Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer / The Ghost Writer. FR/DE/GB (c) 2009 RP Films / France 2 Cinéma / Elfte Babelsberg Film / Runteam. Year of release: 2010. P: Robert Benmussa, Roman Polanski, Alain Sarde. D+SC: Roman Polanski - adaptation: Robert Harris - based on his novel The Ghost (2007, translated into Finnish as Haamukirjoittaja by Seppo Raudaskoski / Otava 2008). DP: Pawel Edelman - negative 35 mm - digital intermediate - released on 35 mm and as a DCP - 2,35:1. PD: Albrecht Konrad. Cost: Dinah Collin. M: Alexandre Desplat. S: Thomas Desjonquères. ED: Hervé de Luze. Studio: Babelsberg Studios. Loc: Rømø, Sylt, Usedom, [brief inserts from Massachusetts and London]. Cast: Ewan McGregor (The Ghost), Pierce Brosnan (Adam Lang), Olivia Williams (Ruth Lang), Kim Cattrall (Amelia Bly), Jon Bernthal (Rick Ricardelli), Tim Preece (Roy), James Belushi (John Maddox), Timothy Hutton (Sidney Kroll), Tom Wilkinson (Paul Emmett), Eli Wallach (Vineyard old man). 128 min. Released in Finland by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Suvi Jyrkilä / Joanna Erkkilä. Viewed at Bio Bristol, Helsinki, 29 May 2010.

Digital intermediate look obvious (loss of detail in the nature footage).

Roman Polanski is in excellent form in this political thriller, in full command of the rhythm and with a fine sense of suspense and of the uncanny. The most haunting images are unobtrusive and laconic.

Although The Ghost Writer is quality entertainment, I don't find in it a profound insight in politics. Rather I find its cynicism facile and the conspiracy formula dated. Reality is more disturbing and the world of secret services more ineffective than this.

The nameless ghost writer hired to edit the memoirs of Adam Lang, the ex-Prime Minister of Britain, finds the hidden truth: Ruth Lang, Adam's wife, is a CIA agent, and this explains how Britain has become a puppet for the USA.

This revelation means that The Ghost Writer is potentially also a political satire and a caricature of a Swiftian magnitude. However, the caricature dimension remains undeveloped, not much more than a MacGuffin (Hitchcock's term for a fatal secret necessary for the plot, such as the uranium in Notorious, although the story is not really about it).

Adam Lang is "a man without qualities", an actor who can give a superb performance on television. Nobody really knows him, not even his own wife, and this is what puzzles the ghost writer most. The story is about multiple ghosts. The writer is a successor to his mysteriously deceased predecessor, whose remaining clues lead him to the revelation. He is also a ghost for Adam Lang, who is ghosting Ruth Lang, through whom Britain has become a ghost for the USA.

Pierce Brosnan portrays the shallow Adam Lang well. Ewan McGregor has a great presence as the hack writer whose conscience is awakened. The ex-Prime Minister's women as portrayed by Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall remain inscrutable through no fault of the actresses.

Pawel Edelman has a fine sense of composition, and it was great to study the magnificent scope images from the balcony of Bio Bristol (too bad about the digital intermediate). Alexandre Desplat has created an impressive original score. Hervé de Luze knows how to edit.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Suomalainen elokuvamusiikki 1: levytyksiä vuosilta 1931–1936 (cd)

Cd cover photo: Valentin Vaala: Vaimoke (FI 1936) starring Ansa Ikonen and Tauno Palo. Composer: Harry Bergström.

[Finnish Film Music Vol. 1: Recordings from 1931–1936] (cd). Artie Music Oy, Turku, Finland 2010. AMCD 1029. Sleeve notes by Juha Seitajärvi. Recordings from Suomen Äänitearkisto r.y. and KAVA. Restored by Timo Wuori.

