Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Back to reality after Inception. Kino Killa, Savonlinna, 27 July 2010.
Foto Laila Alanen

Inception / Inception (Inception).
    US / GB © 2010 Warner Bros. Pictures / Legendary Pictures. P: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan.
    D+SC: Christopher Nolan.
    DP: Wally Pfister - film negative format: 35 mm (also VistaVision for aerial shots), 65 mm (some scenes), and HDTV (high-speed shots) – released on 35 mm, IMAX – and DCP (via 4K) – colour – anamorphic Panavision 2,35:1.
    PD: Guy Dyas. Cost: Jeffrey Kurland. Art Department: large. Visual Effects team: large. Special Effects team: large. Digital Effects team: large. Stunt team: large. M: Hans Zimmer. Theme song: "Non, je ne regrette rien" (Charles Dumont, Michel Vaucaire) perf. Edith Piaf. S: Richard King. ED: Lee Smith.
    Loc: England (Bedfordshire, Farnborough Airfield, University College London), Canada (Alberta), France (Paris), USA (Pasadena, Downtown L.A.), Morocco (Tangiers), Japan (Tokyo).
    C: Leonardo DiCaprio (Cobb), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur), Ellen Page (Ariadne), Tom Hardy (Eames), Ken Watanabe (Saito), Dileep Rao (Yusuf), Cillian Murphy (Robert Fischer, Jr.), Tom Berenger (Browning), Marion Cotillard (Mal), Pete Postlethwaite (Maurice Fischer), Michael Caine (Miles), Lukas Haas (Nash), Tai-Li Lee (Tadashi).
    148 min.
    U.S. release 13 July 2010, Finnish release 23 July 2010.
    Released in Finland by Sandrew Metronome Distribution Finland, in the print viewed Finnish subtitles only by Tommi Lupunen.
    Viewed at Kino Killa, Savonlinna, 27 July 2010

Christopher Nolan's Inception is a labour of love, and it comes highly recommended. I have liked Nolan's Memento, Insomnia and The Prestige. I had considered Tim Burton's Batman Returns the all-time best fantasy film, but Nolan's Batman Begins reached the same level of inspiration, and The Dark Knight was even better. Heath Ledger's The Joker is my candidate for the most memorable monster in the history of the cinema.

What I liked: Christopher Nolan believes in the high quality of cinematography. The visualization of this dream saga is outstanding. There are hundreds of artists in the camera, art, and effects departments of this movie, and there are many different visual modes, but this is an auteur film, and Nolan has a strong overall command. Inception is also being released on IMAX, and it would certainly be best experienced in that format. I have been suffering from the mediocre quality of the digital intermediate in most of the current releases, but Nolan has favoured photochemical cinematography and laboratory work in general, using digital only for effects. It seems that even the effects are non-digital whenever possible.

Inception is a gorgeous visual experience, and everything else about the film is state of the art. The talents are at their best. Although the narrative is seemingly exceptionally complicated, it is actually slight. There are some five layers in this dream saga. There is finally a reality level on the surface and there is a connection to real life at the bottom layer. In between there are too many chases, shoot-outs and explosions. The central conceit of inception is impossible because the essential nature of dreams is alien to such efforts and because there are fundamental individual and cultural differences in dreams.

Postscript 7 August: interesting analyses and valuable links by Thompson and Bordwell. Postscript 14 August: more comments and links with Thompson and Bordwell.

Postscript 12 August: see beyond the jump break Edgar Allan Poe's poem A Dream Within a Dream

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cécile Aubry (1928-2010)

Cécile Aubry died on Monday, 19 July, 2010. Since I heard about her death, the Belle et Sébastien theme song started to play in my mind. Cécile Aubry was a popular author of children's books and director and scenarist of tv series based on her stories. She also wrote the lyrics to the Belle et Sébastien theme song, called "L'Oiseau", and composed by Eric Demarsan and Daniel Jerome A. White. The Belle et Sébastien tv series (FR 1965) was popular in my childhood in Finland and I have fond memories of it. I read from the obituaries that the role of Sébastien was played by Cécile Aubry's own son, Mehdi El Glaoui. Sébastien's best friend Belle is a Pyrenean Mountain Dog.

Before her career as a writer and director Cécile Aubry was a film actor, debuting in Manon (1949) by Henri-Georges Clouzot, which updated the Manon Lescaut story to contemporary Europe and Palestine. Cécile Aubry had the title role as the young woman who has to escape punishment after the Occupation because of her attentions to the German soldiers. Instead of New Orleans, the Clouzot story ends in Palestine, where Manon arrives together with the Jewish refugees, the Holocaust survivors. This is one of the films I'd most like to see, but it has been difficult to access, and we could not show it in our Clouzot retrospective in Helsinki. Mikael Enckell who saw it during the first run in Helsinki has kept recommending this film.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Knight and Day

Knight & Day / Knight and Day (Knight and Day). USA (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Regency Enterprises / [Dune?]. EX: Arnon Milchan. P: Todd Garner, Cathy Konrad, Steve Pink, Joe Roth. D: James Mangold. DP: Phedon Papamichael - shot on 35 mm (Fuji, Super 35) - master format: digital intermediate - released on 35 mm at 2,35:1. PD: Andrew Menzies. COST: Arianne Phillips. Costumer (Cameron Diaz): Yulia Gershenzon. Special effects: many experts. Visual effects: many companies. Stunts: several talents. M: John Powell. S: Donald Sylvester. ED: Quincy Z. Gunderson, Michael McCusker. LOC: Boston (Massachusetts), Cádiz and Sevilla (Andalucía), Port Antonio (Jamaica), Salzburg (Austria), Sycamore Cove State Beach (Point Mugu, California). With: Tom Cruise (Roy Miller), Cameron Diaz (June Havens), Peter Sarsgaard (Fitzgerald), Jordi Mollà (Antonio), Viola Davis (CIA chief George), Paul Dano (Simon Feck). 109 min. (US release 23 June 2010). A FS Film release (16 July 2010) with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Suvi Jyrkilä / Sylva Lönnberg viewed at Bio Olavi, Savonlinna, 21 July 2010.

After two and a half weeks of swimming and fishing by the lake it was time to visit civilization. Savonlinna right now is full of excitement with the Opera Festival, which we skip this year; it's fully booked anyway. But at the Savonlinna market place at Muikkuravintola Kalastajankoju the fried fresh vendace is delicious (vendace, the signature local fish, tastes best right here, as it is sensitive to transportation). And afterwards one of the legendary lörtsy pies (filled with apple or cloudberry etc.) of Sirkka Makkonen's café at the market square.

The two cinemas of Savonlinna, Bio Olavi and Kino Killa, are screening big summer hits: Shrek 4, Twilight 3, and Knight and Day. To see Knight and Day I visit Bio Olavi for the first time, and we enjoy the cinema experience, the friendly service of the intelligent staff and the comfort of the chairs. Before the feature there are five previews (in Finland called trailers), the final Harry Potter sequels, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the Karate Kid remake, Toy Story 3D, and Wall Street 2. Although the shot of Gordon Gekko being released from prison and retrieving his large 20-year old mobile phone is already familiar it still gets the biggest laugh of the screening.

In Knight and Day, Tom Cruise (48) is in great shape, ageing well. I respect Tom Cruise who divides his career in two: as a superstar who can carry big hits and as an actor who takes chances with directors such as Levinson, Scorsese, Altman, Kubrick, and Anderson. This project belongs to the first category.

Cameron Diaz is the life of the party. She is a favourite mainstream comedienne of mine (I'd hope to see her more in roles like There's Something About Mary). In this film she is the scream queen rather than the action heroine although she gets to save Tom Cruise twice in the end. Her character, called June Havens, is an expert car mechanic, and her project is to reconstruct her father's Pontiac GTO (1967 I believe it was), the legendary muscle car.

This is not a director's film, and it was impossible for me to recognize a personal touch by James Mangold whose work I have admired in films like Cop Land and I Walk the Line. Mangold is a great director of actors, and maybe his mission here was to make the most of Cruise's and Diaz's work in their cardboard roles. Cruise's character remains wooden but Diaz has bright moments.

As for the concept amazingly little has changed in a hundred years. The action film genre started at the Eclair company in 1908 in the Nick Carter, Zigomar, and Protéa films directed by Victorin Jasset. Those films are full of adventures and surprises in cars, trains, and airplanes, and their stunts remain thrilling today. But already a hundred years ago there were valiant action and adventure heroines and immortal villainesses, and compared to them, Cameron Diaz's role is pretty passive.

As we drove back through the breathtakingly beautiful Punkaharju ridge flanked by Lake Puruvesi it was a stimulating effort to try to find something to think about Knight and Day.

This crazy action romp has a subtext about the intelligence services in the U.S.A. After the 11 of September, 2001, the budget of the U.S. intelligence services has grown over 20 times. There are over 2000 intelligence services in the U.S.A. They capture more than a 1,5 billion messages daily. But they are not well organized and they have serious problems of communication. Private security business is booming. - Interestingly, before the 11 of September the existing intelligence services had information that could have given sufficient grounds to prevent what happened, but the problem already then was bad communication.

Knight and Day can be seen as a parody of this condition. Although Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer is a much better film, I think Knight and Day gives a more accurate account of the subject!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

On holiday from the cinema

A pike caught at Lake Puruvesi (Lake Saimaa), 17 July 2010. Foto Laila Alanen

Holiday at Lake Saimaa. Here July is the worst month of the year for fishing, there are no big fish in our shallow-water bay anyway, and in the temperatures of 30 grades even the medium-sized ones retreat into the deep waters far away. Today in the middle of the afternoon a hungry 2 kg pike caught the Kuusamo Professor lure (make: red and black sawtooth pattern ideal for the clear water of the Puruvesi Lake) and put up a fight, jumping in the air. In July pikes are at their most ferocious as fighters. Pike is sometimes underestimated as a dish, but if you understand how to make it, it can be delicious. Enough to eat for eight.

The lure is also an image, a moving image, with an illusion powerful enough for a substantial catch.

Sigmund Freud's concept of art was basically Hamlet's The Mouse Trap: an artifice with a function to reveal - and catch - something fundamental in real life.

Slow Cinema (debate opened by Nick James in Sight & Sound)

Andy Warhol: Sleep (US 1964) starring John Giorno. Duration: 5 h 12 min. Photo: IMDb.

Nick James has provoked a debate on slow cinema in two of his editorials in Sight & Sound ("Passive Aggressive", April and "Being Boring", July, 2010), Jonathan Romney having defined slow cinema as a "varied strain of austere minimalist cinema" in S&S, February 2010. Nick James reports that one of the provoked commentators is one "Harry Tuttle" who keeps a website called Contemporary Contemplative Cinema.

Nick James repeats a passage that he considers his most offensive: "There are times, as you watch someone trudge up yet another woodland path, when you feel an implicit threat: admit you're bored and you're a philistine. Such films are passive-aggressive in that they demand great swathes of our precious time to achieve quite fleeting and slender aesthetic and political effects: sometimes it's worth it, sometimes not".

This certainly sounds familiar and to the point, and it is the critic's task to say what he thinks. The aspect where I disagree is the concern about being a philistine. I would like a critic to stay above such concerns.

Myself, I love slow cinema. I love experimental film, including Brakhage and Snow. I love Tarkovsky, Sokurov, Erice, and Kiarostami. But certainly Nick James is correctly attacking the danger of mannerism in slow cinema.

I also love rapid editing in cinema, from Griffith, Gance, and Eisenstein till today's action films. I also loved the best music videos of the 1970s and the 1980s and am sure there are more good music videos today than then although it is harder to wash the gold from the sand now because of the extraordinary explosion of the music video. The music video had mostly a deplorable impact on theatrical films. Rapid editing is impressive in a short format or in a special sequence but can become boring for the duration of a feature film.

Today I'm usually bored by fast editing in a mainstream entertainment film. It seems that fast editing can be an attempt to hide the fact that the actors lack talent, they cannot perform their own stunts, the special effects are not very good, the digital intermediate is mediocre, and the film-maker has nothing to say.

The current slow cinema trend of many leading film artists can be seen as a reaction to all that.

The fast editing trend since the 1980's is also a sign of the times - the age of the short attention span and instant gratification. "I want it all, and I want it now", as Queen satirized it. Children and young people may perceive all previous cinema as slow cinema.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Helene Schjerfbeck and Sisters in Art (exhibition)

Helene Schjerfbeck: Ovi / The Door. Oil painting created in Brittany, 1884.

Exhibition at Retretti curated by Riitta Konttinen. Book by Riitta Konttinen: Naiset taiteen rajoilla: naistaiteilijat Suomessa 1800-luvulla [Women Transcending the Limits of Art: Women Artists in Finland in the 19th Century]. Helsinki: Tammi 2010, 268 pages in large format.

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946) is another surefire name to attract a lot of visitors to the Retretti Art Centre, and one can be happy when high quality brings success. But again Retretti is not only playing it safe. Many well-known Schjerfbeck paintings are excluded. Instead, exciting, little-known masterpieces are on display.

The Door (1884) is one of them, a painting that was ahead of its time in its stark minimalism. It took decades until Schjerfbeck was able to create consistently in that original, modern vein.

Helene Schjerfbeck is the figurehead of the exhibition's great story of the breakthrough of Finnish women artists in the 19the century. Other masters included Fanny Churberg, Maria Wiik, Helena Westermarck, Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, Elin Danielson-Gambogi, Beda Stjernschantz, Ellen Thesleff, and Greta Hällfors-Sipilä.

Finnish women's battle for the right to create was an important sector of emancipation. That battle is topical even now, but today at least it is no longer relevant to speak of "women artists".

The level of artistic achievement is not the only selection criterion. The big idea is also to present many unknown artists to be discovered and to display a rich variety of styles, themes, topics, and approaches. Yet there are more than enough masterpieces in this excellent exhibition.

Among the cinematic links I kept thinking that the breakthrough of the women artists coincides with the birth of the cinema. Both the contemporary art and the cinema bore witness to the last decades of the traditional woman and to the birth of the modern, emancipated, liberated woman.

Today a cinematic soulmate to Helene Schjerfbeck is Pedro Costa (the art of meditation, the colour palette, the art of natural light, the profound melancholy, the profiles). Schjerfbeck's The Door could be a frame from a Pedro Costa movie.

Helene Schjerfbeck and Sisters in Art (Retretti exhibition presentation)

From the official presentation:

Helene Schjerfbeck and Sisters in Art, the lead exhibition of the Retretti Art Centre’s summer 2010 programme presents a broad overview of Finnish women artists from the first half of the 19th century until the turn of the century. In addition to Schjerfbeck’s work, the exhibition includes works by Fanny Churberg and Maria Wiik as well as of such lesser-known artists as Mathilda Rotkirch and Hanna Rönnberg. The exhibition is curated by Professor Riitta Konttinen.

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) is the best-known Finnish women artist. From an early age her work attracted considerable attention but was also the object of serious criticism during her lifetime. The free painting style and direct realism of her first large figurative painting, Boy feeding his Younger Sister, painted in Brittany in 1881, led to its being given a contradictory reception. Her promising career as an historical painter was cut off by the widely held view that the subject matter was considered unsuitable for a woman.

A great deal has been written and continues to be written about Helene Schjerfbeck´s career and oeuvre but she was by no means the only woman to carve out a path in Finland’s male-dominated 19th century art world. She had both numerous predecessors and contemporaries, some of whom, such as Fanny Chruberg, Maria Wiik, Ellen Thesleff, Venny Soldan-Brofeldt or Elin Danielson-Gambogi, are well-known today.

There are, however, many more whose work is exhibited only seldom or not at all. Their artist stories are, however, moving and their work appealing and interesting from the point of view of the development of Finnish art.

The paintings and drawings in Retretti’s exhibition relate how women entered the Finnish art arena. The time span runs from the romantic Realism of the first half of 19th century, through Naturalism and on to late 19th century Symbolism, ending with the early steps of Modernism around the turn of the century.

Retretti’s summer 2010 exhibition presents works also by Mathilda Rotkirch, Victorine Nordenswan, Alexandra Frosterus-Såltin, Victoria Åberg, Julia Stigzelius-de Cock, Amélie Lundahl, Ada Thilen, Helena Westermarck, Dora Wahlroos, Hanna Rönnberg, Anna Sahlstén, Beda Stjernschantz, Hilda Flodin and Ester Helenius.

Riitta Konttinen’s book on 19th century Finnish women artists, Naiset taiteen rajoilla (Women on the Fringe of Art, Tammi) is published in conjunction with the exhibition.

The Retretti Art Centre 2010 Summer Programme

The Retretti Summer Exhibitions 3.6.-29.8.2010
1. Helene Schjerfbeck and Sisters in Art - paintings, watercolours, drawings
2. The Slow Gaze - ceramic sculptures and potter's wheel-turned wall plaques by Merja Haapala - paintings by Teemu Saukkonen
3. Pekka Kauhanen: Moon Lady and the Spirit of the Cave - sculptures
4. Pekka Luukkola - Photographs - landscape photographs
5. Iris Ceramics and New Purchases from the Kyösti Kakkonen Collection - Finnish art nouveau: A.W. Finch design from the Iris factory (1897 to 1902) - modern glass design by Oiva Toikka
6. Retretti for Children 2010: exhibition and workshop - naivist paintings by Kaarina Alsta
7. Printmaking Studio Himmelblau - black-and-white prints by Pentti Kaskipuro, Outi Heiskanen, Hannu Hyrske, and Maija Albrech - colour prints by Tuija Arminen, Heli Kurunsaari, and Minna Sarvanne
8. Punkalive Milan-Shanghai - new furniture design also on display in the Milan Design Week 2010 and on the Shanghai World's Fair 2010

Joseph McBride: Searching for John Ford: A Life (a book)

Joseph McBride: Searching for John Ford: A Life. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001. - Read in the paperback edition, London: Faber and Faber, 2004, 838 pages.

One of the all-time best books on the cinema.

For over a month I have had Joseph McBride's magisterial book as my travel companion, first in Lapland, then in Bologna, and finally since last week by Lake Saimaa, where the temperature has never been so high since the 1930s. Even the water temperature has risen to an exceptional 27 degrees. The fish have escaped to deeper waters, and even professional fishermen have trouble finding them.

More time to read, then, and I'm a fast reader, yet I have digested Searching for John Ford slowly. There are many great books on John Ford (Bogdanovich, Sarris, Anderson, Sinclair, Dan Ford, Gallagher, Peary...), but this labour of love rises to a new level while fully acknowledging the merits of the fellow Fordians.

For me, John Ford is one of the three greatest masters of the cinema. He is one of the film artists whose work can be compared with Homer (the epic poetry, the art of portraying a man through action) and Shakespeare (the historical vision, the sense of tragedy, the love for the richness of humanity, the art of the popular play, the effortless movement from horror - drama - humour - to farce). McBride rises to the occasion, and while his book is full of new fascinating detail he never loses sight of the big picture.

John Ford was a man of contradictions, and Joseph McBride is a master navigator through this life full of paradoxes. His book is a wonderful example of what I'd call the third generation of biographies of film artists. The first generation books, often autobiographies, were idealized, the second generation biographies were biased in emphasizing the dark side of the genius, and these third generation books grow to a level of a multi-layered synthesis.

McBride's book is brimming with new original research and insight starting with Ford's Irish roots and his childhood in Maine until the final years. In his last feature films Ford the artist was open to new approaches and fundamental reassessments while politically he became a hawk. McBride gives a fascinating account with new information on Ford's navy career since 1934, his remarkable World War II record and his important contributions to the intelligence services before the formation of the OSS and the CIA.

Maureen O'Hara's autobiography 'Tis Herself (2004) raised the question about John Ford's sexual identity. McBride and Pierre Rissient deny that Ford was homosexual. But in the light of the biographical facts the question of Ford's bisexuality is hardly irrelevant... And even disregarding biography, the films speak for themselves. One needs just to think who gets the loving looks of the camera. I believe that all Ford biographers have sensed this and decided to look the other way. Ford was apparently not a sexually especially active man but he admired and loved both women and men just as his fellow poets in Classical Greece and Elizabethan England did.

Joseph McBride updates the John Ford filmography significantly. Besides Ford's 137 theatrical films he supervised at least 87 military non-fiction films (intelligence, education, etc.). I agree with McBride that Ford reached his greatest artistic level in 1939 and kept this level of artistic growth and renewal until the end of his feature film career.

I'm happy to disagree with McBride on one film. He hates (as did Ford, himself) Two Rode Together (1961), which happens to be the John Ford film I have most frequently seen (it happened to be the first Ford film I had on home video) and always look forward to see again. It is a special film, starting as a farce but turning into tragedy. For me, it's Ford's Cervantesian film, The Searchers played in Don Quixote - Sancho Panza mode. The cynicism is on the surface only, as there are surprising revelations to the character of the crooked Marshal Guthrie McCabe, who understands best what the others have a hard time swallowing about the truth of the Indian captives. The film is also the remarkable introduction in Ford's oeuvre of the great Fordian actor James Stewart (they did four cinema or tv films together). Reading McBride's book I wondered whether Stewart was not the greatest Fordian actor of all, at least the one best able to convey his psychic complexity and sense of humour. It's a pity their paths crossed so late but fortunately they did.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Imatra Falls (holiday beginning)

Yesterday I returned from Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, and today, after some urgent business at the office, it's time for holiday. We stop for dinner at the Hotel Imatran Valtionhotelli. This National Romantic castle built in 1903 (architect: Usko Nyström) is rich in history, and it has been preserved in excellent taste by the current keeper, the Rantasipi hotel chain.

A perfect point of transition from Il Cinema Ritrovato, this castle is a showcase of the belle époque in Finland. La belle époque in Europe and especially in France was celebrated in many films I saw in Bologna, from the Lumière brothers till Albert Capellani till the Cento anni fà series.

Finland belonged to the Russian Empire a hundred years ago, and we are near the Russian border now. Since the fall of the wall, mobility across the border has increased, and Russians visit Finland eagerly again like they used to a hundred years ago. I order a salad à la russe.

The city of Imatra was built around the legendary Imatra Falls, the biggest falls of Finland, from where the waters of Lake Saimaa fall to the River Vuoksi. The falls were already mentioned in our Kalevala epic ("there is none to conquer the Vuoksi, no one to overcome the Imatra"). Finland's first touristic spot and national landscape have been visited by many prominent people since Catherine the Great. The Imatra Falls were once also a fashionable European spot to commit suicide. The Imatra Falls were also the early cinema's favourite Finnish location, with various short views being shot there from since ca. 1905.

In 1929-1951 the Imatran Voima company tamed the falls and since then they have been flowing freely only occasionally and for very short durations, 15-20 minutes at a time.

We had never seen the falls unchained before, and as the clock stroke 18, to our surprise, there they were, surging and roaring in the brilliant afternoon sun for a quarter of an hour, a magnificent spectacle of the power of nature.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2010

As a parallel to last year's Frank Capra retrospective Il Cinema Ritrovato showed a retrospective of all John Ford's surviving silents (most of them are lost) and many of his early sound films. With topical relevance, the retrospective began in Peshawar and the Khyber Pass, where Victor McLaglen arrives to stop the Holy War against the West in The Black Watch (1929), almost meeting his match in the princess (Myrna Loy) of the Afghan mountain rebels.

With introductions by Joseph McBride we had a unique chance to learn more about "the John Ford movie mystery". Ford was proud to be a "journeyman director", and indeed he could do a risqué pre-Code comedy with a George Cukor approach (The Brat, 1931) as well as a straight Tom Mix adventure story (North of the Hudson Bay, 1923). Yet his unique vision was evident from the beginning (Straight Shooting, 1917), and already in 1919 he did a remarkable "end of the West" movie (The Last Outlaw).

We got to see early appearances by John Wayne and Ward Bond (Salute, 1929), and in the prison movie Up the River (1930) the first feature film roles of Spencer Tracy (already confident) and Humphrey Bogart (still seeking).

The surviving scenes of Mother Machree (1928) are valuable in assessing Ford's great theme of motherhood. The most highly expected film of the retro was Pilgrimage (1933), a drama of deranged mother love. It has been rarely seen because no film screening print exists, and even in Bologna it was shown on HDCam SR. The highlight of the retro was the premiere of the new Timothy Brock score for 3 Bad Men (1926) performed by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale on the Piazza Maggiore. It was a memorable occasion to go deep into the John Ford legacy, and yet I agree with McBride that Ford matured into a great poet first in 1939, after 90 films.

An inspired "A Hundred Years Ago" series was mounted for the eighth time, and Mariann Lewinsky was the curator. However, the supply of available prints had become so overwhelming by 1910 that the selection was now restricted to Europe. There the Film d'Art tradition flourished, prestige directors started to be identified, non-fiction grew in prestige, as well, and the golden age of the Italian comedy series started. All major Italian companies had their own comedy series with stars such as Cocò, Tontolini, Fricot, Robinet and Jolicoeur. The ultramicroscope was introduced to science films, and the valse apache became a continental fashion. In one of the most memorable shows we got to witness how even early cinema, whether fiction or non-fiction, could be colour-driven.

A remarkable spinoff of the "A Hundred Years Ago" project was the first part of the retrospective of Albert Capellani (1871-1931), the first ever extended tribute to the great pioneer of French cinema. His versions of Les Misérables and Germinal (both 1913) are highly regarded, and a highlight of last year's Bologna festival was L'Assommoir (1909). Now we got to examine Capellani as a director of stars such as Stacia Napierkowska, his sense of visual beauty in L'Arlésienne (1908), and his personal touch in fairy-tale films (Le Pied de mouton, 1907, with effects by Segundo de Chomón). The most memorable show was a compilation of Capellani's thrillers. Several of the thrillers will be worth revisiting, most excitingly L'Épouvante (1911) which displays real visual inspiration. In Mistinguett's diva vehicle La Glu (1913) the story of the femme fatale ruining the lives of four men is over the top but Capellani's mise-en-scène is always sober.

The most magnificent restorations were screened at night on the Piazza Maggiore. It is, however, impossible to give a fair assessment of the quality of a restoration in the special circumstances of an open air show. The opening gala presentation was The Leopard (1963). The restoration was made from the original Technirama camera negatives (horizontal 35 mm) scanned in 8K and restored in 4K. The result looked truly gorgeous. Soirée Lumière (Lumière!) was produced in 2009 at the Institut Lumière in a digital format, and the wonderful selection of a hundred films was wittily hosted by Thierry Frémaux. The 2K restoration of Boudu sauvé des eaux (1932) looked bright and sharp from the distance, but a friend who had a closer look commented on the video-like quality with the vibration missing from Jean Renoir's plein air comedy. Another friend who has seen it in Paris applauded the nitrate look of the restoration, and yet another friend commented on its unconvincing nitrate imitation look. Seen on the Piazza was also Metropolis (1927), restored in 2010 by Martin Koerber, Anke Wilkening, and Frank Strobel. I like this already legendary restoration. The recently found 16 mm Buenos Aires footage adds a fascinating aspect to the mythic film. The original Gottfried Huppertz score, according to which the film was shot and edited, makes better sense than ever. Frank Strobel conducted the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale and confirmed his growing reputation as a master of his field.

On the last night Bologna was so sultry that even Frenchmen and Italians were groaning. Things were put into perspective by Pierre Schoendoerffer's La 317ème section (1965, restored by La Cinémathèque française) where we saw the really lethal heat and humidity of the Vietnam jungle.

