Friday, May 03, 2013

Laveata tietä / The Broad Way (KAVA 4K restoration 2013)

Den breda vägen / La strada larga. FI 1931. PC: Fennica-Filmi. EX: Armas Willamo. D+SC+ED: Valentin Vaala. DP: Oscar Lindelöf. PD: John Tivtits. Interiors decorated by: the Stockmann department store and Oy Korte Ab. Cost: Maison Augusta, Oy Taylor Ab. Furs: Oy Hilbert & Lähteinen Ab. M composed, arranged and directed by: Tapio Ilomäki. Performed by: Melody Boys. "Laveata tietä"  theme waltz (also Kirsti's theme) composed by Tapio Ilomäki. “Honkain keskellä” ([“Amongst The Pines”], Juhana Ennola) as Antti and Eero drive to Harakkala. “Kun ensi kerran sinut näin” ([“When I Saw You For The First Time”], trad. folk song) as Kirsti enters downstairs. "Kiikkuri kaakkuri kirjava lintu". "Pappa lupas talon laittaa". “Oi jos ilta joutuisi” ([“Restlessly Waiting For Tonight”], trad. folk song). The melody known since 1938 as "Kaunis Veera". "Rakkauden tuli palaa" ([The Fire of Love is Burning], trad.), “Sotilaspoika” ([“The Soldier Boy”], Fredrik Pacius) at the ski jump games. “Yksi ruusu on kasvanut laaksossa” ([“A Rose Grew In The Valley”], trad. folk song) as Tanita remembers Larto. “Tanita’s theme” tango composed by Tapio Ilomäki. “La Marseillaise” (Rouget de Lisle) as the camera pans over Paris. “Old Folks At Home” / “Swanee River” (Stephen Foster) as the black solo dancer’s tune at the restaurant. “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht” (“Silent Night, Holy Night”, Franz Gruber) during the final sequence. "Keskellä merivesi lainehtii" (trad.). S recording: Kurt Jäger. S editor: Armas Valen. C: Theodor Tugai (= Teuvo Tulio) (Antti Larto alias Anton Lardozo), Eeva Virtanen (Kirsti), Alli Riks (Tanita Salo, ”the gypsy singer Nadina”), Kaarlo Penttilä (Eero), Hanna Taini (Lorette), Väinö Kangas (businessman Matti Salo). Helsinki premiere 12 April 1931 at the Kino-Palatsi – distributed by Suomi-Filmi – number of classification 16801 – rated 16 - Finnish and Swedish intertitles. Silent version first restored by the Finnish Film Archive in 1995. The original music track existed on separate magnetic tape of a total duration of 77 min. The music is in correct order, but two songs and other elements are missing. 2645 m /24 fps/ 96 min
    KAVA 4K digital restoration (2013) - simulating the original tinting with a warm orange hue - with the surviving soundtrack synchronized. Dvd release by Finnkino / KAVA, 15 Feb 2013.
    4K DCP screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (KAVA Digital Restorations), 3 May 2013.

My Le Giornate del Cinema Muto programme note (1999):

"Valentin Vaala and Teuvo Tulio were two young cosmopolitans passionate about cinema. Vaala loved Lubitsch, Tulio was dubbed ”the Finnish Valentino”."
    "The Broad Way was their third film. Urban themes had dominated Finnish cinema statistically, but the most successful films so far had been the rural ones. In portraying urban modernity, however, The Broad Way was the first Finnish film to have the same authority and confidence of style as did Nummisuutarit with rural themes. Consistently Vaala was also the first Finnish film-maker to use fast cutting with success; Lubitsch and the American sophisticated comedy of the late 1920s were his most important model. The visual flair of The Broad Way is as unquestionable as is the shallowness of its character development. If we compare young Teuvo Tulio’s playboy with Marcello Mastroianni’s characters in La dolce vita and La notte, as does film critic Markku Varjola, we can’t help but pass off The Broad Way as a juvenile effort. This is cinema of beautiful surfaces: fast cars, elegant costumes, Art Deco interiors, nocturnal neon lights, jazz musicians and ”the glistening jaws of saxophones”, registered by contemporary reviews as a novel contribution to Finnish cinema. Some interiors seem to be just painted backdrops, which only serves to heighten the sense of the superficiality of the protagonist’s ideals. We visit the stylish Yrjönkatu Sauna Bath and follow our friends to the first world ski championship games at Salpausselkä Ski Jump Hill in the city of Lahti. Original documentary footage of the games held in April 1926 was incorporated in Vaala’s film."
    "Teuvo Tulio is again the seducer irresistible to women. During the course of the film he breaks three of their hearts. He is a demon virtuoso of the violin who reaps success in Paris but confronts his inner emptiness on Christmas Eve. The title of the film comes from the Sermon on the Mount: the gate is wide and the way is broad which leads to perdition. The theme is about winning the whole world and losing one’s soul."
    "Vaala became the house director of the Suomi-Filmi company, learning to master both comedy and epic. There was a spark and a verve in his urban sophisticated comedies which deserve comparison with George Cukor, but he learned to excel with rural subjects, too. Tulio quit acting after two more film roles. He became an independent producer-director of torrid melodramas, which grew madder and madder as years passed. His films would send a shiver even through a Mexican’s spine."

"Valentin Vaala was born as Valentin Ivanoff in Helsinki in 1909 of Russian parents. Already as a child he was a theater enthusiast. At the age of 17 he was making serious attempts at movie-making which led to his first commercially released feature film Mustat silmät (Dark Eyes, 1929 – a lost film: Vaala personally threw it to the sea; 200 meters of the original negative have survived). "Mustalaishurmaaja (The Gypsy Charmer, 1929), a more polished attempt, immediately followed. Laveata tietä was Vaala’s last silent film. All Vaala’s early films had expert cinematographers. Their novel and distinctive contribution to Finnish cinema was the cutting and what might more generally be called cinematic wit."
    "Teuvo Tulio (Theodor Tugai) was born as Theodor Deroschinsky in 1912 on the train from Riga to St. Petersburg; he was brought to Finland in 1922 as his mother married a Finnish man. His film colla-boration with Vaala started at the age of 14. Valentino’s death in 1926 had opened a vacuum in the lives of his worshippers, and filling this void became the calling of the young Tulio. He felt more authentic a sheik than Valentino, being partly of Turkish ancestry. He played the leads in Vaala’s first four films, and Fennica, the company of his guardian, produced them. In the first three films he portrayed a seducer, and in the fourth, Sininen varjo (The Blue Shadow, 1933), a cat burglar. During the making of Vaala’s fifth film, Helsingin kuuluisin liikemies (The Most Famous Businessman in Helsinki, 1934) Fennica went into receivership, and the two young enthusiasts’ ways separated." (Antti Alanen, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Sacile, 1999)

We launched our regular screenings of our digital restorations with this show of Laveata tietä. Our first screening of a digital restoration of our own of a feature film was that of Mustalaishurmaaja / The Gypsy Charmer, on 23 August, 2012.

This is a fine digital 4K restoration of the film which brought the joy of urban montage into the Finnish cinema, directed and edited by Valentin Vaala and starring Teuvo Tulio. It was shot by Oscar Lindelöf who had belonged already to the Atelier Apollo company which launched the Finnish film industry in 1907. It was composed by Tapio Ilomäki, the father of the Finnish film music of the sound era. (There was a thriving film music culture in Finland during the silent era, but new talent took charge of the music of the sound cinema.)

Laveata tietä is a film about the joy of modernity, released during the Depression, yet still in the spirit of the 1920s. The story starts in the spring of 1926 and ends during Christmas, 1930. There is hardly any reference to the turbulence of society. The businessman Matti Salo dies (a probable suicide after his wife Tanita has left him), but that happens before the crash of 1929. The conclusion of the movie, in December 1930, is, in fact, gloomy, but it has nothing to do with society, or perhaps it is an unintended comment on the transition from the Roaring Twenties to the grim 1930s.

Vaala was 21 and Tulio 18 when they made this little movie over 80 years ago. It is still attractive because of its jeu d'esprit. It is full of life, and there is a charming mix of irony, wit, and tenderness. The performances are inspired, there is a feeling of joy in the imagery, the camera angles and the editing. The theme waltz is still infectuous, the arrangements of traditional tunes are witty, and there is a nice jazz spirit towards the conclusion in the score which gets better towards the end. There are silences in some of the spots which would most require music.

The early Vaala-Tulio movies all share the same theme of "the great seducer". Here it is both at its most parodic (the vulture-like women surrounding the gloomy Lardozo in the bar in Paris) and at its most tragic (the final loneliness and walk into darkness).

The tree motif is original: the frost-covered trees are here the trees of love, including the Christmas tree in the conclusion.

Some of the intertitles are memorable: "Your love is strange, and you share it with almost everybody".

There were pleasant encounters after the projection. An old colleague of Valentin Vaala, Mr. Jussi Kohonen, told about the happy memories Vaala and Hanna Taini had of this film. And there was a delightful family reunion: the son of the female lead, Eeva Virtanen (Jarma) had come to see his mother on screen, accompanied by younger generations of the family. They got to hear Kirsti's theme waltz for the first time.

I have not seen a film print of Laveata tietä in a while, and I am looking forward to revisiting it for more accurate comparison.

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