Sunday, October 31, 2010

Helmut Arlt (1930–2010) in memoriam

Michael Curtiz: The Best Things In Life Are Free (1956). "The Birth of the Blues" prison dance number with Sheree North and Jacques d'Amboise. Choreography: Rod Alexander. A scorching number hidden in a mediocre musical, a typical discovery in Helmut Arlt's video evenings.

Michael Curtiz: The Best Things In Life Are Free (1956). "The Birth of the Blues" prison dance number with Sheree North and Jacques d'Amboise. Choreography: Rod Alexander.

Michael Curtiz: The Best Things In Life Are Free (1956). "The Birth of the Blues" prison dance number with Sheree North and Jacques d'Amboise. Choreography: Rod Alexander.

Helmut Arlt, a man of the cinema from Berlin, died on Friday, 15 October 2010, at age 80, after a brief hospitalization. His daytime job was as the film projectionist at the Sender Freies Berlin (SFB) tv station until his retirement. He also had a home cinema on the Schlüterstrasse, Ecke Kudamm, in the heart of Berlin complete with 35 mm projection and a CinemaScope screen. He was a notable collector with holdings of 35 mm film prints and a large and well-catalogued video and dvd collection. He loved Hollywood, German cinema until the 1960s, and especially musicals. His ambitious German collections included rare recordings of Reichsvorbehaltfilme (banned films from the Third Reich).

I knew Helmut since 1983 and had the pleasure to attend his video evenings and film screenings. Helmut was a master of ceremonies who could find fun and inspiration in mediocre German melodramas of the 1950s and even in daily television news programmes. "Mein Bundeskanzler!" he would exclaim when Helmut Kohl appeared, as if he were a major entertainer, and burst into that infectious laughter of his.

Helmut was not born in Berlin, but to my foreign ears he had a Berliner Schnauze, a direct and insolent way of talking, and some expressions I still hear in his voice, such as "hamwa nicht" ("that one we don't have"), "kommt keiner" ("nobody will come" [to see a certain film], or "viel Spass!" ("have fun!", often with irony). He had a special fondness for Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder's Berliner Witz (Berliner wit) which they never lost in Hollywood.

"Kiss me I'm gay" was the motto on his coffee mug when I first met him. I never did, but I introduced to him my girlfriend and many other friends. He was always a generous host, but it was almost impossible to return the favour because he preferred to stay at home and entertain there. I used to compare him with Nero Wolfe. He had a cat, called simply "Katze" (= cat in German) who had a long life and eccentric appetites. I asked him how he could always have such high spirits. He told that he didn't but that when he was sad he preferred to be alone.

Helmut admired Kevin Brownlow, and Helmut is the "generous German collector" of the restoration credits of Ben-Hur (1925) restored by Kevin at Photoplay. But in Helmut's collections I learned to appreciate also the great ZDF reconstructions by Jürgen Labenski and Gerd Luft. For instance the restored The Wedding March with the original, electrifying sound-on-disc integral to the film according to Erich von Stroheim, himself.

During the last couple of weeks I have reminisced the evenings at Helmut's. Watching a nitrate print of Gone With the Wind (possession of nitrate film was banned in Germany since the 1950s due to a fundamental misconception of nitrate in German law). Fast-forwarding boring parts of musicals and relishing the production numbers such as Sheree North's prison dance in The Best Things in Life Are Free, the sexiest dance number I have seen in a Hollywood musical. Watching in CinemaScope I Will Go on Singing, the last film of Judy Garland, Helmut's special favourite star. Helmut would also show on his cinema screen scope-format slides taken at his favourite holiday target, the mountains of Mallorca. A specialty of Helmut's cinema was that smoking was required ("in meinem Kino muss geraucht werden").

Helmut's collection of Hollywood musicals was almost complete, but one film was missing: Paramount on Parade, which has not been preserved in a complete version with the full soundtrack. This year he managed to acquire a copy from e-Bay. One of his missions was accomplished.

Helmut was also a big fan of German musical comedies before Hitler (the very film wave that Siegfried Kracauer discusses in his chapter called "Songs and Illusions") and also during and after Hitler. They brought enormous joy to him.

In our talks on the telephone last February Helmut stated bluntly that it's no fun (macht kein Spass) being old. There will be no more of those unique film evenings. No more of that laughter which was sarcastic on the surface but tender underneath.

Helmut's many friends will never forget him.

PS. Kari Lempinen, thanks for the correction. Helmut stated that it's ok getting older but it's no fun being old.

PS 2. When Teuvo Tulio (1912–2000) died without inheritors, the rights to his films reverted to the Finnish government, and we used the proceeds of their television sales to buy film prints. Among them, two rare 35 mm film prints from Helmut. One was Frank Capra's Here Comes the Groom in what looked like a first generation print, perhaps salvaged from the occupation period distribution circuit. Another was The Love Goddesses (US 1965), by Saul Turell and Graeme Ferguson, with William K. Everson, Paul Killiam and Gideon Bachmann among the contributors, an enchanting history of female stars of the screen from May Irwin till Sophia Loren. I remember when the sequence of Pola Negri wielding a horsewhip on a small town's hypocritical men in Malcolm St. Clair's A Woman of the World (1925) was shown in Helmut's cinema, a member of the audience yelled: "More! More!".

PS 3. David Bowie was an occasional guest at Helmut's cinema during his Berlin days (1976–1979), falling asleep on those comfortable 1950s cinema armchairs within reach of a vintage Nierentisch equipped with an ashtray. Who knows what he was smoking.

Nunnally Johnson: How to Be Very, Very Popular (US 1955), a Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. production starring Betty Grable (in her final movie role) and Sheree North (in her first leading role) as the burlesque dancers Stormy Tornado and Curly Flagg from San Francisco on the run because they are eyewitnesses to a murder of their colleague. In desperation, they hide in a college fraternity near Los Angeles disguising as boys. Marilyn Monroe refused to be cast, but four years later she starred in a film with a similar plot that became the most successful comedy in film history.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Harjunpää ja pahan pappi

Ondskans präst / Priest of Evil. FI © 2010 MRP Matila Röhr Productions. P: Ilkka Matila. D: Olli Saarela. SC: Leo Viirret - based on the novel (2003) by Matti Yrjänä Joensuu. DP: Rauno Ronkainen. S: Jyrki Rahkonen. ED: Benjamin Mercer. CAST: Peter Franzén (Timo Harjunpää), Irina Björklund (Elisa Harjunpää), Jenni Banerjee (Onerva Nykänen), Sampo Sarkola (Johannes Heino), Rosa Salomaa (Pauliina Harjunpää), Niilo Syväoja (Matti), Jorma Tommila (Matias Krankke), Ville Virtanen (Risto Mäki). 107 min. Released by Nordisk, no subtitles in the DCP at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 30 Oct 2010 (premiere 29 Oct 2010).

Matti Yrjänä Joensuu, a recently retired policeman, is the most respected writer of Finnish police fiction. His protagonist is the empathic police sergeant Timo Harjunpää whose experiences Joensuu has followed in 11 novels since 1976. After a ten year break Joensuu published Harjunpää ja pahan pappi [Harjunpää and the Priest of Evil] in 2003, and after a seven year break, Harjunpää ja rautahuone [Harjunpää and the Iron Room] this year, a contender for the best Finnish novel of the year.

There have been four Harjunpää tv series and one previous cinema film, Harjunpää ja kiusantekijät [Harjunpää and the Troublemakers] (1993, D: Åke Lindman, with Kari Heiskanen).

Seven years in the making by the producer Ilkka Matila, Harjunpää and the Priest of Evil deals with big issues. "The touch of evil is contagious". "Evil posing as holy". "How good turns to evil". This is no light entertainment. The killer is a deranged young man who has decided that his holy mission is to punish wrongdoers by pushing them under subway trains.

The director Olli Saarela has looked at big models, the serial killer and psycho criminal films by Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, and David Fincher, not forgetting the rogue cops of Paul Verhoeven, the white doves of John Woo, and the childhood trauma of Peeping Tom. There is an emphasis on gratuitous violence and sadism in the film.

The film has turned anti-realistic. In real life Peter Franzén's psycho cop would be fired at once, and he would never have been admitted into a police school in the first place. He belongs to a glorious line of anti-realistic cops of the cinema, from Keystone Kops till Dirty Harry.

The dark imagery is expertly created by the cinematographer Rauno Ronkainen. Gray, cold, and bleak views are prominent. Within the digital aesthetics I have no complaints with the close-ups. The long shots look sharp and airless. I don't know if this depends on the cameras or the intermediates.

Friday, October 29, 2010

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger / You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger [could be called Tulee vieras tumma ja pitkä mies in Finnish]. US/ES © 2010 Mediapro / Versátil Cinema / Gravier Productions. D+SC: Woody Allen. M includes Boccherini and "When You Wish Upon A Star" sung by Leon Redbone. 99 min. Released in Finland by Scanbox with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Saliven Gustavsson. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 29 Oct 2010 (day of Finnish premiere).

There is an expression in Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck for which there is no good translation in English: livsløgnen, literally, "life-lie". It is a concept similar to "a foundation myth". The idea is also close to the "print the legend" theme in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. «Tar du livsløgnen fra et gjennomsnittsmenneske tar du lykken fra det med det samme» ("If you take away the life-lie from the average person you also take away his happiness").

"Illusion is sometimes better than medicine" is a remark in Woody Allen's new satirical comedy which explores Ibsenian territory. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is a rambling, multi-narrative ensemble piece.

The rich old couple is divorced. Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) marries a call girl (Lucy Punch). Helena (Gemma Jones) lets her life be led by a clairvoyant (Pauline Collins). She also finds a new partner, a soulmate, a sensitive bookseller with paranormal interests.

Their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is a gallery assistant who supports her husband Roy (Josh Brolin), a wannabe writer who has trouble finishing a second novel attractive enough for the publishers. Actually it is the wealthy Helena who supports both Sally and Roy. Then a writer friend of Roy's, Henry Strangler (Ewen Bremner) gets into a car accident and Roy, believing he's dead, offers Henry's brilliant manuscript as his own.

Roy also starts an affair with a young musicologist Dia (Freida Pinto) who lives in the house opposite, and Dia's wedding with a huge international cast of guests is cancelled (another instance of the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding). Sally is attracted to her boss, the gallerist Greg (Antonio Banderas) but their terms remain strictly professional. Instead, Greg is attracted to a woman artist introduced to him by Sally.

