Visual effects dept huge. S: James Mather. Sound dept big. ED: Mark Day. - Cast descriptions copied from the English Wikipedia:

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, the film's main protagonist.
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, Harry's best friend and Hermione's romantic interest.
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Harry's other best friend and Ron's romantic interest.

Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, a Death Eater and Sirius Black's cousin/murderer.
Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn, the Potions master at Hogwarts.
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid, Harry's half-giant friend and a former staff at Hogwarts.
Warwick Davis as Filius Flitwick, the Charms master at Hogwarts; and Griphook, a goblin and former employee at Gringotts Bank.
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort, an evil, power-hungry wizard, and the leader of the Death Eaters. The chief antagonist of the series.
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, former headmaster of Hogwarts killed two films earlier by Severus Snape.
John Hurt as Ollivander, a wandmaker abducted by the Death Eaters.
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy's father and a disgraced Death Eater.
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, Harry's godfather. Killed in battle three films earlier by Bellatrix Lestrange.
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, former Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and the new headmaster of Hogwarts.
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, the Transfiguration teacher, Deputy Headmistress and future Headmistress at Hogwarts.
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, a member of the Order of the Phoenix and a former Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts.
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney, the Divination teacher at Hogwarts.
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley, the Weasley matriarch and a mother figure to Harry.

130 min. Released in Finland by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri (relying on the Jaana Kapari terminology) / Janne Staffans. DCP 3D, system: Dolby 3D. Viewed at Killa, Savonlinna, 29 July 2011.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Arricam LT, Cooke S4 Lenses, Arricam ST, Cooke S4 Lenses. - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision2 200T 5217, Vision2 500T 5218). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (master format), Super 35 (source format). - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (also Technicolor 3D), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (dual-strip 3-D) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version). - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

The last film in the Harry Potter series is a world-class phenomenon of global popular media culture. Again I'm a stranger in the screening of a film of the phenomenally successful series. The attendance is good, but we are the only ones to watch the ten minutes of end credits of over a thousand artists and professionals (we spot three Finnish names among them) and listen to Alexander Desplat's variations to the Harry Potter theme by John Williams (one of the all-time best theme tunes). I can repeat the remarks I made last year about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1: much of the film is bleak, slow and of low intensity. A wonderful cast of Britain's top actors perform vividly in their roles, but the leading trio is curiously somnambulistic. They seem like strangers, too, not like heroes in their own lives. Critics have commented on the quality of the 3D created in post-production, but I have nothing against it. More generally, I find the low definition, the absence of full colour and the absence of the warmth of the sun in all the Harry Potter films curious.

The climax is the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry Potter sacrifices himself, is almost dead already, is resurrected, destroys the Elder Wand, and having restored peace in the wizard world returns to normal life.

The Harry Potter saga covers some 40 years of a parallel existence with minimal links to reality. Perhaps that is the point, to create a compelling fantasy world which may be escapism for some and a counter-image for others. And perhaps to understand Harry Potter I would have to read the books, of which the films may be but reflections.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Il pianeta azzurro / [The Blue Planet]

IT 1981. P+D+SC+ED: Franco Piavoli. Un film di Franco Piavoli, dedicato a Neria. Questo film è stato realizzato nel 1981 da Franco Piavoli e Neria Poli. Montaggio del suono: Giuliana Zamariola. Mixage: Fausto Ancillai. Location: Val Bruna. 88, 83 min. Dvd extra: Interview with Franco Piavoli, 11 min. Watched on dvd at the summer cottage in Punkaharju, 27 July 2011.

Il nascere si ripete
di cosa in cosa
e la vita

a nessuno è data
in proprietà
ma a tutti in uso

- Lucretius: De rerum natura (motto of the film) (Birth spreads itself through one to another, and life is nobody's property but at anyone's disposal)

A visionary non-fiction film about nature. The film follows the four seasons in the countryside. It is a pantheistic, Epicurean film. There is no dialogue and no music in this wonderful, sensual film. There are affinities with Flaherty, Dovzhenko, Renoir (the realist, the love scene in Partie de campagne, the corresponding scene here in even more extreme close-up), Painlevé, Cousteau, Tarkovsky (Solaris, the living sea), Malick, and the topical Océans. From sources I learn that Il pianeta azzurro was Franco Piavoli's first feature film. It is already a work of a master. Unknown in Finland, for instance, Piavoli's work would deserve to be much more shown outside Italy. Thank you, Stefano Antonelli, for this tip.

The Force That Through the Green Fire Fuels the Flower

GB 2011. PC: Fargone Films. D+SC: Otto Kylmälä. DP: Joni Juutilainen. M: Stephen Horne. AD: Saule Norkute. Ass. Director: Jonas Trukanas. Hair & Make-Up: Monica Rossi. Camera Assistants: Ruby Kobayashi & James Chegwyn. Storyboard and Poster Artist: Marga Doek. Cast: Michael Eden (Ian), Carolyn Lyster (Maggie), Edward French (young man), Sarah Wolff (young girl), Emma Packer (karaoke lady), Nick Hoad (bartender), Alan Smith (doctor). 7.52 min. A silent film (no dialogue or sound effects). Black and white. Watched on Vimeo at the summer cottage in Punkaharju, 27 July 2011.

Vimeo introduction: "The Force That Through the Green Fire Fuels the Flower is a contemporary silent film, which follows a man through a journey of memories in the course of one night."

FB: facebook.com/​#!/​pages/​The-Force-That-Through-The-Green-Fire-Fuels-The-Flower/​165790356811670

"Finnish / National premiere at the 26th Midnight Sun Film Festival in Lapland in 2011. International premiere at the 30th Le Giornate Del Cinema Muto in Italy in 2011 with Stephen Horne's live accompaniment."

"The work has its own mesmerizing tone; it really rewards the eye and ear. It's smart and moving. A thoroughly accomplished work." - Guy Maddin

"It takes '21st Century Silents' to a new level - going far beyond the usual pastiche, to use the silent medium on its own terms and in a fresh and creative way". - David Robinson

“You couldn't imagine the film with dialogue; it's about words unspoken. Stands head and shoulders above most of the modern silent shorts”. - Luke McKernan / The Bioscope.

A lyrical film about an old widowed man whose wife has died in the hospital. He has a glass of beer at a karaoke bar, and the texts of the coasters under the beer ("come closer", "one is not enough") set off chains of memories of awakening love and dying love. Direct, elemental images in a setting of a nocturnal city. The mood is like in Salvatore Quasimodo's poem "Ed è subito sera".

Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
trafitto da un raggio di sole:
ed è subito sera

Beyond the jump break: "The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower" by Dylan Thomas

Merkintöjä valkeasta kaupungista / [Notes from a White City]

Anteckningar från den vita staden. FI © 2011 Nostalgiafilmi. P+D+SC+ED: Georg Grotenfelt. DP: Alexander Burov, Georg Grotenfelt, assistant camerapeople: Päivi Kettunen, Jakob Hopmans, Georgi Portnik. On-line: Heikki Kotsalo / Parastus. M: Sanna Salmenkallio. The musicians: Koiton Laulu. Solo vocals: Rosa-Maria Perä. S: Sergei Moshkov. Translations: Jaakko Anhava, Tuomas Anhava. Production manager: Sonja Lindén. 54 min. A Nostalgiafilmi screener dvd with both a Finnish and a Swedish version. Viewed at the summer cottage in Punkaharju, 27 July 2011.

A poetic non-fiction essay on the poet Gunnar Björling (1887-1960).

The Finnish Broadcasting Corporation's presentation (The Documentary Project): "The narrator observes his home town through his notebook during one year approximately. He leads us through the streets, the squares and the parks of the city, he guides us to its architecture and monuments but takes us also behind the facades to search the characteristics of our age, the sense or the senselessness of technocracy and consumption."

"He listens to voices of past generations, the gentle flapping of the wings of history, he pursues our common moments drawn on the tiles of the walls, the paving of the streets and on empty spaces, on our voyage towards timelessness."

"His landscape stretches from the raindrop to the stars on the sky, from morning till night, from one season to another. He writes as he remembers: moving freely in time, moving from a place to another, at times observing precisely, at times looking through the mirror of stories and images. He records events of the year, delights and misfortunes, celebrations and crimes. He reaches towards the future - what is about to disappear, what new is emerging?"

"Each word is tinged with yearning and melancholy: we have to relinquish every moment, but in our mind, in our notebook, in our movie we can conjure up lost time."

The Swedish-speaking Gunnar Björling was one of the greatest Finnish poets. He was a true original, laconic, aphoristic, uncompromising, in his youth Finland's only Dadaist. Inspired by Gunnar Björling's poetry and life Georg Grotenfelt has made a poetic essay on the city of Helsinki in winter. He has found tape recordings where we can hear Gunnar Björling's voice as he is reading his poems. The film has been produced with loving care and sensitivity, complete with an original music by Sanna Salmenkallio and performed by Koiton Laulu. A work of lasting value.

Gunnar Björling's bibliography beyond the jump break.

Jäävuoren varjoon / Iceberg Shadow

FI © 2009 Illume Ltd. P: Pertti Veijalainen. 8 mm films, postcards and letters: Oiva Kovanen. D+SC: Antti Seppänen. Still and video photography: Antti Seppänen, Teemu Liakka. Colour grading: Ilmo Lintonen / Minus Movies Oy. M: Kimmo Mustonen, Antti Kokkola. S: Kimmo Vänttinen. ED: Antti Seppänen, Samu Heikkilä. Voice of Oiva: Aarno Mansikkamäki. Garage sale salesman: Matti Seppänen. 57 min. An Illume dvd with English subtitles by Tiina Kinnunen. Viewed at the summer cottage in Punkaharju, 27 July 2011.

The Finnish Wikipedia synopsis: "The narrator finds a cardboard box full of 8 mm films in a garage sale. At home he gets acquainted with the contents of the films and discovers colourful and skilfully recorded footage from every continent of the Earth. The soft images emanating a mysticism of decades past lead the narrator to find out about the identity of the recorder of the images."

Further from the Wikipedia: the 8 mm films turned out to be a part of the heritage of the ship machinist Oiva Kovanen (1911-2001) from Kotka. The film was almost seven years in the making.

DocPoint 2010 catalogue: "Two boxes filled with 8 mm film are found at a garage sale. When the pictures start moving, a treasure is revealed: countless frames taken around the world, someone’s experiences and adventures from decades ago. The filmmaker has immortalised foreign faces in distant harbours, a stormy ocean, the neon lights of Manhattan, the sand-coloured pyramids, Machu Picchu – and his own shadow. Who was this filmmaker and why did his memories end up for sale? This riddle is tackled in the documentary Iceberg Shadow. The name found in the film bags puts the director on the right track. More evidence is uncovered at the War Archive and in the attics: old photos, letters and postcards. These form a picture of lived life, of the man behind the films. The amazing adventures of First Engineer O. V. Kovanen and his beautiful legacy are also a story about what is left of us when we are gone."

Documentary. First Engineer Oiva Kovanen lived during the age of the extremes, but as a cinematographer he focused on the eternal, on the most magnificent views of the world. One of the basic instincts of the cinema was the Lumière impulse to see the world and show its sights. This movie is one man's realization of that impulse - he wanted to film all the continents, and had a good sense of composition and colour in his films. Antti Seppänen has created a work of art by collecting the materials and constructing the journey format of this film. The 8 mm footage is complemented by photographs and postcards. Quotes from Kovanen's correspondence help make sense of the story. Kovanen habitually sent postcards to himself from his trips around the world. After his retirement Kovanen continued travelling and filming. He was among the victims of a shipwreck in the Antarctic where he lost all his footage shot during the trip, but four years later he made another, his final trip "to the end of the world", now equipped with a video camera. No relative was present in the funeral of the loner; only his neighbours from his siirtolapuutarha (allotment garden, Schrebergarten) were present. Five years after Kovanen's death Antti Seppänen found the footage in a garage sale. Among Kovanen's papers he found notes on astronomy and cosmology. Kovanen had seen the Earth and wanted to know more. - The music and sound world of this movie are sensitive. The visual impact is dominated by the warm, lively hues of the 8 mm cinematography which can be sensed even on the dvd. - An essay on kaukokaipuu, the yearning to faraway places.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo (opera)

Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo. Dramma lirico. FR 1867 / IT 1884. Libretto Joseph Méry and Camille Du Locle - based on the play Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien (1787) by Friedrich Schiller - the French libretto translated into Italian by Achille de Lauzières and Angelo Zanardini.

In the Olavinlinna Castle at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, 25 July 2011. In Italian with e-surtitles in Finnish (by Leena Vallisaari) and English. There are 12 versions of Don Carlo / Don Carlos. Presented was the standard Italian version (number 11) in four acts.

Hungarian State Opera Budapest. Conductor: Kocsár Balázs. Stage direction, stage design and lighting design adapted by: Zoltán Horváth. Costume designer: Márk Tivadar.

Filip II, King of Spain, bass: Kolos Kováts
Don Carlo, Infante of Spain, heir to the Spanish throne, tenor: Atilla Kiss
Elisabeth de Valois, soprano: Ildikó Cserna
Princess Eboli, mezzo-soprano: Éva Pánczél
Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, baritone: Tamás Busa
Grand Inquisitor, bass: László Szvétek
Tebaldo, Page to Elisabeth, soprano: Krisztina Simon
Count of Lerma, tenor: Lászlo Beöthy-Kiss
A Monk, baritone: Ferenc Valter
A Voice from Heaven, soprano: Ingrid Kertesi.

Hungarian State Opera Orchestra.
Hungarian State Opera Chorus.

A historical tragedy that takes place in Spain around 1560, performed in the Olavinlinna castle built in 1475-1483. The dark and devastating story takes a poetic license with details but is firmly grounded on reality. Spain was the most powerful state of Europe. It was the age of Renaissance and Reformation, but Spain was firmly Catholic, and the Spanish Inquisition was a powerful tool of the Counter-Reformation. Central backgrounds are the Revolt of the Netherlands and the Holy League against the Ottoman threat.

This was my first encounter with the story of Don Carlos in any form, opera or play. The musical performance of the Hungarian State Opera was powerful especially from the middle of the second act on. There is like an awakening, and the chorus during the burning at the stake rises to a tremendous force. Filip II and Elisabeth take special seats to watch the "heretics" being burned at the stake. As a newcomer to this opera I would not have understood what is going on if I had not been read about it in the libretto. I read from the libretto that the voice from heaven is directed to the persecuted martyrs. The actual presentation is so indirect and simultaneous that it is impossible to understand what is going on. Yet I refused to applaud at the end of the act because I felt like it would have meant applauding the massacre and the persecution. (The Oslo massacre had taken place three days ago.) The high spirit of the presentation then lasted to the end of the opera with highlights such as the lament of Filip in the beginning of the third act (the vanity of absolute power) and the duet of the king and the grand inquisitor immediately afterwards. It's not good to be the king in this story. Since I don't know Schiller's play I don't know it the fine literary quality of the text derives from the librettists or from Schiller, himself.

The most striking feature of the art direction / costume design departments was the Grand Inquisitor, inspired by El Greco, and resonating with gothic fantasy films such as Christopher Lee's incarnations of Dracula. A tall, gaunt bass in white, a blind old living dead, yet with a demonic intelligence worthy of Dostoyevsky's legend of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov.

The psychological fire of the drama comes from the fact that Don Carlos intends to murder his father, Filip II, who has married his beloved Elisabeth.

There are several film and television adaptations of the Schiller / Verdi story, but as far as I know none of them is definitive. Among the high profile versions is Carlos und Elisabeth (DE 1924) directed by Richard Oswald with Conrad Veidt as Don Carlos: I suspect it is interesting but not really great, probably focusing on salacious detail.

Don Carlos is a grand opera in French style. It had its premiere in 1867 in the Opéra le Peletier, known as Opéra de Paris until it burned in 1873. My associations fly to The Phantom of the Opera, inspired by that very disaster.

The age of Filip II was that of Cervantes and Shakespeare. Events of that violent age include the Counter-Reformation atrocities of St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, covered in films like L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise, the film adaptations of Reine Margot, and Griffith's Intolerance. Finland belonged to Sweden, which had to endure the bloody exploits of the sons of Gustav Vasa during the Reformation, plundering the fortunes of the Catholic Church, dramatized in Selma Lagerlöf's Sir Arne's Treasure, adapted for a film by Mauritz Stiller. Russia was under the reign of Ivan the Terrible.

The grandeur of Verdi's music and the tragedy of history resonated magnificently inside the walls of the Olavinlinna castle. The spiritual emptiness of the pursuit of power and glory is a major theme.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kristin Thompson on Albert Capellani

I'm processing slowly my Bologna notes of three weeks ago. Meanwhile, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson have done major blogging on this year's Il Cinema Ritrovato.

In their latest entry, "Capellani trionfante", Kristin Thompson claims that "Those festival guests who missed the Capellani films missed, in my opinion, the rewriting of early film history. He is not simply another important silent filmmaker to be placed in the pantheon. Film by film, this year and last, I kept comparing what I was watching with what D. W. Griffith had made that same year. In each case, Capellani’s film seemed more sophisticated, more engaging, and more polished."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Koli (national park)

Koli, 15 July 2011. Foto Laila Alanen
The Koli mountain is one of the most familiar national landscapes of Finland. I got to visit the mountain for the first time, climbing on top of the Ukko Koli ("Old Man Koli") with its magnificent views, carefully protected from visible marks of modernization. We sailed over the Lake Pielinen from Lieksa on the car ferry Pielinen enjoying a lunch of freshly caught kuha (zander) during the two hour trip. On the image above the white dot is the ferry returning from Koli to Lieksa. Koli images are famous in Finland, including classic photographs by I.K. Inha and paintings by Eero Järnefelt (a brother-in-law of Jean Sibelius). Koli had a profound influence on Sibelius, as well. Koli has been a familiar sight in movies, too, mostly in travelogues and tourist films, but I don't spontaneously remember a fiction film shot on the Koli. (Except Doctor Zhivago, where the landscape stands for Russia. From IMDb I also discover Sampo, Unna ja Nuuk, and Kulkurin masurkka). My first impression of Koli is that it looks the same as in the famous images of 100-150 years ago. The difference is in the sense of perspective, the wide horizon, the infinity, the eternity, and the freedom of the look, which no images can reproduce. Koli is a popular holiday target, but that does not affect the sense of the sublime at all. Rather the shared awe enhances it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Retretti 2011: Taiteilijapareja / Married to an Artist / [Artist Couples] (exhibition)

Viktor Jansson: A Girl's Head [Tove Jansson], 1920, marble.
Exhibition at Retretti curated by Riitta Konttinen. Book by Riitta Konttinen: Modernistipareja [Modernist Couples]. Helsinki: Otava 2011, 240, amply illustrated.

Retretti's main exhibition this year is a continuation to last year's theme, "Women Transcending the Limits of Art: Women Artists in Finland in the 19th Century", both curated to Riitta Konttinen. Riitta Konttinen published her book Taiteilijapareja [Artist Couples] in 1991, and last year, she published a new important work, Modernistipareja [Modernist Couples]. Her research is the basis for the Retretti exhibition.

The exhibition offers an impressive and original approach to the history of Finnish art: the road towards the Golden Age, and the early years of Finnish modernism. The combination of the well-known and little-known is well-balanced.

My favourites are the works of Greta Hällfors-Sipilä and Sulho Sipilä.

The most fascinating continuum is the one from the Signe Hammarsten-Jansson and Viktor Jansson in this exhibition to the separate exhibition of Tove Jansson and Tuulikki Pietilä, an artist couple of a next generation.

The couples on display are:

Anna Glad-Holmberg (1834-1909), painter
Werner Holmberg (1830-1860), painter
Werner Holmberg died young but left a legacy of powerful traditional landscape painting. His wife, the Norwegian Anna Glad, was a painter, as well.

Julia Stigzelius-de Cock (1840-1923), painter
César de Cock (1823-1904), painter
The Finn Julia Stigzelius married her teacher, the Belgian César de Cock. They were both skilled landscape and nature painters.

Antoinette Vallgren (1858-1911), sculptor
Ville Vallgren (1855-1940), sculptor
The sculptor Ville Vallgren stayed for a long time at the Montmartre in Paris, where he wed the Swedish engraver and sculptor Antoinette Råström. They inspired each other's work, and when Antoinette died, Ville felt he had lost "his good spirit".

Hilma Westerholm (1864-1952), art student and housewife
Victor Westerholm (1860-1919), painter
Hilma and Victor Westerholm were a "dynamic duo" in everything, but only Victor become a prominent painter and an influential figure in the art world.

Elin Danielson-Gambogi (1861-1919), painter
Raffaello Gambogi (1874-1943), painter
The Finn Elin Danielsson wed the Italian Raffaello Gambogi in Florence. They stayed at Torre del Lago and later at Antignano near Livorno, painting the same subjects. Elin said that work meant for both of them the child they never received. Elin was the one responsible for the affairs of the family, and she conducted extended painting trips to Finland.

Venny Soldan-Brofeldt (1864-1945), painter, drawer
Juhani Aho (1861-1921), author
Juhani Aho (birth name Brofeldt) was the national writer of Finland. The marriage was based on equality, with freedom and space for Venny Soldan-Brofeldt's art.

Eva Mannerheim-Sparre (1870-1957), designer, author
Louis Sparre (1863-1964), painter, graphic artist
The Swedish count Louis Sparre visited Finland invited by Axel Gallén and wed Eva Mannerheim, the sister of Marshal Mannerheim. Both were talented designers and artists. Louis Sparre also directed the first Finnish fiction film, Salaviinanpolttajat [The Moonshiners] (1907).

Hilda Flodin (1877-1958), painter, graphic artist, sculptor
Juho Rissanen (1873-1950), painter
Juho Rissanen came from a worker's family, Hilda Flodin from a wealthy academic background. Their marriage remained short, but both had a fruitful artistic career.

Eva Bremer (1894-1964), painter
Eemu Myntti (1890-1943), painter
Eemu Myntti was a shamanistic painter with an original colour world. Eve Bremer had a similar approach to art, and after Eemu's death she lived as an hermit in the deep forest of Ähtäri.

Meri Genetz (1885-1943), painter
Carl Wargh (1896-1937), painter
Meri Genetz and Carl Wargh were international artists interested in occultism and financially independent.

Lyyli Ollila (1888-1958), painter, critic
Yrjö Ollila (1887-1932), painter
Yrjö Ollila married Lyyli Toikka, and they lived a long time in France. Yrjö Ollila belonged to the modernist Septem group. Lyyli Ollila's paintings are less known, but she was a well-known critic.

Ragni Cawén (1891-1981), painter
Alvar Cawén (1886-1935), painter
Alvar Cawén married Ragni Holmberg, and their atelier home was a favourite meeting place of fellow artists. Alvar Cawén was a prominent artist and an influential figure in the art world. Ragni Cawén was especially active after Alvar's death, starting as a November expressionist and evoluting into a relaxed, colourful direction.

Eva Törnwall-Collin (1896-1982), painter
Marcus Collin (1882-1966), painter
Marcus Collin married his student Eva Törnwall at the Free Academy, and they travelled widely from Karelia to North Africa. Marcus Collin created humoristic paintings of the common people and dark November expressionist visions. Eva Collin created frescoes for theatre buildings.

Signe Hammarsten-Jansson (1882-1970), drawer
Viktor Jansson (1886-1958), sculptor
Victor Jansson was a prominent sculptor, who met Signe Hammarsten in Paris. Their home at the Katajanokka neighbourhood was known as one of the "funniest atelier homes in the world". Signe Hammarsten-Jansson was a caricaturist, illustrator and a postage stamp artist. Of their children, Tove Jansson and Lars Jansson became artists.

Greta Hällfors-Sipilä (1899-1974), painter
Sulho Sipilä (1895-1949), painter, navy officer
Sulho Sipilä and Greta Hällfors got married in 1924 and were inspired by modernism and naivism. They were equally inspired and innovative, central figures of Finnish modern art.

Retretti 2011: Married to an Artist (introduction)

Official introduction: "The main exhibition, Married to an Artist, of the Retretti Art Centre`s summer 2011 programme throws light on the life and oeuvre of Finnish artist couples over a period of one hundred years - on the lives of the artists, the interaction of two artists married to one another and the focus on their work."

"The exhibition comprises works by such well-known masters as Werner Holmberg, Victor Westerholm, Juho Rissanen, Elin Danielson-Gambogi and Alvar Cawén, as well as works by their lesser-known spouses, Anna Glad, Hilma Alander, Hilda Flodin, Raffaello Gambogi and Ragni Cawén. Married to an Artist brings a new perspective to Finland`s Golden Age and Early Modernism. The exhibition has been curated by Emerita Professor Riitta Konttinen."

"The nearly 150 works in Retretti`s exhibition represents the first extensive study of the work of artist couples in Finland and raises issues which have puzzled researches and the public both in Finland and internationally. The contemporary French artist, François Morellet has paradoxically stated that an artist couple "is as one, but which one?" The life shared by two artists has been seen as enriching both lives although problems have aso been recognised: the husband has often been considered to have a self-evident right to the role of "master", whereas his wife has been forced into the background. This has not always been the case, however, and the impact of the twin roles may also have been reciprocal, far-reaching and rewarding."

"Through the work of the artist couples the Retretti exhibition recounts tales of Finnish art life and provides an overview of the development of Finnish art from the Romanticism of the mid-19th century, through Finland`s Golden Age to start of Modernism."

"The exhibition presents paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and books, concentrating on fifteen major artist couples, in addition to the afore-mentioned, Antoinette Råström and Ville Vallgren, Julia Stigzelius and César de Cock, Venny Soldan and Juhani Aho, Eva Mannerheim and Louis Sparre, Eva Bremer and Eemu Myntti, Meri Genetz and Carl Wargh, Lyyli and Yrjö Ollila, Ragni Holmberg-Cawén and Alvar Cawén, Eva Törnwall-Collin and Marcus Collin, Signe Hammarsten-Jansson and Viktor Jansson, Greta Hällfors-Sipilä and Sulho Sipilä. Their stories will be enriched by works of other artists."

The Retretti Art Centre 2011 Summer Exhibitions

The Retretti Summer Exhibitions, Punkaharju, 1 June - 28 August, 2011:
1. Married to an Artist - paintings, drawings, sculptures
2. Tove Jansson & Tuulikki Pietilä - paintings, illustrations, cartoons, etchings
3. Carl Barks' Duckburg - oil paintings, cartoon drawings and paintings
4. Heli Ryhänen & Matti Kalkamo - sculptures, installations (bronze, aluminium, reinforced plastic and fabric)
5. Merja Pirilä & Petri Nuutinen - photographs
6. Art Glass from the Kyösti Kakkonen Collection: Sun Bottle, Water Lily, and Harlequin by Helena Tynell, Aimo Okkolin, and Nanny Still
7. Children's Workshop: Africa - making masks, workshop teatre Jewel
8. Punkalive - Karim Rashid's designs
9. Himmelblau Graphic Workshop - Elina Luukkanen, Miina Äkkijyrkkä, Annu Vertanen, Juho Karjalainen, Teija-Tuulia Ahola, Tiina Kivinen, Taru Innanen

Nick James on Sodankylä and Jonathan Rosenbaum on Bologna

I copy from Kalle Kinnunen's blog the link to Nick James's article on Midnight Sun Film Festival that took place a month ago. At the Sight & Sound site I find also already Jonathan Rosenbaum's story on Il Cinema Ritrovato that took place less than two weeks ago.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Matti Suurpää: Parnasso 1951-2011 (a book)

Matti Suurpää: Parnasso 1951-2011. Kirjallisuuslehden kuusi vuosikymmentä [Parnasso 1951-2011. Six Decades of a Literary Magazine]. 559 pages. Helsinki: Otava 2011.

Parnasso, Finland's leading literary magazine, established in 1951, soon became a vehicle for young post-war modernist generations who wanted to distance themselves from the pre-war literary establishment. Edited by Kaarlo Marjanen (1951-1954), Lauri Viljanen (1954-1956), Aatos Ojala (1957-1958), Kai Laitinen (1958-1966), Tuomas Anhava (1966-1979), Juhani Salokannel (1980-1986), Jarkko Laine (1987-2002),  Juhana Rossi (2003-2004), and Jarmo Papinniemi (2005- ) it has been a forum for much of the best Finnish poetry, prose, and essay-writing.

Parnasso belonged to my personal favourite reading in the 1960s and the 1970s as soon as I was old enough to understand, and I studied also the back catalogue of the magazine avidly and time and again. Many of the volumes have lasting value. That was the time of the serious discovery of Japanese and Chinese literature in the Finnish language, among other things. Tuomas Anhava was probably the best editor ever in our land. The decades from the 1950s till the 1970s were ones of great discoveries in modern art and world culture. Since then, structures of the mass university have drained much of the best literary talent into the academic world, little known among the general culturally oriented audience.

The model of Parnasso was the great Swedish Bonniers Litterära Magasin (BLM) (1932-2004) which was discontinued because of lack of demand, but Parnasso is going strong with a circulation of some 7000, high by any international standard for an uncompromisingly serious cultural magazine.

The chronicle of Parnasso is an occasion to study profoundly Finnish and world cultural history in a turbulent age - the Cold War, the fall of the Wall, and the new age. Matti Suurpää rises to the occasion in the sturdy volume, which is also a page-turner. There are long lists and summaries, but they are never boring, and Suurpää never loses the big picture. In an age of extremes, Parnasso has represented a cool, sober, modernistic approach, while also serving as a forum for other approaches, also letting prominent cultural figures make big fools of themselves without editorial comment.

"Parody has become impossible: they do it themselves" is a famous quote from the poet Paavo Haavikko, and "They do it themselves" was for a while the headline for a section of juicy quotes in the magazine.

Parnasso has focused on literature, and the human condition has been confronted on a general level, as a concern of our way of living like there is no tomorrow.

Parnasso took cinema seriously from the beginning. Jerker A. Eriksson started to write about films for Parnasso in 1954, followed by Jouko Tyyri, Jaakko Ahokas, Risto Hannula, Matti Salo, Peter von Bagh, Olli Alho, Reijo Lehtonen, and Antti Selkokari. There had been good writing about the cinema from day 0 (the first press screening in Finland by the Lumière company in 1896) but in the 1950s cinema was finally consistently being studied with the same level of ambition as any other art.

Matti Suurpää explores many aspects of the success of Parnasso. I would like to add one more keyword: love - the love of good writing, of which Suurpää's book itself is a splendid example. I predict it will be a strong contender for the best Finnish non-fiction book of the year (the Tieto-Finlandia Award).

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Merrie melodies and looney tunes

Il Cinema Ritrovato (25 June - 2 July) ended last weekend in Bologna. I'm about to enter remarks about the magnificent festival in this blog retroactively. So far I have only managed to copy the festival's programme notes of the 49 films or short film programmes that I saw.

After a day of taking care of urgent business at the office it's time for holiday. In the morning we have a coffee break at Hamina market square where early potatoes, strawberries and other products of the season are at their best, having grown in the 24-hour sunlight. By lunchtime we reach Imatra. The delicious local fish muikku (vendace) is excellent at the best restaurant in town, Buttenhoff. Downstairs at Café Julia the "damn good coffee" and the apple pie would please Dale Cooper.

The devastating traces of last summer's enormous thunderstorm are still evident by Road Six. Kilometer after kilometer vast areas of forest are destroyed.

The farmers are working hard from morning till night. Luckily for our neighbour farmer there is a hawk patrolling in the sky and scaring off fieldfare (räkättirastas) from his strawberry fields. Also a family of long-eared owls (sarvipöllö) has settled down in the next forest as this is a good mole year. The owls also keep the fieldfare away. A signature bird here (even the "official bird" of the province of Southern Savo)  is the golden oriole, kuhankeittäjä, a bright yellow bird with a somewhat tropical look. Often almost impossible to see as it lives in the highest tree tops and flies very fast. But an avid singer with a variety of jovial tunes.

As always, it's an amusing contrast that we city-dwellers start vacationing when country folks work hardest. And we do our holiday fishing in July when the catch is at its worst. Be that as it may, a swim in the clear water of the Puruvesi works miracles.

P.S. 6 July 2011: Next morning in birdland the first sight is a Whooper Swan, in Finnish laulujoutsen, our national bird, honoured even on the Finnish Euro coin. In the 1950s the Whooper Swan was on the verge of extinction in our land because of hunting, but the population has grown after it was declared endangered in the 1930s. For the first time we observe this species of swan having breakfast just a few meters from us. It used to be a very shy bird. The more common species Mute Swan (kyhmyjoutsen) is a "city swan", blasé in the presence of crowds.

Our little bay is both a swan lake and a loon lake. A loon (kuikka) is also having breakfast, keeping a marked distance both from us and the swan. It is considered the oldest bird species in the Northern hemisphere. Both the loon and the swan have something primordial and atavistic in them in appearance and in song.

P.S. 8 July 2011: Caught a pike, felled a pine.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Too much of the good thing in Bologna

It's getting more and more impossible to pay justice to the bulging programme of Il Cinema Ritrovato which expanded now into a fourth parallel venue. There was literally an embarrassment of riches as unique introductions and showcases of labours of love kept overlapping.

Howard Hawks was this year's top-billed American director whose early work was screened in its entirety followed by examples of new restorations and rarities from his later career. I got to see at last the risqué puma comedy The Cradle Snatchers (1927) and the spoof detective story Trent's Last Case (1929). Brilliant Sony Columbia prints were screened of films such as Twentieth Century (1934) and Only Angels Have Wings (1939). The banner movie of the year was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) whose punchlines worked like a dream for the jam-packed audience at the Piazza Maggiore which felt hot even at midnight.

The "A Hundred Years Ago" project curated by Mariann Lewinsky, one of the most impressive film retrospectives ever, had to be restricted last year to Europe only, and now for practical reasons even famous European subjects (Asta Nielsen, Léonce Perret... ) had to be omitted as in 1911 films were getting longer. Among the semi-feature films the electrifying Calvario starring Lydia De Roberti was suggested by Lewinsky to be the precursor of the whole Italian diva school. The most impressive show was the one dedicated to the thrillers with showcases of great pantomime and striking imagery. The "A Hundred Years Ago" project has been an unprecedented opportunity to follow the growth of the art of the cinema. It has also presented a rewarding challenge to our brotherhood of film archives to take stock of our early cinema holdings.

Last year the "A Hundred Years Ago" project spawned the first part of a first ever extensive retrospective of Albert Capellani, the great French film pioneer. Among the seven shows this year were some of his greatest films such as Germinal (1913) in a marvellous new colour restoration by La Cinémathèque française. For me the big discovery was the Victor Hugo adaptation Quatre-vingt-treize (1914), which I had never seen before, now also in a brilliant new restored colour version from La Cinémathèque française. One could feel the wind of history blowing in this inspired, tragic epic about the French Revolution.

In her remarkable blog entry "Capellani trionfante" Kristin Thompson commented: "Those festival guests who missed the Capellani films missed, in my opinion, the rewriting of early film history. He is not simply another important silent filmmaker to be placed in the pantheon. Film by film, this year and last, I kept comparing what I was watching with what D.W. Griffith had made that same year. In each case, Capellani’s film seemed more sophisticated, more engaging, and more polished." (Observations on Film Art, 14 July 2011).

Another inspired retrospective, curated by Kim Tomadjoglou, was dedicated to Alice Guy, the film pioneer, in six shows. Alice Guy was among other things the first (and still only?) woman to own a film studio: Solax in the U.S.A. Alice Guy's status as an early film director has sometimes been contested, and in one sense understandably because she started so early that the job description did not yet exist. From that standpoint the most remarkable film in the tribute was Alice Guy tourne une phono-scène (1905). It leaves no doubt about who's calling the shots, and it is also invaluable as an early record about production in a professional film studio.

There was a consistent touch of grandeur in the Piazza Maggiore open air night screenings. The Orchestra del Teatro Comunale played in two live cinema events. In the first of them Timothy Brock was the conductor with inspired arrangements for two well-known films. The music for the Lobster colour restoration of Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) was from Jacques Offenbach's homonymous operetta. For Nosferatu (1921) the music was based on Heinrich Marschner's boldly romantic opera Der Vampyr. Both music decisions were for me the best ever for these movies.

With the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale Gabriel Thibaudeau conducted his beloved score for The Phantom of the Opera (1925) with the coloratura soprano Gerda Findeisen performing the jewel aria from Charles Gounod's Faust which provides the metatext for the score. Another definitive performance of a famous movie.

On the piazza a restored America, America (1963) concluded a tribute to Elia Kazan. The 4K restoration of Les Enfants du paradis (1945) worked like magic. Besides Gentlemen Prefer Blondes the most electrifying piazza experience was another 4K restoration, that of Taxi Driver (1976); the projection for all DCP's being still in 2K. As always, it was impossible to assess restorations in the piazza circumstances. I was previously familiar with the new Taxi Driver restoration, but on the piazza it was unrecognizable.

There were many remarkable restorations to admire in cinema circumstances, however, such as Shoes (1916) directed by Lois Weber and restored by EYE Film Institute Netherlands. I could not believe my eyes when Le Quai des brumes (1938), a film with extremely demanding lighting effects, was screened in a brilliant new La Cinémathèque française 2K restoration

Saturday, July 02, 2011

America America (2011 Warner Bros. restoration)

US © 1963 Athena Enterprises Corporation. D: Elia Kazan . T. it.: America America – Il ribelle dell’Anatolia; Based on the novel by Elia Kazan and on a story by Hamal; SC: Elia Kazan; DP: Haskell Wexler; Op.: Harlowe Stengel; ED: Dede Allen; PD: Vassilis Photopoulos; Co.: Anna Hill Johnstone; M: Manos Hatzidakis; S: Edward Beyer, Jack Fitzstephens, Richard Vorisek; Cast: Stathis Giallelis (Stavros Topouzoglou), Frank Wolff (Vartan Damadian), Harry Davis (Isaac Topouzoglou), Elena Karam (Vasso Topouzoglou), Estelle Hemsley (nonna Topouzoglou), Gregory Rozakis (Hohanness Gardashian), Lou Antonio (Abdul), Salem Ludwig (Odysseus Topouzoglou), John Marley (Garabet), Joanna Frank (Vartuhi), Linda Marsh (Thomna Sinnikoglou); P: Elia Kazan per Warner Bros; Pri. pro.: dicembre 1963. 35 mm. 174’. B&w. English version. From: Warner Bros. Preserved by Warner Bros with funding provided by The Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Saturday 2 July 2011 at 22.00, Piazza Maggiore (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Presented by Fatih Akin, Margaret Bodde and Stathis Giallelis introduced by Gian Luca Farinelli and Peter von Bagh.

Catalogue: "Neither my father nor my mother liked the idea of this picture. Unvoiced, uneasy recollections of the Turks, I suspect, made them feel the whole subject was better left alone. When I planned my first trip to do research, they were apprehensive. Greece? All right, but why Turkey? I offered to take my parents with me for a visit. I had the feeling that my father should be spending his last years back there, under an olive tree, watching the harbors, drinking raki. He had no such notion. “What’s the matter with New Rochelle?” he demanded. “We stay here”, said my mother.""

"I visited the massive, terrible – and beautiful – city of Istanbul, where porters, called hamals, still work as beasts of burden. I went to where my father was born, in the shadow of the snowcapped Mount Aergius. Smells, sounds, a way of life half-remembered from my infancy, seemed to me idyllic. (…) I tried to make the film like a legend. That’s why Stavros and Vartan are on a mountain cutting ice. The ‘clean’ mountain was a symbol of their aspirations. Ice is a clean thing; snowfall is a clean thing. All of this contrasts with the hot, dirty, fifteenth – or sixteenth-century town below where the Turks not only oppressing the Armenians and Greeks, they were oppressing their fellow countrymen. (…) I used to say to myself when I was making the film that America was a dream of total freedom in all areas. I made two points about that. One was that America had a responsibility to the dream: the dream has a responsibility to the dreamer. And furthermore, what these people availed themselves of when they got here, what they turned the dream into, was the freedon to make money. Money became their weapon; it was the symbol of strenght. (Elia Kazan: Kazan on Directing, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2009).""

I watched just the introductions and the first half an hour about the persecution of the Armenians from this magnificent film (see my America America entry of 1998). The Finnish print I know does justice to Haskell Wexler's brilliant cinematography. The new 2011 Warner Bros. restoration looks fine on the piazza, but it is impossible to give a fair evaluation of it in the piazza circumstances.

A powerful ending to yet another great edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato. There are a few hours to sleep and to pack, and then there's an early morning flight back home via Amsterdam.

Hudutlarin kanunu / Law of the Border (2011 restoration by World Cinema Foundation)

TR 1966. D: Ömer Lüfti Akad. SC: Ömer Lüfti Akad, Yilmaz Güney; DP: Ali Uğur; ED: Ali Ün; M: Nida Tüfekçi; Cast: Yilmaz Güney (Hidir), Pervin Par (Ayse, l’insegnante), Hikmet Olgun (Yusuf), Erol Tas¸ (Ali Cello), Tuncel Kurtiz (Bekir), Osman Alyanak (Dervis Aga), Aydemir Akbas (Abuzer), Atilla Ergün (Zeki, primo luogotenente); P: Dadaş. 35 mm. 74’. B&w. Turkish version with English [not as according to the catalogue, French] subtitles. [Electronic subtitles in Italian.] From: Dadas¸ Film. Restored [in 2011] by World Cinema Foundation at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. Saturday 2 July 2011 at 17.00, Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Presentano Fatih Akin, and an old Turkish actor who had worked with Yilmaz Güney, introduced by Gian Luca Farinelli.

Catalogue: "The restoration was made possible through the use a positive print provided by Nil Gurpinar, daughter of the film’s producer, and held by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. As this print is the only known copy to survive the Turkish Coup d’Etat in 1980 – all other film sources were seized and destroyed – the restoration required a considerable amount of both physical and digital repair. The surviving print was extremely dirty, scratched, filled with mid-frame splices and sadly missing several frames. Although the film was shot in black and white, it was also printed on color stock resulting in significant decay. Finally, the first reel was missing and a Betacam was used instead. The restoration work was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory and will produce a new 35 mm dupe negative. The World Cinema Foundation would like to specially thank Fatih Akin for recommending this title, and Ali Akdeniz and Nurhan Sekerci for facilitating the restoration process.""

"Turkish cinema in Sixties took place in a dream world. The movies of that era refused to look directly at Turkish society. Hudutlarin kanunu, on which Yilmaz Güney met director Ömer Lütfi Akad, is one of the movies that changed this state of affairs. Akad’s genuine creative vision influenced Güney’s style as an actor: one can easily see the difference in Güney’s acting before and after Hudutlarýn kanunu. Akad’s influence was a positive one...""

"Güney’s natural performance marked a change in Turkish Cinema. This was the beginning of what would later be called “New Cinema” in Turkey. With its powerful cinematography and its direct and realistic depiction of social problems, Hudutlarin kanunu is one of the early milestones of Turkish cinema. Given the manner of storytelling and the style of photography, one might almost say that Akad’s film is a Western.""

"Hudutlarin kanunu depicts vital problems in the society of South East Turkey. Lack of education, no agriculture, and unemployment compelled people to live by the “law of the border” (Hudutlarin kanunu) – in other words, smuggling. Hudutlarin kanunu underlines the importance of education, which is the crucial element of socio-economical progress in third world Countries. It also helps us to understand the reasons behind the ongoing, veiled war along Turkey’s South-East border. Forty five years ago, Ömer Lütfi Akad was alerting Turkish society of the likely consequences if preventive measures are not taken in time. He alerted us with a great and lasting film, Hudutlarin kanunu."" Fatih Akin

"Ömer Lütfi Akad's Hudutlarin kanunu comes as a revelation to first-time viewers – a work of great visual and dramatic force, of terrific purity and ferocity. It was made during the year that its star and coscreenwriter, Yilmaz Güney, made his own directing debut. And it’s not surprising for first time viewers to learn that this stunning collaboration marked a shift in Turkish cinema, and ushered in what became known as “the director generation.” Once again, the World Cinema Foundation’s advisory board member Fatih Akin has brought us a great and inspirational film." Kent Jones, WFC Executive Director

In his introduction Fatih Akin told about his project on Yilmaz Güney, the most important figure in the Turkish cinema.

There is a genre film approach in this movie which has a lot of action, gunplay, and chases. The border milieu and "the last outlaw" theme invite comparisons with the Western. Yilmaz Güney's performance as the last outlaw Hidir is convincing, and Pervin Par is memorable as "the first teacher" Ayse in the wild borderland. The border sergeant and Hidir are childhood friends, now on opposite sides of the law. They are also rivals for Ayse's attentions. Hidir loves his son Yusuf, who will get a chance of education thanks to Ayse. There are remarkable instances of mise-en-scène, interplay of sound and image, use of Turkish music, editing, and rhythm. Among the memorable sequences is the one in which Ayse smokes a cigarette through a holder, and we see Hidir going to sleep at night, while a woman's song is heard in the background.

The restoration is based on difficult sources, and one can be grateful that it has been possible to produce a print like this that is probably as good as it can get of this film maudit.

Man on a Tightrope

Nuorallatanssija [Finnish release title 1953]. US © 1953 Twentieth Century Fox. D: Elia Kazan. T. it.: Salto mortale; Based on: International Incident di Neil Paterson; SC: Robert E. Sherwood; DP: Georg Krause; ED: Dorothy Spencer; PD: Hans Kuhnert, Theo Zwirsky; M: Franz Waxman; S: Carl Becker, Roger Heman Sr., Martin Müller, Karl Becker, Roger Heman; Cast: Fredric March (Karel Cernik), Terry Moore (Tereza Cernik), Gloria Grahame (Zama Cernik), Cameron Mitchell (Joe Vosdek), Adolphe Menjou (Fesker), Robert Beatty (Barovik), Alexander D’Arcy (Rudolph), Richard Boone (Krofta), Pat Henning (Konradin), Paul Hartman (Jaremir), John Dehner (il capo), Gert Fröbe; P: Robert L. Jacks per 20th Century Fox; Pri. pro.: 29 giugno 1953. 35 mm. 105’. From: 20th Century Fox. Saturday, 2 July 2011 at 14.30, Cinema Arlecchino (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Presenta lo storica Foster Hirsch.

Catalogue: "Man on a Tightrope recounts the story of a third-rate Czech circus and of the political interference that finally prompts its manager, Karel Cernik (Fredrich March), to take the company on a dash to cross into the American zone of Germany. The key relationships are those between Cernik and his second wife Zama (Gloria Grahame), and his daughter Teresa and a young man who also wants to reach West Germany to search for his father. These relationships are never very convincing, and were further weakened when Zanuck subsequently cut twenty minutes from the early part of the picture. Kazan does try to stress the individuality, eccentricity and cosmopolitanism of the itinerant performers while the use of a real circus – the circus Brumbach – contributes a reasonable sense of surface realism. (…) Zanuck’s fear of heaving the film branded by critics as political or historical, assumed to be box office poison in 1953, led to it lacking any significant context relating to the politics of Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia. More than ever, Zanuck argued, people are “going to the theatre to escape lectures, propaganda, politics and the constant talk-talk-talk which they get on TV and the radio”. (…) A rare allusion to the political context comes with Cernik’s reference to both Nazi and Soviet occupations and to Jan Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, symbols of the lost tradition of Czech democracy." (Brian Neve: Elia Kazan. The Cinema of an American Outsider, I.B. Tauris, London 2009).

Foster Hirsch in his introduction told that the youthful Hollywood veteran Terry Moore now is the only survivor of the main cast and crew. The interrogation reminded Kazan of his own experiences in front of the HUAC. For Kazan, two performances were especially strong: Fredric March (whom he saved from the black list) and Adolphe Menjou (who Kazan stated was not a Fascist). Foster Hirsch emphasized that this is a rare chance to see an unknown and uncared for film.

There is an interesting affinity between the two circus films Man on a Tightrope and Ingmar Bergman's Gycklarnas afton ([The Night of the Clowns] / Sawdust and Tinsel, also 1953): the humiliating relationship between the ageing Fredric March / Åke Grönberg and his red-blooded young wife Gloria Grahame / mistress Harriet Andersson. À propos: both Kazan and Bergman made a Cold War film on Eastern Europe. Bergman's contribution, Sånt händer inte här [These Things Don't Happen Here, 1950], is even less seen.

Man on a Tightrope takes place in Czechoslovakia in 1952. The account of Stalinist oppression feels convincing. There is a realistic approach that borders on the documentary on the daily life of a travelling circus. The film was shot on location on the Bavarian side. There are moments on circus life that have a Fellinesque-Kusturican aspect. Thanks to a brilliant plan the circus manages to pass through the Iron Curtain. Another moment of liberation is Zama and Rudolph's clandestine swim in the river (Moldau?). This is not a piece of crude propaganda, and as Foster Hirsch states, there is a special personal charge in the scenes where the circus director is interrogated by the Stalinist security police. The movie is anti-glamorous, and the general feeling is  more of a profound disappointment and disgust than liberation.

The print was fine.

A Hundred Years Ago: Programme 9: Pantomime 2 - Punch, Pierrot, Pinocchio

Cento anni fa: Programma 9: Pantomima 2 - Pulcinella, Pierrot, Pinocchio. Programme by Mariann Lewinsky and notes by David Mayer, Giovanni Lasi. Saturday 2 July 2011 at 11.15, Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Grand piano: Antonio Coppola.

Catalogue: "Albert Capellani’s féerie Vie de Polichinelle (1907) begins as Polichinelle, an automaton in a toyshop, is separated from his partner, a female automaton, when she is boxed and shipped to a ducal palace to amuse the noble’s aristocratic guests. Despairing, Polichinelle is given a chance to recover this human-size doll when a fairy queen gives him life. Polichinelle or Punch, much like Pinocchio, is far more human than a toy, and the scenic obstacles that he encounters are fully realised renderings of the effects described and illustrated in Georges Moynet’s Trucs et Décors (1893). Theatre historians seeking to recover the narrative and technologies of late-Victorian pantomime in a accessible early twentieth century French film may find that wish satisfied by this Pathé film. (David Mayer).""

"One somersault and Tontolini turned into the most famous puppet in the world: with a flip Ferdinand Guillaume, the actor of Cines’s famous comic series, opened Pinocchio, the Roman studio’s kilometric feature length film. The French actor’s impressive athletic feat – he was the descendant of a famous circus family – is a minor performance in comparison to Cines’s extraordinary show of strength producing 1350 meters, a length that had never been reached before in the history of Italian film. The film, shot by Gant (the pseudonym of Count Giulio Antamoro), transferred to screen the parable of the wooden puppet by Carlo Collodi (alias Carlo Lorenzini), keeping intact the underlying educational values of the story, the spectacular qualities of the adventure genre, even including an improvised charge of Indians, which evidently was not contemplated by the original literary work. Despite the lively action of the film, Pinocchio by Cines stands out for its lyricism and the touching drama with which the most moving episodes of the story are resolved, admirably translated into “film” with the skills Antamoro and the acting abilities of Guillaume, who proves to be not only an acrobat but also a great actor. (Giovanni Lasi).""

LA LÉGENDE DE POLICHINELLE. FR 1907. D: Albert Capellani. Cast: Max Linder; P: Pathé Frères (No. 1783). 35 mm. L. or.: 410 m. 340 m. 16’30'' a 18 fps. B&w. Russkie intertitry. From: BFI National Archive. - AA: Une féerie. Title of the print (in Russian): Legenda o Polishinele. Earphone commentary in English and Italian. Resembles Méliès in many ways but with original accents. The hero Pulcinella rides a toy horse. There is a magic castle, and an enchanted forest with swamps. The castle perishes utterly and the lady partner breaks into pieces. Pulcinella collects them in his sack, and the lady is assembled again. A black and white print of a film obviously designed for colour effects.

FUMÉES D’IVRESSE. FR 1910. 35 mm. 50 m. 2‘ a 16 fps. B&w. Intertitres français. From: CNC-Archives Françaises du Film. - AA: The title on the print: Hallucination de Pierrot. A simple vignette: Pierrot wanders in the park, and the statue of a gorgeous woman comes into life in his hallucination.

PINOCCHIO. IT 1911. D: Giulio Antamoro. Based on the fairy tale novel (1883) by Carlo Collodi. Cast: Ferdinand Guillaume (Pinocchio), Augusto Mastripietri (Geppetto), Lea Giunchi (la fata), Natalino Guillaume (Lucignolo); P: Cines (No. 672). 35 mm. L. or.: 1350 m. 1086 m. 53’ a 18 fps. Col. Italian intertitles. From: CSC Cineteca Nazionale Restaurato dalla Cineteca Nazionale CSC in coll. con La Cineteca Italiana di Milano. - Mariann Lewinsky told us that this film was the longest Italian film so far. - AA: The restoration is from 1994. This film is episodic, and some episodes may be missing, but that does not harm. Polidor (Ferdinand Guillaume) has an inspired touch in his interpretation of Pinocchio. The colours of this restoration are strong. Episodes include: pandemonium in the market place, Pinocchio's feet burn in the fireplace, Pinocchio is made to serve as a watchdog, the burglars arrest Pinocchio and hang him, but the Blue Fairy rescues him, the Fox and the Cat (la Volpe e il Gatto) seduce Pinocchio to the Stupid Bastard City and steal his coins, Pinocchio escapes prison and swims 99 days until he lands into the whale's belly from where he rescues Geppetto. They are taken captive by Indians, and Pinocchio rescues Geppetto from the Indians' barbecue stake, Canadian soldiers kill the Indians and shoot Pinocchio with a cannon back home, Pinocchio comes to a puppet theatre (teatro dei burattini), tired of Pinocchio, Geppetto attacks him with an axe, Pinocchio comes to the land of eternal play and is transformed into a donkey, but the Blue Fairy rescues him a second time. When Pinocchio once more returns home the Blue Fairy works her magic to turn him into a real boy. - Still charming to watch.

Albert Capellani: Programme 7: Borders and Blind Dates (A Workshop)

Albert Capellani: Programma 7: Ai limiti e altri incontri imprevisti (un workshop). Saturday 2 July 2011 at 10.00 at Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian and English. Grand piano: Donald Sosin. Presenta Mariann Lewinsky.

Catalogue: "Several of Capellani’s films are in an advanced state of decomposition (La Belle et la Bête, 1908), or have survived only as an incomplete negative, so that the colours, intertitles and the end of the film are missing (Beatrix Cenci, 1909). After seeing so many Capellani films, perhaps we, the viewers, can decide whether La Loi du pardon (1906) is a Capellani film (or is it by Ferdinand Zecca or another unknown director such as, for instance, the one who made La Loi du coeur?), or whether or not to attribute Manon Lescaut, a 1914 S.C.A.G.L. production, to Capellani." (ML)

LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE. FR 1908. D: Albert Capellani. Based on the story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont; Cast: Julienne Mathieu; P: Pathé Frères No 2252; Pri. pro.: 9 novembre 1908. 35 mm. 60 m. 3’ a 16 fps. Pochoir. Intertitres français. From: Lobster Films. - AA: A fairy-tale. The beast is a funny creature in this adaptation. The print: the visual quality is occasionally ok but largely so ravaged it borders on Brakhage.

FOULARD MERVEILLEUX / [the title of the print:] The Wonderful Scarf. FR 1908. D: Albert Capellani. P: Pathé Frères No. 2204. 35 mm. 140 m. 8’ a 16 fps. B&w. From: BFI National Archive. - AA: A comedy, a magic trick film. There is a scarf which can render its owner invisible. A vicious guy retaliates by means of invisibility.

BÉATRIX CENCI. FR 1909. D: Albert Capellani. P: Pathé Frères No. 2224. 35 mm. L. or.: 225 m. 132 m. 8’ a 16 fps. B&w No intertitles. From: La Cinémathèque française. - AA: A historical story in the Film d'Art style. A Renaissance story, a court story. We see Beatrice Cenci murdering her father who has raped her. The print is a fragment struck from a negative element.

LA LOI DU PARDON. FR 1906. D: Ferdinand Zecca? Albert Capellani?. Law of Pardon; SC: André Heuzé. P: Pathé Frères (Scène dramatique No. 1381); Pri. pro.: 5 maggio 1906. 35 mm. 146 m. 7’ a 18 fps. B&w. Intertitres français. From: CNC-Archives Françaises du Film. - AA: Drama. The daughter brings her parents together. The visual quality of the print is uneven, with signs of water / nitrate damage in the source.

[added:] LE CORSO TRAGIQUE. FR 1908. - AA: Tragedy. There is a nice salesgirl of mother-of-pearl. The father foils the happiness of the young. En route pour le corso. There is a masked ball, the young man is murdered, and the victim is brought to his father still wearing his Pierrot mask. 2003-2008.

EYE FOR EYE (TRAILER). US 1918. 20 m. 3’ a 18 fps. B&w/col. From: Library of Congress. - AA: Shown was actually a Fox Film Corporation trailer show: Fox West Coast greater season previews. Eye for Eye: starring Alla Nazimova.

[added:] [DANZA APACHE]. [1911?]. Fondazione Cineteca Italiana. Pochoir. - An unidentified apache dance.

[added:] TONTOLINI IMPARA A BALLARE. IT 1911. Flash titles. - Comedy. Tontolini cannot dance. He visits a joint where he sees violent apache dance. Back at the high society ballroom he starts to lead the ladies to an apache dance of the rudest kind. +

Friday, July 01, 2011

film concert The Phantom of the Opera (1925) with Gabriel Thibaudeau and the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, soprano: Gerda Findeisen

US © 1925 Universal. D: Rupert Julian. T. it.: Il fantasma dell’opera; Based on the novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (1911) by Gaston Leroux; SC: Elliott J. Clawson, Raymond L. Schrock, Bernard McConville, Jasper Spearing, Richard Wallace, Walter Anthony, Tom Reed, Frank M. McCormack (non accred.); DP: Milton Bridenbecker, Virgil Miller, Charles Van Enger (non accred.); ED: Edward Curtiss, Maurice Pivar, Gilmore Walker (non accred.); M: Gustav Hinrichs; Ass. D: Joe Pasternak (non accred.); Cast: Lon Chaney (Erik, il fantasma), Mary Philbin (Christine Dace), Norman Kerry (Visconte Raoul de Chagny), Arthur Edmund Carewe (Ledoux), Gibson Gowland (Simon Buquet), John St. Polis (Conte Philip de Chagny), Snitz Edwards (Florine Papillon), Virginia Pearson (Carlotta), Edith Yorke (madame Valerius), Anton Vaverka, Bernard Siegel (Joseph Buguet), Olive Ann Alcorn (La Sorelli), Edward Cecil (Faust), Alexander Bevani (Mephistopheles), John Miljan (Valentin), Chester Conklin; P: Carl Laemmle per Universal Pictures; Pri. pro.: 6 settembre 1925. 35 mm. 2579 m. 93’. Col. English intertitles. Sous-titres français on the print. Electronic subtitles in Italian. From: Lobster Films. Piazza Maggiore, Bologna (Il Cinema Ritrovato), 1 July 2011.

Music composed by Gabriel Thibaudeau (1990). Conductor: Gabriel Thibaudeau. Performed by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Soprano: Gerda Findeisen.

Catalogue: "When it was clear to Universal from critical and boxoffice reaction to The Hunchback of Notre Dame that in letting Chaney go to MGM they hade made a potentially disastrous decision, they negotiated with their erstwhile employee, Irving Thalberg, to borrow Chaney to star in a ten-reel version of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera."

"The movie was made in 1925 and Universal spared no expense on the production, constructing the interior of the Paris Opera House as well as a maze of streets for the final chase and a labyrinth of catacombs to depict the phantom’s lair under the Opera House. Once more Chaney endured hellish pain to achieve his make-up, a living skull with sparse hair over a domed head, eyes bulging under the pressure of painfully inserted wires, cheekbones emphasized with celluloid discs and a mouth framed with jagged, bestial teeth. Little wonder that people collapsed in cinemas at the moment when, after an impeccably edited build-up which stretched tension almost breaking point, the heroine, Mary Philbin, tore off the phantom’s mask to reveal to herself and the audience, the horror that was Chaney’s face. Although much of the film appears overacted at this distance, and Miss Philbin less than effective, the shock points in the movie still retain all their original potency: the unmasking, the love scene played by hero and heroine on the roof of the Opera House while above them, his red-tinted cloak billowing like the wings of an angel from hell, the phantom listened; Chaney’s appearance at a masked ball, in the character of Death, made all the more effective by the early use of colour, with his red cloak contrasted against a predominantly green background; the crashing of the giant chandelier into the auditorium and the climactic chase through the sewers and streets of Paris, all these help to overcome with the genius of Chaney’s makeup and mime, the deficiencies of a story that at times verged upon the melodrama of Perils of Pauline (1914). Nominally directed by Rupert Julian, The Phantom of the Opera was completed by Edward Sedgwick after Julian had been removed from the film, and some scenes were directed by Chaney." (Alan Frank, Horror Films, Hamlyn, London-New York 1977).

"This score for The Phantom of the Opera was commissioned by La Cinémathèque Quebecoise in 1990. Only a few months after the première in Montreal, it was performed in Bologna. Since then, many orchestras have executed it – from Canada to the USA, from Europe to Japan – always with an enthusiastic response from the audience. The music is based on a four note theme: C-D-B-C. We can hear it throughout the score, which was inspired by Gounod with reminiscences of Stravinsky, Chopin and even Bach. A soprano sings arias from Gounod’s Faust, adding a dramatic touch. Note that the final aria is the main theme of the whole score; it was written (lyrics and music) by Gabriel Thibaudeau. After touring the world for more than twenty years, the music has finally come home again, where it received its first international recognition: Bologna!" (Gabriel Thibaudeau).

AA: Gabriel Thibaudeau's is one of the best silent film scores. My first acquaintance to it was via a friend (not a film expert): a treasure of her vhs collection was a tape of a Finnish tv transmission of The Phantom of the Opera, and she was especially fond of the wonderful music.

The opera in the story is Charles Gounod's Faust (1859), and Gabriel Thibaudeau weaves many of its motifs in his score, such as the Faust waltz on the Walpurgis night bacchanal ("Ainsi que la brise légère") and Marguerite's jewel aria "Ah! Je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir!"

My first childhood acquaintance with Gounod's Faust was in Hergé's album Les Bijoux de la Castafiore. Bianca Castafiore, "the nightingale of Milan", starts to sing the jewel aria in the car. The dashed line from Captain Haddock's eye leads to the car window, the brand of which is Securit. "Fortunately the windows are made of strong glass".

The coloratura soprano Gerda Findeisen brought a brilliant, lively element to the music experience. The organ is also a vital part of the music world of the story, and on the piazza it was apparently realized via a synthetizator. The programme note lists 53 musicians of L'Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, the instruments being violini di spalla, violini primi, violini secondi, viole, violoncelli, contrabbassi, flauti, oboi, clarinetti, fagotti, trombe, tromboni, timpani, percussioni, and sintetizzatore.

The music by Gabriel Thibaudeau and Charles Gounod is stronger than the film itself, directed in a neutral, workmanlike fashion but boasting a great macabre performance by Lon Chaney. The art direction by Ben Carré, Charles D. Hall, and Elmer Sheeley is masterful. The screenplay is also powerful, instantly introducing the contrast between the grand opera and the underground, the present and the past, das Über-Ich und das Es. There are at least five underground floors beneath the Opera, leading to old torture chambers and dungeons. Erik the Phantom, himself, is a victim of the persecution after the Second Revolution.

The Lobster Films print may not be the best that there is, but it has an interesting, consistent colour world. This was for me the best ever experience of The Phantom of the Opera.

A Hundred Years Ago: Programme 8: 1911: The Mirror of the Times

Cento anni fa: Programma 8: 1911: Lo specchio del presente. Programme and notes by Mariann Lewinsky. Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), 1 July 2011. Grand piano: Günter Buchwald. Presenta Mariann Lewinsky.

Catalogue: "In the auditorium it is 2011 and on the screen 1911; and while we watch the films of the past they start to merge into our present. The George V whom we see here crowned in 1911 is the very same that we saw recently in the cinema, the unfeeling father of the stammering George VI. And just as the bride and groom in the Cretinetti film are mercilessly pursued by the insurance agent as potential customers, so are we pursued by advertising, for similar reasons. Current events give to films showing specific areas of the world (Arab lands, China) – an enhanced actuality. The generation of nuclear power led to Chernobyl and Fukushima: a hundred years ago in Europe the most terrible man-made catastrophes were mining accidents. In 1911 Victorin Jasset not only made Au pays des ténèbres (two years before Capellani’s Germinal) and the first episode of Zigomar (Le Roi des voleurs): he also wrote an essay on the history of the development of cinema, ending (or at least breaking off) with the success of the Vitagraph comedies in about 1910. “Around 1909 to 1910 the first Vitagraph comedies appeared. Up to then, all production [of the American school] was bad, banal. Suddenly masterpieces started to appear. A new school was born and made its presence felt everywhere, not only among actors but among the general public, which welcomed it with open arms. The American school differed from ours in three main ways: 1. The camera range 2. The interplay of the actors 3. The plot structure » (V. Jasset, “Étude sur la mise en scene en cinématographie”, Ciné Journal no. 170, 25 November 1911, p. 26.)."

[CAMEL CARAVAN]. (?), 1911. P: Scientific Film. 35 mm. 79 m. 4’ a 16 fps. [not B&w] Tinted. English intertitles. From: Cinematek (Brussels). - AA: Non-fiction. Travelogue. Nomads of the desert. 1994 print from the Alan Roberts collection.

LE THÉÂTRE POPULAIRE ARABE / [the title of the print:] El teatro popular arabico. FR 1911. P: Éclair. 35 mm. 125 m. 6’ a 18 fps. B&w. Intertítulos en español. From: CNC- Archives Françaises du Film. - AA: Non-fiction. Travelogue. An arab circus with monkeys and dogs and a primitive touring cinema. A print with toning effects.

LA PEUR DES OMBRES. FR 1911. D: Roméo Bosetti. Cast: Léontine; P: Pathé Frères (No. 4588). 35 mm. 64 m. 3’ a 18 fps. B&w. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: Cineteca di Bologna, EYE Film Instituut Nederland. - AA: Comedy thriller. Scared by shadows, the people call the police. A Jan Olsson moment: a fine extended triple-screen telephone sequence. The police are farcical. Nice. Print: beautiful in black and white. +

FESTA PIROTECNICA NEL CIELO DI LONDRA. GB [not 1911, but:] 1902. P: Urban Film. 35 mm. 80 m. 4’22'' a 16 fps. Col. No intertitles. From: Museo Nazionale del Cinema. Digitally restored in 2011 by L’Immagine Ritrovata. - AA: A beautiful colour-driven fireworks spectacle. Almost like abstract film. Fine colour effects on the print. *

CHEZ LES MURUTS, PEUPLADE SAUVAGE DU NORD DE BORNÉO. FR 1911. P: Pathé Frères (No. 4616). 35 mm. L. or.: 160 m. 97 m. 5’ a 18 fps. Pochoir. No intertitles. From: Cinematek (Brussels). - AA: Non-fiction. Ethnography. Fine. Print from the Alan Roberts collection.

EXCURSION EN CHINE / Een Uitsapje door China. FR 1911. P: Éclair. 35 mm. 80 m. 4’ a 18 fps. B&w. Nederlandse tussentitels. From: EYE Film Instituut Nederland. - AA: Non-fiction. Travelogue. A religious procession on the ice of the Yangtze River. A fine visual quality, fine toning effects in the print.

CRETINETTI AGENTE DI ASSICURAZIONI / Gribouille agent d’assurances. IT 1911. Cast: Andre Deed (Cretinetti); P: Itala Film. 35 mm. L.: 191 m. 10’ a 16 fps. B&w. Intertitres français. From: CNC Archives Françaises du Film. - AA: Comedy. A comedy of hyperbole: Cretinetti is a supernaturally persistent insurance agent, who pops up even during a honeymoon trip, walks through a grille, levitates in the air, appears from a small jug, but acquires the signatures first during the final cliffhanging sequence when the newlyweds are at his mercy. One of the best Cretinetti films. *

PARTE 2: VICTORIN JASSET, REGISTA E STORICO DEL CINEMA
PART 2: VICTORIN JASSET, DIRECTOR AND FILM HISTORIAN

AU PAYS DES TÉNÈBRES / [the title of the print:] Gluck auf!. FR 1911. D: Victorin Jasset. Cast: Charles Krauss, André Liabel, Marcel Vibert, Cécil Guyon; P: Éclair. 35mm. 517 m. 25’ a 18 fps. [catalogue: B&w, but actually:] Toned. Flemish intertitles. From: Cinematek (Brussels). There was no translation for this film. - AA: Tragedy. Milieu: a mine, like in Germinal. There is a gas explosion in the mine, and a flood. The main action of the film is the prolonged death agony of two survivors. The rescuers come too late. There is a wake for the two victims of the explosion. "Maybe the future will bring consolation". The visualization of the cave milieu is challenging, and it has been realized successfully. The composition is effective. The print has been struck from a partly damaged source, but the toning is successful, and the overall visual quality is fine.

THE TIRED ABSENT-MINDED MAN / [the title of the print:] Ein Junggeselle [...] zu heiraten. US 1911. Cast: John Bunny, Edith Storey, Lillian Walker; P: Vitagraph. 35 mm. 150 m / 7’ a 18 fps. [According to the catalogue: B&w, but actually:] toned. [According to the catalogue: English intertitles, but actually:] Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: CSC Cineteca Nazionale. - AA: Comedy. John Bunny plays a suitor prone to falling asleep. He falls asleep even on his wedding day. (Another instance of the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding, here only the threat of it.) The honeymoon trip starts, and John Bunny forgets to take the bride with him aboard the train and starts to read a book instead. A nice comedy.

Film erotici delle origini dal Pathé / CNC-AFF

Racconti erotici Pathé 1899-1907 / Erotic Tales Pathé 1899-1907. Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), 1 July 2011. Earphone commentary in Italian and English. Grand piano: Günter Buchwald.

Catalogue: "Nine erotic shorts by Pathé recently restored by the CNC – Centre National de la Cinématographie. They narrate anecdotes of petit bourgeois desires in which the star is the female figure, spied or secretly lusted after, or minor attempts at transgression or cheating that end humorously."

FLAGRANT DÉLIT D’ADULTÈRE. FR 1899. P: Pathé Frères. 35 mm. 1’ a 16 fps. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. "A young wife having an affair with another man hides just in the nick of time and is not caught in flagrante delicto. The policeman accompanying her cuckolded husband, however, is not entirely convinced."

FLIRT EN CHEMIN DE FER. FR 1902. P: Pathé Frères. 35 mm. 1’ a 16 fps. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. "A couple on a train is totally uninterested in the landscape and places that pass by as they engage in carnal pleasures. They use the darkness for bold explosions of affection, but the train conductor interrupts their fun."

LE CIREUR. FR 1902. P: Pathé Frères 35 mm. 1’ a 16 fps. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. "A shoeshiner is a little to lubricious for one of his customers whose skirt he gradually lifts higher and higher. His indiscreet peeping ends up irritating the woman who gives him a kick in the face."

BAIGNADE INTERDITE. FR 1903. P: Pathé Frères. 35 mm. 1’ a 16 fps. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. "Three girls play about in the water of a pond. A policeman orders them out of the water, pointing out that swimming is not allowed. The mortified girls get out of the water while the policeman uses their embarrassment to get an eyeful."

LE VIEUX MARCHEUR. FR 1903. P: Pathé Frères. 35 mm. 1’ a 16 fps. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. "An old man keeps his eye on his maid, undresses her and drags her to his bedroom."

LE BAIN DES DAMES DE LA COUR. FR 1904. P: Pathé Frères. 35 mm. 1’ a 16 fps. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. "Young nude women go for a swim in the fountain of a building."

MONDAINE AU BAIN. FR 1904. P: Pathé Frères 35mm. 2’ a 16 fps. B&w From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. "While a sophisticated woman goes for a swim, a suitor of hers arrives with a bouquet of flowers. The maid asks the visitor to wait, but instead he stands on a chair to spy on what is on the other side of the screen."

LA PUCE. FR 1907. P: Pathé Frères. 35 mm. 2’ a 16 fps. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. "A young woman is pestered by a fleas and partially undresses herself to find and kill the pesky bug."

LE COUCHER DE LA MARIÉE. FR 1907. P: Pathé Frères. 35 mm. 4’ a 18 fps. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. "Alone in a room with her groom, a woman undresses slowly as her moved husband watches her."

AA: There is nothing to add to the descriptions above except that the films are so restrained and innocent that they could be shown on television during children's watching hours. The term "nude" above usually means "only partly dressed". This show was the most popular of all of the ones held at Sala Officinema / Mastroianni during Il Cinema Ritrovato 2011. There was standing room only.

Wild River (2011 restoration by Academy Film Archive and Twentieth Century Fox with funding provided by The Film Foundation)

Joki tulvii / Fango sulle stelle. US © 1960 Twentieth Century Fox. P+D: Elia Kazan. Based on the novel Mud on the Stars (1942) by William Bradford Huie and Dunbar’s Cove (1957) by Borden Deal; SC: Paul Osborn; DP: Ellsworth Fredericks; ED: William Reynolds; PD: Joseph Kish, Walter M. Scott, Lyle R. Wheeler, Herman A. Blumenthal; Co.: Anna Hill Johnstone; M: Kenyon Hopkins; S: Eugene Grossman, Richard Voriseck; Cast: Montgomery Clift (Chuck Glover), Lee Remick (Carol Garth Baldwin), Jo Van Fleet (Ella Garth), Albert Salmi (Hank Bailey), J.C. Flippen (Hamilton Garth), James Westerfield (Cal Garth), Barbara Loden (Betty Jackson), Franck Overton (Walter Clark), Malcom Atterbury (Sy Moore), Robert Earl Jons (Ben), Bruce Dern (Jack Roper), Judy Harris (Barbara-Ann), Jim Menard (Jim Junior). Pri. pro.: 26 giugno 1960. 35 mm. 110’. Col. English version. From: Twentieth Century Fox. Restored [in 2011?] by Academy Film Archive and Twentieth Century Fox with funding provided by The Film Foundation. Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), 1 July 2011. Presenta Foster Hirsch.

Catalogue: "Painful change, change that is necessary but hurts. My family lost a house, when I was a boy. And I guess when my father died we also moved out of a house. Wild River was also the first picture where I said to myself: I’m going to be as lyric as I can – I’m going to stop the action. You see, I always distrusted stopping the action for lyric moments. I had much more confidence after that.""

"I also used long shots as in the scene with them way in the back of the room, sort of in the dark, on the floor. I did that a lot, and putting a person or an object in the foreground with deep focus. That was a way of keeping it natural, although it’s an unnatural technique. I’m looking at the branch behind you, and you are not in focus, despite William Wyler and Orson Welles and everybody else. It’s only fifteen feet behind you, but you are a blur. (…) I thought a film can be both true – realistic – and completely poetic. And that became the ideal of my aesthetic – to the extent that I was conscious of my aesthetic. Suddenly you look at it and it’s as plain as a loaf of bread, and it’s completely poetic at the same time. It has overtones, it has suggestions, it has poetry all around it, but then, it can also be just nothing, a loaf of bread. This is what I feel when I see paintings by Cézanne: he shows you an apple, it’s just an apple on a table, but it’s somehow poetic. I like that." (Elia Kazan, from: Michel Ciment: Kazan on Kazan. Secker & Warburg - British Film Institute, London 1973).

AA. The screening was much delayed, and after the excellent introduction by Foster Hirsch I was able to see only less than 10 minutes of the new restoration of Wild River, one of Elia Kazan's essential films. - Foster Hirsch emphasized that (synopsis): Elia Kazan was a top director of actors, and in Wild River Method acting is at its zenith. We see the characters thinking and changing through the picture, and responding to objects. Wild River contains Lee Remick's greatest performance. Wild River is about rugged individualism ("TVA keep off"). Wild River has been hardly available in 50 years, but now with the new restoration it's back in circulation. - I managed only to see Montgomery Clift's arrival at the island of Ella Garth (Jo Van Fleet).

Lucrezia Borgia (1922) (2011 restoration by Bundesarchiv - Filmarchiv)

DE 1922. D+SC: Richard Oswald. T. it.: Lucrezia Borgia; Based on the novel by Harry Scheff (1913); DP: Karl Freund, Karl Vass, Carl Drews, Frederik Fuglsang; PD: Robert Neppach, Botho Höfer; Co.: Robert Neppach; Op.: Karl Freund; Ass. op.: Robert Baberske; Cast: Liane Haid (Lucrezia Borgia), Conrad Veidt (Cesare Borgia), Albert Bassermann (Rodrigo Borgia), Paul Wegener (Micheletto), Heinrich George [in one of his earliest roles: he started in the cinema in 1921] (Sebastiano), Adolf Edgar Licho (Lodovico), Wilhelm Dieterle (Giovanni Sforza), Lothar Müthel (Giovanni Borgia), Alphons Fryland (Alfonso d’Aragona), Käte Waldeck-Oswald (Naomi), Alexander Granach, Anita Berber (contessa Giulia Orsini), Lyda Salmonova, Mary Douce (Florentina), Max Pohl, Adele Sandrock, Wilhelm Diegelmann (Wirt), Philipp Manning, Hugo Döblin, Clementine Plessner, Viktoria Strauß (Rosaura), Tibor Lubinszky (Gennaro Page); P: Richard Oswald-Film AG, Berlin; Pri. pro.: 20 ottobre 1922 Berlin. 35 mm. 3284 m. 146’ a 18 fps. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: Bundesarchiv – Filmarchiv. Restored in 2011. Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato: Conrad Veidt retrospective), 1 July 2011. Grand piano: Maud Nelissen. Introduce Barbara Schütz.

Catalogue: "Max Reinhardt’s influence did lead to many costume films being set in the Renaissance: Die Pest in Florenz [by Otto Rippert], one of the episodes of Der müde Tod [by Fritz Lang], Lucrezia Borgia and Monna Vanna [by Richard Eichberg], for example. We sometimes find the recollection of a Reinhardt production leading second-rate directors to film a few effectively framed shots: in Richard Oswald’s Lucrezia Borgia, for example, a row of soldiers forming a thick hedge prickling with lances recalls a scene from Shakespeare’s Henry IV in Reinhardt’s production of 1912. There also soldiers deployed along the stage contrived to give the impression of an entire army. As in Reinhardt, a few tooled sets of armour and a flag drifting in the wind establish points of reference in the design. If these compositions seem to reflect one of Uccello’s famous battle-scenes, this is due to Reinhardt." Lotte H. Eisner, The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2008.

AA: I was able to see most of this film but not the end because of an overlap with Wild River. - A meticulous reconstruction of an epic film. The length is now 3005 m; 280 m are still missing. This was the first screening of the reconstruction, still in black and white. - The Renaissance story that starts in the year 1495 befits Bologna. Included are memorable moments of history such as the one where Alfonso examines the model of St. Peter's Basilica. - Lucrezia Borgia belongs to the tyrant films of the Weimar Republic, with Conrad Veidt as Cesare Borgia leading an all star cast. - This is also a typical Richard Oswald film, his familiar faces here including Anita Berber. - Although a big budget production, aspects of the art direction are based on obvious miniature work, probably meant to be rendered less blatant by tinting. - There is an emphasis on the atrocities of the Borgia family, told in a casual fashion. - There is not enough dynamism in the direction, a sense of an irresistible drive is missing. - The great actors create highly stylized characters and often resort to histrionics. - It seems that Richard Oswald's Lucrezia Borgia is a film of exciting moments but not necessarily one of the Weimar masterworks.

Trent's Last Case (1929)

[Not released in Finland]. US © 1929 Fox Film Corporation. D: Howard Hawks. T. it.: L’affare Manderson; Based on the novel (1913) by Edmund Clerihew Bentley [not translated into Finnish]; SC: Scott Darling, Beulah Marie Dix; DP: Harold Rosson; Cast: Raymond Griffith (Philip Trent), Marceline Day (Evelyn Manderson), Donald Crisp (Sigsbee Manderson), Raymond Hatton (Joshua Cupples), Lawrence Gray (Jack Marlowe), Edgar Kennedy (ispettore Murch), Nicolas Soussanin (Martin), Anita Garvin (Ottilie Dunois); P: William Fox; Pri. pro.: 31 marzo 1929. 35 mm. [Catalogue: 1770 m / 66’.] [Incomplete. Actual duration: 45 min.] B&w. English intertitles. From: Library of Congress per concessione di Twentieth Century Fox. Preserved by the Library of Congress. Electronic subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti. Grand piano: Maud Nelissen. Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), 1 July 2011.

Catalogue: "[It] was one of the great detective stories of all time. The only trouble was we had Raymond Griffith as the star and he talked like this [in a hoarse whisper due to damaged vocal chords]. We had it all written for dialogue because I thought it would be cute to have him say, “Now I want you to do this...”"

"The day we started shooting, they said, “It’s got to be a silent picture. We can’t have him talking like this.” The picture never showed anywhere. We turned it into a gag comedy. (Howard Hawks, from Joseph McBride, Hawks on Hawks, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1992)."

"It’s a detective film that revolves around an investigation of the detective Philip Trent. The film was shot as a silent picture because they did not get the rights for making a sound version and it was never distributed by Fox: the American market in 1929 demanded sound movies, and the film was not distributed as normal except for in England. (Jean A. Gili, Howard Hawks, Cinéma d’aujourd’hui – Seghers, Paris, 1971)."

AA: A spoof detective story with great comedians such as Raymond Griffith, Anita Garvin, and Edgar Kennedy. Howard Hawks makes fun of the whole whodunit phenomenon. Old man Manderson commits suicide, frames it as a murder, frames his worst enemy as the culprit and invites the great detective Trent on the scene already before the fact. But things get complicated because there are too many clues. After the truth has been exposed Trent states that they have almost hanged four innocent people and gives up his career as a detective. "This is Trent's last case!".

This was the silent version projected in natural speed, with a duration of only 45 minutes, incomplete, but with the beginning and the ending intact. A print in low contrast and with scratches but watchable. The Howard Hawks approach is unrecognizable. I had never seen Trent's Last Case before, and now I have seen all films directed by Hawks at least once. Hawks never took private detectives seriously as we can observe with Philip Trent, Philip Marlowe, and Ernie Malone (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes).