Friday, November 30, 2012

Kokuriko-zaka kara / From Up on Poppy Hill

Kukkulan tyttö, sataman poika / Flickan på kullen, pojken i hamnen. JP © 2011 Chizuru Takahashi - Tetsuro Sayama – GNDHDDT. PC: Studio Ghibli - in co-production with Nippon Television, Dentsu, Haukhodo DY Media Partners, Walt Disney Studios Japan, Mitsubishi Corporation, and Toho. P: Tetsuro Sayama, Toshio Suzuki, Chizuru Takahashi. D: Goro Miyazaki. SC: Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa - original story: Tetsuro Sayama - based on the shojo manga (1980) by Tetsuro Sayama and Chizuru Takahashi. DP: Atshshi Okui - Laboratory: Imagica Corporation, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Digital (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1. AN D: Katsuya Kondo, Kitaro Kosaka, Atsushi Yamagata, Akihito Yamashita. Key AN: Makiko Futaki, Shinji Otsuka, Takeshi Honda, Takashi Hashimoto, Hideki Hamasu, Atsuko Tanaka, Hiromasa Younebayashi, Hiroyuki Aoyama. Character designer: Katsuya Kondo. M: Satoshi Takebe. Theme song "Sayonara no natsu - Kokuriko-zaka kara" sung by Aoi Teshima. "Ue o muite aruko" (1961) sung by Kyu Sakamoto [this Japanese pop hit was famous in Finland, too, under the name "Sukiyaki", and it belonged to the repertory of many artists]. S: Koji Kasamatsu. Voice talents: Masami Nagasawa (Umi Matsuzaki), Junichi Okada (Shun Kazama), Keiko Takeshita (Hana Matsuzaki), Yuriko Ishida (Miki Hokuto), Rumi Hiiragi (Sachiko Hirokoji), Jun Fubuki (Ryoko Matsuzaki), Takashi Naito (Yoshio Onodera), Shunsuke Kazama (Shiro Mizunuma), Nao Ohmori (Akio Kazama), Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokumaru Rijicho), Haruka Shiraishi (Sora Matsuzaki), Tsubasa Kobayashi (Riku Matsuzaki), Aoi Teshima (Yuko), Goro Miyazaki (world history teacher). 91 min. Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Mökkönen / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 4, Helsinki, 30 Nov 2012.

Kokuriko = coquelicot = corn poppy. The name of the girl's family's boarding house is Coquelicot Manor.

Hayao Miyazaki: ”From Up On Poppy Hill is a fresh portrayal of young love between a teenage girl and boy who are pure and straight as an arrow."

"We set From Up On Poppy Hill around 1963, the year before the Tokyo Olympics, at the time the baby boom generation began to be called 'today’s youth'."

"It was the beginning of a new era, and also a time when something was about to be lost. Our heroine Umi, the eldest daughter of a matriarchal family, is an eleventh grader in high school. She lost her father at sea, and helps her working mother by taking care of a large family of six, including boarders. Our heroes are Shun, chief editor of the school newspaper, and Mizunuma, the student council president. These two boys strike a skeptical attitude towards society and adults. They opt to be ‘cool cats’ - ‘bad boys’ - and would never consider being friendly towards Umi - they’re too cool for that."

"As the boys look to the future, Umi also gazes out at the distant horizon, awaiting the return of her lost father. Every day she hoists signal flags from the garden of an old mansion on the hill that overlooks Yokohama harbor. The nautical signal flags she raises show the letters U and W ('Safe Travels'). A tugboat that frequently passes below the hill raises a return signal flag. It has become a daily morning routine. One morning, the tugboat raises a different signal."

"Its flags read U W M E R, with a pennant for thanks. Mer is the French word for 'sea', and Umi means 'sea' in Japanese.

A wistful, gentle anime on teenage love. The obstacle: the boy discovers evidence that he and the girl he loves share the same father. But digging deeper, it turns out otherwise.

Finnish critics were not ecstatic, but I found a lot to like in this movie: - The visual motif of the naval signal flags - The sense of the Japanese being a sea-faring nation, with a stoical endurance of the destiny facing the sublime forces of nature (a basic Studio Ghibli theme expressed here in a novel way) - The stoical character of the protagonists, something with which a Finnish viewer can identify, because there is an affinity with the Finnish quality of sisu (endurance against all odds) - The great key sequences with the work party for renovating the cultural house called Quartier Latin are an excellent instance of what we in Finnish call talkoot (the word comes from Russian: толока, pronounced ta'loka); English terms cited by vocabularies include a bee and a barn raising. The best examples in Finnish fiction films are in the two film adaptations of Täällä Pohjantähden alla / Under the North Star. These sequences are the "spectacle" of this movie, and they are quite exhilarating. - The period detail is presented with tender care, without irony or nostalgia. - The girl's dream sequence is impressive. I often seem to like sequences of limited animation in movies realized with fully detailed animation. - The flashbacks explaining the complicated family histories are quite moving. - The songs are important and meaningful. - The sense of history is omnipresent: it is the age of the Cold War, the father has perished in the Korean War, and a family has been almost entirely wiped out by the nuclear bomb.  - One of the very themes of the film is the sense of history as embodied in the Quartier Latin house. - A further theme is about the new generations as reflections of the earlier ones: "when I see you I see my old friends". 

The visual quality was fine.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jackie Wullschlager on the art world

Jackie Wullschlager speaks out in a remarkable piece about the art world in Financial Times Weekend (24-25 Nov, 2012), in its Collecting section, no less, under the title "Beyond the froth and jargon".

She writes that "the faster and louder the art world spins, the more it harbours doubt about its obvious froth and mediocrity. And that doubt hides behind two things: prices, and professional jargon."

Wullschlager discusses "the billionaire careers of kitsch merchants" and the "new breed of (...) historically illiterate international collectors for whom art is a refuge for surplus funds and a bid for status in a globally competitive world".

In these circumstances the gallerist David Zwirner notes that "connoisseurship is really not valued, sometimes it is even looked down upon". According to Wullschlager, "the connoisseur has declined" as "the art professional has risen". Professional jargon "legitimises anything, especially weak, dry, overtheoretical art that cannot stand on its own legs".

"Since today's curators tend to be products of a conceptually-driven rather than connoisseur-based education, this jargon dominates group shows, which have political not aesthetic agendas and rarely include great art for fear of exposing the rest as second-rate."

"What could not have been predicted, however," Wullschlager writes, "was that within a generation of critical theory hijacking academe, a revolution in humanities teaching – employing semiotics, structuralism, the idea that culture and society form a system of self-referential signs and symbols – would empower a conceptual art that depends on curators and advisers to explain it. As this became a professional business, the chatter of deconstruction-lite morphed into a self-contained, deliberately obfuscating gallery-speak that, Robert Hughes already noted in 1989, “extorts assent as the price of entry”, and urges a critical vacuum. “If all signs are autonomous and refer only to one another, it must seem to follow that no image is truer or deeper than the next, and that the artist is absolved from his or her struggle for authenticity,” the late art critic wrote."

"The concept-drenched curator becomes the artist", writer Wullschlager, but "the best response is what Cyril Connolly called 'the resonance of seclusion'. Hundreds of artists still battle alone in studios to make authentic work that does not need a curator to explain it."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Kummisetäni thaimorsian / My Godfather, His Thai Bride and Me

Min gudfar, hans thaibrud och jag. FI 2012 Pohjola-Filmi. P: Elina Pohjola. D+SC: Wille Hyvönen. Dramaturgy: John Webster. DP: Jarmo Kiuru - camera: Canon EOS 5D mkII, 1080p - lenses: Nikkor zoom 35-70 mm F3.5, Zenit 50 mm F1.8 - filters: Low contrast 1, Black promist ⅛ - colour correction: Pasi Mäkelä (James Post), online master: Petteri Linnus (James Post). Graphic design: Atte Karttunen. M supervisor: Pete Eklund (Moshfish). Score: Finnish iskelmä oldies compilation. Theme song: "Valssi menneiltä ajoilta" (Iosif Ivanovici) perf. 1) Viljo Vesterinen & Lasse Pihlajamaa, 2) Olavi Virta, 3) Erkki Junkkarinen. "Afroditen poika" (Juice Leskinen). "Ikkunasi alla" (W. Stone / Kullervo) perf. Henry Theel. "Satumaa" (Unto Mononen) perf. Henry Theel. S: Pekka Aikio. ED: Matti Näränen. Featuring: Seppo Tossavainen, Pin = Yuphin Chuamram, Wille Hyvönen, Kwe Chuamram, Heidi Tossavainen, Niko Tossavainen, Siiri Raasakka. Loc: Varkaus (Finland), Buriram (Thailand). Original in Finnish with some English and Thai. 60 min. Distributed by Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus with Swedish subtitles and some Finnish subtitles by Tiina Kinnunen / Maria Wiren-Malo. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 10, Helsinki, 23 Nov 2012.

A MA diploma work of the director, the producer, the cinematographer, the editor and the sound designer at the Aalto University / The School of Arts, Design and Architecture / Department of Film, Television and Scenography.

Official synopsis: "Wille has a problem. His godfather, a butcher from the province of Savo, is in love with the Thai woman Pin. How can there be real love between a Western man and a Thai woman? It must be paid love, sugar-coated prostitution. A middle-aged man wants sex and subjects a young woman under his will; the Thai woman wants a secure income."

"This matter has bothered Wille and his relationship with his godfather ever since Seppo's previous female Thai friend. That woman did not love Seppo but his money."

"Wille reveals his suspicions to his godfather. Seppo wants to show Wille how things really are and invites him to join him for a month to Buriram, Thailand."

"Wille embarks on the journey, follows the pair incessantly and pesters them daily with questions and tests of love, each one crazier than the other. Is the love real?"

A word from the director: "When Seppo, my godfather, my uncle, my dearest relative, told me about his intention to marry his Thai girlfriend, I certainly did not believe that it was true love. I was absolutely certain that this could not be anything else but mutual deception, sugared prostitution. I saw in the relationship only my own prejudices: economical, cultural and social inequality. I was ashamed that one of the chauvinists oppressing women was my godfather. I needed to make him see what he was doing."

"Simultaneously I was affected by the fact that one of the people closest to me was in love from the bottom of his heart, but I could not approve of his love. I was affected by my own prejudice. I preach tolerance and swear by multi-culturalism, but I was being unconditionally prejudiced towards one group of people, Thai women. I did not want to tolerate intolerance - especially in myself. Simultaneously I knew, however, that Seppo, battered by life, could not stand a further single disappointment in his love life."

"In order to find a peace of mind I needed to find out about their love and its truthfulness. Seppo's objections were mere words for me. I needed to see with my own eyes what it was all about and give the floor to the couple."

From the production information: "Wille Hyvönen (born 1987) has graduated as a Master of Arts at the Aalto University / The School of Arts, Design and Architecture / Department of Film, Television and Scenography. For some ten years he has worked with moving images, short films, and music videos. He has directed music videos for Olavi Uusivirta, Signmark, Korpiklaani, and many other Finnish artists. Kummisetäni thaimorsian is his debut documentary feature. Hyvönen says out loud things we all think but don't open our mouth." (The translations are mine.)

Frankly, I was embarrassed by the whole concept of making a documentary like this, prying into people's private lives in such an obtrusive and offensive way.

The trend of intimate, confessional, and private documentaries and filmed diaries started in the 1950s, often in experimental contexts.

During the last 20 years reality television has changed terms and expectations in non-fiction. The Real World started at MTV, itself inspired by An American Family. People are now so used to the possibility that anything can be filmed that there are few taboos left.

Sixty years ago Edgar Morin wrote about film stars that "their private life is public". In the era of reality television anybody's private life can become public. The question is: can such a life be called private anymore?

I don't trust much in the reality of reality television or intimate non-fiction feature films. As a sociologist I am aware of the observer effect. In a sociological experiment it means that the fact of the research changes reality. 

In these movies nobody is unaware that filming taking place. It is no longer authentic private life but a representation of private life which may be very close to the true circumstances.

The first part of the movie is a provocation by Wille to expose Seppo and Pin. Slowly Wille starts to give in. He sees that Seppo has become a respected member of Pin's village. Pin and Seppo have both been disappointed in their previous relationships, but now they have found each other. In the conclusion we visit Seppo and Pin's wedding, and Wille gives an emotional speech where he asks for forgiveness, confesses that he has made a 180 degree turn in his views and wishes good luck to the married couple. At his Finnish home by the lake Seppo introduces the whooper swans to Pin. Those swans are loyal to their homes and stay together for life. 

Visual quality: low definition video look.

Sano kiitos ja tanssi / Say Yes and Dance

FI ©  2012 Helsinki-Filmi. P: Miia Havisto. D+SC: Antti Heikki Pesonen. DP: Aarne Tapola. ED: Hanna Kuirinlahti. C: Mikko Kouki (the employer), Ville Tiihonen (the job applicant). 6 min. Distributed by Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus with English subtitles. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 10, Helsinki, 23 Nov 2012. 

The employment desk at a slaughterhouse. A job applicant (Ville Tiihonen) with a derelict appearance meets a severe recruiter (Mikko Kouki) who tries to be patient, correct and polite. The tables turn, the bum takes command and starts to interrogate the recruiter. The men end up dancing together ("tanssi ennen kuin päivät kuluu loppuun" / "dance before the days are numbered").

A performance-driven movie. The direction of the performances is fine.

De rouille et d'os / Rust and Bone

Luihin ja ytimiin / Rost och ben / Rust and Bone [Swedish title in Finland]. FR/BE © 2012 Why Not Productions / Page 114 / France 2 Cinéma / Les Films du Fleuve / Lunanime. P: Jacques Audiard, Martine Cassinelli, Pascal Caucheteux. D: Jacques Audiard. SC: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain - story: Craig Davidson. DP: Stéphane Fontaine - Camera: Red Epic, Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo Lenses - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Redcode RAW (5K) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 - Lab: Digital Images. PD: Michel Barthélémy. AD: Yann Megard. Set dec: Boris Piot. Cost: Virginie Montel. Makeup: Frédérique Ney. Hair: Myriam Roger. VFX: Cédric Fayolle - CG: Thibert Stephane - FV Numérique - Mkros - SFX Works. M: Alexandre Desplat. S: Pascal Villard. ED: Juliette Welfling. Casting: Richard Rousseau. C: Marion Cotillard (Stéphanie), Matthias Schoenaerts (Alain van Versch), Armand Verdure (Sam), Céline Sallette (Louise), Corinne Masiero (Anna), Bouli Lanners (Martial), Jean-Michel Correia (Richard), Mourad Frarema (Foued), Yannick Choirat (Simon), Fred Menut (Le patron d'ELP Sécurité). - Orques. - Loc: Alpes-Maritimes: Saint-Laurent-du-Var (night-club L'Annexe), Le Marineland d'Antibes, Mandelieu-la-Napoule (shopping center), La Croisette and beach scenes (Cannes), Villeneuve-Loubet (beach) - Belgium: Liège (Wallonia: hospital), Spa (frozen lake). 112 min. Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Markus Karjalainen. 2K DCP viewed at Maxim 2, Helsinki, 23 Nov 2012.

Official synopsis (Sony Pictures Classics): "Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) finds himself with a five-year-old child on his hands. Sam (Armand Verdure) is his son, but he hardly knows him. Homeless, penniless and friendless, Ali takes refuge with his sister Anna (Corinne Masiero) in Antibes, in the south of France. There things improve immediately. She puts them up in her garage, she takes the child under her wing and the weather is glorious."

"Ali, a man of formidable size and strength, gets a job as a bouncer in a nightclub. He comes to the aid of Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) during a nightclub brawl. Aloof and beautiful, Stephanie seems unattainable, but in his frank manner Ali leaves her his phone number anyway."

"Stéphanie trains orca whales at Marineland. When a performance ends in tragedy, a call in the night again brings them together. When Ali sees her next, Stéphanie is confined to a wheel chair : she has lost her legs and quite a few illusions."

"Ali's direct, unpitying physicality becomes Stéphanie's lifeline, but Ali too is transformed by Stéphanie's tough resilience. And Stéphanie comes alive again. As their stories intersect and diverge, they navigate a world where strength, beauty, youth and blood are commodities - but where trust, truth, loyalty and love cannot be bought and sold, and courage comes in many forms." (official synopsis)

A tough tale of survival. Ali operates on both sides of the law, as a thief, as an illegal fighter, as a bouncer, as a night watchman, and as a secret operator in illegal surveillance for employers. Stéphanie is an orca trainer who loses her legs in a Marineland accident. Sam lands into an ice hole and faces almost certain death.

It's also a tale about caring for the other. At first Ali is extremely selfish, but he is the one who drags the invalid Stéphanie from isolation and self-pity into the sun, into the sea, even into swimming without legs. Ali is guilty of gross neglect of his son Sam, but he breaks his fists to break the ice to save Sam.

It's about the world of poverty and violence, about the grim terms of life when you have no money. It's about depression and desolation, about the loss of hope and perspective - but also about seeing the light, about endurance, about never giving up after all.

The movie has aspects of documentary value. The circumstances at Marineland and the interaction with orca whales seem authentic. Also the medical facts and solutions seem true - the modern prosthetic leg solutions which help Stéphanie get back on her feet again.

The cinematography is as a rule anti-glam. The cinematography underlines the experiences of desolation and depression. There is footage with yellow hues. There is unhooded, unfiltered footage against sunlight. There is deliberately bleak and ugly footage. Yet there are also instances of visual beauty: the winter scenes in Belgium are beautiful whereas the Riviera footage is ugly. Towards the conclusion there are striking long shots, slow motion as the protagonists pass through the revolving doors, and reflections as they seem to experience a passage into a new stage in life. The oddly spaced letters in the end credits reflect the themes of broken bones and broken lives.

The visual quality of the digital presentation was adequate to the concept of the cinematography.

Niko 2 - lentäjäveljekset / Niko 2 - Little Brother, Big Trouble

Niko 2 - flygarbröderna. FI/DE/DK/IE © 2012  Anima Vitae / Cinemaker Oy / Ulysses Films / Tidal Films / A. Film Production. P: Antti Haikala, Petteri Pasanen, Hannu Tuomainen. D: Kari Juusonen. Co-D: Jørgen Lerdam. SC: Marteinn Thorisson, Hannu Tuomainen. Character and location design: Mikko Pitkänen. Kuvakerronta [visual storytelling]: Luca Bruno, Peke Huuhtanen, Antti Ripatti. Hahmovastaavat [character supervision]: Mikko Pitkänen, Olli Rajala, Jussi Dittmer, Kustaa Vuori. Hahmomallinnus [character models]: Ralf Baumann. Furs and feathers: Jussi Dittmer, Kustaa Vuori. Matte paintings: Piñata. Character loop AN: Luca Bruno. Lighting & Compositing Supervisor: Kustaa Vuori. FX: Kustaa Vuori (supervisor), Aki Rissanen. Leading AN: Peter Bohl, Raoul Cacciamani, Kenneth Vandel. AN: John Coomey, Dave McEvoy, Antti Ripatti. Credits for character design, furs and feathers, lighting, compositing, matte paintings. PD: Mikko Pitkänen. AD: Kustaa Vuori, Florian Westermann. M: Stephen McKeon. Lyrics in Finnish: Annamari Metsävainio. Songs: "Kun kohdattiin" (Steve McGrath / Jørgen Lerdam and Moe Honan) perf. Kari Ketonen, Jukka Rasila, Pertti Koivula, Petri Manninen. "Happy Christmas!" (Stephen McKeon) perf. Aileen Mythen. "Kulkuset, kulkuset" ("Jingle Bells", James Lord Pierpont) perf. Kari Ketonen, Jukka Rasila, Pertti Koivula, Petri Manninen. S: Patrick Drummond. ED: Antti Haikala. Supervising technical directors: Olli Rajala, Jani Kuronen. Stereoscopic supervision & final camera: Jere Virta. Lab: Arri. Original casting and voice direction: Moe Honan. Finnish voice version produced by Werne. Finnish dialogue translations: Ari Parviainen. Finnish voice talent: Eric Carlsson (Niko), Juhana Vaittinen (Jonni), Mikko Kivinen (Julius), Vuokko Hovatta (Wilma), Juha Veijonen (Raavas), Elina Knihtilä (Oona), Riku Nieminen (Lenni), Mathilda Leppälahti (Saaga), Aarre Karén (Topias), Katariina Kaitue (Valkoinen Susi). 77 min. Released by Nordisk Film in 3D and 2D. Viewed in 2D in the Finnish language version without subtitles at Tennispalatsi 4, Helsinki, 23 Nov 2012.

A well made 3D digital animation which I unfortunately caught in 2D. 

Official synopsis: "The reindeer cub Niko has lived all its life with its mother Oona. One day as Niko returns from a weekend with its dad and the flying corps of Santa Claus Oona has news: she has met a reindeer called Lenni, and it is going to move in with its son Jonni. Niko has trouble adapting to its new role as a big brother. Matters are made worse by the cuteness of Jonni and the fact that it is really nice and adores its new big brother. But for Niko Jonni is like any annoying little brother. In the heat of the play Jonni gets kidnapped by the White Wolf. Niko and Julius embark on a secret rescue mission to the realm of the eagles, and Niko gets to face truths of growing up, family, and friendship". (My translation).

Memorable features in this animation: - Focus on the theme of the blended family: for the first time I pay attention to this theme emphasized in an animation. - Much of the comedy is provided by the chorus of the eagles. - Topias, the ageing, almost blind reindeer, gives a lesson to Niko that it is not good to be alone. - The harridan is a typical central female figure in contemporary Finnish cinema, and in this movie it's Katariina Kaitue's turn to play it as the voice of the White Wolf. - The voice acting mode is a bit too much of the old Särkkä school to my taste.

The visual quality: very bright and sharp and digital.

Nightwish: Imaginaerum

Imaginaerum by Nightwish [title in the credits] / Imaginaerum / Imaginaerum [release title]. CA/FI © 2012 PCF Imaginaerum Le Film Inc / Solar Films Inc. Oy. P: Markus Selin, Neil Dunn, Jukka Helle, André Rouleau. D: Stobe Harju. Co-D: Mark Roper. SC: Stobe Harju, Mikko Rautalahti, Richard Jackson - story: Stobe Harju, Tuomas Holopainen - inspired by the Nighwish album (2011). DP: Benoît Beaulieu - colour - 2,35:1 - digital post-production: Generator Post. PD: Elisabeth Williams. Cost: Ginette Magny. Makeup: Nicole Lapierre. Hair: Réjean Goderre. VFX Supervisor: Joshua Sherrett. VFX Producer: Carole Bouchard. VFX: The Workshop. VFX: Vision Globale. VFX: Alchemy 24. Concept: Toxic Angel. Optometrist credited. M reinterpreted by Petri Alanko - M by Nightwish - The Young Musicians London - The Looking Glass Orchestra - orchestra and choirs arranged, orchestrated and directed by Pip Williams - conducted by James Shearman. S: Pierre-Jules Audet. ED: Mathieu Bélanger. Casting: Rosina Bucci. Nadia Rona. Starring Nightwish: Tuomas Holopainen (Tom Whitman, age 47), Anette Olzon (Ann), Jukka Nevalainen (Jack), Emppu Vuorinen (Emil), Marco Hietala (Marcus). With: Marianne Farley (Gem Whitman), Francis X. McCarthy (Tom Whitman, age 70), Quinn Lord (Tom Whitman, age 10), Ilkka Villi (Mr. White / Theodore Whitman), Joanna Noyes (Ann, age 73), Keyanna Fielding (Gem Whitman, age 7), Stéphane Demers (twisted tin solder), Ron Lea (Dr. Jansson), Hélène Robitaille (sphere dancer), Glenda Graganza, Madison McAlee, Victoria Ann Jung. Circus clowns, circus acrobats, and tin soldiers are credited. Loc: Montréal (Québec, Canada). 90 min. Original in English. Released by Oy Nordisk Film Ab with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Saliven Gustavsson. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 7, Helsinki, 23 Nov 2012 (theatrical premiere day).

