Saturday, November 09, 2019

Joker



US 2019.
    PC: Warner Bros. Pictures / DC Films / Joint Effort. P: Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff.
    D: Todd Phillips. SC: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver. Based on characters by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson at DC Comics.
    DP: Lawrence Sher – source format: ARRIRAW 3.4K, 4.5K, 5.1K – digital intermediate 4K – released on 35 mm, 70 mm, D-Cinema.
    AD: Laura Ballinger. Set dec: Kris Moran. Cost: Mark Bridges. Makeup: Nicki Ledermann. Hair: Kay Georgiou. M: Hildur Guðnadóttir. S: Alan Robert Murray. ED: Jeff Groth. Casting: Shayna Markowitz. Soundtrack credits include:
– "Temptation Rag" (Henry Lodge, 1909), perf. Claude Bolling.
– "Slap That Bass" (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) from Shall We Dance (1937) with Fred Astaire
– "Smile" (Charles Chaplin, John Turner, Geoffrey Parsons) from Modern Times (1936), lyrics 1954, perf. Jimmy Durante 1965.
– "That's Life" (Dean Kay, Kelly Gordon, 1963) perf. Frank Sinatra 1966.
– "Rock 'n' Roll (Part 2)" (Gary Glitter, Mike Leander) perf. Gary Glitter 1972.
– "White Room" (Jack Bruce, Pete Brown) perf. Cream 1968.
– "Send In the Clowns" (Stephen Sondheim 1973 for A Little Night Music based on Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night) perf. Frank Sinatra 1973.
    C: Joaquin Phoenix (Arthur Fleck), Robert De Niro (Murray Franklin), Zazie Beetz (Sophie Dumond), Frances Conroy (Penny Fleck), Brett Cullen (Thomas Wayne), Douglas Hodge (Alfred Pennyworth), Dante Pereira-Olson (Bruce Wayne), Glenn Fleshler (Randall the clown), Leigh Gill (Gary the clown), Bill Camp (detective, Gotham City Police Department), Shea Whigham (detective, Gotham City Police Department), Marc Mahon (Gene Ufland, producer on Franklin's show), Josh Pais (Hoyt Vaughn, Arthur's agent), Brian Tyree Henry (a clerk at Arkham State Hospital), Ben Warheit (Wall Street banker murdered by Arthur on the subway platform).
    Loc: New York City, New Jersey.
    122 min
    Festival premiere: 31 Aug 2019 Venice Film Festival.
    US premiere: 28 Sep 2019.
    Finnish premiere: 4 Oct 2019, released by SF Studios, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Janne Staffans.
    DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 2, Helsinki, 9 Nov 2019.

Synopsis (Venice 2019): "Joker centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night... but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study."

Director’s Statement (Venice 2019): "I was always intrigued by the complexity of Joker and felt his origin would be worth exploring since nobody had really attempted that before. In fact, part of his lore was that he didn’t have a definitive origin, so Scott Silver and I sat down to write a version of how he may have come to be. We included certain elements from the canon and set it in a broken-down Gotham City sometime in the late 1970s-early 1980s, partly because that harkens back to an era of some of the great character studies in film that I’ve always loved. We wrote it with Joaquin Phoenix in mind, because he’s always so transformative in his work and he never goes half-way. Our hope was to create a character that you really feel for, even root for, up until the point that you just can’t anymore." (Todd Phillips)

AA: The joker and the clown have been popular in the cinema since the early days. Recently I was thinking about Ingmar Bergman and his clown obsession from Gycklarnas afton (1953, literally: The Night of the Clowns) till In the Presence of a Clown (1997). His fascination had been fuelled by the writer Hjalmar Bergman (no relation, author of the novel Jac the Clown) who was obsessed with the theme of humiliation, as was Victor Sjöström, who had often worked together with Hjalmar Bergman before becoming the director of the first film produced by MGM, He Who Gets Slapped (1924), starring Lon Chaney as the clown. The figure of the clown was even more important for Bergman's friend Federico Fellini; the circus concept was the key to his Weltanschauung. Fellini also quipped that "Today's clowns do not make anybody laugh. Rather they make you cry".

The heyday of the cinema's clown / circus / variety obsession was in the 1920s, culminating in Germany's first sound film The Blue Angel (1930) in which a mighty teacher played by Emil Jannings is reduced to a clown in the cinema's most harrowing account of humiliation. There was an exodus of Weimar talent to Hollywood, and at Universal studios Paul Leni directed a film adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel The Man Who Laughs (1928) starring another Weimar genius, Conrad Veidt, as Gwynplaine.

The permanent grimace carved on Gwynplaine's face was the inspiration for Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson in creating the Joker in the debut issue of Batman for DC Comics in 1940. The Joker character has returned to moving images in several incarnations, and somehow the original Weimar, Hjalmar Bergman, Victor Sjöström, Lon Chaney and Conrad Veidt affinities have remained alive whether consciously or not (probably not).

Alan Napier's Joker interpretation in the spoof Batman television series of the 1960s was trivial, but in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman reboot Jack Nicholson created a memorably deranged interpretation, with bizarre touches such as carving grimaces to masterpieces at the Gotham Museum of Art. His was one of the cinema's most unforgettable monsters, but in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008) Heath Ledger topped him in an even more shocking performance.

Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger's monster interpretations may be impossible to top, and Todd Phillips has opened a completely different route, based on social and psychological realism. Also he and his brilliant star Joaquin Phoenix go all the way but this time without flamboyant excess or turbocharged action spectacle.

Like in the films of Burton and Nolan, the nightmare mode is compelling, and also in this way the Weimar affinity is alive. Joker, although vaguely set in the early 1980s, is a dream reflection of major topical turbulences: the reverberations of 2008, the new Gilded Age, the downfall of social security, child neglect and abuse, budget cuts in mental health, medicalization, laxity in gun regulation, Occupy Wall Street, and mass demonstrations of young people around the world, often wearing masks.

The disturbing figure of the clown resonates in a perverted way with the cast of contemporary world leaders including Silvio Berlusconi, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, all of whom became famous as clownish television personalities. Not forgetting that there are further world leaders who remind us of villains in Batman and Bond movies.

P.S. I cannot explain why I'm thinking about it, but one of my favourite clown interpretations in the cinema is by Ivan Mosjoukine in La Maison du mystère VII: Les Caprices du destin (1923).

Birger Carlstedt: Le Chat Doré (exhibition)


Birger Carlstedt: Mélodie orientale, 1954, putrido on hardboard, 60 x 49. Carlstedt-arkivet / Amos Rex. Photo: Stella Ojala.

Birger Carlstedt: sketch for Le Chat Doré, 1929. Photo: Stella Ojala. Please do click on the images to enlarge them!

Exhibition:
Birger Carlstedt: Le Chat Doré
Birger Carlstedt: Den Gyllene katten
Birger Carlstedt: Kultainen kissa
Amos Rex, Helsinki, 11 Oct 2019 – 12 Jan 2020
Curators: Synnöve Malmström, Tuomas Laulainen.
In charge of the project: Teijamari Jyrkkiö (utställningschef), Kai Kartio (museichef).
Exhibition architect: Taina Väisänen.
Photographer: Stella Ojala.

Books to the exhibition:
– Birger Carlstedt: Modernismens utmaningar (in Swedish)
– Birger Carlstedt: Modernismin haaste (in Finnish)
Writers: Susanna Aaltonen, Rauno Endén, Liisa Kasvio, Tuomas Laulainen, Marie-Sofie Lundström, Synnöve Malmström.
Hard cover, 216 pages, 155 images.
Amos Rex skriftserie nr 5.
ISBN 978-952-7226-39-1
Helsinki: Parvs Publishing / Amos Rex, 2019

Official introduction: "Amos Rex presents Birger Carlstedt (1907–1975) in an extensive exhibition that encompasses the artist’s entire career, all the way from his abstract experiments of the 1920s to the Concretist period beginning in the 1950s. The exhibition includes a reconstruction of the legendary café Le Chat Doré, “The Golden Cat”."

"Birger Carlstedt was a pioneer in abstract art and a multitalented dandy who worked with fields such as interior design, design and staging, in addition to painting. He followed and participated in the discussion around art during his time, dared to experiment outside the mainstream and familiarised himself with new artistic movements during his many travels."

"The exhibition is based on Amos Rex’s collections, which the museum has inherited from Birger Carlstedt and his spouse, concert pianist France Ellegaard
".

AA: Amos Rex, which opened last year in the heart of Helsinki, delves for the first time deep into the core of its own holdings with a large exhibition of Birger Carlstedt, a pioneering Finnish modernist who donated his legacy to the museum. This is the most extensive Carlstedt exhibition so far. On the occasion also the first comprehensive Carlstedt monograph is published.

The exhibition is a visual journey through six decades. The ample exhibition space is dynamically put to use in an odyssey through many stages of creation. The word "odyssey" is apt. Since childhood Carlstedt was well-travelled. He was multi-lingual, and French was his main language next to his native Swedish and Finnish.

From early on, Carlstedt's work was exhibited in Paris, an endless source of inspiration and influences for him. He was also exhibited in Stockholm before his real breakthrough in Finland. When it finally came, he stood in the front rank of abstract painters together with his younger friends Lars-Gunnar Nordström ("Nubben"), Sam Vanni and Ernst Mether-Borgström.

Major rooms in the exhibition include: Early Modernism, The Circus, The Idyll at the Villa, The Journey to North Africa 1938, Surrealism and Magic Realism, The Rupture, From Morning Till Evening: the Mural at Kauttua, Form and Colour, and Music.

The heart of the exhibition is a built space, a reconstruction of the functionalist Le Café Doré (established in 1929 at Unioninkatu 22 in Helsinki, during the Prohibition), the first functionalist interior in Finland. It is delightful in its imaginative colour world.

Birger was influenced by his first wife, Jacquette af Forselles, his fellow student at the art school. She travelled to Germany in 1926, stayed apparently with the Bauhaus, and weaved rugs with Margaret Dambeck and Liesel Henneberg. The artist couple was inspired by Bauhaus and De Stijl. Jacquette died already in 1933.

The Café Doré reconstruction is a real functioning café, open during the museum hours. Like the manifestos of the modernist Torchbearers movement, it was an avantgardistic lighthouse in a gloomy and regressive Finland. Carlstedt worked also as an art director for theatres and as an interior designer for official and private spaces.

The Russian Cabinet of Café Doré has been reconstructed as augmented reality, accessible via mobile applications.

Carlstedt possessed a powerful abstract (and cubist) impulse already in the 1920s, and also Giorgio de Chirico's pittura metafisica impressed him, but a crushing and reactionary reaction in our pre-WWII atmosphere was overwhelming. Even Carlstedt's surrealist touches, including three stylized vulvas, were rejected.

Carlstedt reverted mainly to figurative art, often with a passionate expressionist accent. Carlstedt let himself be inspired by the sunlit nature at his villa, the full-figured curves of the nude female form (his second wife Inga posing as the model), the glowing colours of Africa, the circus world, and the possibilities of the still life.

Carlstedt's still lives were celebrations of the bright colours of fruit and flowers. All his life he was a colourist, and in some African visions and still lives the abstract and metaphysical impulse was close. A surrealist inspiration kept emerging in works such as Nightmare (1945) which seemed to reflect the horrors of WWII and the nuclear threat.

Carlstedt received huge commissions, most importantly, the giant From Morning till Evening (1949, 2,5 x 12,5 meters) for the A. Ahlström factory. In cinematic terms, the format is double CinemaScope. A projected image of the fresco in life size is on display, as are intriguing sketches in which we can observe the evolution of the imagery.

After the completion of the figurative mural a magnificent takeoff took place. At last Carlstedt moved irrevokably towards abstraction, to the nonfigurative, and found his true self in a series of works that he called concretist – referring to concrete elements of the painting such as colour, form and space. He had already been inspired by concretism in Paris in the 1920s, but there had been no response in Finland to such an initiative either.

Carlstedt was increasingly inspired by music having married the pianist France Ellegaard in 1949. Carlstedt carefully built and cultivated something that he called his "colour piano" (it is also on display at the exhibition) and created paintings based on dynamic geometric forms. A sense of movement and suspense was always present.

These rooms (Form and Colour, and Music) are the highlights of the exhibition. The most impressive paintings include Mélodie orientale (1954), Transparences lumineuses (1954) and Suite musicale: Serenata (1955–1972). The joy of colour is engaging, the play with forms is stimulating, and the hanging has been executed in perfect taste, doing justice to Carlstedt's sense of art direction.

In the Music section of the exhibition we can see and hear a video of France Ellegaard playing the piano while examining some of Birger's finest abstractions.

In many works Carlstedt used a paint solution called putrido, a mix of oil paint and tempera. Evidently he had no long term experience in mixing putrido, and durability issues are emerging in his paintings as colour surfaces are turning brittle. The conservator team at Amos Rex must have been busy in preparing this impressive exhibition.

The book to the exhibition is the first major study focusing on Birger Carlstedt's entire career. It is very rewarding to read. As for the illustrations, Carlstedt was very particular in his colour decisions. Unfortunately the colours of the illustrations do not do justice to Carlstedt. They are too bland and too pale. For better reproductions in books it is good to turn to Pinx, Ars, Modernin kahdet kasvot and Valon rakentajat for comparison.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Sorry We Missed You



Kiitos tilauksestasi / Sorry We Missed You [Swedish title].
    GB / FR / BE © 2019 Sixteen Swmy Limited, Why Not Productions, Les Films Du Fleuve, British Broadcasting Corporation, France 2 Cinema And The British Film Institute. P: Rebecca O'Brien.
    D: Ken Loach. SC: Paul Laverty. DP: Robbie Ryan – negative: 16 mm – Super 16 – colour – 1,85:1 – release: D-Cinema. PD: Fergus Clegg. AD: Julie Ann Horan. Cost: Jo Slater. Makeup: Anita Brolly.
S: Kevin Brazier. M: George Fenton. ED: Jonathan Morris. Casting: Kathleen Crawford.
    C: Kris Hitchen (Ricky Turner), Debbie Honeywood (Abbie Turner), Rhys Stone (Seb Turner), Katie Proctor (Lisa Jane Turner), Ross Brewster (Maloney).
    Loc: Newcastle upon Tyne.
    101 min
    Festival premiere: 16 May 2019 Cannes Film Festival
    French premiere: 23 Oct 2019
    British premiere: 1 Nov 2019
    Finnish premiere: 8 Nov 2019 – released by Finnkino – Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Nina Ekholm.
    DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 8 Nov 2019.   

IMDb synopsis: "Hoping that self-employment through gig economy can solve their financial woes, a hard-up UK delivery driver and his wife struggling to raise a family end up trapped in the vicious circle of this modern-day form of labour exploitation."

Wikipedia synopsis: "Ricky and his family have been fighting an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash. An opportunity to wrestle back some independence appears with a shiny new van and the chance to run a franchise as a self employed delivery driver. It's hard work, and his wife's job as a carer is no easier. The family unit is strong but when both are pulled in different directions everything comes to breaking point."

AA: Ken Loach is at his best in Sorry We Missed You. He has lost nothing of his touch and punch during 55 years, having started in television and being launched onto a screen career with Poor Cow, Kes and Family Life.

Sorry We Missed You is an essential film about the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. In a bigger picture it is also about what has happened to society after the neoliberalistic turn of the 1980s, launched by Augusto Pinochet, theorized by Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and James M. Buchanan, and promoted by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Since Carla's Song Loach's regular screenwriter has been Paul Laverty. Sorry We Missed You is their 15th collaboration.

It's not a film à these. It is a family story based on simple observations and structured on parallel montage. Both parents are heroes of the gig economy, the father Ricky as a driver and the mother Abbie as a carer. The son Seb has teenage growing pains and an epic case of maladjustment at school. The daughter Lisa Jane is often home alone because the parents' workdays are longer than around the clock. She watches David Attenborough's nature shows.

The narrative is crisp, starting in medias res and proceeding via action. This movie is a special kind of thriller: both parents are risking the survival of their family in gig jobs. As their success is based on their keeping airtight schedules, every obstacle becomes a suspense element: a traffic jam, a vicious dog, an elevator out of order.

This is just for starters. Even worse is to fall asleep behind the wheel, being summoned to the police station because Seb has been caught stealing, or being robbed and manhandled. All risks and costs are on the responsibility of the worker who has no lunch break, no medical service nor holiday. Because of the assault and robbery Ricky lands in thousands in debt to the company. The drivers carry large plastic bottles because there is no time to visit the toilet. Abbie has nightmares about drowning into the quicksand.

In Finland a former prime minister, Mr. Esko Aho, coined the expression "kännykkäisä" ("cellphone dad"). In this story it is particularly Abbie who turns into a "cellphone mom". When the parents come home late Lisa Jane has to wake them up when they fall asleep in front of the tv.

Sorry We Missed You is a tale about the supremacy of the digital tools. In Ricky's job the magic gadget is a personal scanner which registers everything about package routes. For Seb it is his smartphone. Ricky makes the fatal error of taking it from Seb when he does not seem to listen his parents who want to save him from getting a police record.

Abbie is angry at Ricky: "It's his life". I think it was Roman Polanski in Carnage, based on the play by Yasmine Reza, who made the point first in the cinema: "My whole life was in there" stated Alan (Christopher Waltz) when his wife Nancy (Kate Winslet) drowned his smartphone in a tulip vase.

Sorry We Missed You is a cross-section movie about contemporary society. Ricky and Abbie are constantly on the move, Ricky delivering packages and Abbie caring for the old and the disabled. She is good at it, but the merciless pace allows little room for humanity. We get revealing vignettes of old ones neglected by their children who only look forward to their parents' death. When Ricky is badly beaten we get a gruesome peek at the human condition at the emergency hospital.

These views evoke classics of neorealism such as Ladri di biciclette: a single scene can convey epic insights into society. We are also reminded of De Sica in the account of the relationship between father and son, inflamed in circumstances of social distress.

The Turner family falls into crisis. Ricky hits Seb due to a misunderstanding. Seb leaves home and Ricky realizes for the first time that Seb, keen on graffiti and parkour, has artistic talent and there is "a lot I don't know about him".

Ultimately Sorry We Missed You is a love story about family solidarity. When the Turners for once have an opportunity to share a dinner, Abbie gets an emergency call to visit one of the old ladies she is looking after (the carer on duty having failed). The whole family boards the van with her. When Ricky, terribly bruised and being able to see with one eye only, is nevertheless going to drive to work, everybody tries to prevent him, particularly Seb.

In the final credits the film-makers extends their thanks to the drivers and carers who shared their stories under the condition of anonymity.

The movie has been shot on photochemical Super 16 mm, and in the digital transfer the warm breath and the sense of grain in the image has been sustained.

Sorry We Missed You (pressbook)


Sorry We Missed You. Kris Hitchen (Ricky Turner), Katie Proctor (Lisa Jane Turner), Debbie Honeywood (Abbie Turner), Rhys Stone (Seb Turner). Photo: Finnkino.

Sixteen Films, Why Not Productions and Les Films du Fleuve present
Directed by Ken Loach
Screenplay by Paul Laverty
SORRY WE MISSED YOU
100 min – United Kingdom, France, Belgium – 2019 – 1.85 – 5.1

SYNOPSIS

Ricky, Abby and their two children live in Newcastle. They are a strong family who care for each other. Ricky has skipped from one labouring job to another while Abby, who loves her work, cares for old people. Despite working longer and harder they realise they will never have independence or their own home. It’s now or never; the app revolution offers Ricky a golden opportunity. He and Abby make a bet. She sells her car so Ricky can buy a shiny new van and become a freelance driver, with his own business at last. The modern world impinges on these four souls in the privacy of their kitchen; the future beckons.

MORE BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK:

Lucas Cranach: Renaissance Beauties (exhibition)


Lucas Cranach d. Ä. | the Elder: Portrait of a Young Woman (Princess Emilia of Saxony?), before 1537, oil on beech wood. Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. © SMK Photo | Jakob Skou-Hansen.

Lucas Cranach d. Ä.: Justitia / Gerechtigkeit als nackte Frau mit Schwert und Waage. 1537. Oil on panel. 72 x 49,6. Fridart Stichting, Amsterdam. In the exhibition: a copy of the same size held at Ostrobothnian Museum, Vaasa.

Lucas Cranach d. Ä.: Lucretia. 1530. Oil on beech wood. 38 x 24,5. Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Kansallisgalleria, Hannu Aaltonen. The photo is too bland and pale.

Lucas Cranach d. Ä. | the Elder (Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar). The Ecstasy of St Mary Magdalene. 1506, woodcut. Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. © SMK Photo | Jakob Skou-Hansen.

Lucas Cranach: Renaissance Beauties.
26 Sep 2019 – 5 Jan 2020.
Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki.
Curators: Claudia de Brün, Kirsi Eskelinen.

Acknowledgements:
– Hallwylska museet, Stockholm
– Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg
– National Gallery in Prague Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
– Ostrobothnian Museum, Vaasa
– Polo museale del Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trieste
– Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie
– Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett
– Staatliche Schlösser, Gärten und Kunstsammlungen Mecklenburg‐Vorpommern
– Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen
– Jeppe Lahtinen, private collection
– Finnish National Gallery: Ateneum Art Museum and Sinebrychoff Art Museum

Exhibition publication:
Lucas Cranach – Renessanssin kaunottaret / Renaissance Beauties.
Editors: Kirsi Eskelinen and Claudia de Brün.
ISBN: 978−952−7067−85−7.
Hardcover, bilingual in Finnish / English, amply illustrated, including a complete illustrated exhibition catalogue, 144 p.
Sinebrychoffin taidemuseon julkaisuja.
Printing: Livonia Print.
Helsinki: Sinebrychoffin taidemuseo, 2019.
Official presentation:
    "In the articles in this publication, international and Finnish experts write about Cranach’s female portraits and nude beauties reflecting their own time and the beauty ideals of the Italian Renaissance.
– Dr. Hanne Kolind Poulsen’s article “Cranach’s Beauties – Ideals or Identities?” looks at one of the research questions that remain open: to what degree do the portraits actually portray real individuals?
– Dr. Elke Anna Werner’s article “Cranach’s Nudes — Sensuality and Moral Exhortation” presents the sources and development of Cranach’s nude themes. Cranach’s earliest nudes were graphic prints.
– Dr. Annamari Vänskä considers Cranach’s beauties from the standpoint of contemporary culture and fashion research in her article “Lucas Cranach Ltd: Female nudes in the service of the market”.
– Curator Claudia de Brün and conservator, Dr. Ari Tanhuanpää have written about works from the Sinebrychoff Art Museum collection."

AA: The German master Lucas Cranach der Ältere (1472–1553) was one of the most prolific and successful Renaissance painters. His productivity was enhanced by his status as court painter in Wittenberg where he established his own workshop, pharmacy (guaranteeing access to paint ingredients) and printing press (still a recent invention). The Cranach signature was a winged dragon. After his death the son Lucas Cranach der Jüngere took over.

Cranach's output may number some 5000 artworks of which some 1000 can be currently located. He was a serial artist who created (or produced) dozens of variations of his favourite subjects such as the Crucifixion, the Fall (Adam and Eve), Judith and Holofernes, Maria Magdalena, the Judgement of Paris, Dido, Lucretia, Venus and Cupid the honey thief, Diana and Actaeon, Justitia, the water nymph, and ill-matched lovers (an old lecher kissing a young woman who has a firm grip on his purse). Thanks to the internet it is now easy to study these series in extenso and observe how different the paintings are even when the subject remains the same.

Cranach was also in great demand as a portrait painter. During his lifetime, Reformation started in  Wittenberg. Cranach was a family friend of Martin Luther, also close to Philipp Melanchton, and he painted definitive portraits of both. Cranach had the courage of his convictions and went to jail when tables turned in religious wars.

Mostly Cranach's portraits were for courts and families of princes, aristocrats and merchants. His early studies and sketches are full of life and fury. The final versions are stately and ossified.

Sinebrychoff Art Museum is a jewel among Helsinki's museums, perfect for intimate and compact exhibitions such Lucas Cranach's Renaissance Beauties. Of Cranach's oeuvre it is a tiny selection of a selection of a selection. The beauties on display are mostly nude.

Picturing the nude is not alien to religious art, but striking in Cranach's work is an open and life-affirming sensuality in both religious and secular subjects.

One of the mysteries of these paintings is that although the portraits are nude and anonymous, they wear unique jewels, ornaments and accessories by which they may have been identifiable to contemporaries.

Another mystery is that the faces and bodies are not realistic and personal but highly formalized. Often they look the same, even when there are several women in the same painting. In Italy Mannerism was already on the rise, but this is not Mannerism, nor was Cranach a Mannerist. On the contrary, he looked back to medieval and Gothic traditions.

Not because he lacked talent and knowhow. In his portraits and landscapes he could achieve perfect Renaissance mastery. But some of his anti-illusionistic paintings with a Gothic / medieval approach or accent are among his most intriguing and original for instance in deer-hunting, Garden of Eden, Paradise and Fountain of Youth scenes and allegories of Law and Grace.

Cranach was also perfectly capable of painting a harmonious and lifelike Renaissance nude, but in this selection the emphasis is on the twisted and the strange. Faces and body parts are disparate while the technique in the brushstroke is immaculate.

Élie Faure in his "lyrical poem" Histoire de l'Art was fascinated by the bizarre dimension in Cranach's nudes – the very dimension highlighted in Sinebrychoff's exhibition:

"Il n'a pas, certes, le sens du ridicule. C'est souvent le meilleur moyen d'avouer sa vraie nature. Il peint des femmes nues qui ont gardé leur chapeau, des femmes fort gauches, avec des jambes malgres, et cagneuses, et de grands pieds, et de gros genoux. Seulement, leurs visages sont d'un charme extrème, tout ronds, souriants, un peu malicieux, avec de belles tresses blondes. Il les a surprises presque toutes à l'heure de la nubilité, elles ont un petit ventre ferme, une ondulation pure du buste et de la hanche, des seins naissants, un air de corolle hésitante à s'ouvrir. Sa sensualité candide promène son imagination en des jardins tout frémissants de fleurs éparses, où des nudités mythologiques mal bâties et délicieuses affirment que le réformateur et ses amis ne sauraient être rendus responsables des préoccupations malsaines qui caractérisèrent l'action des sectes protestantes à la suite de Calvin et ses puritains anglais. De pesants reîtres teutons ont beau s'y trouver près d'elles, leur fraîcheur triomphe, et comme tout s'enveloppe d'un espace blond que les rouges cendrés envahissent d'une vapeur transparente, on n'a pas le courage de lui reprocher sa maladresse. Ce rustre vous livre une âme exquise, dont quatre-vingts ans de la vie agissante n'épuisèrent pas l'innocence." (Histoire de l'Art, 1921, L'Allemagne et la Réforme, 5: Artistes et réformateurs)

Faure celebrates the triumphant freshness, the enticing habit of covering (and thereby enhancing) nude charms with transparent silk veils, and a candid sensuality that ran counter to Calvin's English puritans.

Powerful forces among the Reformation were advocates of the image ban, in a further argument against Catholicism with its temptations to image-worship. Reformation leaders including Zwingli and Calvin renounced visual representation, leading to Bildersturm, but Luther took a conciliatory stand and saw in sacred images a beneficial way of promoting faith. Cranach was Luther's closest advocate in this.

The curators Kirsi Eskelinen and Claudia de Brün and the experts, Hanne Kolind Poulsen, Elke Anna Werner and Annamari Vänskä offer interesting insights into Cranach's beauties.

They are often active, frank and courageous. Eve looks at us while Adam looks at her. Judith executes Holofernes. Madonna and child. Mary Magdalene, the woman closest to Jesus next to Madonna. Salome. Bathseba. Delilah. St. Dorothea. Dido, the Queen of Carthage, betrayed by Aeneas, the future founder of Rome. Lucretia, whose tragedy led to the establishment of the Republic of Rome. Diana caught bathing nude by Actaeon whom Diana transforms into a deer in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Justitia, the goddess of justice.

Nudity in Cranach's work is direct and without shame. Beauties seldom cover their charms. They seem happy and at ease with their nudity. They seem aristocratic, judging by the jewels. (Might in Cranach's Fountain of Youth paradises be a connection to a much later Freikörperkultur?)

It is consistent with the life-affirming glorification of the woman that the vulva is often uncovered and even highlighted as in the portait of Justitia. The source of life, the throne of female power, the fountain of happiness.

The expressions are composed, the look is sharp and clear. These portraits are not meant just for the male gaze. There is also an element of female self-idealization. For today's viewer they may have a bisexual attraction and also a dimension of asexual, paradiasic beauty. They are expressions of a timeless life-force and a desillusioned look at the human condition. Certainly Cranach would have agreed with Rodin: "Dans l'art, il n'y a pas d'immoralité. L'art est toujours sacré."

I remain puzzled by the unevenness in Cranach's giant output. There are perfectly balanced and harmonious paintings – and bizarre ones with twisted limbs and oversize heads. They look as if they might stem from different artists at the same Werkstatt.

Photo in the catalogue, painting not in the exhibition: Lucas Cranach d. Ä.: Judith with the Head of Holofernes. n.c. 1530. Oil on lime wood. 88,2 x 58,3. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien.

Photo in the catalogue, painting not in the exhibition: Lucas Cranach d. Ä.: Portrait of a Young Woman, 1526, oil on wood, 88,5 x 58,5. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Koirat eivät käytä housuja / Dogs Don't Wear Pants



Dogs Don't Wear Pants [also the Swedish title].
    FI/LV 2019 © Helsinki-filmi Oy. PC: Helsinki-filmi Oy / Tasse Film. P: Aleksi Bardy, Helen Vinogradov. D: J–P Valkeapää. SC: J–P Valkeapää, Juhana Lumme – original story: Juhana Lumme. DP: Pietari Peltola – colour – 2,35:1. PD: Kaisa Mäkinen. Cost: Sari Suominen. Makeup: Beata Rjabovska. VFX: Jari Hakala, Sampo Siren. M: Michal Nejtek. S: Micke Nyström. ED: Mervi Junkkonen. BDSM experts: Valtiatar Villi-Ira, Jared Flame Herbohn. Tattoo and piercing expert: Gunta Vlasenko. Songs include:
– Christian Petzold: Menuet G-dur (1725) *
– "Then He Kissed Me" (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector, 1963). [Version: "Then I Kissed Her"].
– ”Adagio per flauto: Archi e organo” (attributed to Albinoni, comp. Remo Giazotto, 1958).
    C: Pekka Strang (Juha), Krista Kosonen (Mona), Ilona Huhta (Elli), Jani Volanen (a doctor, Juha's co-worker), Oona Airola (Satu), Iiris Anttila (piercer), Ester Geislerová (wife), Ellen Karppo (Elli at 4), Samuel Shipway (Elli's boyfriend).
    Filmed in Latvia. Language: Finnish. Finnish rating: 16. 105 min
    Festival premiere: 21 May 2019, Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, Festival de Cannes.
    Finnish premiere: 1 Nov 2019, distributed by SF Studios, with Swedish subtitles by Frej Grönholm.
    DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 6, Helsinki, 1 Nov 2019.

Sado-masochism is rare in Finnish cinema. The most prominent representative so far has been Veikko Aaltonen's Tuhlaajapoika (The Prodigal Son, 1992). Because Leea Klemola is in its female leading role, associations run to Auli Mantila's Neitoperho (The Collector, 1997) in which she starred. It is not about S/M but one could easily imagine Leea Klemola as a fearsome Lady Domina. Jouni Hokkanen has made the stylish documentaries Kinbaku – Art of Bondage (2009) and Body of God (2013, about piercing). Let's not forget Teuvo Tulio's Sensuela (1973) in which Laila (Marianne Mardi) during her éducation sentimentale becomes a performer in an international touring S/M show.  In Teemu Nikki's Armomurhaaja / Euthanizer (2017) there is a strangling motif in the love affair. Regarding tooth-pulling we can remember Erkki Karu's When Dad Has Toothache (1922).

J-P Valkeapää's Dogs Don't Wear Pants is a stylish and compelling saga set in the world of sado-masochism. In the end credits I register a long list of participants at Club Caviar. Of Barbet Schroeder's Maîtresse (1976) it is told that habitués of S/M studios queued to be included, and I would not be surprised if something similar would have happened with Dogs Don't Wear Pants. The BDSM experts used by the production team include a genuine maîtresse, Valtiatar Villi-Ira, a reigning figure on the scene.

The movie proceeds in dream mode, a twilight zone between dream and being awake. Juha (Pekka Strang) is often in bed, underwater or in an altered state of consciousness which is the goal of his S/M explorations. The cast of characters is reduced to a minimum. The ambience is predominantly dark, either indoors or in nighttime exteriors. The Lady Domina of this tale is Mona (Krista Kosonen), and there is a fairy-tale element in Juha's landing accidentally into her den. Juha has actually only come to escort his daughter Elli (Ilona Huhta), who insists on tongue piercing.

No explanation is given to Juha's S/M addiction, but the film starts with a tragic prelude in which Juha's wife drowns in the lake of the family's summer dacha. Accident or suicide? We'll never know. Juha's mental balance is shattered, and he finds solace in the slave / dog / submissive / masochistic role of the S/M performance. In the state of suffocation he hallucinates about being underwater back at the lake, revisiting his wife's last moments alive, trying to release her from a fishnet.

His is an obsessive case of Wiederholungszwang. At first he just receives enormous pleasure from the return to the underwater scene. But increasingly he seems to be caught in the the death drive itself. Juha has had a near death experience and an early taste of how easy it would be just to give up and let go, be free of the pain and suffering... of the loss of his beloved wife... and life itself. This is where Mona refuses to participate.

Meanwhile, Juha has been a terrible single father, morbidly stuck to the memory of his dead wife like the protagonists of Edgar Allan Poe. Fortunately Elli is now a teenager with a healthy disrespect towards the excuses of her father. She is transferring her feelings and finding a new emotional object in her first boyfriend.

Juha reluctantly essays a regular heterosexual relationship – with his daughter's music teacher Satu (Oona Airola). Elli apparently would prefer her father to team with Satu. But even in bed with Satu Juha is only aroused by his wife's favourite perfume and sensations derived from his S/M pain trip. Juha is so incomprehensible for Satu that she cracks up into laughter. In an odd twist to their erotic encounter, Satu insists in playing "Adagio" (the famous one attributed to Albinoni, actually composed by Giazotto in 1958), the popular funeral tune, because she finds it very sexy.

Krista Kosonen is again the consummate professional in the female leading role, and she covers perfectly the double life of Mona who is a physiotherapist in her main occupation and a dominatrix as a sideline. She is great in every detail, but there is a slight hint that she does not feel at home on the dark side. Good for her.

Mona in this movie is an incarnation of death, and her make-up is a death mask. It has affinities with the mask-like make-up of kabuki. It brings to mind the ghost princesses in Japanese horror / fantasy films like Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) in Ugetsu monogatari. It also evokes Death (Bengt Ekerot) in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. And why not even Fritz Lang's Death (Bernhard Goetzke) in Der müde Tod.

Pekka Strang is at his best in the mysterious role of Juha. He is a secret to himself. He seems to carry a multiple guilt: a guilt in case his wife committed suicide, a guilt of his not being able to rescue her, and a guilt of neglecting his daughter. He is nearly losing everything: the love of his daughter, his respected position as a surgeon at the hospital – and even his instinct of self preservation.

He may be suffering from survivor guilt, also known as concentration camp syndrome. To quote Wikipedia: "They are described as having a pattern of characteristic symptoms including anxiety and depression, social withdrawal, sleep disturbance and nightmares, physical complaints and mood swings with loss of drive. Commonly such survivors feel guilty that they have survived the trauma and others – such as their family, friends, and colleagues – did not."

A talented production team turns Valkeapää's vision into compelling screen reality. The movie boasts stark scope compositions of the cinematographer Pietari Peltola and expressive sets by Kaisa Mäkinen. Costumes designed by Sari Suominen reflect the double lives of the characters, and the makeups of Beata Rjabovska dramatize both the official and the S/M worlds. The evocative score is by Michal Nejtek, the oneiric sound world by Micke Nyström, and the complex montage by Mervi Junkkonen.

...

* Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach: [4]–[5] Menuet G-dur, Menuet g-Moll (BWV Anh. 114, 115). Die bekanntesten Stücke aus dem Notenbüchlein, die in unzähligen Instrumentalschulen und Heften mit Anfängerliteratur für praktisch jedes Instrument verbreitet sind; üblicherweise unter dem Namen Johann Sebastian Bachs. 1979 wies Hans-Joachim Schulze darauf hin, dass die beiden Stücke als Menuet 1 und Menuet 2 einer Cembalo-Suite von Christian Petzold entstammen. [Credited as: J. S. Bach: Minuet in G, BWV Suppl. 114].

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show (2018, curated by Bryony Dixon, 4K DCP from BFI National Archive)


Battle of Spion Kop: Ambulance Corps Crossing the Tugela River (1) (GB 1900, Boer War). Photo: BFI National Archive. Please do click on the images to enlarge them!

Handling 68 mm film. "Barber Saw the Joke". For comparison: a strip of 35 mm film. Photo: BFI National Archive.

The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show (2018)
A collection of 51 films curated by Bryony Dixon.
Production companies:
– British Mutoscope and Biograph Company (GB)
– American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (US)
– Nederlandsche Biograaf- en Mutoscope Maatschappij (NL)
– Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph Gesellschaft (DE)
– Gaumont (FR)
Mostly shot on 68 mm except a few on 60 mm (Gaumont / Demenÿ).
Restored: BFI 2018 – 8K scan – hardly any shrinkage. Restoration overseen by Bryony Dixon, Ben Thompson, and Kieron Webb of the BFI, with scanning work by the expert team at Haghefilm Digitaal.
Nine chapters, no intertitles announcing film titles or other data.
Piano: Matias Tyni
Intro: Otto Kylmälä
48 min
Kino Regina, Helsinki (History of the Cinema), 29 Oct 2019.

The best screening of early large format films that I have visited. The films have been brilliantly digitized and restored and compiled into a rich and deeply moving programme. Scanned at 8K they do gain by being screened at 4K. For cinematheque programmers this show is an essential contribution to film historical series. Stunning as it is now, it could benefit from an explicador to introduce each film because there are no title cards.

I  Introduction to Mutoscope & Biograph

1. The Wonderful Mutoscope (GB 1898)
2000 GCM Biograph 3: ”Twentieth-Century Damsel”: The Wonderful Mutoscope (GB [1898]).
2018 Bologna Anno Tre.
    Luke Mc Kernan (2000): "Besides film, the Mutoscope & Biograph Company's other major product was the Mutoscope (also known as 'what-the-butler-saw'). A Mutoscope was a slot machine for individual viewing in which all the frames of a filmed subject were transferred to a flip-card system. Mutoscopes were an alternative – and often cheaper – venue for many of the company's risqué subjects, usually centring on the female body, as not all variety theatres which featured the Biograph showed these subjects." (GCM 2000)

2. The American Biograph in Circus O. Carré (NL 1898)
2000 GCM Biograph 5: Yesterday’s News: [American Biograph in Circus O. Carré] (NL [1898]).

3. American Biograph at the Palace (GB 1899)
2000 GCM Biograph 5: Yesterday’s News: [American Biograph at the Palace] (GB 1899).
2019 Bologna Anno Quattro Prog. 2 L'Affaire Dreyfus.
    David Robinson (2000): "One of the great 19th-century London music halls, the Palace Theatre was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte and originally opened on 31 January 1891 as the Royal English Opera House. Less than two years later it was taken over by the great impresario Sir Augustus Harris, who in turn ceded the management to Charles Morton, who re-established its fortunes as the Palace Theatre of Varieties. Attracting some of the most prestigious music hall acts of the day – including the Biograph itself – the Palace flourished as a variety theatre until 1914, after which it turned to revue and subsequently every kind of show, with emphasis on large-scale musicals. In recent years it was taken over by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber". (GCM 2000)

    AA: Impressive views, thronging crowds to witness the miracle at the Circus O. Carré. At the Palace, a Dreyfus film is on the playbill. The poster plasterers play pranks to each other, wrecking the ladder.

II  Victorian Life at Work and Play

4. Me and My Two Friends.
2000 GCM Biograph 8: How Shots Hang Together: Me and My Two Friends (GB 1898).
    AA: Play: a girl, a boy and a cat.

Launch of the Worthing Life-Boat: Coming Ashore (GB 1898). Photo: BFI National Archive.

5. Launch of the Worthing Lifeboat – Coming Ashore (GB 1898)
2000 GCM: Biograph 8: How Shots Hang Together: Launch of the Worthing Life-Boat: Coming Ashore (GB 1898).
2018 Bologna Anno Tre.
    BFI website: "This extraordinary film shows the public demonstration of the Worthing lifeboat on 6th April 1898. But it's also an exceptional demonstration of what could be achieved with WKL Dickson's unique 68 mm film format – as well as of Dickson's skills as a filmmaker. The composition is equal to the best of Victorian photography, with Dickson's camera maintaining perfect focus despite a rare depth of field."
    "There is just one flaw, the result of Dickson's decision to place the main action in the bottom left corner of the frame. The enormous Biograph camera was impossible to move, and unfortunately the lifeboat crew carry their 'rescued sailor' a little too far up the beach, meaning this key part of the action falls partly out of shot. If you watch closely, you can see the crew responding to Dickson's shouted request to bring the unfortunate man back into the camera’s line of vision.
" (BFI website)
    AA: Simply magnificent. Even a horse is needed to haul the lifeboat ashore. Great definition of light, great composition, great sense of human energy, great feeling of the power of the ocean. The 68 mm experience is strong in the realistic density of detail and the deep focus.

Pelicans at the Zoo (GB 1898). Photo: BFI National Archive.

6. Pelicans at the Zoo (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 10: Visual Attractions: Pelicans at the Zoo (GB 1898).
2018 Bologna Anno Tre.
    BFI website: "The famous pelican enclosure at London Zoo in Regent's Park. The British Mutoscope and Bioscope Company filmed this popular subject to be used as a projected film at the Palace Theatre and also for the Mutoscope, an individual coin-operated viewer in which 680 cards rotated on a wheel creating the sensation of movement. Similar images were filmed by the Lumiere Company in 1896."
    AA: At least a dozen pelicans move towards us, the camera, into a pond.

7. Australian Cricket Tourists of 1899.
    AA: The players in the front, the audience in the background.

8. Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race (GB 1899).
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience.
    AA: The two boats are racing from left to right. The camera follows them in a slow panoramic shot. In this copy friction marks are obvious on the image.

9. Iron Foundry Workers.
    AA: Like Launch of the Worthing Lifeboat, this movie conveys work, effort and a sense of power and energy. The composition is dynamic. The transfer conveys the realistic density and the deep focus very satisfyingly. Edited from two shots.

Launch of the "Oceanic" (GB 1899). Photo: EYE Filmmuseum.

10. Launch of the ”Oceanic” (GB 1899)
2000 GCM Biograph 2: Where to Place the Camera?: Launch of the ”Oceanic” (GB 1899). NFM 35 mm.
2008 GCM W. K.-L. Dickson: "Biographing": Launch of the “Oceanic” (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1899) Supv: W. K.-L. Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; filmed: Belfast, Ireland, 14.1.1899; AMCo. Prod. No. 299E; 35 mm, 38 ft, 20.25” (30 fps); print: MoMA. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "This stunning shot records the launch of the largest passenger vessel built up to that time. The film was rushed to London to be on the screen at the Palace Theatre within 3 days of the launch. The Warwick Trading Co. also filmed the event, and joined the race to the screen." – Paul Spehr
2019 Bologna Anno Quattro Capitolo 1: International Mutoscope & Biograph: Fin-de-siècle in a leisure mood. EYE 35 mm.
    AA: The BFI digital transfer conveys the grandiose launching of RMS Oceanic of the White Star Line, the largest passenger ship in the world until 1901. I have seen the Amsterdam and MoMA blowdowns of this movie on film, both great, as is this one.

11. ”The Lane” on Sunday Morning (GB 1899).
2000 GCM Biograph 7: People in Front of the Camera: ”The Lane” on Sunday Morning (GB 1899).
    AA: A vivid street scene, bustling with life, people wearing hats. A view rich in detail in deep focus.

[The Henley Regatta] (GB 1901). Photo: BFI National Archive.

12. [The Henley Regatta] (GB 1901.
2000 GCM Biograph 7: People in Front of the Camera: [The Henley Regatta] (GB 1901).
    AA: Rowboats traverse the screen diagonally from top left. A dynamic composition in a view rich in detail.

III Queen Victoria, Royals and Other Celebrities

13. Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee / Apsley House (GB 1897) (60 mm Georges Demenÿ)
    2017 Bologna Anno Due: Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee – Apsley House. D: Gustave Colley. Country: Gran Bretagna. DCP. P: John Le Couteur per Gaumont. Taken at the start of the parade near Hyde Park.
    AA: Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee was celebrated on 22 June 1897 to honour her 60-year reign. In Bologna's Anno Due series in 2017 Bryony Dixon showed Diamond Jubilee films from nine different companies on PowerPoint. Now we saw a beautiful digital transfer of the Gaumont / Demenÿ film conveying the grandeur of the parade.

14. Afternoon Tea in the Garden at Clarence House.
    AA: Clarence House is a British royal residence on The Mall in the City of Westminster, London. In 1866, it became the home of Queen Victoria's second son Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (also Duke of Edinburgh), until his death in 1900. It would be interesting to learn the identities of this royal afternoon tea gathering.

15. Pope Leo XIII Carried through the Vatican Loggia on His Way to the Sistine Chapel (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 7: People in Front of the Camera: Pope Leo XIII Carried Through the Vatican Loggia on His Way to the Sistine Chapel (GB 1898). NFM 35 mm. A cycle of five Pope Leo XIII films was screened. – David Robinson: "Pope Leo XII (1810–1903), born Gioacchino Pecci, was elected Pope in 1878, after a brilliant career as a papal diplomat in Europe, the USA, and Japan. He was committed to the importance of the church's role in matters of social justice, and his 1891 encyclical, Rerum novarum, lays down the moral duties of employers towards their workers. Leo can almost certainly claim to be the earliest living person to be recorded in both sound and image. Some years after Dickson had filmed him for the Biograph, his voice was recorded on a Bettini cylinder in 1903, the last year of his long life". (David Robinson, GCM 2000).
2008 GCM W. K. L. Dickson 3: "Biographing". Pope Leo XIII (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W. K. L. Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; cast: Pope Leo XIII, Count Camillo Pecci, Mons. DellaVolpe; filmed: giardini del Vaticano, Roma, 5-6.1898; 35 mm, 345 ft, ca 5’ (30? fps); print: NFM. Preserved from 68 mm originals. No intertitles. 5 scenes: Paul Spehr: "Dickson considered the films he made of Pope Leo XIII in the Vatican to be one of the outstanding achievements of his career, and his contemporaries agreed. The Pope was rarely seen, since he continued a protest of the political status of the Papal States begun by his predecessor and refused to leave the Vatican. Because of his age (88) and frequent illnesses his advisors were reluctant to let him be filmed, but they apparently relented when persuaded that the Pope could extend his blessing to people that he could not reach otherwise. The Pope consented to pose for 6 or 7 films. The exact number taken is confused because of changes made in how they were exhibited and the different titles applied to suit the anticipated audiences.The first public exhibition was at New York’s Carnegie Hall, 14 December 1898, but by agreement the papal films were not shown on the company’s programs at variety theatres. Many people saw them on Mutoscopes or at specially arranged projections." – Paul Spehr
2018 Bologna Anno Tre. EYE 35 mm.
    AA: In deeply moving footage, the Pope sends us his blessing from a 121 year distance.

16. Her Majesty the Queen Arriving at South Kensington on the Occasion of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Victoria & Albert Museum (GB [1899])
2000 GCM Biograph 8: How Shots Hang Together: Her Majesty the Queen Arriving at South Kensington on the Occasion of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Victoria & Albert Museum (GB [1899])
    AA: Wikipedia: "The laying of the foundation stone of the Aston Webb building (to the left of the main entrance) on 17 May 1899 was the last official public appearance by Queen Victoria. It was during this ceremony that the change of name from the South Kensington Museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum was made public. Queen Victoria's address during the ceremony, as recorded in The London Gazette, ended: "I trust that it will remain for ages a Monument of discerning Liberality and a Source of Refinement and Progress."". A huge crowd surrounds the Queen as her carriage arrives. The composition: diagonal movement from top left of the image. Faces become identifiable towards the end of the shot.

New Unique Collection of the King and Royal Visitors to Helsingor, Showing 32 Sovereigns, Princes and Princesses, of Imperial and Royal Houses of Europe (GB 1901).

17. New Unique Collection of the King and Royal Visitors to Helsingor, Showing 32 Sovereigns, Princes and Princesses, of Imperial and Royal Houses of Europe (GB 1901)
{perhaps a different film: 2000 GCM Biograph 7: People in Front of the Camera: [King Edward VII at the Birthday Celebration of the King of Denmark] (FR 1901) 1'05" at 30 fps}
    BFI website: "A large assembly of European royalty welcomes Edward VII to Denmark for the holidays. This film is described in the Palace Theatre of Varieties programme as 'The new unique collection of the king and royal visitors to Helsingor, showing 32 sovereigns, princes and princesses of the imperial and royal houses of Europe'. It was taken in September 1901 and shows Edward VII arriving to visit his extensive family at the palace of the Danish king at Fredensborg. It must have been the first time he had seen many of his European relatives since the death of his mother Queen Victoria at the start of that year." BFI website.

IV   England Expands – Our Army and Navy

18. Charge of the Carabineers, Aldershot (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 2: Where to Place the Camera?: [Charge of the Carabiniers – Aldershot] (GB [1898]) NFM 35 mm.
2019 Bologna: Anno Quattro. Charge of the Carabineers, Aldershot. Mutoscope & Biograph Company. DCP from a 68 mm nitrate print. D.: 18”. Year: 1898. Country: Gran Bretagna. Copy from BFI – National Archive.
[Qf. Military Exercise - Aldershot, filmed on 18 Feb 1898, Por. No. 108E? shown in GCM 2008 W. K. L. Dickson 3: "Biographing"][Qf. Bologna 2017: Anno Due, Prog. 9: Military Review at Aldershot, GB 1897.]
    AA: Several films were shot at Aldershot, "home of the British army", the first permanent training camp for the British army. This impressive shot covers a frontal charge towards us.

19. Four Warships in Rough Seas (GB 1900).
2000 GCM Biograph 2: Where to Place the Camera?: Four Warships in Rough Seas (GB 1900)
2019 Bologna: Anno Quattro. Four Warships in Rough Seas. Mutoscope & Biograph Company. DCP from a 68 mm nitrate print. Year: 1900. Country: Gran Bretagna. Copy from BFI – National Archive.
    AA: A brief view of magnificent ships.

20. Warships at Sunset (GB 1900).
2000 GCM Biograph 10: Visual Attractions: [Warships at Sunset] (GB? [1900]). NFM 35 mm.
2017 GCM Victorian Cinema. BFI DCP from 68 mm. Warships at Sunset (1900) 22″ (30 fps). Bryony Dixon: "View of four warships cruising with a superimposed “sunset”. It’s possible that this “day for night” print was intended to be coloured." AA: At sea: a tracking shot, a travelling arrière photographed from the ship's stern.
2019 Bologna: Anno Quattro. Warships at Sunset. Mutoscope & Biograph Company. DCP from a 68 mm nitrate print. Year: 1900. Country: Gran Bretagna. Copy from BFI – National Archive.
    AA: A brief view of warships at sunset with trick photography.

21. Battleship ”Odin” Firing All Her Guns (DE 1900).
PC: DMB Deutsche Mutoskop- und Biograph GmbH.
2000 GCM Biograph 9: Staging the World: [The Battleship ”Odin” With All Her Guns in Action] (DE 1900).
2019 Bologna: Anno Quattro. Battleship Odin Firing All Her Guns. Mutoscope & Biograph Company. DCP from a 68 mm nitrate print. Year: 1900. Country: [Gran Bretagna] [actually: Germany, see the BFI website]. Copy from BFI – National Archive.
    AA: In this view there is a genuine 68 mm impact. Wikipedia: "SMS Odin was the lead ship of her class of coastal defense ships (Küstenpanzerschiffe) built for the Imperial German Navy. She had one sister ship, Ägir. Odin, named for the eponymous Norse god, was built by the Kaiserliche Werft Danzig shipyard between 1893 and 1896, and was armed with a main battery of three 24-centimeter (9.4 in) guns. She served in the German fleet throughout the 1890s and was rebuilt in 1901–1903. She served in the VI Battle Squadron after the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, but saw no action. Odin was demobilized in 1915 and used as a tender thereafter."

V  The Biograph in Battle – In the Boer War

22. Repairing the Broken Bridge at Frere (1899) 29 Nov 1899.
Colonial Film: "BFI (ID: 403163). Titles:
SCHULTZE CAN 29C (Acquisition)

SCHULTZE CAN 46C (Acquisition)
BRIDGING THE TUGELA RIVER BY ROYAL ENGINEERS SHOWING BRIDGE DESTROYED BY BOERS (Alternative)
FRERE BRIDGE AS DESTROYED BY THE BOERS (Alternative)
BOMBED RAILWAY BRIDGE (Archive)
REPAIRING THE BROKEN BRIDGE AT FRERE
    Actuality. Single shot. British officers (Royal Engineers) supervising repair work on a bridge at Frere, spanning the Blaauw Krantz River, South Africa, during the Boer War.
    One end of a mangled metal bridge with black workers, white overseers, and some British troops (helmeted but not in full uniform). A team of blacks carry a long girder from right to left across the frame, raising it up a couple of times. Once they are past, the camera pans slightly to the right to show a large stone bridge-support and standing by a few British troops, one wearing a Red Cross armband. Camera pans further right to show more mangled metal (47 ft / 35 mm).
    Note: Originally filmed in 68 mm. Taken by W. K-L. Dickson on 29 November 1899. Previously thought to be at the Modder or Rhenoster rivers.
    Refs. American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Picture Catalogue, Nov 1902, p 165 (cat. no. 560E, `Military' section). John Barnes, Filming the Boer War (1992), p 191. W. K-L. Dickson, The Biograph in Battle (1901), pp 53-4. Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War (1979), p 209 (pbk ed 1992). Palace Theatre programme, 29 January 1900 [uncertain] The War By Biograph, p 17 [illus.]"
    AA: One of the most powerful films in the programme. Although the film is well known and has been much commented, it seems that I have never seen it before. Like Launch of the Worthing Lifeboat and Iron Foundry Workers, this film captures the collective energy of work in a way distinctive to 68 mm glory.

23. Rifle Hill Signal Station near Frere Camp (1899) 7 Dec 1899
BFI (ID: 357980). aka Boer War (acquisition).
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience. NFM 35 mm.
2008 GCM: W. K. L. Dickson 3: "Biographing". Rifle Hill Signal Station near Frere Camp.
(Rifle Hill Outpost) (The British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, GB 1899). Supv: W. K.-L. Dickson; ph: William Cox? John Seward?; filmed: Camp Frere, South Africa, 7.12.1899; AMCo. Prod. No. 568E; 35 mm, 46 ft, ca 30” (24 fps); print: BFINA, London. Preserved from a 68 mm original (Schultze Collection). No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "In the fall of 1899 Dickson was in South Africa filming the campaign to relieve the besieged British at Ladysmith during the Boer War. The huge and very visible camera made it difficult to get near combat, but Dickson seized opportunities to record actions that reflected the activities he and his associates were seeing. As Dickson described this scene in his book The Biograph in Battle: “We again visited the outposts, and managed, not without extreme difficulty, to haul our machine, &c., to the top of Rifle Hill signal station, just in time to catch a message from Colonel Kitchener [Author’s Note: not the General], which was flagged to picket No. 8, the operators kindly waiting until we got the machine in position before they sent the message. The men were watching the enemy below while the signalling was in progress, Captain Bartram being in command of signal and picket. This is a splendid scene, and one of which we are very proud, for we nearly killed ourselves and our horses in our endeavour to get planted in time. .... This is the message which was sent to O.C. No. 8 picket: ‘Have your picket under arms and send out patrol. Kitchener, December 7th.’ It was sent in plain flag, Morse, not code, so that any one who knew Morse could read this message.”" – Paul Spehr
    Colonial Film: "Synopsis. Actuality. Single shot. Signalling from a British trench during the Boer war. MCU British soldiers lined up along trenches aiming their rifles. An officer walks along behind them. On the l.h.s. a man sends flag signals (46 ft / 35 mm). Note: Originally filmed in 68 mm. The message being sent (according to Dickson) reads, `Have your picket under arms and send out patrol. Kitchener December 7th'. Refs: John Barnes, Filming the Boer War (1992), p 192, cover and title page. W. K-L. Dickson, The Biograph in Battle (1901), pp 62–3."
    AA: This famous view from the Boer War I had seen previously in a 35 mm print from the BFI. Dickson's Second Boer War series is one of the earliest shot on an actual battleground, and although there is an element of staged reality, real danger is not far. The Morse signal action – "addressing the audience", indeed.

Naval Guns Firing at Colenso (GB 1899). Photo: BFI National Archive.

24. Naval Guns Firing at Colenso (1899) 14 December 1899
    BFI Player: "Naval guns in action at the Battle of Colenso during the second Boer War. This authentic action shows 4.7-inch naval guns firing at the Battle of Colenso, in December 1899. WKL Dickson, who filmed it, noted in his book 'The Biograph in Battle' that the noise was deafening and the dust caused by the shots and recoil made it difficult to get good pictures. The battle was the third disastrous engagement in what came to be known as 'Black Week'. Many of these guns were captured and some were rescued at the cost of several lives. Among the casualties was the only son of Lord Roberts, who arrived in South Africa soon after to take over from Redvers Buller as Commander in Chief of the British forces."
    Colonial Film: "BFI (ID: 403219). 35 ft. Titles:
SCHULTZE CAN 40C (Acquisition)
BATTLE OF COLENSO (Alternative)
BOMBARDMENT OF COLENSO BY 4.7 GUNS OF HMS "TERRIBLE" (Alternative)
NAVAL GUNS AT COLENSO (Alternative)
FIRING A NAVAL GUN (Archive)
NAVAL GUNS FIRING AT COLENSO
Actuality. Single shot. British naval ratings firing a 4.7" naval gun, during the Boer War, probably 14 December 1899.
Close shot of 4.7" naval gun pointing to the left with group of British naval ratings standing around it. The gun fires and the men run up to reload, then begin to pull the gun forward (35 ft / 35 mm).
Note: Originally filmed in 68 mm. Taken by W. K-L. Dickson, probably 14 December 1899, during General Buller's assault on Colenso.
Refs: John Barnes, Filming the Boer War (1992), pp 152, 192. W. K-L. Dickson, The Biograph in Battle (1901), pp 70-74. W. K-L. Dickson, The War by Biograph [illus.].
"
    AA: This film I saw probably the first time. A mighty naval gun in action. Impressive.

25. Battle of Spion Kop: Ambulance Corps Crossing the Tugela River (1) (GB 1900) 25 Jan 1900.
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience.
2008 GCM: W. K.-L. Dickson 3: "Biographing". Battle of Spion Kop: Ambulance Corps Crossing the Tugela River (Operations of Red Cross Ambulances after Spion Kop / Battle of the Upper Tugela) (The British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, GB 1899). Supv: W. K.-L. Dickson; ph: William Cox? John Seward?; filmed: Spion Kop, South Africa, 25.1.1900; AMCo. Prod. No. 591E; 35 mm, 3 scenes, 37 ft + 45 ft + 47 ft, ca 2’ (24 fps); print: BFINA, London. Preserved from 68 mm originals (Schultze Collection). No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "A dramatic panorama of the valley of the Tugela River, with the British troops trailing home dejectedly after failing to take Spion Kop. The camera is behind a squad of British soldiers in a trench covering the retreat. The 1902 catalogue had this to say: “This is probably as near an actual scene of battle as a camera will ever get in modern warfare. It was taken from the second line of intrenchments [sic] during the battle of the Upper Tugela, in which the British, under General Buller met with defeat at the hands of the Boers. The British lost about 500 men in this engagement, and our picture, taken at the rear of the British fighting line, shows the wounded being brought in on litters, and in ambulances. The scope of the view is very broad, taking in the Tugela with its temporary pontoon bridge, and the reserve force on the opposite bank of the river, and the distant mountains where the Boers are stationed. Spion Kop is prominent among the peaks. Photographically the subject is sharp and clear.” Dickson, in his book The Biograph in Battle: “The battle rages on with unabated fury; the slaughter on both sides is obliged to be terrible. .... By morning three thousand of our braves had captured the mountain and driven the Boers off. This would have been a triumphant success had they been able to withstand the deadly cross-fire of the enemy ... they soon had to abandon or be utterly annihilated. Some... bitter disappointment. “We were not long in following with our Cape cart, and ... succeeded in getting a good picture of the Ambulance Corps crossing the Tugela River over a hurriedly spanned pontoon bridge. .... “The picture has an additional value that in the back-ground is part of the battlefield where Warren’s men fought so gallantly as they advanced towards and up Spion Kop to the right. ... twenty minutes of valuable time had to be sacrificed in order to prove that General Buller’s permission covered our movements. ....” – Paul Spehr
    BFI website: "These are probably the most spectacular of the images shot by William Kennedy Laurie Dickson during his time in South Africa. With astonishing depth of field, it shows the long line of ambulances and troops snaking their way through across the river. The film demonstrates Dickson's compositional ability, as well as the astonishing detail captured by his own patented large-format 68 mm film. It's a scene as epic as any military painting in the National Gallery, which becomes more poignant when we realise that it depicts an army after one of its most disastrous defeats at the hands of the Boer forces in January 1900."
    "The battle of Spion Kop was a terrible defeat, with British forces suffering heavy losses when they were caught out in dense fog by Boer snipers. Dickson's film witnesses the train of ambulances cueing up to bring the wounded over the Tugela river. They had to carry the most serious cases by hand on stretchers. That hill we see on the horizon is the Spion Kop itself. There are three versions of this film: the longest comprises two slightly different shots, each of which also survives independently.
"
    Colonial Film: "BFI (ID: 403146). 129 ft. Titles:
SCHULTZE CAN 12 (Acquisition)
SCHULTZE CAN 40B (Acquisition)
SCHULTZE CAN 45C (Acquisition)
BATTLE OF THE UPPER TUGELA (Alternative)
BRITISH RETREAT ACROSS THE TUGELA RIVER (Alternative)
OPERATIONS OF RED CROSS AMBULANCE AFTER SPION KOP (Alternative)
RED CROSS AMBULANCE WAGON AFTER SPION KOP (Alternative)
BRITISH TROOPS RETREATING ACROSS THE TUGELA (Archive)
BATTLE OF SPION KOP: AMBULANCE CORPS CROSSING THE TUGELA RIVER
    Synopsis. ACTUALITY. Ambulances and British troops crossing the Tugela River over the pontoon bridge near Trichardt's Drift, during the British retreat from Spion Kop in the Boer War, 25 January 1900. Three separate scenes (single shots) taken from the same camera position. The view is from above a trench looking across the river to hills beyond (Spion Kop itself is to the right, out of the picture).
    [FIRST SCENE] [SCHULTZE CAN 40B] In the foreground four British soldiers positioned in a trench; in the middle ground a long line of British troops crossing the pontoon bridge, accompanying an ambulance wagon carrying a Red Cross flag; in the distance another ambulance with troops coming down a slope towards the pontoon bridge; and in the extreme distance a large number of wagons and troops taking part in the retreat (37 ft / 35 mm).
    [SECOND SCENE] [SCHULTZE CAN 12] The same camera position, with the four men in the trench in the foreground, but only one ambulance wagon in view (having just crossed the pontoon bridge), a few men walking down the slope, and some wagons visible high up in the far distance (45 ft / 35 mm).
    [THIRD SCENE] [SCHULTZE CAN 45C] Slightly closer shot from same camera position (distant hills no longer in frame), with same four men in the trench in the foreground, and in the middle distance a Red Cross ambulance being pulled over the pontoon bridge by troops; it is then attached to a waiting team of horses. There are a few men walking down the slope and a couple of men on horseback on the nearer side of the river (47 ft / 35 mm).
    Note: Originally filmed in 68 mm. Filmed by William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson on 25 January 1900. There are three separate scenes taken from the same camera position; SCHULTZE CAN 12, SCHULTZE CAN 40B and SCHULTZE CAN 45C. The order in which they were taken is not clear, but the above ordering seems probable. The third scene was probably shot with the telephoto lens Dickson is reported to have used.
    Refs: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Picture Catalogue, Nov 1902, p 166 (cat. nos. 591E and 592E, `Military' section, under title BATTLE OF THE UPPER TUGELA). Dickson, The Biograph in Battle (1901), pp 129-31 [illus. first scene] Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War (1979), p 306 (pbk ed 1992). [illus. first scene] Palace Theatre programme 8 March 1900 (OPERATIONS OF AMBULANCE AFTER SPION KOP) Palace Theatre programme 26 June 1902 (RED CROSS AFTER SPION KOP)
."
    AA: The first scene of the Spion Kop cycle in a brilliant digital transfer. I had seen before the full set of three scenes on a 35 mm BFINA print. This epic footage is still among the most majestic in the history of war documentary, only equalled by staged scenes of fiction by Griffith (Birth of a Nation) and Bondarchuk (the Battle of Borodino in War and Peace). It is astounding to observe at least five levels of depth in the deep focus footage of the battle scenery. These films can also be compared with the grandest classics of battlefield painting. See the image on top of this blog post and click to enlarge it!

Gordon Highlanders in Ladysmith (GB 1900). Ladysmith, South Africa, 3 March 1900. Photo: BFI National Archive.

26. Gordon Highlanders in Ladysmith (GB 1900). 3 March 1900
2000 GCM Biograph 6: I Love a Parade.
2008 GCM W. K. L. Dickson 3: "Biographing". Gordon Highlanders in Ladysmith (Ladysmith – Gordon Highlanders Marching Out to Meet Relief Column / Relief of Ladysmith) (The British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, GB, 1899). Supv: W. K.-L.Dickson; ph: [W. K.-L.Dickson]; filmed: Ladysmith, South Africa, 2–3.3.1900; AMCo. Prod. No. 613E; 35 mm, 51 ft, 32” (24 fps); print: BFINA, London. Preserved from a 68 mm original (Schultze Collection). No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "Dickson recorded the formal ceremonies for the relief of Ladysmith, where the Gordon Highlanders had been under siege by the Boers since 1 November 1899. (General Buller made an informal entry on the day before.) Dickson was filming under some handicap, as both of his assistants, Cox and Seward, were ill and had been taken back to Durban. An inexperienced assistant had been hired, but Dickson was also succumbing to enteric fever. Dickson (The Biograph in Battle): “...a busy day for all. By 10 a.m. we have secured a Biograph and other pictures of the beleaguered Gordon Highlanders en route from camp to welcome the entrance of the relief column, headed by General Buller and Staff. This is our next picture, but regretfully we must face the sun to secure it. Every facility has been given us by Colonel Scott, in command of the Highlanders, who, with other regiments, line the streets on both sides – our cart be conspicuously a nuisance, from the back of which we took the Bios. The cart had to displace the soldiers, the back reaching out into the street as we had no tripod … this we found impossible to drag over the mountain, and so had left it behind. ... I found standing at my side Winston Churchill. ....”" – Paul Spehr.
    BFI Player: "The Scottish regiment joins the relief column following the devastating siege of Ladysmith in the Boer War. Filmmaker WKL Dickson was alive to the historical significance of this Boer War film: its creation marks the end of the 118-day siege of Ladysmith, in which more than 3,000 British soldiers died. Dickson assiduously recorded its making (“by 10 a.m. we have secured a Biograph... of the beleaguered Gordon Highlanders”) and used it on the cover of his book The Biograph in Battle. With nothing striking to differentiate it from other troop films, we must assume that contemporary audiences were as appreciative of its context as its creator."
    Colonial Film: "BFI (ID: 403147). 51 ft. Titles:
SCHULTZE CAN 13A (Acquisition)
LADYSMITH: GORDON HIGHLANDERS MARCHING OUT TO MEET RELIEF CO LUMN (Alternative)
RELIEF OF LADYSMITH (Alternative)
SCOTTISH REGIMENT IN CAMP (Archive)
GORDON HIGHLANDERS IN LADYSMITH
Synopsis: ACTUALITY. Boer war. Single shot of a column of Gordon Highlanders marching out of their camp at Ladysmith to meet General Buller's relief column.
    Troops in khaki kilts march turning a corner and marching to the right past lines of tents. One soldier has an arm missing. They are followed by pipers, drummers and more troops (51ft/35mm).
    Note: Originally filmed in 68 mm. Taken by William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson on 3 March 1900 at Ladysmith on the occasion of General Buller's official entry into the town.
    Refs: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Picture Catalogue, Nov 1902 (cat. no. 613E, `Military' section, under title THE RELIEF OF LADYSMITH) W.K-L. Dickson, The Biograph in Battle (1901), pp 169 [illus.], 170, 173. Palace Theatre programme 23 April 1900.
" Colonial Film
    AA: Revisited a film which I had seen before in 35 mm (BFINA). Wearing their tartan kilts and playing the bagpipe the Highlanders march in front of the camera. See image above. The depth of focus is striking.

Ladysmith – Naval Brigade Dragging 4.7 Guns into Ladysmith (GB 1900). Photo: BFI National Archive.

27. Ladysmith – Naval Brigade Dragging 4.7 Guns into Ladysmith (GB 1900) March 1900
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience.
BFI Player: "Naval men struggle to move the guns to the front. This film by WKL Dickson shows the guns (likely of HMS Terrible) being moved over rocky ground. A quick head-count suggests that it took roughly fifty men to pull each 4.7 inch gun. Dickson and his assistants faced a similar logistical challenge with his camera, its batteries, tripod, and additional lenses and modifications (including a little-used telephoto lens and a pump powered by a bicycle wheel, designed to keep the film tight against the shutter). This is a partner to the Boer War film Naval Guns Firing at Colenso." BFI Player
Colonial Film: "BFI (ID: 403242). 48 ft. Titles:
SCHULTZE CAN 50 (Acquisition)
BOYS OF H.M.S. `TERRIBLE' GETTING THEIR GUNS INTO POSITION (Alternative)
RELIEF OF LADYSMITH (Alternative)
NAVAL RATINGS PULLING GUN (Archive)
LADYSMITH – NAVAL BRIGADE DRAGGING 4.7 GUNS INTO LADYSMITH
Synopsis: ACTUALITY. Single shot. Naval ratings pulling along naval guns during the Boer War.
A long double line of naval ratings hauling a 4.7" gun across open country (from right to left). A second group hauling a second gun follows behind (48 ft / 35 mm).
Notes: This film was originally identified as BOYS OF H.M.S. "TERRIBLE" GETTING THEIR GUNS INTO POSITION, but it has been tentatively redesignated as the Ladysmith film by Barry Anthony during research work for the book 'A Victorian Film Enterprise: The History of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1897–1915' (Flicks Books, 1999).
Originally filmed in 68 mm."
    AA: The marines march in our direction dragging two huge naval guns.

VI  Ad Break

Rudge-Whitworth – Britain's Best Bicycle (GB 1902). Photo: BFI National Archive.

28. Rudge-Whitworth – Britain's Best Bicycle (GB 1902)
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience:  Rudge and Whitworth, Britain's Best Bicycle (GB 1902)
    BFI Player: "A gentleman cyclist learns the error of his ways in one of the earliest surviving British film advertisements. Advert. 30". Motion picture advertising was barely five years old when this Edwardian promo was made. Our gentleman cyclist looks rather worse for wear. If only he had a new Rudge-Whitworth bicycle he'd be a happier man! With its short, 30-second duration and simple, humorous message, this entertaining commercial shows that the wheel of screen advertising has turned full circle. Rudge-Whitworth, formed in 1894 from the merger of the Rudge Cycle Co. and the Whitworth Cycle Co., was one of Britain's leading manufacturers of bicycles and motorcycles. The company reached its peak in the early 1930s, but suffered in the Depression. The bicycle business was ultimately sold to Raleigh, which kept the name alive for many years." BFI Player
    AA: The gentleman cyclist is amazed to discover a new, more modern bicycle to replace his old and heavy one.

Dewar's Perth. "The Whisky of His Forefathers advertisement by Matthew B. Hewerdine, 1894, shows a whisky so good as to entice ancestral spirits out of a painting frame." Text: Creators website. Photo: Dewar's.

The Spirit of His Forefathers (GB 1900). A Dewar's Whisky ad. Photo: BFI National Archive.

29. The Spirit of His Forefathers (GB 1900).
2000 GCM Biograph 9: Staging the World: The Spirit of His Forefathers (GB 1900). NFM 35 mm.
2017 GCM Tableaux vivants (Valentine Robert): The Spirit of His Forefathers (GB 1900), prod: British Mutoscope & Biograph Co., source: BFI National Archive, London. 2K DCP. Advertising film for Dewar’s Whisky. A tableau based on Matthew B. Hewerdine's painting.
    BFI Player: "One of the earliest surviving British adverts. There’s some dram-antic stuff in this 30-second commercial from the dawn of cinema history. Dewar’s had used the idea of a laird’s ancestors being lured down from their painted portraits to share a whisky in a variety of advertising media before moving image came along. This version is the second surviving example on film, with an earlier American production of the same concept made by the International Film Company in 1897. This British production made a late reappearance as part of a 1977 television commercial for Dewar’s under the title The Whisky of His Ancestors to promote their advertising heritage." BFI Player.
    AA: I had recently seen this funny ad in Valentine Robert's Tableaux vivants show (2017), and now I saw it for the first time in 4K. In Pordenone this year Tina Anckarman and Magnus Rosborn showed two ads in which monuments of the most formidable Nordic kings (Carl XII of Sweden and Christian IV of Denmark and Norway) wake up to satisfy their yen for Freia and Marabou chocolate.

VII  Up for a Laugh: Victorian Entertainers

Herbert Campbell as Little Bobby (GB 1900). Photo: BFI National Archive.

30. Herbert Campbell as Little Bobby (GB 1900).
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience: [Herbert Campbell als "Little Bobbie"] (GB 1900). NFM 35 mm.
2014 GCM Edwardian Entertainment: Herbert Campbell as Little Bobby. (British Mutoscope & Biograph Company – GB 1899) D: ?; 35 mm, 48 ft, 48" (16 fps). Herbert Campbell was the professional partner of Dan Leno, and performed with him in a series of Drury Lane pantomimes from 1888 until Leno’s death in 1904. Here he plays the character of “Little Bobby” in Cinderella. The film is operating on several levels: as a news item, as an advertisement for the pantomime, and as a “facial” comedy. – Bryony Dixon – AA: A comic scene: Little Bobby is a big gourmand who devours food and downs a huge mug of beer in one gulp. In medium shot.
      BFI Player: "A not-so-little variety star shows off his appetite."
    "Comedy 1899 1 min."
    "Hold onto your lunch! This entertaining, ever-so-slightly disgusting film captures variety star Herbert Campbell, in character as 'Little Bobby' from a contemporary Drury Lane production of Jack and the Beanstalk. Campbell eats his unappealing plate of slop with gusto, washing it down with huge gulps of beer. Thanks to WKL Dickson's patented 68 mm film stock (roughly the same proportions as modern IMAX film), we get to see Bobby's woeful table manners in every gross detail."
    "While the film now seems a straightforward 'facial' – exploiting the novelty and comic potential of what we'd now call a close-up (technically, this is a mid-shot, since it shows the torso as well as head and shoulders). At the time it was made, though it had a more important function, promoting the production.
" BFI Player
    AA: The last time I saw this was in Vanessa Toulmin and Bryony Dixon's fantastic Edwardian Entertainment show i Pordenone in 2014 in glorious 35 mm. Now the gluttony – often cited as the first deadly sin – was on display in glorious 4K.

Agoust Family of Jugglers (GB 1898). My screenshot from the NFM copy on YouTube.

31. Agoust Family of Jugglers (GB 1898).
Die Jongleur-Familie Agoust. The NFM copy is on YouTube.
2000 GCM Biograph 9: Staging the World: Agoust Family of Jugglers (GB 1898). NFM 35 mm.
    AA: A lovingly staged spectacle of the whole family interrupting a dinner for some fantastic juggling with tableware. A dynamic use of space and movement in comedy.

32. Kissing Couple Caught by a Photographer.
    AA: This one I had never seen before, and I could not find any information about this, either. We see a loving couple. The woman wards off the man's advances. A sneaking photographer is knocked down. The woman starts to laugh.

The Barber Saw the Joke (GB 1900). Photo: BFI National Archive.

33. The Barber Saw the Joke (GB 1900)
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience.
2014 GCM Edwardian Entertainment: The Barber Saw the Joke (British Mutoscope & Biograph Company – GB, c. 1901) D: ?; 35 mm, 50 ft, 50" (16 fps). A barber cutting a man’s hair reads an Ally Sloper comic over his client’s shoulder. He is laughing so hard he cuts the customer’s ear with his razor. Barbershops were a stock location or “situation” for comic sketches in pantomime and the music hall. – Bryony Dixon. – AA: A comedy with a dark Van Gogh twist. Laughter can be infectuous. Medium shot. Ok visual quality. 
    BFI Player: "A barber takes his mind of his work, with alarming consequences."
    "Comedy 1900 1 min"
    "This gentleman may wish he'd taken some less humorous to read when he falls victim to the barber's straying scissors. Judging by the amount of blood that transfers from the sponge to the barber's face, it's no trivial cut. He should be grateful at least he didn't go in for a shave… "
    "This comic skit was shot by WKL Dickson for British Mutoscope and Biograph. This version comes from the BFI National Archive's large-format print - Dickson's unique 68mm stock, which gives us enough detail to read the title of the customer's comic, Ally Sloper's Half Holiday, which ran from 1884 to 1916. So far, we can't be sure of the date, though it's likely between 1898 and 1901."
    "Title: Barber Saw the Joke"
. BFI Player
    AA: Revisited a grim comedy sketch which I had last seen on 35 mm in Vanessa Toulmin and Bryony Dixon's Edwardian Entertainment show in 2014. A splatter comedy, reminding me of ad copy for Herschell Gordon Lewis's Color Me Blood Red: "Even Van Gogh would lend an ear".

VIII  The Victorian Stage

King John (GB 1899) with Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Photo: BFI National Archive.

34. King John (GB 1899).
2000 GCM Biograph 10: Visual Attractions: King John (GB 1899) – Herbert Beerbohm Tree 
2008 GCM W. K.-L. Dickson 3: "Biographing". King John (A Scene – “King John”, Now Playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre: The Last Moments of King John of England in the Orchard of Swinstead Abbey / Beerbohm Tree, The Great English Actor) (The British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, GB 1899) Supv: W. K.-L. Dickson; ph: ?; cast: Herbert Beerbohm Tree (King John), members of the cast from Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, England; filmed: Thames embankment studio, London, 18.9.1899; AMCo. Prod. No. 493E; 35 mm, 84 ft, 57” (24 fps); print: BFINA. Preserved from a 68 mm original from the NFM. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, a leading performer of London’s theatre world, was recorded in 4 scenes from Shakespeare’s King John. It was a new role for him, and the film was made just prior to its opening. The Sketch’s H. Chance Newton reported “... [the] writer called upon Mr. Beerbohm Tree... found that popular actor-manager and his numerous adherents just passing through a most trying ordeal. In other words, Mr. Tree and the whole strength of his company were being ‘biographed’ wholesale, retail, and certainly for exportation, by that shrewd firm which supplies Animated Photographs to this or that amusement resort throughout the United Queendom… It was truly a very quaint experience to see this extensive company ... who will to-night (Wednesday) ... present... ‘King John’ ... Hurrying off clothed in more or less ‘complete steel’ – and in perfect makeup – to the vicinity of the Hotel Cecil, to be snapshotted, as it were, for pictures to be presently shown in all sorts of places in Europe, but especially at the Palace Theatre, London. For the going and coming and the to-ing and fro-ing of the latest King John and his vast retinue a new and picturesque awning had been prepared outside Her Majesty’s Theatre and several ‘Black Marias’ had been chartered for the carrying of the company .... There was also something of humour in the sight of ... hurrying back with the dark-blue-armoured King John Tree at their head, newly escaped from the clutches (and the ‘Kodaks’) of the Animated Photographers. ... the production, which, whatever its other merits may prove to be, will to-night assuredly be hailed as one of the grandest examples of mise-en-scène ever witnessed even at this theatre.”" – Paul Spehr
    BFI website: "The first ever Shakespearean film – once thought to be lost – with Herbert Beerbohm Tree in the title role."
    "This is the first ever Shakespearean film, long thought to be lost – its nature previously the subject of much speculation. It derives from the Her Majesty’s Theatre production of King John, which opened on 20 September 1899 with Herbert Beerbohm Tree, actor-manager of the theatre, in the title role."
    "Once believed to show the Magna Carta scene, it in fact shows King John’s speech from final scene of the play (‘Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room’). The cast is understood to include (as well as Tree as King John), Dora Senior as Prince Henry, F. M. Paget as Bigot and James Fisher as Pembroke. This surviving fragment contains only one scene, although the original presented four scenes and ran four minutes in duration. It was filmed in September 1899 at the film company’s open-air studio, using a 68 mm camera that lends a ‘widescreen’ effect which would have wowed audiences of the day."
    "Director: William Dickson and Walter Pfeffer Dando. Featuring: Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Dora Senior, F. M. Paget, James Fisher"
(BFI website)
    AA: Revisited the only surviving scene (with a duration of one minute) from the first filmed Shakespeare performance, of King John, with Herbert Beerbohm Tree as John Lackland / Jean sans Terre / Johann Ohneland / Juhana Maaton, son of Eleanor of Aquitaine, here in the famous death scene. King John is a more admirable character in Shakespeare than in contemporary popular culture inspired by Sir Walter Scott and the Robin Hood adventures, incorporated by the likes of Claude Rains, relishing in villainy. Like almost all legends of the theatre appearing in early cinema, Herbert Beerbohm Tree is like an albatross on board of a ship, huge and awkward and without room to fly. His projection is for a grand live auditorium.

He and She (GB 1898). She: Roma T. Roma. Photo: BFI National Archive.

He and She (GB 1898). She: Roma T. Roma. Photo: BFI National Archive.

35. He and She (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience.
    BFI Player: "Short, slightly enigmatic sketch about a squabbling couple."
    "Drama. 1898."
    "The couple in this short sketch may be husband and wife or father and daughter, but we're clearly seeing them on a bad night. The subject of their row (or tiff?) seems to be the lady's poor timekeeping. This version is taken from a large-format 68 mm print, which gives markedly superior image quality, but is around half the length. In the longer version, the lady ultimately bursts into tears, whereupon the man, realising he has gone too far, presents her with a boxed gift, possibly a piece of jewellery."
    "Almost certainly adapted from a stage sketch (Roma T. Roma, the actress here, is believed to be the author), this film was shelved in the BFI National Archive under the temporary title Man and Woman in Dramatic Scene before it was identified."
    AA: A vigorous and dynamic sketch, labelled by BFI as drama, or could it be an early contender for the early cinema's "Nasty Women" comedy current explored by Maggie Hennefeld and Laura Horak?

The Zola-Rochefort Duel, Paris (GB 1898). Photo from The Wonders of the Biograph (1999/2000) via The Bioscope.

36. The Zola-Rochefort Duel, Paris (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 5: Yesterday’s News: The Zola-Rochefort Duel, Paris (GB 1898)
    Luke McKernan (The Bioscope, 11 March 2010): "The first Biograph film related to the Dreyfus affair was the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company’s The Zola-Rochefort Duel, made around June/July 1898. This was the year of Emile Zola’s polemical open letter ‘J’accuse’ which brought the Dreyfus injustice out into the open. Henri Rochefort was a journalist and a rabid anti-Dreyfusard. The film dramatises a duel with swords between the two men in a park. A Biograph catalogue record describes it this:"
    'This is a replica of the famous duel with rapiers between Emile Zola, the novelist, and Henri Rochefort, the statesman. The duel takes place on the identical ground where the original fighting occurred, seconds and doctors being present as in the original combat. The picture gives a good idea of how a French affair of honor is conducted.'
    "However, there was no duel fought between Zola and Rochefort in reality, so either the film is meant to be symbolic or it is based on a false news report.
" Luke McKernan (The Bioscope, 11 March 2010)
    AA: A fictional, invented scene with the writer Émile Zola duelling with rapiers with Henri Rochefort, a politician and a prominent anti-Dreyfusard. Eight men are present in the park, and the other duellist is hit, but I was not able to register which one.

La Biche au Bois (FR 1896) (Kodak Film Samples Collection) Hand coloring. Film samples from the Kodak Film Samples. Collection at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. Credit: National Science and Media Museum Bradford.
Photographs of the 60 mm nitrate print by Barbara Flückiger in collaboration with Noemi Daugaard, SNSF project Film Colors. Technologies, Cultures, Institutions.

The Bioscope: "Hand-coloured Demenÿ-Gaumont film on 60 mm, from 1896, showing dancers from La Biche au Bois stage show at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, from Brian Coe, The History of Movie Photography (1981)".