The satirical themes are bitter but in the performances there is a tendency towards rounded personalities. We laugh with the characters, not at them.

Woody Allen belongs to the contemporary film-makers whose new films I keep looking forward to. He has almost always something new to offer. At least the astonishing cast of actors he manages to attract to his films. Is there another director in the history of the cinema who can boast such a roll of great actors in his oeuvre?

More profoundly, I sense a new balance of the bitter and the funny in Woody Allen's film. The "dark stranger" (= death) is not a new theme, it was there from the start (Love and Death... ). But the way Allen now deals with the Ibsenian livsløgn is new and original.

The screenplay starts in the middle and stops abruptly. There is no beginning nor end to this story.

Vilmos Zsigmond is a great cinematographer, but the digital transfer has the average contemporary look of cinema films, no match to the great Woody Allen cinematography of the films shot by Sven Nykvist, Carlo di Palma, etc.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

La Chinoise

La Chinoise, ou plutôt à la Chinoise: Un film en train de se faire. FR 1967. D: Jean-Luc Godard. 96 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Anne Wiazemsky), 28 Oct 2010. – Jean-Luc Godard's 15 feature films made between 1959–1967 are among the most remarkable achievements in the history of the cinema, and I admire them all except Made in USA and La Chinoise, where the spoof political essay format does not make sense to me. Tonight I revisited some 45 minutes of La Chinoise, which is a portrait of French Kindergarten Maoists. This was an age when Maoism led to famine, terror and destruction of culture. I cannot help seeing this but as a crazy exercise from the great artist Godard. – One can savour the Tashlinian approach and the original bright colour concept in this vintage print which has turned gently but not disastrously redder.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Noidan kirot (cinema concert)

The Curse of the Witch. FI 1927. D: Teuvo Puro. 2070 m /22 fps/ 76 min. The 1995 restored version by SEA>KAVA, tinted and toned print. Cinema concert at the Finlandia Hall (seating 1700). Premiere of the new music by Tapio Tuomela, conducted by Jan Söderblom, performed by the Radio Symphony Orchestra (at an assembly of 70 players). 27 Oct 2010. - This was my best experience of Noidan kirot whose themes are fascinating: the ancient tension between the Sami aboriginals and the Finns, the terrible family secret, and the restless presence of the lumberjacks. Unfortunately the clumsy and uninspired direction of Teuvo Puro fails to realize the potential of the powerful story. In his hands even the prominent actors seem lost. Now the new music Tapio Tuomela contributes essentially to the drive of the film and helps make much more sense of the undercurrents of the story. It is modern concert music but not too modernistic for this old-fashioned story in which he has appreciated the timeless elements. After the show the composer and the conductor commented discreetly on the editing: whenever there is a climax, there is an abrupt cut to an intertitle related to the next scene. They kept feeling the urge to re-edit the film to prolong the climaxes and give more space to the music. - It would be possible to tour this music with smaller assemblies. - The music was recorded live, and Noidan kirot with Tapio Tuomela's new music will be transmitted at YLE Teema on the Finnish Independence Day, 6 Dec 2010.

Sota 1939–1940 / [The War 1939–1940] A 2010 digibeta compilation from the Winter War 1939–1940 footage by Ilkka Kippola and Jari Sedergren

A Finnish Maxim M/32-33 machine gun nest during the Winter War, 100 m from the Soviet forces, ca 5 km north of Lemetti (area of what is today Pitkyarantsky District, Russia). 21 Feb 1940. Gunner: Antti Väisänen from Puolanka, the man to the left probably Onni Valkonen. Photo: Sotamuseo / Military Museum of Finland. Public domain.

The War 1939–1940. FI 2010. A Digibeta compilation from the Winter War 1939–1940 footage by Ilkka Kippola and Jari Sedergren. Music: Ari Taskinen, Mattijuhani Koponen. Video transfer: Jarmo Nyman. 70 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 27 Oct 2010. – Ilkka Kippola and Jari Sedergren have researched the unknown Winter War footage and edited it with main topics such as: – Mobilization 10 Oct 1939 – The Devastation of the Cities – Prisoners – Väinö Tanner's speech after the war – The Evacuees – The Exchange of Prisoners. – The remarkable footage would deserve to be made available more widely, why not in extenso. Many prominent film-makers, including Jörn Donner, and the composers of the compilation, were present in the screening.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inside Vichy France 2

Vichyn Ranska 2. A programme of French Resistance films from AFF/CNC curated and presented by Eric Le Roy, interpreted into Finnish by Kaisa Kukkola, e-subtitles into Finnish by Lena Talvio, at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 26 Oct 2010.

There was also "un cinéma de résistance" in France. I saw the first film:
Paroles d'honneur. FR 1940. 14 min. Resistance propaganda: Hitler as the greatest liar in history. Hitler promises peace, but also says: "La guerre, c'est moi". "Mon combat" is prominent. We follow Hitler's actions step by step: the rearmament, the remilitarization of Rheinland, the Anschluss of Austria, the annexation of the Sudetenland, the Munich agreement, the Molotov Ribbentrop pact, the attacks on Poland and Denmark.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Inside Vichy France 1

Vichyn Ranska 1. A programme of propaganda films from AFF/CNC curated by Eric Le Roy. Eric Le Roy translated by Kaisa Kukkola, e-subtitles in Finnish to the films by Lena Talvio. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 25 Oct 2010.

Eric Le Roy told that the Vichy propaganda films were French films produced by French companies but with German money. In the North the German occupation administration produced violent propaganda. In Vichy the films were not violent, and they emphasized tradition, nature, the earth, culture, youth, and sport. In the North, the propaganda was made by amateurs, in Vichy, by professionals. In the cinema, half-lights were on as the films were screened to avoid protests.

I saw the first film:
Images et paroles du Maréchal Pétain. FR 1940. 18 min. A propaganda film in praise of Pétain turns in modern eyes into a subtle parody. It is interesting to see Pétain trembling as his biography is being planned.

Images of War in France and Finland

A seminar at Cinema Orion, Helsinki. Moderated by Jari Sedergren.

ERIC LE ROY (AFF/CNC) talked about the preservation of WWII movies in France. Until the 1990s Vichy movies were preserved but shelved, and first then they have been shown again. AFF/CNC has also compiled a filmography of these films. The first foreign presentation was at Bologna's Il Cinema Ritrovato last year, and Helsinki is the second place abroad. The Vichy control was more relaxed than the German occupation control. The Vichy films were paeans to nature, youth, and sport in the spirit of the New Order.

HENRIK MEINANDER and JARI SEDERGREN spoke about the images of WWII in Finland. Meinander stated that moralistic melodramas such as Äideistä parhain / The Best of Mothers have become possible first in recent times. He was skeptical about the possibilities of the Mannerheim biopic, since Mannerheim may be an almost impossible subject. Jari Sedergren commented on the new aspects of history revealed by the wartime propaganda films that have recently been released on dvd in extenso.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Susanna Välimäki: Miten sota soi? Sotaelokuva, ääni ja musiikki (a book)

[How the War Sounds? War Movies, Sound and Music]. Tampere: Tampere University Press 2008. - Dr. Susanna Välimäki gave me her book a week ago at the Cinema and Psyche symposium, and I finished reading it in the train from Tampere to Helsinki, having visited the new Pirkkala Library together with my mother. - Välimäki focuses on six war films: Tuntematon sotilas / The Unknown Soldier (1955), Tuntematon sotilas / The Unknown Soldier (1985), Das Boot (1981), Cross of Iron (1976), Idi i smotri / Come and See (1985), and The Thin Red Line (1998). - The book is profound, and Välimäki does an excellent job in arguing how central the role of the sound and the music in a film can be. Having read this first-rate book, I feel I'd like to see these films again and focus more on listening to them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Social Network

David Fincher: The Social Network (US 2010) starring Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg.

The Social Network / The Social Network.
    US © 2010 Columbia Pictures. D: David Fincher. SC: Aaron Sorkin. End credit music: "Baby, You're A Rich Man" (The Beatles, 1967). 120 min. Released in Finland by Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Saliven Gustavson.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, Helsinki, 22 Oct 2010 (day of Finnish release).

A brilliant modern satire based on the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin on the creation of Facebook. A surprise from David Fincher because there are no fantasy, horror, and violent aspects. The film is so dialogue-driven and based on talking heads that it could be a television movie (not a negative assessment since current television movies are often more intelligent than cinema movies).

Fincher manages to suppress his urge for visual expressionism and focuses on the characters, which he does very well. The Social Network is a reminder that Fincher is an excellent director of actors. He also displays a fine sense of humour. The satire in this film is original, and the film will deserve repeat viewings.

The structure is based on trials from which we see the story evolve in flashbacks. The female characters remain slight. I don't know if this is a weakness of the film or an aspect of the world being satirized. The men in the story see women as objects and their stage of development in human relationships is low.

PS. 31 Oct 2010. Probably it belongs to the irony of the story that the female characters and the human relationships are as shallow as they are here.

PS. 29 Dec 2010. Having read Time Magazine's Person of the Year cover story by Lev Grossman I realize The Social Network does not hit its target as a satire on Mark Zuckerberg. According to Grossman Zuckerberg is "pathologically indifferent" to money and to lifestyle symbols.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Idle Class

Joutilas luokka. US 1921. D: Charles Chaplin. Chaplin's music version (c) 1971 Roy Export, music associates Eric James, Eric Rogers. 32 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 21 Oct 2010. - This belongs also to the Chaplin films that I have most seldom seen. Chaplin has a double role: as a tramp and as a gentleman. The gentleman is married with Edna, but he is such a drunkard that Edna refuses to share quarters with him a the holiday hotel. The tramp also plays a gentleman, including in a golf sequence where he enters the golf course very inadequately equipped. In a masked ball where the real gentleman Chaplin wears a full armour and the tramp appears as himself, chased by the police, Edna gets profoundly confused. "You look so strange". While not one of Chaplin's famous masterpieces, The Idle Class is a fascinating study of the same themes as in City Lights. - I stayed to watch the beginning of A Dog's Life, such a superior film to both Sunnyside and The Idle Class. Chaplin's 1970s music to all is good. In A Dog's Life it's irresistible.


Auringon puolella. US 1919. D: Charles Chaplin. Chaplin's music version (c) 1974 Roy Export. Music associates Eric James, Eric Rogers. 30 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 21 Oct 2010. Considered as one of C's least successful films Sunnyside is fascinating anyway. Chaplin is a farmhand in love with Edna. C. rides a bull, is thrown by the bull into the gutter, and the dream sequence is C's hommage to Ballets Russes. Includes one of C's most heartbreaking scenes of losing his beloved to the rival. Edna's look as she sees C's unravelled trouser leg (due to a prank by the kids). The film has a multiple ending: first an apparent suicide, then a happy end.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lenin-setä asuu Venäjällä

[Uncle Lenin Lives in Russia]. FI 1987. D: Kanerva Cederström, Riikka Tanner. 16 mm. 57 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Kanerva Cederström), 20 Oct 2010. - A good 16 mm print with good colour. - Revisited the beginning of the documentary portrait of former Finnish Communists of the 1970s. The naive songs and slogans of the 1970s sound so parodic that they don't need commentary. This is also a coming-of-age story, of growing up from naivism.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Más negro que la noche

Blacker Than the Night. MX 1974. D: Carlos Enrique Taboada. Print from Cineteca Nacional (México). 96 min. E-subtitles in Finnish by Anita Mikkonen, operated by Kukka Ranta. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Mexican Horror), 19 Oct 2010. - I watched the beginning of this Mexican Gothic horror film in colour. A rich old lady dies, Ofelia inherits her and her formidable house, and the conditions of the will stipulate that good care must be taken of the cat Becker. Then the cat dies... The director laces the maybe sympathetically clumsy horror atmosphere with soft-core voyeurism.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Marilyn Monroe: Fragments (a book)

Edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment with a foreword by Antonio Tabucchi. (c) 2010 LSS International, Inc. Simultaneously published in October 2010 in sixteen (tbc) countries, country of first publication: France (Seuil, 272 p., traduit de l'anglais par Tiphaine Samoyault).

The Finnish edition: Marilyn Monroe: Välähdyksiä, sirpaleita. Translated by Anuirmeli Sallamo-Lavi and Lotta Toivanen. 270 p. Porvoo: WSOY 2010.

Having read from Le Monde (a full page on 8 Oct 2010, including an appreciation by Juliette Binoche) and Der Spiegel (the cover story on 4 Oct 2010) about Fragments I was amazed to find it in Finnish on Friday 15 Oct at the Academic Bookstore of Helsinki. I read it at once at the Café Aalto and in the tram on my way home.

It consists of mostly original and previously unpublished material by Marilyn Monroe, herself, from 1943 until 1962. That material includes private notes, poems, and letters not meant for publication. They are reproduced in the Finnish edition in three ways: as facsimiles, as transcriptions in English and as Finnish translations. It is a measure of Monroe's stature that this material is published at all. The book has an appearance similar to a volume of modern poetry, a completely appropriate association.

Marilyn loved literature, especially poetry. She loved to meet writers and they loved to meet her. Norman Rosten estimated that Marilyn had the instinct of a poet but not the command over the text. Her remarks are fascinating for the fan, but they are not great literature.

Although the material is new the editors in their foreword slightly exaggerate its meaning. They claim that in the 1950s Marilyn's image had to be flawless. But I believe on the contrary, following Richard Dyer, that Marilyn's star charisma was based from the beginning on the fact that she was able to reconcile huge contradictions. One of them was that she was known as the girl who read Rilke and Joyce on the sets of her dumb blonde vehicles. Even intelligent directors such as Joseph L. Mankiewicz were bluffed. They believed Marilyn actually to be the dumb blonde she played. Those who read her interviews at the time always knew otherwise. She was at her most perceptive in the ones she gave in 1962. These private notes collected from desk drawers provide more evidence of the soulful Marilyn.

Fragments is well edited, the foreword by Antonio Tabucchi is fine, photos of Marilyn reading and meeting writers are emphasized, a nice spread is dedicated to Marilyn's bookshelf, we have her favourite portrait with Cecil Beaton's commentary, Lee Strasberg's eulogy, a biographical spread, and a spread on writers' comments on Marilyn (from Karen Blixen to Dylan Thomas).

Fragments is a very special fan book.

Time Out Film Guide 2011 (a book)

Edited by John Pym. Nineteenth Edition 2011. Revised and Expanded. London: Ebury Publishing, 2010. 1336 pages, 19.000 films reviewed over the last 42 years by Time Out critics, more than 350 additional reviews, stop-press coverage of the 2010 Cannes film festival

Time Out Film Guide is my favourite annual film guide for many reasons. The approach is genuinely global, with attention to many national cinemas. There are some 300 top contributors, experts of the capsule review format, some of them already dead. The book covers both the mainstream and the unconventional traditions of the cinema.

Tom Charity and Sarah Thorowgood have compiled a list of a hundred online link recommendations for the book in categories such as:
- favourites - there are five: IMDb, The Daily, Senses of Cinema, Dvd Beaver, and Time Out, itself
- breaking movie news
- streaming and downloading
- film-makers in their own write
- the critics
- critics blogging
- film magazines online for fans
- film magazines online for cinephiles
- online cinephilia
- academia online
- film discussion forums
- newspapers
- dvd
- screenplays
- institutions and resources

The tiny corpus size of the typography borders on the unreadable (at least for a 55 year old reader: I need to change to more powerful reading glasses if I consult this while watching a dvd in the dark), but the editors have managed to pack an enormous amount of information and evaluation within a single volume. I keep the latest edition at the office, and the previous ones at home and at the summer house.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cinema and Psyche: The Enchantment of the Tale (a two day symposium)

Elokuva ja psyyke: Tarinan lumous. A two-day symposium arranged by Suomen Psykoanalyyttinen Yhdistys, Helsingin Psykoterapiaseura and KAVA. Board: Stig Hägglund, Christel Airas, Aune Raitasalo, Vesa Manninen, Antti Alanen. At Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 15-16 Oct, 2010

For the sixth time we arranged a Cinema and Psyche symposium at Cinema Orion. The programme consists predominantly of presentations of psychoanalysts and other specialists of psychology and psychiatry. The interest has been growing since the early 1990s when we started this, especially after the símultaneous centenaries of the cinema and psychoanalysis in 1995. The approaches have been varied and none has anything to do with the Lacanian or Screen approaches that were trendy in the 1970s. The Finnish tradition starts in the 1920s with the Tulenkantajat (Torchbearers) cultural movement, continues with Kulovesi and Vaaskivi in the 1930s, and is rebooted in the mid-1950s when the psychoanalyst Mikael Enckell started to write consistently on the cinema. The impetus of the cinema and psyche symposia has been the special interest of trainer analysts, those who give also clinical supervision to fellow analysts. Films can be a valuable medium in approaching difficult issues in many ways and discussing sensitive topics without breaching the professional secrecy of the doctor. As an outsider in the planning boards I have been impressed by the sense of urgency involved. Films are important for them in ways and for reasons that I can only vaguely guess. I have edited two books based on the Film and Psyche symposia, Minerva Publishing 2007 and 2010, the latter published 15 October 2010 at this symposium.

Riitta Tähkä: The Mirror - a profoundly Tarkovskoyan lecture on Tarkovsky's subjective film.
Maria Häkkinen: Harry Potter on the couch - a psychoanalytic reading of a boy's fantastic coming of age story which the professionals have had also to discuss on their consulting hours.
Susanna Välimäki: The Hours - Susanna Välimäki wrote her dissertation on music in war films, and focused now fascinatingly on the music of the film directed by Stephen Daldry based on Michael Cunningham's novel, inspired by Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway
A general discussion on Auf Wiedersehen Finnland (FI 2010) - the director Virpi Suutari had to cancel at the last moment, but there was a lively debate on the film about the Finnish women who left with the Germans in 1944. Vesa Manninen stated that no matter how embarrassing a past experience may be, the human being has a basic need to be seen as she or he is.
Juha Siltanen: 10 and 1 paths in Pasolini's garden. The playwright-director gave a brilliant overview of the bold re-examinator of the great myths and tales focusing on 1) realism, 2) poetry, 3) religion, 4) the spectator, 5) cinema, 6) politics, 7) eroticism, 8) the word, 9) time, 10) scandal) - and (11) "me".
Christel Airas: La Belle et la bête - a psychoanalytic reading of a girl's fairy-tale coming of age story as interpreted on film by Jean Cocteau.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

El ataúd del vampiro

The Vampire's Coffin. MX 1958. D: Fernando Méndez. With Abel Salazar (Dr. Enrique Saldivar), Germán Robles (Count Karold de Lavud, the vampire), Ariadna Welter (Marta González), Carmen Montejo (Eloisa). 85 min. From Cineteca Nacional (México) with e-subtitles in Finnish by Anita Mikkonen. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Mexican Horror), 14 Oct 2010

Effective and original atmosphere in the Mexican horror film that starts in the vault of the nocturnal graveyard and continues in the hospital where the undead's "scientific mystery" will be studied. The ensemble of actors works well together, and there is an amusing humoristic dimension in the vampire story, the right balance between horror and a sense of humour. The clean print looks like it's drawn from a good source with low contrast. I saw 40 min.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lost and Found

FI 2003. D: Kanerva Cederström. 55 min. In Russian with Finnish subtitles by Jukka Mallinen. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Kanerva Cederström), 13 Oct 2010

A documentary portrait on Konstantin Gontcharov who moved to Finland in 1992 having had to endure persecution as a homosexual in Moscow. Now he is a nurse of elderly psychiatric patients, a colourful presence in the Helsinki gay scene, a loner in the Russian and Greek Orthodox circles, and a cabaret performer. A fascinating and intimate portrait. On 35 mm film but looks largely like it's shot on video.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

El fantasma del convento

The Phantom of the Convent. MX 1934. D: Fernando de Fuentes. 85 min. From Cineteca Nacional (México) with e-subtitles in Finnish by Anita Mikkonen. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Mexican Horror), 12 Oct 2010

From the 1930s Mexican horror cycle, which included also films such as La llorona (1933) and Dos monjes (1934), this film has a moody drive and an original atmosphere in a doomed monastery where the living dead go on as hermit monks and where a trio of trekkers (Cristina, Eduardo, and Alfonso) seek refuge at night. The image quality in the print is variable, at times good, at times low contrast. I saw 50 min.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Notes on Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Anno 2010

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (president: Livio Jacob, director: David Robinson) offered heavyweight programming at Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi in Pordenone despite the current challenging economical circumstances.

The Canon Revisited project was continued into its second year. During the first decades, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto was about "canon busting" to quote a comment by Jan Christopher Horak. Now the canon is apparently being embraced, but more fundamentally, Le Giornate now is even more about a radical questioning of film history. Now Paolo Cherchi Usai lists five types of Canon to consider, namely, national, auteurist, temporary, pioneers and scholarly canons. With an approach like this we can count on healthy and never-ending disagreements.

Included in this year’s Canon Revisited selection were Drifters (GB 1929), John Grierson's film that launched the British documentary movement, Il fuoco ([Fire], IT 1915), Giovanni Pastrone's femme fatale vehicle for Pina Menichelli, Hævnens nat ([The Night of Revenge], DK 1916), Benjamin Christensen's visually stunning thriller, Jim Shuante / Sol Svanetii (SU 1930), an early masterpiece from Mikhail Kalatozov, Le Miracle des loups / Miracle of the Wolves (FR 1924), Raymond Bernard's first historical epic, Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück / Mother Krause's Journey to Happiness (DE 1929), Piel Jutzi's moving study of proletarian Berlin before Hitler, and the Monica Flaherty music version of Moana (US 1926) seen as a tantalizing video preview for a hopefully forthcoming restoration.

Pordenone's third Japanese retrospective was dedicated to three masters of the Shochiku studio, Yasujiro Shimazu, Hiroshi Shimizu, and Kiyohiko Ushihara, all essential in the development of the Shochiku studio style and the Japanese cinema in general, all practically unknown in the West. Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström in their programme notes talk about "Kamata modernism" as a common denominator to the style which tells realistic urban stories via "melodramatic narratives and florid visuals". Tokyo's National Film Center and Shochiku had done a remarkable job in producing 35 mm prints with English subtitles of the three masters. Japan's pre-war film heritage was left in shambles many generations ago, and today's enthusiastic audiences have to endure the bitter challenge of seeing prints where the original visual quality of the film can sometimes be barely guessed despite superb restoration expertise.

Hiroshi Shimizu, later to become known of his films about children, was seen as a master of elegic, melancholic stories with visual flair (Minato no Nihon musume / Japanese Girls at the Harbor, 1933) and melodramatic haha-mono (mother films) (Tokyo no qiyu / A Hero of Tokyo, 1935).

Of the influential Yasujiro Shimazu the selection emphasized social engagement. Reijin / The Belle (1930) is a passionate drama relevant to women's rights. Many of the Shochiku films were very long. The four-hour Ai yo jinrui to tomo ni are / Love, Be With Humanity (1931) started as a bitter satire of alienation in the world of big money, develops into a lumberland epic which culminates in a forest fire on the Sakhalin Island, turns into a tragedy of King Lear dimensions and managed to amaze the blasé Pordenone audience with a happy end in the Wild West.

Kiyohiro Ushihara was known as "sentimental Ushihara", and his films often starred the athletic Denmei Suzuki with the teenager Kinuyo Tanaka, the future muse of Kenji Mizoguchi. There is in his films a delight in modernity, the power of the press, the vitality of the young, and fast motor vehicles. The air force drama Shingun / Marching On (1930) was interesting to see in the same week as Wellman's Wings, one of its inspirations. Also on display was Wakamono yo naze naku ka / Why Do You Cry, Youngsters? (1930), the final, dark film of the Denmei Suzuki-Kinuyo Tanaka cycle, which Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano has seen as an example of "the anxieties and disturbance of modernity in interwar Japan".

Three Soviet masters were on display in the Shifting Fortunes retrospective dedicated to Abram Room, Mikhail Kalatozov, and Lev Push. All had to suffer from ideological suppression, all examples of the Stalin era "crippled creative biographies" to use Herbert Marshall's expression.

Abram Room is best remembered from the wonderful Tretya Meshchanskaya / Bed and Sofa (1927) and Privideniye, kotoroye ne vozvrashchayetsya / The Ghost That Never Returns (1930). In Pordenone, a many-sided talent was revealed. The stark ship mutiny drama Bukhta smerti / Death Bay (1926) remained in its time in the shadow of Battleship Potyomkin. The surviving reels of Predatel / The Traitor (1930) revealed an interest in design which resulted in charges of formalism. The short settlement story Yevrei na zemle / Jews on the Land (1927) boasted witty intertitles by Viktor Shklovsky and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Shklovsky was a major Room collaborator in his other silents, as well. Room had a long life, but his projects were hampered to the extent that in the end he felt he had had no career.

Mikhail Kalatozov had his final breakthrough as a film director first in the Soviet thaw era with The Cranes Are Flying (1957). Also highly regarded but little seen was the silent Kulturfilm Jim Shuante / Salt for Svanetia (1930) included in the Canon Revisited selection. Pordenone arranged now the first-ever retrospective of Kalatozov's silent films in his native Georgia. He was a scenarist and cinematographer in Giuli (1927), the passionate tragedy of a woman in a society dominated by patriarchal tradition, directed by Lev Push and Nikolai Shengelaya, and Boshuri siskhli / Gypsy Blood (1928), a tale of forbidden love among Romanian Gypsies, directed by Push. Two reels of Kalatozov's debut film as a director, the agit-prop film Mati samepo / Their Kingdom (1928), believed lost, have been found in 2008, and they reveal a sharp satirical attitude to the always topical question of oil power games. Lursmani chqmashi / The Nail in the Boot (1931) confirmed that the young Kalatozov was already a real man of the cinema. His penchant for low angles, dynamic composition, large views, the wide open sky, and striking montage was all already here, but "formalism was now a permanent stigma upon him" to quote Nino Dzandzava’s programme notes.

French Clowns 1907-1914, A–Z, curated by Eric Le Roy and Fereidoun Mahboub from the collections of Les Archives Françaises du Film (CNC), was an inspired six-part survey to a remarkable era in the history of comedy and the history of French cinema. The tribute grew into a counterpart to Pordenone's The American Comedy Series retrospective in 1994. There were the great stars such as Max Linder and André Deed, and Onésime, the favourite of the Surrealists. Behind the stars there were directors such as Gaumont's Roméo Bosetti and Jean Durand, comedy visionaries before Mack Sennett and Hal Roach. There were child stars from Bébé to Willy and funny ladies from Cissy to Tartinette. Many of the restored AFF versions looked good, and although this kind of viewing is not ideal for comedy shorts meant to be seen singly, many titles stood out, for example Boireau en mission scientifique (1912) which comedy experts were quick to divine as a possible inspiration for the opening film of the festival, Buster Keaton's The Navigator. My favourite was Calino chef de gare (1912), a witty example of the catastrophe principle so dominant in these pre-WWI comedies.

The Early Cinema section was dominated by the fourth edition of The Corrick Collection, preserved by National Film and Sound Archive, Australia, with two delightful shows displaying a cross-section of the touring programmes more than a hundred years ago, from Edison to Pathé, from tragedy vignettes (Pauvres vieux, FR 1907) to multi-coloured Segundo de Chomón fantasmagoria (Les Fleurs animées, FR 1906). The Madagascar show (Louis Tinayre, FR 1898) was presented with authentic Malgache songs. The Vincenzo Neri medical films (IT 1908-1928) were reminders of the scientific value the cinema had from early on, successors in their naked force to Marey, Muybridge and the Black Maria period of Edison. The Silence of the Amazon documentaries from Cinemateca Brasileira were unanimously admired. The first one, Rituaes e festas Borôro (1916), was fascinating, and the others reportedly even better.

There were several rediscoveries from the masters. A Thief Catcher (US 1914, from collector Paul Gierucki) has been missing even from Charles Chaplin filmographies, but there he was as a bumbling Keystone Kop. Upstream (John Ford, US 1927) had been repatriated from the New Zealand Film Archive and the beautiful print on display was better than most of the ones seen this year in Bologna's Ford retro. The smooth satire on the theatre people was an example of Ford’s many-sided professionalism without recognizably personal touches. Robert Wiene's comedy Die Waffen der Jugend (DE 1912, print from EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam) was an assured debut film. F.W. Murnau's Marizza (DE 1922, print from Cineteca Nazionale, Roma) was a tantalizing fragment from a Carmen-like story, Murnau’s sense of composition impressively in evidence.

Lenny Borger had compiled a series of French "Making Of" documentaries from the 1920s, from films such as La Roue, L'Argent, and Les trois mousquetaires, proving that the template for the contemporary dvd extras was created already then. Pordenone paid tribute to the 75th anniversaries of two film archives of the foundation period: in New York (The Museum of Modern Art) and London (the present BFI National Archive). Laura Minici Zotti's farewell magic lantern show was a display of elegance and dignity. A musical delight was the Striking a New Note show with orchestras of the schoolchildren of Pordenone and Sacile. Henri Rabaud's original score to Le Miracle des loups was heard in a piano arrangement by Touve R. Ratovondrahety: I look forward to a full orchestra presentation. A highlight of the Festival was Alberto Cavalcanti's Rien que les heures (FR 1926) in a beautiful colour print from EYE Film Institute and with Yves de la Casinière's original score arranged and played by Maud Nelissen with brio with her trio. A definitive experience of the city symphony that inspired Walther Ruttmann.

The Jonathan Dennis lecture was given by Sir Jeremy Isaacs, the visionary British television and opera executive. His topic was Kevin Brownlow whose groundbreaking Hollywood tv series (GB 1980, 13 episodes with David Gill) and the life-long reconstruction project of Abel Gance's Napoléon inspired the global silent cinema revival. The lecture was an illustrated Photoplay production, and the closing event was another Photoplay production, William Wellman's Wings (US 1927), the magnificent Carl Davis score performed by Orchestra Mitteleuropea and conducted by Mark Fitz-Gerald. Kevin receives an Academy Honorary Award in November 2010, after Henri Langlois the second master of film preservation to do so. It elevates the status of the Academy.

Wings (cinema concert, closing event)

(Paramount Famous Lasky Corp., US 1927) D: William A. Wellman; pres: Adolph Zukor, Jesse Lasky; P: Lucien Hubbard; assoc. prod: B. P. Schulberg; story: John Monk Saunders; SC: Hope Loring, Louis D. Lighton; story consultant: Robert Nichols; scen. editor: E. Lloyd Sheldon; ED: Merrill White, Tommy Scott; titles: Julian Johnson; DP: Harry Perry; ph. effects: Paul Perry; addl. ph: Burton Steene, Horace D. Ashton, Cliff Blackston, Russell Harlan, Bert Baldridge, Frank Cotner, Faxon M. Dean, Ray Hubbard, Ray Olsen, L. Guy Wilky, Herman Schoop, Al Lane, William Clothier, Ernest Laszlo, Alfred Williams, L. B. Abbott, Eddie Adams, Al Myers, Gene O’Donnell; asst. dir: Dick Johnson, Charles Barton; prod. mgr: Frank Blount; engineering effects: Roy Pomeroy (Magnascope & sound effects); gag man & anim: Norman Z. McLeod; cast: Clara Bow (Mary Preston), Charles “Buddy” Rogers ( Jack Powell), Richard Arlen (David Armstrong), Jobyna Ralston (Sylvia Lewis), Gary Cooper (Cadet White), Arlette Marchal (Celeste), El Brendel (Patrick O’Brien), Gunboat Smith (The Sergeant), Richard Tucker (Air commander), Julia Swayne Gordon (Mrs. Armstrong), Henry B. Walthall (Mr. Armstrong), George Irving (Mr. Powell), Hedda Hopper (Mrs. Powell), Margery Chapin [Wellman] (Peasant mother), Gloria Wellman (Peasant child), Charles Barton (Soldier hit by ambulance), William Wellman (Dying doughboy in final advance), Roscoe Karns (Lt. Cameron), Frank Clarke (Kapitan Kellerman), Dick Grace, Rod Rogers, Bill Taylor, Paul Mantz, Hoyt Vandenburg, Hal George, Frank Andrews, Clarence Irvine, Earl E. Partridge, S.R. Stribling (pilots); première: 12.8.1927 (Criterion, New York City); 12,493 ft., 139 min (24 fps); source: Photoplay Productions, London.
Score by Carl Davis; performed by Orchestra Mitteleuropea; conducted by Mark Fitz-Gerald.
Score commissioned by Photoplay Productions for Channel Four; performed by arrangement with Faber Music London Ltd. on behalf of Carl Davis.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian, 9 Oct 2010

KEVIN BROWNLOW in the GCM Catalogue: "Written by one pilot and directed by another, Wings caught the excitement over aviation at its peak – Lindbergh had flown the Atlantic in May 1927. Wellman gave the flying scenes an epic grandeur – he refused to stage them in the safety of the studio, and sent his actors up in charge of experienced pilots. (Richard Arlen had flown with the Royal Canadian Flying Corps, but Buddy Rogers knew nothing about planes.) When conditions were right, the pilots ducked out of sight, the actors triggered remote-control cameras, and, as Buddy Rogers put it, “I was director, cameraman – everything…for four hundred feet, that is.”
Harry Perry was director of photography, commanding a vast crew of cameramen. High angles for battle scenes were taken from a hundredfoot tower, and the ground was churned up by artillery fire. The U.S. Army’s 2nd Division, which had taken part in the original drive, was used for the Big Push at the location outside San Antonio, Texas. Several of the pilots became generals in World War II. One pilot was killed. “We thought that would stop the picture,” said Lucien Hubbard, “but the operation officer said, ‘We don’t think anything of it. Guys are always killed in training…’ ” Wellman, the only Paramount director who had fought as a pilot in the war, also fought the front office for such essential visual effects as clouds for the dogfights – “You get no sense of speed because there’s nothing that’s parallel. The clouds give you that, but against a blue sky, it’s like a lot of goddam flies!” The weeks he spent waiting for clouds cost Paramount a fortune. But the picture was a smash hit. “When the director was not working on the picture,” reported Motion Picture Magazine (September 1927), “he and the producer were settling the differences that arose because of army politics, soothing over jealousies between different branches of the service, pacifying the impatient troops with barrels of beer and motion picture entertainments, giving the aviators dinners and dances and conciliating fuming officers with a diplomacy that would have avoided the World War.” On top of which, the crew making Victor Fleming’s Paramount epic, The Rough Riders, hit town – every man hoping for a date with Clara Bow.
Wings gets better the older it becomes. Scenes that once seemed naïve and overly sentimental now seem an integral part of their time. Clara Bow plays Mary, the girl next door who loves Jack and his home-made car. At training school, Jack fights with Dick, soon to be his closest comrade. (They play in a scene with Gary Cooper.) They go to France. Mary has volunteered and is also at the front as an ambulance driver. The two boys are decorated and are given leave. At last – Paris! Mary, also in Paris, finds Jack, intoxicated, in the arms of another girl. She wins him back, only to be arrested and sent home by the military police. Orders come to return to base. The Big Push. Dick is shot down and captured. He escapes in a German plane and Jack shoots him down. Jack lands in front of a military cemetery and steps out of his plane in front of thousands of white crosses, unaware that his closest friend lies dying.
Apart from this pacifist touch, it is “the road to glory” and “the bravest of the brave” that figure in the titles. Wellman hurls his camera around the vast battlefield with exhilarating abandon. Even by today’s standards, his setups seem remarkably bold. His epic handling of the Battle of St.-Mihiel is overwhelming, and the superimposition of thousands of men marching into a horizon where their destruction is pictured in split-screen, is a moment worthy of Abel Gance’s J’accuse (1919).
Apart from regular tinting (which we reproduced in our new copy in accordance with a surviving continuity), in original prints when planes caught fire, you saw red flames, and for the big scenes the screen expanded to the full size of the proscenium, thanks to Magnascope. In 1928, the film was equipped with the sound effects of airplane motors and machine-gun fire.
Wings may have won the the Academy’s first award for “outstanding production” (pre-dating the “Best Picture” category), but the War Department was furious at how much their co-operation had cost. “A good brisk war,” they said, “would be preferable to another movie.” Producer Howard Hughes watched Wings continually before making the next aviation epic, Hell’s Angels (1930). – KEVIN BROWNLOW."

Revisited a familiar film in the beautiful restored and toned Photoplay print with the magnificent Carl Davis score. The conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald and Orchestra Mitteleuropea at the strength of some 65 musicians did a marvellous job with the music performance. I agree with Kevin Brownlow that this film keeps getting better. The naive and stereotypical aspects are easier to ignore, and it is easier to focus on the strengths of this film. The Gary Cooper vignette is more powerful to us than to the contemporary audience to whom he was still an unknown. The devastating turning-point is Jack killing David who is trying to escape from the German airspace on a German airplane. Wings is still one of the great films about the air force.

French Clowns 1905-1914 A-Z, Programme 6

Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in English and Italian and the Masterclass student Judith Rosenberg at the grand piano, 9 Oct 2010

Biographical notes by David Robinson. Film synopses supplied by the Archives Françaises du Film du Centre National de la Cinématographie, Bois d’Arcy. All prints from the Archives Françaises du Film (CNC), Bois d’Arcy. Text in italics from the GCM Catalogue.

(Jeanne Bloch, 1858-1916) For more than 40 years, from 1872, Jeanne Bloch was a major star of the Paris café-concerts, including notably the Alcazar d’hiver, the Scala, and the Parisiana. She was known as “La colossale chanteuse”, reckoned to be one metre sixty – in all directions. Her contemporary Paulus recalled in his memoirs, “Jeanne Bloch, she is laughter, gaiety, health, joie de vivre! She has the public in the palm of her hand! An extraordinary facial mobility, an intelligent  understanding of the stage allows her to undertake any role, child, cocotte, ingénue, working woman, woman of the world, a concierge. Her career will be brilliant. At this moment Jeanne Bloch is still the darling of the goodhumoured public which likes big effects and in-your-face comedy.”

Tartinette rêve aux exploits de Badigeon
(Tartinette's Dream), (Le Film Parisien, FR 1914), D: ?; cast: Jeanne Bloch (Tartinette), Fernand Frey (Badigeon); 35 mm, 171 m, 8 min (18 fps), b&w and tinted. French and English main title and intertitles.
Tartinette reads in the newspaper that Badigeon has just killed a lion. She wants to see this hero, and sets off for Marseille. On the way she falls asleep and dreams. She imagines herself in the brush with Badigeon, who declares her empress of the desert and dresses her in an animal skin. Tartinette gets lost in the forest, and Badigeon searches for her. Mistaking her for a tigress, he climbs up a tree. She teases him. Waking, her former ideal image of Badigeon is destroyed. - A good print. Tartinette is a sturdy funny lady. The disillusionment takes place in her dream.

At Pathé’s Comica Studio, Roméo Bosetti evidently sought a child comic in response to Gaumont’s Bébé and Bout de Zan and Éclair’s Willy. Unfortunately the identity of this naughty child is not known.The glue joke in La Colle forte de Titi looks very much as if it might have been borrowed from Klebolin klebt alles (1909), starring the 8-year-old Curt Bois.

La Colle forte de Titi
(Pathé Comica, FR 1913) D: ?; cast: ? (Titi); Pathé 5810; orig. l: 160 m.; 35 mm, 98 m, 4' (18 fps), incomplete (missing beginning and ending).
For a child as wild as Titi, any opportunity for stupid tricks will do. The malicious Titi teases grown-ups, putting them in crazy situations which he provokes with his pot of powerful glue. But, like the arroseur arrosé, he falls into his glue-pot, and so is punished for his tricks. - Print quality: the source is Pathé Kok. Ok comedy about the child's glue tricks. +

(Tommy Footit, 1884-1927) Tommy Footit was the eldest son of the famous British-born “white clown” George Footit (born Tudor Hall, 1864-1921). In 1886 the older Footit had teamed with Raphaël Padilla to become Footit et Chocolat, a star comedy act of the French circus for almost a quarter of a century and immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec. In 1910 Footit split from Chocolat in order to work with his sons, but his career did not recover: for a while he ran his own circus, but ended as a barowner. Tommy Footit made seven films for Éclair in 1911. After the war he married Adrienne Lamy, daughter of the proprietor of the Cirque Lamy, but later became mentally disturbed and took his own life at the age of 43. Their sons Victor and George were also circus performers.

Tommy étrenne son cor de chasse
(Éclair, FR 1911) D: ?; cast: Tommy Footit (Tommy); 35 mm, 91 m, 4 min (18 fps), b&w and tinted; incomplete (missing ending).
In a shop, Tommy buys a hunting horn from a strange merchant. As soon as he begins to play he provokes real catastrophes, because his instrument is bewitched. People and objects fly in the air, houses collapse, all to Tommy’s great amusement. Everyone joins in a frenzied pursuit to prevent him from playing, but in vain. Thanks to his instrument he always gets away with it. - Print quality: from a heavily used source with tinting and toning, but the original fine definition of light shines through. A good comedy with funny reversed image effects related to the magic horn and a fine sense of the comedy of the catastrophe, where the world viewed perishes utterly. *

TOTO (1) Unidentified actor.

Les Farces de Toto gâte-sauce
(Pathé Frères, FR 1905) D: Georges Hatot; cast: ? (Toto); Pathé 1303; 35 mm, 87 m, 4 min (18 fps), b&w and tinted.
A young apprentice pastrycook commits non-stop pranks. His victims want to give him a good lesson, but the scamp shuts them in the hen-coop. - An ok print with toning. The escalation of tricks, the revenge of the child to his pursuers leading to a shock ending where he sets their cage on fire.

TOTO (2) An attempt by Pathé to launch a child star to compete with Gaumont and Éclair. The actor is unidentified.

Toto ne boira plus d'apéritif
(Pathé Frères, FR 1911) D: ?; cast: ? (Toto); Pathé 4525; orig. l: 100 m; 35 mm, 81 m, 4 min (16 fps); incomplete (missing ending). Preserved from a Mexican distribution print. Main title in Spanish; one intertitle, in Spanish.
Six-year-old Toto takes advantage of his father’s inattention in a café to smoke a cigarette and get himself an absinthe. A little later the child, now drunk, dances with the waiters. Suddenly, seized by violent feelings of nausea, he takes refuge in his astounded father’s arms, and promises not to smoke or drink absinthe ever again. - Image quality fair to pretty good. A strange story about a child smoking and drinking, with an educational ending.

(Willy Sanders, 1906-1990).The Liverpool-born William Sanders had a considerable success with his first film, The Man to Beat Jack Johnson, made by the British Tyler Company in 1910, and was immediately taken to Paris by the Éclair company, which saw him as a competitor to Gaumont’s mischievous infants, Bébé and Bout de Zan. By 1916, when his film career ended, he had made 65 films, generally directed by Joseph Faivre.

La Ruse de Willy
(Éclair, FR 1913) D: Joseph Faivre; cast: Willy Sanders (Willy); 35 mm, 179 m, 8 min (18 fps).
Mr. and Mrs. Plouff are shocked to learn that someone is stealing food from their larder. Mr. Plouff questions all the servants, but no one knows anything. Mr. Plouff sets a trap, spreading flour on the floor to track the thief’s footprints. That night the Plouffs’ son Willy secretly gets up and discovers the trap. The scamp pulls on one of his father’s shoes and one of his mother’s, and creeps into the kitchen, where he fills his belly, and then goes back to bed. The next day, faced with the incriminating footprints in the flour, Mr. and Mrs. Plouff accuse each other of the theft, but finish by realizing that someone has played a trick on them. The following night Mr. Plouff fills the shoes with extrastrong glue. Willy repeats his naughty escapade, and, after having eaten well, realizes that he cannot take off the shoes. He is astonished in his sleep by the two big shoes protruding from his bed. - Fair quality of the image, from a worn source, black levels ok. Willy attempts to frame his own parents as the noctural thiefs of food.

Le 1er duel de Willy
(Éclair, FR 1914) D: Joseph Faivre; cast: Willy Sanders (Willy); 35 mm, 162 m, 7 min (18 fps).
A big children’s party has been organized for Willy’s name-day. Willy pays court to Solange, a little girl of his own age. At table, Bob, a rival, plays footsie with her. Willy realizes this when his rival touches his foot by mistake. Angry, Willy challenges him to a duel. Before the confrontation, fixed for the following Thursday, Willy practices by fighting his toys. He makes his will and, on the day, declares his passion to his loved one. The boxing match takes place in the garden, but the little girl quickly runs to alert the boys’ mothers, who come and separate them. After explanations, Solange asks them to shake hands, and the two little boys kiss on the cheek. - Routine stuff.

ZIGOTO (Lucien Bataille) see Casimir

Zigoto et l'affaire du collier (Zigoto et le collier / La Trouvaille de Zigoto)
(Gaumont, FR 1911). D: Jean Durand; cast: Lucien Bataille (Zigoto), Berthe Dagmar (the actress), Gaston Modot (a theatre employee); 35 mm, 197 m, 9 min (18 fps). Restored in 2003 by Gaumont and the Archives françaises du film (CNC) from an original nitrate negative; intertitles reconstructed using an original scenario deposited at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
The Viscount de Vieillenoix offers a pearl necklace to an actress he is wooing. But the following day the precious gift has vanished. The actress goes to a private detective agency. The chief of the agency assigns two detectives to the case, Stout and Zigoto, who have very different methods. Stout posts himself in front of the theatre to watch the comings and goings while sipping port. Zigoto however investigates very clumsily, leaving his own fingerprints at the site of the supposed theft and disturbing a gala show. Zigoto discovers nothing, until he finds the Viscount in possession of an identical necklace. For him there is no doubt of the thief’s identity; he leaps on the Viscount and arrests him. Meanwhile, Stout has fallen asleep in front of the theatre, where the maid drops the necklace out of the actress’s dressing-room window, straight into Stout’s hat. The two rival detectives arrive with their finds at the actress’s house. Stout triumphs; the defeated Zigoto is ridiculed. As for the happy actress, she now has two necklaces. - A good print. A comical cellar of the detectives. Witty intertitles. Pretty funny +

Zigoto, policier, trouve une corde
(Gaumont, FR 1912) D: Jean Durand; cast: Lucien Bataille (Zigoto), Gaston Modot;
Gaumont 3679; 35 mm, 88 m, 4 min (18 fps).
Zigoto finds a bull on the end of a rope, which throws him into an improvised corrida with a policeman. The little bovine passes a procession in which we recognize Onésime. Finally Zigoto goes crazy: he believes he is a bull, and charges at people seated outside a café. - A fair print, verging to high contrast. Dangerous-looking slapstick with the raging bull. +

Zigoto en pleine lune de miel (La Lune de miel de Zigoto)
(Gaumont, FR 1912) D: Jean Durand; cast: Lucien Bataille (Zigoto), Berthe Dagmar (Berthe); 35 mm, 118 m, 5 min (18 fps), b&w and tinted. Intertitles missing.
Zigoto cuddles with his new young wife Berthe on a sofa. Three friends arrive without the young couple showing the least interest, but continuing to hug and kiss on the sofa. The three men embark on a game of cards which degenerates into a brawl, and our two lovers, detached from the world, receive plates and chairs on their heads without even noticing. Fire breaks out in the kitchen, and two firemen arrive and break down the walls with pickaxes rather than extinguish the flames. The couple, still inseparable on their sofa, are soaked by jets of water. The ceiling collapses, and our young lovers continue to exchange kisses in the cellar into which they are precipitated. - A good print. A fine catastrophe comedy. The firemen as destroyers. +

Zigoto à la fête (Zigoto esta la fiesta)
(Comica, FR 1912) D: Roméo Bosetti; cast: Lucien Bataille (Zigoto), Gaston Modot; Pathé 4989; 35 mm, 117 m, 6 min (16 fps). Main title in Spanish; no intertitles.
Through his binoculars, Zigoto sees a funfair. Very enthusiastic, he decides to go to the shooting gallery. But he blinds one eye trying a pistol. Happily he still has one eye left. At the “Aunt Sally” (U.S.: cocoanut shy) stall he knocks out a policeman. No way discouraged, he continues his tour and visits the wax museum. Zigoto tickles a soldier, but the latter, all too real, defends himself, and the visit ends in general scrimmage. A little further on, he responds to the challenge of a wrestler, who quickly sends him waltzing in the air like a common rag doll. This time it is too much: Zigoto returns home, in rags and covered in bruises. - A fair image quality. Mayhem at the fair, at ths shooting gallery, at the waxworks, at the boxing ring. +

ZIZI (Zinel) Also played the character “Snob”, though nothing more is known of the actor.

Zizi fait des courses
(Lux, FR 1913) D: ?; cast: Zinel (Zizi); 35 mm, 91 m, 4 min (18 fps).
Zizi, a shop assistant, has to deliver a hat in a hat-box. On the way he meets his fiancée, and experiences various misdventures. The hat arrives in a pitiable state. - A fair image quality. Zizi as the errand boy. The story is an exercise on the many ways in which the exquisite hat can be battered.

Tokyo no eiyu

[Un eroe di Tokyo / A Hero of Tokyo] (Shochiku, JP 1935) D: Hiroshi Shimizu; asst. D: Isao Numanami, Tai Ogiwara, Minoru Matsui, Hideo Oba; SC: Masao Arata; DP: Hiroshi Nomura; AD: Yoneichi Wakita; cast: Yukichi Iwata (Kaichi Nemoto), Mitsuko Yoshikawa (Haruko Nemoto), Mitsugu Fujii (Kanichi Nemoto), Michiko Kuwano (Kayoko Nemoto), Hideo Mitsui (Hideo Nemoto), Tokkan-kozo (Kanichi as a boy), Mitsuko Ichimura (Kayoko as a girl), Jun Yokoyama (Hideo as a boy); 35 mm, 1750 m, 64 min (24 fps), sound; source: National Film Center, Tokyo. English intertitles on the print. Silent film with synchronized score. Viewed at Cinemazero, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian, 9 Oct 2010

ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRöM in the GCM Catalogue: "This late silent film is little more than an hour long, and achieves a narrative concentration and emotional intensity which place it among the neglected gems of the Japanese cinema of the 1930s. The story focuses on the widower Nemoto, ostensibly a businessman, who has one son, Kanichi, the hero of the title. Nemoto remarries; his new wife is a widow with a son and daughter of her own. However, Nemoto’s business turns out to be out a shady scam, and he disappears, leaving his wife to raise the three children alone. In order to support the family, she is obliged to become a bar hostess. She conceals this shameful employment from the children, but the truth comes out years later, after her daughter is rejected by her husband’s family when they investigate her background. The film contains powerful performances from Mitsugu Fujii, here making the last of his regular appearances for Shimizu, and Mitsuko Yoshikawa, a specialist in the haha-mono (“mother-film”) genre. Contemporary critics commented on the darkness of Shimizu’s work at this period, and indeed the director is unsparing in his depiction of the Japanese family, and trenchant in his criticism of the social assumptions that destroy it from outside and from within. Moreover, the film also has a broader political application: William M. Drew has drawn attention to the film’s metaphorical critique of the imperialist activities of the military government of the time. He calls Tokyo no eiyu Shimizu’s “most emotionally overwhelming film, unsparing in its depiction of human tragedy, with its vision probably the bleakest of all his works”. Perhaps surprisingly given its subversive elements, the film was both a critical and a commercial success. ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRöM."

A good print. - There are two parts in this film. The first part shows the disintegration of the family. The father is a crook whose goldmine scam is exposed and he abandons his family. The mother sustains the family with three children by becoming a bar proprietor, keeping her profession a secret. But when the mother's profession is exposed ten years later, her daughter is divorced and becomes a streetwalker, and one son interrupts his studies, becomes a gangster and dies from a gunshot wound. Another son becomes an investigative journalist who finds out that his father is now a gangster boss who has launched another goldmine fraud, this time in Manchuria. The mother closes her bar and turns her back to her son who has betrayed his father. The story is pretty far fetched, but Hiroshi Shimizu infuses it with conviction. In the beginning a running joke is introduced with children dwelling by the railway waiting for their fathers. Some fathers come home earlier, some later. The children conclude that the later the father returns the more important he is. In a later scene when mama comes late they deduce that "mama got promoted". The actors are good, and Hiroshi Shimizu creates strong images about injustice, loneliness, bitterness, and disappointment.

Moana (1981 sound version)

Robert J. Flaherty and Frances Hubbard Flaherty: Moana (US 1926).

Famous Players-Lasky, US 1926. 1981 sound version. D: Robert Flaherty; cast: Ta’avale (Moana), Fa’angase, Tu’ugaita, Pe’a; 1981 soundtrack D: Monica Flaherty; HDCAM (NTSC) from Monica Flaherty [not DigiBeta] (transferred at 24 fps from a 16 mm positive print [NB: from a stretch print corresponding to a speed of 18 fps]), 96 min (sound); source: Monica Flaherty Archive, Helsinki. No 35 mm print of this version of the film is currently available for screening.

Viewed at Cinemazero, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian, 9 Oct 2010

SAMI VAN INGEN in the GCM Catalogue: "Robert Flaherty (1885-1951) filmed Moana, his least-seen feature length film, in Samoa between April 1923 and December 1924. It was the first time his family accompanied him during the filmmaking process. His wife Frances worked with him, while their three daughters, Monica (4), Frances (7), and Barbara (9), spent their time learning Samoan customs and songs and making friends. This relationship to Samoa, particularly the singing of Samoan songs, was kept up by the three sisters in the subsequent years, and was to form the basis for Monica Flaherty’s sound version of Moana decades later. Released in 1926 Moana was not a box-office success; despite being relatively well received in Europe, its distribution was soon limited to a few specialist outlets like MoMA in New York. Robert Flaherty always believed that the original musical score, incorporating classical motifs, was inappropriate and hampered the film, and that audiences would understand Moana better if it had a more suitable soundtrack. In the early 1970s Monica Flaherty, then in her early 50s, took over the managing of the family’s film legacy. One of her first aims was to figure out a way to make a sound version of Moana. By that time portable tape recorders and flatbed editing systems made sound recording and editing considerably easier.

From the start Monica’s intention was to create a “natural” soundtrack, recording in the original locations, and most important, working with people who had intimate knowledge of the making of the film in 1924. She was able to find the surviving members of the original Samoan cast: Pe’a, who played the little boy, and Ta’avale, who played Moana, both still lived in the Safune village, while Fa’angase, the village maiden, lived in Hawaii. Monica made several field trips to Hawaii to show the film to the Samoan community and discuss ideas with Fa’angase. In 1975 she travelled to Samoa with Richard Leacock and Sarah Hudson, recording a wealth of sound material on location in collaboration with Pe’a and Ta’avale and their families.

The post-production was done in Vermont, at a company run by Allan and Susan Seymour. Interviewed in early 2010, Allan recalled how Monica strove for perfection, and was very meticulous in her sound design: “Her soundtrack was dense, it was full – it was like she was standing beside her father with a Nagra.”

Monica Flaherty consulted an incredible number of people on her sound project: experts in Samoan music, anthropologists, linguists, diplomats, financers, celebrities, film technicians and preservationists, and filmmakers who included Jean Renoir. During the 5 years of sound editing, Monica showed the film to Samoans in Hawaii several times and taped their feedback, analyzing their response and then reworking her soundtrack. In 1977 she wrote that she was doing the soundtrack both for the preservation of the film itself and of the traditional Samoan songs associated with it. She also collected invaluable research material about the making of Moana through taped interviews and correspondence with people in Samoa who had been involved in the making of the film.

Paramount had no print of Moana (allegedly they had destroyed the nitrate negatives and prints, without bothering to make safety film dupes). There had been much interest in the film in Sweden in the 1920s, however, and Monica finally found a decent original 35mm nitrate print at the Swedish Film Archive, from which she made a dupe negative. Another challenge for the project was to adapt the original silent print to accommodate a soundtrack at 24 fps, and numerous tests were done to step-print the original 18 fps to this standard. It was soon discovered that different scenes, particularly the lagoon shots, had to be printed at different step ratios. The lab costs steadily mounted, but Monica’s persistence and perfectionism paid off. The end result was as good as analog technology allows, keeping every frame of the original Moana, and with natural-looking movement in each shot.

Paramount was never very interested in Monica’s soundtrack project; for a big studio, work on a low-profit classic was not a viable business venture in the late 1970s, long before the “new media” of DVDs and the Internet. However, they permitted her to screen Moana in noncommercial limited venues. After nearly 10 years of work, Moana with sound premiered at the Cinémathèque française in Paris on 17 June 1981. It was very well received, and was screened 49 times in various venues around the world, including Berlin in 1985 and Cannes in 1990. Monica accompanied the film and gave a talk at each screening.

The last screening of Moana with sound was in 1998, after which Monica, then 76, felt too old to travel with it. As she did not have the distribution rights, Moana once again became an inert film classic. Monica Flaherty passed away in 2008, and left her soundtrack and its related archive in the hands of her estate. After sorting and cataloguing, the materials will be available for research at the Central Art Archives of the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki. Future screenings of Moana with sound will depend on screening and distribution rights, the interest of curators, and the perseverance of people who want this beautiful film to be seen – and heard – again. SAMI VAN INGEN."

The visual quality of the HDCAM did not pay justice to the cinematography, the sound volume was a bit loud, and the projector broke in the middle of the screening, but finally Moana was screened in its entirety in the Monica Flaherty sound version. As Sami van Ingen stated, we are looking forward to a 35 mm viewing print of Robert Flaherty's masterpiece which has been difficult to see for a long time. During the festival it was interesting to meet film historians who do not care much about Flaherty anyway: no drama, no structure, not enough coverage (no establishing shots in Moana) they said. Certainly not. For me Flaherty is one of the great poets of the cinema, always in search of paradise lost. There are those who prefer White Shadows in the South Seas and Tabu to Moana, and I admire them all (they are all included in my MMM Film Guide of 1100 great films of all time), but for me Moana is superior because of its lack of conventional narrative and its sense of the rhythm of life.

See also Moana 9 Feb 2009
DocPoint Moana 28 Jan 2010

Daigaku no wakadanna

[Il giovane padrone all’università / Young Master at University] (Shochiku, JP 1933) D: Hiroshi Shimizu; asst. D: Takeshi Sato, Isao Numanami, Yasushi Sasaki, Masaru Kashiwabara; SC: Masao Arata; DP: Isamu Aoki, Taro Sasaki; AD: Yoneichi Wakita; cast: Mitsugu Fujii (Minoru Fujii), Haruo Takeda (Gohei, his father), Yoshiko Tsubouchi (Minako, his younger sister), Sumiko Mizukubo (Miyako, his younger sister), Takeshi Sakamoto (Kimura, his uncle), Tatsuo Saito (Wakahara, Minako’s husband), Shin Tokudaiji (Chuichi, the head clerk), Kyoko Mitsukawa (Hoshichiyo, apprentice geisha), Kinuko Wakamizu (Ofuna, geisha), Kenji Oyama (Horibe, cheering squad captain), Shinichi Himori (Miyake, rugby player), Isamu Yamaguchi (Ogawara, rugby player), Hideo Mitsui (Kitamura, rugby player and Fujii’s kohai [junior at college]); 35 mm, 2330 m, 85 min (24 fps), sound; source: National Film Center, Tokyo. English subtitles on the print. Silent film with a contemporary synchronized score. Viewed at Cinemazero, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian, 9 Oct 2010

ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRÖM in the GCM Catalogue (boldfacing by me): "Daigaku no wakadanna was the first in a popular series of college films directed by Shimizu and starring Mitsugu Fujii, of which this is regrettably the only example to survive. The National Film Center’s note on the film comments that the film “blends the foolish young master character from the world of rakugo [Japanese comic storytelling] with the American rugby [sic] player to create something that might be called a ‘Japanese-style college film’ ”. Although the influence of American college comedies such as Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman (1925) is apparent, the combination of the university setting with the traditional life of the shitamachi (the poorer and more traditional area of the capital) gave the film the original flavour that was praised by its Kinema Junpo reviewer, Shinbi Iida. The film concerns Fujii, captain of the university rugby club, who is obliged to drop out of the team after he takes an apprentice geisha, Hoshichiyo, to see the rugby ground. He soon begins to cut classes and devotes himself to pleasure. Hoshichiyo is herself in love with Chuichi, the head clerk of Fujii’s father’s business, who is however betrothed to Fujii’s sister Miyako. Meanwhile, Fujii himself falls for the sister of a younger fellow student, Kitamura. Will Fujii resolve these romantic complications in time for the big match? Shimizu’s film, though in many ways atypical for the director, is a remarkable work which displays a surprising emotional intensity. It was both popular and influential. In addition to the series of comedies that it initiated at the time, its style also prefigured Toho’s Wakadaisho series, created for actor Yuzo Kayama in the 1960s. ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRÖM."

Print with variable image quality from good to bad. The soundtrack sounds like an absent-minded record compilation with welcome silences. "The young master", Fujii the protagonist is a man of dubious morals: he steals and lies and seems lost as the future inheritor of the family business, his father's shop. There are also music hall sequences in the picture. The best scene in the film is the geisha's monologue.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Robin Hood (Douglas Fairbanks 1922) (MoMA Film Archive 75th Anniversary)

(Douglas Fairbanks Picture Corporation, for United Artists, US 1922). D: Allan Dwan; story: Elton Thomas [Douglas Fairbanks]; scen. ed: Lotta Woods; literary consultant: Arthur Knoblock; DP: Arthur Edeson; AD: Wilfred Buckland, Irvin J. Martin, Edward M. Langley; cost: Mitchell Leisen; research: Dr. Arthur Woods; tech. dir: Robert Fairbanks; cast: Douglas Fairbanks (The Earl of Huntingdon / Robin Hood), Wallace Beery (King Richard), Sam De Grasse (Prince John), Enid Bennett (Lady Marian Fitzwalter), Paul Dickey (Sir Guy of Gisbourne), William Lowery (Sheriff of Nottingham), Alan Hale (Little John), Willard Louis (Friar Tuck), Lloyd Talman (Alan-a-Dale), Maine Geary (Will Scarlett); 35 mm, 10,960 ft., 133 (22 fps), tinted; source: The Museum of Modern Art. Restored 2009. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Fund.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian and XX on the grand piano, 8 Oct 2010.

EILEEN BOWSER in the GCM Catalogue (boldfacing by me): "Robin Hood greatly impressed audiences of its day with its Maxfield Parrish-style romantic atmosphere, its enormous sets, and its horde of costumed extras. Few seemed to notice that Fairbanks was a little subdued by it all, or at least forgot his subdued demeanor when, in the last part of the picture, he returned to his old dashing self, and the excitement he generated carried the film through to its smashing climax. Today, Robin Hood appears less entertaining and less well constructed than its masterful predecessor, The Three Musketeers. This was Fairbanks’ own version of the Robin Hood legend (he is the “Elton Thomas” listed in the film’s credits), mixed with a little history and the Fairbanks legend itself. In the first half of the film, he plays the Earl of Huntingdon, strongest and bravest of the knights at court, named second in command of the Crusades by Richard-the-Lion-Hearted; later, victim of intrigue, unjustly suspected by the King, he becomes Robin Hood, the outlaw of fairy-tale fame. In the role of the Earl, Fairbanks is hampered by the gorgeous mise-en-scène. The camera is held back, often to extreme long shot, in order to include the huge exteriors and interiors of the medieval castle, and the characters are dwarfed by them. This somewhat awkward use of the large, expensive sets calls to mind comparisons with D.W. Griffith’s masterful use of the towering walls of Babylon in Intolerance a few years earlier, his camera positions, movements, and contrasts of intimate details with panoramic views. Nevertheless, the opening shot of Robin Hood is a very impressive one: the drawbridge descends toward the camera, almost filling the screen, kinesthetically drawing in the spectator.
The first half of the film moves much more slowly than we expect of a Fairbanks film; though it is enlivened with occasional touches of humor, based on the Earl’s shyness with women, the film shows little of Fairbanks’ athletic grace, and the amount of intrigue as well as décor seem to have a strangling effect on him. Once Robin Hood is established in Sherwood Forest, the swashbuckling Fairbanks emerges, and the picture begins to move. If it was not clear from earlier films that Fairbanks was himself responsible for the creative use of the medium, it is surely evident here, where Allan Dwan’s direction is on the whole rather pedestrian. However, the sequences in which Fairbanks performs his stunts – the leap from the trees to the man on horseback, the chase through the castle climaxed by his slide down the great drapery, the jump across space from one wall to another, the climb up the chain of the rising drawbridge – could only have been staged by the man who devised them and performed them. And it is precisely here that the production comes to vivid life, expressing visual excitement of a kind not possible to any other medium.
Worth noting, too, is Wallace Beery’s performance as Richard: his portrayal of the historical figure as a rude-mannered, boisterous, jolly fellow rather than as an aristocrat lends a note of realism, and was much admired at the time. – EILEEN BOWSER (Film Notes, The Museum of Modern Art, 1969)."

A beautiful print, all tinted. Douglas Fairbanks' version is original and different from the others. I agree with Eileen Bowser that the film really comes to life after the long introductory sequences when the "swashbuckling Fairbanks emerges" and have nothing to add to her astute judgement.

Mulcahy's Raid and A College Chicken (Haghefilm / Selznick School Fellowship 2010: Karin Carlson)

Haghefilm / Selznick School Fellowship 2010: Karin Carlson (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin)
Mulcahy's Raid (Essanay Film Mfg. Co., US 1910). D: ?; cast: Harry Todd, Augustus Carney; 35 mm, 350 ft, 5' (18 fps); source: George Eastman House.
A College Chicken (Essanay Film Mfg. Co., US 1910). D: ?; 35 mm, 430 ft, 6'2" (19 fps); source: George Eastman House.
Presented at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian and XX at the grand piano, 8 Oct 2010.

CAROLINE YEAGER at the GCM Catalogue: "These two short films from the prodigious output of the Essanay studios had been considered “lost” until they were recently discovered by George Eastman House vault staff as products of Essanay. Originally released at 550 ft. and 448 ft. respectively, the two 35mm diacetate films were spliced together on an Essanay split reel. Time and wear had taken their toll, and the first film on the reel, Mulcahy’s Raid, was missing some footage and its original title. This film was subsequently identified by Essanay film historian David Kiehn, who was also able to identify two of the actors. Mulcahy’s Raid features a police officer who becomes entangled with a group of actors playing policemen in a film and enlists them to assist him with a raid on a cockfight. The second film on the reel, A College Chicken, is missing its original end title, but seems to be fairly complete. It tells the story of a chicken that is stolen multiple times, and follows the fowl deed from hencoop to a girl-boy boarding school, where, cooked by the boys, the purloined bird ends up as a delicious meal for the girls. A pillow fight finishes off the evening. – CAROLINE YEAGER."

The prints are ok from difficult sources. The films are basic knockabout slapstick, the first a cockfight story with actors wearing policemen's costumes, and the second with a black boy stealing a chicken, in turn stolen from him by white boy students, and finally eaten by girl students. The pillow fight is an early instance of the Zéro de conduite tradition.

Die Waffen der Jugend / [The Weapons of Youth]

Die Waffen der Jugend (1912). Photo: DIF / Filmportal

Die Waffen der Jugend. Die Abenteuer eines kleinen Mädchens in Berlin. Ein heiteres Drama. Deutscher Künstlerfilm. (Komet-Film, DE 1912) D+SC: Robert Wiene; DP: Charles Paulus;
    Cast: Gertrud Gräbner (May), Curt Maler (Cornelius), Hans Staufen (Peter), Conrad Wiene (Hans);
    Filmed: 12.1912; released: 10.1.1913; 35 mm, 615 m, 28 min (19 fps), col. (tinted); source: EYE Film Institute Netherlands, Amsterdam. Deutsche Zwischentitel.
    Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in English and Italian and Mauro Colombis at the grand piano, 8 Oct 2010

DAVID ROBINSON in the GCM Catalogue: "This long-lost film was the debut in cinema of Robert Wiene (1873- 1938), seven years before his mythical Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari. For a first film it is admirably assured, with lively narrative and characters, inventive mise-en-scène, and a few, but evocative Berlin locations. The heroine, May, is tearfully sent off to boarding school, where she soon becomes a spirited and disruptive presence. Disciplined, she runs away, and is rescued from the streets by Hans and Peter, two disreputable mendicants. Taking her into their home, they treat her with exemplary respect; in turn she reforms them, getting them to shave, mend their clothes, and sweep the floor of their hovel. The happy ending is equivocal: the carefree reprobates look at risk of falling victim to respectability, and going to work.

The son of the stage actor Carl Wiene, Robert Wiene studied law in Berlin before drifting to the stage in his mid-30s, finally encountering film with this charming comedy. Between this and Caligari he made a score of successful commercial pictures, now mostly lost. Caligari gave him international status and his career prospered – with lingering loyalty to Expressionism in Genuine, Raskolnikow, and Orlacs Hände.

With the rise of Nazism the Jewish Wiene left Germany, and never retrieved his career. In Budapest he made Eine Nacht in Venedig (1934); in London he was uncredited producer on The Robber Symphony, directed by Friedrich Feher, who had played Francis in Caligari. In Paris, a plan to collaborate with Cocteau on a sound version of Caligari came to nothing, but in 1938 Wiene embarked on a spy film, Ultimatum. He died from cancer ten days before the end of the production: the film was finished by Robert Siodmak. Wiene’s younger brother Conrad (or Konrad), born in 1878, who plays Hans in the film, appears to have begun his career as an actor, though this is his only recorded performance. From 1916 to 1932 he enjoyed a successful career as a director. With the rise of Fascism he chose to emigrate to Austria, after which all trace of him seems lost.

The unique known copy of Die Waffen der Jugend was found in 2009 during the restoration of an old house in Rotterdam, which in the early 20th century was occupied by a family with a photographic equipment business; the film was in a container with other comedies and news films of 1913-1915. Despite its perilous condition – the adhering film had to be painstakingly separated before work on it could begin – it has been successfully and completely restored, with the original tinting. – DAVID ROBINSON."

AA: An ok print from a heavily tinted source.

The story of the wild girl May who is too much at the girls' boarding school. May escapes and gets shelter from two crooks, "Vertrauen inspirierende Gestalten". "Unschuld und Jugend sind die besten Waffen". "Deine Jacke ist zerrissen". "Dein Bart is hässlich". May learns how to use feminine weapons and the three have a civilizing influence on each other. Yet, "May wird in feinen Kreisen eingeführt" and after a fight she falls into the hands of the police. The desperate father comes to fetch his daughter, but May has already found her way to deal with the policemen.

A funny and original comedy.