Sunday, February 28, 2010

Clyde Otis: This Bitter Earth (song)

This bitter earth
Well, what fruit it bears
What good is love
mmmm that no one shares
And if my life is like the dust
oooh that hides the glow of a rose
What good am I
Heaven only knows

Lord, this bitter earth
Yes, can be so cold
Today you're young

Too soon, you're old
But while a voice within me cries
I'm sure someone may answer my call
And this bitter earth
Ooooo may not
Oh be so bitter after all

Sung by Dinah Washington in 1960 for Mercury Records.

The most memorable song in Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep (1977). Also heard in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island (2010).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Killer of Sheep

Lampaantappaja / Killer of Sheep. US © 1977 Charles Burnett. P+D+SC+DP+ED: Charles Burnett. Songs: "My Curly Headed Baby" (Clautsam), "The House I Live In" (Robinson, Allan) and "Going Home" by Paul Robeson. "I Wonder" (Lewis) by Cecil Gant. "Afro American Symphony" (William Grant Still). "Lullaby" (George Gershwin). "Reasons" (Maurice White) by Earth, Wind and Fire. "I Believe" (Elmore James). Sergei Rachmaninoff: 4. Piano Concerto. "This Bitter Earth" (Otis). "Unforgettable" (Gordon) by Dinah Washington. "Shake A Hand" by Faye Adams. "Mean Old World" (Walter Jacobs) by Little Walter. "It's Your Fault Baby" (Lowell Fulson). "Mean Old Frisco Blues" (Arthur Crudup). "Poet And Peasant Overture" (Franz von Suppe). "Solace" (Scott Joplin). "West End Blues" (King Oliver) by Louis Armstrong. S: Charles Bracy, with Willie Bell, Larry Clark, Christine Penick, Andy Burnett. Cast: Henry Gayle Sanders (Stan), Kaycee Moore (Stan's wife), Charles Bracy (Bracy), Angela Burnett (Stan's daughter), Eugene Cherry (Eugene), Jack Drummond (Stan's son). B&w, shot on 16 mm, distributed on 16 mm and 35 mm. 84 min. This print 81 min. Restoration: UCLA Film and Television Archive. Re-released in 2007 by Milestone Film and Video. A BFI Distribution print viewed at Cinema Orion (Helsinki) (Black History Month), 27 Feb 2010.

An immaculate print of the UCLA restored version pays justice to the expressive 16 mm black and white cinematography. Charles Burnett's UCLA student film was reportedly shot in 1973, finished in 1975, and briefly released in 1977, but in its re-release 30 years later in the beautifully restored edition it really got the full respect it deserves.

This is a realistic film by a young poet about a black family in Watts, L.A., where Stan works at a slaughterhouse, supporting his wife, son, and daughter. Memorable features: (1) the viewpoint of the children, their plays, fights, the stern discipline including beating, the dangerous games in the roads, the railway, and on the rooftops, (2) the compelling rhythm with its silences and the pauses, (3) the work montages at the slaughterhouse, (4) the young men's criminal plans without glamour, (5) the desire of the wife in the serious dancing sequence, (6) the profound pain and melancholy of Stan, (7) the liquor store sequence: rubber checks not accepted, the female owner's interest in Stan as a man, (8) the house is located at an uphill road, it's hard to start the car, and when there is a family outing, it all stops because of a flat tyre, (9) the sense of adversity is almost overwhelming, yet the sense of life, with the children's plays, and the vitality of the women, is stronger, (10) the stark and expressive black and white cinematography, (11) the excellent soundtrack many selections of which I keep re-listening as I write this.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Beauty Shop

Beauty Shop / Beauty Shop. US (c) 2005 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc. Presents a State Street Pictures / Mandeville Films production A Flavor Unit Films production. P: David Hoberman, Robert Teitel, George Tillman, Jr., Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere. D: Bille Woodruff. SC: Kate Lanier, Norman Vance, Jr. – based on the story by Elizabeth Hunter. DP: Theo Van de Sande - Panavision 2,35:1 - DeLuxe. ED: Jon Gary Steele. M: Christopher Young. S: Mark Mangini. ED: Michael Jablow. Cast: Queen Latifah (Gina), Alicia Silverstone (Lynn), Andie MacDowell (Terri), Alfre Woodard (Ms Josephine), Mena Suvari (Joanne), Della Reese (Mrs. Towner), Golden Brooks (Chanel), Miss Laura Hayes (Paulette), Paige Hurd (Vanessa), L'il JJ (Willie), LisaRaye McCoy (Rochelle), Keshia Knight Pulliam (Darnelle), Sherri Shepherd (Ida), Kimora Lee Simmons (Denise), Sheryl Underwood (Catfish Rita), Bryce Wilson (James), Kevin Bacon (Jorge), Djimon Hounsou (Joe). 105 min. A MGM (Culver City) print via Hollywood Classics viewed at Cinema Orion (Black History Month), Helsinki, 26 Feb 2010.

A good print with a photochemical look (consistently warm hues). Sisters are doing it for themselves: this continuation to the Barbershop films is a comedy adventure in black female self-confidence and enterprise. Queen Latifah carries the film with great performances from Alfre Woodard, Djimon Hounsou, etc. Kevin Bacon creates a bold white macho caricature. Enough is enough, and soon Gina's Beauty Shop is opened despite many adversities. - Too tired to stay, I just watched the first half an hour.

Kureopatora / Cleopatra: Queen of Sex

Osamu Tezuka, Eiichi Yamamoto: Kureopatora / Cleopatra: Queen of Sex (1970). Cleopatra, and Antonius, Caesar, Octavian, and Lybia (bottom, left to right)

Osamu Tezuka, Eiichi Yamamoto: Kureopatora / Cleopatra: Queen of Sex (1970).

クレオパトラ / Kleopatra – en skön historia.
    JP 1970. PC: Mushi Productions. P: Yasuhiko Yoneyama.
    D: Osamu Tezuka, Eiichi Yamamoto. SC: Shigemi Satoyoshi – based on the story by Osamu Tezuka. DP: Katsuharu Misawa – Eastmancolor – 2,35:1. AN: Kanji Akabori, Hideo Furusawa, Masami Hata, Teruhito Kamiguchi, Renzo Kinoshita, Kazuko Nakamura, Tatsuo Shimamura. M: Isao Tomita. ED: Masashi Furukawa.
    Voices: Chinatsu Nakayama (Cleopatra), Kotoe Hatsui (Apolodria), Tsubame Yanagiya (Lupa), Nobuo Tsukamoto (Ionius), Kazuko Imai (Calpurnia), Susumu Abe (Kabagonis), Yoshiro Kato (lt. Tarabach), Nachi Nozawa (Octavianus), Harjime Hana (Julius Caesar), Osami Nabe (Marcus Antonius), Jitsuko Yoshimura (Lybia).
    112 min, 100 min, 97 min, this print 89 min.
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 26 Feb 2010.

Vintage print with a beautiful definition of colour.

Reportedly the first erotic feature anime, with wonderfully versatile animation, the visual register ranging from realism to abstraction, with many visual styles on display.

A spoof of the Cleopatra story, maybe inspired by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's bande dessinée Astérix et Cléopâtre (1963/1965).

Highlights include the slapstick impression of Cleopatra's magic vagina that gives burns to the probing finger, Cleopatra's plastic surgery ("real flowers wither, fake flowers are eternal"), her being smuggled naked in a sack to Julius Caesar, Caesar's pageant in Rome, the gladiator battle at the arena (against a giant whose mere stomping at the ground is enough to topple the hero), Cleopatra soothing Marcus Antonius insecure of his endowment (demonstrating that a little banana is tastier than a big banana), the Egyptian women's sex sabotage of the Roman invasors (the houses that swing in the night), the highly stylized naval battle with jokey montages of stills, Cleopatra's final seduction attempt thwarted because the gay Octavianus is interested in the hunky gladiator only, Cleopatra stung by the snake at the hotel of death, the final image of the pyramid.

The sex scenes are abstract, unique and intriguing, each with a completely different visual concept. The hallucinations are inventively created. The music is original and charming.

Jenny Kangasvuo: Erotic Anime (a lecture)

A lecture at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, belonging to the series Cinema and Sexuality arranged by the Film Society of the Helsinki Students' Association, 26 Feb 2010.

Jenny Kangasvuo gave us the big picture of the huge phenomenon of the Japanese sex industry, one of the biggest industries in Japan and one of the biggest sex industries in the world.

In Japan the term is usually "ero" with the proper suffixes. In the West the term "hentai" is widely used, but in Japan it has the denotation of "strange, perverted".

Erotic anime is an organic part of Japanese popular culture, including manga, games and action figures. Even non-erotic characters may get "fan service" meaning erotic extra scenes or figures. In sex clubs the customer may have a date with girls dressed as characters from non-erotic anime.

Legally there is a strict censorship. 1) The Penal Code of 1947 bans the dissemination of obscene public matter, anything that violates the feeling of shame as it is commonly understood. 2) The import of obscene matter is more strictly monitored. 3) The interpretation of free speech has been changing. Until the 1970s it was not allowed to show pubic hair, and pubic hair was removed from magazines manually, or via pixelizing in the 1980s.

A Japanese specialty is the combination of sex and violence, not restricted by law, in stories and games like RapeLay. The real breakthrough of erotic (pornographic) anime was the first Lolita video series (1984), depicting rapes and torture of young girls.

In the same year, another Lolita video series (1984) was produced, with a completely different approach: it is a warm and tender depiction of a young girl's sexual awakening.

Another landmark anime series of the same year was Cream Lemon (1984) depicting incest between a sister and a brother. This series has spawned many spin-offs, and Cream Lemon has become a watchword for erotic anime.

The Urotsukidoji series (1986-) introduced fantasy to erotica: sex demons take possession, and in later episodes, hybrids of humans and demons appear. The most famous feature of the series is tentacle rape. In this series, erotic aspects are more strange, disturbing, shameful, and nauseating than arousing.

Nowadays internet is the major dissemination media of erotic anime. It enables more and more specialized distribution.

A big issue is that of the subordination of woman in anime. In anime, as the woman is subjugated, her sexuality awakens. The figure of the woman who enjoys being dominated is widespread in Japan. Fantasies with women enjoying piercing and entries by snakes are common.

In Bible Black (2005) there is the figure of the powerful Amazon woman, who is also a Futanari, a woman with both a vagina and a penis. In this generation, sexual acts are graphically portrayed, with sexual organs in extreme close-up and in full detail.

On the other side, there is the stylized current of erotic anime: the cat girls, tender and cute, always interested in play. The men may be mere Peeping Toms, Haruka boys, who are little, completely crushed figures, who cannot stand the company of women.

Porn is produced not only for heterosexual men but also for Lesbians, etc. There is also gay anime for girls, more romantic than erotic, without genitally explicit love scenes.

To sum up, erotic anime is a part of the Japanese society and media. It may be suggestive or explicit; lately, graphic explicity has been more popular.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rudolf Koivu - satua koko elämä?

[Rudolf Koivu - Life Is Just a Fairy-Tale?]. FI (c) 2009 Muutama Metri Ky. P+D+SC+ED: Juho Gartz. Special Advisor: Jan-Eric Nyström. AN: Laura [Pal... ?ander?]. Commentary read by: Esko Salminen. Letters read by: Lauri Tykkyläinen. Dvd. Viewed at Elävän kuvan museo, Vanha talvitie 9, Helsinki, 25 Feb 2010.

A fascinating documentary on the many-sided Finnish artist Rudolf Koivu (1890-1946), who became most famous as an illustrator of fairy-tales. Includes charming animation based on his characters, and precious footage from his favourite tryst, the Café Bronda.

Matti Kassila - A Director In His Own Territory (exhibition)

Matti Kassila: ohjaaja omalla maallaan [Matti Kassila: A Director In His Own Territory]. An exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image of the National Audiovisual Archive of Finland, at Vanha talvitie 9, Helsinki. A special introduction by Lauri Tykkyläinen, 25 Feb 2010.

Matti Kassila (born 1924) was a leading film director in the studio era of the Finnish film industry, and he was active during several decades afterwards, too, maker of many of the most highly regarded films in Finland, including The Blue Week, The Harvest Month, and the Inspector Palmu series.

This excellent exhibition was first presented in the Keuruu Museum until September 2009, and has been on display at the Museum of the Moving Image in Helsinki since 21 October, 2009.

The extensive and expert presentation texts have been written by Orvokki Vääriskoski.

Too Much For One Man (exhibition)

Liikaa yhdelle miehelle: eroottisia elokuvajulisteita 80 vuoden ajalta [Too Much For One Man: Erotic Film Posters from 80 Years]. An exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image of the National Audiovisual Archive of Finland, at Vanha talvitie 9, Helsinki. A special preview by Lauri Tykkyläinen, 25 Feb 2010.

From two Finnish sources a treasure trove of erotic film posters in their Finnish distribution versions, often enhanced with elements manually cemented. The films portrayed include Finnish films by Teuvo Tulio, nature documentaries, nudist films, sensationally misleadingly marketed art films, and actual hard core pornographic films which were before the late 1990s shown in Finland with their framing stories only, with all the action cut by the censorship. Fascinating, lurid, sleazy, and now all pretty innocuous. The verbal acrobatics of the enterprising distributors is amazing.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

DigiTraining Plus (Day Four)

In the morning we drove to Bio Rex Sello in Espoo, to the Bio Rex multiplex with six cinemas, including a small special VIP cinema with lounge chairs, presented by Aku Jaakkola. It is Finland's biggest cinema outside Finnkino. Aku told that now there is an increasing problem of getting 35 mm prints. One of the digital projectors broke down in November, it took six weeks to get an estimate of repair cost, and three months to repair. Aku advised us to have a good insurance, as they have. The element broken was the digital head. There was no manufacturer's warranty. The trouble was due to over-heating which was caused by house ventilation problems. 44 grades Centigrade is the maximum for a digital head.

Walter Munarini (OpenSky) gave a demonstration on 3D digital live transmissions: live entertainment, live 3D entertainment, live business and professional transmissions (surgeries etc.).

Frauke Feuer (Peaceful Fish) presented Digital Alfie: creating online communities, integrating digital cinema (satellite / broadband / online / mobile). Digital customer relationship management. New revenue streams based on online communities. Benefits of online communities: social media, strong connection with customers, connections with leaders of your field, helping build credibility and reputation. Customers are allowed to communicate, get recognized, and create fun and entertainment. Digital Alfie local online community is a portal, where people can register and comment, rate, vote, and discuss. There is a consortium with the local cinema partner. It broadens the offer to the internet. There are some 10 cinemas in France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, and Finland (Bio Rex).

Back at the Finnish Film Foundation, Guillaume Thomine-Desmazures (Arts Alliance Media) talked about the role of the integrators, and Jonathan Davis about business models, giving an overview of public support for digitalization in Europe. Mr. Davis wondered about the studios and cinemas attempting to keep the old business models in the new age. Why does the equipment have to cost 90.000 E? Why do we have to work so fast? Why not wait until prices go down? The trouble with public subsidy is sometimes that it allows one to charge for higher prices. The current economic crisis changes the rules. The UK film council budget goes down 40%. Reward programming, create European schemes. Cinema is crucial for social life: this is a compelling argument.

In the discussion we were reminded that opera and national theatre transmissions have been a surprising success story in alternative digital programming.

Guillaume Thomine-Desmazures returned in his second intervention to alternative content. Iron Maiden Flight 666 (2009) on 500 screens was the largest simultaneous worldwide release ever for a documentary film, with over 100.000 admissions. - Opus Arte. - The Story of The Who. - The Age of Stupid, on environmental issues. - Monty Python: Not the Messiah, for Monty Python's 40th Anniversary.

The final official presentation, Cinema in 2020 - a Sneak Peek in the Future, was given by Tommi Rissanen (digital and social media consultant, Digital Media Finland). Tommi repeated technological hallmarks by the decade, since 2001 A Space Odyssey till Avatar, yet stressed that technology is not paramount; story is important. He predicted that in 2020 cinema will be an immersive experience. Audiences will expect the best possible image and sound. There will be also smaller cinemas with on-demand programming, with a long tail, and an extensive back catalogue. The gap between the cinema and the home gets smaller. There will be niche audiences. There will be interaction with the media environment. There have been five media revolutions (writing, printing, telephone, recorded media, internet), based on the models one-to-one, same-to-many, and many-to-many. Internet is changing our community. Today it is possible to take your community with you. How can cinema react to this demand? Global interaction in live events. It is possible to get instant feedback and communication with communities of one's own, being social. Cinema keeps being an experience. Going to movies is always an event, an experience. Cinema is an event platform, to meet people, to share experiences. Global events with unique live content. The more you share the more you get. To sum up: the cinema of 2020 is an immersive experience, an event platform, with instant feedback and global interaction.

In the group comment round I had the opportunity to speak, my theme being the coexistence of digital and film. I urged everybody to avoid speed blindness. Despite the current rapid digital roll-out there is no hurry to get rid of 35 mm film because of three strategic reasons. We are facing probably at least three generations of co-existence of film and digital. 1. Heritage. Photochemical film and 35 mm film were developed in 1889 by George Eastman, and they have robust standards since 120 years. There are hundreds of thousands of feature films and millions of short films that exist on photochemical film. These are great treasures and assets for their owners, and their value keeps growing. 2. Image quality. We have heard that digital is theoretically superior in image quality to film, but in reality that remains to be seen. It is true that D-cinema image is sharp and bright, but there are at least ten other parameters that are equally important and in which film image is still superior and more life-like. Film is better in conveying something warm, soft, juicy, and sexy. It is better in black levels, grayscale, and colour shades. Film is superior in catching up with the modes of fine painting (sfumato, chiaroscuro). Film is great in fine detail, with its sense of infinity. Digital is by definition clearly defined. Life is not clearly defined, and film has a tremendous ability to convey the unlimited sense of life. 3. Preservation. There have been 60-80 formats of video and digital, none of them with a preservation standard. Film formats have preservation standards, and with the simple procedure of cold storage one can predict for a film negative or print a 500 year lifetime. Even the computer-generated Avatar is almost certainly being preserved on three black and white photochemical film separation masters.

The closing statement was given by Harri Ahokas. 1. Technology has been less eminent on the agenda this time. 3D has become a reality surprisingly fast. D print delivery probably changes in the near future with satellite transmission. 2. Alternative content becomes more and more important. 3. Financing is now stronger on the agenda, with alternatives of public funding, virtual print fees, local funding, MEDIA, EU, involving bankers and investors. 4. Training is more central, and also learning new ways of thinking, such as sharing. Sharing seems to be a rising idea among the young generation: video-on-demand, downloading to share, sharing ideas.

Friday, February 19, 2010

DigiTraining Plus (Day Three)

I missed the morning visit to Bio Grand, Tikkurila, presented by Kimmo Lohman, Cinema Manager.

At the Flamingo Cinema, Vantaa, Ari "Jaska" Saarinen, Technical Supervisor and Manager (Finnkino) gave the presentation "D-Cinema, What Cinema Owners Don't Know Or Normally Forget To Think About", a brilliant no-nonsense all around survey highly appreciated by the experts present.

Jaska started with an eulogy to D-Cinema and a thrashing of 35 mm. According to him, 2K is enough for a 15 m screen, 4K for a screen over 15 m. His presentation was ultra-fast, with more information in the quick PowerPoints than was possible to digest. He stressed that besides resolution one must consider speed, contrast, and colour. It is important to acquire 2K equipment that can be upgraded to 4K.

Jaska stressed aspects such as DCI compatibility, the need to upgrade, spare part availability and price, support availability also on weekend. He strongly advised to buy the same model and size for all projectors. Projectors are not getting cheaper. He warned against silver screens because of the hot spot effect. He discussed the considerations of Xenon bulbs, ventilantion requirements, projection windows, soundproofing, electricity, higher cleanliness requirements.

Jaska discussed the four 3D systems of RealD, Dolby 3D, Master Image, and XPand. Finnkino uses XPand.

Jaska emphasized factors such as reliability, quality, warranty, training, correct installation, spare part availability, and automatical upgrading.

Jaska has developed for Finnkino a sound system of their own (AS2) with a non-perforated screen and Dolby reference level Vol 7. Front speakers are above the screen, and there are six subwoofers.

We saw three D-Cinema (2K) demonstrations at Flamingo:
1. Sherlock Holmes, opening, visually brilliant, I have no quarrel with this.
2. John Lasseter: Tokyo Mater (US 2008), great digital animation, colour intentionally anti-realistic.
3. Avatar, the attack on the life tree, experts present said they'd never seen it better expect in the special gala events with four projectors. My comment: this is a fantasy film with anti-realistic colour (the green is grayish, there is a lack of warm shades in the colour palette).

There is a trend in D-Cinemas that projectionists are going to be replaced with computer experts.

Back at the Finnish Film Foundation there was a symposium of digitalization providing a chance for a wider choice offered to cinema spectators (session on contents: films and alternative contents). - Erik Hamre (Emerging Pictures, Denmark) gave a rousing presentation of opera distribution in cinemas (live and canned). - Pilvi Burman (FS Film, Finland) predicted that the distributors will soon support digital releases only, and no 35 mm. She examined three experiences in 3D. Journey to the Center of the Earth was the nice learning experience, and the Finnish result was the best in the Nordic countries. Ice Age 3 was the most popular film of 2009. And finally Avatar, the turning-point in digital. - Fabrice Testa (Vice President Sales & Business Development, XDC) discussed VPF arrangements and alternative content (specific audiences, high ticket prices, optimizing off-peak times, additional revenue). He emphasized dynamism from the exhibitior, considering season tickets and memberships, accessing specific client groups, doing local marketing (flyers, posters, season catalogues, radio campaigns, trailers), event-like cinema experiences with introductions, Q & A, drinks afterwards. Revenue sharing 50% non-live, 35% live.

Fabrice Testa gave also a presentation on the role of integrators. XDC is the n:o 1 digital cinema company in Europe, a comprehensive European Networks Operations Center, an Integrated Full Service Company. Aiming to increase direct and indirect revenue, to reduce operational costs, requiring a specific business model, as it takes 10 years to collect VPF to cover the roll-out cost of D-Cinema.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

DigiTraining Plus (Day Two)

At the Finnish Film Foundation, Helsinki, 18 Feb 2009.

Presentations by Kerstin Degerman (MEDIA Desk Finland), Leena Laaksonen (Senior Advisor, Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland), Elisabetta Brunella (Secretary General of MEDIA Salles), Michael Karagosian (MKPE), Oleg Berezin (Managing Director of Nevafilm, Saint Petersburg), Harri Ahokas (Head of Domestic Distribution, Finnish Film Foundation), Ramon Reissmüller (Digitalt Projekt, Svenska Filminstitutet), Rolf Gjestland (Adviser in cinema technology and design, Film & Kino, Norway), Jan Petersen (IT manager of Nordisk Film Biografer, Denmark), Daniel Hromadko (BrickBox Digital Media, Czech Republic), Marieke Jonker (Amstelfilm, The Netherlands), Ami Dror (Xpand).

Leena Laaksonen stated that there has been a 51% increase in 3 years in Government film funding. 90% of the cinemas would vanish without public funding. Municipalities cannot afford to support cinemas. Virtual Print Fee is not a solution in a small market like Finland. Public funding is necessary. Problems include the lack of competition and the high cost of other digital stuff. Public funding has to be carefully prepared, with national, cultural criteria, and cinemas need to be treated equally.

