Friday, July 16, 2021

Beethoven 250: String Quartet No. 13 (Artemis Quartet, 2009)


Cover sheet of Beethoven's 13th string quartet as published in Berlin on 2 June, 1827 (originally in French). Photo and caption: Wikipedia.


Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited. Also available on Spotify etc. I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

From: CD 53/80
Artemis Quartet: Natalia Prishepenko (violin I), Gregor Sigl (violin II), Friedemann Weigla (viola), Eckart Runge (cello). Recorded: 2009.

Opus 130: Streichquartett Nr. 13 B-Dur (1825)
1. Adagio ma non troppo – Allegro (B-Dur)
2. Presto (b-moll)
3. Andante con moto, ma non troppo (Des-Dur)
4. Alla danza tedesca. Allegro assai (G-Dur)
5. Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo – attacca (Es-Dur)
[NB. missing from the CD box set:
6. Finale. Allegro (B-Dur)]
    Dedication: Troisième Quatuor pour deux violons, Alte et Violoncelle des quatuors composés et dédiés à son Altesse Monseigneur le Prince Nicolas de Galitzine par Louis van Beethoven.

Opus 133: Grosse Fuge B-Dur (1825) [the original finale of the string quartet]
Overtura: Allegro – Fuga.
Dem Erzherzog Rudolph gewidmet.

AA: There has been a break in my blogging about Beethoven after I jotted down notes about his piano sonata number 27 last November. I have not had enough time to write, but I have proceeded listening to my complete Beethoven box set, jumping ahead to violin sonatas, duos and trios, and entering the universe of the string quartets. For the first time I'm listening to that extraordinary set of 16 compositions back to back.

Like Beethoven's symphonies, piano concertos and piano sonatas, the string quartets can be experienced as a continuous cycle of an evolution. They tell an inner history of the spirit, an adventure in interiority, a voyage to the bottom of the ocean, the Mariana Trench, the Challenger Deep. Or perhaps an inner space odyssey.

In November my life changed because we decided to establish a second home in another city, Lappeenranta, a wonderful place by Lake Saimaa, and a perfect place to shelter from the pandemic. It has been a big deal. Much energy has been needed to reorganize everything.

All the time Beethoven has been the soundtrack. For the first time I have also started reading large Beethoven biographies. I am very grateful for the English translation (2020) of Jan Caeyers' Beethoven: A Life (the Dutch original is from 2009). Caeyers makes sense of partial glimpses that have been served about Beethoven, and he achieves that without streamlining. Beethoven remains edgy, inexplicable and wilful, more than a sum of his contradictions.

Beethoven's favourite book was Plutarch's Bioi paralleloi / Parallel Lives, also Shakespeare's favourite. Beethoven wanted his biography written in Plutarch style ”warts and all”, and Caeyers succeeds in this exceptionally well. Now I'm in the middle of Maynard Solomon's (1930–2020) equally grand Beethoven biography (1977 / 2001) with many different angles and perspectives.

The full experience of the 13th string quartet is in effect a seven course menu. On this CD it has puzzlingly only five movements. The first movement (13 min) begins with a haunting, magical invocation. The second movement (2 min) is a compact presto. The third movement (7 min) is a delightful andante. The fourth movement (3 min) is a lovely German dance.

The fifth movement (6 min) is the legendary Cavatina, one of Beethoven's most engrossing compositions, full of love and wisdom. It is a work bathing in the golden sunlight of warm and tender harmony. Full of great emotion, yet sober and unsentimental. It was entered into the Voyager Golden Record.

That's it on my CD, the 13th string quartet ends abruptly and without an explanation.

But the next track after the 13th string quartet is Grosse Fuge Op. 133 (15 min), its original ending. Structurally it would make sense: two long and reflective movements bookending four more joyous ones. But the Grosse Fuge is so much weightier than the rest that the string quartet would lose balance if it were included. Grosse Fuge exists in another sphere (mesosphere, thermosphere, exosphere?), ”this absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever”, as characterized by Igor Stravinsky.

After the decision to separate Grosse Fuge from the string quartet, Beethoven wrote a new Finale, the last full movement composed by him. It is missing from my ”Complete” Works box set, and it feels more lightweight, but Jan Caeyers defends it:

The alternative finale is clearly less about making an impact. The music maintains a greater compositional distance and carries undertones of reflection, catharsis, emotional detachment, and tender consolation”. ”Despite its retrospective leanings, the new closing Allegro is by no means regressive – on the contrary, its outward simplicity belies a complex, barely audible yet rigorous structure and multilayered textures characteristic of Mahler.” (Beethoven : A Life, p. 524).

Friday, June 25, 2021

La Folie Almayer / Almayer's Folly


Chantal Akerman: La Folie Almayer / Almayer's Folly (FR/BE 2011) with Stanislas Merhar as Kaspar Almayer and Aurora Marion as Nina Almayer, his daughter.


FR/BE © 2011 Liaison Cinématographique / Paradise Films / Artémis Productions in coproduction with RTBF (Télévision Belge) and Belgacom. P: Patrick Quinet & Chantal Akerman. Co-P: Arlette Zylberberg. Line P: Marianne Lambert.
    D+SC: Chantal Akerman. Cin: Rémon Fromont – 35 mm – 1,85 – colour. Set design: Patrick Dechesne, Alain-Pascal Housiaux. Cost: Catherine Marchand. S: Pierre Mertens, Cécile Chagnaud, Thomas Gauder – Dolby SRD. ED. Claire Atherton.
    Adapted from the novel by Joseph Conrad: Almayer's Folly : A Story of an Eastern River (1895). Translated into Finnish by Olli Kivilinna as Tuulentupia (Jyväskylä : Gummerus, 1919).
    Soundtrack selections:
– Richard Wagner: prelude to Tristan und Isolde (1865).
– ”Sway” (”¿Quién será?”, Luis Demetrio, first perf. Pablo Beltrán Ruiz, instr., 1953), lyr. Norman Gimbel, perf. Dean Martin (1954).
– ”Love Of A Man”, perf. Gene Vincent (1961).
– W. A. Mozart: Ave verum corpus (KV 618) (1791).
    C: Stanislas Merhar (Kaspar Almayer), Aurora Marion (Nina Almayer, his daughter), Marc Barbé (Captain Lingard), Zac Andrianasolo (Daïn), Sakhna Oum (Zahira), Solida Chan (Chen).
    Loc: Cambodia.
    Languages: French, English, Khmer.
    127 min
    Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF) online 20 June 2021, with English subtitles.
    Theme: films by the morning guests.
    MSFF online, viewed on a 4K tv set in Lappeenranta, Midsummer Eve, 26 June 2021.

A river roars.
    The sun burns your eyes. A woman loses her mind. A girl sings in a honky tonk. A Chinese man on opium dreams. Running after a child through the jungle. Lightning.
    A marriage without love. A veil of sadness. Boundless joy. You will not have Nina. A young girl walks to the end of the night. Black sun.
    A father cries out his love. An outcast. An empty rowboat wobbles in the storm. Humid palm trees glisten. A dead man. Mosquitoes. A telluric film.
    A tragic story, like all Greek tragedies that never age. A tale as old as the world. A story as young as the world. Of love and folly. Of impossible dreams.

    – Chantal Akerman (La Folie Almayer press kit, 2011).

Qui de nous n’a eu sa terre promise, son jour d’extase et sa fin en exil?—Amiel.
– Joseph Conrad's motto in Almayer's Folly

AA: Chantal Akerman ended her career with a farewell film to her mother called No Home Movie (2015). She returned to what she identified as the drive of implosion, a hallmark of hers since her breakthrough in Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.

In contrast, La Folie Almayer, her penultimate film, was for her a work of liberation, rebellion, defiance. Based on the first novel by Joseph Conrad, Akerman focuses more on the daughter Nina than the father Kaspar. Indeed, the folly mentioned in the title concerns Nina and Kaspar equally.

It is a dream voyage on the wild rivers of Borneo surrounded by the mighty sea connecting Malaysia with Europe. Conrad wrote his novel in the age of high colonialism. His tale takes place in the Dutch colonies. Akerman's adaptation is less clearly identifiable in history, but judging by the pop hits on the soundtrack the year might be 1961, right after decolonization. The main tension remains between Europeans and the Malay.

Kaspar wants to give his daughter Nina the best European education, but for Nina it is a strange culture and a strange language. She rejects the education, she rejects her father. There is an unusual charge in the scenes between Nina and Kaspar. Judging by Akerman's fascinating interview in the film's press kit, it seems that Akerman was coming to terms with her own father's refusal to give her a Jewish education. Retroactively, La Folie Almayer seems like Chantal's farewell to her father like No Home Movie was the farewell to her mother Natalia.

Watching the encounter between Nina and Kaspar I thought this must be a creative contribution of the director, but reading Joseph Conrad's original text I was amazed to discover that it largely directly derives from it.

Conrad is widely known as a man's writer, but he started his literary career with novels that focus on relationships between European men and Southeast Asian women – Almayer's Folly and An Outcast of the Islands. Together with The Rescue they form the "Lingard trilogy", Captain Lingard being a recurrent eyewitness in Conrad's novels before Captain Marlow.

In the cinema before WWII, Conrad was in fact mostly popular as a source of romantic adventures with strong female roles, including Maurice Tourneur's Victory (1919, with Seena Owen), Herbert Brenon's The Rescue (1929, with Lili Damita) and John Cromwell's Victory (1940, with Betty Field, my favourite of this cycle). After the war, Carol Reed directed an interesting adaptation of An Outcast of the Islands (1951, with Kerima).

In today's heightened alertness to colonialism and racism in cultural heritage, Conrad does not appear as a major offender. Suffice it to say that there is a difference between Conrad and Kipling. An unease about colonialism is present in Conrad's work from the beginning. Asian women are portrayed with a dignified distance. White colonialists are certainly not being idealized. Akerman changes the plot by starting it with Nina's liberation and ending it with Caspar's madness. Both solutions are valid even from a Conradian perspective.

