Monday, October 03, 2022

Dutch Colonial Films 1: The Modern Colony (GCM 2022)

J. C. Lamster: Remonte-Depot en stoeteru te Padalarang / Remount Station and Stud Farm at Padalarang] (NL, 1912–1913/[1923]). From: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2022: Film coloniali olandesi / Dutch Colonial Films, Prog. 1: Una colonia moderna / The Modern Colony
A cura di: Nico de Klerk.
Grand piano: José Maria Serralde Ruiz
E-subtitles in English and Italian.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 3 Oct 2022

AANKOMST VAN EEN MAILSTOOMER TE TANDJONG-PRIOK [Arrivo di un battello postale a Tanjung Priok / Arrival of a Packet Boat at Tanjung Priok] (NL, 1912–1913/1923)
regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 96 m., 4′ (18 fps), b&w + imbibito/tinted; did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Packet boats provided inter-insular services for passengers and cargo in the Indonesian archipelago. Since the mid-19th century this network had been an important part of an emerging communication infrastructure that enabled and supported the economic expansion and administrative unification of the colony. The intensification of inter-insular as well as intercontinental shipping necessitated the building of a new, shore-based seaport at Batavia (today’s Jakarta). The old one, small and shallow, had forced the new, bigger steamships to remain in the roadstead while their cargo and passengers were taken ashore by smaller vessels. Opened in 1883 in Tanjung Priok, northeast of Batavia, the new port accommodated the increased volume of traffic of larger-sized ships. Trains took new arrivals quickly to the capital." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: My thoughts fly to the early novels of Joseph Conrad, such as Almayer's Folly, and Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Empire: 1875–1914. We are in the last years of the Belle Époque, on the brink of the First World War. Indigenous workers unload the heavy luggage of Dutch imperialists. In long shots and long takes we get a feeling in real time of how it was, today seeing it educated by new colonial history. Heartbreaking beauty and grandeur on the ship called Rembrandt.

REIS LANGS DE STAATS-SPOORWEGEN OP JAVA. LIJN WELTEVREDEN‒MR. CORNELIS [In viaggio sulle ferrovie nazionali di Giava. La linea Weltevreden-Meester Cornelis / Traveling Along the National Railways in Java. The Weltevreden to Meester Cornelis Line] (NL, [1919–1923])
regia/dir: ?. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 124 m., 6′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Part of a series of films on the colonial railway infrastructure, this episode shows the route between the uptown district of Weltevreden, on the southeastern edge of Batavia (today’s Jakarta), and the town of Meester Cornelis (today’s Jatinegara). Passing Manggarai with its railway workshops and employee housing one notices the modern Dutch architecture that dotted the colony’s urban areas in the late colonial era. While at the turn of the 20th century 80% of the colony’s Dutch population was born in the Indies, the new architecture signaled the increasing influx of so-called totoks, Netherlands-born immigrants who planned to settle only temporarily in the colony, and were less inclined to adopt local habits of clothing and food – and less able to afford villas." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: A phantom ride gives us a vivid, epic panorama of life in colonial Batavia / Jakarta.

REIZIGERS VERKEER [Traffico turistico / Tourist Traffic] (NL, 1912–1913/1923)
regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 55 m., 2′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Two brief impressions of tourism, featuring, first, the neo-gothic Hotel Homann, in Bandung. Mrs. Homann’s famous rijsttafel [literally, “rice table”] attracted many Dutch planters in the region for this elaborate Indo-European meal. Car ownership, more plentiful than in the Netherlands at the time, enabled these day-trips. Next, the first-class Grand Hotel Java. Located in the posh Weltevreden district of Batavia, it provided European standards of luxury, comfort, and food for well-heeled local and international – mostly American – tourists, at a minimum of 10 guilders per night." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: Lavish circumstances in Hotel Homann in Bandung and Grand Hotel Java in Batavia.

JAARBEURS EN PASAR-MALAM TE MEDAN, OOSTKUST VAN SUMATRA [Fiera campionaria e mercato serale a Medan, sulla costa orientale di Sumatra / Trade Fair and Evening Market, Medan, East Coast of Sumatra] (NL 1923) regia/dir: J. John. prod: Gewestelijk Jubileum Comité [Regional Jubilee Committee]. copia/copy: 35 mm, 288 m., 14′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "In the 1860s, the gradual abolishment of the so-called “Cultivation System” (a cooperation between the colonial administration and the Javanese aristocracy that forced peasants to set aside land and time to grow export crops) heralded a new economic era of private enterprise. It flourished particularly in the newly exploited regions outside Java. Most lucrative was Sumatra’s east coast: the tobacco and rubber plantations in the Deli sultanate and the palm oil industry and oil wells in the Langkat sultanate, as well in Palembang in the south, slowly shifted the economic center of gravity away from Java. The trade fair shown in the film, in the boomtown of Medan, was organized on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Queen Wilhelmina’s investiture, but appears above all to celebrate Dutch entrepreneurial success (albeit boosted by the American automobile and tire industries)." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: A huge overview of industry and enterprise at the great trade fair and evening market in Medan, including brands still familiar today such as Van Houten, Buick, Firestone and Deutz. Entertainment includes indigenous acrobatics, music bands and a wrestling show. Recognizable faces are rare in this show, but here are a few glimpses. An aubade is joined by 2000 schoolchildren. A sabha, a Hindu art society, appears, as well as a costumed sport match, a display bicycle ride by armed police, and gymnastic by their wives, all indigenous.

REMONTE-DEPOT EN STOETERU TE PADALARANG [Stazione di monta e scuderia a Padalarang / Remount Station and Stud Farm at Padalarang] (NL, 1912–1913/[1923]) regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 173? m., 8′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Founded in 1888, this remount station’s purpose was to breed horses better prepared for military service than local breeds, which had often been neglected or subjected to heavy duty by the time they were purchased. Coupled with an increased demand and the introduction of heavier artillery, the supply of replacement horses was becoming urgent. The military therefore decided to buy sturdier breeds at a younger age. Brought to this new facility, they were properly fed and gradually disciplined. Although at first sight an old-fashioned means of transport, horses remained of vital importance for the administrative unification of the Indonesian archipelago, particularly in areas where a modern infrastructure of railways and paved roads was still in its infancy, the landscape too formidable, or resistance, particularly on Sumatra, not subdued." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: A documentary of a horse remount service, covering many stages, including trot, gallop, dressage mounted, dressage riding, sandalwood mares with foals, loose stallions, march in the meadow and crossbred geldings.

HET DOKKEN VAN EEN SCHIP IN DE HAVEN VAN TANDJONG-PRIOK [L’attracco di una nave nel porto di Tanjung Priok / Docking a Ship in the Harbour of Tanjung Priok] (NL, 1912–1913/1923)
regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 128 m., 6′ (18 fps), b&w, imbibito/tinted; did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "With the colony’s weather and water conditions fouling ships’ hulls quickly, a floating dry-dock had been put in operation in 1856 in the roadstead of Batavia (now Jakarta). With the completion of the shore-based port of Tanjung Priok in 1883, docking facilities were brought within its perimeters. In rough stop-motion style the film shows the arrival of a ship in the floating dock. As can be seen in many other films of services, industries, or agricultures in the colony (the public sector, except for ceremonial occasions, largely steered clear of being filmed), private enterprise’s division of labour was quite strictly organized along ethnic lines." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: An epic account of a huge ship maintained and cleansed on a dock.