Elisabetta Brunella reported that 2009 has been a year of exceptional growth in European cinemas, 6,3% more spectators. The trend has been especially strong in Germany, France, and Great Britain, as well as in Austria, The Netherlands, and Sweden, but also in Russia, Romania, Poland, and Slovakia. The average ticket price rose due to 3D. There was a 70% growth in digital screens during the first half of the year. France grew to be the European leader in digital screens, beating Great Britain. Penetration of 3D in digital screens will reach 55%.

Michael Karagosian gave the keynote speeches. Studio revenue is declining due to the costly transition to D-cinema. The bulk of the growth is due to 3D. 3D is the driver. In 2009, 15% of the global screens were digital. There is a decline of digital screens per site due to 3D. Karagosian presented the complex structures of the Virtual Print Fee, the Deployment Deal Structure, the 10 year warranty procedure, the free rider arrangement, and the film cutoff calculation.

Instead of standards, Mr. Karagosian spoke of compliances.
1. The DCI compliance with six major studios. There is no standard, but the procedure is evolving. D-Cinema has started developing before there were standards.
2. SMPTE DCP compliance: moving towards standards.
3. Accessibility compliance. For the first time ever films can be supplied with audio and subtitling alternatives royalty free. The previous techniques were proprietary.

Mr. Karagosian underlined the issue of managing trust and developing a standards-based security key management. It is a huge issue.
KDM = Key Delivery Message
FLM = Facility List Message
DCP = Digital Cinema Print
CCM = Cinema Communication Message
COMBI = Common Media Block INterface

Further, Mr. Karagosian talked about visual acuity limits. I disagree with him about 2K resolution being a sufficient replacement for 35 mm film.

Piracy is a major issue. Equal in profit to that of cocaine. 300-400% higher profit than on heroine, but penalties are lower. Piracy costs the industry more than digital cinema. In the USA 6,1 Billion estimated consumer losses. The ability to trace is developing, all content is marked in some way. Camcorder detectors.

Q & A: - The windows are shorter, even 12 weeks only, due to piracy.
- There was discussion whether digital cinema is a speculative bubble about to burst in a few years.
- The durability of the D-cinema hardware: one can expect the server to last 5 years, and the D-projector 10 years. We are on a learning curve, and updates take place every 3-5 years. We are still taking baby steps. It will take years to reach a robust stage. Digital cinema equipment is a part of the information technology development.

Rolf Gjestland (Norway): film distribution in Norway is to be all digital, with no 35 mm distribution.

Jan Petersen (Denmark) was more cautious, critical of the endless upgrades. D-Cinema is not as stable as desired. There is no business in 2D D-Cinema. 3-D is very good business: Avatar, and also Metropolitan Opera, Oscar Gala, Super Bowl, Champions League. The prerequisites for a digital shift include: - a substantial price reduction - smaller size of 2K projectors - full DCI compliance - in two years a full roll-out in Denmark is expected

Conclusion: every country has a different situation. It is a difficult area.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

DigiTraining Plus (Day One)

DigiTraining Plus: European Cinemas Experiencing New Technologies. A five-day course organized by: Media Salles Training. An initiative of the MEDIA Programme of the European Union with the support of the Italian Government. At the Finnish Film Foundation (SES), Helsinki, 17-21 Feb 2010.

The seventh edition of a five-day intensive course for European exhibitors, devoted to the present state and future prospects of digital screening. The official agenda:

Do you want to:
- get ready to deal with the digital transition?
- keep up with the burning issues involved?
- get to know the latest news on digital projection presented by well-known international professional players?
- visit the cinemas that are pioneering the new technologies?

The presentations are or will be available also on the Media Salles website:
The presentations of the previous six courses are available there, as well.

There are 59 European participants from Finland, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Poland, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Austria, and the Netherlands, plus organizers from Italy and Great Britain. Opening speeches by Michael Vickers (Treasurer of MEDIA Salles),  Irina Krohn (CEO of SES), presentation of the course by Anthony Williams (moderator of the course).

Tero Koistinen (CEO, Finnish Film Chamber), presented Finnish viewpoints. Last year screened were 2546 prints in 35 mm, and 649 digital files. The average ticket price is 8,3 E. Finnkino has a 73% market share. There were 48 digital screens (16,2%), most of them supported by SES. Barco was the dominant digital projector, Dolby the dominant server, and Xpand the dominant 3D system.

3D has been the driving force. Other incentives include getting premieres immediately, flexibility of programming, reduction of staff costs, and other digital stuff (opera, theatre, Formula 1, local documentaries).

Trouble includes higher maintenance costs, spare parts are expensive, there are no spare parts in Finland, and no competition between dealers.

There are no list prices, but in reality the projector and the server cost some 60.000-70.000 E, plus 3D some 15.000, the total installation cost with the ventilators and 3D desinfectors is some 100.000-120.000 E.

In 3D screenings the average price is 9,3 E.

Public support is necessary. The virtual print fee still in development.

Digitalization benefits studios and producers.

For the cinemas the problem is financial: it is impossible to cope without financial support from the government or from the studios.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Berlin Film Festival: The Complete Metropolis Exhibition

The Complete Metropolis (exhibition) at Deutsche Kinemathek, Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Filmhaus am Potsdamer Platz, Potsdamer Strasse 2. 15 Feb 2010.

The book: Deutsche Kinemathek (Hg.): Fritz Langs Metropolis. München: Belleville Verlag, 2010, 400 S., 600 Abbildungen.

A wonderful exhibition and a high quality coffee table book to celebrate the new 2010 reconstruction of the quasi-complete Metropolis (1927) incorporating the lost footage found in Buenos Aires.

"Tief unter der Erde lag die Stadt der Arbeiter". The stark and disquieting vision of the divided world is still unfortunately valid.

The dance of the fake Maria: the darkly satirical view of the abuse of female sexuality is explicitly reflected in the image of Madonna, with direct links to Brigitte Helm's performance.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Berlin Film Festival: The Forum

Also the Forum is celebrating an anniversary, the Fourtieth, and also the Forum has a programme with retrospective features.

There is a restored version of the Bill Douglas trilogy (My Childhood, GB 1972, My Ain Folk, GB 1973, and My Way Home, GB 1978).

There is also a tribute with prints of restored versions from Festival Tokyo FilmEx dedicated to Yasujiro Shimazu, with Konyaku sanbagarasu (The Trio's Engagements, JP 1937), Asakusa no tomoshibi (The Lights of Asakusa, JP 1937), and Ai yori ai e (So Goes My Love, JP 1938).

Berlin Film Festival 2010: The Retrospective

I'm visiting Berlin just for meetings, no films. This is what I'm missing:

The retrospective of the Berlin Film Festival 2010 is dedicated to the 60 years of history of the festival, covering films like Fröken Julie, A bout de souffle, Lebenszeichen, La notte, Ai no corrida, The Deer Hunter, The Thin Red Line, Hong gaoliang, Duoluo tianshi, and Yella.

The special gala concert was of Metropolis (DE 1927, restored version 2010), with the 30 minutes recovered from a battered Argentinian 16 mm print incorporated, now running 147 min, format: High Definition. The film was played with the original music by Gottfried Huppertz played live by Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin conducted by Frank Strobel at the Friedrichstadtpalast and transmitted simultaneously on an open-air screen at the Brandenburger Tor. I would look forward to seeing Frank Strobel with Metropolis in Helsinki.

In Zeit-Magazin 7/2010 there is an interesting article by Karen Naundorf and Matthias Stolz: "Metropolis Die Lang-Fassung". Martin Koerber (Berliner Filmmuseum) and Anke Wilkening (Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung) made the structural reconstruction of the film together with Frank Strobel (conductor, Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester). Strobel knows the 1028 precise timings of the original score by Gottfried Huppertz, and he states that for the first time in his lifetime the score really fits well. The computer expert Thomas Bakels developed a new computer program that he has named Rettmagic to restore digitally the image from terrible Buenos Aires source material. Martin Koerber had said that he had never seen such bad source material with faulty framelines, instability of the image, black scratches overall, loss of light definition, holes in the image, double exposure through careless printing from the worn 35 mm onto 16 mm. Magic would seem to be the word for a case like this.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's science fiction tv film Welt am Draht ("The World in a Web", DE 1973), 185 min, has been difficult to see in decades, and now it is being shown in a cinema in a restored version, and also released on dvd. Prophetically, it is about the cyberworld. To quote from the programme information: "In 1973 Rainer Werner Fassbinder made a film about computer-simulated realities. The plot of the two-part production fro television revolves around a supercomputer that is able to create a completely artificial world. The machine is being developed in an institute, whose director experiences hallunicatory changes in consciousness. Fassbinder used "classic" genre motifs to effectively reflect on the question of corruption and manipulation. Welt am Draht will have its first ever cinema screening at the Berlinale."

Berlin Film Festival 2010: The Competition

The 60th Berlin Film Festival has started, and I'm visiting Berlin just for a couple of days for meetings, no films. Berlin is snow-bound but not cold. Winter Berlin at its best. Several entries of the competition are being shown as D-Cinema, including Howl and Shutter Island.

Bal (Honey, Semih Kaplanoglu, TR 2010), Enigmatic bee disease hits Anatolia.
Kyatapira (Caterpillar, Koji Wakamatsu, JP 2010). In WWII an officer comes home without arms and legs.
Der Räuber (The Robber, Benjamin Heisenberg, DE 2010). Double life of a marathon man as a bank robber.
En ganske snill man (A Somewhat Gentle Man, Hans Petter Moland, DK 2010). A convict (Stellan Skarsgård) returns to everyday life after 12 years in prison in a black comedy.
En familie (A Family, Pernille Fischer Christensen, DK 2010). The story of what we in Finland call uusioperhe (what is the English word? a family reinvented, reconstructed, reassembled... ?) with the current and present spouses and children from various relationships together.
Eu cand vreau sa fluier, fluier (If I Want To Whistle, Whistle, Florin Serban, RO 2010). A boy in a prison for young offenders falls in love and kidnaps a girl visitor only five days before his release.
OUT OF COMPETITION: Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, US/GB 2010). The elusive graffiti artist makes a semi-documentary about a man who tries to break his wall of secrecy.
Greenberg (Noah Baumbach, US 2010). An independent comedy with Ben Stiller about a 40-year-old's search for his place in life.
Howl (Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, US 2010). The story of the obscenity trial of Howl with James Franco as Allen Ginsberg.
Jud Süss - Film ohne Gewissen (Jew Süss - Rise and Fall, Oskar Roehler, DE/AT 2010). How Goebbels pressured Ferdinand Marian, whose wife was Jewish, to star in an antisemitic hate film.
Kak ja provel etim letom (How I Ended This Summer, Aleksei Popograbski, RU 2010). Two men in an Arctic station in the summer.
Mammuth (Benoît Delépine, FR 2010). Tragicomedy about an ageing man (Gérard Depardieu) whose documents needed for his pension are missing. He mounts his Mammuth motorbike in search of his past.
My Name is Khan (Karan Johar, IN 2010). Unusual Indian musical about Muslims in western societies, starring Shah Rukh Khan.
Na putu (On the Path, Jasmila Zbanic, BA 2010). The story of an air stewardess and an air traffic controller at the Sarajevo airport.
CLOSING FILM, OUT OF COMPETITION: Otouto (About Her Brother, Yoji Yamada, JP 2010). Yamada's return to the present, a family drama about siblings.
Please Give (Nicole Holofcener, US 2010). A successful Manhattan couple expects the elderly lady neighbour to die soon so they can buy her apartment, but things are complicated by friendship.
Rompecabezas (Puzzle, Natalia Smirnoff, AR 2010). The mother's puzzle passion shakes the life of the whole family.
San qiang pa an jing qi (A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop, Zhang Yimou, CN 2010). A Chinese remake of Blood Simple.
Shahada (Burhan Qurbani, DE 2010). The story of three young Muslims in Germany, a Turkish policeman, a gay man from Nigeria, and a Westernized daughter of Turkish heritage.
Shekarchi (The Hunter, Rafi Pitts, IR 2010). The revenge of the outlaw whose wife and daughter have been killed by the police in a demonstration.
OUT OF COMPETITION: Shutter Island (Suljettu saari, Martin Scorsese, US 2010). Two policemen (Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo) try to solve the riddle of a supernatural disappearance on a closed prison island for the mentally ill.
Submarino (Thomas Vinterberg, DK 2010). The reunion of two brothers. One is an alcoholic bodybuilder who has served time in prison. The other is a single father fighting a heroin addiction.
The Ghost Writer (Haamukirjoittaja, Roman Polanski, FR/DE/GB 2010). A political thriller based on the novel by Robert Harris. The ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) finds out of the ex-prime minister of Britain (Pierce Brosnan) a secret which puts his life in danger.
The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Chodolenko, US 2010). A female couple (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore) has two children. There is a twist to their life as the children demand to meet their biological father (Mark Ruffalo).
The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, US 2010). Based on the Jim Thompson novel about a cop who is a sadistic serial killer. Starring Casey Affleck.
OPENING FILM: Tuan yuan (Apart Together, Wang Quan'an, CN 2010). After 50 years a group of Chinamen that had moved to Taiwan get the permission to revisit the Chinese mainland.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Veijo Hietala: Sex in the Finnish Cinema (lecture)

In the lecture series "Sexuality on Screen" by the Film Society of the Helsinki Students' Association. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 12 Feb 2010.

With a great sense of humour Veijo Hietala started from early cinema (Sylvi, 1913), proceeded to the studio era (The Vagabond Waltz, 1940), discussed the train piston innuendo in Hannu Leminen's The Beautiful Inkeri of the Railway Yard (1950), examined the special case of Teuvo Tulio, noted the natural nudity (not necessarily sexual) in traditional Finnish cinema, and proceeded via the 1960s (A Cone Under My Back, 1966) to the present day, where in Hietala's opinion there is now less sex since the frank and popular The Restless (2000). Hietala wondered also whether American puritanism about nudity has influenced Finns. Hietala, donning his trademark beret, impressed the audience with analogue technology, complete with overhead projector sheets and samples from a vhs tape.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Midnight Ramble

Midnight Ramble: Oscar Micheaux and the Story of Race Movies. US © 1994 Northern Lights Productions / WGBH Productions. P: Pam A. Thomas, Bestor Cam. COORD. P: Beth Deare. D: Pearl Bowser, Bestor Cam. SC: Clyde Taylor. DP: Bestor Cam, Bruce Johnson. COMMENTARY: James Avery. FEATURING: author Toni Cade Bambara, historian Robert Hall, illustrator Elton Fox, archivist Pearl Bowser, film director Carlton Moss, actress Frances Williams, actress Shingzie Howard McClane, journalist St. Claire Bourne, Sr., actress Edna Mae Harris. Original format: video. 58 min. Dvd 54 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Black History Month), 9 Feb 2010.

Revisited Pearl Bowser and Bestor Cam's excellent survey into the birth of the African-American cinema. In the early days, audiences were segregated, and black people had to watch films after midnight. The terrible insult of The Birth of a Nation. The rise of the independent African-American cinema and its story from the 1910s till the 1930s. Noble Johnson. The story of Oscar Micheaux, the top African-American director of his time.

Black and Tan

US 1929. D: Dudley Murphy. 19 min. Viewed on 9 Feb 2010 at Cinema Orion (Black History Month), Helsinki.

Revisited: Duke Ellington is dignified composing Black and Tan Fantasy. Fredi Washington is the dancer who performes the dance of death. Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra play Black and Tan as her requiem.

With Barney Bigard (clarinet), Wellman Braud (bass), Joe 'Tricky Sam' Nanton (trombone).

St. Louis Blues

US 1929. D: Dudley Murphy. 16 min. Viewed on 9 Feb 2010 at Cinema Orion (Black History Month), Helsinki.

Revisited the definitive Bessie Smith film record. Bessie Smith is cheated by Jimmie the Pimp (Jimmy Mordecai) and sings the blues from the bottom of her heart.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Baadasssss (in the presence of Mario Van Peebles)

US 2003. EX: Michael Mann, etc. P: Mario Van Peebles, etc. D: Mario Van Peebles. Based on the book by Melvin Van Peebles: Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song: A Guerrilla Filmmaking Manifesto. Starring Mario Van Peebles (Melvin Van Peebles). Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Black History Month), 6 Feb 2010.

In the presence of Mario Van Peebles, who gave a rousing presentation of the story behind the film. Having spent a week in Finland (Helsinki, Tampere, and Oulu), with great media coverage (newspapers, radio, tv) this was the last public appearance of Mario's tour. I followed Mario's presentation only.

In his presentations Mario Van Peebles emphasized the meaning of images projecting role models. In the 1980s, two of the most popular tv series were The Cosby Show, with a positive image of a black family, and Miami Vice, created by Michael Mann, pairing a white cop and a black cop. A generation later, nobody has trouble accepting a black president for the U.S.A.

Nikolai Gogol: Taras Bulba (a novel)

Тарас Бульба. First version: RU 1835. Second, revised version: 1842. (First translated into Finnish in 1878, Samuli S.). This translation, based on the revised version of 1842: Juhani Konkka 1940, second edition 1941. Helsinki: WSOY.

Having watched the film Taras Bulba starring Yul Brynner (great in the title role) and with a magnificent epic account of the siege of Dubno I realized I had never read Nikolai Gogol's novel. It was one of Ernest Hemingway's ten favourite books, and it is the book that the young Alyosha reads aloud to the boatmen in Maxim Gorky's My Childhood. After Pushkin, this novel was the second most important inspiration to the great Russian writers. It echoes clearly in the work of Gorky and in Leo Tolstoy's magisterial Hadzhi Murat.

It is a tale of terror in the steppes of Ukraine, starring Zaporozhian Cossacks in the 16th Century. It is written vigorously, with gusto, unflinching about the terrible deeds the Cossacks are able to commit.

The book is, among other things, also atrociously anti-semitic. The Jew Yankel became the anti-semitic stereotype in Russian literature (greedy, cowardly, ridiculous, repulsive). It was disquieting to notice that this edition was published in Finnish in 1940 and in 1941. In the Yul Brynner film the Jewish theme has been completely omitted. The film is also otherwise sanitized: the terror of the Cossacks is generally toned down.

The novel is a half-way masterpiece with a disgusting aspect. The impact can be compared with D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, which can be screened today with apologies only.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Love Goddesses (lecture)

Marlene Dietrich as Amy Jolly in Morocco.

Antti Alanen: Valkokankaan seksipommit. My lecture in the Cinema and Sexuality lecture series arranged by the Film Society of the Helsinki Students' Association. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 5 Feb 2010.

The views of Edgar Morin, Richard Dyer, and Richard deCordova.
The birth of the star system, its development, and the end of the classical star system in the 1960s.
Edgar Morin's view of from gods to mortals: from the divine stars to profane ones.
A new age of celebrity culture and a new level of star power.
The feminist criticism: the stereotyping of women, Molly Haskell's From Reverence to Rape view.
The sex star as object and subject.
There have been no magnificent new sex stars of the cinema since the 1960s, of the caliber of Garbo, Dietrich, and Monroe.
The great legendary stars of today are pop stars. No film star's death would be world news in the same way as Michael Jackson's. No film star galvanizes global audiences like Madonna.
With the legalization of hard core pornography since 1969 mainstream cinema lost much sexual steam. There are also stars in pornography, thousands of them, but they are less unique, more expendable.
Ten profiles: Asta Nielsen, Louise Brooks, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Sophia Loren, Sharon Stone.
Sharon Stone created only one mythic sex role (in Basic Instinct), but there are no directors in Hollywood today who like Stiller and Sternberg could have directed her in further films of equal charismatic power.

Followed by a screening of The Love Goddesses (1965), by Saul Turell and Graeme Ferguson, with William K. Everson, Paul Killiam and Gideon Bachmann among the contributors, one of the all-time most wonderful compilation films, with fascinating clips from films some of which are very hard to see (A Woman of the World, The Loves of Sunya... ).

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

US 1971. D: Melvin Van Peebles. Print: The Museum of Modern Art, the restored version, with funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation. Cinema Orion (Black History Month), Helsinki, 2 Feb 2010.

It was a special pleasure to screen this landmark film with an introduction by Mario Van Peebles. This time I just listened to Mario's introduction.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Classified X

Melvin Van Peebles' Classified X. FR / US / GB 1998. TV documentary. PC: Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC) / Channel 4 Television Corporation / Ecoutez Voir / La Sept-Arte / Les Films d'Ici / Procirep / TP / Yeah, Inc. EX: Melvin Van Peebles, Patrick Dumez, Yves Jeanneau. P: Yves Jeanneau, Christine Le Goff. D+DP: Mark Daniels – original format: video – has been also available on 35 mm. SC: Melvin Van Peebles. S: Olivier Schwob. ED: Janince Jones, Catherine Mabilat. NARRATOR: Melvin Van Peebles. PERFORMERS IN ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE: Margaret Barker, Joanna Barnes, Ethel Barrymore, Harry Belafonte, Ingrid Bergman, David Brian, Lloyd Bridges, Steve Brodie, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, James Burke, Jeff Corey, Lou Costello, Jeanne Crain, Tony Curtis, Dorothy Dandridge, Gloria DeHaven, Douglas Dick, Tamara Dobson, Kirk Douglas, James Edwards, Mel Ferrer, Errol Flynn, Nina Foch, Ava Gardner, Will Geer, Mel Gibson, Lillian Gish, Danny Glover, Cary Grant, Kathryn Grayson, Pam Grier, Juano Hernandez, Lena Horne, Katharine Houghton, John Hud-kins, Richard Hylton, Rex Ingram, Claude Jarman, Jr., Al Jolson, Martin Luther King, Kevin Kline, Burt Lancaster, Canada Lee, Vivien Leigh, Frank Love-joy, Lee Marvin, Harpo Marx, May McAvoy, Hattie McDaniel, Nina Mae McKinney, Adolphe Menjou, Zakes Mokae, Barry Nelson, Laurence Olivier, Frederick O'Neal, Ron O'Neal, Maureen O'Sullivan, Beatrice Pearson, Sidney Poitier, Dick Powell, Mickey Rooney, Richard Roundtree, Robert Ryan, George Siegmann, Kenneth Spencer, James Stewart, Woody Strode, Shirley Temple, Peter Ustinov, Ethel Waters, Johnny Weissmuller, Richard Widmark, Martin Wilkins, Dooley Wilson, Penelope Wilton, Malcolm X. 53 min. Dvd screened in Cinema Orion (Black History Month), 1 Feb 2010.

An excellent survey of representations of African-Americans in the cinema as seen by Melvin Van Peebles. It starts with Edison (the watermelon contests) and the montages of racial stereotypes make quite shocking viewing. Black people as clowns, cowards, victims of lynchings, figures of shame. - New images in Pinky, Lost Boundaries, Intruder in the Dust. - Control of the media: black independent cinema, Oscar Micheaux. - African-American stereotypes were so pervasive that African-Americans accepted them themselves. - Carry the plate figures. - Entertainment: black musicals, Lena Horne. - The disappearance of black independent cinema for 30 years. - White fantasies on what black people would like to see. - Omnipresent marginalization. - Blaxploitation. - The colour of money is not black or white but green. - A great and worthy compilation essay.

Special guest: Mario Van Peebles

Mario Van Peebles, film and tv director, actor, producer, and writer, tours Finland this week honouring our Black History Month dedicated to the representations of African-Americans in the cinema. Mario is not only a talented artist but also a serious thinker in world affairs, a nice guy and a devoted father of five children. He gave an inspired speech to launch our historical retrospective of African-American cinema. Also Pirkka Kivenheimo, the leading Finnish expert on the topic, gave a solid introduction. The cinema was packed. Organized by the U.S. Embassy. Cinema Orion, 1 Feb 2010.