The family roots of both Conrad and Akerman were in what was known at the time as the Pale of Settlement. The Pole Conrad / Korzeniowski was born in Ukraine, Berdychiv, the city with the largest share of a Jewish population in the Russian Empire. It had previously belonged to Poland. The patriotic Korzeniowski family was soon exiled to Vologda where both parents contracted tuberculosis, and Joseph became an orphan at age 11. I understand that Akerman's ancestral roots were in Belz, which belonged then to Poland, now to Ukraine. Almost all of Akerman's family were murdered in the Holocaust.

There are two essential experiences shared between Conrad and Akerman. One is the obsession with The Other. Another is homelessness, literal and existential. La Folie Almayer is a poetic meditation on both.

Carol Reed made a film adaptation of Joseph Conrad's second novel Outcast of the Islands in 1951. Peter Willems (Trevor Howard) disgraces himself trying to seduce the village chieftain's daughter Aissa (Kerima) and attempting to steal the business of his benefactor, Captain Lingard (Ralph Richardson). Elmer Almayer (Robert Morley) is in charge of Lingard's operations in the village, living there together with his wife (Wendy Hiller).

Chantal Akerman on Almayer's Folly. An interview with Cyril Béghin (2011)



Where did you get the idea for this film?


It stemmed from a kind of shock. Just as I was finishing reading Joseph Conrad’s Almayer’s Folly, I saw F. W. Murnau’s Tabu at the movies. The penultimate chapter of the novel portrays the last encounter between the father and daughter in the jungle. That chapter upset me deeply. Yet it has nothing to do with Tabu. But I guess, the simplicity and sheer beauty of Murnau’s film, its would-be paradise troubled by a predator somehow resonated with Conrad’s story. This connection occurred a little over three years ago. In the end, though, I didn’t at all deal with the father’s scene in the same way as Conrad. In the book, it’s a moment of redemption through heroism, when Almayer finally takes the young lovers to ‘freedom’. I trivialized this journey to the beach. Almayer is no hero.

How did you go about writing the script?


I kept writing right up until the start of the shoot. In the beginning, I really wasn’t sure how to go about it. Nicole Brenez suggested I pick the parts I really like. That doesn’t always work, but it enabled me to start. Almayer’s Folly is Conrad’s first novel, yet all his themes are already present – guilt, loss, redemption, the other. All Christian themes, which are quite remote to me, except for the other, but only in [Emmanuel] Levinas’s meaning. I first started by writing a scene that doesn’t exist in the novel, where Almayer and Lingard are tracking Nina as a child. It might be reminiscent of The Night of the Hunter, but I think it came from something else. My grandfather, a strict Orthodox Jew, lived with us. My father, trying to be a good son, lived all those years respecting his father and all the Jewish rituals. When my grandad died, the first thing my father did was to grab his daughter and throw her into a public school. He did it for his own self-emancipation, not for the sake of his daughter. I didn’t count. Maybe it came from that. Who knows, it doesn’t matter at all. Suddenly I saw this chase. It’s the first scene I envisioned and I knew I had a movie.

It’s less a chase than a kind of mad, screaming trek for Almayer.


Yes, he screams, out of helplessness, pain, grief. Everyone is a kind of victim in the film. The mother, the father, the daughter, even Dain - they are all victims of their prejudices and helplessness. I believe that Nina will make it in the end - probably by paying dearly for her escape, but she will pull through because she has no illusions.

In the film Nina has a more important role than in the novel.


Yes, she is more like the hero. But not in Conrad’s meaning. Women didn’t really matter to him, except in rare instances. Then it all started with the chase after the little girl... And the mother and father who gradually go mad. The Chinese character didn’t exist in Conrad’s book. Not this way anyway. There was no city either, all the stuff we shot in Phnom Penh. We don’t really know it’s Phnom Penh, it could be any Asian city. I got the urge to film the city when I went scouting there. That’s also when the Chinese character came to me and the boarding school took greater importance, and all the wandering that leads Nina to realize that there’s no place for her anywhere. You see it as she walks on. So she arrives at the harbor without knowing what to do there, and the young Chinese captain makes the decision for her, in a manner of speaking. If not for him, she might have stayed there, like Adjani in Barbados at the end of Truffaut’s film The Story of Adele H.

In your version of the penultimate chapter of the book, before they set off to the beach, Nina comes near her father and strikes an odd pose, like a protective statue. This intimacy, which distances her from Dain, doesn’t exist in Conrad’s original story.


She doesn’t want Dain to kill him, I guess. She sets limits for him. In the novel Nina loves Dain. In the film she doesn’t. She says her heart is dead, for the time being. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. Her mother told her to leave, and that’s what saved her. In the film’s opening scene we understand that Nina is being used by Dain. We don’t know anything other than that she’s one of many dancers. Maybe she takes drugs, hallucinates, works in some kind of brothel. She finally gets to breathe when Dain dies. She didn’t kill him, but she could have. Nina will make something of her life.

The scene of Dain’s murder is also a new element, as compared with the novel. Why did you set it at the beginning of the film?


Precisely because it is a beginning for Nina, whereas the end of the film spells the end of Almayer. Otherwise, it would have seemed like two endings, with one choking the other. Can you imagine having Almayer’s ultimate descent into madness and then Dain’s death and Nina’s song?

Did you have Stanislas Merhar in mind for the role of Almayer from the start?


I didn’t have anyone in mind when I wrote the script, but very quickly thereafter it was him, and only him. On the set I didn’t block the actors. Stanislas let himself be guided by his inner rhythms, and I didn’t want to interfere. That’s how he was able to go so far. French actors are not accustomed to working this way. We worked together, we followed him, we adapted. This happened, among other times, on the last shot, on his face. We pushed his chair toward the camera, and toward the sun, and he listened to everything that went on around him. The sounds of the river. Sometimes he’d throw me a glance, and I signaled for him to keep going. We shot a full mag that way, and then I edited it. He was incredible.

What about your choice of Aurora Marion?


When I started on my rewrite, I already had Aurora Marion. She probably brought something to the writing. After submitting an earlier draft I had to find a Belgian actress in order to access funding in Belgium, so I started casting. Aurora’s father is Greek; her mother is half-Belgian, half-Rwandan. Sometimes she looks like a statue from Ancient Greece. Quite unwittingly. Aurora is not comfortable with the color of her skin. I asked her to stand upright when she says, ‘I’m not white.’ Just like Nina, she is not black either. You can’t quite tell what she is. She lived in London, where people often mistook her for an Indian. It’s just like the boy who plays Dain. He is from Madagascar, and such a fan of Kung Fu and all that martial stuff that he speaks a little Chinese. We found the Chinese man there, as well as Ali – we scouted rivers with him and I always saw him from behind, becaus he was driving the boat. One day he turned around, and I said, that’s Ali!

Did you do a breakdown?


I didn’t. I shot this film a bit in the same way I do my documentaries: I didn’t look at the shooting schedule in the morning, nothing was an obligation, and I worked in my pajamas. The blocking was improvised on the day. I have a great crew for that way of working – Remon Fromont, the Director of Photography, and Pierre Mertens on sound, and all the others. All of them, really. At the end of the third day, Pierre told Remon, ‘Look, she’s making this feature like her documentaries.’ Meaning, receving what happens, accepting it – being a sponge. Imposing nothing. I chiseled every detail of The Captive, here I didn’t at all. I didn’t know I was going to shoot this way when I started on the project, but it struck me intuitively... I took a chance, but it was exhilarating.

Did you operate the camera?


I often do, but less so in this case. Remon knows me so well... When he suggested something that he knew I wasn’t going to like, he’d look at me and say, ‘You’re not gonna like it,’ and I’d laugh and say, ‘You’re right.’ We met in 1978, he was the assistant cameraman on Anna’s Rendez-Vous. Then we shot Portrait of a Young Girl, A Couch In New York, and the documentaries - except for Là-Bas, which I shot myself with my little PD-100. That’s a sweet camera, I love it. I find HD too crude, it requires too much work.

There is one shot on the water troubled by the storm that comes back three times. It could epitomize the impact of the film: a sort of confusion in time, like those sudden switches from day to night. A sense of standing still that illustrates Almayer’s own confusion.


In terms of plot, I knew that those scenes were what the Chinese dreamed of when he was on opium. Two dreams. And then, the third time, in the realm of ‘reality’, I replay with his dreams and turn them into nightmares. That difference between dream and reality is not immediately understandable. This is like my documentaries: shots follow one another without any explicit reason being given for their juxtaposition. The only reason is filmmaking, without actual logic. Almayer’s Folly works on you after you’re done watching it. At first, it leaves you a little speechless, then the images come back to haunt you, I think. This is because I’m not trying to say something I already know. I work from my unconscious, and that speaks to other people’s unconscious - the audience’s.

The Captive prepared the way for the wholly ‘mental film’, whose images consistently border on the fantastical. And it, too, was shot in a style akin to your documentaries. That’s an unprecedented mix for you.


It is. It really is a stage in the process. A broader kind of film, more deconstructed, I think. When I look at it, I think I dared to go for power, whereas I always used to aim for the minimal. It’s kind of like a flow of lava that I might have held back or repressed. Jeanne Dielman is a uniquely radical film still today, but it is all about implosion. Here, it is the opposite. My psychotherapist, whom I call my little boy, always tells me that if I stopped withholding, or rather the reason I’m afraid of not withholding is that I’m afraid of my own bottled up anger, I’m afraid of killing, figuratively speaking. Meanwhile, I’m killing myself little by little. The film was shot in a sort of hedonism, total pleasure. I didn’t realize that a nearly telluric force would emanate from it. Up until that point, withholding gave power through implosion. Here, it’s the reverse. That is how I progressed, it’s my own liberation.

Interview with Chantal Akerman by Cyril Béghin
Full version: www.docandfilm.com
From the press kit of La Folie Almayer (2011)

Joseph Conrad: Nina's farewell in Almayer's Folly



Qui de nous n’a eu sa terre promise, son jour d’extase et sa fin en exil?—Amiel.

He went on again towards Nina, and Dain remained behind. Almayer approached his daughter and stood for a time looking down on her. She did not open her eyes, but hearing footsteps near her, murmured in a low sob, "Dain."

Almayer hesitated for a minute and then sank on the sand by her side. She, not hearing a responsive word, not feeling a touch, opened her eyes--saw her father, and sat up suddenly with a movement of terror.

"Oh, father!" she murmured faintly, and in that word there was expressed regret and fear and dawning hope.

"I shall never forgive you, Nina," said Almayer, in a dispassionate voice. "You have torn my heart from me while I dreamt of your happiness. You have deceived me. Your eyes that for me were like truth itself lied to me in every glance--for how long? You know that best. When you were caressing my cheek you were counting the minutes to the sunset that was the signal for your meeting with that man--there!"

He ceased, and they both sat silent side by side, not looking at each other, but gazing at the vast expanse of the sea. Almayer's words had dried Nina's tears, and her look grew hard as she stared before her into the limitless sheet of blue that shone limpid, unwaving, and steady like heaven itself. He looked at it also, but his features had lost all expression, and life in his eyes seemed to have gone out. The face was a blank, without a sign of emotion, feeling, reason, or even knowledge of itself. All passion, regret, grief, hope, or anger--all were gone, erased by the hand of fate, as if after this last stroke everything was over and there was no need for any record.

Those few who saw Almayer during the short period of his remaining days were always impressed by the sight of that face that seemed to know nothing of what went on within: like the blank wall of a prison enclosing sin, regrets, and pain, and wasted life, in the cold indifference of mortar and stones.

"What is there to forgive?" asked Nina, not addressing Almayer directly, but more as if arguing with herself. "Can I not live my own life as you have lived yours? The path you would have wished me to follow has been closed to me by no fault of mine."

"You never told me," muttered Almayer.

"You never asked me," she answered, "and I thought you were like the others and did not care. I bore the memory of my humiliation alone, and why should I tell you that it came to me because I am your daughter? I knew you could not avenge me."

"And yet I was thinking of that only," interrupted Almayer, "and I wanted to give you years of happiness for the short day of your suffering. I only knew of one way."

"Ah! but it was not my way!" she replied. "Could you give me happiness without life? Life!" she repeated with sudden energy that sent the word ringing over the sea. " Life that means power and love," she added in a low voice.

"That!" said Almayer, pointing his finger at Dain standing close by and looking at them in curious wonder.

"Yes, that!" she replied, looking her father full in the face and noticing for the first time with a slight gasp of fear the unnatural rigidity of his features.

"I would have rather strangled you with my own hands," said Almayer, in an expressionless voice which was such a contrast to the desperate bitterness of his feelings that it surprised even himself. He asked himself who spoke, and, after looking slowly round as if expecting to see somebody, turned again his eyes towards the sea.

"You say that because you do not understand the meaning of my words," she said sadly. "Between you and my mother there never was any love. When I returned to Sambir I found the place which I thought would be a peaceful refuge for my heart, filled with weariness and hatred--and mutual contempt. I have listened to your voice and to her voice. Then I saw that you could not understand me; for was I not part of that woman? Of her who was the regret and shame of your life? I had to choose--I hesitated. Why were you so blind? Did you not see me struggling before your eyes? But, when he came, all doubt disappeared, and I saw only the light of the blue and cloudless heaven--"

"I will tell you the rest," interrupted Almayer: "when that man came I also saw the blue and the sunshine of the sky. A thunderbolt has fallen from that sky, and suddenly all is still and dark around me for ever. I will never forgive you, Nina; and to-morrow I shall forget you! I shall never forgive you," he repeated with mechanical obstinacy while she sat, her head bowed down as if afraid to look at her father.

To him it seemed of the utmost importance that he should assure her of his intention of never forgiving. He was convinced that his faith in her had been the foundation of his hopes, the motive of his courage, of his determination to live and struggle, and to be victorious for her sake. And now his faith was gone, destroyed by her own hands; destroyed cruelly, treacherously, in the dark; in the very moment of success. In the utter wreck of his affections and of all his feelings, in the chaotic disorder of his thoughts, above the confused sensation of physical pain that wrapped him up in a sting as of a whiplash curling round him from his shoulders down to his feet, only one idea remained clear and definite--not to forgive her; only one vivid desire--to forget her. And this must be made clear to her--and to himself--by frequent repetition. That was his idea of his duty to himself--to his race--to his respectable connections; to the whole universe unsettled and shaken by this frightful catastrophe of his life. He saw it clearly and believed he was a strong man. He had always prided himself upon his unflinching firmness. And yet he was afraid. She had been all in all to him. What if he should let the memory of his love for her weaken the sense of his dignity? She was a remarkable woman; he could see that; all the latent greatness of his nature--in which he honestly believed--had been transfused into that slight, girlish figure. Great things could be done! What if he should suddenly take her to his heart, forget his shame, and pain, and anger, and--follow her! What if he changed his heart if not his skin and made her life easier between the two loves that would guard her from any mischance! His heart yearned for her. What if he should say that his love for her was greater than . . .

"I will never forgive you, Nina!" he shouted, leaping up madly in the sudden fear of his dream.

This was the last time in his life that he was heard to raise his voice. Henceforth he spoke always in a monotonous whisper like an instrument of which all the strings but one are broken in a last ringing clamour under a heavy blow.

She rose to her feet and looked at him. The very violence of his cry soothed her in an intuitive conviction of his love, and she hugged to her breast the lamentable remnants of that affection with the unscrupulous greediness of women who cling desperately to the very scraps and rags of love, any kind of love, as a thing that of right belongs to them and is the very breath of their life. She put both her hands on Almayer's shoulders, and looking at him half tenderly, half playfully, she said--

"You speak so because you love me."

Almayer shook his head.
 
"Yes, you do," she insisted softly; then after a short pause she added, "and you will never forget me."

Almayer shivered slightly. She could not have said a more cruel thing.

"Here is the boat coming now," said Dain, his arm outstretched towards a black speck on the water between the coast and the islet.

They all looked at it and remained standing in silence till the little canoe came gently on the beach and a man landed and walked towards them. He stopped some distance off and hesitated.

"What news?" asked Dain.

"We have had orders secretly and in the night to take off from this islet a man and a woman. I see the woman. Which of you is the man?"

"Come, delight of my eyes," said Dain to Nina. "Now we go, and your voice shall be for my ears only. You have spoken your last words to the Tuan Putih, your father. Come."

She hesitated for a while, looking at Almayer, who kept his eyes steadily on the sea, then she touched his forehead in a lingering kiss, and a tear--one of her tears--fell on his cheek and ran down his immovable face.

"Goodbye," she whispered, and remained irresolute till he pushed her suddenly into Dain's arms.

"If you have any pity for me," murmured Almayer, as if repeating some sentence learned by heart, "take that woman away."

He stood very straight, his shoulders thrown back, his head held high, and looked at them as they went down the beach to the canoe, walking enlaced in each other's arms. He looked at the line of their footsteps marked in the sand. He followed their figures moving in the crude blaze of the vertical sun, in that light violent and vibrating, like a triumphal flourish of brazen trumpets. He looked at the man's brown shoulders, at the red sarong round his waist; at the tall, slender, dazzling white figure he supported. He looked at the white dress, at the falling masses of the long black hair. He looked at them embarking, and at the canoe growing smaller in the distance, with rage, despair, and regret in his heart, and on his face a peace as that of a carved image of oblivion. Inwardly he felt himself torn to pieces, but Ali--who now aroused--stood close to his master, saw on his features the blank expression of those who live in that hopeless calm which sightless eyes only can giv

The canoe disappeared, and Almayer stood motionless with his eyes fixed on its wake. Ali from under the shade of his hand examined the coast curiously. As the sun declined, the sea-breeze sprang up from the northward and shivered with its breath the glassy surface of the water.

...

FROM: The Project Gutenberg eBook, Almayer's Folly, by Joseph Conrad

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

Release Date: February 23, 2006  [eBook #720]

Dorogie tovarischi! / Dear Comrades!


Andrei Konchalovsky: Дорогие товарищи! / Dorogie tovarischi! / Dear Comrades! (RU 2020). The workers of Novocherkassk rebel against the Soviet government in 1962 invoking the spirit of Lenin.

Andrei Konchalovsky: Дорогие товарищи! / Dorogie tovarischi! / Dear Comrades! (RU 2020). The text on the flag: "Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!" / "Proletarians of all countries, unite!". The motto from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels became the state motto of the Soviet Union.

Дорогие товарищи! / Dorogije tovarishtshi!
RU 2020
Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
Production: Alisher Usmanov, Andrei Konchalovsky Studios (Andrei Konchalovsky)
120’
Language: Russian
Main Cast: Julia Vysotskaya, Vladislav Komarov, Andrei Gusev, Yulia Burova, Sergei Erlish
Screenplay: Andrei Konchalovsky, Elena Kiseleva
Cinematographer: Andrey Naidenov
Editor: Sergei Taraskin, Karolina Maciejewska
Production Designer: Irina Ochina
Costume Designer: Konstantin Mazur
Sound: Polina Volynkina
Visual Effects: Alexander Serkov, Simon Assekritov
    Festival premiere: Venice Film Festival 2020.
    Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF) online 20 June 2021, with English subtitles.
    Theme: films by morning guests.
    MSFF online, viewed on a 4K tv set in Lappeenranta, Midsummer Eve, 26 June 2021.

SYNOPSIS

Venice Film Festival 2020: "USSR, Novocherkassk, 1962. Lyudmila is a member of the local Communist Party. She’s a staunch upholder of the Communist regime and ideals and despises any form of dissent. During a labour strike at the local electromotive factory, she witnesses the shooting on the protesters by the Army sent by the government to quell the strike: a massacre. An event that will change her vision of the world forever. The city is torn apart by riots, arrests, hasty convictions and by the curfew. Many people are injured and several ones are missing. Precisely in those days Lyudmila’s daughter disappears into thin air and the woman starts an anguished, dangerous and relentless search, in spite of the blockade of the city, the arrests and the attempt at a cover-up by the authorities. The movie is based on a true story that happened on June 2nd, 1962 in Novocherkassk and kept secret until the Nineties. The investigation was started in 1992. The victims were secretly buried in graves under fake names so they could never be found. Major suspects among the top Soviet officials were dead at that time. Culprits have never been convicted."

DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

Andrei Konchalovsky (Venice Film Festival 2020): "I wanted to make a film about the generation of my parents, the one that fought in and survived World War II with a conviction that it was honorable to die “for Homeland, for Stalin” and an unconditional trust in the goals of communism: to create a new society through efforts of millions of people. I wanted to reconstruct with the utmost accuracy the events that really happened, and an era in which history revealed the unbridgeable gap between communist ideals and the tragic reality of facts. This film is a tribute to the purity of that generation, its sacrifices, and the tragedy it experienced seeing its myths collapse and its ideals betrayed."

AA: Dear Comrades! is one of Andrei Konchalovsky's greatest achievements together with The First Teacher and Siberiade.

It is his most devastating coming to terms with the Soviet Union next to The Inner Circle.

It achieves special tragic grandeur because Konchalovsky is able to empathize both with the justified rebellion of the workers and the agony of the nomenclature, having himself been a member of the inner circle.

For the director, Dear Comrades! is about a gauntlet of the conscience. Born into privilege, Konchalovsky was an artist of the Thaw, but in that very period, Khrushchev betrayed let the nation down in atrocities such as the Novocherkassk massacre.

Dear Comrades! is a great historical drama executed with the approach of the political thriller. Fundamentally it is about the very idea of the Soviet Union, and how that idea is betrayed as the power elite turns against the people it is supposed to defend.

An electrifying contrast emerges between the Red Army and the KGB. Invoking the Soviet Constitution, the army refuses to shoot the people, but the KGB has no such inhibitions. While the local party elite is paralyzed, KGB's spetsnaz troops solve problems efficiently and unscrupulously. They find a sewer passage to help party bosses escape the blockade of the people. Their snipers sneak into rooftops carrying precision rifles in cello cases.

The protagonist is Lyudmila Syomina, interpreted by Julia Vysotskaya, the director's wife, herself born in Novocherkassk. Syomina is a hard-line Communist and a tough war veteran, similar to Nadezhda Petrukhina (Maya Bulgakova) in Larisa Shepitko's Wings. She is a single mother living together with her daughter, born in 1944 from a wartime one-night stand, and her father, a Don Cossack (Novocherkassk is the ancient capital of the Don Cossacks). The father opens his trunk, dresses into his Cossack uniform, complete with four crosses of St. George, puts an Orthodox icon prominently on display, and reads a letter from the Civil War years detailing Red Terror atrocities inflicted on the family. Svetka, Lyudmila's daughter, joins the rebellious workers, and when she disappears in the massacre, Lyudmila fears for the worst.

The soundtrack selection starts from the ”Hymn of the Soviet Union” heard during the opening credits (”United, mighty Soviet Union”) which replaced the Internationale as the Soviet anthem in 1944, with lyrics by Sergei Mikhalkov, the film's director's father. A poignant music selection towards the end is Isaak Dunaevski's ”Vesyonnyi marsh” / ”The March of Spring” from Grigori Aleksandrov's Springtime (1947), a piece of high Stalin era escapism. To avert people from the bloodshed, the party arranges dance and song. It is striking to hear in this context a tune familiar in Finland as a traditional folk song, known here as ”Murheisna miesnä” with the refrain "rullaati rullaa" (Suuri toivelaulukirja 3).

Although Konchalovsky has had from the start an affection for the epic formats of the scope and the 70 mm, he has shot Dear Comrades! in black and white and Academy, just like his second feature film, Asya's Happiness (1966). Visually the film is excellent. But at least viewed on a television screen, there was a subtly chilly and distant bite in the digital black and white imagery.

Time ran out in the online festival's schedule. I missed the very ending and reconstructed the plot from sources. I look forward to revisiting this powerful movie on a big screen.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: THE PLOT FROM WIKIPEDIA:

L'uomo dei cinque palloni / Break Up / The Man With the Balloons (2016 restoration in 4K, L'Immagine Ritrovata)


Marco Ferreri: L'uomo dei cinque palloni / Break-Up / The Man With the Balloons (IT/FR 1969) (2016 restoration in 4K L'Immagine Ritrovata) starring Catherine Spaak (Giovanna) and Marcello Mastroianni (Mario).

1963–1967 Italia–Francia
    Prod.: Carlo Ponti per Compagnia Cinematografica Champion-Les Films Concordia. DCP 4K. D.: 86’. Bn e Col.
    Sog., Scen.: Marco Ferreri, Rafael Azcona. F.: Aldo Tonti. M.: Enzo Micarelli. Scgf.: Carlo Egidi. Mus.: Teo Usuelli.
    Int.: Marcello Mastroianni (Mario), Catherine Spaak (Giovanna), Ugo Tognazzi (automobilista), William Berger (Benny), Ennio Balbo, Marco Ferreri.
    Premiere of the episode L'uomo dei 5 palloni in the episode film Oggi, domani, dopodomani: in Italy, 22 Dec 1965.
    Premiere: in France, 2 July 1969.
    The film was not released in Finland.
    Italian version with English subtitles
    Recovered & Restored 2017
    Copy from Cineteca di Bologna
    Restored in 4K in 2016 by Cineteca di Bologna and Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino, in collaboration with Warner Bros., with the support of Massimo Sordella and Nuovo Imaie, at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, from the 4K scan of a vintage interpositive and a sound positive preserved by Warner Bros. Thanks to CSC – Cineteca Nazionale for providing as reference for the restoration the 35 mm copy struck from the original negative at Turner International, Los Angeles
    Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF) online 20 June 2021, with English subtitles.
    Theme: Treasures from Il Cinema Ritrovato.
    MSFF online, viewed on a 4K tv set in Lappeenranta, Midsummer Eve, 26 June 2021.

I always liked him because he gave actors free rein and because he had a great quality: he said little. " – Marcello Mastroianni on Marco Ferreri

" I got him because he didn’t act, he naturally became part of the film, always present, especially in moments of silence. " – Marco Ferreri on Marcello Mastroianni

Gian Luca Farinelli (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2017) : " Break Up is an invisible film, a film that not many viewers got to see. Despite being the first encounter between Mastroianni and Ferreri and one of Mastroianni’s most extraordinary performances, it is one of the least known films of European post-war cinema. Up until this restoration and its presentation at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Leone d’Oro for best restoration. "

" Work on Break Up ended in December 1963. In January 1964 the film was ready, and it received the censor’s certificate, but Carlo Ponti decided to stop its release and transformed it into a 25-minute short as an episode of the film Oggi, domani, dopodomani, which included two other episodes directed by Luciano Salce and Eduardo De Filippo. In 1967 Ponti and Ferreri met up again, and Ferreri shot a new episode in color. The film was ready, but after a short distribution period in France and the United States it vanished. In 1979 Ferreri donated a black and white 16 mm print to Lab80 in Bergamo for small independent distribution. "

" For such a little-seen movie, it certainly has many names: L’uomo dei palloncini, L’uomo dei cinque palloni (L’Homme aux cinq ballons) and finally Break Up, which was probably Ponti’s invention after the success of Blow-up. Ponti sold the film to MGM, and later the rights were passed on to Warner Bros., where the interpositive was found (the negative, instead, has been lost). "

" Seeing the film today is an incredible experience: it anticipates the party of Hollywood Party, Kim Basinger’s striptease in 9½ Weeks, with a singer who looks like Belushi before Belushi ever appeared; a film in which we can admire Morandi’s paintings and listen to one of the most popular singers of that time, Orietta Berti. We can already see in it the Ferreri of abstraction, a non-ideological filmmaker, who creates paradoxical stories and reveals the contradiction of a consumer society. Break Up’s screenplay was written by Rafael Azcona, the screenwriter of all of Ferreri’s best films (El pisito, La donna scimmia, La Grande Bouffe…).
" – Gian Luca Farinelli (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2017)

AA: Having seen Marco Ferreri's La donna scimmia (1964) for the first time three years ago made me desire to see other films by Ferreri from what I surmise what his greatest period, 1963–1969.

Break Up unfortunately proves disappointing, but that may be partly due to its erratic production and distribution history, as outlined by Gian Luca Farinelli above.

As opposed to the deeply felt La donna scimmia, Break Up feels shallow in the same way as Ferreri's later great commercial hit films such as La grande bouffe. It belongs to the category of art exploitation.

In La donna scimmia, Ferreri and Azcona let themselves be inspired by Fellini, and the result was original and personal.

In Break Up, the inspiration is Antonioni: Blow Up but somewhat also his trilogy of solitude. However, the result feels meaningless and trivial.

For a moment I was thinking about Jörn Donner who started with a cycle of films inspired by Antonioni's trilogy of solitude but then changed tack and made a series of spoof sex films. In them, Donner was not following the Antonioni inspiration. But Ferreri seems to have had as his model the sex orgy sequence of Blow Up.

The title Break Up refers to a central theme in Ferreri's art exploitation films. In this film, Marcello Mastroianni wants to find out how much air an air balloon can contain until it bursts. Finally, balloons break up in the orgy sequence. In La grande bouffe, four friends eat themselves to death. In the all-nude sex tragedy La dernière femme, Gérard Depardieu keeps cutting pieces from salami with an electric knife, until he has had enough of coitus...

Marcello Mastroianni commits an even more desperate act in the end of Break Up. Ferreri's film is both shallow and desperate, and not a little boring.

Catherine Spaak is very appealing in the female leading role, and she is spared from sexploitation for a change. But she is given little to do. Her character is frustrated with Mastroianni's aloofness, and we can sense that the actress is equally frustrated with this Ferreri-Azcona nonsense.

Fehérlofia / Son of the White Mare (2019 digital restoration in 4K) In memoriam Marcell Jankovics (1941–2021)


Marcell Jankovics: Fehérlófia / Son of the White Mare (HU 1981).


Director: Marcell Jankovics
Country: Hungary
Year: 1981
Duration: 1.21
Languages: Hungarian
    In memoriam Marcell Jankovics (1941–2021).
    Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF) online 20 June 2021, with English subtitles.
    MSFF online, viewed on a 4K tv set in Lappeenranta, Midsummer Eve, 26 June 2021.

Jennifer Barker (MSFF 2021): ” Fehérlófia (1981) is one of the most gorgeous, groovy animated films of the twentieth century. Directed by Marcell Jankovics at Pannónia filmstúdió in Budapest, its epic story is simple yet allegorical: the hero Treeshaker, born from a White Mare, must save a fallen world with his two brothers. He journeys to the underworld and back, battling through danger, sin, sacrifice, and dragons with humor, eros, and a bit of skullduggery. The story has numerous mythological and religious analogs, but the plot is only the skeleton upon which the luscious flesh of the film is draped. ”

” Lively and buoyant, the film’s aesthetic is a mixture of art nouveau, art deco, psychedelic and pop art. A 1970s masterpiece nibbling at the edges of the 1980s, Fehérlófia evokes sources as diverse as The Yellow Submarine, Lotte Reiniger, medieval illuminations, Busby Berkeley, and Flash Gordon—yet its aesthetic is coherent and unique. An almost perfect symbiosis at times between human figures and their world, the film creates an essential play between style and substance, design and movement, darkness and light. ”

” Fehérlófia is filled with lust for life—a dynamic and joyful encounter with struggle that reminds us that the sun is a nomad forever roaming across our sky, and that to live is to move with it.
” (Jennifer Barker, MSFF 2021)

AA: I saw for the first time Fehérlofia, a masterpiece of animation from Marcell Jankovics (1941–2021) whose short films I have been following at Tampere Film Festival at least since 1976 when I first saw Sisyphus (1975).

Fehérlofia is completely original, yet full with subtle affinities with some of the most audacious and ambitious animations of the previous decades, including The Monkey King, Cleopatra: Queen of Sex and Belladonna of Sadness.

Like The Monkey King, it displays panache and imagination in visualizing genesis, foundation myths, ancient beliefs of the creation of the world, and superpowers. This fantasy current flourishes in today's superhero adventures including anime such as Demon Slayer: Mugen Train (2020).

Like Cleopatra: Queen of Sex and Belladonna of Sadness, Fehérlofia is boldly sensual in its images of fertility, birth and creation. Pregnancy, birth and nursing have never been animated with greater talent of imagination. Sexual symbols including the phallic phoenix are hardly even symbols. They are pure and elementary images of das Ding an sich.

Walt Disney had revolutionized animation production in One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) by introducing Xerox cels. This method made possible sophisticated animation effects everywhere, including in Fehérlofia. The general visual approach is a combination of stylization and sophistication.

Another revolution in 1960s animation was psychedelia in films such as Yellow Submarine. Psychedelia in general had an impact even in Eastern Europe, including in the films of the Ukrainian and Armenian visionaries Paradjanov and Ilyenko. They found in psychedelia a novel way to convey folk legends, and this insight is also the basis of Fehérlofia.

I am not familiar with the folk legends of Scythians, Huns and Avars that are announced as the source in the opening credits of Fehérlofia, but this movie certainly whets my appetite to learn more, although undoubtedly great liberties have been taken.

Anyway, Fehérlofia is a feast for the eyes, in glowing colours, with a sure sense of rhythm and movement, and an abundance of inventions. It is an enchanted voyage to a mythic primordial landscape, providing an entrance to the underworld and a cosmic vision of the universe. We meet flaming creatures undergoing magical metamorphoses and cosmic battles.

Marcell Jankovics had a sure touch in myths from Sisyphus to Prometheus, and in Fehérlofia he made an original contribution to bringing Hungarian mythology to world culture.

The film has been beautifully restored in 2019 from the original negative and the magnetic sound tape by Nemzeti Filmintézet – Filmarchívum, in collaboration with Marcell Jankovics, under the supervision of Eszter Fazekas.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: FEHÉRLÓFIA (WIKIPÉDIA. A SZABAD ENCIKLOPÉDIA):

Gosudarstvennye pokhorony / State Funeral


Sergei Loznitsa: Государственные похороны / Gosudarstvennye pokhorony / State Funeral (NL/LT 2019). A compilation of news footage from Stalin's funeral.

Государственные похороны / Gosudarstvennyje pohorony.
Director: Sergei Loznitsa
Production: ATOMS & VOID (Sergei Loznitsa, Maria Choustova), Studio Uljana Kim (Uljana Kim)
135’
Language: Russian
Country: Netherlands, Lithuania
Screenplay: Sergei Loznitsa
Editor: Danielius Kokanauskis
Sound: Vladimir Golovnitski
    Festival premiere: 6 Sep 2019 Venice Film Festival.
    Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF) online 20 June 2021, with English subtitles.
    MSFF online, viewed on a 4K tv set in Lappeenranta, Midsummer Eve, 26 June 2021.

Venice Film Festival 2019: “ Unique, mostly unseen before, archive footage from March 1953, presents the funeral of Joseph Stalin as the culmination of the dictator’s personality cult. The news of Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953, shocked the entire Soviet Union. The burial ceremony was attended by tens of thousands of mourners. We observe every stage of the funeral spectacle, described by Pravda newspaper as “the Great Farewell”, and receive an unprecedented access to the dramatic and absurd experience of life and death under Stalin’s reign. ”

The film addresses the issue of Stalin’s personality cult as a form of terror-induced delusion. It gives an insight into the nature of the regime and its legacy, still haunting the contemporary world. ” Venice Film Festival 2019

Director’s Statement:

The death of Stalin meant the death of an epoch. Without even realising this, millions of people, mourning the Leader in March 1953, were also living through a life-changing experience in their own private histories. ”

It is crucial for me to bring the spectator inside this experience not as an impartial observer of a historical event or an admirer of rare archival footage, but as a participant and a witness of a grandiose, terrifying and grotesque spectacle, revealing the essence of a tyrannical regime. ”

I see this film as a visual study of the nature of Stalin’s personality cult and an attempt to deconstruct the ritual, which formed the foundation of the bloody regime. It is unthinkable that today, in Moscow circa 2019, 66 years after Stalin’s death, thousands of people gather at his tomb on March 5th, in order to lay flowers and mourn his death. I believe it’s my duty as a filmmaker to employ the power of documentary image to appeal to the minds of my contemporaries, and to seek truth. ” Director’s Statement

AA: Sergei Loznitsa's feature-length documentary has been created with the Emile de Antonio method. The documents speak for themselves. There is no commentary.

Only the end titles give us a resume of Stalin's legacy: 27 million murdered, executed, tortured, deported, and 15 million starved to death. The De-Stalinization started in 1956, and Stalin's body was removed from the mausoleum in 1961.

The technical quality of the footage is brilliant. The film looks like shot today. It is immersive, as if we were there.

The cult of personality is crystallized at the moment of death in slogans such as: "Fulfill Stalin's immortal cause", "Stalin is dead: long live Stalin"

The scope and depth of the national mourning epic is extraordinary. We visit the entire Soviet Union, from the Black Sea oil rigs to the reindeer-herding Nenets, from the Altai region to Khabarovsk, from Tallinn to Riga, from Moscow to Minsk and Vladivostok. The news spreads from the village radios to Estonia's Rahva Hääl. All newspapers feature the photo of Stalin, often an identical one. Flags are pulled down to half-mast. Engine drivers sound their alarm whistles in chorus. Gun salutes are made. Moments of silence are staged. The Soviet empire falls silent. The mobilization is immense. The mourning crowds are endless, as are funeral wreaths. The feeling of profound grief and helplessness is genuine and ubiquitous.

We are left to contemplate the multiple layers and meanings of this mysterious sorrow.

A film within the film, reassembled, is the vintage official Stalin funeral documentary, Velikoye proshchaniye / Великое прощание / Great Mourning / Le Grand Adieu (SU 1953, 65 min), directed (n.c.) by Grigori Aleksandrov, Mikhail Chiaureli, Sergei Gerasimov, Ilya Kopalin, Irina Setkina and Elizabeta Svilova (the wife of Dziga Vertov). We are reminded of Vertov's Three Songs About Lenin (1934), itself a problematic film, made under the control of Stalin. 195 cinematographers are credited.

Besides the dead Stalin, the film features Georgi Malenkov, Lavrenti Beria, Kliment Voroshilov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Nikolai Bulganin, Nikita Khrushchev, Lazar Kaganovich, Anastas Mikoyan, as well as Svetlana Alliluyeva and Vasili Stalin. The main speakers are Khrushchev, Malenkov, Beria and Molotov.

Visitors from China include Zhou Enlai, Guo Moruo and Li Fuchun, from Poland, Bolesław Bierut and Konstantin Rokossovsky, from Czechoslovakia, Klement Gottwald, from Hungary, Mátyás Rákosi and István Dobi, from Rumania, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, from Albania, Spiro Koleka, from Bulgaria, Valko Chervenkov, from Mongolia, Yumgaagiin Tsedenbal and Nudenhuugiin Yadamzhav, from the GDR, Max Reimann, Walter Ulbricht, Otto Grotewohl and Wilhelm Ziesser.

From France, there is Jacques Duclos, from Italy, Palmiro Togliatti and Pietro Nenni, from Great Britain, Harry Pollitt and Peter Kerrigan, from Austria, Johann Koplenig, from the Spanish exile, Dolores Ibárruri, and from the Philippines, Jesus Lava.

Few are those who are not Communist insiders. From India, there is Saifuddin Kitchlew. And from Finland, State Minister Urho Kekkonen, the lone panther in this crowd.

On the soundtrack, we never hear the revolutionary funeral march, "Замучен тяжелой неволей" (обр. Л. Шульгина – Г. Мачтет, 1876) / "Sait kärsiä puolesta aatteen" / "Slavery and Suffering".