La 317ème section (2010 restoration)

22.00 Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, 3 July 2010
LA 317ème SECTION / Troiscents dix-septième section / 317 battaglione d'assalto / 317. osasto
FR/ES 1965. D: Pierre Schoendoerffer. DP: Raoul Coutard. LOC: Cambodia. With Bruno Cremer, Jacques Perrin. 94 min
Presenta Serge Toubiana (La Cinémathèque française).
Restored (2010) via a 2K digital intermediate by La Cinémathèque française and StudioCanal with the support of the Franco-American Cultural Fund.
English subtitles on print. E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti.

Both Pierre Schoendoerffer and Raoul Coutard are veterans of the Vietnam war. This is their powerful and original war film that belongs to the platoon-type subgenre. The action is set in 1954, before Dien Bien Phu. The film is shot in realistic style. The restoration looks bright and clear and works perfectly on the piazza. I watched only over half an hour of the film after the long farewells and introductions since I have an early wake-up call for my morning flight back to Helsinki. The film certainly will be worthy seeing in its entirety.

Today Bologna was so sultry than even Italians and Frenchmen were suffering. Of course, this is nothing compared with the jungle of Vietnam with its doubled heat and humidity rates.

As I write this at midnight after the piazza screening the music on my inner soundtrack is Metropolis from last night.


John Ford: Arrowsmith (US 1931), with Helen Hayes. P: Samuel Goldwyn, b.o. the novel by Sinclair Lewis, with Ronald Colman in the title role.

14.30 Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 3 July 2010
ARROWSMITH / Un popolo muore / Tohtori Arrowsmith, US © 1931 Samuel Goldwyn. D: John Ford. Based on the novel (1925) by Sinclair Lewis. DP: Ray June. Starring Ronald Colman, Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy. 101 min
From: LoC, preserved in 1974 from a nitrate positive by the AFI (anonymous collection).
Electronic subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti.

AA: A low contrast print from which it is not possible to appreciate the art of the cinematography.

A prestige production in which the director's signature is unrecognizable. This is a Samuel Goldwyn film rather than a John Ford film.

Yet thematically the story fits in the John Ford canon very well. It is about a doctor's dedication to help people, to the point of sacrificing his own private life tragically. First his wife loses her ability to bear children in miscarriage, and finally, she dies during a plague epidemic.

The theme of sacrifice is crucial to all Ford's military films and most of the westerns, and finally to Seven Women. Like in Pilgrimage, in this film the protagonist's single-mindedness leads to disaster for others, including to the West Indian people used for vaccine testing.

In the conclusion the protagonist breaks away from the commercial research laboratory institute to start a new and independent life. Under John Ford's direction Ronald Colman is at his worst.

La Glu

11.30 Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Bologna 3 July 2010
LA GLU (Francia/1913) R.: Albert Capellani, with Mistinguett (Fernande, dit La Glu), Henry Krauss (Dr. Cézambre). - 1900 m /18 fps/ 75 min. - From: La Cinémathèque francaise. - Earphone translation in Italian and English. - Accompagnamento al piano di Gabriel Thibaudeau

A fair print with a beautiful definition of light. A diva vehicle for Mistinguett as the femme fatale who ruins the lives of three men: the kindly country doctor (shades of Madame Bovary), the young heir to a large fortune, and the married fisherman. - Capellani tells the over-the-top story in his sober early cinema style of long shots and long takes.

Cento anni fà: 1910: Programme 8: Upper Reaches, Lower Depths, Part I: Town-Country / Rich-Poor, Part II: La Valse Apache (In Honour of Afgrunden), Part III: Farewell 1910

10.00 Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Bologna 3 July 2010
Cento anni fà 1910: Programma 8: Voi su, voi giù, I: Città-campagna / poveri-ricchi, II: La Valse Apache (in onore di Afgrunden), III: Addio 1910 - the order of the films had been changed to:

I Città-campagna / poveri-ricchi
Max hypnotisé. FR 1910. From: BFINA, Deutsche Zwischentitel. Good print. Funny Max Linder comedy of master and servant switching places (qf. The Servant), the servant hypnotizing Max.
EXCURSION DANS LES ABRUZZI / Ein Ausflug in die Abruzzen (Francia/1910) Prod.: Eclipse. From: BFINA (Joye Collection). 104 m /16 fps/ 6 min. Tinted. Ok print. Solid non-fiction.
MATER DOLOROSA (Francia/1910) PC: Gaumont. R.: Louis Feuillade. 179 m /16 fps/ 10 min. From: Eye Film Institute (Amsterdam). Dutch intertitles. Good print, slightly high contrast. Drama: a rich couple wants to buy a child. Deeply felt. Theme: money can't buy love.
* COMMENT LES PAUVRES MANGENT À PARIS / Wie die Armen in Paris essen (Francia/1910) Prod.: Pathé. 84 m /16 fps/ 5 min. From: BFINA. From a slightly worn source. Fine quality of cinematography. Part fiction, part non-fiction. A dignified, reverent look at poverty, with fascinating footage on phenomena like the Arlequins (the top restaurants' surplus portions offered to the poor). The best film in this programme.
BÉBÉ VEUT IMITER ST. MARTIN / Fritzchen spielt Schutzpatron (Francia/1911) PC: Gaumont. R.: Louis Feuillade, starring René Dary as Bébé. 145 m /18 fps/ 7 min. From: BFINA. Two tramps, an old one and a young one (qf. The Kid). The poor kid meets a rich kid, who splits his overcoat in half, to share it with the poor kid.

II Valse Apache. Because Afgrunden was not shown, there were three other films featuring the gaucho dance.
BÉBÉ APACHE / Fritzhen schwört (Francia/1910) R.: Louis Feuillade. 159 m /16 fps/ 8 min. From: BFINA. Ok print. Funny parody of crime fiction: little Bébé and Lili infiltrate the underworld by performing an apache dance.
[LA VALSE CHALOUPÉE] extract from L'Empreinte (Francia/1908) PC: Le Film d'Art. R.: Paul Henry Bourguet, starring Mistinguett and Max Dearly. 38 m /16 fps/ 2 min. From: Cineteca di Bologna. - A wild and passionately erotic waltz number.
LA TOURNÉE DES GRAND DUCS ["Making a tour of the restaurants"] (Francia/1910) PC: S.C.A.G.L. / S.A.P.F. R.: Yves Mirande. 178 m /16 fps/ 10 min. From: La Cinémathèque francaise (1998). - A fine definition of light, slightly soft. - A funny parody of the bourgeoisie visiting a staged display of the Paris underworld with les apaches and les gigolettes.

III Addio 1910
[not shown: LÉONTINE EST INCORRIGIBLE (Francia/1910) Prod.: Pathé]
SANTA LUCIA (Italia/1910). PC: Ambrosio. Loc: Venice. 97 m /16 fps/ 5 min. Dutch intertitles. From: Cineteca di Bologna. - Sepia toned, long pan with the camera in a gondola, with a three-fold image. - Pictorial beauty in a vision of la belle époque.

Presenta Mariann Lewinsky
Accompagnamento al piano di Donald Sosin

Friday, July 02, 2010

Metropolis (2010 restoration) (live cinema event conducted by Frank Strobel, performed by Orchestra del Teatro Comunale of Bologna)

22.00 Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, 2 July 2010
DE 1927. Ufa. D: Fritz Lang. 149 min
Restauro della versione più completa esistente, promosso dalla Murnau Stiftung e dalla Deutsche Stiftung Kinemathek
Musiche composte da Gottfried Huppertz e dirette da Frank Strobel, eseguite dall'Orchestra del Teatro Comunale
Lingua originale con e-sottotitoli inglese e italiane
35 mm projection.

My most magnificent Metropolis experience ever, and I have seen many different presentations (the MoMA version with Kraftwerk music, the Enno Patalas reconstruction, the Moroder version, a live orchestra performance of the Huppertz music conducted by Berndt Heller, and various interesting music experiences).

Metropolis is a strange film. It is naive and corny, a step backwards in Fritz Lang's artistic growth in many ways, yet it has unique mythological power, and its prophecy, then considered ridiculous, has proven prescient. Germany got its fake "Arbeiterpartei" leader and had its true Moloch experience. Today the division of the world to the privileged minority and the oppressed majority is more terrible than ever. I keep pondering what is the meaning of the fake Maria having become a model for Madonna.

The weak link is Gustav Fröhlich's hysterical acting. Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Fritz Rasp grasp the proper acting style perfectly. Brigitte Helm performs very well in the fantasy mode. Alfred Abel keeps his cool.

I like this reconstruction. It is a labour of love and dedication. The added footage based on the heavily worn 16 mm Buenos Aires print works well. It brings a strange new dimension to the film's own mythology.

The 35 mm projection based on a digital intermediate was fine for Metropolis in the Renaissance surroundings of the Piazza. Metropolis is a film of built space, stone, steel, machines, drawn backgrounds, and wooden acting: Metropolis is immune to digitization.

Frank Strobel's excellent arrangement and conducting of the Huppertz music pays justice to the musical structure of the film (Auftakt, Zwischenspiel, Furioso). The music, composed before the film was edited, now works better than ever since the first run. I look forward to experience this music in a live performance again, and then complete with the giant organs.

Titas ekti nadir naam (2010 restoration)

16.00 Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 2 July 2010 (World Cinema Foundation Restorations 2010)

A River Called Titas / Un fiume chiamato Titas, IN 1973. D: Ritwik Ghatak. 158 min
Proiezione in HD
Lingua originale, version bengalesi, English subtitles in the digital file, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti
Presenta Cecilia Cenciarelli

Restored in 2010 by World Cinema Foundation and Cineteca di Bologna at L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, using the camera and sound negatives and a positive print provided by the Ritwik Ghatak Memorial Trust and held at the National Film Archive of India. As the original negative is incomplete and some reels were severely damaged, a combined lavender and a positive print provided by the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv were also used. The digital restoration produced a new 35 mm internegative.

Ritwik Ghatak is a master of the cinema, and A River Called Titas opens with powerful images of the open sky and the wide waters of the great river. The images of the oppressed woman and the fishermen of the river are full of force.

The digital restoration looks absolutely clear and clean, but there is something a little odd. We are in India, and theoretically we can presume that it is hot and humid since the men wear no shirts. But there is no feeling of warmth and moisture. The definition of light is not completely successful. One can see that the film might have fine cinematography, but this presentation looks a little flat and lifeless, as there is no life in the black and gray areas.

I watched the first half an hour.

Albert Capellani 5: Theatre and History - Staging and Mise-en-scène

14.45 Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Bologna, 2 July 2010
Albert Capellani 5: Spettacolo, storia e messa in scena
DRAME PASSIONEL (Francia/1906) R.: Albert Capellani. From: Pathé - Gestione commerciale Gaumont Pathé Archives. - A stark primitive drama: man sees woman, she gives birth to a child. - Mariage d'argent. - Vengeance d'amante: in the church wedding the woman, accompanied by the child, shoots the man. - Histrionic tableau style.
LE PIED DE MOUTON / Der Hammelfuss (Francia/1907) R.: Albert Capellani. FX: Segundo de Chomón. From: Filmarchiv Austria. Deutsche Zwischentitel. A wonderful, abundant, stencil-colourful fairy-tale movie full of inventions.
LA MORT DU DUC D'ENGHIEN (Francia/1909) R.: Albert Capellani. From: La Cinémathèque francaise. - A historical tragedy from the Napoleonic era. From brilliant source material, with wonderful definition of light, maybe a little soft. The dog follows his master to his grave.
LA FIN DE ROBESPIERRE / De Van val Robespierre (Francia/1912) R.: Albert Capellani. From: Eye Film Institute (Amsterdam), Dutch intertitles. A historical tragedy about the last days of Robespierre, featuring Madame Tallien (Thérésa Cabarrus, Marquise de Fontenay, "Notre-Dame de Thermidor"). Stencil colour not well preserved.
MADAME TALLIEN (Francia/1911) R.: Camille de Morlhon. Another version of the same story for comparison, I saw but the start.
Presenta Mariann Lewinsky
Accompagnamento al piano di Donald Sosin

Mother Machree

11.30 Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Bologna 2 July 2010
MOTHER MACHREE (Sydämeni äiti / La canzone della mamma, USA/1928. PC: William Fox. R.: John Ford. With Belle Bennett, Neil Hamilton, Victor McLaglen, Robert Parrish. D.: 29' (frammento)
sonorized version
Theme song with a special credit: "Mother Machree", music by Chauncey Olcott and Ernest Ball (1910), lyrics by Rida Johnson Young.

Four fragments screened out of order:
1. The beginning: first music without image, then a long song introduction, Ireland 1899, boy reading the book with the illustration of "Lincoln working by firelight", naive silent film storm music, Ellen McHugh (Belle Bennett) and her son receive the sorrow message.
3. America: over-the top music, "never a kind word here", the friendly Terence O'Down (Victor McLaglen), "the blessed shamrock", Ellen gets a job as a half-lady at the circus where Terence appears as a sheik, body covered with tattoos, "I can never go back to Ireland now".
2. The funeral, the road to America, meeting The Giant of Kilkenny (McLaglen), the midget lifting his weights.
4. At the household of the rich family, mothering baby Edith to womanhood, tears of happiness.

In these surviving fragments Ford indulges in his passions for Ireland and motherhood. The sonorized music is over-the-top melodramatic.

The Blue Eagle (1997 study version)

11.30 Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Bologna 2 July 2010
THE BLUE EAGLE (Sinitakkeja / Aquile azzurre, USA/1926) PC: Fox Film Corporation. R.: John Ford. DP: George Schneidermann. With George O'Brien (George Darcy), William Russell (Big Tim Ryan), Janet Gaynor (Rose Kelly), Robert Edeson (Father Joe). D.: 65' (incompleto). Reconstructed by: LoC (1997). Accompagnamento al piano di Gabriel Thibaudeau.

Almost no original material survives. Reconstruction of the incomplete version based on three archival sources (AFI, Prague, Loc) with much nitrate deterioration. Reconstruction provided with notes of missing footage and stills. At the end there is a comparison of footage from the two camera negatives, domestic and foreign, the second camera footage from the Brussels archive.

John Ford's version of the story of the two roughnecks who love the same girl can be compared with What Price Glory? (Walsh) and A Girl in Every Port (Hawks).

The story starts in the navy in the WWI in November 1917, and it continues as a waterfront crime story involving drug traffic via submarine. The boys battle it out over sweet Rose. The boiler room images with the emphasis on the gleaming male physique bring to mind Fassbinder (Querelle) and Tom of Finland.

Cento anni fà: Programme 7: The Italian Cinema in 1910: Stage Actors, Serial Comedians

10.00 Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Bologna, 2 July 2010
Cento anni fà, Programma 7: Il cinema italiano nel 1910: Attori teatrali, comici seriali
Programma e note di Giovanni Lasi e Luigi Virgolin

The year 1910 in the development of the Italian cinema (following Lasi and Virgolin):
- consolidation of fundamental changes
- the constitution of Milano Films
- dignifying the cinema spectacle as a worthy alternative to the theatre for the bourgeoisie
- other production companies followed he example of Film d'Arte Italiana - bringing to the screen the greatest and literary subjects
- the effort to compete with the theatre also extended to a major concern with the mise-en-scène and the participation of the greatest stage actors
- for the first time, prestige directors (Caserini, Maggi, Guazzoni, De Liguoro, Falena) start to be identified
- and naturally the famous stage actors (Amleto Novelli, Franco Liberati, Ferruccio Garavaglia, Ermete Novelli), as well
- not only limiting itself to imitating the theatre the cinema exploited its own particular qualities: the possibility of filming on location - in medieval castles, renaissance cities, and 19th century palaces - "today everything is reproduction from life" (Luigi Marone)
- but if fiction aspired to realism, the non-fiction paradoxically evolved towards the picturesque and the narrative - colour and composition grew in importance - accounts of customs and everyday life acquired a more complex structure
- along film d'arte and non-fiction the third fundamental pole was the comedy series, inaugurated in 1909 by Itala Film and André Deed as Cretinetti
- in 1910 all the major production companies had their own comedy series: Cines (Pacifico Aquilanti and Lorenzo Soderini as Cocò - and Ferdinand Guillaume as Tontolini), Ambrosio (Ernesto Vaser as Fricot and Marcel Fabre as Robinet), and Aquila Films (Armando Gelsomini as Jolicoeur)
- at the same caricatures, maschere (in the old commedia sense of the word), and acrobats became firm favourites of the public

L'attore e la regia / Acting and Directing
SALOMÈ (Italia/1910) PC: Film d'Arte Italiana. R.: Ugo Falena. Based on the play by Oscar Wilde. Starring Vittoria Lepanto (Salomè). 220 m /16 fps/ 12 min. Pochoir. From: DIF. English intertitles. - Unconvincing histrionic tableaux. The stencil colour is refined and impressive.
LA MORTE CIVILE / Dead in the Eyes of the Law (Italia/1910) PC: Film d'Arte Italiana. R.: Gerolamo Lo Savio. Based on the play (1861) by Paolo Giacometti. With Ermete Novelli, Olga Giannini. 223 m /16 fps/ 12 min. From: BFINA, La Cinémathèque francaise. English intertitles. Histrionic tableaux. Imprisoned for life, Corrado manages to escape, mistakes the motives of Dr. Palmieri who has taken care of his wife and daughter, in the eyes of the law he is dead, and his paternal rights are forfeited, excess of emotion causes a seizure.

L'Italia dal vero / Italy in Actuality Films
L'ERUZIONE DELL' ETNA (Italia/1910) Prod. : Ambrosio. 121 m /16 fps/ 7 min. Tinted. From: AFF / CNC. Titres francais. Impressive red tint in this non-fiction film.
Cines. 128 m /16 fps/ 7 min. From: BFINA. Deutsche Zwischentitel. - A giant pageant of boys.
* GRADO E LA LAGUNA DI AQUILEIA (Italia/1910) Prod.: Cines. 113 m /16 fps/ 6 min. - Wonderful definition of light, grandeur of landscape, art of composition, dignity of cinematography. The best film of this programme.

I comici seriali / Actors in Comedy Series
CRETINETTI VUOL SPOSARE LA FIGLIA DEL PADRONE (Italia/1910) Prod.: Itala Films. With André Deed as Cretinetti. 95 m /16 fps/ 5 min. From: Cinematek (Brussels). With Flemish intertitles. - Ok print. Cretinetti as a salesperson in a textile store (qf. Lubitsch), fine slapstick, good tempo, tornado-like escalation.
TONTOLINI SPOSO (Italia/1910) Prod.: Cines. With Ferdinand Guillaume (Tontolini). 120 m /16 fps/ 6 min. From: BFINA. Print: in the beginning ok lowish contrast, then loss of detail. Slapstick wedding, wonderful wedding night shot from the ceiling, spooky farce with spilled flour.
IL DUELLO DI ROBINET (Italia/1910) Prod.: Ambrosio. With Marcel Fabre. 110 m /16 fps/ 6 min. From: Cineteca Nazionale, Museo Nazionale del Cienema. Restored: L'Immagine Ritrovata (2010). Qf. Mark Twain's story of the great French duel. They start with giant pistols as weapons and end up with shooting each other with bottles of sparkling wine.

Presentano Giovanni Lasi e Luigi Virgolin
Accompagnamento al piano di Alain Baents

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Sotto il sole di Roma

18.15 Cinema Lumière - Sala Scorsese, Bologna, 1 July 2010.
Rooman auringon alla / Under the Sun of Rome. IT 1947. PC: Universalcine. D: Renato Castellani. M: Nino Rota. Among the actors in a supporting role Alberto Sordi (Fernando, the shoe shop assistant). 104 min. A CSC - Cineteca Nazionale print with e-subtitles in English by Sub-ti.

Renato Castellani's Due soldi di speranza I know as a wonderful film, and now I got to see Sotto il sole di Roma for the first time. It is the coming-of-age story of the 17-year-old Ciro (Oscar Blando), starting in 1943 and proceeding through the bombing and liberation of Rome with tragical and comical experiences. It is set in the working-class milieux of Rome, at first following the adventures of a gang of youngsters. The moral center of the story is young Iris (Liliana Mancini) whom we can predict to become a formidable mamma. But Ciro also experiences an affair on the side with the insatiable adult woman Tosca (Gisella Monaldi), losing several kilos of weight in the process.

Nino Rota's rousing score and theme song (by him?) add levels of passion to the film. The cinematography by Domenico Scala (Ossessione, Acciaio, Fanny, Domenica d'agosto) is shot on a rich variety of locations, but the bad print has a seriously duped look, with bad contrast, as if this were a lab test print of a 16 mm blow-up.

Dossier John Ford

17:00 Sala Scorsese, Bologna, 1 July 2010
Joseph McBride presenta alcune interviste rare di John Ford

The clips:
1. from the interview with Peter Bogdanovich (1969). John Ford in Monument Valley: "Cut!"
2. from the interview with André Labarthe (1965): "I have no ambition". "Films I like: little pictures such as Young Mr. Lincoln and Sun Shines Bright".
3. a clip from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: the ending. - Joseph told that the only time John Ford tried to explain critics what he was after was with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, in a letter to Bosley Crowther: he shot on the backlot in black and white, with an intentionally cheap look like in the Western programmers of the 1930s, as he wanted it to be seen as a film of ideas. But Crowther misunderstood the film completely.
4. from the interview with Philip Jenkinson for the BBC. Why Westerns? "I love to film outdoors, I like the people I work with".
5. a clip from Sergeant Rutledge: "someday...".
6. from the interview with Philip Jenkinson: "My sympathy is all with the Indians". "Hitler... Stalin... genocide is commonplace". "Politics has nothing to do with the pictures".

Francis Ford: "I have been trying to figure him out since the day he was born".

A fine introduction to the John Ford mystery. Joseph stressed that he learned to respect John Ford's way of refusing to explain.


15.45 Cinema Lumière - Sala Scorsese, Bologna, 1 July 2010
ITALIANAMERICAN (Italoamericani, USA/1974) R.: Martin Scorsese. With Charles Scorsese and Catherine Scorsese. D.: 45'. Presenta Cecilia Cenciarelli. With Italian subtitles. Print courtesy Martin Scorsese. - The fine print looks like it's shot on video and transferred to 35 mm film. - I managed to catch five minutes of this Martin Scorsese film I have never seen before. Those five minutes were a Catherine Scorsese show, a formidable mamma and storyteller.


14.30 Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 1 July 2010
PILGRIMAGE / Naisen tie / Pellegrinaggio, USA (c) 1933 Fox Film Corporation. R.: John Ford. DP: George Schneiderman. With: Henrietta Crosman (Hannah Jessop), Heather Angel (Suzanne), Norman Foster (Jim Jessop), Marian Nixon (Mary Saunders), Charles Grapewin (Dad Saunders), Hedda Hopper (Mrs. Worth), Francis Ford (Mayor). 90'
Proiezione in HD (HDCam SR), from: Twentieth Century Fox, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti.

When we did our great John Ford retrospective in Helsinki 20 years ago I was aware of the importance of Pilgrimage, and we scheduled it, but then it turned out that there was no film viewing print anywhere and we had to make a programme change (we replaced it with the dull The World Moves On). Apparently the print situation has not improved, as Pilgrimage was screened in Bologna on digital video. The technical quality was ok from a used, scratched source. Due to the digitalization the plein air sensuality was missing.

It was a thrill to see the first time on screen the film Joseph McBride calls John Ford's first great film.

Formally it is a melodrama and a woman's film but there is an exceptionally hard tragic edge to the story. It is the story of deranged mother love.

The Murnau impact (Sunrise) is still obvious in the beginning of the film. For those who pay attention to the paucity of love scenes in John Ford's films there is a beautiful haybarn attic sequence where the woman is the seducer. (Such scenes were typical in Nordic films during the studio era.) The war is just a short, grim, and terrible scene in the trenches, where everybody is drowned in the mud. As in Mother Machree, Ford stages a laconically powerful scene where the priest and the mayor visit the woman with the death message.

There are several powerful moments. Hannah pastes Jim's photograph together again. The sorrow in little Jimmy's eyes when Hannah forbids him to play with her dog. Hannah' reluctance in accepting the flowers from Mary and Jimmy.

Hannah's reluctant pilgrimage to Europe to visit Jim's grave brings her to a wider world for the first time in her life, and her various encounters open her eyes. At last she is able to cry and to accept Mary and Jimmy.

Cento anni fà: Programme 6: 1910 - The Extraordinary Voyages of the Italian Cinema

10.00 Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Bologna, 1 July 2010
Cento anni fà: Programma 6: 1910. Gli straordinari viaggi del cinema italiano
Programma e note di Giovanni Lasi

MATRIMONIO INTERPLANETARIO / Marriage in the Moon (Italia/1910) PC: Latium Film. R. e int.: Enrico Novelli (Yambo). From: Museo Nazionale del Cinema. 260 m /18 fps/ 13 min. - Early cinema fantasy in the spirit of Méliès complete with buxom dancing women. Funny visualization of the message to the Moon: the letters fly pêle-mêle through the air.

SUL TETTO DEL MONDO / Viaggio di S.A.R. il Duca degli Abruzzi al Karakorum. (Italia/1910). R.:Vittorio Sella. From: Museo Nazionale del Cinema. Restored by Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Eye Film Institute (Amsterdam) and Festival Internazionale Film di Montagna at L'Immagine Ritrovata (1995) from a tinted and toned vintage print acquired from the Sella family (1960), Desmet color. - A wonderful presentation of the film about the voyage of exploration to the peaks of the Himalaya with a full spoken commentary and a wonderful special live Hindustani score by Donald Sosin. - Rawalpindi, a long take from a moving boat, rope ladder, Askoley camp, snow trek, rafts on the Shigar, the pass of Boorgi-La, towards the peaks of the Himalaya. - There is heavy damage in the source material, and the viewing print is obscured by heavy tinting, but the presentation was excellent all the same.

Long introduction by Giovanni Lasi - a full-length lecture and Powerpoint presentation.

Accompagnamento al piano di Donald Sosin - excellent special Hindustani score for Sul tetto del mondo complete with singing

Iris och löjtnantshjärta

Lemmen tulta ja tuhkaa / Iris, fiore del Nord. SE 1946. D: Alf Sjöberg. Presenta Jon Wengström. Sala Scorsese (Anni difficili), Bologna, 1 July 2010, at 9.30. - I caught a short sample of the brilliant Svenska Filminstitutet archival print.

Up the River

09.15 Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 1 July 2010.
UP THE RIVER [the film was not released in Finland] (Risalendo il fiume, USA/1930) PC: Fox Film Corporation. R.: John Ford. DP: Joseph H. August. With: Spencer Tracy (St. Louis), Humphrey Bogart (Steve), Claire Luce (Judy). D.: 92'
Proiezione in HD - HDCam SR.
E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti.

In the HD presentation mobile phones had to be turned completely off like in an airplane. There seems to be no film viewing print of this important movie, and the best source material is full of scratches and joins with many bits of dialogue missing. The HD definition is bright and sharp with a good black level.

This film is important because in it John Ford cast Spencer Tracy in his first feature-film role, immediately starring and fully in command of himself and the gangster character, but trying too hard.

Ford also selected Humphrey Bogart to his second main role. Bogart has not yet found himself. He is still in the starting block, far from his characteristic tough guy persona with the sensitive side. It is funny to witness Bogart fighting Ward Bond in a John Ford movie.

As Joseph McBride says, this is a lampoon of the prison movie genre. A characteristic John Ford touch (inherited from Griffith) is that the women prisoners are sympathetic and the society women who pay a visit to the prison are hypocrites (qf. Intolerance).

I was able to see 50 minutes of this movie.