Sunday, August 30, 2009

Akiko Koyama and others

Watching a complete Nagisa Oshima retrospective one starts to recognize recurring artists in the films.

1. Akiko Koyama (Mrs. Nagisa Oshima) is one of the most important. These weeks, I have seen her in:
- Shiiku (The Catch) as one of the villagers
- Nihon shunka-ko (Sing a Song of Sex) as the long-term lady friend of the professor
- Hakuchu no torima (Violence at Noon) as the teacher wife of the serial killer
- Koshikei (Death by Hanging) as the Korean woman
- Natsu no imoto (Dear Summer Sister) as Tsuru Omura, the Okinawan woman
Previously, I had seen her in Nihon no yoru to kiri (Night and Fog in Japan), Shonen (The Boy), Gishiki (The Ceremony), Ai no corrida (In the Realm of the Senses), and Ai no borei (Empire of Passion), but hadn't made the connection.

2. The cinematographer Akira Takada filmed at least four Oshima films in 1965-1967. Yasuhiro Yoshioka at least seven Oshima films in 1967-1991. Takashi Kawamata at least three Oshima films in 1960.

3. The editor Keiichi Uraoka has edited at least 16 Oshima films in 1960-1978.

4. The composer Riichiro Manabe has composed the music for at least six Oshima films in 1960-1962. Hikaru Hayashi for at least seven Oshima films in 1966-1969. Toru Takemitsu for at least five Oshima films in 1968-1994.

Nihon shunka-ko

Sing a Song of Sex. JP 1967. PC: Sozosha. P: Takuji Yamaguchi. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Tsutomu Tamura, Mamoru Sasaki, Toshio Tajima, Nagisa Oshima. DP: Akira Takada - Shochiku Grandscope 2,35:1 - colour. AD: Jusho Toda. M: Hikaru Hayashi. ED: Keiichi Uraoka. GRADUATE BOYS: Ichiro Araki (Toyoaki Nakamura), Koji Iwabuchi (Hideo Ueda), Kazumi Kushida (Katsumi Hiro), Hiroshi Sato (Koji Maruyama). GRADUATE GIRLS: Nobuko Miyamoto (Sanae Satomi), Hiroko Masuda (Tomoko Ikeda), Hideko Yoshida (Sachido Kaneda, Korean). - Ichimo Itami (Professor Otake), Akiko Koyama (Takako Tanigawa), Kazuko Tajima (Mayuko Fujiwara, 69). 103 min. Print: Japan Foundation, with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 29 Aug 2009. - The colour print looks great to begin with, but the definition of light is uneven. - One of Oshima's most disturbing films. - It is winter in Tokyo. Graduates from the countryside want to enter Tokyo University. Their mentor, Professor Otake, invites them to a pub and they sing together old Japanese bawdy songs. The professor is killed at night in an inn in a gas oven accident. - Akiko Koyama plays the late professor's long-term lady friend. - The story takes place on the resurrection of the Emperor's Day, the celebration of which had been banned during the U.S. occupation. There is a demonstration against it, where workers' songs, the Warsawjanka, "This Land Is Our Land", "We Shall Overcome", etc. are sung along. - The film is almost a musical. - The protagonists interrupt the rebellious singing with bawdy songs, male and female. But the bawdy songs have also a strong dimension of social protest. - Also here there is a Korean theme: the origin of the Japanese is in Korea. - The film is deeply nihilistic and pessimistic. The boy students' sexual fantasies are violent, about raping and humiliation. The young generation does not seem better than the old one. - The girls' fantasies seem to be about being dominated, humiliated and raped, willingly. - Despite the title, there is hardly any sex and only fleeting nudity in this film. - It's more about extreme awkwardness and shyness in sexual matters.

Kafka on screen

1. Nagisa Oshima's Koshikei is one of the finest Kafkaesque movies.
2. Franz Kafka, himself, was an avid moviegoer.
3. In much of the cinema, there is a Kafkaesque dimension.
4. The official Kafka film adaptations are not so essential.
5. Instead, one should look at early comedy, including aspects of Keaton and Chaplin.
6. Or the tradition of film noir and crime film from the beginning.
7. The Wrong Man by Alfred Hitchcock.
8. Certain Czech and Eastern European films.
9. The Manchurian Candidate
10. Certain classic horror films (the metamorphosis)
11. Certain Westerns, where the hunt motif borders on the absurd (Boetticher)
12. The paranoid thriller of the post-Watergate era (Pakula, Coppola)
13. John Le Carré film adaptations


Death by Hanging / [Hirttotuomio] / [Dömd att hängas]. JP 1968. PC: Sozosha, Art Theatre Guild. P: Nagisa Oshima, Masayuki Nakajima, Takuji Yamaguchi. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Tsutomu Tamura, Mamoru Sasaiki, Michinori Fukao, Nagisa Oshima. DP: Yasuhiro Yoshioka - b&w - VistaVision. AD: Jusho Toda. M: Hikaru Hayashi. ED: Sueko Shiraishi. CAST: Do-yun Yu / Yun Do Yun (R, the convict on death row, to be hanged), Hosei Komatsu (district attorney), Kei Sato (prison warden), Fumio Watanabe (education officer), Toshiro Ishido (catholic priest), Masao Adachi (chief of guards), Mutsuhiro Toura (doctor), Masao Matsuda (secretary of the D.A.), Akiko Koyama (Korean woman), Shizui Sato (prison guard), Takashi Ueni (prison guard). Commentary read by: Nagisa Oshima. 118 min. Print: New Yorker Films, with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, 29 Aug 2009. - A duped print with an uneven quality of definition, from soft to better, but never worthy of the film's VistaVision origins. The subtitles are sharp. - One of three of Oshima's greatest masterpieces, together with Gishiki and Etsuraku. - The brilliant black comedy starts as a thesis film in the tradition of André Cayatte and Fritz Lang, with text and commentary only, but then there is a sharp turn to an original and macabre development. - The execution fails, the convict called R survives, but his personality has changed, and he has lost his memory. He does not even recognize concepts like "family" and "desire". - The desperate officials start to perform an elaborate series of reconstructions to teach R from scratch who he is... what his crime is... and what life is... The boundary between reality and hallucination is blurred, as a simulated woman materializes at least to many of those present. The woman is the most eloquent of them all. - The woman is Korean, and the theme of racism surfaces. In the drunken revel of the officials, their own sexual and violent obsessions surface. - The film is a witty philosophical reflection. What I did? What I am? - R accepts being R for the sake of all the R's. - In the final double execution there is a void at the end of the rope.

Natsu no imoto

Dear Summer Sister / [Kesäsisko] / [Sommarsystern]. JP 1972. PC: Sozosha-ATG. P: Takashi Ueno. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Tsutomu Tamura, Mamoru Sasaki, Nagisa Oshima. DP: Yasuhiro Yoshioka - Eastmancolor - 1,37:1. AD: Jusho Toda. M: Toru Takemitsu. ED: Keiichi Uraoka. CAST: Hosei Komatsu (Kosuke Kiguchi, the judge), Hiromi Kurita (Sunaoko, Kosuke's daughter), Lily (Momoko Kotoda, Sunaoko's private teacher), Akiko Koyama (Tsuru Omura), Shoji Ishibashi (Tsuruo Omura, Tsuru's son), Kei Sato (Shinko Kuniyoshi, a policeman), Taiji Tonoyama (Takuzo Sakurada), Mutsuhito Toura (Rintoku Teruya, singer of Okinawa folk songs). 96 min. Print: New Yorker Films, with English subtitles by Noël Burch. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 29 Aug 2009. - The image of the print has a duped look, the colour definition is off, the print has low contrast, but the subtitles are sharp. - Nagisa Oshima's last Japanese cinema film: from then on, his films were international co-productions or tv films. - One of Oshima's strangest and curious films is about the secrets of Japan. The generation that has experienced the war as grown-ups seems to have a general mutual understanding of many things that remain incomprehensible to the younger generations and, of course, for the non-Japanese. - The sense of being puzzled in a company where the others seem to know. - Okinawa is returned to Japan after the end of the U.S. occupation. - Sunaoko, the 14-year-old girl, is in search of a boy that may be her brother. - The key sequence is towards the end of the picture. - Sunaoko and Tsuruo the apparent brother swim in the ocean, in the red sunset. - Tsuru the mother is with Shinko Kuniyoshi the policeman. Rintoku "the killer" is with with the bald drunkard in white suit Takuzo Sakurada, "the victim". Kosuke Kikuchi the judge is with Momoko "the private teacher", his new bride-to-be. Sunaoko and Tsuruo are "the savior" and "the saved one". - No one will know who is the father of Sunaoko and Tsuruo, the candidates being Kosuke or Shinko. - And if Sunaoko is now pregnant, the father can be Tsuruo her possible brother or another guy. - Further strange revelations: the strong sex drive of the Okinawan women. Okinawa as a center of prostitution during the American occupation. - Shinko Kuniyoshi had been to prison as a student rebel. He raped Tsuru Omura when his best friend Kosuke Kiguchi was in prison. Both left only pregnant women behind them. Both confess everything smilingly, and Tsuru Omura smiles, too. - "Your daughter likes mixtures, too". - It would be interesting to hear the interpretation of this film from Donald Richie, for whom this is "essential Oshima".

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Century of Cinema: 100 Years of Japanese Cinema

Shozo Makino: 豪傑児雷也 / Goketsu Jiraiya / Heroic Thunder Boy (JP 1921) featured in: Nagisa Oshima: British Film Institute: Century of Cinema: 100 Years of Japanese Cinema (GB/JP 1994).

戦後50年映画100年 / British Film Institute: Century of Cinema: 100 Years of Japanese Cinema / Elokuvan vuosisata: Japanin elokuva.
    GB/JP © 1994 NHK / BBC. PC: Bob Last, Colin MacCabe. P: Eiko Oshima. D+SC: Nagisa Oshima. M: Toru Takemitsu. ED: Tomoyo Oshima.
    Format: video.
    Original in English and with English subtitles.
    52 min. From: BFI Distribution, Digibeta.

The excerpts and the stills (the Finnish names are literal YLE translations, on the BFI Digibeta the films are identified by their English titles only):
Daisuke Ito: Chuji tabi nikki (Chujin matkapäiväkirja) (1927) - the silent excerpts are at overspeed, probably 25 fps
Momiji gari (Vaahterainkatselua) (1899)
Shozo Makino: Chushingura (47 roninia, 1914)
Norisama Kaeriyama: Sei no kagayaki (Synkkien vuorten neito) (1918)
Eizo Tanaka: Ikeru shikabane (Elävä ruumis) (1918)
Junichiro Tanizaki ja Thomas Kurikasa: Amateur Club (1920)
Kaoro Osanai, Minoru Murata: Rojo no reikon (Tien sielut) (1921)
Eichi Matsumoto: Kago no tori (Häkkilintu, 1924)
Yoshinobu Ikeda: Sendo kouta (Laivamiehen laulelma) (1923)
Teinosuke Kinugasa: Kurutta ippeiji (Sivu hulluutta) (1926)
Teinosuke Kinugasa: Jujiro (Tienristeys, 1928)
Tomu Uchida: Ikeru ningyo (Elävä nukke, 1929)
Kenji Mizoguchi: Tokyo koshinkyoku (Tokio-marssi) (1929)
Shigeyoshi Suzuki: Nani ga kanojo o son sasetaku? (Mikä sai hänet tekemään sen?, 1930)
Yasujiro Ozu: Umarete wa mita keredo (Synnyin, mutta… ) (1932)
Kenji Mizoguchi: Naniwa hika (Osakan elegia) (1936)
Kenji Mizoguchi: Gion no shimai (Gionin sisarukset) (1936)
Tomu Uchida: Kagirinaki zenshiu (Loputon eteneminen) (1937)
Sadao Yamanaka: Ninjo kami-fusen (Ihmisyys ja paperipallot) (1937)
Yasujiro Shimazu: Okoto to Sasuke (Okoto ja Sasuke) (1935)
Heinosuke Gosho: Jinsei no onimotsu (Elämän taakka) (1935)
Mansaku Itami: Akanishi Kakita (1936)
Hiroshi Shimizu: Kaze no naka no kodomo (Tuulen lapset) (1937)
Tomotaka Tasaka: Gonin no sekko hei (Viisi tiedustelijaa) (1938)
Mikio Naruse: Hataraku ikka (Koko perhe työssä) (1939)
Shiro Toyoda: Kojima no haru (Kevät luodolla) (1940)
Fumio Kamei: Tarakau heitai (Taisteleva armeija) (1939)
Kajiro Yamamoto: Enoken no chakkiri Kinta (Enokenin Kinta, taskuvaras) (1937)
Kajiro Yamamoto: Hawai Marei-oki kaisen (Merisota Havaijilta Malaijille) (1942)
Hiroshi Inagaki: Muhomatsu no issho (Rikshakuski) (1943) excerpt followed by the most heart-breaking superimposition in Oshima's oeuvre - the Hiroshima mushroom - and a close-up of the female star of the film, killed in Hiroshima - the only moment in an Oshima film that makes me cry
Akira Kurosawa: Waga seishun ni kui nashi (Emme kadu nuoruuttamme) (1946)
Keisuke Kinoshita: Osone-ke no asa (Aamu Osonen perheessä) (1946)
Fumio Kamei, Satsuo Yamamoto: Senso to heiwa (Sota ja rauha, 1947)
Kozaburo Yoshimura: Anjokeno butokei (Tanssiaiset Anjoken talossa) (1947)
Tadashi Imai: Aoi sanmiyaku (Sininen vuoristo) (1949)
Senkichi Taniguchi: Akatsuki no dasso (Pako aamunkoitteessa) (1950)
Akira Kurosawa: Rashomon / Rashomon (1950)
Yasujiro Ozu: Bakushu (Alkukesä) (1951)
Mikio Naruse: Meshi (Ateria) (1951)
Kenji Mizoguchi: Saikaku ichidai onna / O’Haru (1952)
Kenji Mizoguchi: Ugetsu monogatari / Kalpean kuun tarinoita (1953)
Heinosuke Gosho: Entotsu no mieru basho (Missä savupiiput näkyvät) (1953)
Shiro Toyoda: Gan (Villihanhi, 1953)
Yasujiro Ozu: Tokyo monogatari / Tokyo Story (1953)
Akira Kurosawa: Shichinin no samurai / Seitsemän samuraita (1954)
Keisuke Kinoshita: Onna no sono (Naisten puutarha) (1954) - the turning-point for Oshima: the work that revealed to him what can be done with film 
Nagisa Oshima: Seishun zankoku mono-gatari (Julma tarina nuoruudesta) (1960)
Osamu Takahashi: Kanojo dake ga shittei-nu (Vain hän tietää) (1960)
Yoshishige Yoshida: Rokudenashi (Tyhjäntoimittaja) (1960)
Masashiro Shinoda: Koi no katamichi kippu (Menolippu rakkauteen) (1960)
Tsutomo Tamura: Akunin shigan (Roisto omasta tahdostaan) (1960)
Nagisa Oshima: Nihon no yoru to kiri (Japanin yö ja usva) (1960)
Ko Nakahira: Kurutta kajitsu (Hullu hedelmä) (1956)
Kon Ichikawa: Shokei no heya (Rangaistushuone) (1956)
Yasuzo Masumura: Kuchizuke (Suudelma, 1957)
Shohei Imamura: Hateshinaki yokubo (Kyltymätön himo) (1958)
Kihachi Okamoto: Dokuritsu gurentai (Itsenäinen häirikköjoukko) (1959)
Masaki Kobayashi: Ningen no joken / Ihmisen kohtalo (1959)
Kaneto Shindo: Hadaka no shima / Alaston saari (1960)
Susumu Hani: Furyo shonen (Pahat pojat, 1961)
Hiroshi Teshigahara: Otoshi ana (Ansa, 1962)
Shohei Imamura: Nippon konchuki (Japa-nin hyönteisnainen) (1963)
Koji Wakamatsu: Akai hanko (Punainen rikos) (1964)
Koji Wakamatsu: Taiji ga mitsuryo suru toki (Kun sikiö metsästää, 1966)
Koji Wakamatsu: Okasareta hakui (Häväistyt enkelit) (1967)
Tetsui Takechi: Hakujitsumu (Päiväuni, 1964)
Tetsui Takechi: Kuroi yuki (Musta lumi, 1965)
Shuji Terayama: Sho o suteyo, machi e deyo (Kirjat hiiteen, painutaan kadulle) (1971)
Nagisa Oshima: Koshikei (Hirttokuolema, 1968)
Susumu Hani: Hatsukoi jigoku-hen / Nanami on rakkaus (1968)
Kikachi Okamoto: Nikudan (Ihmisluoti, 1968)
Masahiro Shinoda: Shinju ten no amijima (Kaksoisitsemurha) (1969)
Yoshishige Yoshida: Eros + gyakusatsu (Eros + verilöyly) (1969)
Nagisa Oshima: Shonen / Poika (1969)
Kei Kumai: Chi no mure (Joukko maan päällä) (1970)
Toshio Matsumoto: Bara no soretsu (Ruusujen hautajaissaatto) (1969)
Kazuo Kuroki: Nippon no akuryo (Japanin paha henki) (1979)
Akio Jissoji: Mujo (Katoava maailma, 1979)
Soichiro Tahara & Kunio Shimizu: Arakajimi ushinawareta koibitotachi yo (Kauan sitten menetetyt rakkaat) (1971)
Koji Wakamatsu: Tensi no kokotsu (Enkelin orgasmi) (1972)
Seijun Suzuki: Kenka ereji (Väkivallan elegia) (1966)
Seijun Suzuki: Koroshi no rakuin (Leimattu murhaajaksi (1967)
Shinsuke Ogawa: Nippon kaihosensen sanrizuka no natsu (Kesä Naritassa, 1968)
Noriaki Tsuchimoto: Partisan zenshi (Partisaanin esihistoria) (1969)
Nagisa Oshima: Gishiki / Seremonia (1971)
Kinji Fukasaku: Jingi naki tatakai (Kunniaton taistelu) (1973)
Yoji Yamada: Otoko wa tsurai yo (Miehenä olemisen tuska, Tora-san –sarjaa, 1973)
Shogoro Nishimura: Danchi zuma hi-rusagari no joji (Kotirouvan iltapäivärakkaus) (1971)
Toru Murakawa: Shiroi yubi tawamure (Valkoisten sormien flirtti) (1972)
Tatsumi Kumashiro: Nureta kuchibiru (Kosteat huulet) (1972)
Seiichiro Yamaguchi: Koi no karyudo (Rakkauden metsästäjä) (1972)
Tatsumi Kumashiro: Koibitotachi wa nureta (Kastuneet rakastavaiset) (1973)
Noboru Tanaka: Maruhi, joro seme jigoku (Prostituoidun helvetti) (1973)
Toshiya Fujita: Virgin Blues (1974)
Noboru Tanaka: Jitsuroku, Abe Sada (Tosi kertomus Abe Sadasta) (1975)
Nagisa Oshima: Ai no corrida / Aistien valtakunta (1976)
Nagisa Oshima: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence / Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)
Yoshimitsu Morita: Kazoku geemu (Perhe-peli) (1983)
Shinji Somai: Taifu kurabu (Taifuunikerho, 1985)
Toshihiro Ishii: Kuruizaki, Thunder Road (1980)
Kazuki Omori: Hipokuratesu tachi (Hippokrateen opetuslapset (1980)
Yojiro Takita: Komikku zasshi nanka iranai (Ei enää sarjakuvalehtiä, 1986)
Jun Ichikawa: Busu (1987)
Masashi Yamamoto: Robinson no niwa (Robinsonin puutarha) (1987)
Tsuyoshi Takamine: Untamagiru (1989)
Junji Sakamoto: Dotsuitarunen (Tyrmäysisku) (1989)
Shunichi Nagasaki: Yuwakusha (Viettelijä, 1989)
Naoto Takenaka: Muno no hito (Saamaton nahjus) (1991)
Masayuki Suo: Shiko Funjatta (Sumopainijan askelet) (1992)
Ryu Murakami: Topaz (1992)
Joji Matsuoka: Kirakira hikaru (Kimallus, 1992)
Takeshi Kitano: Sonatine / Sonatine (1993)
Hayao Miyazaki: Kaze no tani no Naushika (Tuulilaakson Nausikaa) (1984)
Kazuo Hara: Yuki yukite, Shingun (Keisarin alaston armeija marssii) (1987)
Makoto Sato: Aga ni ikiru (Elämää Agano-joella) (1992)
Katsuhiro Otomo: World Apartment Horror (1991)
Mitsuo Yanagimachi: Ai ni tsuite, Tokyo (Rakkaudesta, Tokio) (1993)
Yoichi Sai: Tsuki wa dochi ni dete iru? (Missä kuu on?) (1993)
Shozo Makino: Goketsu Jiraiya (Sankari Jiraiya) (1921)

I'm aware of the critical remarks that have been made about Oshima's Centenary of the Cinema tribute to the Japanese cinema. But Japan is one of the world's biggest and best film countries, and in crystallizing it into 52 minutes for a non-Japanese viewer Oshima has done a marvellous job. He has avoided much of the obvious, yet is always relevant and exciting. Certainly, one excerpt from Oshima's films would have been sufficient in a presentation like this, and Ichikawa and Kobayashi would have deserved film excerpts, not just still reproductions.

The Director's Place: Kyoto, My Mother's Place

GB/JP (c) 1991 BBC Scotland. D+SC+Presenter: Nagisa Oshima. DP: Yasuhiro Yoshioka - shot on film - Eastman Kodak. LOC: Kyoto. A documentary film. Format: video. Original in English: Oshima speaks in English, and the interview parts have English subtitles. 50 min. Viewing format: Betacam SP. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 29 Aug 2009. - An affectionate portrait of Nagisa Oshima's mother - she loved flowers in her garden - interviews with two of her childhood friends - Kyoto was traditional, the dress was the kimono - the wife's place was tough and hard - Kyoto was hot in the summer and cold in the winter - her fingers hurt with frostbite - serious, frank, tenacious - the woman's place: impossible to do anything but marry - arranged marriage - I was born in Kyoto, the family moved, but then the father died, the family returned to Kyoto - the history of Kyoto, the capital of Japan until 1868 - a city like a castle, strictly North-South = Up-Down - we lived South - Genji monogatari - Kyoto became the city of commerce - people believed in the spirits of the dead - I was the bespectacled schoolboy in an age that admired physical strength - I was crazy about history - Oshima was a long established samurai warrior family - Genji and Heike the samurai clans - the double power of the Emperor and the Shogun - slowly Kyoto changed into the capital of commerce and manufacture - during wartime, there was no big bombing of Kyoto - we were shocked by the defeat - the shortage of food was very serious - mother had to sell her kimonos for rice - calligraphy - KANNI = PATIENCE - Shingaku philosophy of the heart: don't gossip, don't meddle, careful with fire, patient with everything, clean up carefully - I could not be patient - student movement, student theatre: I was a clumsy actor, and not a promising director - 1954: assistant director at Shochiku Ofuna studios, expelled - Chiomi - graveyeard, husband's family, Japanese cemeteries different from the Western ones, paradise is far away in the West - my mother was not an original Kyoto woman, she was different, a stranger, but she looked like a born Kyoto woman - she kept to that way all her life - when I became a film director in 1959, married an actress and our first son was born I invited my mother to live with us - she devoted the rest of her life to our two sons - she said that she was deceived to become a nursemaid - there was a terrible truth in that joke - only once she left our home, but she returned on the same day, and my wife apologized - she was always cheerful, always with a sense of humour, always joking, never stopped smiling - never free - forced by Kyoto - Kyoto had such power - I hated Kyoto - but my life, my work, my kimono are from Kyoto

Kaette kita yopporai

Three Resurrected Drunkards / Sinner in Paradise [title on screen] / [Kolmen juopon ylösnousemus] / [Tre uppståndna supare]. JP 1968. PC: Sozosha. P: Takuji Yamaguchi. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Tsutomu Tamura, Mamoru Sasaki, Masao Adachi, Nagisa Oshima. DP: Yasuhiro Yoshioka – Eastmancolor – Shochiku Grandscope 2,35:1. AD: Jusho Toda. M: Hikaru Hayashi. ED: Keiichi Uraoka. CAST: Kazuhiko Kato ("O-noppo" The Big One), Osamu Kitayama ("Chunoppo" The Smallest One), Norihiko Hashida ("Chibi" The Smallest One) - Kei Sato (I Chong-Iru, Korean soldier), Cha Dei-Dang (Kim Fhua, Korean college student) - Fumio Watanabe (Dokumushi), Mako Midori (The Beautiful One, Dokumushi's adopted daughter and lover) - Taiji Tonoyama (the old lady of the tobacco shop), Hosei Komatsu (fisherman), Masao Adachi (policeman), Takashi Ueno (policeman), Mutsuhiro Toura. 80 min. A Japan Foundation (Tokyo) print with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 28 Aug 2009. - A brilliant print in perfect 1960s pop colour. - A complete change for Oshima: a pop film with affinities with The Beatles, Frank Tashlin and Jean-Luc Godard. - A parodic romp of three young pop boys on the beach. Their clothes are stolen by illegal Korean immigrants, and the boys themselves are taken for Koreans. - Oshima's only real comedy? - Yet with serious thems such as the situation of the Koreans, the Vietnam War, and the generation gap (the oppression of Mako Midori by Fumio Watanabe). - The music, always interesting in Oshima's 1960s films, is funny. - In the middle of the film there is a great narrative surprise for the audience.

Hakuchu no torima

Violence at Noon / [Keskipäivän demoni] / [Demonen mitt på dagen]. JP 1966. PC: Sozosha. P: Masayuki Nakajima. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Tsuton Tamura – based on a short story by Taijun Takeda. DP: Akira Takada - b&w - Shochiku Grandscope 2,35:1. AD: Jusho Toda. M: Hikaru Hayashi. ED: Keiichi Uraoka. CAST: Kei Sato (Eisuke), Saeda Kawaguchi (Shino), Akiko Koyama (Matsuko), Mutsuhiro Toura (Genji Hiuga), Hosei Komatsu (Shino's father), Hideko Kawaguchi (Matsuko's mother), Teruko Kishi (Shino's grandmother), Taiji Tonoyama (schoolmaster), Sen Yano (village counsel), Hideo Kanze (Inagaki), Fumio Watanabe (inspector Haraguchi), Ryoko Takahara (the woman in the hospital), Shigemi Kayashima (teacher). 99 min. A Janus Films print with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 28 Aug 2009. - A clean, intact print of a film with an extremely original definition of light. The definition of light in the print is not perfect but pays justice to the concept. - One of Oshima's seminal films. - Based on a true story of a serial killer, a rapist and a murderer in the 1950s, who became the "High Noon Killer" of the headlines. He is not insane, but devoid of conscience. - The film is a hard look at brutal crime, which has no rational explanation, not even insanity. - The reality of the crime is strange and complex in itself, but Oshima also builds his film as a jigsaw puzzle which starts to make sense first after the screening. - The setting is a mountain village in the Shinshu district in the north of Honshu. A group of young people establish a collective farm, but the experiment is a grave disappointment, which leads to the suicide of Genji, the son of the village chairman, and the suicide attempt of his girlfriend, Shino. Eisuke, who had followed them with the assignment to prevent the suicide attemps, is married to the teacher Matsuko. The double suicide scene triggers in him a strange reaction: he rapes what he thinks is the corpse of Shino. But Shino is revived. Eisuke starts his rapist-homicidal spree with 35 victims. In the end Matsuko and Shino try to repeat the double suicide, but again, Shino survives. - This film demands repeated viewings to be fully appreciated. - Uniquely original cinematography, montage, and a brilliant jazz-like score in counterpoint to the subject.

