Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Celluloid Underground

Ehsan Khoshbakht: Celluloid Underground (GB 2023).

DIRECTOR: Ehsan Khoshbakht
COUNTRY: United Kingdom
YEAR: 2023
DURATION: 80 min
LANGUAGES: English, Persian, subtitled in English
CATEGORY: Documentary Films, Film History, Special Screenings, Subtitles in English
Viewed at Kitisen Kino, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 12 June 2024

Timo Malmi (MSFF 2024): " Miten perusteellisesti filmihulluus, cinefilia, voikaan vaikuttaa ihmiseen ja hänen kohtaloonsa? "

" Tästä kertoo viime kesänä Sodankylässä Arkkitehtuuri ja elokuva -teeman merkeissä esitelmöineen Ehsan Khoshbakhtin syvästi henkilökohtainen, runsaiden elokuvanäytteiden maustama dokumentti Celluloid Underground. "

" Paitsi omista kokemuksistaan maanpaossa Lontoossa hän kertoo ystävästään Ahmad Jorghanianista, jonka intohimoinen elokuvakopioiden arkistoiminen vei Iranissa neljäksi vuodeksi vankilaan, kidutettavaksikin. "

" Kipeissä mutta rakkaissa synnynmaansa muistoissa Khoshbakht perusti Teheranissa elokuvakerhon jo 17-vuotiaana. Kun hän esitti modernin iranilaisen elokuvan isän, 2023 murhatun Dariush Mehrjuin klassikon Lehmä (1969), alkoivat vaikeudet islamilaisen vallankumouksen kanssa. "

" Ajojahdin aiheuttama emigroituminen on toisaalta tuonut Khoshbakhtille lännessä sellaisia siunauksia kuin paikan Italian Bolognan arvostetun festivaalin Il Cinema Ritrovaton neljän taiteellisen johtajan kvartetissa. "

" Se, kuinka cinefilia voi todella uhmata valtaa, tulla viranomaisten vinkkelistä vaaralliseksi, näyttäytyy surumielisesti Jorghanianin kohtalossa. Tämä ”Iranin Henry Langlois” arkistoi yli 4 000 elokuvaa ja 1 000 still-kuvaa kätkien kielletyt kelat esikaupunkipiiloonsa. Varsinainen filmiuskovainen: Ahmad pitääkin kopioita tärkeämpänä kuin itseään! " Timo Malmi

Timo Malmi (MSFF 2024): " How deeply can the passion for cinema, cinephilia, impact a person and their destiny? "

" This is illustrated in Celluloid Underground, a deeply personal documentary flavoured with abundant film snippets from Ehsan Khoshbakht who lectured last summer in Sodankylä on architecture and film. "

" Khoshbakht shares his own experience of exile in London and tells the story of his friend Ahmad Jorghanian, whose passionate archiving of film copies led to his imprisonment for four years and torture in Iran. "

" In the painful but treasured memories of his birthland, Khoshbakht founded a film club in Tehran at only 17. When he screened the classic film The Cow (1969) by the father of modern Iranian cinema Dariush Mehrjui who was murdered in 2023, he got in trouble with the Islamic revolution. "

" The emigration caused by the persecution has, on the other hand, brought Khoshbakht blessings in the West, such as a place among the quartet of artistic directors of the prestigious Italian festival Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna. "

" The consequences of cinephilia, defying authority and becoming dangerous from the authorities’ perspective are sadly evident in Jorghanian’s fate. Known as the “Iranian Henry Langlois,” he archived over 4,000 films and 1,000 still images, by hiding these forbidden reels in his suburban hideout. Ahmad, a true believer in cinema, values the copies more than himself! " Timo Malmi

AA: Celluloid Underground, a tribute to the great Iranian film collector Ahmad Jorghanian (2014), is a companion piece to Filmfarsi (IR/GB 2019), the director Ehsan Khoshbakht's previous marvellous piece about Iran's secret film history.

Filmfarsi was created "in VHS-Scope", documenting the return of the repressed of Iran's low budget sensationalist cinema, films only surviving on home video.

Celluloid Underground is a celebration of photochemical film, private possession of which was decreed illegal in 1984. In defiance of the film ban, the heroic collector Ahmad Jorghanian gathered thousands of prints and let underground film societies access them.

This could be a thrilling and entertaining anecdote and a footnote to film history. But helmed by Khoshbakht the story grows into a personal Bildungsroman, a story of a great friendship, a history of Iranian cinema and Iran itself before and after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It is about cinephilia in the "classe tous risques". On many levels it is about cinema as an art of time - and about time itself.

As in Filmfarsi, the visual quality is unique in being beyond good and awful. The film-makers display excellent taste in creating a mosaic from disparate materials that separately might be refused. The film is bigger than the sum of its parts. In its experimental drive it reaches cosmic and timeless grandeur.

NB. Celluloid means nitrate film which was the norm until the early 1950s. Safety film became the norm in 1951. First it was acetate, in the 1990s polyester. The digital turn of the cinema started in 1999.

La spiaggia / The Boarder (2021 Bologna restoration)

Alberto Lattuada: La spiaggia / The Boarder (IT/FR 1954). On a Ligurian beach in Pontorno, the single mother Anna Maria Mentorsi (Martine Carol) meets the adventuress Marini (Mara Berni). I love the hairy armpit.

Kuuma rannikko / Gatflickan i societeten.
DIRECTOR: Alberto Lattuada
COUNTRY: Italy, France
YEAR: 1954
DURATION: 102 min
LANGUAGES: Italian, subtitled in English
CATEGORY: Master Classes and Special Presentations, Olaf Möller, Subtitles in English
Introduced by Olaf Möller.
Viewed at Lapinsuu, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 12 June 2024

Olaf Möller (MSFF 2024): " One of the most famous quotes about Italian postwar cinema comes from Giulio Andreotti, who as a vice-minister in one of the eight De Gasperi governments likened Neorealism to the washing of dirty laundry in public. The cinema of this era, thus, should be a clean one that only showed an unspoiled, spotless, unsullied, pristine if not outright immaculate image of Italy. But what does that mean? Alberto Lattuada was one of the most stylish and refined masters of the era, whose films were always perfectly crafted and radiant with beauty – while often talking about all the unsavory things to be found in the so spotless-seeming world, especially of the gente per bene. Which makes The Boarder something of a reflection on the period, its morals: Here, a high-class sex worker goes on holiday with her young daughter, gets seen by one of her clients whose loose lips soon have everybody whispering in nasty tones about the poor woman. "

" What becomes visible, even when seemingly good deeds get done, is a world made of little more than hypocrisy, a mere façade, a chillingly silly charade. This fits well with one technical aspect of The Boarder: It was one of the very first Italian color films; the technology, especially in its Ferraniacolor-variety here, stresses the artificiality of the world we get to see… The Boarder might look harmless, but it’s a bottomless pit. " Olaf Möller

AA: Alberto Lattuada visited Sodankylä in 1991, but La spiaggia was not screened back then. Now we were offered a reconstructed and restored version (2021) of the film that suffered censorship cuts during its initial release. La spiaggia is a cynical caricature about hypocrisy in Italy during its postwar economical boom. Anna Maria Mentorsi (Martine Carol) is taking a Liguria vacation with her little daughter Caterina (Anna Gabriella Pisani) in the town of Pontorno. Believed to be a respectable widow, Anna Maria is initially accepted by high society, but when her profession in Milan is exposed, everyone turns their backs on them, even children. The mayor Silvio (Raf Vallone) does his best to help, but he fails to find cooperation. Deus ex machina: the billionaire Chiastrino (Carlo Bianco) takes Anna Maria in his protection with no strings attached. His satisfaction is to see the instant turnabout in everybody's attitudes towards Anna Maria and Caterina. Money talks.

Men from Milan recognize Anna Maria and start to suggest dates. I was thinking about Woody Allen's To Rome with Love and its references to Italian films. Might Anna (Penélope Cruz) be an homage to Anna Maria in La spiaggia?

The restoration and reconstruction looks clean, stable and smooth in the DCP presentation. I am not a Ferraniacolor expert, and I have no Ferraniacolor sense. In this presentation the colour impact is consistent, and there is a soft blur, no clear outlines. I have just been meditating the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, and in the colour world of La spiaggia there is some affinity with post-impressionist painting such as La Grande Jatte by Seurat, but in lower definition.


Isabella Eklöf: Kalak ( DK 2023). Trying to come terms with his trauma, Jan (Emil Johnsen) resorts to the indigenous face masks of indigenous Greenland.

DIRECTOR: Isabella Eklöf
COUNTRY: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Finland
YEAR: 2023
DURATION: 120 min
LANGUAGES: Danish, Greenlandic, English, subtitled in Finnish
CATEGORY: Gems of New Cinema, Puhuttu tai tekstitetty suomeksi
Viewed at Lapinsuu, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 12 June 2024

Timo Malmi (MSFF 2024): " Ruotsalaisen Isabella Eklöfin pohjoismaisena yhteistuotantona Grönlannissa ohjaama Kalak käynnistyy hätkähdyttävällä kohtauksella: vanhempi mies käyttää seksuaalisesti hyväkseen nukkuvaa nuorta miestä. Mistään sensaatiohakuisesta rankistelusta ei kuitenkaan ole kyse, vaan luontaisen elokuvallisesti lahjakas kertoja seuraa myötätuntoisesti Kööpenhaminasta oman perheensä kanssa Grönlantiin ”paenneen” Janin aikuisvaiheita, vuoden 2000 molemmin puolin, vaikean isäsuhteen traumatisoimana. "

" Kalak pohjautuu käsikirjoitukseen osallistuneen Kim Leinen omaelämäkerralliseen romaaniin – joten elokuvan kärjistyneimmilläkin vaiheilla uskoisi olevan kaikupohjaa. Eklöf käsittelee asioita rehellisen suorasti, mutta samalla ytimekkään säästeliäästi: kuinka hymyilevä Jan on päihteiden vauhdittamana maanisen seksuaalisen moniavioisuuden vallassa, minkä hänen suvaitsevainen vaimonsa ja kahden lapsen äiti (Asta Kamma August) hyväksyy, vaikkei ole tietoinen edes isäsuhteen pimeistä puolista. "

" ”Kalak” tarkoittaa ”likaista grönlantilaista”, mikä viittaa kotiutumisprosessin sekä positiiviseen että negatiiviseen puoleen. Suhteet elokuvan alkuperäisasukkaisiin heijastelevat tanskalaista kolonialismia. Nadim Carlsenin kamera tavoittaa ihailtavasti saarimaan karunkauniin atmosfäärin, ja norjalainen Emil Johnsen on varsinainen löytö poikamaisen Janin ristiriitaiseen rooliin. " Timo Malmi

Timo Malmi (MSFF 2024): " Kalak, directed by Swedish filmmaker Isabella Eklöf as a Nordic co-production in Greenland, opens with a startling scene: an older man is sexually abusing a sleeping young man. But this is not sensationalist doom and gloom; instead, the effortlessly talented narrator sympathetically follows the adult life of Jan, who flees Copenhagen with his family to Greenland at the turn of the millennium, traumatised by a difficult relationship with his father. "

" As Kalak is based on an autobiographical novel by Kim Leine, who also contributed to the screenplay, even the most intense phases of the film can be expected to have counterparts in reality. Eklöf deals with things with honest frankness, but also with succinct economy: how the smiling Jan is in the grip of manic sexual polygamy fuelled by drug abuse, which his tolerant wife and mother of two (Asta Kamma August) accepts – even though she is not aware of the dark side of his relationship with his father. "

" “Kalak” means “dirty Greenlander,” referring to both the positive and negative aspects of the adaptation process. In the film, relationships with the Indigenous population reflect Danish colonialism. Nadim Carlsen’s camera beautifully captures the barren atmosphere of the island, and Norwegian Emil Johnsen is a real find in the conflicted role of the boyish Jan. " Timo Malmi

AA: Isabella Eklöf has an assured touch with the tough subject-matter of Kalak. 

It is the tragedy of Jan (Emil Johnsen) coming to terms with the legacy of his pedophilic and incestuous father. Now in a terminal phase of cancer, the father Ole (Søren Hellerup) is jovial and unrepentant, celebrating his licentious lifestyle to the end. Jan's family has moved to Greenland, but in the finale they return to Copenhagen.

The world unfolds in a mode of contemporary realism / naturalism, but the theme dates back to ancient tragedy and Sophocles.

Everybody in Jan's circle suffers collateral damage: his wife, his children, his colleagues at the hospital where he works, the partners in his serial polygamy. Like his father, Jan in his relationships seems to have a void where conscience should exist. At the hospital Jan has access to drugs, and he becomes a reckless addict.

Greenland dogs can be dangerous. Jan's daughter becomes horribly savaged by one. His wife and children fly back to Copenhagen and its surgical experts. When Jan refuses the attentions of Nikoline, an indigenous lover, she commits a family suicide by burning down her house with her child. The traditional Nordic funeral hymn, "Gammal fäbodpsalm från Dalarna", is heard in the funeral sequence. The camera catches it in a distant high angle shot, tilting up along a mountain and further up to heaven.

A half-hidden current in the story is the profound resentment of the indigenous Greenland people towards Danish colonialists.

Kalak is an original tragedy of Vatermord. Isabella Eklöf offers us a potent cocktail, as powerful as the one mixed by Jan for his father in the finale, but with reverse impact. Eklöf wants to wake us up. 

The sublime landscapes of Greenland offer a striking counter-image to the darkness of the fabula. According to the end credits they have been shot on photochemical Kodak film. 

Cerrar los ojos / Close Your Eyes

Víctor Erice: Cerrar los ojos / Close Your Eyes (ES/AR 2023). The actor Julio Arenas (José Coronado) on the night of his disappearance.

