Friday, May 30, 2014

Mannen i skuggan / Crno sunce / Black Sun

Man in the Shadows / A Necessary Action. SE/YU © 1978 Stockholm Film. PC: Jadran Film, Stockholm Film. EX: Jörn Donner. D: Arne Mattsson. SC: Per Wahlöö, Arne Mattsson – based on the novel Lastbilen / The Lorry (1962) by Wahlöö. DP: Tony Forsberg – Eastmancolor. AD: Željko Senečić. Cost: Mago. Makeup: Mirko Mackić. M: Wilfred Josephs. Theme song: "Sunny Spain". S: Mike Le Mare. ED: John Trumper, Christopher J. Welch. C: Helmut Griem (Willi Mohr), Slobodan Dimitrijevic (Santiago Alemany, a fisherman), Gunnel Fred (Mrs. Siglinde Pedersen), Ivan Tchenko (Ramon Alemany, a fisherman), Richard Warwick (Tornilla, a police sergeant), John Hamill (Dan Pedersen, author), Ivo Pajer (Pujol), Zvonimir Zoricic (officer of the secret police), Igor Galo (officer of the secret police), Mile Rupcić (Cabo), Mirko Vojkovic (Pedro), Franjo Stefulj (Jacinto), Demeter Bitenc (Berg), Vida Jerman (Mrs. Berg), Branko Spoljar (Thorpe), Majda Grbac (a girl from Rovinj).  Loc: Portorož (Yugoslavia, today Slovenia). Not released in Finland. Original version: 3195 m / 116 min. Premiere version: 3070 m / 111 min. Short version: 105 min
    KAVI print, English version (Black Sun), deposit from an unreleased Adams-Filmi import print without subtitles, the 105 min version, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Thriller Sweden), 30 May 2014
    The action takes place in Spain in 1965.

Arne Mattsson had the ambition to make a political drama about the violent repression during Franco's regime in Spain. There is a strike of 400 workers in Santa Margerita, and they need weapons. The fisherman brothers Santiago and Ramon smuggle weapons in their fish shipments. But the transport fails, and there is a bloody and brutal mass execution of the striking workers, and women are executed sadistically with blowtorches pointed between their legs.

Complication ensues as a Nordic couple, Dan and Siglinde, together with a German, Willi, come to stay in the village, and one evening they bathe nude in the sea, confusing the fisherman brothers. Ramon kills Dan, Santiago kills Siglinde, and Willi takes vengeance by killing Ramon. The police kills Santiago as he tries to escape. The police has found out that they are gun smugglers.

The political drama fails to move, and the result is unfortunately mainly a piece of exploitation. The characters are bland, and the English dubbing sounds impersonal. Gone is the mastery of Arne Mattsson that seemed to keep growing at least until the 1960s.

The vintage print has not been used, but the colour has started to fade.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lilith

Lilith / Lilith. US © 1964 Centaur Enterprises. P+D+SC: Robert Rossen – based on the novel (1961) by J. R. Salamanca. DP: Eugen Shuftan. AD: Richard Sylbert. Titles design: Elinor Bunij. M: Kenyon Hopkins. - J. S. Bach. ED: Aram Avakian. C: Warren Beatty (Vincent Bruce), Jean Seberg (Lilith Arthur), Peter Fonda (Stephen Evshevsky), Kim Hunter (Dr. Bea Brice), Anne Meacham (Yvonne Meacham), James Patterson (Dr. Lavrier), Jessica Walter (Laura), Gene Hackman (Norman), Robert Reilly (Bob Clayfield), Rene Auberjenois (Howie), Lucy Smith (Vincent's grandmother), Maurice Brenner (Mr. Gordon), Jeanne Barr (Miss Glaasman), Richard Higgs (Mr. Palakis), Elizabeth Bader (girl at the bar), Alice Spivak (a lonely girl). Loc: Chestnut Lodge and Rockville (Maryland), Great Falls (Virginia), Locust Valley (Long Island). Helsinki premiere: 26.2.1965 Adams, distributor: Columbia Films, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Elisa Hillo / Ragnhild Troupp – telecast: 15.5.1972 MTV1, 23.4.1989 TV3 – VET 70451 – K16 – 3115 m / 114 min
    Vintage KAVI print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (50 Years Ago), 29 May 2014.

The story of a trainee occupational therapist (Warren Beatty) caught in the vortex of a highly intelligent schizophreniac Lilith (Jean Seberg) to the point where the therapist himself needs help.

I had not seen Lilith in 42 years, and when I saw it then, I was too young to comprehend. Yet I had not forgotten the impression of the film which was not just an account of fragile people - but of a film which was also fragile, itself. Lilith and Repulsion got linked with each other in my memory as tragic films which take us inside deeply injured minds, but I was asking what was the point. Maybe I still do, but now Lilith feels stronger than then. It has aged well.

Now I liked the sympathy of the veteran Robert Rossen in his final film for the young people, played by a great cast. Warren Beatty had made his screen debut the year before for Elia Kazan, and he has a credibly sensitive presence as Vincent. For Jean Seberg Lilith might be her greatest role, difficult, complex, multi-faceted. Peter Fonda, too, had debuted the year before, and he plays memorably the tragic role of Stephen, a victim of Lilith and Vincent. Kim Hunter had debuted a generation before in the Val Lewton-Mark Robson masterpiece The Seventh Victim; her alert eyes tell a lot about what is going on in a memorable performance as Dr. Bea Brice who introduces Vincent to the hospital. Jessica Walter got her screen debut in Lilith, launching her to a long career; here she plays Laura, a longtime friend (but not an ex-girlfriend) of Vincent. For Gene Hackman Lilith gave his first credited screen role. He is already a strong presence as Laura's bullying husband Norman.

The cinematography of Eugen Shuftan is very ambitious and totally different from his previous collaboration with Robert Rossen, The Hustler. Shot on location, the landscape is beautiful and slightly haunting. An important sequence is the trip to the falls. Water, crystal, and reflections are key motifs. Superimpositions abound. Visually, Lilith resembles French impressionistic films of the 1920s.

There are discourses on insanity. It is compared to fine crystal shattered. It is depicted as having seen too much with too fine an instrument. Some people are destroyed by their excellence.

In an odd sequence the thesis is offered that schizophrenia can be implanted even to spiders. We see episcope slides of webs of mad spiders.

"What was your mother like?" asks Lilith. The question remains unanswered. Towards the end, when Vincent, too, has become deranged, Dr. Bea Brice visits his room and sees the twin photographs of Lilith and Vincent's mother, looking alike.

The questions of seduction and transference keep getting discussed. "Do you feel she is trying to seduce you?" "Much more than that. She wants me to share that magic little world of hers." Madness is described as rapture. Lilith has a language of her own (pirlu resh kawavn). She has built a flute of her own. She plays a tune of her own (the theme tune of the film). Lilith is bisexual and has an affair with a female patient. She also loves to seduce little boys.

In a group therapy session the topic is reality. "What's so wonderful about reality?" somebody asks, to a general burst of laughter.

The Laura-Norman episode is a memorable, chilling, Chekhovian marriage vignette. When Norman has left, Laura says that she had decided that she'll "never let you love me until I'm married. Well, I'm married now". But Vincent is already too preoccupied with Lilith to react to, to be offended by, or even to ignore the come-on proposal.

After the death of Stephen and Lilith, Vincent, stunned, walks like a somnambulist, to the doctors. "Help me". Freeze frame. Speaking of Chekhov, "Ward No. 6" also occurred to me. And one of the patients is reading Dostoevsky; also Vincent has read Dostoevsky.

The used vintage print is still quite watchable. Certain scenes have low contrast, but that seems to be a means of expression in this movie with an experimental bite.

Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York / Synecdoche, New York. US 2008. PC: Likely Story / Projective Testing Service / Russia, Inc. Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. P: Anthony Bregman, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Sidney Kimmel. D+SC: Charlie Kaufman. - Rainer Maria Rilke: "Herbsttag". DP: Frederick Elmes - negative: 35 mm - Super 35 - master: digital intermediate - colour: DeLuxe - 2,35:1. PD: Mark Friedberg. AD: Adam Stockhausen. Set dec: Lydia Marks. Art dept big. VFX: Brainstorm Digital – AAU – Circle-S Studios – Edgeworx – Anibrain – Deluxe EFilm Toronto – RotoFactory – a big department. AN: Chris Armstrong (AAU) – Katria Whalen (tv seq.). Cost: Melissa Toth. Makeup: Judy Chin. Prosthetics designer: Michael Marino. Prosthetics dept big. Hair: Mandy Lyons. M: Jon Brion. Songs: "Synecdoche Song" (Charlie Kaufman, Jon Brion) es. Sadie Goldstein. – "Gravity" (Kaufman, Deanna Storey) . – "I'm Just a Little Person" (Kaufman, Brion) and "Song for Caden" (Kaufman, Brion) es. Deanna Storey. S: Eugene Gearty. ED: Robert Frazen. Casting: Jeanne McCarthy. C: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Caden Cotard), Catherine Keener (Adele Lack), Samantha Morton (Hazel), Hope Davis (Madeleine Gravis), Tom Noonan (Sammy Barnathan, Caden's double), Emily Watson (Tammy, Hazel's double), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Maria), Dianne Wiest (Millicent Weems who plays Ellen Bascomb and is also Caden's double), Michelle Williams (Claire Keen), Deirdre O'Connell (Mrs. Bascomb), Robin Weigert (Olive Cotard, Caden's grown-up daughter), Sadie Goldstein (Olive at 4), Jerry Adler (Caden's father), Lynn Cohen (Caden's mother), Josh Pais (ophtalmologist). Loc: New York – Bronx, Brooklyn, Schenectady, Woodlawn, Yonkers. Not theatrically released in Finland – dvd: 2009 FS Film – tv: 12.12.2012 and 8.1.2014 Yle Teema – VET 210635 – K11 – 124 min
    A NFI print with Norwegian subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Philip Seymour Hoffman), 29 May 2014

SYNECDOCHE [Sih-NECK-doh-kee] -noun
A figure of speech in which:
A Part is used for the Whole The Screen for Movies
A Whole stands for a Part The Law for Police
A Species (specific kind) stands for its Genus (general kind) Cutthroats for Assassins
A Genus stands in for its Species Creature for Person
A Material stands for a Thing Ivories for Piano Keys
- Pressbook

Pressbook synopsis: "Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play. His life catering to suburban blue-hairs at the local regional theater in Schenectady, New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive (Sadie Goldstein) with her. His therapist, Madeleine Gravis (Hope Davis), is better at plugging her best-seller than she is at counseling him. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel (Samantha Morton) has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of his autonomic functions, one by one."

"Worried about the transience of his life, he leaves his home behind. He gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in New York City, hoping to create a work of brutal honesty. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a growing mockup of the city outside."