Public Enemies

Public Enemies / Public Enemies [no Finnish or Swedish language titles for the film]. US 2009. PC: Forward Pass, Misher Films. Released by Universal. P: Michael Mann, Kevin Misher. D: Michael Mann. SC: Ronan Bennett, Michael Mann, Ann Biderman - based on the book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34. DP: Dante Spinotti - camera original: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 500T 5219) Super 35 and HDTV: HDCAM SR - Digital Intermediate 2K - released on 35mm anamorphic and D-Cinema. M: Elliot Goldenthal. CAST: Johnny Depp (John Dillinger), Christian Bale (Melvin Purvis), Marion Cotillard (Billie Frechette), Channing Tatum (Pretty Boy Floyd), Giovanni Ribisi (Alvin Karpis), Billy Crudup (J. Edgar Hoover). 141 min. Released in Finland by Finnkino with Finnish and Swedish subtitles. A D-Cinema presentation viewed at Tennispalatsi 2, 28 Aug 2009. - I watched the first 40 minutes only to get an impression of the D-Cinema presentation. I regard Michael Mann very highly and intend to catch the whole film later. - These comments are just on the D-Cinema qualities, which had been praised by Mr. Kalle Kinnunen, always sober in his assessments. - Yes, the technical specs are excellent in all departments. - But: this is a 2K picture. - Yet: it looks ultra-sharp and brilliant. - There is no problem with the close-ups of faces and eyes. The picture starts in the prison, and there is no disappointment in the cinematography of the prison circumstances. - The gangster theme and the urban milieux are opportune for digital. - The night cinematography looks great, the black tones are fine. - The trouble starts as soon as we get into the woods, into the thickets, into the greens. They don't look bad, but the lively, organic, juicy feeling of the photochemical image is missing. - The 2K projection of a picture based on 2K intermediate still looks more like brilliant plastic than a good photochemical presentation.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Limits of Control

The Limits of Control / The Limits of  Control [boringly, there are no Finnish and Swedish-language titles for the film]. ES/US/JP (c) 2008 PointBlank Film. P: Gretchen McGowan, Stacey E. Smith. D+SC: Jim Jarmusch. DP: Christopher Doyle - negative: 35 mm (Fuji Eterna 400T 8583) - digital intermediate (looks like 2K) - colour: DeLuxe - print: 35 mm. PD: Eugenio Caballero. M: Boris. Music Editor: Jay Rabinowitz. LOC: Spain. CAST: Isaach De Bankolé (Lone Man), Alex Descas (Creole), Jean-Francois Stévenin (French), Oscar Jaenada (Waiter), Luis Tosar (Violin), Paz de la Huerta (Nude), Tilda Swinton (Blonde), Youki Kudoh (Molecules), John Hurt (Guitar), Gael García Bernal (Mexican), Hiam Abbass (Driver), Bill Murray (American). 115 min. A Nordisk Film Theatrical Distribution Finland release with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Hannele Vahtera. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 28 Aug 2009 (the first public screening).

A digital intermediate look. - Jim Jarmusch belongs to the artists whose new film I always look forward to. - This is a new poem of urban solitude, of coffee and matchboxes. - It's another Jean-Pierre Melville homage, like The Ghost Dog. - It's about another lonely wanderer like Dead Man. - That was related to William Blake, this one to Arthur Rimbaud. - Keywords include: cool - mystery - silence. - The urban poetry has links with Antonioni and Wong Kar-Wai. - Motifs include: recurring phrases - two cups of espresso - two Boxeurs matchboxes (red and blue) - codes on small paper pieces that get swallowed - helicopters - paintings at the Reine Sofia - keys - empty apartments - tai-chi (?) movements - no mobiles. - The story is apparently about organized high-level diamond smuggling and an assignment given to Isaach De Bankolé to execute the top boss (Bill Murray). - Sex: "never while I'm working". Paz de la Huerta makes the temptation as irresistible as can be with her nude performance, with her delicious buttocks, delicious breasts, and delicious areolae. - The score and the soundtrack are brilliant, with modern rhythm music, flamenco, and Schubert. - The cinematography by Christopher Doyle is excellent, but unfortunately the film has gone through the digital process. - The film is an elliptic poem that consists of painterly scenes. I look forward to revisiting it.


Pleasures of the Flesh / [Lihan ilot] / [Köttets lust]. JP 1965. PC: Sozosha. P: Masayuki Nakajima. D+SC: Nagisa Oshima – based on the novel Kan no naka no Etsuraku by Futuro Yamada. DP: Akira Takada - Shochiku Grandscope 2,35:1 - Eastmancolor. AD: Yasutaro Kon. M: Joji Yuasa. The theme song "Etsuraku". ED: Keiichi Uraoka. CAST: Ketsuo Nakamura (Atsushi Wakisaka), Mariko Kaga (Shoko Inaba), Yumiko Nogawa (Hitomi), Masako Yagi (Shizuko), Toshiko Higuchi (Keiko), Hiroko Shimizu (Mari), Shoichi Ozawa (Hayami), Shoji Kobayashi (the rapist), Masahiko Naruse (Shoko's father), Daigo Kusano (Kudo), Mutsuhiro Toura (Sakurai), Hosei Komatsu (Eshiro), Shinko Ujie (Shoko's mother), Kei Sato (inspector Keji), Akira Hamada, Toru Emori, Fumio Watanabe (Hitomi's goons). 104 min. A Janus Films print with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 27 Aug 2009. - A delicious print with a beautiful photochemical colour quality. - My favourite Nagisa Oshima film so far. - He made it after a three year silence as a cinema director. The approach is completely different, still bold, daring and original, but more assured than before. - The story has affinities with La Chienne, Vertigo and Peeping Tom, but there is no imitation there. - There is a strong dream feeling. - A subjective first-person story. The first-person-viewpoint is unreliable, but the hallucinations are immediately revealed as such. - It is a nightmarish story of a decent man drawn to crime and promiscuity. - Having made a great sacrifice to his beloved Shoko and having lost her to another man, Atsushi has access to a stash of 30 million Yen of embezzled public funds. In his desperation, he decides to spend it all to women and then die. - But because of his basic decency Atsushi is not able to be as cynical as he would like. The women he buys emerge as real human beings, whom he is unable to objectify as paid playthings. The first woman is a married showgirl connected with the yakuza, the second woman is a poor married countrywoman whose child is sick, the third woman is a doctor who has left her job in a hospital because of sexual harassment, the fourth woman to whom Atsushi spends his last yens is a promiscuous mute prostitute Mari under the protection of a petty gangster. - The gangster wants to employ Atsushi to find out about a hidden stash of money, because its owner has died in prison... And finally Shoko appears, impoverished, wanting to borrow a large amount of money... - Despite the title, there is hardly any sex in the film, and no nudity. - It is an ironic crime story of a pathologically shy man who is afraid to live. Among the women in the film, the repressed woman doctor is most closely his soulmate. - The final revelation is that Shoko has never really loved Atsushi, nor has she ever been worthy of him. - Excellent cinematography, profoundly cinematic storytelling, a haunting score and soundtrack. - The Ibsenian concept "livslögn" (life-lie, life-deception, life-illusion) is the keyword here.

Ninja bugei-cho

Band of Ninja / Ninja [the English title on screen] /[Ninjan sotakirja] / [Ninjas krigsbok]. JP 1967. PC: Sozosha. P: Masayuki Nakajima, Takuji Yamaguchi, Nagisa Oshima. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Nagisa Oshima and Mamoru Sasaki – based on the manga by Sanpei Shirato (1957). DP: Akira Takada – b&w - 1,37:1. M: Hikaru Hayashi. Theme song: "Ninga bugei-cho". Singer: Sumito Tachikawa. ED: Keiichi Uraoka. Voices in the Japanese version: Shoichi Ozawa (commentary), Kei Yamamoto (Jutaro Yuki), Akiko Koyama (Akemi), Kei Sato (Shuzen Sakagami), Noriko Matsumoto (Hotarubi), Yoshiyuki Fukuda (Mufu-dojin), Hideo Kanxe (Nobutsuna Kamiizumi), Shigeru Tsuyguchi (Mitsuhide Akechi), Fumio Yatanabe (Nobunaga Oda / Kynnyo), Hikaru Hayashi (Tokichiro Kinoshita), Mutsuhiro Toura (Kagemaru), Hosei Komatsu (Onikichi / Zoruko), Nobuo Tanaka (Munetoshi Yaguy), Juro Hayano (chief of Raiunto). [Japanese version 131 min.] On display was the short English-language version, 100 min. Print: Kawakita Memorial. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 27 Aug 2009. - A decent print of the short version. The film is probably more watchable in the short version. - This is a ninja action manga film. This is not animation (or anime) in the true sense, as the film is photographed from the frames of Sanpei Shirato's manga, and the cinematic impact is based on movement inside and into the manga frames, on montage, and on the soundtrack (music, song, commentary, voices, sound effects). - The birth of the ninjutsu and the ninja in the 16th century. A rebellious jidai-geki based on the manga favoured by the student radicals of the 1960s. - At first the film based on static drawings feels jarring and disappointing. Towards the end it gets more effective. - The story is very cruel and violent, and there are endless battle scenes. - Women have a prominent role as fearless fighters, including a pregnant lady and a nude ninja fighter. - The final message: "keep on fighting until all men can live equally". - The music by Hikaru Hayashi is original and effective. There is a theme song resembling of the western. The singer Sumito Tachikawa has an attractive voice. - Not a profound or sophisticated film, but an interesting experiment, one that one would not wish to be repeated in a feature film. - Antti Suonio remarked that a similar approach is now commonplace in dvd extras.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Amakusa Shiro Tokisada / Shiro Amakusa: The Christian Rebel

天草四郎時貞 / [Shiro Amakusa: kristitty kapinallinen] / [Shiro Amakusa: den kristna rebellen]. JP 1962. PC: Toei. EX: Yasutaro Kon. P: Hiroshi Okawa. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Nagisa Oshima, Toshira Ishido. DP: Shintaro Kawasaki ‒ b&w ‒ Shochiku Grandscope 2,35:1. M: Riichiro Manabe. ED: Shintaro Miyamoto.
    CAST: Hashizo Okawa (Amakusa Shiro Tokisada), Satomi Oka (Sakura), Ryutaro Otomo (Shinbei Oka), Rentaro Mikuni (Uemonsaku), Sayuri Tachikawa, Takamaru Sasaki, Choichiro Kawarazaki, Takao Yoshizawa, Kei Sato, Mutsuhiro Toura. 100 min.
    A Kawakita Memorial print with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 26 Aug 2009.

Another surprise from the young Nagisa Oshima: a full-blooded jidai-geki, with grand, tragic action, and reversing samurai expectations with a novel aspect: Christianity, which takes (or should take) literally Jesus' word of turning the other cheek.

In 1637, peasants are bitterly oppressed by the landlord, and the oppression is enforced by the cruel samurai. The sadism of the oppressors with their torture chambers is underlined. Women are fair game for the landlord, too. The debates among the Christian peasants are thrilling. But finally they are driven to such despair that they start to rebel against impossible odds. 37.000 Christian believers died in action led by Shiro of Amakusa.

The visual concept is bold (DP: Shintaro Kawasaki): the picture starts in the dark, and much of the action takes place at night. The takes are often static but intensive. Then there are huge, expressive close-ups. In the action scenes the scope frame is brilliantly put into use.

The music by Riichiro Manabe is original and effective: muted but compelling, portentous without over-emphasis, relying on the power of the image, his sound is unique and memorable.

A film of tragic grandeur.

The print is watchable but with a duped look, deep black often missing. The image gets better towards the end.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The Catch / [Saalis] / [Bytet]. JP 1961. PC: Palace Film. P: Saburo Tajima, Masayuki Nakajima. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Tsutomu Tamura, Toshio Matsuma, Toshiro Ishido, Shomei Tomatsu – based on the short story (1957) by Kenzaburo Oe. DP: Yoshitsugu Tonegawa - b&w - scope 2,35:1. AD: Itsuro Hirata. M: Riichiro Manabe. ED: Miyuri Miyamori. CAST: Hugh Hard (the black U.S. war prisoner), Rentaro Mikuni (Kazumasa Takano), Sadako Sawamura (Katsu), Eiko Oshima (Mikiko), Masako Nakamura (Hisako), Kyu Sazanka (Denmatsu Tsukada), Teruko Kishi (Masu), Yoko Mihara (Sachiko), Shigeyuki Makie (Osamu), Masaomi Kyosu (Takashi), Yoshi Kato (Yoichi Kokubo), Toshiro Ishido (Jiro), Toshio Irizumi (Hashiro), Ton Shimada (Kadoya), Meiji Kurosaka (Haruo), Tsune Imahashi (poacher), Toshio Kokota (Tadao), Hoichi Takeda (Jisaku), Akiko Koyama (Hiroko Ishii), Kyoko Uehara (Yurie), Itsuko Uehara (Momoko), Toura Mutsuhiro (village official), Hosei Komatsu (village policeman). 104 min. Print: a new print from Kawakita Memorial with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 25 Aug 2009. - Unfortunately the image is soft in this otherwise immaculate print (the subtitles are sharp, the image is soft, and at ca 65 min the image has low contrast). - A complete change for Oshima: a war period drama based on Kenzaburo Oe, the future Nobel prize winner. This is a compact study of the wartime psychodynamics of a remote village, where a wounded black US air force soldier is taken as prisoner just before the end of the war. The whole spectrum of reactions is evident: tenderness, sympathy, courtesy, indifference, bullying, bigotry, sadism. There are decent people, cruel manipulators, a lecherous rich and influential boss, a village fool lady, children, and old people. The black catch is a catalyst to a whole gamut of reactions. - The takes are long, there is a tendency to real duration. Therefore the film gets somewhat flegmatic, and it is at times difficult to keep the attention. The film is somewhat loose, rambling and extends a compact subject a bit too much. - The black man becomes a scapegoat for everything.  Some would like to have him escape into the mountains. But the cruel boss shoots him. - This is an account of cowardice. - The picture is overlong, but there are interesting solutions in cinematography and music there.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Печки-лавочки / Happy-Go-Lucky / [Matkatoverit] / [Reskamrater]. SU 1972. PC: Gorky Film Studios. D+SC: Vasili Shukshin. DP: Anatoli Sabolotski - b&w - Sovscope 2,35:1. AD: Pjotr Pashkevitsh. M: Pavel Tshekalov. ED: Natalya Loginova. CAST: Vasili Shukshin (Ivan Rastorgujev), Lidija Fedosejeva (Njura, his wife), Georgi Burkov (Viktor, a thief posing as a railway engineer), Vsevolod Sanajev (Sergei Fjodorovitsh, professor of folklore), Stanislav Ljubshin (his son), Zinovi Gerot (the arrogant professor), Vadim Zahartshenko (the business traveller). 100 min. Print: Gosfilmofond, e-subtitles in Finnish by Pentti Stranius operated by Tuulia Lehtonen. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki 23 Aug 2009. - A brilliant print. - Shukshin's quirky masterpiece revisited. - This is the strangest of his films, his most self-reflective, both revelling in the lore of the Altai Krai, and parodying it. - The camera style is quite different than in the first three films which were shot by Valeri Ginzburg in a sober, profound style. Now, it's more New Wave and cinéma-vérité (but not Kino Pravda!), hand-held camera for the first time in a Shukshin film, self-conscious 360 grade pans, the camera may waver at times. - The film is launched with familiar scenes of partying and singing in the Altai Krai. The best part of the film is the account of the trip by train to Moscow. There are three juicy episodes with travelling companions: an arrogant businessman, the sympathetic thief, and finally the professor of folklore. - Shukshin himself portrays the hillbilly from the countryside with a great sense of humour. He is an incorrigible storyteller, who is not above making a good story better with his imagination. - The people from the country for the first time in the city. "The rhythm is different here". - The final episode is in Odessa. Ivan has neglected to register his wife to the sanatorium. On the beach of Odessa Vanja and Anja are not in their element. - The final, half-parodistic, half-loving pans in the immense landscapes of the Altai. The final image is a self-reflective wink by Shukshin the actor-director directly to us. - There was applause at the end of the film (a rare phenomenon) in the packed cinema.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gustave Flaubert: L'Education sentimentale (novel)

Sydämen oppivuodet. FR 1870. Translated into Finnish by J.A. Hollo, Helsinki: WSOY 1958. I read this classic novel of disillusionment for the first time, having found a copy in perfect condition at the Hietalahti Square flea market for one Euro. I read it in Finnish as my French is not good enough. I found J.A. Hollo's translation very good, refined yet natural. I agree that L'Education sentimentale is one of the greatest novels of all time. Flaubert's last published novel was an influential work in the development of literature from Balzac Les Illusions perdues to Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Today, it still feels timeless and bitterly felt. Writing does not get better than this.

For a man of the cinema one fruitful line of interpretation is the one started by the young Georg Lukács in his Theorie des Romans (1916). For Lukács, L'Education sentimentale was the central work of "the romanticism of disillusionment". For Lukács, writing before he had become familiar with Proust and Joyce, the novel was the perfect form for the concept of time, and he comments on L'Education sentimentale: "In the unmitigated desolation of its matter it is the only novel that attains true epic objectivity and, through it, the positiveness and affirmative energy of an accomplished form. This victory is rendered possible by time." "Time brings order into the chaos of men's lives and gives it the semblance of a spontaneously flowering, organic entity". "Beyond events, beyond psychology, time gives them the essential quality of their existence." "The atmosphere of thus being borne upon the unique and unrepeatable stream of life cancels out the accidental nature of their experiences and the isolated nature of the events recounted." "Time makes the failure of all endeavours seem less desolate". "And memory transforms the continual struggle into a process which is full of mystery and interest and yet is tied with indestructible threads to the present, the unexplained instant." "And so, by a strange and melancholy paradox, the moment of failure is the moment of value; the comprehending and experiencing of life's refusals is the source from which the fullness of life seems to flow. What is depicted is the total absence of any fulfilment of meaning, yet the work attains the rich and rounded fullness of a true totality of life." "Herein lies the essentially epic quality of memory. In the drama (and the epic) the past either does not exist or is completely present". "Only in the novel and in certain epic forms resembling the novel does memory occur as a creative force affecting the object and transforming it".

Inspired by Lukács, Arnold Hauser wrote magisterial pages on Flaubert in the chapter "The Second Empire" in his The Social History of Art (1951): "Flaubert writes himself free from romanticism". Hauser stresses F's "complete renunciation of the melodramatic, adventurous, and, in fact, of even the merely thrilling plot; the fondness for describing the monotony, flatness and lack of variety of everyday life; the avoidance of all extremes in the moulding of his characters, the refusal to lay any emphasis on the good or bad in them; the forgoing of all theses, propaganda, moral lessons". Emile Zola called L'Education sentimentale the modern novel par excellence. It is an "historical" novel, a novel in which the hero is time, in a double sense. Firstly, time appears in it as the element which conditions and gives life to the characters, and then as the principle by which they are worn out, destroyed and devoured. Creative time was discovered by romanticism. Corrupting time, which undermines life and hollows man out, was discovered in the fight against romanticism. F: it is "not the great disasters but the small ones of which one has to be afraid". That we perish slowly with our faded hopes and ambitions is the saddest fact of our existence. This gradual, imperceptible, irresistible pining away, this silent undermining of life, which does not even produce the startling bang of the great, imposing catastrophe, is the experience around which L'Education sentimentale and practically the whole modern novel revolves.

"The novel develops its formal principle from the idea of the corrosive effects of time, just as tragedy derives the basis of its form from the idea of the timeless fate which destroys man with one fell blow. And as fate possesses a superhuman greatness and a metaphysical power in tragedy, so time attains an inordinate, almost mythical dimension in the novel."

In L'Education sentimentale "F. discovers the constant presence of passing and past time in our life".

"He is the first to realize that, with their relation to time, things also change their meaning and value - they can become significant and important for us only because they form a part of our past - and that their value in this function is absolutely independent of their effective content and objective bearings. This revaluation of the past, and the consolation that lies in the fact that time, which buries us and the ruins of our life, 'leaves buds and traces of the lost meaning everywhere', is, however, still an expression of the romantic feeling that the present, that every present, is barren and without significance, and that even the past was lacking all value and importance so long as it was the present."

"That is, in fact, the meaning of the final pages of L'Education sentimentale, which contain the key to the whole novel and to F's whole conception of time. That is the reason why the author singles out an episode from his hero's past life at random, and calls it the best he probably ever had from life. The absolute nothingness of this experience, its complete triviality and emptiness, means that there is always one link missing in the chain of our existence, and that every detail of our life is replete with the melancholy of objective purposelessness and a purely subjective significance."

The words of Lukács are prophetic because he did not yet know Proust. Hauser, obviously, has read Flaubert through Proust. He writes also as a social philosopher of "the film age", influenced also by the thoughts of Béla Balázs and Siegfried Kracauer (although Kracauer published his Theory of Film later).

Flaubert is essentially relevant for the cinema, but the films "based on" his novels have never done justice to him. The inner world of Madame Bovary is absent from the many films based on it. "Madame Bovary c'est moi" is missing.

IMDb lists three adaptations of L'Education sentimentale. Of these, I have seen parts of Marcel Cravenne's L'Education sentimentale (TV series, FR 1973), with Jean-Pierre Léaud (Frédéric Moreau), Francoise Fabian (Madame Arnoux), and Catherine Rouvel (Rosanette); I remember this as a quality production with inspired casting. There has been also Sentimental Education 1-4 (TV series, GB 1970). Alexandre Astruc has also directed a L'Education sentimentale (FR/IT 1962) with Jean-Claude Brialy (Frédéric Moreau) and Dawn Addams (Madame Dambreuse). Brialy one can imagine as being perfect for the role.

But the true relevance of Flaubert can hardly be found in films like them. L'Education sentimentale is in-built in the great works of Ophuls, Mizoguchi, Welles, Visconti, Bergman, Losey, Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Erice... even Woody Allen.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ningen no joken 3

Ningen no jôken: Dai 5 bu - Shi no dasshutsu + Ningen no jôken: Dai 6 bu - Kôya no hôkô / The Human Condition 3: A Soldier's Prayer / [Ihmisen kohtalo 3: Sotilaan rukous] / [Människans lott 3: En soldats prädikan]. JP 1961. See general credits in part 1. 190 min. Viewed in The Night of the Arts in Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 Aug 2009. - Brilliant print. - Memorable in this part: the massive attack of the Red Army - only three soldiers are left from Kaji's unit of 160 - Kaji's hand covered in blood - flashbacks are introduced into the films; Michiko appears only in them anymore - the hellish struggle for survival - awareness that the Japanese army has disbanded - extreme close-ups and magnificent epic aerial long shots, sober compositions and sharply slanting angles - the trek through the forest - the preciousness of water - meeting Japanese refugees, the women have had to serve as prostitutes - scarce food: "we'll all share" - the flight of the ragged band through the forest with a screaming baby - subsisting on snails and mushrooms, which can be dangerous - the nobility of the elderly - discussing the future of the nation - Chinese peasants lure the Japanese into a trap - a tryst on a farm - ambush - escape through the fire - the Red Army is infamous for having its way with the women - Kaji would expect the Reds to be better than they are - Kaji fights the rapists among his own people - more Japanese are found lurking in the forest as the winter is coming - there is still even a Japanese military unit in the mountains - destroying a Red Army dugout - stealing their way through the countryside - the house of women, where there is general love-making going on all night, free for all, Kaji abstains and stays outdoors, the woman yearning for him (Hideko Takamine) takes a young virgin soldier instead - Kaji: "no time to play house" - at 127 minutes of this part (or at 37 minutes of Part Six) Kaji surrenders to the Red Army - one of the women having prevented Kaji's plan to fight - hit by the diarrhea - Kaji demands justice, demands investigation from the Red Army - he is called by them a "Fascist Samurai" - entering the Gulag: Work Station Number One - the prisoners in hard labour - huge loads of metal scrap, logs - they fall having spent their last drops of energy - Kaji loses his illusions of Soviet Russia - in a trial he is declared a war criminal - and Kaji speaks out, condemning the Red Army for injustice - Kaji is punished by sending him to build a forest railway - "If you can't survive Siberia no one can", says his old acquaintance Tange - Terada perishes, a victim of harassment, kicked, harassed by excessive latrine duty - this is the last straw for Kaji, who revenges on the biggest tormentor, Kirihara, and drowns him into the latrine - at 176 min Kaji escapes from under the barbed wire - into the icy water - interior monologue - the wind, the darkness, madness from hunger - the Chinese tramp him into the ground, "the Japanese devil" - through the snow expanse - drinking from the holes in the ice - immense desolate landscapes - "Michiko, I have come as far as I can" - "Michiko, I'm home at last"

Ningen no joken 2

Ningen no jôken: Dai 3 bu - Bôkyô hen + Ningen no jôken: Dai 4 bu - Sen'un hen / The Human Condition 2: The Road to Eternity / [Ihmisen kohtalo 2: Tie ikuisuuteen] / [Människans lott 2: Vägen till evigheten]. JP 1959. CAST: Tatsuya Nakadai (Kaji), Michiyo Aratama (Michiko), Keiji Sada (Kageyama), Hideo Kisho (Kudo), Jun Tatara (Hino). 179'. Print: Japan Foundation, with English subtitles. - General comments and credits: see Ningen no joken 1. Besides Candide, one could compare this story with Don Quijote. Epic grandeur and scope in this account of sadism and the rare nobility of spirit. - Memorable in this part: [3] the Kwangtung Army at -32 grades Celsius - bullying in the barracks - [the feeling of the extreme chill is not conveyed] - "Reds" blacklisted by the Kenpeitai under especially grim bullying - Kaji still the defender of the weakest - punished by the hardest duty - Kaji meets for the last time Michiko, who has come to visit him - the long marches, the endurance of Kaji - the weak Obara commits suicide under extreme humiliation (this may have influenced Kubrick in Full Metal Jacket) - Shinjo escapes during a prairie fire - Kaji and the bullying officer almost drown in the mire - Kaji catches marsh fever, the bully dies of it - the biggest laugh in the whole 10-hour picture: the head nurse of the military hospital is as big a bully as the worst barrack sergeants - true human beings always find kindred spirits: the friendly nurse and Kaji are both expelled as their innocent friendship (qf. They Were Expendable) is revealed - [4] - Kaji gets to train a platoon of grown-up recruits at the late stage of the war - Kaji is humiliated, hit and harassed by the veteran under-officers - Okinawa has fallen - "it's un-Japanese to consider a loss" - pride and face don't mean anything to me now - Kaji is punished by sending him to the trench-digging detail - Soviet attach at the Manchurian border - still digging trenches - in the area that is due to suffer heavy casualties - Kaji's warning of 15 Soviet tanks is not believed - Don't be a coward - Never give up - full attack of the Red Army - Make every bullet count - Long live the Japanese Empire - almost the whole unit is wiped out dead by the Red Army - only Kaji and a couple others survive, suffering war madness - Is anyone alive?

Ningen no joken 1 / The Human Condition 1: No Greater Love

Masaki Kobayashi: 人間の條件 / Ningen no joken 1 / The Human Condition 1: No Greater Love (JP 1959) starring Tatsuya Nakadai as Kaji, the Japanese Candide.

人間の條件 / Ningen no jôken: Dai 1 bu - Jun'ai hen + Ningen no jôken: Dai 2 bu - Gekido hen / The Human Condition 1: No Greater Love / [Ihmisen kohtalo 1: Ei suurempaa rakkautta] / [Människans lott 1: Ingen större kärlek]. 
    JP 1959. PC: Shochiku. P: Shigeru Watatsuki, Tatsuo Hasoya, Masaki Kobayashi. 
    D: Masaki Kobayashi. SC: Zenzo Matsuyama, Kobayashi – based on the novel by Junpei Gomikawa (1956–58). DP: Yoshio Miyajima - b&w - Shochiku Grandscope 2,35:1. AD: Kazue Hirataka. M: Chuji Kinoshita. ED: Keiishi Uraoka. 
    CAST: Tatsuya Nakadai (Kaji), Michiyo Aratama (Michiko), So Yamamura (Okijima), Eitaro Ozawa (Okazaki), Akira Ishihama (Chen). 
    208 min
    A Japan Foundation print with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 21 Aug 2009.

The first screening of a brand new, brilliant print, straight from the lab.

A great account of the final decade of Japan's imperialistic period experienced by a Japanese Candide, Kaji portrayed by Tatsuya Nakadai, embodying the humanistic, liberal, and progressive spirit of Japan. The terror of the war and the occupation is honestly portrayed in all its cruelty. This is the seminal film for Japan of its "Vergangenheitsbewältigung", the struggle to come to terms with its history. Kobayashi is in full command of the epic form.

Memorable in what is in the West presented as Part One (in Japan, Parts 1-2): 
- Kaji's deep love and marriage with Michiko.
- Kaji arrives in Manchuria to take charge of labour conditions in a mine operated by slave labour, including war prisoners, the workforce totalling 10.000.
- He is also in charge of 60 comfort women.
- The mine is a hell on earth, and the Japanese are sadistic slave-drivers.
- The worst is the Kenpeitai, the military police.
- Kaji is ordered to mount electrified barbed wire around the war prisoners, many of which are not in fact soldiers.
- The war prisoners arrive half-dead, some literally dead.
- The prostitutes participate in cruel plots that undermine Kaji's efforts to give the best possible treatment to the slaves.
- He faces a thick web of crime and corruption.
- The kindly Chinese Chen, whom he helps, is also drawn to the evil plots, corrupted by the brothel madam.
- There is a sincere romance between the prostitute Chun Lan and the war prisoner Kao.
- The escapes enabled by the shutting down of the electricity become Kaji's responsibility.
- But the basic conflict is that Kaji is alone in trying to treat the war slaves as human beings.
- He is punished by being blacklisted and demoted to a common recruit in the army, being conscripted after all.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Taiyo no hakaba

The Sun's Burial / [Auringon hautajaiset] / [Solens begravning]. JP 1960. PC: Shochiku. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Nagisa Oshima, Toshiro Ishido. DP: Takashi Kawamata - Eastmancolor - Shochiku Grandcope 2,35:1. DP: Koji Uno. M: Riichiro Manabe. ED: Keiichi Uraoka. CAST: Kayoko Hondo (Hanako), Junaburo Ban (Yosematsu, Hanako's father), Fumio Watanabe (Yosehei), Kamatari Fujiwara (Batasuke, the ragman), Tanie Kitabayashi (Chika, Batasuke's wife), Eitaro Ozawa (The Agitator). English subtitles. Print: Japan Foundation. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 20 Aug 2009. - Brilliant print. - Oshima's grim vision, the counter-image of Japan's economic miracle, the slum with its human misery, organized robbery, even murder, illegal blood banks, trading identities, rags, guns, women's flesh. - The cruelty of the crimes is accompanied by gentle guitar music. - The colour scheme is bold, dominated by red. - Crueller than Miracolo a Milano and Dodeskaden, crueller than even Los olvidados. - Hanako, the woman without soul, love and conscience, is the most shocking figure in the film.

Strannye lyudi / Strange People

Strannye ljudi. Tri rasskaza / Странные люди / [Outoa väkeä] / [Udda folk]. SU 1969. PC: Gorky Studios. D+SC: Vasili Shukshin - based on his short stories "Bratka", "Rokovoi vystrel" / "Mille pardons, Madame!", and "Dumy". SC: Valeri Ginzburg - b&w - Sovscope. M: Karen Hatshaturjan with many folk songs. Special song: "Skazanie o dvenadtsati razboinikah" ["The Tale of the Twelve Robbers"] (comp. Nikolai Manykin-Nevstrujev, poem: Nikolai Nekrasov), perf. Fjodor Shaljapin (Chaliapin), rec. 1932. Loc: Vladimir (in the heart of Russia). Cast: BRATKA: Sergei Nikonenko (Vasili Knjazhev, Vashka), Jevgeni Jevstignejev (Vasili's brother), Lidia Fedosejeva (Lidia Nikolajevna), Galina Bulkina (Vashka's wife). ROKOVOI VYSTREL: Jevgeni Lebedev (Bronka Pupkov), Ljubov Sokolova (Bronka's wife). DUMY: Vsevolod Sanajev (Matvei Rjazantsev), Jelena Sanajeva (Lena), Juri Skop (the blacksmith Kolka), Pentelejmon Krymov (the old teacher). 99 min. Print: Gosfilmofond. E-subtitles by Pentti Stranius, operated by Tuulia Lehtonen. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 20 August 2009.

A print with a fine definition of light. - An episodic masterpiece revisited. The fullness of the feeling for life in the songs and the imagery. - BRATKA: the meeting of the brothers at Jalta, Chekhov's home-museum seen in one scene. The song started by Lidia. - THE FATAL SHOT: the hunter's guide's livslögn (life-lie) about the assassination of Hitler, Jevgeni Lebedev's great performance. - DUMY: one of the high points in Shukshin's oeuvre. The deep anxiety of Matvei, the chairman of the village. The bottomless sorrow of his daughter. The history of the Soviet Union. The new dance of the pop era. The electrifying wake-up sound of Shaljapin's song. The blacksmith throws his wood statue of Stenka Razin into the fire.

Nikolai Nekrasov's poem is from Komu na Rusi zhit horosho (Who Is Happy in Russia, 1876), from its chapter O dvuh velikih greshnikah. (the lyrics of Shaljapin's solo parts)
Thanks to Lauri Piispa for identifying the song and the poem and providing these links.

Nikolai Nekrasov's poem is beyond the jump break:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vash syn i brat

Ваш сын и брат / [Poikanne ja veljenne] / [Er son och bror] / Your Son and Brother. SU 1965. PC: Gorky Studios. D+SC: Vasili Shukshin - based on his short stories "Stepan", "Snake Ointment", and "Ignat's Homecoming". DP: Valeri Ginzburg - b&w. M: Pavel Tshekalov, a lot of folk songs. LOC: Altai Krai. CAST: Vsevolod Sanajev (father Jermolai Vojevodin), Anastasija Filppova (mother), Aleksei Vanin (Ignat Vojevodin), Leonid Kuravljov (Stepan Vojevodin), Leonid Reutov (Maksim Vojevodin), Marta Grahova (Vera Vojevodina), Svetlana Zhgun (Njurka), Viktor Shahov (Vasili), Juri Sarantsev, Vadim Zahartshenko (врач). 91 min. Print: Gosfilmofond. E-subtitles in Finnish by Pentti Stranius, operated by Tuulia Lehtonen. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 18 Aug 2009. - Print has a beautiful definition of light. - Revisited Shukshin's masterpiece, his second feature film, full of life and profound feeling. - STEPAN. Tremendously affecting from the start. The ice drift of the magnificent Katun River in Altai Krai. The long wordless prologue, with a plain intensity of feeling. The homecoming of Stepan in a sequence to be compared with Griffith and Ford. The looks of the home folks. The looks of the women. - THE SNAKE OINTMENT. The hurly-burly of the city. "Excuse me, there isn't any". The art of queueing. The wrestler brother Ignat and his wife Njurka work in the circus. The wrestlers and the ballet dancers rehearsing in the same hall. - IGNAT'S HOMECOMING. The culture shock. The mother is bed-ridden since Stepan was taken back to prison. The father clearly doesn't care too much about Ignat and Njurka. The mute daughter's joy about the new dress. - VASJA. The fourth brother has stayed at home. Swimming in the powerful river. The estrangement of the generations. The poetry of the everyday. - I had tears in my eyes all through the picture.

In the Core of the Documentary Film (press conference)

Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 18 Aug 2009. - Ilkka Kippola and Jari Sedergren's magnificent book Dokumentin ytimessä. Suomalaisen dokumentti- ja lyhytelokuvan historia 1904-1944 [In the Core of the Documentary Film. The History of Finnish Documentary and Short Film 1904-1944] was published. It is one of the most important Finnish film books of the decade, full with discoveries of a little-charted territory. Among the audience were notables such as Sven Hirn, Jörn Donner, and Peter von Bagh. Three short films were screened:
Herää Helsinki! [Wake Up, Helsinki!]. FI 1939. PC: Suomi-Filmi, D: Valentin Vaala
Tempo. A Film-Rhapsody of Manufacture. FI 1933. PC: Aho & Soldan
Sireenien kukkiessa 1941 [Lilac Time 1941]. FI 1941. PC: Puolustusvoimat [The Finnish Defense Forces]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Muri-shinjo: Nihon no natsu

Japanese Summer: Double Suicide / [Japanilainen kesä: kaksoisitsemurha] / [Japansk sommar: dubbelsjälvmord]. JP 1967. PC: Sozosha. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Tsutomu Tamura, Mamoru Sasaki, Nagisa Oshima. DP: Yasuhiro Yoshioka - b&w - scope. AD: Toda Jusho. M: Hikaru Hayashi. ED: Keiichi Uraoka. CAST: Keiko Sakurai (Nejiko), Kei Sato (Otoko), Mutsushiro Toura (Television), Shunsuke Mizoguchi (Tsukibito, Television's assistant), Taji Tonoyama (Hanging Tree), Masakazu Tamura (Boy). 98 min. Print: Janus Films, with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 17 Aug 2009. - Brilliant definition of light. - Cinema of the absurd in an universe of sex and violence. The leading lady Nejiko wants to find a man to make love to her. The leading man Otoko wants to find someone to kill him. - The yakuza prison milieu does not make sense. - There is a sniper who is being hunted by the police. - In the final shoot-out the desperadoes escaping from the yakuza prison meet the sniper and the police. - This picture is a mad show of the death instinct.

