Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More April reading: Strindberg, Lubitsch, Graf, Krugman

Olof Lagercrantz: August Strindberg. Translated into Finnish by Rauno Ekholm. Original in Swedish in 1979. Helsinki: Tammi, 1980. - Re-read much of Lagercrantz's great biography the basic theme of which is that Strindberg created a half-fictional semi-autobiographical figure from his own life, to use it as raw material for his art.

Herman G. Weinberg: The Lubitsch Touch. (First edition 1968, second edition 1971). Third, revised and enlarged edition. New York: Dover Publications, 1977. - Revisited this wonderful book, itself an expression of the Lubitsch touch. Brimming with illuminations, the little ones as memorable as the big ones.

Conny Mithander, John Sundholm, Adrian Velicu: European Cultural Memory Post-89. European Studies. An Interdisciplinary Series in European Culture, History, and Politics, 30. Amsterdam - New York: Rodopi, 2013. - The key year 1989 as a cultural turning-point. John Sundholm has contributed a remarkable essay, "Finland at War on Screen since 1989: Affirmative Historiography and Prosthetic Memory".

CineGraph, Lieferung 52 (März 2013). Lexikon zum deutschsprachigen Film. Herausgegeben von Hans-Michael Bock. München: Edition Text+Kritik, 2013. - I have been a subscriber to the magnificent CineGraph encyclopedia since the 1980s. A couple of times a year they send a batch of ca 150 fresh pages to be inserted into special CineGraph folders. It's a very special project of history with careers perhaps beginning during the Kaiserreich, continuing in the Weimar Republic, interrupted by Hitler, continuing in the Third Reich or in the exile, and after WWII in the two countries of the divided Germany. Fascinating to read, with film scholarship of the highest order.

Christoph Huber, Olaf Möller: Dominik Graf. Vienna: SYNEMA, 2013. Dominik Graf, a bit like our domestic Matti Ijäs, is perhaps more known to the big audience from his distinguished television career (Tatort, etc.), but he is also a prominent film director (Spieler, Der Felsen, Die Freunde der Freunde, Das Gelübde). This new study includes an essay by Christoph Huber, "Another Germany Is Possible", an interview with Dominik Graf, "The Grace of Working with the Hidden", and a thorough commented filmography by Olaf Möller.

International Herald Tribune: the columns of Paul Krugman. In the debate of Olli Rehn vs. Paul Krugman I have had sympathy with both. It is wrong to punish the people of Greece, Spain, etc. for gross blunders by financial speculators and politicians. It is of supreme importance to help the young and stop the unemployment. The tide will turn, and the innocent shouldn't have to suffer.

April reading: Multiversions, Spanish Civil War, Chomón, Lang

Esteve Riambau (ed.): Multiversions. Barcelona: Filmoteca de Catalunya, 2013. The book to the Symposium of the 2013 Barcelona Congress of FIAF. In Catalan and English. Articles by Esteve Riambau, François Thomas, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Luciano Berriatúa, Juan B. Heinink, Román Gubern, and Stefan Drössler. - The most ambitious ever undertaking to discuss the question of multiple versions of films, including silent and sound versions, different language versions, censored versions, special cases such as Napoléon, Faust, Metropolis, and Mr. Arkadin, different national versions of co-productions, festival versions, cinema and tv versions, the director's cut syndrome, extended dvd cuts, technical variations (3D and 2D, black and white and colour) - and restored versions. The discussion is intelligent, and the volume is likely to become an indispensable reference into this topic.

Esteve Riambau: Imatges confrontades: la guerra civil i el cinema / Contrasting Images: The Spanish Civil War and the Cinema. Barcelona: Filmoteca de Catalunya, 2011. In Catalan and English - The newest stand of study about the films about the Spanish Civil War, covering the complexity of the terrible topic.

Joan M. Minguet Batllori: Segundo de Chomón. The Cinema of Fascination. Barcelona: Institut Català de les Indústries Culturals / Filmoteca de la Generalitat de Catalunya / Instituto de Estudios Turolenses / Títol, 2010. (In Catalan: 2009). The English version of the most definitive study on Segundo de Chomón, the master of early cinema (of fantasy and special effects and much more), and one of the founding fathers of Spanish and Catalan cinema, although mostly active in France and Italy.

Bernard Eisenschitz: Fritz Lang au travail. Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 2011. Solid research and analysis by one of the finest Fritz Lang connoisseurs, and a wonderful coffee-table book full of rare and large illustrations from the archival collections of Deutsche Kinemathek (Berlin) and La Cinémathèque française and many other sources.

Journal of Film Preservation 88 / April 2013. Published by FIAF (Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film). - Contents include: Esteve Riambau's editorial on the achievements of the FIAF on its 75th Anniversary. - Paolo Cherchi Usai: The Digital Future of Pre-Digital Film Collections. - Jon Wengström: Collection Building and Programming in the Future. The fate of non-national films in archives in the light of the change from 35 mm to DCP in theatrical distribution. - David Walsh: The Restoration Threshold, or When to Apply Grain Reduction. - Mari Sol Pérez Guevara: Challenges for European Film Heritage from the Analogue and the Digital Era. - David Pierce: The Media History Digital Library. - Christophe Dupin: First Tango in Paris: The Birth of FIAF, 1936-1938. - Christian Dimitriu: FIAF Oral History: Robert Rosen - Film Culture Activist at UCLA. - Nikolai Izvolov and Sergei Kapterev: In Search of Post [Potshta, 1929]. - Dylan Cave: Digital Acquisition at the BFI. - Camille Blot-Wellens: Considering the Restoration of Early Films: The Case of the Pathé Negatives. - Martin Koerber: Toute la mémoire du monde - a new film restoration festival in Paris.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Timo Koivusalo: How My Films Were Made (a lecture)

Timo Koivusalo: Miten elokuvani ovat syntyneet? Lecture in the series organized by the HYY:n Elokuvaryhmä / The Film Society of The Student Union of the University of Helsinki. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 19 April 2013.

Timo Johannes Koivusalo (31 October 1963, Pori), is a Finnish film producer, director, screenwriter, actor, comedian, singer, songwriter, and television host. He became known nationwide in television's Tuttu juttu show hosted by Joel Hallikainen and himself. Soon Koivusalo starred in the television series Pekko Aikamiespoika, creating a kind of a Tora-san of Finland. Five theatrical Pekko movies ensued. Koivusalo spread his wings to biopics of Finnish popular culture - Reijo Helismaa and Tapio Rautavaara in Kulkuri ja Joutsen, and Irwin Goodman in Rentun ruusu. Raising stakes of ambition, Koivusalo produced and directed the first feature film about the life of Jean Sibelius. Kalteva torni, a deeply felt study of a mental case, had insight in split personality. The most ambitious Koivusalo production has been the new film adaptation of Täällä Pohjantähden alla in two parts.

Pekko Aikamiespojan poikamiesaika ([The Bachelor Days of Pekko the Grown-Up Boy] 1993), D: Sina Kujansuu
Pekko ja poika ([Pekko and the Boy] 1994)
Pekko ja massahurmaaja ([Pekko and the Mass Charmer] 1995)
Pekko ja muukalainen ([Pekko and the Stranger] 1996)
Pekko ja unissakävelijä ([Pekko and the Sleepwalker] 1997)
Kulkuri ja Joutsen ([The Tramp and the Swan] 1999)
Rentun ruusu ([The Vagabond's Rose] 2001)
Sibelius (2003)
Kaksipäisen kotkan varjossa ([In the Shadow of the Double-Headed Eagle] 2005)
Kalteva torni ([The Leaning Tower] 2006)
Täällä Pohjantähden alla ([Under the North Star] 2009)
Täällä Pohjantähden alla II ([Under the North Star II] 2010)
Vuonna 85 ([In the Year 1985] 2013)
in pre-production: Risto Räppääjä ja liukas Lennart ([Ricky Rapper and the Slippery Lennart] 2014)

My launching-pad was the Pekko television series, but my dream had always been the feature film. I took a personal risk and borrowed money from the bank. Jussi Mäkelä [present in the audience] then at the current Finnkino company said: älä lähde = don't do it. Sina Kujansuu contributed a fourth.

Then the telephone rang and it was Spede [Pasanen]. He said he wanted Pekko in his stable, and Spede would produce.

The first Pekko movie received no funding in 1993. It was shot on Super 16, the blow-up [maksoi sairaasti =] was so costly it hurt. One print cost some 50.000 Euro in today's money. But the television series Tuttu juttu had made me well-known nationwide. We made five prints and had 50.000 spectators which meant it was one of the most-seen films of that year. It was a different time then. [Finnish films were experiencing a low in popularity until the trend changed in the late 1990s.]

Jukka Mäkelä told me: direct yourself. And Esko Nikkari [hullua yllytti =] stirred up the madman. Esko Nikkari I tried to cast in all my films, and I managed to get him to about ten of them, until Kalteva torni. A day before the shooting the doctor called that Esko Nikkari was gone. He had already started in Edvin [Laine's] Pohjantähti [Täällä Pohjantähden alla].

The five Pekko movies were fun to make. I had been watching films and unlocking them, figuring out how the camera moves. I decided to have a top team to make films.

The Elokuvatuotanto Pihlajakoski gang had already been making Mikko Niskanen's movies. Jyrki Luukko [sound designer, editor] came on board. It was [vankka porukka =] a solid outfit.

