Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rien que les heures

FR 1926. PC: Néo-Films. P: Pierre Braunberger. D+ED: Alberto Cavalcanti. Ass D: André Cerf. SC: Alberto Cavalcanti, André Cerf. DP: James Rogers. AD: Mirowitch. Perf: Blanche Bernis, Nina Chouvalowa, Philippe Hériat, Clifford McLagen, André Cerf. A b&w Filmarkivet / Svenska Filminstitutet print, 920 m /20 fps/ 40 min, with Dutch intertitles, with e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 30 Nov 2010.

Revisited Alberto Cavalcanti's Ur-city-symphony which I saw last month in Pordenone. There is a joy of cinema in this film, of mobilizing all cinema's means of expression to create a new and original vision of urban poetry. The monuments and the traffic. The motor cars and the donkey carts. The transformations in superimpositions. The visions of the great modern painters in a montage sequence. The infinity of viewpoints. The streetwalker as a bird of prey. The urban waste. The devastating poverty. The clochards. The draw of the cards spells death. The fairground. The subjective camera in the merry-go-round: the acceleration of the movement until the image becomes abstract. A satisfactory visual quality in this black and white print.


Dimitri Kirsanoff: Ménilmontant (FR 1926) starring Nadia Sibirskaïa.

FR 1926. P+D+SC+ED: Dimitri Kirsanoff. DP: Léonce Crouan, Dimitri Kirsanoff. Cast: Nadia Sibirskaïa (the younger sister), Yolande Beaulieu (the elder sister), Guy Belmont (the young man). A film without intertitles. A BFINA print, 870 m /20 fps/ 32 min, this screening 39 min, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 30 Nov 2010.

A "seduced and abandoned" narrative provides the framework for this famous avantgarde film.
1.The country and the city: the film starts with the juxtaposition of the lyricism of nature and the heavy traffic of Paris.
2. But in the countryside there is a bloody murder seen in rapid montage. The sisters become orphans and must hit the road.
3. The cinematography is excellent, and the definition of light in the print is largely good.
4. The foundation is realism, with documentary values in the account of the 20th arrondissement of Paris, its cafés, streets, and hotels.
5. Ménilmontant is a work of urban poetry: of traffic, subways, alleys, smokes rising from the chimneys, the machinery of the alarm clock.
6. Nadia Sibirskaïa is fine in her second movie role, directed by her then husband Kirsanoff. One can already see why Renoir was impressed by her.
7. There are moments of nature lyricism in the Paris sequences, too: Nadia's sensitivity by the river.
8. Nadia's torment and disappointment in being abandoned in prostitution is portrayed with a profound depth comparable with Stroheim, Mizoguchi, and Antonioni.
9. The most interesting aspect of Ménilmontant is how it portrays mental processes, associations, and chains of notions in superimpositions and montages.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Constructors of Light. 1940s and 1950s Art from the STSY Collection (art exhibition at Amos Anderson Art Museum)

Valon rakentajat / Ljusets byggare. Amos Anderson Art Museum, Helsinki, 8 Oct 2010 - 2 Jan 2012. Curated by Susanna Luojus. Viewed on 28 Nov 2010.

Book: Erik Kruskopf: Valon rakentajat: Suomalaista kuvataidetta 1940-1950-luvuilta. Translated from Swedish by Matti Kinnunen. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2010.

The official introduction: "Constructors of Light is an exhibition that explores Finnish art of the 1940s and 50s through works from the member collections of the Association of Finnish Fine Arts Foundations (STSY). The STSY-produced exhibition spans three floors of museum and includes some eighty paintings, prints and sculptures by the most significant artists of the period. Several exhibits are on public view for the very first time."

"Collectively, the works tell a powerful story of how the Finnish nation stepped out of the shadows of the war towards the light of Modernism. Cultural life in wartime Finland had stagnated. Organized events – exhibitions, performances and concerts – were somehow linked to the tragedy lived by the Finnish people. As a result, the arts neither evolved nor seized new art trends. Latching onto traditional art was part of the nation's survival strategy in a time of crisis; there was no room for the avant-garde. Nascent signs of Modernism retreated during the war and came out of hiding in more peaceful times, rejuvenated and revitalized."

"Art and culture was a major part of post-war reconstruction in Finland. The period saw a revival of the arts. Artist groups, art associations and artists' organizations were activated and new art magazines were founded. Art schools resumed classes; museum collections that had been evacuated were once again on public display; Kunsthalle Helsinki hosted several international contemporary art exhibitions. A renewed thirst for life and belief in progress started to gain foothold in Finland. Yrjö Saarinen brought expressive splashes of colour to his paintings; while Aimo Kanerva, Tove Jansson and Eva Cederström adopted a more subdued palette. Graphic artists Tuulikki Pietilä and Jaakko Somersalo were among the first to gravitate towards the non-figurative. Ernst Mether-Borgström and Lars-Gunnar Nordström brought abstraction to its climax, skillfully playing with movement, colour and form."

"An unprecedented boom occurred in the art market when art became a coveted investment object. In Finland, graphic art was elevated to the rank of fine art, and a group of graphic artists closely associated with Tuomas von Boehm began to promote graphic art as an art form. The group exhibited under the name "Viiva ja väri" (Line and Colour) and organized two pioneering expos in the early 1950s. On floor 4 ½, two interesting and diverging selections of works by important graphic artists of the 1940s and 1950s will be shown. From October onwards works by Aarne Aho, Tuulikki Pietilä, Lars-Gunnar Nordström and Ernst Mether-Borgström will be exhibited, while works by Viktor Kuusela, Ina Colliander, Erkki Hervo and Raimo Metsänheimo will be on display from May 2011 onwards."

The project of the Association of Finnish Fine Arts Foundations is unique: the seven member foundations collaborate in bringing treasures from the some 5000 artworks in their private collections to the public in great, meaningful exhibitions. Constructors of Light is the third one. On display are seminal artists of the 1940s and the 1950s, but these masterworks of theirs have remained largely unknown to the public. These exhibitions and the accompanying books are substantial for reassessing views of Finland's art history. Erik Kruskopf's excellent book is not an exhibition catalogue but an independent work with a lot of reproductions of works not on display.