TOCHT PER AUTO DOOR WELTEVREDEN [Giro in auto per le strade di Weltevreden / Car Ride through Weltevreden] (NL, 1912–1913/[1923]) regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 313 m., 15′ (18 fps), [b&w], imbibito/tinted; did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "The Colonial Institute’s lecture text for this “phantom ride” through Weltevreden, the southern suburb of Batavia (today’s Jakarta), is uncharacteristically outspoken. Its European residential area, once called “The Queen of the East”, is said to be “decaying”, as its panoramic design with villas and parks is expected to be sacrificed to the construction of row houses, due to a lack of real estate. Sobering, to say the least, is the comment on its Chinese quarter, where one finds “dirty dwellings along narrow alleys and canals”. In fact, the shot of an opium den, acquired from Pathé Frères in 1918, signals that the films, changes notwithstanding, gradually lost their topicality. The end of World War I finally offered opportunities for other companies to make more up-to-date films." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: An epic travelogue largely conducted as a phantom ride through Batavia/Jakarta, covering many sights, including opium dens, the bustle of town traffic, Club Harmony, the "French Quarter", Tanah Abang, King's Square, a society of art and sciences displaying Hindu deities, the Golden Room, and crown jewels of collapsed principalities. An indigenous cleaning man directs a serious look at us in one of the rare eye contact shots in the programme. There is also a precious collection of weapons. Les statues meurent aussi. Follows a phantom ride from a horse-driven carriage. Waterloo Square, where a football match is mounted. There is a slow long panoramic shot of the audience, but we cannot identify faces. Until we do, in the most memorable moment of the program, serious, unsmiling faces of the indigenous people. They are silently watching us. Cornelis de Houtman is evoked. The film ends with a wide general view of the Ciliwung / Liwung River.

AA: A magnificent time travel experience in Dutch Colonial Indonesia. We need to read between the lines and images to realize what is left unsaid.

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Segundo de Chomón in Barcelona (Ibérico Films) (2021 Filmoteca de Catalunya)

Segundo de Chomón: Metamorfosis / Métamorphoses (ES/FR 1912) starring France Mathieu. From: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Bois d’Arcy.

Segundo de Chomón in Barcelona (Ibérico Films)
14 films, DCP, 66'29''
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Cinema delle origini / Early Cinema.
Grand piano: Stephen Horne, alla batteria: Frank Bockius.
Screened with e-subtitles in English and Italian.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 2 Oct 2022.

Mariona Bruzzo, Rosa Cardona (GCM 2022): Segundo de Chomón in Barcelona (Ibérico Films)

" “Chomón was a restless man, here, then there; he would appear and disappear when you least expected, but he never wasted time, because when he came back he always had something new to tell you that could be applied in the immediate future.”"

"That was how director and producer Albert Marro described the somewhat elusive and hyperactive Segundo de Chomón, with whom he shared a friendship and projects in Barcelona in the early 20th century."

"Segundo de Chomón (Teruel 1871‒Paris 1929) moved to Barcelona as a child with his family, and it was there that he started out in film, joining Pathé Frères in 1902. Within a few years he had made a name for himself at the French production company as a specialist in special effects and animation, but it was his work at Turin’s Itala Film in 1912 and on the epic Cabiria (1914) by Giovanni Pastrone that would earn him renown in early cinema as a film technician."

"Following his death Chomón was largely forgotten until the late 1940s, when historians such as Carlos Fernández Cuenca took an interest in him, although it wasn’t until 1971, the centenary of his birth, that the first monographs were published. In the last few decades he has been acclaimed by specialists such as Juan Gabriel Tharrats, Joan M. Minguet Batllori, and Jean-Claude Seguin, and more recently at the 2017 international conference organized and published by the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé (FSJP), Les mille et un visages de Segundo de Chomón, which cleared up many aspects and pointed out gaps in the story of Chomón’s life. In 2021, as part of the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth, the Filmoteca de Catalunya put together another international conference, “Laboratori Chomón”, turning the spotlight on his time in Barcelona, particularly from 1910 to 1912. Research in archives and personal collections, and the consulting of documents in the FJSP, combined with networking by FIAF film archives to locate films, revealed that this was an intensely creative period for the filmmaker, of which, incredibly, barely a trace remains."

"In the spring of 1910, Chomón returned to Barcelona with all the knowledge acquired at Pathé Frères, where he had worked from 1906 on over 80 films as a special-effects wizard and director. He encountered a Barcelona centred on the sale and rental of films, a very lucrative business given the enthusiasm with which the city welcomed cinema. He himself played a significant part in the origins of the industry, setting up a film colouring workshop associated with production companies like Hispano Films and Lluís Macaya’s branch of Pathé. This branch came under the direction of Frenchman Louis Garnier in 1906, and moved to the Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s grand avenue, lined with impressive buildings belonging to Catalonia’s industrial middle class. There the company occupied the ground floor of the still-amazing Casa Batlló, entirely refurbished by the innovative modernist architect Antoni Gaudí, an ideal showcase for the most modern of businesses, cinema. It was a benchmark company in the city at the time, and even had its own laboratory."

"Chomón and Garnier signed a contract on 1 June 1910, under which the filmmaker undertook “to shoot and edit for international release films that were essentially Spanish, acted in accordance with the country’s customs by Spanish actors”; it specified that two negatives would be made, and that Chomón would be paid 11 francs for every metre accepted. It turned out to be a short-lived agreement, rescinded on 12 May the following year with no reference to the titles or material delivered. The fact that a copy of Chomón’s notebook, containing an initial block of 37 “Spanish” plots, has been preserved led to the belief that they were films shot under that contract, but following a fruitless search of the Spanish press and Pathé catalogues, these titles are now presumed to have remained in the project phase."

"We don’t know why the contract was cancelled, but new documents show that almost simultaneously Chomón would shut down one project to start another. On 1 May 1911, Segundo de Chomón and Francisco Fuster Garí, the brother of an impresario and film distributor, established the Societat Chomón-Fuster, a company for “the printing or production of motion picture films [cintas cinematograficas]”. Fuster provided the capital, and Chomón the “machinery, objects, and film material, and will provide and develop his technical and practical knowledge”. The partners set up a studio to shoot films in the summer of 1911, which would also be used as a film-colouring workshop. It must have been around this time that the agreement between the partners and Pathé began to take shape to launch Ibérico Films, the Spanish brand published and distributed by the French company."

"Thanks to preserved sources, an initial filmography for Chomón’s Ibérico work can be established between autumn 1911 and May 1912, by which time he was at Itala Film in Turin. The first Ibérico films to be released were “natural landscapes”, such as Entre arrozales (currently untraced), La histórica Toledo, and Pintorescas cascadas de Alhama de Aragón."

"The firm produced 12 fiction films with special effects, such as the gruesome El gusano solitario, a unique copy of which is in the Eye Filmmuseum – the only film in which the city of Barcelona is recognisable – and La Maison des revenants, recently restored from an original incomplete negative at the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, and trick films such as L’iris fantastique, Metamorfosis, and El Biombo de Cagliostro (Cagliostro’s Folding Screen)."

"These all appear in Chomón’s notebook, in which he wrote down the dates the negatives were sent to Paris, instructions for editing, which effects he used, how he used two cameras… But it’s the films that have been preserved – 6 of the 12 fiction and special-effects films which appear in the notebook – that show the studio, the set, and the acting company, headed by Christian [surname unknown], France Mathieu and her sister Julienne (Chomón’s wife), and Joan Balaguer, a famous Catalan actor with ties to Hispano Films."

"Many of the Ibérico films went into the Pathé-KOK catalogue, and were available as 28mm black & white prints. Such is the case of Excursion en Kabylie (Algeria) and Una excursión a la isla de Mallorca, the only two films shot outside the Iberian Peninsula, and Gerona la Venecia española, but the original 35mm versions were advertised as coloured using the Cinémacoloris system. It was thought for some time that this system was developed by Chomón himself, but current evidence suggests that it was actually Pathécolor under a different brand name. Barcelona, Pintorescas cascadas de Alhama de Aragón, La històrica Toledo, Las dos principales ciudades de Portugal, and El Biombo de Cagliostro, as well as the magnificent Superstición andaluza (Andalusian Superstition), brimming with effects ingeniously inserted into the narrative, were all coloured using this system."

"Chomón’s involvement with the Ibérico films in Barcelona is documented up to April 1912, just prior to his departure for Turin. Ibérico continued to produce films for local distribution until at least 1916, including the commissioned film Boda en Premià de Dalt servida por autos Ford, which is being shown in this Giornate programme, along with films that ended up in the Pathé catalogue."

"We do not know about the business organization of other Pathé brands, like Nizza Film, or if it was the same as what appears to be the way Ibérico operated in Barcelona. But what is important for us is that Chomón’s Ibérico films enable us to understand the filmmaker’s work, which was normally part of projects of less obvious authorship. These films show us a Chomón whose interest in colour and effects, which feature increasingly in his work, remains intact, while helping us to understand how Pathé’s small-scale production worked, highlighting the filmmaker’s organizational ability in terms of both the quality and the quantity of his productions, which were quite exceptional compared to what was being made in Barcelona at the time."

"Finally, thanks to his knowledge of the distribution system, Chomón was able to establish what might appear to be a chameleon-like camouflage strategy, passing off his films as French productions, incorporating them fully into the worldwide distribution programmes of Pathé, the production company with which he worked up until 1912."

"The Ibérico films recovery project was made possible by the wise and generous efforts of colleagues who provided access or undertook the preservation and digitization of films. Our most sincere thanks to Béatrice de Pastre and Hermine Cognie (CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée); Paolo Tosini (Vulcanus Film; Cineteca Nacional, Mexico); Arianna Turci (Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique), Giovanna Fossati, Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi (Eye Filmmuseum); Pénélope Riboud-Seydoux, Stéphanie Salmon, and Manon Billaut (Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé); Francesca Bozzano (Cinémathèque de Toulouse); Bryony Dixon (BFI National Archive); and Aleksandar Erdeljanović (Jugoslovenska kinoteka).

Mariona Bruzzo, Rosa Cardona (GCM 2022)

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4664. uscita/rel: 15.12.1911 (Kursaal, Barcelona), 1.2.1912 (FR). copia/copy: DCP, 2’45”, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 50 m., 18 fps, pochoir/stencil-colour); did./titles: ENG. fonte/source: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Bois d’Arcy. Restauro/Restored 2021, CNC.
    AA: Non-fiction. Cinema of attractions. Fabulous views of breathtakingly wonderful waterfalls.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4670. uscita/rel: 1.11.1911 (Palacio de la Ilusión, Barcelona), 1.3.1912 (Omnia Pathé, Paris). copia/copy: DCP, 8’30”, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 173 m, 16 fps, pochoir/stencil-colour); did./titles: SPA. fonte/source: Vulcanus Film, Messina.
    Restored 2021 by Vulcanus Film from a 35 mm nitrate print (Viaje a Toledo/La Antigua Toledo) from the Cineteca Nacional, Mexico City.
    AA: Non-fiction. Cinema of attractions. Rising above travelogue, a grandiose visual account of old Toledo. Magnificent compositions, distant views, long shots, tragic historical references to the prison of the inquisition. The house of El Greco is also visited.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4839. uscita/rel: 15.2.1912, Barcelona), 5.4.1912 (Omnia Pathé, Paris). copia/copy: DCP, 2′ (da/from 28 mm pos. acetate, 40 m, 16 fps); did./titles: FRA. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Restored 2022 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya from an original 28 mm acetate print from the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, Brussels.
    AA: Non-fiction. Cinema of attractions. Visiting the land of Kabylia in Algeria. Wild mountains and ravines, crossing a river in a ravine on an aerial ropeslide. The camera pans slowly upwards on a steep mountain slope. Visiting hot sulphuric sources with a 90° temperature.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4858. uscita/rel: 1.4.1912 (Palacio de la Ilusión, Barcelona), 1.5.1912 (FR). cast: Christian. copia/copy: DCP, 4′, col. (da/from 35 mm pos., 73 m, 16 fps, imbibito/tinted); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    Scanned in 2K in 2011 from a photochemical restoration print made in 1988.
    AA: Fiction, fantasy, féerie, cinema of attractions, non-narrative. The devil is driven by fire, and metamorphoses are mediated by fire. Ghost women appear as superimpositions. The set design: painted backdrops. There is a phoenix quality in the figures. The devil is great but not as deeply felt as in the films of Méliès. The ladies belong to the Belle Époque but are not as full figured as in Méliès. The flights of fancy are spirited, and there is a consistent sense of style.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4862. uscita/rel: 11.3.1912 (Cine Excelsior, Barcelona), 1.6.1912 (FR). cast: Christian. copia/copy: DCP, 6′ (incomp., da/from 35 mm neg., 130 m, 16 fps); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris.
    Restored in 4K in 2022 from a Pathé negative from the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, at L‘Image Retrouvée laboratory (Paris) and the Filmoteca de Catalunya’s 2CR conservation centre.
    AA: Non-fiction, fantasy, horror, comedy, cinema of attractions. A company of partying friends observes a haunted house with windows transforming into faces. The pantomime is unabashedly exaggerated when they decide to enter the mysterious house following a Don Quijote like armoured figure. The ghosts are superimposed in a big mayhem. A chain of transformations follows in this poltergeist tale.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5038. uscita/rel: 31.3.1912 (Cine Kursaal, Barcelona), 23.7.1912 (FR). cast: France Mathieu. copia/copy: DCP, 4′ (da/from 35 mm, 85 m, 16 fps); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya (Colleció Chomón).
    Digitized from a conservation element from the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé.
    AA: The wonderful lily. Cinema of attractions, non-narrative, dedicated on the beauty of a woman and the beauty of the flower. A flower dance in Belle Époque mode. Fan-like compositions (in a lineage later to be developed by Busby Berkeley). The starry sky. The ideal Chomón woman is more graceful than the Méliès dream female.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5163. uscita/rel: 12.3.1912 (Cine Kursaal, Barcelona), 26.7.1912 (FR). cast: France Mathieu, Julienne Mathieu. copia/copy: DCP, 6′, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 130 m, 16 fps, imbibito/tinted); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Restored 2022 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya from a nitrate print from the collection of the Cinémathèque de Toulouse.
    AA: Fiction, féerie, magic, wonders, transformations, cinema of attractions, inspired by the occultism of Cagliostro. Five-way split screens, rococo ambience, superimpositions, all for the show.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5181. uscita/rel: 24.6.1912 (Cine Soriano, Barcelona), 16.8.1912 (FR). cast: Christian, Joan Balaguer. copia/copy: DCP, 10′, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 183 m, 16 fps, pochoir/stencil-colour, imbibito/tinted); did./titles: ENG. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Restored by the BFI National Archive from a nitrate print in its collection.
    AA: Fiction, narrative, dream play, revenge tragedy, cinema of attractions. A triangle drama, kidnapping by Romani, a thrilling chase, caves, secret passages, explosions, fantasy bowls and pots with monstrous little creatures, animation, special effects, ghosts. Reconciliation.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5221. uscita/rel: 1912 (Cine Excelsior, Barcelona), 1912 (FR). cast: France Mathieu. copia/copy: DCP, 4’22” (da/from 35 mm, pos. acetate, 77 m, 16 fps); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona (Chomón Collection).
    Digitized from a preserved safety element from the CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Bois d’Arcy.
    AA: Fiction, féerie, transformations, cinema of attractions, non-narrative. Art for art's sake: a series of transformations following only the logic of beauty and dreams. A beautiful woman (France Mathieu) is the primus motor in quick, breathtaking series of metamorphoses, with the woman herself in the center of flower successions and female fountains (again in lineage followed later by Busby Berkeley). Paradis artificiels.

EXCURSION A MALLORCA / EXCURSION À L’ÎLE DE MAJORQUE (Een Uitstapje Eiland Majorca & Spaans Eiland in de Middellandse Zee. Behoort tot de Groepp der Balearen) (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5271. uscita/rel: 1.7.1912 (Palacio de la Ilusión, Barcelona), 5.4.1912 (Omnia Pathé, Paris). copia/copy: DCP, 4′ (da/from 28 mm pos. diacetate, 114 m, 16 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Digital restoration made in 2021 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya, from a 28 mm print from the collections of  Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    AA: Non-fiction, travelogue, starting from a long tracking shot from a boat following the coast of Mallorca. Later there is a phantom ride from a train following a mountain track. Lively townscapes and views of fishermen.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5333. uscita/rel: 1.8.1912 (Barcelona), 16.10.1912 (FR). copia/copy: DCP, 2′, col. (incomp., da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 40 m, 16 fps, pochoir/stencil Cinémacoloris; senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    Digitized from the analog preservation made in 2010 by Eye Filmmuseum at Haghefilm Digitaal from an original 35 mm nitrate print in the Cinémacoloris stencil-colour system, from the collection of The Cinema Museum, London.
    AA: Non-fiction, travelogue, views of Lisbon and Porto full of life.

regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón?. prod: Ibérico Films. copia/copy: DCP, 2’32” (da/from 16mm dupe neg., 47 m, 16 fps; did./titles: SPA. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Digitized 2021 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya.
    AA: Non-fiction, wedding film, promotional film for Ford motorcars, exactly like the ones familiar from Keystone and Hal Roach comedies.

BARCELONA / BARCELONE, PRINCIPALE VILLE DE LA CATALOGNE (Barcelona. Haupstadt von katalonien [Spanien]) (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5368. uscita/rel: 31.8.1912 (Barcelona), 16.10.1912 (FR). copia/copy: DCP, 3′, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 68 m, 16 fps, pochoir/stencil Cinémacoloris); did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Jugoslovenska kinoteka, Beograd.
    Restoration by the Jugoslovenska kinoteka from a 35 mm nitrate print in the Cinémacoloris stencil-colour system in its collections.
    AA: Non-fiction, a predecessor of city symphonies, a lively account of Barcelona, transcending the category of a mere factual record, conveying a sense of life, not forgetting to cover many landmarks and sights.

EL GUSANO SOLITARIO (Puceños tiene la solitaria) / ESCAMILLO À LE VERS SOLITAIRE (Escamillo heeft een lintworm) (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5490. uscita/rel: 1.10.1912 (Barcelona). cast: Christian, Joan Balaguer. copia/copy: DCP, 8′ (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 146 m, 16 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    Analog preservation in 2021 by Eye Filmmuseum at Haghefilm Digitaal of a 35 mm nitrate print that entered their collections in 2019.
    AA: Fiction, comedy, farce, fantasy, special effects. A tall tale, about a man's fight with his giant tapeworm. The art of the hyperbole. Chomón exploits the possibilities of the ravenous worm to the extreme. The special effects and the stop motion animation are technically brilliant. The hyperactive performance is also realized with true art and style.

AA: This wonderful show covers Chomón's range in fiction and non-fiction during mere two years of productions in Barcelona. His visual sense and imagination is rich and gratifying. The documentation of life in Barcelona, Toledo, Mallorca and Kabylia is vivid. A cross-section of the beauty of life during the last years of la Belle Époque, before WWI. Beautifully curated, and also a showcase of international collaboration among many film archive. Hopefully this program will remain permanently accessible. It's both great entertainment and great education.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

41. Le Giornate del Cinema Muto – Pordenone Silent Film Festival – 1–8 October 2022

Cover art: Alan Crosland: Three Weeks (US 1924) starring Conrad Nagel (Paul Verdayne) and Aileen Pringle (the Queen). Based on Elinor Glyn's bestselling novel, a celebration of female desire. From: Museum of Modern Art (New York).

PREMIO JEAN MITRY – i vincitori dell'edizione 2022 sono Stella Dagna & Eva Orbanz
THE JONATHAN DENNIS MEMORIAL LECTURE – XVIII Conferenza – Stella Dagna: "Etica del restauro: segreti e bugie?"
ANNUAL LECTURE SERIES DEVOTED TO COSTUME DESIGN IN SILENT FILM, conceived by Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Director of the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA – Inaugural lecture: Michelle Tolini Finemore: "Character, Costume Design and Silent Cinema" 1. Dressing Norma: Fashion in Early Cinema
COLLEGIUM 2022: Luke Bailey (US), Rabei Javaid Bhatti (PK), Cǎlin Boto (RO), Gabriel Carvalho (BR), Yunus Erdoǧan (TR), Anastasia Filenkova (UA), Lena Stötzel (DE), Alejandra Arjona Suárez (CO), Giorgia Velluti (IT), Simone Winkler (DE), Russell Zych (US).
THE 2022 PORDENONE MASTERCLASSES: Dominic Irving and Camille Phelep.
– Up In Mabel's Room
– Serata inaugurale: Film concert The Unknown - 2022 George Eastman Museum restoration - new score by José Maria Serralde Ruiz performed by Orchestra San Marco
– A colpi di note / Striking a New Note 15: Kri Kri Detective + Kri Kri ha perduto il cappelo + Robinet aviatore + Fra i due litiganti... – music played by children from the schools of Istitute Comprensivo Rorai Cappuccini and Istituto Compensivo Pordenone Centro – with the participation of Liceo Musicale "G. Marconi", Conegliano.
– Nanook of the North centenary film concert – music composed and conducted by Gabriel Thibaudeau – quartet of flutes from the Orchestra San Marco, Pordenone, with Inuit throat-singers Lydia Etokf and Nina Segalowitz, and vocal soloists Alberto Spadotto and Anna Viola, con Frank Bockius alla batteria
– Mid-Week Event: Film concert Borgslægtens historie – comp. Þórður Magnússon / Thordur Magnusson – perf. Orchestra San Marco, Pordenone – cond. Bjarni Frimann Bjarnasson
- Serata finale: Film concert The Manxman – 2012 BFINA restoration – 2012 Stephen Horne score, enhanced in 2022 – orchestrated and conducted by Ben Palmer – performed by Orchestra San Marco with soloists Louise Hayter and Jeff Moore
RURITANIA I – a cura di Amy Sargeant & Jay Weissberg
NORMA TALMADGE – a cura di Ben Brewster & Lea Jacobs
VENEZIA 90 / VENICE 90 – 90th Anniversary of Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia / Venice International Film Festival – a cura di Federico Striuli & Michał Pieńkowski – Biały ślad – Po horách po dolách – Regen – Tikhi Don
DUTCH COLONIAL FILMS – a cura di Nico de Klerk
THE IAC "WORLD TOUR OF PRIZEWINNING FILMS 1932–1934" – IAC = Institute of Amateur Cinematographers – a cura di Keith M. Johnston
THE CANON REVISITED: – La dixième symphonie – Europa – Manolescu – Nanook of the North
– Lumière Suisse: Lavanchy-Clarke – a cura di Roland Cosandey, Dominique Moustacchi & Hansmartin Seigrist
– Segundo de Chomón in Barcelona (Ibérico Films) – a cura di Mariona Bruzzo & Rosa Cardona
RISCOPERTI E RESTAURI: – Bobbed Hair – Die grosse Liebe einer kleinen Tänzerin – Hände – Just Around the Corner – Lāčplēsis – La Montagne infidèle – Ladroni (Italian version of Night Owls) – Profanazione
THE HAGHEFILM DIGITAAL – SELZNICK SCHOOL FELLOWSHIP 2022: Florian Höhensteiger – The Chicken Thief
ITALIA: IL FUOCO, LA CENERE (Céline Gailleurd & Olivier Bohler 2021)

AA: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM) is back to normal again after the pandemic. In 2020, it was mounted as an online festival only. Last year, in 2021, GCM was live again with perfect corona emergency security: half programming, half capacity, COVID certificate required, temperature measured, hand hygiene, face masks, and distancing.

I had never felt happier in a festival, although because of extreme pressure at work I was remote working in my hotel room most of the time and missed most of the action. The extreme pressure has not gone away. The world of the film industry and film transport is in a bizarre state of chaos. The most reliable partners have turned unreliable due to reorganizations, part-time work, distant work, layoffs and mergers. Vicious circles and chain reactions have emerged, delayed communication leading to escalating trouble. Failures are so commonplace that people no longer bother to apologize.

This week I have worked around-the-clock days all week and hope to catch more of the GCM programme than last year. The design of the festival is top elegant, and it was a royal privilege to read the catalogue. Last year there was no catalogue, but it was reportedly printed post festum. I ordered three copies that failed to reach me. Another sign of the times: mail is erratic, important mail gets lost. The GCM catalogue I miss the most, along with BFI Southbank programme booklets. I am a BFI member since 1980, and only now have I failed to get those precious booklets. Sight & Sound reaches me now at a two-three month delay. That's Brexit. Before Brexit, I always received it during the month before.

Reading the GCM 2022 catalogue I keep learning something new on every page, mostly on films about which I had never heard before. But also of the best-known films. Opening the pages on the centenary of Nanook of the North I expect to find a critical reception in the spirit of New Colonial History but instead find Francesco Rutini writing that "despite some of its flaws, stereotypes, and cultural inaccuracies, the film displays genuine Inuit skills and knowledge, and therefore is still considered historically and culturally significant by the Inuit" (p. 191). About The Manxman, a film I have always loved, I find a particularly illuminating essay by Charles Barr, who keeps discovering new profound connections in the much covered Alfred Hitchcock œuvre. This time it's the connection between Rebecca and The Manxman. Barr's contribution in last year's anthology Haunted by Vertigo was also of the highest order.

During the first day, Saturday, I enjoyed the warm feeling of the Pordenone street fair. I was thrilled to purchase The New York Times (weekend edition of the international edition) and FT Weekly at L'Edicola del Corso di Biscontin Omar and disappointed that Le Monde had failed to arrive. In Finland, since the pandemic started, we only get weekend issues of international quality papers, and they hit the newsstands only on Monday. The Guardian Weekly and Die Zeit come with a one or two weeks' delay, daily Le Monde not at all, Le Monde Diplomatique with a month's delay. International quality press is my lifeline. (I am also an online subscriber of several journals and newspapers. Common to all: I don't read them. I continue my subscriptions just to support them.)

In July I left the social media because of escalating hate speech. In 1967, at 12, I was too childish to be anything more than a fan of the great international youth movement dedicated to love and peace: "make love, not war", but it made a lasting impression. This year that young passion means even more to me. "Love is all you need."

PS. Society is officially back to normal after the pandemic. But it is not over. A good friend reported on Friday that 30 of his friends caught the corona in late June at Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, Lapland. He himself caught it for the third time and is still recovering. Symptoms of all the previous infections returned, and also his wife is still suffering since three months. Myself, I wear a facemask, carry a hand sanitizer, use it frequently, and cultivate distancing.

The only good thing I have learned from the pandemic: "namaste".

"An Oberoi Hotel employee doing Namaste, New Delhi". From: English Wikipedia: Namaste. "Namaste (/ˈnʌməsteɪ/, Devanagari: नमस्ते), sometimes called namaskar and namaskaram, is a customary Hindu non-contact manner of respectfully greeting and honoring a person or group, used at any time of day. It is found on the Indian subcontinent, and among the Nepalese and Indian diaspora. Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. This gesture is called añjali mudrā; the standing posture incorporating it is pranamasana." Namaste derives from Sanskrit.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Veden vartija / Memory of Water

Saara Saarela: Veden vartija / Memory of Water (FI 2022) starring Saga Sarkola.

Minnet av vatten.
    FI/DE/NO/EE 2022 Oy Bufo Ab / Pandora Film / Allfilm OÜ / Mer Film. P: Misha Jaari, Mark Lwoff.
    D: Saara Saarela. SC: Ilja Rautsi – based on the novel Teemestarin kirja (2012) by Emmi Itäranta, in English: Memory of Water. Cin: Kjell Lagerroos – scope. PD: Otso Linnalaakso. Cost: Tiina Kaukanen. Makeup: Kaire Hendrikson. VFX: Thomas Loeder. SFX: Kristjan Pütsep. Choreography: Keisy Põldsam. M: Volker Bertelmann. "Šiella" and "Boares Gietkka" comp+perf Ulla Pirttijärvi. S: Andreas Hildebrandt. ED: Jussi Rautaniemi.
    C: Saga Sarkola (Noria), Mimosa Willamo (Sanja), Lauri Tilkanen (Taro), Pekka Strang (Major Bolin), Minna Haapkylä (Lian), Kheba Touray (Mikoa), Lyydia Mörä (Minja), Yuko Takeda (the supervising tea master), Ulla Pirttijärvi (the Sami woman), Erol Mintas (doctor), Tommi Eronen (father).
    101 min
    Finnish premiere 2 Sep 2022, distributed by B-Plan Distribution, international distribution by The Match Factory GmbH, English subtitles by Samuli Kauppila, Swedish subtitles by Michaela Palmberg.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 2, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 10 Sep 2022.

Official synopsis: "Puhdas vesi on loppumassa maailmasta, ja valtaa pitävä sotilashallinto kontrolloi niukkoja vesivaroja tiukalla otteella. Vesipulan keskellä sinnittelevän kylän uusi teemestari Noria (Saga Sarkola) saa isänsä kuoltua selville sukunsa tarkoin varjellun salaisuuden: erämaassa on säilynyt puhtaan juomaveden lähde. Kun Norialle selviää, että myös saastuneilta Menetetyiltä mailta saattaisi löytyä vettä, hänen on päätettävä, mitä hän hengenvaarallisella tiedolla tekee."

"Periksiantamattoman Norian tukena ovat paras ystävä Sanja (Mimosa Willamo) ja vesipulaa ratkova Taro (Lauri Tilkanen), mutta voiko heihin luottaa? Salaako sotilashallinto kansalta enemmänkin vesivaroja – voiko yksi ihminen pelastaa maailman kuivuudelta?"

"Pitkälle tulevaisuuteen sijoittuva Saara Saarelan ohjaama dystooppinen suurelokuva perustuu Emmi Itärannan moderniin klassikkoon Teemestarin kirja (2012)

AA: Directed by Saara Saarela, Memory of Water, based on the internationally acclaimed novel by Emmi Itäranta, is a magnificent dystopian science fiction epic with striking production values, eloquent cinematography, and an enchanting music and sound world (spiced with Sami ingredients). The cast is top drawer, with the luminous Saga Sarkola as the fearless protagonist. There is something of the feeling of the Hunger Games series in this film, including casting a young woman as the saviour of the world.

Science fiction is not one of the mainstays of Finnish cinema, but there is a native tradition even in this genre, with achievements such as Avaruusraketilla rakkauteen (Zurück aus dem Weltall / [Back from the Universe], George Freedland, 1958), Ruusujen aika / The Time of the Roses (Risto Jarva, 1969), MP – minä pelkään / I'm Scared (Pekka Hyytiäinen, 1982), 250 Grams – A Radioactive Film (Pirjo Honkasalo & Pekka Lehto, 1983) and W (Anna Eriksson, 2022). My favourite of the earlier films is Maria Ruotsala's Apeiron (2013) based on the novel by Leena Krohn, starring Saga Sarkola's brother Sampo Sarkola. Of earlier dystopian films, Mika Kaurismäki's The Last Border (1993) comes close to the themes of the Memory of Water, but it is completely different, belonging to the Mad Max inspired cycle of post-apocalyptic action films.

In Memory of Water, each ingredient is brilliant, but perhaps as a consequence of the pandemic circumstances of the huge production, the inner drive is not as irresistible and compelling as it would have been had the film had been created in normal times.


Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä / The Grump: In Search of an Escort

Mika Kaurismäki: Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä / The Grump: In Search of an Escort (FI 2022), starring Heikki Kinnunen.

Kverulanten söker Eskort.
    FI/DE 2022 Solar Films Inc. Oy / Cuckoo Clock Entertainment GmbH. P: Markus Selin, Jukka Helle, Hanna Virolainen, Raoul Reinert.
    D: Mika Kaurismäki. SC: Daniela Hakulinen, Tuomas Kyrö – based on the novel (2019) by Tuomas Kyrö. Cin: Jari Mutikainen – scope. Drone cin: David Brickhill-Jones, Teppo Salonen. AD: Tuomas Kyrö, Pouya Mirzaei. Cost: Anna Vilppunen, Anette Schröder. Makeup: Marjut Samulin. Hair: Aune Peeterman. VFX of drowning the Ford Escort: Jari Nenonen. M: Anssi Tikanmäki, Eemil Tikanmäki, Eljas Tikanmäki. S: Pekka Karjalainen. ED: Markus Leppälä. C:
    Mielensäpahoittaja / The Grump – Heikki Kinnunen
    Tarmo – Kari Väänänen
    Hessu – Iikka Forss
    Liisa – Mari Perankoski
    Pekka – Ville Tiihonen
    Katri – Tiina Lymi
    Maria – Rosalie Thomass
    Otto – Samu Haber
    Larsson – Pekka Strang
    109 min
    Finnish premiere: 9 Sep 2022, distributed by Oy Nordisk Film Ab, Swedish subtitles by Frej Grönholm.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 4, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 10 Sep 2022.

Official synopsis: "Mielensäpahoittajan arki rullaa tuttujen rutiinien mukaan: kevät on tullut ja varhaisperunasato kypsyy. Mielensäpahoittaja kuitenkin kolaroi rakkaan Eskorttinsa ja auto täytyy romuttaa. Uusi, nykyaikainen kulkuneuvo ei käy laatuun ja lähin Eskortti vuosimallia 1972 löytyy Saksasta. Kun Mielensäpahoittajan pojat kieltäytyvät auttamasta, on hänen matkustettava Saksaan yksin."

"Mielensäpahoittaja tarvitsee Hampuriin saavuttuaan veljensä Tarmon apua. He eivät ole olleet tekemisissä vuosikymmeniin. Tarmo, joka on Mielensäpahoittajan täydellinen vastakohta, lupaa auttaa veljeään Eskortin etsinnässä. Auton etsinnän lomassa mutkaisen matkan varrella kaivetaan esiin veljesten väliset vanhat ja uudet kuopat."

"Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä on lämminhenkinen elokuva sukupolvien kohtaamisesta vuosien jälkeen."

"The Grump’s daily life rolls along his familiar routines: spring has arrived and the early potato crop is almost ready. The Grump however crashes his beloved Ford Escort, and the car must be scrapped. A new, modern vehicle is out of the question, and the nearest ’72 Escort can only be found from Germany. When the Grump’s sons refuse to help him, the Grump has to travel to Germany alone."

"When the Grump arrives in Hamburg, he needs help from his brother, Tarmo. The brothers have not been in touch with each other in decades. Tarmo, who is the exact opposite to the Grump, promises to help his brother find the Escort. As they navigate the bumps in the road in search of the car, old and new disagreements between the brothers flare up."

"The Grump: In Search of an Escort is a warm-spirited film about family meeting after many years."

AA: Based on the popular character created by the author Tuomas Kyrö originally for the radio, and subsequently a series of novels, a successful motion picture franchise has emerged.

Themes of the Grump phenomenon include the generation gap, urbanization, a satire of living in "the good old days" of the past, and the deep transformation of gender roles. We laugh at the Grump but we can look in the mirror and learn lessons about the past including sustainability, living in harmony with nature, and a culture of "trust thy neighbour".

In The Grump (2014), director Dome Karukoski created a work that resonates in film history with classics including Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow, Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story and Alexander Payne's About Schmidt.

Happier Times, Grump (2018), directed by Tiina Lymi, introduced new, emotionally rich dimensions, starting with the death of the Grump's wife and a catastrophic funeral and memorial sequence and ending with the birth of the Grump's first great-grandchild.

In The Grump: In Search of an Escort, directed by Mika Kaurismäki, the saga expands geographically into Germany. We meet the Grump's brother Tarmo who has become an international nomad while the Grump remained at the home farm.

In a parallel story we follow the fates of the Grump's two sons. Iikka Forss and Mari Perankoski have interpreted the son Hessu and his wife Liisa in all films. Ville Tiihonen and Tiina Lymi are new actors as the son Pekka and his wife Katri. In Germany the Grump discovers a niece, Marie (Rosalie Thomass) and her five year old son.

In each story we meet crisis. The Grump's Ford Escort crashes. Pekka is fired. Hessu's children are so glued to their smartphones that they ignore everything else. Tarmo has been a negligent father and his daughter does not want to have anything to do with him.

The Grump: In Search of an Escort is a work of wish-fulfillment. There is a neat solution to each crisis. It is feelgood entertainment, and judging by the atmosphere in the screening I visited I predict it will be a success.

Missing is the aching sense of loss of the previous Grump films, to speak nothing about McCarey, Ozu and Payne.

But, more than before, Mika Kaurismäki injects a subtle sense of humour in the narrative. There are jokes and funny scenes, but more interestingly, there is an inherent humoristic dimension all around.