I was learning how words on paper become images, the synergy, how images are expressed in words and the other way round.

The reader of a book sees it in images of his own.

Making a movie is like telling about one's own dreams.

In those days Jaakko Salo called, too. He produced a couple of records of mine, and we had other common projects. He also arranged the music to many of my films. The times were changing. He used to bring a cardboard box full of whistles, bells and maracas. But synthetizators were developing, and it was all there. No problem: Salo discarded his cardboard box then and there. He enjoyed film-making, equipped with his stop-watch.

I happened to walk past Tavastia at night. There had been a heavy metal concert, and some 300 heavy metal fans were having a cigarette break on the street. I'm a big man but it did look a bit scary. Then they started to pat me in the back: Pekko! They had seen my show on tv.

When we were casting Pekko ja poika we received 3000 applications.

TWO EXCERPTS FROM THE PEKKO MOVIES. Esko Nikkari as the policeman.

The train was brought from Helsinki for our special use. That was the time of the anniversary of the first film screening in Finland, and that "arrival of the train" sequence is our homage to it.

Thanks to that "the dark man enters Tyräaho" theme we received the Hand of Humanism Award.

I was touring as a singer and a performer, and more than once somebody remarked that I was sitting on the same bench were Repe and Tapsa [Reino Helismaa and Tapio Rautavaara] had sat. This thing started to live. I had toured alone in [seurojentaloja = social and dancing halls] and doing gigs at fairs.

After the war there was a tremendous thirst for entertainment and a rush of survival. The time of the final war reparations came, Armi Kuusela became Miss Universum, Helsinki got its Olympic Games, there was an atmosphere of optimism.

I got in touch with the daughter of Tapsa and with Markku Helismaa. We received Tapsa's own guitar and Repe's guitar. When Martti Suosalo signed an autograph there appeared unintentionally also a signature by him.

It was great to dive into that era, and we discovered fine stuff. Juha Numminen had recorded 40 hours of compact cassettes in preparations for his book En päivääkään vaihtaisi pois [I Wouldn't Change a Day]. Tapsa had the talent to tell a story. The wife was always sitting beside him. The common journey of Repe and Tapsa was covered, the rift, and the reconciliation.

There were poignant stories from the front. Once Tapsa had stepped aside on the front, and suddenly he was staring at the barrel of a rifle of a Russian, who was staring at the barrel of Tapsa's rifle. Quietly they both backed down. Years later Tapsa was on a train and saw in the window of a train to Moscow that same Russian, who greeted him.

I cast Martti Katajisto as Toivo Särkkä. "I don't look at all like him". He looked startlingly like him. He did not make it to the premiere.

Jaakko Salo did a lot of work, and he contacted many original musicians. We heard terrific stories about recording circumstances at the time, how the sounds of certain instruments were recorded via telephone wires that ran under the street, in order to receive an echo. These were true authentic things.

There was a big wrangle about financing. Yle TV2 participated. The Finnish Film Foundation was reluctant at first.

I had been doing a lot of thinking about Finnish heroes: how someone becomes a star, a hero. If the age does not need a hero, they are not born. How was it then, how was it later. I was already even then thinking whether there would be someone who could perform them all - from Sibelius to Irwin.

In Kulkuri ja Joutsen we tried to evoke the approach of the time, the homespun way. It was a very heavy production. The premiere was elsewhere before Helsinki because Tennispalatsi was not finished yet. When Tennispalatsi was opened, Kulkuri ja Joutsen was the opening movie - in every cinema of the multiplex, and every cinema was full. But always there is a snake in the paradise. It was shot to be screened in the 1,85:1 ratio, but in the projection the microphone was visible.

It received a big audience, there was feedback all the time, and people kept reminiscing what the doctor said to Repe: ["syökää, juokaa, naikaa, vuosi aikaa" = eat, drink, fuck, there's a year more to go - in rhyme - see also Peter von Bagh's lecture and film Tapsa]. That was the equivalent of stand-up at the time: Severi Suhonen created rhymes on the spot. The sad ending of Olavi Virta on an attic in Pispala. Tapsa carrying Virta on his shoulder so that he could have some bean soup on the railway station.

EXCERPTS: Kulkuri ja Joutsen - [the nimismies =] the sheriff interrupts the show. Tapsa carries Virta on his shoulder.

The locations included the Haapamäki station. In Puistola we shot, too, on the actual locations. Sets, milieux, and places are important, for the shooting, for the acting. The sets and the props help the actor. We created an authentic-looking wallpaper in Repe's home. A time machine impact takes place.

In preparing Rentun ruusu [on Irwin Goodman] we collaborated with Vexi [Salmi]. We went to Germany, to the transportation company where Vexi and Irwin had worked in their youth. We heard the stories, where they were beaten up. We had to go and shoot there. Esko Nikkari played the truck driver character. He was viinaan menevä = prone to liquor, as they used to. The character was called Väiski, and he had these sayings "ei tippa tapa" ["a drop doesn't kill"] and "viideltä saunaan ja kuudelta putkaan" ["to the sauna at five, to the jail at six"] which later became songs for Irwin and Vexi.

We discovered a piikkinokka-Sisu [a Sisu truck with a long beak] from the 1960s. Esko Nikkari drove on the German Autobahn at 60 kph while the others drove at 200 kph.

We got to change street signs in little towns. The youngsters saw themselves as conquerors of Europe. It was Vexi who invented the name Irwin Goodman [for Antti Hammarberg]. At Reeperbahn they claimed they had heard a little group called The Beatles playing: "It stinks. They'll get nowhere". In those scenes the real Vexi bumps into Ilkka Koivula [playing him].

Irwin's wife and mother participated, and we received his actual clothes. Eeva-Maija Haukinen got to play Irwin's mom. This kind of support was invaluable.

The movie really got onto the characters' skin. We got clearances from everybody. We had access to the best knowledge.

Martti Suosalo worked inwardly. He did change into another human being. His body language, rhythm, and gestures changed. They stayed. He learned the Irwin character really well. There was a storyboard, but we did not necessarily follow it, because an actor conducts an interior editing, for instance in the scenes of Irwin's downfall, with the chest freezer stocked with Koskenkorva vodka. You must not interrupt an actor or cut his performance in a scene like that.

EXCERPT: RENTUN RUUSU. The midsummer night gigs: ♪ "Ryysyranta". - The interview about presumptive taxation. - Martti Suosalo's brilliant performance as Irwin Goodman in his final period.

Those were the last vultures. The deeper Irwin fell, the higher he rose, like a yo-yo.

As young men Irwin and Vexi had made a deal that whoever is the first to go the other visits the grave and takes a good swig.

The dramaturge's remarks from SES about Rentun ruusu had been that the project is based on an expectancy of a big audience. Rentun ruusu had an audience of 350.000, more than the other domestic films of the year together. The attendance rose and rose and rose until it dropped abruptly. That was when the Lahti ski championship exposés started, Hemohes, Isometsä, the doctor's bag. And the premiere of Sibelius coincided with the Twin Towers.

We had a splendid collaboration with Olli Soinio at SES with Sibelius. He knew how to read a screenplay. I prepared for years, I read all there was about Sibelius in Finnish. That was serious study from somebody associated with rillumarei. I was hoping that somebody would have grilled me seriously. I would have been prepared. 

Now there were two other really advanced Sibelius projects. Then I asked the question: have they cleared the rights?

We did have the clearances from the Sibelius estate. We also had access to Lars Sonck's design for Ainola [the house of Sibelius] which we followed in the set design. We had the full support, we did copies of the paintings, and with the permission of the Ainola Foundation we shot on the yard and in the surroundings - the autumn colours in the beginning and the end of the movie, when Sibelius hears the sound of the cranes. "There they fly, the birds of my childhood". Five minutes later the landscape was covered with snow.

The art direction was to the hilt.

In the last Pekko I had had access to a symphony orchestra. Now there was Osmo Vänskä conducting the Sinfonia Lahti. Martti Suosalo was on screen, and Osmo Vänskä was behind him conducting Finlandia, the Karelia suite, the second symphony...

One of Sibelius' daughters died of typhoid fever. With the help of Axel Carpelan Sibelius travels to Rapallo, where even his daughter Ruth falls ill. There is a collage of music and a montage of what is going on in the life of Sibelius.

The sequence was shot in Riga, in its old town, which was emptied, and horse-driven carts were hauled instead. The policemen were duly compensated. 

When we were shooting in Ainola a Japanese tourist group appeared. Heikki Nousiainen and Seela Sella were inside in the Sibelius costumes. The tourist group was amazed, and the actors posed for the group for photographs.

As always, I had the staunch support of the critics.

EXCERPTS: SIBELIUS. - The agony over the Eighth Symphony: "eikö niille mikään riitä" - "isn't anything enough for them?". - "I have been forging it, but it may be bigger than me". - "Yet it is nothing compared with the pain... " - "God knows I have tried". - ♪ "Tuonen viita... " - Rapallo - ♪ The Second Symphony - Robert Kajanus (Vesa Vierikko): "ylistystä, pelkkää ylistystä" = "praise, nothing but praise...".

The finest experience was in New York, where there was a queue around the block. The feedback and the atmosphere were quite something.

In all of my films there are babies. I have broken the rule "no children, no animals, no Turku-dwellers".

Sibelius lived a long life, and that life spanned the sortokaudet = the Russification era, the suspension of newspapers, also the period for my next film. 

