Monday, February 25, 2013

Peter von Bagh: Cinefilia (a book)

Peter von Bagh: Cinefilia: Filmihulluuden syvempi olemus. Ulkomailla julkaistut esseet 1989-2012 [Cinephilia: The Deeper Essence of Movie Madness. Essays published abroad 1989-2012]. Edited and translated into Finnish by Sampsa Laurinen. Helsinki: Johnny Kniga, 2013.

Peter von Bagh has been at his best as a writer in his recent works, my favourite among them being the giant Tähtien kirja [2006, The Book of the Stars, a thousand pages in small type, mostly newly written material].

Peter has written more than 30 books, many of them large in scope and format (History of the Cinema, co-writer in The Golden Book of the Finnish Hit Songs, Films Bigger Than Life I-II, The Golden Book of the Finnish Cinema, The Mirror without a Memory [on compilation films], The Book of the Stars, The Blue Song [history of the arts in independent Finland], The Story of the Century [a history of the documentary film], The Origin of the Genres, Sodankylä Forever... )

Those books are in Finnish, but all would deserve to be translated.

Peter has also published many essays abroad: in Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, the United States, Japan, Spain, Portugal... Nuances and dimensions of his ideas and poetic style tend to get lost in other languages. Now those essays are being published for the first time in glorious Finnish, expertly translated by Sampsa Laurinen, catching perfectly Peter's unique and idiosyncratic style.

There is a unity in these writings because they are all reflections of an original concept of the history of the cinema, understood from the viewpoint of a philosophy of history.

Secondly, there is a unity in these essays because they are all part of a particularly personal story. This book has elements of an autobiography of a cinephile. The cinema is like a big bang in the universe of Peter's life and times, and his project is to explore its galaxies and supernovas. But even trivial particles are reflections of big events, and sometimes they express more than the blatantly obvious titles.

The expression that came to my mind while reading this book is "Sydämeni laulu" [The Song of My Heart], the name of a poem by Aleksis Kivi in his novel Seven Brothers.

This book is also Peter's counterpart to Truffaut's The Films in My Life whose motto was adapted from Henry Miller: "these films were alive, and they spoke to me".

- How I became a cinephile in the 1950s in the city of Oulu. - The art of programming. - Vittorio Cottafavi. - Edgar G. Ulmer. - Raoul Walsh. - Silent stars. - Gelsomina. - Max Ophuls. - Henry King. - William Wellman. - Orson Welles. - Joseph Losey: The Prowler. - Don Siegel: The Lineup. - Victor Sjöström. - Carl Th. Dreyer: Vampyr. - Robert Bresson. - Alain Resnais: Hiroshima mon amour. - Henri Decoin: La Vérité sur Bébé Donge. - Carol Reed: Bank Holiday. - Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger: A Canterbury Tale. - Music in the films during WWII. - Melodrama: Frank Borzage: I've Always Loved You; Leslie Arliss: The Man in Grey; Hasse Ekman: Flicka och hyacinter; Teuvo Tulio; Emilio Fernández: Enamorada; Jean Grémillon: L'étrange Madame X; Raffaello Matarazzo - The Cold War, including a discussion on: Ingmar Bergman: Sånt händer inte här; and: Leo McCarey: My Son John --- Technology as Auteur: - CinemaScope - VistaVision - 70 mm --- The ocean in the cinema.

No comments: