Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Käpy selän alla / [A Cone Under My Back] - 35 mm and 4K DCP comparison

En kotte under ryggen / Skin, Skin. FI 1966. PC: FJ-Filmi Oy. EX: Kyösti Varesvuo. P: Arno Carlstedt. D: Mikko Niskanen. SC: Marja-Leena Mikkola, Robert Alftan. DP: Esko Nevalainen. M: Kaj Chydenius. Arranged by: Otto Donner. Songs: ”Laulu rakastamisen vaikeudesta” ["The Song about the Difficulty of Loving"], ”Mitä sai tällainen tyttö?” ["What Is There for a Girl Like This?"] (Chydenius, Mikkola) perf. Kristiina Halkola and Otto Donnerin orkesteri; ”Laulu kuolleesta rakastetusta” ["The Song of a Dead Lover"] (Chydenius, Mikkola) perf. [1] studio orchestra, [2] Kirsti Wallasvaara and Otto Donnerin orkesteri, [3] Kaj Chydenius, voc and piano; ”Hangö-valsen / Leila” (Georg Malmstén, Roine Rikhard Ryynänen) perf. Jaakko Sievänen and Esko Tuukkasen orkesteri; ”Where Can She Be” (Kitt Sundkvist) perf. Kirka Babitzin and The Creatures; ”Les Feuilles mortes / Kuolleet lehdet” (Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert, Finnish lyrics Kullervo) Anneli Sauli and Esko Tuukkasen orkesteri / playback: Rauni Pekkala, voc, studio orchestra. ED: Juho Gartz. S: Seppo Kurko, Kurt Vilja. Exteriors: Joutsa: Sikosaari; Rahikkalan tila Mieskonmäessä; Hirvensalmi: Toivo Niemisen huvila Puulansalmen rannalla; Sysmä: Sysmän VPK:n tanssilava. C: Kristiina Halkola (Riitta, student of economics), Kirsti Wallasvaara (Leena, student of psychology), Pekka Autiovuori (Timppa, student of medicine), Eero Melasniemi (Santtu, student), Anneli Sauli (movie star), Jukka Sipilä (Lauhasen aikamiespoika Janne / Janne, bachelor son at the house of Lauhanen), Kasperi Manninen (Lauhasen Kasperi-isäntä / Kasperi, the master at the house of Lauhanen), Alma Manninen (Lauhasen Alma-emäntä / Alma, the mistress at the house of Lauhanen), Kari Franck (a boy at the open air dance pavilion), Mikko Niskanen (a man inviting Riitta to the dance), The Creatures = Kirka Babitzin, Remu Aaltonen, Aarto Henttonen, Olli Könönen, Risto Pikkarainen. Helsinki premiere 21.10.1966 Kino Helsinki, Rea, Ritz, simultaneous premiere at Lahti, Pori, Tampere and Turku, original distributor: Suomi-Filmi – first telecast 16.11.1970 MTV1 – VET A-19836 – K16 – 2445 m / 89 min

A 35 mm SEA 50th Jubileum print (2007) viewed at 15.00.

A digital restoration on 4K DCP (KAVA 2013) viewed at 17.00.

Both are based on the original camera negative.

Cinema Orion, Helsinki (KAVA Digital Restorations), 8 May 2013.

I have been an active observer of the digital scene in moving images for some twenty years. Today I had my first ever chance for a fair comparison of a full feature film both in good 35 mm and in top theatrical quality digital.

Käpy selän alla is a real challenge for the definition of light and the grading of a print. It is the story of a summer holiday tenting trip. It is all outdoors, exteriors. There are no true interiors except for some tent interiors. The story takes place during the period of white nights. There are forests, meadows, and lakesides, all difficult for digital.

The cinematographer Esko Nevalainen was a veteran of the studio era, and also the director Mikko Niskanen was trained during the studio era at Suomen Filmiteollisuus. He also studied a year at the VGIK in Moscow. The studio era in Finland ended in 1963. In Käpy selän alla Niskanen and Nevalainen switched to new wave film-thinking.

The new wave had started in Finland in the 1950s with films by Donner, Kurkvaara, Mäkinen, Ruutsalo, Jarva, etc., but Käpy selän alla was the first Finnish new wave film with popular success: 700.000 viewers in a land of 4 million.

