Saturday, June 30, 2012

Film concert Easy Street, The Immigrant, The Rink, composed by Neil Brand, Timothy Brock, and Antonio Coppola, performed by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, conducted by Timothy Brock

Saturday, 30 July 2012, Piazza Maggiore (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian.

L'Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Violini di spalla: Emanuele Benfenati
Violini primi: Giacomo Scarponi*, Giorgio Bovina, Alessandro Di Marco
Violini secondi: Fabio Cocchi*, Stefano Coratti, Valentino Corvino, Tommaso Luison
Viole: Enrico Celestino*, Emanuela Bascetta, Nicola Calzolari, Sandro Di Paolo
Violoncelli: Eva Zahn*, Giorgio Cristani, Mattia Cipolli, Vittorio Piombo
Contrabbassi: Gianandrea Pignoni*, Paolo Taddia
Flauti: Devis Mariotti*
Oboi: Paolo Grazia*
Clarinetti: Simone Simonelli*
Fagotti: Massimo Ferretti Incerti*
Corni: Stefano Pignatelli*, Michele Melchioni
Trombe: Gabriele Buffi*
Tromboni: Andrea Maccagnan*
Timpani: Alasdair David Kelly*
Percussioni: Alasdair David Kelly*, Mirko Natalizi
Pianoforte, Celesta, Harmonium: Andrea Bonato

* prime parti / in corsivo, professori d'orchestra aggiunti

Restauro integrale delle Comiche Essanay e Mutual
Restoration of the Essanay and Mutual Comedies

The Catalog: "The restoration of the Essanay and Mutual comedies is the missing piece of a larger project: the restoration of Chaplin’s entire body of work. The project, undertaken by the Cineteca di Bologna and L’Immagine Ritrovata in 1999, includes ten full feature films, seven short features and featurettes, besides the thirty five Keystone comedies restored in collaboration with the British Film Institute and Lobster Films."

"The project, also with the collaboration of Lobster Films and with the support of the Chaplin’s family, aims at the restoration of the twenty six titles completed by Charlie Chaplin between 1915 and 1917 for the Essanay and Mutual production companies. For the first time, the invaluable ‘Blackhawk Film’ collection will be integrated with new material recently retrieved from a number of international archives, thus taking advantage of the best digital technology available and long time experience in comparing and analysing Chaplin’s work."

"[...] But we were speaking of new scores, the symbolic seal of the 26th edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato, weaving together the most musical of filmmakers, Charlie Chaplin, and the restoration of three of his shorts from the 1916-1917 period: Easy Street, to the tune of British composer Neil Brand, The Rink, with music by Italian composer Antonio Coppola, and The Immigrant, with a score by Timothy Brock. Brock will also be at the helm of the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna at the festival’s opening with Augusto Genina’s Prix de beauté, accompanied by music written by the American composer and making its Italian premiere after debuting in Lyon last January." (The Catalog).

[in the printed program the order was 1: The Rink, 2: Easy Street, 3: The Immigrant, but the order was changed in the actual concert as below]

EASY STREET
US 1917. D: Charles Chaplin. La strada della paura. SC: Charles Chaplin. DP: Roland Totheroh. C: Charles Chaplin (un vagabondo), Edna Purviance (ragazza dell’Esercito della Salvezza), Eric Campbell (il terrore del quartiere), Albert Austin (pastore/poliziotto), Henry Bergman (l’anarchico), Loyal Underwood (padre prolifico / secondo poliziotto), Janet Miller Sully (moglie dell’uomo prolifico/visitatrice alla Missione), Charlotte Mineau (la donna ingrata), Tom Wood (capo della polizia), Lloyd Bacon (drogato), Frank J. Coleman (terzo poliziotto), John Rand (visitatore alla Missione/quarto poliziotto). PC: Charles Chaplin per Lone Star Mutual. Premiere: 22. gennaio 1917. 2K DCP. 26’ at 18 fps. B&w. From: Blackhawk Collection / Lobster Films. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in collaboration with Lobster Films and David Shepard. Other elements from: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, CNC – Archives françaises du film, British Film Institute. New musical score composed by Neil Brand and performed live by Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna.

Jean Mitry: “Easy Street, together with The Pawnshop, is the masterpiece of the Mutual series. It is an absolute masterpiece. This film is a ballet, a poem, a parody, with a corrosive and farcical energy. And it is through this film that Chaplin’s social satire asserts itself and gains momentum. It is by far the most violent satire produced as a caricature by Chaplin prior to The Great Dictator.

“The characters descend in a maddeningly downward spiral that isolates them from the real world and plunges them into a symbolic and transparent representation of life. [...] The conclusion is pure sublime irony. Institutions, laws, moral principles, and catechists had never been made fun of with such sarcastic virulence. Those who think they are keeping humanity on the straight path using snippets from the Bible and fear of the police are mocked with gusto. The same fate is reserved for ‘good intentions’ which suddenly blossom as a result of a smile or a blessing. Furthermore, Easy Street integrates farcical and comedic elements: when the Tramp robs the grocer’s cash box he was supposed to protect, the contradiction between his act and his duty is farcical. But this contradiction is only meant to underline his behavior and delineate his character, a character that is comical to the extent that it is revealed through such contradiction.” Jean Mitry, Tout Chaplin, Seghers, Paris 1972

THE IMMIGRANT
US 1917. D: Charles Chaplin. L’emigrante. SC: Charles Chaplin. DP: Roland Totheroh. C: Charles Chaplin (un emigrante), Edna Purviance (un’emigrante), Kitty Bradbury (madre della ragazza), Albert Austin (emigrante slavo/cliente al ristorante), Henry Bergman (donna slava/pittore), Loyal Underwood (l’emigrante piccolo piccolo), Eric Campbell (capocameriere), Stanley Sanford (giocatore d’azzardo), James T Kelley (uomo al ristorante), John Rand (ubriaco senza soldi), Frank J. Coleman (ufficiale di bordo/ proprietario del ristorante), Tom Harrington (impiegato). PC: Charles Chaplin per Lone Star Mutual. Premiere: 17 giugno 1917. 2K DCP. 24’. a 20 fps. B&w. Didascalie inglesi / English intertitles. From: Blackhawk Collection / Lobster Films. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in collaboration with Lobster Film and David Shepard. New musical score composed by Timothy Brock and performed by Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna

Marcel Martin: “The Immigrant is a seminal piece for Chaplin and his body of work in terms of its humanity and its violent polemic captured in the famous take of the arrival of immigrants to New York. [...] The arrival described in his movie is not only emblematic of his own direct (perhaps) experience, but also of that of hundreds of thousands of men and women who had landed in the United States over the previous thirty years. [...] Chaplin’s work for Mutual in 1916-1917 includes various masterpieces (The Pawnshop, Easy Street, The Immigrant) which are some of his most powerful social commentaries. [...] The Tramp arrives in the United States expecting the promised land, a symbol of freedom and infinite possibilities, only to find a closed and puritanical society that discriminates against new immigrants using the traditional weapons of oppressors: egotistical wealth, religious and political intolerance, violence in the service of the privileged. In other words, the Tramp, the small Jewish immigrant chased from Europe by the pogroms, finds in the United States a society where Jews, left wing sympathizers, and the poor are automatically filed away as suspicious characters. Given the persistence with which this society harassed Chaplin during his stay in America, it is no surprise that he would continue his satire even after his astonishing professional and social success had shielded him from material, if not moral, concerns, and provided him with the possibility to integrate. But Chaplin would never integrate because he is the epitome of the wandering Jew, the luftmensch incapable of putting down stable roots in a specific location: all his life he would remain a temporary immigrant.” Marcel Martin, Charlie Chaplin, Seghers, Paris 1966

THE RINK
US 1916. D: Charles Chaplin. Charlot a rotelle. SC: Charles Chaplin. DP: Roland Totheroh. C: Charles Chaplin (cameriere pattinatore), Edna Purviance (ragazza chic), James T. Kelley (padre della ragazza), Eric Campbell (sig. Stout), Henry Bergman (signora Stout / cliente arrabbiato), Lloyd Bacon (ospite), Albert Austin (chef/ pattinatore), Frank J. Coleman (direttore del ristorante), John Rand (cameriere), Leota Bryan, Charlotte Mineau (amiche di Edna). PC: Charles Chaplin per Lone Star Mutual. Premiere: 4. dicembre 1916. 2K DCP. 25’ at 19 fps. B&w. From: Blackhawk Collection / Lobster Films. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in collaboration with Lobster Films and David Shepard. Other elements from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, CNC – Archives Françaises du Film e Library of Congress. New score composed by Antonio Coppola and performed live by Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna

Charles Chaplin: “The mechanics of the directing were simple in those days. I had only to know my left from my right for entrances and exists. If one exited right from a scene, one came in left in the next scene; if one exited towards the camera, one entered with one’s back to the camera in the next scene. These, of course, were primary rules. But with more experience I found that the placing of a camera was not only psychological but articulated a scene; in fact it was the basis of cinematic style. […] Placement of camera is cinematic inflection. There is no set rule that a close-up gives more emphasis than a long shot. A close-up is a question of feeling; in some instances a long shot can effect greater emphasis.

“An example of this is on one of my early comedies, Skating [The Rink]. The tramp enters the rink and skates with one foot up, gliding and twirling, tripping and bumping into people and getting into all sorts of mischief, eventually leaving everyone piled up on their backs in the foreground of the camera while he skates to the rear of the rink, becoming a very small figure in the background, and sits amongst the spectators innocently reviewing the havoc he has just created. Yet the small figure of the tramp in the distance was funnier than he would have been in a close-up.” Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography, Simon & Schuster, New York 1964

AA: The Piazza Maggiore was crowded in the final gala event of Il Cinema Ritrovato, and there were many families with children to enjoy the Charles Chaplin show. It is great that Chaplin's Essanay and Mutual comedies are being reconstructed in the full silent aperture format and with music by a great orchestra. The Chaplin concert was a great success.

There have been many music solutions to Chaplin's Mutual comedies during the 90+ years in which they have been in circulation. Personally, I have grown fond of the Carl Davis compositions to Chaplin's Mutual cycle, a labour of love of his. In Sodankylä, two weeks earlier, we got to listen to Maud Nelissen's beautiful music to The Immigrant. I also like very much the sequence in Louis Malle's Au revoir les enfants where The Immigrant is played to a charmingly amateurish rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns's Rondo capriccioso. I would need to hear the new compositions by Neil Brand, Timothy Brock, and Antonio Coppola again to truly appreciate them, and they are certainly worth revisiting. My main comment to composers would be: don't try to be funny. These movies are already the funniest ever made. Chaplin's own solution, add great emotion, don't fear pathos, might be best. Nino Rota followed this solution, too, in his comedy scores. Ideally, the music might toe the line between the sublime and the ridiculous. Sometimes good may be the Marvin Hatley solution to Laurel and Hardy comedies: blithely ignore the action, and the disparity between the brainless music and the catastrophic escalation adds to the fun.

The visual quality of these 2K DCP's cannot be the final word in restoration. The best of the three was The Immigrant, but especially Easy Street and The Rink lacked bite. The Photoplay print of The Immigrant I saw two weeks earlier in Sodankylä was superior to this 2K DCP. Because the Mutual comedies fell into public domain long ago the quality of the prints has been extremely variable, but good prints have also been available so that we know how great these classic comedies should look like.

A Hundred Years Ago: 1912: Programme 8: Two Songs for Two Short Films

Cento anni fa: 1912: Programma 8: Due canti per due cortometraggi

Saturday, 30 July 2012, Piazza Maggiore (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian and English.

The Catalogue: "Enzo and Lorenzo Mancuso have been working since the 1970s on the traditional repertory of their homeland Sicily, which seized their imagination while in England looking for work. The music and traditional instruments used by the Mancuso brothers will create a bridge between Sicily and England as the duo provides a backdrop of sound to films showing nature in its most powerful form: from Eruzione dell’Etna shot in 1910 to Mare del Nord filmed along the English coast the year before."

Enzo e Lorenzo Mancuso: “We imagined the bellows of the harmonium as a continuous breath, the surf of a tide of sound crashing with the voices of another time, sounds like submerged volcanic islands that appear and disappear following an alternation suggested by the images seen. The bows and chords of the baglama, the minute voice of the sipsy, the beat of the drum and sansula flow together in a unison of extreme latitudes, underlining in each one the value and testimony of human expression.

AA: Two powerful movies about the forces of nature: a volcanic eruption and a storm at the North Sea. The music of the Mancuso brothers was fascinating and different from the others.

L’ERUZIONE DELL’ETNA / L'Eruption de l'Etna. IT 1910. PC: Società Anonima Ambrosio. 35 mm. 118 m. 7’ at 16 fps. Col. French intertitles. Da CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. Musiche eseguite dal vivo. Strumenti: voci, armonium, saz baglama, saz divan, violino, sipsy, campana tubolare, tamburo, sansula. - AA: Red tinting is effective in this actuality film about the volcanic power and the lava movement of the Etna.

NORTH SEA FISHERIES AND RESCUE / [the title on the film is in German]. GB 1909. D: Joseph Rosenthal. Mare del Nord: pesca e salvataggio. PC: Rosie Film Company. 35 mm. 210 m 10’. a 18 fps. Tinting. German intertitles. From: BFI National Archive. Musiche eseguite dal vivo. Strumenti: voci, armonium, saz baglama, saz divan, violino, sipsy, campana tubolare, tamburo, sansula. - AA: A magnificent non-fiction film about a storm in the North Sea. "Nordsee Mordsee" is an impressive intertitle in this German-titled version. Among the dramatic sequences there is a rescue of sailors from ship to land with a windlass via a very long rope. The visual look of the print is slightly duped but still good, and with very beautiful toning. 

Lewat djam malam / After the Curfew (2012 digital restoration)

[Dopo il coprifuoco]. ID 1954. D: Usmar Ismail. SC: Usmar Ismail, Asrul Sani. DP: Max Tera. ED: Sumardjono. AD: Abdul Chalid. M: G.R.W. Sinsu. S: B. Saltzmann. C: A.N. Alcaff (Iskandar), Netty Herawaty (Norma), R.D. Ismail (Gunawan). PC: Persari, Perfini. 2K DCP with English subtitles. 101’. From: World Cinema Foundation / National Museum of Singapore. Restored in 2012 by the National Museum of Singapore and the World Cinema Foundation, with support from the Konfiden Foundation and Kineforum of the Jakarta Arts Council. The restoration work was conducted by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory from original film elements preserved at the Sinematek Indonesia. Special thanks to the Usmar Ismail family. Saturday 30 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian. Hosted by Cecilia Cenciarelli and introduced by Zhang Wenjie and Mrs. XXX (Indonesia).

(Bologna 2012 Catalog): "After the Curfew is a passionate work looking directly at a crucial moment of conflict in Indonesian history: the aftermath of the four-year Republican revolution which brought an end to Dutch rule. This is a visually and dramatically potent film about anger and disillusionment, about the dream of a new society cheapened and misshapen by government repression on the one hand and bourgeois complacency on the other."

"The film’s director, Usmar Ismail, is generally considered to be the father of Indonesian cinema, and his entire body of work was directly engaged with ongoing evolution of Indonesian society. He began as a playwright and founder of Maya, a drama collective that began during the years of Japanese occupation. And it was during this period when Ismail developed an interest in filmmaking. He began making films for Andjar Asmara in the late 40s and then started Perfini (Perusahaan Film Nasional Indonesian) in 1950, which he considered his real beginning as a filmmaker. After the Curfew, a co-production between Perfini and Djamaluddin Malik’s company Persari, was perhaps Ismail’s greatest critical and commercial success."

"The film has been digitally restored at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory using the original 35mm camera & sound negatives, interpositive, and positive prints preserved at the Sinematek Indonesia. The digital restoration began by focusing on fixing instability and flicker followed by the meticulous work of dirt removal, carried out both by automatic tools and by a long manual process of digitally cleaning each image (frame by frame). The film also suffered from signs of mould and vinegar syndrome – the laboratory took great pains to address these problems without damaging the definition of the photographic output, specifically with regards to details and faces."

"The original sound was digitally restored using the 35mm original soundtrack negative. Two reels were missing from the soundtrack negative, and were therefore taken from the combined  interpositive. The last 2 minutes of reel 5 were missing from all available elements, but were recovered from a positive copy. The soundtrack has been scanned using laser technology at 2K definition. The core of the digital sound restoration consists on several phases of manual editing, high resolution de-clicker & de-crackle, and multiple layers of fully automated noise reduction." (Bologna 2012 Catalog)

AA: The movie was scanned in 4K from challenging sources.

The dramatic story of the homecoming of the Indonesian revolutionary officer Iskandar who has fought for the independence. The story takes place during little more than one day in 1949. Iskandar stays with his girlfriend Norma and meets his key friends Gafar, Gunawar and Puja. Gunawar would like Iskandar to be his hitman, to take care of bothersome people at a foreign company. Puja has become a pimp whose protégée is a naive girl from the countryside called Laila. Although Iskandar receives a hero's welcome he has been traumatized and brutalized by the war. Iskandar cannot adjust to sleeping in a normal bed, he cannot focus at a regular job, and he is not good company for women.

During the picture Iskandar is bothered by a traumatic execution he was ordered to commit by Gunawar. "The scream of that woman I shot at dawn." A family Iskandar was commanded to execute were refugees from Jakarta. The confiscation of the properties of refugees and other helpless people was the primitive accumulation of Gunawar's capital. But "the revolution is not over yet" according to Iskandar. He is incapable of constructive action, but in his final delirium he executes Gunawar and during a nocturnal chase after the curfew he is shot by the police and lethally hit by a jeep. "He was a very brave man" is a final verdict on the desperado.

Films that Lewat djam malam brings to mine include Odd Man Out, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Ashes and Diamonds. Lewat djam malam is, however, completely original. There is a fine sense of atmosphere, and the account of estrangement and alienation is powerful. In his own big homecoming party Iskandar is a stranger.

Songs and music are important in this movie. There is an assured touch in the cinematic storytelling.

There are recurrent digital wrinkles in the DCP; reminders from the moulds and the vinegar syndrome that have hit the source materials. These war scars are not entirely inappropriate for a movie like this. Otherwise the visual quality is all right. I look forward to seeing this movie again, and other films by Usmar Ismail, too.

The Yellow Ticket (1931)

Il passaporto giallo. US © 1931 Fox Film Corporation. D: Raoul Walsh. Based on a play by Michael Morton. SC: Guy Bolton, Jules Furthman. DP: James Wong Howe. ED: Jack Murray. AD: William S. Darling. M: Carli Elinor. S: Donald Flick. C: Elissa Landi (Marya Kalish), Lionel Barrymore (barone Igor Andreeff), Laurence Olivier (Julian Rolfe), Walter Byron (conte Nikolai), Arnold Korff (nonno di Marya), Mischa Auer (Melchior), Edwin Maxwell (agente Boligoff), Boris Karloff (attendente), Rita La Roy (Fania Rubinstein), Henry Kolker (funzionario passaporti). Premiere: 30 ottobre 1931. 35 mm. 88’. B&w. From: Twentieth Century Fox. Saturday, 30 July 2012, Cinema Arlecchino (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti.

Dave Kehr: “Energized after the stylistic breakthrough of The Big Trail, Walsh continued his radical reconsideration of screen space with this very different piece of material, an often filmed 1914 stage drama about a Jewish woman (Elissa Landi) forced to accept a passport identifying her as a prostitute in order to travel within Imperial Russia. Working with the great cinematographer James Wong Howe, Walsh assembles shots of astounding spatial complexity, prevented only by the relatively slow lenses of the time from achieving the extreme depth of field effects that Gregg Toland would perfect in the 40s. The marriage of camera movement to point of view in such sequences as Landi’s attack on the Czarist official (Lionel Barrymore) is highly inventive (and thrilling to watch), although Walsh would later eschew such techniques as too showy. Of all of Walsh’s Fox films, The Yellow Ticket most strongly reflects the influence of Murnau, but if the lighting is Germanic, the tempo is pure Walsh, with Landi assuming the heedless, headlong rush of the mature Walsh hero once she decides that the old regime must be brought down. A young Laurence Olivier here makes his American film debut, as a last minute replacement for the forgotten Edward Crandall, though Olivier would later prefer to date his Hollywood career from his breakthrough performance in Wuthering Heights (1939).” Dave Kehr

AA: The movie starts with a résumé about tyranny in Czarist Russia. The story begins in the Pale of Settlement, where Marya's father is arrested and sentenced to prison for a trifle. (Elissa Landi is fine as the brave and bright young Jewess). During the movie, the Czarist prison system, the deportations to Siberia and the sentences to hard labour in quick silver mines are seen as a form of an indirect death penalty, a slow torture until death. When Marya finds her father Abraham we hear her offscreen scream. "Why did you kill him?" "You murderers!". The footage from the prison (partly like duped stock footage from an earlier movie [The Red Dance - PS 12 July 2012]) brings to mind the circles of hell as depicted by Solzhenitsyn.

Fanya Rubinstein who is free to travel to "anywhere where there's men" gives Marya the idea to acquire the yellow ticket, but little does Marya realize how absolutely the ticket will stigmatize her, although she remains a virgin all through the picture. "You don't drink, you don't smoke, you don't ..." states the head of the secret police having examined Marya's medical report. (Lionel Barrymore gives a believably tyrannical performance as Baron Andreyev). Because of the yellow ticket Marya is obliged to regular examinations by a woman's doctor. The world of prostitutes is portrayed in a caleidoscopic montage at the house of Sofia Petrova from whom Maya receives the yellow passport. There is another quick look at their conditions in the scene where streetwalkers are bathing.

Laurence Olivier is not bad as the naive British newspaperman Julian Rolfe. Julian defends Marya on the train. Marya opens his eyes and becomes his source of information about oppression and corruption in Russia. Julian's revealing newspaper articles put both of their lives in danger. During the conclusion, the First World War breaks out, and there is a last minute rescue for Marya and Julian.

The Yellow Passport is visually exciting with a fine use of the moving camera and visually interesting solutions such as Marya noticing the gestures of Baron Andreyev and his police officer via a mirror.

The print is fine.

Tokyo no onna / A Woman of Tokyo

Una donna di Tokyo. JP 1933. D: Yasujiro Ozu. Story: Ernest Schwartz [Yasujiro Ozu] SC: Kogo Noda, Tadao Ikeda. DP: Hideo Mohara - 1:1,2. ED: Kazuo Ishikawa. C: Yoshiko Okada (Chikako), Ureo Egawa (Ryoichi), Kinuyo Tanaka (Harue), Shinyo Nara (Kinoshita), Chishu Ryu (il reporter). PC: Shochiku (Kamata). 35 mm. 46’ at 24 fps. B&w. English subtitles. From: National Film Center – The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo per concessione di Shochiku. Saturday 30 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian. Grand piano: Mie Yanashita. Introduced by Alexander Jacoby.

