Thursday, February 20, 2014

Xiao cheng zhi chun / Spring in a Small Town

小城之春 / Kevät pienessä kaupungissa (our title) / The Spring Torrent (the title on the print). CN 1948. PC: Wenhua Film Company. D: Mu Fei. Based on a short story by Tianji Li. DP: Shengwei Li. AD: Ning Che, Dexiong Zhu. M: Yijun Huang. ED: Xu Ming, Wei Yibao. C: Wei Wei (Zhou Yuwen / Yu Wen, the wife), Yu Shi (Dai Liyan, the husband), Hongmei Zhang (Dai Xiu, little sister), Wei Li (Zhang Zhichen, the guest), Chaoming Cui (Lao Huang, the loyal servant). Some sources say 85 min. This print ran 97 min. A China Film Archive print with English subtitles, Cinema Orion, Helsinki (History of the Cinema), 20 Feb 2014

I saw this masterpiece for the first time. It is refined and deeply felt, with a sense of an organic whole, and with a rich visual texture. The narrative is engaging but not slick and polished. The mise-en-scène is beautiful, and there is a sense of conviction in the way the story is told visually.

It is a first person narrative told by a young, melancholy wife. After eight years of the war with Japan the little Chinese town is in ruins, and the Dai family home, too, is ruined. The husband has caught TB, but what is worse, there is a general sense of fatigue and lethargy, a lack of a fighting spirit. The wife has become a nurse to her husband who is no longer a man to his woman.

Comes a visitor: a doctor, her first lover, revisiting after ten years away. The doctor's diagnosis is that the husband's TB can be cured but there is a problem with his heart.

The doctor's visit is a happy and revitalizing event for all, including the little sister. They go to Sunday walks and boating, and they play finger games.

At night the moon is lurking behind the clouds, and the wife comes to see the doctor alone. They embrace, and the attraction still seems irresistible, but the doctor struggles against it, and instead gives the wife an injection. She was 16 then, now 24. Her mother had objected, and now that the doctor has returned, things are different.

The husband's heart fails, but he is successfully resurrected by his loved ones surrounding him. They all escort the doctor to the railway station, and he goes away alone.

The ruin is a central visual motif and symbol. Key scenes are shot as silhouettes: in the beginning, the woman alone walking on the ruined city walls, in the end, they all joined together. The composition is beautiful. The use of the moving camera is engaging.

The songs are beautiful and essential in conveying a feeling of community, in English translation "What A Lovely Rose", and "Far, Far Away There's A Pretty Woman".

A study in female subjectivity, in female melancholia. There is a Lady Chatterley quality in the woman's distress, but the solution is different, and the husband's illness is curable. The husband actually asks the doctor to stay ("your presence makes her happy"), but the doctor wants to leave.

The photochemical quality of the print is not perfect, yet it conveys a beautiful sense of the rich balance, the black levels, and the refinement of the cinematography. Unforgettable. I hope to revisit this film, and if they digitize this, I hope they do it with tender loving care, capturing the magic of the refined detail and the sense of light and darkness.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Koskenlaskijan morsian / [The Rapid-Shooter's Bride] (1923)

Heidi Korhonen
Koskenlaskijan morsian / Forsfararens brud. FI 1923. PC: Suomi-Filmi. P+D+SC+ED: Erkki Karu  – based on the novel Koskenlaskijan morsian: romaani Perä-Pohjolasta [The Rapid-Shooter's Bride: A Novel from the Far North] (1914) by Väinö Kataja. DP: Kurt Jäger, Oscar Lindelöf, Eino Kari, Frans Ekebom. AD: Karl Fager. M compilation arranged for the live cinema orchestra: Uuno Aarto - selections from Erkki Melartin, Oskar Merikanto, Heino Kaski, Jean Sibelius, Uuno Aarto, and folk songs. C: Heidi Korhonen (Nuottaniemen Hanna), Kirsti Suonio (Anna-muori), Konrad Tallroth (Nuottaniemen Iisakki), Aku Käyhkö (Kero-Pieti), Jaakko Korhonen (Paloniemen Heikki), Einari Rinne (Paloniemen Heikki), Einari Rinne (Paloniemen Juhani), Joel Rinne (a lumberjack), Schauman. Location: Iitti: the Mankala falls (in Kymenlaakso, Southern Finland). Studio: Vironkatu Studio. Helsinki premiere: 1.1. 1923 Kino-Palatsi, distributed by Suomen Biografi Osakeyhtiö - telecasts: 11.1.1984, YLE TV1 ja 27.11. 1996, YLE TV1 - vhs: 1992 Suomi-Filmi Oy - classification: 11199 – S –  1900 m [rough estimate]
    A KAVI print of a Suomi-Filmi re-release version with an introduction quote from Roland af Hällström (1936), ♪ piano Joonas Raninen, Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Erkki Karu), 2000 m /20 fps/ 87 min

The first feature film directed by Erkki Karu.

After Ollin oppivuodet, Kihlaus, Anna-Liisa, Finlandia, and Amor omnia, Koskenlaskijan morsian was another step forward in the evolution of the Suomi-Filmi feature film production. The Swedish inspiration, here mostly of Stiller, was more prominent than before. The premiere on New Year's Day in the presence of the prime minister, diplomats, and members of the parliament was a national event. The film was the economically most successful work for the company so far, and it was also the most successfully exported Finnish film so far: to Nordic and Middle European countries, and even to Japan.

The nature (although not actually shot in the far north, unlike in the nature films of Stiller) was firmly integrated to the narrative, following the Sjöström-Stiller ideal. The rapid-shooting scenes seem authentically dangerous. For the first time, the Mankala Falls were used as a film location. The result was so impressive that Mankala became the default choice for rapid-shooting sequences (also in Tukkijoella, 1928, Koskenlaskijan morsian, 1937, Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta, 1938, Koskenkylän laulu, 1947, Rosvo-Roope, 1949, Hornankoski, 1949, On lautalla pienoinen kahvila, 1952, and Taikayö, 1954 - Tulio also endlessly recycled his Laulu tulipunaista kukasta footage).

The family feud narrative is somewhat heavy handed, and all performances are not always compelling and deeply felt. Yet this is a vehicle for several remarkable movie debuts: Heidi Korhonen, her husband Jaakko Korhonen, Oiva Soini, Einari Rinne and his brother Joel Rinne all debuted here.

The most striking feature now, not mentioned by any of the critics or commentators, is the fact that this really is a vehicle for a female action hero. The title of the film is really relevant. The men are boldly defying the lethal rapids, but Hanna (Heidi Korhonen) is the bravest of them all, insisting in making a final effort to rescue the stranded men, and leading the rescue party on the log raft. This is a novel turn compared with the Stiller log-rolling sagas.

This Suomi-Filmi re-release version, post 1936, is the only one I have seen and the only one that has been available during my lifetime. We do not know when it was made. My hypothesis is that it may have been made for some anniversary event, perhaps the 50th anniversary of the cinema in 1945, or the 25th anniversary of Suomi-Filmi in 1944. It was done in a hurry, not very well, with wrong and clumsy edits, and after the nitrate era a safety print was struck from the nitrate re-release print. The image quality looks duped, some generations removed from the negative. Even so, the film still provides a delightful and engrossing experience. Koskenlaskijan morsian would be a worthy subject for reconstruction and restoration.

Myrskyluodon kalastaja / [The Fisherman of Storm Cliff]

Wilho Ilmari, Irja Lindström.
Myrskyluodon kalastaja / Fiskaren på Stormskär / The Price They Pay [the US release title in the Finnish regions of the US]. FI 1924. PC: Suomi-Filmi Oy. P+D+ED: Erkki Karu.  SC: Erkki Karu - intertitles: Erkki Kivijärvi. DP: Kurt Jäger - second camera: Frans Ekebom - ass.: Armas Fredman, Kullervo Kari, Arvo Tamminen. AD: Carl Fager - ass.: Martti Tuukka. Production secretary: Aili Kari. Studio manager: Carl Fager. Photographs: Kalle Havas, Kosti Lehtinen. Studion emäntä: Eva Luttinen. C: Wilho Ilmari (Eerik Storm, fisherman), Irja Lindström, Kirsti Boman, Axel Slangus (smuggler boss Jysky), Wilhelmiina Tuukkanen (Maria Storm, Eerik's mother), Emil Lindh (Yrjö Boman, senior pilot), Agnes Lindh (Loviisa-muori, Yrjö's wife), Alarik Korhonen (merchant Herman Strutberg), Uuno Aarto, Sven Relander, Armas Fredman, Berndt Lindahl (Jysky's boatmen), Alfred Roini (Patruuna / Boss Alfred Ström), Yrjö Somersalmi (Toivo Ström, the boss's son, tullipäällysmies / a senior customs officer), Kosti Hypén, A. Virtanen (customs officers), Annie Mörk (a worker's wife), Yrjö Tuominen (patruunan pelitoveri / the boss's card game partner), Mr. Halla (maitotonkan tuoja / the milkman), Kullervo Kari (man at the lab), Margaretha Schulman, Inga Stenbäck (girls wearing national costumes at the betrothal and at the quay). Helsinki premiere: 26 Oct 1924 Kaleva, Kino-Palatsi, released by Suomi-Filmi - classification 12848 - S - five reels - 1800 m / 79 min
    The surviving fragment /20 fps/ 12 min viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Erkki Karu), ♪ piano Joonas Raninen, 19 Feb 2014

The surviving fragment is from somewhere around reel 2 of 5. The smugglers receive cargo from a bootleg liquor ship to their boat. Eerik's task is to pilot the motorboat through the archipelago to a safe bay. The smugglers are tailed by a patrol boat of the customs office. They manage to shake it off, unload the cargo and disguise as a hunting party before the customs task force find them, inspect the boat and must leave empty-handed.

A foundation film of a tradition of Finnish smuggling films, followed by VMV 6 (1936, Risto Orko), and Varsovan laulu / [The Song of Warsaw] (1953, Matti Kassila).

Finland had Prohibition in 1919-1932 (starting and ending one year earlier than in the US), and crime was rampant during our own Roaring Twenties. Myrskyluodon kalastaja - what remains of it - is a valuable fictional record of that, and as it was shot on location, it cannot help having even some documentary value. It is also an early Finnish action film, crime film, and gangster film. Sadly, it's mostly lost, but this fragment gives a sense of it.

The film debut of Wilho Ilmari (1888-1983), a great man of the Finnish theatre, a Kivi and Shakespeare specialist.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sysmäläinen / [The Man from Sysmä] screened twice, first in 35 mm and then in 2K DCP

Sirkka Sari, Olavi Reimas
Sysmäläinen / Mannen från Sysmä. FI 1938. PC: Suomi-Filmi Oy. EX: Risto Orko. P: Matti Schreck. D: Valentin Vaala. SC: Niilo Hirn [Yrjö Kivimies, Orvo Saarikivi, n.c.] - based on the novel by Jalmari Sauli (1910). DP: Armas Hirvola - Ass: Eino Heino, Niilo Harju. AD: Ville Salminen, Kosti Aaltonen. Cost: Hilppa Ilvos, Evdokia Nikitin. Makeup: Aarne Kuokkanen. M: Felix Krohn. ED: Valentin Vaala. S: Pertti Kuusela. C: Olavi Reimas (Arvid Henrikinpoika Tandefelt), Sirkka Sari (Brita Ekestubbe / Aadolf / Aatu), Vilho Auvinen (Haavuri-Kustaa), Kerttu Salmi (Hankku, also Johanna), Uuno Laakso (Erik Stjernhök), Sven Relander (Axel Ringius), Topo Leistelä (a judge, Arvid's father), Paavo Jännes (Brita's father), Tuulikki Schreck (Brita as a child), Kalevi Koski (Arvid as a child), Iivari Kainulainen (vicar of Sysmä). Helsinki premiere: 6.11.1938, Kino-Palatsi, Savoy – telecasts: 8.3.1961 TES, 9.2.1974 MTV2, 15.3.1981 MTV1, 11.1.1995 YLE TV1, 20.4.2002 YLE TV2 – vhs: 1989 Suomi-Filmi – dvd: 2013 Finnkino - classification: A-2550 – S – historical information: 2550 m / 93 min - surviving prints: 83 min [it would be interesting to examine this discrepancy]
    35 mm safety print viewed at 15.00.
    2K DCP (KAVA 2012) viewed at 17.00.
    Cinema Orion, Helsinki (KAVI Digitizes), 12 Feb 2014
    Sysmäläinen was scanned at 2K at KAVA. Restoration and colour definition: Cinepro / Petri Siitonen. The post was conducted via DigitalVision's Phoenix programme. The sound was digitized and restored at KAVI.

A key Valentin Vaala film. The cross-dressing theme is not a superficial joke but as profound as it can get. "I am going to make him love me as a human being, first then as a woman". This was a surprising, bold, and frank approach in the 1930s, when reactionary trends were very powerful in Finland.

There is in the concept something of the approach of William Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, etc.), and in the execution something of George Cukor (Sylvia Scarlett), but the outcome falls short of such ambitions, and as for the performances, they are spirited, but one can imagine what Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn would have achieved.

A period comedy set in 1622-1637. The male protagonist, the man from Sysmä, is the fool who always fails to recognize the female protagonist in her many disguises, dressing as a man, and then as a man dressing as woman.

Last time I liked it more. But I still like the good taste in Vaala's way in the sometimes risqué dialogue and daring situations (sharing a bed without the man recognizing his wife). Vaala was so much ahead of his time that nobody sensed any offense. As it should be.

It was baffling to see the 35 mm print and the 2K DCP after one another. Firstly, there was the revelation that there are no two versions of different lengths, but apparently only one with a duration of 83 min. Secondly, the 35 mm film print was not as brilliant as I remembered, although it conveys the idea of the spellbound quality of the cinematography. But part of the image is soft, not evenly timed.

Sysmäläinen is a fairy-tale, Shakespearean in the sense that it takes place in an enchanted space like A Midsummer Night's Dream. Transformations occur, revelations take place, eyes are closed and then opened. It is not realistic.

The 2K DCP is a sober analysis of the cinematography, expertly conducted, the image and the sound corrected and balanced in many ways. One can appreciate the beautiful composition, and there is a sense of the fine nuance in the definition of light, but one can see the limitations of 2K in the nature footage. The 2K DCP is admirably clean and bright, but the 35 mm print conveys the magic quality more profoundly. I am grateful for Petteri Kalliomäki for the concept "magic" here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Reading about and around Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman directing the SVT play Bildmakarna / The Image Makers with Anita Björk as Selma Lagerlöf. Foto: © Bengt Wanselius. Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman.
I had the opportunity to speak to a hall full of psychologists on Ingmar Bergman, the topic being "The Long Voyage to Childhood", with the focus on his work after Fanny and Alexander, his farewell to the cinema. Bergman followed this farewell with a further almost 25 years of artistic activity, questioning everything to the end.

I discussed Fanny och Alexander 1–5 (312 min, tv series, a shortened film version, a novel, 1982), Karins ansikte (Karin's Face, c.m. 1983), Laterna Magica (a book of memoirs, 1987), Den goda viljan (The Best Intentions, 360 min, tv series, a shortened film version, D: Bille August, a novel, 1992), Söndagsbarn (Sunday's Children, film, D: Daniel Bergman, novel, 1992), Sista skriket (The Last Gasp, tv, also published in a book of small plays, 1995), Enskilda samtal (Private Conversations / Private Confessions, 195 min, tv miniseries, D: Liv Ullmann, novel, 1996), Larmar och gör sig till (In the Presence of a Clown / [Full of Sound and Fury], tv, [premiered as a play, 1993, also published in a book of small plays, 1994], 1997), Bildmakarna (The Image Makers, tv, b.o. Per Olov Enquist, 2000), and Saraband (Saraband, tv, 2003).

Included were Bergman's two late trilogies: the family trilogy (The Best Intentions, Sunday's Children, Private Conversations), and the film historical trilogy (The Last Gasp, In the Presence of a Clown, and The Image Makers).

Bergman always drew from the raw material of his own tormented life, heavily metamorphosing and fictionalizing things, battling with his demons every night.

Besides Bergman's own books, including also Bergman om Bergman and Bilder, I drew upon others' books on him, and, of course, most importantly, on:

Mikael Timm: Lusten och dämonerna. Boken om Bergman. [The Desire and the Demons. The Book on Bergman]. Stockholm: Norstedts, 2008. - Mikael Timm's huge authorized biography is the number one Ingmar Bergman source, full of exciting facts and interpretations. Timm sets the record straight in many matters of Bergman mythology.

Excited by the subject I kept reading after the lecture, and discovered:

Paisley Livingston: Cinema, Philosophy, Bergman. On Film as Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, paperback 2012. - Paisley Livington is the first Bergman scholar to investigate profoundly the director's remark about being influenced in Wild Strawberries by Eino Kaila and his book Persoonallisuus / Personlighetens psykologi / [Personality]. Bergman called that book the foundation upon which he built.

Inevitably, I could not help reading even:

Thomas Sjöberg: Ingmar Bergman - en berättelse om kärlek, sex och svek / [Ingmar Bergman - A Tale of Love, Sex, and Betrayal]. Falun: Lind & Co, 2013. - Thomas Sjöberg is the infamous author of "The Reluctant Monarch" which almost toppled the Royal Family of Sweden. His project here is similar: to drag Bergman through the mud, ignoring his artistic value. The awful book is well researched with a lot of new information and setting many further matters straight in the bewildering Bergman mythology. Sjöberg starts his book with an account how he was denied access to the Ingmar Bergman archives, but he could use a lot of published material plus private sources never before discussed in public. A book distinguished by a frank dislike of the author towards his subject.

But most importantly, my curiosity piqued by Mikael Timm's remark that Bergman re-read Eino Kaila's Personality at Sophiahemmet in the 1960s, I finally read that book, myself. My father warmly recommended it to me forty years ago. His favourite film was Wild Strawberries, but I don't think he was aware of the Kaila connection.

Eino Kaila: Persoonallisuus / [Personality]. First edition: 1934. Third edition: Helsinki: Otava, 1946. The book was translated into Swedish as Personlighetens psykologi, also published in three editions. - As a philosopher Eino Kaila was close to the Vienna Circle in the 1920s, and he coined the term "logical empiricism". Also as a psychologist Kaila was an empiricist, building his gestalt psychological approach on natural sciences. He was a leading intellectual, a member of the Finnish Academy, a legendary lecturer, a man of culture, also professionally involved with the theatre. He was able to provide his scientific presentations with a rich range of references to culture. Like Bergman, he was fascinated with Germany in the 1930s, but reacted with horror when he realized what was really going on.

Persona (1966) was the film that Bergman incubated at Sophiahemmet, and Personafilm was the name of Bergman's own production company later. It occurred to me that there might be a Kaila connection even here.

The key pages are in Chapter 8, The Totality of Personality, in section 11, at pages 358-359 in the edition I read. The topic discussed is the dilemma of authenticity. According to Kaila, since the child awakens to the symbol function (the insight that a word can represent a thing), there is an essential situation of inauthenticity in the human personality. A source of neurosis, which is something deeply human. Kaila quotes Schopenhauer: "Only the unconscious is authentic, everything conscious is a fraud". He further quotes Schopenhauer's remarks on how fittingly the concept "persona", common in all European languages, means a human individual, yet originally it means an actor's mask. Nobody represents himself as he is, insteady carrying a mask on his face and playing a role. Kaila further discusses C. G. Jung's thoughts on personality as a mask. But no individual can fully adjust to social personality roles, which leads to neurotic consequences. Kaila also discusses Nietzsche here.

A key concept for Kaila was syvähenkinen elämä, (also the title of his second most important book), which can be roughly translated as "the profoundly spiritual life". In the great tradition of Plato's Symposium Kaila means that a deeply meaningful life of the spirit has to frankly to acknowledge our authentic biological and animal identity. The life force (eros) and the spirit belong together in a profound way.

Like Bergman, Kaila was as a rule an opponent of psychoanalysis. But here Kaila quotes approvingly Freud's dictum that the mission of psychoanalysis is to make the unconscious conscious.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Elokuva uskonnon peilinä / Cinema as a Mirror of Religion (a lecture series)

HYY:n Elokuvaryhmä järjestää luentosarjan yhteistyössä Helsingin yliopiston uskontotieteen oppiaineen populaarikulttuurin tutkijapiirin ja KAVI:n kanssa elokuvateatteri Orionissa perjantaisin klo 14.30. Luennoille on vapaa pääsy. Luentojen jälkeisiin elokuvanäytäntöihin ovat voimassa normaalihintaiset liput (6,50/5 €).

The HYY Film Society of the Helsinki University Students' Association organizes a lecture series in collaboration with the study circle of popular culture of the department of comparative religion at Helsinki University and KAVI at Cinema Orion on Fridays at 14:30.

7.2. Henry Bacon: Usko ja epäusko elokuvassa / [Belief and Disbelief in the Cinema] • To the Wonder (US 2012)

14.2. Teemu Taira: Dokumenttielokuva uskontokritiikin välineenä / [Documentary as a Means of Critique of Religion] • Religulous (US 2008)

21.2. Minja Blom: Buffy, vampyyrintappaja sankaritarmyyttinä / [Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a Heroine Myth] • Buffy the Vampire Slayer – tuotantokausi 6, jakso 7: Once More, with Feeling (SU 2001, laula mukana -näytös / sing along) ja tuotantokausi 3, jakso 12: Helpless (US 1999)

28.2. Jaakko Närvä: Ufoelokuvat ufosieppauskertomusten lähteinä / [Ufo Films as Sources for Ufo Abduction Narratives] • It Came from Outer Space (US 1953)

14.3. Sofia Sjö: Islam i västerländsk film / [Islam in Western Cinema] • Gå med fred Jamil – Ma salama Jamil (DE 2008)

21.3. Nina Maskulin: Maailmanloppu muutoksena Ingmar Bergmanin elokuvassa Talven valoa / [The End of the World as a Transition in Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light] • Nattvardsgästerna (SE 1963)

28.3. Heikki Pesonen: Hullut sisaret ja äkäiset abbedissat. Nunnien representaatioita länsimaisissa populaarielokuvissa / [Mad Sisters and Irate Abbesses. Nun Representations in Western Popular Cinema] • The Black Narcissus (GB 1947)

4.4. Terhi Utriainen ja Kari Vesala: Enkeli, profeetta ja toimijuuden representaatiot elokuvissa / [The Angel, the Prophet, and Representations of Action in the Cinema] • Un prophète (FR 2009)

11.4. Antti Alanen: Kuvan kielto uskonnossa. Paneelissa Johan Bastubacka, Ramil Bilal ja Simon Livson (vahvistamatta) / [The Prohibition of the Image in the Cinema.] • The Ten Commandments (US 1956)

25.4. Jouni Hokkanen: Saatana kauhuelokuvassa / [Satan in Horror Films ] • Film Concert Häxan (SE 1922)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Nummisuutarit / The Village Shoemakers (1923)

Axel Slangus, Martti Tuukka, Kaarlo Kari, Antero Suonio, Juha Puls. Click to enlarge.
Nummisuutarit / Sockenskomakarna / The Village Shoemakers / I calzolai della landa. FI 1923. PC: Suomi-Filmi. P+D+ED: Erkki Karu. SC: Artturi Järviluoma – based on the play by Aleksis Kivi (1864). DP: Kurt Jäger; cameraman: Frans Ekebom. AD: Carl Fager; ass. Matti Tuukka. Music compilation for the live cinema orchestra from: Jean Sibelius, Selim Palmgren, Toivo Kuula, Oskar Merikanto. Final theme (according to Kivi’s instructions in the play): “Porilaisten marssi” (“The March of Pori”, C. F. Kress / [lyrics: J. L. Runeberg, from Fänrik Ståls sägner]). Loc: Loppi: the villages of Pilpala and Hunsala. Porvoo. Studio: Vironkadun studio. C: Axel Slangus (Esko, son of the village shoemaker), Heidi Korhonen (Jaana, daughter of Niko), Kirsti Suonio (Martta, the wife of Topias), Alarik Korhonen (Topias, the village shoemaker), Aku Käyhkö (Mikko Vilkastus), Jaakko Korhonen (Kristo, the blacksmith, groom of Jaana), Adolf Lindfors (Sepeteus, the well-respected parish clerk), Konrad Tallroth (Karri), Antero Suonio (Iivari, brother of Esko), Kaarlo Kari (uncle Sakeri, a discharged policeman), Sven Relander (Teemu, the fiddler), Juho Puls (Niko Järvelä, sailor), Martti Tuukka (Antres the tailor). Premiere in Helsinki 11 November 1923 at Bio-Bio and Edison – distributed by Adamsin Filmitoimisto – classification number 12387 – passed for all audiences
    Finnish and Swedish intertitles. Swedish intertitles by Per Åke Lauren.
    The 1982 restoration by The Finnish Film Archive: a silent version and a version with music. 2023 m /24 fps/ 74 min, /22 fps/ 80 min, /20 fps/ 92 min
    A KAVI print of the 1982 restoration at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Erkki Karu), at 20 fps, 92 min, piano: Joonas Raninen, 5 Feb 2013

My programme notes for Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (1999, Sacile, Nordic Explorations): A bucolic comedy based on the play by Aleksis Kivi, founder of Finnish-language drama in the mid-19th century. The play has been popular ever since it was written and has been filmed three times; the two sound versions were made in 1938 and in 1957. Interestingly, it is this silent version which is remembered with the most affection. The surprise is related to the fact that Kivi’s effect is very much based on language – his rich humor is very verbal, and he reveals the nature of his characters more by words than by actions. The screenwriter Artturi Järviluoma was highly successful as the author of the play Pohjalaisia (Plainsmen), and he made his adaptation respecting Kivi’s vision but also with the aim to produce a real audience-pleaser.
    Long in gestation, the 1923 film interpretation of The Village Shoemakers was produced paying careful attention to the success of the Swedes with rural themes. Authentic locations, vehicles, clothes, and objects were sought with care. The photographers made an effort to capture most of the action in natural surroundings. Best of all, the film-makers managed to create a sense of lived life instead of a museal display. We feel witnessing a centuries-old way of life which has vanished since.
    The time of the action is the 1840s, and the village closely resembles Kivi’s home in Nurmijärvi. Nurmijärvi was not a typical Finnish municipality but an especially quiet, backward place in a lonely valley in Southern Finland off the main roads between the cities Hämeenlinna, Turku, and Helsinki. The 1840s were a stagnant decade in Finnish history, when seeds of misery were sown. Those were the decades of the terror of the badmen in the province of Pohjanmaa and of desperate alcoholism in places like Nurmijärvi. Kivi, himself, was a periodical drinker, following his father’s footsteps in that habit. The great famine years that followed a couple of decades later at last shattered the Finns from their sleepy paths to the fast lane of modernity. Kivi does not idealize the petty, narrow, and trivial concerns of his characters. He laughs at their pursuits, but as a true humorist, he loves them all the same. There is always a dimension of generosity and dignity in his portrayal. Even the dimension of the divine may be near even when the action is at its most trivial.
    The Village Shoemakers is an exception to the rule of Finnish silent cinema that the actors are either wooden or exaggerated. Somehow the natural settings and authentic gear put them at ease, and they seem to be enjoying performing the well-known characters and situations from the beloved play. The actors are top talent of the contemporary Finnish stage. Axel Slangus from The Swedish Theatre of Helsinki got to portray two legendary simpletons during the silent era. Besides Esko he was Sven Dufva in the lavish Swedish historical spectacle The Tales of Lieutenant Stål based on the Finnish national epic by J. L. Runeberg. Adolf Lindfors, the interpreter of the parish clerk, was a prominent director and actor at the National Theatre, best known as a Molière specialist. Konrad Tallroth, who plays the generous host at the house of Karri, was also a well-known film director both in Sweden and in Finland.
    Besides affable characters and a lyrical feeling for nature The Village Shoemakers has something unique in the Finnish silent cinema: a rich variety of states of consciousness – memories, reveries, delirium, parables, and fantasies. The fluid use of the flashback and the flash-forward sets us in vain to study Erkki Karu’s oeuvre to find something in the same level. His energies were to be more focused in production. The Village Shoemakers, his second feature film, remained his best.
    Its basic joy of life and its feeling for the interconnectedness of nature and society are the sources of its lasting charm.

Järviluoma and Karu did also a good job in conveying Kivi’s verbal genius to silent cinema. The selection and timing of Kivi’s witty lines is so excellent that The Village Shoemakers is a candidate for one of the best-intertitled films in the whole silent cinema. That, however, remains a secret shared only by those who know Finnish. Aleksis Kivi would be a recognized master of world literature if good translations would exist. The difficulty is of the same order as in translating Shakespeare, or, to pick a contemporary, Mark Twain. Kivi had a phenomenally large vocabulary and a sharp wit. His language is a unique combination of the holy and the profane: he had a deep understanding of the Bible and, often in the same sentence, an original touch of the vernacular. Kivi was totally bilingual and planned first to start writing in Swedish like J. L. Runeberg, the greatest contemporary Finnish author in his youth. Also The Village Shoemakers was started in Swedish (the first version was called Bröllopsdansen, The Wedding Dance). But instead he went on to write a play in Finnish, although no Finnish-language stage existed. Often he thought in Swedish, and when no Finnish words existed, he created them. Kivi invented hundreds of words, many of which have taken root and become part of the common vocabulary. Kivi’s main influences in world literature were the Bible, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Holberg. The last three he read in Swedish, only the Bible he studied in Finnish. There has been an excellent line of Finnish-language Bible translations since Mikael Agricola, a student of Luther and Melanchton, provided the first one during the Reformation. Fortunately, Agricola was a poet and a humanist with a sense of humour, and ever since the Finnish Bible translations have been entrusted the greatest writers and poets of the age. “In the beginning was the Word”: in the language of Kivi there is always a dimension of the divine. An element of dignity juxtaposes even the most ridiculous goings-on.
    Just to mention one example of Kivi translation: the title of the play Nummisuutarit. There is no problem with “suutari”, which means “shoemaker”, a skilled handicraftsman producing leather boots etc. But the word “nummi” has several meanings, the most common of which is “moor” or “heath”. That, however, is not the meaning here. Instead, the “nummi” here is a sand-based pine forest, a sandy plain, in the South of the United States also called “pine barren”. The name of the play refers to the zone between nature and civilization: the village shoemakers live in the crossing point between the forest and the village.
    Kivi reveals the meaning of “nummi” in the fifth act of his play. The shoemaker Topias and the parish clerk Sepeteus are waiting for Esko to return home with his bride. Topias boasts that he has a splendid wife and two brave sons and that he lives as a free man on his “kaikuva honkanummi” (“a resounding pine forest”). At least the last claim is true. Having tempted the parish clerk to a glass of hard liquor he urges him to test the echo. This scene has been left out of the silent film for obvious reasons. Instead, Artturi Järviluoma mentions the “resounding pine forest” at the beginning, in the intertitle introducing the shoemakers’ home. And, of course, the magnificent forest surrounding them can be seen all through the film. The forest for Kivi is divine: the Finnish word for that is Tapiola, meaning the Kingdom of Tapio, and Tapio is the God of the Forest. The forest is benevolent and protective, but also an infantile retreat from the challenges of civilization and modernity – and matrimony. This sense of the forest Erkki Karu conveyed very well in his film adaptation. Antti Alanen (12 October 1999, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto)

Revisited Erkki Karu's masterpiece, the pinnacle of his creativity as a film director. Somehow everything fell into place in this film: - the funny characters - the comic performances - the interplay with nature - the adaptation of the play. This is a story of erratic journeys, of utterly mistaken intentions. King Alcohol plays a leading role. It is yet another story of a cancelled wedding (for Esko, but two other couples find each other). A tale of stupidity, yet with a basic sense of humanity, dignity, and life-force. A key story about matriarchy: Martta wielding her tar baton, evoking a healthy fear both in husband and sons, who hide under tables and in the uuninpankko, the cavity over the oven. Beautifully shot by Kurt Jäger, with a rich array of cinematic devices. The intentions of the characters are partly mean and petty, yet the final prevailing spirit is that of generosity. The world depicted is narrow and provincial, but the viewpoint and the perspective opens to a wide and universal understanding. The final laugher is that of a true humorist, and in this above all Erkki Karu is faithful to the profound Aleksis Kivi spirit.

Beloved by Finns, unintelligible for foreigners. In Finland everybody knows elements of the play, which helps very much to make sense of the wonderful adaptation which includes everything in a highly compressed version which miraculously never feels rushed and even includes a lot of extra material not in the play.

Ylioppilas Pöllövaaran kihlaus / [The Betrothal of Student Pöllövaara]

Making Ylioppilas Pöllövaaran kihlaus in Teisko. Erkki Karu is to the very left.
Studeranden Pöllövaaras förlovning. FI 1920. PC: Suomen Biografi Osakeyhtiö. P+D+SC+AD+ED: Erkki Karu. DP+ED: Frans Ekebom. AD: Martti Tuukka. C: Väinö Lehmus (Student Pöllövaara). Not credited: Elli Karu, Martti Tuukka. Probably also in the cast, not credited: Erkki Karu. Helsinki premiere: 16 Feb 1920, Kino-Palatsi - released by Suomen Biografi Oy - classification: 10592 - rated S - original length information 300 m [unreliable] - current reconstructed 2008 print: 288 m /20 fps/ 13 min
    This short comedy was released preceding the feature film Those Who Pay / Ennustus (D: Raymond B. West, P: Thomas H. Ince, US 1917).
    At Kino-Palatsi the music was performed by an orchestra conducted by L. Roos.
    The 2008 SEA / KAVA / KAVI reconstruction, Finnish / Swedish intertitles, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Erkki Karu retrospective), Joonas Raninen at the piano, 5 Feb 2014.

The humble beginnings as a film director of Erkki Karu, the pioneer of the film production of independent Finland. For generations believed lost as an intelligible piece of film work, Ylioppilas Pöllövaaran kihlaus has actually survived in its entirety, and thanks to Ilkka Kippola and other experts it has been reconstructed and provided with intertitles.

A sappy and crude farce in which the student Pöllövaara is over-eagerly rushing to a betrothal in an outdoors restaurant. He hastens to make the betrothal announcement before the oath of love has been given. Meanwhile, the bride is embracing the maître d', and the frantic student, witnessing this, rushes to tie a heavy rock around his neck, to jump to his death in the lake. But the bride makes it just in time, and there is an embrace of reconciliation.

The cinematography was praised in the contemporary reviews but in this print the image has low contrast.

Relevant only as the starting point of a remarkable career in film production.

The actors overact. In a few years the performers in Erkki Karu films learned to act naturally.

It is also interesting to notice the obsession with the cancelled or botched betrothal or wedding in the early films of Erkki Karu: in Ylioppilas Pöllövaaran kihlaus, in Kihlaus / The Betrothal, and in Nummisuutarit / The Village Shoemakers. Of course, it is a favourite theme in comedy. In all, the male is the buffoon, and the female is the straight one.

The Immigrant (Charles Chaplin) at the Agricola Church

Siirtolainen / Emigranten. US 1917. PC: Lone Star Corporation. Released by Mutual Film. P+D+SC+ED: Charles Chaplin. DP: Roland Totheroh. C: Charles Chaplin (immigrant), Edna Purviance (immigrant), Eric Campbell (head waiter), Albert Austin (a diner), Henry Bergman (artist), Kitty Bradbury (mother), John Rand (diner who cannot pay). 30 min.

SenioriFoorum / Kansan Raamattuseura and Helsingin Tuomiokirkkoseurakunta at Mikael Agricolan kirkko (Mikael Agricola Church), 5 February 2014.

The church was filled to capacity, and the audience was expecting Peter von Bagh to speak about Charles Chaplin. I tried to minimize the inevitable disappointment.

I am not a churchgoer, but I was deeply moved by the event and the high quality of the speeches of Ensio Klemi and Matti Amnell. It was J. L. Runeberg's day, and we sung his songs and hymns. Their lyrics are fine poetry also in Finnish translation.

The church, a late (1935) creation of the great architect Lars Sonck (1870-1956) has been beautifully restored and is in great shape. It is much more ascetic than his legendary Cathedral of Tampere (1907) and the Kallio Church (1912).

Chaplin's films work best with a big audience. They are edited to be laughed at successive waves of laughter, as has been brilliantly described by James Agee and André Bazin.

The Immigrant worked in a new way in a situation like this.

The theme given to me as the speaker-surrogate was "Charles Chaplin ja ihmisyyden arvostus" which I'd translate as "Charles Chaplin and human dignity".

In these weeks we are celebrating the centenary of Charles Chaplin's tramp figure. It came into being in January 1914 in one of Chaplin's very first comedies at the Keystone Studios. There had been successful comedy series since a decade in France and Italy, but Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios was the first studio dedicated to comedy.

It is a basic paradox of great comedy that the comedian can make his character utterly ridiculous, yet illuminate his inner dignity.

The well-known Charles Chaplin paradox is his essence as "The Gentleman Tramp", to quote the title of Richard Patterson's documentary biopic. The Immigrant is an eloquent case. The tramp is at the outset a carefree card sharp, but at the encounter with Edna and her ailing mother he turns into a gentleman.

Even his appearance is an embodiment of this contradiction. He is a bum with dirty and torn clothes, yet always with an attempt to appear as well-dressed.

The tramp is still a valid and topical figure. He is somebody who is marginalized, lonely, homeless, and abandoned. But Chaplin's tramp is also always full of life and energy. He never gives up. The immigrant is a profound variation of the tramp theme. It was topical at the time. Also from Finland, then still a part of the Russian Empire, immigrants went to America in ships like this. Today we read from the newspapers of African immigrants trying to reach Europe and getting drowned in the Mediterranean.

Chaplin's atavistic, primitive Keystone incarnation was "a monster from the Id", a Caliban figure, un enfant terrible, infantile, only interested in satisfying his immediate urges, ruthlessly abusing and exploiting others.

His character's evolution was from the Keystone caveman to a real human being. From primitive egoism to transcending his self, towards a concern for the other. First from "me" to "us" (the couple), and, in The Kid, for the baby.

After the Kid he made what Charles Maland has called Chaplin's trilogy of unrequited love: The Gold Rush, The Circus, and City Lights. They are comedies, but also tragedies of one-sided loves.

First in The Modern Times Chaplin found an equal partner in Paulette Goddard, and at the same time his scope widened further from "us, the couple" to the society, to the world. The Great Dictator is one of the most remarkable works in the history art. An artist who was a world historical personality, himself, interfered in the history of the world by challenging the most bestial tyrant of all times at the moment he was fearfully successful in his campaign to conquer the world.

Somewhere during his evolution Chaplin stopped being as funny as he had been. Perhaps that happened during the concluding speech of The Great Dictator. In it Chaplin stepped entirely outside the regular discourse of standard entertainment film, infinitely more radically than the Marx Brothers and Hellzapoppin in their meta-filmic dimensions.

At his funniest he was during the "happiest years" of the Mutual period, in films such as The Immigrant.

Sergei Eisenstein in his essay "Charlie the Kid" explained that a secret of Charles Chaplin was that he was always able to look at the world with the eyes of a child.

There is something in common with Charles Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe. Neither ever got to know their fathers, and both had to support already in their childhood their mothers who became mentally ill and had to be hospitalized.

The basic security essential to the development of a child they never knew.

There are other funny comedians and other beautiful stars, but what is unique in the looks of  Chaplin and Monroe is that they express a profound and infinite yearning for love.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Alvar Aalto and the Cinema (seminar at Seinäjoki)

The Seinäjoki City Library, the 1965 building, Aalto Center. Photo: City of Seinäjoki.
On Alvar Aalto's birthday, 3.2.2014 at 18.00
Cinema Matin-Tupa, Puhelinkuja 4, Ylistaro

klo 18.00 Opening
Marjo Kamila, Ph.D.
klo 18.05 Alvar Aalto and the Cinema
Antti Alanen, KAVI
klo 18.55 Break

Film screenings
19.20 Kirkonrakentajat: Lakeuden Ristin rakennustyö 1957–1960 / [Church Builders: Building the Lakeuden Risti 1957-1960] (a new compilation from vintage raw footage, a documentary record, a dvd with the vintage footage from a vhs from a 16 mm film, 15 min, in the possession of Seinäjoen seurakunta / The Seinäjoki Church)
- identification of persons appearing in the footage
Seinäjoen kaupungintalon rakentaminen 1961–1963 / [Building the Seinäjoki City Hall 1961-1963)] (raw footage, a documentary record, screened on silent 16 mm, 15 min, in the possession of Seinäjoen kaupunki / The City of Seinäjoki)
- identification of persons appearing in the footage
Suomen Akatemian jäsenet - Alvar Aalto / [Members of the Finnish Academy - Alvar Aalto] (a documentary, produced by Veikko Laihanen, FI 1962, 10 min, /dvd?/ from KAVI)
Alvar Aalto (an experimental film, by Eino Ruutsalo, FI 1972, 19 min, /dvd?/ from KAVI)

klo 20.20 Closing discussion
- Marjo Kamila, Ph. D.
In the Matin-Tupa lobby: cinema designs and illustrations by Alvar Aalto (Alvar Aalto Museum, Jyväskylä)

I focused in my lecture on:
1. Alvar Aalto and modernity - his fascination with urbanism, mobility, cars, airplanes, jazz, radio, and the cinema.
2. Alvar Aalto as a Charles Chaplin fan.
3. The Bauhaus legacy and László Moholy-Nagy.
4. The story of the film society Projektio, which launched serious cinema interest onto a new level in Finland. Projektio introduced many masterpieces banned in Finland (Buñuel, Eisenstein). It was a central cultural meeting-place. Alvar Aalto was its undisputed, passionate figurehead. Prominent cultural figures participated, including Tove Jansson and Sam Vanni. Key film-makers such as Valentin Vaala, Teuvo Tulio, Nyrki Tapiovaara, Heikki Aho, and Björn Soldan, were members.

The generous host was Anssi Luoma, who took me to the seven buildings designed by Alvar Aalto in Seinäjoki, built during six decades:
1. The Seinäjoki Defence Corps building (1924-1929), and
the town centre of Seinäjoki (1952-1988) called Aalto-keskus / The Aalto Center
2. The Lakeuden Risti / The Cross of the Plains Church (1952-1960) and
The Seinäjoki Community Center (1965-1966)
3. The Seinäjoki City Hall (1961-1962)
4. The Seinäjoki City Library (1964-1965)
5. The Seinäjoki Administrative Building (Valtion virastotalo) (1966-1968)
6. The Seinäjoki City Theatre (1986-1987)
7. Kansalaistori / The Seinäjoki Citizens' Square (1988).

Projektio Film Society (Helsinki, Finland) 1934-1936

László Moholy-Nagy: ein lichtspiel schwarz-weiss-grau
Cinema Joukola, Kapteeninkatu 26, Helsinki, Finland.

This year it will be 80 years from the launching of Finland's first film society, Filmistudio Projektio. Its passionate chairman, spokesman and figurehead was Alvar Aalto, which is why we celebrated Projektio today at the Alvar Aalto and the Cinema event at Matin-Tupa, Ylistaro / Seinäjoki, 3 Oct 2014.

The Projektio anthem was Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo".

The models included the London Film Society, and similar societies in Amsterdam, Zürich, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and other cities in Sweden (Lund the biggest of them all, and Göteborg and Helsingborg), coordinated by Gösta Werner, the key international contact for Projektio. There was also an Estonian collaboration with the circulating prints. Also foreign embassies in Helsinki helped with copies. Diplomats, ministers, and professors became members. Luis Buñuel sent music instructions for Un chien andalou, but Hans Kutter failed to see how Richard Wagner could fit in; he even tried "Mood Indigo" which did not work, either; luckily, his brother had a record of an Argentinian tango which could be played.

Ballet mécanique (Fernand Léger, FR 1924)
+ ein lichtspiel schwarz-weiss-grau (László Moholy-Nagy, DE 1930)
+ Entr'acte (René Clair, FR 1924)
[in November 1934 according to some sources, in December according to Helsingin Sanomat, 8 March 1935)]


ein lichtspiel schwarz-weiss-grau (László Moholy-Nagy, DE 1930)
+ À nous la liberté (Kaksi onnellista sydäntä, René Clair, FR 1931), banned in Finland.
In the presence of the Minister of Culture.

Tshornoje i beloje / Chornoye i beloye / Черное и белое ([Mustaa ja valkoista] / [Black and White], Ivan Ivanov-Vano, SU 1932)
+ Emperor Jones (Kuolonrumpu, Dudley Murphy, US 1933)

A replay of the opening screening. There were new members, "and a certain big industrial company wanted to finance a fine film screening for its staff!" (Hans Kutter).

Der Blaue Engel (Sininen Enkeli / The Blue Angel, Josef von Sternberg, DE 1930), banned in Finland.

Das Lied vom Leben ([Elämän laulu] / [The Song of Life], Alexis Granowsky, DE 1931), banned in Finland.

Tshapajev / Chapayev / Чапаев (Georgi Vasiljev, Sergei Vasiljev, SU 1934), banned in Finland.

La Tour ([Torni] / [The Tower], René Clair, 1928)
+ Gardiens de phare ([Majakanvartijat] / [The Lighthouse Keepers], Jean Grémillon, FR 1929)

Marseille, a documentary film.
+ Die letzten Segelschiffe ([Viimeiset purjelaivat] / [The Last Sailboats], DE), a documentary on the trip around the world by the sailboat Herzogin Cecilia. Accessed from a German private source.

Episod vid fönstret, "a little Swedish bagatelle" (Eino Jäntti)
+ Novyi Gulliver / Новый Гулливер (Uusi Gulliver, Aleksandr Ptushko, SU 1935), banned in Finland.


"The opening screening, the programme of which I failed to write down" (Eino Jäntti).

Turksib / Турксиб (Teräksinen tie, Viktor Turin, SU 1929)
+ "two old (1903 and 1905) comedies from the vaults of Adams-Filmi" (Eino Jäntti), "one of them with a very close affinity with Méliès" (Hans Kutter).

Un chien andalou (Andalusialainen koira, Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dalí, FR 1929), banned in Finland.
+ Mensch ohne Namen ([Mies vailla nimeä] / [The Man without a Name], Gustav Ucicky, DE 1932)

Magie du fer blanc
+ Thunder over Mexico, Sol Lesser's edit (US 1934) of Sergei Eisenstein's ¡Que viva Mexico! project (MX 1933)

Le Sang d'un poète (Runoilijan veri, Jean Cocteau, FR 1930)
+ Gamla Stan (Stig Almquist, Arthur Lundkvist, Erik Asklund, Eyvind Johnson, SE 1931)
+ Tango (Gösta Hellström, SE 1932), "seemed experimental at the time" (Eino Jäntti).

Le Million (Miljoona, René Clair, FR 1931)

Kameradschaft (Toveruus, G. W. Pabst, DE 1931)

Philips Cavalcade (George Pal, NL 1934). "A trick film about Philips" could be this one.
+ Nieuwe gronden (Uusi maa / New Earth, Joris Ivens, NL 1933) "probably" (Eino Jäntti)


"The opening screening, the programme of which I failed to write down" (Eino Jäntti) =
No Greater Glory (Frank Borzage, US 1934), source: Joachim Mickwitz (Lähikuva 2/1995)

Triumph des Willens ([Tahdon riemuvoitto], Leni Riefenstahl, DE 1934)
+ bonus outside the official programme: Un chapeau de paille d'Italie (Italialainen olkihattu, René Clair, FR 1928) source: Mickwitz

Mädchen in Uniform (Murrosiässä, Leontine Sagan, DE 1931)

Katorga / Каторга (Kuritushuone, Juli Raizman, SU 1929)

//7.4.1936 Bio Rex at 14.30
Delegation of 57 people from film societies from Lund, Copenhagen, Göteborg, and Helsingborg, with Gösta Werner, on their way to Leningrad and Moscow.
A short industrial film by Aho & Soldan
+ VMV 6 (Risto Orko, FI 1936)
Dinner for a hundred at La Rotonde at 18.00, chaired by Alvar Aalto.
Source: Helsingin Sanomat, 8 April 1936, p. 4.//

Sylvester (Lupu Pick, DE 1923)

City Lights (Kaupungin valot, Charles Chaplin, US 1931)

Unmögliche Liebe ([Mahdotonta rakkautta] / [Impossible Love], Erich Waschneck, DE 1932. Asta Nielsen's first sound film and last film.

Minns du / [Do You Remember]
+ Meren houkutus / [The Lure of the Sea]
+ Suomi kutsuu / Finland kallar / Finland Calling (Aho & Soldan, FI 1932)

"Besides the Joukola shows I remember that the society members organized small gauge screenings and discussions, but I was not able to attend to them, which is why I have no notes of them" (Eino Jäntti).

Compiled by AA 3.2.2014 from sources: Hans Kutter, Eino Jäntti, and Göran Schildt (members of Projektio), and Joachim Mickwitz (Lähikuva 2/1995).

Continuities to The Finnish Film Archive (SEA) and the Filmihullu magazine: the screenings of the Film Society Projektio took place at Cinema Joukola, the same cinema where the SEA screenings were arranged before Cinema Orion. Projektio was launched simultaneously with Artek, by the same people, with Bauhaus as a model. Writing the logo with small letters only (bauhaus) belonged to the Bauhaus identity. This legacy continued in the 1950s in the Projektio magazine and in the Finnish Film Archive, perhaps thanks to the influence of Aito Mäkinen, and later by Elina Katainen. The Bauhaus-Projektio connection is still evident in the logo of the Filmihullu magazine (filmihullu).

Saturday, February 01, 2014


DocPoint Vanishing Point, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 1 Feb 2014.
Prints from sixpackfilm. Total duration 82 min
In the presence of VALIE EXPORT, introduced by Mika Taanila.

Programme notes by Mika Taanila.

Special bonus: Tapp und Tastkino (AT 1968) 2 min, Betacam SP PAL, seen two days ago, was repeated.

Delta. Ein Stück
AT 1976–77, 17 min
Cinematography: Mike Steiner. Production: Mike Steiner / Intermedia Art Team Studiogalerie, Berlin.
Betacam SP PAL, English subtitles

"The bond between the shoulders is replaced by a binding attached to the hand. I write the following with a severely restricted hand: The power of the powerless is silence. At the tip of the triangular plane, which is repeatedly struck by a fist in a cast - as a form of expression, to make an utterance, to find one’s own sound. (...) The triangle becomes a hatchet. With the hatchet in hand, the field of action is destroyed, as the power of women lies not in the tiresome representation of how easy they are to please, on the way from Virgin Mary to lawfully wedded wife, we have found detours from married life, diversions that create a final gulf/cut between the trade-offs between body and mind." (VALIE EXPORT)

AA: Expanding the boundaries of performance. A symbolic action towards a metal delta, chalking the words "Wort" - "Antwort" - "Verantwortung" while enduring a male pig voice repeating the curse "dreckige Sau". Face painted, touching the mirror, facing the audience in the mirror.

AT 1984, colour, 18 min
Cinematography: Fritz Köberl; Sound: Hans Hartel; Actress: Irmelin Hoffer, Production: VALIE EXPORT Filmproduktion, Wien.
16 mm

"My work in the area of short film focuses on working out what is essential to a film, to define it as a self-sufficient and closed artistic system; so that I can make use of the single operators, such as image and sound and expand on their creative possibilities of association. The actual significant operators such as film strip, framing, image content, image construction, montage, movement of the camera, visual effects, the interaction of the visual with the audio, etc., are combined with the cultural codes to create a syntactic construction, out of which a film is born." (VALIE EXPORT)

AA: My favourite VALIE EXPORT film in these two shows: a metastudy in reflection. Splitting the image, reflecting on the reflection, exposing the actress's naked body, juxtaposing it with its image. The positive and the negative. Colour and black and white. Projecting the image on the page of a book. The waves reach the beach. Writing the word WELLE (the wave). The feet in the sand, and in a cast. The image has been doubled, then it is split in four ways. A beautiful print.

Elfriede Jelinek. News from Home 18.8.88
AT 1988, colour, 31 min
Cinematography: Peter Roehsler. Sound: Hannes Deinböck. Production: ORF Wien.
Betacam SP PAL

"Writer Elfriede Jelinek has repeatedly made statements about her television-watching habits. She watches a great deal, a wide variety of what is broadcast, though rarely for pleasure or the purpose of gaining knowledge. On the contrary, the TV program is one of her favorite objects of study. Three separate times on a particular day, while sitting in a comfy TV chair, she commented on Austrian TV news for VALIE EXPORT." (Brigitta Burger-Utzer)

AA: A straight record of the Nobel prize winner Elfriede Jelinek's acerbic running commentary on television news, the topics ranging from - a German hostage crisis tragically botched by the police - Zia the president of Pakistan being killed in an airplane explosion - Haider's populist proclamations - Bush as a candidat for presidency - Mandela - steel workers get to produce plant humus.

AT 1997, 4 min, colour, silent
Location: Salzburger Landesklinik-PMU

"A medical camera films the vaginal area of performer VALIE EXPORT. It penetrates her body. In the same way as in various installations that investigate the origin of the voice through filming of the glottis, the vagina's interior is made visible here for the purpose of demonstrating what happens inside the body." (Brigitta Burger-Utzer)

AA: Endoscopic camera footage from inside her vagina. Red meat.  

I turn over the pictures of my voice in my head
AT 2009, colour, 12 min
The performance produced for the Venezia Biennale.
Betacam SP PAL. Original in German, with English subtitles

"The rebellious voice, the split voice. The voice is suture, the voice is seam, the voice is cut, the voice is tear, the voice is my identity, it is not body or spirit, it is not language or image, it is sign, it is a sign of the images, it is a sign of sensuality. It is a sign of symbols, it is boundary. It speaks the "split body," it is hidden in the clothing of the body, it is always somewhere else. The breath of life is its source." (VALIE EXPORT: Segment from the spoken text)

"How strenuous it is to speak! Particularly in a video intended to be seen from the outside! In VALIE EXPORT's video, the inside is turned to the outside. This does not happen by itself, it has to be forced. The voice has to come from a larynx displayed from the inside out. For this, a device is needed. How strenuous it is to let the voice out! Often, exertion comes from things and beings that should not be let out. Wild animals? The voice is the wild animal, which should be restrained from the outside world, but the struggle here is the eruption. The eruption of the voice-volcano. This voice is not silent. The purpose of this device is to hold back the voice so that it can be studied; so the active vocal chords can be observed. But there the voice, suddenly, forces itself out through an opening, which does not want to be opened! The outside is there, please, voice, come out! It can always come out, but only through this small device, which lays bare the vocal labia, lapped around by saliva, by juices - a woman's only means of representation - something fluid, which otherwise you rarely get to see (therefore the more curious we are! Immediately you want to look inside. Please – go ahead!). The voice obtains consciousness through this laryngoscope, and can make essential statements such as she: speaks. The larynx is the emergence, in fact the permitting of emergence. Yes, that's what it's here for! It lets out what should be confined: the voice, in a language which someone, anyone must understand, yes, must! Otherwise there is no speech and the voice is of no use; so speak up, speech! From constant sealing: let it out and speak up! Leaving cover behind only to discover a pointed rifle. The voice has to leave cover; needing a device to sound things out to separate the voice from its home, the larynx, and to chase it off. The voice is forced to do something, which it likes to do anyway. This is the biggest effort: to do something that is permitted, but intrinsically separated from the world. It forges its path before it is entirely lost." (Excerpt from Elfriede Jelinek's text "Intolerated, impatient sealing (oh, voice!)")

AA: Laryngoscopic footage from inside her throat, with a focus on the larynx. "Die Stimme ist der Riss".

The last two films yet again transcend the boundaries of performance, going inside the performer, to the most intimate areas, yet revealing that there is nothing to see. The last two films in their rugged ugliness and awfulness are acts of utter demythologization. I also thought that if the last two films were merged, they could be called "Vagina Monologues".