Sunday, April 29, 2012

Out now: Cinema Orion's new programme (May-August 2012)

Cinema Orion's new season (May-August 2012) is about to start on the First of May. The programme booklet was released a few weeks ago, and the programme is online. In Nordic countries we take our holidays during the short summer, and some Nordic cinematheques take a summer break in their screenings, but in Helsinki we are aware of a strong demand for programming even during the summer, the only difference being that the summer season is based on domestic prints with some exceptions. This year our vaults have been closed all year for renovation, and we had to make bookings already in October, focusing more on rather new films than we usually do, but there was no need to compromise quality. Themes in our summer season include:

STUDIO GHIBLI gets its first retrospective in Finland. During the summer we screen 16 Studio Ghibli masterpieces thanks to Studio Ghibli and Cinema Mondo, their Finnish distributor. The series starts with the pre-Ghibli Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is also the Ur-Ghibli film with many of its profound themes, most importantly the concern for the balance of nature, already in evidence. The other films of the retrospective are Castle in the Sky, My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Ocean Waves, Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbours the Yamadas, Spirited Away, The Cat Returns, Howl's Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, Ponyo, and The Secret World of Arrietty.

CINEMA CONCERT METROPOLIS. The 2010 restoration of Metropolis by Martin Koerber, Anke Wilkening and Frank Strobel (Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung / Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin), incorporating the footage believed lost and found in Buenos Aires, at 147 minutes, on 35 mm. The music is played live by Cleaning Women together with Gudmund R. Østard, Nasra, and Ivan Afanasyev. At Bio Rex, 13 May, at 18.00.

FIFTY YEARS AGO: THE FILM YEAR 1962. Inspired by Bologna's "Cento anni fa" project we started our "Fifty years ago" series in 2007, on the 50th anniversary year of the Finnish Film Archive. This year we present the debut feature films of Tarkovsky (Ivan's Childhood) and Polanski (Knife in the Water), the final film of Ozu (An Autumn Afternoon / Le Goût du saké), the maddest expression of the Cold War (The Manchurian Candidate), new wave in France (Godard: Vivre sa vie), Italian modernism (Antonioni: L'eclisse), British realism (Schlesinger: A Kind of Loving) and cinefantastique (Night of the Eagle), Bressonian rigorism (Procès de Jeanne d'Arc), and a too little known masterful adaptation of classic material, Vladimir Gorikker's Mozart and Salieri based on Rimsky-Korsakov's one-act opera, itself based on Pushkin's play, with Innokenti Smoktunovsky in the definitive W.A. Mozart performance of the cinema.

I LOVE YOU, I FILM YOU. Inspired by Rainer Gansera's series for the Munich film museum in 2010 (and others before him) we created our version of a great theme which goes back to the very first film actress, Jeanne d'Alcy, and the director who loved her, Georges Méliès. Lillian Gish / D.W. Griffith (True Heart Susie), Marlene Dietrich / Josef von Sternberg (The Devil Is a Woman), Jean Marais / Jean Cocteau (Orphée), Kinuyo Tanaka / Kenji Mizoguchi (Saikaku ichidai onna), Ingrid Bergman / Roberto Rossellini (Viaggio in Italia), Monica Vitti / Michelangelo Antonioni (L'eclisse), Anna Karina / Jean-Luc Godard (Vivre sa vie), Liv Ullmann / Ingmar Bergman (The Hour of the Wolf), Helmut Berger / Luchino Visconti (Gruppo di famiglia in un interno), Oja Kodar / Orson Welles (F for Fake), Gena Rowlands / John Cassavetes (Gloria), Mia Farrow / Woody Allen (Hannah and Sisters), and Gong Li / Zhang Yimou (Red Sorghum).

DARREN ARONOFSKY: all his five feature films are screened starting with Pi, and including his masterpiece Requiem for a Dream.

WOODY ALLEN is a favourite at Cinema Orion, and while he is enjoying a new peak in his popularity we screen during the summer months his movies from the 1980s and the 1990s, including Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

FRENCH SUMMER: French quality from the last 15 years including works by French and international artists such as André Téchiné (Alice et Martin), Michael Haneke (La Pianiste), and Manoel de Oliveira (Je rentre à la maison).

MYTHICAL POHJANMAA: the first ever retrospective dedicated to the province of Pohjanmaa, where violent knifemen went on rampage in the decades before 1870, the favourite subject of a domestic genre with several resemblances with but hardly any influences from the Western. Writers such as Artturi Järviluoma, Artturi Leinonen, and Antti Tuuri have provided other stories for memorable movies. The highlight of the retrospective is the Cinema concert Pohjalaisia (1925). KAVA has newly restored the handsome movie which has not been screened in 80 years, and the "Etelä-Pohjanmaa Senaatintorilla - Pikkuusen häjymmät piroot" festival provides a "pelimanni" master duo of two accordionists on Friday, 8 June, at 19.00.

MYTHICAL HONG KONG: revisiting the golden age of Hong Kong's explosive action choreography and excessive national romanticism in movies such as A Chinese Ghost Story, Once Upon a Time in China, and Fong Sai-yuk.

SPANISH FAVOURITES include movies from Pedro Almodóvar, Bigas Luna, Juanma Bajo Ulloa, Fernando Trueba, and Julio Medem.

THE STEEL HARD EIGHTIES, curated by Lauri Lehtinen and Antti Suonio, is a tribute to the golden decade of a new kind of action cinema, focusing on action in the present (neglecting science fiction except in The Terminator, which is set in the present). Michael Mann, William Friedkin, Abel Ferrara, Brian De Palma, and Walter Hill are among the directors. Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are at the top, as are Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke.

FASHION FILM FESTIVAL is a contribution to the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 year, with Paramount classics of timeless elegance such as To Catch a Thief and A Funny Face.

Miracle spring for the Finnish cinema

Sixteen Finnish movies have had their premiere this year, and there are two more premieres to come before summer. This is exceptionally much in the little land of ours. But even more exceptional is these movies' success with the audiences. In the count of the Finnish Film Foundation earlier this month there were already over a million admissions to domestic movies in our country of 5,4 million inhabitants. The percentage of domestic cinema admissions was an incredible 44%.

This success is most importantly due to the talents of the film-makers. A strong basis has been established by the efforts of the Finnish Film Foundation. It has succeeded in raising the funding of the Finnish cinema to a new level. It has also consciously supported many-sidedness in film production together with its partners in tv companies.

From the perspective of art commercial success may be irrelevant, but cinema is both art and commerce, and without a strong commercial foundation film art cannot flourish either. A good example is the history of Italian cinema. When it was commercially at its most successful in the 1950s and the 1960s it reached also its highest artistic level.

the domestic premieres so far:
Vares - Kaidan tien kulkijat / The Path of the Righteous Men / 6.1.2012
Punaisen metsän hotelli (doc) / Red Forest Hotel / 13.1.2012
Rat King / 20.1.2012
Canned Dreams (doc) / Säilöttyjä unelmia / 27.1.2012
Hulluna Saraan / Love & Other Troubles / 27.1.2012
Vuosaari / Naked Harbour / 3.2.2012
Risto Räppääjä ja Viileä Venla / Ricky Rapper and Cool Wendy / 10.2.2012
Härmä / Once Upon a Time in the North / 17.2.2012
Kulman pojat / Fanatics / 24.2.2012
Tähtitaivas talon yllä / Stars Above / 2.3.2012
Kohta 18 / Almost 18 / 9.3.2012
Vares - Uhkapelimerkki / Gambling Chip / 16.3.2012
Taistelu Näsilinnasta 1918 / Conquest of the Näsilinna Palace 1918 / 23.3.2012
Saunavieras / [The Sauna Guest] / 23.3.2012
Rouva Presidentti (doc) / Madam President / 30.3.2012
Iron Sky / 4.4.2012

forthcoming during the next weeks:
Kovasikajuttu (doc) / The Punk Syndrome / 4.5.2012
Venäjän vapain mies (doc) / A Russian Libertine / 11.5.2012

From last year's movies Le Havre, Hiljaisuus / Silence, Avain Italiaan / The Italian Key, Herra Heinämäki / Mr. Hayhill, and Varasto / Storage have been successful in this year, too.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Long Day's Journey into Night

Pitkän päivän matka yöhön / Lång dags färd mot natt. US 1962. PC: Landau Productions. EX: Jack J. Dreyfus, Jr., Joseph E. Levine. P: Ely A. Landau. D: Sidney Lumet – [no screenplay, no screenwriter] – based on the play by Eugene O'Neill, posthumously produced in 1956, written in 1942. Finnish translation in book form by Juha Siltanen / Love Kirjat, 1989. DP: Boris Kaufman - b&w - 1,85:1. PD: Richard Sylbert, set dec. Gene Callahan. Cost: Sophie Devine. Make-up: Herman Buchman. Hair: Mary Roche. M (solo piano, total 10 min): André Previn. S: Jim Shields. ED: Ralph Rosenblum. Loc: Long Island (New York). C: Katharine Hepburn (Mary Tyrone), Ralph Richardson (James Tyrone), Jason Robards (Jamie Tyrone), Dean Stockwell (Edmund Tyrone), Jeanne Barr (Kathleen). Helsinki premiere: 4.10.1968 Astor, released by Lii-Filmi, short version 138 min, Finnish tv transmissions 20.6.1992 YLE TV2, 30.12.2001 YLE TV1 – VET 76620 – K16 – original full length version 174 min

Region 1 US dvd, distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment (Graphic design © 2004 Republic Entertainment. A Paramount/Viacom company). Full screen version 1,33:1 ("formatted from its original version to fit your screen", but it looks like the open matte version), original full length version 174 min. Dvd viewed at home, Helsinki, 28 April 2012

The play was first performed on 2.2.1956 in Stockholm (Dramaten, with Lars Hanson / James, Inga Tidblad / Mary, Jarl Kulle / Edmund). (A funny coincidence: these three actors have each played in a film adaptation of The Song of the Scarlet Flower, one in the 1910s, one in the 1930s, and one in the 1950s).

I missed in our Sidney Lumet retrospective this favourite film of the director. My American relatives happened to read my blog entry about the Eugene O'Neill play which I read instead and sent me this dvd as a gift. The movie is a special case in drama adaptation. Lumet made it directly from the Eugene O'Neill play without a screenplay. The cinematic contribution is the cinematography which is based on the theme expressed in the title: the journey into night. At the start there are more long shots and establishing shots and towards the end there are more close-ups and extreme close-ups. There are only four main characters and one supporting character, the housemaid. Based on the play, this is a character-driven movie but also a powerful visual experience thanks to Boris Kaufman's work. The camera is constantly moving and revealing something without being obtrusive. The faces keep changing with the passage of the light from morning till night, but also by the impact of the alcohol (consumed liberally by father and sons) and morphine (taken at regular intervals by Mary). The tale of revelations is reportedly semi-autobiographical, based on O'Neill's family experiences in 1912 in Connecticut. The play is grim yet full of humour. Lumet's adaptation is very good in maintaining the dramatic tension but less successful with O'Neill's black sense of humour. Of the performances I liked Dean Stockwell best, magnetic as the youngest son suffering from consumption (= tuberculosis). He possesses the same kind of charisma as James Dean. Ralph Richardson is perfect as the pater familias, the successful but frustrated travelling hit actor, the prisoner of a single success role. Jason Robards was a veteran of this play, very good but perhaps slightly tired to do this role again, and at 40 too old-looking for the 33 year old Jamie. There is nothing wrong with Katharine Hepburn, one of my favourite actresses with a strong spirit and a brilliant sense of humour. Excuse me, but in this movie she seems lost in a way that must be unintentional. Sidney Lumet is a great directors of actors - male actors. His female characters fail to reach the same level of greatness that his male characters often have. In the beginning, the movie seems mannered and telegraphing points annoyingly. The performances feel heavy and lacking in subtlety. Towards the end either the actors seem more at home with their roles or I got used to the performance styles. But the movie does reach a devastating, cathartic, tragic, explosive intensity at the end of the long journey. The dvd has been mastered in the Academy aspect ratio, which seems to mean that there is more to see above and below the field of vision than was meant to be seen in the widescreen cinema format. It does not look bad, but for a while during the conclusion the image reverts to the original widescreen, which feels immediately right and brings a heightened intensity to this brilliantly photographed film.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Riget, Dag 1: Den hvide flok / The Kingdom, Day 1: The Unheavenly Host

Valtakunta, 1. päivä: Valkea lauma / Riket, Dag 1: Den vita flocken. DK/FR/DE/SE 1994. PC: Zentropa Entertainments, DR - Danmarks Radio, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Arte, SVT - Sveriges Television, Nederlandse Omroep Stichting, Nordisk Film- och TV-Fond, Nordic TV Co-production Fund, MEDIA II. P: Ole Reim. D: Lars von Trier, Morten Arnfred. SC: Lars von Trier, Tómas Gislason, Niels Vørsel. DP: Eric Kress - shot on 16 mm. AD: Jette Lehmann. SFX: Niels Fly, Niels Skovgaard. Cost: Bjarne Nilsson. Makeup: Kim Olsson, Lis Olsson. M: Joachim Holbek. ED: Molly Marlene Stensgaard. S: Per Streit, Hans Møller. Loc: Rigshospitalet (Østerbro, Copenhagen, Denmark). C: Ernst-Hugo Järegård (Stig Helmer), Kirsten Rolffes (Sigrid Drusse), Holger Juul Hansen (Einar Moesgaard), Søren Pilmark (Jørgen Krogshøj), Ghita Nørby (Rigmor Mortensen), Jens Okking (Bulder Harly Drusse), Annevig Schelde Ebbe (Mary Krüger), Baard Owe (Palle Bondo), Birgitte Raaberg (Judith Petersen), Peter Mygind (Morten 'Mogge' Moesgaard), Vita Jensen (dishwasher), Morten Rotne Leffers (dishwasher), Louise Fribo (Sanne), Laura Christensen (Mona Jensen), Mette Munk Plum (Mona's mother), Solbjørg Højfeldt (Camilla), Udo Kier (Age Krüger), Otto Brandenburg (Hansen). 72 min. A 35 mm print from DFI with English credit titles, original in Danish, with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (The Evil North), 27 April 2012.

We presented Lars von Trier's acclaimed tv series Riget and Riget 2, totalling eight episodes of 72 minutes, during two evenings, four episodes on each, in 35 mm film prints. The attendance was good, and so was the audience reaction: evidently the series is fondly remembered by its followers. Personally, I have struggled to connect with Trier - and we did show his first trilogy already in 1991 at Cinema Orion - but missed the excitement around Riget as I was abroad when it was first transmitted on Finnish tv. Now I must admit that Riget, made right after the first trilogy, must be Trier's best work so far. Riget is first-rate horror fiction, mixing social satire, psychological observation and black humour with the horror elements.

Characters and story elements introduced in the first episode include the hypochondriac Sigrid Drusse who senses spirits at the Rigshospitalet, the overbearing Swedish senior physician Dr. Stig Helmer with zero psychological skills, the junior physician Mogge who entertains a one-sided feeling of love towards a senior nurse, the quiet crying of a ghost child in the elevator shaft, a séance conducted at the hospital by Sigrid Drusse, a pathology session with autopsy off camera, a beheading of a corpse at the morgue, the "Operation Morning Star", the "Sons of the Kingdom" with its lemon cutting ritual (with Järegård's nose accidentally cut), a grave malpractice case in which Helmer inflicts irremediable damage in his brain surgery to young Mona and handles the encounter with the livid mother ("I'd rather she'd died") in a way the director of the hospital comments with the sentence "your diplomacy didn't work", and a mild earthquake causing flooding on the yard and the parking area.

Reportedly inspired by Twin Peaks but completely original.

It makes sense to screen Riget at the cinema because of the strong audience reaction and the big screen experience. The visual quality of the print is not so hot, though. It matters little that it has been battered in heavy use, but on a more serious note the post-production of the 16 mm cinematography has been designed for the small screen, and the drawbacks are amplified at the cinema. But finally Riget is a story- and character-driven movie.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

International cinematheque programmes

Institut Lumière (Lyon): Rue du Premier-Film, Magazine de L'Institut Lumière (Lyon), #96-97, 17 avril - 15 juillet 2012. Institut Lumière, 25 rue du Premier-Film. Rétrospecive Cinéma Russie, soirée spéciale en présence de Joël Chapron, conférence "70 ans de cinéma soviétique". Rétrospective Henry Fonda, soirée spéciale en présence de Michel Ciment, conférence "Henry Fonda ou l'Amérique de la lucidité".

La Cinémathèque de la Ville de Luxembourg. Musée du cinéma. Avril 2012. - Lucienne's. City Magazine Luxembourg. Abrëll 2012. - Live@Cinémathèque: Der Student von Prag, feat. KrausFrink Percussion. Tous les genres du cinéma: leçon 7: La comédie. Gus Van Sant I. Screening Dracula: Centenaire de la disparition de Bram Stoker. Martin Scorsese IV.

Filmoteca Española (Madrid): Marzo 2012 + Abril 2012. Cine Doré, Calle Santa Isabel, 3. Fritz Lang 1919-1929. V Semana de cine de Hong Kong. Recuerdo de Elizabeth Taylor. Raúl Ruiz IV-V. Concurso cortos conra el racismo. Dardenne. Claves para una historia del cine. La mirada japonesa - el camino del artista. Centenario de Alexander Mackendrick. Recuerdo de Maurice Garrel.

BFI Southbank (London): April 2012 + May 2012 + 26th BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, South Bank, London. Vincente Minnelli I-II (texts by Richard Dyer), Made in Britain, Jiří Trnka (text by Michael Brooke), The Titanic Centenary (text by Simon McCallum), Ways of Seeing: John Berger on TV (curated by Jonathan Conlin), Jean Gabin (text by Ginette Vincendeau), Peter Terson: The Artisan Playwright (text by Marcus Prince), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Filmmuseum (Vienna): April / Mai 2012. Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Augustinerstrasse 1. Seijun Suzuki, Theo Angelopoulos, In Person: Morgan Fisher, Premiere: Filme von Martin Scorsese und Ruben Östlund, Zyklische Programme: Was ist Film, Utopie Film.

Arsenal (Berlin): April 2012 + Mai 2012. Arsenal, Filmhaus, Potsdamer Strasse 2. The Archers: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. Greenland Eyes. Magical History Tour: Von Schattenwesen, Geistern und Doppelgängern. filmPOLSKA. Werkschau Stefan Kolbe und Chris Wright. Camp / Anti-Camp. Living Archive. - Mai: Neues griechisches Kino. 50 Jahre Oberhausener Manifest. Joyce Wieland: Reason over Passion. Magical History Tour: Aus zwei mach eins. Arbeitswelten im Film. Das Gesicht als Ereignis.

Det Danske Filminstitut (Copenhagen): Cinemateket April 2012 + Maj 2012. Filmhuset, Gothersgade 55. Alfred Hitchcock I-II. Japanske kultklassikere. Lynne Ramsay. Månedens film: Bullhead. Bio 12:30. Ønskefilm. CPH PIX. Bio min bio + Børnebiffen. Stumfilm med levende musik: En verdensomsejling under havet. - Maj: Tim Burton. Ny hollandsk film. Theo Angelopoulos. Zhang Yimou. Månedens film: Faust (Sokurov). Copenhagen Jewish Film Festival.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Books on my nightstand

Michel Ekman: Utanför tiden: Självbiografiska essäer [Outside Time: Autobiographical Essays]. Helsinki: Schildts Förlag, 2012. Themes include Eric Rohmer - the poets Peter Sandelin, Gunnar Björling and Tomas Tranströmer - the neighbourhood of Brunnsparken / Kaivopuisto in Rabbe Enckell and Gunnar Björling's poetry - criticism and the downfall of serious culture discourse in Nordic print media around 1985 (as examined, among others, by Tomas Forser in his book Kritik av kritiken, 2002) - and three novels (Hermann Hesse: Steppenwolf; Max Frisch: Stiller; Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace).  The essays are stages in a journey of self-discovery through artworks. The opening essay was inspired by our Eric Rohmer memorial tribute in 2010 at Cinema Orion. Ekman's approach to Rohmer is based on the central concept of grace. As the best book introduction to Rohmer Ekman cites Retrospektive Eric Rohmer (Vienna: Viennale, 2010), especially Jean Douchet's article "Die Haltung von Eric Rohmer". In a remarkable chapter based on his long experience as a critic in leading Finnish and Swedish newspapers (Hufvudstadsbladet, Svenska Dagbladet) Ekman estimates that he belongs to the last generation of free humanistic intelligentsia.

Jarl Hellemann: Tapaamisia [Encounters] (Tšabua Ameridžibi, John Irving, Yashar Kemal, Ivar Lo-Johansson, Amos Oz). Helsinki: Tammi, 1983. The publisher's encounters with five great authors, in Georgia, the United States, Turkey, Sweden, and Israel. In each, a deep and personal connection is established.

Jarl Hellemann: Lukemisen alkeet ja muita kirjoituksia kustantajan elämästä [Rudiments of Reading and Other Writings from a Publisher's Life]. Helsinki: Otava, 1996. Memoirs in the form of an essay collection in two parts: "The Age of Innocence", and "Life with the Book": early childhood in the Denmark of the 1920s, growing up in Helsinki in the 1930s, young manhood during WWII, finding his calling as a publisher as the war ended, editing the Keltainen kirjasto quality series, Alex Matson as a reader, Matti Kurjensaari as an author of profiles of famous people, meeting Kurt Vonnegut, Joan Williams, and the poet Eeva-Liisa Manner. A book about a love affair with literature.

Jarl Hellemann: Kirjalliset liikemiehet: kustantajakuvia [Literary Businessmen: Portraits of Publishers]. Helsinki: Otava, 2002. Stories of major Finnish publishing houses: Alvar Renqvist (Otava), Yrjö A. Jäntti (WSOY), Martti Haavio (WSOY), Holger Schildt (Schildts), Untamo Utrio (Tammi), Esko Aaltonen (Gummerus), and Mauno Salojärvi (Gummerus). Plus three international stories: Thomas Mann and the S. Fischer Verlag; Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf and The Hogarth Press; and Maxwell Perkins, the editor of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wolfe. Engrossing portraits of Hellemann's kindred spirits.

Erkki Vettenniemi: Toinen hallitus: Aleksandr Solženitsyn, venäläinen kirjailija [A Second Government: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Russian Author]. Helsinki: Taifuuni, 1994. An excellent, sober, balanced and readable biography of the writer with the great mission.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro / The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaron lumet / Snön på Kilimandjaro [Swedish name in Finland] / Snön på Kilimanjaro [Swedish name in Sweden]. FR © 2011 Agat Films & Cie / France 3 Cinéma. D: Robert Guédiguian. SC: Robert Guédiguian, Jean-Louis Milesi - inspired by the poem "Les pauvres gens" (1854) by Victor Hugo from the series La Légende des siècles I-III (The Legend of the Ages) (1840-1873). DP: Pierre Milon. Digital post-production: Mikros Image. Digital intermediate supervisor: Florian Du Pasquier. PD: Michel Vandestien. Cost: Juliette Chanaud. M supervisor: Pascal Mayer. Theme song: "Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro" (comp. Pascal Danel, parolier Michel Delancray, 1966). S: Bridget O'Driscoll. ED: Bernard Sasia. Loc: Marseille. C: Ariane Ascaride (Marie-Claire), Jean-Pierre Darroussin (Michel), Gérard Meylan (Raoul), Marilyne Canto (Denise), Grégoire Leprince-Rinquet (Christophe), Anaïs Demoustier (Flo), Adrien Jolivet (Gilles), Robinson Stévenin (le commissaire), Karole Rocher (la mère de Christophe). 107 min. Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Markus Karjalainen / ... A 35 mm print viewed at Maxim 2, Helsinki, 21 April 2012 (weekend of Finnish premiere).

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Aaton XTR Prod, Cooke S4 and Varotal Lenses. - Laboratory: Arane-Gulliver, Paris, France. - Film negative format: 16 mm (Kodak Vision3 200T 7213, Vision3 500T 7219). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (master format), Super 16 (source format). - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical) (blow-up) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3523XD). - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

The title of the film is a reference to the 1966 hit song "Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro" sung together by everybody in the film in the 30th wedding anniversary party of Marie-Claire and Michel. The song was inspired by Ernest Hemingway's famous short story (1936).

The snows of Mount Kilimanjaro have been melting since 1912, and they are predicted to disappear completely between 2022-2033.

In Marseille 20 shipyard workers are fired, and Michel, a CGT trade union veteran, draws random slips of names from a box and announces himself as number 20 to be fired. The now unemployed Michel celebrates his 30th wedding anniversary with his wife Marie-Claire. From a collection from their friends they receive a substantial money gift and plane tickets to Kilimanjaro. Soon Marie-Claire, Michel, Raoul and Denise are robbed and their bank accounts are emptied via the stolen ATM cards. They also lose the plane tickets and Michel's cherished childhood memento, a Spider-Man comic book. It turns out that one of the two robbers is the young unemployed docker Christophe who was fired together with Michel. He has his two little brothers on his responsibility. Their father has disappeared, and they have been neglected for years by their mother. Michel identifies Christophe for the police but when he wants to withdraw charges it is too late. Independently of each other Marie-Claire and Michel have started to take care of Christophe's little brothers, to the dismay of their own children.

An engrossing story of the generation gap between an old generation orientated to solidarity and a young generation orientated to themselves. Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro raises questions about the social contract, its global consequences known to everybody in cases of monumental fraud in world finance. In this story we see the psychological and moral erosion on the level of young individuals.

Robert Guédiguian continues his stories about Marseille together with his trusted stock company of actors. Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro is a compelling movie of social and psychological realism. The characters are believable, and the great themes grow organically from the flow of everyday life.

Shot on photochemical 16 mm film, the movie has gone through digital post-production, but the visual quality of the 35 mm print is not particularly successful.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Poikani Kevin / Vi måste prata om Kevin. GB/US 2011 (year of release) © 2010 UK Film Council / BBC Films / Independent. P: Jennifer Fox, Luc Roeg, Bob Salerno. D: Lynne Ramsay. SC: Lynne Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear - based on the novel (2003) by Lionel Shriver (in Finnish: Helsinki: Avain, 2006, translated by Sari Karhulahti). DP: Seamus McGarvey. PD: Judy Becker. AD: Charles Kulsziski. Set dec: Heather Loeffler. Cost: Catherine George. Makeup: Maya Hardinge. Hair: Michelle Johnson. SFX: Drew Jiritano. VFX: Sean Farrow. Computer virus designer credited. M: Jonny Greenwood. Playlist: the music selections are important. S: Paul Davies. ED: Joe Bini. Loc: Connecticut (Norwalk, Stamford), New York City. C: Tilda Swinton (Eva Khatchadourian), John C. Reilly (Franklin Plaskett), Ezra Miller (Kevin Khatchadourian), Jasper Newell (six-eight-year-old Kevin), Rocky Duer (infant Kevin), Ashley Gerasimovich (Celia Khatchadourian), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Wanda), Alex Manette (Colin). 112 min. Released in Finland by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Kaisa Cullan / Carina Laurila-Olin. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 21 April 2012.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon L-Series Lenses, Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2, Panavision C-, E-Series and ATZ Lenses, Panavision Panaflex Platinum, Panavision C-, E-Series and ATZ Lenses. - Laboratory: DeLuxe, London, UK (prints), LipSync Post, London, UK (digital intermediate). - Film negative format: 35 mm (Fuji Eterna Vivid 500T 8547). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format). - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

Kevin's mother struggles to understand that her son has become a mass murderer, killing his father, sister, teachers, and schoolmates, before turning 16.

Movies relevant to school massacres have been prominent especially since 1999, the year of Columbine. In this story the protagonist is the mother, and somehow it seems that Kevin's whole act (and life) has been a revenge against his mother, whose via dolorosa is the story of the movie and the Lionel Shriver novel on which it is based.

As directed by Lynne Ramsay, We Need to Talk About Kevin is an anxiety movie, often experimental, often avantgarde, often exhausting, going deep into almost unaccessible psychical terrains. It proceeds on all time levels at once. Eva, Kevin's mother, is going through purgatory, the hate object of strangers who paint her house and car red and take the liberty of damaging her groceries at the store and hitting her on the face. There is a Halloween sequence with children clad as monsters on the street at night, but the whole movie comes close to being a horror movie in the tradition of Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and The Omen cycle.

This is a story of a deranged mother-son relationship. The son is evil towards his mother and nice towards his father who doesn't see through Kevin. It is a mother's nightmare movie. Kevin's sadism towards his mother is based on his realization that he is too young to be punished yet he is prematurely intelligent to subject his mother to psychological torture ("what personality?"). Kevin smudges his mother's rare maps with a spray gun. He torments her with his intentional delay in learning the toilet habit. He makes his mother feel uncomfortable all the time. He plants a "I Love You" virus disk for her mother to discover, damaging her computers at home and at the office ("there's no point, that's the point"). He apparently kills his sister's pet animal and apparently lets his sister have toxic sewer plunge in her eye, blinding it. The family is breaking up, and Kevin knows he's the reason ("I am the context"). The only serene moment is during Kevin illness when Eva reads aloud about the adventures of Robin Hood to her son. There Kevin gets his inspiration for archery. He becomes an excellent marksman, having found the weapon for his ultimate revenge. Watching tv, Kevin also realizes he wants to become famous by doing something remarkable. Just before Kevin is being transferred to the grown-up's prison Eva asks him why. "I used to think I knew. Now I'm not so sure."

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a powerful, serious and ambitious film made by top talent. It gives a lot to think about, and most importantly its message is that there is a capacity for evil in certain people that may be impossible to handle or even understand. I would have preferred a slight possibility of distance to the relentless nightmare.

The movie has been shot on 35 mm photochemical film and the digital intermediate has been produced on a 2K resolution. I had no problem with the visual quality of the 2K presentation.

The songlist is beyond the jump break:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bob Dylan's eulogy on Levon Helm (1940-2012)

April 19, 2012
In response to Levon’s passing

He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation. This is just so sad to talk about. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I'm going to miss him, as I'm sure a whole lot of others will too.

http://www.bobdylan.com (Thank you, Asko, for the link.)

War Horse

Sotahevonen / War Horse [Swedish title]. US © 2011 Dreamworks II Distribution Co. LLC. EX: Frank Marshall, Revel Guest. P: Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy. D: Steven Spielberg. SC: Richard Curtis, Lee Hall - based on the novel (1982) by Michael Morpurgo (in Finnish: Helsinki: Gummerus, 2012, translated by Päivi Pouttu-Delière) - and its stage adaptation (2007). DP: Janusz Kaminski. PD: Rick Carter. AD: Andrew Ackland-snow, Neil Lamont. Cost: Joanna Johnston. SFX team: large. Animatronics team: large. VFX: Framestore, team: large. Paint & roto team: large. M: John Williams. "Roses of Picardy". S: Richard Hymns. ED: Michael Kahn. Stunt team: large. Loc: England. C: Jeremy Irvine (Albert Narracott), Emily Watson (Rose Narracott), Peter Mullan (Ted Narracott), Niels Arestrup (Grandfather), David Thewlis (Lyons), Tom Hiddleston (Captain James Nicholls), Benedict Cumberbatch (Major Jamie Stewart), Celine Buckens (Emilie), Toby Kebbell (Colin, the South Shields soldier), Patrick Kennedy (Lieutenant Charlie Waverly), Leonard Carow (Private Michael Schröder), David Kross (Private Gunther Schröder), Matt Milne (Andrew Easton), Robert Emms (David Lyons), Eddie Marsan (Sergeant Fry), Nicolas Bro (Private Friedrich). 4010 m / 146 min. Released in Finland by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Saliven Gustavsson. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 3, Helsinki, 20 April 2012.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Arricam LT, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, Arricam ST, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, Arriflex 235, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, Arriflex 435, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses. - Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA, DeLuxe, London, UK (dailies), EFILM Digital Laboratories, Hollywood (CA), USA (digital intermediate). - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 35 (source format). - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

Based on the children's novel by Michael Morpurgo on the colt Joey, groomed by the tenant farmer's son Albert. WWI breaks out, and the horse and the boy endure incredible ordeals.

Steven Spielberg's film adaptation War Horse belongs to the multi-character, Querschnitt, tradition in the cinema, like Lotna, White Bim Black Ear, Balthazar, In jenen Tagen, and Carnet de bal. The stories include: (1) Albert trains the horse at the farm in Devon, (2) Captain Nicholls takes the horse to the front and falls in Quievrechain in 1914, (3) the captured English horses Joey and Topthorn are harnessed by Germans to pull ambulance wagons. The German brothers Michael and Günther want to escape on them to neutral Italy but are caught and shot as deserters, (4) the French orphan girl Émilie, living with her grandfather, saves the horses hidden in the windmill, but the Germans manage to capture them, (5) Joey and Topthorn are made to pull heavy German artillery, but the German private Friedrich helps them survive, (6) 1918: Albert enlists in the war, fights at the second battle of the Somme, and is blinded by mustard gas. Topthorn dies from exhaustion, Joey bolts in front of a tank, lands into no-man's land, is entangled in barbed wire, and is saved by English-German collaboration. "The miracle horse" is rescued by a veterinary surgeon, and Albert's eyesight is restored.

There is a family film, storybook, and fairy-tale approach in War Horse. The obstacles and dangers are almost overwhelming, but when there's a will there's a way. The slaughter of WWI is devastating but conveyed without gore. (Sidenote: in the established tradition of horse operas, there is never manure.)

A grand saga to be compared with the works of David Lean, David O. Selznick, and King Vidor. The celebration of farm work brings to mind King Vidor (Our Daily Bread) (and in Finland, the Pohjantähti epics). The serious yet highly romantic approach to WWI brings to mind Frank Borzage. The aesthetic balance: much of it is splendid but I wish there were a bit more King Vidor and a bit less Norman Rockwell.

The cinematography by Janusz Kaminski is magnificent. There is a bit too much schmalz in John Williams's score. The performances are rather one-dimensional.

Shot on photochemical film and based on a 4K digital intermediate. I was very impressed by the 2K DCP presentation of War Horse.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New classification exercises

The Finnish Board of Film Classification was abolished in December 2011, and a new office, Finnish Centre for Media Education and Audiovisual Media, was established in January 2012. Now everybody gets to do their film classification themselves, and more than a hundred people have been trained so far. During my years at the Finnish Film Archive / National Audiovisual Archive of Finland this is the fourth film classification legislation, and I participated also in the new classification training with 16 movies and 5 trailers:

Antichrist (Lars von Trier, DK 2009) - Andersen wrote a tale called Emperor's New Clothes - thanks to this exercise I got to see this movie (with Charlotte Gainsbourg cutting her clitoris off in extreme close-up)
Reindeerspotting (FI 2010) - heavy use of drugs
Nip/Tuck (Muodon vuoksi). Fourth Season, Episode 7: Burt Landau (tv series, US 2007) - plastic surgery entertainment
Armadillo (DK 2010) - Danish soldiers face the Taliban
Black Swan (US 2010) - nightmares and anxiety
Requiem for a Dream (US 2000) - heavy use of drugs
Jackass 3.5 (US 2011) - real injuries as entertainment
Mononoke-hime (JP 1997) - the power of animation
Suden vuosi (FI 2007) - love and anxiety
Sex Drive (US 2008) - teen sex comedy
Sex and the City 2 (US 2009) - sex comedy
Home Alone 4 (US 2003) - comedy injuries as entertainment
Ice Age (US 2001) - anxiety in children's animation
Muumi ja punainen pyrstötähti (FI 2010) - anxiety in children's animation
Trailer New Year's Eve (US 2011) - romantic comedy
Trailer Elias og jakten på havets gull (NO 2010) - anxiety in children's animation
Trailer The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (US 2011) - modern horror
Trailer In Time (US 2011) - modern science fiction
Trailer The Thing (US 2011) - modern horror / scifi
+
Stjärnregn (Tähtisade, FI 2004), D: Peter Snickars, based on the novel Porträttet av direktör Rask by Fredrik Lång, loc: Närpes (Pohjanmaa) starring Caius Honkanen (Erik), Birthe Wingren (Elin), Carl-Kristian Rundman (Stig-Evert), Jonathan Wiik (Kari), Sue Lemström (Dorrit), Mats Holmqvist (Holmlund), Alpo Rintamäki (Alfons), 25 min. Drama of anxiety set in the 1960s.
Ginga densetsu Weed / Weed / Hopeanuoli, Episode 4 (tv series, JP 2005-2006) - anxiety in animation

Monday, April 16, 2012

Aki in Sight & Sound, May 2012

Aki Kaurismäki is the cover subject in the May 2012 issue of Sight & Sound: "Since leaving his native Finland, director Aki Kaurismäki has broadened his canvas with Le Havre, but his deadpan vision remains the same. Michael Brooke talks to him, and surveys his career to date."

Hannah McGill's review on Le Havre is online: "In Aki Kaurismäki’s deadpan fairytale of working-class solidarity, quirky flirts with cutesy and bathos with true poignancy. Hannah McGill sees the raw humanity shining through."

There is another Finnish-international connection in Kim Newman's article titled "Moon Kampf": "Timo Vuorensola’s satirical sci-fi comedy Iron Sky takes Nazi scientific theory to its illogical conclusion."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Books on my nightstand

Göran Schildt: Nykyaika. Alvar Aallon tutustuminen funktionalismiin / Moderna tider. Alvar Aaltos möte med funktionalismen / Alvar Aalto: The Decisive Years. Translated from Swedish by Raija Mattila. Helsinki: Otava, 1985. One of the best biographies, of high literary quality, and film-relevant: the Swedish and Finnish titles refer to Charles Chaplin's Modern Times. Alvar Aalto loved Chaplin. Aalto was also the founder of the first film society in Finland, Projektio (1934-1936), during his decisive years.

Andrei Sergejeff: Afganistanin historia. Silkkitietä kulttuurien risteykseen [The History of Afghanistan. Along the Silk Road to the Crossroads of Cultures]. Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 2011. I have known that the history of Afghanistan is complicated, but reading this book I realize it's even much more complicated than one could deduce by the articles in the foreign affairs sections of newspapers.

Juha Koivisto & Vesa Oittinen (ed.): Mega-Marx. Johdatus uuteen Marxiin [Mega-Marx. An Introduction into a New Marx]. Tampere: Vastapaino, 2011. Everybody has an opinion on Marx but few have read him, and our knowledge, including those of us who call themselves Marxists, is usually biased. The latest project (Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe = MEGA) to publish the collected works of Marx and Engels promises for the first time to give full access to the writings of the author of Capital: Critique of Political Economy.

Martin Loiperdinger (ed.): Early Cinema Today. The Art of Programming and Live Performance. London: John Libbey Publishing, 2011. Before WWI film programming was based on short films, and programming became a refined practice among cinema managers and other exhibitors. During the last decades the art of early cinema programming has been revived in the Pordenone and Bologna festivals and in special events such as Luxembourg's Crazy Cinema.

Leo Tolstoy: Tunnustuksia / A Confession / Исповедь (1882). Translated by Eero Balk. Helsinki: Basam Books, 2012. Leo Tolstoy's devastating account of his spiritual crisis after having published Anna Karenina and his way to God despite misgivings about the Church.

Jarl Hellemann: Kustantajan näkökulma: Kirjoituksia kirjallisuuden reunalta / [The Viewpoint of the Publisher: Writings from the Edge of Literature]. Helsinki: Otava, 1999. Topical again because of Hellemann's insider's account of the case of The Gulag Archipelago in Finland. Hellemann was the Finnish publisher of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and many other critical observers of Soviet reality. I couldn't resist re-reading the rest of the book, including Hellemann's remarks about the Nobel prize (he belonged to those who were able to predict it very well) and the fate of book publishing.

Rosa Liksom: Hytti nro 6 / [Cabin Number Six]. Helsinki: WSOY, 2011. The 2011 winner of the Finlandia Prize, the most prestigious literary prize in our land. Among other things, Liksom, a multi-talented artist, has been called a "post-gulag author" often dealing with the legacy of the late Soviet Union. Cabin Number Six is a prose poem, a shock montage of images, experiences and encounters on a train trip from Moscow to Ulan Bator in the late 1980s. The Soviet empire is in an advanced state of decay. The protagonist is a young Finnish woman student, and her main travel companion is a middle-aged male thug whose liberally exposed women-hating views are beyond hard-boiled. The thug is a son of a gulag veteran who sired him on his way to the WWII front. The tale is grotesque, macabre, horrifying. In Mongolia the woman finally finds what she was looking for, a mountain with ancient engravings. The Ulan Bator guide has failed to take her there, but instead he has given her a lecture about the Mongolian legacy in Russia. Mongols conquered Russia in 1242 and reigned for 240 years. "We built all the institutions of administration in Russia (...) We created a bureaucracy the function of which is to serve the power, not the people. We broke the moral backbone of Russians so thoroughly that they never recovered. (...) We taught Ivan the Terrible, and he taught Stalin, that the task of the individual is to submit to the crowd".

Muutosten pyörteissä / Art in Transformation (an exhibition)

Art from the sixties, seventies and eighties from the collections of the Association of Finnish Fine Arts Foundations. An exhibition at the Amos Anderson Art Museum, 20 January 2012 – 4 February 2013. Viewed on 15 April 2012.

Book: Maaretta Jaukkuri: Muutosten pyörteissä. Suomalaista kuvataidetta 1960-1980-luvuilla. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2012.

The official presentation: "The exhibition Art in Transformation is produced by the Association of Finnish Fine Arts Foundations. It brings together works from the collections of the foundations from a time when postmodernism gradually arrived in Finland. On display there are one hundred paintings, prints and sculptures made by key Finnish artists, filling three floors of the museum. The make-up of a private collection is determined by its aim and purpose, while a museum on the other hand, in addition to all this, documents events. The Foundations' collections are supplemented by works from the Amos Anderson Art Museum collections, as well as by a section showcasing new video art."

"Finnish art in the sixties, seventies and eighties has a strong international character. The standard of living was steadily rising. Artists were able to travel and to take in new international directions in art. There were exhibitions of international art in Finland. Artists went abroad for studies and postgraduate studies, not only to Paris as was traditional, but also to Italy and in the eighties, increasingly to New York. For a short period in the seventies, there was an interest for the realist art of the socialist countries. The eighties were the golden years of shared Nordic perspectives for young artists."

"State funded international cultural politics sought to toe the line of typically Finnish neutralism: there was cultural exchange with the East as well as with the West. In the seventies, the whole cultural field was politicized and the Right and the Left were sharply divided. However, all political directions worked for improving the economic and social situation of artists. A positive legacy of this time is the increasing awareness felt by artists regarding their own situation. In the eighties, focus was shifted towards new feminism and towards criticism against existing institutions. Continental philosophy slowly made its way into art. In general, the era brought vivid discussion and, from time to time, even pointed dialogue."

"Peculiar for Finnish art of the time was that new influences, particularly the abstract, were often interpreted in a framework of romanticized nature. When references shifted to an urban environment and to popular culture, the change was great. The media of art diversified and allowances were made for new attitudes and this is apparent in contemporary collections of art."

"In conjunction with the exhibition, Finnish Literature Society publishes a book written by Professor Maaretta Jaukkuri, in Finnish and in Swedish. It is the final book of a series of four volumes shedding light on different decades of Finnish art history. The richly illustrated art book walks the reader through a period of Finnish art in the grips of continual change."

"Guided tours in Finnish on Wednesdays at 5:30pm, in Swedish on Mondays at 4:30pm. Bookings, tel. +358 (0)9 6844 460."

The fourth and final exhibition in the series from the Association of the Finnish Fine Arts Foundations. The first I missed and have only studied its superb book. An excellent introduction to Finnish art based on works that have rarely / never been displayed to the general audience. This exhibition I would warmly recommend to an art-loving tourist in Helsinki.

The mise-en-scène is excellent, the works look better on each renewed round, and the lighting does justice to them. As a part of my digital re-education I pay more attention to these matters and suffer more than before from glass shields on paintings. Almost all paintings were displayed without a glass.

Artists on display in the exhibition and in the book include: Lauri Ahlgrén, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Martti Aiha, Tor Arne, Juhana Blomstedt, Kari Cavén, Carolus Enckell, Cris af Enehjelm, Mauri Favén, Markku Hakuri, Marjatta Hanhijoki, Juhani Harri, Jorma Hautala, Outi Heiskanen, Reino Hietanen, Kari Huhtamo, Niilo Hyttinen, Outi Ikkala, Tapio Junno, Kimmo Kaivanto, Marjukka Kaminen, Antero Kare, Pentti Kaskipuro, Jussi Kivi, Harry Kivijärvi, Harro Koskinen, Inari Krohn, Kristian Krokfors, Matti Kujasalo, Erkki Kurenniemi, Seppo Kärkkäinen, Ahti Lavonen, Kuutti Lavonen, Kauko Lehtinen, Henrietta Lehtonen, Pentti Lumikangas, Leena Luostarinen, Olli Lyytikäinen, Jan Olof Mallander, Jukka Mäkelä, Marika Mäkelä, Jarmo Mäkilä, Paul Osipow, Zoltan Popovits, Laila Pullinen, Kimmo Pyykkö, Mari Rantanen, Silja Rantanen, Ulla Rantanen, Raimo Reinikainen, Nina Roos, Eino Ruutsalo, Jaakko Sievänen, Arvo Siikamäki, Mikael Stierncreutz, Risto Suomi, Carl-Erik Ström, Iikka-Juhani Takalo-Eskola, Raili Tang, Marjatta Tapiola, Kain Tapper, Esko Tirronen, Raimo Utriainen, Marianna Uutinen, Roi Vaara, Heikki W. Virolainen, Hannu Väisänen, Jan Kenneth Weckman, Henry Wuorila-Stenberg.

Kenen joukoissa seisot? / I Ain't Marchin' Anymore! (an exhibition)

An exhibition at the Amos Anderson Art Museum, 2 March 2012 – 7 May 2012. Viewed on 15 April, 2012.

The official presentation: "One of the issues raised in connection with the recent presidential elections in Finland was the politicisation of art and artist. Political participation and the wish to influence political decisions is nothing new, however, as the exhibition I Ain't Marchin' Anymore! produced by the Amos Anderson Art Museum for spring 2012 shows. Examining the political tumult of the 1960s and 70s, the exhibition will be open from 2 March to 7 May 2012."

"The exhibition tells about the deep chasm between generations which emerged in the late 1960s, when the politicised youth questioned the entire notion of Western welfare, the customs and conventions the preceding generations had relied on. The turbulent year 1968 was a signal for many artists around the world, and the events were actively followed also in Finland. Anxiety built up as the media related stories of victims of violence in the Far East, Prague and Paris, as the threat of nuclear war was imminent and the political youth movement responded to the suffering of the Third World."

"The familiar and perhaps even provocative title of the exhibition embraces a number of visual artists coming from very different backgrounds, but who all, in their own ways, take a stand on topical issues in their art. The universal humanistic spirit can be discerned in the work of many artists of this period, but it was not until the onslaught of Finnish national icons by Harro Koskinen from Turku that the value debate became ubiquitous. Visible protests against the symbols of state power as well as traditional values generated a media uproar and a series of trials the like of which has never been seen in Finnish art since. But artist also examined such themes as consumerism, environmental degradation or the structural change of society, rural exodus."

"Along with the rise of the political left, says artist Kaj Stenvall, "it became important to depict the conflict between work and capital in the capitalist society, to fight alongside the working class on its terms, against imperialism and for peace, democracy and socialism." Artists defended the common people as well as their own rights as artists – as part of the working class of the country. The democratisation of art aimed to bring art closer to the public, to make pictures for the common people who did not frequent galleries. The formal requirement was that the pictures should be such that even viewers without any artistic training would understand the artist's aim. Mundane realism thus rose from the streets and factories to become a theme in art."

"The featured artists are Matti Helenius, Niilo Hyttinen, Tapio Junno, Kari Jylhä, Kimmo Kaivanto, Harro Koskinen, Markus Leppo, Leo Leskinen, Leo Lindsten, Rauni Liukko, Raimo Reinikainen, Arvo Siikamäki, Kaj Stenvall and Olli Viiri."

"Comprising more than 80 works of art, the exhibition is mounted on two floors in the museum."

"Open: Mon, Thu, Fri 10am–6pm, Wed 10am–8pm, Sat–Sun 11am–5pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
Exceptions to opening hours: 5 Apr. 10–17 | 6 Apr. closed | 7 Apr. 11–17 | 8 Apr. closed | 9 Apr. 11–17 | 30 Apr. 10–17 | 1 May closed"

"Épater le bourgeois" ("shock the bourgeois") is a favourite motto of artists, and in the 1960s and the 1970s such shocks were still possible, although the surrealist André Breton thought already in the 1940s, after WWII, that scandal had become impossible.

There is a room devoted to the desecration of the Finnish flag, another room with the theme of ridiculing Mannerheim, a hall with mock logos of global companies, and further rooms with photorealistic images of workers in the style of socialist realism. This was already the era of pop art, and now I can't help seeing dadaistic aspects in many of these works. There are also naivistic influences in the retro imagery of certain works.

The exhibition is intelligently mounted, the works look better on each renewed round, and the lighting does justice to them.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Descendants

The Descendants / The Descendants. US © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Dune Entertainment. PC: Ad Hominem Enterprises. P: Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor. D: Alexander Payne. SC: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash - based on the novel (2007) by Kaui Hart Hemmings. DP: Phedon Papamichael - digital intermediate: Modern Videofilm. PD: Jane Ann Stewart. AD: T.K. Kirkpatrick. Set dec: Matt Callahan. Cost: Wendy Chuck. Makeup: Julie Hewett. Hair: Debra Rego. M supervisor: Dondi Bastone. M editor: Richard Ford. Songlist: Gabby Pahinui, Ray Kane, Keola Beamer, Lena Machado, Sonny Chillingworth, Jeff Peterson, and Rev. Dennis Kamakahi, more beyond the jump break. S: Frank Gaeta. ED: Kevin Tent. Loc: Hawaii (Honolulu, Kaua'i). C: George Clooney (Matt King), Patricia Hastie (Elizabeth King), Shailene Woodley (Alexandra "Alex" King), Amara Miller (Scottie King), Beau Bridges (Cousin Hugh), Judy Greer (Julie Speer), Nick Krause (Sid, Alex's slacker friend), Matthew Lillard (Brian Speer), Robert Forster (Scott Thorson, Elizabeth's father), Mary Birdsong (Kai Mitchell), Rob Huebel (Mark Mitchell), Milt Kogan (Dr. Johnston), Laird Hamilton (Troy Cook), Michael Ontkean (Cousin Milo), Matt Corboy (Cousin Ralph), Celia Kenney (Reina). 115 min. Released in Finland by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Katja Paanala / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 7, Helsinki, 14 April 2012.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Panavision Panaflex Platinum, Panavision Primo Lenses. - Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA (prints), FotoKem Laboratory, Burbank (CA), USA (dailies), Modern VideoFilm, Burbank (CA), USA (digital intermediate). - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219). - Cinematographic process: Super 35 (3-perf) (source format), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format). - Release format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

IMDb synopsis: "A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife is seriously injured in a boating accident."

Alexander Payne has directed five films, all notable (Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, and The Descendants), and in The Descendants he is at his best. Kaui Hart Hemmings's novel has evidently provided a solid basis for this adaptation. Physically and psychologically it rings true. The characters are well-rounded and three-dimensional in the sense of psychological authenticity.

Like Hable con ella, La mar adentro, and Million Dollar Baby, The Descendants belongs to the current trend of deathbed movies; in this story, Elizabeth King has signed a living will. The movie is an account of a turning-point in the story of a family because of the mother's death but also because the destiny of the land of the prominent 150 year old Hawaii family is at stake.

I have never visited Hawaii but the cinematography on location conveys a strong sense of the place. The visual world (designs, colours, patterns) is pronouncedly Hawaiian, and the Hawaiian soundtrack is excellent.

Shot on photochemical film, The Descendants looks good even on 2K DCP, especially in close-ups, medium shots, interiors and urban views.

Soundtrack details beyond the jump break:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Inferno (US 1953) 3D

Inferno / Inferno. US 1953. PC: 20th Century Fox. P: William Bloom. D: Roy Baker. SC: Francis M. Cockrell – based on his story Water-Hole. DP: Lucien Ballard – Technicolor - Stereoscopic Clear-Vision 3D (dual 35 mm). Special effects: Ray Kellogg, L.B. Abbott. AD: Lyle R. Wheeler, Lewis J. Creber. Cost: Dorothy Jeakins. Wardrobe: Charles Le MAire. Make-up: Ben Nye. M: Paul Sawtell. ED: Robert L. Simpson. S: Arthur L. von Kirbach, Harry M. Leonard, Carlton W. Faulkner. Loc: Mojave Desert (California). C: Robert Ryan (Donald Whitley Carson III), Rhonda Fleming (Geraldine Carson), William Lundigan (Joseph Duncan), Henry Hull (Sam Elby), Larry Keating (Mr. Emory), Carl Betz (Lieutenant Mike Platt), Robert Burton (sheriff), Everett Glass (Mason, Carson's butler), Adrienne Marden (Emory's secretary), Barbara Pepper (waitress), Daniel White (Lee), Harry Carter (Fred Parks), Robert Adler (Ken), Charles J. Conrad (a man). Helsinki premiere: 14.1.1955 Tuulensuu, released by O.Y. Fox Films A.B. – VET 40874 – K16 – 2461 m / 83 min. A 3D 2K DCP reconstruction by Münchner Filmmuseum viewed in XpanD at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (3D), 13 April 2012.

IMDb synopsis: "A tough, hard-driving business tycoon suffers a broken leg and is left to die in the desert by his scheming wife and her greedy lover."

In our 3D retrospective, Inferno is like a combination of two other famous 3D movies: Robinson Crusoe (the man's survival adventure in a deserted place) and Dial M for Murder (a triangle drama with a "perfect crime"). In his introductory lecture show Stefan Drössler singled out Inferno as one of the best 3D movies. It indeed is. For me, 3D is an anti-realistic device, and in Inferno the 3D supports the sense of dizziness in the heat of the desert. It is also expressive of Donald's vertigo as he descends from the mountain. Even more thematically, it expresses the sense of a fundamental distrust in relationships. Donald's tragedy is his wealth: because of it he cannot know who really likes him. Finally, the 3D has a metaphysical function as an expression of a profound distrust in our senses and our perception of the world.

Roy Baker has a good sense of mise en scène. The screenplay starts in medias res. The characters are portrayed largely through action, while the dialogues and Donald's monologue are important, too. The single 3D effects (the rattlesnake, the cabin fire) are successful.

The 2K DCP reconstruction of Münchner Filmmuseum is successful. The use of Technicolor is subtle. No problem with image brightness.

Härmä / Once Upon a Time in the North

FI 2012. PC: Yellow Film & TV. P: Olli Haikka, Jarkko Hentula. D+SC: JP Siili. DP: Jani Kumpulainen. AD: Päivi Kettunen. Cost. Anu Pirilä. Makeup: Riikka Virtanen. M: Tuomas Kantelinen. Original songs by Lauri Tähkä: "Aina mun ääneni raitilla kuuluu", "Vaikkei joukosta näjy", "Minä oon tällanen koijarirenttu", "Pikkunen ja häjy", "On mulla suurta syräntä", "Sille omalle kullalleni", "Voi ku sen viärehen viälä pääsis", "Niin ottasin omakseni". S: Juha Hakanen. ED: Aleksi Raij. Loc: Kauhava. C: Lauri Tilkanen (Matti Välitalo), Mikko Leppilampi (Esko Välitalo), Pamela Tola (Aino Kantola), Esko Salminen (Antti Välitalo), Lena Meriläinen (the mistress of Välitalo), Eero Milonoff (häjy / knifeslinger Koskela), Aku Hirviniemi (Kalle, Matti's best friend), Kari Hietalahti (vallesmanni / sheriff), Pirkka-Pekka Petelius (Kustaa, notary), Taneli Mäkelä (Sakari Kantola), Olavi Uusivirta (häjy / knifeslinger), Harri J. Rantala, Pia Latomäki, Hennariikka Laaksola, Satu Helena Mikkelinen, Hannu Rantala, Tuomas Rudanko. 128 min. Distributed by Finnkino with Swedish subtitles by Markus Karjalainen. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 5, Helsinki, 13 April 2012.

Härmä belongs to the Finnish genre of Pohjanmaa movies, into its most mythical current about the "häjyt" (the badmen) or "puukkojunkkarit" (the knifeslingers) who were the scourge of Southern Pohjanmaa in the 19th century, most devastatingly until ca 1870. Pohjanmaa is a province of great plains and rivers on the west coast of Finland.

Pohjanmaa movies and lumberjack movies have been sometimes compared with Westerns. The heyday of the badmen ended with the great famine of 1867-1868, memorably described by Santeri Alkio in his novels Puukkojunkkarit [The Knifeslingers] and Murtavia voimia [Winds of Change]. At the same time the favourite age of Westerns, the decades after the 1860-1865 Civil War, started.

JP Siili tunes boldly into a grand, dramatic genre mode. Härmä is not a genre pastiche. It is a modern genre movie, and from familiar elements JP Siili has created an original work.

Härmä is the first Pohjanmaa movie which starts with tar manufacture. During the era of the tall ships Finland belonged to the leading producers of tar, but when metal ships became dominant, tar production collapsed, a social background to the knifeslinger phenomenon: the wealth that had been the basis for a big way of life was vanishing, and some frustrated sons tried to command awe through violent rampage.

Härmä is a family drama. The ageing master of the farm Antti Välitalo (Esko Salminen) observes with dismay that his oldest son Esko (Mikko Leppilampi) has become a no good scoundrel and writes a controversial will bequeathing the farm to his younger son Matti (Lauri Tilkanen). Esko murders his father, seizes both copies of the will, banishes Matti, destroys by arson the tar storage of his neighbour Sakari Kantola (Taneli Mäkelä) and pressures his daughter Aino (Pamela Tola), Matti's fiancée, to become his. Follows another example of the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding. The climax of the movie is a blood wedding, crashed by Matti, and heading to a knife duel between the brothers. The whole village, who has had enough of Esko's rampage, has come to support Matti.

The screening was well attended, and there was a feeling of intensive concentration. I don't know what a Pohjanmaa expert would say about period authenticity, but there is a vigour and an energy in the narrative, with perhaps one thrilling episode too many. The Pohjanmaa dialects are largely missing in the dialogue.

I like the new Pohjanmaa songs written by Lauri Tähkä. The performances are successful, and the golden boy Mikko Leppilampi is interestingly cast against type as the king of the badmen.

We launch next month a Pohjanmaa retrospective in Cinema Orion, the first of its kind, with 16 movies. My favourites include Härmästä poikia kymmenen (the best of the knifeslinger movies), Varaventtiili, and Pieni pyhiinvaellus. Härmä is too new to be in it, but deserves immediately a worthy place in the tradition.

Green is the most difficult colour. In nature it's always beautiful, but man-made green usually fails. Green is also my favourite colour, and green painted by me also usually fails. One of the secrets of green is that green in nature is not really one colour but many. Look at a tree, and you see dozens of shades of green. It is a challenge for colour photography. In digital, green still usually looks either too gray and cold or too garish. Green is the dominant colour in Härmä, and it looks mercilessly electric, uniform and colourized. Meanwhile, the composition, using the CinemaScope dimensions of the great plains, is dynamic and effective.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The File on Thelma Jordon

Thelma Jordon / Tie lakia pakoon / X – filmen om en farlig kvinna. US 1950. New Yorkin premiere 18.1.1950. © 1949 Wallis-Hazen, Inc. Original distributor: Paramount Pictures Corp. P: Hal B. Wallis. D: Robert Siodmak. Ass D: Francisco Day. Dialogue D: Michael Audley. SC: Ketti Frings – from a story by Marty Holland. DP: George Barnes. Camera operator: Jack Warren. Gaffer: Howard Kelly. AD: Hans Dreier, Earl Hedrick. Set dec: Sam Comer, Bertram Granger. Props: Art Camp, Harold Worthington. Special photographic effects: Gordon Jennings. Process photography: Farciot Edouart. Cost: Edith Head. Makeup: Wally Westmore. Hair: Dean Cole. M: Victor Young. S: Harry Lindgren, Walter Oberst, [M.A. Boyce] – Western Electric Recording. ED: Warren Low. Loc: Los Angeles County Jail; courthouse: Santa Ana (California). Studio: Paramount Studios (Hollywood). C: Barbara Stanwyck (Thelma Jordon), Wendell Corey (Cleve Marshall), Paul Kelly (Miles Scott), Joan Tetzel (Pamela Blackwell Marshall), Stanley Ridges (defense attorney Kingsley Willis), Richard Rober (Tony Laredo), Minor Watson (Honorable Calvin H. Blackwell), Barry Kelley (D.A. William Pierce), Laura Elliott (Dolly, Cleve's secretary), Basil Ruysdael (Judge Jonathan David Hancock), Jane Novak (Mrs. Blackwell), Gertrude W. Hoffman (Aunt Vera Edwards), Harry Antrim (Sidney), Kate Drain Lawson (Clara), Theresa Harris (Esther), Byron [S.] Barr (McCary), Geraldine Wall (Matron), Jonathan Corey (Timmy Marshall), Robin Corey (Joan Marshall). Helsinki premiere: 11.5.1951 Savoy, released by: Paramount Pictures – tv: 28.2.1988 TV3, 27.11.2005 YLE TV2 – PCA 13725 – VET 32163 – K16 – 8998 ft / 100 min. - A 16 mm print from La Cinémathèque de la Ville de Luxembourg viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Robert Siodmak's film noir cycle), 11 April 2012.

The File on Thelma Jordon has been compared with Double Indemnity but it is less slick and does not try to be so clever. Instead there is a current of emotional truth in the story of the frustrated assistant D.A. Cleve (Wendell Corey) and the burglar's accomplice Thelma (Barbara Stanwyck) who turns Cleve into a fall guy. On the basis of a solid screenplay by Ketti Frings, Robert Siodmak maintains a strong but unobtrusive drive in his cinematic storytelling, and the performances by Barbara Stanwyck and Wendell Corey are memorable: both are at their best in this movie. Victor Young provides an effectively melodramatic score. There are unusual scenes with the alcoholic Cleve and the rich, hard-of-hearing aunt Vera. The defense attorney (Stanley Ridges) has a field day, but the whole set-up has been designed by the prosecutor Cleve, yet it is Thelma who is pulling the strings and wins, although her victory finally proves unbearable.

The visual quality was what can be expected from 16 mm.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (a book)

GULAG: vankileirien saaristo 1918-1956: taiteellisen tutkimuksen kokeilu / Архипелаг ГУЛАГ 1918-1956: Опыт художественного исследования, I-VII. Originally published in Paris in 1973. Finnish translation by Esa Adrian first published in 1974, 1976, and 1978. New single-volume Finnish edition: Helsinki: Silberfeldt, 2012 with forewords by Sofi Oksanen and Martti Anhava.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "experiment in literary investigation" belongs to the books that have changed the world. Many exposés on Bolshevism had been published since 1918, also in Finland, but his magnum opus Solzhenitsyn built as a huge political missile against the foundation of the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn's agenda is that the USSR was based on terror.

Solzhenitsyn's previous work had been successfully published by the Tammi publishing house, many in their prominent Keltainen kirjasto library of modern classics, but The Gulag Archipelago they did not accept in an atmosphere of political caution, and the book was promptly published instead in Finnish by the Swedish publishing house Wahlström & Widstrand and the Tampere-based Kustannuspiste. For decades the sold-out book has been hard to access in Finnish. The Tammi refusal became a cause célèbre, an embarrassment in the Cold War atmosphere, paradoxically at the turning-point of détente and the emerging Helsinki spirit.

Tomorrow, on Thursday, 12 April 2012, at 13.00 - 16.30, Silberfeldt mounts a seminar on the book at our Cinema Orion, with Sofi Oksanen (the publisher), Martti Anhava (moderator), Juhani Sipilä (discovering Solzhenitsyn in 1974), Jukka Kemppinen ("memory is thin as ice"), Jari Simonen (the GULAG map and my father's fate), and Erkki Vettenniemi (my way into the library of the prison camps) among the speakers.

We screen Marina Goldovskaya's great documentary film on the "alma mater of the gulag" (Solzhenitsyn), Vlast Solovetskaya / Solovki Power (1988) in our regular programme on Friday, 13 April, at 19.00.

Registration to the high profile seminar at: os.gulag@silberfeldt.fi

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Voyna i mir / War and Peace (SU 1967) in 70 mm

Война и мир / Voina i mir / Sota ja rauha / Krig och fred. SU 1967. PC: Mosfilm. D: Sergei Bondartshuk. SC: Bondartshuk, Vasili Solovjov - based on the novel by Leo Tolstoi (1865-1869). DP (Sovcolor, shot simultaneously in 70 mm and 35 mm): Anatoli Petriski - 1:2.2. AD: Mihail Bogdanov, Gennadi Mjasnikov. ED: Tatjana Lihatshova. M: Vjatsheslav Ovtshinnikov. Opera: L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642) by Claudio Monteverdi. "Dies irae" theme in two sequences. Choreography: Vladimir Burmejster. S: Juri Mihailov, Igor Urvantsev - 5+1-channel stereophonic sound. Cost: Mihail Tshikovani. Visual effects: G. Ajzenberg. Special effects: F. Krasnij, M. Semjonov. Pyrotechnics: Vladimir Lihatshjov. Military advisor: General V.V. Kurasov. C: Ljudmila Saveljeva (Natasha Rostova), Sergei Bondartshuk (Pierre Bezuhov), Vjatsheslav Tihonov (Andrei Bolkonski), Viktor Stanitsyn (Ilja Andrejevitsh Rostov), Kira Golovko (kreivitär Rostova), Oleg Tabakov (Nikolai Rostov), Nikolai Kodin, Serjozha Jermilov (Petja Rostov), Irina Gubanova (Sonja), Anatoli Ktorov (Nikolai Andrejevitsh Bolkonski), Antonina Shuranova (Princess Marja), Anastasia Vertinskaja (Liza Bolkonskaja), Boris Smirnov (Prince Vasili Kuragin), Irina Skobtseva (Hélène Kuragina / Bezuhova), Vasili Lanovoi (Anatole Kuragin), Gjuli Tshohonelidze (Bagration), V. Murganov (Alexander I), Vladislav Strzheltshik (Napoleon Bonaparte), V. Sofronov (Emperor Franz). Original in Russian with passages in German and in French. Helsinki premiere 10.11.1967 Capitol, released by Kosmos Filmi.

The original four part version according to Russian Wikipedia (48 reels of ca 300 m): Andrei Bolkonski (1966), Natasha Rostova (1966, 1+2: 255 min), 1812 god (1967, 104 min), and Pierre Bezuhov (1967, 125 min). 484 min / 8 h 4 min.

In Berlin Film Festival's 70 mm retrospective in 2008 the long original Soviet version was announced as: part I: 147 min; part II: 100 min; part III: 84 min, and part IV: 101 min. Totalling 432 min / 7 h 12 min.

The international version dubbed in English: 373 min / 6 h 13 min. Its condensed version: 170 min / 2 h 50 min. - In the GDR the film was released in a version of 409 min / 6 h 49 min. - In the BRD: part I: 165 min, part II: 172 min. Totalling 337 min / 5 h 37 min.

1986: Mosfilm produced a three part tv version in 3:4.

2000: Mosfilm "К этому моменту оригинал (негатив) 70 мм и 35 мм плёнки по причине её исходного низкого качества уже был полностью утрачен и не подлежал восстановлению. Фильм (изображение) восстанавливали с контратипа (позитива). Оригинал — магнитная плёнка с шестиканальным звуком — позволил перенести звуковое сопровождение картины в современный формат Dolby Digital 5.1. Картина была перенесена на цифровые носители, с восстановленным заново звуковым сопровождением. (Russian Wikipedia)" I don't understand Russian but I guess they say that the original 70 mm and 35 mm negatives were no longer possible to access, and from duplicates a digital master was created.

On Finnish tv: the full version in a series in 7 parts 16.12.1971 - 8.1.1972 (a colour transmission), and in a condensed version in 3 parts in the end of year 1991.

The Finnish cinema release in two parts: part I: 10.11.1967 Capitol - 5190 m / 188 min. Part II: 15.3.1968 - 4816 m / 174 min. Totalling 362 min / 6 h 2 min.

Our special 70 mm screening on the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Borodino, viewed at Bio Rex, Helsinki, 8 April 2012. The version screened was the 362 min Finnish cinema release version in 23 reels of ca 600 m, with electronic subtitles by Tuulia Lehtonen. The heroic projectionists were Erik Peltola, Markku Eriksson, and Riitta Haapalainen. The father of the project was Pasi Nyyssönen. The movie was shown in four parts: 15.00 Part I, 107 min, 18.15 Part II, 80 min, 19.15 Part III, 82 min, 21.00 Part IV, 94 min. The programme ended at 22.37.

200 years ago Napoleon invaded Russia and Helsinki became the capital of the grand duchy of Finland, the kingdom of Sweden having given up Finland to the Russian empire in a recent deal with Napoleon.

The Sergei Bondarchuk film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel still holds the record in the Guinness Book of Records regarding the size of the cast: 120.000. The battle scenes of Austerlitz and Borodino are among the most magnificent ever made. The first part of the movie received 58 million viewers in Russian cinemas.

The action takes place in 1805-1813, following the destinies of the families of Rostov, Bolkonsky, Kuragin, and Bezukhov. Omissions from the novel include: the philosophical passages, most of Nikolai Rostov's story, the story of Anatoli and Mary, Pierre Bezukhov's experiences with Freemasonry, and the conclusion, the follow-up of the stories during 1812-1820.

Work on the script began in 1961. The battle of the Borodino panorama shooting began on 25 August, 1963, with a cast of 15.000. In July 1964, Bondarchuk suffered a massive heart attack. In 1965, he experienced a second clinical death.

My favourite performances include: Anatoli Ktorov as the old Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky, Boris Zahara as Kutuzov, Nikolai Trofimov as Captain Tushin, Oleg Tabakov as Nikolai Rostov, Viktor Stanitsyn as Count Rostov, and Sergei Ermilov ast Petja Rostov. The biggest disappointment among the performances is provided by Sergei Bondarchuk, himself, a fine actor, as Pierre Bezukhov (he should be 20 years when the story starts, but the actor was 43 when the production started). He feels stunned and overwhelmed. Equally miscast in the role of Hélène was Irina Skobtseva, the director's wife, 37 years old when the production started (Hélène would have been ca 20 years old).

Tolstoy's novel was used as a textbook at the VGIK the Russian film academy on the courses of Mikhail Romm and Sergei Eisenstein before him, who introduced Tolstoy as a forerunner of parallel narration and "multi-character storytelling" as we would say today. But Tolstoy's novel is more "cinematic" than Bondarchuk's conventional, pedestrian movie.

What I like in the movie besides the performances singled out above:
- The grandeur of the epic scenes conveyed via camera movements from scaffolds, swings, cranes, and helicopters which takes us to the sky, giving us a God-like vision on the massive events. Abel Gance did this better in Napoléon, but he did not have helicopters.
- Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov's excellent score.
- Natasha and Pierre's encounter at the end of Part II, where they realize they mean something special to each other.
- Part III ("The Year 1812") is on a higher level than the other parts, perhaps also because it has been less tampered with in the process of abridgement.
- The death of the old Count Bolkonsky in Part III.
- The encounter of Kutuzov and Andrei Bolkonsky in Part III.
- The holy procession in Borodino on the eve of the battle in Part III.
- The encounter of Pierre Bezuhov and Andrei Bolkonsky on the eve of the battle of Borodino in Part III.
- The battle of Borodino itself may be the most formidable battle sequence ever filmed. In Part III.
- In the field hospital Andrei Bolkonsky lies side by side with Anatoli Kuragin, his rival for Natasha's love. Andrei has fallen with mortal grenade wounds to the stomach, and he witnesses the amputation of Anatoli's leg while a lullaby plays in his mind. Half of Russia's troops have been crushed in Napoleon's biggest battle. In Part III.
- The fire of Moscow in Part IV.
- Natasha at Andrei's deathbed in Part IV.
- The still childish and over-zealous Petya Rostov on the front during Napoleon's retreat in Part IV.
- The aerial shots of the retreat of Napoleon's army in the snowstorm in Part IV.

Specialities:
- There is often a whispering or muttering way of speech, perhaps to avoid bombasm.

What I missed most:
- My favourite chapter in the novel is the one with the evacuation of the Rostov family from the embattled Moscow. The Rostovs have already packed all their belongings in their carriages when Natasha notices on the streets war invalids without transportation, takes the lead and orders the Rostov carriages to be emptied to make room for the soldiers. That is the turning-point in Natasha's growing-up story from a teenage girl into a grown-up woman, her perspective growing from her own little world to the big world of society. This scene is very well realized in King Vidor's movie, and Audrey Hepburn rises to the occasion in her interpretation as Natasha, but in the Bondarchuk version (surprisingly for a Soviet movie), or at least in this print, it is not like that and is brushed away in a flash.

The 70 mm projection of the 45 year old vintage print was conducted flawlessly, but the print did not convey a particularly good 70 mm experience. War and Peace was an exceptionally popular movie: 2805 prints were struck (such numbers of prints were ultra rare in those days), and perhaps not all prints were excellent. Our print looked a generation too far removed from the original negative. A duped quality diminished the perception of solidness and fine detail distinctive to a good 70 mm image. The contrast was slightly low, like in a television print. The colour palette had survived, but slightly faded, the drawbacks evident in banquet and nature scenes. The image was clean. This print has not been heavily used, and there were few scratches.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Taistelu Näsilinnasta 1918 / [The Battle of Näsilinna 1918]

Slaget om Näsilinna 1918. FI 2012. PC: Kinoproduction. P+D: Claes Olsson. SC: Robert Alftan, Claes Olsson - based on interviews of the Melin company conducted by Konrad Vestlin in 1936-1937. DP: Pertti Mutanen. PD: Oskari Löytönen. M: Yari. ED: Oskar Franzen. Loc: Tampere. C: Nicke Lignell (Erik Gunnar Melin), Petter Kevin (Holm), Anton Häggblom (Boström), Wilhelm Grotenfelt (Lundström), Thomas Holm (Oskar Backström), Mattias Asplund (Johannes Fagerholm), Markus Wilson (Oskar Åbb), Mike Nordlund (John Häger). 70 min. Spoken in Swedish, titles in Finnish, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Iira Mukka / Carina Laurila-Olin. Distributed by FS Film. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi, Helsinki, 7 April 2012.

An episode from the Civil War of Finland, from its decisive battle of Tampere. Based on documents, it is the story of Erik Melin's company of the White Army, its 212 men who managed to penetrate the Red front and proceed over the Tammerkoski falls to the Näsilinna castle on 3 April, 1918.

Documentary materials are incorporated in the enactment of the attack of the company who fights without military colours, managing to surprise and conquer Reds in every turn. Much of the film has been shot in close-ups in the manner of Samuel Fuller's low budget The Big Red One.

There has been a cycle of recent Civil War movies in Finland, including Käsky, Raja 1918, Missä kuljimme kerran, and Täällä Pohjantähden alla. Taistelu Näsilinnasta 1918 is the second movie in this cycle with a Swedish point of view. Missä kuljimme kerran focused on the Finnish Swedes of Helsinki; Taistelu Näsilinnasta tells about the Finnish Swedish fighters from Pohjanmaa. I like the sober pursuit of a balanced view about events that are still sensitive in our land.

There was a good attendance in the viewing, and the audience seemed receptive to the intelligent presentation.

The photograph enlargements in the end look great on the big screen. The archival moving image footage is in low definition, and there is a digital video look in the 2K DCP.

Risto Räppääjä ja viileä Venla / Ricky Rapper and Cool Wendy

Risto Rappare och koola Venla. FI © 2012 Kinotar. P: Lasse Saarinen, Risto Salomaa. D: Mari Rantasila. SC: Sinikka Nopola, Tiina Nopola - based on the characters in their popular book series. DP: Timo Heinänen. Digital post-production: Generator Post. M: Iiro Rantala. ED: Tuuli Kuittinen. C: Lauri Kajo (Risto Räppääjä), Venni Uotila (Nelli Nuudelipää), Olivia Ainali (Viileä Venla Horsmaniemi), Ulla Tapaninen (Pakastaja-Elvi), Juha Muje (Uolevi Horsmaniemi), Martti Suosalo (Lennart Lindberg), Annu Valonen (Rauha Räppääjä). 74 min. Distributed by Nordisk Film Oy with Swedish subtitles by Saliven Gustavsson. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi, 8 April 2012.

Family entertainment, a musical comedy based on an original story, not on a pre-existing novel in the popular Risto Räppääjä series. Risto and Nelli spend summer days on a holiday camp on an island where they meet Cool Venla who has advanced ideas about clothes and attitudes. But Venla can't swim. Meanwhile Venla's father starts to see the formidable Pakastaja-Elvi (Elvi the Freeze).

The most popular Finnish film of the year keeps finding its audience. I find these movies hard to swallow because of their blatantly garish colours, including complementary colours such as red and green, exaggerated to the point that the images look colourized or stencil-coloured. The farce approach is stylized in the extreme with pronounced sound effects and sped-up motion. The grown-ups are caricatured.

The visual quality is intentionally antirealistic.

Iron Sky

FI/DE/AU © 2012 Blind Spot Pictures / 27 Films Production / New Holland Pictures. P: Tero Kaukomaa, Oliver Damian, Cathy Overett, Mark Overett, Samuli Torssonen. D: Timo Vuorensola. SC: Michael Kalesniko, Timo Vuorensola - based on a story by Johanna Sinisalo - concept by Jarmo Puskala. DP: Mika Orasmaa - RED camera. PD: Ulrika von Vegesack. AD: Astrid Poeschke, Jussi Lehtiniemi. Set dec: Sabine Schaaf. Cost: Jake Collier. Makeup: Bliss Macgillicuddy. Visual effects: Energia Productions - and a big team. M: Laibach; motifs from Wagner. S: Heiko Müller. ED: Suresh Ayyar. C: Julia Dietze (Renate Richter, Nazi teacher), Christopher Kirby (James Washington, astronaut and model), Götz Otto (Klaus Adler, Nazi), Peta Sergeant (Vivian Wagner, spin doctor), Stephanie Paul (President of the U.S.A.), Udo Kier (Wolfgang Kortzfleisch, the new Führer), Tilo Prückner (Dr. Richter). 93 min. Original in English and in German. Released in Finland by Buena Vista International Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles in Arto Vartiainen / Markus Karjalainen. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 7 April 2012 (week of premiere).

Essential to the production was the Iron Sky online community. Iron Sky belongs to a new wave of film productions where good-looking production values are made possible via a participation of a large community.

The plot: The Nazis have set up a secret base on the dark side of the Moon in 1945. Ready for a comeback they now plan to invade the Earth, but a black astronaut stumbles accidentally on their turf.

Crazy satire is a difficult stylistic approach, and I was happy to discover that Timo Vuorensola and his dedicated team have succeeded so well. Because the Nazis are too easy a target, the satire is directed more towards the shallowness of contemporary politics, the media planning of world events, greed in ecological resources, and the vanity of leaders. In a bizarre twist Vivian Wagner the U.S. President's P.R. director is even influenced by Nazi rhetorics.

There are funny visions like the Moon with a big chunk blasted away by the Nazis.

No problem in the 2K DCP presentation.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Killers (1946)

Tappajat / Hämnarna. US © 1946 Universal Pictures. PC: Mark Hellinger Productions. P: Mark Hellinger. D: Robert Siodmak. SC: Anthony Veiller, [John Huston, Richard Brooks, n.c.]- based on the short story (1927) by Ernest Hemingway. DP: Elwood Bredell (Woody Bredell). Special photography: David S. Horsley. AD: Jack Otterson, Martin Obzina. Set dec: Russell A. Gausman, Edward R. Robinson. Makeup: Jack P. Pierce. Hair: Carmen Dirigo. M: Miklós Rózsa. "The More I Know Of Love" (Miklos Rozsa, Jack Brooks) sung by Ava Gardner. "With Plenty Of Money And You" (Harry Warren) played on the piano in Lou Tingle's café. S: Bernard B. Brown. ED: Arthur Hilton. Studio: Universal Studios (Universal City). C: Burt Lancaster (Swede / Pete Lund / Ole Andreson), Ava Gardner (Kitty Collins), Edmond O'Brien (Jim Reardon, life insurance investigator), Albert Dekker ("Big Jim" Colfax), Sam Levene (lt. Sam Lubinsky), Virginia Christine (Lilly Harmon Lubinsky), Charles D. Brown (Packy Robinson, Swede's boxing manager), Donald McBride (R.S. Kenyon, Reardon's boss), Phil Brown (Nick Adams), John Miljan (Jake the Rake), William Conrad (Max), Charles McGraw (Al), Queenie Smith (Mary Ellen Daugherty), Garry Owen (Joe), Harry Hayden (George), Bill Walker (Sam), Vince Barnett (Charleston, Swede's prison cellmate), Jack Lambert ("Dum Dum" Clarke), Jeff Corey ("Blinkey" Franklin), Wally Scott (Charlie), Beatrice Roberts (nurse), Vera Lewis (Ma Hirsch). Helsinki premiere: 11.3.1949 Metropol – 103 min. A Universal Studios print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Robert Siodmak's film noir cycle), 6 April 2012.

Ernest Hemingway's short story is memorably elliptical: nothing is explained. In the film adaptation everything is explained via nine flashbacks, each representing in Citizen Kane style a new witness's viewpoint: Nick Adams, the hotelkeeper lady who becomes the beneficiary, Lt. Sam Lubinsky (twice), Lilly Lubinsky, Charleston, Blinkey, Dum Dum, and Kitty. Another Citizen Kane connection is the green silk handkerchief with golden harps, the Rosebud of this movie.

An unforgettable debut for Burt Lancaster as a suffering protagonist, thrown into a world of violence, crime and sexual attraction. Swede wants to succeed, but he is out of his league. Ava Gardner is also in a career-defining role, and her Kitty Collins is a striking but rather conventional femme fatale. Ava Gardner became Ernest Hemingway's favourite actress, acting also in The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Sun Also Rises.

Elwood Bredell's cinematography is magnificent, highlights including the darkness surrounding Swede's death, the sober long shots of the robbery of the paymaster's office, and the shadows on the glass panels of Big Jim's door before the final showdown.

There is a bit too much of a Humphrey Bogart imitation in Edmond O'Brien's performance. Intriguing details include the nice Lilly getting aroused watching Swede's torment in the boxing ring (but Kitty says that "I can never bear a man I care for being hurt") and the limping man who tails Riordan and Kitty to the Green Cat bar.

The Killers is a vision of profound suffering. The nine circles of flashbacks in the broken time structure take us deeper into a world of pain and disillusionment. Swede's desperation and utterly broken spirit seem to communicate something graver than a crime plot. Hemingway's story expressed something of the hard-boiled "lost generation" spirit of his age. The creators of this movie were aware of even darker truths than Hemingway had known when he wrote his story.

The print was great.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Criss Cross

Elämän ja kuoleman leikki / På liv och död. US 1949 (year of release) © 1948 Universal Pictures Company. PC: Universal International Pictures. P: Michel Kraike (Michael Kraike). D: Robert Siodmak. SC: Daniel Fuchs – based on the novel Criss-Cross / The Cheat (1934, in Finnish Naarassusi) by Don Tracy. DP: Frank Planer (Franz Planer). Special photography: David S. Horsley. Second unit photography: Paul Ivano. AD: Bernard Herzbrun, Boris Leven. Cost: Yvonne Wood. Makeup: Bud Westmore. Hair: Carmen Dirigo. M: Miklos Rozsa. Song: ”I’ll Remember April”. "Jungle Fantasy" by Esy Morales and His Rhumba Band. S: Leslie I. Carey, Richard DeWeese. ED: Ted J. Kent. Loc: Bunker Hill, Downtown Los Angeles (Hill Street, Angel's Flight Railway, Sunshine Apartments, etc.); Union Station (Alameda Avenue). C: Burt Lancaster (Steve Thompson), Yvonne De Carlo (Anna), Dan Duryea (Slim Dundee), Stephen McNally (lt. Pete Ramires), Richard Lang (Slade Thompson), Esy Morales and His Rhumba Band, Tom Pedi (Vincent), Percy Helton (Frank), Alan Napier (Finchley), Griff Barnett (Pop), Meg Randall (Helen), Joan Miller (the lush), Edna M. Holland (Mrs. Thompson), John Doucette (Walt), Marc Krath (Mort), James O’Rear (Waxie), John "Skins" Miller (midget), Robert Osterloh (Mr. Nelson), James Curtis (= Tony Curtis) (Anna's dancing partner), Gene Evans (a guard). Helsingin premiere: 3.3.1950 Tuulensuu, distributor: Bio-Kuva – VET 31311 – K16 – 2450 m / 88 min. A Universal Studios print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Robert Siodmak's film noir cycle), 5 April 2012.

Robert Siodmak at his romantic best. In Siodmak's early films noirs Ella Raines was the benign life-force who stirred the man from his desperation; in his late films noirs the woman has turned into a femme fatale. In Siodmak's early films noirs love opened the man's eyes; in his late films noirs love blinds.

Criss Cross is a tragedy, not a melodrama. It is a triangle story of Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster), Anna (Yvonne De Carlo), and Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea) set in gangland, interpreted as tragedy. Anna's character belongs to the Carmen tradition: she is a wild life-force, free as a bird. Both Steve and Slim commit the tragic error of trying to claim her. The tragic approach elevates the film: the performances, the cinematography of Frank Planer, and the score by Miklos Rozsa (with fleeting Wagnerian affinities).

Great sequences: the Langian opening helicopter camera movement descending from the sky; the rhumba sequence; Burt's unflinching stare at Yvonne in the bar; the "perfect" armored car robbery with a tear gas surprise; the shadows in the hospital room mirror (a thrilling sequence that may have inspired The Godfather); the tragic nocturnal conclusion in the beach house.

Burt Lancaster is honing his persona as a man of exceptional strength, yet "the sucker of all times", at his most impressive as the terribly injured hospital patient in bandages, helpless and passive in the final encounter with Love and Death in the secluded beach house.

Yvonne De Carlo got her first great role in Criss Cross after years in bit parts and trivial assignments. She had a long career, but Anna in Criss Cross remained her most significant performance (she played also Sephora, the wise wife of Moses in Ten Commandments, the female lead in Band of Angels, and the female lead in The Munsters).

The print is good.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Dark Mirror

Pimeä peili / Den mörka spegeln. US © 1946 Inter-John, Inc. Original distributor: Universal Pictures Company, Inc. P: Nunnally Johnson. D: Robert Siodmak. Dialogue D: Phyllis Loughton. SC: Nunnally Johnson – from a story by Vladimir Pozner. DP: Milton Krasner. Second camera: Harry Davis. PD: Duncan Cramer. Set dec: Hugh Hunt. Special photographic effects: J. Devereaux Jennings, Paul Lerpae. Cost: Irene Sharaff. Makeup: Norbert Miles. Hair: Mary Freeman. M: Dimitri Tiomkin. M selections: Brahms? (on Dr. Elliott's record player); "Frankie and Johnny"? in the music box. S: Fred Lau, Arthur Johns. M mixer: Leon Becker. ED: Ernest Nims. ED: Olivia de Havilland (Terry / Ruth Collins), Lew Ayres (Dr. Scott Elliott), Thomas Mitchell (Lt. Stevenson), Richard Long (Rusty), Charles Evans (D.A. Girard), Garry Owen (Franklin), Lela Bliss (Mrs. Didriksen), Lester Allen (George Benson). Helsinki premiere: 6.2.1948 Metropol, released by: Oy Filmiseppo – tv: 11.10.1974, 5.11.2006 YLE TV2 – VET 28029 – K16 – 85 min. A BFI National Archive print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Robert Siodmak's film noir cycle), 4 April 2012.

The design concept in the opening and closing credits: Rorschach patterns.

The exaggeration in the pop psychological plot of The Dark Mirror is so gross that the movie belongs more to the domain of cinefantastique, side by side with The Student of Prague. Together with The Spiral Staircase The Dark Mirror comes close to the horror genre among the films that Siodmak directed during his film noir years. (This makes sense to me personally, because I have written together with my brother Asko Alanen a history of the horror movies called Musta peili, a title which can be translated into English as The Dark Mirror).

Gilbert Adair has written about Olivia de Havilland and Robert Siodmak "managing admirably to counteract the contrived plot". The Dark Mirror was produced at a turning-point in Olivia de Havilland's career when she was determined to act in more ambitious roles. A dual role as a good and an evil sister is an actress's dream, and Olivia de Havilland's performance is excellent, especially as the evil sister masquerading as the good sister. De Havilland's other prominent roles in these years included To Each His Own and The Snake Pit, culminating in the masterpiece The Heiress.

The special distinction of Olivia de Havilland is that she is able to project profound serenity and innate goodness. At first viewing we don't pay attention to her performance in Gone with the Wind, but the more one sees it the more prominent de Havilland's role as Melanie grows alongside Vivien Leigh's flamboyant Scarlett. De Havilland was an inspired and far from obvious choice for Errol Flynn's partner in eight of their best films.

Like with Deanna Durbin, Robert Siodmak was the director to project the dark side of Olivia de Havilland, another actress famous for her nice star persona. While the plot is contrived, there are revelations such as "sisters can hate each other with terrifying intensity".

The opening is compelling, the characters are introduced in effective satirical vignettes, the Polygraph sequence is handled like a magic ritual, and the denouement is sharp and dramatic.

The print viewed was excellent.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Robinson Crusoe 3D (SU 1947)

Робинзон Крузо. SU 1947. PC: Stereokino, Tbilisskaja Kinostudija. P: Viktor Tsirgiladze, S. Tomski. D: Aleksandr Andrijevski. SC: Aleksandr Andrijevski, Fjodor Knorre, Sergei Jermolinski – based on the novel (1719) by Daniel Dafoe. DP: Dmitri Surenski. AD: G. Turiljev. Cost: L. Baikova. Make-up: Z. Vahtangishvili. M: Lev Shvarts. There is a song in the end of the movie. S: Davit Lomidze, Aleksandr Zapadenski. C: Pavel Kadotshnikov (Robinson Crusoe), Juri Ljubimov (Friday), Aleksandr Smiranin (Robinson's father). 85 min. Duration of the screening: 75 min (the Agfacolor opening and closing sequences have been lost). 2K DCP from Münchner Filmmuseum. Original in Russian (dialogue and intertitles) without translation. Viewed (XpanD) at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (3D), 3 April 2012.

The first 3D feature film, its original lenticular Stereokino solution reconstructed successfully as a 2K DCP by Münchner Filmmuseum. No problems with the effects and brightness in the screening, resulting in a very nice 3D experience.

Robinson Crusoe is saved from his desert island and he recounts his story as flashbacks. Effective 3D moments include: a rope extended to a drowning sailor, a feline approaching us on a branch, Robinson climbing up the rope to the wreck, the tree full of parrots, a giant spider in the middle of its web, the thunderstorm that washes Robinson's first hut down, the steam from the tea kettle, and spears flying towards Robinson (the audience laughed at the primitive thrill).

A solid, straighforward interpretation of the classic story, suitable for children. The most interesting part is when Robinson rescues Friday, and "A new life starts". Step by step Robinson teaches Friday things like honing a knife, operating the bellows, fishing with a dragnet, lighting a fire with a magnifying glass, hunting with firearms, and most importantly, to speak (Russian in this version). In the closing image, back home, Robinson has started to write his memoirs.

As far as I know no film adaptation of the story has become an immortal masterpiece. This one is solid entertainment, and because there was no translation, I cannot say whether it was less profound than Luis Buñuel's, but I think that maybe surprisingly enough for a Soviet movie the insight was missing that a human being is a social animal to the extent that madness and mental regression will result in solitude. Neither were included any reflections familiar from the classics of political economy. But a deeply felt conviction in this version of the story is that Robinson treats Friday as a brother, not as a servant or as a slave.