Alexander Jacoby & Johan Nordström: “Though a wholly silent film, this melodrama by Ozu sheds fascinating light on the intersections between sound and silent cinema in this period of transition. By 1933, nearly 40% of Japan’s theatres were wired for sound, and the number of sound films was steadily increasing, while foreign sound films had been steadily imported into Japan since around 1930. But it was not until 1935 that sound films would constitute the majority of Japanese film production. Accordingly, Japan’s late silent cinema constitutes a near-unique case of a silent film culture which was profoundly influenced by the techniques and styles of sound cinema. Ozu was late turning to sound, but his last silent films clearly show the influence of the new medium, particularly in their use of dialogue intertitles delivered by offscreen speakers, which seems to reflect the new possibilities of offscreen sound. A Woman of Tokyo itself was apparently planned as a sound film, but was eventually shot silent. Nevertheless, it was filmed on sound stock, and consequently the frame is narrower than the standard academy format, a fact which has led the image to be cropped when screened on DVD or video. This is particularly unfortunate since A Woman of Tokyo is the first Ozu film to display his characteristic low angle shots. This screening at Bologna, of course, will preserve the original ratio.

“The film is a bleak melodrama about a young man who receives financial support for his studies from his sister, only to discover that she is engaging in prostitution to do so. The plot echoes Mizoguchi’s melodramas, Taki no Shiraito (Cascading White Threads, 1933) and Orizuru Osen (The Downfall of Osen, 1934), but the poignant and tragic aspects of the narrative are offset by a playful stylistic selfconsciousness and wit, at its most obvious when Ozu interpolates a comic sequence directed by Ernst Lubitsch from the Paramount portmanteau film, If I Had a Million (1932). David Bordwell comments that Ozu “cites the norm he dislodges, but for the first time in a surviving work, he uses not movie posters and photographs, but actual footage [...] Ozu’s playfulness reemerges when he refuses to show Laughton’s delivery of a raspberry to his boss. We must be cinephiles enough to fill in the gag’s payoff”. Bordwell might have added that the raspberry gag depends specifically on sound for its humour, so its absence here is arguably a self-conscious commentary on the film’s status as a silent in a film world increasingly dominated by sound.” Alexander Jacoby & Johan Nordström

AA: Ozu doing a Mizuguchi kind of story but in his own style with low angle shots, complete with chimney shots. The If I Had a Million scene has itself a Lubitsch style undercurrent because the access to a printed cinema programme raises the possibility of the cinema visit as an alibi. The sister is hard working, kind to her brother, popular among friends, and after work she "goes to the professor to help with the translations". But rumours are spreading. The only screenings of rare Ozu and Walsh screenings overlapped in Bologna, and I interrupted the viewing to see The Yellow Ticket. The print of Tokyu no onna is good, apparently printed from a good source, perhaps not too far removed from the original negative.

Padre / [The Father]

Cento anni fa: 1912: Programma 12: Padri
A Hundred Years Ago: 1912: Programme 12: Fathers

Programme and notes by Mariann Lewinsky e Giovanni Lasi

“In recent years we have been able to follow, in the Hundred Years Ago/Cento anni fa section, the lengthening running times in the drama genre; and now, in 1912, two- and three-act films of 600m to 1,000m have become the international standard. If short films had shown us, in dramatically compressed form, whole lives via key episodes, like stations of the cross, now, with the longer film, a new possibility opened up – that of filling in the emotional dimension – and a new function, which remains crucial even now: “leading the self out of the confines of its everyday feelings into the freedom to participate in other people’s fates” (Viktor Klemperer, 1912). The father in Padre is cheated out of all he owns by his competitor, yet gives up a chance to get his own life on track, choosing instead to protect his daughter’s happiness. The film exudes the same emotional warmth as a work by Giuseppe Verdi. With the outward appearance of a tramp, a social outcast, the film’s hero attains the moral stature of a Jean Valjean. Sjöström, on the other hand, in his first film, Trädgårdsmästaren (with the director himself in the title role), brings us a cold power-hungry father, a rapist. Sjöström and scriptwriter Stiller put patriarchy in the dock as, after them, would Dreyer in Praesidenten (1919) and Olga Preobrazhenskaya and Ivan Pravov in Baby Ryazanskie (1928). The production of Padre took Italian cinema a step closer toward achieving the cultural legitimacy it had been pursuing for years: if starting in 1908 movie storylines drew from the tradition of ‘high’ theater and literature in order to elevate cinematography, in 1912, thanks to the release of Itala films, acting in movies became a ‘work of art’. This was no small matter. Film skeptics viewed the “silent art” as incapable of reaching the same expressive potential of theater due to the lack of sound: Ermete Zacconi acting in Padre changed this conception. Words were no longer the determining factor: on the screen great actors can do without them. The camera does not place limits on the talent of a showman; on the contrary, it emphasizes his ability to brilliantly hold together a scene, even if depending only on the art of mime, a ‘colossal’ presence, and the intensity of gestures. Regardless of Zacconi’s extraordinary performance, Padre is a fine example of the best Italian productions of 1912, with dramatic plots, similar to the feuilletons from the end of the nineteenth century, anchored in a new industrial reality with all of its contradictions. The envy between the classes, the cruelty of the business world, the harshness of social conflicts, all of these themes underlie the story. It’s a violent world, where money is the supreme force, where noble sentiments and altruism surface in bright contrast. The characters reveal their humanity through an introspective journey that was unusual for cinema at the time, while the action shares a realism with the acting style of Ermete Zacconi, the prototype of the Italian movie star.

Vader [the title in the print]. IT 1912. D: Giovanni Pastrone. PC: Itala Film. C: Ermete Zacconi. 35 mm. 891 m 46’ at 17 fps. B&w. Dutch intertitles. From: EYE Film Instituut Nederland. Saturday 30 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in  Italian / English. Grand piano: Maud Nelissen. Introduced by Mariann Lewinsky.

AA: In her introduction at the screening Mariann Lewinsky pointed out that in the cinema, 1912 was a year of great actors, including Sarah Bernhardt, Albert Bassermann, and Réjane, but not necessary always in great films. The print of Padre stems from the Desmet collection.

The story of injustice: André is sentenced to many years of hard labour having been framed to arson. To silence his conscience Evariste Marny, the wily businessman who contracted the arson takes André’s little daughter Lidia into his custody. After 13 years in prison André escapes and assumes the identity of a bearded junkman, recognized by nobody, living in a criminal hideout. An incriminating letter used by the actual perpetrator of the arson for blackmail is seen by André. For the sake of Lidia’s happiness André agrees to conceal his identity, but when the arsonist sets Evariste’s castle on fire, jeopardizing Lidia’s life, André returns to the rescue and a final settling of accounts. On his deathbed Evariste, whose life has been saved by André in the fire, confesses everything.

Grand pantomime and high gesticulation in early cinema style. There is a fine deep focus composition in many scenes.

A wonderful print struck from a used source. The impressive colour is mostly realized via toning, but in the conflagration scenes there is red tinting

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia (Director’s cut) (50th anniversary) [2012 digital restoration]

GB 1962. D: David Lean. Based on the autobiography of T. E. Lawrence. SC: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson. DP: F. A. Young. ED: Anne V. Coates. AD: John Box. Cost: Phyllis Dalton. M: Maurice Jarre. S: Paddy Cunningham, John Cox, Winston Ryder. C: Peter O’Toole (T. E. Lawrence), Alec Guinness (Principe Feisal), Anthony Quinn (Auda Abu Tayi), Jack Hawkins (Generale Allenby), Omar Sharif (Ali), José Ferrer (Bey turco), Anthony Quayle (colonnello Brighton), Claude Rains (Mr. Dryden), Arthur Kennedy (Jackson Bentley), Donald Wolfit (generale Murray), I S. Johar (Gasim), Gamil Ratib (Majid), Michael Ray (Farraj), John Dimech (Daud), Zia Mohyeddin (Tafas). Prod: Columbia Pictures, Horizon Pictures, Sam Spiegel, David Lean. Premiere: 10 dicembre 1962.  DCP. 222’. Col. From: Sony Columbia. Restored in 4K by Sony Columbia in 2012. Friday 29 July 2012, Piazza Maggiore (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian. Presented by Grover Crisp.

The restored version, presented at Cannes Classics, was made from the Director’s Cut in 1989, when the film was rereleased in cinemas. It includes 21 minutes of unreleased footage, bringing the total running time to 3 hours 42 minutes. Over the years the film was heavily cut, but in 1988 a reconstruction of the film was undertaken, produced by Robert A. Harris and Jim Painten. David Lean and original editor Anne V. Coates then worked on the film to create Lean’s Director’s Cut.

David Lean: “In spite of the span of time being only two years we have an enormously long film. It will be at least three hours, perhaps nearer four. We have had to use a lot of a dramatic economy. Consequently we have short-circuited certain incidents, and run six characters into one. There were many military men concerned in the Lawrence story. It would be impossible to include them all in a screenplay so we have one (played by Anthony Quayle) who represents them as ‘an English military character’, complimentary to the role Jack Hawkins has as General Allenby. It is, I believe, the best performance Hawkins has ever given. […] In treating Lawrence as a character we have not been able to avoid, or indeed wanted to avoid, the controversial aspects of his private life. Our treatment for instance shows him to be masochistic. We have not implied that Lawrence was homosexual, though it depends on what you call homosexual. […] We have not avoided stating the facts of the political climate of the time, the British-Arab relationship; but the political arena was not our main concern. Mostly I hope we have created a very exceptional hero. This is one of the things I am longing to find out when the film is seen by an audience. I don’t know how an audience will take Lawrence as we have shown him: because in certain ways he is full-blown traditional hero figure and he does some heroic things, but he also does things which will shock an audience. I think audiences are unaccustomed to this kind of shock. […] The film has been shot on 65mm stock in the Panavision process. All the material we shot in Jordan we could not see until we returned in Britain. […] I supervise the editing myself, particularly the tricky action sequences. As I was an editor, it is hard to keep my hand off the celluloid. Nobody can prophesy at the script stage how a thing is going to be cut; but I try to shoot with a plan of the cutting in mind. I try to get the shots that I know will be wanted, moving the artists from here to there and not repeating the action all over again from another set-up. Sometimes one slips up and I curse myself for not having taken a long-shot which later I find was really necessary.” David Lean, Out of the Wilderness, “Films and Filming”, n. 100, January 1963

AA: As Gian Luca Farinelli said in his introduction, the Bologna heat brought a proper effect to the screening of Lawrence of Arabia on the Piazza Maggiore. Grover Crisp explained in his introduction that the movie was scanned from the original negatives in 8K to be mastered in 4K. Anne V. Coates, the editor of the film, was the senior advisor who helped with the colour. Grover also revealed that this was the first screening of the final restoration for the 50th anniversary of Lawrence of Arabia (the previous screenings having been of an unfinished version). On the Piazza the screening was in 2K. I sampled it for 45 minutes from the beginning. It looked magnificent, and I had no complaints. I would look forward to a demonstration with a 70 mm print and a 4K projection. The movie itself ages well and gets better on repeat viewings. The opening sequence is topical right now as the favourite movie of the android David in Prometheus by Ridley Scott; the trick being "not minding that it hurts".

Kubanskie kazaki / The Cossacks of the Kuban

Кубанские казаки / Kubanin kasakat / I cosacchi del Kuban. SU 1950. D: Ivan Pyriev. SC: Nikolaj Pogodin. DP: Valentin Pavlov - Magicolor. ED: Anna Kulganek. AD: Jurij Pimenov, Georgij Turylev, Boris Cebotarëv. M: Isaak Dunaevskij (testi delle canzoni di Michail Vol’pin, Michail Isakovskij). S: Vjaceslav Lešcev. C: Marina Ladynina (Galina Peresvetova), Sergej Luk’janov (Gordej Voron), Vladimir Volodin (Anton Petrovic Mudrecov), Aleksandr Chrylja (Denis Koren’), Sergej Blinnikov (Marko Dergac), Klara Lucko (Daša Šelest), Michail Pugovkin (contadino), Ekaterina Savinova (Ljubocka), Andrej Petrov (Vasja Tuzov). PC: Mosfil’m. Premiere: 27. febbraio 1950. 35 mm. 97’. Italian subtitles. From: La Biennale di Venezia - ASAC e Fondazione Cineteca Italiana. Friday 29 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Scorsese (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in English.

Olaf Möller: “One of the most astute studies of postwar Soviet cinema remains Sergej Kapterev’s way-too-little-read dissertation Post-Stalinist Cinema and the Russian Intelligentsia, 1953-1960 (2005), which despite its title, also has quite a lot to say about the years 1945-1952. Here’s a passage about Tales of the Siberian Land and The Cossacks of the Kuban: “According to Barbara Klinger, Melodrama may become ‘a crucial social barometer during times of ideological crisis [...] due to its heightened visual expressiveness, the psychic and social foundations of its mise-en-scene and its ‘double-leveled’ meaning’.

“This characteristic can be applied to Pyriev’s late Stalinist works: the fantasies of comfort and prosperity in Tales of the Siberian Land and The Cossacks of the Kuban hid war-inflicted personal dramas, which were ‘incidentally’ disclosed by scores in a minor key and verbal and visual hints of loneliness and desire. One of the most striking instances of this hidden, fragmentary melodrama is a sequence in The Cossacks of the Kuban, in which the estranged heroine’s song (we hear “All through the war I waited for you”) is transformed into an anxious choral crescendo and a shot of deliriously singing young females – an image close to many in the late-1940s Soviet Union, where millions of males did not return from the war”. That nails it.” Olaf Möller

AA: High Stalinist propaganda, a colour musical comedy set on the steppes of Kuban. This is the kind of movie that represented Soviet reality for Stalin according to Nikita Khrushchev. Abundance, excitement and joy are keywords. But as distinct from Hollywood musicals there are many everyday faces and no glamour in the Hollywood sense. There are montage sequences devoted to the harvest, the autumn fair, and the ploughing of the fields. The Isaak Dunayevsky songs are great, with themes such as "why do you sing those sad songs, doesn't the steppe fill your heart with joy", "you haven't changed, eagle of the steppe", and "our destiny walks alongside us in our native Soviet land". There are satirical aspects but only targeted on private weaknesses and characteristics. The women are powerful, and a central theme is that they may be so powerful that men feel estranged. In the harness race Galina (Marina Ladynina) lets Gordei (Sergei Lukianov) win. Galina and Gordei are the directors of their respective kolkhozes called The Teachings of Ilyich and The Red Partisan. Behind the situation of matriarchy is the tragedy of war in which many women (including Marina) have lost their husbands and many children their fathers. Ivan Pyriev has the talent to breathe a sense of vitality to a tale like this. There is an irresistible drive in his yarn, and a feeling of dynamic force in this major piece of socialist anti-realism. Behind the almost relentless joy there is a subtle feeling of profound grief which may be the true source of the movie's power. The print is clean, the colour gamut feels true to the original Magicolor, and the fine electronic subtitling originally produced by Sub-Ti for the Venice festival helps make sense of the movie.

Pattes Blanches / [White Shanks]

Intohimon kuilu / Zampe bianche. FR 1949. Year of production 1948. D: Jean Grémillon. SC: Jean Anouilh, Jean Bernard-Luc. DP: Philippe Agostini. ED: Louisette Hautecoeur. AD: Léon Barsacq. M: Elsa Barraine. S: Jean Rieul. Ass. D: André Heinrich, Pierre Kast, Guy Lefrant. C: Fernand Ledoux (Jock Le Guen, un cabaretier), Suzy Delair (Odette Kerouan, la maîtresse de Jock, qui passe de couche en couche), Paul Bernard (Julien de Kériadec, dit Pattes Blanches, un noble amoureux d'Odette), Michel Bouquet (Maurice, le demi-frère haineux de Julien), Arlette Thomas (Mimi, la bossue du village), Louise Sylvie (la madre di Maurice), Jean Debucourt (il giudice), Betty Daussmond (la zia di Julien), Edmond Beauchamp (il gendarme), Philippe Sergeol, Paul Barge, Madeleine Barbulée (la cugina), Geneviève Morel (Marguerite). PC: Majestic Films. Premiere: 14. aprile 1949. 35 mm. 103’. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. Friday 29 July 2012, Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian / English.

Roberto Chiesi: “After 18 months of preparation, Grémillon was compelled to abandon Le Printemps de la liberté, a period film on 1848, and accepted to substitute the playwright Jean Anouilh at the head of Pattes blanches, a film that the latter had written but was forced to abandon for health reasons. The director moved the setting from the nineteenth century to the present and shoots the first outdoor scenes in ‘his’ Brittany, where the story centers around five characters: Odette, femme fatale that followed her lover Jock, a hotelier, in a village on the coast where there is a castle inhabited by the secluded Julien De Kériadec, nicknamed ‘pattes blanches’ (white spats) by the villagers. The man, who soon falls madly in love with Odette, is revered by the young hunchback servant Mimi and is hated by his step-brother Maurice (the young and feverish Michel Bouquet). Kériadec decides to sell the castle to win over Odette, but she chooses instead to marry Jock, thus guaranteeing her economic stability. Maurice persuades Odette to humiliate Kériadec, who, in a fit of rage, chases her through the mist and ends up strangling her and throwing her off a cliff.

“The dark and desperate universe of Anouilh inspires Grémillon’s imagination, as he finely crafts the features of each character, enriching them with contradictions and subtleties. In particular little Mimi, with her angelic face and a deformed body, who tries to help the wretched lord of the manor, and Odette, a more aggressive and carnal version of a femme fatale when compared to Madeleine/Mireille Balin of Gueule d’amour.

“The theme of degradation as a consequence of lustful passion also makes a return in Pattes blanches. The sick and sensual atmosphere that gathers around the exuberance and malice of Odette is rendered by Grémillon with an increasingly distressing and dark mood. The art direction of Léon Barsacq (who had collaborated with Grémillon on Lumière d’été) contributes to the already baroque dimension of this noir mélo. The castle with enormous yet desolate and empty rooms, which in the final sequence (when Kériadec plots to set the manor on fire and commit suicide) are filled with dry hay, is a prime example. The sequence of Odette’s murder is of particular visual beauty, especially the shot of Kériadec holding in his hand the veil of the woman he dropped among the rocks.” Roberto Chiesi

AA: A tragedy. A strange movie about the poisoned atmosphere of a Breton seaside village which has been dominated by the Kériadec castle, now about to be closed down. The innkeeper Jock (Fernand Ledoux) marries his mistress Odette (Suzy Delair). The barmaid Mimi (Arlette Thomas) idolizes the dreamy, estranged master of the castle Julien (Paul Bernard), called Pattes Blanches. Idly spending his hours in the hills and in the bar is Maurice (Michel Bouquet, for me unrecognizable here in one of his earliest film roles). The atmosphere is so dark and bitter that it is hard for me to relate to the story and to connect with any of the characters. Yet there is a lot to admire. There is a powerful visual concept in the movie. The cinematogaphy and the topography are constantly exciting. Grémillon's sense of atmosphere and composition are magnificent. The actors and the performances are original and memorable. Pattes Blanches is yet another example of cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding. The climax of the movie is Jock and Odette's wedding party which Maurice and Julien are not attending. Maurice seduces Odette to leave the party, and during a violent showdown at night, Julien strangles Odette to death and lets her fall down from the cliff.

A Hundred Years Ago: 1912: Programme 7: Current Affairs and Fashion

Cento anni fa: 1912: Programma 7: attualità e moda
Friday 29 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian and English. Grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau.
Programme and notes by Mariann Lewinsky

“A tour in fog – we all know the experience. It goes like this: we are on a coach trip through a famous beauty spot, in fog; and the guide tells us what we could see if there were no fog. Or, the lecture begins and on the screen we see no signal and, after some fruitless to-ing and fro-ing, we hear a series of explanations of what we would have seen, had there been something to see. Recognising ‘fog tours’ for what they are is a good thing. “Ah, more fog.” and our irritation dissolves into a relaxed giggle.

“Earlier, at the time of the Scènes d’actualités reconstitués, the death of Pope Leo XIII (1903), an attempt on the life of minister Plèhve (1904) and the battle of Tsushima (1905) could be put into pictures beautifully, but around 1910, with the advent of the newsreel, ‘fog tours’ became a routine procedure for cinema reportage. What is announced in the film’s title is not seen in the film: no “Peace Negotiations at Ouchy” but a shot of the Turkish and Italian delegates in front of a building; no “Sinking of the Titanic” but Jack Binns, radio operator of the passenger steamer Republic, which had been rammed in 1909 by another ship (in thick fog) just outside New York.

“Audiences are far better served by fiction films. For fiction show disasters – shipwrecks, battles, fires –in detail and great splendour, and manages even to make visible something invisible: the mental state of people in extreme situations. It is striking how quickly – in comparison with today – current affairs of 1912 became the subjects of fiction films, probably thanks to the short production schedules. Within a year of the Titanic disaster (it sank at the end of April 1912) some longish features had appeared, La Hantise by Feuillade and In Nacht und Eis by Mime Misu among them. The Mona Lisa disappeared from the Louvre on 21 August 1911, and by the time the painting turned up again at the end of 1913 the robbery had provided the basis for several films, both thrillers and comedies. And there was one item of current affairs that was always in comedy’s firing line: fashion. Fashion today is, unfortunately, a deadly serious matter and its intrinsically comic and grotesque aspects are almost taboo, so much so that it has only occurred to a single comedian, fearless to operate beyond the pale, to expose them – he is Sacha Baron Cohen (in Brüno, 2009).

“In 1912 Georges Méliès shot his last film and Joris Ivens his first, Wigwam, a home movie western, inspired by the Wild West novels of Karl May (1842-1912). May is probably the most-read of all German authors, with 200 million copies in 40 languages sold around the world, and Ivens was not the only one to be nudged into creativity by his influence: the 11 year-old Othmar Schoeck would base his first opera on May’s most successful novel for young people, Der Schatz im Silbersee.

(I did not see the beginning of the show but only the following:)

MOTTRAM SHOW. GB 1912. 35 mm. 100 m 5’ at 17 fps. B&w. From: BFI National Archive. - AA: Amateur footage.

DE WIGWAM. NL 1912. D: Joris Ivens. DP: Kees Ivens. C: Dorothea Ivens, Hans Ivens,Jacoba Ivens, Joris Ivens (Flaming Arrow), Peter Ivens (Black Eagle), Theodora Ivens,Willem Ivens. 35 mm. 150 m 10’ at 16 fps. B&w. From: EYE – Film Institute Netherlands per concessione di Capi Film. Un ringraziamento a André Stufkens e European Foundation Joris Ivens. - AA: A home movie Western made by the 12 year old Joris Ivens with his family, about a white child kidnapped by an Indian. A duped quality in this print.

ORPHANS OF THE PLAIN / ORPHELINS DE LA PLAINE. US 1912. C: George Gebhardt, Baby Violet. PC: Amerikan Kinema / Pathé. 35 mm. 225 m. 12’ at 18 fps. B&w. French and English intertitles. From: La Cinémathèque française, printed in 1999 from a nitrate negative. - AA: Indians attack a covered wagon and kill everybody but a girl child. She is taken to the Indian camp where she befriends an Indian boy, whose parents have been killed by cowboys. Impressive long shots with the Indians riding down the hill. A fine print.

LA HANTISE [The Haunting / The Obsession]. FR 1912. D: Louis Feuillade. C: Renée Carl (Mme Trévoux), René Navarre (Jean Trévoux), Miss Édith (la chiromante), Henri Jullien (il padrino di Mme Trévoux), Le Petit Mathier (Trévoux figlio). PC: Gaumont. 35 mm. 510 m (incompleto). 26’ at 18 fps. Col. Didascalie francesi / French intertitles. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. - AA: A clairvoyant's prophecy to the woman is that one of her loved ones will cause the death of the other one. Her husband boards the Titanic, and her son falls fatally ill when they hear of the catastrophe. But the husband is saved... The audience laughed at the miniature effects of the Titanic shipwreck. Otherwise, there is a cool, clean, effective sense of composition in the movie. Struck from a colour print, there is a charming original colour world in the print.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

La Tête d'un homme / [A Man's Head]

Il delitto della villa. FR 1933. D: Julien Duvivier. Based on the novel by Georges Simenon, in Finnish Maigret ja mies Seinen rannalta. SC: Pierre Calmann, Louis Delaprée, Julien Duvivier. DP: Armand Thirard - 1,2:1. ED: Marthe Poncin. S: Marcel Courmes. M: Jacques Dallin. Song “Complainte”, lyrics Julien Duvivier, sung by Missia. C: Harry Baur [Harry-Baur in the credits] (il commissario Maigret), Valéry Inkijinoff (Radek), Alexandre Rignault (Joseph Heurtin), Gaston Jacquet (Willy Ferrière), Louis Gauthier (il giudice), Henri Échourin (ispettore Ménard), Marcel Bourdel (ispettore Janvier), Gina Manes (Edna Reichberg), Frédéric Munié (l’avvocato), Armand Numès (direttore della polizia), Missia (la chanteuse des rues). PC: Les Films Marcel Vandal et Charles Delac. Premiere: 18 febbraio 1933. 35 mm. 98’. CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. Thursday 28 July 2012, Cinema Arlecchino (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian / English.

Roberto Chiesi: “Georges Simenon was disappointed by the first films based on his novels, La Nuit du carrefour (1932) by Jean Renoir (now considered a masterpiece) and Le Chien jaune (1932) by Jean Tarride. As a result, he decided to write the adaptation for and even direct himself the film version of La Tête d’un homme (published in 1931). As actors, he chose Pierre Renoir (who had played Renoir’s Maigret) and Valéry Inkijinoff, a Russian actor recently emigrated to France. After a financial mishap, Simenon backed away from the project, and the producers proposed it to Julien Duvivier who tapped Inkijinoff for the role of Radek. For the role of the detective he insisted on Harry Baur, whom he had already directed in David Golder (1931), Les Cinq gentleman maudits (1931) and Poil de carotte (1932)."

"Chronicling a police investigation, the novel depicts a duel between two opposing characters: the diabolical Radek, a Czech immigrant student, mastermind of the ‘perfect murder’ for a third party, who has an incurable disease and wants to subvert the law, and Maigret. Radek’s misanthropy and cynicism provided the ideal raw material for Duvivier’s noir inspiration. He drastically modified the story’s structure to focus on its psychological elements and mood, intentionally emphasizing Dostoevskian references. “The starting point of this novel worried me. In Simenon’s book, a policeman allows a death row inmate to escape. […] Obviously in a novel the author can create implausible situations, but in film the director is bound by some norms and conventions. I thought it would be risky to base an entire drama on such a debatable basis. So I posed the scenario to the authorities, who demonstrated to me how such a plan would be, frankly, impossible to carry out. In order to work, it would require that the perpetrator corrupt around thirty officials who are, as is widely known, completely incorruptible”. (“Cinémonde”, n. 225, February 9, 1933). Duvivier chose to reveal to the public both the killer and the person who ordered the hit in the beginning, shifting the dramatic focus to the verbal jousting between Radek and Maigret and to their respective disenchantments that square off in an oppressive and corrupt environment. This climate is exacerbated by the claustrophobic and occasional expressionist camera takes, often close-ups of the faces and expressions of characters. The use of sound is particularly original, especially in the sequence when the falsely accused man is grilled during a car ride and the audience never sees the characters who are speaking, but only the scenery unfolding around them. The words of the song Complainte were written by Duvivier himself.” Roberto Chiesi

AA: The title of the novel and the movie, "A Man's Head" in direct translation, means that a man's head is at stake. The image in the credit sequence is that of a guillotine. "Usually there is no room for pity. Now there is". A dumb man has been framed for the perfect crime, but as soon as Maigret (Harry Baur) enters the crime scene he states that it's "too good to be true". Soon he tracks down Radek (Inkijinoff), the contract killer who has hired the subcontractor to be the culprit. And if you follow the money, tracking down who's benefiting from the murder of the rich old lady, it's easy to find Joseph Heurtin. His girlfriend Edna Reichberg (Gina Manes) is also aware of what's going on.

While La Tête d'un homme is not a very successful movie, it is full of exciting elements that would be more fully developed later in the French cinema of the 1930s. Harry Baur creates an impressive, charismatic, moody Maigret. I agree with Roberto Chiesi about the Dostoyevskian dimension of La Tête d'un homme. There are aspects of Porfiri and Raskolnikov in the meetings of Maigret with Radek. The theme song, lyrics written by Duvivier himself, is memorable ("tout est brune, tout est grise"), sung by a dark-voiced, fatalistic street singer, Missia, fulfilling the same function as Frehel in Pépé le Moko.

Georges Simenon's novels and movies based on them are pessimistic, and La Tête d'un homme is the grimmest and darkest Simenon movie I have seen. The Frenchmen had their own powerful trend of film noir in the 1930s. In La Tête d'un homme the dark and fatalistic mood is combined with an approach of street realism. There is no romanticism in the account of poverty and hopelessness. The nadir is the nest of vice where we finally meet the so far unseen street singer. After visiting it Radek tries to rape Edna.

The soundtrack is full of noise, which is why in this movie electronic subtitles are especially welcome. The noisiness of the soundtrack becomes even irritating occasionally.

There is a slow, deliberate rhythm in the movie. The pans and the tracking shots are assured. Visually, the keyword is crépuscule, twilight. There is sometimes a visual affinity with Dreyer's Vampyr.

The visual quality of the print is often good, but it may have been struck from challenging sources.

Sailor's Luck

Marinai a terra. US © 1933 Fox Film Corporation. D: Raoul Walsh. Story: Bert Hanlon. SC: Charlotte Miller, Marguerite Roberts. DP: Arthur C. Miller. ED: Jack Murray. AD: Joseph C. Wright. M: Samuel Kaylin. S: George Leverett. C: James Dunn (Jimmy Harrigan), Sally Eilers (Sally Brent), Victor Jory (barone Potrillo), Sammy Cohen (Barnacle Benny), Frank Moran (Bilge), Esther Muir (Minnie Broadhurst), Will Stanton (J. Felix Hemingway), Armand ‘Curley’ Wright (Angelo), Jerry Mandy (Rico), Lucien Littlefield (Elmer Brown), Buster Phelps (Elmer Brown Jr ). Premiere: 17 marzo 1933. 35 mm. 79’. B&w. From: Twentieth Century Fox. Thursday 28 July 2012, Cinema Arlecchino (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti.

Dave Kehr: “Walsh followed the freewheeling Me and My Gal with this more tightly structured but no less rambunctious comedy, a study in controlled chaos in which an improvisatory tone masks a careful development of the central romantic relationship and a shrewdly calibrated use of deep-focus space. The film carries over several character actors from the previous film – including broken-nosed Frank Moran repeating his role as a man of the sea with surprising intellectual inclinations – and places them in support of James Dunn and Sally Eilers, whose teaming in Frank Borzage’s Oscar-winning Bad Girl (1931) had established them as Fox’s leading star couple (a down-to-earth, Depression-era sequel to the other worldly couple formed by Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell). He’s a sailor on shore leave in a Southern California port; she’s an unemployed beauty whose figure immediately gets her a job as a swimming pool lifeguard, even though she can’t swim. Their physical attraction is immediate and mutual (was any filmmaker ever less coy about sex?), but before they can become a couple they must overcome a number of comic misunderstandings and scrapes, most of them engineered by Eilers’s oily, predatory landlord (Victor Jory), who wants her for himself. Tavernier and Coursodon are being rather prudish in 50 ans de cinéma Americain when they complain of “painful gags that take minorities as their target and manage to offend them all, from Italians to Jews passing through homosexuals”. Rather, the humour is rich in the kind of broad ethnic stereotyping that was a staple of American vaudeville (and Walsh’s youth), and which historically offered an effective way to vent and defuse ethnic tensions in immigrant America. (Suggestively, the only real villain in the film, Jory’s ‘Baron Potrillo’, hides behind a made-up ethnicity and a phony aristocratic title ) The film climaxes with a fight scene in a dance hall scarcely less epic than the battle sequences in What Price Glory, and just as superbly rendered in terms of colliding waves of force.” Dave Kehr

AA: A lightweight farce about sailors ashore in California and Sally (Sally Brent) struggling to survive in a world where all men are predators. Also Jimmy (James Dunn) behaves like a moron and a brute of the worst kind, jealous, short-tempered, bullying, violent. There is a funny running gag with shades up and shades down. In the conclusion Jimmy seems to have understood how dumb he has been, and the final "shades up, shades down" takes place at the cab where Sally draws the shades down. The print is good.

Die Weber / The Weavers [2012 digital restoration with music by Johannes Kalitzke]

DE 1927. D: Friedrich Zelnik. Based on the play by Gerhart Hauptmann. C: Fanny Carlsen, Willy Haas. DP: Frederik Fuglsang, Friedrich Weinmann. AD: Andrej Andrejew. Co : George Grosz. C: Paul Wegener (Dreissiger), Valeska Stock (Signora Dreissiger), Hermann Picha (Baumert), Hertha von Walther (Emma Baumert), Kamilla von Hollay (Bertha Baumert), Arthur Kraussneck (Hilse), Hans Heinrich von Twardowski (Gottlieb Hilse), Dagny Servaes (Luise Hilse). PC: Zelnik-Film. Premiere: 14 maggio 1927. M: Johannes Kalitzke (2012). HD Cam. 97’. B&w. From: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung. Thursday 28 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian and English. Introduced by Ernst Szebedits and Anke Wilkening (FWMS).

Anke Wilkening: “The adaptation of Gerhart Hauptmann`s drama Die Weber (The Weavers) was the most ambitious project of Friedrich Zelnik, an old hand at directing entertainment films. When Hauptmann released his play on the mid-19th century’s weaver riots in 1892, it was perceived as the first drama without individual heroes. This conceived it an ideal source for a German revolution film. The careful adaptation by Fanny Carlsen and Willy Haas aimed at “mirroring the processes of the masses in the individual” (Willy Haas).

“George Grosz was responsible for makeup and costumes. Whereas the intertitle’s style is still expressionistic, the editing and mise en scène are influenced by Ejzenštejn and Pudovkin and render the film an example for German filmmakers’ adaption of contemporary Russian cinema."

"The digital restoration by Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden, bases on three contemporary distribution prints from Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF, EYE – Film Institute Netherlands, and Cinémathèque Suisse. The elements were scanned at 2K resolution and the digital image restoration was carried out in HD. Johannes Kalitzke’s orchestra score (2012) combines parodistic and genre typical elements like march or worker’s hymns with electronic sounds of weaving machines. The 2012 edition of Die Weber is a coproduction of Friedrich-WilhelmMurnau-Stiftung, Theater Augsburg, and ZDF in collaboration with ARTE.” Anke Wilkening, Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung

AA: Gerhart Hauptmann dedicated his play to his father Robert Hauptmann, and the tragic drama seems to be based on family tradition. It is a drama about class struggle, and it is surprising to see a high budget German film the subject of which is so close to great works of the heroic era of the Soviet cinema. The film is also tragic because it shows the devastation which ensues when the crowd is debased into a mob which destroys the textile magnat's manor and proceeds to break the textile machines which threaten the traditional livelihood of the weavers. Deferential weavers refuse to participate in the revolt, but the religious grandfather gets killed by a stray bullet all the same. The film is very well made, it has a strong dynamic arc, it is visually powerful, and the epic scenes of the revolutionary crowd facing the police and the military are impressive. A special feature of the movie is the graphic design by George Grosz, starting with the animal vignettes in the opening credit sequence and continuing with the animated graphic design of the intertitles which goes further than in Metropolis: there is a 3D mobile approach to certain key sentences which become moving lettrist vignettes. The new modernist score might be worthy listening in its own right in a concert hall, but it has no connection at all with the movie, even missing all auditive cues such as the central motif of the storm bells. From the back row of Sala Mastroianni the visual quality looks good, clear and clean, but whether it might be slightly airless was impossible to judge in these circumstances.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

La grande illusion [2011 digital restoration]

La grande illusione. FR 1937. D: Jean Renoir. SC+dial.: Jean Renoir, Charles Spaak. DP: Christian Matras. ED: Marguerite Renoir. AD: Eugène Lourié. M: Joseph Kosma. S: Joseph De Bretagne. C: Jean Gabin (tenente Maréchal), Dita Parlo (Elsa), Pierre Fresnay (capitano Boeldieu), Erich von Stroheim (capitano von Rauffenstein), Marcel Dalio (tenente Rosenthal), Julien Carette (Cartier), Jacques Becker (ufficiale inglese), Georges Péclet (il fabbro), Werner Florian (sergente Arthur), Jean Dasté (il maestro), Sylvain Itkine (tenente Demolder), Gaston Modot (l’ingegnere). PC: Réalisation d’Art Cinématographique (R A C ). Premiere: 4. giugno 1937. 2K DCP. 114’. B&w. From: Studiocanal e Cinémathèque de Toulouse. Restored in 4K by Studiocanal and Cinémathèque de Toulouse at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in 2011. Wednesday 27 July 2012, Piazza Maggiore (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian / English. Introduced by Béatrice Valbin (Studiocanal) and Natacha Laurent (Cinémathèque de Toulouse).

André Bazin: “It is its ‘realism’ that has kept La grande illusion eternally youthful. Realism is most evident in the film’s multiple languages. Long before neorealism, Renoir based his film on the genuineness of human relationships through dialogue. While realism defines the film, so does the authenticity of human relationships, or rather their truthfulness. This is demonstrated in his characters – such as the English prisoners and the German guards: not simply extras, but not quite protagonists – who Renoir was able to masterfully sketch, infusing them with extraordinary humanity. His realism is less apparent in the main characters who, while never becoming completely ‘symbolic’, are nevertheless bound by the dramatic needs of the screenplay. It is invention rather than mere documentary reproduction. Realism is also applied to the camera takes, which never separate the central dramatic subject from the environment in which it is situated.” André Bazin, Réalisme et génie de Renoir, “Radio-Cinéma-Télévision”, n. 459, November 2, 1958

Natacha Laurent: “The original camera negative of La Grande illusion plays a central role in the history of the collections of the Cinémathèque de Toulouse. First, because it is a seminal work among the world heritage of motion pictures with a profoundly European theme. Second, because, together with French Cancan, it was the only film to provide Jean Renoir with both critical acclaim and commercial success. But the journey of this original camera negative, which made it to the Cinémathèque de Toulouse, illustrates both the uncertainties involved in film preservation and the special relationship between this archive and Russia.

“Gosfilmofond’s decision to donate the original nitrate base of the film to the Cinémathèque de Toulouse evolved as part of a collaboration between the two archives which began in the Sixties, and has solidified over time. Raymond Borde, founder of the Cinémathèque de Toulouse, upon joining the Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF) in 1965 decided to get in touch with his counterpart in Moscow (first Viktor Privato, then Vladimir Dmitriev). This was the beginning of an exceptional partnership based on mutual trust, passion for film, and a shared conception of film archiving.

“It is within this context of the exchange of information, documents, and experiences that the original camera negative of the Jean Renoir movie became a part of the collection of the Cinémathèque de Toulouse.

“But where, and under what circumstances, did Gosfilmofond, officially founded in 1948, find this prized item that Jean Renoir had searched for in vain his whole life?

“When the Red Army entered Berlin in 1945, they took as war trophies a number of works of art, and especially films, stored at the Reichsfilmarchiv. These ‘film-trophies’, as the Soviets called them, were taken to the Soviet Union on such a large scale that they were one of the main reasons the Gosfilmofond was established. Among these prizes, together with American, German, and French titles – negatives, intermediate works, various positives – was also the original camera negative of La Grande illusion, which the Germans had taken from Paris in 1940 and brought to Berlin.

“Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Toulouse: the incredible journey taken by this original camera negative over forty years is a reminder of the political weight that film has always had. But it also demonstrates that international collaboration is essential to the behind-the-scenes work performed by archives to save films.” Natacha Laurent, Cinémathèque de Toulouse

AA: Revisited the first half an hour of Jean Renoir's masterpiece. In it he showed his prowess as a maker of well-made popular cinema while never compromising his artistic standards. Deeply autobiographical and full of life. No matter how often one sees this movie it always manages to surprise with its richness. I came to the night screening to witness the glorious new restoration which was screened in 2K. It is impeccably sharp, clean and intact and perfect in every detail. It would be an excellent demonstration to show this in 4K with a print of the photochemical restoration that was performed ca. 10 years ago. I would watch at the atmosphere, whether the increased sharpness has been achieved at the price of airlessness. But for a young viewer watching La grande illusion for the first time this restoration is anyway a great way to see it.

Meghe dhaka tara / The Cloud-Capped Star [2012 digital restoration]

La stella nascosta. IN 1960. D: Ritwik Ghatak. Based on a story by Shaktipada Rajguru. SC: Ritwik Ghatak. DP: Dinen Gupta. ED: Ramesh Joshi. M: Jyotirindra Maitra. C: Supriya Chowdhury (Nita), Anil Chatterjee (Shankar), Bijan Bhattacharya (Taran, il padre), Gita Dey (la madre), Gita Ghatak (Gita), Dwiju Bhawal (Mantu, il fratello), Niranjan Roy (Sanat). PC: Chitrakalpa. Premiere: 14. aprile 1960. 2K DCP. 126’. B&w. In Bengalese. From: National Film Archive of India. Wednesday 27 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). English subtitles on the DCP.

The restoration was carried out by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine. Ritrovata film laboratory in 2012. It was based on the original camera negatives, original sound negative and a combined dupe positive coming from the National Film Archive of India.

Ritwik Ghatak: “The language of film is universal and deeply national all at once. That is to say that these two dimensions must be made one by drawing on the symbols and archetypes of our country. […] It is the reason why, yes, I am obviously inspired by a few foreign models. The great masters should be stolen from, what is universal as well. A certain amount of assimilation, another of synthesis, that’s what this search is made of. We tried to create a movement. But we were just individuals, like many solitary birds. At the time, the country’s situation made any unified movement impossible. I felt things in my own way; everyone else in theirs, and nevertheless there was always this one, common search.

“Every artist has the duty to preserve his capacity to be surprised, to be internally vigilant and eternally virgin. Without this ability, it will be impossible for him to achieve great things. The subtle secret concealed in every act of creation basically consists in pausing to observe every single thing, in capturing it in a silent wonder, in being enchanted by a passing object, or giving in to pleasure’s totality, and then after a long time, once the calm has returned, in uprooting this intimate feeling from within one’s own spirit, giving it form, and breathing life into it. In one way or another, every artist manages to carry his childhood with him, keeps it in his pocket into adulthood. If it eludes him, he is nothing more than a fogey; he ceases to be an artist and becomes a theorist. Childhood is an extremely fragile state of mind, a state of folding in on oneself, like those wild yet delicate plants that wither at the slightest touch. Childhood crumbles, withers and loses its energy with the crude touch of the everyday. Every artist has had this experience.” Ritwik Ghatak

Raymond Bellour: “Add the oblique lines, trees, river banks, the train, which seem to lose their balance due to the tension between empty and full. Add the song, its surges, its subtle plains, its falls and sudden rises, the train noise that cuts through it, dividing and accelerating the rhythm. Add Shankar’s spasmodic gestures. The slow variation of Nita’s movements. Then you have an image in which, in three very simple shots, Ghatak creates a modulation fed by collisions and conflicts, here still contained, and a formal imbalance in every moment, like an echo of the historical and personal imbalance that creates the melodramatic backdrop to all his films: the partition of Bengal.” Raymond Bellour

AA: I had planned to see this masterpiece by Ritwik Ghatak, but it overlapped with Remorques, and while trying to focus on Meghe dhaka tara I was still so overwhelmed by Remorques that after fifteen minutes I gave up. I managed to get an impression of the beautiful digital restoration and the high quality of the image as seen from the back row of Sala Mastroianni.

Remorques / Stormy Waters

Tempesta. FR 1939-41. D: Jean Grémillon. Based on the novel by Roger Vercel. SC: Jacques Prévert, André Cayatte, Roger Vercel, Charles Spaak. DP: Armand Thirard. ED: Yvonne Martin. AD: Alexandre Trauner. M: Roland Manuel. S: Joseph de Bretagne. C: Jean Gabin (il capitano André Laurent), Madeleine Renaud (Yvonne Laurent), Michèle Morgan (Catherine), Charles Blavette (Tanguy), Jean Marchat (Marc), Nane Germon (Renée Tanguy), René Bergeron (Georges), Henri Poupon (dottor Maulette), Anne Laurens (Marie Poubennec), Marcel Duhamel (Pierre Poubennec), Henri Pons (Roger), Sinoël (l’armatore), Fernand Ledoux (Kerlo), Alain Cuny (marinaio del Mirva), Jean Dasté, Marcel Pérès. PC: SEDIF. Premiere: 27. novembre 1941. 35 mm. 85’. B&w. From: Cinémathèque de Toulouse per concessione di MK2. Wednesday 27 July 2012, Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian / English. Introduced by Paul Vecchiali.

Paul Vecchiali:  “What could be simpler than the story of the sailor André Laurent, the owner of a tugboat who divides his life between the sea and his wife, the delicate Yvonne? And what could be more insipid than a couple splitting up out of weariness? What could be more banal than an affair? Yes, André encounters Catherine, brought in by a storm after being trapped on a ship in distress, and everything begins to fall apart. But fate dictates: Yvonne dies, Catherine departs. From the water’s bright reflections, to the final spells that lure André toward his boat to go back out to sea and save more ships, the film, take after take, continues to evoke deep emotions. It beats like a heart, albeit a tired one, worn out to the point of no longer being able to perform its basic functions. Just like Yvonne’s. […] "

“Remorques is a love film about Love. Deep, violent, raw. Emotions are expressed head-on, with the only exception being a sarcastic poem that questions and criticizes unhappiness. Not far off in the background a sort of lyrical opera where the Parable introduced vibrates, clearly supported by music and articulated around an original theme: the Summoning. The film opens with flare: lights quiver on the water, everything is calm. […] The sailor has two women. One, he nurses and protects. The other, is the Sea, busy and demanding. One waits, one can’t wait. The sailor lives between the two women, held back by one, summoned by the other. The ‘summoning’ therefore is represented by the sea, which also represents his potential livelihood (nothing is ever simple in the work of Grémillon). To go to the sea means assuring the livelihood of one woman, while betraying her with the other. And Catherine, in fact, comes from the sea. From the sea and from hell. When she decides to leave both the ship and her husband, a siren rings timed perfectly with the action […]. While the Sea, Hell, and Catherine call to Gabin, death claims Madeleine Renaud. The exemplary couple is torn between these representations: Sea, Death, Love, a trilogy that epitomizes contradictions. The Sea, a source of Life. Death, the dark side of Life. Love that nurtures and generates Life… the references […] relate to both sound and images: violent and painful backlit shots where water mixes with fire. The lighting on Morgan’s face and her smile during a flash of thunderbolt where exasperated beauty is threatened… the sound of heels walking in an empty villa… a phone ringing… all are a sort of heralding music that does not depend on Fate but rather signals a muted but savagely destructive tragedy. There is a spectacular contrast between the mythical Gabin-Morgan, the Siren, the Sailor, and the everyday.” Paul Vecchiali, L’Encinéclopédie. Cinéastes ‘français’ des années 1930 et leur oeuvre, Éditions de l’oeil, Montreuil 2010

AA: A tragedy based on the conflict between love and duty, or, "les affaires et les sentiments". The captain André Laurent (Jean Gabin) has found his soulmate in his wife Yvonne (Madeleine Renaud), but Yvonne is very unhappy in the sea town of Brest with its rainstorms. Yvonne's heart is weak, and she is having heart attacks. As the captain of the tugboat Cyclone that rescues boats from the storm André gets to see tragedy constantly, and he has often witnessed insurance fraud when callous captains and ship owners let ships get wrecked on purpose. From one such boat André rescues Catherine (Michèle Morgan), another potential soulmate. The dialogue is superb. "When two people are silent they have a lot to say". "In this house there are only bad doors". "No one can understand what goes on between two people". "You were smiling. You had a sparkle in your eyes. What's going on?". "This is my S.O.S." "Unhappy people easily recognize each other". Yvonne hates thunderstorms, but Catherine loves them. Catherine loves ghost movies, and she may be a ghost from the sea, herself, an impersonation of the lure of the sea. André and Catherine's walk on the beach, and Catherine's discovery of the stranded starfish are at the poetic center of the movie. Yvonne dies of her final heart attack (heartbreak), there is a requiem, the shocked André embarks on another rescue mission into the stormy sea, and his ship vanishes into the darkness. I am not bothered by the modest quality of the special effects and the miniatures. The cinematography is masterful, with a powerful sense of composition and definition of light. Although there is sometimes slight unevenness in the visual quality and briefly a duped quality, mostly this is a brilliant print.

Joriku dai-ippo / First Steps Ashore

First Move on Landing [the English title on the print]. [Primi passi sulla terraferma]. JP 1932. D: Yasujiro Shimazu. SC: Komatsu Kitamura. DP: Bunjiro Mizutani - 1,2:1. M: Tetsuo Takashina. S: Haruo Tsuchihashi, Tetsuo Tsuchihashi. C: Yaeko Mizutani (la donna al porto), Joji Oka (Tasaka, il fuochista), Shinyo Nara (Sho, il borghese), Ureo Egawa (Shige), Reikichi Kawamura (Nozawar, lo steward), Choko Iida (Ochiyo, la governante), Mitsuko Yoshikawa (la signora del bar), Ranko Sawa (l’amante di Sho), Shintaro Takiguchi (Tomura, il magazziniere), Sotaro Okada (il detective). PC: Shochiku (Kamata). 35 mm. 88’ at 24 fps. B&w. English subtitles. From: National Film Center – The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Wednesday 27 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian. Introduced by Alexander Jacoby.

Alexander Jacoby & Johan Nordström: “Though little known in the West, Yasujiro Shimazu is a key figure in prewar Japanese cinema, and one of the pioneers of the gendai-geki (film of contemporary life). In the 1920s, working at Shochiku’s Tokyo studio in Kamata, he began, with the encouragement of studio head Shiro Kido, to realize light comedies with contemporary settings, among them Chichi (Father, 1923) and Nichiyobi (Sunday, 1924). These films prefigured the shomin-geki, the drama of the lower middle classes, which was to become Shochiku’s speciality and to which such directors as Yasujiro Ozu, Mikio Naruse and Keisuke Kinoshita were to make distinguished contributions."

"The story of a sailor who begins a love affair with a woman he saves from suicide, First Steps Ashore was Shochiku’s second sound film and Shimazu’s first. It is a reworking of Josef von Sternberg’s silent classic The Docks of New York (1928) transplanted to the waterfront of Japan’s cosmopolitan port city, Yokohama. Sternberg’s film had been named the best foreign film to be released in Japan in 1929 by the country’s leading film magazine, “Kinema Junpo”, and it had already been adapted for the Japanese stage in 1931 as a shinpa play. The same scenario writer, Komatsu Kitamura, worked on both the stage play and the film, and both starred the same actress, Yaeko Mizutani. As Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano observes, “In the process of adapting the film from silent to sound […] the filmmaker not only added words, but also used the shinpa theatrical influence – most evident in Mizutani’s acting and elocution – to ‘Japanize’ the script”. The film took joint sixth place in the “Kinema Junpo” Best Ten for that year. Shimazu was to work prolifically at Shochiku and then Toho up to his death from stomach cancer in 1945. Among his later sound films, he produced literary adaptations such as Okoto to Sasuke (Okoto and Sasuke, 1935), based on Junichiro Tanizaki, and realist dramas such as Tonari no Yae-chan (Our Neighbour Miss Yae, 1934) and Ani to sono imoto (An Older Brother and His Younger Sister, 1939). Despite his early death, he was a crucial influence on postwar Japanese film: Heinosuke Gosho, Yuzo Kawashima, Keisuke Kinoshita, Senkichi Taniguchi, Shiro Toyoda, and Kozaburo Yoshimura all served as his assistants, and he was a key figure in the development of a generic tradition central to Japanese film art.” Alexander Jacoby & Johan Nordström

AA: Joriku dai-ippo and The Docks of New York would make an interesting double bill. The lyrical, atmospheric shots are interspersed with rapid montage and powerful scenes such as that of the ship's boiler room. The movie is slow and moody, and there are long pans and tracking shots. The intensity is lower than in Sternberg's movie. I watched until the sequence where the harbour lady is saved from drowning. The visual quality of the print gets fine after the unsteadiness in the beginning.

Komedie om geld [restored by EYE Film Instituut Nederland]

Gli scherzi del denaro / The Trouble With Money. NL 1936. D: Max Ophüls. Story: Walter Schlee. SC: Walter Schlee, Max Ophüls, Alex de Haas. DP: Eugen Schüfftan. ED: Gérard Bensdorp.  AD: Heinz Fenschel, Theo Van der Lugt, Jan Wiegers. M: Max Tak. S: I. J. Citroen. C: Herman Bouber (Brand), Matthieu van Eysden (Ferdinand), Rini Otte (Willy), Cor Ruys (Moorman), Edwin Gubbins Doorenbos (Verteller). PC: Will Tuschinski-Cinetone. Premiere: 30 ottobre 1936. 35 mm. 81’. B&w. Restored by EYE Film Instituut Nederland. Wednesday 27 July 2012, Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). English subtitles, E-subtitles in Italian.

Peter von Bagh: “During his vagrant career in the 1930s Max Ophuls directed films not only in Germany and France but also in Italy and Holland (one film in each country). Komedie om Geld is the Dutch rarity, a film that hardly got any distribution but that has a place among a captivating little group of movies that seemed to challenge the Hollywood mode of narrative: Friedrich Feher’s The Robber Symphony, the Czech films of Voskovec and Werich, certain Soviet films, You and Me by Fritz Lang and Kurt Weill. Ophuls’ film was the greatest of this harvest, being clearly an outgrowth of Three Penny Opera tradition, and showing the director’s personal touch by including a ‘master of ceremonies’, like the memorable figures he created later for La Ronde and Lola Montès.

“The film has a poignant sense of locale (Amsterdam’s canals were filmed as only Eugen Schüfftan could) and at the same time a rare sense of universality, being all about the common denominator of money, although ironically. The story as such is a trifle: a modest man loses a briefcase and 50,000 florins and seems doomed socially. Yet the dramaturgical web born out of almost nothing – one of Ophuls’ beloved habits – grows into a complex vision of social roles, always deceptive, and the only certainty is money, that turns everybody into a thief. Ophuls gives that theme a creative angle as well: “It is never about money – it is about believing that there is money”. It was the golden decade of fakes and gigantic financial swindles, all that grotesque overkill born from the depths of social structures. Property is either (or both) illusion and theft, the social network is all a delusion. It’s a vision of capitalism with feet of clay, wisely witnessed from the point of view of a small decent people and a small country.” Peter von Bagh

AA: A witty, spirited satire, one of the rare purely Brechtian movies, with Verfremdung and entertainment. The satire about the financial world is entirely topical. "It's about making people believe that there is money", says the bank director who employs Brand believing he actually has stolen the 50.000 that he has lost from his bank runner's pouch. Brand's task is real estate developing, but problems start with his honest purpose to build affordable houses which are well built. The scene where he tests good and bad bricks, and the bad ones break to pieces, brings to mind Kurosawa's High and Low where the shoe king tests shoes. Brand gets wealthy, and that's when he starts to yell at his daughter. He hires a butler who is more refined than he is. "A good butler is like a bad radio. Switch it on, and he's silent." The camera movement is eloquent, and there is a deft use of the ellipse. An excellent restoration from EYE Film Instituut Nederland.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tess [2012 digital restoration]

FR/GB 1979. D: Roman Polanski. Based on the novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles di Thomas Hardy. SC: Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn. DP: Geoffrey Unsworth, Ghislain Cloquet. ED: Alastair McIntyre, Tom Priestley. AD: Pierre Guffroy. M: Phillipe Sarde. S: Jean-Pierre Ruh. C: Nastassja Kinski (Tess), John Collin (John Durbeyfield), Tony Church (pastore Tringham), Peter Firth (Angel Clare), John Bett (Felix Clare), Tom Chadbon (Cuthbert Clare), Rosemary Martin (Mrs. Durbeyfield), Leight Lawson (Alec d’Urberville). PC: Claude Berri per Renn Productions, Timothy Burrill Productions, Société Française de Production. Premiere: 25 ottobre 1979. DCP. 171’. Versione inglese / English version. From: Pathé Restaurato da / Restored by Pathé, presso Gruppo Eclair, L E. Diapason. Tuesday 26 July 2012, Piazza Maggiore (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian. Presented by Jérôme Seydoux.

The catalogue: "The restored print was created by digitalizing the negative image in 4K. Preliminary tests in 2K and 4K revealed that only 4K digitalization would be able to translate the contours of the image, the refined skin tones and the light and wonderfully diffuse glow of films from the time, obtained through the filters used by the film’s two directors of photography, Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet."

"Sound restoration was carried out by L E. Diapason. Tess was one of the first films to use Dolby Stereo, the format that would revolutionize cinema by introducing multichannel sound to the majority of theaters. Although it is likely that the sound was mixed using equipment poorly adapted to multichannel sound, the film’s soundtrack was already exploring the possibilities offered by the format, mainly in terms of the lavish treatment of music and the extraordinary work carried out on the atmosphere which offers a rare depth and quality."

Roman Polanski / Harlan Kennedy: “I have been influenced a great deal by surrealism and the theater of the absurd”, Polanski said. “But now that the world itself has become absurd and almost surreal, I want to go back to the simplicity and essence of human relationships. [...] Tess is above all a great love story [...] What happens to Tess in the story is very much the raw-bones of Victorian melodrama: she is seduced when young, bears a child who dies, is deserted by the man she later marries, and finally is sent to the gallows for the murder of her seducer. But the flesh Hardy puts on those bones is astonishing. He links the girl to the rhythm of nature, within a Victorian society at odds with everything spontaneous and natural. [...] Tess is regeneration and continuance. But the social times she lives in are out of joint. By contrasting her with her mother, Hardy points this up marvelously. [...] The contrast is all there [...]. The mother belongs to the past. Tess belongs to the present, to the modern age, to you and me. She is the first truly modern heroine. [...] Tess is a new departure. It is, as I have said, the film of my mature years. I shall be sorry if people have such a limited idea of what my style as a director is like – and my preoccupations – that they cannot accept something different from me. In the cinema, directors can be typecast as well as actors. The point will undoubtedly be raised in Cannes”.

"Tess, a French-English coproduction, will mark the first time that Hardy’s novel has talked on the screen. It was filmed once – a silent version in 1924 starring Blanche Sweet and Conrad Nagel – and after that David O. Selznick held the movie rights for many years (with Jennifer Jones in mind for Tess). [...] Polanski discovered the book some years ago through his wife, Sharon Tate, who had been suggested for the role of Tess. [...]"

"Who was to play Tess? The production took an intriguing turn when the role of Hardy’s doomed and beautiful heroine went to a young German actress: Nastassia Kinski [...]. “When I met Nastassia”, Polanski recalls, “she was fifteen, but she was a woman. Woman and child at the same time. She still has this quality, and that is perfect, of course, for Tess. [...]"

"On Tess we were really very. . improvisatory. We did a lot of filming in the twilight or half-light, and that meant rushing about with the crew, camera, and actors to catch the light at a certain moment in a certain place”. [...] “There are dangers like that with a period film [...]. The beautiful images should be only an extra; they must be the bonus. People don’t go to the cinema to see a collection of beautiful photographs. They go to experience something. The emotion is the thing."

"[...] Emotion [...] is the main thing in all art. Art has to move, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. There are many ways to move people – to tears, to laughter, to fear. I think with Tess that we’re dealing with such strong material that we mustn’t be worried about beautiful pictures. The story itself is so interesting, the girl is so moving, and the film itself is filled with universal human emotions. Tess, you must remember [...] was a pure woman. It was Hardy’s subtitle to the book. She broke Victorian moral codes, but she responded to natural law, to nature, her nature. That’s what the whole book is about. The film is an accusation of the hypocrisy and injustice of that rigid society – and by extension of any rigid and repressive society”.” Roman Polanski, in Harlan Kennedy, “Tess”: Polanski in a Hard Country, “American Film”, vol. 5, n. 1, October 1979

AA: This time I didn't sit in the front rows to check the visual quality of a new restoration in a Piazza Maggiore screening. I started by watching from the left side, far from the screen, and bright lights interfered with the experience. I moved to the back and to the right side (it was too late to find a seat in the center). In these circumstances it looked like a brilliant restoration. Certainly the close-ups and the medium shots looked great, but I was not able to be certain about the fine texture of the nature cinematography. I look forward to see this in 4K.

Cento anni fa: 1912: Programma 4: "You Were Never Lovelier." Vitagraph 1912

Tuesday 26 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Grand piano: Neil Brand. Earphone commentary in Italian and English.

Programme and notes by Mariann Lewinsky: "According to the IMDb filmography, the Vitagraph Company of America produced a total of 3,121 films between 1898 and 1925 – of which a third (1,073 titles) were in the three years from 1912 to 1914! Quantity is not everything, but I am fairly sure that most of those 1,073 would have been above average quality.

“In 1912 the general standard was high, but during my viewings in the archives of Europe it was the Vitagraph films that stood out from the rest, thanks to their consistent quality: all, even the slightest of them, were elegant, entertaining and engaging. And what is more enjoyable than a first-class piece of froth? A lost handbag, a lovers’ tiff – the plot takes its course, light-hearted and playful, and takes us along with it.

“I felt, in 2012, just as Victorin Jasset and the whole European public had done a hundred years before. Suddenly, these Vitagraph films emerged from the USA and were absolutely wonderful. But how, and why? Jasset, professional that he was, was not deceived by the appearance of naïve simplicity: “The system of the Vitagraph scenes [. ] represented, on the contrary, patient and methodical work in training the artists and lengthy observation on the part of the director. It was not achieved in a single throw. It was, on the contrary, a total submission to certain rules [. ]. This supposed simplicity was a fake. [. ] All that was, however, necessary to give the audience the total illusion of reality ”

“In his analysis, Jasset, singles out three aspects in which the Vitagraph productions differed from the rest: shot lenght (le champs de l’appareil), acting (le jeu des artistes) and plot structure (la construction des scénarios). After some explanation of these three, he unexpectedly added a fourth – which was perhaps the most decisive factor: “Their team [. ] included a few artists who were immediately noticed, became known and were demanded by the public. The periodic reappearance of these same artists was awaited and applauded.Audiences only wanted Vitagraph ” (Victorin Jasset, Étude sur la mise en scène en cinématographie, “Ciné-Journal” No. 170, 25 November 1911, p. 26).

“The Vitagraph producers made stars of their actors, and quantity did play a role in this – 250 Bunnyfinches in five years meant one film with John Bunny and Flora Finch in the cinema every week – but the quality even more so, both of directors (such as Larry Trimble and James Young) and stars.

“Their charm still works on us today: Maurice Costello, so likeable and handsome with dimples that easily match those of De Niro, Clara Kimball Young, utterly charming, and Norma Talmadge, funny and mischievous as a Belinda Longstockings (The Lady and Her Maid, 1913, not in this programme). They were never lovelier than in their first years, in the Vitagraph comedies. And American cinema has never enchanted us so intelligently. As well as all this, Vitagraph produced Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo (1911) and How a Mosquito Operates (1912). So either I am just in the first flush of love or else the Vitagraph Company of America (as it was in 1912-1914, at least) is badly underestimated.

WHEN PERSISTENCY AND OBSTINACY MEET. US 1912. C: Florence Turner (Dorothy Ellis), Maurice Costello (Henry Ford), Edith Halleran. PC: Vitagraph. 35 mm. 300 m 16’ at 17 fps. B&w. Didascalie inglesi / English intertitles. From: BFI National Archive. - AA: A comedy of exaggeration, a story bordering on harassment. Maurice Costello wants to apologize but is rejected by Florence Turner. He tries everything: he becomes an errand boy and a female impersonator and hides inside a blanket in a car. Finally they burst into laughter. Ok print.

HOW HE PAPERED THE ROOM. US 1912. C: John Bunny (Mr. Jolliwell), Flora Finch (Mrs. Jolliwell), Kate Price. PC: Vitagraph. 35 mm. 150 m 7’ at 18 fps. B&w. Didascalie inglesi / English intertitles. From: BFI National Archive. - AA: A farce in which John Bunny decides to put new wallpapers in the room himself. A large scale destruction ensues. "Send me an expert paper hanger". Ok print. - Reminds me of Oscar Wilde's final words: "Either these wallpapers or I must go".

THE HAND BAG. US 1912. Dutch title: De grote Vergissing. C: Flora Finch (Miss Amanda De Rosville), Frank Bennett (Tom), Rosemary Theby (la fidanzata di Tom). PC: Vitagraph. 35 mm. 164 m 8’ at 18 fps. B&w. Didascalie olandesi / Dutch intertitles. From: EYE Film Instituut Nederland. - AA: The story of a lost handbag. "May I bring it to you?" The woman's unrequited feeling of love.

HOW A MOSQUITO OPERATES. US 1912. D: Winsor McCay. SC: Winsor McCay. PC: Vitagraph. 35 mm. 128 m 6’ at 20 fps. B&w. From: Cinémathèque Québécoise. - AA: Winsor McCay's classic animation still makes the audience burst into laughter. This is in direct line of a development which includes Tex Avery (his "Raid Kills" commercials in the 1960s). Print ok, with scratches in the source.

THE ANARCHIST’S WIFE. US 1912. D: William V. Ranous. C: Florence Turner, Leo Delaney, Helene Costello, Mae Costello. PC: Vitagraph. 35 mm. 300 m 16’ at 17 fps. B&w. Didascalie francesi / French intertitles. From: EYE Film Instituut Nederland. - AA: A thriller. Children play and a princess saves the life of the child from a traffic calamity. A fine keyhole effect as the wife spies on the anarchists' meeting. An ingenious escape via a rope. Last minute rescue as the wife foils the plot to murder the princess via a bomb hidden inside a bouquet of flowers. Qf. Sabotage by Alfred Hitchcock (the child and the anarchist's terror plot). Print ok, duped look.

ROCK OF AGES. US 1912. C: Clara Kimball Young, Robert Gaillard, Julia Swayne Gordon, Harry T. Morey, Harry Northrup, Rosemary Theby. PC: Vitagraph. 35 mm. 320 m 16’ at 24 fps. B&w. Didascalie inglesi / English intertitles. From: BFI National Archive. - AA: A tragedy. The fisherman's daughter has talent in sculpture, and she carves a stone cross on the beach. Her talent is discovered and she receives education in the city, but her father receives a letter about "your daughter's affair with a married man". The father comes to the city and witnesses the sculptor making advances to the daughter. In fact she has resisted them. "The closed door". The lyrics to the hymn "Rock of Ages" are now seen. The daughter returns to the coast, seeking sanctuary, and walking in her sleep she wanders to the stone cross and embraces it. There are fine instances of deep focus in the movie. The print is somewhat dark. "Rock of Ages", Edison Blue Amberola, July 1913.

THE PICTURE IDOL. US 1912. D: James Young. SC: James Young. C: Clara Kimball Young (Beth Ward), Maurice Costello (Howard Hanson), Mary Maurice (Mrs Ward), Charles Eldridge (Mr. Ward), James Morrison (il fidanzato Beth), George Cooper (il compagno Howard). PC: Vitagraph. 35 mm. 291 m 15’ at 18 fps. B&w. English intertitles. From: BFI National Archive. - AA: A meta-film, a comedy, a satire. Clara Kimball Young is mesmerized by the silver screen and starts to gesticulate in exaggerated early silent cinema style. Even at school she is lost in her screen fantasies. The movie star gets fan mail from her. The headmaster reproaches her. Disillusionment follows: the movie star is a crude moron. There are gay and trans references. Ok print.