In the Realm of Oshima (opening event)

Cinema Orion, 17 Aug 2009. Inaugurating the first complete Nagisa Oshima retrospective in Finland, as a part of the Helsinki Festival, launched by James Quandt in Cinematheque Ontario, and starting its European leg in Helsinki. The event is also a part of the celebration of the 90th anniversary of Finnish-Japanese diplomatic relations. The Ambassador of Japan, Mr. Hiroshi Maruyama, honoured the occasion with his presence. Professor Jarmo Valkola made the opening presentation. He also screened his tv interview documentary
Aistien visioita: Nagisa Oshima [Visions of the Senses: Nagisa Oshima]. FI 1989. D+SC: Jarmo Valkola. Video. 30 min. - Invited by Jarmo Valkola, Nagisa Oshima visited Jyväskylä, Finland, for a week in 1989, and this tv documentary, shot with the best available video camera, was filmed then. Oshima insisted in speaking in English.
The cinema was packed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Los abrazos rotos / Broken Embraces

Särkyneet syleilyt / Brustna omfamningar.
    ES © 2009 El Deseo. EX: Agustín Almodóvar.
    D+SC: Pedro Almodóvar. DP: Rodrigo Prieto – negative: 35 mm (Kodak Vision2 250D 5205, Vision3 500T 5219) – Panavision 2,35:1 – color – digital intermediate 2K. PD: Antxón Gómez. COST: Sonia Grande. M: Alberto Iglesias.
    CAST: Penélope Cruz (Lena), Lluís Homar (Mateo Blanco / Harry Caine), Blanca Portillo (Judit García), José Luis Gómez (Ernesto Martel), Tamar Novas (Diego), Rubén Ochandiano (Ray X). 129 min.
    Released in Finland by Sandrew Metronome Distribution Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Joanna Erkkilä. Cannes Film Festival: 19 May 2009. Finnish premiere: 14 Aug 2009.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, 16 Aug 2009 (general premiere weekend).

Pedro Almodóvar belongs to the select number of film makers whose new work I always look forward to. He does not disappoint with his new film, and it was a gratifying experience to see this in a big cinema with an audience grateful to see the new tale of a trusted storyteller.

This story is certainly self-reflective: Harry Caine resembles somewhat the protagonist of La ley del deseo, and the central reference is a film like Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios.

It is a thriller and a tragedy of passion. The mystery of the thriller is not fully resolved (at least when the film is seen only once): how fatal was the information given by Judit García: she was instrumental in helping to butcher the director's film, but was she also indirectly responsible for the fatal traffic accident?

But this is just the surface. The film is a meditation on many things: poverty (which triggered Lena to her fateful life-choice), art transforming life, the tragedy of the son living in the shadow of the mighty father, the jealousy of the rich tycoon for the poor artist.

Almodóvar's cinematic storytelling is assured and enthralling.

The digital intermediate look of the 35 mm print is not too obvious.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Two Faces of the Modern (art exhibition)

Modernin kahdet kasvot. Exhibition at Amos Anderson Art Museum, Curated by Mr. Timo Valjakka. Helsinki, 29 May 2009 - 20 Sep 2009. Viewed 9 Aug 2009. - Book: Timo Valjakka: Modernin kahdet kasvot. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2009.

An amazing exhibition full of discoveries for lovers of Finnish art.

The official presentation:

"The Association of Finnish Fine Art Foundations (STSY) presents the exhibition Two Faces of the Modern with art from the 1920s and 30s from its member collections. The exhibition, curated by Timo Valjakka, exhibits some eighty paintings and sculptures by artists central to the period. Several exhibits are on public display for the first time.

The period between the world wars is not very well-known as a whole. The art scene in the first two decades of the newly independent Finnish state can be characterized as rich, versatile and internationally oriented with strong contradictions. The young nation looked towards the arts in search of an identity, which in a way received two outward faces due to the wishes and expectations placed on it. Some looked towards Paris or similar metropolises, embracing Cubism and Futurism, while others turned towards Finnish history and subject matter thought to pertain to the Finnish national identity. Some renowned artists such as Wäinö Aaltonen, Ragnar Ekelund and Väinö Kamppuri were able to unite these two opposing strands, creating a fine-tuned and controlled modernism.

The Great Depression of 1929 was a turning point. It had a direct impact on art, also in Finland. Artists faced hard times. Some went door-to-door selling their work, while others found supporters in the larger banks and in the wood processing- and paper industry – the backbone of Finnish exports. Hence, art from the decades between the world wars is thoroughly represented in the STSY member collections.

When the economy improved in the late 1930s, Finland resumed active participation in the World Fairs. Exhibition pavilions designed by Alvar Aalto shaped Finland's outward image towards that of a modern welfare state, an image that is still widespread. The success rubbed off on artists, whose visual expression became freer in the wake of developments in architecture and design. However, the war that started in the autumn of 1939 put an end to this promising development, bringing the young nation right back to square one."

This is the second of a series of remarkable exhibitions based on the collections of seven great private art collections comprising some 5.000 artworks. Although the artists on display belong to Finland's best and best-known, included are many works that the general audience has never seen before.

The reproductions in the exhibition book do not convey the quality of light and colour of the paintings very well.

The artists on display include Birger Carlstedt (an Art Deco design sketch for Chat Doré, 1929), Väinö Kamppuri, Väinö Kunnas, Yrjö Ollila, Ragni Cawén (A Suburban Street, 1923), Ilmari Aalto (Still Life, 1927, very different from the reproduction in the book), Tyko Sallinen (one of my special favourite artists with several paintings I don't think I had seen before), Wäinö Aaltonen (the cubistic Aleksis Kivi bronze, 1929), Vilho Lampi, Martti Ranttila, Sulho Sipilä, Helene Schjerfbeck (A Red-Cheeked Girl, 1927), Eero Järnefelt (The Läskelä Factory, 1921, J.K. Paasikivi, 1931), Antti Favén, Santeri Salokivi (a series of paintings of The Helsinki Market Square, 1930), and, in the most remarkable entity in the exhibition, Marcus Collin (From the Helsinki Market Square, 1931, a series of pastels, etc.). Unforgettable is Aukusti Tuhka's wartime canvas Kollaa River (1941 / 1961).

Valjakka's curatorial treasure hunt is rewarding. He does not basically change the general view of an era seen as grey, stuffy and isolated in Finnish art history. According to Valjakka, too, a chasm opened in the 1930s between Finnish modern art and the rest of the Western world, and one had to wait until the 1980s to see it narrow.

Following Valjakka: Modernism had strong roots in Finland before the Independence in 1917 and the Civil War in 1918. But the young, agrarian republic did not cultivate contacts with the avant-garde of international art. The general goal was to create a culture easily comprehensible for all and based on rustic traditions. Provocatively, Valjakka hints that the art ideology of the fiercely anti-communist Finland was not that far removed from Stalin's "socialist realism".

In this thankless atmosphere, however, talented artists created fine works such as on display now.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina (a novel)

Vladimir Gardin: Anna Karenina (Thiemann & Reinhardt, Russia 1914) starring Maria Germanova.

Анна Каренина (RU 1878). Finnish translation by Eino Kalima / WSOY (1910), fourth edition 1948.

This translation still seems to be very good at least in this edition. The copy I read was from the library of my childhood home. Anna Karenina was the novel of novels for my father, an avid reader, and in this I share his opinion. This was only the second time I had read Anna Karenina, and the last time was 40 years ago. I was a schoolboy then, now, a grown-up man. The book was completely different. This is one of the few books where I can say that the book read me as much as I read it. - It is impossible to read Anna Karenina fast, it is so full of thought. Some comments from this reading:

1. Leo Tolstoy is considered to be a master of sober, objective realism, but one can understand Dostoyevsky in his admiration of Anna Karenina: in it, Tolstoy has also a profound understanding of the irrational forces of life. Anna and Vronsky are both sober, noble people, yet unable to prevent the disaster that faces them both.

2. The chapters leading to Anna's suicide are already examples of a stream of consciousness, not at all like Molly Bloom's inner monologue in James Joyce's Ulysses, but clearly already expressions of a vision leading to the 20th century novel.

3. Anna's predicament is relevant to feminism, and this aspect is both profoundly felt and explicitly discussed in the salon discussion scenes. Certainly Anna Karenina has a place in the literary line leading to Virginia Woolf, also because there is a strong British dimension in the novel. The world has changed, and one could not make a modern Anna Karenina in Russia or the Western world (but probably in many other countries the situation is topically relevant).

4. Anna Karenina is one of the novels which can be called cinematic. The train motif, so central to the cinema, is also essential for Anna. There is also a dream dimension: Anna's nightmare, which is finally realized. Tolstoy is a master of combining interiority and action. No novel takes more pleasure in physical action (skating, riding, hunting, harvesting...).

5. All of the many film adaptations of Anna Karenina are redundant. They bring nothing new to the subject. Many are quality productions, but seen with the novel in fresh memory they pale to insignificance. There are, however, good aspects in them, such as Nikolai Gritsenko's Karenin in Alexander Zarhi's film adaptation. There is nothing superfluous in Tolstoy's novel. If one would film it all, one would need a 20-hour tv series.

6. The painting was for me the most impressive motif this time. I had completely forgotten it. In Italy, Vronsky paints Anna Karenina's portrait in an excellent, professional, academic style. After him, a real artist paints Anna's portrait fast but with inspiration, and he captures the unique look in Anna's eyes, which had failed Vronsky not only in his painting but also otherwise. After this, Vronsky always sees Anna with the eyes opened by the artist's painting.

7. The mystery. One can understand Anna. She is a healthy, red-blooded, grown-up woman trapped in a marriage without love, and all her love she has been focusing on her beloved son. Along comes Vronsky, and nature takes her course. What a contemporary novelist would depict in several hot pages, Tolstoy skips over with ---. Many times Anna and Vronsky are determined to act soberly. A ménage would be possible, and Karenin would look the other way. There would be alternatives to handle the delicate situation. Anna and Vronsky are very capable to keep things in control, but there is something there that overwhelms them. - There is a riddle there, something inexplicable.