Instead, the soundtrack is based on classical music:
– Schumann: Kinderszenen 6: Träumerei, Op. 15
– Tchaikovsky: 6. Symphony, Op. 74
– Tchaikovsky: 5. Symphony, Op. 64
– Schubert: Klaviertrio No. 2, D 929, Op. 100
– Mendelssohn: Lieder ohne Worte: Op. 62 Nr. 3 Andante maestoso e-Moll MWV U 177 "Trauermarsch"
– Mozart: Requiem, K. 626
– Chopin: Marche funèbre, Op. 35

If memory serves, there was a distant echo of Beethoven: 3. Sinfonie "Eroica" Op. 55, 2. Satz: "Marcia funebre"

With a harrowing Stalin cult of personality anthem:
Matvei Blanter: "Колыбельная" / "Lullaby", lyr. Isaak Dunayevsky, perf. Sergei Lemeshev (1949) .

After all these years, André Bazin's classic essay "Le Cinéma Soviétique et le mythe de Staline" (1950), with an appendix added to Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? I (1958), quoting Khrushchev's anti-Stalin speech "On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences" (1956), remains the superior analysis of the theme. Although written by Bazin while Stalin was still alive, it is also illuminating about his funeral hagiography.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Ikuiseen rauhaan


Ville Suhonen: Ikuiseen rauhaan (FI 2021), the story of Arndt Pekurinen (1905–1941), the Finnish pacifist and conscientious objector.

FI © 2021 Oktober. P: Joonas Berghäll, Satu Majava.
    D+SC: Ville Suhonen. DP: Marita Hällfors, Juice Huhtala. Cost: Riitta Röpelinen. Set dec: Ella Brigatti, Olli Uosukainen. VFX: Veikko VFX-taiteilija. M: Lau Nau. S: Pietari Koskinen. ED: Antti Tuomikoski.
    A non-fiction portrait of Arndt Pekurinen (1905–1941), the Finnish pacifist and conscientious objector. Based on archival documents, voiced testimonies and associative re-enactments.
    Archive editor: Sanna Liinamaa. Archives: Säde Pekurinen Collection, Olga Pekurinen Collection, Erno Paasilinna Archives, etc.
    Soundtrack selections:
– "Sun haltuus rakas isäni" / "Nimm von uns Du treuer Gott" (EG 146) (comp. in France 1543, Nicolaus Selnecker 1578, Martin Moller 1587). Virsikirja, hymn 377.
– "The March of the Finnish Cavalry in the Thirty Years' War" (1618–1648), trad.
– "Matalasta torpasta", trad., perf. Otto Pyykkönen (1925).
– "Aavikon lapsia", comp. Lauri Lieppo, lyr. Martti Jäppilä, perf. Veli Lehto and Dallapé Orchestra.
– "Havis Amanda", trad., perf. Aarne Salonen and Dallapé Orchestra (1929).
– "Vöyrin marssi", n.c., a march of the White Guard in the Finnish Civil War (1918).
– "Naurupolkka", trad., perf. Dallapé Orchestra (1930).
    Voice talent: Joonas Saartamo (Arndt Pekurinen), Vilma Melasniemi (Aleksandra Pekurinen), Elena Leeve (Säde Pekurinen). Olavi Uusivirta, Lauri Tilkanen, Hannu-Pekka Björkman, Taisto Oksanen, Olli Uosukainen, Nicklas Wancke, Arnd Dewald.
    Premiere: 9 July 2021, distributor: Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus.
    Helsinki corona emergency security: 2 meters distancing, face masks, hand hygiene.
    Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus press screening at Finnkino Tennispalatsi 2, Helsinki, 23 June 2021 at 10 am.

The title of the film stems from Immanuel Kant's (1724–1804) prophetic book Zum ewigen Frieden (1795, [literally: Eternal Peace]), translated into English as Perpetual Peace and Finnish by Jaakko Tuomikoski as Ikuiseen rauhaan in 1922. By the time Kant wrote it he had already completed his magnus opus philosophical studies. It is a work of Enlightenment by a citizen of the world who offered a vision of united nations. But soon enough there was a turn to Romanticism, Nationalism, and the Holy Alliance. 150 years later, the Charter of the United Nations (1945) was influenced by Kant.

" Blessed are the peacemakers ".
– The motto in Arndt Pekurinen's death notice ("Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God", from the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:9)

" Sä elät sittenkin, Arndt ".
– "And yet you live, Arndt". His epitaph.

AA: In Ikuiseen rauhaan, Ville Suhonen continues his exploration into the Finnish history during the First Republic (1919–1944) in feature-length non-fiction films. In Jäämarssi / Frozen Hell (2011) the subject was Russian prisoners of war in Finland in 1941–42, in Ompelijatar / Seamstress (2015), the Finnish Communist Martta Koskinen who was sentenced to death for high treason in 1943, the last woman executed in Finland.

Ikuiseen rauhaan is a non-fiction portrait of Arndt Pekurinen (1905–1941), the Finnish pacifist and conscientious objector, based on archival documents, voiced testimonies and associative re-enactments.

Pekurinen became a figure of considerable national and international importance. In 1931, "Lex Pekurinen" was passed to secure the rights of conscious objectors whose grounds were not religious. Pekurinen's brutal treatment and prolonged prison sentences in hard labour had attracted international attention of pacifists including Alfred Einstein and Bertrand Russell.

Pekurinen was also being harassed and tortured by the extreme right. The Lapua Movement, soon to be banned, had a firm hold among the clergy, the military, the police force and the prison personnel. Lex Pekurinen ceased to be valid during wartime, and in 1939–1941 Arndt's punishments restarted, until in 1941, on the frontline, Pekurinen, who refused to resist evil, was brutally disgraced, mutilated and executed.

Pekurinen refused to hate, instead relying on "hurtti huumori ja repäisevä meininki" ["a rip-roaring sense of humour and a rousing attitude"]. Because of the commitment of the church and the clergy to an authoritarian and repressive order since 1918, Pekurinen distanced himself from religion. But in essence his conviction was Christian. He came from a loving home, and his own family atmosphere was that of love, with no fighting, drinking or cursing.

Ville Suhonen and his team have conducted a thorough research of documents, an often difficult task, because Pekurinen's enemies burned his books, photographs and documents, but then again, we have the memoirs of his loved ones – and the files of the Finnish secret police, the Etsivä Keskuspoliisi. Their spies infiltrated pacifist organizations and attempted to destroy them from the inside, often successfully.

Inspired by examples like Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi and the Finn Arvid Järnefelt, Finnish pacifists pursued a peaceful agenda of non-violent resistance to militarism. I have recently written an essay on Tolstoy and the cinema in which I discuss also the Tolstoyan example of civil disobedience, passive resistance and civil courage in the cinema, citing Richard Attenborough's Gandhi and movies about Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

As the most recent example I mentioned Terrence Malick's powerful A Hidden Life, the story of the Austrian conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter (1907–1943) with remarkable parallels with Arndt Pekurinen. For me, the most devastating one is the role of the Church, looking the other way when a martyr following the path of Christ is harassed and executed in front of their eyes.

Pekurinen faces his fate calmly. He consoles his family and advises his wife to educate their children so that they will be saved from further harassment and suffering. The perpetrators of the execution try to conceal the chain of command and responsibility and hide the corpse, but Aleksandra Pekurinen is adamant to have a proper burial. Examining the body she is also able to document the criminal way her husband had been treated. The law, including the martial law, was broken on several counts, and eyewitnesses lied blatantly in later investigations.

Pekurinen was disappointed that his fellow pacifists failed to follow his example and considered his sacrifice futile.

But his saga is one of a "victory in defeat". Dying for his conviction he became immortal.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: PRESS COPY FROM THE FILMIKAMARI SITE:

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Father (2020)


Florian Zeller: Father (GB/FR 2020) with Olivia Colman (Anne) and Anthony Hopkins (Anthony).

Isä
    GB/FR © 2020 New Zealand Trust Corporation as Trustee for Elarof. PC: F Comme Film / Trademark Films / Cine@. P: Simon Friend, Jean-Louis Livi, David Parfitt, Christophe Spadone.
    D: Florian Zeller. SC: Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller – based on the play Le Père (2012) by Florian Zeller. DP: Ben Smithard – colour – 2.39:1 – AXS-R7 – source format: X-OCN ST (6K) – master format: 4K. PD: Peter Francis. AD: Amanda Dazely, Astrid Sieben. Set dec: Cathy Featherstone. Cost: Anna Robbins. Makeup and hair: Tahira Herold. VFX: Umedia. M: Ludovico Einaudi. S: Sandy Notarianni. ED: Yorgos Lamprinos.
    Soundtrack selections:
    – Henry Purcell: King Arthur, or The British Worthy (1691), Act 3: What Power Art Thou?, perf. Andreas Scholl, Accademia Bizantina, Stefano Montanari.
    – Vincenzo Bellini: Norma, Act 1: "Casta diva", perf. Maria Callas.
    – Georges Bizet: Les Pêcheurs de perles – Romance: "Je crois entendre encore", perf. Cyrille Dubois, L'Orchestre National de Lille, Alexandre Bloch.
    Cast (as edited in Wikipedia):
Anthony Hopkins as Anthony
Olivia Colman as Anne
Rufus Sewell as Paul
Imogen Poots as Laura / Lucy
Olivia Williams as Catherine / Laura / Anne (credited as The Woman)
Mark Gatiss as Bill / Paul (credited as The Man)
Ayesha Dharker as Dr. Sarai
Roman Zeller as Boy
    Loc: West Kensington, London, May 2019.
    Festival premiere: 27 Jan 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
    US premiere: 26 Feb 2021.
    Finnish premiere: 13 Aug 2021, released by Atlantic Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Kauppila / Heidi Nyblom Kuorikoski.
    Academy Awards 2021: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Anthony Hopkins), Best Adapted Screenplay (Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller).
    Helsinki corona emergency security: 2 meters distancing, face masks, hand hygiene.
    Atlantic Film press screening at Finnkino Tennispalatsi 2, Helsinki, 22 June 2021 at 10 am.

Previous film adaptation: Floride / Florida / Matkalla Floridaan (FR 2015, D: Philippe Le Guay, C: Jean Rochefort, Sandrine Kiberlain).

AA: Florian Zeller's Father is an adaptation by Zeller and Christopher Hampton of Zeller's acclaimed play. In Finland it had its premiere at the Helsinki City Theatre in 2012 as Isä, starring Jari Pehkonen and Vuokko Hovatta.

As the source material is a chamber play taking place entirely indoors, it is remarkable how well the play has been transformed into cinema. It is a feat that can be compared with the best, such as Alf Sjöberg's legendary Miss Julie (1951).

Zeller's work has affinities with the the dream play. There is an original and ingenious double perspective: we observe the ageing Anthony as outsiders, but we also share his consciousness and delirious perceptions.

It is a story of universal interest and wisdom. The roles are reversed between father and child as the ageing Anthony slowly moves into his "second childhood".

The story of dementia is profoundly moving because the boundaries of sanity and dementia keep shifting, even within a single sentence. We can empathize and identify with Anthony who is losing his grip on the categories of time and space and has difficulties recognizing people.

This film is also about the philosophy of perception, the precariousness of existence and the increasing instability of memory. First Anthony fails to recognize his daughter Anne. Then he does not know where he is. From the question "What am I doing here?" he soon proceeds into: "Who exactly am I?"

In the startling finale Anthony is calling for his mother and states that he is "losing his leaves, the branches, the wind and the rain".

This story is also about the solace of music in advanced age. Anthony keeps enjoying his favourite opera arias, which bring a dimension of timeless grandeur to the tragedy.

In Finland we keep hearing stories about the parlous conditions in nursing homes. In this movie it is the other way around: the nurses are excellent professionals, and it is Anthony who is the monster.

This is a play for two great actors, and Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman lead the sterling cast brilliantly. They face the horror of dementia honestly, and they fill it with a sense of humour and compassion and a sense of something universal: this is a story about us all. Somehow I was thinking about Luis Buñuel's book of memoirs, Mon dernier soupir, which he starts by discussing his mother's dementia. When we lose our memory, we lose ourselves.

The production values are great. The production design subtly supports the dream mode: "I had to remember from the outset that one place had to serve as many places. We decided to gradually shift the colours and tone from golds, creams, yellows and brown towards blues", tells Peter Francis, the production designer.

The cinematography was conducted in 6K by Ben Smithard. The high technical quality has resulted into an unobtrusively subtle and sophisticated visual approach of the movie.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Spy no tsuma / Wife of a Spy


Kiyoshi Kurosawa: スパイの妻 / Spy no tsuma / Wife of a Spy (JP 2020). In the middle Yu Aoi (Satoko Furuhara), to the right Issey Takahashi (Yusaku Fukuhara) and to the left Masahiro Higashide (Yasuharu Tsumori).


スパイの妻 / Les Amants sacrifiés .
    Japan, 2020
    Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
    Production: NHK (Keisuke Tsuchihashi), NHK Enterprises (Takashi Sawada), Incline (Satoshi Takada), C&I Entertainment (Tamon Kondo)
    Producer: Hideyuki Okamoto
    Main Cast: Yu Aoi, Issey Takahashi, Ryota Bando, Yuri Tsunematsu, Minosuke Hyunri, Masahiro Higashide, Takashi Sasano
    Screenplay: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Tadashi Nohara, Kiyoshi Kurosawa
    Cinematographer: Tatsunosuke Sasaki – 8K Super Hi-Vision.
    Camera: Sharp 8C-B60A 8K, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses
    Grass Valley HQX Codec (4320p / 60 fps) (4:2:2 10bit)
    Cinematographic Process: 4:2:2 10bit (4320p / 60 fps) (source format)
    Digital Intermediate (2K / 24 fps) (master format) (DCP version)
    Digital Intermediate (4320p / 60 fps) (master format) (TV broadcast version)
    Editor: Hidemi Lee
    Production Designer: Norifumi Ataka
    Costume Designer: Haruki Koketsu
    Music: Ryosuke Nagaoka
    Sound: Keita Yoshino
    Visual Effects: Shuji Asano
    Lighting: Nakaya Kimura
    Film clip: Sadao Yamanaka: 河内山宗俊 / Kochiyama soshun / Priest of Darkness (JP 1936).
    Copy: Nikkatsu
    Languages: Japanese, English
    Subtitles: English
    115 min
    Category: Gems of New Cinema
    Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF) online.
    Viewed on a laptop in Helsinki, 21 June 2021

Olaf Möller (MSFF 2021): " Wife of a Spy is an aesthetically truly unique project – whose true shape so far almost nobody outside Japan had a chance to see. Originally produced for NHK’s BS8K satellite channel, the film was shot as a slightly experimental endeavor in UHDTV which means: the images have an almost unreal sharpness – Kurosawa Kiyoshi shows a world brutally devoid of any mystery, and so present that past and future feel illusory."

"The cinema-version was mellowed down to 2K, color-graded more warmly and given a different aspect ratio which all lends it a breezier air making it feel a bit closer to the cinema it alluded to and riffs about. And all that for a story centered on a film shot on 9.5 mm, an amateur format developed by Pathé that was popular in Japan during the 30s and 40s!"

"Here, it is used for a delightful short about a cat burglar as well as a clandestinely shot documentary of Japanese atrocities in occupied Manchuria. Both are made by an import-export entrepreneur from Kōbe whose true game we’ll never understand fully, and neither will his wife whom he uses, and neither will an old friend who’s now serving with the
kempeitai (= Secret Police)… Rarely did cloak and dagger look more elegant and refined, but also melancholic and wistful!"

"They don’t make the likes of Kurosawa Kiyoshi anymore, at least outside Japan: an auteur who really worked his way up through cinema’s production ranks. He started out with amateur films; did get his professional training with pink eiga (Kandagawa inran sensō, 1983); could direct his first general release feature (Sweet Home, 1986); honed his craft with V-cinema delights (Katte ni shiyagare! [6 episodes], 1995/96; Door 3, 1996); specialized in horror with a meta bend (Cure, 1997; Charisma, 1999); diversified into other genres (Ningen gōkaku, 1998; Tōkyō Sonata, 2008) while continuing to explore all facets of the fantastique (Kairo, 2001; Kishibe no tabi, 2015), Science Fiction included (Sanpo suru shinryakusha, 2017); does occasionally TV (Shokuzai [Miniseries], 2012). A humble genius who works and creates incessantly.
" (Olaf Möller)

SYNOPSIS (Venice Film Festival 2020):

" The year is 1940 in Kobe, the night before the outbreak of World War II. Local merchant, Yusaku Fukuhara, senses that things are headed in an unsettling direction. He leaves his wife Satoko behind and travels to Manchuria. There, he coincidentally witnesses a barbarous act and is determined to bring it to light. He leaps into action. Meanwhile, Satoko is called on by her childhood friend and military policeman, Taiji Tsumori. He tells her that a woman her husband brought back from Manchuria has died. Satoko is torn by jealousy and confronts Yusaku. But when she discovers Yusaku’s true intentions, she does the unthinkable to ensure his safety and their happiness. "

DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT (Venice Film Festival 2020):

" Set in a city in Japan’s rural countryside during the anxious and terrifying times of war, this film depicts a couple’s struggle to overcome distrust and stay faithful to their love for each other. This is my first film that is set in the olden times. With the historical timeline and events of the society already fixed, I pondered with great interest as I imagined how conflicted the people must have felt when they thought of what to look forward to in their future. "

AA: Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Wife of a Spy is an original political thriller set on the eve of the Pacific War.

There are affinities with Jean-Pierre Melville's Resistance trilogy. The presence of a brutal militaristic and imperialistic government is overwhelming. An atmosphere of surveillance prevails. Appearances must be kept. You cannot trust anyone. Personal ties are broken.

Key conflicts are between love and duty and between fatherland and justice. Satoko initially accuses her husband Yusako of treason. "I'm a cosmopolitan", he replies. "I will not tolerate injustice". "I will become the wife of a spy", says Satoko. But Yusako is not a spy: "You did not see what I saw. A heinous act in a foreign country".

Brutality is conveyed via indirection. Torture scenes take place in the darkness. Cries of agony betray what is going on. The victim's torn teeth document the method.

The "film within the film" theme is introduced via a screening of Sadao Yamanaka's entertainment movie Priest of Darkness (1936), a late silent film sonorized via a catchy, escapist song.

The second film screening is a clandestine 9,5 mm documentation from occupied Manchuria. It is a "smoking gun" of atrocities: Nazi-style experiments are conducted to spread Black Death in biological warfare. Little is shown even here, but what we see is incriminating. Like Kaji (Tatsuya Nakadai) in Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition, Yusako refuses to ignore a massive war crime.

There is a thrilling finale with surprises. The film ends in 1945. Again, horrors are conveyed indirectly. The apocalyptic sounds of the world war in the darkness, the trembling tableware, the flares, the screams. Satoko cries alone on the deserted beach. Yusaku has been confirmed dead, but a note of ambiguity remains.

Viewed on a laptop screen, the experience of the movie originally shot on 8K Super HiVision is not what it was meant to be. But even so I was able to appreciate the subtle soft detail. In this presentation there is no unreal sharpness but an appealing painterly quality.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Fucking with Nobody


Hannaleena Hauru: Fucking with Nobody (FI 2021) starring Hannaleena Hauru (Hanna) and Samuel Kujala (Ekku).