DIRECTOR: Víctor Erice
COUNTRY: Spain, Argentina
YEAR: 2023
DURATION: 169 min
LANGUAGES: Spanish, Catalan, English, French, subtitled in English
CATEGORY: Gems of New Cinema, Subtitles in English
Viewed at Lapinsuu, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 12 June 2024

Timo Malmi (MSFF 2024): " Espanjalaisen elokuvan ihmemies Víctor Erice on tehnyt 50 vuodessa vain neljä pitkää elokuvaa, joista Close Your Eyes on yhtä mestarillinen kuin kaikki edeltäjänsäkin. Eikä ole syytä arastella mittavaa kestoa: tämän ”elokuva elokuvassa” -teoksen juoni on kerroksisuudestaan huolimatta helposti seurattava eikä pitkästytä pätkääkään. Pikkubonuksena vuoden 1995 tekijävieraamme kunnianosoitus festivaalillemme: päähenkilön kaverilla Maxilla on Elokuva 100 -vuoden Sodis-paita! "

" Ajan ja muistin teemoja luotaava Close Your Eyes tapahtuu 2012, mutta päähenkilö Miguel Garaylta kesken jäänyttä viimeistä elokuvaa The Farewell Gaze tehdään 1990-luvulla – ja sen tapahtumat sijoittuvat kolmannella aikatasolla vuoden 1947 Ranskaan. The Farewell Gazen tähti Julio Arenas katoaa arvoituksellisesti kesken filmausten, ja ”nykypäivässä” Miguelia pyydetään tv-show’hun selvittämään tapausta ja sen vaikutuksia. "

" Melankolinen Close Your Eyes on monen mielestä viime vuoden kärkielokuvia – vaikka ensi-ilta jäi syyttään paitsioon Cannesin filmijuhlilla merkillisen episodin vuoksi: elokuva oli pääsarjassa, mutta Ericen yllätykseksi kilpailun ulkopuolella, minkä vuoksi hän boikotoi juhlia ja julkaisi avoimen ihmettelykirjeen. Ericen Etelän (1983) esittely ja ohjaajan haastattelu, ks. Yle Teeman Sodankylän parhaat (s. 152–153). " Timo Malmi

Timo Malmi (MSFF 2024): " Spanish cinema virtuoso Víctor Erice has only made four feature films in 50 years, and Close Your Eyes is as masterful as any of them. Don’t be put off by its length: despite its many layers, this “film within a film” is easy to follow and never bores for a moment. As a little bonus, our 1995 guest pays homage to our festival: the main character’s friend Max wears a Midnight Sun Film Festival T-shirt from the 100 Years of Cinema edition! "

" Close Your Eyes, which explores the themes of time and memory, is set in 2012, but The Farewell Gaze – an unfinished film left behind by the protagonist, Miguel Garay – is being made in the 1990s and takes place on a third temporal plane, in France in 1947. The star of The Farewell Gaze, Julio Arenas, mysteriously disappears in the middle of filming, and in “present day,” Miguel is asked to appear on a TV show to investigate the case and its implications. "

" The melancholy Close Your Eyes is considered by many to be one of last year’s best films – although its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival was overshadowed by a curious episode: the film was in the main selection but, to Erice’s surprise, out of competition, prompting him to boycott the festival and publish an open letter about the matter. For an introduction to Erice’s South (1983) and an interview with the director, see Yle Teema’s Best of Midnight Sun Film Festival (pages 152-153). " Timo Malmi

AA: The year 2023 is turning out to be one of the greatest in the history of the cinema. One of its distinctions was that veterans and established masters presented some of their best work (Wenders, Spielberg, Dardenne brothers, Kaurismäki, Payne, Morris, Scorsese, Loach, Holland, Haynes, Nolan).

Add to their number Víctor Erice whose Close Your Eyes is a cinephilic detective story like La Morte Rouge. It is the most story-driven movie by the master from the Basque Country. 

Erice's movies are usually purely imagist, carried by the spell of poetic visions. In Close Your Eyes, Erice has lost none of the spellbinding power of his cinematography. An engrossing ambience of meditation and a genius in moments of epiphany are on display as profoundly as in The Spirit of the Beehive and El Sur.

But Close Your Eyes is also a storyteller's tale in many layers, continuing from the Sherlock Holmes legacy of La Morte Rouge, and displaying roots going deep into One Thousand and One Nights. Again there is a significant reference to the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent reign of terror.

A Jewish character in La mirada del adíos, the film within the film, is the primus motor. In 1947, the ageing Monsieur Lévy (Josep Maria Pou) engages a detective to find from Shanghai his only surviving relative, his daughter Judith / Qiao Shu (Venecia Franco). Monsieur Lévy has chosen the detective because of his record as a contact person during the French Occupation for refugees over the Pyrenees. The film ends with with Judith and Monsieur Lévy joining in the Sephardi song "Hija mia, mi querida". 

The actor Julio Arenas / Gardel (José Coronado) has lost his memory after playing the role of the detective for Miguel Garay (Manolo Solo). He has then lost contact with everybody, even his daughter Ana (Ana Torrent). There is an extraordinary double catharsis. The screening of the surviving reels of La mirada del adíos brings about an anagnorisis. On the verge of waking up from amnesia, Julio closes his eyes.

The Julio Arenas story evokes Leo Tolstoy's The Living Corpse, Luigi Pirandello's The Late Mattia Pascal and Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger.

There is a warm blur in the imagery, shot on 16 mm. Ana Torrent was discovered by Erice as a child for The Spirit of the Beehive when Franco was still alive. Her deeply moving presence 50 years later in Close Your Eyes evokes a feeling of a closing of a circle.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

A letter to the managements of Musée d'Orsay and Fondation Louis Vuitton: to photograph or to see IV

From: Lindsey Tramuta's article on Lonely Planet, 26 Nov 2022.

To the managements of
Musée d'Orsay
Fondation Louis Vuitton

Dear Madam, dear Sir,

I thank you for the fabulous exhibitions I saw during my three-month visit to Paris this spring: " Van Gogh à Auvers-sur-Oise : Les derniers mois ", " Mark Rothko ", and " Paris 1874 : Inventer l'impressionnisme ".

I am an enthusiastic visitor to art exhibitions since the 1960s, and these three belong to the most unforgettable I have ever seen.

I am a man of the cinema. In our commercial and artistic world we find it self-evident that concentration on the visual presentation is sacred.

The opening announcements of the UGC cinema network nail it perfectly:
- Respecter sa place
- Respecter ses voisins
- Respecter l'œuvre
- Respecter l'environment

Which means for instance: mobile devices must be turned off during the entire presentation. The illumination on the screen is fragile, and the impact is disturbed if there is a bright LED screen in the field of vision.

Nothing can make me happier than to observe your beautiful museums filled with huge crowds, local and international. This is the golden age of art museums.

I admire your subtle lighting (extra tender for pastels), the invisible non-reflective glass protection and the art of hanging.

Ten years ago, you lifted the photo ban. Could you please consider instead making reproductions of the whole exhibition available at websites? Obviously there is a tremendous need for people to have digital copies of artworks.

Paradoxically, the focus of the exhibition has by now shifted so much that the main activity is photographing.

More than that. The brightest element at your museums are now the LCD / LED / OLED screens of mobile devices. It is not rare to detect twelve such screens dominating the space before a painting. That bright, quickly moving spectacle prevents concentration on the art on display. Thinking back on those exhibitions I saw this spring: I visited them and was impressed - but did not really see them. I saw a social media spectacle.

As we know, one of the great turns in the breakthrough of impressionism 150 years ago was a new way of appreciating a painting. Viewing an impressionistic painting requires finding the proper distance and being able to concentrate and meditate, to let the full impact sink in. Not long ago, it was not rare to contemplate a single painting for hours.

Shouldn't we give today's art lovers the opportunity to the same full experience - in conditions that are respected even in cinemas ? Films are artworks of mechanical reproduction. Your treasures are unique - shouldn't  they be treated with even greater respect ?

Yours with best regards - with love, respect and gratitude for your wonderful work - live long and prosper !

Antti Alanen
Film historian

My previous blog comments in this series:
Musée d'Orsay: to photograph or to see II (5 March 2023).
Manet/Degas: to photograph or to see III (13 April 2023)

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Oppenheimer (70 mm)

Christopher Nolan: Oppenheimer (US 2023) starring Cillian Murphy. Poster from Ghana. Photo: IMDb. Please do click to enlarge the poster.

Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin : American Prometheus : The Triump and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. 721 pp. First edition cover, photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Photo from Wikipedia.

180 min
    Distributed by Finnkino Oy Teatterilevitys.
    70 mm event screenings at Bio Rex Lasipalatsi: 18 May, 19 May, 25 May, 26 May, 1 June, 2 June 2024
    Viewed without subtitles at Bio Rex Kulttuurikasarmi: Bio Rex Lasipalatsi, Helsinki, Saturday 25 May 2024

AA: I saw Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer for the first time on 21 July 2023, the international premiere day, the "Barbenheimer day" and blogged about it. It was my film of the year.

Inspired by the movie, I bought the book on which it is based, Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin's American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2005). It became my book of the year. I also read the new biography of Oppenheimer's friend George F. Kennan, Frank Costigliola's Kennan: A Life Between Worlds (2023).

Christopher Nolan does justice to the book. It is amazing how much he can fit in three hours. For those who like the film I recommend the book also. There is not a dull page.

A complex film rewards multiple viewings. Last year, I saw Oppenheimer on digital, but Hoyte Hoytema's magnificent cinematography was conducted on IMAX 65 mm and 65 mm, the ideal screening formats of which are IMAX and 70 mm. Finland's first five 70 mm screenings are now at Bio Rex Lasipalatsi. There are only two cinemas in Helsinki with 70 mm projection: Kino Regina and Bio Rex Lasipalatsi.

The screening is sold out. The audience is committed. During the screening I never glance at the watch.

Random remarks:

The cast feels even more impressive now. Familiar actors are convincing in roles unusual for them like Matt Damon as Leslie Groves and Matthew Modine as Vannevar Bush - or even unrecognizable such as Robert Downey, Jr. as Lewis Strauss and Gary Oldman as Harry S. Truman. It is a pleasure to see Kenneth Branagh as Niels Bohr, Benny Safdie as Edward Teller, David Krumholtz as Isidor Rabi and Tom Conti as Albert Einstein.

The women feel more important also. In the movie, Oppenheimer feels even stranger than in the book, a man who is hardly ever at ease with himself. He is "a man who knows too much" as the builder of a doomsday machine. Women keep him grounded, and they are well cast. Kitty Oppenheimer (Emily Blunt) is rock solid during the witch trials. The significance of Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh) grows in a repeat viewing. During the Manhattan project Oppenheimer is under extreme pressure and incessant surveillance. He risks everything to see Jean for the last time. Why? In order to be himself for once. Why two women? Oppenheimer is "too much for one woman".

My recent reading, including American Prometheus, Frank Costigliola's Kennan and Anna Reid's A Nasty Little War: The Western Intervention into the Russian Civil War, helps me make better sense of the complexity of world history during the beginning of the Nuclear Age. 

Oppenheimer and his team were building a nuclear weapon against the Nazis. But there was another war in secret preparation: a war against the USSR. The pre-preparation started already in 1918 as US, British and French forces put their boots on Russian ground to oust the Bolsheviks - long before the USSR even existed. Churchill always reminded us about that piece of unfinished business.

Kennan and Oppenheimer warned against overdoing the Cold War, particularly escalating the nuclear arms race, because it would legitimize Stalin's terror. This aspect is not explicitly discussed in Nolan's movie, and leaving it out is justified. But that background would help understand the extreme viciousness of the kangaroo court against Oppenheimer, who was denied a security clearance during the Cold War.

Oppenheimer was a hero when WWII ended, a suspected villain in the witch hunt years, and a redeemed hero since the Kennedy presidency.

The most engrossing aspect in Bird and Sherwin's book is the focus on team spirit. Oppenheimer was not the greatest genius; he never got the Nobel Prize. But he had unique talent in bringing out the best from everybody. He was an electrifying and charismatic leader. Out of complex debates, he was able to crystallize the essence, what moved the project forward. I miss in the film more emphasis on this talent of Oppenheimer's. But there are memorable exchanges:

Niels Bohr: Algebra's like sheet music, the important thing isn't can you read music, it's can you hear it. Can you hear the music, Robert
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Yes, I can.

The final dialogue:

J. Robert Oppenheimer: Albert? When I came to you with those calculations, we thought we might start a chain reaction that would destroy the entire world...
Albert Einstein: I remember it well. What of it?
J. Robert Oppenheimer: I believe we did.

Followed by the end of the world. We see the Earth from outer space. The atmosphere is burning. 

The 70 mm experience is highly gratifying. The colour footage is vivid and glowing with photochemical glory. There is a special solid sense of reality in 70 mm. I wonder about the black and white. It did not convince in digital, and it is inferior also in this film screening. Full black is missing. It looks like the black and white sequences have been printed on colour stock.

Friday, May 24, 2024

ELO Spring Show: the latest student films by ELO Film School Finland IV

The poster image is from the opening imagery of: Milja Härkönen: Päättämättömien naisten tunnustuksia / Confessions of Undecided Women (FI 2024).


Bio Rex Lasipalatsi (Mannerheimintie 22–24, Helsinki)

Friday 24.5.2024



VUOSIEN PÄÄSSÄ ON PAIKKA (It Takes Years to Reach Us) documentary, 2024, dir. Mikael Rutkiewicz, BA film, 19’ – AA: Experimental. A light shines in the darkness. It reaches house by the forest. It is in ruins. The rain drops. The ruin is slowly aspiring the state of nature. Huge photographic images are reflected on its interiors. Photograps of a lost way of life in the countryside. An experimental play on the metaphor "light years away". A strong score of electronic music.

PEIJAISET (Bear with Me) fiction, 2024, dir. Jasmin Gummerus,  BA film, 19’ – AA: A drama in the forest. Donna's birthday party turns into a horrific tragedy involving a bear rug. Peijaiset is an ancient Finnish hunting tradition to celebrate the catch of a slain bear / moose / elk (in Hokkaido the Ainu celebrate the Iomante in a similar way). Jealousy, thunderous psycho music, transformation. Theme song: "Lapsuuden ystävälle" (trad. / P. J. Hannikainen).

PIENIÄ AJATUKSIA NAAPURUUDESTA (Small Notes About My Neighbours) documentary, 2024, dir. Anna Törrönen, BA film, 19’ – AA: Experimental memory journey, childhood joys, rainy day fun, abstract inserts, also vegetation and butterflies are neighbours. Reflections on the mycelium, the formidable fungus structure. "Also my root are growing here". "I can smell a butterfly". Infinity is everywhere.

ILLAN VIKA (Meanwhile) fiction, 2024, dir. Yasmin Najjar, BA film, 17’ – AA: A movie resembling a short story. A young woman in charge of a small hamburger restaurant, teaching a newcomer how everything works, meeting crisis. "La Voix humaine" situation with her girlfriend abroad. She does not answer the phone until she does. Displaying a sense of character, tempo and psychological nuance.

ELO Spring Show: the latest student films by ELO Film School Finland III

The poster image is from the opening imagery of: Milja Härkönen: Päättämättömien naisten tunnustuksia / Confessions of Undecided Women (FI 2024).


Bio Rex Lasipalatsi (Mannerheimintie 22-24, Helsinki)

Friday 24.5.2024



PÄÄTTÄMÄTTÖMIEN NAISTEN TUNNUSTUKSIA (Confessions of Undecided Women) animation/documentary, 2024, dir. Milja Härkönen, MA film, 20’ - AA: Fantastic psychedelic animated flower imagery (see poster graphics above) is in evidence from the beginning. The theme is the hardest decision: whether to have children and when? The soundtrack is documentary. The visual expression is a fireworks in a wide range of animation. From angry talking wombs to a literally imagined population explosion. Mind-blowing in every sense. *

ARCTURUS documentary, 2024, dir. Tuisku Lehto, MA film 26’ - AA: A nature experience, based on documentary observation but expanding into naivist, psychedelic directions.

KONEEN KIRJOITTAMA (Written by AI) documentary, 2024, dir. Ada Johnsson, Siiri Halko, MA film, 25’ - AA: There was a thunderstorm of laughter in the cinema. I cannot remember when I have laughed so much. An experimental film in the scientific sense. The screenplays of 25 of the most popular Finnish films (from Heinähattu ja Vilttitossu to The Unknown Soldier) were fed to the computer, which produced new screenplays based on them. The result is an absurdity of a new kind. It does not make sense, but it fails even to make nonsense in the familiar ways of Monty Python or Eugène Ionesco, because a human context is absent. But it is meaningless in a new way. The hilariousness is doubled by the deadpan presence of four leading IT experts and the actors' dedication to read the dialogue which has no basis in human psychology. --- Personally, I find "AI" the biggest bubble in post-WW history. Intelligence can never be artificial. Those who speak about "AI" misunderstand the human mind. The computer will never pass the Turing test. These are still mere imitation games and will always be. - This movie is a juicy proof. No doubt information technology will develop to completely new levels. But I predict the absurdity can never be surpassed. Nvidia & co. will have to find a new line of business if they want to avoid the fate of the dot-com bubble of 2000, the subprime mortgage crash of 2008, the crypto crisis... etc. *

ERITYISEN IKÄVÄ PAIKKA (Special Kinda Bad Feeling) 2024, fiction, dir. Reeta Varpama, MA film, 20’ - AA: A musical, a romantic comedy, theme song "Huomenna mä unohdan" ("Tomorrow I Will Forget"). It is about the dating game in today's world, mixing online and real time dating. Nonlinear, it moves in different time frames. Most importantly, it moves in the dream horizons where good musicals and love affairs exist.

ELO Spring Show: the latest student films by ELO Film School Finland II

The poster image is from the opening imagery of: Milja Härkönen: Päättämättömien naisten tunnustuksia / Confessions of Undecided Women (FI 2024).

Bio Rex Lasipalatsi (Mannerheimintie 22-24, Helsinki)

Friday 24.5.2024


REMEMBER ME FONDLY animation, 2024, dir. Amy Bruning, MA film, 12’ – AA: Animation growing from home movies and photos featuring fun with grandfather and grandmother. Pure joy.

TYÖN YÖSTÄ AUTONOMIAAN (From the Woes of Work to Autonomy) documentary, 2024, dir. Ilona Raivio, etude, 28’ - AA: Elements to an ambitious global survey about the future of work in capitalism - an occupied factory in Argentine - ecological farming in Greece - St. Vlome - Nürnberg - Järna. Ten points for the ambition.

ODOTTAJAT (The Wait) fiction, 2024, dir. Vilja Keskimäki, etude, 8’ - AA: Comedy, satire, farce. On a bus stop in the countryside, two young people offend everyone with their behaviour. Effective.

HEADREST animation, 2024, dir. Heta Okkonen, 3’, MA film, 3’ - AA: A reduced animation in line drawing mode - a dream, a bath, a threatening figure, blur in the eyes, head severed.

TAPE animation, 2024, dir. Hui Wing Ki Candace, MA film, 6’ - AA: A digital animation in watercolour mode. Starting from a sticky piece of tape, the action turns increasingly psychedelic. The sense of space if powerful, a hole opens to a black and white world.

MERENELÄVIÄ (Fish River Anthology) animation, 2024, dir. Veera Lamminpää, etude, 10’ - AA: A puppet animation with fish puppets. The scene: the fish counter of a grocery store. After the closing hour, the dead fish and seafood come alive. They start to move and perform musical production numbers. The song is hilarious, with fine performers, including Mari Rantasila. *

ELO Spring Show: the latest student films by ELO Film School Finland I

The poster image is from the opening imagery of: Milja Härkönen: Päättämättömien naisten tunnustuksia / Confessions of Undecided Women (FI 2024).

Bio Rex Lasipalatsi (Mannerheimintie 22-24, Helsinki)

Friday 24.5.2024

- 10AM - FILMS 85 MIN

U.N.T.O animation, 2024, dir. Sonia Gran, BA minor Exercise, 2’ - AA: Sand animation. Excellent, stark, reduced, atavistic, primal visions, resonating on all most ancient traditions of visual expression, beyond art, before art, the spiral figures, resonating with ancient flower representations, metamorphoses. Enchanting score by Ville Heikki Väisänen. *

TIETYIN VARAUKSIN (Grain of Salt) animation, 2024, dir. Paula Aarniala, BA minor Exercise, 2’ - AA: Experimental animation, digital, simulating limited drawing, electronic soundscape. Drawn hands, morphing human figures, spinning figures. 

MORSIAN (The Bride) fiction, 2024, dir. Noa Korhonen & Vili Loikkanen, Course Exercise (Studiotyö), 3’ - AA: A lavish fragment in gorgeous period film / heritage film / costume film / melodrama style, a sample of excellence in mise-en-scène, cinematography, lighting, performances, costume design and make-up design.

MUISTOPUHE (Eulogy)  fiction, 2024, dir. Pinja Sormunen, Course Exercise (BA produktio), 10’ - AA: Drama about a daughter coming to terms with her mother at the mother's funeral. The daughter's monologue turns into a dialogue when the dead mother refuses to stay silent. Effective.

VAUVAKUUME (Baby Fever) fiction, 2024, dir. Severi Vilkko, Course Exercise (BA produktio), 9’ - AA: Another intergenerational drama. The devastation of pregnancy and childbirth, at the place of the grandmother-to-be. Nightmares about an insanely screaming baby and being left alone. Blood tracks on the carpet - real or hallucinated? Powerful, unfocused.

AMPHIBIA documentary, 2024, dir. Cyane Findji, MA film, 26’ - AA: Underwater explorations for an international research project, taking water samples in Furusund for the University of Stockholm. Coming to terms with a changing weather, including rainstorms. I love the underwater footage, but failed to make sense of the research subject.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, May 18, 2024

10 kirjettä tulevaisuuteen / 10 Letters to the Future

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

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

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

[Poikkeustila-ryhmä = Emergency Team.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

du skall följa den.

du skall glömma den.

du skall tömma den.

du skall dölja den.

du skall lära det.

du skall bära det.


The way,
You shall follow it.

You shall forget it.

The cup,
You shall empty it.

The pain,
You shall conceal it.

The answer,
You shall learn it.

The end,
You shall endure it.

6. 601203 

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


se tulee seurata.

sen voit unohtaa.

Kalkki -
viime pisaraan.

Tuska -
syvään piiloita.

tulee oppia.

hyvin kohdata.

Translated by the composer Einojuhani Rautavaara.

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

Saturday, May 11, 2024


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Une belle course / Driving Madeleine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Havumetsän lapset / Once Upon a Time in a Forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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