I love musicals, and that's why I launched Kaksipäisen kotkan varjossa with Markku Johansson in charge of the music and with Vantaan viihdeorkesteri as the orchestra. The opinions were divided, but the audience liked it. The feedback was enormous.

The biggest set in my Villilä studios was almost one kilometer long.

The style chosen: sincerely naive.

Jääkärin morsian was an inspiration.

Tulipahan tehtyä = we did get that one made. I had the pleasure to be able to cast Vesku Loiri [Vesa-Matti Loiri]. In one of his Turhapuro films I had had a bit role as Pekko.

We needed horses, crowds, costumes. There were 2000 statists, and for many of them costumes were sown. In Pohjantähti, there were 3000.

Together with Susanna Palin [the wife of Timo Koivusalo, present in the audience] we wrote the songs.

EXCERPT: KAKSIPÄISEN KOTKAN VARJOSSA. - Vesa-Matti Loiri as Verneri, the singing waiter, serving beer in big mugs - Loiri sings ♪ "Pelimannin perintö"

It was fun to do, and songs have stuck: "Jotain jää" had good radioplay, and it is popular in weddings.

I had Pohjantähti in mind. But I have been in one respectable profession, too: as a psychiatric nurse in a mental hospital. There were stories and characters there that haunted me.

Kalteva torni is a compendium of the fates of several people. There are two personae of which the one is not aware of the other. 

The travelling companions of Johannes (Martti Suosalo) are played by Siiri Suosalo, the actor's daughter, and Seela Sella. We shot in Florence and Venice.

When Suosalo acts his essence changes, the entire man changes. His body language was absolutely convincing.

In Venice the were shooting the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale, at the same time, and thanks to that, we got top reception, as well.


I get feedback from this film all the time.

EXCERPT: KALTEVA TORNI. - Johannes does not recognize himself from a video recording he is watching. - There is a stronger persona and a weaker persona.

On location the Italians were asking whether Suosalo is actually mad. 

There were mad word-plays, hullumpata, tumpata, jumpata, humpata...

But transcending cultural boundaries one can recognize these things.

Täällä Pohjantähden alla I first read when I was fourteen. After that I had re-read it almost annually. It is a story dear to me. I made two films of it, there were 100 shooting days, 150 actors, and 3000 statists. We spent 10 months cutting the first part.

It was a long, heavy, and wonderful production.

It cost the price of 1½ films. I took a personal loan of 1 million Euro. I'm still paying.

All bills have been paid.

The movie is old-fashioned in a modern way.

Edvin Laine had one million spectators in his more theatrical adaptation.

Now we went close, iholle = to the skin, with a moving camera. I paid attention to Linna's strong female characters. The concept: the little man in the wheels of history. I read between the lines, I observed the big picture. There are details such as when Aleksi finishes his confirmation he is flanked by buddies who will be enemies, executioners later. 

Linna gets under everybody's skin. You don't always accept them but you understand them.

The language is huikea = staggering. It was a dream come true. The actors. The music - Jaakko Kuusisto and Sinfonia Lahti. The trend in Finland is to have the music being played abroad for cost. I assign all my work in Finland and pay everybody in full. The music carries the film, it stretches beyond the screen. It works in a way which is different from the image. 

The auditive part is important: the smallest things in sound, in foley, forebodings.

We built the Koskelan torppa = the tenant's house of Koskela the way Jussi did it, starting from scratch, in Pyssykangas, Punapakka. We cleared the ground, we sowed the rye. We had the rye long, the height of a man, like it was in those days, not the short rye they cultivate now.

We shot during all seasons, including two winters. The first winter fell short in snow. Esko Roine was all set to play Kivivuori in a winter scene. But in the evening it was still green, and in the morning we were supposed to shoot winter footage. There was a snowdrift - the landscaping was perfect. There were several eras we had to cover during those seasons. We needed old logs, we needed new logs. We needed horses, caravans of refugees, scenes in bitter cold, in the darkness, babies, guns. It was all disciplined, we took no risks. We had access to the Pohjankangas shooting range. We purchased properties and burned two farming estates to the ground. There were two brothers, of 85 years, who were proud that their houses would be featured in a movie. And we burned them.

The original concept is the most important.
Then there is the screenplay.
Then the realization, the sets, the milieu.
But the actors are the bone marrow. You need to find the right characters. The fundamental habitus cannot be changed.

I was born, myself, in a little country village in the beginning of the 1960s. I had a connection to those things.

In actors, I got the ones I wanted, and the actors felt they received their dream parts.

The age question was a serious challenge. The time span is sixty years. Should we take several actors to play one character? We decided to select one actor to play the same character in his different ages. It is essential to maintain the charisma of a character.

Film folks are superstitious. We shot in a house on the wall of which there was an old tennis club which had belonged to Eugen Schauman, who had assassinated Bobrikov. History comes close.

Of the films I also edited a television series in eight parts, with added scenes. 

The audience was very involved. This story makes us understand how incredibly close we still are those things. My grandfather was of the same age as Akseli. My father fought in the wars pitkän kaavan mukaan = the long and hard way.

The most important thing here is the viewpoint of the little man, the loser. The fidelity to Linna's text. 

My basic values include tolerance of difference, opposition to xenophobia.

I may have made films about stars, heroes, and big men. But there are no big men. They are all little men. We have all been born babies. Everybody has a story to tell.

The Year 85 is my thirteenth movie. If a film is good you forget about the technical aspects. Emotions are never wrong. My films are declarations agains cynicism. Never underestimate emotions. Emotions are the only thing that is true. Films are a time machine to convey emotions.

My fourteenth film is now being conceived. I am returning to family films with a Risto Räppääjä / Ricky Rapper film.

Q & A

Q: You favourite film?
A: Limelight by Charles Chaplin. The dark and the light stripes.
Of the Finnish films, Kahdeksan surmanluotia / Eight Deadly Shots by Mikko Niskanen. The way to do. You ask: is this a documentary? I recognize the sense of place, the milieu.

Q: Which one of the films of your own would be your calling card?
A: Pohjantähti - Sibelius - Kulkuri ja Joutsen - Kalteva torni.
Ummikolle = for an outsider I would say: Kalteva torni.
But what you're at always seems dearest.
For five years I was at Pohjantähti.
You need that spark to be able to follow through such a process.
At the premiere the most tender part is already behind me, and my thoughts are in the next one.
It is always the one you are doing.

Q: The reception abroad?
A: People laugh in different moments.
In Sibelius the audience laughed when Sibelius always kept getting daughters. It was not planned to be funny.
In Kalteva torni German audiences discovered interesting things about avohoito = non-institutional care, outpatient care, questions about being abandoned. But the emotions are the same, and the sense of rhythm. 
For us, the music in our films is familiar, but it is not familiar to the foreigners.
Whenever a film reaches and touches it feels good.
The images tell something, and so does the music.

Q: How has it felt to proceed from an entertainment artist to a top film director?
A: A theatrical feature film was always my dream, but it is always improbable to actually to be able to pull it off.
Contemporary movies are now easier to make since the technology has gotten cheaper.
My work has been my passion. I never cut corners in anything.
The original works have been my film school.
Cinema is a difficult profession.
We lack expert critics.
They do know how to sum up the storyline.
But few understand to analyze editing, music, and sound design.
Let's compare a film to a performance of a symphony orchestra.
I would look forward to a critic who would perform his criticism like a music critic.
I am not sensitive, myself.
I have done my thing, and I have not burnt bridges.
I have my familiar team.
A film is a director's art.
There is a giant crew, and somebody has to direct.
When a shot is in the can, I say "thank you", and I have five seconds to say what to do next.
As a producer I rely on fair play, and the gang is happy to join me the next time.
Catering is important: there are several meals, and the food is good.
The actors complain: "Do I need to eat four courses?"

Q: Are there Finnish soulmates?
A: I envy those who can, and my opinion keeps changing.
Edvin Laine
Pekka Parikka - Talvisota
Risto Jarva - Mies joka ei osannut sanoa ei (Jäniksen vuosi I failed to like)
Aki Kaurismäki - cannot be ignored
There is a lot of good new talent.

Q: Is there are story you would want to make but don't have the funds to do?
A: Yes, there is, a dark and grim story, about the summer of 1944.
About Soviet terrorists, so-called partisans, who killed women and children.
Veikko Erkkilä has written a couple of books about this.
The events in Savukoski and Seitajärvi.
Twenty women and children were raped, and the culprits were celebrated as partisans.
There was a lot of terror.
One little girl survived in a stack of corpses, she is still alive.
War crimes were never brought to trial.
These things still happen all the time.

Q: The documentary interview of Vexi Salmi in Rentun ruusu?
A: First I was reluctant to do it. It's all my fault. Some liked it, some didn't. It will grow in value in the future.

Q: You entered the film world pystymetsästä = out of nowhere. Was there a oppi-isä, konkari = a father figure, an old-timer to teach you?
A: There was no single person. There were many. Pertti Mutanen, the cinematographer. In my first film Harri Räty was the cinematographer. I was greatly helped by the veterans of Mikko Niskanen, Jyrki Luukka, Jorma K. Lehtonen, Seppo Anttila. 
In many films I have the same pros, and we have established our team's way of doing things.
Every film I make like it were my last.
Always it is a miracle for me. It is a matter of piety. I value all help available.
Including the distributor: Jussi Mäkelä, and in the beginning his cousin Jukka Mäkelä. Pekka Lehesmaa, too, has helped from the start.
The post-production, the sound mixing.
I want to have the best musicians and studios.
I need to hire people who are better than myself.

Q: Do you still write songs?
A: Every now and then. There is quite a bit of demand.
But I'm lazy, and if I wouldn't have to, I'd remain on the sofa.
I should write a few kunnon ralli = good tunes every year.
The satisfaction from a song is as good as from a movie.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Muisteja - pieni elokuva 1950-luvun Oulusta / Remembrance - A Little Film about Oulu in the 1950s

Peter von Bagh, summer 1951
FI 2013. PC: Illume Oy. P: Jouko Aaltonen. D+SC: Peter von Bagh. Archival editor and ass. d: Anna Korhonen. DP: Arto Kaivanto - digital post: Post Control. M: compilation from Leevi Madetoja, etc. S: Martti Turunen. ED: Petteri Evilampi. Commentary read by: Peter von Bagh, Erja Manto, Eero Saarinen. Archival sources: YLE TV-arkisto, Pohjois-Pohjanmaan museo, Oulun taidemuseo, Kaleva, Oulun maakunta-arkisto. 8 mm film scans: Anssi Kallio / Reel One. Production managers: Venla Hellstedt, Marianne Mäkelä. Production assistant: Maarit Mononen. Production trainee: Anna Recasens Gómez de Segura. In collaboration with: Yle / Iikka Vehkalahti, 2013. Production funded by: Suomen Elokuvasäätiö / Elina Kivihalme; AVEK / Timo Korhonen. Partners: Oulu - Capital of Northern Scandinavia, Merikoskikerho, Oulun Elokuvakeskus, Kaleva. Formats of release: HD, 2K DCP. 69 min. 2K DCP with English subtitles screened at Cinema Plaza 1, Oulu, 13 April 2013.


The premiere in the presence of Peter von Bagh, Jouko Aaltonen, Arto Kaivanto, Petteri Evilampi, Martti Turunen, Anna Korhonen - Simo Näyhä, Tapio Piirainen, Marianne Mäkelä - Kaisu Mikkola (Merikoskikerho / Uuden Oulun juhlavuosi), Sauli Pesonen (OEK), and Mikko Ronkainen (Kaleva).

In his introduction Peter von Bagh remarked that in matters of culture and film culture a small city like Oulu can be one of the centers of the world.

From the production information: "A time journey by the director, film historian, and writer Peter von  Bagh to the home town of his childhood and youth, the Oulu of the 1950s. The extended essay-like film utilizes various archival materials: film, photographs, paintings, and other artworks. The movie paints a caleidoscopic vision about the Northern city and its spirit. One youth, one age, and one city spring magically to life. The film is personal and local, yet general and universal." (My translation).

A word from the director: "The film we have in our hands is a story unfolding from very personal threads - I arrived at Oulu at the age of five in the year 1948, and I left the city after finishing my school in 1961. It is one of the most exciting and dynamic periods in the history of independent Finland, not least, if you try to track down its clues based on the memories of a child and a youngster." (My translation).

Peter von Bagh is at his best in his first directly autobiographical movie, but even Muisteja is predominantly a work of cultural history. The private is mediated via culture.

Points of reference might be: Terence Davies: Of Time and the City, and Víctor Erice: La Morte Rouge.

Muisteja is a montage film based on some newly shot footage of Oulu (only places and locations have been photographed - there are no interviews), on archival footage from professional films, both fiction and non-fiction (newsreels), on 8 mm home movie footage, on photographs, and many paintings.

The soundtrack is a montage, too. The commentary is written by Peter von Bagh. The score is based on samples from Leevi Madetoja and vintage popular music. But there is also a montage of excerpts from prominent writers. Oulu has been an important city of writers since the 19th century, and several are quoted here.

From his rich sources Bagh creates a mosaic where the private keeps intertwining with the general, and those two keep illuminating and enriching each other. That is what Bagh has been doing since the early 1970s, but Muisteja is special because it returns to the most confidential ground, to the sources and origins of the artist.

The film is rich and will deserve multiple viewings.

There was a feeling of warm concentration in this very special screening which was also a class reunion. Oulu's Finnkino Plaza 1 was full, and there was a standing ovation afterwards.

The Spirit of the Place - How Remembrances Are Born? (a seminar on Peter von Bagh)

PAIKAN HENKI - KUINKA MUISTEJA SYNTYY? A seminar on Saturday, 13 April 2013 at 10-14, Cinema Plaza, Oulu. Arranged by Merikoskikerho / Uuden Oulun juhlavuosi, Oulun elokuvakeskus, and Illume Oy.

10.00 - 10.10 Opening
10.10 - 11.00 Olaf Möller: The Home and the World (in English)
11.00 - 11.15 A film screening: Oulu - Pohjolan valkea kaupunki [Oulu - White City of the North]. FI 1956. PC: Suomi-Filmi. D: Aimo Jäderholm, Yrjö Aaltonen. 14 min. An Oulu 350th anniversary film. Screened from a computer file (low and poor definition). The film is available on 35 mm, but there are no 35 mm film projectors in Cinema Plaza.
11.15 - 12.00 Samuli Onnela: Lapin ja Lannan rajalta Oulun lyseolaiseksi / From the Border of Lapland to a High School Student in Oulu - ex-director of the archive of the Oulu province
12.00 - 12.15 Intermission
12.15 - 13.00 Kari Sallamaa: Vaiennut koski: sodanjälkeisen kirjallisuuden Oulu / The Silent Waterfalls - Oulu in Post-War Literature - professor emeritus of Oulu University
13.00 - 13.15 Peter von Bagh
13.15 - 14.00 Panel discussion (Samuli Onnela, Kari Sallamaa, Marja Tuominen [professor of cultural history at Lapland University] ja Kaarina Niskala [architect, kotiseutuneuvos])

Olaf Möller presented outlines of Peter von Bagh's film oeuvre, his starting-point being that the viewpoint of Peter is that of an alien, a foreigner, all of his works growing out of his childhood. The 1950s is the key period. The music, the films of the 1950s are what matter the most, and there is a skepticism towards what came after. What counts in Peter's films are the dimension of dreams and the tendency of making an argument. Bagh's films are not linear, they proceed in knots of arguments, presenting different angles, not in classical progression, with a logic which is often intuitive and emotional.

Olaf showed us the first three minutes of Lastuja / Splinters, a montage of works created by the Aho-Soldan family - films, poetic prose, paintings, photographs - also crystallizing a hundred years of history.

In the international circles of cinephiles Peter von Bagh is the über-cinephile. Yet hardly anybody has read Peter's writings outside Finland, because they have not been translated.

And foreigners seldom know about Bagh's film productions.

Studying the remarkable publication programme of Love Kirjat one can detect the names of B. Traven and Jack London with their mix of adventure and an interest in socialism and the class struggle.

Music has also a big part in Peter's life. All of these are like continents, clusters - the year movies (1939, 1945, 1952...) with their recurrent key people, not least from the popular culture - the series about the film studios (The Suomen Filmiteollisuus Story, the Suomi-Filmi Story, the Fennada Story... ). There are the unifying works, the syntheses, such as the Sininen laulu series. Lastuja is like a condensation of the synthesis. And there are interconnections, between the films covering the years from 1939 until 1952. Peter's project about socialism seems to be like a film version about the Love Kirjat publishing programme. While making non-fiction he is also creating a world of his own.

Peter von Bagh was not born in Oulu. He was sentenced to Oulu. So far Oulu has been the blank spot in Peter von Bagh's filmography, and Sininen laulu was, in fact, criticized for the absence of Oulu.

Peter's father was the director of the mental asylum of Oulu. And a connecting feature in Kreivi, Olavi Virta, and the asylum is that things are not what they seem. This world is topsy-turvy, upside down. Like in Pockpicket, the reversal of Bresson's Pickpocket: the protagonist puts surreptitiously money in people's pockets.

Or in Kreivi, in which Peter had a real conman play himself. It is a film about somebody who does not know where his home is. There is no safety at home in Peter's films. Neither in the cinema, the space where maybe you yourself have changed. But contemporary cinema does not want me to change. The hallmark of the cinephile is change: he changes personality twelve times a day, six times a day.

In Oulu's Bio Rio Peter saw the film of the great Gerd Oswald, Schachnovelle, in the 1950s. That was for him the real Oulu experience: Bio Rio, while thrown into this exile.

Film-makers change when they make their films. Few films are fixed to being anti-bourgeois, marked by anarchism. Bourgeois films present a series of consequences, on the way to their own extinction.

Peter's project is to invent and re-invent Finland. There is no other film-maker in the world who so consistently invents and re-invents his own nation. Who are we? Who am I?

The Winter War in Sininen laulu - a war that could not produce prose - only poetry.

La Condition humaine (André Malraux): a free man chooses his home where the highest clouds pile up. Peter hasn't reached the highest plateau yet.

Q: Your [Olaf Möller's] first encounter with Finland? A: A friend of mine had a cd of Finnish iskelmä [hit song] tracks. 15 years ago I saw a work by Peter von Bagh for the first time and thought: this is interesting film-making. Kreivi was mentioned: it is an insane masterpiece - crazy, fantastic, even 40 years after it was made. I was spellbound and slack-jawed. Then I met him in Bologna. We have a 30 years age difference, yet when I asked something from him he replied: "Yes, my master". The last 2-3 years have been a time of intensive research.

Q (Jouko Aaltonen): Peter's soulmates in his essay style? A: Chris Marker and Emile de Antonio - though they did not use that much found footage. In Russia, Esther Shub was the first artist of the compilation cinema. There are also the roots of the socialist film practice: Dziga Vertov. In Austria, there is Norbert Pfaffenbichler. But I cannot think of another film-maker who in such a grand style, so obsessively, covers other arts - literature, music, painting - as a whole, moving in one.

SCREENING of Oulu - Pohjolan valkea kaupunki (1956, see details above), a solid professional short non-fiction programmer with footage that is now precious, invaluable. Cultural references abound: Sara Wacklin - Samuli Paulaharju - Yrjö Mäkelin - Teuvo Pakkala - Mikael Toppelius. Three of the greatest men instrumental in the national awakening of Finland in the 19th century went to school in Oulu: J.L. Runeberg - J.V. Snellman - Sakari Topelius. - Not forgetting M.A. Castrén, V.A. Koskenniemi, and Kaarlo Kramsu. - The statue of Franz Michael Franzén. - Oulu: the great cultural center of Northern Finland.

Samuli Onnela covered his personal journey in Oulu.

Kari Sallamaa gave an account on the rich literary scene of post-war Oulu.

He started with the silencing of Oulu's hallmark roar of the Merikoski waterfalls in the 1940s [the reference to the roar is known to all Finns in the most famous Oulu poem and song, "Ja sen rannalla koski soittaa tutun sävelen ilmoihin" {"And on its shores the waterfalls are playing out their familiar tune"}]. By 1946, the waterfalls were no longer singing. The primordial sound had been silenced.

Matti Hälli was a key writer in his Oulu trilogy: Valkea kaupunki ([The White City], 1957), Lassinkallio (1959), and Kosken kuuluvissa ([Within the Range of the Waterfall], 1967). He also covered life "on the wrong side of the river".

The political geography was that the center of the city had belonged to the bourgeoisie since the age of the tervaporvarit = the tar bourgeoisie, the Laanaoja [Plaanaoja] park zone to the Oulujoki delta being divisive.

Teuvo Pakkala's Vaara [a workers' district] [covered in the novel Vaaralla, 1891] was the place where the SKDL [Finnish People's Democratic League - a left-wing party in 1944-1990, a coalition of those to the left from Social Democrats] house was particularly prominent. Yrjö Tönkyrä covered the Kemi strikes and was sentenced to fines. Contributions to leftist publications included Haanpään juttuja = short stories by Pentti Haanpää - and writings by Raoul Palmgren, Kaarlo Kramsu, Esa Paavokallio, Yrjö Mäkelin - and Kössi Kaatra during his period in Oulu in 1917-1918.

Further prominent writers include Anu Kaipainen and Erkki Hyytinen.

Arto Paasilinna contributed to the Oulu-based newspaper Pohjolan Työ.

The most important writer of Oulu was Paavo Rintala. For him, Oulu is periphery, yet a center: everything is being compared with Oulu. His relationship is ambivalent, and he finds it an advantage not to have [vajonnut oululaisuuteen =] been sunken in the Oulu mentality. Raksila is central. And the Oulu Lyceum at the Pokkitörmä district. In his novel Pikkuvirkamiehen kuolema [The Death of a Small Civil Cervant] he writes of a person who has [huomaamatta opetettu tuijottamaan omaa herruuttaan =] been imperceptibly taught to stare at his own superiority. There was not even any need to teach that attitude - that was the very spirit of the school.

Oulu was a white city even politically in 1918. One went to Vilppula to fight. That's how Juhani Siljo fell. That was also covered in Paavo Rintala's Mummoni ja Mannerheim books. The city is now a city of heroes. There are more casualties of war than in any other city in Finland in proportion to the population.

The architecture: the white single-story wooden houses were built after the great fire. T. Vaaskivi [a brilliant essayist based in Oulu and died there at 30 in 1942] wrote about the classic dream of C.L. Engel [a German architect who came to Finland via St. Petersburg in 1815 and introduced neo-classical empire style into the monument center of Helsinki and made prominent contributions all around the country, including Turku, Porvoo, and Oulu]. Vaaskivi wrote about the model city carved of wood, the dream of harmony, the snow-white city of purity.

That Oulu no longer exists.

Who is to blame? Stalin, who had the stronghold of Germany's supply chain bombed.

The nouveau-riche building tycoons.

The praise to the eternal darkness. The uncoordinated cluster of functions.

Fires have been a cultural preoccupation of Oulu. Urban renewal has taken place at night. Heikki Kinnunen has even sung a song "A Fire in Oulu".

The architect Eino Pitkänen designed the Valkea Linna [The White Castle], the sulphate cellulose factory and the house of Bio Rio (in 1955).

Hotel Tervahovi became the center of social life. The culture at Restaurant Zakuska became legendary.

Typpi [Nitrogen] Oy produced fertilizers. Since then it was merged with Kemira. Raoul Palmgren: "it stinks here". He escaped to Tampere.

Even Hannu Väisänen remembers the smell in his novel Taivaanvartijat [The Guardians of Heaven, 2013].

Antti Tuuri covers the territory in Joki virtaa halki kaupungin [A River Runs Across the City] . He had been the technical director of Kaleva.

The Nokia syndrome started with the arrival of the university in the 1950s.

The Kaltio cultural magazine was important until it was discontinued in 1972. Erno Paasilinna was active in the Pohjoinen publishing house. In 1958 he asked whether Oulu is a city of culture. And professor Pertti Karkama stated that culture is something that one needs to organize oneself in Oulu.

Sallamaa quoted scathing remarks by writers about Oulu. It is difficult to translate them. Koskenniemeläinen pysähtyneistö [the stagnant backwater pool of the Koskenniemi spirit]. Gogolin kuolleiden sielujen kaupunki [a city of Gogol's dead souls]. Kaunis on kuolla [It is beautiful to die - a refunctioned quote from Runeberg's patriotic poem]. And ripostes to the writers: Henkisen riettalinnun paiskaama valheen törky [mendacious scum dropped by a vile bird]. Se kuusi ei kasva kaukana, johon Paasilinna hirtetään [the fir is not far in which Paasilinna will hang]. Juoksijan hyvä pohjakunto pelasti kulttuurikuikelon [the solid basic condition of the runner saved the cultural beanpole].

Juhana Lepoluoto: Jerry Cotton was the only true cultural magazine. The Jante Law [from Axel Sandemose's A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks] was valid: "You're not to think you are anything special".

The prominence of the Cathedral and the Christian revival movements. Paavo Rintala created the characters of the Laestadian revivalist Aadolf Ruotaistenmäki and the blind preacher Jalmari Isopaasi in his novel Rikas ja köyhä [The Rich and the Poor].

Anna-Maija Ylimaula covered Laestadianism in her novels such as Papintyttö [The Clergyman's Daughter]. The legendary Rattori-lupi was established by tech students in 1970, but the previous decade was different. The Oulun profetia [The Oulu Prophecy] or the Heinoslaisuus movement had been launched in 1960 by the prophetic Heinonen sisters. It was an escatological movement which seemed validated by the explosion of Typpi Oy in 1963.  In July 1967 the youth of Oulu rebelled in the so-called prophet riots. 

Anu Kaipainen wrote Arkkienkeli Oulussa [The Archangel in Oulu] which was based on a story culled from the memoirs of Sara Wacklin - the story of Huppa-Leena and the archangel Michael.

Maria Vaara in her Likaiset legendat [The Dirty Legends] launched a series of novels on schitzophrenia. Oulu meant therapy. And here Vompakki [Konrad von Bagh] was relevant, the world of straitjackets.

In Hannu Väisänen's Antero trilogy the old garrison city featured, now becoming a military vacuum. Joni Skiftesvik presented the businessman Hiukkavaara. Hannu Väisänen, who spent his childhood in the garrisons of Oulu, wrote Vanikan palat [Bits of vanikka = crispbread used by the military]. In it appears Hjördis Tykky, hirvittävä kirkkotrulli = the dread church witch who censures even the art of children. Joni Skiftesvik wrote his Nauru Vintteri and Nallu stories. If nothing else helps they threaten to contact Veikko Ennala of the Hymy magazine.

It was possible to leave, yet long for Oulu. The most beautiful image of longing is the one by Eeli Aalto from the bridges, towards the chapel. The magic emblem: The Beatles. The expression of the previous speaker, "like stagnant water", was about to change.

Q: Antti Hyry also went to school in Oulu. A: Yes, there are many more writers, and Hyry has also written about Oulu, as has Kauko Röyhkä, among others.

"Punainen akvaario" = The Red Aquarium was the clever move of the Kaleva newspaper to domesticate Jorma Etto, Aku-Kimmo Ripatti, Hannu Taanila, and Peter von Bagh. The red fish were nice to watch, but they were no piranhas.

Peter von Bagh: Kari Sallamaa's contribution was almost like the screenplay to my movie [Muisteja].

No, I have not discussed Oulu in my films before, it has been a huutava vaikeneminen = a case of a loud silence. When Sininen laulu was telecast, Kaisu Mikkola and Jukka Kajava among others noticed that Northern Finland was missing.

I had erased myself, things closest to me - including the Finnish Film Archive and the Midnight Sun Film Festival. In my books about Finnish cinema I fail to mention myself at all.

Muisteja is a more personal work. I trust that the personal appears even when I objectify.

When Helsinki Forever was screened in Madrid I heard a remark that it is one of the most personal films that have been made.

As Samuli Onnela said, background is more important than education in the lyceum of Oskari Inkala. And I am not forgetting the women of Nallikari, either.

The screenplay of my life is here.

Erno Paasilinna said that the only truly learned ones are the self-learned.

Was it a coincidence that the Oulu Lyceum was in the background? It was a coincidence and a necessity. Whether I am an artist by profession? I have yet to choose.

Me, too, have built my Oulu via literature. How little fragments of childhood are transformed into something else.

Matti Hälli, who was 30 years older, I met in the same proseminar.

Jorma Korpela I saw when I was 16 years on a train from Kajaani to Siilijärvi. He sat across me. He died pretty soon afterwards. We did not speak, but I felt his presence.

I also went to the Jerry Cotton school: before I wrote for Kaleva I contributed to the Outsider magazine a translation of a short story in English about boxing. I knew only half of the words. The result was pulp fiction. But one did not have to care about copyright after that.

In my movie there is a lot of trivia, but also images from Eeli Aalto, photographs from Uuno Laukka, Rauno Ahonen, 8 mm home movies from the Hammer family, materials from the Oulu Lyceum and the Provincial Archives of Oulu. The paucity of material is relevant to the period.

Films have a central role. The films are the whole world. The fiction, the dream.

The sound background is very versatile. The precise listing is like a screenplay to the film. Prominently featured is Leevi Madetoja, the central composer of Oulu.
One of the topics mentioned in the concluding panel was Paavo Rintala's novel Aika ja uni [The Time and the Dream].

"Joka tulee Ouluun se tulee kouluun" [Who enters Oulu enters school].

Friday, April 12, 2013

How My Films Were Made: Pähkähullu Suomi / Crazy Finland (a lecture by Kari Sohlberg)

Miten elokuvani ovat syntyneet? Jukka Virtanen had to cancel, and the cameraman of Pähkähullu Suomi, Kari Sohlberg, took the floor. A lecture in the series organized by the HYY:n Elokuvaryhmä / The Film Society of The Student Union of the University of Helsinki. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 12 April 2013.

In Pähkähullu Suomi (1967), Osmo Harkimo was the DP and I was the cameraman.

Anssi Mänttäri [present in the audience] came to the film business at the same time. At least we took our driver's education at the same time.

There was the actors' strike. Few movies were made. Kurkvaara, Jarva, Pakkasvirta were active. In 1967 not many movies were made [three]. The production was minimal.

The Spede [Pasanen] films were real cheapies, although there may have been an illusion of something else. There were three of us in the crew: the cinematographer, the assistent, and the sound engineer, Paul Jyrälä. Somebody held the boom, the mike. It was often Virtanen. Many times the sound quality was not that good.

The productions were very quick, and the working hours were pretty long. All the time we were hungry. There was no lunch break.

Without Ere it would not have been possible. He was a brilliant organizer. Hirveä rumba Eren harteilla = it was a terrible burden on Ere's shoulders.

What we decided to do in the morning we did.

The films were extremely precisely written. But why were they so uneven? There were so many ideamen: Spede, Virtanen, Ere. Everybody wanted to include his thing. They were uneven. And it was a constant search for compromises. Some things were really good, some truly childish.

Hullu Suomi was the title proposed by Jukka Virtanen, but Spede wanted to change it to Pähkähullu Suomi.

The films were precisely written and precisely planned. The exception was Hirttämättömät. Spede was stingy. The sets of Speedy Gonzales were still around. There was no script. But there was a location in which it was possible to shoot in each direction. There was just an idea about a bounty hunter. The location was the sandpits of Porvoo-Rudus. On the first morning there were Spede, Loiri, and Simo. "Kuule Sohlberg, käsikirjoitusta ei siis ole" = "Listen Sohlberg, the thing is, there is no script". We did not even have Ere around. But even so can a film be made.

In Pähkähullu Suomi we criss-crossed Finland. We went to Lapland, we went East. There was an awful lot of people, and an insane number of events. Near the conclusion there is a recap when Simo says: "During the last 15 minutes I have not understood a thing". Then we have a pseudo-documentary about Finland.

The technical crew was so tiny, and the difficulties were so incredible, but always we managed to engage local people. Lapuan Nuorisoseura participated on a talkoo basis: very quickly they contributed enthusiastically.

To prepare for this lecture I borrowed a dvd from the library and discovered how extremely abundant this movie is. There are a billion different things, and quite a few levels in the films. All levels of humour.

Q: Was Spede the producer?
A: He produced all except X-paroni. Spede was an extremely stingy person in finances. Pohjan tähteet was his first colour film. It was not successful, but it did not make a loss either. Always he was thinking about controlling the finances. Then I mentioned about shooting a film in black and white and in 16 mm. "Can one do so?" The quality was dismal, there was no knowhow about blow-up at the time. Until Antti Kokko came. "It does not matter. The main thing is that you can see and hear". But after a while it got so that no more 16 mm shooting was accepted.

Of course, Näköradiomiehen ihmeelliset siekailut had been shot with television cameras on video and transferred to a 35 mm film negative.

The vehicles were our own. There was a small Volkswagen Kleinbus in which the entire equipment and the technical crew was transported.

Later we acquired a bigger bus, for thirty, which was rebuilt as a special vehicle to transport ten persons and the shooting equipment.

We moved with a single car. Jukka had no car, not even a driver's licence.

It was truly a small time film production. We engaged local help, and as Spede was at the top of his popularity, it was guaranteed that we were able to get help.

Also the actors came with pleasure. And in the local bars they urged: "Veikko, kiroaisitko vähän" = "Veikko, could you curse a bit".

The combo Jukka - Spede - Ere withdrew to Lepolampi, and they had a pact that they would not return until the screenplay was finished.

The richness and the feebleness are due to the same reason. Spede was reluctant to give up on his own ideas. It was an incredibly talented team. But it collapsed, the collaboration got difficult, when each one's own ideas were walked on, and the final result satisfied nobody.

With an external producer the end result would have been better.

The talent never got to blossom fully.

Q: How did you end up to become a cinematographer?
A: Olin aivan ajopuuna = I was just driftwood after the military. I went to the Taideteollinen = The Art School to study graphic design. In the educational department of the Defense Forces they needed a draughtsman, and after a test of a half an hour it was "welcome to the team". I drew for Taistelijan opas = The Fighter's Manual, etc. Then I switched to their film department. Their cinematographer quit. They knew I was a cinephile interested in photography. I had a crash course on the camera. Of course I accepted.

I always draw a storyboard to make it concrete, so that the whole team can understand.

There was an old director, Kullervo Kari. He had 30 meters of 16 mm film. "Bring it on Monday to Syväpuro, and we'll have a look". It was supposed to be finished footage. That's why I started with the storyboard.

I shot it at the Korkeasaari Zoo. The concept was that of trading places: the animals watching the humans. "Ok, we'll hire you. But don't think you are a cinematographer".

For two years I worked at Skenaria-Filmi with Armand Lohikoski, a veteran, of Puupää films among others.

We shot agricultural fairs, and other fairs. He got bookings by the meter from the exhibitors, and those were shot. We created scripts with aasinsiltoja = tenuous transitions. From the watch department to agriculture.

To the MTV television company I landed via acquaintances. Then it was a short path to Spede. I had a terrific luck. I knew nothing. The films looked terrible. The equipment was modest.

But I was lucky to get to do Spede movies. They were so much fun, they were a riemuloma = a fun holiday. May-June was the favourite period to shoot. It was hulvatonta = side-splitting.

Q: Molle [Rauni Mollberg].
A: That is a bad topic. Now I cannot be as honest as I would want to. One film I made for him. That was enough.

It should be done ilon kautta = via fun. For him, it had to hurt. It was so burdensome for me.

Molle got a lot out of his performers.

Spede pretended he did not care about critics. The moose hunt which escalates to a conflict with tanks was supposed to be a parody about the Vietnam war. "Making an art film for critics". But the general attitude was: never mind.

Q (Mänttäri): Jukka's focus?
A: Jukka was clearly the one who directed.
He intervened into everything.
The plans were precise already on the script stage, including the music.
The tango was Jukka's second foray into writing song lyrics.
He has been active in all fields.

Ere was also very alert.
Once we were shooting on an airport, and the gang was in the plane.
Somebody remarked on a match line issue.
Spede said: the director is Jukka Virtanen, and he tells where the match line is.
That remained the task of Juho Gartz.

There were some weak performers on an "idol girl" basis.

Gartz had just edited Käpy selän alla.
And the result was wonderfully good.
For the montage in the conclusion he discovered all kinds of archival footage.
It is in a way a short film in its own right.

The composer was Jaakko Salo.

Q: Harkimo.
A: He was a wonderful teacher.
He had shot Tuntematon [sotilas] for Edvin [Laine].
He was also an editor in it.
It was a jackpot to have him.
Much we did with Jukka, just the two of us, with a handheld camera or otherwise, side by side, with Ossi [Osmo Harkimo] in the background.
Ossi checked that we were not conducting major errors with match lines and so on.
He was an old pro, it was a stroke of luck to have him.

The lighting equipment was bad. It was like the French new wave, it looked terrible.

My luck continued in the autumn.
Erkko Kivikoski hired me to be the cameraman, and Esko Nevalainen was the cinematographer.
That was when I got truly to talk about lighting.

We made some experiments - to get some character to the lights.
I learned about film sensitivity.
How important light is.
First after that my grip started to get stronger.
But you never learn.
Valo on hieno asia = the light is a fine thing.

Q: Models?
A: Esko Töyri
Marius Raichi
There are many good ones.

Colleagues include:
Esa Vuorinen
Heikki Katajisto

The young generation is really good.
So good cinematographers that oksat pois

Luckily I'm retired now.

There have always been cinematographers who do good-looking images.
But there is a dramaturgy in the shot.
Some cinematographers shoot for themselves, surpassing the screenplay.
But they select wrong angles and wrong lights, things that are not true to the story.
The better cinematographer is the one who gets the story.

Q: Pölönen.
A: I worked for him since Onnen maa, until Ralliraita.
Koirankynnen leikkaaja is for me equal to Onnen maa.
It has been a great joy working with him.
I hope he [Pölönen] will go on.

When we did Lampaansyöjät [with Seppo Huunonen] we met Veikko Huovinen [the writer of the novel] in Sotkamo.
I met him.
He was very embarrased when we visited him.
It was a pure obligation.
I could read his thoughts: "Menkää jo" = "Get out".
And no wonder.

When we did Koirankynnen leikkaaja the viritys = the atmosphere was entirely different.
On the tukkikämppä = the lumberjacks' cabin we could clearly see that he warmed up.
He participated in the screenplay.
When we had a rough cut of three hours we went to show it to him.
Eight times he got to see it, and he said to Pölönen: "Little by little I start to fall in love with this film".

Q: The technical development.
A: Before it was much more difficult.
The equipment was from stone age when I started.

Film has been based on the same system for a hundred years.
There is a tremendous difference.

The change is unavoidable, there is nothing you can do.

Film is in many ways still better.

But I see no reason to haikailtaisiin = to long for the past.
We would not want to drive a 1980s car.

It makes no difference as long as the tool serves the screenplay.

Nowaday the quality is close [to film].
The difference is häilyvä = vague.
The viewer can no longer tell the difference.
It will getter better than film.
For me it's ok.

There is a lot of silver in black and white stock.
It is extremely beautiful.

Q: The dynamic range is more narrow in digital.
A: It's getting better all the time.

Q: The light speed.
A: We get the shot directly on the hard drive of the computer.
It was 300 ASA, but there are updates every half a year, and it's getting to 1600 ASA. The sensitivity grows, and no longer you need even any lighting equipment.

Extra lights you can add manually.

The post-production - it's crazy with the digital wizards.
There is no trick photography any more.

In the colour definition the colourists have the big picture, they paint with the big brush, and then it's completed with little brushes.

There is so much good in the old way.
The demands on the shots were met in complicated ways.
Previously one had to cover the sunsets, etc., on location.

Pappa [Paul] Jyrälä knew how to save scenes with sound.
It was a joy to work with Pappa in so many movies.
He did great effects.
In Da Capo the train rolls to a railroad switch, and the camera swings [by clumsiness].
Pappa: "Don't worry, we'll fix it".
He added the sound of the bump of the switch at the moment of the camera swing.

Q: International models?
A: There are so many.

Now there are so many I cannot remember

Nykvist shot films for Bergman with equipment which Donner bought with the P-Kino (Honkasalo, Lehto), and then it went to Aki Kaurismäki.

A lot of Finnish films were shot with that equipment.

Its old cardboard transport box is still with me as my toolbox in my workshop.

Q: Film schools
A: We have good ones, too.
There is London, there is Paris
Europe is good.
Although the resources are little.
Film-making is so expensive.
Esa Vuorinen: ei ole persaukisen hommaa = it is not for somebody who is broke.

Even if you do it cheaply it is expensive.

Thank you for listening, and best regards from Jukka Virtanen!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sampling The Godfather in 4K

Sampling the first 40 minutes of The Godfather in the 4K DCP of Hollywood Classics Digital, at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Sight & Sound Top Ten Films), 11 April, 2013.

I have never seen a good presentation of The Godfather in a cinema. When Francis Ford Coppola visited the Midnight Sun Festival in Sodankylä in 2002 the print was booked from Paramount Pictures, but even the studio print did not do justice to the bold visual concept of Coppola and his DP Gordon Willis. The film has such an exceptionally difficult definition of light that it borders on the experimental. The ultimate test is in the beginning: the contrast between the utter darkness of Don Corleone's room versus the sunny brightness of the outdoors wedding party.

The Godfather was apparently such a runaway hit that much more prints were needed than predicted and the negatives went into bad shape. That's why it became difficult to access a good print.

My definitive The Godfather experience has been the 2008 dvd release, the third dvd release of The Godfather in The Godfather Box: The Coppola Restoration (a 5-dvd box set), based on a 4K scan. For the first time The Godfather really felt like I had always imagined it should look.

Seeing the 4K DCP from Hollywood Classics Digital on our screen I'm impressed by the film itself, but as for the visual quality it must be confessed that more recent 4K DCP's, such as the one of The Taxi Driver, are superior. I'm looking forward to the next restoration of The Godfather.

More Than Honey / Des Abeilles et des hommes

Ei pelkkää hunajaa / [No Swedish title on the DCP]. CH © 2012 zero one film / allegro film / Thelma Film et Ormenis Film. P: Pierre-Alain Meier (CH), Thomas Kufus (DE), Helmut Grasser (AT). D+SC: Markus Imhoof. DP: Jörg Jeshel, Attila Boa - DI: Cinepostproduction. VFX: Thomas Lehmann. 3D Animation. M: Peter Scherer. ED: Anne Fabini. Wissenschaftliche Beratung [3]. Flugaufnahmen [6]. Film excerpt from: Karl von Frisch: Die Tänze der Bienen. Featuring: Fred Jaggi, Randolf Menzel, John Miller, Liane Singer, Heidrun Singer, Zhao Su Zhang, Fred Terry, Boris Baer, Joseph MacIlvaine, André Maritz. In German, Schweizerdeutsch, English, and Mandarin. 91 min. A Cinema Mondo press screening of a 2K DCP with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Eliisa Rajasaari / Saliven Gustavsson at Kino Engel, Helsinki, 10 April 2013.

Wikipedia: "More than Honey ist ein Schweizer Dokumentarfilm des Regisseurs Markus Imhoof aus dem Jahr 2012. Dieser nimmt sich dem weltweiten Bienensterben, von Kalifornien bis China, als Thema an."

"Der Film wurde in der Schweiz zum erfolgreichsten Schweizer Kinofilm des Jahres 2012."

"Der Dokumentarfilm „More than Honey“ geht dem weltweiten Bienensterben nach. Er zeigt auf, dass mehr als ein Drittel unserer Nahrungsmittel ohne das Zutun (Bestäubung) der Bienen nicht gedeihen würde. Wenn die Bienen aussterben, stirbt der Mensch vier Jahre später aus, soll Albert Einstein gesagt haben."

"Der Film zeigt verschiedene Imker und ein Berliner Forscherteam bei ihrer Arbeit und beleuchtet ihre Beziehung zu ihren Bienenvölkern. Und so wird das Leben der Bienen in ganz unterschiedlicher Art gezeigt, angefangen im Weiler Twirgi im Nessental (Gemeinde Gadmen, Berner Oberland), über die Königinnenzüchterinnen in Mariazell (Steiermark) und diverse Imker in den USA, bis hin zum Bienenforscherteam in Australien. Der Film versucht zu vermitteln, dass insbesondere das in den USA auftretende, massenhafte Bienensterben (Colony Collapse Disorder) durch die industrielle Bienenhaltung begünstigt, wenn nicht sogar verursacht wird. Durch Massentierhaltung werden Krankheiten zwischen Bienenvölkern übertragen, was dazu führt, dass die Völker mit Medikamenten (z.B. Antibiotika) behandelt werden müssen. Langandauernde Transporte der Bienenvölker zwischen weit auseinander liegenden Obstplantagen in unterschiedlichen Klimazonen stressen die Bienenvölker zusätzlich. Als weiterer Faktor zeigt der Film die Behandlung dieser Plantagen durch Pestizide, die zu Schäden bei den Bienenvölkern führen. In gewissen Gegenden der Volksrepublik China sind die Bienen bereits ausgestorben und die Bestäubung der Blüten erfolgt in Kleinarbeit durch den Menschen. Gegen Ende des Films wird auf die aus den Medien bekannt gewordene "Killerbiene" (Afrikanisierte Honigbiene) eingegangen, welche sich als wesentlich resistenter als die einheimischen Zuchtbienen erweist. Es wird impliziert, dass die über viele Jahrzehnte angezüchtete "Sanftheit" der Rassen der Westlichen Honigbiene dazu geführt hat, dass diese wesentlich anfälliger gegenüber Krankheiten und Parasiten, insbesondere der Varroamilbe, geworden sind, da beispielsweise die Fähigkeiten zur Gegenwehr verkümmert sind."

"Markus Imhoof und sein Team steckten fünf Jahre Arbeit in diesen Film."