37. La Biche au Bois (FR 1896) (60 mm) hand coloured, Georges Demenÿ / Gaumont.
    Gaumont Pathé archives: "Quelques titres de la collection: une scène à trucs La biche au bois – ce film colorié à la main de 1896 est le plus ancien joyau du catalogue Gaumont."
    Le Blog de Pascal Fouché, un blog sur le flip book: "Selon Laurent Guido, il s'agit d'une chorégraphie tirée de La Biche au bois (un spectacle scénique monté au Châtelet en 1896), et dont il existe une bande Gaumont (filmée avec une caméra Demenÿ, et destinée à être insérée sous la forme d'une projection au sein du spectacle lui-même). Selon Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan, le flip-book reproduit les neufs photogrammes, répétés plusieurs fois, de la vue animée intitulée Ballet du Châtelet reproduits dans La Nature du 21 novembre 1896 (ci-dessous)."
    "La bande d’où est extraite cette illustration en comportait environ 1000, chaque photogramme étant colorié à la main ; elle s'insérait comme trucage dans la féerie La Biche au bois. Elle fut composée et dirigée par Edmond Floury, directeur technique du Châtelet, et chronophotographiée par l’opérateur Jacques Ducom. On peut dire qu'ils en sont les créateurs. Georges Demenÿ n'est que l'inventeur de l'appareil de prise de vues et il n'aurait pas participé au tournage.
" Le Blog de Pascal Fouché.
Plateau Hassard: le blog: Le Chronophotographe Demenÿ: "Le tournage de La Biche au bois."
    / Image from Le Figaro du 6 août 1896. La pièce sera reprise en Novembre et le théâtre encaissera  dimanche 15 " la belle recette de 9000 francs !""
    "En 1896 Léon Gaumont obtient de M M Floury directeurs du Chatelet le tournage de l'une de leurs "fééries", La Biche aux bois, pièce  d'Hypolite Coignard inspirée d'un conte de Mme d'Aulnoy.
Ce tournage se déroulera sur le toit du Chatelet avec le chronophotographe 60 mm et sera l'objet d'un des premiers trucages."
    "Le sénéchal Pelican  est tourmenté par des démangeaisons dans le nez qui lui ont été procurées par la fée de la Fontaine, la fée Topaze va les faire disparaître."
    "Ducom, qui tourna la scène, raconte: "l'acteur est placé de profil devant un décor représentant la salle d'un sombre et basse d'un château  Sur le mur du fond on voyait le nez de l'acteur grossir, s'allonger et rougir démesurément, puis au bout du nez une explosion se produisait et au milieu d'un fracas épouvantable et de nuages de fumée intense. une foule de lutins sortaient du nez , exécutait une danse infernale en frappant sur le bout du nez avec des marteaux et des piques,.. Après  cette ronde les esprits disparaissaient dans un autre nuage de fumée, le nez reprenait sa longueur normale et le personnage de féerie remerciait la bonne fée."
    "Deux sortes de projections étaient nécessaires : une produite par une lanterne ordinaire et destinée à projeter l'image du nez grossissant, l'autre cinématographique pour projeter la scène  ou l'on voyait l'explosion du bout du nez, les fumées et les danses...""
    "La Biche au bois est avec La Fée aux choux une des premières fictions réalisées par le chronophotographe Demenÿ 60 mm.
"
     Note de bas de page: "Description du chronophotographe dans la Nature 1896 2éme semestre par Mareschal p 392.. ". La "Biche aux bois" filmé par Ducom au Chatelet en 1896 et colorié  approche les 35 m (un avantage du 60 mm est qu'il permet de colorier le film plus facilement). Sadoul écrit même : "ce film de large format mesurait 35 m et comportait un millier images" (T1 p 375)"
    AA: Based on the fairy-tale (1698) by Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy (1650–1705), the mother of the art fairy-tale, a féerie with buxom fairies in Belle Époque fashion, familiar from Georges Méliès. (The fairy-tale is known in Finland as "Valkoinen saksanhirvi"). I guess this is the famous Georges Demenÿ / Gaumont film, one of the first titles shot on the Chronophotographe Demenÿ 60 mm (tbc). G. Mareschal points out that 60 mm footage was easier to colorize than 35 mm.
Restored BFI 2018

IX  Let's Go for a Ride: Panoramas and Phantom Rides

38. [Prestwych Platform Scene] (GB ca 1900) 47″ (16 fps).
2017 GCM Victorian Cinema. BFI DCP from 60 mm. Bryony Dixon: "Unidentified 60 mm film directly taken from a 68 mm negative – probably shot at Wood Green station in north London around 1900. The man walking along the platform must be known to the cameraman and may be a British pioneer filmmaker, but we are still working on identifying him." (Bryony Dixon GCM 2017)
    AA: A different "arrival of a train" view. A train arrives towards us. There is a cut and a second view with another train.

Menai Bridge – The Irish Day Mail from Euston Entering the Tubular Bridge over the Menai Straits (GB 1898). Photo: BFI National Archive.

39. Menai Bridge – The Irish Day Mail from Euston Entering the Tubular Bridge over the Menai Straits (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 2: Where to Place the Camera?: Menai Bridge, the Day Irish Mail from Euston Entering the Tubular Bridge over the Menai Straits (GB 1898). NFM 35 mm.
2017 GCM Victorian Cinema. BFI DCP from 68 mm. Menai Bridge: The Irish Day Mail from Euston Entering the Tubular Bridge (1898) 38″ (24 fps). Bryony Dixon: "Glorious view of the express train going across the famous Britannia tubular bridge across the Menai Strait in North Wales." AA: A train going into a tunnel and another train emerging from it on the parallel rails.
2018 Bologna Anno Tre.
    BFI Player: "Stirring image of late-Victorian rail."
    "This beautifully composed shot taken from the south side of the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Straits – with its grand Egyptian-style facade fronted by imposing twin lions – is all the more stunning for being shot on WKL Dickson's own 68 mm format. The exceptional detail of this large-format film (nearly four times the area of conventional 35 mm film and almost as big as today's IMAX) enhances what is already a highly evocative image."
    "The bridge was designed by 'father of the railways' George Stephenson.
"
    AA: The famous grandiose view now in brilliant digital.

Conway Castle – Panoramic View of Conway on the L.& N.W. Railway (GB 1898). Photo: BFI National Archive.

40. Conway Castle – Panoramic View of Conway on the L.& N.W. Railway (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 10: Visual Attractions: Conway Castle – Panoramic View of Conway on the L. & N.W. Railway (GB 1898)
2018 Bologna Anno Tre
2008 GCM W. K.-L. Dickson 3: "Biographing": Conway Castle – Panoramic View of Conway on the L.& N.W. Railway. (Conway Castle) (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W. K.-L.Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; filmed: Conway, Wales, 2.1898; AMCo. Prod. No. 107E; 35 mm, 142 ft, 2’11” (30? fps), col. (printed on colour stock, reproducing original hand-colouring?); print: NFM. Preserved from a 68 mm original. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "The Irish Mail train filmed on the London & Northwest Railway at Conway, Wales. One of the most popular of the “phantom ride” films, it shows a panorama of the countryside and the castle as the train runs through the Welsh countryside." – Paul Spehr
    BFI website: "Phantom train ride film: no ghosts but no apparent sign of the train either, the camera being attached to the very front of the locomotive. This beautiful film, shot in February 1898, has a dream-like quality and is hand tinted (possibly stencilled). It is believed to have been coloured some time after it was first shown as no contemporary reviews or advertisements refer to what would surely have been a major selling/talking point, 1898 being very early for coloured films."
    "This film was made in response to the first American phantom train ride film (by the British Mutoscope and Biograph's parent company, the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company), 'The Haverstraw Tunnel', which showed the scenery around the Hudson river and a tunnel and so delighted the audience that the British operation decided to make their own version, which also proved very popular – it showed not only in London but also in Rochester, New York, and then travelled all over Europe, still being shown in cinemas as late as 1910. This film is preserved by the EYE Filmmuseum, Netherlands.
" (BFI website)
    Conway in Welsh: Conwy.
    AA: The primal revelation of the phantom ride: a forward tracking shot from a train functioning as the camera dolly. The happy marriage of the train and the cinema. With each turn new vistas are opened with a beautiful sense of depth. Scanned from a source with original stencil colour which is heavily faded. But that is an added spice on our journey into history: the history 120 years ago – and the history of Conway Castle built between 1283 and 1289, now a World Heritage Site.

41. Irish Mail – L.& N.W. Railway – Taking up Water at Full Speed (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 2: Where to Place the Camera?: Irish Mail – L. & N.W. Railway – Taking Up Water at Full Speed (GB 1898). NFM 35 mm.
2008 GCM W. K.-L. Dickson 3: "Biographing": Irish Mail – L. & N.W. Railway – Taking Up Water at Full Speed! (The “Jennie Dean” – Bushey) (The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W. K.-L. Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; filmed: Bushey, England, 2.1898; AMCo. Prod. No. 112E; 35 mm, 116 ft, 1’54” (30? fps); print: NFM. Preserved from a 68 mm original. No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "On the same trip promoting the Irish Mail, Dickson captured this remarkable scene, on the London & Northwest Railway, at Bushey, England. The camera is mounted on a train running parallel with the Irish Mail, pulled by an engine named the Jennie Dean. During the filming a third train passes between the two. Near the end of the shot the trains change tracks, allowing a better angle for recording the process of taking water from troughs along the track." – Paul Spehr
    AA: The familiar impressive view in a striking new digital transfer.

Through Miller's Dale (Near Buxton, Derbyshire) Midland Rail (GB 1898). Photo: BFI National Archive.

42. Through Miller's Dale (Near Buxton, Derbyshire) Midland Rail (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience. NFM 35 mm.
    BFI Player: "A gorgeous ride through one of the Peak District's most stunning spots."
    "Non-Fiction 1898 2 min."
    "Among all surviving examples of the 'phantom ride' train journey film, this is one of the most drop-dead gorgeous. Filmed in 68 mm by the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, it takes in tunnels, signal boxes, a beguilingly winding track and all around us simply stunning scenery.
"
    AA: A beautiful example of the cinema of attractions: reality itself as the attraction. Sublime views in a digital transfer conveying 68 mm glory.

Tram Journey through Southampton (GB 1900). Photo: BFI National Archive.

43. Tram Journey through Southampton (GB 1900).
2000 GCM Biograph 2: Where to Place the Camera?: [Tram Journey Through Southampton] (GB [1900]). NFM 35 mm.
    BFI Player: "A moving tour through lively turn-of-the-century Southampton."
    "Non-Fiction / Travelogue 1900 1 min."
    "This magnificent 'phantom ride' vividly animates Southampton High Street at the turn of the 20th century. The archway of the medieval stone wall through which the tram passes will be instantly familiar to locals. As the tram emerges from the archway, a long-dead world startlingly comes to life: horse-drawn carriages meander slowly along the road, unfamiliar shops line the street and people walk around in the late-Victorian fashions of the day."
    "'Phantom rides' – films shot from a moving vehicle to give an impression of travel – were one of the most striking sensations of the early film period.
" BFI Player
    AA: An absolutely charming and vivid time travel experience made possible by the rich density of detail and depth of field on a phantom tram ride through Southampton. I'm reminded of the oldest surviving film of Helsinki: a phantom tram ride on the Esplanade (produced by Atelier Apollo 1906–1907). I wish it had a stunning technical quality like this!

44. Waves Breaking.
    AA: I could not find information which film this is on the much filmed subject of the early years. The waves are breaking towards us. The rock on the right side seems to sway. In the earliest Biograph screenings the subject of waves was among the most popular.

45. Vienna Street Scenes (1896). Gaumont / Demenÿ 60 mm.
2017 GCM Victorian Cinema. BFI DCP from 60 mm. Vienna Street Scene (1896) 42″ (14 fps). Prod: Gaumont Company. Bryony Dixon: "A typical early street scene taken by the Gaumont Company using the Demenÿ 60 mm system, which gave excellent resolution and registration, and allowed for more projection light." AA: Heavy traffic in Vienna.
    AA: Revisited the rich, beautiful, lively view from Vienna, one of the earliest from there. We register the heavy traffic, lots of fiacres (Fiaker) and the shop sign J. Mandl.

Panoramic View of the Vegetable Market at Venice (GB 1898). Photo: BFI Natonal Archive.

46. Panoramic View of the Vegetable Market at Venice (GB 1898).
GCM 2000 Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience: Panorama of the Grand Canal, Venice; Passing the Vegetable Market, GB, 1898.
GCM 2017 Victorian Cinema. Panoramic View of the Vegetable Market, Venice (1898) 34″ (28 fps). Bryony Dixon: "Taken from a boat passing the crowds of vendors on a busy market day." AA: Also a tracking shot from a moving boat, now recording the lively bustle of the market. Low contrast."
    BFI website: "Gorgeous tour of late 19th century Venice."
    "This remarkable film takes us around Venice's teeming waterfront market – shot, naturally enough, from the water (a gondola?). It's a spectular piece of film tourism, all the better for being shot on WKL Dickson's own unique 68 mm stock, which gives the images an astonishing sharpness."
    "This was one of a number of films taken during William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson's 1898 tour of Italy. On the same tour, Dickson secured the coup of capturing the first moving images of the Pope (then Leo XIII).
" (BFI website)
    AA: One of the highlights of the show, a superb digital transfer of the lively view full of rich detail.

Grand Canal, Venice (GB 1898). Palazzo Mocenigo, once home to Lord Byron. Photo: BFI National Archive.

47. Grand Canal, Venice (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 8: How Shots Hang Together: The Grand Canal, Venice (GB 1898).
2017 GCM Victorian Cinema: Grand Canal Venice (1898) 30″ (26 fps). Bryony Dixon: "A fragment of a panorama of the Grand Canal from a boat." AA: A tracking shot like the famous pioneering Lumière Vue N° 295, Panorama du Grand Canal pris d’un bateau. Low contrast. (2017)
    BFI Player: "This tiny fragment of a gondolier on the Grand Canal shows how little has changed in Venice since 1898."
    "Non-Fiction 1898 1 min."
    "This is one of the views taken by WKL Dickson on his visit to Italy in 1898 – the same tour on which he filmed the Pope in Rome. While he was there Dickson took views of various Italian locations, including several of Venice. This fragment was filmed on the Grand Canal from a motor launch and is here passing the Palazzo Mocenigo, once home to Lord Byron.
"
    AA: A phantom ride through Venice, observing gondoliers and palaces. A tracking shot with panoramic movements.

Feeding the Pigeons in St. Mark's Square, Venice (GB 1898). W. K.-L. Dickson, a female companion and a little girl. Photo: BFI National Archive.