Fucking with Nobody / Fucking with Nobody.
    FI 2021 © 2020 Elokuvayhtiö Oy Aamu. P: Emilia Haukka, Jussi Rantamäki.
    D: Hannaleena Hauru. SC: Hannaleena Hauru, Lasse Poser. Cin: Lasse Poser, Jan-Niclas Jansson – colour – 2.39:1 – release format: 2K. Set design: Jenny Jauhiainen. Cost: Aino Havu. Makeup: Nora Pippingsköld. VFX: Miika Puustinen.
    Soundtrack selections: Universal Music stock music. End credit song: “Kuin pieni tyhmä” (Finnish lyrics Juha Vainio, perf. Jarkko & Laura, 1967) (“Somethin' Stupid”, C. Carson Parks, 1966).
    S: Karri Niinivaara – 5.1. ED: Hannaleena Hauru.
    C: Hannaleena Hauru (Hanna), Lasse Poser (Lasse), Samuel Kujala (Ekku), Pietu Wikström (Ara), Sara Melleri (Viima), Hanna-Kaisa Tiainen (Maria), Jussi Lankoski (Kristian), Tanja Heinänen (Krista), Anna Kuusamo (Shirley), Ossi Koskelainen (Ossi), Johannes Ekholm (Johannes Ekholm).
    103 min
    Languages: Finnish and English.
    Subtitle options: Swedish, Finnish, Finnish for the hard-of-hearing.
    Festival premiere: 8 Sep 2020 Venice Film Festival.
    Finnish premiere: 11 June 2021, released by: B-Plan Distribution.
    Helsinki corona emergency security: max 10 capacity, face masks, distancing, hand hygiene.
    Press screening at Finnkino Tennispalatsi 2, with Swedish subtitles by Nina Donner, Helsinki, 8 June 2021 at 10 am.

Tagline: “Sometus. Panetus. Rakkaus”.

Synopsis: “ After losing an interesting film job to her nemesis Kristian, Hanna teams up with her sister and counterculture friends to create a parody romance on Instagram between herself and the young actor Ekku. They are passionate to make visible how the society is hungry for romantic narratives. Hanna starts living a crowd-pleasing love story for the public, only to find herself tangled up in the unresolved past with her “you were never my boyfriend” friend Lasse, who also happens to be the real-life co-writer and cinematographer of Fucking with Nobody. As the fake romance starts affecting everyone involved, a hurricane of desires, fantasies, hurt and intimacy is set off. Everyone involved has to decide what and how they are ready to put in front of the camera. Fiction and auto-fiction crash and melt into each other, as writer-director Hannaleena Hauru plays the lead role of an ever-single film director “Hanna”.

A word from the director: “ To make a portrait about relationships and intimacy in our times, I’ve found no other solution than to come as close to reality as possible – not only in the emotional content, but also in the cinematic solutions on how the story is told to the audience. The character Hanna says in the film “If I think of any memory I have about falling in love, they all relate to touch and smell rather than visual images”. I share this thought with the character, and that’s why I wanted to use haptic visuality to juxtapose more traditional imaginery seen in cinema. For me this sensory approach of Hanna is clashing in the film with both the social media images, as well as the with the fantasies presented through Lasse. For the ensemble approach and complex storylines, I have intentionally wanted to study how emotion can move through different characters. In the case of this film all characters are caleidoscopic reflections of Hanna and Lasse.Where in my previous films all fictional characters are some kind of reflections of my personal life, in Fucking with Nobody the study point was to build a fictional universe, that unfolds to be a presentation of the actual relationship of the two screenwriters of the film, Hanna and Lasse. Fucking with Nobody is a satire, the aestethics and acting style is toying with autofiction. Half of the scenes you see in the film are based on written dialogues, the other half is based on scenes written in detail in the script, but actors creating the dialogues. Only very few images in the film are documentary or full improvisation. All primary cast was involved increating the characters and their arcs in the film. ”

AA: Hannaleena Hauru's Fucking with Nobody is the most original Finnish film of the year.

It is a reversal of Hauru's previous movie, The Thick Lashes of Lauri Mäntyvaara. Both are satires. In The Thick Lashes, Satu and Heidi declared war on commercial love, targeting wedding planners, geisha schools and quark cruises for sportsmen. The farce style, cartoonish effects, outlandish reactions and sight gags about consumer society evoked Frank Tashlin and Jerry Lewis, but also Vera Chytilova and Penelope Spheeris, as well as Kaisa Rastimo and Auli Mantila.

There is a certain similarity in the premise of Fucking with Nobody. Hanna and her team design an anarchistic art project on Instagram to parody a conventional romantic relationship. Hanna conducts a fake love affair with her gay friend Ekku. It is a performance meant to deconstruct obsolete power structures and romantic codes.

Inevitably, the Instagram experiment goes viral and becomes a huge phenomenon. Nobody understands it as satire. Instead, it becomes a source of inspiration for followers, and a cause of misunderstandings and embarrassments for Hanna and Ekku. The fake Instagram romance threatens Ekku's real relationship. The comedy evolves on the interface of reality and unreality.

On the one hand, the fake romance gets more daring, producing “sex positive“ YouTube videos, including guidelines for clitoris stimulation, expanding possibilities to bondage, piercing and the proper use of vibrators. To avoid the curse of “hetero binary romance bullshit“ a foray to the queer scene of Berlin is introduced, including a gay leather club complete with coprophilia (read: dropping shit).

When the “carnevalization of bourgeois intimate relationships“ proceeds to parodies of commercials, advertisements and product placement, the parody indistinguishable from the object, Hanna's team loses faith in the project's critical potential. Hanna and Ekku are photographed for a cover story in the Image magazine. Their romance performance starts to seem like the real thing, whatever that is.

Finally the protagonists are forced to ask the question: “Hey, on what level of this movie are we now?“

In the middle of the maze, the gay couple (Ekku and Ara) appear as a center of sanity and gravity. Ara seems to be the only one to experience real feelings in this narrative of make-believe.

There is a “real“ film project in production simultaneously: a film about Vampira (Maila Nurmi) that had been planned for Hanna to direct but has been trusted / thrusted to the male director Kristian instead. In the magnetic field of Hanna and Ekku's “love affair“ even that project goes awry, and Kristian finally appears as Vampira, as if inspired by Hanna to act in the leading role of his own film.

In the middle of the most bewildering goings-on runs a silver thread. In unexpected moments we hear confessions such as: “Men and women hardly even speak the same language. Women are better equipped to deal with emotions. They have been educated and forced to do that since early childhood. A woman is a face and feelings. A man is a torso and a penis“.

Hannaleena Hauru in her production notes quotes models including Monty Python, Mae West, Sacha Baron Cohen and Andy Kaufman. There is no imitation in Fucking with Nobody. We are witnessing the evolution of an original satirical talent.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: DATA FROM THE PRESS KIT:

Friday, June 11, 2021

Get Out


Jordan Peele: Get Out (US 2019) starring Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington.

Get Out / Get Out .
    US © 2019 Universal Studios. PC: Blumhouse Productions / QC Entertainment. P: Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm, Jr., Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele.
    D+SC: Jordan Peele. DP: Toby Oliver – colour – 2.39:1 – source format: CFast 2.0 – ProRes 4444 (3.2K) – master format: 2K. PD: Rusty Smith. AD: Chris Craine. Set dec: Leonard R. Spears. Cost: Nadine Haders. Makeup: Remi Savva. Hair: Voni Hinkle, Carl Variste (Fairhope). SFX: Ryan Cox. VFX: Ingenuity Studios. M: Michael Abels. S: Trevor Gates. ED: Gregory Plotkin. Casting: Terri Taylor.
    CAST (copied from Wikipedia):
Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington
Zailand Adams as 11-year-old Chris
Allison Williams as Rose Armitage
Bradley Whitford as Dean Armitage
Caleb Landry Jones as Jeremy Armitage
Stephen Root as Jim Hudson
Lakeith Stanfield as Andre Hayworth / Logan King
Catherine Keener as Missy Armitage
Lil Rel Howery as TSA Agent Rod Williams, Chris's best friend
Erika Alexander as Detective Latoya
Marcus Henderson as Walter
Betty Gabriel as Georgina
Richard Herd as Roman Armitage
Keegan-Michael Key as NCAA Prospect
Writer-director Jordan Peele voices the sounds made by the wounded deer, and narrates a UNCF commercial.
[NCAA = National Collegiate Athletic Association, UNCF = United Negro College Fund, TSA = Transport Security Administration].
    Loc: Alabama, USA.
    104 min
    Festival premiere: 23 Jan 2017 Sundance Film Festival
    US and Canada premiere: 24 Feb 2017
    Finnish premiere: 5 May 2017, released by Finnkino.
    Blu-ray edition (Universal 2018) with 14 subtitles, bonus features and commentary tracks.
    Blu-ray viewed at home with English subtitles on a 4K tv set in Lappeenranta, 11 June 2021.

AA: In his debut feature film, Jordan Peele rises to the stratosphere of Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski and David Lynch.

Get Out belongs to the horror film's new wave that started around 2014 and on which Jason Zineman wrote an insightful essay, "Home Is Where the Horror Is" in The New York Times. I have seen too few of these films, but among the ones I have seen, Get Out stands out.

Zineman observes that many new wave horror films proceed in the context of the family, the house, and the home. The concept of "the uncanny" ("das Unheimliche"), developed by Ernst Jentsch and Sigmund Freud, inspired by E. T. A. Hoffmann and F. W. J. Schelling is particularly rewarding in discussing these films.

Jordan Peele introduces a new disturbing angle to the uncanny. There is a family, a house, and a home here, too, in the familiar literal meaning. But Get Out is also about the United States as a home, a homeland, a motherland. In Get Out, the United States appears as a horror movie from the Black point of view.

...

Starting from the first shot Jordan Peele creates an irresistible tension and drive. Get Out bears the hallmark of the best horror movies of a genuine feeling of a compelling inner urge, an ability to reach beyond consciousness and awareness.

In the beginning there are situations like in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Meet the Parents. A liberal, unprejudiced family who would have voted Obama for a third term. But nothing is what it seems.

The hypnosis sequences are extraordinary. The mind trip leads Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) to a "sunken place". Another anthology piece is the bingo lottery, in which the winner is the blind art dealer Jim Hudson. The prize is Chris, master photographer.

There are aspects of Donovan's Brain, Seconds, Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives in the story, but Jordan Peele's touch is original and irresistible. As a horror movie, Get Out delivers, and Peele excels both in memorable detail and the profound subtext. The moments of shock are organic to the whole.

...

I have been aware since the premiere that Get Out is a film I need to see, but I have been waiting for the right moment. I thank Mirkka Kallio for making it happen.

SOUNDTRACK LISTING FROM THE IMDB: