Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Josef von Sternberg, een retrospektieve

BG 1969. D: Harry Kümel. DP: Ghislain Cloquet; WITH: Josef von Sternberg, Dorothée Blank; P: Jacques Ledoux, Denise Delvaux, BRT 16mm. 75’. In English and Flemish. From: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique per concessione di VRT. - Presenta Eric De Kuyper, earphone translation in Italian and English, viewed at Cinema Lumière 2, Bologna, 30 June 2009. - A low contrast 16mm print. 16mm is the original format of the material shot for this documentary. - Shortly before his death in 1969 Josef von Sternberg (born 29 May 1894) gave this interview to the Belgian television. He is mentally in great shape. He is smoking. - JvS: I'm a very complicated man. The older I get, the more complicated I become. - I was a great collector. I had everything. I was the unhappiest man. I got rid of everything. It's best to be without anything. When you wish for something you are reasonably happy. - Complete freedom is very dangerous. You must have things against which to operate. - The paradox: I don't think I'm an artist. The artist produces nothing. The artist is recognized after death. Talent is not easy. It is easier to be a genius than to have talent. An artist knows when to stop. - Matisse: the canvas takes possession of him. - I have made very few films. - Ice cold: the only way to create passion. - The wind of life breathes in my films. - There is hardly any difference between women and men. Women have more sense. - Cigarettes in films: creating motion on screen. Every second some perceptible movement. There has to be motion all the time. - Actors are like children: only body, no brain. - Masks in Asian theatre: you have a thousand masks. - I am Marlene. - JOSEF VON STERNBERG LIGHTS DOROTHEE BLANK (THE LAST FILM OF JOSEF VON STERNBERG?): Dorothée Blank: A Conception. First we see the normal face. Then: the selection of wigs. JvS makes up Dorothée's face. "It is really not her face, but I impose it on her". "Alien to her, alien to me". He sets a fan. "Forget about everything". "Make backlight stronger". "Bring it down". "I'm not doing this for television, I'm doing this for film". Using the cucoloris (the cookie). Using the exposure meter. "Don't make it automatic". "Make believe you're a tree". Dorothée Blank gets tired. Masks in front of her: sorrow, weariness. "An actor does not cry". "The business is to simulate. To hide and to reveal". "The essential remains hidden". - I was very grateful to see this complete documentary. I had only seen the Dorothée Blank sequence before (on German tv in the 1980s).

Cento anni fà 6 – USA 1909 I: L'anno miracoloso di D.W. Griffith

A Hundred Years Ago 6 – USA 1909 I: The Miracle Year of D.W. Griffith.
Presentano Gian Luca Farinelli, Camille Blot-Wellens, Béatrice [Valbin-Constant?], Mariann Lewinsky. Grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. Viewed in Bologna, Cinema Lumière 1, 30 June 2009

- The tribute to Griffith's annus mirabilis was sabotaged by the terrible quality of the prints. The original negatives exist at MoMA, but for some reason good prints of Griffith's films are rare.
- In 1909 Griffith directed 142 films. Quoting Tom Gunning's introductory text to the program: "Griffith had discovered the powers of parallel editing in 1908, but in 1909 he truly explored its diverse uses from suspense, to political commentary, to psychological exploration. But if editing supplied Griffith's major narrative tool, his attention to the image, to composition and lyrical beauty expanded as well."
- Griffith discovers the landscape as an image of the soul, "soulscape"

The Country Doctor. US 1909. D: D.W. Griffith. DP: Billy Bitzer; CAST: Frank Powell, Florence Lawrence, Mary Pickford, Linda Arvidson, Kate Bruce, Gladys Egan, Adele De Garde, Stephanie Longfellow; PC: Biograph. 35mm. 287 m. B&w. From: MoMA. - Ok print.
The Cricket on the Hearth. US 1909. D: D.W. Griffith. Based on the tale (1845) by Charles Dickens; DP: Billy Bitzer, Arthur Marvin; CAST: Charles Inslee, Owen Moore, Violet Mersereau, Herbert Prior, Linda Arvidson, Mack Sennett; PC: Biograph. 16mm. 73 m. B&w. [Announced: From: MoMA.] - From LoC paper print, titles missing, terrible print, incomprehensible without the titles, impossible to appreciate the visual quality.
Pippa Passes. US 1909. D: D.W. Griffith. Based on the poem by Robert Browning (1841); DP: Billy Bitzer, Arthur Marvin; CAST: Gertrude Robinson, George Nicholls, Adele De Garde, James Kirkwood, Mack Sennett, Tony O’Sullivan, Linda Arvidson; PC: Biograph. 16mm. 11’. From: LoC. - A terrible, scratched print based on a paper print, without titles, incomprehensible, impossible to appreciate the visual quality. - This story is famously based on the transforming power of music. As the pianist missed this idea completely, the live music was another obstruction to the reception of Griffith's film.
The Red Man’s View. US 1909. D: D.W. Griffith. DP: Billy Bitzer; CAST: James Kirkwood, Arthur Johnson, Owen Moore, Lottie Pickford, Alfred Paget, W. Chrystie Miller, Dorothy West, Kate Bruce; PC: Biograph. 35mm. 296 m. B&w. [Announced: From: MoMA.] - "Restored" by LoC, seemingly from a paper print, weak visual quality.

Cento anni fà 5 – Un cinema di distrazione

A Hundred Years Ago 5 – A Cinema of Distractions.
Presenta Mariann Lewinsky. Grand piano: Alain Baents. Viewed in Bologna, Cinema Lumière 1, 30 June 2009.

- the incidental, the accidental, the providential, the passer-by, the stray dog
- the transitional zone between fiction and non-fiction
- the feeling of real presence (Bela Balazs)
- the cinema of distractions (Luke McKernan)

Cinema – Città – Affinità / Cinema – City – Affinity

Street Scenes in Saarbrücken. DE 1909. PC: Welt-Kinematograph. 35mm. 101 m. B&w. From: BFINA. Non-fiction. Beautiful definition of light. The traffic, the passants, the phantom ride. 5 min

Quattro film Lux / Four Lux Productions

Souvenirs de Paris. FR 1909. PC: Lux. 35mm. 85 m. B&w. From: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique. - Fiction. From worn material with a good definition of light. A lively account of family life. The father's gifts waken to life: the objects portray living images. 5 min. *
L’Enlèvement. FR 1909. PC: Lux. 35mm. 109 m. Col. English intertitles. From: AFF/CNC. - Comedy. The young lover kidnaps accidentally his mother-in-law instead of his bride. 7 min. *
Le Pneu Machin boit l’obstacle. FR 1909. PC: Lux. 35mm. 73 m. Col. English intertitles. From: AFF/CNC. - A crazy comedy. The automobile the touch of which can make anything disappear. The automobile ivre. 4 min. *
Les Tribulations d’un charcutier. FR 1909. PC: Lux. 35mm. 77 m. B&w. From: Cin. fr. Restored by AFF/CNC. - Print dim, bad contrast. A farce about sausages, slapstick. 5 min. *

Distrazioni e sorprese / Distractions and Surprises

La Possession de l’enfant. FR 1909. D: Louis Feuillade. PC: Gaumont. 35mm. 230 m. B&w. No intertitles. From: AFF/CNC. - A brilliant print, but intertitles missing. - A noble composition. - The art of noble pantomime. - The fight over the custody of the child. 13 min. *
La Fée des grèves. FR 1909. D: Louis Feuillade. PC: Gaumont. 35mm. 148 m. Pochoir. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: AFF/CNC. - A somewhat low contrast print. - A historical costume drama and féerie. The story of the mermaid who wants to return to the sea. The man follows after her. Fantasmagoria in the style of Méliès. The maids are well clothed. 8 min
La Bouée. FR 1909. D: Louis Feuillade. PC: Gaumont. 35mm. 137 m. B&w. From: BFINA. - Deutsche Zwischentitel. From worn material with signs of damage. - A baby is found in the sea. Sold at auction. But there is money in the life buoy. 7 min
Un mariage en Auvergne. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 85 m. B&w. From: AFF/CNC. - Non-fiction. Traditional instruments and dances. 5 min.
XV. Eidgen. Musikfest in Basel. DE 1909. PC: Welt-Kinematograph. 35mm. 131 m. B&w.From: Cinémathèque Suisse. - Non-fiction: parade, boring, the spectacers react to the camera and make faces. 8 min
Film ist. 7-12. AT 2002. D+SC+ED: Gustav Deutsch. Research: Gustav Deutsch, Hanna Schimek; M: Werner Dafeldecker, Christian Fennesz, Martin Siewert, Burkhardt Stangl; PC: Loop Media, in collaborazione con CNC, Cinemateca Portuguesa, Cineteca di Bologna, Filmarchiv Austria, NFM. Extract from Chapter 12. 35mm. 5’. Col. From: sixpackfilm. - Maybe due to the delays in the schedule only 1 min 35 seconds of Gustav Deutsch's masterpiece were shown.

So This Is Love?

[The film was never released in Finland]. US 1928. D: Frank Capra. Story: Norman Springer; SC: Elmer Harris, Rex Taylor; DP: Ray June; ED: Arthur Roberts; DP: Robert E. Lee, Rex Taylor; CAST: Shirley Mason (Hilda Jenson), William “Buster” Collier, Jr. (Jerry McGuire), Johnnie Walker (“Spike” Mullins), Ernie Adams (“Flash” Tracy), Carl Gerard (Otto), William H. Strauss (Maison Katz), Jean Laverty (Mary Malone); P: Harry Cohn; Dist: Columbia Pictures; 35mm. 65’ a 24 fps. B&w. From: Sony Columbia. - Presenta Rita Belda, grand piano Donald Sosin, viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 30 June 2009. - A print from a 4K scan from the French version. - A triangle love story: the delicatessen girl is in love with a prizefighter but admired by a dress designer. A small comedy with some good physical action. I did not see this film till the end.

Leon Drey

RU 1915. D: Evgueni Bauer. Based on the novel by Semion Iouchkevitch; DP: Konstantin Bauer; DP: Evgueni Bauer; CAST: Nikolaï Radine (Leon Drey), Boris Borissov (il padre), Maria Khalatova (la madre), Tatiana Bakh (Liza, la sorella), Vera Gordina (Lioubotchka, la seconda sorella di Leon), Nadejda Nelskaïa (Bertotchka, la fidanzata di Leon), Arseni Bibikov (il padre di Bertotchka), V. Porten (Saül, il commesso), P. Lopoukhine (l’avvocato Melnikov), Raïssa reizen (sua moglie), Natalia Lissenko (Anna Rozen), Emma Bauer (Nina Serebrianaïa), Maria Koulikova, Alexandre Kherouvimov, Vladimir Strijevski- Radtchenko; PC: Khanjonkov. 35mm. 1220 m. 60’ a 18 fps. B&w. From: Gosfilmofond. - Grand piano: Marco Dalpane, earphone translation in Italian and English, viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 30 June 2009. - Intertitles missing. Summarizing titles added. - A beautiful visual quality in this print. - It was possible to appreciate Bauer's great deep focus compositions in this screening. - From the catalogue: An adaptation of a novel by a popular Jewish author from Odessa, Semyon Yushkevich. A social climber from a humble background, Leon Drey charms his way up the social ladder by seducing all the city's rich women. Pleasure-seeking and fearless, he massacres the hearts of these ladies, whether they are honest or not. Odessa's Jewish upper middle class that Leon breaks his way into contrasts with the description of the lower classes, to which Leon's parents belong, or professionals like the aspiring poet Saul. Nikolai Radine, a Russian, stars as Leon, and not Mousjoukine (for which he left that studio), and is surrounded by Jewish actors from the Korch Theater and Emma Bauer (the director's Jewish wife). - A sober tragedy of the heartless ladies' man. When his loving wife learns of his affairs with other women she jumps from the window. A new wedding is promptly being celebrated. - Emma Bauer plays one of the other women, whom Leon Drey meets in the box in the theatre (at 40 min). - 62 min

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Gentleman of Paris

Herrasmies Pariisissa. US 1927. D: Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast. Story: dal racconto Bellamy the Magnificent di Roy Horniman; SC: Benjamin Glazer, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Chandler Sprague; DP: Harold Rosson; CAST: Adolphe Menjou (Marchese de Marignan), Shirley O’Hara (Jacqueline), Arlette Marchal (Yvonne Dufour), Ivy Harris (Henriette), Nicholas Soussanin (Joseph Talineau), Lawrence Grant (Generale Baron de Latour), William B. Davidson (Henri Dufour), Lorraine MacLean (ragazza del guardaroba); P: Jesse L. Lasky, Adolph Zukor per Paramount Famous Lasky; 35mm. 65’ From: LoC per concessione di Paramount. - Earphone commentary in Italian, grand piano: Antonio Coppola, viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 29 June 2009. - A print with several marks of nitrate decomposition in the source. - A brilliant sophisticated drama in the Ernst Lubitsch style, but in a somewhat darker mode. - The wealthy ladies' man, Marquis de Marignan, has one affair too many: with the wife of his endlessly resourceful servant Joseph Talineau. Joseph sets a trap for the famous gambler by putting to his sleeve a hidden card, which is later fatally exposed. - A fine sense of satire. - Unlike Lubitsch and Chaplin, d'Arrast portrays a world in which he belongs. - A fine sense of the visual: the scene where a woman hidden in de Marignan's apartment is revealed gradually via the leg, the hand, and the hair. - Menjou gives an account of the incident to Joseph via a pantomime, which is worthy of Chaplin.


[The film was never released in Finland]. US 1929. D: Frank Capra. Story: Ralph Graves; SC: Howard Green, Frank Capra; DP: Joseph Walker, Elmer Dyer, Joe Novak; ED: Ben Pivar, Maurice Wright, Gene Milford; DP: Harrison Wiley; S: John Lividary, Harry Blanchard, Dean Daly, Eddy Hahn, Ellis Gray; CAST: Jack Holt (“Panama” Williams), Ralph Graves (“Lefty” Phelps), Lila Lee (Elinor), Alan Roscoe (Major), Harold Goodwin (Steve Roberts), Jimmy De La Cruze (Lobo); P: Frank Capra per Columbia Pictures; 35mm. 110’. B&w. From: LoC. - E-subtitles in Italian (Sub-Ti). Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 29 June 2009. - A brilliant print save for stock footage montages. - The middle film of Capra's marine trilogy (Submarine, Flight: it's about the Marines flight school, Dirigible), all with the same actors, usually with a triangle of two men and a woman. - The story of a loser: Lefty scores in football for the opposite team; in his flight test, his plane crashes before taking off. - Also a Cyrano story: Lefty is good with words, Panama is clumsy. - A colonialistic story: the Marines go to Nicaragua to quench a rebellion. - Interesting semi-documentary footage on early flying. - Mediocre. - I did not watch this till the end.

Cento anni fà 4 – La Film d'Art nel 1909

A Hundred Years Ago 4 – Film d'Art in 1909.
Presentano Béatrice de Pastre (CNC), XX (male), and Mariann Lewinsky. Grand piano: Maud Nelissen. Viewed in Bologna, Cinema Lumière 1, 29 June 2009.

Film d'Art:
- great themes from Homer, the Bible, and the opera
- the search for high quality
- the search for a visual language for the cinema

Le Retour d’Ulysse. FR 1909. D: André Calmettes, Charles Le Bargy. Based on Ulysses by Homer. SC: Jules Lemaître; M: Georges Huë; CAST: Julia Bartet (Penelope), Albert Lambert (Antinous), Paul Mounet (Ulysse), Louis Delaunay (il sacerdote); PC: Pathé; 35mm. 320 m. From: AFF/CNC. - Reportedly blown up from Pathé-Baby, amazing visual quality if that is true. - Penelope weaves her tapestry and tears it secretly to postpone the attentions of her suitors. Penelope's dream. The rivals destroy mementi of Ulysses. 11 min
L’Enfant prodigue. FR 1909. D: Georges Berr. SC: Henri Lavedan; DP: Lucien Jusseaume, Floury; CAST: Eugène Silvain (il padre di famiglia), René Alexandre (il figlio maggiore), Jean Dehelly (il figlio prodigo), i ballerini de l’Opéra, PC: Pathé; 35mm. 246 m. From: AFF/CNC. - Biblical epic. Three colours. 13 min
Mireille. FR 1909. D: Henri Cain. Based on the long poem Mirèio (1859) by Frédéric Mistral; Op.: Hérault e Nedelec per le scene girate ad Arles; LOC: Arles. CAST: M.lle Didier (Mireille), Roger Karl (Vincent), Jaegger (Maître Ramon); PC: Pathé; 35mm. 165 m. From: AFF/CNC.- A nest in the mulberry tree predicts a marriage within the year. Tragedy: the woman falls ill. Ok print. 9 min
Une conquête. FR 1909. D: Charles Decroix. SC: Charles Decroix; CAST: Max Linder (Gontran), M.me Frémeaux; PC: Pathé; 35mm. 130 m. From: AFF/CNC. - Comedy. Max Linder is the indefatigable ladies' man to whom accumulate handkerchiefs, flowers, statuettes, and dogs as he tries to please the lady who is on her way to meet her husband. 8 min *
Moines et guerriers. FR 1909. CAST: Pauline (Emilie) Polaire, Jacques Volnys, Georges Colin, Julien Clément, Léonie Richard; PC: Pathé; 35mm. 200 m. From: AFF/CNC. - Siège de Saragosse, 1808. Shot on location. A historical military subject from Napoleon's wars. The soldiers by the monastery, the grim revenge. Print ok, somewhat low contrast.

