Monday, February 27, 2012

The 84th Academy Awards (2012) (for films released in 2011)

The 84th Academy Awards ceremony, hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honoured the best films of 2011. The ceremony took place on February 26, 2012 (5:30 p.m. PST) at the Hollywood and Highland Center in Hollywood, California. The following list has been copied from the Academy's official Oscar site.

BEST PICTURE
* The Artist / Thomas Langmann, Producer
The Descendants / Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close / Scott Rudin, Producer
The Help / Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
Hugo / Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
Midnight in Paris / Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
Moneyball / Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
The Tree of Life / Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill, Producers
War Horse / Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

DIRECTING
* The Artist / Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants / Alexander Payne
Hugo / Martin Scorsese
Midnight in Paris / Woody Allen
The Tree of Life / Terrence Malick

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Demián Bichir / A Better Life
George Clooney / The Descendants
* Jean Dujardin / The Artist
Gary Oldman / Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt / Moneyball

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Glenn Close / Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis / The Help
Rooney Mara / The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
* Meryl Streep / The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams / My Week with Marilyn

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Kenneth Branagh / My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill / Moneyball
Nick Nolte / Warrior
* Christopher Plummer / Beginners
Max von Sydow / Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Bérénice Bejo / The Artist
Jessica Chastain / The Help
Melissa McCarthy / Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer / Albert Nobbs
* Octavia Spencer / The Help

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
The Artist / Written by Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids / Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
Margin Call / Written by J.C. Chandor
* Midnight in Paris / Written by Woody Allen
A Separation / Written by Asghar Farhadi

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
* The Descendants / Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Hugo / Screenplay by John Logan
The Ides of March / Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
Moneyball / Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy / Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

ANIMATED FEATURE FILMA Cat in Paris / Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
Chico & Rita / Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
Kung Fu Panda 2 / Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Puss in Boots / Chris Miller
* Rango / Gore Verbinski

CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Artist / Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Jeff Cronenweth
* Hugo / Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life / Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse / Janusz Kaminski

ART DIRECTION
The Artist / Production Design: Laurence Bennett, Set Decoration: Robert Gould
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 / Production Design: Stuart Craig, Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
* Hugo / Production Design: Dante Ferretti, Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
Midnight in Paris / Production Design: Anne Seibel, Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
War Horse / Production Design: Rick Carter, Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

COSTUME DESIGNAnonymous / Lisy Christl
* The Artist / Mark Bridges
Hugo / Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre / Michael O’Connor
W.E. / Arianne Phillips

DOCUMENTARY FEATUREHell and Back Again / Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front / Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory / Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
Pina / Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
* Undefeated / TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement / Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
God Is the Bigger Elvis / Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
Incident in New Baghdad / James Spione
* Saving Face / Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom / Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

FILM EDITING
The Artist / Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants / Kevin Tent
* The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo / Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball / Christopher Tellefsen

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Bullhead / Belgium
Footnote / Israel
In Darkness / Poland
Monsieur Lazhar / Canada
* A Separation / Iran

MAKEUP
Albert Nobbs / Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 / Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
* The Iron Lady / Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
The Adventures of Tintin / John Williams
* The Artist / Ludovic Bource
Hugo / Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy / Alberto Iglesias
War Horse / John Williams

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
* "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets / Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio" from Rio / Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garrett

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
Dimanche/Sunday / Patrick Doyon
* The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore / William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
La Luna / Enrico Casarosa
A Morning Stroll / Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
Wild Life / Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Pentecost / Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
Raju / Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
* The Shore / Terry George and Oorlagh George
Time Freak / Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
Tuba Atlantic / Hallvar Witzø

SOUND EDITING
Drive / Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Ren Klyce
* Hugo / Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
Transformers: Dark of the Moon / Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
War Horse / Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

SOUND MIXING
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
* Hugo / Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
Moneyball / Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
Transformers: Dark of the Moon / Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
War Horse / Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

VISUAL EFFECTS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 / Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
* Hugo / Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
Real Steel / Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
Rise of the Planet of the Apes / Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
Transformers: Dark of the Moon / Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Erland Josephson (1923-2012)

"Life is too serious to be taken seriously."
- Erland Josephson in his book Föreställningar (1991) [the title means both "Conceptions" and "Performances"]

Erland Josephson, author, poet, playwright, film director, theatre director, leader of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, and actor, has died today. He belonged to an old and prominent Swedish family of poets, painters, and Jewish leaders.

I called him in 2007 having read in Geoffrey Macnab's article in Sight and Sound about Ingmar Bergman and the Nazis (Bergman had died that summer). I wanted to ask Josephson whether Bergman's self-accusations about his "Nazi past" were accurate. Bergman and Josephson were lifelong friends. In 1940 Bergman directed a school theatre production of The Merchant of Venice where Josephson got to play the title role of Antonio, a decisive inspiration for Josephson's theatrical career. In April 1940 Nazi Germany had occupied Denmark and Norway, but Jews in Sweden and Finland were safe.

To my surprise Josephson answered the telephone himself. He told that he had Parkinson's disease and could not write anymore, but his speech was perfect and beautiful. He debunked pretty much everything Bergman had told about those days. I also asked, thinking about Fanny and Alexander, Bergman's cinematic testament, whether the Jewish tradition had a special meaning for Bergman. There was a moment of silence. Then Josephson said that nobody had ever asked him that question, and that he and Bergman had never discussed it, either, but that he thought that the answer was yes.

Two years later in Judisk Krönika [Jewish Chronicle] 2/2009, the journal of the Swedish Jewish community, there was an interview titled "Jag vill veta vem jag är" ["I Want to Know Who I Am"] by Michaela Lundell with Erland Josephson. A motto is from Josephson's book Självporträtt [Self Portrait]: "Det är stimulerande krångligt att vara jude" ["It is stimulatingly complicated to be a Jew"].

Josephson portrayed Goldberg for Bergman in his production of George Tabori's The Goldberg Variations for the Royal Dramatic Theatre in 1993. In the issue 2/2009 of Judisk Krönika there is also a translation of Katharina Schmidt-Hirschfelder's interview with Morton Narrowe, chief rabbi of Stockholm in 1993. Narrowe tells that he instructed Bergman in Judaism for the production of The Goldberg Variations. Narrowe reports that Bergman's last question in their discussion was whether it would be possible to make him "a honour Jew". To Bergman's obvious disappointment Narrowe said that there is no such thing.

There is a touching article on the Dagens Nyheter website on Erland Josephson's final moments at Stockholms sjukhem.

International cinematheque programme booklets

La Cinémathèque française: Programme mars-avril-mai 2012. La Cinémathèque française (Paris) keeps going strong. L'Exhibition Tim Burton, from 7 March till 4 August - La Cinémathèque française is the only European stop of the legendary exhibition - is the mainstay with a full Tim Burton retrospective and a carte blanche (I copy Tim Burton's carte blanche programme to the end of this entry). There is also a retro of Philippe Rousselot, one of Burton's favourite cinematographers. Not far from these contexts is a Journée Georges Franju - and an extensive historical survey by AFF to Le Cinéma fantastique français (I copy more details about it, as well, to the end of this entry). Kiyoshi Kurosawa gets a retrospective. The Robert Altman retrospective is continued. There are remarkable tributes to Alain Cavalier and Bulle Ogier. And the constantly surprising Histoire du cinéma project continues with many discoveries.

L'Institut Lumière: Rue du Premier-Film, Magazine de L'Institut Lumière (Lyon), #95, 3 février - 15 avril 2012. "Rétrospective René Clément" is the cover story of this visually most splendid cinematheque programme journal. Other themes include "L'amour du cinéma: les grands classiques"; "16 mm, noir & blanc à la Villa Lumière: Les dialoguistes du cinéma français, par Raymond Chirat", "Week-end Quais du Polar", "Fenêtres sur le cinéma du Sud", "Stage Jean Douchet sur Andreï Tarkovski", "Ciné-concerts: Pêcheur d'Islande et Le Cuirassé Potemkine" and "La nuit Clive Barker".

La Cinémathèque de la Ville de Luxembourg. The Luxembourg city magazine has a prominent cinémathèque section: Beryl's: City Magazine Luxembourg Februar 2012 includes presentations of Illuminago Laterna Magica shows, Le Monde en Doc, Clive Barker's Gruesome Twosome, and François Truffaut's Vive Doinel!

Filmoteca Española (Cine Doré in Madrid): febrero 2012 presents Centenario de Nicholas Ray; El Institut Lumière presenta; Raúl Ruiz part III; Recuerdo de Amparo Muñoz, Angelino Fons, Farley Granger, Florinda Chico, Jane Russell, and Peter Falk; Gastrofestival: Cine y gastronomia II; and Cine para todos.

BFI Southbank: BFI Southbank March 2012. London's legendary cinema formerly known as NFT (National Film Theatre) is a part of the BFI (British Film Institute)."The Passion of Carl Dreyer" is the main retrospective. The extensive "Dickens on Screen" project is concluded in its Part Three. An extended run is given to a DCP of Laura. Other themes include "Peter Cook: Genius at Work", "The Cinematic Race to the South Pole" (see Pordenone 2011), and "Ken Russell on TV".

Arsenal, Institut für Film und Videokunst e.V.: Arsenal, März 2012. Berlin's avantgarde-oriented Arsenal cinema is located at the Filmhaus am Potsdamer Platz. Amont the March themes are Retrospektive Otar Iosseliani, Direct Cinema, Magical History Tour - Montage, Living Archive: Ausstellung und Performance, Camp / Anti-Camp: Carmen Miranda und Alla Nazimova.

Filmmuseum: Filmmuseum Februar / März 2012. Vienna's Filmmuseum programming concentrates on two great Americans: Preston Sturges and Robert Altman. Michael Snow is present in person together with his exhibition "Michael Snow. Recent Works". A Filmmuseum premiere presentation is Raavanan by Mani Ratnam. Ongoing features are "Was ist Film" (Programm 55-58) and "Die Utopie Film" (Kapitel 61).

Det Danske Filminstitut: Cinemateket Marts 2012. The Danish Film Institute runs the most popular cinematheque programming of the Nordic countries in the heart of the city at the Filmhuset on Gothersgade 55 in Copenhagen. Among the March themes are "The Saviour Angel of Japanese Cinema: Art Theatre Guild of Japan", "the documentary of the month: Darwin (Nick Brandestini)", "Alfred Hitchcock: the British Years", "the film of the month: Guilty (Vincent Garenq)", "Cinematurca: new Turkish cinema", "Janina Lapinskaite: the Lithuanian Outsider", "Bio 12:30 - cinema in the middle of the day with coffee and a cake", "wish films", "Johan Jacobsen centenary: the best kept secret of Danish cinema", and a live cinema event "Germaine Dulac: pure cinema" with Spektr.

Cinemateket (Stockholm): Programtidning oktober-november 2011, Programtidning december 2011 - januari 2012, Programtidning februari-mars 2012. Last autumn's selections included: "The classic: The Bridge on the River Kwai", "Actors Studio: Sven-Bertil Taube", "UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage: Gränsfolken", Luis Buñuel, Bo Widerberg, Lucrecia Martel, F.W. Murnau, Hal Ashby, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, "Profession: Reporter", "Fashion Film Saturday", a live cinema event of Nanook of the North. - Among the December-January themes were: Orson Welles, Lina Wertmüller, Erich von Stroheim, "costume films", Boris Barnet, John le Carré, "High School", A Torinói ló / The Turin Horse. - In February-March the Cinemateket presents: Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill (9 March), a tribute to the Göteborg International Film Festival, Arab cinema, Cinephilia, Luis Buñuel II, Lynne Ramsay, and Banditi a Orgosolo. Permanent features include: classics of the documentary, "a hundred Swedish films you must see", and programming for children.

The International Film Festival Rotterdam 2012 catalogue offers great reading, as well, and Olaf Möller's programme notes on "Peter von Bagh: The Finland Inside" are the best introduction I have read about the incredibly prolific maestro's film oeuvre. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the forest from the trees.

CARTE BLANCHE À TIM BURTON (PARIS 2012), "miroir de son imaginaire": The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Horror of Dracula (1957), The Brain from Planet Arous, Pit and the Pendulum, Desperate Living, Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), Dracula (1931), Invaders from Mars (1953), The Bride of the Monster, Frankenstein (1931), Glen or Glenda, The Man Who Laughs (1927), Otto e mezzo, Jason and the Argonauts, The Mummy's Hand, Nosferatu (1922), Plan 9 from Outer Space, First Men in the Moon, Repulsion, Scream Blacula Scream, Omega Man, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1960), Tex Avery Follies.