"Omistettu mun tytöille" ["Dedicated to my girls"]

NIGHTWISH is a symphonic metal band from Kitee, Finland, the most successful Finnish rock band worldwide. A trademark: the lead singer is a coloratura soprano.   
Anette Olzon - lead vocals 2007-2012
Tuomas Holopainen - keyboards, synthesizers
Emppu Vuorinen - guitars
Jukka Nevalainen - drums, percussions
Marco Hietala - bass, vocals

IMAGINAERUM (2011) is the seventh studio album by Nightwish, a concept album telling the story of an old composer on his deathbed, reminiscing of his youth.
1. "Taikatalvi" ["Magic Winter"] Tuomas Holopainen 2:35
2. "Storytime" Holopainen 5:22
3. "Ghost River" Holopainen 5:28
4. "Slow, Love, Slow" Holopainen 5:51
5. "I Want My Tears Back" Holopainen 5:08
6. "Scaretale" Holopainen 7:32
7. "Arabesque" (instrumental) Holopainen 2:57
8. "Turn Loose the Mermaids" Holopainen 4:20
9. "Rest Calm" Holopainen 7:02
10. "The Crow, the Owl and the Dove" Holopainen, Marco Hietala 4:10
11. "Last Ride of the Day" Holopainen 4:33
12. "Song of Myself" Holopainen 13:38
13. "Imaginaerum" (instrumental) Holopainen, Pip Williams 6:18

SOUNDTRACK ALBUM: IMAGINAERUM BY NIGHTWISH: THE SCORE - REINTERPRETATIONS BY PETRI ALANKO (2012)
1. "Find Your Story" Tuomas Holopainen 2:30
2. "Orphanage Airlines" Tuomas Holopainen 4:34
3. "Undertow" Tuomas Holopainen 5:17
4. "Spying in the Doorway" Tuomas Holopainen 3:03
5. "A Crackling Sphere" Tuomas Holopainen 3:59
6. "Sundown" Tuomas Holopainen 5:33
7. "Wonderfields" Tuomas Holopainen 5:31
8. "Hey, Buddy" Tuomas Holopainen 3:03
9. "Deeper Down" Marco Hietala (music), Tuomas Holopainen (Lyrics) 3:28
10. "Dare to Enter" Tuomas Holopainen 1:50
11. "I Have to Let You Go" Tuomas Holopainen 8:16
12. "Heart Lying Still" Tuomas Holopainen 4:00
13. "From G to E Minor" Tuomas Holopainen 2:32
The facts are from Wikipedia.

Tuomas Holopainen: "My initial thoughts about an eventual Nightwish theme album and movie date back to the summer of 2007. Suffering from the hangover of finishing the Dark Passion Play album I already mused about ways to bring the band's already enormously ambitious and sprawling mode of expression to the next level. Five years have passed since that moment of inspiration, and a wild dream is coming true as Imaginaerum the movie gets its premiere on the Hartwall Arena on Saturday, 10 November, 2012."

"Imaginaerum is the fulfillment of one sincere and particular vision and wish. It is not a project that was calculated or deliberately premeditated at any level. The movie has not been made in order to promote the band or the album. It was made because we wanted to tell a story. A story prepared with love and devotion, about the power of imagination, about life, and about what matters most in the end."
 
"The completion of the movie has been a journey rich in experiences albeit full of unexpected challenges. It has required a devotion of many years and an inhumanely sustained effort from many talented people. They all deserve deepest thanks: together we have achieved something innovative, extraordinary and timeless. Imaginaerum is an ambitious and original trip which disobeys norms and looks very much like its band." Tuomas Holopainen, Nightwish (production information) (my translation)

Stobe Harju's remarks: "Imaginaerum by Nightwish is a musical fantasy which breathes the worlds of David Lynch, Neil Gaiman, and Cirque du Soleil. It is an innovative blend of storytelling and music, a strange tale about the power of imagination, and about what matters most in life". (my translation)

A musical fantasy about the power of imagination.

Howard Blake's song "Walking In The Air" from the animation favourite The Snowman (1982) belongs to the repertory of Nightwish, and Imaginaerum starts as an homage to that movie (with references in the score to the familiar piano chords of its theme song), but blends it with a completely different Christmas fantasy, Henry Selick and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The movie belongs to the tradition of Méliès, Cocteau, Burton, and Gilliam. It is a dance of death with imagery from gothic and macabre traditions, and also from visions of the circus, the cabaret and the night club. It is a dream play, a death dream where childhood, maturity and old age are simultaneous or parallel, in two generations. It is also about memory and dementia, about writing things down before they disappear, about the fear of madness before dying.

Critics have been unkind to this movie, but I see Imaginaerum as an act of respect from Nightwish towards its audience. They have always taken loving care of their imagery, and in this movie the imagery is accomplished in its most perfect form.

The visual quality is state of the art in the digital world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Il cammino della speranza / The Way of Hope

Toiveitten tie / Förhoppningarnas väg. IT © 1950 Lux Films. P: Luigi Rovere. D: Pietro Germi. SC: Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli - story: Federico Fellini, Pietro Germi, Tullio Pinelli - based on the novel Cuori negli abissi by Nino Di Maria. DP: Leonida Barboni. PD: Luigi Ricci. Makeup: Attilio Camarda. M: Carlo Rustichelli. Theme song "Vitti 'na crozza": a Sicilian folk song from the 19th century. The main waltz theme from "Valurile Dunării" ("Donauwellen" / "Waves Of The Danube" / "Anniversary Song" / "Häämuistojen valssi") by Iosif Ivanovici. S: Mario Amari. ED: Rolando Benedetti. C: Raf Vallone (Saro Cammarata), Elena Varzi (Barbara Spadaro), Saro Urzí (Ciccio Ingaggiatore), Saro Arcidiacono (accountant), Franco Navarra (Vanni), Liliana Lattanzi (Rosa), Mirella Ciotti (Lorenza), Carmela Trovato (Cirmena), Chicco Coluzzi (Buda), Angelina Scaldaferri (Diodata). Helsinki premiere: 4.12.1953 Rea, released by Kelo-Filmi. Tv: 10.10.1993 YLE TV1, 10.3.2005 YLE TV2. VET 38479 – K16 – original length 2931 m - print viewed 102 min. A print from Cineteca Nazionale (Roma) of the 1999 restoration, screened with e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio, at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Italian Emigration), 20 Nov 2012.

One of the last great works of the original wave of neorealism. It looks like it's inspired by La terra trema: the stark compositions, the bold mise-en-scène, the grandeur in misery, the pride undefeated in poverty, the spirit strong enough to conquer all obstacles.

It starts in the bottom of a Sicilian sulphur mine where miners are on strike, but it's no use, the mine is being closed down and the people of the community are about to lose the source of their livelihood.

An enterprising recruiter incites many of them to join him to France. He collects 20.000 lire from everybody in advance, but when there is trouble at the railway station he vanishes with the money and leaves the group in trouble. Part of them decide to return to Sicily, the rest continue the journey on their own. They get a job at a farm, but it turns out that there is a general strike there, and they have unwittingly become strike-breakers. Finally they mount the Alps, endure snowstorms and cross the French border. The border patrols of both Italy and France catch them, but after exchanging some looks and smiles they ski away.

It's an exciting journey, full of unabashed sentiment, bordering on the opera and the melodrama, yet the rich social texture is overwhelming, there is a feeling of urgent social truth in the epic scenes at the coal mine, at the railway station, and at the farm where the emigrants face the strike-breakers.

The cinematography by Leonida Barboni is exciting, statuesque, inviting comparison with the work of G.R. Aldo in La terra trema, Gabriel Figueroa in certain Mexican films, and his model, Eduard Tisse in ¡Que viva Mexico!

Carlo Rustichelli was a composer favoured by Pietro Germi, and his warm, passionate, and operatic score is an important contribution to the story of the desperate journey. The highly singable theme tune "Vitti 'na crozza" is a Sicilian folk song from the 19th century. At the farm there is an evening waltz scene where the best-known melody from Ivanovici's "Donauwellen" is played.

The visual quality is often very good in this restoration that may be based on partly difficult and duped sources.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Live Cinema Concert Pohjalaisia (1925) with music composed and performed by the organist Kalevi Kiviniemi

Live Cinema Concert Pohjalaisia (1925) (KAVA 2K DCP from the 2012 restoration, colour based on the tinting concept) with music composed and performed with two organs by organist Kalevi Kiviniemi. Sound mixer: Mika Koivusalo. 106 min. Matin-Tupa, Ylistaro (Filmiä ja valoa), 18 Nov 2012.

I have already blogged on the movie Pohjalaisia (1925), on the advance information on our 2012 Cinema Orion cinema concert Pohjalaisia, on the actual concert, and on advance information on Kalevi Kiviniemi.

The cinema was quite full with the ideal audience of the "national play" of the people of Pohjanmaa, and Kalevi Kiviniemi achieved magnificent effects with his double organs, flexibly switching from the violent braggadocio of the proud men to the religious sensibility of The Awakening meetings. There was a lively dynamic approach in the music, from gentle moods to dramatic and tragic sounds, from polka rhythms to soulful hymns. The musical build-up to the terrible, bloody climax was forceful. Kalevi Kiviniemi displayed a rich range of the many characteristics of the organ keyboards. A strong foundation for the melodies were perhaps the Toivo Kuula cycle of arrangements of Pohjanmaa folk songs; a favourite interpretation of mine is by the bass singer Martti Talvela. I believed to recognize the following tunes and elements in his score:

♪ "Tuuli se taivutti koivun larvan"
♪ Hymns of The Awakening movement
♪ The Swedish national hymn: "Du gamla, du fria, du fjällhöga Nord"
♪ "Siniset silmät ja punaiset posket kun Ketolan Jukalla oli"
♪ "Nyt mua viedähän linnasta linnaan"
♪ Toivo Kuula: "Häämarssi" (Wedding March)
♪ Frédéric Chopin: "Marche funèbre" (Funeral March)
♪ Hymns of The Awakening movement
♪ "Taivas on sininen ja valkoinen ja tähtösiä täynnä"
♪ "Enkä minä hurjan luontoni tähden päätäni alaha paina"
♪ "Karjalan poikia" polka
♪ "Eikä sitä sanaa sanoa saisi"
♪ "Niin kauan minä tramppaan tämän kylän raittia kuin kenkäni pohjat kestää"
♪ a Giuseppe Verdi overture theme

Mr. Kiviniemi's arrangement could be a foundation for a strong recorded score for Pohjalaisia.

There were relatives of the director Jalmari Lahdensuo and others involved in the making of the film in the screening. The play Pohjalaisia was constantly being staged for decades, and its dialogue became a part of the local folklore, but in this screening I realized that young and middle-aged audiences no longer know the dialogue and maybe experienced the famous lines for the first time in this screening.