I don't know or remember the production facts, but Käpy selän alla looks like it has been shot with available light. At least it has the look of natural light, which was then more difficult to work with than artificial light. Käpy has a different look than studio era outdoors films where reflectors were used for faces. - Added 17 May 2013: reflectors were used, and even occasional spotlights, but almost always very unobtrusively.

I enjoyed very much the 35 mm visual experience which gave a good point of comparison to the digital experience. I realized more acutely than before the tremendous contribution of the editor Juho Gartz, who has pieced together difficult material in a free-wheeling yet well-considered fashion. Mostly the visual look of the 35 mm print is great, but there are also some slightly problematic shots. I realized that it must be difficult to achieve the best grading to all the brief shots, each difficult in their own way. Yet the verdict is: the 35 mm print is a pleasure to watch. - Added 17 May 2013: the original prints were struck made on best possible stock, and their visual dynamics were not as good as on the 2007 print.

The 4K DCP is very beautiful, too. Scratches have been removed, the sound has been digitally restored, the grayscale is rich, the image is stable, and the dynamic balance is good. The grading is consistently right, unlike in the film print just viewed. I was amazed at the fine soft detail in the nature imagery. My verdict of the 4K DCP: it offers a great experience of this film. (A colleague who viewed both versions stated, however, that a sense of depth was missing from the digital screening. I did not feel that way.) - Added 17 May 2013: There are some 1500 shots in the movie. Jarni Susiluoto told me that there is a lot more shades on the negative than can be reproduced on a film print, but it is much better with digital, especially in the black area.

Summa summarum: the 35 mm print is enchanting in a juicy, holistic way, and the 4K DCP is an impressive reinterpretation of the footage in a fine, rich-detailed way. Digital is getting better in the difficult matters of nature impact and flesh impact.

The film I like more each time. It has one of the best soundtracks in the Finnish cinema. It is the story of a summer holiday of four students. Both Riitta and Leena experience a moment of abandon, fulfillment, and ecstasy, an union with nature. A new thing here was the focus on female desire, on the women's complete pleasure. We see Riitta and Leena's faces in extended views of celestial pleasure; the men's faces are ignored. The men, the scoundrels, we already know; they are always the same. The new women are interesting, never seen before.

It's a big deal, but it's not all there is. There is a long scene of painful silence after Leena and Santtu return to the camp. None of the couples will stay together. Each will have to find a way of their own. The future is open for all. Moments of reflection, solitude, fear, and sadness abound in this life-affirming film.

Paradoxically, and without any link to the narrative, "The Song of a Dead Lover", heard three times in different arrangements and by different performers, becomes prominent towards the end of the movie. The song is not even symbolic to the narrative which is about a fun trip to the countryside.

There is no great love story, although we can sense the characters' capacity for such a love as an unrealized potential. The overwhelming, sublime sense of such a love is primarily expressed in the song, and via antithesis, death. The last words of the movie are from the lyrics of the song, and the last stanza is about the invitation to Liebestod: "sen metsän uumeniin" ["into the depth of that forest"].

Laulu kuolleesta rakastetusta
Lyrics: Marja-Leena Mikkola (1966)

Minä kuljen yksinäin,
on kuollut rakastettuni.
On kuollut koko kaupunki,
on linnut vaienneet.
Tuota miestä rakastin niin,
hänen suutaan, hänen silmiään,
hänen käsiään, hänen sydäntään.
On suru jäänyt vain,
on suru jäänyt vain.

Tutuilla kaduilla
on autiota, pimeää.
Ei varjot enää yhteen jää,
ei helise soittimet.
Noita katuja rakastin niin
ja taloja niiden reunoilla
ja puita niiden varsilla,
kun kuljin kanssasi,
kun kuljin kanssasi.

Sinun unesi pitkä on,
on sakea viini unien
ja pimeys unen metsien.
Et toista reunaa näe.
Sinne minua houkutat
yhä lähemmäksi luoksesi,
yhä syvemmälle luoksesi
sen metsän uumeniin,
sen metsän uumeniin

The last stanza in rough translation:

Your sleep is very long / And the wine of dreams is very dense / And in the forests of that dream / You cannot see beyond / That's where you're tempting me / Closer and closer / Deeper and deeper / Into that great forest / Into that great forest

No comments: