Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Making of a Japanese / Shogakko - sore wa chisana shakai

Ema Ryan Yamazaki: 小学校~それは小さな社会~ / Shogakko - sore wa chisana shakai / The Making of a Japanese (JP 2023).

小学校~それは小さな社会~/ Kouluvuosi Japanissa.
    JP/FI/US/FR © 2023 Cineric Creative / Pystymetsä Oy / Print du Jour. - PC (JP/US): Eric Nyari, Cineric Creative (Eric Nyari). - Cineric Creative and NHK present. - PC (FI): Pystymetsä Oy (Outi Rousu). - PC (FR): Print du Jour / Les Films du Balibari (Luc Martin-Gousset). - With the participation of Yle and France Télévisions.
    D+SC: Ema Ryan Yamazaki. Cin: Academy - colour. Colorist: Fumiro Sato. M: Päivi Takala, musicians: Päivi Takala and Pekka Nylund. S and mixing: Miikka Huttunen. ED: Ema Ryan Yamazaki.
    Ludwig van Beethoven: "An die Freude" / "Ode to Joy" / " 歓喜の歌 " from: 9. Sinfonie in d-Moll op. 125 (1824).
    Loc: Tokyo 2021-2022.
    Language: Japanese.
    80 min
    World sales by Autlook.
    Festival premiere: 24 Oct 2023 Tokyo International Film Festival - distributed by Cineric Creative.
    13 March 2024 Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
    Finnish premiere: 5 April 2024 - released by Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus.
    Viewed with Finnish subtitles only by Maikiko Lommi at Finnkino Kinopalatsi 3, Helsinki, Sunday 19 May 2024

Literal translation of the Finnish title Kouluvuosi Japanissa: [A School Year in Japan].
Motto: "Rakastavaa kurinpitoa" [Tender Discipline].
Motto: "Dokumenttielokuva haastaa suomalaisen peruskoulun" [A documentary film challenges the Finnish primary school] {elementary school, grade school, 小学校}.

Cineric Creative: " Located in one of Tokyo’s sprawling suburbs, Tsukado is one of the largest public elementary schools in Japan with nearly 1,000 students. In the nation’s unique educational system, children are tasked to run their own school in order to teach communal values and how to play one’s role in the group. Intimately capturing one school year from the perspective of 1st and 6th graders, The Making of a Japanese has the magic of childhood with precious moments of joy, tears, and discovery — as they learn the traits necessary to become part of Japanese society. "

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival: " Which are the distinct attributes sculpting the Japanese identity? What makes you Japanese? In order to figure out the answers, the British Japanese filmmaker closely follows 1st and 6th graders for one year at a public elementary school in Tokyo, as well as their teachers, unveiling how teachers and students interact and shape one another. The outbreak of the pandemic and its restrictions constitute just another controlling measure. The kids in Japan are after all forged by their homeland's culture through a strictly defined education process which is in pursuit, with unwavering focus, of the appropriate equilibrium between individual progress and harmony of the society as a whole. Offering a unique hybrid perspective, the filmmaker critically examines a culture that is equally familiar to her as it is foreign, while she peruses the school environment in terms of an industrial production plant, in which the raw materials for processing are the students. " —Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Finnish logline: " Suomalaisen peruskoulun tilanne puhuttaa laajasti, mutta dokumenttielokuvia aiheesta ei vielä ole nähty. Tokiolaisen alakoulun lasten ja heidän opettajien kouluvuodesta kertova dokumenttielokuva Kouluvuosi Japanissa kuitenkin nostaa peilin myös suomalaisen peruskoulun eteen ja herättää kysymään miltä lastemme peruskoulu näyttää ja miten opettajat voivat? "

Finnish synopsis: " Empaattinen ja ajatuksia herättävä dokumenttielokuva Kouluvuosi Japanissa kertoo poikkeuksellisen intiimisti japanilaisesta peruskoulusta, jonka järjestelmä perustuu vanhaan sotilaskoulutukseen ja tiukkaan hierarkiaan. Lapset oppivat jo varhain hyviä tapoja, oppivat noudattamaan sääntöjä ja osoittamaan kunnioitusta, aivan erityisesti opettajia (’sensei’) kohtaan. "

" Taitava kuvausryhmä on saanut ainutlaatuisen sisäänpääsyn kouluun. Lapset ja opettajat ovat luontevia kameran edessä, ja välittävät koulutyön ilot ja surut. Koulun henkeä kuvastaa ilmaisu “rakastavaa kurinpitoa”. "

" Elokuva pohtii uniikin ja tiukan japanilaisen koulujärjestelmän ajanmukaisuutta, mutta erityisen vahvasti se osoittaa koulun merkityksen sen kasvattaessa lasta yhteisön jäseneksi. "

Japanese synopsis from Wikipedia: " 作品解説 ---  学校を「小さな社会」と位置付ける日本の教育制度。ある公立小学校の一年間を、1年生と6年生の目線で追う。教員の苦悩と子ども達の成長の先に見える日本の未来とは?" [ " Japan's educational system positions schools as "small societies." This film follows a year at a public elementary school from the perspective of first and sixth graders. What does the future of Japan look like beyond the struggles of teachers and the growth of children? " ]  

AA: Blogging about The Teachers' Lounge I registered a mini-wave of films about the school world in the spring season of 2024 (listed in the blog note linked above). Among them, Ema Ryan Yamazaki's The Making of a Japanese is the direct opposite to The Teachers' Lounge.

The Japanese school world is still traditional, and that tradition is in many ways original, based on a philosophy of individual responsibility in the constitution of society.

From the beginning, the children are invited to take responsibility in the social order by cleaning, arranging, greeting and interiorizing basic skills. 

There is discipline, but it is a kind, friendly and tender discipline. There are scenes of failure in heartbreaking sorrow and inconsolable crying. But if you fail, you try again. The teachers help you until you can make it.

The Making of a Japanese means the making of a human as a considerate social being. Acting as a member of a group one learns to know oneself.

There was something oddly familiar to me in Ema Ryan Yamaguchi's film. In October 2002, in the lecture series of the Film Society of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki, I gave a lecture on the cinema of the Empire of Japan during WWII (1931-1947). In it, I showed the oldest Japanese film in our collection, an unidentified nitrate newsreel on Japanese school education in 1936. It was striking to register the young energy of the children submitted to military discipline. From the start, the children learned elements of the bushido code, which we saw put to practice in the main film of the evening, Yutaka Abe's Mojuru ozora / The Wild Eagles of Nippon (1940), a celebration of kamikaze bravado.

In Ema Ryan Yamaguchi's film, the schoolmaster teaches the history of Japanese school education, still today based on military drill and strict hierarchy. After the fall of the Empire of Japan, the country and its education adapted to democracy, but essential elements of the ancient discipline remained. 

There is a paradox, and the Japanese-British director helps make sense of it. An important sequence is the earthquake alarm exercise. Japan is a country of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, fires and tidal waves called tsunamis. You must always be prepared.

During the making of this movie, the world endured a real calamity, the COVID-19 pandemic. With education like this, the Japanese were certainly the best prepared people in the world.

This movie is not only a lesson about Japan but a lesson for us all on courtesy, taking other people into consideration, public order and cleanliness as a common calling. Not because we have to but because we want to.

The charming score evoking children's fantasy, imagination and sense of play has been composed by Pilvi Takala.

Rehearsals for a joint music project are a main subject in the later part of the movie. The composition: Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". Coincidentally, this year (2024), we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's 9th symphony to which it belongs.

The children are crying - those whose final year this is at the Tsukado School (one of the biggest in Japan). The teachers are crying, too.

It is a city movie, but there are excursions. Autumn colours and spring blossoms announce the changing of the seasons. In the background, Mount Fuji gives a perspective to eternity.


Saturday, May 18, 2024

10 kirjettä tulevaisuuteen / 10 Letters to the Future

Poikkeustila-ryhmä: 10 kirjettä tulevaisuuteen / 10 Letters to the Future (FI 2024). Ainu Kyrönseppä.

Poikkeustila-ryhmä: Anu Kuivalainen, Esa Illi, Sanna Liljander, Katja Gauriloff, Markku Heikkinen, Juho Reinikainen, Saara Helene Rawat, Susanna Helke, Sari Aaltonen, Pauliina Punkki, Jussi Rastas, Leena Kilpeläinen, Saija Mäki-Nevala, Timo Korhonen, Einari Paakkanen, Laura Rantanen, Terjo Aaltonen, Aija Salovaara, Niina Brandt, Mauri Lähdesmäki, Tuuli Teelahti, Saara Hakkarainen, Ville Tanttu, Tiina Meling, Larisa Rudolfson, Heli Pekkonen, Reetta Huhtanen, Kirsikka Paakkinen.

10 brev till framtiden / Ten Letters to the Future.
    FI 2024 © 2023 BonsaiFilms Oy. P: Saara Helene Rawat, Anu Kuivalainen.
    D: Poikkeustila-ryhmä : Anu Kuivalainen, Esa Illi, Sanna Liljander, Katja Gauriloff, Markku Heikkinen, Juho Reinikainen, Saara Helene Rawat, Susanna Helke, Sari Aaltonen, Pauliina Punkki, Other Managers, Jussi Rastas, Leena Kilpeläinen, Saija Mäki-Nevala, Timo Korhonen, Einari Paakkanen, Laura Rantanen, Terjo Aaltonen, Aija Salovaara, Niina Brandt, Mauri Lähdesmäki, Tuuli Teelahti, Saara Hakkarainen, Ville Tanttu, Tiina Meling, Laura Rudolfson, Heli Pekkonen, Reetta Huhtanen & Kirsikka Paakkinen.
    SC: Anu Kuivalainen, Saara Helene Rawat, Markku Heikkinen, Susanna Helke, Esa Illi. Cin: Saija Mäki-Nevala, Esa Illi, Katja Gauriloff, Sanna Liljander, Theofanis Kavvadas, Sari Aaltonen F.S.C, Heikki Färm F.S.C., Pekka Uotila F.S.C., Saara Helene Rawat, Leena Kilpeläinen, Janne Niskala, Jussi Rastas, Emi Linnakoski, Laura Rantanen, Aarju Aalam, Tero Hanski. M: Sanna Salmenkallio. S: Olli Huhtanen. ED: Katja Pällijeff F.C.E.
    Featuring: Malmin peruskoulun aikakapselihanke [Malmi Primary School Time Capsule Project], Ainu Kyrönseppä, Minna Hankaniemi, Ilari Hämäläinen, Jalvvi Niillas Holmberg, Christoffer Weiss.
    Languages: Finnish, English, Hindi, Sami.
    66 min
    Festival premiere: 1 Feb 2023 DocPoint.
    Finnish premiere: 17 May 2024 - released by BonsaiFilms Oy (theatrical) and Yle Areena (online)
    Telepremiere: 7 June 2024 Yle TV1
    Viewed at Finnkino Kinopalatsi 10, Swedish subtitles only / svensk text Monica Ödahl Åminne, Saturday 18 May 2024

[Poikkeustila-ryhmä = Emergency Team.]

Logline: " 10 Letters to the Future is a documentary film about people living in a time of global crises, wondering what the future will be like in over fifty years from now. "

Official synopsis: " 10 Letters to the Future documentary film is a mid-term review in a world of intertwined crises. A jigsaw puzzle, a kaleidoscope that allows for a polyphonic debate in society. It started as a collective effort at a time when everything stopped. The reality of global states of emergency pierced everything we took for granted, and made many people reassess their lives in a new light. What happened to us and what kind of future do we want to be heading for? A virus researcher, a climate activist, a policy researcher and anti-vaxxer protesters see the future challenges of our society in a very different light. When the virus controlled the world, schoolchildren started to collect letters that will be encapsulated in a wooden case built by students, to be opened in over 50 years. The main characters in the documentary write their letters, address their loved ones or someone unknown in the future, creating a space for the viewer to take a breather. "

A word from the director - Poikkeustila-ryhmä: " We set out to make a film in the midst of the COVID crisis, but soon the need arose to look at this  historic moment more closely and further away. We wanted to see in a deeper and different way something this time has revealed about us. "

" With our film, we aim to look beyond the acute problems of this crisis, towards other issues that  challenge our time, such as the climate change. The time of COVID has been not only a global health catastrophe, but also a crisis testing the foundations of societies. In the fear and anxiety caused by the crisis, have the forces that sow anti-science and irrational conspiracy theories and undermine the
foundations of democracy further strengthened and taken hold of the future to which the main characters of the film are writing their letters? "

" Or will we find new ways of living together globally? Finnish society got off quite lightly. Is there something valuable in our society, something worth preserving, that helped us survive this reasonably well? What has this lifeless virus reminded us of? The world stopped, but just for a moment. Is now the time to turn the future around? "

AA: 10 Letters to the Future was made by the Poikkeustila-ryhmä [Emergency Team] of  29 directors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the outbreak of which was declared on 11 March 2020 as a public health emergency of international concern. Its festival premiere was on 1 February 2023 at the DocPoint in Helsinki. The theatrical release is this weekend.

It is a cross-section film about the Finnish society meeting its biggest emergency since the Second World War. Our Lapland War ended on 27 April 1945, 81 years ago. (We fought three separate wars in WWII.) The present film is a message to the future, but it includes reflections about the memory work of the past. We learn that the generation which endured the Lapland War, where the Wehrmacht subjected Lapland to scorched earth policy, did not want to dwell on the horrors. All energy was focused on building the future.

We see typical scenes from the pandemic years - a little girl's remote birthday party - Sanna Marin providing crisis communication - drone footage of deserted streets in Helsinki - borders closed in Lapland - discrimination: some thrive in remote work, others, such as musicians, are prevented from work - Parliament debates - a COVID-19 victim struggling for his life in a life-support machine - a Finnish-Indian family suffering from the travel ban - demonstrations against the ban of public gatherings of over 10 people.

A central subject is the project of a class at Malmi Primary School (Helsinki) to collect a time capsule in a wooden treasure chest to be archived at the SKS [Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura / Finnish Literature Society] to be opened in 50 years. 

The scope of the movie expands from the pandemic to other existential crises - the 2007-2008 financial crisis whose reverberations still linger heavily with us - the complicity of traditional political movements, losing their legitimacy - giving room to populism - ecocatastrophe - and the return of militarist geopolitics in Europe.

Like in Havumetsän lapset / Once Upon a Time in a Forest (Virpi Suutari, FI 2024), we visit demonstrations of the Extinction Rebellion / Elokapina movement. Why are the young people stopping the traffic and disturbing everyday life? "Because there is hope". "For the love of life".

The topic could not be better. But this pandemic film is also a pandemic victim. There is a lack of an irresistibly engrossing drive, what I have been calling the "pandemic-phlegmatic syndrome". 


Dag Hammarskjöld: Vägmärken / Waymarks (a book of poetry)

Dag Hammarskjöld: Vägmärken [Waymarks]. His only book was published posthumously in 1963. The first English translation (Markings, 1964) was by Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden. The Finnish translation Kiinnekohtia (1964) was by Sinikka Kallio.

du skall följa den.

du skall glömma den.

du skall tömma den.

du skall dölja den.

du skall lära det.

du skall bära det.


The way,
You shall follow it.

You shall forget it.

The cup,
You shall empty it.

The pain,
You shall conceal it.

The answer,
You shall learn it.

The end,
You shall endure it.

6. 601203 

[The last of the six waymarks in 1960 - 3 December 1960.]
© Albert Bonniers Förlag AB 1963
© Bernhard Erling 1982 (Translation), 1987 (A Reader’s Guide to Dag Hammarskjöld's Waymarks)
ISBN 978-0-9602240-3-6
St. Peter, Minnesota 56082


se tulee seurata.

sen voit unohtaa.

Kalkki -
viime pisaraan.

Tuska -
syvään piiloita.

tulee oppia.

hyvin kohdata.

Translated by the composer Einojuhani Rautavaara.

Einojuhani Rautavaara: Dag Hammarskjöld: Vägmärken - pp. 144-146 in the anthology: Maarit Tyrkkö (ed.): Tätä runoa en unohda [This Poem I Shall Not Forget] - 101 Finnish lovers of poetry selected their favourite poem. Helsinki: Otava, 1977.

Saturday, May 11, 2024


Christopher Nolan: Following (GB 1998). Alex Haw as Cobb.

Following / Following.
    GB © 1998 Christopher Nolan. Production company: Next Wave Films. Produced by: Christopher Nolan, Jeremy Theobald, Emma Thomas.
    Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan
Cinematography  Christopher Nolan - 16 mm - b&w - Academy
Music by David Julyan
Edited by Gareth Heal, Christopher Nolan
Jeremy Theobald as The Young Man Bill / Daniel Lloyd
Alex Haw as Cobb
Lucy Russell as The Blonde
John Nolan as The Policeman
Dick Bradsell as The Bald Guy
Gillian El-Kadi as Home Owner
Jennifer Angel as Waitress
Nicolas Carlotti as Barman
Darren Ormandy as Accountant
    Budget $6,000
    Box office $126,052
    70 min
    Distributed by Momentum Pictures
Release dates:
    24 April 1998 (San Francisco)
    5 November 1999 (United Kingdom)
    Finnish premiere: 10 May 2024 - Syncopy logo - released by ELKE - Finnish subtitles (only) by Sami Siitojoki.
    DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, Helsinki, Saturday, 11 May 2024

IMDb synopsis : " A young writer who follows strangers for material meets a thief who takes him under his wing. "

AA: On the occasion of the Finnish premiere of Following and in memory of David Bordwell I read the e-book Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages (2013, second edition 2019 free online) by David Bordwell with Kristin Thompson. Recommended! In his late work Bordwell was at his best.

I admire Christopher Nolan as a representative of the industrial-architectural school of film-making like James Cameron and Stanley Kubrick. It requires rare ability and talent to make global blockbusters with a personal signature and commitment. Never more than now when world cinema is in its biggest crisis and it has never been more difficult to make personal work on the highest budget echelon. In the middle of the pandemic Nolan achieved that twice, with Tenet and Oppenheimer.

These are my first impressions of Following, Christopher Nolan's debut feature film, which I saw for the first time.

Following reminds me of the early low budget work of Anthony Mann, Richard Fleischer and Stanley Kubrick. Circumstances are limited, but spirit is unbounded. There is true drive and a cinematic passion.

Following is already a family affair, with Emma Thomas as a producer partner and uncle John Nolan among the cast (as the policeman in the beginning and the end).

As analyzed by Bordwell & Thompson, Following is already an exercise in the nonlinear narrative like most of Nolan's movies. Timelines are twisted, and only towards the end we begin to make sense of the fabula. Bordwell & Thompson register four timelines of which three are crosscut.

The mystery of the timelines is not a merely formal device. Nolan's movies are time-plays with an experimental and philosophical dimension. Oppenheimer is a movie about quantum physics and the theory of relativity. Time is a key theme and subject in Nolan's films from Following till Oppenheimer.

Shot by Nolan himself on 16 mm stock in black and white Academy, Following is visually stark and original. It turns into a gangster movie of the hard-boiled school, but it begins as a study in urban solitude, in the classic tradition of Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Man of the Crowd" (1840). It is full of intriguing details, often covered in close-ups. The meanings of many details are gradually revealed during the non-linear course of the movie. Other details are just fun to register, like the Batman logo on the door, and the Mark Rothko exhibition poster.

Following is often called a film noir, a term I hesitate to use about films after Touch of Evil (1958). Now thinking about Nolan's oeuvre from Following till Oppenheimer, I find the connection relevant to all his movies, including in his apocalyptic Batman movies. In the conclusion of The Dark Knight Rises a neutron bomb is detonated. For me, film noir is poetry after Auschwitz, a poetic expression of the cosmic dread manifested in the Second World War, including Hiroshima. A sense of metaphysical agony on streets dark with something more than night. I would not call Nolan's movies films noir, but I would not start an argument if someone did.

Among the cast, I am struck by Lucy Russell who gives an unpredictable interpretation as the femme fatale. It was also her debut feature film, the start of an interesting career. Next she starred in Éric Rohmer's L'Anglaise et le duc - as L'Anglaise. Read Lucy Russell's Mini Bio in the IMDb - written by herself.

Within a week, I have seen two movies about burglary, breaking and entering, not (only) to steal, but to secretly inhabit the home of someone else (the previous one was Paradise Is Burning). Steven Zaillian's Ripley TV series (US 2024, starring Andrew Scott) has inspired discussions about the topical interest in faking the identity of the well-off or secretly inhabiting his place like in Parasite. It is a subject also in Following, but it turns out to be a subplot and cover story for crimes more brutal.


Une belle course / Driving Madeleine

Christian Carion: Une belle course / Driving Madeleine (FR/BE 2022). Line Renaud (Madeleine Keller) and Dany Boon (Charles Kaufman).

Madeleinen Pariisi / Madeleine och taxichauffören.
    FR/BE © 2022 Une Hirondelle Productions - Pathé Films - TF1 Films Production - Artémis Productions. Associated Co-PC: Bright Lights Films - Kobayashi Communication. Production : Laure Irrmann et Christian Carion. Coproducteurs : Ardavan Safaee et Patrick Quinet. Associate producers : Marie de Cenival, Laurent Bruneteau et Thomas Bruxelle. Executive producer: Stéphane Riga.
    Fiche technique
Réalisation : Christian Carion
Screenplay and dialogue : Cyril Gély - adaptation : Christian Carion.
Photographie : Pierre Cottereau - couleur
Décors : Chloé Cambournac
Costumes : Agnès Noden
Musique : Philippe Rombi
Son : Pascal Jasmes, François Maurel, Thomas Desjonquères, Thomas Gauder.
Montage : Loïc Lallemand
Casting : Gigi Akoka
Dany Boon : Charles
Line Renaud : Madeleine
Alice Isaaz : Madeleine, jeune
Jérémie Laheurt-Fine : Ray
Julie Delarme : Karine
Gwendoline Hamon : Denise
Elie Kaempfen : Matt
Thomas Alden : Mathieu
Hadriel Roure : Mathieu, jeune
Jacques Courtès : Daniel
Carl Laforêt : l'automobiliste impatient
Christophe Rossignon : le président du tribunal
    Budget : 7,94 millions d'euros
Langue originale : français
Genre : comédie dramatique, road movie
91 min
    Dates de sortie :
France : août 2022 (festival d'Angoulême - film d'ouverture) - Société de distribution : Pathé Distribution (France)
Canada : septembre 2022 (festival de Toronto)
France : 21 septembre 2022
Finlande : 15 mars 2024 - Cinema Mondo - Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Joanna Erkkilä.
    Viewed at Maxim 2, Helsinki, Saturday 11 May 2024

Synopsis from the press kit: " Madeleine, 92 years old, calls a taxi to take her to the retirement home where she will be living. Charles, a disillusioned driver with a tender heart, agrees to drive by the places that affected Madeleine’s life. Through the streets of Paris, her extraordinary past is revealed. They don’t know it yet, but they will forge a friendship during this drive that will change their lives forever. "

AA: At first sight, Christian Carion's Driving Madeleine is a piece of feelgood entertainment, based on surefire ingredients: - the star pair Line Renaud and Dany Boon, acting together also in Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis (Welcome to the Sticks, FR 2008, D: Dany Boon), the highest grossing French film of all time - a wonderful sightseeing tour of Paris full of beloved landmarks - the improbable friendship between a male driver and an elderly lady like in Driving Miss Daisy - soundtrack spiced with nostalgic international crossover hits by Dinah Washington and Etta James - the grudging taxi driver and the procrastinating lady ending up having the time of their lives - the taxi driver never charging for the round-the-clock ride, instead inviting the lady to dinner before the destination - but with a fairy-tale envelope from Madeleine's lawyer at the cemetery.

From this angle, Driving Madeleine delivers, and it is reportedly a pioneering technical achievement. Most of the movie takes place inside the taxi, but it was entirely shot in the studio. Paris traffic is difficult / impossible anyway, and especially with a 92 year old star. The DP Pierre Cottereau covered the whole journey from every possible angle in advance and employed a new generation LED screen system of transparencies, 4K high definition L-shaped screens in all directions, including the sky, better than greenscreens, in which actors have to imagine the surroundings. The immersion was total, and actors felt like they were in a moving car, including in the collision with the kid on an electric scooter. For the viewer, Une belle course is a gratifying cinematic Paris tour. Having returned two weeks ago from the 11th arrondissement, I was happy to revisit Place de la République and Avenue Parmentier together with Line Renaud (Madeleine Keller) and Dany Boon (Charles Kaufman).

Inside the sightseeing trip and the fairytale narrative there is a tough core. Madeleine is a young woman when the occupation ends and Paris is liberated. There is a love affair with Matt, a G.I., and a son, Mathieu, abandoned by him. There is a husband, Ray, who turns violent to both Madeleine and Mathieu. Brutalizing and disgracing Mathieu is the last straw. Madeleine poisons Ray and torches him where it hurts most. Madeleine is convicted to a 25 year prison sentence by an all male jury (moderated to 13 due to good behaviour). Meanwhile, by 1968, her son Mathieu has grown to a man who condemns his mother because of whom he has been bullied all his life. He goes to Vietnam as a war photographer and returns in a coffin.

There is no soft-pedalling in this territory. The movie is a time travel in gender discrimination. In France, women got to vote in 1948, but Madeleine tells Charles «the fifties weren’t like today...» Women had to get their husbands’ permission to work or have access to household money. In a scene unplanned by the film-makers, Madeleine and Charles walk past a City of Paris poster with the face of Simone Veil - remembered for Loi Veil, legalizing abortion in France in 1975. In the press notes, Christian Carion estimates that although times have changed, issues of femicide and domestic violence are even more serious today, because there are men who revenge on women for equality.

Regarding the young Madeleine's life during the Occupation there is a visit to a courtyard with a commemorative plaque to three Resistance fighters shot on 7 October 1943, including Lucien Keller, Madeleine's father. If the characters Madeleine Keller and Charles Kaufman, are Jewish, this is the only clue besides their names. [The actor Dany Boon, whose father was an Algerian Muslim, converted to Judaism when he married Yaël Harris, and also his previous wife Judith Godrèche was Jewish. Boon has been active in fighting antisemitism]. The desolate reminder of the plaque challenges the viewer to reassess the escapism of the project.

The deeply felt and nuanced interplay of Line Renaud and Dany Boon is the greatest reward of Driving Madeleine. At age 92, Line Renaud is full of life, wit and energy. Dany Boon, France's most popular comic actor, proves how great a comedian can be in a serious part.

Havumetsän lapset / Once Upon a Time in a Forest

Virpi Suutari: Havumetsän lapset / Once Upon a Time in a Forest (FI 2024) with Ida Korhonen, activist in Metsäliike (bringing together members of Elokapina, Greenpeace and Luontoliitto).

Barrskogens barn.
    FI 2024 Euphoria Film Oy. P: Virpi Suutari & Martti Suosalo.
    D+SC: Virpi Suutari. Cin: Teemu Liakka, Jani Kumpulainen F.S.C. - 1:2,39 and 4:3, 25 fps. M Sanna Salmenkallio. S: Olli Huhtanen. ED: Jussi Rautaniemi F.C.E. 
- Ida Korhonen on 23-vuotias ympäristöaktivisti ja metsätieteiden opiskelija.
- Minka Virtanen on 29-vuotias aktivisti, joka joka toimii useissa eri ruohonjuuritason liikkeissä ja isommissa järjestöissä.
- Otto Snellman on 29-vuotias yhteiskunnallisesti aktiivinen filosofian väitöskirjatutkija.
- Ville Murmann on 35-vuotias Luontoliiton metsäryhmän kartoituskoordinaattori, joka selvittää metsien luontoarvoja.
- Otso Piitulainen on 21-vuotias ympäristötieteiden opiskelija, jota kiinnostaa yhteiskunnallinen vaikuttaminen.
    Inspired by: Juha Kauppinen: Heräämisiä - kuinka minusta tuli luonnonsuojelija (2021).
    92 min
Festival premiere: CPH:DOX, Copenhagen, 16 March 2024.
Finnish premiere: 28 March 2024 - B-Plan Distribution.
    Viewed with Finnish subtitles for the hard-of-hearing at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki, Saturday 11 May 2024.

Literal translations of the Finnish title: "Children of the Taiga", "Children of the Conifer Forest".

MUBI synopsis: " Biodiversity and generation gaps collide in a politically urgent and thoughtful film about two young activists' fight to save the vast Finnish forests. Is it still civil disobedience when you know you have both history and the future on your side? "
    " Ida and Minka share a boundless love for the Finnish forests and a deep respect for nature. But not everyone agrees. The two young environmentalists demonstrate against deforestation and eventually win a seat at the table with the older, bearded men that represent the powerful giants of the timber industry. But one thing is the industry, another thing entirely is to convince your own grandfather, who has spent a lifetime clearing and planting trees, that wild nature means everything to biodiversity and to the future of the planet. The gaps between generations are deep, the climate fight is also a cultural struggle. Fortunately, Finnish filmmaker Virpi Suutari has an eye for more than bitter conflicts and hard fronts, and with commendable humanity (and a dose of understated humour) she has created that great film about nature, the future and the climate that the world has been waiting for – nothing less. And in the spirit of its young activists, it is also a beautiful and thoughtful tribute to nature itself, with tadpoles and flying squirrels as witnesses to the great human drama. " (MUBI synopsis)

Synopsis from the press dossier: " Palkitun Virpi Suutarin uusi elokuva Havumetsän lapset pöllyttää raikkaalla tavalla käsityksiämme metsistä ja niiden suojelusta. Elokuvan nuoret päähenkilöt Ida, Minka, Otto, Ville ja Otso haluavat pelastaa Suomen metsät. Vastassaan heillä on metsäteollisuus ja kansallinen ideologia metsistä taloudellisen hyvinvoinnin perustana. Ovatko nuoret sankareita vai isänmaan pettureita puolustaessaan jäkäliä ja katoamassa olevia hömötiaisia? Suutarin humaani metsäkertomus kuljettaa katsojansa lumoavalle luontomatkalle vanhojen havupuiden suojasta Aalistunturin huipulle, selluteollisuuden kabineteista Idan isoisä Taunon, entisen metsätyömiehen, kotisohvalle. Suomen ja suomalaisuuden kuvaajana ansioituneen Suutarin (mm. Aalto, Eedenistä pohjoiseen) elokuva ravistelee kohtaamaan hupenevan metsäluontomme kauneuden ja hädän. "

AA: There can be no more important theme than the one discussed by Virpi Suutari in Havumetsän lapset.

It is about Extinction Rebellion. The movement's eloquent Finnish title is Elokapina ["Life Rebellion". "Elo" is short for "Elämä" (Life), as even in "Elokuva" ("Life Image"), Finnish for "movie / film / cinema"].

It is about generation rebellion - the young desperate about the future of life on Earth. A matter of life and death. We the older generations are living like there is no tomorrow. For the young it is a question of whether there is a life span worth living and raising a new generation anymore.

They are powerless, they lack the weight of experience and the skill of argumentation that the forest industry behemoths possess. David vs. Goliath.

We have always known and accomplished much, but far from enough. Personally, born in 1955, as soon as I could understand, I became aware. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring appeared in 1962 and was published in Finnish the year after.

Suutari excels in pantheistic passages of sublime Lapland. I have never seen more breathtaking nature images, including underwater footage of swimming in Lapland's icy lakes among the perches and the pikes (photographed by the underwater cinematographer wizard Teemu Liakka).

The passages of Elokapina demonstrations are vivid and memorable. There are also historical inserts of the 1979 Koijärvi Movement and the 1991 strikes of civil disobedience.

A formidable theme of the philosophy of law is involved. The young are fighting for their right to live. We who do nothing are putting their lives in danger.

A novel twist in Suutari's movie is the drive towards dialogue: - in encounters with the forest industry - with the Centre Party (Suomen Keskusta), the main voice of the people in the countryside - and with the police and the forest rangers.

Suutari's drive is against polarizing clickbaits. The young actively seek dialogue. The powers-that-be treat them with respect, without condescension. But they speak with the voice of authority. They make promises, but is anything changing in the big picture?

The trouble is, you don't win elections with green promises. You lose, and populists win, with even more devastating consequences. This has been the dilemma since the 1950s.

Havumetsän lapset is a document about a huge communication gap. It is not enough to know, to be right. The big challenge is to engage everybody, starting from the people of the countryside, the ones who really live in the nature, with the nature, close to nature, dramatized in the dialogue between Ida Korhonen the Elokapina activist and her grandfather Tauno from Savo, a former farmer and lumberjack who does not understand a word of what Ida is saying. The cliché of the hipster nature tourists from the city vs. the true people of the countryside must be superseded. Beloved narratives, even the Koijärvi legend, could be examined anew.

There is little time left. A new accent for me here is "Trauerarbeit" [surutyö / grief work / process of grieving / work of mourning]. There may be no future. We are left to celebrate "Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur" [Jumalan kunnia luonnossa / The Divine Glory from Nature]

PS. I saw the movie in a screening with Finnish subtitles for the hard-of-hearing. I am grateful for the identifications of all the bird sounds.


Saturday, May 04, 2024

Paradiset brinner / Paradise Is Burning

Mika Gustafson: Paradiset brinner / Paradise Is Burning (SE 2023). Bianca Delbravo (Laura), Dilvin Asaad (Mira) and Safira Mossberg (Steffi).

    SE 2023 © Hob AB (Nima Yousefi) / Tuffi Films (Venla Hellstedt, Jenni Jauri) / ToolBox Film (Maria Stevnbak Westergren) / IntraMovies (Marco Valerio Fusco, Micaela Fusco). Country: Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Finland.
    Director: Mika Gustafson
Screenplay: Mika Gustafson, Alexander Öhrstrand
Cinematographer: Sine Vadstrup Brooker - Color | 1.78:1
Production Designer: Catharina Nyqvist Ehrnrooth
Costume Designer: Susse Roos
Make Up and Hair Designer: Kaisa Pätilä
Music: Giorgio Giampà
Sound designer: Gustaf Berger - 5.1 & Stereo 
Editor: Anders Skov
Casting director: Elin Ström
    Cast: Bianca Delbravo (Laura, 16), Dilvin Asaad (Mira, 12), Safira Mossberg (Steffi, 7), Ida Engvoll (Hanna), Mitja Sirén (Sasha), Marta Oldenburg (Zara), Alexander Öhrstrand (Hannas man), Isabella Kjellberg (Sandra).
    Film clip: Stalker (SU 1979).
    Language: Swedish
    108 min
    World Sales: Marco Valerio Fusco – Intramovies
    Festival premiere: 7 Sep 2023 Venice Film Festival - Orizzoni prize for best director Mika Gustafson - Authors under 40 Award for best screenwriting Mika Gustafson.
    Swedish premiere: 27 Oct 2023.
    Guldbagge Awards: Best Film (Nima Yousefi) - Best Production Design (Catharina Nyqvist Ehrnrooth) - Best Make-up (Kaisa Pätilä)
    Helsinki premiere: 19 April 2024 - Cinemanse - Finnish subtitles: Janne Kauppila.
    Viewed at Finnkino Kinopalatsi 8, Helsinki, Saturday 4 May 2023.

IMDb logline: " Three sisters aged 7 to 16, live alone after their mother vanishes for whole swathes of time. When the social services demand a family meeting, oldest sister Laura plans to find a stand in for their mother. "

Handling: " Filmen kretsar kring tre systrar, Laura, Mira och Steffi, i åldrarna 7 till 16 år. Eftersom deras mamma är borta under längre perioder, bor systrarna ofta ensamma. När socialtjänsten börjar ställa frågor och kräver ett möte med familjen, planerar äldsta syster Laura att hitta någon kan fungera som stand-in för mamman. För att inte oroa sina yngre syskon, håller hon sin plan hemlig. "

Handling (Svensk Filmdatabas): " Tre systrar, 7 till 15 år, lever ensamma. Mamman försvinner i perioder och det mesta av vardagslivet får systrarna lösa själva. När soc kräver ett familjemöte har den äldsta systern Laura en vecka på sig att hitta någon som kan spela mamman. I sitt sökande efter en låtsasmamma inleder Laura en relation med 35-åriga Hannah. Någonting som inte bara förändrar Laura, utan även situationen for systrarna. "

Synopsis (Venice): " In a working-class area of Sweden, sisters Laura (16), Mira (12) and Steffi (7), get by on their own, left to their own devices by an absent mother. With summer on the way and no parents around, life is wild and carefree, vivacious and anarchic. But when social services call a meeting, Laura has to find someone to impersonate their mom, or the girls will be taken into foster care and separated. Laura keeps the threat a secret, so as not to worry her younger sisters. But as the moment of truth draws closer, new tensions arise, forcing the three sisters to negotiate the fine line between the euphoria of total freedom and the harsh realities of growing up. "

Director's statement (Venice) : " Paradise Burning is a declaration of love to sisterhood. To those who know your story and made you who you are. A bond that’s stronger than everything else. A blessing and a curse all at the same time. For me the film is about the transience of time and life. About memories and reconciliation. I want to show what it’s like to be a human being in those moments when euphoric freedom lies cheek to cheek with total despair and the everyday humor in between. "

AA: In Paradise Is Burning, Mika Gustafson's debut fiction feature, the joy and the energy of Laura (16, Bianca Delbravo), Mira (12, Dilvin Asaad) and Steffi (7, Safira Mossberg) evoke Charlotte Regan's Scrapper (GB 2023), another contemporary tale of childhood lived in freedom, the sunny side of being abandoned by parents. But the story that Paradise Is Burning tells is different. It is about sisterhood, tenderly observed and deeply felt. 

It is a perilous life, because it involves finding ever changing ways to get by without money. Sneaking into vernissages of exhibitions for a maximal catch of cocktail snacks. Shoplifting elevated to an art form. Eating fish fingers after the best before date. Chronical lying to social service officers when failing to appear at school.

Laura has even become an expert burglar who breaks into apartments for a few hours of living the life of others, sometimes in luxury. The girls frequent private swimming pools while the inhabitants are away. This aspect of Paradise Is Burning is a poignant statement about the status of outcasts in a consumer society. It reminds me of Auli Mantila's excellent Ystäväni Henry / My Friend Henry (FI 2004). We are invited into the life of the unseen citizens of our society.

During one of these adventures, Laura meets Hanna (35, Ida Engvoll) into whose home she has broken and entered. Unexpectedly, their encounter turns into friendship and more: a tentative love affair. The account of Hanna's situation remains elliptic, but there is a man (Alexander Öhrstrand, also the co-screenwriter) and a baby. Laura's presence chases him away, and Hanna then turns Laura down. But before that Laura has initiated Hanna into her secret life in other people's apartments and taught her the tricks how to get in and out without drawing attention.

A deadline casts its shadow over the girls' existence. A social service officer is coming, and the clock is ticking. There is a clear and present danger that the sisters will be separated. Hanna does her best to find someone to impersonate their mother. The last candidate is Hanna. Laura's tryst with her has alienated her from her sisters. The doorbell rings.

A recurrent motif is a pack of stray dogs wandering in the neighbourhood. The dog from Stalker is glimpsed on television. But Mika Gustafson's vision is the opposite of Andrei Tarkovsky's dystopia thanks to her warm celebration of community against all odds.

I thank Simo Halinen for recommending Mika Gustafson's remarkable fiction feature debut.


Civil War

Alex Garland: Civil War (GB/US 2024). Great poster, but in the movie, the most powerful symbol is the Washington obelisk.

Civil War / Civil War.
    GB/US 2024 [year of release] © 2023 [Miller August Rights LLC tbc]. Production companies: DNA Films, IPR.VC. Produced by Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Gregory Goodman
Directed by Alex Garland
Written by Alex Garland
Cinematography by Rob Hardy
Music by Ben Salisbury, Geoff Barrow
Edited by Jake Roberts
    Wikipedia: Cast
- Kirsten Dunst as Lee Smith, a renowned war photojournalist from Colorado. She is said to be the youngest-ever member of the Magnum Photos cooperative. The character's first name is a reference to famed World War II photojournalist Lee Miller.
- Wagner Moura as Joel, a Reuters journalist from Florida and Lee's colleague
- Cailee Spaeny as Jessie Cullen, an aspiring young photographer from Missouri who accompanies Lee and Joel on their journey
- Stephen McKinley Henderson as Sammy, a veteran journalist for The New York Times and Lee's mentor
- Nick Offerman as the President of the United States, a dictatorial president currently serving his third term
- Sonoya Mizuno as Anya, a British reporter embedded with the Western Forces' advance on the capital
- Jefferson White as Dave, Anya's cameraman
- Nelson Lee as Tony, a Hongkonger reporter who is good friends with Lee and Joel
- Evan Lai as Bohai, a Hongkonger reporter who is a colleague of Tony
- Jesse Plemons as a racist ultranationalist militant who holds the journalists at gunpoint. Plemons was not credited for the role.
- Karl Glusman as a spotter
- Jin Ha as a sniper
- Juani Feliz as Secret Service Agent Joy Butler
    Loc: - Atlanta, Georgia. - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Language: English
    109 min
    Distributed by: A24 (United States), Entertainment Film Distributors (United Kingdom)
    Release dates:
Festival premiere: 14 March, 2024 South by Southwest (SXSW)
London premiere: 11 April, 2024 BFI IMAX, London
US premiere: 12 April, 2024
Finnish premiere 19 April 2024 - released by Cinemanse - Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Ilse Rönnberg / Charlotte Elo
    Viewed at Finnkino Tennispalatsi 10, Helsinki, Saturday 4 May 2024

Tagline: " Welcome to the frontline. "

Official logline: " An adrenaline-fueled thrill ride through a near-future fractured America balanced on the razor's edge. "

IMDb logline (from SXSW): " A journey across a dystopian future America, following a team of military-embedded journalists as they race against time to reach DC before rebel factions descend upon the White House. "

The division of the United States in the movie:
    Loyalist states (United States)
    Western Forces
    Florida Alliance
    New People's Army

AA: Alex Garland's Civil War is a dystopia, a war movie and a war journalist movie. Not a true genre movie, Civil War remains unclassifiable, with elements of science fiction and horror. Not a political movie in a specific way, it is a vision about a broken society. One of the trailers in the show was for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, resonating with the main picture.

Civil War reminds me of Medium Cool (US 1969), Die Fälschung (DE 1981), The Year of Living Dangerously (AU 1982), The Killing Fields (GB 1984), Welcome to Sarajevo (GB 1997) and Mr. Jones (PL 2019). Most of all it reminds me of Apocalypse Now (US 1979), not a journalist movie, but another journey to the heart of darkness.

When the film starts, the war is about to come to a conclusion. A team of journalists rushes towards Washington D.C. for the biggest scoop - the surrender of the increasingly dictatorial president (Nick Offerman).

Besides the daredevil Joel (Wagner Moura) there is his close colleague, the star photographer Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst), and her mentor, the journalist veteran Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson) "from what is left of The New York Times", the voice of reason. There is competition but even more importantly, solidarity. In the beginning, Lee rescues a cub photojournalist, Jessie Cullen (Cailee Spaeny), from a suicide bombing scene. During the journey there are even more engrossing instances of "what greater love is there than one willing to lay down their life for his friends".

Lee is not exactly happy to learn that she is Jessie's role model. Clearly Lee would not recommend anybody to follow her. Next morning, to her dismay, Lee finds out that Joel has invited Jessie to join their perilous journey from New York to Washington, D.C. It is an infernal odyssey. War brings out the worst of us.

The idol of both Lee Smith and Jessie Cullen is Lee Miller, the legendary photographer and photojournalist, honoured by Lee Smith even in her name. In the centenary year of surrealism, we remember Lee Miller as Man Ray's model, companion and herself the creator of some of the most memorable surrealist photographs. In WWII Lee Miller became a top war correspondent, often teaming with David E. Scherman. 

This war is different from the Second World War. In the Temptations song "War" (Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong, 1970), the chorus was "War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing", but here a further step is taken: for many, what is the war about? "Absolutely nothing". It is about violence for violence's sake. It is about the killing instinct.

Media is getting obsolete. Nobody reads. There is no internet. The star journalists are after the biggest scoop. But who is going to know? The victorious army gets its trophy like in a big game hunt. It is a hollow victory for both soldiers and their journalist-parasites in a world without values.


Le Théorème de Marguerite / Marguerite's Theorem

Anna Novion: Le Théorème de Marguerite / Marguerite's Theorem (FR/CH
 2023). Ella Rumpf (Marguerite Hoffmann).

Margureriten teoreema / Marguerites teorem.
    FR/ CH © 2023 TS Productions / France 2 Cinéma [co-pc] / RTS Radio Télévision Suisse [co-pc] / Beauvoir Films [co-pc]. P: Adrian Blaser, Miléna Poylo, Gilles Sacuto et Aline Schmid.
    Format : couleur — 2,35:1 — son 5.1 — DCP
    Fiche technique
Réalisation : Anna Novion
Scénario : Agnès Feuvre, Marie-Stéphane Imbert, Anna Novion et Mathieu Robin
Photographie : Jacques Girault
Décors : Anne-Sophie Delseries
Costumes : Clara René
Musique : Pascal Bideau
Son : Roman Dymny, Marc Von Stürler et Béatrice Wick
Montage : Anne Souriau
Mathematics advisor : Ariane Mézard
Ella Rumpf : Marguerite Hoffmann
Jean-Pierre Darroussin : Laurent Werner, son directeur de thèse
Clotilde Courau : Suzanne
Julien Frison : Lucas Savelli
Sonia Bonny : Noa
Cheng Xiaoxing (crédité Maurice Cheng) : M. Kong
Idir Azougli : Yanis
Camille de Sablet : la formatrice
Édouard Sulpice : un élève
Yun-Ping He : un adversaire du mah-jong
Karl Ruben Noel : le danseur
Ava Baya : la petite amie du danseur
Gauthier Boxebeld : le manager
Leila Muse : la journaliste
Esdras Registe : le collègue
Dominique Ratonnat : le professeur
Capucine Chappey : l'amie anglophone de Lucas
    Le tournage a, entre autres, lieu à Paris pour l'École normale supérieure (ENS) de l'université Paris sciences et lettres (PSL), en mai 2022. Filming locations also include: Chinatown Belleville (Paris) and Lausanne.
    Soundtrack selections include "Misirlou" (trad. from the Eastern Mediterranean Ottoman Empire, first recorded in 1927 in Greece), played by the math students' brass band.
    Langue originale : français
    Durée : 112 minutes
    Genre : comédie dramatique
    Sociétés de distribution : Pyramide Distribution (France) et Outside The Box (Suisse).
    Dates de sortie :
France : 22 mai 2023 (Festival de Cannes) ; 1er novembre 2023 (sortie nationale)
Suisse romande : 15 novembre 2023
Finnish premiere: 3 May 2024 - released by Cinema Mondo - Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Joanna Erkkilä.
    Viewed at Finnkino Tennispalatsi 14, Helsinki, Saturday 4 May 2024.

Synopsis from the press kit: " The future of Marguerite, a brilliant student in Mathematics at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure, seems all planned out. The only woman from her promo, she is finishing a thesis she has to expose to an audience of researchers. On D-day, a mistake shakes all her certainties and her foundations collapse. Marguerite decides to quit everything to start all over again. "

AA: Anna Novion's Marguerite's Theorem is a rewarding and original contribution to films about scientists, evoking from recent memory works such as The Universal Theory, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything and A Beautiful Mind. Most of all I was thinking about Oppenheimer

Like The Universal Theory, Marguerite's Theorem is a fictional tale about fictional people, but reportedly it does not stray far from reality. The story is based on solid expertise provided by the mathematics advisor Ariane Mézard. The problems discussed are real: Goldbach's conjenture and Szemerédi's theorem and regularity lemma. I don't understand a word of what they are saying, but apparently we may see on the screen elements to real and new solutions. A documentary element is the real location of the fabled École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris where much of the action takes place.

It is an exciting story and also a psychological coming of age story. Marguerite Hoffmann (Ella Rumpf) is a mathematical genius who has come far in solving the most difficult problem: Goldbach's conjecture. Her professor Laurent Werner (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) takes a new student working with the same problem, Lucas Savelli (Julien Frison). Marguerite is hurt and jealous.  In a crucial demonstration, Lucas exposes a mistake of hers. She is paralyzed, breaks down and abandons everything. She behaves childishly and immaturely. She blames Laurent and Lucas for scheming behind her back. She even lies to her mother, a math teacher. She cannot face failure. Werner advises her to take responsibility and move on. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody fails. He also teaches Marguerite that mathematics is not a solo venture.

Marguerite has always been the star pupil at the expense of living the normal life of a young woman. Having left mathematics behind, she becomes the housemate of a young dancer, Noa (Sonia Bonny) and wakes up at night to the sound of her orgasm on the other side of the wall. Marguerite has never had one. Aroused, she visits a bar in Noa's company and picks up a man "just for recreation". She takes a job at a sports store. In dire financial straits, she becomes a gambler in illegal mahjong dens. The new impulses, also including dancing, awaken her and give her fresh ideas.

Laurent warns Marguerite not to blend sentiment with mathematics. Marguerite's progress has become twisted because she has sacrificed everything for science. And because she was not living the life of a full human being, she was needlessly vulnerable in accidents. Opening to life outside mathematics, Marguerite becomes a better mathematician. Together with Lucas, Marguerite embarks on new directions and they become a wonderful team because they are different but committed to the same goal.

I was thinking about Oppenheimer, because it is the first Christopher Nolan movie with sex. I found it essential to the fabula. On that level of intellect, struggling with problems transcending the limits of understanding, it is possible to become too narrow-focused and thereby deranged. Sex, among other qualities, is a liberator, a power reset of mind and body and the ultimate stimulus. There is no mind without body. Mens sana in corpore sano. And there is no good sex without love. Marguerite's Theorem is a saga about the triumph of the spirit in harmony with the body - with life - with love.

Oppenheimer, too, was a celebration of team work - perhaps the greatest I can think of (I mean the movie and even more the book on which it is based). Oppenheimer himself is not the supreme genius. Unlike many in his team he never got the Nobel Prize. But he was the one who had talent to recognize talent and organize the world-changing enterprise in nuclear science.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Hkheil hnalm / The Vanishing Soldier

Dani Rosenberg: / החייל הנעלם / Hkheil hnalm / The Vanishing Soldier (IL 2023) with Ido Tako (Shlomi Aharinov).

החייל הנעלם / Le Déserteur
    IL 2023. PC: Israel Film Fund / United Channel Movies. Production  Avraham Pirchi, Chilik Michaeli, Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, Itamar Pirchi
Réalisation  Dani Rosenberg
Scénario  Dani Rosenberg, Amir Kliger
Image  David Stragmeister
Décors  Ben-Zion Porat
Costumes  Ofri Barel
Musique originale  Yuval Semo
Son  Neal Gibbs
Mixage  Michael Stoliar
Montage  Nili Feller
Shlomi Aharinov / Ido Tako
Shiri / Mika Reiss
Rachel Aharinov, Mère de Shlomi / Efrat Ben Zur  
Grand-mère de Shlomi / Tiki Dayan
Père de Shlomi / Shmulik Cohen
    Fiction / 1h38 / VO : Hébreu / Couleur / 2.35 / 5.1 / RCA 161.321
    Festival premiere: 5 Aug 2023 Locarno
    Sortie en France : 24 avril 2024 - Dulac Distribution, sous-titres francais : Malkiel Itzhaky
    Viewed at Arlequin, Salle 1, 76 rue de Rennes, Paris 75006, samedi le 27 avril 2024

IMDb : " Eighteen-year-old Israeli soldier flees back to his girlfriend in Tel Aviv only to discover that the military elite is convinced he was kidnapped in the fog of war. "

Dulac Distribution : " Shlomi, un soldat israélien de dix-huit ans, fuit le champ de bataille pour rejoindre sa petite ami:e à Tel-Aviv. Errant dans une ville à la fois paranoïaque et insouciante, il finit par découvrir que l’armée, à sa recherche, est convaincue qu’il a été kidnappé… Un voyage haletant, une ode à une jeunesse qui se bat contre des idéaux qui ne sont pas les siens. "

AA: Twenty-four hours in the life of a deserter from the war front in Gaza, shot and premiered before 7 October 2023.