The master organist Kalevi Kiviniemi plays at the Ylistaro film festival

In the Ylistaro Film and Light Festival at Matin-Tupa the music of the live cinema concert Pohjalaisia, 18 November 2012, at 15.00,  is composed and played by the master organist Kalevi Kiviniemi.

Wikipedia in English: "Kalevi Kiviniemi (born 30 June 1958 in Jalasjärvi) is a Finnish concert organist. He is known internationally for Finnish and French organ music and has given several recitals at Notre Dame de Paris and recorded on historic organs. He is also a notable organ improviser."

"Kalevi Kiviniemi graduated in 1981 as a cantor and organist and continued his studies at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki for the concert diploma with Eero Väätäinen (literature) and Olli Linjama (improvisation). In the early 1990s he started an international career with recitals in Japan and London. He has toured in Europe, the USA, Russia, Asia, Australia and the Philippines."

"Kiviniemi has frequently performed at Notre Dame in Paris. His first performance there in 2000, together with Olivier Latry, titulaire des grands orgue of Notre-Dame, was televised. His first solo performance at Notre Dame was in 2002. In addition to solo recitals and chamber music recitals, he has appeared with major orchestras such as the Moscow Chamber Orchestra and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra."

"In 2006 he, the percussionist Markku Krohn, the guitarist Marzy Nyman and the soprano Tarja Turunen first shared a stage at Lahti Organ Festival. The aptly named performance, ‘Crossover Organ’, veered between the traditional and the contemporary, boasting a bold and far reaching repertoire. The reverent splendour of Liturgical hymns was juxtaposed by the likes of Deep Purple and Nirvana. After that, they played together again in 2008, in a series of Christmas concerts in Finland. Each year, the tetrad combed the breadth of their country, in annual tours that were becoming longer and longer. Despite the cold weather, churches were hot with the press of bodies, and when they were full, people crowded outside in the blistering December cold. A year later, in December 2009, they performed together again at Sibelius Hall, in Lahti. That concert was recorded and released as CD and DVD in 2011, under the name "Tarja Turunen and Harus: In Concert – Live at Sibelius Hall.""

"In 2009 he played a concert of transcriptions at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. In 2010 he played a concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in San Diego. In the fall of 2010 he played concerts at the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam, at the Internationales Düsseldorfer Orgelfestival, at the Wuppertaler Orgeltage and at St. Martin, Idstein."

"Kiviniemi has been a jury member at international organ competitions, Nürnberg in 1996, Capri in 1998, Speyer in 2001, Korschenbroich in 2005). He has given master classes, for instance at the Ruhr University Bochum. He was artistic director of the Lahti Organ Week in Finland for ten years, from 1991 to 2001."

"Kiviniemi's discography numbers more than 140 titles as of 2010, including recordings made on historic organs in the USA, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany, such as the Cavaillé-Coll organ of the Church of St. Ouen, Rouen. Kiviniemi was the first to record the complete organ works of Jean Sibelius, reviewed in 2010:"

"'Judicious' is an apt description of Kiviniemi's playing style, as well as his choice of organ and repertoire. Whether it's the mighty Cavaillé-Coll of Saint-Ouen, the Grand Paschen organ of Pori’s Central Church or the noble Kangasala at Lakeuden Risti, one senses his choices are carefully made, the music matched to the instrument and its unique acoustic. This Sibelius recital is no exception, the late-19th-century Walcker – three manuals, with 16' and 32' pipes – seems ideally suited to the thrust and scale of the works at hand." (Da Morgan (January 2010). "Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) Complete Organ Works". musicweb-international.com. Retrieved 1 September 2010.)

"Kiviniemi has improvised and composed:
    Suite francaise
        Caprice héroique, hommage à Aristide Cavaillé-Coll
        Souvenir, hommage à Madame Dupré
        Carillon, hommage à Marcel Dupré
    Fantasia Suomalainen rukous (2008)
"

"Kalevi Kiviniemi received the Luonnotar Prize at the Sibelius Festival in Lahti in 2003 and the trophy of the Organum Society in 2004 for services to Finnish organ music. In 2009 he was awarded the State Prize for Music in Finland for lifelong achievements in music."

Wuthering Heights (2011)

Humiseva harju / Svindlande höjder. GB 2011 © 2010 Wuthering Heights / Channel 4 / BFI. P: Robert Bernstein, Kevin Loader, Douglas Rae. D: Andrea Arnold. SC: Andrea Arnold, Olivia Hetreed - based on the screen story by Olivia Hetreed - based on the novel (1847) by Emily Brontë. DP: Robbie Ryan - Camera: Arriflex 35 IIC, Panavision Primo Lenses, Bell & Howell Eyemo, Canon Lenses, Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL, Panavision Primo Lenses - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 500T 5219, Fuji Eterna Vivid 160T 8543, Eterna 250D 8563) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Spherical (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm, D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 1.33:1. Digital intermediate: Deluxe 142. PD: Helen Scott. AD: Christopher Wyatt. Set dec: Alice Norris. Cost: Steven Noble. Make-up and hair: Emma Scott. Prosthetic makeup: Kristyan Mallett. SFX: Scott McIntyre. VFX: Jonathan Privett. S: Nicolas Becker. ED: Nicolas Chaudeurge. Casting: Des Hamilton, Lucy Pardee, Gail Stevens. C (as edited in Wikipedia):
    Kaya Scodelario as Catherine Earnshaw
    James Howson as Heathcliff
    Oliver Milburn as Mr. Linton
    Nichola Burley as Isabella Linton
    Eve Coverley as Young Isabella Linton
    James Northcote as Edgar Linton
    Lee Shaw as Hindley Earnshaw
    Amy Wren as Frances Earnshaw
    Shannon Beer as Young Catherine Earnshaw
    Solomon Glave as Young Heathcliff
    Steve Evets as Joseph
    Paul Hilton as Mr. Earnshaw
    Simone Jackson as Nelly Dean
    Jonny Powell as Young Edgar Linton
    Michael Hughes as Hareton
Loc: Yorkshire Dales. 128 min. Released by Atlantic Film Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Markus Karjalainen. 2K DCP viewed at Matin-Tupa, Ylistaro (Filmiä & Valoa), 18 Nov 2012.

A unique and original study of the beloved story. The viewpoint is highly subjective from the viewpoint of Heathcliff as an outsider, a stranger, a watcher. He is constantly seen looking from outside the house, outside the room, outside the door, peeking through a hole, overhearing things. In this story Heathcliff is a black boy rescued by the old Earnshaw. There is a lot of handheld camerawork in the movie, too.

The other special emphasis is the nature: faithful to the title of the story, nature has always been important, but neither William Wyler (shooting in California) nor Luis Buñuel (shooting in Mexico) could reach the truth of the actual wild natural surroundings like Andrea Arnold does here, shooting in North Yorkshire.

The general feeling of the nature and the hundreds of details about the birds, the plants, and the animals are essential. The total sense is of a force of nature that is driving things. 

Wuthering Heights is a romantic story much loved by the surrealists as a key work of mad love. This movie adaptation is a study of mad love and an account of passion, but not a mad, wild, passionate work in its own right. It is a very well made and a distinguished work, but an irresistible, inevitable, desperate feeling is not even attempted.

Shot on 35 mm Fuji film, the vibrant sense of nature has been conveyed in the digital intermediate by Deluxe 142 quite successfully. It can be made!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Juoppohullun päiväkirja / Gloriously Wasted

FI © 2012 Dictator Films Oy. P: Aleksi Bardy, Juha Vuorinen. D: Lauri Maijala. SC: Lauri Maijala - based on the novel (1998) by Juha Vuorinen. DP: Rike Jokela. DI and DCP mastering: Post Control. AD: Markku Pätilä. Cost: Tiina Wilén. Makeup: Salla Yli-Luopa. M: Kerkko Koskinen. "Ei tippa tapa" (Irwin Goodman, Vexi Salmi). Big band music played by UMO. S: Janne Jankeri, Mika Niinimaa. ED: Harri Ylönen. C: Joonas Saartamo (Juha Berg), Krista Kosonen (Tiina), Santtu Karvonen (Kristian), Johannes Holopainen (Mikael). - With: Lauri Tilkanen, Esko Salminen, Pekka Huotari, Heidi Herala, Seppo Maijala, Niina Koponen, Tom Petäjä, Jari Pehkonen, Chelaf Abdeslam, Tuire Tuomisto, and Ylermi Rajamaa. 90 min. Released by Scanbox Finland Oy. 2K DCP of the preview cut without Swedish subtitles viewed at Matin-Tupa, Ylistaro (Filmiä ja valoa), 17 Nov 2012.
  
Official synopsis: "Juha Berg (Joonas Saartamo) is a 30-year-old hopeless drunk in the Kallio neighborhood of Helsinki."

"Juha doesn’t have the first intention of changing his way of life – just the opposite. He really enjoys sundry sexual relationships, adrenalin-inducing violence and, of course, alcohol for which he gets money even if by collecting bottles. But the hilarity in a drunken haze soon gets a run for its money as the passionate Juha falls in love with his AA group leader. The relationship with Tiina (Krista Kosonen) progresses quickly to dating and Juha has to make pivotal decisions."

"Juha has to begin balancing between maintaining a functional intimate relationship and his old lifestyle. Juha’s best friend Kristian (Santtu Karvonen) does his best to sabotage the relationship, and Juha’s shaky decision to stay sober is further hindered by Mikael (Johannes Holopainen), an expert on German erotica."

"But how far can you go before there is only one solution left?"

"Gloriously Wasted  is a comedy that breaks all the rules, based on the first part of Juha Vuorinen’s immensely popular Gloriously Wasted series of books. The movie was directed and written for the screen by the highly successful theater director Lauri Maijala, and produced by Aleksi Bardy and Juha Vuorinen."

From Wikipedia: Juoppohullun päiväkirja [The Diary of a Drunken Maniac], originating from a series of books by Juha Vuorinen, is a Finnish book series following the drunken rampage of Juha Berg and his friends. First the books were self-published, subsequently they were published by Vuorinen's Diktaattori publishing company. Based on the stories there have been a radioplay and stage adaptations for the theatre. The stories have been translated into Swedish (Dilledagboken) and Estonian (Joomahullu Päevaraamat). Kristian has received spin-off stories of his own. There have been five books so far (from 1998 till 2005), a cd release, and a Juoppis Leffapokkari companion book to the movie.

The drunken rampage of Juha Berg is the story of this movie, boldly stylized, heavily expressionistic, with a lot of caveman energy, an outburst of rage and frustration. It's a dance macabre, a death dance with drinking as a form of suicide. I was about to say "slow suicide" but actually the way the hard liquor is consumed here can kill quickly.

There is no explanation, no background, no psychology behind the desperate drinking spree.

The acting style: no holds barred. Even Krista Kosonen who starts as a nice and understanding AA leader turns into an original incarnation of the current dominating female character in Finnish cinema: the harridan. Here at least her change is perfectly understandable.

The style of the rampage is mostly farcical. Some scenes represent gallows humour literally. There are slapstick scenes inspired by classics (Cops by Buster Keaton). Scatology is not avoided. The film moves at times in Farrelly Brothers territory. In the conclusion there is a musical production number to the evergreen "Ei tippa tapa" ["A Drop Doesn't Kill"].

The colour is strong, at times garish. There is sometimes strong overhead lighting like in scenes of 1940s film noir. Split screen is used. There are several instances of inspired composition, for instance in the sequence where the camera moves through the window and back.

The dream sequences towards the end are stark, original and really dream-like (the high angle, the ice, the snow-filled room, the shivering rabbit). The final image: his boat floating in space.  

This is my first encounter with Juha Vuorinen's fiction, and I don't know what to think.

I have too much first hand experience of friends who have died or whose life has been ruined by drinking. Also the lives of those around them, in private life and in working life, have been ruined, sometimes beyond repair. This is a professional disease of artists, actors, cineastes, musicians, writers, and journalists. I blame myself constantly that I have not known how to intervene when I now realize I should have. I know it's not my fault, but real friends, a circle of them, can make a difference. Sorry, for me this is no laughing matter. 

Impressive in the movie is the brutal, primitive life-force struggling with the death drive. Alcohol here is the spirit of death, finally victorious, but not before a hard struggle.

A memorable detail: on tv there is Eight Deadly Shots, a classic film about alcoholism anchored in society, the big structural change of urbanization that transformed Finland forever. In Juoppohullun päiväkirja, there seems to be no reason or background to drinking.

Visual quality: no quarrel with the way the stylized visuals were projected digitally.

Les Saveurs du Palais / Haute Cuisine

Haute cuisine - mestari keittiössä / Haute cuisine [Swedish title]. FR © 2012 Les Saveurs du Palais / Armada Films / Vendôme Production / Wild Bunch / France 2. P: Étienne Comar, Philippe Rousselet. D: Christian Vincent. SC: Étienne Comar, Christian Vincent - story: Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch. DP: Laurent Dailland. PD: Patrick Durand. Cost: Fabienne Katany. SFX: Sabotage Studio. M: Gabriel Yared. "Danse macabre" (Camille Saint-Saëns), "Auld Lang Syne" (Robert Burns). S: Stéphane Thiébaut. ED: Monica Coleman. Casting: Aurélie Guichard. Experts: Gérard Besson, Guy Leguay, Elisabeth Scotto. Loc: Paris (Palais de l'Elysée), Château de Vigny (Val-d'Oise), Château de Chantilly (Chantilly) (as Palais de l'Elysée interiors), Brive-la-Gaillarde (Corrèze), Reykhólar (Iceland) (as Crozet Island). In French and with some English (Crozet Island). 95 min

C (as edited in Wikipedia):

    Catherine Frot : Hortense Laborie
    Jean d'Ormesson : le président de la République
    Hippolyte Girardot : David Azoulay, le conseiller
    Arthur Dupont : Nicolas Bauvois, le jeune assistant pâtissier
    Jean-Marc Roulot : Jean-Marc Luchet, le maître d'hôtel au service du président
    Brice Fournier : Pascal Le Piq, le chef de la cuisine centrale
    Arly Jover : Mary, la réalisatrice australienne
    Joe Sheridan : John, le caméraman de Mary
    Philippe Uchan : Coche-Dury, l'intendant
    Laurent Poitrenaux : Jean-Michel Salomé, le successeur d'Azoulay
    Hervé Pierre : Perrières, le chef de cabinet
    Manuel Le Lièvre : Loïc, le nouveau cuisinier de la base Alfred-Faure
    Thomas Chabrol
    Louis-Emmanuel Blanc : Arnaud Fremier
    David Houri : David Epenot, un interprète de la pièce sur la base
    Nicolas Chupin : Anthony, un interprète de la pièce sur la base
    Catherine Davenier : madame Arvelet
    Steve Tran : Gregory, un cuisinier de la base
    Hugo Malpeyre : le chef de rang de l'Élysée
    Nathalie Vignes : la fleuriste du palais
    Fabrice Colson : un invité du cocktail
    Nicolas Beaucaire : le docteur Kramer
    Lionel Tavera : l'aide de camp du président de la République

Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen  / Joanna Erkkilä. 2K DCP viewed at Matin-Tupa, Ylistaro (Filmiä ja valoa), 17 Nov 2012.

«Donnez-moi le meilleur de la France!»

Official synopsis: "Hortense Laborie est une cuisinière réputée qui vit dans le Périgord. À sa grande surprise, le président de la République la nomme responsable de ses repas personnels au palais de l'Élysée. Malgré les jalousies des chefs de la cuisine centrale, Hortense s’impose avec son caractère bien trempé. L’authenticité de sa cuisine séduit rapidement le Président mais, dans les coulisses du pouvoir, les obstacles sont nombreux..."

The international title of the movie (Haute cuisine) is misleading. This movie is about superior home cooking as the opposite of haute cuisine.

After Comme un chef, another well-made comedy on la grande cuisine during the same season. It's brilliant, it's perfect, and its authenticity is based on true experiences by Danièle Delpeuch in the early 1970s but not based on her book Mes carnets de cuisine, du Périgord à l’Élysée (1997), yet inspired by Édouard Nignon's Éloge de la cuisine française qui donne lieu, with a preface by Sacha Guitry.

It starts in the French Antarctis at the Base Scientifique Alfred Faure (Archipel Crozet) where one of the greatest masters of French cuisine is now cooking for the Antarctic explorers. The mystery is solved in long flashbacks in which we hear the story of Hortense Laborie who for two years cooked for the President. Her meals were superb, but doctors' orders and Palace intrigues made her work impossible. (At the end of the film we learn that the cooking on the damn island is well paid and the money makes it possible for Hortense to cultivate truffles in New Zealand).

A memorable scene: the President's remark to Hortense that adversity can be empowering.

Another memorable scene (I wish I could quote it verbatim) is about the word "we", how it can be understood in two opposite ways, as a word of self-indulgence and as a word of the President being the representative of the people of France.

"Faites-moi une cuisine simple" - "une cuisine de mère". "Je veux retrouver le goût des choses". "How sad a thing is a good health based on a stern diet".

The performances are perfect, the timing is brilliant, the score is Hitchcockian, the comedy is intelligent. In Hortense's farewell party in the Antarctic there is a farce parody where the actors imagine her life at the Palace.

I like the epic dimension in the film that on the surface focuses on cooking only. It's about the earth and the water, the elements, it's about life, it's about a meal as a superior form of communication and as a sign of respect. That is the profound, ancient meaning of sharing a meal, and it has lost none of its validity.

Visual quality: in this digital projection the juicy, warm, lively and earthy nature of the cooking looked very appetizing.

Muutos meitä johtaa / Change of State

FI 2011. PC: TAMK (Tampereen ammattikorkeakoulu). P: Mikko Helmanen. D: Ville Hakonen, Jussi Sandhu. DP: Anne-Mari Musturi. Lighing: Nalle Mielonen. AD: Salla Lehtikangas. Cost: Anna Alkiomaa, Tiina Lehikoinen. Make-up: Anita Ahola. Graphic design: Heikki Hujala. M: Ville Rauhala, Sami Sippola, Michael Law. S: Arttu Hokkanen. ED: Mikko Kuuttila. C: Mika Honkanen, Reidar Palmgren, Nicke Lignell, Jari Ahola, Marko Keskitalo, Minna Rajamäki. 12 min. [format?]. In the presence of the directors and other film-makers. Viewed at Matin-Tupa, Ylistaro (Filmiä ja valoa), 17 Nov 2012.

A satire set in the 1970s and the break-through of colour television in Finland. The official controller of the lotto program, is under the threat of being fired because he is black and white.

A funny satire on rationalization following its crazy premise with a certain logic. It is also a satire on phenomena in the lifestyle of the 1970s.

Särkisyrjässä 1941 / [The Battle of Särkisyrjä, 1941]

FI ©  2011 Anssi Luoma. P+D+SC+drawings: Anssi Luoma. Cinematography and interviews: Anssi Luoma, Pekka Varismäki, Jussi Pajula. Song: "Elämää juoksuhaudoissa" sung by A. Aimo. S: Mika Koivusalo. ED: Lauri Koivusalo. Narrator: Jukka Tuppurainen. The interviewees in interviews conducted in 1991, 2000, 2001, and 2011: Viljo Rajamäki, Mauno Vehkaoja, Sulo Tanttari, Yrjö Pohtola, Veikko Keski-Heiska, Olavi Maunula, Arvi Koski, Vilho Ranta, Tauno Keltto, Aali Kitinoja, Heikki Hautala, Reino Rintamäki. 51 min. [Dvd?]. Viewed at Matin-Tupa, Ylistaro (Filmiä ja valoa), 17 Nov 2012. 

The programme booklet: "Twelve war veterans from Ylistaro give their accounts of what happened at Särkisyrjä in Ruskeala during the first days of the war campaign that started in June 1941, over 70 years ago. Men from different parts of South Pohjanmaa belonged to the regiment of Colonel Into Salmio, 530 men from Ylistaro only. The mission of the regiment was to cut the road to Sortavala. The battalion led by Major Komonen received its baptism of fire when it attacked through a rye field towards the house of Immonen. The heavy battle is a memorable chapter in the history of Ylistaro". (My translation)

One of the most harrowing experiences of the Ylistaro war veterans is evoked via twelve interviews, photographs, maps, and drawings. The battleground became a field of blood, 132 Finnish soldiers fell, 44 from Ylistaro only; on the other side, 500 Russians fell. "Everybody got nightmares from the horrors". Another tribute to a team spirit, this time to the brotherhood of the fighters.

The movie has already had two high profile screenings in Matin-Tupa before, but also in this screening there was a special profound feeling.

In the cinema lobby photographs of the soldiers that fought in Särkisyrjä were on display.

Akkaansilta / [The Akkaansilta Bridge]

FI 2011. PC: Futuri Filmi / Isonkyrön kotiseutuyhdistys / Kyrönmaan Opiston filmipiiri. D: Juha Rinnekari. Cinematography: Jussi Kujala, Osmo Nortunen, K.J. Mielty, Juha Rinnekari. Incorporating vintage 8 mm footage from the 1970s. M: Mikko Tamminen. Interviewer: Matti Loukola. [Dvd?]. 45 min. In the presence of the film-makers. Sampled at Matin-Tupa, Ylistaro (Filmiä ja valoa), 17 Nov 2012.

A documentary on the whole community participating in the maintaining of a bridge that needed to be removed during the breaking up of the ice of Kyrönjoki. The composition and the placement of the camera is perfect in the exceptional footage. There was a custom-made carriage with the length of  20 meters for removing elements of the bridge. The teamwork had to be seamless in circumstances of sometimes very restless water in the river.

A memorable tribute to l'esprit de corps, the team spirit and the ancient tradition of doing big things together, called in Finland talkoot, in Pohjanmaa kökkä, and the special spirit called talkoohenki.

The Sixth Film and Light Festival in Ylistaro, 15-18 Nov 2012

Filmiä ja valoa -elokuvafestivaali, Matin-Tupa, Puhelinkuja 4, 61400 Ylistaro, Finland. www.matin-tupa.fi, www.filmiajavaloa.fi

I board the Pendolino express train that will take me from Helsinki to Seinäjoki in two hours and 50 minutes. I have been travelling this stretch ever since I was a baby 57 years ago, and never has it been this fast. The broadband connection on the train is good, too, enabling me to write my blog remarks about yesterday. It is interesting to discover connections between films that seem to have nothing in common like La Guerre est déclarée (the Swedish title is the best: Slåss för livet = Fight for Life) and the last Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 2.

For the first time I'm about to visit the Filmiä ja valoa elokuvafestivaali (Film and Light Festival), organized for the sixth time at the cinema Matin-Tupa in Ylistaro in the bleakest time of the year, before snowfall. Ylistaro is a little community in Southern Pohjanmaa, and Matin-Tupa, seating 200, is a cinema with a great spirit well-known all over Finland, run by Mr. Anssi Luoma and his dedicated family staff professionally, but not for a living; everybody has another occupation for that. Apparently when the year is good there is no financial loss for this enterprising cinema the operation of which is based on a great love for films. Matin-Tupa programs the latest hits such as Skyfall and Twilight, but Mr. Luoma is also a devoted film historian and collector, a good contact for KAVA. Mr. Luoma has the second biggest collection of posters in Finland (the biggest being at KAVA), with some 20.000 posters.