"However, as the city inside the warehouse grows, Caden's own life veers wildly off the tracks. Somewhere in Berlin, his daughter is growing up under the questionable guidance of Adele's friend, Maria (Jennifer Jason Leigh). His lingering attachments to both Adele and Hazel are causing him to helplessly drive his new marriage to actress Claire (Michelle Williams) into the ground. Sammy (Tom Noonan) and Tammy (Emily Watson), the actors hired to play Caden and Hazel, are making it difficult for the real Caden to revive his relationship with the real Hazel. The textured tangle of real and theatrical relationships blurs the line between the world of the play and that of Caden's own deteriorating reality."

"The years rapidly fold into each other, and Caden buries himself deeper into his masterpiece. As he pushes the limits of his relationships, both personally and professionally, a change in creative direction arrives in Millicent Weems (Dianne Wiest), a celebrated theater actress who may offer Caden the break he needs." (synopsis from the pressbook)

I am a big fan of Charlie Kaufman as a screenwriter, and now I got to see his first (and so far only) achievement as a film director for the first time. It's a tightly packed tale of the theatre director Caden Cotard whose life is crumbling and who with the help of a timely grant ("the Genius Grant") mounts a gigantic production (the Great American Play?) in a vast warehouse based on his own life situation. Years go by, and Caden keeps rehearsing his life play increasingly reflecting also the production itself full of doppelgangers, triplegangers and quadruplegangers. Gradually they start to take over.

The film is so unusual and so full of of dark, witty, and intriguing remarks that it has to be seen more than once.

Caden calls his production Simulacrum, and it is a play about a world of representations of representations. He creates a half-world where "None is an extra. They are all leads."

Caden's wife Adele Lack becomes the world's leading artist. Her paintings are miniatures that need to be examined with microscopes in exhibitions.

When the film starts, Caden is mounting a production of Death of a Salesman where the leading roles are played by young actors, to reveal in a novel way the tragedy that they, too, will be crushed when they grow old.

The film is about the downfall of Caden. He crumbles physically, his grip on reality deteriorates, and his affairs with women tangle up because he is always lingering in the previous attachment even while embarking on the next one. Caden keeps watching television and seeing himself as a figure in commercials and animations. Finally his role is played by a woman, and he is taken over by her.

The Simulacrum ends in apocalypse. Corpses litter the streets of the huge stage.

Philip Seymour Hoffman has a strong presence in the impossibly complex leading role.

There are several strong female roles: Catherine Keener as the artist Adele Lack, Hope Davis as the marriage counsellor, Michelle Williams as the actress Claire, Samantha Morton as Hazel, Emily Watson as Tammy, Robin Weigert as Caden's daughter Olive as an adult, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Adele's friend Maria, and Dianne Wiest as the final doppelganger.

The film is too long and complicated. When the point has been made, the complications go sometimes on needlessly.

The print is clean and complete.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ne 45 000 / [Those 45.000] (new print struck in 2007)

Helmi Hirvinen (Helena Koskinen) at Tarinaharju Sanatorium (architect: Eino Forsman). Click to enlarge.
De 45 000. FI 1933. PC: [Suomen Filmiteollisuus SF Oy - in name only] / Suomi-Filmi Oy / Suomen Tuberkuloosin Vastustamisyhdistys. [The rights remained with Risto Orko personally.] P: Erkki Karu, Risto Orko. D: Erkki Karu. Toinen ohjaaja / Biträdande regissör / Second D: Risto Orko. SC: Erkki Karu, Risto Orko – based on the novel Ne 45.000. Tarkoitusromaani by Maila Talvio (Porvoo: WSOY, 1932). DP: Eino Kari, Theodor Luts - early sound aperture 1,2:1. AD: Carl Fager, Armas Fredman. Makeup: Hannes Kuokkanen. M: Uuno Klami. – The waltz "Kuin kevään yö" comp. Uuno Klami, lyr. V. A. Koskenniemi. – "Frühlingsstimmen" (Johann Strauss, Jr.). – Virsi 443 / Hymn 443 "Aurinko armas walollansa / Taas uuden päiwän tuonut on" (comp. trad., lyr. trad., in Finnish Elias Lagus, arranged possibly by Gustaf Rancken and Jaakko Tengström as well as Carl Gustaf von Essen). Orchestra: Helsingin Teatteriorkesteri. S: Rafael Ylkänen, Lauri Pulkkila (n.c.). ED: Erkki Karu, Risto Orko. Expert: Severi Savonen (Suomen Tuberkuloosin Vastustamisyhdistys).
    C: Einar Wichmann (Aarne Hirvinen, kamreeri / treasurer), Helena Koskinen (Helmi Hirvinen), Katri Rautio (mummi / grandma), Eero Kilpi (Wiljam Ania, ylilääkäri / senior physician), Jalmari Rinne (Antti Ahonen, lääket. kandidaatti / Bachelor of Medicine), Kaarlo Angerkoski (Heikki Huhtamäki, student), Georg Malmstén (Jyrki, Helmi's osakuntatoveri / student nation friend), Laila Richter (Annikki, Helmi's student nation friend), Laura Tudeer (Greta, Helmi's student nation friend), Ellen Parviainen (Esteri, Helmi's student nation friend), Jaana Ylhä (Mirja, Helmi's student nation friend), Yrjö Tuominen (TB doctor), Elsa Rantalainen (mökin emäntä / farmhouse mistress), Unto Salminen (TB doctor), Pirkko Raitio (sairas mökin emäntä / sick farmhouse mistress), Olga Leino (mökin emäntä / farmhouse mistress), Lilli Sairio (Alina, kansakoulunopettaja / elementary school teacher), Alfred Roini (mökkiläinen / a farmer), Mimmi Lähteenoja (mattoja tomuttava muija / a woman dusting carpets), Eero Vepsälä (parantolassa ollut mökin mies / a farmer who has been at a sanatorium), Kaija Suonio (Maija), Iivari Kainulainen (talonmies / janitor). – Helsingin Teatteriorkesteri (orchestra at the ball). – N.c.: Severi Savonen (TB doctor / lecturer), Matti Aro (ylioppilas Vanhan kahvilassa / student at the Vanha Café), Kaarlo Halttunen (student in the adjoining room), Ate Holander (student in the adjoining room), Risto Orko (Kalle, a student playing chess), Oke Tuuri (a dancer).
    Locations: Harjavalta: Satalinnan parantola / sanatorium – Paimio: Paimion parantola – Harjavalta: Satalinnan lastenparantola / children's sanatorium. – Helsinki: Vironkatu 10 A (the home of the Hirvinen family), Helsingin tuberkuloosisairaala / TB hospital (the Hirvinen family at the TB test), Pohjoinen Esplanaadikatu Kauppatorin kohdalla (the rendez-vous of Heikki and Mirja), ravintola Kappeli Esplanaadilla (Heikki and Mirja at a outdoors restaurant). – Siilinjärvi: Tarinaharjun parantola (the Kukkaranta sanatorium). – Kiukainen: Satalinnan parantolan työhoito-osasto. – Harjavalta: Satalinnan lastenparantola (the children patients at play). – Naantali: Kalevanniemen parantola (the children patients on the beach). – Hämeenlinna: Ahveniston parantola (meeting-place of Heikki and Antti) – Helsingin ympäristö (Helmi skiing on her counselling trips).
    Suomen Tuberkuloosin Vastustamisyhdistys [STV] [The Finnish Anti-Tuberculosis Society] had acquired a German anti-TB film in 1927 for their circulation. They saw an Italian anti-TB film in 1928 in Rome, and were also offered French anti-TB films in the same year, but then decided to embark in 1929 into a film project to be produced in Finland. They contacted the prominent writer Maila Talvio who wrote a tendency novel on the topic in 1931 for Suomi-Filmi, published as a book in 1932. The contract with Suomi-Filmi made STV a co-financer with rights to the 16 mm distribution oin their own tours (which drew audiences of a 100.000 annually). A requirement of the contract was that Risto Nylund (Orko) would become the second director. He belonged to the Maila Talvio circle and had negotiated with Suomi-Filmi and Karu as a representative of STV and Talvio.
    Talvio and Orko belonged to the student nation Satakuntalainen Osakunta in the context of which the student ball of the opening sequence takes place, Orko, himself, appearing as a student.
    The title refers to the number of patients that died of TB during a five-year period in Finland at the time.
    Helsinki premiere: 12.11.1933 Kino-Palatsi - Tampere: Scala, Turku: Scala, Viipuri: Scala, distribution: Suomi-Filmi – tv: 22.9.1979 MTV2, 17.5.2011 YLE TV2, 9.9.2013 YLE TV1 – vhs: 1989 Suomi-Filmi – classification number A-223 – S – 2765 m / 100 min
    A new print was struck in 2007, financed by Filha r.y. (Finnish Lung Health Association, the current name of STV), made at Finn-Lab. 
    KAVI print (the 2007 print) viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Erkki Karu), 28 May 2014

TB's
killing me
–  John Lee Hooker

There was as much drama behind the screen as on screen as Erkki Karu was ousted from Suomi-Filmi, the company that he had founded, while the long-drawn-out production of Ne 45.000 was brought to a finish by his partner and successor Risto Orko.

Two of the biggest Finnish film moguls collaborated in this prestige production.

Intriguingly, Risto Orko, who personally got to own the rights to this film, is seen in the first scene, a students' ball, as a chess-playing student, playing against the male protagonist, Antti (Jalmari Rinne). Orko gets the first line of dialogue: "Checkmate!"

Ne 45.000 is still a clumsy movie in the early sound film mode, stiff and tentative, like a baby learning to walk, or an accident victim re-learning to move. Only for die-hard aficionados of Finnish cinema and for students of medical history. Yet I confess again that there is something sympathetic in the uncertain approach of these early Finnish sound films.

Ne 45.000 tells a medical story with many non-fiction aspects and sequences. It is a Finnish Kulturfilm, mixing documentary with an acted narrative in the spirit of education and enlightenment.

Almost all members of an urban family - three children and their grandmother - have been infected with TB and are taken to a modern sanatorium. Many sanatoriums are covered in the films. The fictive main sanatorium, shot mainly at Tarinaharju, north of Kuopio, the central sanatorium of Northern Savo, opened in 1931, now Tarina Hospital, is situated on a pine ridge and has a beach by the lake.