A chase story, and even more than from Tsahal, Shlomi is on the run from himself. From the destruction on the front he wants to return home, but there is no home. The food at his home is rotten. His father is in a hospital after a stroke. His mother breaks down in tears when she learns about Shlomi's desertion. Shiri is his girlfriend more in imagination than reality. The most sympathetic is the grandmother who has dementia. Shlomi's desperate attempt to fall in love has dramatic consequences.

Life during wartime, on the eve of destruction. Gaza is in ruins, and Tel Aviv is one big party - with its jubilant street scene and happy beach with French tourists like from Les Vacances de M. Hulot. People are living in a militarist and nationalist dream like there is no tomorrow.

Shlomo runs, speeds on a bicycle, drives in borrowed or stolen cars, in an increasingly self-destructive way, until he considers suicide. The film evokes amok, but Shlomo is not a mad killer, on the contrary. There are some affinities with Nadav Lapid's Synonymes (IL 2019).

There is a Nouvelle Vague ambience (À bout de souffle), but The Vanishing Soldier is more profoundly disturbing. There is a disconnect between wartime reality and Tel Aviv illusion. Something has been broken, to the point of honest communication turning impossible.

Shot on location in Tel Aviv and Qulansawe (an Israeli Arabic village near the West Bank) and against digital backgrounds (the destroyed Palestinian village).

The tense free jazz score was composed by Yuval Semo, and the drumming was performed live while the film was running. The grandmother's theme is a song by the wonderful Argentinian Mercedes Sosa.

Davud Stragmeister has conducted the cinematography in scope, largely in long tracking shots of Shlomo on the run. There are also sensitive close-ups and extreme close-ups. 


Aku wa sonzai shinai / Evil Does Not Exist

Ryosuke Hamaguchi: 悪は存在しない / Aku wa sonzai shinai / Evil Does Not Exist (JP 2024).

悪は存在しない / Le Mal n'existe pas.
    JP 2024. Production: NEOPA (Satoshi Takata) / FICTIVE
    Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Screenplay: Ryūsuke Hamaguchi
Cinematographer: Yoshio Kitagawa - 2K DCP - 1,66:1
Production Designer: Masato Nunobe
Visual Effects: Tetsuya Shiraishi
Music: Eiko Ishibashi
Sound: Izumi Matsuno - Dolby 5.1
Editor: Ryūsuke Hamaguchi, Azusa Yamazaki
Assistant director: Kaoru Enda
Directeur de la production: Tomohisa Ishii
    Main Cast: Hitoshi Omika (Takumi), Ryo Nishikawa (Hana), Ryuji Kosaka (Takahashi), Ayaka Shibutani (Mayuzumi), Hazuki Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Miura
    Loc: the film was mainly shot in the Suwa area of Nagano Prefecture, including around Yatsugatake Mountains.
    Language: Japanese
    Running Time: 106’
Festival premiere: 4 Sep 2023 Venice - ventes Internationales M-Appeal - le grand prix du jury (Silver -Lion)
French and Belgian premiere: 10 April 2024 - Diaphana Distribution - sous-titres francais: Léa Le Dimma
Japanese premiere: 26 April 2024
    Viewed at UGC Odéon, 124 bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, samedi le 27 avril 2024

" Takumi and his daughter Hana live in Mizubiki Village, close to Tokyo. Like generations before them, they live a modest life according to the cycles and order of nature. One day, the village inhabitants become aware of a plan to build a glamping site near Takumi’s house offering city residents a comfortable “escape” to nature. When two company representatives from Tokyo arrive in the village to hold a meeting, it becomes clear that the project will have a negative impact on the local water supply, causing unrest. The agency’s mismatched intentions endanger both the ecological balance of the plateau and their way of life, with an aftermath that affects Takumi’s life deeply. "

" In this film, I had a wonderful opportunity to work with Drive My Car’s composer Eiko Ishibashi again. The film project began when she asked me to create some footage for her live performance Gift, and I conceived of the film as an “original source material” for the footage. As I became more and more connected to this film we were creating, Eiko and her friends helped me a lot in the shooting, too. This very free way of filmmaking vitalised me a lot. After the shoot, I felt that I had captured interactions of people in nature and completed the work as a single film with Eiko Ishibashi’s beautiful theme music. I hope the audience will feel the life force of the figures that are stirring in nature and music. "

" Takumi et sa fille Hana vivent dans le village de Mizubiki, près de Tokyo. Comme leurs aînés avant eux, ils mènent une vie modeste en harmonie avec leur environnement. Le projet de construction d’un « camping glamour » dans le parc naturel voisin, offrant aux citadins une échappatoire tout confort vers la nature, va mettre en danger l’équilibre écologique du site et affecter profondément la vie de Takumi et des villageois... "

AA: The genesis is a twin project. Drive My Car's composer Eiko Ishibashi mounted a live music performance to Ryusuke Hamaguchi's footage called the Gift, and Hamaguchi edited the feature film Evil Does Not Exist from the same material. The Gift performance has been described as a "mystical and meditative experience".

Evil Does Not Exist is a pantheist, animist mystery play about people living in harmony with nature in the village Mizubiki / Mizuhikicho near Tokyo on the Yatsugatake mountains. A real estate company is planning a project of glamping (glamour camping) there. The startup is aggressively rushing into things, but its two PR people fall in love with the inhabitants and are about switch sides. They also start to learn about the rare deer of the mountain but are still far from knowing how to negotiate nature.

The account of the clash of cultures is intelligent, devoid of clichés. The PR people are genuinely considerate, but they get into a crosscurrent between their arrogant neoliberalist bosses and the gentle village inhabitants. Hamaguchi's observations about the timeless routines of the village and the contemporary hectic of the remote meetings are accurate.

Much of the film evolves in the very air of the mountain forest, starting from extended low angle tracking shots of the trees in winter. Nature itself is a / the protagonist. At times the approach borders on the experimental and the psychedelic.

Evil Does Not Exist is Ryusuke Hamaguchi's follow-up to his masterpiece Drive My Car. There is much to admire, but I fail to connect with the Eiko Ishibaki score, the raison d'être of the movie.


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Histoire de ne pas rire. Le Surréalisme en Belgique (2024 exhibition at Bozar)

René Magritte : Le Bain de cristal, 1946, gouache, collection privée © Photothèque R. Magritte, Adagp Images, Paris, 2019.

Xavier CANONNE (sous la dir. de), Histoire de ne pas rire. Le surréalisme en Belgique, Fonds Mercator et Bozar Books, 2024, 288 p., 49 €, ISBN : 978-94-6230-371-3

" Histoire de ne pas rire. Le Surréalisme en Belgique "
Jusqu'au 16 juin 2024.

Le Palais des Beaux-Arts / Centre for Fine Arts
Ravensteinstreet 23
1000 Bruxelles
Visited on 20 April 2024

OFFICIAL : " Bozar commémore les 100 ans du surréalisme avec une exposition consacrée au célèbre mouvement d'avant-garde belge sur une période de pas moins de 60 ans. 1924 : comme à Paris, les activités surréalistes commencent dans notre pays avec des pamphlets audacieux du poète Paul Nougé, entre autres, véritable fil rouge de cette exposition. "

" Les surréalistes singuliers de Belgique vont au-delà de l'esthétique pure - ils veulent transformer le monde avec leur art subversif. Dans Histoire de ne pas rire, nous accordons une attention particulière à leurs contacts internationaux, au contexte politico-historique et aux femmes artistes importantes. Comprend des œuvres signées, entre autres, Paul Nougé, René Magritte, Jane Graverol, Marcel Mariën, Rachel Baes, Leo Dohmen, Paul Delvaux ainsi que Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dalí, Giorgio De Chirico et bien d'autres. "

The title of the exhibition means "Not a laughing matter". It refers to a familiar saying in Belgian conversation. It also refers to the title of a book of the collected writings by the Belgian surrealist Paul Nougé: Histoire de ne pas rire (Bruxelles: Les Lèvres nues, 1956).

AA: The centenary exhibition of Belgian surrealism at Bozar is arguably an even greater revelation than the exhibition of international surrealism at MRBAB (Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique). The surrealist movement started in Belgium simultaneously with France, but where the French movement was officially terminated in 1969, the Belgian movement continued at least until the 1980s and apparently never ended.

With 238 works on display, the Bozar exhibition is bigger than the one at MRBAB. Quantity turns to quality. This exhibition is about the versatility of surrealism. Among other things, it is a many-sided tribute to René Magritte, whose career we follow from 1920 until 1965 in the context of mentors and friends such as Paul Nougé and Marcel Mariën. Magritte's inspirer Giorgio di Chirico is also on display. This is a story of networks, friendships, publications and events that promoted the movement. During his transition to surrealism, Magritte moved from suspicious Brussels to supportive Paris, but in 1934, the first international manifestation of surrealism was arranged in Brussels - at Le Palais des Beaux-Arts, today's Bozar.

In the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, Christophe Slagmuylder and Zoë Gray condense seven characteristics of Belgian surrealism:

1. Le couple inséparable du mot et de l'image. / The inseparable pairing of word and image.
2. L'humour subversif narguant l'autosatisfaction et les collègues surréalistes. / The subversive sense of mockery towards complacency and fellow surrealists.
3. Les images oniriques tirées du quotidien ou d'une vision fascinée par un étrange réalité. / The oneiric images drawn from the everyday or from an enthralled vision of a strange reality.
4. La sobriété scientifique dans la lutte contre la raison. / Scientific sobriety in the combat against reason.
5. L'anonymat maîtrisé du groupe. / Anonymity cultivated by a group.
6. La croyance - temporaire - dans le communisme. / Temporary faith in communism.
7. Le paradoxe de petits bourgeois bien mis qui se transforment en révolutionnaires au service de la communisme. / The paradox of well placed petits bourgeois transforming into revolutionaries in the communist cause.

Even from a strictly Belgian viewpoint it is rewarding to view also the MRBAB international exhibition, because it casts its web deeper into the Belgian roots in symbolism in works by Jean Delville, Guillaume Vogels, Fernand Khnopff, Max Klinger and León Dardenne. 

The affinity of symbolism and surrealism reminds us of connections even further in the past - in Deutsche Romantik (Caspar David Friedrich) and Gothic fiction (Edgar Allan Poe). William Blake, Giuseppe Archimboldo and the Brueghel family are also meaningful in the context, to say nothing about indigenous art and sacred objects in many cultures.

The main difference between the old masters and the artists of the surrealist movement is that the latter were conscious about the unconscious. They practised automatic writing and the interpretation of dreams in awareness of psychoanalysis. "Wo Es war soll Ich werden". But that very awareness made surrealists seem dull and predictable in the eyes of Freud.

The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts in this exhibition. I liked particularly:
Marcel Mariën: La Traversée du rêve (1938-1945). Assemblage, 62,7 x 5,6 cm. Collection privée
René Magritte: Autoportrait (1923). Huile sur bois. 43,1 x 35,5 cm. Collection Sisters L
Pierre-Louis Flouquet: Composition (1920-1922). Huile sur toile. 156 x 117 x 5 cm. Anvers, Galerie Ronny Van de Velde
Marcel Stobbaerts: Portrait de Marthe Beauvoisin (Portrait de Madame Nougé) (1926). Huile sur toile, 93 x 60 cm. Bruxelles, MRBAB
Giorgio De Chirico: Les Plaisirs du poète (1912). Huile sur toile. 69 x 86 cm. Esther Grether Family Collection
René Magritte: La Traversée difficile (1926). Huile sur toile. 80 x 65 cm. Collection R. Vanthournout
Max Ernst: La Révolution la nuit (1923). Huile sur toile. 116,2 x 88,9 cm. Tate, acquis en 1981, inv. T03252
Man Ray: Boule de neige (1927-1928). Photographie. 20,2 x 15,5 cm. Gand, Amsab-Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, inv. fo028393
E. L. T. Mesens: La Lumière déconcertante (1926). Collage et photographie. 23 x 16,9 cm. Gand, Amsab-Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, inv. fo028003
René Magritte: Portrait de Paul-Gustave Van Hecke (1928). Huile sur toile. 65 x 60 cm. Courtesy Opera Gallery
Joan Miró: Tête de fumeur (1924). Huile sur toile. 51 x 66,5 cm. Musée communal d'Ixelles, inv. MJ 34
Paul Nougé: L'Ombre et son ombre (1932). Épreuve à la gelatine argentique, tirage moderne, 27,7 x 27,9 cm. Charleroi, Musée de la Photographie, inv. MPC 96/568
Paul Nougé: Subversion des images : Les Vendanges du sommeil ou Yeux clos, bouche scellée - Les Buveurs - Manteau suspendu dans le vide - Femme étendue sur une cheminée ou Les profondeurs du sommeil - La Naissance de l'object ou Les Spectateurs - Femme effrayée par une ficelle (1929-1930). Photographies, Anvers, Coll. Sylvio Perlstein --- [reproduction de négatifs par Marc Trivier] Le Grenier - Cils coupés - Femmes au miroir - La Vengeance - Table aimantée, tombeau du poète - Le Fard - Mur murmure - Femme dans l'escalier - ... les oiseaux vous poursuivent - Linges et cloche - Le Lecteur - La Jongleuse - Le Bras révélateur (1929-1930). Photographies, 20 x 30 cm. Bruxelles, AML. 00568/0087-0105
Paul Delvaux: L'Incendie (1935). Huile sur toile. 140,2 x 85,5 cm. Bruxelles, MRBAB, inv. 11541
Raoul Ubac: La Chambre (1938). Épreuve gélantino-argentique, 53,8 x 75 cm. Paris, Centre Pompidou - Musée national d'Art moderne - Centre de Création industrielle, inv. AM 1988-649
Marcel Lefrancq: the Parc de Mons series (1938-1939). Épreuves à la gélatine argentique, tirages modernes, 28,2 x 28.4 cm. Charleroi, Musée de la Photographie
Raoul Ubac: La Nébuleuse (1938). Épreuve à la gélatine argentique, tirage d'époque. 11,7 x 8,7 cm. Charleroi, Collection de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, en dépôt au Musée de la Photographie, inv. APC 22.048
René Magritte: La Liberté de l'esprit (1948). Huile sur toile, 100 x 80 cm. Charleroi, Collection du Musée des Beaux-Arts, inv. 340 01000156
Paul Delvaux: L'Aube sur la ville (1940). Huile sur toile, 172 x 202 cm. Belfius Art Collection, inv. 13222

Surrealism was a celebration of l'amour fou - mad love. It was the central tenet, fundamental and profound, in the art and life of the surrealists (René Magritte / Georgette Berger, Louis Aragon / Elsa Triolet, Man Ray / Kiki de Montparnasse, Lee Miller...). L'amour fou is the keyword to Un chien andalou and L'Âge d'Or. It is also the key to favourite movies of the surrealists such as Peter Ibbetson. It is also the reason why Vertigo is relevant here (the Edgar Allan Poe connection).

Female nudity and sexuality is a major subject (I was about to write "asset") in surrealist art. There was a male bias in the movement, as in the art world in general. I hesitate to write "male gaze", but it is justified here. Female artists such as Jane Graverol and Rachel Baes get represented in the Bozar surrealist exhibition from the 1940s onwards. 

The first surrealist film-maker was Germaine Dulac, but she was unhappy with Antonin Artaud's screenplay for La Coquille et le clergyman. Since Maya Deren there has been a growing prominence of female avantgarde in the cinema, including surrealist affinities.

Both catalogues are valuable keepsakes. They contain the illustrations in extenso. As usual today, the reproductions fail to convey the true colour brightness of the artworks.

On a personal note, my earliest memory of surrealism is a reproduction of La persistència de la memòria (ES 1931) by Salvador Dalí. That was in the 1960s, and at the time, surrealism, often mixed with psychedelia, was prominent in pop culture, including in poems, lyrics and songs by Bob Dylan, John Lennon and David Bowie. I have written two books on the music video, and my fascination started with works such as The Beatles: Strawberry Fields Forever (GB 1967, D: Peter Goldmann) and David Bowie: Ashes to Ashes (GB 1980, D: David Bowie & David Mallet). Lennon's standup piano with strings turned into a cobweb evoke the grand piano in Un chien andalou. The barren trees remind us of Dalí's Persistence of Memory. Bowie's Beachy Head appears as "a strand of eternity" like Dalí's Portlligat.