For the road movie veteran Mika Kaurismäki, the scope format is natural, enhanced by effective drone footage in Hamburg and a poignant scene of the drowning of the resurrected Ford Escort. "Vanhan vaahteran laulu" ["The Song of the Old Maple Tree"] (comp.+lyr. Eino Partanen), sung by Veikko Tuomi in 1952, is a perfect soundtrack choice. Such songs were listened by the generations that survived the war.


Sunday, August 28, 2022

Pelle Hermanni / Herman the Clown (2022)

Timo Koivusalo: Pelle Hermanni / Herman the Clown (FI 2022) starring Vesa Vierikko.

Clownen Herman.
    FI 2022 Artista Filmi. P: Timo Koivusalo.
    D: Timo Koivusalo. SC: Simo Ojanen, Timo Koivusalo. Cin: Pentti Mutanen. AD: Markku Myllymäki. M: Esa Nieminen.
    Based on the character created by Simo Ojanen for the children's series Sirkuspelle Hermanni at Yle TV2 Pikku Kakkonen 1978–1988, starring Veijo Pasanen (1930–1988). The opening theme was Radetzky-Marsch (1848) by Johann Strauss (Vater) and the end tune was the Anvil Chorus from Il trovatore (1853) by Giuseppe Verdi.
    C: Vesa Vierikko (Pelle Hermanni), Milo Tamminen (Roni, 12), Oona Hakanpää (Julia, 11), Martti Suosalo (Maximilian), Iina Kuustonen (Viola), Tom Lindholm (Viktor), Ylermi Rajamaa (kuvaaja), Linda Wiklund (Mona), Heikki Nousiainen (Father Kasperi), Hannu-Pekka Björkman (Circus Director), Tuija Piepponen (Äitiliini), Minttu Mustakallio (Sylvia), Helena Vierikko (desk clerk), Tom Petäjä (postman), Kalle Lamberg (security controller).
    Theme song and music video: Diandra: Ootko tosissas (FI 2022).
    Dedication: "Lämmöllä muistaen Simo Ojanen 1940–2021".
    Loc: Kirjurinluoto (Pori).
    Helsinki premiere: 9 Sep 2022.
    Children's Movie Sunday Previews, 28 Aug 2022.
    Viewed at a preview at Finnkino Strand 1, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 28 Aug 2022.

Synopsis: "Simo Ojasen aikoinaan käsikirjoittama sydämellinen hahmo seikkaili Ylen Pikku Kakkosessa vuosina 1978–1988. Useamman sukupolven suursuosikki astuu nyt elokuvan myötä 2020-luvulle suurilla klovnin kengillään, valmiina valloittamaan uudet areenat. "

" Pelle Hermanni lähtee etsimään isäänsä, jota ei ole nähnyt sen jälkeen kun tämä lähti mittaamaan maapalloa jaloillaan. Perään karkaa salaa Taikuri Maxin poika, kymmenvuotias Roni. Tästä alkaa riemastuttava seikkailu täynnä taikuutta, hullunkurisia käänteitä ja värikästä sirkuselämää, elokuva uuden sukupolven lapsille ja nostalgian nälkäisille aikuisille. "

" Elokuva on vauhdikas ja hyväntahtoinen tarina, joka sopii kaikenikäisille, teemanaan toisista välittäminen ja ystävyys. "

" VOI ÄNKERÖINEN! on englanniksi ” Cantankerousimos!”

AA: The mood was joyous in the Children's Movie Sunday preview of Herman the Clown, the first in a series of film adaptations of a perennial Finnish television children's favourite series created by Simo Ojanen, whose last work the screenplay for this movie turned out to be.

Timo Koivusalo sustains a jovial and genial mood, the cast is composed of top actors, and the sunny locations of Pori and Naantali are appealing. The clown is a mysterious creature that has inspired the cinema since the beginning, especially during the silent era and the early sound film (He Who Gets Slapped, The Blue Angel), and later film-makers ranging from Fellini (La strada) to Bergman (Gycklarnas afton), not forgetting the Joker in the Batman franchise. The figure of the clown is a trick mirror of identity, explored here in comical and existential ways ("I'm lost", "Might that be me?").

Although all actors are in good form, my favourite is Iina Kuustonen as Viola. She speaks in proverbs, but always twists them without realizing it. In a recurrent gag, she gets corrected and answers without missing a beat: "that's what I just said". In the final dialogue surprise she gets the proverb right: "better later than never".

I don't belong to an age group familiar with Herman the Clown the tv series, but I understand that key features have been faithfully sustained, including the theme tune, Radetzky-March by Johann Strauss, Sr. This selection obeys a great tradition of the music hall in juxtaposing the sublime with the ridiculous in music choices, familiar for instance in Charles Chaplin's sonorization of The Gold Rush where Tchaikovsky's Grande Valse Villageoise from the Sleeping Beauty is played in the most heartbreakingly pitiful dance hall sequence in the history of the cinema.


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Ali & Ava

Clio Barnard: Ali & Ava (GB 2021) starring Adeel Akhtar (Ali) and Claire Rushbrook (Ava).

Ali & Ava / Ali & Ava.
    GB 2021. PC: Moonspun Films. P: Tracy O'Riordan.
    D+SC: Clio Barnard. Cin: Ole Bratt Birkeland. PD: Stéphane Collonge. Set dec: Celina Norris. Cost: Sophie O'Neill. Makeup: Fiona Lobo-Cranston. Hair: Rebecca Gavin. SFX: Scott MacIntyre. VFX: Louise Hastings. M: Harry Escott. S: Michael Maroussas, Gunnar Óskarsson. ED: Maya Maffioli. Casting: Shaheen Baig.
    C: Adeel Akhtar (Ali), Claire Rushbrook (Ava), Shaun Thomas (Callum), Natalie Gavin (Dawn), Mona Goodwin (Michelle), Krupa Pattani (Usma), Vinny Dhillon (Jameela), Tasha Connor (Karen), Macy Shackleton (Venice), Ariana Bodorova (Sofia).
    Soundtrack credits: "Radio" (Amelia Meath & Nicolas Sanborn) perf. Sylvan Esso. "Mama, You Been On My Mind" (Bob Dylan) perf. Bob Dylan, "Grace" (Frank and Seán O'Meara, 1985, arr. Harry Escott, 2021), sung by Karan Casey.
    Loc: Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, UK.
    Language: English.
    95 min
    Festival premiere: 11 July 2021 Cannes Quinzaine des Réalisateurs.
    British festival premiere: 13 Oct 2021 BFI London Film Festival.
    British premiere: 4 March 2022.
    Finnish premiere: 26 Aug 2022, released by Atlantic Film, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Maarit Tulkki / Michaela Palmberg.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 4, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta 27 Aug 2022.

Cannes Quinzaine des Réalisateurs synopsis:

" Both lonely for different reasons, Ali and Ava meet through their shared affection for Sofia (six years old), the child of Ali’s Slovakian tenants, whom Ava teaches. Ali finds comfort in Ava’s warmth and kindness and Ava finds Ali’s complexity and humour irresistible. Over a lunar month, sparks fly and a deep connection begins to grow. However, the legacy of Ava’s past relationship and Ali’s emotional turmoil at the breakdown of his marriage begins to overshadow their newfound passion. "

AA: Ali and Ava have both experienced hardship. Ava, the mother of four, works as a school assistant. Ali, an enterprising Pakistanian taxi driver, landlord and DJ, helps a tenant's daughter to school, and that's how they meet.

Daily, Ali meets racist abuse. Ava has been suffering from domestic abuse from her husband Paul who has recently died. Her racist son Callum seems to follow in his father's footsteps and chases Ali away with a sword.

But Ali & Ava is a tale of friendly persuasion. Ali refuses to resign, and Ava is patiently pursuing her own path. Against prejudice from all sides, Ali and Ava recognize that their hearts must come together.

Clio Barnard's visual storytelling ranges from kitchen sink to cosmic visions (the progress of the lunar month is a key visual theme), from handheld extreme close-ups to gorgeous panoramas of the city vista of Bradford.

The soundtrack is enormously appealing. Ali and Ava get acquainted via their contrasting musical preferences. In my favourite sequence of the movie, Ali uses his DJ skills to deflect a racist situation and turns it into song and dance.

The soundtrack is topped during the end credits when we hear Karan Casey give a breathtaking interpretation of the 1985 ballad "Grace" by Frank and Seán O'Meara. That ballad is the story of Grace Gifford (1888–1955) who "married her fiancé Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham Gaol only a few hours before he was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising" (Wikipedia).

Grace is also the name of Callum's baby born during the movie. The name is essential in the context of the anagnorisis. Callum has been ignorant of his revered father's domestic violence against both Ava and his girlfriend who has Indian ancestry. Callum now gives up his father's boots with which Paul used to kick the women and also the sword with which Callum had threatened Ali. Callum's daughter will not be called Paula but Grace.

Ali & Ava is character-driven, and Clio Barnard directs Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar and everyone else in deeply felt and authentic performances. As I saw the poster of this movie my instant reflex was Angst essen Seele auf / Fear Eats the Soul, but Ali & Ava is nothing like that. It's an optimistic film, not of an "optimism of the will" but an optimism of character and faith in humanity. And grace.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Laitapuolen hyökkääjä

Aleksi Mäkelä: Laitapuolen hyökkääjä (FI 2022) starring Severi Saarinen as the ice hockey forward Marko Jantunen.

På hal is.
    FI 2022 Solar Films. P: Rimbo Salomaa, Jukka Helle, Markus Selin. Line P: Maria Kaurismäki.
    D: Aleksi Mäkelä. SC: Petja Lähde, Mikko Kouki. Cin: Pini Hellstedt. AD: Pirjo Rossi. Cost: Riitta-Maria Vehman. Makeup: Jenni Aejmalaeus-Pyysing. VFX: Hugo Kiekeben, Tero Malinen. M: Janne Puurtinen. S: Pekka Karjalainen. ED: Kimmo Taavila. Ice hockey experts: Ilmari Pitkänen, Eetu Pöysti. Archival sources: Suora Broadcast Oy, Jääkiekon SM-liiga Oy.
    Theme song and music video: Apulanta: Kämmenen kuva poskeen (2022).
    C: Severi Saarinen (Marko Jantunen / Marko's father), Katariina Havukainen (Kati), Jorma Tommila (Pomo), Tommi Eronen (Timo).
    Haiku Tiensuu (Marko at 6), Anna Airola (Marko's mother), Tero Jartti (dealer), Kari Hietalahti (keeper of the sport memorablia store), Jukka Rasila (sportscaster), Jelmeri Nurminen (Rasmus at 15).
    Special acknowledgement: Marko Lempinen: Läpi helvetin [Through Hell] (2016), a biography of Marko Jantunen, the inspiration for the movie.
    Loc: Lahti: Salpausselkä.
    98 min
    English subtitles: Mika Karttunen, Swedish subtitles: Frej Grönholm. Finnish subtitles: Anitra Paukkula. Subtitles for the hard of hearing: Iira Tuominen.
    The title Laitapuolen hyökkääjä is untranslatable. It means both "winger" (in ice hockey) and a "raider from the margins" (in society). The Swedish title På hal is means: "on thin ice".
    Finnish premiere: 26 Aug 2022, distributed by Nordisk Film Finland.
    Viewed without subtitles at Finnkino Strand 1, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 26 Aug 2022.

Official synopsis: "Laitapuolen hyökkääjä kertoo jääkiekkoilija Marko Jantusen fiktiivisen selviytymistarinan. Elokuva alkaa Lahdesta vuonna 2015, hetkestä, jolloin koditon Jarna on ajautunut elämänsä syvimpään ahdinkoon. Velkojat tulevat perimään huumerahoja, ja Jarnalle annetaan vuorokausi aikaa maksaa velkansa, mistä alkaa hurja piripäinen taistelu aikaa vastaan. Maaninen vauhti, pelko perässä vaanivista tappajista, vainoharhat ja itseinho vanhoista vääryyksistä johtavat lopulta liikenneonnettomuuteen. Jarna ei jaksa enää paeta, vauhti hidastuu ja hän on luovuttamaisillaan."

"Elokuva näyttää Jarnan rauhattomana sieluna, joka pakenee tavallista ja tasarytmistä arkea. Nuoresta saakka päihteet ja jääkiekko ovat olleet hänelle rakkaita. Hän on mies, joka rakastaa vauhtia. Mutta jos vauhtia ei hidasta, loppuu se kokonaan. Hän polttaa siltoja yksi kerrallaan. On tullut hetki, jolloin lähes koko elämän mittaisen pakomatkan on päätyttävä.

AA: Laitapuolen hyökkääjä is a fictional biopic and survival story of the ice hockey player Marko Jantunen, inspired by the biography Läpi helvetin [Through Hell] written by Marko Lempinen.

Marko Jantunen (born in 1971 in Lahti) had a brilliant playing career as an ice hockey forward in 1990–2010, position right wing, shot left, in the SM-liiga team Pelicans, in Finland formerly in KalPa, TPS and Jokerit, in Sweden in Frölunda HC (Elitserien), Färjestad BK (Elitserien) and Timra IK (Elitserien). He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. Jantunen is an exceptionally deft skater who in the most difficult turns is like flying on skates.

Jantunen suffered from substance abuse, and was sentenced in 2014 for drunken driving and drug use. In 2015 he went into rehabilitation, completed the degree of a sports instructor and dedicated his life to drug prevention of young people at the Avominne clinic, based on the Minnesota model of treating alcoholism.

Marko Jantunen has lived three lives, and Aleksi Mäkelä's movie focuses on the middle part, "through hell". It's a brutal and terrifying account of a life torn apart, damaging everyone in Marko's wake. The movie is powerfully interpreted by Severi Saarinen and photographed by Pini Hellstedt, with top work by cast and crew.

Laitapuolen hyökkääjä can be seen as a parallel by Solar Films to their documentary biopic Karalahti (2021). Marko Jantunen and Jere Karalahti played together for instance at TPS in 1994, together with Saku Koivu.

Sports biopics are popular in Finland, and they can be divided into two categories: bad guys going through hell (Jantunen and Karalahti) and role models who don't glorify decadence (Kuningas Litmanen, Selänne).

The cinema's romanticized inferno trips are usually "rise and fall" sagas of music stars. We seem to have an insatiable need to see them fall.

A story of rise and fall is the very substance of tragedy. The definition of tragedy can be summed up: "grandeur was within his reach, but he perished due to a fatal flaw in his character". In the cinema, specialists of rise and fall have included great actors such as Emil Jannings (The Blue Angel) and Orson Welles (Citizen Kane). In biopics of music and sport heroes, rise and fall is too often reduced to a lazy formula.

Laitapuolen hyökkäjä has a flashback structure. The "now" of the story is the last day of Marko Jantunen's voyage to hell. He seems to face certain death in the hands of the mobsters. I liked most some offbeat sequences such as Jantunen's visit to a sport memorabilia store to clear some of his debt by selling his trophies. But the quote is ridiculously small.