More remarks:
    1. The scientific, medical and documentary aspects are the most engrossing thing in this film, especially the introduction to the sanatorium starting with a long backwards tracking shot along its corridors. The baths, the ovens, the lab, the pharmacy, the operation room, the sterilization department, the wash basins, the light cure with carbon light, the light cure with Alpine sun, the pneumothorax cure, the outdoors rest department with sun and air. There is a wonderful long panning shot on the sun balcony of the Tarinaharju sanatorium compared with the sun deck of an ocean liner. The big modern kitchen, the dining hall, the chess room, the workshop, the oat field, the garden plot, the henhouse, the apple garden, the sewing room, the book binding room, the sanatorium school, the children at play, the baseball game, and the sand beach for swimmers. - Heikki's X-ray sequence has an educational character, too.
    2. Another engrossing tour in the film is Helmi's ski trek. Having been cured from TB Helmi becomes a nurse, and she counsels families in farmhouses in the countryside. The authentic locations are heartbreaking in the austerity of the circumstances of the homes (contrasted by the splendour and magnificence of the surrounding nature). The homes look more arid and desolate than in Finnish rural fiction films. (Although the set decoration and the costumes are not always consistent to the concept!).
    3. A further heartfelt episode is Helmi's rushed hike over the swamp, led by a seasoned guide, as soon as she hears that Heikki is in his death-throes at the hospital. Also the hymn-singing sequence is memorable with its studies of faces marked with grief.
    4. Ne 45.000 is largely and consistently an Erkki Karu film. As a documentarist or semi-documentarist, Erkki Karu had made an industrial promotion film (Mr. Elanto), and the fifth anniversary film of Finnish independence (Finlandia), and he created a trilogy about the Finnish military forces. The film is yet another expression of Erkki Karu's patriotic spirit. The Finnish flag is being waved copiously. Here it is an image of the fresh wind that can chase away the TB peril. Ne 45.000 was dear to Risto Orko, as well, as he, too, had a passion for the documentary. Orko was later very proud of the film he produced about the eclipse (1945), and his favourite film was his documentary feature Taistelun tie (1940) about the Winter War.
    5. This was the first film contribution of the then prominent (now forgotten) author Maila Talvio, who belonged to the nearest circle of Risto Orko. It includes also the only original film contribution of V. A. Koskenniemi, the poet laureate of Finland (he wrote the lyrics to Finlandia, for example) - here he wrote the lyrics to the Wiener salon waltz sung by Georg Malmstén. The composer was Uuno Klami, the first serious Finnish composer to score a sound film (Armas Järnefelt and Armas Launis had done great scores for silent films). Neither Talvio nor Klami fared well in this film adventure, but Koskenniemi's lyrics work fine in the waltz.
    6. The token narrative is merely a frame for TB propaganda. The narrative is slight, the characters are not well-rounded, and the dialogue is wooden, but there is charm and dignity in Helena Koskinen's performance in her second and final film. Critics singled out her clumsy line-reading, but I find the amateur Helena Koskinen more touching than theatre warhorses such as Jalmari Rinne. The line-reading is stilted throughout. Helena Koskinen lacks routine, but her heart is in it.
    7. Helmi gets to Heikki's deathbed in the nick of time, and their misunderstanding is cleared. "A man is stupid, and when he gets wise it's too late". The doctor lifts his cap, closes Heikki's eyes, and covers him with a white sheet. A wind swings the curtain. The shadow of the window frame casts a cross on Heikki.
    8. Although the film is a failure, it is clearly a labour of love. There is a sense of urgency and a sense of dignity in the approach to the calamity that TB then was. The film catches an authentic healing spirit of doctors and nurses, also evident in the architecture of the sanatoriums: buildings as medicine. - On a personal note, my father also caught TB as a teenager and faced the probability that his days were numbered, but he fought to victory. Since the mid-1940s penicillin was being produced industrially, and that helped him beat the lethal TB.

The sound is weak and uneven, and there are abrupt interruptions through the entire duration.

There had not been a theatrical print of 45.000 for generations, but it has been available for telecasts and a vhs release. It was a pleasure to see this new almost mint print which does justice to the cinematography of two fine professionals, Eino Kari and Theodor Luts.

Tarinaharju Sanatorium. Click to enlarge.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Mannen på taket / The Man on the Roof

Mannen på taket efter Sjöwall & Wahlöö [the credit title] / Komisario Beck tähtäimessä. SE 1976. PC: AB Svensk Filmindustri / Stiftelsen Svenska Filminstitutet / Bo Widerberg Film AB. P: Per Berglund. D+SC: Bo Widerberg – based on the novel Den vedervärdige mannen från Säffle (1971) / The Abominable Man by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, in Finnish by Marja-Riitta Ritanoro and Kari Jalonen (Komisario Beck tähtäimessä, Karisto, 1974) – of the ten part series Roman om ett brott / Romaani rikoksesta / The Story of a Crime / Martin Beck Series. DP: Odd Geir Sæther, Per Källberg – Eastman Color – 1,66:1. AD: Ulf Axén – rekvisiitta: Krister Lindell, Mona Theresia Forsén, Mikael Katzeff. Makeup: Sven Lundén, Irene Wolter. M (original): Björn J:son Lindh. Songs: "LTO-Tango" (Björn Afzelius), "Fjällbruden" (comp. Arthur Hedström, lyr. Fritz-Gustaf ja Oleg Quist, 1912). S: Lennart Dunér, Peter Ekvall, Leif Westerlund, Jörgen Hasselblad, Hans Östlund, Göran Carmback, Thomas Samuelsson – optic mono. ED: Sylvia Ingemarsson, Bo Widerberg. Production manager: Stefan Jarl. Second unit: Roy Andersson. C: Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt (kriminalkommissarie Martin Beck), Sven Wollter (kriminalinspektör Lennart Kollberg), Thomas Hellberg (1:e kriminalassistent Gunvald Larsson), Håkan Serner (kriminalassistent Einar Rönn), Folke Hjort (Fredrik Melander), Jan Alm (Bolin), Torgny Anderberg (Stig Åke Malm), Eva Remaeus (Mrs. Kollberg), Birgitta Valberg (Mrs. Nyman), Carl-Axel Heiknert (Palmon Harald Hult), Harald Hamrell (Stefan Nyman), Ingvar Hirdwall (Åke Eriksson), Gus Dahlström (Åke Eriksson's father), Bellan Roos (Åke Eriksson's mother), Johan Thorén (Axelsson), Bo Holmström (tv reporter), Johan Widerberg (Johan Kollberg, Kollberg's son, n.c.). Loc: Tukholma. Helsinki premiere: 19.4.1977 Bristol, Ritz, distributor: Suomi-Filmi – tv: 3.7.1989 MTV1, 10.6.2008 FST5 – vhs: 1994 Suomen Kunnallispalvelu – dvd: 2004 FS Film – VET 85169 – K16 – 3025 m / 113 min
    A vintage KAVI print (deposited by Suomi-Filmi) with Finnish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Thriller Sweden), 23 May 2014

Based on The Abominable Man, the seventh Martin Beck story in the series of detective novels written by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.

This was a return to modern, urgent themes by Bo Widerberg who started as a Swedish New Wave director and then moved to period epics and romances.

A taut thriller situated in the Sjöwall/Wahlöö world. There are connections with films such as Edward Dmytryk's The Sniper, and Peter Bogdanovich's Targets. The basis is on realism, and the plot is more topical today than it was then.

The first murder victim is a callous and sadistic policeman Stefan Nyman who has had special forces army training in the 1930s and who was also an expert butcher who knew how to silence a victim instantly and permanently.

Among the alarming figures there is Palmon Harald Hult, Nyman's main disciple. He wears the uniform also in his free time, volunteers to patrol in front of the crime place, and is among those who do make the breakthrough onto the roof in the conclusion.

Inspector Martin Beck is the seasoned authority figure, not an omniscient crime solver but a team player. Einar Rönn is his main partner. Gunvald Larsson is the anti-authority figure who does not hesitate to challenge the boss Stig Malm. A great ensemble played by a great cast.

The violence is brutal but the way it is portrayed is responsible. The story is psychologically convincing. For instance how the families refuse to believe the truth and how they protect the killers. After the first murder, a novice policeman throws up and the nurse has to be given a tranquillizing shot. The climax when the sniper starts to shoot policemen from the roof, and manages to shoot down a police helicopter, is a blow to the safety of the Folkhemmet ("The People's Home").

I like the approach to the theme of courage. The first victims are taken by surprise and they have no chance. But the strategy with the helicopters is a gross blunder by the big police boss Stig Malm, causing needless damage and a loss of life. Then Inspector Beck himself ventures onto the roof. He is immediately shot in the chest and falls to almost certain death. He is rescued at great risk and with great skill by his partner.

Here The Man on the Roof depicts a good esprit de corps, an everyday courage of laconic efficiency. On the other hand it reveals a rotten esprit de corps, an evil circle of bad cops, ruthless and careless with force, obeying a code of silence.

Mikael Timm (in Swedish Filmography Part 7) considers The Man on the Roof the most prominent account of the Swedish Folkhemmet of the decade, prefiguring future shocks such as the murder of Olof Palme.

In his first thriller Widerberg displays a strong contemporary approach, worthy of comparison with Friedkin and Coppola.

The vintage print is often good enough, especially in daytime scenes and interiors. Nighttime exteriors look bunged up in this print.

Les Biches

Naarashirvet / Hindarna / To kvinner - en mann / The Does. FR/IT 1968. PC: Les Films La Boétie / Alexandra Produzioni Cinematografiche. P: André Génovès. D: Claude Chabrol. SC: Paul Gégauff, Claude Chabrol. DP: Claude Zidi, Jean Rabier. Cost: Maurice Albray. M: Pierre Jansen. ED: Jacques Gaillard. S: Guy Chichignoud. C: Stéphane Audran (Frédérique), Jacqueline Sassard (Why), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Paul Thomas), Nane Germon (Villetta), Henri Attal (Rohègue), Dominique Zardi (Rillet), Serge Bento (bookseller), Henri Frances. Helsinki premiere: 22.5.1970 Ritz, distributor: Suomi Filmi – VET 78533 – K16 – 2715 m / 95 min
    A NFI print with Norwegian subtitles by Per Aamot, screened with e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Jean-Louis Trintignant), 23 May 2014

Claude Chabrol started as a director of five great films (Le beau Serge, Les Cousins, À double tour, Les bonnes femmes, and Les Godelureaux). Because of their failure at the box office Chabrol then made a series of nine blatantly commercial films with which he "earned" a new chance to make personal films, some ten films which Jean-Pierre Jeancolas has called Chabrol's "little comédie humaine". They are films with strong casts, weird plots (usually with crimes), set among the bourgeoisie, and with a sarcastic approach to the fate of passion in the world of intelligent but hypocritical people. Like Lang, Chabrol strived for objectivity. After this period Chabrol often succumbed to overproduction, always returning to form from time to time.

Les Biches was the first film in Chabrol's return to personal film-making. Written by Chabrol's "evil genius" Paul Gégauff. Starring Chabrol's muse and wife Stéphane Audran whose previous husband had been Jean-Louis Trintignant, the male star of Les Biches.

Jacqueline Sassard had had starring roles for ten years in films by Lattuada, Zurlini, and Losey. Les Biches was her final film. She married and disappeared completely from the public view after Les Biches was finished.

"There are no great and small subjects" was Chabrol's consistent view. Chabrol strived for simplicity. In Les Biches there is an affinity with Polanski in this sense.

Les Biches is a story of the deranged love affairs of the very rich. The penniless Why (Jacqueline Sassard) is drawn into their circle, only to be ignored and abandoned, and even she becomes deranged, but more seriously and fatally (like André Jurieu in La Règle du jeu). Why is introduced as a Bohemian artist whose favourite topic is a female deer - doe - still carrying its calf inside. Infatuated by Frédérique she starts to imitate her, like Alma imitates Elisabet in Persona.

There is a weird pair of clowns, Robèque and Riais, played by Chabrol regulars Henri Attal and Dominique Zardi. Why smokes them out by spoiling the soup; everyone thinks it's a prank of theirs gone too far.

The film is brilliantly made. There is a shortage of authenticity in the life depicted. It is a Chabrolian view of modern urban ennui, his view of the world portrayed by Antonioni. In Finland there is an affinity with Jörn Donner.

The vintage print has been heavily used, it has joins, and the colour is fading. Yet one adapts oneself to it and can get a sense of the visual look of the movie.

Így jöttem / My Way Home

The final image. Joszef has been beaten by a gang of five thugs who have mistaken him for a Nazi collaborator.
Kotiinpaluu / Hemkomsten. HU 1964. PC: Mafilm Studio 4. P: Jozsef Gyõrffy. D: Miklós Jancsó. SC: Gyula Hernádi. DP: Tamás Somló - b&w - 1,66:1. M: Zoltán Jeney. - Béla Bartók: Allegro Barbaro. - Folk songs. ED: Zoltán Farkas. S: Zolán Toldy. C: András Kozák (Jóska), Sergei Nikonenko (Kolja), Juri Bodovski, Georgi Sklanski, Viktor Tshemaroff, Ivan Solovjev, Janos Görbe, Judit Meszlery, Tibor Molnar. In Hungarian and Russian. Helsinki premiere: 2.11.1973 Cinema, distributor: Kommanditbolaget Mårten Kihlman Ky & Co. Telecast: 3.1.1982 MTV1, 27.11.2002, 16.6. 2004, 25.6.2005 YleTeema. VET: 78562 – K12 – 2755 m / 100 min
    A KAVI print, deposition by Mårten Kihlman of his 1973 release with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Risto Säämänen and Mårten Kihlman (relay translation from English) viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (50 Years Ago / Remembering Miklós Jancsó), 23 May 2014

In memoriam Miklós Jancsó (1921-2014), a great modernist of the 1960s with a unique and unforgettable way to create cinema. Dynamic space, endless pustas, grim allegories of terror, a passion for liberation, contrasting uniforms with nudity, mastery of the plan-séquence and a moving camera, brilliant black and white in scope in the first great trilogy, mixing discipline and sensuality. My Way Home was already fascinating, and then followed the stunning trio of The Round-Up, The Red and the White, and Silence and Cry. Jancsó was prolific, and he never stopped being an iconoclast. Visiting the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä in 2002 Jancsó told about his prisoner-of-war times in Soviet Karelia, studying the Kalevala, loving the light.

I kept seeing My Way Home every now and then in the 1970s, and it was a pleasure to revisit it now in memory of Miklós Jancsó. Many talents of his ensemble are already participating:
    Gyula Hernádi is his screenwriter for the second time.
    András Kozák debuts here for Jancsó.
    János Görbe had already acted for him.
    Tamás Somló the cinematographer was already a Jancsó veteran.
On the music track
    Béla Bartók's Allegro barbaro is already being heard.

Many elements of Jancsó's unique style are already in place.
    The moving camera.
    Deep focus.
    The long takes (but no plan-séquence here).
    Shot on location, all exteriors.
    The great plains are the location.
    The constant wind.
    The figures in the landscape.
    Songs are important. I'd like to see the playlist.
    The blocking feels spontaneous, yet is choreographed.
    It is a study on the shifting situations of power.
    The theme of the uniform and nudity (as an expression of vulnerability).
This film is not yet in scope.
   
A personal view of the chaos at the end of Second World War. The Russians have come, the Nazis have been beaten. Jozsef keeps being arrested and liberated. On his way he picks a Nazi uniform from which he tears out the insignia.

In the beginning the film expands from a group of running youths to scenes of mounted Cossacks, Russian prison camps, doctors' examinations, and military hospitals.

The middle of the film focuses on two teenagers, the Russian cowboy-guard Kolya, and the Hungarian Jozsef. Kolya has been lethally wounded in the stomach. Kolya saves Jozsef from running into a minefield. Jozsef tries to save Kolya's life but it's too late.

The film goes on to sketch views of the epic progress of the chaos. There is a desinfection car. Red Cross vehicles. Wagon trains. Impossibly crowded trains at the station.

There is a mysterious biplane hunting the characters, like in North by Northwest, and Figures in the Landscape.

The cinematography is magnificent, with striking close-ups and epic aerial views. It is not yet as stark and abstract as in Jancsó's subsequent films.

There is still psychology in the characters, there is still an account of friendship. The characters have not yet been reduced to absurd chessboard figures.

The used print looks mostly great, with rain in changeovers. We screened it in Academy, perfect for Orion.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gordon Willis (1931-2014)

The cinematographer Gordon Willis was an artist of natural light, remembered for the stunning, almost experimental contrast between sunlight and shadow in The Godfather. All the President's Men had a similar stark concept of light and darkness. Willis's contribution was substantial to the New Hollywood. The juicy realism of Annie Hall. The menace behind the mundane in The Parallax View.

http://variety.com/2014/film/news/the-godfather-cinematographer-gordon-willis-dies-at-82-1201185649/
http://gordonwillis.blogspot.fi/
http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2009octdec/willis.html
http://www.deadline.com/2014/05/godfather-cinematographer-gordon-willis-dead/

PS. 20 May 2014
John Anderson in The New York Times, 19 May 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/movies/gordon-willis-godfather-cinematographer-dies-at-82.html?hp&_r=0

Amy Kaufman in LA Times, 19 May 2014
http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-gordon-willis-20140520-story.html
"One night he and I were having dinner and somebody asked, 'What is it you both like?'" Willis told the Hollywood Reporter in 2009. "Woody answered, 'It's not really that we like the same things; we hate the same things!'"

In a statement, Allen said Willis was "one of the few people who truly lived up to all of the hype about him." Coppola was equally effusive in his own prepared comments Monday — though he acknowledged that Willis could be irritable.

"He was a brilliant, irascible man, a one of a kind," Coppola said. "My favorite description was that 'he ice-skated on the film emulsion.' I learned a lot from him.
"

Betsy Sharkey in LA Times, 19 May 2014
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-gordon-willis-master-of-dark-and-light-column.html

Oliver Gettell in LA Times, 19 May 2014
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-gordon-willis-dies-8-memorable-movies-20140519-story.html

Wikipedia in English
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Willis

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Nattmara / Nightmare

Ansa. SE 1965. PC: AB Svensk Filmindustri. P: Lorens Marmstedt. D: Arne Mattsson. SC: Per Wahlöö, Arne Mattsson. DP: Max Wilén - B-foto: Rolf Holmqvist - b&w - normalbild 1,37:1. AD: P. A. Lundgren. Makeup: Britt Falkemo. M: Georg Riedel. S: Olle Unnerstad - optic mono. ED: Ulla Ryghe. P manager: Lars-Owe Carlberg.
    C: Ulla Jacobsson (Maj Berg, director and co-owner of Modeateljén), Gunnar Hellström (Per Berg, disponent [property manager, superintendent], her man), Sven Lindberg (Peter Storm, kriminalkommissarie / inspector), Mimi Pollak (Anna Söderblom, Aunt Anna, co-owner of Modeateljén), Mona Malm (Pia Bolt, tecknare / drawer at Modeateljén), Tord Peterson (Max Eriksson-Berg, "Stryparen" / "The Strangler"), Ingrid Backlin (Elsa Johansson, seamstress), Christina Carlwind (Eva Jansson, the first murder victim), Rune Halvarsson (Erik Boman, Storm's assistant), Marianne Karlbeck (Berta Larsson, cutter), Birger Lensander (vaktmästaren / doorkeeper at Svenska Dagbladet), Barbro Nordin (Mrs. Lundgren, annonsmottagare / ad editor), Helena Reuterblad (Siv Lundström, seamstress), Hans Bendrik (Karl Svensson, portvakt / concierge), Inger Juel (Mrs. Svanström, customer at Modeateljén), Ewert Ellman (policeman), Lasse Krantz (tractor driver), Ingrid Norrman (a mannequin, "Miss Sweden"), Alf Östlund (a punk), Sten Ardenstam (taxi driver), Lennart Norbäck (a journalist).
    Helsinki premiere: 10.2.1967 Maxim, distributed by Filmipaja – VET 75009 – K16 – Svensk Filmdatabas 2770 m / 101 min - VET 2825 m (0,5 m cut at the time, cut reinstated) / 103 min
    A vintage KAVI print, deposition of the Filmipaja release, duration of screening 101 min, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Thriller Sweden), 15 May 2014

Arne Mattsson directed many thrillers, and within the genre he was versatile. Mannekäng i rött is a highly stylized urban exercise, and Ljuv är sommarnatten is an enchanting rural mystery. Nattmara belongs to traditions of which Mattsson himself and his Swedish critics noted links with Gaslight, The Spiral Staircase, Suspicion, Les Diaboliques, Psycho, and Repulsion. I would add Experiment in Terror. There are also links with Mannekäng i rött.

In its bold approach to the visuals and to the sound Nattmara is original. Together with his cinematographer Max Wilén Mattsson creates constantly exciting visual solutions. The films quoted above have inspired them to build something new. The pre-credit sequence under the railway bridge. The killer's refuge in the empty church. The incident at Svenska Dagbladet with the false obituary. The subjective visions of the dazed Maj. Her paranoid views of suspicious faces everywhere. Her nightmares and hallucinations. The sense of distorted space and vertigo is created with a refined approach to special lenses.

Notable is also Georg Riedel's innovative score with harmonica solos, weird voices, and subtle music effects of menace. There is an affinity with what Ennio Morricone was doing, but Mattsson had been one of the pioneers (together with Kurosawa and other Japanese) of such an approach already in the 1950s.

Nattmara is well cast, but there is a lack of inspiration in Mattsson's direction of actors. Both Ulla Jacobsson and Gunnar Hellström play too much with one note. Mattsson had discovered Ulla Jacobsson for Hon dansade en sommar, and she had a brilliant international career. Here she is perhaps slightly too one-sidedly nervous and girlish, too somnambulistic. And Gunnar Hellström is too obvious as the villainous husband who is determined to hasten the progress of inheritance.

The most memorable character is Aunt Anna played by Mimi Pollak in a similar casting coup as was Lillebil Ibsen in Mannekäng i rött. Mimi Pollak was a prominent theatre director and actress whose film career had started in 1922; she was then Greta Garbo's schoolmate at the Dramaten Theatre School.

Nattmara is strong in atmosphere but feels slightly lethargic and prolonged at times. Arne Mattsson was able to create a compelling rhythm; here his grip is not at its most effective.

The vintage print is mostly pleasing to watch. Some passages feel slightly duped; momentarily there are signs of heavy use while the image is usually clean.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Voi meitä! Anoppi tulee / [Help! Mother-in-Law Is Coming] (2K DCP, KAVI 2013)

Eva Virtanen, Mia Backman, Jaana Ylhä, Ellen Parviainen, Uuno Laakso, Georg Malmstén, Heikki Välisalmi. Click to enlarge.
Voi meitä, anoppi tulee! / Svärmor kommer! FI 1932. PC: Suomi-Filmi Oy. P+D+SC+ED: Erkki Karu – based on the Swedish film Svärmor kommer (1932, D: Paul Merzbach) – based on the play My Wife's Family (1931) by Fred Duprez, produced in Finland as Tohtori Jokin (Koiton Näyttämö, 1933) and also as Anoppi tulee. Ass D: Carl Fager. DP: Theodor Luts (valokuvaus), Eino Kari (kuvaus) – assistant: Sulo Tammilehto. AD: Carl Fager, Armas Fredman. FX: Heikki Parkkonen. Make-up: Hannes Kuokkanen. M: Georg Malmstén. Songs: "Ain' tuoksuvat ruusut", "Tarujen tyttö", "Metsäpirtti / Lempi ja samppanja", "Älä sure oma armahain", comp. Georg Malmstén, lyr. Erkki Karu. S: Rafael Ylkänen – assistant: Hugo Ranta. Production manager: Armas Fredman. Stills: Kosti Lehtinen. Studioemäntä / studio mistress: Eva Luttinen.
    C: Mia Backman (Arabella Andersson, mother-in-law), Uuno Laakso (Aapeli Andersson, father-in-law), George Malmstén (Martti Onni Lepola), Eva Virtanen (Ulla Lepola o.s. Andersson), Ellen Parviainen (Alli), Heikki Välisalmi (Kyösti Kapio), Mary Hannikainen (Unelma Sulolampi), Jaana Ylhä (Mari Andersson, maid), Eero Eloranta (Esko Andersson), Iivari Kainulainen (policeman), Aino Niska (aunt Greta), Väinö Söderholm (police officer on duty), Armas Fredman (the inebriate Mr. Fredman at the police station). Swimming pool scene shot at Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall (Helsinki). Studio: Suomi-Filmin studio (Vironkatu 9).
    Helsinki premiere: 30.4.1933 Kaleva, Kino-Palatsi, other premiere cities Tampere (Scala), Turku (Scala) ja Viipuri (Scala), distr: Suomi-Filmi – tv: 19.2.1977 MTV2, 19.2.1987 YLE TV2, 24.4.1996, 16.6.2002, 30.8.2006 YLE TV1, 9.6.2011 YLE TV2, 5.9.2013 YLE TV1 – vhs: 1993 Suomi-Filmi – classification number A-143 – S – sources: 2860 m / 104 min - the duration of the screening: 96'40"
    KAVI 2K DCP (2013 from a duplicate positive) viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Erkki Karu), 14 May 2014

A farce with songs. The pavilion of the summer house has exploded due to a chain of misunderstandings. There has been a mix-up between a grand piano and a mother-in-law, whose legs get lacquered. There has also been confusion about a surprise birthday gift, that grand piano also being mistaken for a baby.

This could have been funny. The Fred Duprez play My Wife's Family has been filmed at least five times, and it is based on one of the oldest farce topics, the dread mother-in-law, analyzed eloquently by Elif Rongen-Kaynacki who traces the subject's roots back to stone age.

But this film adaptation is crude and dreary. Erkki Karu could do comedy, as proved by Nummisuutarit (rural) and Runoilija muuttaa (urban). But this film is a clumsy specimen of a filmed play. With early sound technology Karu lost his touch of mise-en-scène, découpage, rhythm, and editing. There are too many long shots, and the shots are too long. There are some tracking shots as the camera was mounted on rubber wheels, but they are not well integrated. The studio acoustics is chilly.

There is talent in the crew and the cast, but Georg Malmstén is still too stiff as the Finnish Maurice Chevalier. (Even Cary Grant looked paralyzed in his early films, contemporary to this.) Despite the crudity, there is a certain irrepressible basic sense of fun and entertainment, and a hard core fan of Finnish cinema can enjoy all kinds of things in this effort. Among them: Uuno Laakso at his best. He could sometimes be tedious with his mannerisms, but not here. Here he can switch between extremes, and even display dignity in Oliver Hardy style in the center of utter catastrophe (see the image above).

The songs are fun, too, and the director, Erkki Karu, himself wrote the romantic lyrics to Georg Malmstén's tunes.

The 2K DCP (KAVI 2013) is from a clean and bright duplicate positive, sometimes slightly out of focus on the right side, probably due to the source, but giving a satisfactory experience of this film.

PS. The mother-in-law joke may have turned obsolete in today's Finland. It used to be a source of comedy, and it was also a tragically serious theme in Finnish fiction, often in matriarchal context. Kanteletar. Juha. The Niskavuori saga. Helena. The old spider mother suppressing all joy of life in the young generation was a recurrent theme in our old lyric Kanteletar poetry. Mia Backman is a fearsome representative of the Finnish harridan.
    Mia Backman (1877-1958) was a legendary and formidable theatre manager and director famous for her daring programming, introducing Expressionism and controversial subjects, but also programming popular operettas because of their atmosphere of jubilant joy.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Reading Piketty

Thomas Piketty: Capital in the Twenty-First Century. (Le Capital au XXI siècle, 2013, Éditions du Seuil). Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, Massachusetts / London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014.

Yesterday I received my copy of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century from the Academic Bookstore in Helsinki and started reading it at once at Café Aalto. The book appeared last year in French, and in an English translation in March. Major findings of Piketty and his fellow scholars have already been ardently discussed since over a decade, and they form a foundation for contemporary discussions on inequality.

Piketty's magnum opus has been lauded by Paul Krugman among others: "This is a book that will change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics". "Piketty has transformed our economic discourse; we'll never talk about wealth and inequality the same way we used to."

Piketty states that we are living in a second Belle Époque, characterized by the steep rise of the "one per mille". Piketty and his network of top scholars have pioneered statistical techniques which make it possible to follow trends of income and wealth over centuries. The revelation here is that we are regressing to pre-WWI levels of inequality. The empirical data is transparent and available online at http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/fr/capital21c

The book is an empirical study but it also presents a warning based on the statistical trends: the development that has been going on since the 1970s "generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based".

The work of Piketty and his network of scholars has been possible thanks to the computing power of modern information technology. First in our age has it become possible to handle complete masses of income and wealth data of entire nations during centuries.

Piketty's work is anchored in the tradition of political economy (Smith, Ricardo, Mill, Malthus, Say, Marx). On the other hand he builds on the foundation of Simon Kuznets, and his book is a remarkable contribution to the discussion on the Kuznets curve.

Piketty analyses forces of convergence and forces of divergence in trends towards greater inequality. The fundamental force for divergence is that the annual rate of capital (r) is greater than the rate of the growth of the economy (g). (r>g).

"Under such conditions, it is almost inevitable that inherited wealth will dominate wealth amassed from a lifetime's labour by a wide margin, and the concentration of capital will attain extremely high levels - levels potentially incompatible with the meritocratic values and principles of social justice fundamental to modern democratic societies."

Piketty states that he belongs to a generation that turned eighteen in 1989 - the year of the Fall of the Wall.

That generation has not had to pay attention to the trenches of the ideological Cold War with its biases in art, science, and culture. The people who grew up and the organizations which were established during the Cold War have sometimes still not been liberated from the trenches, 25 years after the Cold War ended.

The hope lies with the younger generations. It has become possible to state fundamental and staggering truths which were ideologically taboo during the Cold War. "I was vaccinated for life against the conventional but lazy rhetoric of anticapitalism", states Piketty, who also reminds us that the radical left sometimes ignored the historical failure of the "real existing Socialism".

Piketty's book is alarming to read. Piketty himself uses the adjective "terrifying" about the potential consequences. "The overall conclusion of this study is that a market economy based on private property, if left to itself, contains powerful forces of convergence, associated in particular with the diffusion of knowledge and skills; but it also contains powerful forces of divergence, which are potentially threatening to democratic societies and to the values of social justice on which they are based." Piketty also thinks that the "drift toward oligarchy" can be stopped. His suggestions include progressive annual taxes on capital and global agreements, including shutting down tax havens.

Film-related: many films of recent years, fictional and non-fictional, have discussed epic fraud in the world of big capital, films such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, The Inside Job, Arbitrage, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Cosmopolis, and Blue Jasmine. Even in fantasy adventures it has become a central theme (The Dark Knight Rises). But all these stories are beside the point of Piketty. Although the Piketty story is about injustice, it is not about fraud, crime, or conspiracy.

There may be films which display the Piketty nightmare come true. They are fantastic dystopias. One of them is Metropolis, which was laughed at when it was released in 1927. When we screened it in our film society in the 1970s many found it corny. But today the trend of the development is again towards the extreme inequality of Metropolis. Another dystopia which reflects the Piketty prophecy is the Hunger Games series.

P.S. Neil Irwin (The New York Times, 30 May 2014) summarizes the debate based on Chris Giles's critical remarks in Financial Times, 23 May 2014)
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/31/upshot/everything-you-need-to-know-about-thomas-piketty-vs-the-financial-times.html?hpw&rref=&_r=0

Friday, May 09, 2014

Ljuvlig är sommarnatten / [Sweet Is the Summer Night]

Kielot kuiskivat kuolemaa / Kielot kuiskaavat kuolemaa [the Finnish name as printed in the credits]. SE 1961. PC: AB Europa Film (Bromma). P: Sigurd Jørgensen. D: Arne Mattsson. SC: Maria Lang - based on her novel Kung Liljekonvalje av dungen (1957) - Finnish translation by Eero Perkiö / Gummerus: Salamasarja as Kielojen kuningas (1958). DP: Tony Forsberg - b&w - credit texts in red - vidfilm 1,66:1. AD: Arne Åkermark, Bernt Duroj. Cost: Alvar Granström. Makeup: Arne Lundh. M: Harry Arnold. Theme: "Dansen går på Svinnsta skär" by Gideon Wahlberg. "Hochzeitmarsch" from Ein Sommernachtstraum by Felix Mendelssohn. "Celeste Aida" from the opera by Giuseppe Verdi. "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle", the habanera from Carmen by Georges Bizet sung by Elsa Prawitz. S: Nils-Olov Törnberger - Tobis Klangfilm. ED: Wic' Kjellin. Lab: AB Film-Labor (Stockholm).
    C: Karl-Arne Holmsten (kommissarie / superintendent Christer Wijk), Christina Carlwind (Anneli Hammar), Elisabeth Odén (Dina Richardson, Anneli's best friend), Per Oscarsson (Lars-Ove Larsson), Folke Sundquist (Joakim Kruse, Anneli's fiancé), Sif Ruud (Gretel Ström, Anneli's mother), Erik Hell (Egon Ström, Anneli's stepfather), Hjördis Pettersson (Fanny Falkman, flower shop owner), Stig Järrel (disponent / lawyer Sebastian Petrén), Agneta Prytz (Olivia Petrén), Dagmar Olsson (Livia Petrén), Holger Löwenadler (överkonstapel / sergeant Gehlin), Allan Edwall (luffaren / tramp), Sven-Eric Gamble (långtradarchauffören / truck driver), Märta Arbin (Helena Wijk, Christer's mother), Curt Masreliez (docent Ahlgren, pathologist), Elsa Prawitz (Camilla Martin, soprano, opera singer, Aida, Carmen), John Norrman (forest ranger [Carlmark?]), Tekla Sjöblom (Gustava Eriksson), Curt Löwgren ("Matsäcken" / "The Lunch Bag", truck driver), Monica Karlsson (Eva, the truck driver's girl), Julia Cæsar (Camilla's dresser), n.c.: Angelo Zanolli (Mats Norrgård, Anneli's lover-beloved, the Italian artist), Arne Strand (priest). Loc: Nora, Sigtuna, Kvarnbo, Edsviken. Studio: AB Europa Studio (Sundbyberg).
    Helsinki premiere: 30.3.1962, Capitol, distributed by: Suomi-Filmi Oy – VET 59977 – K16 – 2795 m / 102 m - 104 min
    A vintage KAVI print deposited by Suomi-Filmi with Finnish subtitles by Darling Alfthan viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Thriller Sweden), 9 May 2014

The title of the original novel is a quote from Gustav Fröding's poem "Strövtåg i hembygden".
    The novel was included in the book Tusen svenska klassiker / [A Thousand Swedish Classics].
    TV movie: Kung Liljekonvalje av dungen (Ola Rapace / Christer Wijk, Tuva Novotny / Puck Ekstedt, Maia Hansson Bergqvist / Anneli).

This year is the centenary of Maria Lang (1914-1991), and the first biography on her, written by Lena Lundgren and Lisbet Wikner, is called Maria Lang, vår första deckardrottning [Our First Detective Story Queen] (2014). Maria Lang was a Doctor of Literature, a school principal, a prolific author of 47 books written in 1949-1990, and one of the founders of the Swedish school of detective fiction. Puck Ekstedt / Bure, a modern and independent woman, is the heroine and narrator in many of Lang's early books. Kommissarie / Superintendent Christer Wijk is the protagonist of her detective stories, and the location is usually a little town called Skoga, based on Maria Lang's home town Nora. In her debut novel Mördaren ljuger inte ensam / [The Murderer Does Not Lie Alone] (1949) a background to the tragedy is a homosexual love affair. Maria Lang had written her dissertation on the philosopher Pontus Wikner, seen later as a pioneer for the Swedish gay movement.

I read some of Maria Lang's books in my childhood, and I mainly remember that they felt more intelligent and distinguished than the ones by Folke Mellvig.

Parallel to his project of filming Folke Mellvig's Hillman films as a "colour cycle" Arne Mattsson also launched a collaboration with Maria Lang, filming the first two film adaptations of her novels. Lang, herself, was the screenwriter. The first adaptation was När mörkret faller (1960) based on Tragedi på en lantkyrkogård, with Nils Asther in one of his last film roles. Karl-Arne Holmsten got to play both Mellvig's Hillman and Lang's Christer Wijk for Mattsson. There is no Puck Ekstedt in Mattsson's film adaptation; in the 2013 tv adaptation she is the leading female character.

First impressions:
    1. There is still the sense of a well-made studio-era production in this movie. Arne Mattsson is an assured cinematic storyteller. The large cast of characters is deftly introduced, the milieu is established convincincly, and the suspense around the whodunit plot is carried excitingly. The large cast of characters is also a large cast of suspects as the disappearance of Anneli is a total mystery for almost everybody, and the police has no plausible angle to start with. Finally it turns out that Anneli has been living a secret life with an Italian painter, yet she has been persuaded to accept an arranged marriage. Mattsson's way of blending the present with the past in sophisticated flashbacks can be compared with Alf Sjöberg's Fröken Julie.
    2. Ljuvlig är sommarnatten is prime evidence to a theme which has kept intriguing me: the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding. Everything is set for the biggest possible wedding in the small town, but then the bride disappears on her wedding day during a brief shower of rain on her way to the florist. (I digress: there may be no cancelled wedding in the oeuvre of Yasujiro Ozu, but his entire late period can be seen as evidence for the solution that weddings should be cancelled. I'm thinking about the final image of Banshun / Late Spring). Here a memorable shot illustrates the theme. When it turns out that Anneli is missing and the wedding will be cancelled there is a tracking shot backwards to the empty church.
    3. Karl-Arne Holmsten is a reliable Christer Wijk. Elisabeth Odén is impressive in her debut role (her entire film oeuvre was for eight Arne Mattsson films in 1961-1965). Per Oscarsson is perfect for the original hermit character of Lars-Ove Larsson. Folke Sundquist was an Arne Mattsson regular, discovered for the cinema by Mattsson in Hon dansade en sommar; here he gets to play the rich heir, the frustrated fiancé. Two formidable veterans, Sif Ruud, and Erik Hell, get to play the difficult roles of Anneli's parents. Another pair of great veterans is Stig Järrel as the lawyer who has an affair with the florist played by Hjördis Petterson. Holger Löwenadler, yet another great veteran, plays the sergeant here; internationally we remember him best as the harassed but dignified Jewish tailor in Louis Malle's Lacombe Lucien. Allan Edwall is memorable in his bit role as a tramp. Christina Carlwind in her debut film role is beautiful as Anneli, but the character, seen mostly in flashbacks, does not have an unforgettable presence. I was wondering what David Lynch might have achieved with this material (cf. Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks).
    4. This is Tony Forsberg's debut as a cinematographer of feature films, fully professional, and with a fine sense of nature. Ljuvlig är sommarnatten is a visually rich achievement, with daytime scenes, nighttime scenes, sunlit scenes, and rainstorm scenes. There are moments of aching beauty in the scenes shot in the woods and on the meadows. The film was shot on location in Maria Lang's hometown Nora.
    5. The sense of nature is an expression of Anneli's true and secret love. The lily of the valley (liljekonvalj in Swedish, kielo in Finnish) is the central image. The direct translation of the title of Maria Lang's novel would be "The Lily King of the Grove", and of the Finnish title, "King of the Lilies"). The lovers' meeting place has been in deep forest "where there is beautiful only when the lilies blossom". The killer had thought that the artist was only Anneli's lover, but he was more, her beloved for whom Anneli was prepared to leave everything (the Swedish terms are "älskare" and "älskade").
    6. There is too much dialogue.

The used vintage print looks like it has been struck from the negative or a source close to it. The print does justice to the refined nature photography of Tony Forsberg. The colour stock for the red letters in the credit sequence has faded. A few frames are missing, but the print is complete in duration. Shot for 1,66 widescreen, we screened this in Academy, and it looked better that way at Orion.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Le petit soldat / The Little Soldier

Pikku sotilas / Pieni sotilas / Den lilla soldaten. FR, year of production 1960, year of release 1963. PC: Société Nouvelle de Cinéma; Impéria Films. P: Georges de Beauregard. D+SC: Jean-Luc Godard. DP: Raoul Coutard - b&w - 1,37:1. M: Maurice Leroux. ED: Agnès Guillemot - ass: Nadine Marquand, Lila Herman. S: Jacques Maumont. Script girl: Suzanne Schiffman. Poster artist: Clément Hurel.
    C: Michel Subor (Bruno Forestier), Anna Karina (Véronica Dreyer), Henri-Jacques Huet (Jacques), Paul Beauvais (Paul), Laszlo Szabo (Laszlo), Georges de Beauregard (un leader activiste, n.c.), Jean-Luc Godard (l'homme à la gare, caméo n.c.), Gilbert Edart (n.c.), Jean-Pierre Melville (l'homme du train). Loc: Geneva (Genève / Genf) (Switzerland) in April-May, 1960.
    Helsinki premiere: 26.11.1965 Bio-Bio, released by: Adams-Filmi – telecast: 16.10.1991 YLE TV1 – VET 72617 – K16 – 87 min
    Vintage KAVI print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Jean-Luc Godard - the first fifteen), 8 May 2014

"For me, the time for action is over - I have aged. The time for reflection begins".
- Bruno Forestier's inner monologue, the first words spoken in Le petit soldat

"La photographie, c'est la vérité, et le cinéma, c'est vingt-quatre fois la vérité par seconde".
- Bruno Forestier in Le petit soldat

Jean-Luc Godard belongs to the key artists of the 20th and the 21st centuries. During his first eight years as a feature film director he made fifteen films, each of them challenging our way to see and to think. Le petit soldat was his second film, but it was banned by the French censorship, and it became his fourth to be released (Une femme est une femme and Vivre sa vie were released before it).

Revisiting Le petit soldat after a longish while I was surprised how very much stronger it was than I remembered, and I look forward to seeing it soon again. Le petit soldat has aged very well (= not at all).

It is a political story, and it became un film maudit. Colin MacCabe states that the French cinema of the 1950s avoided the topic of Algeria, yet Algeria "totally dominated French life in the late fifties. Every young man faced three years of military service which brought not only the danger of death, but also the horror of torture. It was in Algeria that modern torture was perfected by the French army and modern terrorism by the Front de Libération Nationale". "Le petit soldat was shot in the spring of 1960, when it was not yet clear which way the General or the army would jump, and violence in France was at a dangerous level. It tells the story of Bruno Forestier, an OAS supporter on the run from France and engaged in a surrogate war in and around Geneva." "In its focus on torture and terrorism, Le petit soldat is an astonishingly prescient work (...)." (Godard. A Portrait of the Artist at 70, published in 2003). (OAS = Organisation de l'armée secrète was officially founded in 1961 as a paramilitary organization against Algerian independence from France: "L'Algérie est française et le restera".)

What impressed me today:
    1. The inner monologue, the first person commentary in the past tense, while we see the action unfolding in the present. Life is being told like a novel, but that novel is lifelike in its unexpectedness. The monologue is subjective, and we do not necessarily trust the narrator. There are already Brechtian aspects in Le petit soldat. Le petit soldat is well written, and the manuscript worth reading in its own right.
    2. Michel Subor in his most famous role as Bruno Forestier has a strong presence. He braves torture while fighting for the wrong cause. He always gives the impression of "I know where I'm going", but he doesn't.
    3. Anna Karina in her first feature film is already great, unique, full of life, with a strong and fresh screen presence. Véronica Dreyer is fighting for FLN. Each side uses hideous means. Véronica's story is tragic.
    4. Raoul Coutard's cinematography is magisterial in the neorealist vein, using real locations and real light.
    5. Godard loves to digress. The account of the train journey with the clowning men is delicious. Major art references include Paul Klee and Jean Cocteau.
    6. Poems are quoted. Le petit soldat itself is a poem.
    7. It's always about self-reflection. At the mirror "my appearance does not seem to correspond to my inner self".
    8. Maurice Leroux, the composer of Le Ballon rouge and Les Mistons, creates an interesting score in his only collaboration with Godard. There are ominous piano passages.
    9. There are many references to revolutionary classics including Lenin and Mao. "A single spark can ignite a fire on the plain" (Mao). Le petit soldat is a grim vision about violence on both sides during the Algerian War. Politics is in the center, but Le petit soldat is not a politically engaged film, it does not take a stand on either side. Rather it shows that both sides are cynical and ruthless.
    10. Despite the digressions, the inner monologues, and the male chauvinistic remarks there is gravity in this tragedy of a political assassination and torture to which both protagonists get subjected, Véronica with fatal results.

The vintage prints looks like it's struck from the camera negative or a source close to it. Both the rawness and the sensitivity of the image feel right.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Tukkipojan morsian / [The Lumberjack's Bride] (KAVI 2014 2K DCP)

Erkki (Urho Somersalmi) escorts Leena (Helena Koskinen) on Midsummer Night. Click to enlarge.
Timmerflottarens brud. FI 1931. PC: Suomi-Filmi Oy. P+D+SC+ED+SFX: Erkki Karu. DP: Eino Kari – with Frans Ekebom, Kurt Jäger - assistants: Kullervo Kari, Sulo Tammilehto. AD: Carl Fager, Armas Fredman [koristelijat]. Furniture, curtains, carpets: Oy Stockmann Ab, S. Vuorio, Boman Oy. Makeup: Hannes Kuokkanen [naamiointi]. M: Tapio Ilomäki. Orchestra: Helsingin Teatteriorkesteri.
    Songs: "Jos meidän kaivosta vesi loppuu", "Kansalaislaulu / Olet maamme armahin Suomenmaa", "Kukkuva kello", "Idylli, opus 73/1, kokoelmasta Kaksi pianokappaletta, opus 73"  = "Kesäillan idylli" (Oskar Merikanto) [a theme for Leena], "Tukkipojan tuli" (Aapo Similä), "Kalliolle kukkulalle", "On neidolla punapaula", "Kotimaani ompi Suomi" perf. Ture Ara, "Onnelliset" (Oskar Merikanto, Aleksis Kivi), Virsi 472 ("Jo joutui armas aika, Ja suwi suloinen - -") = "Suvivirsi" ("Den blomstertid nu kommer" / "En sommarvisa") (Israel Kolmodin, 1695) [heard on the radio], "Koskenlasku" (Armas Järnefelt, from the film Sången om den eldröda blomman, 1919), "Erkin laulu" ("Utuinen usva unten mailla uinuu - -") (Tapio Ilomäki), "Lapsuuden toverille / Sä kasvoit neito kaunoinen", "Häämarssi" (Tapio Ilomäki).
    S: Kurt Jäger [äänikuvaus]. S consultant: Rafael Ylkänen. S ass: Hugo Ranta. Ass D: Carl Fager. Script girl: Aili Kari. Studiopäällikkö: Armas Fredman. Studion emäntä: Eva Luttinen. Stills: Kalle Havas, Kosti Lehtinen. Expert: Ale Liikanen (Myllykosken lajittelupaikan johtaja).
    Exteriors: – Padasjoki: Maakesken kylä (kylämaisema). – Kemi ja Kemin mlk.: Karihaara ja Myllyniemen lajittelupaikka Kemijoen Isohaarassa (tukkityömaa ja tukinuitto). – Iitti: Mankalankosket (tukkityömaa ja koskenlasku). – Helsingin mlk. – Kulosaaren mlk.: Herttoniemen silta, nyk. Naurissaaren silta (siltatanssit sekä kyläläisten ja tukkilaisten tappelu). – Hollola: Pyhäniemen kartano (Erkin kotikartano). Studio: Helsinki: Suomi-Filmin studio Vironkatu 9.
    C: Urho Somersalmi (Erkki), Helena Koskinen (Kosken Leena), Hemmo Kallio (Kustaa Koski, Leena's father), Aku Käyhkö (Mikkolan Eetu), Uuno Montonen (Master of Kantola / Kantolan isäntä), Thorild Bröderman (Erkki's father), Hilja Jorma (Erkki's mother), Martta Hannula (maid at Kantola), Jaakko Korhonen (auctioneer), Alfred Roini (kruununvouti), Aku Korhonen (Eetu's pal), Väinö Hellén (Eetu's pal), Reino Wolanen (Eetu's pal), Waldemar Wohlström (Eetu's pal), Berndt Lindahl (Eetu's pal), William Räisänen (Eetu's pal), Gunnar Calenius (Eetu's pal), Kyösti Käyhkö (mies juhannustansseissa) Ture Ara (man singing in a boat), Armas Fredman (mies siltatansseissa), Yrjö Tuominen (man at the auction).
    Helsinki premiere: 15.11.1931 Kino-Palatsi, distributor: Suomi-Filmi – telecast: 8.2.1971 MTV1, 15.1.1987, 1.7.2000, 5.12.2006 ja 31.5.2011 YLE TV2, 2.9.2013 YLE TV1 – vhs: 1992 Suomi-Filmi – classification number 17055 – S – 2590 m / 94 min
    Our first screening of Tukkipojan morsian. There has been no screening copy for decades, and it has only been possible to see Tukkipojan morsian on tv and on video. Nitrate negatives exist of the Finnish and the Swedish versions.
    2K DCP from a duplicate positive (KAVI 2014) viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Erkki Karu), 7 May 2014

The times were tough. There was the Depression, and there was no money. The breakthrough of sound had taken place in the cinema, and the costs had risen.

For his first sound film and for the decennial celebration film Erkki Karu went for the tried and true.

There were three major sources for the romantic lumberjack genre: Teuvo Pakkala's hit play Tukkijoella, Johannes Linnankoski's bestselling novel Song of the Scarlet Flower, and Väinö Kataja's novel Koskenlaskijan morsian.

In Tukkipojan morsian Karu took something from them all. Tukkipojan morsian is largely a synthetic product, but it was hugely popular, and it saved the day.

Tukkipojan morsian has a full soundtrack, much of it score music, and the dialogue has been post-synchronized. There are intertitles, as well.

While Tukkipojan morsian is not a masterpiece, and is not a highly regarded work, there are interesting aspects in it, many of them enjoyable.
    1. Although the plot is full of clichés Karu introduced new things. The story is contemporary (we see the year 1931 in a calendar), and the grim reality of the economic depression is present in the memorable auction sequence.
    2. Erkki is a big strong man not afraid to fight, but even more he is a guy who wants to stop fights. He orders the lumberjacks to stop in a big brawl sequence. When his rival Eetu comes to his place with ten men to punish him he sits calmly at the table and eats an impossibly huge meal. After finishing he holds a bench casually in front of him, separating Eetu from his henchmen. Little by little they find excuses to get out.
    3. Urho Somersalmi is the star presence here, strong and charismatic, but he does not act very well, and Erkki Karu does not know to direct him as well as Stiller and Molander had done.
    4. Helena Koskinen is the debuting amateur. She has fresh touches such as her bored expression when Eetu approaches her, and her genuine delight when Somersalmi lifts her to the air with just one arm.
    5. The cinematography of Eino Kari has moments of the beautiful, refined, even sublime house style of Suomi-Filmi. Some epic shots of the lumber river, some moments of composition and the dramaturgy of light, the silhouettes of the lumberjacks approaching the dance place, the facial studies of Eetu's henchmen while Somersalmi is eating, and the final studies of the earnest faces of the bride and the groom and their parents linger in memory.
    6. Erkki Karu could be a good visual director when he wanted to. In Tukkipojan morsian he is not at his best. At times there are inspired moments such as the midsummer night montage of love (the embers, the night mist on the meadow, the morning light in the pine wood).
    7. There is a lot of clumsiness in the approach in this first sound film of Karu. On the other hand, there is something touching in the lack of assurance. We hear for the first time certain fundamental lines of dialogue ("Saanko tulla saattamaan?" - "Ehkä." / "May I escort you?" - "Maybe.")
    8. Tapio Ilomäki was the key composer of early Finnish sound film. This soundtrack is largely a compilation, but there are also original Ilomäki themes, such as his wedding march in which I detect some affinities with Ilomäki's theme for Teuvo Tulio's The Way You Wanted Me.
    9. Erkki Karu was an entertainer, it was his calling and his devotion. Although this film is full of clichés and banalities, we know he loves to tell this story in this way. Somehow it is deeply felt and full of conviction.
    10. Tukkipojan morsian is a wish-fulfillment fantasy. Erkki Karu wanted to create this fairy-tale to boost the morale of the people in times of distress. The convention of romantic lumberjack fiction of the poor lumberjack turning out to be a rich inheritor had a special meaning in 1931. And during the austere 1930s seeing a huge lunch being devoured was specially gratifying, as well, although the writer Pentti Haanpää remarked on a visit to the cinema that "thus proceeded the image meal, yet nobody got any more saturated".

We saw a digital copy of a duplicate positive, not a restoration. Even so the screening conveyed something of the grandeur of Eino Kari's cinematography. The audience was grateful in this first screening of Tukkipojan morsian at Cinema Orion.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Tatiana Samoilova (1934-2014)

Tatiana Samoilova became an emblem of the Thaw while starring in Mikhail Kalatozov's The Cranes Are Flying (1957) with Aleksei Batalov. She also starred in another magnificent Kalatozov movie, The Letter Never Sent (1959). There have been many major screen versions of Anna Karenina, but the only actress who has fitted Leo Tolstoy's description was Tatiana Samoilova in the Alexander Zarkhi film adaptation (1967): intelligent and sensual in a dark and full-figured way. Vronsky was played by Vasili Lanovoy, an ex-husband of Samoilova! During the Brezhnevian years of stagnation Samoilova had difficulty finding good roles.

Tatiana Samoilova's father Yevgeni Samoilov was an actor, as well. Her mother Zinaida Levin was an engineer from Poland. The family escaped the siege of Leningrad, the young Tatiana studied music and ballet and was even invited by Maya Plisetskaya to study at the Bolshoi Theatre, but more than anything she wanted to act.

Goodbye Facebook

Goodbye Facebook! For some seven months I visited it regularly and was happy to encounter so many friends, including some I had not heard from since fifty years. But it is a bottomless swamp, and while I don't find it a waste of time, it does take a lot of time, including from actually meeting friends in real life. At least half of my actual friends are not in Facebook and do not consider joining any such forum, and most of those who are are there are there in name only and passively. So from now on let's meet face to face rather than on Facebook!

Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott send memos to film studios

In The New York Times (2 May 2014) Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott send their annual summer memos to Hollywood. Many interesting remarks, all sharp, such as:

Manohla Dargis to Paramount Pictures: "In January Paramount Pictures became the first major studio to stop releasing movies on film in the United States. The other majors are expected to follow suit soon, now that they’ve forced most theaters in the country to go digital because of its nominal ease of use and cost. For many viewers, this may not be a big deal because, for them, a movie is a movie is a movie, whether film or digital. And the history of home video rental suggests that a lot of people are perfectly happy to watch degraded imagery as long as they like the story. For some of us, though, the changeover is an unfolding tragedy and an unnecessary one. Because this isn’t about a superior technology; this is about the industry’s greed and continued shortsightedness. Banishing film to the dustbin of history may not change cinema — unless of course it does."

A. O. Scott to the Internet: "SUBJECT: Stop confusing quantity with quality. Stop hyping the revolutionary potential of “data,” “innovation” and other empty abstractions. Stop trying to fix things that weren’t broken and breaking things that you can’t fix. Just stop." - "This message has no content."

Manohla Dargis to Directors: "Do you know that, increasingly, your labor of love — the movie you spent months and probably years of your life on — is being reviewed by critics who are watching it on their computers? For years, the cost of striking and shipping film prints as well as renting theaters for press screenings led cash-strapped companies to simply supply DVDs to reviewers. Some reviewers have been happy to comply, and of course, the blurring between the big- and small-screen viewing, and the closing of theatrical windows, hasn’t helped. After all, if a movie is being released in theaters and on demand the same day, why bother watching it on the big screen — or so the bottom-line thinking goes."

"These days, though, some companies don’t even bother to send critics DVDs: They’re only supplying Internet links that often have the reviewer’s name watermarked on the crummy-looking image, and even come with distracting time codes. So that moody shot that you and your director of photography anguished over for hours and hours? It may look beautiful, but there are critics who will never know, which certainly encourages them to pay more attention to the plot than the visuals. Viewers who bypass the theatrical experience and prefer watching movies on their televisions and tablets may not mind. Some directors, especially those whose talking heads and two shots look better on small screens, also won’t care; others just want their work seen however, wherever. But I bet there are directors who would freak if they knew how some critics were watching their movies."

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/04/movies/critics-weigh-in-on-patriarchy-and-the-vanished-film-print.html?hpw&rref=movies&_r=0

Friday, May 02, 2014

Mannekäng i rött / Mannequin in Red (SFI 2000 restoration)

Mannekäng i rött. En Hillmanthriller skriven av Folke Mellvig och Lars Widding / Punainen mannekiini. SE 1958. PC: Sandrew Film & Teater AB. P: Rune Waldekranz. D: Arne Mattsson. SC: Folke Mellvig, Lars Widding. DP: Hilding Bladh – Eastmancolor - vidfilm 1,66:1. AD: Bibi Lindström. Cost: Mago. M: Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist. - "Oskar Svensson" ("Monsieur Williams", 1950, Léo Ferré, Jean-Roger Caussimon, in Swedish Bo-Ivan Petersson, 1958) perf. Gio Petré lip-synching singer Monica Nielsen. - "It's Up To You" (Angy Palumbo, 1940, instr.). - W. A. Mozart: Serenade Nr. 13 für Streicher in G-Dur (Eine kleine Nachtmusik, 1787). - Felix Mendelssohn: Hochzeitsmarsch (Ein Sommernachtstraum, 1842). ED: Lennart Wallén. S: Lars Lalin.
    C: Karl-Arne Holmsten (Captain John Hillman, private detective), Annalisa Ericson (Kajsa Hillman, private detective), Nils Hallberg (Freddy Sjöström, assistant to the Hillmans), Lena Granhagen (Sonja Svensson, Freddy's fiancée, sales clerk at La Femme),
    Anita Björk (Birgitta Lindell, top mannequin at La Femme), Lillebil Ibsen (Thyra Lennberg, owner and chief of La Femme), Gio Petré (Gabriella von Hook, Thyra Lennberg's niece, her sister's daughter), Bengt Brunskog (Johan Robert 'Bobbie' Nordahl, Thyra Lennberg's foster son), Lennart Lindberg (Rickard von Hook, Thyra Lennberg's nephew, her sister's son),
    Kotti Chave (Sune Öhrgren, detective superintendent), Torsten Winge (Oskar Lindkvist, caretaker), Lissi Alandh ('Peter' Morell, fashion designer), Silvija  Bardh (Märta Falk, head seamstress), Eivor Landström (the lady with the cat), Elsa Prawitz (Katja Sundin, the mannequin in red), Kerstin Dunér (Anette, mannequin).
    Studio: AB Sandrew-Ateljéerna, Stockholm, Sverige.
    Locations: Gävle teater, Gävle. - Nordiska museet, Stockholm. - Ulriksdals galoppbana, Solna. - Uppsala, Sverige. - Örbyhus slott, Tierp. - Sigtuna.
    Helsinki premiere: 2.9.1960 Maxim, released  by Filmipaja – telecast: 17.3.1966 Yle TV1 - VET 54499 – K16 – 3020 m / 110 min
    Folke Mellvig (1913-1994) published Mannekäng i rött as a novel next year (1959).
    Arne Mattsson filmed a "colour cycle" of five of Folke Mellvig's thrillers featuring the Hillman detective couple: Damen i svart / [The Lady in Black] (1958), Mannekäng i rött (1958), Ryttare i blått  / [The Rider in Blue] (1959), Vita frun / [The Woman in White] (1962), and Den gula bilen / [The Yellow Car] (1963). Mellvig had created the Hillman concept in 1950 and his many Hillman adventures were popular as radio series, short stories and novels. Mattsson had directed one Hillman radio series, Grönt för mord [Green for Murder] (1957). Karl-Arne Holmsten always played Captain Hillman. Various actresses interpreted Kajsa Hillman.
    Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet restoration (2000) viewed with e-subtitles in Finnish by Leena Virtanen at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Thriller Sverige), 2 May 2014

Swedish thrillers have enjoyed world class success in the last decades. This perfectly crafted piece of light entertainment belongs to the 1950s-early 1960s wave when popular detective characters and stories of Folke Mellvig and Maria Lang were adapted into films, often by Arne Mattsson.

There is a spoof aspect in this entertainment. It lacks gravity, there is a cavalier attitude to plot credibility, and there is no psychological depth in the characters although the actors are good.

There was then an European trend of such light entertainment detective stories. In Germany there was a cycle of Edgar Wallace films. In Finland Matti Kassila filmed four Inspector Palmu films with a humoristic touch.

Arne Mattsson was a top professional film-maker. I have liked his film adaptations of Nordic classics such as Salka Valka (Halldór Laxness) and Hemsöborna (Strindberg). Mattsson filmed also two interesting films with a Finnish angle (Kärlekens bröd inspired by our Winter War, Ingen morgondag based on Mika Waltari). He made romances of young summer love. Hon dansade en sommar / One Summer of Happiness was his big international breakthrough.

Folke Mellvig's detective stories I read as a child. They were published in Finnish, and I read at least Mord på halsen / Kuoleman kouraisu, which left no deep memory traces. Folke Mellvig thrillers feel shallow and superficial, but they can be seen with a Pop Art approach - as studies of surfaces.

1. Arne Mattsson was determined to make a genre film, and he inspired his crew and cast to work consistently in a stylized and artificial way. There is a unique mood in Mannequin in Red. The only real things are the fashion and the style. There is in the artifice something that resembles a musical.
    2. The cinematographer Hilding Bladh was a veteran who had among other things two visually striking Ingmar Bergman films in his résumé: Gycklarnas afton, and Kvinnodröm. Part of the latter takes place in a model agency.
    3. Mannequin in Red is an interesting experimental colour film, worth watching for the colour itself.
    4. The art director Bibi Lindström was another distinguished veteran (Flicka och hyacinter, Hon dansade en sommar, Fröken Julie, Vägen till Klockrike, Gycklarnas afton, Salka Valka, Hemsöborna, Prästen i Uddarbo, Ingen morgondag, Nära livet). In Mannequin in Red she was able to play with fantasy.
    5. For his costume designer Mattsson got the best: Mago, whose regular customers included Marlene Dietrich, Harriet Andersson, and Ingmar Bergman. The fashions in the film are real and of high quality.
    6. Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist creates a playful score with whistling and drums which can be compared with some ideas which Ennio Morricone brought to Italian thrillers of the 1960s. Also with Osmo Lindeman's innovative scores for the Palmu films.
    7. The character of Thyra Lennberg, the owner of La Femme fashion house, brings to mind recent film portraits by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, and Anna Mouglalis as Coco Chanel, and also the documentary portrait of Sara Hildén in Mesenaatti.
    8. The cast is full of beloved familiar actors starting with Karl-Arne Holmsten, Annalisa Ericson, Nils Hallberg, and Lena Granhagen. Of the more exotic members of the cast, the Norwegian actress and dancer Lillebil Ibsen had worked with Max Reinhardt. She appeared in few film roles, but among them was the unforgettable Elli the Gazelle in Stiller's Song of the Scarlet Flower (1919). Her wheelchair and white cat brought to my mind for a moment Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the arch-enemy of James Bond.
    9. The young Gio Petré is striking here, also in her lip-synched song sequence. There is conviction in the cruel determination of her character.
    10. Anita Björk (Fröken Julie, the screen's best Kyllikki in Molander's Song of the Scarlet Flower) is perhaps too good for her part as the top model of La Femme. Yet she contributes to a sense of more substance than meets the eye.

Whatever Mannequin in Red is, it is a very assured accomplishment. There is something parodical in the approach to the detective story, and the plot is so full of holes that it gets amusing. It is not a satire, but the film-makers don't paint a flattering picture of the world of envy, glamour and greed. In the center is a rich old family with fortunes that date back to the Thirty Years' War (in the 17th century). There is not a single happy member in that family. Instead, they use their vintage daggers to precipitate the chain of inheritance.

Mannequin in Red has been quoted as a predecessor of the stylized 1960s Italian thrillers of Mario Bava, Elio Petri, and Dario Argento. The focus on style, surface, fashion, and colour, the absence of psychological credibility and social realism, the plot of multiple murders, and the quirky score are among the parallels. But in Mannequin in Red there is hardly any explicit or gratuitous cruelty, sadism, splatter, or even blood. There is no evidence that the Italians would have seen Mannequin in Red.

The Svenska Filminstitutet print of the 2000 restoration (Kodak is credited with a special contribution) is fine and gives a gratifying experience of the bold colour concept.

Lauri Lehtinen, e-mail 4 May 2014: "The similarities between Arne Mattsson's film and Mario Bava's Sei donne per l'assassino are more on the level of the detail than the whole, but there is plenty of such detail like the mambo-like dance music in dangerous situations, extended tracking shots in studio spaces "after office hours", the final shot ending with a confession on the telephone, the partial lighting of faces in the dark... The overall atmosphere of The Red Mannequin is like a melange of the very light detective comedy touch of Bava's first thriller La ragazza che sapeva troppo and the despair behind the scenes characteristic of Sei donne per l'assassino thrown together in the same film."

Antti Suonio, e-mail 5 May 2014: "I personally believe that at least one of the key talents behind Sei donne per l'assassino must have seen The Red Mannequin since the similarities are really striking. If you have Bava's movie fresh in your memory you realize it feels like a copy. Might the connection have taken place via Germany since Sei donne per l'assassino is a German co-production."