RÉTROSPECTIVE LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE FRANÇAIS (PARIS 2012), une programmation proposée par Les Archives Françaises du Film du CNC: Fantaisies en musique (early shorts), Animations fantastiques (shorts), Contes 1-5 with Le Petit Poucet, La septième porte, Alice au pays des merveilles (1949), and L'Or et le plomb. Fées et créatures supernaturelles with La Goulve and La Nuit fantastique. Revenants et fantômes 1-6 with Le Manoir de la peur, Orphée, Sylvie et le fantôme, La Charrette fantôme, La Redevance du fantôme, and La Demoiselle et son revenant. Savants fous et personnages maléfiques 1-5 with Le Chevalier de la nuit, Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier, Midi-minuit, Traitement du choc, and Le Monde tremblera. Sorciers et sorcières 1-4 with La Sorcière, Sortilèges, La Vie exécrable de Guillemette Babin, and Coïncidences. Magie et magiciens with shorts and La Dame de pique (1937) and La Dame de pique (1965). Rêves et cauchemars 1-6 with Litan, Les Mains d'Orlac (1961), L'Armoire volante (1948), Malpertuis (1972), Le Temps de mourir (1970), and Les Créatures (1966). Aventures sidérales with Croisières sidérales. With an abundance of shorts in all categories.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hugo 3D

Hugo / Hugo. US © 2011 GK Films [Graham King]. Paramount Pictures presents. PC also: Infinitum Nihil [Johnny Depp]. P: Johnny Depp, Tim Headington, Graham King, Martin Scorsese. D: Martin Scorsese. Second unit: large. SC: John Logan - based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel in Words and Pictures (2007) by Brian Selznick, in Finnish Hugo Cabret: kuvaromaani, Tammi / Helene Bützow (2008). DP: Robert Richardson. PD: Dante Ferretti. AD team: large. Set dec: Francesca Lo Schiavo. Art dept: large. Cost: Sandy Powell. Makeup dept: large. Special effects dept: large. Visual effects dept (Pixomondo): very large. Special effects and visual effects companies: Plowman Craven & Associates; Industrial Light & Magic (opening shot created by), Lola Visual Effects, Mark Roberts Motion Control, Matte World Digital, Nvizage, Pixomondo, With A Twist Studio. 27 other companies involved. Anim: Ana Maria Alvarado. Stunt dept: large. M: Howard Shore. [There is a rich music selection, including Saint-Saëns and Satie, listed in the end credits]. [Many Georges Méliès movies are listed in the end credits, mostly via Lobster Films]. S: Philip Stockton. ED: Thelma Schoonmaker. Studio: Shepperton Studios (London). Loc: London; Paris; Nene Valley Railway near Peterborough (with Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits equipment). Casting: Ellen Lewis. C (from English Wikipedia): Asa Butterfield (Hugo Cabret), Ben Kingsley (Georges Méliès, the toy shop owner and former filmmaker), Chloë Grace Moretz (Isabelle, Georges' goddaughter), Sacha Baron Cohen (Inspector Gustave), Ray Winstone (as Claude Cabret, Hugo's uncle), Jude Law (Hugo's father, a clockmaker), Christopher Lee (Monsieur Labisse, the bookshop owner), Helen McCrory (Mama Jeanne, Georges' wife), Michael Stuhlbarg (René Tabard, a film historian), Emily Mortimer (Lisette, the flower girl), Frances de la Tour (Madame Emile, the owner of the café), Richard Griffiths (Monsieur Frick, the newspaper seller), Marco Aponte (train engineer assistant), Emil Lager (Django Reinhardt, the guitarist). 126 min. Original in English only. Distributed by Finnkino with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Hanna-Mari ... 2K DCP, 3D XpanD, viewed at Kinopalatsi 10, Helsinki, 25 Feb 2012.

Technical specs from IMDb: Camera: Arri Alexa, Cooke S4 and 5/i Lenses - format: Digital - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Fusion Camera (dual-strip 3-D) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical), D-Cinema (also 3-D version) - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

The story is set in Paris in 1931.

"Come and dream with me."
- the motto of Georges Méliès in Hugo

The production of Hugo has been huge, but Martin Scorsese has not been overwhelmed by his first 3D project. It is a new opening in his long career. There is a sense of wonder in this fantasy for children (of all ages). Hugo is my favourite Martin Scorsese fiction film since Life Lessons.

The 3D experience was successful at the cinema where I saw Hugo. The image was bright, and I never felt the temptation to remove my 3D glasses although the movie was over two hours long and many of the previews were in 3D, too. My best 3D experiences have been in cinemas that are not among the biggest ones.

The colour palette is consistently, interestingly and successfully artificial, partly inspired by the tinting, toning and stencil colours of early cinema. There is a continuation with Scorsese's experiments with many colour palettes in The Aviator. Both The Aviator and Hugo are partly biopics of visionary film-makers, and both emulate partly the imagery of their subjects.

In the beginning there are many mechanical marvels like the impossible establishing tracking shot. The dramatis personae are introduced.

During the first third of the movie I was not sure what to think. Martin Scorsese is a great artist with a profound sense of humour in grave subjects such as Taxi Driver and A Letter to Elia, but in straight comedy and farce he is not at his best. Scorsese is a master of deeply felt psychological suspense, but his chase sequences are only well-executed showcases of professionalism; they do not seem to have a personal meaning.

Scorsese's soul emerges towards the middle when the identity of the grim toy seller is revealed. The film touches greatness during the last third, with Hugo's nightmares, and with Méliès made to confront his legacy at last.

A central theme is the world of machines, especially clockworks. The automaton is a central mystery, and repairing it is a major plotline. Discovering the heart-shaped key can bring it to function again. Broken machines and broken people cannot fulfill their purpose, but one can try to fix them. "I wonder what my purpose is?" is the underlying question in the development of the story.

Trains and clocks are also major motifs. The central setting is the Gare Montparnasse railway station. Hugo is the son of a clockmaker, and Harold Lloyd's clock-hanging sequence is a significant point of reference.

Cinema is also a marvel of machines, bringing us to quickly to different places like the train does, and it is also an experience in time, like the clock.

Most ominously, war - the First World War - has been a terrible phenomenon of the machine age. Lisette's brother has fallen in Verdun. Inspector Gustave is a war invalid who has lost his leg, now replaced by a mechanical one.

Georges Méliès is also portrayed as a victim of WWI. La Belle Époque ended with the war. "So much reality. No taste for me anymore".

Hugo is a great introduction for children to the birth of the cinema.

The highlights of Hugo are meta-cinematic. The automaton repaired by Hugo produces a Voyage to the Moon drawing signed by Georges Méliès. At the Méliès home a hidden secret box is full with Méliès drawings and paintings. There is a fictive film historian "René Tabard" whose film history book comes alive as a montage of film history. Tabard's childhood memory flashback takes us to the Star Film studio in Montreuil ("this is where dreams are made"). Tabard, Hugo, and Isabelle show to Jeanne Méliès (less buxom in Hugo than in reality) Voyage to the Moon. Georges is furious at first, but in the great emotional turning-point of the movie he admits that "maybe it's time at last to remember". We see his own view of his life story as a powerful flashback with the tragic ending of the decay of the Star Film studio, burning it all, and melting the priceless negatives for chemicals to produce shoe heels.

Minor remarks could be made about the film historical side. Couldn't we stop spreading the myth about audiences terrified by the arrival of the train in Lumière screenings; probably they were delighted by the miracle of the new machine. Solo piano music by Saint-Saëns and Satie (the selections are correct for the period) is heard to silents but there was probably no music in the first film shows and a small band or a big orchestra in important cinemas later on. Pandora's Box was little known at the time; it became famous decades later. These remarks are pedantic I know.

I may start to rate Hugo as a great film. It is a film about the healing power of illusion. It praises the might of the imagination, not only in the magic of Georges Méliès movies but also in literature. The scenes at the book-seller's are full of love, and the formidable Christopher Lee gets to play a positive character for a change. The movie starts as a story of machines, and it grows into a tale of real emotion. Imagination, fantasy, dreams, and nightmares can help us realize more profoundly who we really are, "what our purpose is", our own dignity and the dignity of others.

Les César: Palmarès 2012 (films sortis en 2011)

From Les César homepage: Palmarès 2012: 37 ème cérémonie des César, au Théâtre du Châtelet, le vendredi 24 février 2012.

L’Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma organise, avec Canal +, la Cérémonie de remise des César en présence de l’ensemble des nommés. Le comédien et réalisateur Guillaume Canet présiderait la 37ème Cérémonie des César, et Antoine de Caunes en serait le Maître de Cérémonie.

Meilleur Film
* The Artist produit par Thomas Langmann, réalisé par Michel Hazanavicius
L'exercice de l'Etat produit par Denis Freyd, réalisé par Pierre Schoeller
La guerre est déclarée produit par Edouard Weil, réalisé par Valérie Donzelli
Le Havre produit par Fabienne Vonier, réalisé par Aki Kaurismäki
Intouchables produit par Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun, réalisé par Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache
Pater produit par Michel Seydoux, réalisé par Alain Cavalier
Polisse produit par Alain Attal réalisé par Maïwenn

Meilleur Réalisateur
* Michel Hazanavicius The Artist
Alain Cavalier Pater
Valérie Donzelli La guerre est déclarée
Aki Kaurismäki Le Havre
Maïwenn Polisse
Pierre Schoeller L'exercice de l'Etat
Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache Intouchables

Meilleure Actrice
* Bérénice Bejo The Artist
Ariane Ascaride Les neiges du Kilimandjaro
Leïla Bekhti La Source des femmes
Valérie Donzelli La guerre est déclarée
Marina Foïs Polisse
Marie Gillain Toutes nos envies
Karin Viard Polisse

Meilleur Acteur
* Omar Sy Intouchables
Sami Bouajila Omar m'a tuer
François Cluzet Intouchables
Jean Dujardin The Artist
Olivier Gourmet L'exercice de l'Etat
Denis Podalydès La conquête
Philippe Torreton Présumé coupable

Meilleure Actrice dans un second rôle
* Carmen Maura Les femmes du 6e étage
Zabou Breitman L'exercice de l'Etat
Anne le Ny Intouchables
Noémie Lvovsky L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close
Karole Rocher Polisse

Meilleur Acteur dans un second rôle
* Michel Blanc L'exercice de l'Etat
Nicolas Duvauchelle Polisse
Joey Starr Polisse
Bernard Le Coq La conquête
Frédéric Pierrot Polisse

Meilleur Espoir féminin
* Naidra Ayadi Polisse
Clotilde Hesme Angèle et Tony
Adèle Haenel L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close
Céline Sallette L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close
Christa Théret La brindille

Meilleur Espoir masculin
* Grégory Gadebois Angèle et Tony
Nicolas Bridet Tu seras mon fils
Guillaume Gouix Jimmy Rivière
Pierre Niney J'aime regarder les filles
Dimitri Storoge Les Lyonnais

Meilleure Photo
* Guillaume Schiffman The Artist
Pierre Aïm Polisse
Josée Deshaies L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close
Julien Hirsch L'exercice de l'Etat
Mathieu Vadepied Intouchables

Meilleur Montage
* Laure Gardette, Yann Dedet Polisse
Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius The Artist
Laurence Briaud L'exercice de l'Etat
Pauline Gaillard La guerre est déclarée
Dorian Rigal Ansous Intouchables

Meilleur Scénario original
* Pierre Schoeller L'exercice de l'Etat
Valérie Donzelli, Jérémie Elkaïm La guerre est déclarée
Michel Hazanavicius The Artist
Maïwenn, Emmanuelle Bercot Polisse
Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache Intouchables

Meilleure Adaptation
* Yasmina Reza, Roman Polanski Carnage
David Foenkinos La délicatesse
Vincent Garenq Présumé coupable
Olivier Gorce, Roschdy Zem, Rachid Bouchareb, Olivier Lorelle Omar m'a tuer
Mathieu Kassovitz, Pierre Geller, Benoît Jaubert L'ordre et la morale

Meilleure Musique originale
* Ludovic Bource The Artist
Alex Beaupain Les bien-aimés
Bertrand Bonello L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close
-M-, Patrice Renson Un Monstre à Paris
Philippe Schoeller L'exercice de l'Etat

Meilleur Son
* Olivier Hespel, Julie Brenta, Jean-Pierre Laforce L'exercice de l'Etat
Pascal Armant, Jean Goudier, Jean-Paul Hurier Intouchables
Jean-Pierre Duret, Nicolas Moreau, Jean-Pierre Laforce L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close
Nicolas Provost, Rym Debbarh-Mounir, Emmanuel Croset Polisse
André Rigaut, Sébastien Savine, Laurent Gabiot La guerre est déclarée

Meilleurs Décors
* Laurence Bennett The Artist
Alain Guffroy L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close
Pierre-François Limbosch Les femmes du 6e étage
Jean Marc Tran Tan Ba L'exercice de l'Etat
Wouter Zoon Le Havre

Meilleurs Costumes
* Anaïs Romand L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close
Catherine Baba My little Princess
Mark Bridges The Artist
Christian Gasc Les femmes du 6e étage
Viorica Petrovici La Source des femmes

Meilleur Premier film
* Le cochon de Gaza réalisé par Sylvain Estibal, produit par Franck Chorot
17 filles réalisé par Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin, produit par Denis Freyd
Angèle et Tonyréalisé par Alix Delaporte, produit par Hélène Cases
La délicatesse réalisé par David Foenkinos, Stéphane Foenkinos, produit par Xavier Rigault, Marc-Antoine Robert
My little Princess réalisé par Eva Ionesco, produit par François Marquis

Meilleur Film d'Animation
* Le Chat du Rabbin réalisé par Joann Sfar, Antoine Delesvaux, produit par Antoine Delesvaux
Le cirque réalisé par Nicolas Brault, produit par Pascal Le Nôtre
La queue de la souris réalisé par Benjamin Renner, produit par Annick Teninge
Le Tableau réalisé par Jean-François Laguionie, produit par Armelle Glorennec, Eric Jacquot
Un Monstre à Paris réalisé par Bibo Bergeron, produit par Luc Besson

Meilleur Film documentaire
* Tous au Larzac réalisé par Christian Rouaud, produit par Sandrine Brauer, Marie Masmonteil, Denis Carot
Le bal des menteurs réalisé par Daniel Leconte, produit par Daniel Leconte
Crazy Horse réalisé par Frederick Wiseman, produit par Pierre Olivier Bardet
Ici on noie les Algériens réalisé par Yasmina Adi, produit par Blanche Guichou
Michel Petrucciani réalisé par Michael Radford, produit par Serge Lalou

Meilleur film de Court-métrage
* L'accordeur réalisé par Olivier Treiner, produit par Thibault Gast, Matthias Weber
La France qui se lève tôt réalisé par Hugo Chesnard, produit par Pierre-François Bernet, Pauline Seigland
J'aurais pu être une pute réalisé par Baya Kasmi, produit par Antoine Gandaubert
Je pourrais être votre grand-mère réalisé par Bernard Tanguy, produit par Bernard Tanguy, Benoît Blanchard
Un monde sans femmes réalisé par Guillaume Brac, produit par Maya Haffar, Guillaume Brac, Nicolas Nonon

Meilleur Film étranger
* Une séparation réalisé par Asghar Farhadi, distribution France MEMENTO FILMS DISTRIBUTION (Alexandre Mallet-Guy)
Black Swan réalisé par Darren Aronofsky, distribution France TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX (José Covo)
Le discours d'un roi réalisé par Tom Hooper, distribution France WILD BUNCH DISTRIBUTION (Jean-Philippe Tirel)
Drive réalisé par Nicolas Winding Refn, codistribution France LE PACTE (Jean Labadie) et WILD SIDE (Manuel Chiche)
Le gamin au vélo réalisé par Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, coproduction France ARCHIPEL 35 (Denis Freyd)
Incendies réalisé par Denis Villeneuve, coproduction France TS PRODUCTIONS (Miléna Poylo, Gilles Sacuto, Anthony Doncque)
Melancholia réalisé par Lars von Trier, coproduction France SLOT MACHINE (Marianne Slot)

* César d'honneur: Kate Winslet

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011 film version)

Pappi lukkari talonpoika vakooja / Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy [Swedish name]. GB/FR/DE © 2011 Karla Films / Paradis Films [tbc, on-screen information flashed by too fast] / Kinowelt Filmproduktion. P: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn Slovo. D: Tomas Alfredson. SC: Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan - based on the novel (1974) by John le Carré, in Finnish by Tammi / Eero Mänttäri (1974). DP: Hoyte Van Hoytema. Fuji. Digital post-p: The Chimney Pot. PD: Maria Djurkovic. AD: Tom Brown (sup.), Zsuzsa Kismarty-Lechner. Cost: Jacqueline Durran. Makeup, hair: Donald McInnes. Visual effects: Framestore. Special effects: The Chimney Pot, Framestore, Multifilm Special Effects. M: Alberto Iglesias. M selections include "Land du välsignade" sung by Jussi Björling; "Mr. Wu's A Window Cleaner Now" sung by George Formby; "La Mer" sung by Julio Iglesias. S: Stephen Griffiths. ED: Dino Jonsäter. Casting: Jina Jay. Loc: London, Budapest, Istanbul. C: Gary Oldman (George Smiley), Colin Firth (Bill Haydon), Tom Hardy (Ricki Tarr), Mark Strong (Jim Prideaux), Ciarán Hinds (Roy Bland), Benedict Cumberbatch (Peter Guillam), David Dencik (Toby Esterhase), Stephen Graham (Jerry Westerby), Simon McBurney (Oliver Lacon), Toby Jones (Percy Alleline), John Hurt (Control), Svetlana Khodchenkova (Irina), Kathy Burke (Connie Sachs), Roger Lloyd-Pack (Mendel), Christian McKay (Mackelvore), Konstantin Khabenskiy (Polyakov). 127 min. Original in English with some dialogue in Russian, Hungarian, and French. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Suvi Jyrkilä / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 24 Feb 2012 (day of Finnish premiere).

Technical specs from the IMDb: Camera: Panavision Panaflex Millennium, Panavision Primo Lenses - Laboratory: The Chimney Pot, Stockholm, Sweden (digital intermediate), i lab, London, UK (processing) - Film negative format: 35 mm (Fuji Eterna 500T 8573, Reala 500D 8592) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

John le Carré has been treated well by the cinema from the beginning, from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965). The dark, grim John le Carré movie adaptations were the antithesis to the flamboyant, pop hedonistic James Bond fantasies. The most highly regarded of all were the BBC tv series of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) and Smiley's People (1982) starring Alex Guinness as Smiley. I remember reverent weekends devoted to them at the home of Helena Ylänen, then the film critic of Helsingin Sanomat. They are a hard act to follow, but the new film is very impressive indeed.

Initial observations:
1. The director Tomas Alfredson, the screenwriters Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan and the editor Dino Jonsäter have done a great job in adapting a complex novel into a normal-length feature film without losing a sense of duration and without Bourneish rapid cutting.
2. Gary Oldman is as unforgettable a George Smiley as Alec Guinness was.
3. The cast and the performances are consistently excellent.
4. The John le Carré stories have always been unheroic, and this version goes pretty far in that direction, although it is never unclear which side we are on.
5. The mutual infiltration of the secret services has strange manifestations such as the exchanges at the secret house, and most bizarrely at the Christmas party with a Lenin faced Father Christmas and a community singing of the Soviet anthem in Russian.
6. The life of the secret service is painted in the same way as life beyond the Iron Curtain used to be depicted during the Cold War, say, in Alfred Hitchcock's account of East Germany in Torn Curtain.
7. There is an overwhelming sense of melancholia and depression, like there was in the John Irvin adaptation of this story, and like in Tomas Alfredson's vampire story Let the Right One in where the sad vampires seem to be invincible.
8. This movie could be shown together with The Lives of Others and J. Edgar.
9. The movie has been shot on 35 mm Fuji film and the digital post-production has been in 4K. The bleak and grayish colour palette where there is never once a feeling of the warmth of the sun has been a conscious artistic choice, not just a consequence of digitalization. It has been said that the seventies were a decade which style abandoned but this vision is decidedly unrealistic, an artistic expression of a soulscape, a mental land in the shadow of death.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Out now: The Digital Dilemma 2 (online publication)

The Digital Dilemma 2: Perspectives from Independent Filmmakers, Documentarians and Nonprofit Audiovisual Archives. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Science and Technology Council, 2012. - Free to download from the Academy's website.

The Digital Dilemma (2007) published by the Motion Picture Academy is essential reading about movie preservation in the digital era. In The Digital Dilemma 2 the account is expanded to the even more challenging area of independent movie production.

The official presentation on the Academy website: "The Digital Dilemma, published in 2007, raised important concerns about the longevity of digital motion picture materials created by the major Hollywood studios, as well as other valuable digital data managed by large commercial, scientific and government organizations. It found that all organizations dealing with digital systems and data collection face the same problem: they do not have an operationally and economically sustainable means to maintain long-term access to their materials."

"The Digital Dilemma 2 focuses on the more acute challenges faced by independent filmmakers, documentarians and nonprofit audiovisual archives. While 75 percent of theatrically released motion pictures are independently produced, these communities typically lack the resources, personnel and funding to address sustainability issues that are available to major Hollywood studios and other large, deep-pocketed enterprises. Independent filmmakers create – and nonprofit film archives collect and store – a sizeable part of moving image and sound heritage. The Academy partnered with the Library of Congress's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) to produce this new study with the conviction that these communities shouldn't be allowed to fall through the cracks."

"For this report, a cross-section of independent filmmakers, distributors and marketers was interviewed and a broader online survey of independent filmmakers was conducted. In addition, a representative group of nonprofit audiovisual archives provided details on their digital preservation activities, including information about the content they receive as born digital files, their current practices for digitally reformatting content for preservation, and their overall digital infrastructure, policies and funding strategies. The report's findings show an urgent need for these diverse and widely dispersed individuals and organizations to address the digital dilemma before the cultural heritage they represent is permanently lost."

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

"The Digital Dilemma, published in 2007 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, focused on issues of digital motion picture data longevity in the major Hollywood studios and included comparative investigations of scientific, government and other major enterprises and industries. Among the report’s conclusions was that although digital technologies provide tremendous benefits, they do not guarantee long-term access to digital data; compared to traditional filmmaking using motion picture film stock, digital technologies make it easier to create motion pictures, but the resulting digital data is much harder to preserve. Long-term preservation – maintaining access to content for 100 years or longer – is a key requirement for studio archives. Meeting this requirement necessitates professionally managed digital storage systems and processes at substantial, perpetual operational and capital expense, and oftentimes major enterprise reorganization. This reality will exist as long as technology obsolescence remains an integral part of the digital storage technology business model."

"Independent (“indie”) filmmakers operating outside of the major Hollywood studios supply 75 percent of feature film titles screened in U.S. cinemas, despite facing substantial obstacles in doing so. As digital moviemaking technologies have lowered the barrier to entry for making films, competition among indie filmmakers seeking theatrical distribution has increased. Without the benefit of studio backing, these filmmakers must navigate the distribution waters on their own."

"New digital distribution platforms may make it easier for indie filmmakers to connect their films with target audiences and possible revenue streams, but these platforms have not yet proven themselves."

"Most of the filmmakers surveyed for this report have given little thought to what happens to their work once it is completed. Most pay for some type of storage for the master version of the completed work, but few store their film masters in proper environmental conditions or manage their digital masters using appropriate preservation practices. Many depend on distributors (traditional theatrical distributors, packaged media, pay TV) or new “streaming” platform providers to take responsibility for preservation. In general, independent films that beat the odds and secure some form of distribution do so after a much longer time period than movies produced by the major studios. This time period quite likely exceeds the “shelf life” of any digital work; that is, by the time distribution is secured, the digital data may become inaccessible. Most of the filmmakers surveyed and interviewed for this report were not aware of the perishable nature of digital content, or how short its unmanaged lifespan is compared to the 95-plus years that U.S. copyright laws allow filmmakers to benefi t from their work."

"Documentarians, defined in this report as independent filmmakers specializing in nonfiction topics, have access to funding sources that are not generally available to the broader group. These funding sources include grants as well as work-for-hire contracts. Unlike narrative filmmakers, documentarians achieve distribution primarily through broadcast and pay television; only a relatively small number achieve wide theatrical distribution. Many documentarians license archival footage for their work, and those surveyed noted the shift to acquisition of historical footage from film to videotape beginning in the 1970s, and then to digital formats in the early 2000s. Surveyed and interviewed documentarians did not seem concerned about or aware of the possibility or likelihood of digitally acquired historical footage being lost. To the contrary, they believed that the Internet and today’s digital technologies offered unprecedented access to historical footage."

"Most surveyed indie filmmakers, including documentarians, expressed two primary concerns: getting their work seen by an audience and moving on to the next project. They were therefore focused on securing distribution, with an eye to some measure of revenue generation. Today indie filmmakers face greater challenges in getting their work accepted to film festivals, which historically have been their primary path to theatrical distribution. They have consequently pursued nontheatrical distribution platforms such as direct-to-video and the newer Internetbased video-on-demand services, which can provide an easier path to a paying, if smaller, audience. Unless an independent film is picked up by a major studio’s distribution arm, its path to an audiovisual archive is uncertain. If a filmmaker’s digital work doesn’t make it to such a preservation environment, its lifespan will be limited – as will its revenue-generating potential and its ability to enjoy the full measure of U.S. copyright protection."

"The final destination for many independent films – as well as much historical footage – is one or more of the hundreds of nonprofi t audiovisual archives in the U.S. (and hundreds more worldwide) that actively collect materials in support of their particular missions. Many years can pass between the creation of such content and its entry into an archive. Archives surveyed for this report stated that increasing amounts of digital materials are entering their facilities through two mechanisms: analog holdings being digitally reformatted, and collections being created in digital form."

"The archives estimate that their collective digital holdings will grow from approximately 183 terabytes in 2009 to more than 2.7 petabytes by 2014, a 15-fold increase that will result in individual collection sizes in excess of 100 terabytes. Although archives can take advantage of digital technologies to provide greater access to their holdings, they are generally ill-equipped and inadequately resourced to properly store and manage such relatively large collections of digital materials for the long term. Well-established, time-tested analog preservation practices do not apply to digital holdings; digital materials are fundamentally different from motion picture film and other analog materials. Suitable long-term preservation and access mechanisms for digital motion picture materials have not yet been developed."

"At nonprofit audiovisual archives, the decision to start digitizing analog materials, as well as the digitizing itself, quite often precedes the establishment of a digital preservation program. The digital fi les are typically created to satisfy an immediate need – for end-user access or to preserve deteriorating materials already in a collection – so the program’s overall design and implementation are often deferred."

"The broader digital library community, which deals with smaller digital files in smaller numbers relative to audiovisual archives, has made progress in addressing digital preservation issues. While the motion picture industry has increased collaboration around these issues, independent filmmakers and nonprofi t audiovisual archives suffer from a dearth of fi nancial resources and active collaborative forums. This report describes proposals that may improve the outlook for these groups:

• Facilitating collaboration among representative organizations from these communities on issues of funding, technology and practice
• Organizing cooperatives to share technical infrastructure and knowledge
• Offering more educational opportunities at industry conferences, film festivals and film schools and greater exposure to the technical standards activities of major Hollywood studios and motion picture industry organizations"

"The digital dilemma is far from solved. Unless preservation becomes a requirement in planning, budgeting and marketing strategies, it will remain unsolved for independent filmmakers, documentarians and nonprofit audiovisual archives alike. These communities, and the nation’s artistic and cultural heritage, would greatly benefit from a comprehensive, coordinated digital preservation plan for the future."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kevin Costner's eulogy for Whitney Houston

At New Hope Baptist Church, Newark, New Jersey, February 18, 2012. Excerpted by New York Post, 19 Feb 2012.

I’m going to say some stories. Maybe some of them you know; maybe some of them you don’t. I wrote ’em down because I didn’t want to miss anything.

The song “I Will Always Love You” almost wasn’t. It wasn’t supposed to be in the movie. The first choice was going to be “What Becomes of a Broken Heart.” But it had been out the year before and in another movie, and we felt that it wouldn’t have the same impact and so we couldn’t use it.

So what becomes of our broken hearts?

Whitney returns home today, to the place where it all began, and I urge us all, inside and outside, across the nation and around the world, to dry our tears, suspend our sorrow, and perhaps our anger, just long enough, just long enough to remember the sweet miracle of Whitney.

Never forgetting that Cissy and Bobbi Kristina sit among us. Your mother and I had a lot in common.

I know many at this moment are thinking, “Really?” “She’s a girl, you’re a boy. You’re white, she’s black. But our sister could really sing. So what am I talking about? Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, they don’t have anything in common at all.” Well, you’d be wrong about that.

We both grew up in the Baptist church. It wasn’t as big as this. My grandmother played the piano, and she led the choir and her two daughters. My mother and my aunt both sang in it...

I can see her in my own mind running around here as a skinny little girl, knowing everyone, everyone’s business, knowing every inch of this place. I can also see her in trouble, too, trying to use that beautiful smile, trying to talk her way out of it, and Cissy not having any of it...

At the height of her fame as a singer, I asked her to be my co-star in a movie called “The Bodyguard.” I thought she was the perfect choice, but the red flags came out immediately. Maybe I should think this over a bit!

I was reminded that this would be her first acting role. We could also think about another singer was a suggestion. Maybe somebody white. Nobody ever said it out loud, but it was a fair question. It was. There would be a lot riding on this. Maybe a more experienced actress was the way to go. It was clear I really had to think about this.

I told everyone that I had taken notice that Whitney was black. The only problem was I thought she was perfect for what we were trying to do...

The Whitney I knew, despite her success and worldwide fame, still wondered: Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?

It was the burden that made her great...

Whitney if you could hear me now I would tell you, you weren’t just good enough — you were great. You sang the whole damn song without a band. You made the picture what it was.

A lot of leading men could have played my part, a lot of guys could have filled that role, but you, Whitney, I truly believed that you were the only one who that could have played Rachel Marin at that time.

You weren’t just pretty — you were as beautiful as a woman could be. And people didn’t just like you, Whitney — they loved you.

I was your pretend bodyguard once not so long ago, and now you’re gone too soon, leaving us with memories of a little girl who stepped bravely in front of this church, in front of the ones that loved you first, in front of the ones that loved you best and loved you the longest.

Then, boldly, you stepped into the white-hot light of the world stage, and what you did is the rarest of achievements. You set the bar so high that professional singers, your own colleagues, they don’t want to sing that little country song — what would be the point?

Now the only ones who sing your songs are young girls like you who are dreaming of being you some day.

And so to you, Bobbi Kristina, and to all those young girls who are dreaming that dream and maybe thinking they aren’t good enough, I think Whitney would tell you: Guard your bodies, and guard the precious miracle of your own life, and then sing your hearts out — knowing that there’s a lady in heaven who is making God Himself wonder how he created something so perfect.

So off you go, Whitney, off you go... escorted by an army of angels to your Heavenly Father. And when you sing before Him, don’t you worry — you’ll be good enough.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Berlinale 2012 remarks

The Berlin film festival has not in recent years had as high a profile as Cannes and Venice, but it is the most popular of the big film festivals, "a people's festival", which takes place in the heart of a big city. It is a rewarding venue for makers of difficult films who can show their new work to large and appreciative audiences.

I visited Berlin just for meetings and did not see a single movie, but I asked everybody about the movies they saw and kept putting together my personal jigsaw puzzle about this year's supply.

THE RETROSPECTIVE, The Red Dream Factory: Mezhrabpom / Prometheus, was exceptionally strong, based on solid research, and will be remembered.

THE EXHIBITION: Am Set / On the Set: Paris – Babelsberg – Hollywood, 1910–1939. Deutsche Kinemathek, December 15, 2011 to April 29, 2012. A brilliant exhibition with photographs by masters such as Roger Forster, Raymond Voinquel, Walter Limot, Roger Corbeau and Sam Lévin in France, Horst Von Harbou, Rudolf Brix and Curt Oertel in Germany, and George Hurrell, Ruth Harriet Louise, Clarence Sinclair Bull and Laszlo Willinger in the USA.

OKTYABR / October, 1928, D: Sergei Eisenstein, was seen in a reconstructed version based on the Münchner Filmmuseum source print and with the Edmund Meisel score arranged and conducted by Frank Strobel. It was the film historical sensation of the festival. The bruitist score seems to have been too much ahead of its time, and its time seems to have come first now.

DER TOTENTANZ / The Dance of Death, 1912, D: Urban Gad, starring Asta Nielsen, the first film shot in the Babelsberg Studios exactly a hundred years ago, was shown in a new reconstructed (but still uncomplete) version from Münchner Filmmuseum.

SIDE BY SIDE, D: Chris Kennelly, was regarded as an important documentation on the 35 mm / digital transition, with David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Lars von Trier, James Cameron, Steven Soderbergh, and Christopher Nolan going on record about their differing views.

CESARE DEVE MORIRE / Caesar Must Die, D: Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, the Golden Bear winner, the story of a Shakespeare production in prison, divided opinions among the critics.

BARBARA, D: Christian Petzold, the tale of the oppression of a doctor (Nina Hoss) in East Germany, was appreciated by most Germans.

GNADE / Mercy, D: Matthias Glasner, was preferred even more by some because of its stark vision of the Far North.

TABU, D: Miguel Gomes, the black and white love story set in colonial Africa, was admired by lovers of magic realism.

REBELLE / War Witch, D: Kim Nguyen, stood out as a remarkable account of child soldiers; opinions were divided.

CSAK A SZÉL / Just the Wind, D: Bence Fliegauf, commanded respect as an account of an oppressed Romany family in Hungary.

JAYNE MANSFIELD'S CAR, D: Billy Bob Thornton, was appreciated by some as a portrait of the era of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s.

FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE, D: Tsui Hark, impressed 3D specialists as a particularly successful effort in three-dimensional cinematography.

HAYWIRE, D: Steven Soderbergh, surprised by its solid action direction.

DEATH ROW 1-4, D: Werner Herzog, was a stark documentary tv mini-series on four U.S. American convicts in the death chamber.

KEYHOLE, D: Guy Maddin, got a mixed reception, but lovers of David Lynch style surrealism were impressed by its nightmare journey.

MARLEY, D: Kevin MacDonald, was seen as a great portrait of the legendary singer by the master director.

INDIGNADOS, D: Tony Gatlif, was appreciated as a story of a young illegal immigrant girl in Europe.

IRON SKY, D: Timo Vuorensola, was the favourite guilty pleasure of the festival. Nazis have been hiding on the dark side of the Moon, and now they are ready for a Blitzkrieg from outer space.

AL JUMA AL AKHEIRA / The Last Friday, D: Yahya Alabdallah, is an account of a taxi driver in Amman, capital of Jordania.

AVALON, D: Axel Petersén, follows a group of ageing tennis-playing party people who want to start a new club in Sweden.

EVERYBODY IN OUR FAMILY / Toata lumea din familia noastra, D: Radu Jude, tells about a father who gets desperate in arranging a vacation for his daughter.

WHAT IS LOVE (in German), D: Ruth Mader, is a collection of five vignettes from Austrian life, all about love about to be suffocated by routine.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Gemäldegalerie Berlin (permanent exhibition)

Gemäldegalerie. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Kulturforum, Berlin-Tiergarten. Visited on 18 February 2012.

The sections I visited were: Italian 12th - 16th centuries, miniatures 16th - 18th centuries, Italian 17th-18th centuries, German, French, and Spanish 17th century, French, English, and German 18th century, Flemish 17th century, Dutch 17th century, Dutch and French 14th - 16th centuries.

The visit to the Gemäldegalerie is another step in my relearning to see art during the digital transition. The Berlin Gemäldegalerie has one of the world's finest collections of European art history. There may be more prominent masterpieces elsewhere, but the Berlin distinction is that since 1830 it was developed with a Humboldtian pedagogic agenda to offer a systematic introduction to the main currents of West European painting.

The part of this collection that belonged to the Dahlem Museum during the Berlin Wall is the art historical collection I know best of all since I lived at a subway station's distance from it during my student years in Dahlem. Inseparable from it in my memory is Dahlem's stunning ethnographic collection of ancient art (totems etc.) that gave a profound perspective to the visits. The timeless holy works in the spirit of Easter Island statues created a strange power field to the museum complex...

The Gemäldegalerie survey starts with Botticelli, Fra Angelico, and Giotto. Soon the modern look of the human face emerges in the Italian Renaissance, developing into Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo, and Neo-Classicism (titles important for historians, not for artists).

Some of the most impressive sections (besides German art) include Dutch masters, and English rococo. The Rembrandt section (16 works by him and more by the Rembrandt school, including The Man with the Golden Helmet) was my favourite then and still is. I love the mix of gravity and humour, and the powerful dynamics of light and darkness.

Other favourites: Brueghel's Dutch Proverbs, the two Vermeers and the equally impressive Mother by his contemporary Pieter de Hooch, and Tintoretto's Maria with the Child Adored by the Evangelists Mark and Luke.

Digitally relevant: sharpness and brightness are prominent in Medieval art, but Renaissance painting avoids them.

The Gemäldegalerie Tiergarten lighting is based on "available light", a general room light without any spotlights on the paintings. The result is that it is sometimes difficult to make sense of the paintings. Paintings that we know as reproductions are more difficult to study as originals in a modest lighting like this. The darker the image (as in Rembrandt's Moses with the Tablets of the Law) the more difficult it is to examine here. I don't remember how they were displayed at the Gemäldegalerie Dahlem, but now it is necessary to study both a reproduction and the original.

The Gemäldegalerie homepage

After writing this I open the web address given by the Gemäldegalerie brochure to the Art Project (Powered by Google). 17 museums seem to be included, and there are artwork reproductions in high resolution legally online. The new art experience: see the original in a dim room light, and study the digital reproduction in bright and extreme close up online?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Am Set / On the Set (an exhibition)

Am Set / On the Set: Paris – Babelsberg – Hollywood, 1910–1939. Deutsche Kinemathek, December 15, 2011 to April 29, 2012. - Bonus: On the Set: Berlin – Babelsberg, Today. Viewed at the Filmhaus in Berlin on 17 February, 2012.

The official exhibition introduction: "Two collections form the starting point of this project: the extraordinarily rich Photothèque of the Cinémathèque française, comprised of more than 500,000 photographs, and the collection of Gabriel Depierre (1929-2004), a leading film connoisseur and collector. After 1951, Depierre was an assistant and friend to the still photographer Roger Corbeau, whose work is now preserved in the archives of the Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. In addition to their outstanding quality, these images were also chosen because of the information they contain about the amazing metamorphosis that swept filmmaking in three decades and across three countries, namely in France, Germany and the USA."

"Only thirty years went by between wooden hand-cranked cameras and powerful electric Mitchells, packed in soundproof casings. However, for the history of film, this interval can be compared to a jump from the Stone Age to the dawn of the modern day. Lighting also rapidly developed. The differences between the trompe-l’oeil paintings of the early days of cinema and the gargantuan Hollywood sets of the 1920s and 1930s is staggering. The first talkies, in 1927, ushered in another radical change both for films and the movie theater experience. Everything was affected, from filmmaking techniques to aesthetics, and particularly economics."

"The photographs in this exhibition are invaluable documentation of the hierarchy on a film set, showing how film crews work with one another and how directors interact with their teams. Some of the images have been created by great masters, such as Roger Forster, Raymond Voinquel, Walter Limot, Roger Corbeau and Sam Lévin in France, Horst Von Harbou, Rudolf Brix and Curt Oertel in Germany, and George Hurrell, Ruth Harriet Louise, Clarence Sinclair Bull and Laszlo Willinger in the USA. Others, however, will undoubtedly remain anonymous. Professional portrait and still photographers appeared on sets at the beginning of film history, but became essential in the 1910s when “film publishers” were also responsible for printing posters and catalogues, and the star system was starting to flourish, particularly in the specialized press."

"These photos take us right to the core of those image factories, to a day and age when cameras inspired genuine awe and were considered to be “intelligent machines,” as the director and theoretician Jean Epstein once expressed it."

A brilliant exhibition about film production in film studios from the early days to the present (Polanski, Tarantino, and Szabó in the bonus section). Although the film-makers and stars are famous (including Asta Nielsen, Jean Renoir, Abel Gance, Fritz Lang, Erich von Stroheim, Cecil B. DeMille, and Ernst Lubitsch), most of the many excellent photographs I had never seen before. The photographs are on display as originals, not as enlargements. Rewarding from the viewpoints of the art of still photography, the history of the film studios, and the history of the cinema.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gerhard Richter: Panorama (an exhibition)

Visited at the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 16 February 2012.

Gerhard Richter: Panorama. Neue und Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany. February 12, 2012 – May 13, 2012. - Was first on display at Tate Modern, London, UK. October 6, 2011 – January 8, 2012. - Will also be exhibited at Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France. June 6, 2012 – September 24, 2012.

The official introduction at Tate Modern: "Spanning nearly five decades, and coinciding with the artist’s 80th birthday, Gerhard Richter: Panorama is a major retrospective exhibition that groups together significant moments of his remarkable career."

"Since the 1960s, Gerhard Richter has immersed himself in a rich and varied exploration of painting. Gerhard Richter: Panorama highlights the full extent of the artist's work, which has encompassed a diverse range of techniques and ideas. It includes realist paintings based on photographs, colourful gestural abstractions such as the squeegee paintings, portraits, subtle landscapes and history paintings."

"Gerhard Richter was one of the first German artists to reflect on the history of National Socialism, creating paintings of family members who had been members, as well as victims of, the Nazi party. Continuing his historical interest, he produced the 15-part work October 18 1977 1988, a sequence of black and white paintings based on images of the Baader Meinhof group. Richter has continued to respond to significant moments in history throughout his career; the final room of the exhibition includes September 2005, a painting of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001."

"Lovers of the epic beauty of Rothko, Twombly and Hodgkin will have much to enjoy, as will those who appreciate striking portraiture or the crystal-clear precision of photorealism."

"Gerhard Richter: Panorama is organised by Tate Modern in association with Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and Centre Pompidou, Paris" (The official introduction of Tate Modern)

This is the first art exhibition I visit after my traffic accident 11 weeks ago, but also otherwise I want to start anew, admitting more frankly than previously that I'm an ignoramus and a schoolboy in these matters. I want to start seeing visual art again like a child.

The digital transition has completely changed the appearance of the moving images and as a movie critic, historian and programmer I have to learn new parameters in assessing visual art. The most common criteria for digital cinema are brightness and sharpness, and I'm curious to find out about brighness and sharpness in the history of art.

Gerhard Richter is a good starting point. For 50-60 years he has been an indefatigable explorer in industrial and modern art, and he has made East German advertising posters, East German art on demand, abstract expressionism, capitalist realism, photorealism, pure colour squares, absolute nonfigurative images (with pure single-colour surfaces), mirrorworks, and glassworks.

"A crystal clarity" of Richter's photorealism is mentioned in the Tate Modern introduction, but usually Richter's photograph-based paintings are not crystal sharp at all. On the contrary, Richter usually transforms photographs into something blurred, although there are also sharp lines in some images. Brightness is mostly in evidence in his pure colour studies, but usually Richter works hard to avoid brightness.

I read just a little about Richter before and after this great exhibition, and I could hardly relate at all to the things I read, for instance the use of the word "beauty" above. "Beauty" has usually been irrelevant in modern art since WWI, and Richter is no exception. In traditional aesthetics "sublime" (in the meanings of awesome, overwhelming, horrible, etc.) covered phenomena that were not beautiful yet aesthetically magnificent, but even that concept is today little used and almost always misunderstood.

Richter reacts to the world of horror he has experienced: Nazi Germany, East Germany, capitalist realism, modern wars, and terrorism (Stammheim, and 11 September). He has in-your-face images about them, but the same sense is on display even in his abstract works, and the general impression of his exhibition is that of a deep malaise, of a world gone awry. There are many works in the exhibition which are intentionally ugly.

The breath of death is almost overwhelming, but there are small tokens of hope or redemption such as Richter's signature candles.

The Neue Nationalgalerie exhibition is well mounted, and it pays to go through it several times, because there is symmetry and meaning in the architecture. For me the most impressive artworks were the mirrors, the glass sheets, and the empty frames. They add a meta-dimension to the exhibition, and they become vehicles of reflections (in all meanings of the word) of our perception. They are also about the distortion of reflection.

I was impressed and depressed by the exhibition. It is reportedly becoming a huge hit. When we visited it on a Thursday evening it was popular but not overcrowded.

Most of the newspaper articles I happened to see were about the record sums paid for Richter's art at Sotheby's and elsewhere. It seems that Richter finds this as baffling as the crisis of the world economy. But investments in Richter's paintings are well considered, because his work is never trivial.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Günter Agde and Alexander Schwarz: Die rote Traumfabrik: Meschrabpom-Film und Prometheus 1921-1936 [The Red Dream Factory: Mezhrabpom-Film and Prometheus 1921-1936] (a book)

Günter Agde and Alexander Schwarz: Die rote Traumfabrik: Meschrabpom-Film und Prometheus 1921-1936 [The Red Dream Factory: Mezhrabpom-Film and Prometheus 1921-1936]. Berlin: Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek / Bertz + Fischer Verlag, 2012.

Contents include:

Rainer Rother: In Deutschland entschiedener Erfolg. Die Rezeption sowjetischer Filme in der Weimarer Republic. - The reception in Weimar Germany was seminal for Soviet cinema.

Alexander Schwarz: Von der Hungerhilfe zum roten Medienkonzern. - The origin of Mezhrabpom was in International Workers' Relief. The Russian name is an abbreviation of those three words.

Aleksandr Derjabin: Die verlorene Partie des Moisej Alejnikow. - The biography of the remarkable Soviet film producer Moisei Aleinikov.

Wolfgang Mühl-Benninghaus: Zur Geschichte von Prometheus-Film GmbH und Film-Kartell Weltfilm: Produktion, Verleih, Finanzierung. - The German Prometheus-Film was founded as a sister company to the International Workers' Relief.

Jekaterina Chochlowa: Das Studio der Meister: Filme und Schicksale. - Artists such as Protazanov, Kuleshov, Pudovkin, and Barnet at Mezhrabpom.

Günter Agde: Im Widerstreit der Bilder. Utopien und Topoi. - Utopia, Futurism, science fiction, modernity, revolution, machines, jazz, and harbour as motifs and topoi.

Valérie Pozner: Die Einführung des Tonfilms bei Meschrabpom-Film. - The first Soviet sound film: The Road to Life.

Wiktor Beljakow: Auftrag und Risiko: Farbe im Film. - The first Soviet colour film: Grunya Kornakova /  Nightingale.

Alexander Schwarz: Von Glühbirnen und Gletschern, Kombinaten und Kaffeesklaven: Ein Überblick über die Dokumentarfilm-Produktion - Mezhrabpom was a prominent production house of non-fiction, most famously of Three Songs of Lenin.

Barbara Wurm: Von Mechanik des Gehirns zu Vierzig Herzen. Meschrabpom-Flim und der Kulturfilm. - The German Kulturfilme were popular in the USSR, and Mezhrabpomfilm also produced Soviet Kulturfilme such as The Mechanism of the Brain based on the work of Ivan Pavlov.

Ralf Forster: Die Trickfilmmeister von der Leningrader Chaussee. Wiege des sowjetischen Animationsfilms. - At the cradle of Soviet animation.

Günter Agde: Mit dem Blick nach Westen. - Collaborations with Western artists included films such as The Revolt of the Fishermen.

Alexander Schwarz, Valérie Pozner, Thomas Tode: Aktivitäten in den USA, in Frankreich und in Österreich. - Workers' International Relief was the pathbreaker of Soviet film import in the West, including the USA, France, and Austria.

An impressive hardcover book on the most visionary film company of the heroic era of Soviet cinema and its German brother company Prometheus-Films. The essays cover the main big themes, and there is a well-edited set of appendices including timelines, mini-biographies and a filmography edited by Alexander Schwarz and Aleksandr Derjabin with help from Yekaterina Khokholova covering 574 films produced by the eight different companies belonging to the Mezhrabpom concern. The films that have survived have been marked with an asterisk (but I noticed Belyi oryol / The White Eagle without an asterisk, although the movie has survived).

The handsome book has independent value as an art object because of its numerous colour reproductions of impressive and often rare posters from a remarkable era of film poster design. It's a collector's item.

The red dream was crushed in the 1930s in Russia under the wheels of the Stalinian-Zhdanovian cultural policy and in Germany when Hitler rose to power.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Babelsberg Centenary

Today, on the 12th of February, 2012, Studio Babelsberg, the oldest continuously functioning film studio in the world, is celebrating its centenary.

The centerpiece of the celebration is the brand new reconstruction of the Asta Nielsen vehicle, Der Totentanz / The Dance of Death, which was the very first film shot at the Babelsberg studios. The new reconstruction has been made at the Munich Film Museum under the supervision of Stefan Drössler.

Babelsberg's greatest glory years were in the 1920s during the Weimar republic. During the Third Reich large scale production continued under the reign of the Ufa company. After WWII Babelsberg remained in the Eastern sector, where the state-owned film company DEFA kept the big machine going. In the reunified Germany Babelsberg's future was at first uncertain. The Federal Republic's film production had located in Munich where the Bavaria Studios were more modern than Babelsberg.

The ascent of Babelsberg a hundred years ago was not self-evident. In Berlin there were 15 film studios then. Traffic connections to Babelsberg were bad but there was enough space to expand, and the owner was financially stable. The studio was built by the great German pioneer Guido Seeber. He let the walls and ceilings be built of glass so that sunlight was maximized. In 1920 the Decla-Bioscop company under the leadership of Erich Pommer became the host of Babelsberg. In 1922 Decla-Bioscop was merged with Ufa which owned the Babelsberg studios until 1945.

The original Babelsberg was a meeting-place of European talent. Top artists came from Denmark (Urban Gad, Asta Nielsen), Austria (Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder), Hungary (Michael Curtiz, Alexander Korda), Poland (Pola Negri), and Russia (Vjatsheslav Tourjanski). The young Alfred Hitchcock followed Lang and Murnau at work in Babelsberg.

During its golden age Babelsberg was a Babel of languages, but movies spoke a universal language as the speechless expression of silent cinema transcended national boundaries. In movies such as Der letzte Mann / The Last Laugh even intertitles became unnecessary.

In 1992, Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek organized a magnificent Babelsberg 80th Anniversary retrospective. The task was hard since the heritage of the golden age of German cinema has been badly shattered in the torrents of history. The backbone of the 1992 retrospective consisted of classics from The Student of Prague till The Blue Angel, but there were rarities that had not been seen in 70 years. Fragments of The Dance of Death were screened. Another great Asta Nielsen discovery was The Sins of Our Fathers (1913). In Opium (1918), starring Werner Krauss and Conrad Veidt, many Caligariesque elements were already in evidence. The five-hour serial Die Jagd nach dem Tode / The Death Hunt was inspired by a story by Jules Verne.

In the mid- to late 1920s Babelsberg was a center of visual excellence and innovation in world cinema. Among the finest discoveries of the retro was Arthur Robison's Looping the Loop (1927), with new insights into "the circle as a symbol of chaos" motif. Other highlights included Wilhelm Thiele's Die Dame mit der Maske (1928) and Adieu Mascotte (1929). Cosmopolitan glamour was on display in Viatcheslav Tourjansky's Manolescu (1929), starring Ivan Mosjoukine. The visual splendour was sometimes enough to salvage an otherwise modest effort such as Schuldig (1927).

Included in the retrospective was also G. W. Pabst's superficial but fascinating revolution spectacle Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (1927), which infuriated the writer of the original source novel Ilya Ehrenburg. Wolfgang Jacobsen had edited the magnificent retrospective catalogue. Simultaneously appeared another basic work on German film industry, Klaus Kreimeier's Die Ufa-Story. Both books were the first on their subjects.

Watching the retrospective and studying the books it became evident that Babelsberg had a studio style whose hallmarks were a passion towards pure visualization, dynamic camera expression, the centrality of impressive sets, and ingenious special effects. The culmination of the Babelsberg studio style was Metropolis, which was screened in 1992 with Berndt Heller's arrangement of the original Gottfried Huppertz music to the then best reconstructed version of the movie.

In my opinion the most important Babelsberg legacy is still the vision of its golden age: a truly universal approach to cinema, boundless ambition and a spirit of innovation and exploration, the opposite of Euro-pudding. (Reworked from my Babelsberg essay published in the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, 27 February 1992).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Carnage

Carnage / Carnage. [Finnish cinema lobby and box office title Ylilyönti, not used in print media advertising or film reviews]. FR/DE/PL/ES © 2011 SBS Productions / Constantin Film Produktion / SPI Film Studio / Versatíl Cinema / Zanagar Films / France 2 Cinéma. P: Saïd Ben Saïd. D: Roman Polanski. SC: Yasmine Reza, Roman Polanski - based on the play Le Dieu du carnage (2006). DP: Pawel Edelman - Kodak film stock - Duboi Lab. PD: Dean Tavoularis. Set dec: Franckie Diago. Cost: Milena Canonero. Special makeup effects: Alexis Kinebanyan. Hair: Laurent Bozzi. M: Alexandre Desplat. S: Thomas Desjonquères. ED: Hervé de Luze. Shot at Les Studios de Bray. Casting: Fiona Weir. C: Jodie Foster (Penelope Longstreet), Kate Winslet (Nancy Cowan), Christoph Waltz (Alan Cowan), and John C. Reilly (Michael Longstreet). Original in English. 80 min. Released in Finland by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles [n.c. or I didn't catch them on screen]. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 11 Feb 2012 (weekend of Finnish premiere).

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Arriflex Cameras - Film negative format: 35 mm - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35 : 1.

A taut film adaptation of Yasmine Reza's chamber play, a new expression of Roman Polanski's lifelong love affair with closed space stories with a minimal cast. There are affinities with his early dark short films, The Knife in the Water, Cul-de-sac, Bitter Moon, and Death and the Maiden. The intensity is high, and from a little incident something with big implications is developed. There is also an affinity with the "tit for tat" scenario of the Laurel & Hardy movies.

This is a character-driven play, and the movie is based on excellent performances by Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly. Perhaps there is a fable beneath, variations of "the wolf and the lamb" fairytales.

It starts in a civilized atmosphere. The 11-year old Zachary has hit his classmate Ethan with the result of bad tooth damage. The respective parents meet in a spirit of conciliation. But gradually the masks fall down, and the Cowans and the Longstreets express open contempt at each other. After a few drinks, tables turn, and the husbands and the wives reveal their hatred against their respective spouses. "This has been the worst day in my life" is a key sentence expressed by each in their time.

The big implications of the little incident include the world economic catastrophe (based on greed and fraud uncurbed), African child soldiers (even little children are capable of the worst evil), and manners as a form of hypocrisy.

The dialogue is full of black satire. "My whole life was in there" states Alan when his wife Nancy has drowned his mobile phone in the tulip vase. He  is not joking.

I was deeply impressed and frankly depressed after the movie, which kept growing in my mind. It is a filmed play of high intensity, and it would be also interesting to see live performances of the play. It is juicy material for actors, and the subject has gravity.

The 2K DCP of the movie shot on 35 mm film looks good in the interiors, largely realized in close-ups and medium close-ups. The opening and closing footage in the park have a video look.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Vuosaari / Naked Harbour

Nordsjö. FI © 2012 Edith Film / First Floor Productions. P: Pauli Pentti, Liisa Penttilä. D: Aku Louhimies. SC: Aku Louhimies, Mikko Kouki, Niina Repo. DP: Tuomo Hutri - Arriflex Cameras - 2,35:1. AD: Sattva-Hanna Toiviainen. Cost: Tiina Kaukanen. Makeup: Marjut Samulin. M: Markus Koskinen. S: Kirka Sainio. ED: Benjamin Mercer. Loc: Vuosaari (Helsinki). C: Laura Birn (Iiris), Mikko Kouki (Pertti), Lenna Kuurmaa (Viivi), Matleena Kuusniemi (Sara), Deogracias Masomi (Make), Amanda Pilke (Milla), Jasper Pääkkönen (Anders), Alma Pöysti (Marika), Sean Pertwee (Robert), Pekka Strang (Lauri), Emilia Leppilampi (Emma). Also with: Teemu Heino, Kari Heiskanen, Maria Järvenhelmi, Alma Louhimies, Eemeli Louhimies, Konsta Mäkelä, Taneli Mäkelä, Meri Nenonen, Jekaterina Novosjolova, Sulevi Peltola (taxi driver), Janne Reinikainen, Pertti Sveholm, Topi Tarvainen, Kati Outinen (bar psychologist). 122 min. In Finnish with English, Swedish, and Russian, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Susan Heiskanen / Saliven Gustavson. Dist: Buena Vista International Finland. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 4 Feb 2012 (premiere weekend).

The official synopsis: "Naked Harbour is a movie about Finnish love in the year 2011. It is a story about people who seek love and acceptance at any cost. During one winter week all its characters face something irreversible."

"In the Sara-Lauri equation there is something wrong. The life designed to be perfect is in crisis. Milla believes she has found a mentor and a way to the stars but the truth is otherwise. Pertti tries to take care of the physical fitness of himself and his son but brings about a catastrophe. The school bullies harassing Walter drive him to an extreme situation. Aleksi's mother does not understand the meaning of the dog for her son. The American Robert gets to experience Finnish winter, and Marika is forced to meet mortal fear together with her little daughter. All the characters of the movie are imperfect, weak and lost, but all of them are driven by the need to be loved, seen, and touched."

"The people fail truly to meet each other, and they hurt each other, but in the background lives hope". (The official synopsis, my translation.)

At the Kinopalatsi box office I learned that the house has been packed for Vuosaari / Naked Harbour, which had its premiere yesterday, and the buzz is good for Aku Louhimies's new high profile movie. Vuosaari has a similar approach as Paha maa / Frozen Land had seven years ago. They belong to the Querschnitt (cross-section) tradition of the cinema which became popular in the 1920s and whose famous representatives include Otto Preminger and Robert Altman. Altman called his approach "multi character form", and it has been especially prominent during the last decade or two. Also picaresque, detective, and chase stories, and the entire Odyssey tradition of fiction have had potential for the "multi character form". I don't watch tv but I understand that an extremely chopped style of multi character narrative is the norm in much tv fiction today; perhaps as a reflection of the short attention span. In Finland nobody remembers that the traditionalist number one Edvin Laine in his best work cultivated the grand multi-story ensemble vignette form very efficiently, because Laine was never considered a hip and cool guy.

Vuosaari is a serious and ambitious movie which is likely to be discussed for a long time. Some initial remarks:
1. The emphasis on the children's look is something new in a movie by Louhimies. I bambini ci guardano - the children are watching us.
2. Families are broken, single parents are too exhausted to take proper care of their children, and even quite small children get to carry adult responsibilities and face truths of life too soon.
3. Television is an important presence, and in an entirely soulless way. The world of reality tv is like an open sewer in the living room showing a state of existence even worse than the one the characters have to confront.
4. The culture of humiliation familiar from tv contests is imitated by school bullies.
5. Empty celebrity idolization has influenced young Milla who has no skills and is ready to do anything to become something.
6. The actors and the performances are strong and memorable.
7. The editing, maybe influenced by the contemporary tv series practices, is too chopped to my taste. This is a character-driven movie, the performances are good, and the impact might be greater with a bit more measured editing.
8. The harridan, the basic female character of contemporary Finnish cinema, is interpreted this time by Matleena Kuusniemi, Laura Birn, and Emilia Leppilampi.
9. The narratives are grim until just before the finale. There is a story of two junkies (Laura Birn, Deogracias Masomi), sex under violent threat by enforcers, armed robbery, escape at the harbour. - The Russian mother's bullied son Walter acquires a shotgun from her mother's boyfriend / customer, and is almost about to use it. - The single mother Marika (Alma Pöysti) battles with cancer. - Milla (Amanda Pilke) humiliates herself sexually in her quest for "celebrity"; Anders (Jasper Pääkkönen) tries to discourage her but not too determinedly. - There is one married couple (Sara / Matleena Kuusniemi, Lauri / Pekka Strang), but their love is dead, and the husband is carrying an affair with Viivi (Lenna Kuurmaa). - Until just before the finale Vuosaari is about people who do not know how to live, who have lost their joy of life and who are mostly uncomfortable with themselves. The sex in Vuosaari has made tabloid front-page news, but even the sex is sexless. Vuosaari is about life that is beginning to resemble reality tv. - The mother of Aleksi whose best friend is a dog kills the dog. - In the end the junkies escape Vuosaari, Marika overcomes her cancer, Lauri leaves Sara, Milla gives up her illusions about celebrity, and Walter refuses to commit school killings after all. Instead Milla and Walter go singing together.
10. The music score by Markus Koskinen, whose work I liked last year in Ella & Aleksi, is interesting.
11. Shot on location in Vuosaari, the 54. arrondissement of Helsinki, the movie does not try to pay justice to the actual look of the neighbourhood (where I have read the director lives, himself). The actual Vuosaari is an exciting, even beautiful, place with many aspects. The Vuosaari of the movie is a rather grim soulscape.

My main remark is the same I made about Varasto the novel. I think the points about the shallow and brutalized circumstances of the characters may be valid, but I keep looking for a stronger counter-image of some kind, a more powerful sense of spirituality, be it a sense of humour, a feeling of a stronger human potential, or a more pronounced presence of wit in the dialogue. Vuosaari is a grave movie in which we follow its characters in dark turning-points of their lives. People who go to see it will not have their hours wasted.

Close-ups look fine in the 2K DCP.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Out now: the Berlinale 2012 retrospective programme: The Red Dream Factory - the Mezhrabpomfilm / Prometheus story

"The Red Dream Factory", the inspired tribute to the Mezhrabpom and the Prometheus companies, must be one of the top retrospectives of the year. The following official introduction is from the homepage of the 62nd Berlinale (9-19 February, 2012):

The Retrospective “The Red Dream Factory” is the outcome of years of systematic research. It will present 44 films in 32 screenings - including rarities of whose condition little was known until recently. New prints of some of the films are being made available for the Retrospective by several archives: the German Federal Archives / Film Archives Department, the Deutsche Kinemathek, the Austrian Film Museum and the Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive in Krasnogorsk. In cooperation with the Deutsche Kinemathek, the Austrian Film Museum will be presenting a new restoration of Fyodor Otsep’s adaptation of the Tolstoy drama Zhivoy trup (The Living Corpse, 1929) that is based on six different versions.

Internationally renowned musicians will be providing accompaniment for the many silent films in the Retrospective programme. Dutch silent film pianist and composer Maud Nelissen and British accompanist Stephen Horne have performed at previous Retrospectives. Canadian Gabriel Thibaudeau, who is in great demand as a composer, conductor and pianist, will be accompanying silent films at the Berlinale for the first time. Eunice Martins is well known to Berliners as the resident pianist of the Arsenal cinema, and to international audiences from many festivals.

The Retrospective film programme will be supplemented by a series of events at the Deutsche Kinemathek. This year’s theme will open with a talk moderated by Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective, with curators Günter Agde and Alexander Schwarz. Alexander Schwarz will also be presenting his new documentary Die rote Traumfabrik, before it premieres on television, with Nina Goslar, who is responsible for the film at ARTE. Adelheid Heftberger, curator of the Vertov Collection of the Austrian Film Museum, will speak about the eventful history of Dziga Vertov’s only work for the “Red Dream Factory”, the often re-cut film Tri pesni o Lenine (Three Songs of Lenin). Two special events have been organized to give insight into the work of the Deutsche Kinemathek and are related to Studio Babelsberg’s 100th anniversary. For the complete programme of events go to: www.berlinale.de.

The extensive publication “Die rote Traumfabrik. Meschrabpom-Film und Prometheus 1921-1936”, which Bertz + Fischer are publishing for the Berlinale, provides further material about the Retrospective. As the first monograph in German about this legendary German-Russian cinematic experiment, the book, edited by Günter Agde and Alexander Schwarz, compiles essays by Russian and German authors on the history and aesthetics of the films. These essays are supplemented by historical documents, previously unpublished photos, contemporary avant-garde film posters, and a complete filmography.

Retrospective 2012: The Red Dream Factory

The Retrospective of the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival has rediscovered a legendary German-Russian film studio: Mezhrabpom-Film and its German branch Prometheus wrote film history from 1922 to 1936.

Moisei Aleinikov, a Russian film expert and producer from tsarist times who had a great instinct for the right topics, and Willi Münzenberg, a German communist and “red media entrepreneur”, joined forces in 1922 to combine clever business ideas, a political mission and boundless enthusiasm for new cinematic narratives. And so the film studio Mezhrabpom-Rus (later called Mezhrabpom-Film), a unique German-Russian film venture, was set up in Moscow, with headquarters in Berlin.

After producing some 600 films, this international experiment was brutally ended eleven and fourteen years later by Hitler’s and Stalin’s regimes. Entitled “The Red Dream Factory”, the Retrospective of the 2012 Berlinale will be dedicated to this studio rediscovered in Russian archives.

The Retrospective will present some 30 programmes made up of over 40 silent and sound films. The silent films will all be accompanied by live music performed by renowned artists. The film programme will be accompanied by discussions and events at the Deutsche Kinemathek. Berlin’s Bertz + Fischer will also be publishing a book for the Retrospective. In it, German and Russian authors will illuminate the development of the studio and the aesthetics of the films that were produced there.

In cooperation with Arte / ZDF, the Berlinale presents Sergei Eisenstein’s classic Oktjabr (October, 1928). The film about the revolution in October of 1917 has written film history, particularly due to its crowd scenes. The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra will accompany the screening on February 10th, 2012 at the Friedrichstadt-Palast with the original, reconstructed soundtrack by composer Edmund Meisel.

Berlinale Special Gala
Oktjabr / Oktober. D: Sergej M. Eisenstein. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. C: Vasili Nikandrov, Vladimir Popov, Boris Livanov, Nikolaj Podvojskij, Eduard Tissé. Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Dirigent: Frank Strobel. 116'. Commissioned by the CPSU, Eisenstein’s depiction of the October Revolution was criticised for its lack of emotion and withdrawn from distribution after its premiere. This HD version features a re-recording of Edmund Meisel’s mechanical-sounding score.

Schachmatnaja gorjatschka / Chess Fever | Schachfieber. D: Wsewolod Pudowkin, Nikolai Schpikowski. USSR 1925. English Intertitles. C: Wladimir Fogel, Anna Semzowa, Natalja Glan. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 27'. An amusing chamber-drama about a chess fanatic and his lover. The interaction between historical protagonists and famous actors creates an entertaining pot-pourri of reality and fiction.

Prasdnik Swjatowo Jorgena / St. Jorgen's Day | Das Fest des heiligen Jürgen. D: Jakow Protasanow. USSR 1930. Russian Intertitles. C: Anatoli Ktorow, Igor Iljinski, Michail Klimow. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 92'. A satirical film rich in anti-religious signals and ironic attacks on the clergy, its managers and their beneficiaries. Although this comedy may well have adopted a political line, it also managed to deliver a surfeit of entertaining cinema.

Solotoje osero / The Golden Lake | Kampf um Gold. D: Wladimir Schnejderow. USSR 1935. C: Iwan Nowoselzew, W. Tolstowa, Andrej Fait. 83'. An expedition-cum-action-film made for the cinema, complete with ethnographic information on the distant Altai Mountains, their inhabitants, and their minerals, which the Soviet Union urgently needs.

Potomok Tschingis-chana / Storm over Asia | Sturm über Asien. D: Wsewolod Pudowkin. USSR 1929. C: Waleri Inkischinjow, Lew Dedinzew, L. Belinskaja. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 127'. Expressive images of the transformation of an exotic character, presented as an ethnographic fairy tale. Or: how a wounded Mongolian mobilises his sense of justice, fights, kills and becomes a revolutionary.

Zeitprobleme. Wie der Arbeiter wohnt / Problems of Our Time. How the Worker Lives. D: Slatan Dudow. Germany 1930. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 17'. This 12-minute film shows the insurmountable contrasts in Berlin around 1930: poor living conditions in the city, which has over a million inhabitants, and the merciless treatment of the poorest of the poor by the house owners.

Im Schatten der Weltstadt / In the Shadows of Metropolis. D: Albrecht Viktor Blum. Germany 1930. German Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 16'. The director, Albrecht Viktor Blum, pieces together documentary film material taken by other camera-people to create new and frequently shocking contexts of meaning – a surprising look at the dark sides of the city of Berlin in 1930.

Um's tägliche Brot / For Our Daily Bread. D: Phil Jutzi. Germany 1929. German Intertitles, English Intertitles. C: Sybille Schloß, Holmes Zimmermann. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 61'. A strict reportage and a document from the Silesian coal basin: focusing solely on the everyday lives and work of the miners around 1929. An indictment as befitting the workers’ relief organisation Internationale Arbeiter-Hilfe (IAH).

Gibel sensazii / Loss of the Sensation | Der Untergang der Sensation. D: Aleksandr Andrijewski. USSR 1935. C: Sergej Wetscheslow, Wladimir Gardin, Marija Wolgina. 90'. Robots as tireless workhorses animals and fighting machines. Yet not in Hollywood, but in a Russian sound picture made in 1935.

Dewuschka s korobkoi / The Girl with the Hat Box | Moskau wie es weint und lacht. D: Boris Barnet. USSR 1927. C: Anna Sten, Wladimir Michajlow, Wladimir Fogel. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 99'. Money and appearances: deviously acquired living space and a lottery ticket create a variety of amusing complications. On its release, Barnet's comedy about finding good fortune in a big city was a big hit with audiences in Moscow and Berlin.

Slutschajnaja wstretscha / Accidental Meeting | Zufällige Begegnung. D: Igor Sawtschenko. USSR 1936. C: Jewgeni Samoilow, Galina Paschkowa, Walentina Iwaschjowa. 64'. A collective combine as a workers' paradise – with sport, fun and lots of singing. Irina, the popular blonde forewoman, succeeds in everything. Until she falls in love with her trainer! Socialist realism: this time as a musical melodrama.

Aelita / Aelita - Der Flug zum Mars. D: Jakow Protasanow. USSR 1924. C: Julija Solnzewa, Walentina Kuindschi, Nikolai Zereteli. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 101'. A fantastic excursion to Mars, in which the futuristic technical dream of the flight itself is of merely marginal interest. Only four years after the October Revolution, the film-makers were searching for a new utopia.

Putjowka w schisn / The Road to Life | Der Weg ins Leben. D: Nikolai Ekk. USSR 1931. C: Nikolai Batalow, Iywan Kyrlja, Michail Dschagofarow. 104'. An idea is made into a film: the education of the “new human being” through work is demonstrated on a homeless group of young Moscovites, commanded by a resolute instructor. The first Soviet sound-film.

Ledolom / Thaw | Eisgang. D: Boris Barnet. USSR 1931. Russian Intertitles. C: Wera Marinitsch, Aleksandr Schukow, Anton Martynow. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 65'. Village life is bloodily torn apart because the Soviet state wants to enforce collectivisation. An angry film, rich in imagery. A complete surprise from the master of friendly films, Boris Barnet.

Okraina / Outskirts | Vorstadt. D: Boris Barnet. USSR 1933/65. Russian, German. C: Sergej Komarow, Jelena Kusmina, Robert Erdmann. 96'. How does war affect peaceful people? What happens when they have had enough of the trenches, poverty and oppression? Barnet describes provincial village life in detail, using “poetic montages”. Then the Russians and the Germans join forces and revolt.

Artek. D: Fjodor Proworow, Wladimir Nesterow. USSR 1936. 24'. A paradise for small Soviets: Artek, a famous holiday camp in the Crimea, is a great resort, and an elite training centre for a new generation of Communists. A rare document of the Stalinist approach to training young people to become new human beings.

Pesn o gerojach / Songs of Heroes (Komsomol) | Komsomol. D: Joris Ivens. USSR 1933. Russian. 50'. A documentary symphony on industrialisation and the heroic work of the Komsomol – commissioned by the Soviets and spectacularly filmed by Joris Ivens. The music was performed by the collective combine in Magnitogorsk, in co-operation with Hanns Eisler.

Schiwoi trup / The Living Corpse | Der lebende Leichnam. D: Fjodor Ozep. Germany, USSR 1929. German Intertitles. C: Wsewolod Pudowkin, Maria Jacobini, Viola Garden. Musik-Illustration / Score by Werner Schmidt-Boelcke (Aufnahme von / Recorded in 1988). 121'. A man, his wife and her lover – but divorce is impossible. In their conflict with the church and the state, they face an agonising solution. An early socially critical co-production, in which pre-revolutionary melodrama encounters montage in Soviet film.

Katok / Skating Rink | Eisbahn. D: Juri Scheljabuschski. USSR 1927. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 6'. Animation. A matchstick man wants to dance, run and float – lightly and elegantly – in the skating rink. An entertaining little film, witty and a fast moving, produced at the young Mezhrabpom-Film cartoon-film workshop: free from advertisements or ideology.

Prikljutschenija kitajtschat / Adventures of the Little Chinese | Die Abenteuer der kleinen Chinesen. D: Margarita Benderskaja. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 18'. Animation. In puppets’ faces, the eyes – rolling this way and that – are a prime means of expression. This film tells story of two Chinese children who seek a land in which the “poor people are free”. They find it (of course) in the Soviet Union.

Budem sorki / Let's Be Attentive! | Seid wachsam!. D: Nikolai Chodatajew. USSR 1927. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 10'. Animation. One of the creative domains for the special-effects people at Mezhrabpom-Film involved linking montages, facsimiles and simple line drawings with real scenes. With these means, as well as humour, the film promoted subscriptions to state-bank bonds.

Blek end uait / Black and White. D: Leonid Amalrik, Iwan Iwanow-Wano. USSR 1932. Russian. 7'. Animation. The class struggle pure: black slaves against white oppressors. The propagandistic appeal at the end of the film obeys the logic of the cartoon-film fable: the oppressed ought to seek international solidarity – and contact the Comintern immediately.

Skaska o slom medwede, kowarnom lise i wesjolom pastuche / Fairytale of the Evil Bear, the Spiteful Fox and the Cheerful Shepherd | Märchen vom bösen Bären, dem tückischen Fuchs und dem fröhlichen Hirten. D: Dmitri Babitschenko, Aleksandr Bergengrin. USSR 1936. Russian. 9'. Animation. A promotional film à la Mezhrabpom-Film 1936: a peasant boy is good with anthropomorphised domestic animals, which grow and thrive. But only the best specimens will be presented at the exhibition of breeds, which is due to open soon.

Senka-afrikanez / Senka the African | Senka, der Afrikaner. D: Daniil Tscherkes, Juri Merkulow. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 27'. In dreams, everything is possible: even flying to faraway continents and playing with wild animals and fabulous creatures. Real films and cartoon films are brilliantly combined – and the animation artists have splendid ideas and quickly realise them.

Kuhle Wampe oder Wem gehört die Welt? / Kuhle Wampe or Who Owns the World?. D: Slatan Dudow. Germany, Switzerland 1932. C: Hertha Thiele, Ernst Busch, Martha Wolter. 69'. Unadorned histories of families, unemployed people, a pregnant girl, a mass sports protest by Berlin workers – grouped around a permanent camp-site in the countryside at Berlin’s Mueggelsee lake.

Wosstanije rybakow / Revolt of the Fishermen | Aufstand der Fischer. D: Erwin Piscator, Michail Doller. USSR 1934/35. Russian Intertitles. C: Aleksej Diki, Dmitri Konsowski, Nikolai Gladkow. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 60'. When deep-sea fishermen struggle to earn more money for their catch... Visual material showing fierce social conflicts was part of Mezhrabpom-Film’s programme, especially when these could be staged with expressive imagery.

Miss Mend (1). D: Fjodor Ozep, Boris Barnet. USSR 1926. Russian Intertitles. C: Natalja Glan, Igor Iljinski, Wladimir Fogel, Boris Barnet. Piano: Eunice Martins. 93'. A brilliant starting point: three adroit reporters are hunting for sensations. And a fundamental decision is taken by the studio: the first three-part series to be shown in Soviet cinemas, each telling exciting full-length fables.

Miss Mend (2). D: Fjodor Ozep, Boris Barnet. USSR 1926. Russian Intertitles. C: Natalja Glan, Igor Iljinski, Wladimir Fogel, Boris Barnet. Piano: Eunice Martins. 96'

Miss Mend (3). D: Fjodor Ozep, Boris Barnet. USSR 1926. Russian Intertitles. C: Natalja Glan, Igor Iljinski, Wladimir Fogel, Boris Barnet. Piano: Eunice Martins. 77'

Dwa okeana / Two Oceans | Zwei Ozeane. D: Wladimir Schnejderow, Jakow Kuper. USSR 1933. Russian. 65'. Documentary. An epoch-making documentary about a pioneering achievement: the ice-breaker Sibiryakov is the first ship to complete the voyage along the North-West Passage: from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific. Vladimir Shneyderov is on board with his sound camera!

Wintik-schpintik / Little Screw | Die streikende Schraube. D: Wladislaw Twardowski. USSR 1927/30. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Eunice Martins. 6'. Animation. When just one little screw is missing... or: little causes, dramatic effects. Lively drawings and bold animations turn vast machines in a factory into mobile monsters that become autonomous and lead lives of their own.

Bronenosez Potjomkin / Battleship Potemkin | Panzerkreuzer Potemkin. D: Sergej Eisenstein. USSR 1925. Russian Intertitles. C: Aleksandr Antonow, Nikolai Lewtschenko, Grigori Aleksandrow. Komposition / Score by Edmund Meisel (Aufnahme von / Recorded in 2005). Rating R12. 73'. The most famous and still most appealing film of early Soviet cinematography. It has continued to exert a powerful appeal ever since it was first released in 1925. A sailor’s revolt as a media event.

Dom na Trubnoi / The House on Trubnaya | Das Haus in der Trubnaja-Straße. D: Boris Barnet. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. C: Wera Marezkaja, Wladimir Fogel, Jelena Tjapkina. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 86'. What a madhouse! In Moscow, Parasha, a “country girl” is caught up in bustle of city life. The poverty of the little people, grand entrances, confusion, shouting and modest tones. A socially critical comedy bearing the inimitable stamp of Boris Barnet.

Gorisont / Horizon | Horizont. D: Lew Kuleschow. USSR 1933. Russian. C: Nikolai Batalow, Jelena Kusmina, Michail Doronin. 102'. The emigration and re-migration of an irrepressibly optimistic child of nature. And an example of the career of a man whose wishes cannot be fulfilled and who, as a consequence, has to content himself with his own company.

Odna is mnogich / One of Many | Eine von vielen. D: Nikolai Chodatajew. USSR 1927. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 16'. Animation. A convincing combination of real scenes and cartoon sequences: the dream of a turbulent kidnapping – ending up in the glittering world of Hollywood and a rude awakening. The film pokes fun at the mass enthusiasm for Hollywood stars.

Pozelui Meri Pikford / The Kiss of Mary Pickford | Moskau glaubt den Tränen nicht. D: Sergej Komarow. USSR 1927. Ukranian Intertitles. C: Igor Iljinski, Anel Sudakewitsch, Mary Pickford. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 79'. A highly gifted Russian comedian, a romance with a discriminating film-enthusiast, some dangerous stunts, and real American movie stars – Sergei Komarov combines all these ingredients to create an easy-going comedy about the star cult and film-making.

Grosny Wawila i tjotka Arina / Terrible Vavila and Auntie Arina | Der schreckliche Wawila und Tante Arina. D: Olga Chodatajewa, Nikolai Chodatajew. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 7'. Animation. Women’s Day in the Soviet Union. An official holiday throughout the country. The cartoon film, which adopts the stylistic means of a Russian fairy tale, makes fun of the way men and women come to terms with one another. But nobody really wins.

Proryw! / The Backlog! | Der Rückstand!. D: Lew Kuleschow. USSR 1930. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 14'. Documentary. Down with idling and failing to meet the plan! Down with backlogs – long live the Stakhanovites! With these phrases in mind, Kuleshov made this little agitfilm in record time. Simplistic at times, it nevertheless contains some startling metaphors.

Sorok serdez / Forty Hearts | Vierzig Herzen. D: Lew Kuleschow. USSR 1931. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 56'. Documentary. The new power stations are beating like hearts to the pulse of modernisation. At huge expense and effort, the Soviet Union is rapidly industrialised. Kuleshov's rediscovered educational film is also a hymn to the wonder of electrical energy.

Rwanyje baschmaki / Torn Shoes | Zerrissene Stiefelchen. D: Margarita Barskaja. USSR 1933. Russian. C: Michail Klimow, Iwan Nowoselzew, Anna Tschekulajewa. 84'. A moving children’s film and a stirring performance by the 30-year-old woman director. It paints a crude and very one-sided picture of Germany in the early 1930s. All its sympathy lies with the children, however...

Jenseits der Straße / Harbour Drift. D: Leo Mittler. Germany 1929. German Intertitles. C: Lissy Arna, Paul Rehkopf, Fritz Genschow. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 94'. A beggar, a prostitute and an unemployed man are entangled in deadly conflicts over a pearl necklace – it is their escape from poverty. A masterpiece of the proletarian cinema by Leo Mittler. Now being shown in its entirety again for the first time.

Tri pesni o Lenine / Three Songs of Lenin (1938 silent version) | Drei Lieder über Lenin (stumme Fassung von 1938). D: Dsiga Wertow. USSR 1935/38. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Stephen Horne. 54'. Across the country, the hero is mourned and celebrated. On the 10th anniversary, the enfant terrible of Soviet cinema, Dziga Vertov, creates a hymn to Lenin. Stalin is standing before the mausoleum. A milestone in the history of sound documentary film.

Konez Sankt-Peterburga / The End of St. Petersburg | Das Ende von Sankt Petersburg. D: Wsewolod Pudowkin, Michail Doller. USSR 1927. Russian Intertitles. C: Aleksandr Tschistjakow, Wera Baranowskaja, Iwan Tschuweljew. Piano: Stephen Horne. 77'. What makes someone a revolutionary? Ivan, a villager, embarks on a long journey involving a steel factory, strikes, prison, deployment on the front and, finally, the Winter Palace. This classic on the Revolution made Pudovkin, the director, world famous.

Pjatiletije sowjetskoi Rossii / Five Years of Soviet Russia | Fünf Jahre Sowjetrussland. USSR 1922. German Intertitles. Piano: Stephen Horne. 45'. Documentary. This film, commissioned by the Workers International Relief, was one of the first films from and about the Soviet Union to be shown in Germany after the war. An early jubilee film, with shots of old Moscow, Leon Trotsky, and parades on the Red Square.

Drugaja schisn / The New Life | Das andere Leben. D: Juri Scheljabuschski, Aleksej Dmitriew. USSR 1930. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Stephen Horne. 72'. Documentary. Fuelled by oil, modernity is coming to the Steppes. Blessed by nationalised black gold, the Soviet state of Azerbaijan is flourishing. Film director Zhelyabuzhsky presents modern Baku and its inhabitants as the boom town of the East.

Potomok Tschingis-chana / Storm Over Asia | Sturm über Asien. D: Wsewolod Pudowkin. USSR 1929. Russian Intertitles. C: Waleri Inkischinjow, Lew Dedinzew, L. Belinskaja. Komposition / Score by Bernd Schultheis (Aufnahme von / Recorded in 2008). 127'. Expressive images of the transformation of an exotic character, presented as an ethnographic fairy tale. Or: how a wounded Mongolian mobilises his sense of justice, fights, kills and becomes a revolutionary.

Tri pesni o Lenine / Three Songs of Lenin (1970 sound version) | Drei Lieder über Lenin (Tonfassung von 1970). D: Dsiga Wertow. USSR 1934/38/70. Russian. 62'. Documentary. Across the country, the hero is mourned and celebrated. On the 10th anniversary, the enfant terrible of Soviet cinema, Dziga Vertov, creates a hymn to Lenin. Stalin is standing before the mausoleum. A milestone in the history of sound documentary film.

Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück / Mother Krause's Journey to Happiness. D: Phil Jutzi. Germany 1929. German Intertitles. C: Alexandra Schmitt, Holmes Zimmermann, Ilse Trautschold. Piano: Stephen Horne. 119'. Such a concentration of poverty, the little joys in life, and people squeezed in such little space – how long can it last? A well-known drama of proletarian life in Berlin, based on motifs taken from Heinrich Zille. A classic of German left-wing cinema.