Favourites of mine during the first visit:
Aukusti Tuhka: Taipale 1941 (1965)
Aimo Tukiainen: Evacuee Children (1940–45)
Wäinö Aaltonen: Girl Listening to a Cuckoo (1939–49)
Tove Jansson: Woman (Self Portrait) (1942)
Yngve Bäck: Woman with Sails (1955)

A list of works on display beyond the jump break:

Saturday, November 27, 2010


[Själräddarna] / Saving Souls. FI © 2010 Aito Media Oy. EX: Ilkka Hynninen, Eero Hietala. P: Ilkka Hynninen. D+DP: Saku Pollari. SC: Saku Pollari, Kimmo Kohtamäki. AN: Teemu Åke. M+S: Poppe Johansson. ED: Kimmo Kohtamäki. Loc: Finland and Canada. A documentary film featuring: preacher Markku Koivisto and the people of the Nokia Missio Church. 78 min. A Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus release without subtitles, at 35 mm, at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki, 27 Nov 2010. - A documentary on the charismatic preacher Markku Koivisto and his Nokia Mission Church. Koivisto was expelled from his position as vicar (kirkkoherra) at the Evangelic Lutheran Church of Finland. Almost 80% of Finns belong to it, but the status is rapidly falling because of some Christians' intolerant views. - The reviews I have read of this film have been unanimously critical and ironic about the Nokia Mission. - Myself, I have never believed in God ever since I once visited Sunday School at the age of six, and I parted from the Evangelic Lutheran Church as soon as possible, at the age of 16. - But I am very happy that a valued friend once fulfilled a long-cherished wish of mine and invited me to a revivalist meeting, Markku Koivisto's at the Helsinki Ice Stadium. I was profoundly impressed by the good atmosphere and the general feeling of balance and happiness in the huge meeting. The simple message is love, and everybody is invited. That is the message of Christ, and it lives in the meetings of Nokia Mission. This visit is an especially treasured memory of mine, and I'll be grateful for it for the rest of my life. - I had heard about the crazy things about the Nokia Mission, and they are largely true, but they are secondary syndromes. - The official churches, from which Markku Koivisto is banned, are empty, and bureaucrats (in Finnish "leipäpappi", priests who preach "for the bread only") in whose voice a child can hear that they don't themselves believe in what they are saying are rampant. - Thus, although an unbeliever, I watched this documentary with sympathy. The power of the word fascinates me, and Markku Koivisto with all his human imperfections has that power. Never forgetting that he is a servant of God, helping to bring the good message to everybody. The message of love. - What about the miracle healings? The power of belief is tremendous. At least alcoholism and other terrible addictions can be incurable for medicine, but religious conversion can cure them, this I have witnessed with people I know. - Saku Pollari has managed to get intimate footage from inside the Nokia Mission, including from crucial conversations in Canada ("you don't need a new church"), crisis palavers on economic alerts, and Koivisto's hospitalizations. - The visual look is that of a basic record, but this is not an image-driven film.

The Next Three Days

The Next Three Days / The Next Three Days. US © 2010 Lionsgate Films. P: Olivier Delbosc, Paul Haggis, Marc Missonnier, Michael Nozik. D+SC: Paul Haggis - based on the screenplay by Fred Cavayé and Guillaume Lemans for Pour elle (Anything for Her / Kaiken se kestää, FR 2007). DP: Stéphane Fontaine - shot on 35 mm (Super 35 3-perf) - digital intermediate 2k by  Efilm - 2,35:1 (. PD: Laurence Bennett. Cost: Abigail Murray. Make-up: Kelley Mitchell. Hair: Roxanne Wightman. M: Danny Elfman, Alberto Iglesias. S: Lon Bender. ED: Jo Francis. Loc: Pittsburg (Philadelphia), Taganga and Cartagena (Columbia). Cast: Russell Crowe (John Brennan), Elizabeth Banks (Lara Brennan), Michael Buie (Mick Brennan), Brian Dennehy (George Brennan), Liam Neeson (Damon Pennington). 135 min. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Juho Lähde / Saliven Gustavson. DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 11, Helsinki, 27 Nov 2010 (Finnish premiere weekend, U.S. premiere was on 19 Nov 2010).

I failed to see the French original which had its Helsinki premiere in July 2009 (I was then on my summer holiday in the countryside), so I cannot compare the two films. I was impressed by The Next Three Days as a suspense thriller. In Hollywood, the predictable approach would have been to make it an action picture, but this film is suspense-driven, based more on psychology than action. It has several original and interesting suspense moments, and I liked the way we the audience are kept insecure of Lara's innocence to murder. John the husband never hesitates because he knows his wife. Lara can be tough and aggressive but she is not a murderer. Most thrillers one forgets as soon as they are over, but this one keeps growing in one's mind days afterwards. Paul Haggis has been a consistently interesting film-maker, and this a strong new entry in his oeuvre. The grave subtext is the question of justice. All evidence certainly points to Lara's guilt, but she is innocent. - There is a more sensitive aspect to Russell Crowe's star persona in this picture. - The digital intermediate look is evident in nature footage (the trees), but otherwise the 2k transfer is fine.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Despicable Me (3-D)

Itse ilkimys / Dumma mej. US © 2010 Universal Studios. PC: Illumination Entertainment / Universal Animation Studios / Mac Guff (France). P: John Cohen, Janet Healy, Chris Meledandri. D: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud. SC: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul - from a story by Sergio Pablos. AN: Mac Guff (Paris, France). M: Hans Zimmer, Heitor Pereira, Pharrell Williams. ED: Gregory Perler, Pam Ziegenhagen. Voice talent (adapted from the English Wikipedia): Steve Carell (Gru, the world's former number one supervillain), Jason Segel (Vector, the world's new #1 supervillain and egotistical nerd), Russell Brand (Dr. Nefario, Gru's elderly, hearing impaired scientist), Julie Andrews (Gru's mother who holds her son in low esteem), Will Arnett (Mr. Perkins, the president of the Bank of Evil), Kristen Wiig (Miss Hattie, the mistress of a local orphanage), Miranda Cosgrove (Margo, the oldest orphan), Dana Gaier (Edith, the middle orphan, tomboy, "sort of a trouble maker"), Elsie Fisher (Agnes, the youngest orphan, fond of unicorns). 96 min. A Finnkino release seen in the original-language version with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Saliven Gustavson (there are also versions dubbed in Finnish and Swedish in distribution in Finland). Viewed as Xpand 3-D at Kinopalatsi 10, Helsinki, 26 Nov 2010. - A witty animation in the same wavelength as Brad Bird's The Incredibles and Tim Burton. The Incredibles spoofed superheroes, and Despicable Me does the same thing with vain supervillains. There is also a touch of Lex Luthor as interpreted by  Gene Hackman in Gru's character. Gru tries his best to be a villain, but the three orphan girls manage to melt his heart. While Gru is busy shrinking the Moon and taking it back to Earth in his pocket he also rushes to be on time for the girls' The Swan Lake ballet performance. - Many good laughs in this animation produced by Universal Studios and directed and animated by  Frenchmen. - The Xpand 3-D worked fine in the small cinema, and there was no problem with image brightness.

Treasures from the archives at the Nordic and Baltic Film Archives' Meeting

Kino Tulio, Helsinki, 26 Nov 2010.

FINLAND, introduced by Mikko Kuutti.
1. Split screen test comparison of The Bridge on the River Kwai (GB 1957) the beginning on 35 mm and 4k - 4k superior to the used Technicolor print from 1962 - our old print is not great - Sony Columbia did a superb job with the 4k.
2. Melody Boys scene from Sininen varjo / [The Blue Shadow] (FI 1933) on 2k DCP.
3. Aikahahmoja / [Patterns in Time] (FI 1970) on 2k DCP - Seppo Huunonen's relaxed documentary on Pori Jazz.
4. Arvi A. Karisto Hämeenlinna. Karisto Oy:n 25-vuotisjuhlafilmi [Arvi A. Karisto 25th Anniversary Film] (FI 1925) on 35 mm. - An industrial promotion film on the Karisto printing and publishing house, with footage of the legendary literary figure Väinö Hämeen-Anttila. From a colour print which has been apparently shot on 12 fps, professionally made but with not the most brilliant definition of light.

SWEDEN, introduced by Jon Wengström.
5. Finurliga Fridolf (SE 1929) on 35 mm, from a dupe negative and sound on disc. Early music film in the Vitaphone tradition works fine with good sound and good synch.
6. [Sven A:son Berglund Sound Experiment] (DE 1922) on 35 mm. Restored from an optical sound experiment where the soundtrack fills the whole 35 mm frame, and there is no other image. - Our Lord's Prayer in English.

NORWAY, introduced by Håvard Oppøyen
7. Forfølgelsen / Förföljelsen / The Witch Hunt [the film was not released in Finland] (NO/SE 1981, D: Anja Breien) the beginning on blu-ray - looks great on blu-ray.

Tiedemann tobacco commercials introduced by Kjetil K. Sørenssen
8. Revyens mester (NO 1929) on 35 mm - Cromwell Turkish Tobacco and variety showgirls.
9. Tiedemanns Naturfilm: Lofotfiske (NO 1929) on 35 mm - great fishing footage and pipe tobacco.
10. Tiedemanns Naturfilm: Geiranger 1 (NO 1929) on 35 mm - wonderful scenic views and cigars.

DENMARK, introduced by Thomas Christensen.
11. Le Signalement (FR 1912, D: Albert Capellani, PC: Film d'Arte Italiana) 35 mm from a colour negative from a stencil-coloured print - a film without a title card or intertitles - a romantic drama between a washerwoman and a pipe smoker - a film lost elsewhere has been identified at Det Danske Filminstitutt.
12. [A Max Linder comedy, FR 1907] 35 mm b&w without titles. A farce revolving around laxative. Not Erreur de pharmacien (http://filmographie.fondation-jeromeseydoux-pathe.com/index.php?id=815&depuisindex=themes&idtheme=12653). Could it be C'est papa qui prend la purge?

ESTONIA, presented by Ivi Tomingas.
13. ... Ja teeb trikke / ... And Plays Tricks (EE/SU 1979, D: Priit Pärn), dvd. - A fascinating animation that was banned during the Soviet years because the heavy is a bear.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Crimson Kimono

US © 1959 Columbia Pictures Corp. PC: Globe Enterprises, Inc. P+D+SC: Samuel Fuller. DP: Sam Leavitt. AD: William E. Flannery, Robert Boyle. Set dec: James A. Crowe. Cost: Bernice Pontrelli. Hair: Helen Hunt. M: Harry Sukman. Orch: Leo Shuken, Jack Hayes. S: John Livadary, John Westmoreland. ED: Jerome Thoms. Loc: Little Tokyo (Los Angeles). Cast: Victoria Shaw (Christine Downes), Glenn Corbett (detective sergeant Charlie Bancroft), James Shigeta (detective Joe Kojaku), Anna Lee (Mac), Paul Dubov (Casale), Jaclynne Greene (Roma), Neyle Morrow (Hansel / Paul Sand), Gloria Pall (Sugar Torch), Barbara Hayden (mother), George Yoshinaga (Willy Hidaka), Kaye Elhardt (nun), Aya Oyama (Sisar Gertrude). 82 min. A Sony Columbia print of the restored version viewed at Cinema Orion (the first screening of this film in Finland), Helsinki, 24 Nov 2010. - Revisited Samuel Fuller's low budget police thriller shot on location in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. Seeing this after Verboten! it is interesting to notice that Fuller was obsessed in both to deal with recent WWII enemies in anti-hate films that confront racism and prejudice. Here the police team consists of a Caucasian and a Nisei. They are war buddies from Korea, where they have even exchanged blood, and now they live together. There is a ménage à trois with the artist Christine, and she selects the Japanese man. The Crimson Kimono is important in the way it resists and fights racial stereotypes, but the intensity level is not Fuller at his best. There is documentary value in the exterior scenes and fascinating passages in the interior scenes in Sam Leavitt's cinematography. There are fine jazz moments in Harry Sukman's score.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Kiellettyä / Förbjudet / Operation Varulven. US © 1958 R.K.O. Teleradio. Premiere 1959. PC: Globe Enterprises. P+D+SC: Samuel Fuller. DP: Joseph Biroc. FX: Norman Breedlove. M: Harry Sukman. Motifs from Wagner, Beethoven. Theme song "Verboten!": Harry Sukman, Mack David; perf: Paul Anka. ED: Philip Cahn. S: Jean Speak. AD: John Mansbridge. Cost: Bernice Pontrelli. Technical advisor: commandant Raymond Harvey. Cast: James Best (sgt. David Brent), Susan Cummings (Helga Schiller), Tom Pittman (Bruno Eckart), Paul Dubov (capt. Harvey), Harold Daye (Franz), Dick Kallman (Helmuth), Stuart Randall (colonel), Steven Geray (mayor), Anna Hope (mother Schiller). 86 min. Vintage print with Danish subtitles, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 23 Nov 2010. - Revisited the first half an hour of Samuel Fuller's powerful, original vision about the last days of Nazi Germany and the beginning of the reconstruction, viewed through the story of the contradictory relationship between an American sergeant and his German girlfriend. Fuller was a war veteran whose point was never heroism, always devastation. He creates a powerfully human story, showing all kinds of Germans, both true Nazis and decent Germans, and everything in between. At first viewing I was struck by the agit montage technique combined with elaborate long takes and difficult camera set-ups. This time I was struck by the tenderness of the performances. We care for these people, and this is what makes the story so gripping. A good definition of light in the vintage print. Although produced on a small budget the quality of the cinematography is great in the original footage (there is also a lot of stock footage).

Der müde Tod

Der müde Tod. Ein deutsches Volkslied in 6 Versen / Väsynyt kuolema / Den obesegrade döden / Destiny. DE 1921. PC: Decla-Bioskop. P: Erich Pommer. D: Fritz Lang. SC: Thea von Harbou. DP: Erich Nitzschmann, Hermann Saalfrank, Fritz Arno Wagner. AD: Robert Herlth, Walter Röhrig, Hermann Warm. Cast: Lil Dagover (girl), Walter Janssen (her fiancé), Bernhard Goetzke (Death).
    THE FIRST LIGHT - THE ARABIAN STORY. Lil Dagover (Zobeide), Walter Janssen (the franke), Bernhard Goetzke (el Mot), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (the dervish), Eduard von Winterstein (the caliph), Erika Unruh (Aisha).
    THE SECOND LIGHT - THE VENETIAN STORY: Lil Dagover (Fiametta), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Girolamo), Lewis Brody (the moor), Lothar Müthel (the confidant), Lina Paulsen (nurse), Walter Janssen (Francesco).
    THE THIRD LIGHT - THE CHINESE STORY: Lil Dagover (Tiaotsien), Walter Janssen (Liang), Bernhard Goetzke (the archer), Paul Biensfeldt (the wizard Ahi), Karl Huszar (the emperor), Max Adalbert (treasurer), Neumann-Schüler (executioner).
    Originally 2311 m /20 fps/ 101 min, the Münchner Filmmuseum reconstruction 2151 m /18 fps/ 104 min, /20 fps/ 94 min. Viewed with e-subtitles by AA at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 23 Nov 2010

Revisited Fritz Lang's first masterpiece, every time a profound experience, a successful combination of poetry and fantasy, the Ur-Film for Buñuel, Cocteau, and Franju. It is about the confrontation with death. It is also about transcending one's limits. Finally the girl saves the life of the baby and sacrifices her own. Because love is stronger than death and even stronger than egoism. - The Munich reconstruction is the best with its beautifully reconstructed intertitles. Because negatives don't exist the visual quality does not pay justice to the original. It is often low contrast, and from the good parts (the Venetian story, etc.) we can deduce how the whole film once looked. - Der müde Tod is my number one candidate for the film that I would once want to see in a brilliant print.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

La Rafle

Pariisin vainotut / I gryningens timmar / The Round-Up. FR/DE/HU © 2010 Légende Films / Gaumont [and other companies]. P: Alain Goldman. D+SC: Roselyne Bosch. DP: David Ungaro - étalonnage numérique: Duboi. AD: Olivier Raoux. Cost: Gilles Bodu-Lemoine. Make-up: Pascale Bouquière. Hair: Agathe Dupuis. M: Christian Henson. "Paris" (André Bernheim) perf. Edith Piaf. "Insensiblement" (Paul Misraki) perf. Ray Ventura. "Clair de lune" (Debussy) perf. Kate Dillingham (cello), Blair McMillen (piano). "A la claire fontaine" (trad.). S: Laurent Zeilig. ED: Yann Malcor. Historical advisor: Serge Klarsfeld. CAST (as edited in the French Wikipedia): Mélanie Laurent (Annette Monod), Jean Reno (Dr. David Sheinbaum), Gad Elmaleh (Schmuel Weismann), Raphaëlle Agogué (Sura Weismann), Hugo Leverdez (Joseph Weissman), Sylvie Testud (Bella Zygler), Anne Brochet (Dina Traube), Catherine Allégret (la concierge "Tati"), Mathieu et Romain Di Concetto (Noé Zygler dit Nono), Isabelle Gélinas (Hélène Timonier), Rebecca Marder (Rachel Weismann), Barnabás Réti (Monsieur Goldstein), Udo Schenk (Adolf Hitler), Catherine Hosmalin (la boulangère), Thomas Darchinger (Heinrich Himmler), Holger Daemgen (Karl Oberg), Bernhard Schütz (Helmut Knochen), Ariane Séguillon (la prostituée), Nadia Barentin (grand-mère Ida Weismann), Swann Arlaud (acteur), Johannes Oliver Hamm (le gradé allemand au café), Franziska Schubert (Eva Braun), Adèle Exarchopoulos (Anna Traube), Maurice Vaudaux (l'abbé Bernard), Antoine Stip (Professeur Saul Traube), Philippe Beautier (le garde mobile du square), François Bureloup (l'instituteur M. Jouyeux), Sabine Pernette (La femme 9e ordonnance), Charlotte Driesen (Charlotte Weismann), Salomé Sebbag (Louise Zygler), Olivier Cywie (Simon Zygler), Caroline Raynaud (Paule Fétiveau), Thierry Frémont (Capitaine Pierret), Denis Ménochet (l'adjudant du camp), Roland Copé (Philippe Pétain), Jean-Michel Noirey (Pierre Laval). 124 min. Released in Finland by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Sophia Beckman-de-la-Riva. Viewed at Cinema Maxim 2, Helsinki, 20 Nov 2010 (Finnish premiere weekend).

A Holocaust story based on historical facts. At four o'clock in the morning on 16 July 1942, during the Nazi occupation, there was a round-up of 13.152 Parisian Jews. They were moved to the Vélodrome d'Hiver before the deportation to the transit camp of Beaune-la-Rolande (Loiret) and finally to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

A historical epic of a traumatic French experience. The concept is that of a memorial. The film is done in good taste, with good judgement. Major viewpoints are those of children, mothers, a nurse and a doctor.

A multi-character film in which the performances are strong enough that we experience the victims as individuals. The world historical personae of Hitler, Himmler, Eva Braun, Pétain, and Laval remain caricatures.

Although the film has gone through the digital intermediate process the image looks juicy, the nature scenes are lively, and there is full real colour. Thanks to the expertise of the Duboi lab?

Lyrics to Édith Piaf's "Paris" (the song played during the opening credit sequence) beyond the jump break.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Harry Potter ja kuoleman varjelukset osa 1 / Harry Potter och dödsrelikerna del 1. GB/US © 2010 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. P: David Barron, David Heyman. D: David Yates. SC: Steve Kloves - based on the novel by J.K. Rowling (2007), in Finnish by Jaana Kapari-Jatta / Tammi 2008. DP: Eduardo Serra - shot on 35 mm, Super 35 - digital intermediate 2K - 2,35:1. PD: Stuart Craig. COST: Jany Temime. M: Alexandre Desplat. AD dept big. Makeup dept big. Art dept big. Special effects dept big. Visual effects dept huge. AN "The Deathly Hallows": Ben Hibon. TS: James Mather. Sound dept big. ED: Mark Day. - Cast descriptions copied from the English Wikipedia:

THE MAIN TRIO who drop out of Hogwarts to find and destroy the horcruxes:
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter),
Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley),
Emma Watson (Hermione Granger).

Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), a Death Eater and new Headmaster of Hogwarts, who appears to help Voldemort in his quest to kill Harry Potter.
Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), a member of the Death Eaters and Sirius Black's killer.
Jamie Campbell Bower (Gellert Grindelwald), a dark lord.
Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Harry's half-giant teacher and friend.
Warwick Davis (Filius Flitwick), the charm master of Hogwarts. Davis also plays Griphook, a goblin and an employee at Gringotts.
Frances de la Tour (Olympe Maxime), the headmistress of Beauxbatons.
Hazel Douglas (Bathilda Bagshot), an old family friend to Dumbledore.
Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), the leader of the Death Eaters, who is trying to kill Harry Potter.
Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Harry's rival, who is a Death Eater.
Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), The main head master of Hogwarts. He died from a Killing Curse from Snape from the last film.
Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), one of Harry's friends.
John Hurt (Ollivander), who sell out magical wands, was recently kidnapped by the Death Eaters.
Toby Jones (the voice of Dobby), the former house-elf of the Malfoy Family, who was freed by Harry in the second film.
Bill Nighy (Rufus Scrimgeour), Julie Walters (Molly Weastley), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Timothy Spall (Wormtail), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Rhys Ifans (Xenophilius Lovegood), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter).

150 min. Released in Finland by Sandrew Metronome Distribution Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri (relying on the Jaana Kapari terminology) / Janne Staffans. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 19 Nov 2010 (week of global premiere).

The last Harry Potter novel has been turned into a film in two parts. It is the seventh novel and the seventh film in the hugely popular series. The first ones I saw together with my godson Tommi, but recently I have been on my own. The previous film, reportedly the favourite of J.K. Rowling, herself, I missed. I found the first ones mediocre. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, was better, and even better was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, directed by Mike Newell. The transition from childhood to teenage was portrayed with psychological understanding in that one. One must admire the producers and the actors that they have managed to keep the good main trio together for ten years during their growth from childhood to adulthood.

I confess I'm an outsider in the world of fantasy, and I visit these films as an observer, not as a participant. As I child when I was about eight I loved the Narnia series of books. I read them all, but when I was about to read them again, I found the magic door closed. I missed The Lord of the Rings books completely, I could not find my way into the world of Tolkien.

Harry Potter screenings during the premiere weeks are huge events, and I feel like a stranger. The audience reaction is strong, and there are laughters the meaning of which I completely miss. (But the laughter at the ridiculously chaste love fantasy I understand.). There is an applause after the sinister final images of this first part of the story. (Less than a handful of us stay until the end of the final credits.)

The film is evidently satisfactory for the Harry Potter aficionados. Much of it is surprisingly bleak, slow and of low intensity. There is some affinity with the contemporary teenage vampire and werewolf stories which I don't understand either. My favourite sequence is the Three Brothers / Deathly Hallows animation by Ben Hibon. There is also a funny sequence just before it with good interplay between the main trio. The cast is composed of a "who's who" of British top actors, and the young main trio is very committed.

For me, the overall impression for me is of a strange paralysis, and there is a slight sense of absent-mindedness in Daniel Radcliffe. It may be a conscious expression of extreme confusion.

I'm puzzled by the gray look of recent fantasy cinema. In Avatar, in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows there is no full, bright colour. There is no feeling of the warmth of sunshine. Might this have something to do with problems of colour brightness in 2k digital intermediates, that bright colour too easily starts to look garish? Or is this an intentional aesthetic decision? Is the look of today's fantasy preferably gray?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wrong Again

Nurinkurin ja päinvastoin. US 1929. PC: Hal Roach Studios. P: Hal Roach. D: Leo McCarey. Ass. and second unit D: Lewis R. Foster, Lloyd French. Story: Lewis R. Foster, Leo McCarey. Titles: H.M. Walker. DP: Jack Roach, George Stevens. Set dresser: Theodore Driscoll. Property master: Morey Lightfoot. ED: Richard C. Currier, William H. Terhune. Horse wrangler: Jones. Cast: Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Harry Bernard (policeman), Josephine Crowell (mother of the owner of the painting), William Gillespie (owner of the horse), Charlie Hall (neighbour), Dell Henderson (owner of the painting). Silent, 1,33:1, 20 min. A 16 mm Blackhawk print with music track viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 18 Nov 2010. - Stan and Ollie are grooms at a horse stable who think that the horse Blue Boy has been stolen (it is the painting). The misunderstanding is prolonged as the owner tells them to put Blue Boy above the grand piano where it has always been. Stan and Ollie know that with the very rich everything is done upside down, "they think the opposite to other people". The film follows a crazy logic, Blue Boy is easy to lead on top of the piano, but one of the piano legs is removed, and Ollie has to support both the piano and the horse while Stan is more concerned about his hat which the horse keeps tossing away. This is really a crazy comedy.

Two Tars

Meripojat maissa. US 1929. PC: Hal Roach Studios. Po: Hal Roach. Supervising director: Leo McCarey. D: James Parrott. Ass D.: Lloyd French. Story: Leo McCarey. Titles: H.M. Walker. DP: George Stevens. ED: Richard C. Currier. Property master: Harry Black. Cars: Dale Schrum. Cast: Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Edgar Kennedy (motorist), Thelma Hill (brunette), Ruby Blaine (blonde). Silent, 1,33:1, 21 min. A print of the Kirchmedia restored edition with original soundtrack (music and sound effects) viewed at Cinema Orion, 18 Nov 2010. - Revisited a Laurel and Hardy that I have rarely seen, most recently on dvd, now for the first time on screen, in an ok print with a familiar-sounding soundtrack. - It starts with documentary footage on "our navy", and then we see two of "our boys" enjoying their day off in a rented car. They date two girls, Thelma and Rubie, who are fighting a bubble gum vending machine. Follows a little catastrophe as a prelude to a big one. There is a traffic jam, and from small harm a large disaster follows, thanks to our friends. My favourite scene is the one where all the horribly battered and disfigured cars sway past the policeman, and Stan and Ollie try in vain to suppress their laughter. Even the policeman's motorcycle gets flattened by a passing steamroller. The finale takes place in a railway tunnel. - Again, it's not the actions themselves (and crude they may often be) but the finesse of the gestures, expressions and reactions that Stan and Ollie keep inventing that elevates this to mastery.

The Finishing Touch

Viimeinen silaus. US 1928. PC: Hal Roach Studios. P: Hal Roach. Supervising director: Leo McCarey. D: Clyde Bruckman. Intertitles: H.M. Walker. DP: George Stevens. Property master: Thomas Benton Roberts. ED: Richard C. Currier. Cast: Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Dorothy Coburn (nurse), Edgar Kennedy (policeman), Sam Lufkin (owner of the house). Silent, 1,33:1, 19 min. A print of the Kirchmedia edition viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 18 Nov 2010. - Revisited a short Laurel and Hardy masterpiece that I had previously seen only on tv / video / dvd. There is a slightly duped look in the print which may mean that no brilliant original full frame materials exist. Even so, it's a joy. We know from the start what to expect. The expression "finishing the house" is so ominous that we are not surprised by what but how it happens. I was laughing already when Ollie steps grandiloquently forward from their truck. Stan and Ollie know how to parody everyday gestures and actions, and here they are at their best.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Salinui chueok / Memories of Murder

Bong joon-Ho: 살인의 추억 / Salinui chueok / Memories of Murder (KR 2003). The bad local cop and the better Soul cop.

살인의 추억
KR 2003. D: Bong Joon-ho. 132 min. A KOFI print with Spanish subtitles, presented with e-subtitles in English, at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 17 Nov 2010.

I caught a sample of Bong Joon-ho's police film laced with black comedy, juxtaposing two approaches of interrogating a suspect. The first one is based on brutal coercion, the other on subtler approaches. There is a serial killer of women on the loose, and a suspect has been found. Because of psychological reasons of his own he is very suspicious indeed. This seems to be a story that teaches caution in difficult cases of crime. Bong's strange sense of humour is in evidence in the sample I saw. The print seems fine.

Kettupäivät The Finnish Short Film Festival 17-20 Nov 2010

The Kettupäivät opening at Cinema Andorra, 18 Nov 2010. - Opened by the festival director Jari Matala, presenting the new executive manager of Suomen elokuvakontakti Elina Rislakki. Festival secretary Arja Aarnio. - Kettupäivät is one of the most important film festivals in Finland, indispensable for those who want to keep au courant of the Finnish cinema.

Kettupäivät the Finnish Short Film Festival is arranged for the 27th time by Suomen elokuvakontakti. There are 109 films on display: 35 fictions, 23 documentaries, 12 experimental films, 18 animations, and 21 under 3 min FoxOff films. The programme is very interesting, and some of the films I have seen already. I downloaded the programme from the Kettupäivät website and put it beyond the jump break:

In the Core of the Documentary 54: The Power of the Word in War and Peace

Dokumentin ytimessä 54: Sanan voimalla sodassa ja rauhassa / I dokumentären kärna 54: Ordets makt i krig och fred. A digibeta compilation by Ilkka Kippola and Jari Sedergren, introduced by Jari Sedergren, total length of the compilation 119 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 17 Nov 2010. - Introducing four great commentators: Topo Leistelä, Turo Kartto, Reino Hirviseppä, and Veikko Itkonen.
Kamerat pyörivät [Roll the Cameras]. FI 1935. D: Topo Leistelä, 9 min. - The first Finnish "making of", on Kaikki rakastavat (1935) and VMV 6 (1936)
Puolustusvoimain katsaus 2 [Finnish Defense Forces Newsreel 2]. FI 1941. Topo Leistelä. 17 min. - Entering Eastern Karelia.
Koli, mahtava – kuuluisa [Koli the Magnificent, the Famous]. FI 1943. Topo Leistelä. - Visiting a national landscape.
Parran pärinää [Buzzing the Beard]. FI 1948. Topo Leistelä. 2 min. - A razor commercial.
Hallitus – kansan palvelija [The Goverment - the Servant of the People]. FI 1949. Topo Leistelä. 13 min. - A film on K.A. Fagerholm's social democratic minority government.
Suomi-Filmin uutiskuvia 1 [Suomi-Filmi Newsreel No. 1]. FI 1939. Turo Kartto. 15 min. - In October 1939 the mobilization is started.
Itsenäisyyspäivämme Helsingissä 1940 [Our Independence Day in Helsinki 1940]. FI 1940. Turo Kartto. 8 min. - The independence day during the Moscow Peace Treaty 1940-1941. Mannerheim inspects the troops and salutes the war invalids.
Ryssät motissa Messuhallissa [Russkies Trapped at Messuhalli]. FI 1942. Reino Hirviseppä. 14 min. - The truth about Bolshevism revealed at an exhibition.
Leijonalipusta siniristiin [The Flag of Finland from the Lion Coat of Arms to the Blue Nordic Cross]. FI 1967. Reino Hirviseppä. 11 min. - Made for the SOK market chain.
Finlandia-katsaus 8 [Finlandia Newsreel 8]. FI 1943. Veikko Itkonen. 10 min. - Apple trees blossom, SS volunteers return to Finland, and there has been success in sparing.
Jälleen uutta 4 [Something New Again 4]. FI 1948. Veikko Itkonen. 7 min. - The Finno-Soviet Treaty of 1948.
Matka mustien maanosaan [A Trip to the Continent of the Black]. FI 1952. Veikko Itkonen. excerpt 8 min. - South Africa: the privileges of the white and the poverty of the black.
Filmi filmistä [A Film on Film]. FI 1949. Veikko Itkonen. 8 min. - A fascinating documentary about a day at a film distributor's office, with scenes at the film classification office, a subtitling laboratory, and shipping on the railway.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Run of the Arrow

Viimeinen laukaus / Det sista skottet. US © 1957 RKO Teleradio Pictures, Inc. PC: Globe Enterprises. P+D+SC: Samuel Fuller. DP (Technicolor): Joseph Biroc. M: Victor Young. ED: Gene Fowler, Jr. S: Virgil Smith, Terry Kellum. AD: Albert D'Agostino, Jack Okey. Make-up: Harry Maret, Jr. Cast: Rod Steiger (O'Meara), Sarita Montiel (Yellow Moccasin), Brian Keith (Captain Clark), Ralph Meeker (Ltn. Driscoll), Jay C. Flippen (Walking Coyote), Charles Bronson (Blue Buffalo), Olive Carey (Mrs. O'Meara), H.M. Wynant (Crazy Wolf), Neyle Morrow (Ltn. Stockwell), Frank de Kova (Red Cloud). Sarita Montiel post-synched by Angie Dickinson. 86 min. A vintage Technicolor print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 16 Nov 2010. - Revisited the beginning of Samuel Fuller's remarkable western which can be seen as a model for Dances With Wolves. Fuller's film is more brutal and honest. Finally it becomes clear that a grown-up white man cannot become a Sioux. Yellow Moccasin has realized that from the start. Fuller's theme in some of his best films is also the same as in Avatar: the protagonist goes to the side of the enemy. He becomes the other or at least attempts to do so. The Technicolor had not faded in this used vintage print.

Flandersui gae / Barking Dogs Never Bite

Bong Joon Ho: 플란다스의 개 / Flandersui gae / Barking Dogs Never Bite (KO 2000).

플란다스의 개
    KR 2000. PC: Uno Film. P: Cho Min-hwan. EX: Cha Seung-Jai. D: Bong Joon Ho / Bong Joon-ho. SC: Soon Ji-ho, Son Derek, Son Tae-woong, Boon Jong-ho. DP: Cho Yong-kyu, Jo Yeong-gyu. M: Jo Sung-woo. S: Lee In-gyu. ED: Lee Eun-soo. AD: Lee Hang. Cost: Choi Yun-jung. Cast: Lee Sung-jae (Yun-ju), Beon Hie-bong (guard), Kim Ho-jung (Bae Eun-sil, Yun-ju's wife), Bae Du-na (Hyeon-nam), Kim Roe-ha (tramp), Go Su-hui, Seong Jeong-seon. 106 min. A KOFA print with English subtitles screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 16 Nov 2010.

I caught a sample of Barking Dogs Never Bite, my first encounter with Bong Joon Ho, his debut feature film. A barking dog distracts an unemployed academic man. The woman is distraught with the loss of her pet. Visions of urban solitude and aspects of everyday comedy. Bong Joon-ho has a special look on life. The print is fine.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aki Kaurismäki Seminar: Improvisations on Nikander's Nose

Arranged by the Risto Jarva Society. Docents: Lauri Timonen and Eero Tammi. Seminar at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 13 Nov 2010.

In the context of our Aki Kaurismäki retrospective the Risto Jarva Society arranged this seminar. Aki Kaurismäki, presently sound-mixing Le Havre, destined for a premiere in March 2011, had forwarded to us this special message: "The necessity of self-expression does not justify the disgracing of an art form".

Lauri and Eero's improvisations were linked to video excerpts:
Calamari Union - the Cinema Orion sequence
La Porte des Lilas - the bar sequence
The Blues Brothers - meeting Carrie Fisher
The Taxi Driver - the movie date with Cybill Shepherd
Varjoja paratiisissa / Shadows in Paradise - the bingo date
a quote from Luis Buñuel's "Variations on Adolphe Menjou's Moustache"
Casque d'or - Manda kills the traitor
Bab el hadid / Gare centrale
Le Jour se lève
Varjoja paratiisissa - the violent Nikander
Rakkauden risti / The Cross of Love - Regina on the cross
Casablanca - "I met a man once"
City Lights - the finale
Rio Bravo - "purple light"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Herman Melville: Moby-Dick, or, The Whale (a novel)

US 1851. Read in the Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library edition, 1988, with a foreword by Nathaniel Philbrick, 2001. Published in Penguin Books in 2001, and in a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition in 2009.

Revisited Herman Melville's great novel which I had read only once before, as a boy, in an abridged version in Finnish. The novel has been translated into Finnish four times, and the latest edition, translated by Antero Tiusanen in 2002, is reportedly superb, but it is out of print. I tried to find it in about a dozen second-hand book-stores. Nobody had it, and when I asked them to put my name on a waiting list they said it would be no use as any copy of the novel would be sold at once anyway, and there would soon be a waiting list of a hundred names. So I read this novel in English despite the difficulties of specialist and obsolete language.

I got the inspiration to re-read the novel from John Huston's Moby Dick (1956) which I revisited on dvd last summer. I like Huston's film because it manages to convey several dimensions of the novel: the mythical and religious dimension, the realistic and semi-documentary dimension and the sense of adventure. The great flaw of the film is the miscasting of Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab. He does not have the confidence in himself as Ahab, and neither do we. But John Huston and Orson Welles (who plays Father Mapple) were great Melvilleans.

There is a rare irresistible, magnificent drive in Melville's novel. It has been said that every great novel reinvents the form, and this is true of Moby-Dick, as well. It has no single predecessor, but Melville pays tribute to dozens of them. The greatest predecessors are works like The Bible (Jonah), Homer's epic poems (the odyssey format) and Shakespeare's tragic megalomaniacs (Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth). Melville amazes by incorporating the most diverse of materials including passages that are like articles for an encyclopedia, chapters that could belong to a dictionary, and quotation lists that would fit a bibliography. Although there is a consistent storyline in the form of the quest and the odyssey, the story is incessantly interrupted by dozens of digressions. Some of them are beautiful short stories with independent value. Melville even changes the mode to the format of the play with stage instructions. But he never loses the drive of his novel.

"Call me Ishmael" is one of the great opening lines in fiction. This is a Biblical, Homeric, Shakespearean tale, but the storyteller is a simple sailor who invites us to listen to his story on a first name basis. In languages like Finnish, French, and German, where there is a separation of the informal and the formal in the second person address (sinä/te/Te, tu/vous/Vous, du/ihr/Sie), the correct translation has to be the informal one. Checking the internet I find "appelez-moi Ismaël" and "nennt mich Ishmael", both correct, but I would slightly prefer "appelle-moi Ismaël" and "nenn mich Ishmael". The original English can be understood both ways, in the plural and in the singular, but I feel that Ishmael is addressing me in the singular.

Moby-Dick is full of puzzling ideas and inventions. The crew of the whaling ship Pequod is truly multi-cultural and multi-religious. Captain Ahab's men in his whaling boat are Persian Zoroastrians, and his personal harpooner is called Fedallah.

Read in 2010, with the current situation of the world climate change, the allegory is getting more urgent. We are Captain Ahab trying to catch the White Whale, but in the end it will be the White Whale who catches us.

Test comparison The Bridge on the River Kwai (35 mm and 4k)

Kino Tulio, 11 Nov 2010.

A split screen test of The Bridge on the River Kwai with a vintage Technicolor print from 1962 and a new 4k DCP from Sony Columbia.

4k was superior with better colour and better definition.

I like this test because the footage was tropical, in the outdoors, with a lot of nature, all the things that have been difficult for digital. Now they can convey the heat, the humidity, and the tropical atmosphere in digital.

The vintage 35 mm print has been in heavy use, and let's notice that it can still be screened satisfactorily after 50 years. The colour had not faded, but the DCP was obviously superior.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rågens rike (1929) / [The Kingdom of Rye]

Rågens rike (1929). Margit Manstad (Klara), Eric Laurent (Markus).

Viljan valtakunta.
    SE 1929. PC: Tellus Film. P: Maja Engelbrektson. D+SC: Ivar Johansson - based on the epic poem by Jarl Hemmer (1922) – in Finnish 1926 Huugo Jalkanen / Schildt. DP: Carl Halling. AD: Vilhelm Bryde. Make-up: Gustav Runsten. Text design: Alva Lundin.
    Cast: Mathias Taube (Mattias Spangar, big farmer), Eric Laurent (Markus, his farmhand), Märta Lindelöf (the widow of Gammelgården), Margit Manstad (Klara, her daughter), Artur Cederborgh (The "Prophet" of the Crossroads), Gustav Runsten (his farmhand), Axel Slangus (Pekka the Knife, boss of the lumberjacks), Gösta Ericsson (Ante, his confidante), Solveig Hedergran (Stina, the young maid servant of Spangarn), Lizzie Nyström (the old maid servant of Spangarn), Sven Bergvall (Gusten, the eldest son at Gammelgården), Wictor Hagman (Jan, the middle son of Gammelgården), Rune Engelbrektson (Lill-Matt, the youngest son).
    Restored version (Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet) 2625 m /18 fps/ 128 min viewed with e-subtitles in Finnish by Leena Virtanen at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 10 Nov 2010.

A favourite of Ingmar Bergman's, this late Swedish silent masterpiece was seen in Finland again after 80 years in a beautiful print from Filmarkivet / Svenska Filminstitutet.

Based on a Finnish poem and with the Finnish Axel Slangus as the boss of the lumberjacks it could be the stuff of a Finnish film, but the Swedish silent cinema was superior to the Finnish one.

Klara (Margit Manstad), the daughter of Gammelgården has been promised to Mattias (Mathias Taube), the old master of Spangarn, but she loves the young farmhand Markus (Eric Laurent) who has saved her from the rape attempt of Pekka the Knife, the lumberjack boss (Slangus). At the altar Klara faints (another instance of the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding).

Subsequently there is a strange arrangement where Klara who cannot return home moves to Spangarn but lives separately from Mattias. The whole year is strange. Mattias invites Markus to a night of heavy drinking, drinks him under the table and drags him to the pigsty to sleep with the sow. The humiliated Markus retreats to a winter lumber camp where he meets again Pekka who has been released from prison.

At night, Klara becomes a sleepwalker, shockingly to men and animals (she scares a horse on the road at night). The tormented Mattias cannot sleep either. The whole village suffers until the strange Prophet of the Crossroads advises Mattias to do the right thing.

Near the conclusion there is even a rapid-shooting sequence, as Markus returns to the village in his boat, à travers les rapides.

The tempo is assured, the performances are convincing, there is true feeling in the nature imagery, and the final image of the cornfield into which Klara and Markus vanish, is lovely.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Blind Husbands

US © 1919 Universal. D: Erich von Stroheim. Restored Österreichisches Filmmuseum version (2006) 2045 m /18 fps/ 99 min * deutsche Fassung * the original English intertitles presented as e-subtitles operated by Lena Talvio * viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 9 Nov 2010. This is the best print I have seen of Blind Husbands. The prints I have seen before have been pretty complete but with a low-contrast image. Here the image quality is much better, and the print is struck from a colour source. It is a different cut from the ones that have been generally available. - Blind Husbands is one of the great debut films of all times. The touch is assured from the start. The milieu is richly painted with a feeling of vitality in each shot. Stroheim also already shows his talent in the witty detail. Stroheim plays the fake lieutenant Eric von Steuben with relish, in rich caricature, and lets his character also be caricatured by others, including his valet and the children of the village, who love to imitate him. This is an ironic story of seduction, and Stroheim also shows the heart-breaking consequences of the wily seducer's action. This film gets better with each viewing.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fair Game (2010)

Fair Game / Fair Game [could be called Vapaata riistaa in Finnish]. US © 2010 Fair Game Holdings, LLC. D: Doug Liman. Starring Naomi Watts (Valerie Plame), Sean Penn (Joseph C. Wilson). 110 min. Released in Finland by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Suvi Jyrkilä / Saliven Gustavson. DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 11, Helsinki, 7 Nov 2010. - There have been many espionage films this year, and this is the rare authentic one, based on the memoirs of Valerie Plame, a former CIA agent. This is great drama. The office of the US President distorts evidence on Irak, sabotages the Central Intelligence Agency to do so, and risks the life of a devoted agent and all her contacts by letting her be exposed. A serious story besides which most of the other "spy films" look like kindergarten stuff. Strong performances by Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. The digital cinematography by Doug Liman himself is serviceable, but this is not an image-driven film.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Salla Tykkä: Airs Above the Ground (video art)

FI 2010, 7 min 21 sec, HD video. Video art viewed at Sculptor, Helsinki, 6 Oct 2010. The young Lipizzan horses running wild and free. The grown-up Lipizzan horses being dressed for haute école mouvements. For a man of the cinema this brings to mind early cinema, the school of Lumière. Although projected on video, the cinematography seems fine.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Geomeun meori / Black Hair

Lee Man-hee: 검은 머리 / Geomeun meori / Black Hair (KR 1964).

검은 머리
    KR 1964. PC: Korea Films. P: Ahn Tae-shik. EX: Kim Jin-mo, Park Soo-taek. D: Lee Man-hee. SC: Han Wu-jeong [=Han Gyeong-hyeon]. DP: Seo Jeong-min. M: Jeon Jeong-geun. ED: Kim Chang-soon. AD: Hong Seong-chil. Cast: Moon Jeong-suk (Yeon-sil), Jang Dong-he (Dong-il, gangster boss), Lee Dae-yeob (taxi driver), Chae Rang (Man-ho, drug addict), DokKo Seong, Lee Hae-Ryong.
    105 min.
     KOFA print with e-subtitles in English viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Cinema in South Korea), 4 Nov 2010.

AA: My first encounter with Lee Man-hee. I watched the start of Black Hair: extreme film noir ambience with dark cinematography, powerful exaggeration, melodramatic excess, strident music. The theme of the slashed face and torn eyes is introduced. Like in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat, half of the black-haired woman's face is slashed. In the early part of the film there is a strange digital disturbance which causes changing jerkiness in various parts of the image. I even thought this might be a special device of the film-makers. Otherwise the black and white scope image looks fine in this KOFA print.

Eino Mäkinen - Photographs and Films (exhibition)

Eino Mäkinen - Valokuvia ja elokuvia, Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery 5.11.2010-20.2.2011
Photographs and films from the 1920s until the 1940s.

The Eino Mäkinen collection at National Audiovisual Archive (KAVA) was donated by  Eino Mäkinen  in contact with Lauri Tykkyläinen. The exhibition is curated by Kai Vase together with exhibition architect Marja Kanervo.

Eino Mäkinen (1908-1987) is a photographer famous in Finland for Modernism (Tulenkantajat), his Alvar Aalto connection, modern art photography, visual dynamism, "writing in light", urban rhythm - and recording the Finnish folk tradition in 30 films and thousands of photographs (Kansatieteellinen Filmi 1936-1939).

Many of the images are well-known but this exhibition is a brilliant whole with new revelations and excellent standards of presentation.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Heijastuksia lasisilmästä

Reflections from a Glass Eye. FI 1992. PC: Netrum Oy. P: Ilpo Murtovaara. D+ED: Kanerva Cederström. SC: Riikka Tanner. DP: Ilkka Ruuhijärvi. M: Appe Vanajas. S: Heikki Innanen. 35 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Kanerva Cederström), 3 Nov 2010. - The manufacture of glass eyes for taxidermy and dolls is the starting point for a documentary essay on preserving living beings and the presence of images of animals in science, children's play and advertising (a commercial where a muscle car morphs into a running tiger). There are even grotesque views of composite fake animals created by the taxidermists. A beautiful photochemical print.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hanyo / The Housemaid (1960)

KR 1960. PC: Korean Literature Films, Kim Ki-young Productions. EX: Ahn Hwa-young D: Kim Ki-young. SC: Kim Ki-young. DP: Kim Deok-jin – b&w – 1,55:1. AD: Park Seok-in. M: Han Sang-ki. ED: Kim Ki-young. Cast: Lee Eun-sim (Oh Myeong-sook, the housemaid), Joo Jeung-nyu (Dong-shik's wife), Kim Jin-kyu (Dong-shik, music teacher), Um Aing-ran (Cho Gyeong-hee, factory worker), Lak Ok-joo (factory worker), Go Seon-ae. 111 min. Restored in 2008 by the Korean Film Archive and World Cinema Foundation, digital restoration at HFR laboratory (Soul). A KOFA print of the restored version with e-subtitles in English viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Cinema in South Korea), 2 Nov 2010.

My first encounter with Kim Ki-young. It's a wild and crazy film based on nightmare logic. There is the music teacher's family and its house where a housemaid is needed. There is the music teacher's song class at the factory where girls are infatuated with him. "Don't stand so close to me", but although the teacher is firm, and because he is, he becomes the target of a diabolical revenge plot. Kim Ki-young favours powerful camera movement, striking editing, and fervent music. Kim Ki-young's touch is original, and some aspects resemble Roman Polanski and 1950s and 1960s European pulp crime fiction. Perhaps the film is slightly too long. The restoration has been executed from demanding source materials, including reels that had high hand-written subtitles which have been digitally removed, and those strange sections contribute an added surrealistic effect. The print is clean and intact but in our screening there was a problem with contrast (a reflection from the film projector or the subtitling projector).

Sang sattawat / Syndromes and a Century

TH/AT/FR © 2006 Kick the Machine Films. EX: Keith Griffiths, Simon Field. P+D+SC: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. DP: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom – väri – 1,85:1. PD: Akekarat Homlaor. Songs: Kantee [Gandhi] Anantagant. S: Koichi Shimizu, Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr – Dolby SRD. ED: Lee Chatametikool. Featuring: Nantarat Sawaddikul, Jaruchai Iamaram, Nu Nimsomboon, Noom, Sophon Pukanok, Jenjira Pongpas, Arkanae Cherkam, Sakda Kaewbuadee, Sin Kaewpakpin, Norathep Panyanavakij, Apirak Mitpracha, Manasanant Porndispong. 105 min. A New Crowned Hope (Vienna) production. A Fortissimo print with English subtitles by Elvira de Majo viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (The Best of the Decade), 2 Nov 2010.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films have been seen in Finland in festivals only, and this was my first encounter with his work. This is a serene, meditative film inspired by the director's childhood memories as a child of a family where the parents were doctors in a small town. The location is a hospital, the takes are long, and there is a lot of ambient sound. The presence of Buddhist monks, statues in the garden, and wild orchids is prominent. Themes of chakra healing and reincarnation are playfully discussed. There are moments of love, reciprocal and unrequited. Final images include thick smoke being absorbed into a ventilation pipe in the basement and a joyful communal calisthenics happening in the park. It will take a while to digest this film. Although according to the end credits there are digital effects in this film the image in the print had a lively photochemical feeling.