1. "Tui, Tui, Tuulikki", foxtrot, perf. Georg Malmstén. Sano se suomeksi (1931).
2. "Auringon lapset", perf. Georg Malmstén. Auringon lapset (1933).
3. "Sukellusvenevalssi", waltz perf. Georg Malmstén. Meidän poikamme merellä (1932).
4. "Aallokko kutsuu", waltz, perf. Georg Malmstén. Meidän poikamme merellä (1932).
5. "Meidän Maija", waltz, perf. Georg Malmstén. Meidän poikamme merellä (1932).
6. "Laulu onnesta", waltz, perf. Georg Malmstén. Pikku myyjätär (1933).
7. "Pikku neiti", tango, perf. Georg Malmstén. Pikku myyjätär (1933).
8. "Keittiöhaaveita", foxtrot, perf. Olavi Nyberg. Herrat täysihoidossa (1933).
9. "Kiljusen serenadi", tango, perf. Olavi Nyberg. Herrat täysihoidossa (1933).
10. "Ihminen älä hermostu", foxtrot, perf. Matti Jurva. Helsingin kuuluisin liikemies (1934).
11. "Kauniit unet", foxtrot, perf. Hannes Veivo. Helsingin kuuluisin liikemies (1934).
12. "Metsäpirtti", waltz, perf. Georg Malmstén and Greta Pitkänen. Voi meitä! Anoppi tulee (1933).
13. "Lemmen liekki leimahtaa", waltz, perf. Greta Pitkänen and Georg Malmstén. Syntipukki (1934).
14. "Palaavat muistot", tango, perf. Toivo Lampén. Vaimoke (1936).
15. "Sävelhurmaa", waltz, perf. Arvi Tikkala. Vaimoke (1936).
16. "Vaimoke", foxtrot, perf. Arvi Tikkala. Vaimoke (1936).
17. "Bulu bulu bulu", foxtrot, perf. Arvi Tikkala. Vaimoke (1936).
18. "Mieheke", waltz, perf. Tauno Palo. Mieheke (1936).
19. "Kun kuulen tuon", slow fox, perf. Tauno Palo. Mieheke (1936).
20. "Ah, ethän tiedä", foxtrot, perf. Tauno Palo. Mieheke (1936).
21. "Syksyn tullessa", waltz, perf. Tauno Palo. Onnenpotku (1936).
22. "Sinä vainen", waltz, perf. Tauno Palo. Onnenpotku (1936).
23. "Soi läntiset lämpimät tuulet", waltz, perf. Eugen Malmstén. Seikkailu jalkamatkalla (1936).
24. "Suviyön tarina", waltz, perf. Eugen Malmstén. Kaikenlaisia vieraita (1936).
25. "Sulle kukkii kaunis maa", waltz, perf. Eugen Malmstén. Kaikenlaisia vieraita (1936).
26. "Sun huules kertoo onnesta", tango, perf. Eugen Malmstén. Kaikenlaisia vieraita (1936).
27. "Tuulen terveiset", waltz, perf. Eugen Malmstén. Kaikenlaisia vieraita (1936).
28. "Bulu bulu bulu", foxtrot, perf. Ansa Ikonen. Vaimoke (1936).

Only the last track is taken directly from the film soundtrack, itself, all others are compiled from vintage shellac record release versions.

There have been several good Finnish film music compilation cd's during the last ten years, and this is a valuable addition as more than 20 of the tracks have never been published on cd before. Although this cd is systematical and chronological it is also entertaining to listen to and to dance to.

There had been short Finnish sound films since 1929 but the real breakthrough took place in 1931, and then it was all out with inspired composers, hit tunes, and stories carried by song and dance. Some early efforts were clumsy (Meidän poikamme merellä [Our Boys at Sea]) and the music had more staying power than the films themselves. The Estonian-Finnish Auringon lapset [Children of the Sun] was never even released in Finland, but the theme song, lyrics written by the first great Finnish film producer Erkki Karu, has become an evergreen. The barytone Georg Malmstén was training to become an opera singer but chose to become an entertainer, instead. His voice was great from the start. He was a Navy man, himself, which explains the special inspiration in the songs written for the Navy musical. His brother Eugen Malmstén was equally good but not yet at his best on these tracks. Tauno Palo was Finland's film star number one, also a serious dramatic actor. In the 1930s he was the leading heartthrob, a Finnish Vittorio De Sica or Cary Grant. He had a gentle sound, singing from his heart. The orchestras such as the Dallapé are the top dance bands of the decade. The cd is well edited with expert sleeve notes by Juha Seitajärvi.

Shutter Island

Suljettu saari / Shutter Island.
    US © 2010 Paramount Pictures. P: Brad Fischer, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Martin Scorsese. D: Martin Scorsese. SC: Laeta Kalogridis – based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (2003). DP: Robert Richardson – shot on 35 mm, special scenes 65 mm, digital – master format digital intermediate 2K – color – 2,35:1. PD: Dante Ferretti. M supervisor: Robbie Robertson – compilation score from György Ligeti, Krzysztof Penderecki, John Cage, Nam June Paik, Giacinto Scelsi, Rothko Chapel 2, Robert Erickson, Brian Eno, Alfred Schnittke, Lou Harrison, John Adams, Gustav Mahler – and a "This Bitter Earth" (Dinah Washington) remix during end credits. S: Eugene Gearty. ED: Thelma Schoonmaker.
    C: Leonardo DiCaprio (Teddy Daniels), Mark Ruffalo (Chuck Aule), Ben Kingsley (Dr. Cawley), Max von Sydow (Dr. Naehring), Michelle Williams (Dolores Chanal), Emily Mortimer (Rachel 1), Patricia Clarkson (Rachel 2), Jackie Earle Haley (George Noyce), Ted Levine (Warden), John Carroll Lynch (Deputy Warden McPherson). 138 min.
    A Finnkino release with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Janne Staffans viewed at Kinopalatsi 3, Helsinki, 28 May 2010.

The digital intermediate look was obvious but not jarring.

Although I love Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio I had not been looking forward to see Shutter Island. Seeing the trailers and the posters my instinctive feeling had been "do I have to see this", yet friends had been convincing me that the film is worthy.

It is state of the art film making by top talent. But I'm not convinced that Shutter Island was made because the subject was irresistible to Martin Scorsese to explore his personal demons. When he is committed there is nobody to top him.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a great actor and a unique film star. He is at his best when he is relaxed and can display his boyish sensitivity and sense of humour. He could have the capacity to transform like James Stewart did from the young charming guy to the grown-up man who can turn a shattering performance. Here he's good but he tries too hard.

The story belongs to the Caligari – Bedlam – Shock Corridor tradition, but in this horror superproduction there is a sense of discrepancy, of too big production values for a story like this. More can be less.

Shutter Island, set in 1952, refers to the biggest issues of the day (Holocaust, nuclear destruction, Gulag, brainwashing, the Red scare) but because of the trick emphasis of the plot the issues fail to resonate, and there is no sense that they are deeply and personally meant.

The compilation score is exceptionally interesting.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Milka – elokuva tabuista / Milka eller balladen om Kristus Perkele / Milka – A Film About Taboos.
    FI 1980. PC: Arctic Filmi Oy. P+D: Rauni Mollberg. Ass D: Veikko Aaltonen. SC: Rauni Mollberg, Jussi Niilekselä, Seppo Heinonen, Veikko Aaltonen – based on the novel Tabu (1965) by Timo K. Mukka. DP: Esa Vuorinen, Markku Lehmuskallio. M: Kari Rydman. AD: Seppo Heinonen. S: Johan Hake. ED: Tuula Mehtonen.
    Cast: Irma Huntus (Milka Sierkkiniemi), Leena Suomu (Anna Sierkkiniemi), Matti Turunen (Ojanen, "Kristus Perkele"), Eikka Lehtonen (kanttori = the church organist), Esa Niemeli (Auno). 109 min.
    A new KAVA print (2009) without subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Rauni Mollberg), 26 May 2010.

Revisited Rauni Mollberg's second film based on the novel by the Laplander writer and artist Timo K. Mukka (1944–1973). Where Maa on syntinen laulu (The Earth Is a Sinful Song) was shocking, Milka is lyrical.

It is the coming-of-age story of the 14-year-old Laplander maid Milka. Her father has died, and she lives with her mother, the tender and loving Anna. They have a piece of land, hayfield and wood, keep some cows, and Anna weaves carpets.The carpenter and lumberjack Ojanen, called Kristus Perkele (Christ Devil), helps them with farming and building tasks. A virile man, he caters also to the needs of lonesome women in the neighbourhood. He visits Anna without commitment. He refuses the advances of the underage Milka, but after a year, when Milka has grown up to womanhood, he doesn't resist Milka's offers anymore. When the restless wanderer Ojanen moves on, Anna is almost paralyzed with depression, and then it is found out that Milka is pregnant (nobody has told her about the facts of life). Towards the end there is Milka's long dream and nightmare sequence during childbirth. A healthy baby boy is born.

I hadn't seen this film on screen since the first run almost 30 years ago. Milka was better than I remembered. I had the remembrance of some embarrassment with Molle's naturalism and the lingering doubt that the young Irma Huntus may have been exploited. I wish her well, and she can be proud of her contribution in this frank film. The cinematography (Esa Vuorinen, Markku Lehmuskallio) is breathtaking, the music (Kari Rydman) is lyrical and original, the dialogue is stylized, and the film is art, not exploitation.

The cinematography of Milka is one of the most beautiful in the history of Finnish cinema. It is an anthology of the light and colour of Lapland, the glory of the four seasons: the hayfield, swimming in the river, rain in the forest, light filtering in the haybarn, rowing the hayboat across the river, the night fog, the swamp full of cloudberries, the ruska (the autumn colours of Lapland), the steam and the vapour from the sauna, the kaamos (the sunless period of the Far North), the church at Christmas, the blue hour, playing in the snowy forest, the lumberjacks at work, the frozen waterfalls, the wood grouse on soidin (display, mating season), the frozen river. Milka can be watched as pure cinematography.

The excellent new print pays justice to the fine soft detail and colour. It was interesting to examine how objects do not look sharp in the dazzling midnight sun. Everything becomes brilliant and heightened but not sharp. Milka would be a perfect test object for the photochemical / digital comparison.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Molle's People Behind and In Front of the Camera (symposium)

Mollen ihmisiä kameran edessä ja takana. Organized by Molle-seura at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 May 2010.

Rauni Mollberg or Molle (1929-2007) was a top Finnish actor and theatre, television and film director. Molle-seura is dedicated to his heritage. Markku Varjola opened the symposium.

Mollen viimeinen reissu [Molle's Last Trip]. FI 2010. D: Hannu Peltomaa. 18 min. Dvd preview of a portrait of Rauni Mollberg directing his last television film called Reissu [The Trip] in 2002. Video footage and original location sound convey the intensity of concentration on location.

1. Tuula Mehtonen, editor, was the moderator of the symposium. An editor in Milka (1980), she told how Molle asked her to avoid convention in that film. Yet Molle believed in gut feeling and in the eye blink theory of cutting.

2. Veikko Aaltonen, director, worked eight years with Molle, his first task being to edit a compilation of Molle's work so far. - Veikko sees Molle as a true auteur with a recurrent theme: how the pure and the innocent are trampled and oppressed. - Molle as a person was basically shy and sensitive, covering it with foul and offensive behaviour. - The acting styles in Molle's The Unknown Soldier are more modern than the current ones. - Molle could venture both a slowed-down poetic style (Milka) and an exaggeratedly hand-held camera style (The Unknown Soldier), even to the point of personally shoving the cinematographer Esa Vuorinen to achieve a rougher look. - According to Molle, the camera sees more than the eye, exposing the beauty and the ugliness of life. All Molle's television works were shot on 35 mm or 16 mm film. - In Molle's films, a lot of attention was paid to the production design, to the whole visual world. Seppo Heinonen was the art director in four of Molle's films. - The fellow students Mikko Niskanen and Rauni Mollberg competed in everything, including car brands. Molle was irritated when he sensed that Niskanen had Ilta-Sanomat the leading tabloid in his pocket.

3. Tuomo Kattilakoski (born 1933), sound editor / mixer / or recordist in Molle's all cinema films. His last work was Reissu. Molle provided good conditions for sound recording on location but too little time for sound editing. - It was an error from Molle to make Paratiisin lapset, his final film, [hardly any of his collaborators present had seen it].

4. Risto Salmi (born 1941), actor, Molle's friend acting in his productions since 1969. Molle always respected actors, being an actor, himself.

5. Raili Suominen, journalist and Molle's friend since 1972, when she first met Molle on the hippodrome, both being fans of horse racing. Molle was very sensitive to criticism, and Raili acted as a lightning rod when Molle raged half an hour against critics.

6. Pentti Peltoniemi knew Molle for 20 years. Pentti told us about Molle's unfinished projects: a) Marian rakkaus [Maria's Love] based on the novel by Paavo Rintala, b) Jääkärin morsian [The Yagher's Bride] remake of the popular musical play, and c) Legioonalaisteatteri [The Theater of the Legionnaires], a story of drug addicts. - Veikko Aaltonen mentioned other unfinished projects such as Molle's 1970s plan to film Kivenpyörittäjän kylä [later filmed by Markku Pölönen, the English title being The Last Wedding], and even the plan of the remake based on Mika Waltari's epic Sinuhe egyptiläinen / The Egyptian.

Alice in Wonderland (2010) (3-D)

Alice in Wonderland (2010). Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter.

Liisa ihmemaassa / Alice i underlandet.
    US 2010. PC: Walt Disney Pictures presents - Roth Films / The Zanuck Company / Team Todd. P: Joe Roth, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd, Richard D. Zanuck.
    D: Tim Burton. SC: Linda Woolverton – based on the books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Through the Looking Glass (1871) by Lewis Carroll. DP: Dariusz Wolski – negative format: 35 mm, Digital and HDCAM – digital intermediate 4K – Disney Digital 3-D – 1,85:1. PD: Robert Stromberg. Cost: Colleen Atwood. M: Danny Elfman. S: Steve Boeddeker. ED: Chris Lebenzon.
    C: Mia Wasikowska (Alice), Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Anne Hathaway (White Queen), Crispin Glover (Stayne), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee / Tweedledum), Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat's voice), Michael Sheen (White Rabbit's voice), Alan Rickman (Blue Caterpillar's voice), Barbara Windsor (Dormouse's voice), Paul Whitehouse (March Hare's voice), Timothy Spall (Bayard's voice), Marton Csokas (Charles Kingsleigh), Tim Pigott-Smith (Lord Ascot), Michael Gough (Dodo Bird's voice), Christopher Lee (Jabberwocky's voice).
    108 min
    Released by Walt Disney Motion Pictures Finland.
    Viewed as XPand Digital 3-D projection (with Finnish subtitles only) at Tennispalatsi 2, Helsinki, 22 May 2010.

1. The 3-D presentation was technically perfect.
2. Lewis Carroll's fairy-tales are well-known but Tim Burton and Linda Woolverton manage a fresh interpretation.
3. It brings a new perspective to Alice's story. She is now a young woman who returns to Wonderland one last time.
4. The blend of live action and animation is seamless and the design of the fantasy characters is original and wonderful.
5. Mia Wasikowska has a natural and original personality as the emancipated Alice who defends herself against Victorian convention.
6. Helena Bonham Carter is great fun as the evil Red Queen.
7. Johnny Depp is a genuinely weird Mad Hatter.
8.  Danny Elfman is at his best with a full and rich fantasy music score.
9. The colour palette of the film is unsuccessful. It is different from the bright colour gamut of the advertising copy. The colour of the movie is anti-realistic, it is fantasy colour, but there is not a sense of full colour. The film has a colourized look. There are even hints of the monochrome. Gray, cold, and blue hues are predominant. Warmth is missing. I had the feeling of looking at a world after a nuclear holocaust or ecocatastrophe. Might full and bright colour have looked too garish, and what we see is a compromise? Time and again I lifted my 3-D glasses and enjoyed for a while a brighter, more luminous image, more effective in close-ups where there is no 3-D.
10. I have been intrigued by cinema's obsession with the "cancelled wedding" theme. The structure of this film is built around a "cancelled betrothal". Alice rejects the arranged betrothal and declares independence in the funny conclusion after her return from Wonderland. She says what she thinks and will be a pioneering enterpreneur to go to China.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Aika hyvä ihmiseksi

Rätt bra för att vara människa / Pretty Good for a Human Being. FI 1977. PC: Arctic-Filmi Oy. P+D: Rauni Mollberg. SC: Rauni Mollberg, Veikko Korkala, Seppo Heinonen – based on the novels Pikku Pietarin piha, Meidän herramme muurahaisia, and Pekko, runoilijan poika by Aapeli - and on elements from the works of Toivo Pekkanen and Olavi Siippainen. DP: Hannu Peltomaa. M: Harri Tuominen, Asser Fagerström. AD: Seppo Heinonen. ED: Hannu Peltomaa, Jorma Kuusisto. Cast: Olavi Ahonen (health inspector, "egg master" Hyttinen), Lauri Arajuuri ("money eater" Sulo Riippa), Ossi Aronen (Pietari), Esko Hannula (blacksmith Rusko), Irma Junnilainen (Klory), Vappu Jurkka (Mrs. Rusko), Martti Kainulainen (janitor Harakka), Einari Ketola (Kastikainen), Marja Korhonen (Rakel Riippa), Lilga Kovanko (dancer), Hannes Lukinmaa (Vennu), Sirkka Metsäsaari (Vetterantska), Roni Mikkonen (Hati), Toivo Mäkelä (photographer Hurme), Mikko Nousiainen (police officer Metso), Eila Pehkonen (Mrs. Harakka), Risto Salmi (market vendor Jormalainen), Veikko Salmi (watchmaker), Asko Sarkola (director Palkeinen), Irma Seikkula (Mrs. Hurme), Liisi Tandefelt (Miss Hilma Kivioja), Topi Tuomainen (house owner Takkunen), Rauha Valkonen (laundress Ida Pirhola), Raili Veivo (Karoliina), Gustav Wiklund (chief of police), Aili Aromäki ("aunt", the watchmaker's mother-in-law), Margit Carpelan (model), Asser Fagerström (pianist), Helge Herala (captain), Vihtori Hokka (old Suojeluskunta / Home Guard member), Kalle Hollo (driver Primus Koljonen), Esko Hukkanen (bailiff), Kauko Hynninen (chief of staff), Mika Hämäläinen (boy with accordeon), Kurt Ingvall (general), Voitto Jokela (violist), Susanna Kiehelä (Liisi Frisk), Irmeli Koskinen (nurse), Paavo Laakso (Kusti), Mikko Lecklin (younger police officer), Kalle Luotonen (poet Pyökki), Salme Paasilinna (the watchmaker's wife), Paavo Pajula (janitor Kuikka), Yrjö Paulo (senior teacher Vähälä, "language man"), Ossi Peura (singer boy), Petri Skinnari (Henry), Maija-Leena Soinne (waitress), Mikko Tanhuanpää (ferryman), Matti Tuominen (doorman Kekäläinen), Kirsti Virkki (Mrs. Pyökki). 131 min. A vintage print with no subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Rauni Mollberg), 19 May 2010

Revisited a Rauni Mollberg film which I saw on the first run and later only once on dvd. The vintage print had still surprisingly good, juicy colour (DP Hannu Peltomaa), but there was a slight reflection from our second projector.

Rauni Mollberg had a long-term interest in the popular novel Pikku Pietarin piha [The Courtyard of Little Peter] by Aapeli, depicting the life in a small town in the 1920s from the viewpoint of a 10-year old boy called Pietari [Peter] who is on speaking terms with God on his favourite rooftop. Mollberg, then a popular actor in the city of Kuopio, wrote the first theatre adaptation of the novel for summer stock in 1959, and that was the starting point for all future adaptations for the theatre, television, and cinema.

By the time Mollberg was able to do his own cinema adaptation his concept had expanded so much that now Pietari was but one character among many. Aika hyvä ihmiseksi is an ensemble film where there are dozens of characters of equal importance. Mollberg (Molle) emphasizes the historical situation of the 1920's: memories of the traumatic civil war of 1918 keep appearing. Finland had Prohibition, which marked life with hypocrisy and crime.

Mollberg's film is more vital and colourful than Jack Witikka's Pikku Pietarin piha (1961). Mollberg's drawbacks include some tiresome cliches and caricatures and a slight touch of condescension, also evident in Witikka's film. Yet more weighty is an absurd feeling for life, with some affinities with Emir Kusturica, including the use of music. The brass band sounds express here, too, an irrepressible vitality.

The turning point in the adaptations is the appearance of Karoliina, in this film in the middle-point of the story. She brings a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stagnant life of the court-yard and the small town. She is the embodiment of optimism and change. Elsa Turakainen was a pretty good Karoliina in Witikka's film, and Raili Veivo is even better in Mollberg's interpretation.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Roger Ebert and "Why Avatar Is Bad for the Movies" (Newsweek cover story)

Having read Kalle Kinnunen's blog entry on Roger Ebert's article in Newsweek International (10 May 2010) I bought the issue last night and read it at the Kon Tiki restaurant at Oslo airport. The cover title is "Why Avatar Is Bad for the Movies", and the title of the article itself is "Why I Hate 3-D (and You Should Too)". Already in January Kinnunen had expressed a very similar view, himself.

Ebert has nine arguments:
1. It's the waste of a dimension.
2. It adds nothing to the experience.
3. It can be a distraction.
4. It can create nausea and headaches.
5. Have you noticed that 3-D seems a little dim?
6. There's money to be made in selling new digital projectors.
7. Theatres slap on a surcharge of $5 to $7.50 for 3-D.
8. I cannot imagine a serious drama, such as Up in the Air or The Hurt Locker, on 3-D.
9. Whenever Hollywood has felt threatened, it has turned to technology: sound, color, widescreen, Cinerama, 3-D, stereophonic sound, and now 3-D again.

Personally, I have no strong opinions about 3-D. I found Avatar impressive (Ebert says he loved it). I have been fond of the various historical 3-D solutions, and unlike Ebert, I find Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder stronger in 3-D than in 2-D because it succeeds in achieving a feeling of vertigo in the third dimension completely transforming the atmosphere of the living-room drama. Even the climax with Grace Kelly reaching for the scissors is really enhanced in 3-D. For me 3-D does not feel more realistic. Rather it creates a more dream-like (or nightmarish or hallucinatory) space. The same goes for Avatar: we are invited to a strange virtual space where even the colours are those of a computer.

I believe Dial M for Murder was hardly distributed in 3-D not because the result was unsatisfactory but because the technical arrangement was so difficult (dual print, twin projection, silver screen, etc.). The real progress in digital 3-D is that for the first time we have a practical technical solution that every cinema can adopt. It does have its drawbacks. As Ebert states, the image is not very bright.

There is not one history of the cinema but many histories, and one of them is that of the cinema of attractions, starting with early cinema when moving images themselves were the attraction. The success of Avatar is partly based on the fact that 3-D digital cinema is the latest attraction. Although I'm impressed, myself, I agree with Ebert that I'd prefer quality drama and grown-up stories.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Agony and the Ecstasy (70 mm)

Carol Reed: The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965). Preparing the frescoes for the Sistine Chapel in 1508 - 1512. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.

Tuska ja hurmio / Vånda och extas.
    US © 1965 International Classics, Inc. P+D: Carol Reed. SC: Philip Dunne – based on the novel by Irving Stone (1961). DP: Leon Shamroy – negative: Todd AO 65 mm – print: 70 mm – colour by De Luxe. M: Alex North. PD: John DeCuir. Cost: Vittorio Nino Novarese. S: Carlton W. Faulkner, Douglas O. Williams. ED: Samuel E. Beetley.
    Loc: Apuan Alps, Bracciano, Carrara, Perugia, Rome, Todi, Tuscany, Umbria.
    C: Charlton Heston (Michelangelo), Rex Harrison (Pope Julius II), Diane Cilento (Contessina de'Medici), Harry Andrews (Bramante), Alberto Lupo (Duke of Urbino), Adolfo Celi (Giovanni de' Medici), Venantino Venantini (Paris De Grassis), John Stacy (Sangallo), Fausto Tozzi (Foreman), Maxine Audley (Woman), Tomas Milian (Raphael).
    138 min.
    A 70 mm print viewed at Tancred Kino (70 mm-Festival), Filmens Hus, Oslo, 6 May 2010 (during the FIAF Congress).

A fine print with a beautiful definition of colour and a richness of detail due to the Todd-AO.

The film is the story of how Michelangelo painted the ceiling fresco of the Sistine Chapel. The main conflict is between Michelangelo and the Pope. While Michelangelo is struggling with the fresco, the Pope is struggling to defend the entire Catholic Church from imminent defeat.

The major turning point is Michelangelo's escape from Rome to the Alps at Carrara. During his escape to the top of a mountain he sees in the cloud formations a vision of the Creation that inspires him to start again with the fresco.

There is no love interest, except for Michelangelo's love of art. Diane Cilento plays his best friend who saves him from mortal illness.

This is a parallel novel and film to Irving Stone's Lust for Life. I love Minnelli's film adaptation with Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh. Carol Reed's film is not quite as strong. My favourite is the prologue, an introduction to Michelangelo, with an emphasis on the unfinished quality in his masterpieces, including the awesome final, unfinished Pietà.

In The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston played Moses following the Michelangelo inspiration, and now he portrays Michelangelo very well.

I remember the ceiling fresco of the Sistine Chapel before the restoration, and the reconstruction in this film is closer to that experience than the restored version open to the public since 1994.

PS. 24 March 2020. This screening remains in my memory as a benchmark, a standard, a reference point of a great 70 mm experience. For me, only Jacques Tati's Playtime has been comparable in solid concreteness, in tangible physical presence, in fine soft detail combined with a grandeur of space.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Joint Technical Symposium Day Three

At the FIAF Congress at Klingenberg Kino, Oslo.

08:00 Coffee
08:30 Long Term Data Integrity for Large Audiovisual Archives - Matthew Addis. - The industry is going tapeless, and two thirds of the material cannot easily be used. The trend in information technology is obsolescence. Storage density has become huge, but lifetime is short. Every six years new drives and new tape is needed. Obsolescence is everywhere in the IT world: encoding formats, media formats, storage hardware, upgrading systems, management software. The lifetime of a HDD is 3-5 years, and this is generally known in the IT industry. Latent errors are especially grave: permanent and undetected corruption of data. Cost of risk of loss needs to be managed. Approaches to long lived digital media can be expensive and will not be mainstream. Multiple copies of data tape with regular checking of integrity is needed. BBC uses resilient encoding (DIRAC) uncompressed. There are 37 risks with IT.
09:00 HD in the Archive Domain - Philippe Gerrier. - The INA view to the transition to HDTV, including how standard definition can be re-used in a high definition environment.
[James M. Turner's presentation was cancelled.]
10:00 Emerging Practices in the Cultural Heritage Domain: Engaging Users on a Large Scale, Collaboratively - Johan Oomen. - Interactive use of archival material from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision on the web. - In the discussion, Martin Koerber commented that the Netherlands is an access paradise, Nadja Wallaszkovits reacted that the NL web is an archival hell.
10:30 Coffee
11:00 Semantically Enhanced Audio-Visual Repository - Svetla Boytcheva. - New technologies for semantically enhanced maintenance of data, with metadata, and semantic web analyses.
11:30 Long Time Preservation: The Time After - Hermann Lewetz. - Comparison of systems, a) DAM (Digital Asset Management System), b) OAIS (Open Archival Information System): the Austrian Mediathek has written a simple Linux script both for the migration of digital files and for the checking.
12:00 Teaching Digital Preservation - Paolo Cherchi Usai. - Paolo's three main concerns were a) the transmission of knowledge, b) the analogue / digital divide, c) the learning curve. He stressed the interaction of the three areas of archival, academia, and laboratories. We need extensive expertise in analogue and digital, we believe in apprenticeship, and we believe in personalized training.
12:30 Open Microphone
13:00 END of JTS 2010

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Joint Technical Symposium Day Two

At the FIAF Congress at Klingenberg Kino, Oslo.

08:00 Coffee
08:30 Audio goes Video: Videographic Capturing of Audio Related Metadata with Analogue Magnetic Tapes of the Collection Oskar Sala - Nadia Wallaszkovits - A fascinating case study: Oskar Sala was a pioneer of electronic music, and he left a collection of 1200 magnetic tapes.
09:00 Audio-Visual Preservation: A Perpetual Dilemma Among Selected Philippine Academic Libraries - Christine M. Abrigo. - Preservation challenges in difficult circumstances.
09:30 Monitoring the Broadcast of Archive Content. - Frederic Dumas. - The INA signature technology.
10:00 [Programme change.] Roeland Ordelman: Audiovisual Content Exploitation. - The Dutch Pinkpop 40th Anniversary archive online.
10:30 Coffee
11:00 Scanning Technologies for Motion Picture Optical Sound Tracks - Chair: Robert Heiber - Panel: Robert Heiber, Henrik Lausen, Bernhard Besserer, Uli Ruedel. - Questions of accessing optical soundtrack negatives (OSTN) directly saving costs and time. - Restoration of optical soundtracks by digital image processing. - Real-time transfer of the OSTN via Chace Optical Sound Processor. - SoundDirect, a Laser Soundtrack Scanner.
13:00 Lunch Break
14:00 Supervision of the Analogue Signal Paths in Legacy Media Migration Processing Using Digital Signal Processing - Jörg Houpert. - The final transfer of physical carriers to file formats for preservation should be done without quality loss. - Three methods: 1) Single-ended error detection based on transfer error models. 2) Full automatic reference-based effor analysis using calibration media. 3) Automatic signal verification using multiple ingests of the same physical media.
14:30 Migration of Media-Based Born-Digital Audiovisual Content to Files - Chris Lacinak, David Rice, and Richard Wright. - Preservation philosophies and strategies. - Data-centric workflows and tools. High-efficiency and high-accuracy migration of born-digital, tape and disc based media. - The transition from digital videotape to digital files. - Challenging questions in translating preservation princ iples into technical practices.
15:00 Determing the Composition of Shellac Disks: Challenge or Fantasy? - Xavier Sené. - Based on the analysis of Pathé discs 1906-1919 and Gramophone / Zonophone discs, 1897-1907.
15:30 Audio Recovery and Identification of the First Norwegian Sound Recording. - John W. McBride – Lars Gaustad. - The sophisticated methods of reconstructing and identifying the first existing Norwegian sound recording from 1879 on an Edison tinfoil.
16:00 END

Monday, May 03, 2010

Joint Technical Symposium Day One

Joint Technical Symposium 2010: Digital Challenges and Digital Opportunities in Audiovisual Archiving. At the FIAF Congress at the Klingenberg Kino, Oslo.

08:00 Coffee
08:30 Opening of the symposium
09:00 Bits is Bits. Right? Guess Again. - George Blood - Serious questions of hardware and software differences regarding long-term preservation. The problems are widely known by manufacturers and blatantly hidden.
09:30 Scaling Up: Using Parallel Transfers in Research Archives to Increase Audio Preservation Efficiency - Mike Casey. - Methods to increase the efficiency of transfers to meet the deadline before fatal degradation and obsolescence of source materials.
10:00 Monolith – Migrationless Long Term Digital Storage. - Peter Fornaro. - Bits-on-film technology.
10:30 Coffee
11:00 Stained Glass. Parallels in Preservation Analogies in the Conservation of Stained Glass and AV Media - Jim Lindner. - What one can learn from preservation practices with a one thousand year old tradition.
11:30 Digital Archiving of Audiovisual Material – Pilot Projects in Europe. - Arne Nowak. - The ED-Cine Project to start with small complete solutions.
12:00 Digitalization of Norwegian Cinemas - the First Complete National Digitalization Scheme. - Jørgen Stensland. - The first complete national digital cinema scheme is taking place right now, during these months, in Norway. It also means that first-run cinemas that participate need to get rid of the 35 mm projection, since it is not allowed to have both.
12:30 Digital Cinema – Bringing Film Classics Back to the Cinema Screen. - Erlend Jonassen. - Including a sample of Markens grøde (NO 1921) with the original music of Leif Halvorsen, conducted by Frank Strobel and played by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra in 2008. - There are digital cinematheques in seven Norwegian cities.
13:00 Lunch Break
14:00 16 mm Reversal Material in the Light of Transfer to High Definition Video - David Pflueger. - Seven samples with different methods were completely different. From 16 mm sources television senders prefers cropped widescreen to pillarbox transfers.
14:30 Digital Restoration and Preservation of Ginrin (Toshio Matsumoto 1955) with new black-and-white separation film for digital intermediate. - Akihiro Seino - Fumiaki Itakura. - In Japan, motion pictures have been officially characterized as an important culture form for the first time in 2009. - Beautiful samples of Ginrin / Bicycle in a Dream (JP 1955) with concrete music by Toru Takemitsu and special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya.
15:00 Dust BW: Detection of Dust and Scratches on Photographic Silver Halide (Black and White) Material by Polarized Dark Field Illumination - Rudolf Gschwind. - New optical scanning systems. The diffracted light of the fined grain silver can be suppressed whereas the diffracted light of dust and scratches is still visible.
15:30 Context Sensitive Archiving of Videos on the Web. - Thomas Drugeon – Matteo Trelani. - The immense project of website archiving at the INA.
16:00 END

Sunday, May 02, 2010

70 mm Festival at The Norwegian Film Institute

I wish I had time to see these...

FREDAG 30.4 19:00 Opening Film: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY - restored 141 min
Short film: A Year along an abandoned Road

LØRDAG 1.5 12:30 DOCTOR DOLITTLE – restored 152 min
15:30 PATTON - restaurert 172 min

14:00 WINDJAMMER – remastered 150 min
17:30 THE BIBLE: IN THE BEGINNING… - restored  174 min


19:30 WINDJAMMER - remastered 150 min

ONSDAG 5.5 20:30 FLYING CLIPPER - restored  158 min

TORSDAG 6.5 18:00 THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY - restaurert 138 min
20:30 PATTON - restored  172 min

FREDAG 7.5 17:30 THE BIBLE IN THE BEGINNING - restored  174 min
Short film: Tanakh Bibelen Al-Quran
21:30 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY – restored  141 min

LØRDAG 8.5 17:00 DOCTOR DOLITTLE – restored copy 152 min
20:00 WINDJAMMER – remastered 150 min

16:15 DR. ZHIVAGO 197 min
20:00 LAWRENCE OF ARABIA 216 min

20:30 FLYING CLIPPER – restored  158 min

20:30 THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY - restored 138 min

20:30 LAWRENCE OF ARABIA 216 min

FIAF Congress in Oslo 2-8 May 2010

The annual congress of The International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) takes place this year in Oslo, 2-8 May. There is a Joint Technical Symposium titled Digital Challenges and Digital Opportunities in Audiovisual Archiving. The recipient of the FIAF 2010 Award is Liv Ullmann. Locations: Norsk Filminstitutt (NFI) (Dronningens gate 16), Nasjonalbiblioteket / National Library (NL) (Henrik Ibsens gate 110) and Klingenberg Kino / Klingenberg Cinema (KC), Olav V's gate 4.

1-2 May, Executive Committee and FIAF Commissions (NFI), Welcome Party (NL)
3 May, Joint Technical Symposium (KC) and Reception at Oslo Town Hall
4 May, Joint Technical Symposium (KC) and Liv Ullmann presents Trolösa (NFI)
5 May, Joint Technical Symposium (KC), Commission Workshops and Regional Meetings (NFI)
6 May, Norwegian Explorers Field Trip & Picnic, Bygdøy Museums
7 May, Second Century Forum and General Assembly (NFI)
8 May, General Assembly, Open Forum (NFI), (I'll miss the closing party at the Opera).