The digital transition has been a very good thing for Matin-Tupa because now a big premiere movie can open on the national premiere day - which is today often the international premiere day (Skyfall, Twilight). Even a three week delay can be fatal in a cinema like this where people may want to drive to Seinäjoki or Vaasa to catch the big new film immediately if it's not available nearer. Now they may prefer the neighbourhood screen.

The star guest visited Ylistaro yesterday, the great young writer Sofi Oksanen, who met the audience to introduce her new novel Kun kyyhkyset katosivat [When the Doves Disappeared] and the movie adaptation of her previous novel Puhdistus / Purge. I have been invited for today's introduction of the same movie. My presentation has the title Menneisyyden varjot / Shadows of the Past, and my starting point is in Pekka Tarkka's remarks when he gave the Finlandia Award to Sofi Oksanen for Puhdistus - the concept of catharsis. My theme is the power of catharsis in the cinema when dealing with traumatic events of the past.

The Ylistaro festival includes previews of Finnish films (Juoppohullun päiväkirja / The Diary of a Drunken Maniac), previews of foreign films (Haute cuisine), and local documentary films about maintaining a movable bridge that needed to be removed during the breaking up of ice, and about a particularly tragic battle in 1941 where many local men fell. Those movies, based on interviews, photographs, and 16 mm and 8 mm footage, are invaluable with their memory links to a world that is disappearing. The highlight is the live cinema concert on Sunday 18 November, 2012, at 15.00, of Pohjalaisia (the silent film adaptation from 1925), the music composed and played by the master organist Kalevi Kiviniemi.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2

Twilight - aamunkoi: osa 2 / The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 [Swedish title on the Kino City website] / [Om jag kunde drömma: Så länge vi båda andas (Swedish title of the source novel)]. US © 2012 Summit Entertainment LLC. P: Wyck Godfrey, Stephenie Meyer, Karen Rosenfelt. D: Bill Condon. SC: Melissa Rosenberg - based on the novel (2008) by Stephenie Meyer. (In Finland the Twilight book series is called Houkutus, and the title of this novel is Aamunkoi. The first two novels are translated by Tiina Ohinmaa, and the second two by Pirkko Biström.) DP: Guillermo Navarro - Camera: Arricam ST, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses; Arriflex 435, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses; Moviecam Compact, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses - Laboratory: EFILM Digital Laboratories, Hollywood (CA), USA (digital intermediate) - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1. PD: Richard Sherman. AD: Jeremy Stanbridge. Set dec: David Schlesinger. Cost: Michael Wilkinson. Makeup: Jean Anna Black. Hair: Rita Parillo. SFX: Alex Burdett - Legacy Effects. VFX: Hydraulx, HALON, Rodeo FX, Zoic Studios, Tippett Studios, Method Studios Vancouver, Spin VFX, Lola Visual Effects, Pixomondo, Prologue, Soho vfx. Stunt team: huge. AN: Tippett Studio. M: Carter Burwell. "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri. S: Dane A. Davis. ED: Virginia Katz. Casting: Debra Zane. Loc: Baton Rouge (Louisiana), Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada). 116 min. Released by Nordisk with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Hannele Vahtera. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 16 Nov 2012 (week of global premiere).

The cast as edited in Wikipedia:

Kristen Stewart as Bella Cullen
Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen
Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black
Mackenzie Foy as Renesmee Cullen
Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen
Maggie Grace as Irina
Jamie Campbell Bower as Caius
Michael Sheen as Aro
Nikki Reed as Rosalie Hale
Kellan Lutz as Emmett Cullen
Dakota Fanning as Jane
Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Hale
Christopher Heyerdahl as Marcus
Peter Facinelli as Carlisle Cullen
Billy Burke as Charlie Swan
Lee Pace as Garrett
Christian Serratos as Angela Weber
Elizabeth Reaser as Esme Cullen
MyAnna Buring as Tanya
Noel Fisher as Vladimir
Joe Anderson as Alistair
Cameron Bright as Alec
Angela Sarafyan as Tia
Aldo Quintino as Amazon Vampire
Rami Malek as Benjamin
Booboo Stewart as Seth Clearwater
Daniel Cudmore as Felix
Christian Camargo as Eleazar
Mía Maestro as Carmen
Ty Olsson as Phil
Alex Meraz as Paul
Judith Shekoni as Zafrina
Charlie Bewley as Demetri
JD Pardo as Nahuel
Julia Jones as Leah Clearwater
Lateef Crowder as Santiago
Andrea Powell as Sasha
Toni Trucks as Mary
MyAnna Buring as Tanya
Casey LaBow as Kate
Andrea Gabriel as Kebi
Austin Naulty as Werewolf
Kiowa Gordon as Embry Call
Chaske Spencer as Sam Uley
Bronson Pelletier as Jared
Marisa Quinn as Huilen
Omar Metwally as Amun
Valorie Curry as Charlotte
Tracey Heggins as Senna
Marlane Barnes as Maggie
Guri Weinberg as Stefan
Erik Odom as Peter
Lisa Howard as Siobhan
Bill Tangradi as Randall
Patrick Brennan as Liam
Amadou Ly as Henri
Janelle Froehlich as Yvette
Masami Kosaka as Toshiro

In my remarks on Breaking Dawn - Part 1 I discussed the remarkable change in vampire fiction, the most astounding volte-face in the history of horror fiction: vampires now are our love objects, and no counterforce exists anymore.

Cinema for me has been an affirmation of the life force. Even traditional vampire movies, with Dracula and Carmilla as incarnations of the death drive, have belonged to that great continuum by negation.

I am puzzled at the fact that no critic seems to find the change even worth mentioning. Perhaps they find this kind of fiction generally meaningless.

Or perhaps I have misunderstood everything. At least judging by the radiant faces of the target audience, teenage girls, crowding the biggest cinema in Finland almost to capacity. They had a good time, and I smiled at the jokes that I kept hearing from the row behind. Apparently Bella Swan is an identification figure - although in the previous movie Bella ceased to be a human being.

The Gothic tradition is old, and traditionally horror had a tragic dimension. The elements of dignity in the vampire made his / her fate tragic, but his / her fate was something worse than death, the worst possible. Now the status of the vampire is portrayed as most desirable.

"Forever" is the catchword.

The PG-13 requirement means that there is practically no blood in the movie, although almost all the characters are bloodsuckers. There is a lot of violence, but gory detail has been cut.

The film I happened to see before this was La Guerre est déclarée, a film about a fight against malignant cancer in a child, with excerpts from Cristaux liquides by Jean Painlevé.

Also in Breaking Dawn Part 2 the child is the central figure, the unique offspring of a human and a vampire, half mortal and half immortal, and saving its life is the mission of the story. Also in Breaking Dawn Part 2 there are elements and inserts that are experimental cinema, expressing fundamental mutations in the cell structure.

Memorable aspects: - Elegant credit sequences - The black and white turning into a red, climaxing in an extreme close-up of Bella's red vampire eyes. - "We have the same temperature now". - The world of supernatural instincts. - The hunter's instincts, "forever". - Bella is now stronger than Edward; she is the strongest of all. - It is now impossible to watch the chronically fixed blasé look of Robert Pattinson without thinking about his character in Cosmopolis. - The pervasive decadence in almost each character. - The werewolf friend is marked with Renesmee, "it's a wolf thing". - "You named my daughter after the Loch Ness monster": Ness. - Wooden, monotonous, somnambulistic performances reminiscent of daily tv soap operas; going through the dialogue and the gestures without insight. Pancake makeup prevents subtle facial expression. - "I stopped aging three days ago". - There is a bed, but vampires don't sleep. The sex drive is now also on a supernatural level, inexhaustible. "You really were holding back before". "How can we stop". - Bella to his father: "My time as a human is over. I never felt more alive. I was born to be a vampire". - "There is only one enemy left: time. Renesmee is growing too fast." - The fantastic creatures assembled for the final ice battle. But the epic battle is largely seen as a fantasy vision of what would happen, and when the Volturi realize they are going to be destroyed, they withdraw. "We will not fight today" [A girl's glad voice from the row behind me in the cinema: "Then we'll have to do it tomorrow".] - The last words: "We have time". "Forever".  

Like in Breaking Dawn Part 1, Bill Condon keeps directing with a sense of solemn gravity. The special effects are not very well made, and somehow it does not seem to harm. There is generally a bloodless, pale look in the movie, the climax of which takes place when the snow has fallen.

Although Breaking Dawn has been shot on 35 mm film, the vibrant film look has disappeared in the digital intermediate. Especially nature footage looks fuzzy. The lifeless quality of digital cinema has been used as a means of expression in this work.

La Guerre est déclarée / Declaration of War

Sota on julistettu / Slåss för livet. FR © 2011 Rectangle Productions / Wild Bunch. P: Edouard Weil. D: Valérie Donzelli. SC: Valérie Donzelli, Jérémie Elkaïm. DP: Sébastien Buchmann - Camera: Canon EOS 5D - Film negative format: 35 mm (?) - Printed film format: 35 mm, Digital (Digital Cinema Package DCP) - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1. PD: Gaëlle Usandivaras. Cost: Elisabeth Mehu. Makeup and hair: Valérie Donzelli. VFX: Michel Reynaert. S: Ludovic Escallier, Sébastien Savine. ED: Pauline Gaillard. Excerpts from: Cristaux liquides (Jean Painlevé, 1978). Casting: Karen Hottois. C: Valérie Donzelli (Juliette), Jérémie Elkaïm (Roméo Benaïm), César Desseix (Adam Benaïm à 18 mois), Gabriel Elkaïm (Adam Benaïm à 8 ans), Brigitte Sy (Claudia Benaïm, la mère de Roméo), Elina Löwensohn (Alex, la compagne de Claudia), Michèle Moretti (Geneviève, la mère de Juliette), Philippe Laudenbach (Philippe, le père de Juliette), Bastien Bouillon (Nikos), Béatrice De Staël (Le docteur Ghislaine Prat, la pédiatre), Anne Le Ny (Le docteur Fitoussi, la neuropédiatre), Frédéric Pierrot (Le professeur Saint-Rose), Elisabeth Dion (Le docteur Kalifa, de l'IGR), Pauline Gaillard (un narrateur), Philippe Barassat (un narrateur), Valentine Catzéflis (une narratrice). Loc: Paris, Marseille, Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer (Calvados, Normandie). 100 min. Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Joanna Erkkilä. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki, 16 Nov 2012.

Wikipedia: "La Guerre est déclarée est un film français réalisé par Valérie Donzelli, sorti en 2011. Il s'agit de son deuxième long métrage après La Reine des pommes. Racontant la bataille d'un couple de jeunes parents pour sauver leur petit garçon d'une tumeur rare au cerveau, il a surtout la particularité d'être écrit, réalisé et interprété par ces mêmes parents qui ont vécu la dite histoire."

"Dès le premier regard, Juliette attire Roméo dans ses bras. Le coup de foudre est réciproque, l'amour ainsi partagé donne vite naissance à leur enfant, Adam. Mais alors qu'il va sur ses deux ans, le bébé inquiète ses parents, car il ne marche pas encore et vomit parfois de manière violente et subite. Après constat des symptômes et de plus amples examens, une tumeur est diagnostiquée. Juliette et Roméo mènent alors un long combat de front contre le cancer qui menace la survie de leur fils." (Wikipedia)

The story is powerful, gripping and true to life, the actor-filmmakers recreating their own harrowing war against the cancer in their little son, finally conquering against all odds. The account of the medical world dominates the movie and probably has great value of authenticity, bordering on the documentary. Many hospitals are credited in the movie.

The film is very interesting for everybody who have had to face similar experiences in their own lives or in the lives of those close to them.

The approach is realistic, often naturalistic, with flights of fancy. There are excerpts from Cristaux liquides, perhaps as an evocation of the malignant cancer. There is a camera whirlwind effect to express Juliette's agony. There are slow motion shots. There is a Truffaut inspiration in the movie, especially in the conclusion.

The music track is too eclectic and slightly too obvious to my taste, but the movie is yet another expression of the charming tradition in French cinema that film-makers write songs for their own movies. (Last week I saw Julie Delpy's 2 Days in New York for which she has also written songs.)

I prefer the Swedish title of the movie, Slåss för livet  = Fight for Life. This basic theme this movie conveys powerfully and memorably.

The visual quality has the low definition look of the system camera, pretty ok in interiors and close-ups, not so hot outdoors or with nature footage.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Yle News: Top Twelve Finnish Movies

Yle News (the news department of the Finnish Broadcasting Company) asked 48 critics, journalists, and bloggers to name their top five Finnish fiction feature films. The top twelve list was released yesterday.

YLE NEWS: TOP TWELVE FINNISH MOVIES
1. Komisario Palmun erehdys / [The Rygseck Mystery] (1960) [20 votes]
2. Kauas pilvet karkaavat / Drifting Clouds (1996) [13]
3. Valkoinen peura / The White Reindeer (1952) [12]
4. Tuntematon sotilas / The Unknown Soldier (1955) [11]
5. Kahdeksan surmanluotia / Eight Deadly Shots (1972) [10]
6. Mies vailla menneisyyttä / The Man Without a Past (2002) [8]
6. Paha maa / Frozen Land (2005) [8]
8. Jäniksen vuosi / The Year of the Hare (1977) [7]
9. Sensuela (1973) [6]
10. Calamari Union (1985) [5]
10. Maa on syntinen laulu / Earth Is Our Sinful Song (1973) [5]
10. Tuntematon sotilas / The Unknown Soldier (1985) [5]

The list of all films voted for is beyond the jump break.

Also in our Cinema Orion these movies are much in demand and screened regularly. Mr. Matti Kassila, the director of Komisario Palmun erehdys, is presenting Tulipunainen kyyhkynen / [The Scarlet Dove] (1961) tomorrow, Wednesday, 14 November, at 17.00 at Cinema Orion.

Jutta Sarhimaa's remarks are worth reading, 13 Nov 2012
http://juttasarhimaa.fi/wp/blog/2012/11/13/ylen-parhaat-kotimaiset-elokuvat-aanestyksesta/#.UKS2j2eWzQo
Lively debate on Kalle Kinnunen's blog, 12 Nov 2012
http://suomenkuvalehti.fi/blogit/kuvien-takaa/kaikkien-aikojen-paras-suomalainen-elokuva-komisario-palmun-erehdys
Jukka Kangasjärvi's list, 14 Nov 2012
http://asfilmsgoby.blogspot.fi/2012/11/viisi-parasta-suomalaista-elokuvaa.html

This year there are more new Finnish movies being released than in decades. Also attendance figures are higher than in decades. It is still too early to know which of the latest movies have evergreen potential.

MY TOP THREE FINNISH MOVIES
In the Sight & Sound 2012 poll I named one Finnish movie, Eight Deadly Shots, but it could have been any one of these:
Loviisa (1946)
Tuntematon sotilas / The Unknown Soldier (1955) - the long version only
Kahdeksan surmanluotia / Eight Deadly Shots (1972) - the long version only

MY SELECTION OF TOP FINNISH FEATURE FILMS (MMM ELOKUVAOPAS 1995, 2005)
Nummisuutarit / The Village Shoemakers (1923)
Juha (1937)
Niskavuoren naiset / The Women of Niskavuori (1938)
Loviisa (1946)
Ihmiset suviyössä / People in the Summer Night (1948)
Niskavuoren Heta / Heta from Niskavuori (1952)
Valkoinen peura / The White Reindeer (1952)
Tuntematon sotilas / The Unknown Soldier (1955) - the long version only
Komisario Palmun erehdys / [The Rygseck Mystery] (1960)
Kahdeksan surmanluotia / Eight Deadly Shots (1972) - the long version only
Arvottomat / The Worthless (1982)
Varjoja paratiisissa / Shadows In Paradise (1986)
Onnen maa / [Land of Love] (1993)
Levottomat / The Restless (2000)
Rakkaus on aarre / Love Is a Treasure (2002)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

End of Watch

Poliisit / End of Watch [Swedish title on the Kino City website]. US © 2012 Sole Productions LLC / Hedge Fund Film Partners. P: David Ayer, Matt Jackson, John Lesher. D+SC: David Ayer. DP: Roman Vasyanov - Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon Lenses, Canon EOS 7D, Canon Lenses, Canon XA-10, GoPro HD Hero, Silicon Imaging SI-2K 'Nano', Zeiss Ultra Prime Lenses, Silicon Imaging SI-2K Mini, Zeiss Ultra Prime Lenses - Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA, EFILM Digital Laboratories, Hollywood (CA), USA (digital intermediate) - Source format: CineForm RAW, Video (HD) - Cinematographic process: AVCHD (1080p/24) (source format), CineForm RAW (2K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1. PD: Devorah Herbert. AD: Kevin Constant. Set dec: Betty Berberian. Cost: Mary Claire Hannan. Makeup: Tina Roesler Kerwin. Prosthetic makeup: Clinton Wayne. SFX: Kevin Hannigan. VFX: LOOK Effects - Adam Avitabile. M: David Sardy. The song list would be worth copying but it is not included in the production information, and on IMDb there are just a couple of songs listed. S: Michael D. Wilhoit. ED: Dody Dorn. Technical advisor: Jaime FitzSimons. Casting: Lindsay Graham, Mary Vernieu. C: Jake Gyllenhaal (Brian Taylor), Michael Peña (Mike Zavala), Natalie Martinez (Gabby), Anna Kendrick (Janet), David Harbour (Van Hauser), Frank Grillo (Sarge), America Ferrera (Orozco), Cle Shaheed Sloan (Mr. Tre), Jaime FitzSimmons (Captain Reese), Cody Horn (Davis), Shondrella Avery (Bonita), Everton Lawrence (Man Friend), Leequwid "Devil" Wilkens (CK), James "Pistol" McNeal (DJ), Zone (Too Tall), Alvin Norman (Peanut), Richard Cabral (Demon), Diamonique (Wicked), Maurice Compte (Big Eveil), Yahira Garcia (La La). Loc: Los Angeles, CA - South Central LA - around the Newton Police Station. Thanks: LAPD. In English and Spanish; English subtitles for Spanish dialogue. 108 min. Released by Nordisk Film. Viewed at Tennispalatsi 11, Helsinki, 10 Nov 2012 (no Finnish or Swedish subtitles in this screening due to technical problems).

Official synopsis from the production notes: "In their mission to abide by their oath to serve and protect, Officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Officer Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) have formed a powerful brotherhood to ensure they both go home at the END OF WATCH. The only guarantee for these officers is that there are no guarantees when patrolling the streets of South Central, Los Angeles."

"Between the blue lights, blaring sirens and adrenaline pumping action thrives an honest and often humorous banter between partners who spend most of their days in a police car awaiting the next call. The officers have formed a bond that allows them to function as a unit in the face of danger, knowing full well, at any moment, they could be called on to lay down their lives."

"The vivid action unfolds entirely through footage of handheld cameras shot from the point of view of police officers, gang members, surveillance cameras, dash cams, and citizens caught in the line of fire. This 360° perspective creates a riveting and immediate portrait of the city’s darkest, most violent streets and back alleys, and the brave men and women patrolling them."

"Writer/Director/Producer David Ayer (TRAINING DAY) was driven to get the story of Los Angeles cops “right,” and open a window into a rarely seen world of law enforcement for all its truth, grit and compassion. Produced by John Lesher, Nigel Sinclair and Matt Jackson, with a cast headed by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, and featuring Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, Cody Horn, Natalie Martinez, and Frank Grillo, END OF WATCH is a powerful story of family, friendship, love, honor and courage." (official synopsis)

A cop movie based on first hand experience of the reality in South Central Los Angeles. A story of camaraderie between the two cops, one of them a paleface and one of them with Mexican-Spanish-Catholic background. Mike is newly married, Brian's wedding is included in the movie, wives get pregnant, and Mike's baby is born.

The backstory is the invasion of Mexican drug cartels into Los Angeles, the city becoming a battleground for drug warfare with the involvement of big drug capital.

At first the young cops seem too clownish, too eager, too arrogant, too full of themselves, but they keep learning.

David Ayer has said that he strived after an YouTube impact - even the gangsters now record everything with tiny cameras. Everything was covered with four cameras, some of them tiny ones attached to the lapels of the cops. In the beginning the action sequences make no sense with the relentless handheld approach and disorientation. But the tragic conclusion where the two cops meet the military might of the drug cartel has an expression that is loud and clear. There is a powerful feeling in the final funeral sequence followed by an aerial shot of Los Angeles and a flashback to the last day of the partners together.

Intentionally low visual quality. Handheld camera has been a popular device in the cinema particularly since the 1950s. Low definition video look has been used in theatrical movies since the 1960s and especially since the 1990s. I'd prefer to confront such a visual quality in special sequences only, but watching it during an entire feature movie in a cinema can feel a bit irritating.

Palme

Palme. SE/DK © 2012 B-Reel AB. P: Fredrik Heinig, Mattias Nohrborg. D: Maud Nycander, Kristina Lindström. DP: Anders Bohman, Magnus Berg - digital post-production: The Chimney Pot. Graphic design and AN: Martin Hultman. M: Benny Andersson. ED: Andreas Jonsson, Niels Pagh Andersen, Hanna Lejonqvist. Research: Jonas Goldmann, Anneli Kustfält, Lars-Olof Lamperts. Multi-lingual in Swedish and other languages - Palme himself speaks good English, Swedish, French, and Spanish in the archival footage. 105 min. [Announced: a tv series version Palme I-III, 3 x 58 min.]. Released by Scanbox Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Scandinavian Text Service [Swedish subtitles for non-Swedish passages only]. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 6, Helsinki, 10 Nov 2012 (weekend of Finnish premiere).    

Featuring (as listed in Svensk filmdatabas): Olof Palme [archival], Lisbet Palme, Joakim Palme, Mårten Palme, Mattias Palme, Ulf Adelsohn, Roy Andersson, Carl Bildt, Ingvar Boman, Ingvar Carlsson, Jörn Donner, Lars Edelstam, Kjell Olof Feldt, Anders Ferm, Carl Johan De Geer, Jan Guillou, Richard Guston, Christina Jutterström, Anette Kullenberg, Anna-Greta Leijon, Thage G. Peterson, Olof Ruin, Mona Sahlin, Pierre Schori, Desmond Tutu. - More people featured in archival footage: see my rough notes beyond the jump break.

Synopsis from Svensk filmdatabas: "It's 25 years since the February night when Olof Palme was shot dead on the streets of Stockholm, changing Sweden forever overnight. Palme is the film about his life and times, and about the Sweden he helped to create. A man who changed history."

A magnificent documentary portrait on Olof Palme (1927-1986). Palme was a statesman with an international stature and dignity, never avoiding controversy, and this movie is worthy of him.

The documentary is obviously authorized by the Palme family which has given access to the home movies of the family. Yet it is not a glossy and sanitized portrait; the attempt is rather warts and all.

Palme never avoided debate, conflict, and controversy, and neither does this movie which also deals with sensitive and difficult aspects of the Palme story, including the IB scandal of blacklisting political opponents.

One of those aspects is that Palme was vocal on Vietnam but not always so alert about injustice next door, although he condemned the Prague repression in 1968. In Finland it was even more so. It was easy to condemn Pinochet although we knew what was going on in Estonia.

The movie has a strong vision about welfare society, fought for by the social democrats, but becoming common property in the 1980s, as Jörn Donner gets to state here.

The public and official statements of little Sweden on behalf of international solidarity and against aggression, dictatorship and racism are now seen in the perspective of history. The statements did matter.

And the Swedish welfare model, top of the world, did matter, not least in Finland.

Compilation quality with source footage ranging from home movie 8 mm to tv video quality to newly filmed interviews.

Arbitrage

Keinottelua / Bedragaren. US © 2012 Arbitrage LLC. P: Laura Bickford, Justin Nappi, Robert Salerno, Kevin Turen. D+SC: Nicholas Jarecki. DP: Yorick Le Saux - Camera: Arricam LT, Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo Lenses - Laboratory: DeLuxe, New York (NY), USA - Film length (metres): 2916 m (Portugal, 35 mm) - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219, Vision2 Expression 500T 5229) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1. PD: Beth Mickle. AD: Michael Ahern. Set dec: Carrie Stewart. Cost: Joseph G. Aulisi - Brioni (Richard Gere) - Mendel (Susan Sarandon - tbc). Makeup: Joelle Troisi. Hair: Pamela May. VFX: Alvernia Studios - Mikolaj Valencia. M: Cliff Martinez. "I See Who You Are" (Björk, Mark Bell) perf. Björk. S: Alvernia Studios - Piotr Witkowski. ED: Douglas Crise. Casting: Laura Rosenthal. C: Richard Gere (Robert Miller), Susan Sarandon (Ellen Miller), Tim Roth (Det. Michael Bryer), Brit Marling (Brooke Miller), Laetitia Casta (Julie Côte), Nate Parker (Jimmy Grant), Stuart Margolin (Syd Felder), Chris Eigeman (Gavin Briar), Graydon Carter (James Mayfield), Bruce Altman (Chris Vogler), Larry Pine (Jeffrey Greenberg). Loc: New York City. 106 min. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Suvi Tohmo / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 10 Nov 2012 (premiere weekend).

Official synopsis: "Arbitrage, the feature directorial debut of writer Nicholas Jarecki, is a taut and alluring suspense thriller about love, loyalty, and high finance. When we first meet New York hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller (Richard Gere) on the eve of his 60th birthday, he appears the very portrait of success in American business and family life. But behind the gilded walls of his mansion, Miller is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire to a major bank before the depths of his fraud are revealed. Struggling to conceal his duplicity from loyal wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) and brilliant daughter and heir-apparent Brooke (Brit Marling), Miller's also balancing an affair with French art-dealer Julie Côte (Laetitia Casta). Just as he's about to unload his troubled empire, an unexpected bloody error forces him to juggle family, business, and crime with the aid of Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), a face from Miller's past. One wrong turn ignites the suspicions of NYPD Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth), who will stop at nothing in his pursuits.  Running on borrowed time, Miller is forced to confront the limits of even his own moral duplicity. Will he make it out before the bubble bursts?"

Arbitrage is a strong contribution to the cinematic accounts of an essential contemporary theme, epic fraud in the world of big finance, handled with distinction in documentaries such as The Inside Job, studied in more general-allegoric ways in Cosmopolis based on the novel by Don De Lillo, and appearing as a central theme in modern fantasy adventures such as The Dark Knight Rises (Bruce Wayne loses his entire property in financial fraud masterminded by his supposed partner Miranda Tate). Oliver Stone has also contributed with a well-timed sequel - Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

The roots of this kind of fiction go back to Émile Zola and his novel L'Argent (1890), filmed with distinction by Marcel L'Herbier in 1928 just before the Wall Street crash and the Great Depression. During the Depression itself the world of financial speculation was impressively covered by artists such as Julien Duvivier in David Golder, based on the novel by Irène Némirovsky, and Max Ophuls in his brilliant Komedie om Geld.

In the 1980s there was a huge rise of what we in Finland called "casino economy" with financial gambling, swindling, fraud and speculation rampant, along with the early information technology bubbles. There were unheard-of dimensions to credit and speculation. Tom Wolfe caught something of the spirit of the age in his novel about "the Masters of the Universe", The Bonfire of the Vanities, not quite successfully filmed by Brian De Palma. Oliver Stone had more success in his original Wall Street ("greed is good"), where he could draw on family experience on Wall Street dealers (his father was one).

Nicholas Jarecki in Arbitrage is aware of the tradition, and The Bonfire of the Vanities looms in the background with its subplot of the master of the universe covering up his participation in a fatal car crash.

Today I read in Financial Times Weekend that the role of the one percenters has been exaggerated. It is those who belong to the one per mille whose influence is huge. Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is one of them.

Arbitrage is about facade and reality. It starts with the 60th birthday of the protagonist ("age is about mind over matter: when you don't mind it doesn't matter"), it's all smiles and happiness on the surface. Behind the sunny, glossy surface the business is based on fraud, and Robert breaks her daughter Brooke's heart when she finds out that her father has cooked company books. Robert has already broken his wife Ellen's heart by focusing his love-life on his French mistress Julie, an art dealer. When Julie dies in a car crash caused by Robert the accused is the young black Nate whom Robert had summoned to help.

Robert is a villain about to face two trials, for fraud and for manslaughter. But his cooked books work and he manages to sell his company and save himself financially before the bubble bursts. And the over-eager policeman on the case of the car crash makes the mistake of faking evidence about Nate's car entering a certain road, and when the policeman is exposed, the case against Nate (and Robert) is dismissed.

Robert has evaded legal justice, but he still has to face his daughter and wife who have lost their respect towards him. In the eyes of those closest to him he is a fake. Ellen knows about Robert's guilt in the killing and blackmails him: "I'm not going to lie if you don't sign" (their separation agreement with heavy terms). In Julie's funeral nobody knows about Robert's guilt except Robert, himself. The film ends with a benefit gala where Robert is celebrated as a philanthropist, the introductory speech given by Brooke. The film ends abruptly as Robert is about to take the floor.

Memorable features: - Robert's lawyer advises Robert to tell the truth, because with lies, everything gets worse. - Like in Shadow of a Doubt, the protagonist is a villain who is not caught and convicted but who loses the trust of his closest ones and gets stuck in a web of lies. - Nate: "Money's gonna fix everything?" Robert: "What else is there?" - "Nothing's beyond money with you." - "The world's cold. You gonna need a warm coat."

Arbitrage has been shot on 35 mm film, but the visual quality in the digital screening was only passable, not very good. The restrictions of the digital intermediate were especially notable in nature footage.

Friday, November 09, 2012

2 Days In New York

2 päivää New Yorkissa / 2 dagar i New York. DE/FR/BE © 2012 Polaris Films, Senator Film Produktion, Saga Film, Tempête Sous un Crâne, Alvy Productions, In Production, TDY Filmproduktion, BNP Paribas Fortis Film Fund [exact list tbc]. P: Scott Franklin, Ulf Israel, Christophe Mazodier, Jean-Jacques Neira, Hubert Toint. D: Julie Delpy. SC: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau - story: Alexia Landeau, Alexandre Nahon - add. dialogue: Alexandre Nahon. DP: Lubomir Bakchev - Camera: Arri Alexa, Zeiss Ultra Prime Lenses - Source format: Codex - Cinematographic process: ARRIRAW (source format), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical), D-Cinema DCP - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1. PD: Judy Rhee. AD: Charles Kulsziski. Set dec: Shelley Barclay. Cost: Rebecca Hofherr. Makeup: Julia Lallas. VFX: Cédric Fayolle. Songs written and sung by Julie Delpy. S: Gert Janssen. ED: Julie Brenta, Isabelle Devinck. Casting: Jessica Kelly, Suzanne Smith. C: Chris Rock (Mingus), Julie Delpy (Marion), Albert Delpy (Jeannot), Alexia Landeau (Rose), Alexandre Nahon (Manu), Kate Burton (Bella), Dylan Baker (Ron), Daniel Brühl (The Oak Fairy), Talen Ruth Riley (Willow), Owen Shipman (Lulu), Malinda Williams (Elizabeth), Carmen Lopez (Julia), Emily Wagner (Susan), Arthur French (Lee Robinson), Petronia Paley (Carol Robinson), Alex Manette (John Kelly), Vincent Gallo (Vincent Gallo). Bilingual: in English and in French. 95 min. Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Markus Karjalainen. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 8, Helsinki, 9 Nov 2012 (day of Finnish premiere).

Official synopsis (Magnolia Pictures): "Marion and Mingus live cozily—perhaps too cozily—with their cat and two young children from previous relationships. However, when Marion’s jolly father (played by director Delpy’s real-life dad), her oversexed sister, and her sister’s outrageous boyfriend unceremoniously descend upon them for a visit, it initiates two unforgettable days that will test Marion and Mingus’s relationship. With their unwitting racism and sexual frankness, the French triumvirate hilariously has no boundaries or filters... and no person is left unscathed in its wake."

"Directed and cowritten by Delpy, 2 Days in New York is a deliciously witty romp. One of the pleasures of this follow-up film to 2 Days in Paris is the addition of Chris Rock, who—amid the Gallic mayhem—convincingly plays the straight man as Marion’s hipster American boyfriend. With great skill and energy, Delpy heightens cultural differences to comedic extremes but also manages to show that sometimes change is the best solution to a relationship that’s been pushed to its limit." (official synopsis)

Two Finnish expressions occurred to me while watching 2 Days In New York: Perhe on pahin [The Family Is the Worst], the Finnish title for the sitcom All In the Family - and Hullunkuriset perheet [Zany Families], the Finnish title for the children's playing card set Happy Families.

The blended family of Marion and Mingus represent "the straight ones" in this New York comedy in which the guests from Paris - father Jeannot, sister Rose, her boyfriend Manu - are the wild force, enfants et parents terribles, who break all the rules. But also Marion is a walking catastrophe in her dealings with key contactpeople in the art gallery where she opens her photo exhibition, an intimate chronicle, a reflection of herself and her ex-boyfriend in bed under the sheets. The most striking feature in her exhibition is that not only has she offered these large photographs of her private life for sale but she has also offered her soul for sale for the highest bidder. The price, it turns out, is 5000 dollars. She even meets the buyer (Vincent Gallo!) because she wants her soul back, but Vincent Gallo, instead, would like to get the instruction manual.  For the confused Marion the action has been "a conceptual statement".

Memorable features: - The rampage of the terrible Frenchmen in New York, exceeding all stereotypes. - The blitz montages. - The Halloween theme and the death drive in the little black girl. - The creepy art critic John Kelly: "I like the theme more than the execution". - The neighbours are led to believe that Marion is mortally ill with brain tumour, and they buy all the photographs in the exhibition because "they'll be worth a fortune soon". - The Thai masseurs who are actually Vietnamese. Marion's father was born in French Indochina, in the same village, it turns out, as the masseurs. - In the conclusion Marion saves a pigeon from protective metal wiring in Central Park, and its flight to the sky puts things into a new perspective. - Mingus's dialogues with a cardboard Obama are a running feature. In the conclusion Marion and Mingus have a little Obama (albeit a girl) of their own, and Marion presents her a hand puppet show of her parents' love story.

The most memorable condensation of the movie is Mingus's remark to Marion: "ever since your family came you are a different person". He even considers whether Marion is a "psycho bitch". Not.

No problem with the visual quality. Almost all footage is of built space, interiors, street views, close-ups or medium shots. In Central Park the nature is glimpsed only very quickly or it is out of focus, and we get just a general impression of the autumn colours.