Cento anni fà 3 (Anno 1909) – Pronti per il lungometraggio

Albert Capellani: L'Assommoir (FR 1909) based on the novel by Émile Zola (1877) starring Alexandre Arquillière (Coupeau), Jacques Grétillaat (Lantier), Eugène Nau (Gervaise) and Catherine Fontenay (Virginie).

A Hundred Years Ago 3 – Coming Attraction: Feature Length
Presenta Mariann Lewinsky.
Grand piano: Antonio Coppola.
Viewed at Bologna, Cinema Lumière 1, 29 June 2009.

The first French feature film according to Henri Bousquet: L'Assommoir, 40 min. A complete print that has recently surfaced in Belgium was screened.

Roman d’une bottine et d’un escarpin
. FR 1909. D: Georges Monca. CAST: Georges Tréville, Suzanne Demay; PC: Pathé. 35 mm. 170 m. English intertitles. B&w. From: BFINA. – The meeting of the shoes tells the love story. Partially a good definition of light.

Les deux devoirs
/ Berufspflicht. FR 1909. D: Louis Feuillade. PC: Gaumont. 35 mm. 172 m. B&w. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: AFF/CNC. – The calling of the doctor. The demonstration. Partially a good definition of light. 10 min.

Roman d’une écuyère
/ Der abgewiesene Verehrer. FR 1909. D: Camille de Morlhon. PC: Pathé. 35 mm. 240 m. Tinted. From: NFM. – Deutsche Zwischentitel. The circus world: the husband is a clown, the wife is an acrobatic rider. Of course there is the triangle drama, the clown falls from the trapeze, falls into the gutter, takes care of the child, but the wife begs to return. 13 min.

Une corderie
/ Seilerei. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35 mm. 82 m. B&w. No intertitles. From: BFINA. – Fascinating non-fiction of the many phases of producing rope. 5 min. *

. FR 1909. D: Albert Capellani. Based on the novel by Emile Zola (1877); SC: Albert Capellani, Michel Carré; CAST: Eugène Nau (Gervaise), Catherine Fontenay (Virginie), Alexandre Arquillière (Coupeau), Jacques Grétillaat (Lantier); PC: S.C.A.G.L. – Pathé. 35 mm. 740 m. B&w. From: Archives Gaumont-Pathé.
    A fascinating discovery. Interesting visual space, full of life, lively tableaux.
    The women's fight in the laundry. The wedding in 1872 (Gervaise, Coupeau).
    Excellent cinematography.
    The jealous Virginie sets the trap for Coupeau at the scaffold of the building site.
    During his long invalid period Coupeau becomes an alcoholist.
    A fine dinner banquet scene.
    Virginie revenges by fuelling Coupeau's alcohol addiction.
    Coupeau loses the wager on strong drink at the tavern. The fight over the woman.
    Coupeau is hospitalized, and is forbidden to drink strong alcohol. Virginie's last revenge leads to an extended danse macabre.
    This episodic film, based on tableaux, follows reportedly the popular theatre adaption of the grim novel. 40 min. *

Zapomnite ih litsa

[Ricordate i loro volti] / Prestuplenije grazhdanina Surkava. SU 1930. PC: GTK, dist. Sojuzkino. D: Ivan Mutanov. SC: Alexandre Krein, Naum Loiter, Ivan Mutanov. DP: Benzion Monastyrski. CAST: A. Genin, Vasili Bokarjov, A. Duletov, K. Iastrebitski. 2003 m /22 fps/ 80 min. From: Gosfilmofond. - Grand piano: Alain Baents, earphone translation in Italian and English, viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 29 June 2009. - From the catalogue: The action takes place in a tannery. A young Jew fine tunes a machine to be used for mechanizing the work process. Some workers break in, instigagted by a competitor who manipulates anti-Semitic feelings so that the young man is forced to leave the factory. A Komsomol unit shows up in time to stop the attacks against young Beitchik. The screenplay was created as a part of the demand for films for the campaign against anti-Semitism that began in 1927 after a number of criminal episodes against Jewish factory workers. It was co-written by Naum Loiter, Meyerhold's former assistant, director of the Proletkult Theater, and later director of the Jewish theater of Kharkov, and Alexandre Krein (better known as Kron), who made his screenwriting debut with this film. They used a number of elements from cases that had caused a stir (even giving the main character a name similar to one of the victims) and the issues dealt with by the press and the campaign brochures. The screenplay and the film caused censorship concerns, especially for the Party's passive role. - I saw the end of this film and was impressed by the stark montage and the dynamic cinematography.

Al momia

The Night of Counting the Years. EG 1969 D+SC: Shadi Abdel Salam. ED: Kamal Abou El Ella; DP: Abdel Aziz Fahmi; DP: Salah Marei; M: Mario Nascimbene; CAST: Ahmed Marei (Wannis), Ahmed Hegazi (il fratello), Zouzou Hamdi El Hakim (la madre), Nadia Lofti (Zeena); PC: Egyptian General Cinema Organization 35 mm. 103’ Col. Arabic version with English subtitles From: Egyptian Film Centre. Restored in 2009 by the World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna - L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory, from the original 35 mm camera and sound negatives preserved at the Egyptian Film Center in Giza. The digital restoration produced a new 35 mm internegative. The film was restored with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. - Presenta Gian Luca Farinelli. Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 29 June 2009.

From Martin Scorsese's introductory text: Rightfully acknowledged as one of the greatest Egyptian films ever made. Based on a true story: in 1881, precious objects from the Tanite dynasty started turning up for sale, and it was discovered that the Horabat tribe had been secretly raiding the tombs of the Pharaohs in Thebes. Al momia has an extremely unusual tone - stately, poetic, with a powerful grasp of time and the sadness it carries. The carefully measured pace, the almost ceremonial movement of the camera, the desolate settings, the classical Arabic spoken on the soundtrack, the unsettling score by the great Italian composer Mario Nascimbene - they all work in perfect harmony and contribute to the feeling of fateful inevitability. The picture has a sense of history like no other. And in the end, the film is strangely, even hauntingly consoling - the eternal burial, the final understanding of who and what we are. - AA: It is hard to put it better than Martin Scorsese above, and I'm grateful for the World Cinema Foundation for bringing this unique masterpiece back to circulation, albeit via a digital intermediate.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Lentävä kuolema. US 1931. D: Frank Capra. Story: Frank Wilber Wead e James Warner Bellah (n.c.); SC: Jo Swerling, Dorothy Howell; DP: Joseph Walker, Elmer Dyer - 1,2:1; ED: Maurice Wright; M: Mischa Bakaleinikoff, David Broekman; S: E. L. Bernds; CAST: Jack Holt (Jack Bradon), Ralph Graves (Frisky Pierce), Fay Wray (Helen Pierce), Hobart Bosworth (Louis Rondele), Roscoe Karns (Sock McGuire), Harold Goodwin (Hansen), Clarence Muse (Clarence), Emmett Corrigan (Admiral Martin), Selmer Jackson (il luogotenente Rowland); P: Harry Cohn, Frank Capra per Columbia Pictures; 35mm. 106’. B&w. From: Sony Columbia. - E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti. Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 28 June 2009. - A brilliant print. - The last picture of Capra's Marines trilogy, all with Jack Holt and Ralph Graves as rivals for Woman, here played by Fay Wray as the conceited hero's long-suffering wife. - An ugly feature in Frank Capra's films: blatant racism is recurrent. - The dirigible sequences have documentary value. I did not know that Zeppelins had such a role in the U.S. Marines. - The second half of the picture is a harrowing adventure on the Antarctic with a grim fate for the unfortunate flyers. Snow blindness threatens our hero. - Interesting but mediocre.

Cento anni fà 2 – Che c'è di nuovo nel 1909: Cinegiornali! Ballets Russes! Cretinetti!

A Hundred Years Ago 2 – What's New In 1909: Newsreels! Ballets Russes! Cretinetti!
Presenta: Mariann Lewinsky. Grand piano: Alain Baents. Viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 28 June 2009.

- The Centenary of the newsreel (Pathé Journal)
- The only moving image records of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in their first Paris season in 1909.
- The first aerial films
- Marinetti's Futurist manifesto in February 1909 celebrated with the film of The Electric Policeman
- Maria Montessori's Il metodo della pedagogia scientifica (1909) celebrated with films about children
- James Joyce's Volta Cinema in Dublin opened in Dublin in 1909; among the films shown was Une pouponnière
- The Centenary of the film star: Cretinetti (Max Linder, Sarah Duhamel, and Stacia Napierkowska were to be credited by name later)
- The Centenary of the film diva: Stacia Napierkowska

Prima stagione dei Ballets Russes a Parigi / First Paris season of the Ballets Russes

La Danse du flambeau. FR 1909 D: Jules de Froberville. With: Tamara Karsavina; PC: Les Films du Lion. 35mm. 31 m. B&w. From: AFF/CNC. - Doc. A fine print, an impressive ballet performance, of the first filmed records of Ballets Russes. *
Pas-de-deux et soli. FR 1909. D: Jules de Froberville. With: Alexandra Baldina, Theodore Kosloff; PC: Les Films du Lion 35mm. 86 m. B&w From: AFF/CNC. - Doc. Two great ballet numbers, first a valse caprice for two, and then a solo number, ?by Nijinsky?.

Aviazione e cinegiornale / Aviation and newsreels

Wilbur Wright und seine Flugmaschine. FR 1909. PC: Eclipse. 35mm. 73 m. B&w. From: Filmarchiv Austria. - Doc. Ok actuality. Pretty low contrast.
Blériot traverse la Manche (25.7.1909). FR 1909. Blériot Crosses the Channel; PC: Pathé. 35mm. 110 m. B&w. English intertitles. From: BFINA. - Doc. Ok actuality.
Les Surprises de l’aviation. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 161 m. B&w. From: BFINA. - Fiction, wild and crazy comedy with an Eiffel Tower hijack. Ok print. *

Fait divers / Miscellaneous

Une pouponnière / Kinderbewahranstalt. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35mm [frammento]. 45 m. B&w. From: BFINA. Doc about a nursery, a print from deteriorating material, incomplete.
Concorso di bellezza fra bambini a Torino / Kinder tendoorstelling. IT 1909. PC: Aquila Films. 35mm. 66 m. B&w. From: NFM. - Doc from a childen's beauty contest. Print partly beautiful, partly from deteriorating material. Expressive medium shots of faces.
The Electric Policeman. FR 1909. PC: Gaumont. 35mm. 120 m. B&w. From: BFINA. - Fiction, comedy. Ok print. Due to electricity, the policeman becomes tireless in the chase, his feet continuing to move even when he is upside down in the river.

Star di Cinema / Movie Stars

Cretinetti paga i debiti / How Foolshead Pays His Debts. IT 1909. CAST: André Deed; PC: Itala-Film. 35mm. 154 m. B&w. From: BFINA. - A comedy with tricks in the Méliès style. Ok print. *
Une femme doit suivre son mari. FR 1909. CAST: Sarah Duhamel; PC: Gaumont. 35 mm. 115 m. Tinted. From: AFF/CNC. - Ok print. A police comedy.
Amoureux de la femme à barbe. FR 1909. CAST: Max Linder; PC: Pathé. 35mm. 120 m. B&w. From: NFM. - Here I lost my attention.
La Fable de Psyche. FR 1909. CAST: Stacia Napierkowska; PC: Pathé. 35mm. 108 m. Pochoir. From: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique. - The great dancing star.
Dans l’Hellade. FR 1909. CAST: Stacia Napierkowska; PC: Pathé. 35mm. 74 m. B&w. From: NFM. - The great dancing star. Ok, somewhat low contrast print.

That Certain Thing

[The film was never released in Finland]. US 1928. D: Frank Capra. SC: Elmer Harris; DP: Joseph Walker; ED: Arthur Roberts; DP: Robert E. Lee; CAST: Viola Dana (Molly Kelly), Ralph Graves (Andy B. Charles, Jr.), Aggie Herring (Mrs. Maggie Kelly), Carl Gerard (Secretary Brooks), Burr McIntosh (A.B. Charles, Sr.), Sydney Crossley (Valet); P: Harry Cohn; 35mm. [announced: 70’ a 24 fps]. Actual duration: 64 min. B&w. From: Sony Columbia. - Presenta Grover Crisp, grand piano: Donald Sosin, earphone commentary in Italian, viewed in Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 28 June 2009. - GC: this print is from material in poor condition, made in 2001, now there is access to an incomplete 35mm print, and a new restoration is in progress. - Joseph McBride: of all the early Columbia films, the story of this is the most Capraesque. - The girl wants to marry money, but the son of the millionaire is disinherited. They stay together anyway and make a fortune with box lunches. "Cut the ham thick!"

Protiv voli otsov / [Against the Will of the Fathers]

[Contro la volontà dei padri]. SU 1927. D+SC: Evgueni Ivanov-Barkov. DP: Alfonse Winkler, Alexeï Solodkov, Gavriil Eguiazarov; AD: Robert Falk, Dmitri Koloupaev; CAST: David Itkine (Kaufman), A. Dzioubina (Esther, sua figlia), Boris Verchilov (Rosenfeld), Arié Varchaver (Boris, suo figlio), V. Kojoura (Orlov, il Preside del Liceo), PC: Proletkino e Sovkino. 35mm. 1300 m. 52’ a 22 fps. B&w. From: Gosfilmofond. - Presentano Christopher Gautier e Valeri Bosenko, grand piano: Donald Sosin, earphone translation in Italian and English. Viewed at Cinema Lumiere 1, Bologna, 28 June 2009.

Ok print, a bit low contrast. - Ok English translation. - From the catalogue: The film was edited with unused rushes from the film Mabul (The Flood), an adaptation of a work by Sholem Aleichem and an initiative of the Jewish theatre Habima in Moscow. It was Yevgeni Ivanov-Barkov's first film, and the screenplay was so complex that while editing he had to cut many scenes and subplots, hence the idea for this second film. Set before the 1905 revolution, the film tells the story of two small-town Jewish families. The father of one family has chosen the path of assimilation, while the other decides to uphold tradition. Their sons leave to study in the city. One becomes a spy for the secret service and the other, a Zionist, takes up an internationalist position. They both are active in the political unrest of the times. When 1905 rolls around with its wave of pogroms, no one is spared. There are several elements that are similar to Mabul: the attempt on the governor's life, the execution of a revolutionary, the pogrom. While the first film's Passover scene was cut by censors, Against the Will of the Fathers added it. Unlike Mabul, which was released but not preserved, this film was banned and remained, though incomplete, in the archives. - Strong performances by the actors. Especially soulful is A. Dzioubina as Esther. - Impressive scenes: the terrorist attack, in the claws of the Okhrana, the flyers in the belly of the "pregnant" revolutionary, the Passover eve, the epic scene as the cossacks break up a rebellion. - The pogrom sequence is the most powerful I remember having seen in a film. Even the assimilated ones are persecuted.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gore Sarry

Горе Сарры / Gorié Sarry / La disgrazia di Sarah; RU 1915. D: Alexandre Arkatov. SC: V. Toldi; DP: Boris Mikhine; Op.: Ladislas Starewitch, Alexandre Ryllo, Fedor Bremer; CAST: Tatiana Chornikova (Sarah), Alexandre Khérouvimov (il padre), Praskovia Maximova (la madre), Ivan Mosjoukine (Isaac), Pavel Knorr (il padre di Isaac), Antonina PojarskaÏa (la madre di Isaac), Viatcheslav Tourjanski (Boruh); PC: Khanjonkov (Mosca). 35mm. Orig: 800 m. 445 m. 22’ a 18 fps. B&w. From: Gosfilmofond. - Presenta Christophe Gautier, grand piano: Donald Sosin, earphone translation in Italian and English, viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 27 June 2009. - A print of a restored version supervised in 1992 by Yuri Tsivian. - A good quality of the image in the print. - From the catalogue text: Under pressure from the Elders and the Law, a childless couple must separate after 10 years of living together. Isaac, the husband (Ivan Mosjoukine), ends up dying, whereas Sarah realizes - too late - that she is pregnant... The director is clearly sympathetic with Isaac's brother, Baruch, a young student who represents the values of the young, liberated Jewish intellectuals at the beginning of the century. The director, Arkatov, debuted in 1910 with a screenplay for the first Jewish film shot by the Russian subsidiary of Pathé, L'khaim, the success of which sealed the genre's fate. He then began directing in 1912, first at Pathé, where he chose stories that criticized the traditional way of living. In February 1917, he began making films attacking the conditions imposed on Jews by the empire for the Zionist oriented Odessa company Mizrah, which produced The Life of the Jews in Palestine (1913). - The tragedy of childlessness - a reason for divorce - Isaac hangs himself - but Sarah then finds that she is expecting his baby - we see a Jewish cemetery. 19 min

Vu iz emes?

Dov'è la verità? / Afn yam un Ellis Island. LV-RU 1913. D: Semion Mintus. Based on the play by Abraham Chomer (Nohum Meir Chaïkevitch). CAST: Anna Liesma, Herbert Konrad, Janis Ozols/Ozolkaïa, Lucia Liepste-Ozols; PC: Production Semion Mintus (Riga). 35mm. Orig: 1200 m. 848 m. 41’ a 18 fps. No intertitles. Lacking intertitles have been replaced at the beginning of each reel with summarizing Russian intertitles. From: Gosfilmofond. Presenta Christophe Gautier, grand piano: Donald Sosin, earphone translation in Italian and English. Viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 27 June 2009. - Print ok, at first high contrast, dark, screened maybe too fast. - The earphone translation was terrible, which made the film impossible to understand, as titles were missing, and there were only summarizing Russian intertitles here and there. - According to the programme book: A melodrama shot by a Jewish producer from Riga that narrates the misfortunes of a young student under Tsarist rule. She lost her parents in the Kishinev pogrom and now studies in Riga, where the police decide to pick on her. She does not have the right to residence so she must register as a prostitute. She is arrested by mistake, loses her mind, and dies, despite the actions of her boyfriend who gets her out of prison. - Semion Mintus, owner of one of the largest theaters in Riga (Le Colisée) founded a distribution company in 1909 that covered the Baltic regions of the empire. He produced many films on Jewish subjects from 1912 till 1913. The story supposedly circulated as a form of "film play": actors behind the screen acted out repeated performances of it. In 1913, the story was made for the screen in Odessa by Miron Grossman (Studio Mirograf). - Strong images: the woman in prison, accused of theft; visions of the pogrom; the woman on her sickbed.

Kinojudaica, l’immagine degli ebrei nel cinema russo e sovietico dagli anni ’10 al secondo dopoguerra

Kinojudaica introduction text from the programme book of Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2009

Kinojudaica, the Image of Jews in Russian and Soviet Cinema from the Teens to the Years after the Second World War
Programme by Natacha Laurent (Cinémathèque de Toulouse) e Valérie Pozner
Promosso da Cineteca di Bologna, Ambasciata di Francia in Italia, Fondazione Nuovi Mecenati, Délégation culturelle / Alliance Française de Bologne
In collaboration with Gosfilmofond
Con il patrocinio della Fondazione Museo Ebraico di Bologna

Cinémathèque de Toulouse and Gosfilmofond organized a retrospective of 20 programs uncovering more than 30 films featuring Jewish stories, themes and characters produced under the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union between the 1910s and 1960s.

The films were chosen in order to demonstrate the diversity and wealth of such a vast production, still largely unacknowledged, that includes shorts, medium length and feature length films, fictional movies, documentaries and actuality films. They cover a variety of subjects: the traditional Jewish life in the shtetls of the “Pale of Settlement” and a world that has vanished almost without a trace; the swift change of modernity and the diverse political spectrum of the Jewish world that began to develop at the end of the 19th century (Zionism, socialism, Bundism, poalei-tsion); Tsarist discriminatory policies and the social situation Jews were reduced to under the Russian Empire: restrictive laws, repressions, pogroms, anti-Semitism; the hope for change and social success; the creation of Jewish utopias within the Soviet Union (Birobidzhan, Crimea, acknowledgment of Yiddish culture and legacy, the return of immigrants); the fight against anti-Semitism, which was revived during the late 20s; condemnation of growing anti-Semitism in Germany (these films made quite an impact abroad); the Holocaust and the problems with its portrayal in post war film.

The retrospective includes some of the most important names of Russian and Soviet cinema (Bauer, Kulechov, Donskoi), lesser known names (Dubson, Vilner, Korch-Sabline), and also some totally unknown ones (Mutanov for fictional film, Mazrukho for documentaries). Countless artists contributed to these productions: writers like Peretz Markish or Isaac Babel, who also took inspiration from classic Yiddish literary and theatrical works like the writings of Sholem Aleichem, composers like Lev Pulver, Isaak Dunayevsky or Polish jazzman Henryk Wars, great Jewish theater actors like Solomon Mikhoels or Veniamin Zuskin, but also Russian actors like Maria Blumenthal-Tamarina or Nikolai Batalov.

Il Cinema Ritrovato chose seven programs covering the rarest fictional films produced between the 1910s and the post World War II era. This selection provides a glimpse of a cultural legacy that today has all but disappeared: the cultural history of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union.

Valérie Pozner, Soviet film historian, and Natacha Laurent, Soviet film historian, managing director of Cinémathèque de Toulouse

Cento anni fà 1 – Milano 1909: Il primo concorso mondiale di cinematografia

A Hundred Years Ago 1 – Milan 1909: The 1st World Film Competition. Presentano Mariann Lewinsky e Giovanni Laso. Grand piano: Antonio Coppola. Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 27 June 2009

Celebrating the Centenary of the first film festival.

Nerone / Nero, or The Fall of Rome. IT 1909. PC: Ambrosio. 35mm. 291 m. Col. Digibeta, alas. From: CSC-Cineteca Nazionale / restored in 2006. - Fiction, Antiquity.
I bersaglieri. IT 1909. PC: Ancona Film. 35mm. 200 m. Col. From: Cineteca di Bologna – Lanterna Film
La Légende du premier violon. FR 1909. PC: Eclipse 35mm. 211 m. Col. From: Lobster Films / print from 1993. - Fiction. The pact with the Devil: a lady gets a diabolical violin.
The Niagara in Winter Dress. US 1909. PC: Vitagraph. 35mm. 54 m. From: BFINA. - Doc. Magnificent views of the snow-clad Niagara. *
Villes et cimetières arabes. FR 1909. D: Alexandre Promio. PC: Théophile Pathé. 35mm. 72 m. Colour print. From: AFF/CNC. - Doc. *
Princess Nicotine. GB 1909. PC: Vitagraph. 35mm. 109 m. Col. From: Cineteca del Friuli / Lobster Films. - Fantasy, féerie. No title cards. Little fairies. Stop motion. Is this an advertising film? *
Patrizia e schiava / In der Villa der Patrizierin. IT 1909. PC: Cines. 35mm. 300 m. B&w. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: BFINA. - Fiction, Antiquity, féerie. Flash titles mainly. The story of a slave girl, the tragedy of abduction. Meeting the gods of the sea. The joy of the comeback.
La fidanzata di Cretinetti / El casamiento de Toribio. IT 1909. PC: Itala-Film. 35mm. 45 m. From: BFINA. - A Cretinetti farce, Spanish intertitles.

Fulta Fisher’s Boarding House

US 1922. D: Frank Capra. Based on the poem "The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding-House" from Departmental Ditties (1886) by Rudyard Kipling; SC: Frank Capra, Walter Montague; DP: Roy Wiggins; CAST: Mildred Owens (Anne of Austria), Ethan Allen (Salem Hardieker), Olaf Skavlan (Hans), Gerald Griffin (marinaio inglese), Oreste Seragnoli (Luz); PC: G. F. Harris e David F. Supple di Montague Studios per Fireside Productions; 35mm. [Announced: 15’ a 22 fps], actually 13 min. B&w. From: Sony Columbia (Frank Capra’s personal nitrate print collection). - Presenta Joseph McBride, grand piano: Marco Dalpane?, earphone translation into Italian. - Viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 27 June 2009. - Ok print. - A filmed poem. The milieu: qf. Les Bas-fonds.

La visita dell’incrociatore italiano Libia a San Francisco Calif., 6-29 novembre 1921

US 1921 D: Frank Capra. Intertitles: J. J. Moro, DP: Amos Stillman; With: Admiral Ernesto Burzagli, Dorothy Valerga (Dorothy Revier); 35mm. 658 m. 32’ a 18 fps. [announced: b&w] tinted. Italian intertitles From: Cineteca di Bologna e American Film Institute. Print made from a tinted nitrate positive with Italian intertitles. - Presenta Joseph McBride, grand piano: Marco Dalpane? / [Donald Sosin? announced], earphone commentary in English, viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 27 June 2009. - A brilliant print, a dullish colour. - A serviceable actuality film with no personal touch. Interesting as an early proof of Capra's interest in the military (Submarine - Flight - Dirigible and the great WWII documentaries). - Capra himself visible early on.

A Bandit's Wager

US 1916. D: Francis Ford. Ass. D: John Ford; SC: Francis Ford, Grace Cunard; CAST: Grace Cunard (Nan Jefferson), Francis Ford (il bandito), John Ford (il fratello); PC: Universal; 35mm. Orig: 273 m. 245 m. 13’ a 16 fps. B&w. English intertitles From: BFINA / Printed in 2009 by the BFI from an original nitrate print. Presenta John Oliver, grand piano: Maud Nelissen, viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 27 June 2009. - From John Oliver's introduction: In 1914-1916, John Ford worked in a number of capacities for Francis Ford and other directors such as Allan Dwan. John would later credit Francis as the greatest of influences on his own directorial career. During this period, it is believed that John acted in at least 13 films, all directed by Francis. With Francis as the titular bandit and Grace Cunard the heroine whom he promises to kiss, A Bandit's Wager is possibly the only one of these films to survive (John appears as Grace's brother). - Print from a scratched source. - Grace Cunard is put to a test. She thinks she has been caught by a bandit (Francis Ford), but displays formidable resistance, destroying his effects, including the mirror and the guitar. In fact, the bandit is Grace's brother's (John Ford) friend. She passes the test. "You belong to the West".

The Garrison Triangle

US 1912 D: Thomas H. Ince (?) CAST: Edgar Kellar, Ethel Grandin, Sky Eagle; PC: 101 Bison; 35mm. 220 m. 11’ a 18 fps. B&w. English intertitles From: BFINA Printed in 2007 by the BFI from two nitrate prints. Presenta John Oliver. Grand piano: Maud Nelissen. Viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 27 June 2009. - From John Oliver's introduction: stories of unjust accusations of cowardice were a staple of 101 Bison Westerns. The cavalry officer dishonourably discharged restores his honour, wins back his sweetheart, and saves his old regiment from Indian attack. The film was long held at BFI as two separate, unidentified films, but was identified in 2007 as being two parts of the same film. - From battered source material, signs of damage, at times barely visible. - Epic war imagery, furious visions as Jim falls from his horse. He saves the life of the officer who discharged him. Noble long shots. 11 min

Il Cinema Ritrovato (Bologna) 2009


1. Ritrovati & Restaurati / Recovered & Restored
2. Un’ora con Georges Méliès / One Hour with Georges Méliès
3. Anita Berber, Dea della Notte / Anita Berber, Goddess of the Night
4. Omaggio a Vittorio Martinelli / Tribute to Vittorio Martinelli
5. Incontro con Richard Leacock / Meeting Richard Leacock
6. The World Cinema Foundation
7. Mr. Capra Goes to Town
8. Alla ricerca del colore dei film / In Search of the Color of Film
9. Progetto Chaplin / Chaplin Project
10. Omaggio a Harry d’Abbadie Arrast / Tribute to Harry d’Abbadie Arrast
11. Cento anni fa: i film del 1909 / A Hundred Years Ago: the Films of 1909
12. Rodolfi e Gigetta: coppia in commedia / Rodolfi and Gigetta: the Couple in Comedy
13. Kinojudaica, l’immagine degli ebrei nel cinema russo e sovietico / Kinojudaica, the Image of Jews in Russian and Soviet Cinema
14. Tutto Maciste, uomo forte / All Maciste, strong man
15. Jean Epstein, il mare del Cinema / Jean Epstein, the Sea in Cinema
16. Ogni individuo è una storia: la Gran Bretagna negli anni ’30 / Every Person is a Story: Britain in the 1930’s
17. La parte di Vichy, il cinema francese sotto l’occupazione / Inside Vichy: French Cinema during the Occupation
18. Vittorio Cottafavi: ai poeti non si spara / Vittorio Cottafavi: Don’t Shoot Poets
19. Dossier Blasetti – Sole: dietro le quinte / Sole: Backstage
20. Dossier Metropolis
21. Dossier La crisi economica ai tempi del muto / Dossier Economic Crisis in Silent Cinema
22. Dossier Josef von Sternberg
23. Dossier Cinefilia: Omaggi a Henri Langlois, André S. Labarthe e Bernard Chardère
24. Doppio sguardo, note sulla censura tra Francia e Italia / Double Regard, Notes on Censorship in France and Italy

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Retretti (3) Albert Edelfelt and the Cinema

Albert Edelfelt painted in the age of the birth of the cinema. He belonged to the last great generation of realistic painters. Photography was already an important tool for his generation. Photography and cinema satisfied gradually the realistic need, and the ambitious artists turned to non-realistic ways of expression.

Edelfelt was sometimes criticized for being conventional, and he was bitterly hurt by such criticism. He was a many-sided artist, and yes, some of his best-known works were somewhat conventional.

One of his last works was a stark series of etchings (1904) for Selma Lagerlöf's tale The Treasure of Sir Arne. Edelfelt's compositions were the explicit model for Mauritz Stiller's magisterial film adaptation (1919) of Lagerlöf's tale. Stiller's film is the obvious model for certain scenes in Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen (1924) and in Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible (1944).

Retretti (2): Albert Edelfelt and the Nordic Summer

If a museum or a gallery in Finland wants to have a certain hit, there is no better choice than Albert Edelfelt, but in Retretti, they have not lazily gone for a familiar formula, instead introducing a fresh and critical perspective.

Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905) was one of the first Finnish artists with an international standing. In Paris, he painted the official portrait of Louis Pasteur, and in Russia, Czar Nicolas II modelled for him. In his way of expression, he belonged to the Realist line of painters, his professional skill based on studies in Paris (Ecole des Beaux-Arts), schooled also in Naturalism. Also his affinities with the contemporary Russian artists are evident. Edelfelt was a professional, well-paid artist with great financial responsibilities. This often affected his choice of subject-matter.

In Finland, Edelfelt was a leading figure in the Golden Age of Finnish art during the last decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century. He was an important part in the awakening of the Finnish culture, in the great cultural project of building the Finnish nation, a foundation of Finnish independence in 1917.

The curator of Retretti's Edelfelt exhibition, Ms. Maria Vainio-Kurtakko, had chosen interesting angles to the selection. I try to summarize below some key points from her catalogue introduction.

She has selected a Nordic viewpoint, Edelfelt's close contacts with his colleagues in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. In Denmark, Georg Brandes formulated key ideas of the era, which became known as the breakthrough of modernity (det moderne genembrud). The Norwegian artist Christian Krohg (1852-1925) stressed social awareness and social conscience.

In the summer 1879 many artists belonging to the Georg Brandes circle visited Skagen in order to depict Danish peasants and the Danish landscape in the French "plein air" style. Edelfelt's friends included the Danes Karl Madsen (1855-1938), Anna Ancher (1859-1935), Michael Ancher (1849-1927), and P.S. Kröyer (1851-1909). Edelfelt's friends included also the Swede Anders Zorn (1860-1920) with his bucolic landscapes and ample female figures. All these artists are on display in Retretti.

During the 1880s the Nordic artist community flourished in Paris. Even before visiting Paris Edelfelt had felt the passion to paint the seaside views of the Haikko Bay, and starting in 1879 he realized several such paintings. Villa Edelfelt in Haikko became a favourite stop for Finnish intelligentsia.

Inspired by the poet J.L. Runeberg, Edelfelt liked to paint the lives of ordinary people, the hard-working fishermen, in a spirit of dignity irrespective of their poverty and harsh living conditions. There is no sign of social criticism in Edelfelt's work.

The concept of the new woman was essential in the breakthrough of modernity. In Edelfelt's work, women have a central place, including in his definitive portraits of central women artists of the age, such as the actress Ida Ahlberg and the opera diva Aino Achté, and the magnificent portraits of his mother, Alexandra Edelfelt.

The summer idyll of children playing in the sunshine is one of the favourite themes in Edelfelt's paintings. Solskenstycken (sunny pictures) was a favourite genre of him; they almost always depict women and children. Ms. Vainio-Kurtakko points out that they are the opposite of social awareness in the age of Henrik Ibsen and The Doll's House. Edelfelt paints the idyllic portrait of the traditional woman, glorifying the mother and the beautiful young girl relaxing in the garden.

One might call Edelfelt a master of the belle époque in Finland. He died in 1905, the year of the first Russian Revolution, the year of the Battleship Potyomkin.

In Retretti, familiar paintings are juxtaposed with little-known ones, and the paintings of the five Nordic contemporary painters illuminate even the standard Edelfelt works in an interesting way.

Retretti (1)

Retretti, Punkaharju, Midsummer Day, 20 June 2009. - On a cloudy and chilly Midsummer Day it seemed like a good idea to visit the Art Center Retretti. - We soon noticed that many others had the same idea. The center was well attended but not too crowded for comfort. - Retretti is one of the biggest art centers in the Nordic countries. - It is located on the Punkaharju esker in the Puruvesi district of Lake Saimaa. The Punkaharju esker is famous for one of the most ravishing landscapes in Finland. (The name Punkaharju itself means Punka Esker.)

The Retretti Summer 2009 comprises:
1. Kim Simonsson: The Golden Deer exhibition with 20 ceramic sculptures
2. An Albert Edelfelt documentary video in the Rock Concert Hall
3. Children's Workshop: "It has ears on two sides, what can it be?" - an imaginary forest where colourful butterflies can be created
4. Materials Live - Ceramics and Glass Art from the Kyösti Kakkonen collection - Finnish art and design objects from the 1940s to the 1960s, a period of high modernism
5. Vesa Varrela: Surfing Fish - 8 vases and 18 glass surfboards
6. Albert Edelfelt and the Nordic Summer - Edelfelt and his contemporary Nordic colleagues Anders Zorn, P.S. Kröyer, Anna Ancher, Michael Ancher, and Christian Krohg
7. Children's Exhibition - Ransu at Retretti - the video retriever Ransu and his friends Riku and Eno Elmeri, familiar from YLE TV2 Pikku Kakkonen children's programming
8. Siim-Tanel Annus: Money and Poetry - Estonian art reflecting history and politics via paintings based on obsolete banknotes from Estonia, the Soviet Union, Germany, and Finland
9. Punkalive: Freedom of Form - Furniture and Pavilion - also presented in the Milan Furniture Fair in 2009
10. The Himmelblau Graphic Print Workshop - leading artists: Inari Krohn, Tapani Kokko, and Marja Pirilä - also on show prints by Outi Heiskanen, Juho Karjalainen, Juhani Linnovaara, Elina Luukkanen, Gunnar Pohjola, Esa Riippa, and Rafael Wardi

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Une vie / One Life

Alexandre Astruc: Une vie / One Life (IT/FR 1958) starring Maria Schell as Jeanne Dandieu.

Eräs elämäntarina / Mannen i mitt liv.
    IT/FR © 1958 Agnès Delahaie Productions. P: Annie Dorfmann [= Agnès Delahaie], Louis Wipf.
    D: Alexandre Astruc. SC: Alexandre Astruc, Roland Laudenbach – based on the novel (1883) by Guy de Maupassant – title in English: A Woman's Life – in Finnish: Elämän tarina. DP: Claude Renoir – Eastmancolor – 1,66:1. PD: Paul Bertrand. COST: Mayo, Lucilla Mussini. M: Roman Vlad. ED: Claudine Bouché.
    LOC: Normandie. Le film a été tourné en grande partie près de Cherbourg, dans les paysages de la Hague.
    CAST: Maria Schell (Jeanne Dandieu épouse de Lamare), Christian Marquand (Julien de Lamare), Pascale Petit (Rosalie, the maid), Louis Arbessier (M. Dandieu, the father), Marie-Hélène Dasté (Mme. Dandieu, the mother), Antonella Lualdi (Gilberte de Fourcheville), Ivan Desny (De Fourcheville).
    85 min.
    Finnish premiere: 20 Oct 1961 Elysée, released by Pons-Filmi.
    A vintage KAVI 35 mm print with Finnish / Swedish intertitles viewed at Cinema Orion, 17 June 2009.

A good vintage print with the colour pretty ok, intact.

A visually dynamic adaptation of Maupassant's first novel. There is a surge of consistent movement in this story filmed on location in Normandy.

In marriage, the woman finds herself. In marriage, the man loses himself, being an eternal seeker, a wanderer. The man's wild, untamed sexuality brings forth tragedy. The sex scenes are strong and original. His three women: Jeanne, his wife. Rosalie, the maid, who gets pregnant. Gilberte, the wife of his best friend.

The Normandy location is vivid. The sea, the beach, the wind are important. Expressive cinematography by Claude Renoir. A dynamic score by Roman Vlad. The actors are fine. Antonella Lualdi is capable of implying a lot in just one look.

Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan / The King Goes Forth to France

Kungen beger sig till Frankrike. FI 1986. PC: Reppufilmi. P+D: Anssi Mänttäri. ASS.D.: Pauli Pentti. SC: Paavo Haavikko, Anssi Mänttäri, Heikki Katajisto - based on the play (1974) and the radioplay (1975) by Haavikko. DP: Heikki Katajisto - b&w - 1,66:1. Gaffer: Aki Kaurismäki. AD+COST: Pertti Hilkamo, Tuula Hilkamo. M: Anssi Tikanmäki. Songs by Anssi Tikanmäki to the lyrics of Paavo Haavikko performed by Susanna Haavisto, Paavo Piskonen, Paavo Haavikko and the "singing soldiers". S: Timo Linnasalo. ED: Irma Taina. LOC: Hämeenlinna: the Sirola Institute, Aulanko, Laajasalo, Vantaanjoki Falls, Suomenlinna, the ruins of the Karjalohja Church, Yyteri, the Raasepori Fortress, Vantaanjoki by Königstedt. CAST: Paavo Piskonen (The King), Susanna Haavisto (Caroline The Merry One), Kati Outinen (Caroline The Mare's Hair), Riitta Havukainen (Anne The Stripper), Kylli Köngäs (Anne The Thief), Harri Nikkonen (The Prime Minister), Lasse Pöysti (The Equester), Kalevi Kahra (The Blind King of Bohemia), Matti Pellonpää (The Earless Man), Markku Toikka (The Young Knight), Heikki Paavilainen (The Young Prime Minister), Pertti Sveholm (The Soldier of the King of Bohemia), Heikki Ortamo (Froissart, The Secretary), Tupuna Vaissi (The Queen), Timo Toikka (The English Knight), Martti Syrjä (A Singing Soldier), Pantse Syrjä (A Singing Soldier), Saku Kuosmanen (A Singing Soldier). A vintage print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 17 June 2009.

Paavo Piskonen was watching the film in the audience. - A brilliant black and white print. - Based on an absurd radioplay by Paavo Haavikko, which has also been adapted as an opera by Aulis Sallinen. - The equester of the Prince of England predicts that the Prince will cross the English Channel as a King on horseback by July. His spouse will be called Anne or Caroline. However, the Emperor of Japan has caused global freezing in the summer of 1945 by ordering a taxi. The Prime Minister warns against going to France, because this would mean war. According to the Prince this would be the only war which would start because there is no reason, and that is why it is unavoidable. The blind King of Bohemia is on his way to the battle of Crécy, but his troops are going around in circles. Finally, one of the soldiers executes the blind king. The Queen arrives and follows the troops to the South. By spring the King orders protection to eggs of cranes, because a wedge of cranes is his only compass. - Eccentric, ambitious, bewildering, boring, mad. - The stark cinematography is often impressive. - The actors play their crazy lines straight. - Reportedly, Paavo Haavikko approved.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


István Szabó: Sunshine (DE/AT/CA/HU 1999). Ralph Fiennes as Ignatz Sonnenschein / Adam Sors / Ivan Sors.

DE/AT/CA/HU © 1999 [many production companies]. P: Andras Hamori, Robert Lantos.
    D: István Szabó. SC: István Szabó, Israel Horovitz. DP: Lajos Koltai – colour and black & white (archival footage) – 1,85:1. M: Maurice Jarre. Egmont overture by Beethoven. PD: Attila Kovács. AD: Zsuzsanna Borvendég. COST: Györgyi Szakács. ED: Michal Arcand.
    CAST: Ralph Fiennes (Ignatz Sonnenschein / Adam Sors / Ivan Sors), Jennifer Ehle (Valerie Sonnenschein as a young woman) Rosemary Harris (Valerie Sors as a grown-up woman), Rachel Weisz (Greta), Deborah Kara Unger (Maj. Carole Kovacs), John Neville (Gustave Sors as an old man), Miriam Margolyes (Rose Sonnenschein), Rüdiger Vogler (Gen. Jakofalvy), Hanns Zischler (Baron Margitta), Mari Töröcsik (Older Kato), William Hurt (Andor Knorr).
    181 min.
    A Filmunio print, original in English, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 12 June 2009.

Print with beautiful colour, pleasant photochemical look, wear and tear in changeovers.

One of the essential films by István Szabó, one of the essential Jewish films of all time, an essential film of reckoning with the Eastern European past, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall.

It is the story of a hundred years in three generations of the Sonnenschein / Sors family. It starts from the shtetl, the family patriarch the inventor of a herbal liquor. Ignatz becomes a judge, and has to change his name. His son Adam becomes an Olympic fencer, and has to convert to Catholicism. That does not prevent him from becoming a victim of the Holocaust. His son Ivan becomes a police officer in Socialist Hungary, to bring the fascists to justice. But witnessing the crimes of Stalinism and the bloody repression of the people's uprising of 1956 he turns his back to the new system.

A unique attempt to cover honestly the various totalitarian administrations in Hungary.

As a Jewish film, it is about the tragedy of forced assimilation and persecution. The Holocaust episode belongs to the most harrowing in the history of the cinema.

Among the recurrent motifs: the lost recipe notebook, the grandfather's watch, the splinters.

Towards the end of the film certain lessons first mentioned in the start get new resonance. "We are afraid to see clearly and to be seen clearly". "If you struggle for acceptance, you'll always be unhappy". "You are not in prison, they are in prison". "One day I'll wipe that smile off your face". "I'm not anybody's wife, I'm myself".

The finest sequence: the 1956 uprising edited to the rhythm of Beethoven's Egmont overture.

There are gorgeous female roles in the film, and especially the scenes with the bright Jennifer Ehle radiate with intelligence, courage, sensuality and frank sexuality.

Rachel Weisz would have deserved more screen time, but of course the film is long as it is. Rosemary Harris is excellent as the grown-up Valerie.

Although Ralph Fiennes in his triple role portrays the three main characters, finally, Valerie is the soul and heart of the film, the only one who never loses her inner compass.

A film I decided I want to see again even while still watching it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Being Julia

István Szabó: Being Julia (CA/GB/OB 2004) starrring Annette Bening as Julia Lambert.

CA/GB/HU © 2004 2024846 Ontario, Inc. / Being Julia Productions Limited / ISL Film Kft. Serendipity Point Films presents. P: Robert Lantos.
     D: István Szabó. SC: Ronald Harwood – based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham (Theatre, 1937, in Finnish Näyttelijätär 1951 J.A. Hollo / Otava, 5. ed. 2005). DP: Lajos Koltai – colour: DeLuxe – 1,85:1. AD: Luciana Arrighi. COST: John Bloomfield. Make-up: Erzsébet Forgács. M: Mychael Danna. S: Jane Tattersall. ED: Susan Shipton.
     CAST: Annette Bening (Julia Lambert), Jeremy Irons (Michael Gosselyn), Bruce Greenwood (Lord Charles), Miriam Margolyes (Dolly de Vries), Juliet Stevenson (Evie), Shaun Evans (Tom Fennel), Lucy Punch (Avice Crichton), Tom Sturridge (Roger Gosselyn), Maury Chaykin (Walter Gibbs), Sheila McCarthy (Grace Dexter), Rosemary Harris (Julia's aunt), Rita Tushingham (Aunt Carrie).
    103 min.
    A print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Sanna Manninen / Hellevi Raita.
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, 11 June 2009.

A print without joins or scratches but with a digital intermediate look.

A great satire about the theatre, show business, and actors.

Annette Bening is wonderful as the narcissistic theatre diva approaching the age of 50. There is a grand finale in which she faces all the disasters and overcomes them (for the time being) in magnificent theatrical manner.

Mychael Danna's music is very appealing, spiced with 1930s hit songs.

This film belongs to the same tradition as All About Eve: Annette Bening invites comparison with Bette Davis, and Lucy Punch gets the role of Eve.

The victory belongs to Julia Lambert, the character played by Annette Bening. But the most cutting criticism Julia receives from her own son, who accuses her mother that she "does not exist", and that all that she has to say is second hand.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Bizalom / Confidence

István Szabó: Bizalom / Confidence (HU 1979) with Ildikó Bánsági (Kata) and Péter Andorai (Janos).

Luottamus / Förtroende. 
    HU 1979. PC: Objektiv Filmstudio. 
    D+SC: István Szabó. DP: Lajos Koltai. CAST: Ildikó Bánsági (Kata), Péter Andorai (Janos). 
    117 min. 
    A Filmunio print with English subtitles. 
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, 5 June 2009.

A worn print, turned red, shortened by 10 min and badly battered in previous venues.

Revisited: an intensive chamber piece that I had previously seen only on tv, very tired.

One of Szabó's best films, still strong, it has stood the test of time well.

Life during the final period of the Nazi occupation in Budapest, when the terror and the persecution were at their worst. This is, however, not a Holocaust story. It's the personal story of the wife of a resistance fighter, who has to lead a double life during the final year of the Nazi occupation. She has to assume a false identity, living in isolation in a room with a fake husband, also a Resistance fighter.

It is about the constant fear of the small detail giving one away.

Elliptic montage.

Ildikó Bánsági has the same kind of nobility in her demeanour as Ingrid Bergman.

Life under extreme pressure. "It does not matter where you are as long as you are at ease with yourself".

This is also an erotic film: sex with the perfect stranger. The sex scenes belong to the best in the history of the cinema, thanks to Ildikó Bánsági's delicate candour.

After the liberation the terror and the persecution start again under a different banner.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Viimeiset rotannahat / [The Last Rat Skins] / Rare, Medium, Well Done

Viimeiset rotannahat. Impressio / De sista skinnena. FI (c) 1985 Filmiauer. P+D+SC: Anssi Mänttäri. DP: Heikki Katajisto - 1,66:1 - colour and b&w - lab: Johan Ankerstjerne. M: "Bad Morning Blues" (comp. Anssi Mänttäri, arr. Asko Mänttäri), "Uni tulee, uni tulee" (trad.) pres. A. Köster (voc) and Kollage. "Best With Beer" (Asko Mänttäri). CAST: Anssi Mänttäri (the man in the white suit), Sarina Röhr (the woman with a sound sleep), Taina Saikkonen (young intellectual woman), Riitta Havukainen (lecturer in semiotics), Eero Tuomikoski (Nuutinen, drunk CEO), Sanna-Kaisa Palo (Irma Manner, the woman who never stops talking), Aki Kaurismäki (Ville, son of the man in the white suit), Sallamaari Muhonen (Redhead), Marja Packalén (the ex-wife of the man in the white suit), Matti Pellonpää (father of the man in the white suit), Elina Hurme (Kaisa, the young moralistic woman), Eeva Eloranta (female theologist), Heikki Peltonen (male theologist), Ilkka Kylävaara (Väisänen, successful businessman), Titta Antti-Poika (Tiina, the woman with the car), Erkki Saarela (Pera, the good-natured man), Paavo Piskonen (Harri, the conceited man), Kristiina Repo (Seija Pikkaranen, the woman who hates poverty), Pirkko Hämäläinen (Riitta, the bitchy woman), Jyrki Kovaleff (the honest working man), Sanna Fransman (the woman next door), Kari Väänänen (psychiatrist), Ann-Cathrine Fröjdö (not just a skin). Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 3 June 2009.

The image in the print varied from good to grainy. - A fascinating Bukowskian odyssey starring the director himself as the man in the white suit, who conquers almost any woman in a series of superficial relationships. With witty dialogue, the film is constantly interesting, and with a hidden despair beneath. - The framing story reveals the burned-out old man giving his account to a video camera. The white suit is now folded on the chair. - It is a satire on a life based on easy gratification, short attention span, self-centeredness, about always taking the easy way out. - This film was not a success at its time, but it has stood the test of time well. There is not a dull moment in it.

Jotkut teistä ovat ehkä kuulleet minusta / [Some of You May Have Heard About Me]

Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 3 June 2009. See earlier note. Revisited, a perfect parody of a making of. The film in question is mainly Viimeiset rotannahat.