48. Feeding the Pigeons in Saint Mark's Square, Venice (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 7: People in Front of the Camera: Venice, Feeding the Pigeons in St. Mark’s Square (GB 1898)
2008 GCM W. K.-L. Dickson 3: "Biographing": Feeding the Pigeons in St. Mark's Square, Venice
(The Mutoscope and Biograph Syndicate, GB 1898) Supv: W. K.-L. Dickson; ph: Emile Lauste; cast: W. K.-L. Dickson; filmed: 5–6.1898; 35 mm, 79 ft, ca 50” (24 fps); print: BFI National Archive, London. Preserved from a 68 mm original (Schultze Collection). No intertitles. Paul Spehr: "While in Italy to persuade Pope Leo XIII to appear on film Dickson made several side trips for filming. Most were to film supplementary religious subjects, but in Venice he filmed tourist sites. His appearance in this film, shot in front of St. Mark’s and near Quadri’s, might seem ego-driven, but it was probably to control the young girl who was featured. She had a tendency to forget the pigeons and distractedly wander off-camera, but she returned when bidden by Mr. D. The girl and the woman are unidentified." –Paul Spehr
2017 GCM Victorian Cinema. Feeding the Pigeons in St. Mark's Square (1898) 42″ (30 fps). Bryony Dixon: "W. K.-L. Dickson himself with a female companion and a little girl feeding the pigeons." AA: Fascinating to witness them here, not far from we are watching this show. Low contrast. The speed could be higher?
    BFI Player: "A wayward toddler is the star of this short early travelogue"
    "An unruly child actor can't spoil the charm of this utterly delightful bit of film. The diminutive star seems to have her own agenda – she certainly doesn't seem too keen to take direction from filmmaker William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson (that's him, looking dapper in a white suit and cap). At least the pigeons hit their marks! The beauty of the scene is enhanced by its exceptional image quality – thanks to Dickson's unique large-format (68 mm) film stock."
    "This was one of a number of films taken during Dickson's 1898 tour of Italy. On the same tour, Dickson secured the coup of capturing the first moving images of the Pope (then Leo XIII).
" (BFI Player)
    AA: The famous and charming view looks stunning in the new 8K scan viewed from the 4K DCP.

Neapolitan Dance at the Ancient Forum of Pompeii (GB 1898). Photo: BFI National Archive.

49. Neapolitan Dance at the Ancient Forum of Pompeii (GB 1898).
2000 GCM Biograph 8: How Shots Hang Together: Neapolitan Dance at the Ancient Forum of Pompeii (GB 1898). NFM 35 mm.
2017 GCM Victorian Cinema. BFI DCP. Neapolitan Dance at the Ancient Forum of Pompeii (1898) 32″ (26 fps). Bryony Dixon: "A folk dance, staged in the ruins of Pompeii. With the Arch of Tiberius in the near distance and Arch of Caligula in the far distance." AA: A fascinating view, could run faster, low contrast.
    BFI Player: "A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum: a lively tarantella for the tourists."
    "Interest film 1898 1 min."
    "WKL Dickson filmed this scene on a tour of Italian destinations on his way to Rome to film the Pope in 1898. Among the ruins of Pompeii, some kind of public performance is underway, featuring a traditional Italian tarantella, with some of the dancers dressed as soldiers. A man in a suit and hat is directing the proceedings, so it would seem to be part of a narrative piece – perhaps an opera company?
" BFI Player
    AA: Again, watching the movie we transform into time travellers in two historical periods: 120 years ago when uniformed dancers performed the tarantella for W. K.-L. Dickson – and in AD 79 when Pompeii was buried under the ashes during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. A beautiful transfer.

50. Panorama of Grand Harbour, Malta, Showing Battleships, Etc. (GB 1901).
2000 GCM Biograph 1: Addressing the Audience: Panorama of Grand Harbour, Malta, GB, 1901. NFM 35 mm.
Colonial Film: "Panorama of Grand Harbour, Malta, Showing Battleships, Etc."
    "BFI (ID: 403149). Schultze Can 14 (Acquisition)."
    "Actuality. Single panning shot of the Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta."
    "180 degree panning shot, left to right, taken from a high vantage point and showing stone walls, then small boats (city walls appearing in background), larger craft (citadel in background) building up to a large number of Royal Navy warships, with the open mouth of the harbour and the open sea behind them (100 ft / 35 mm)."
    "Refs: Palace Theatre programme 29 May 1901."
    "1901 / 68 mm / 100 ft / British Mutoscope and Biograph Company.
" Colonial Film
    AA: A breathtaking panoramic shot. The Colonial Film website calls it a 180 degree panning shot but it felt even wider. One of the classic panning shots in film history. The movement is majestic, and several times entirely new vistas emerge. An absolute highlight of this show.

51. The Georgetown Loop (US 1901).
2000: Biograph 7: People in Front of the Camera: The Georgetown Loop (US 1901)
BFI: "Alternative titles:
– Schultze Can 27 Acquisition.
– A Ride on the Famous Georgetown Loop, Colorado Alternative.
PC: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company.
Photography: Billy Bitzer.
" BFI
IMDb: "Alternative titles:
– U.P. #10: Georgetown Loop.
– Georgetown Loop U.P.R.R.
Production date: 11 July 1901.
Release date: July 1901.
341.38 m
"Railroad from Georgetown to Silver Plume, Colorado."
   AA: The final stunner of the show was a phantom ride movie from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Crossing the iron bridge between Georgetown and Silver Plume had been made famous by a photograph (1899) by William Henry Jackson called "The Far-Famed Georgetown Loop". For the Biograph company none other than Billy Bitzer, the future cinematographer of The Birth of a Nation, shot the view, one of the most thrilling phantom rides.
    From the "Searching for the C&S narrow gauge" blog I find a link to a YouTube video from a paper print of this film. "According to a 1904 Clear District timetable of the Colorado & Southern Railroad the speed over the bridge was 4 mph. According to the special instructions No train or engine will exceed a speed of four (4) miles per hour in crossing the iron bridge between Georgetown and Silver Plume. Other special instructions lists speeds. Passenger trains were allowed 24 mph south of Golden, 15 mph from Golden to Forks Creek, 20 mph Forks Creek to Georgetown and 15 mph Georgetown to Silver Plume.
    "This film is listed on IMDB as well with the following description: Georgetown is a silver-mining town at 8,500 feet near the crest of the Rockies. Hooked somehow to the rear of a four-car passenger train is a camera that pans the scenery and, when the train goes around curves, looks ahead to see the engine and passenger cars: the passengers wave hundreds of white handkerchiefs out of the train's left-side windows for the benefit of the camera. The town comes into view; the tracks are above the town, so the camera looks down on dozens of modest rooftops as it pans the area."
    "A user review on IMDB said the following: 'This film was in fact shot in 1901 a part of a whole series of films taken on the Union Pacific Railroad in July of that year by Billy Bitzer. Just a couple of years after William Henry Jackson's famous 1899 photograph of the loop ("The Far-Famed Georgetown Loop").'
" Searching for the C&S Narrow Gauge
    Wikipedia: "The Georgetown–Silver Plume National Historic Landmark District is a federally designated United States National Historic Landmark that comprises the Town of Georgetown, the Town of Silver Plume, and the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park between the two silver mining towns along Clear Creek in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Clear Creek County, Colorado, United States."
    The Georgetown Loop is still being listed among the world's most stunning and scenic train rides. This is one of the earliest filmed records, certainly the first on large format film.

...

THE WONDERS OF THE BIOGRAPH (2000), NFM restorations on 35 mm.

Of the films in today's selection, 39 were also restored by Nederlands Filmmuseum for the "The Wonders of The Biograph" retrospective of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Sacile in 2000. On display in Sacile were in toto 287 films shot in the Biograph format (68 mm), preserved on 35 mm. The projection speed was 30 fps. These were revelations that hardly anyone had seen in a hundred years, compiled into a touring show of 11 programmes by Nederlands Filmmuseum, curated by Nico de Klerk with the help of Mark van den Tempel and others at the NFM. There were some 25 films in each programme. The duration of the films was one minute on the average. Biograph Program Number 1 was not shown, at least not as scheduled.

...

W. K.-L. DICKSON: "BIOGRAPHING" (2008), 35 mm prints from NFM, BFI and MoMA.

In 2008 in Pordenone in Paul Spehr's program W. K.-L. Dickson: "Biographing" 68 mm films were shown in 35 mm prints from NFM, BFI and MoMA. They were apparently screened at 24 fps.

...

VICTORIAN CINEMA (2017) DCPs from BFI.

In 2017 in Pordenone Bryony Dixon introduced an appetizer of 11 digital transfers of 68 mm or 60 mm films in the Victorian Cinema programme.

...

BRYONY DIXON (BFI, 2018): HOW THE VICTORIANS FIRST SAW THEIR WORLD ON FILM

With Britain’s earliest moving images about to be unveiled again on the IMAX screen, BFI curator Bryony Dixon tells the story of the pioneers who first captured the Victorian world on film.

Bryony Dixon
17 October 2018

The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show at the BFI IMAX is the Archive Gala of the 62nd BFI London Film Festival on 18 October 2018

The bold experimenters at the dawn of the moving picture revolution tried out all of the exciting possibilities of the new medium. The large format film was one way to astound the audience with the depth and clarity of the new moving images as they were projected onto a massive screen.

At four times the size of the 35mm films used by most early film exhibitors, these fabulously clear and steady films, no longer than a minute or two, captured the tail end of the Victorian world in all its variety and splendour.

Since they were new, 120 or so years ago, the film prints have been in the wars – mostly lost, as obsolete technologies tend to be, losing frames to the ravages of time. As we have lost the means to show them to their full potential, they have only been the preserve of archival conferences and the specialist festivals that keep interest in such film alive.

But now, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and plenty of curatorial and technical knowhow, we can return them to the big screen – our biggest screen – the BFI IMAX.

So many aspects of the Victorian world are present in these short fragments. There’s Queen Victoria herself, from her diamond jubilee to her last official public appearance, helping lay the foundation stone for the V&A museum. There’s the simple movement of the natural world that so fascinated those early spectators – sea waves and animal life – and the bustling city streets of our highly urbanised world.

The films record the fixed events of the Victorian calendar: thrilling sporting events, military parades and more extraordinary events, such as pictures from the Boer war. Then there are panoramas of exotic locations, glorious phantom rides and films of Victorian entertainers – from grand Shakespearean actors to pantomime artistes.

These films give us a new understanding of the Victorian period. The extraordinary quality and clarity of the large format images bring a sense of immediacy and direct connection, enabling the viewer to reach out and touch the past. These fragmentary moments foreground gestures and aspects of human behaviour, such as humour, tenderness and spontaneity, which help dispel any preconceptions of the sober Victorian.

A very few of these large format films that survive in our collection were made on a 60mm format by two makers: talented English mechanical engineer John Alfred Prestwich and Frenchman Georges Demenÿ for the Gaumont company. But by far the majority of the films were made on 68mm film (2.75 inches), very near to IMAX size, by the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, whose chief technician, cameraman and creative spirit was William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson.

The company was an offshoot of the American company founded by Herman Casler, Elias Koopman and Harry Marvin to exploit their large format individual film viewer, the Mutoscope, with its projected version, the Biograph.

Dickson, a Scottish English engineer, had recently parted company with Thomas Edison for whom he had been running a research laboratory since 1883, leading to the development of moving pictures for the Kinetoscope viewing machine.

He had invented a film studio to be able to capture on film all the famous stage acts of the day: bodybuilder Sandow, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, Annabelle the skirt dancer and hundreds of others. But now it was time to branch out on his own. He left for London, where he launched the British company that enjoyed a residency at the Palace Theatre of Varieties from 1897 to around 1901/2.

This was a prestigious, newly-built West End music hall – big screen, big orchestra and the best acts. Its rivals were the great Leicester Square music halls, the Empire and the Alhambra, where the Lumière brothers’ Cinematograph and R.W. Paul’s Theatrograph were playing as part of a mixed programme of different acts.

The film show was an ‘act’ in itself – about 20 mins or so in duration – projected from a box at the back of the theatre. It would probably have had music from the house orchestra and a running commentary. Individual films had no titles but were listed in the programme. We will be recreating aspects of this in show at the IMAX.

Dickson came to London to set up the British Biograph company with other franchises to be opened in France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and beyond. He timed his arrival to allow him to film the spectacle of the decade, Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, in June 1897.

Applying his natural confidence and gift for ingratiating himself, he was invited to film the royal family in July at Clarence House and screen the results to the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. He filmed many royal occasions, in Britain and the Netherlands, and was even after much negotiation allowed to film the pope, Leo VIII.

As well as filming the sensational state occasions of the day, there were films of more everyday interest: ship launches, sporting fixtures, trains rushing towards the audience, train, tram and boat rides, military spectacles and scenes from others cities overseas.

In 1899 Dickson took the Biograph camera to war. Attempting to capture the action on the very large, very heavy camera, with its batteries and tripod all weighing in, would have been a challenge in any war, but the Boer war was one with no great cavalry charges or face-to-face battles.

The precious fragments that have survived show the long road to relieve the siege at Ladysmith. The hardships of this tour were considerable. Dickson talked his way into accompanying a naval artillery unit so that he and his assistants had some protection, but supplies and transport were a constant concern.

It took its toll; they were all ill with fever but made it back and the films seem to have been successful with the audience of the Palace Theatres when other venues were finding the gung-ho attitude of their patrons faded with every British defeat in South Africa.

Family bereavement and difficulty in sustaining profits with the Biograph large format led Dickson to get out of the film business, after nearly 20 years developing its potential, and return to his first love: engineering.

Dickson’s legacy is immense and his great Biograph venture, with its super high quality images, is testament to his talents. As we go through our own revolution in how we see the world through the lens of a camera, it’s a good moment to reflect on how the first film audiences saw their world projected on a big screen.

Bryony Dixon (BFI Website, 2018)

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Bryony Dixon (2017): excerpt from her introduction to the Victorian Cinema set at GCM in 2017: "As part of the project we are also restoring our large-format early films from this period, in 60 mm and 68 mm (whether British-produced or not), and the unique nitrate copies in the collection not yet preserved."

"Prior to the launch of the completed project we are pleased to offer the audience of the Giornate a little preview of these “in progress” restorations. The large-format restoration work is being overseen by Bryony Dixon, Ben Thompson, and Kieron Webb of the BFI, with scanning work by the expert team at Haghefilm Digitaal, who are of course well known to the Giornate audience."

"The project is an exploration of the technical possibilities which a return to the original 60 mm and 68 mm elements in the digital era can offer, and builds on the excellent analogue restoration of Biograph films originally led by the Nederlands Filmmuseum (now EYE Filmmuseum) at Haghefilm in the 1990s, when the films were reduced to 35 mm for preservation and viewing purposes (in fact, they were screened at the Giornate in 2000: see that year’s catalogue, pp. 81–98, and Griffithiana no. 66/70).
" Bryony Dixon (2017)