Yesterday I saw Kon-Tiki, and today More Than Honey, including excerpts from a film by Karl von Frisch, Die Tänze der Bienen, which brought to mind another boyhood favourite book, Karl von Frisch's Aus dem Leben der Bienen. The life of the bees is one of those fascinating topics which remind us that truth is stranger than fiction. It seems that Frisch's insights about the waggle dance of the bees are still valid - or have actually been finally verified first lately: bees have a sophisticated communication system based on dance movements.

The expectation was that this is going to be one of the current ecocatastrophe documentaries, this time about the massive demise of bees around the globe. In China masses of workers have to do manually what the bees used to do before pollution and stress killed them.

And yes it is, but the film is also a balanced account of very different circumstances of bees in many countries and continents. While we don't know conclusively what causes the massive deaths of bees we can make pretty educated guesses. And some bees are more resilient.

Like Kon-Tiki, More Than Honey is also a film of exploration with magnificent sceneries and landscapes. It is also an engrossing movie, perfect for educational purposes.

The last word: "I would bet on the survival of the African bees. Not even a bear would get to those bees".

The quality of the digital image is sharp and bright.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In the Core of the Documentary 69: Utopias of the Documentary I

Dokumentin ytimessä 69: Dokumentin utopiat 1. Curated by Ilkka Kippola and Jari Sedergren. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 10 April 2013. - Introduced by Ilkka Kippola.

An interim summing-up program in the magnificent cycle about the history of Finnish non-fiction and short films curated by Ilkka Kippola and Jari Sedergren. All screened in 35 mm except Asuntopula and Askossa on... which were projected from digibeta.

Asuntopula / [Housing Shortage]. FI 1947. PC: Finlandia Kuva Oy. Dist: Suomi-Filmi Oy. Commissioned by: SKDL. D: Holger Harrivirta. SC: Martti Kurjensaari. DP: Unto Kumpulainen, Uno Pihlström. Commentary read by: Carl-Erik Creutz. VET: A-2501 - VA – 295 m / 11 min
    AA: Devastating images of postwar housing misery in former bomb shelters. Precious footage from trade union meetings on workplaces.

Aamua kaupungissa / Morgon i stad / Morning in the City. FI 1954. PC: Suomen Filmiteollisuus SF Oy. P: Jörn Donner. D+SC+ED: Jörn Donner. DP: Carl Gustav Roos, Dave Liebkind. Commentary read by: Jörn Donner. VET: A-5170 – VA – 220 m / 8 min
    AA: Jörn Donner denigrated his debut film last week in his lecture, but it is a fine impressionistic, lyrical study in the spirit of neorealism, to be compared with Antonioni's shorts from the 1940s (N.U.). There is a shot of eels, which still fascinate Donner in Mammoth (2013). From lyrical flights of fancy we are returned to the ground by images of pissoirs and night shelters by the Agricola Church. The image of the man at the rock drill brings to mind the Vidorian symbolism in The Fountainhead.

Koskesta me voimaa saamme / [Getting Power from the Waterfalls]. FI 1958. PC: Suomi-Filmi Oy. Commissioned by: Kemijoki Osakeyhtiö. D+DP: Yrjö Aaltonen. SC: Yrjö Aaltonen, T.R.Toivinen. ED, FX: Allan Pyykkö. Commentary read by: Martti Silvennoinen. VET: A-6955 – VA 5 – 360 m / 13 min
    AA: As befits the subject, the images are powerful. We start with the boy playing with his toy watermill and proceed to explosions to tame the Petäjäskoski at Kemijoki. Arch bars are installed. The landscapes are already in the ruska autumn colours. The colour is fading from this vintage print.

Askossa on… / [We Have It at Asko...]. FI 1969. PC: Felix-Filmi Oy. Commissioned by: Asko Oy. D: Pertti Nyberg. SC: Jaakko Ukkonen, Tapio Tyni, Nina Wrede. DP: Jukka Rosendahl, Rudolf Nappu, Arto Sarkanen. Commentary read by: Seppo Kolehmainen. VET: A-20299 – S, tax 10% - 350 m / 13 min
    AA: An industrial film about the furniture company founded by Aukusti Asko-Avonius. Prominent designers appear in the film: Ilmari Tapiovaara, Eero Aarnio, and Ilse Vöyrylä.

Superlon. FI 1968. PC: Oy Opus / Mainos Studio oy. Commissioned by: SOK. D+SC+ED: Allan Pyykkö. DP: Leo Ahola, Matti Oksa. M: Erkki Ertama. VET: A-20353 – S, tax 10%.- 280 m / 9'42''
    AA: A delightful 50th anniversary film for Asko: futuristic visions of plastic, bright colours, circle mask vignettes. The colour is fading from the vintage print.

Tietokoneet palvelevat / [Computers at Your Service]. FI 1968. PC: Filminor Oy. Commissioned by: Postisäästöpankki. D: Risto Jarva. SC: Risto Jarva, Pertti Jotuni, Lasse Naukkarinen. DP: Lasse Naukkarinen, Antti Peippo. ED: Lasse Naukkarinen. S design, AD: Anssi Blomstedt. M: Erkki Kurenniemi. Commentary read by: Kalle Holmberg. VET: A-20367 – VV – 395 m / 15 min
    AA: One of the earliest visions of the computer world in Finland, with Anssi Blomstedt as the art director and sound designer, and Erkki Kurenniemi as the composer of electronic music. The colour has started to fade from this print.

Kämp. FI 1970. PC: Suomi-Filmi Oy. Commissioned by: Kansallis-Osake-Pankki KOP. D: Valentin Vaala. SC: Pekka Suhonen, Olavi Mattila, Eino Ojanen, Risto Varjonen. DP: Petri Hämäläinen, Reijo Lås, Mauri Front, Väinö Kolhonen, Jarmo Husso. ED: Outi Kääriä, Eero Sinikannel. Commentary reader: Ilari Becker. VET A-20860 - 310 m / 12 min
    AA: A piece of cultural history, Pekka Suhonen perhaps contributing to its fine sense of essay. The hotel well-known as a meeting-place of top cultural figures was demolished, and a replica was built for the commercial bank. On top of the building: KOP instead of KÄMP. The introduction to this film was missing from the program note. The colour of this vintage print is starting to fade.

Kaupungin vapaus / Helsinki -67 / [The Freedom of the City]. FI 1967. PC: Suomi-Filmi Oy. D: Jukka Pakaslahti. SC: Väinö Kirstinä, Jukka Pakaslahti. DP+ED Jukka Pakaslahti. VET: A-20140 – S, VV – 290 m
    AA: An irreverent riposte to tourist propaganda. Relaxed, humoristic, parodistic, satirical. "The kingdom of lovers is not of this world". Black and white, perhaps a blow-up from 16 mm?

The Company You Keep

Robert Redford: The Company You Keep (US 2012) starring Shia LaBeouf (Ben Shepard) and Robert Redford (Jim Grant / Nick Sloan).

The Company You Keep – ikuiset liittolaiset / The Company You Keep [Swedish title].
    US © 2012 TCYK, LLC. A Sony Pictures Classics release of a Voltage Pictures presentation of a Voltage Pictures / Wildwood Enterprises production, in association with Film Capital Europe Funds, Soundford Limited, Picture Perfect Corp. (International sales: Voltage Pictures, Los Angeles.) P: Nicolas Chartier, Robert Redford, Bill Holderman. EX: Craig J. Flores, Shawn Williamson.
    D: Robert Redford. SC: Lem Dobbs – based on the novel (2003) by Neil Gordon. DP (Technicolor, widescreen, HD): Adriano Goldman. DI: Company 3. ED: Mark Day. M: Cliff Martinez. PD: Laurence Bennett. AD: Jeremy Stanbridge. Set dec: Carol Lavallee. Cost: Karen Matthews. S (Dolby Digital / Datasat), Chris Duesterdiek. S designer: Steve Boeddeker. Supervising S editors: Richard Hymns, Dan Laurie; re-recording mixers, Juan Peralta, Steve Boeddeker. VFX supervisor, Adam Stern. VFX: Artifex Studios, the VFX Cloud, Lola. Stunt coordinator, Danny Virtue. Ass P: Jonathan Shore. Ass D: Richard Graves. Casting: Avy Kaufman.
    Loc: Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada).
    121 min.
    SF Film press screening with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Mökkönen / Joanna Erkkilä at Maxim 1, Helsinki, 10 April 2013.

Cast as edited in Wikipedia:

Robert Redford as Jim Grant/Nick Sloan, a former member of the Weather Underground and widowed father posing as an upstanding Albany lawyer
Shia LaBeouf as Ben Shepard, a reporter
Julie Christie as Mimi Lurie, a former member of the Weather Underground
Susan Sarandon as Sharon Solarz, a former member of the Weather Underground
Jackie Evancho as Isabel Grant, Jim's 11-year-old daughter, who is unaware of her father's past
Brendan Gleeson as Henry Osborne, the officer who had first investigated the bank robbery for which Grant is wanted
Brit Marling as Rebecca Osborne, Henry's adopted daughter
Anna Kendrick as Diana, an FBI agent, who had dated Ben and leaks information to him
Terrence Howard as Cornelius, the FBI agent leading the chase
Richard Jenkins as Jed Lewis, a college professor with links to the former radicals
Nick Nolte as Donal Fitzgerald, Jim's old best friend who owns a lumber business
Sam Elliott as Mac Mcleod, Mimi's boss in the marijuana trade
Stephen Root as Billy Cusimano, who runs an organic grocery store in Albany
Keegan Connor Tracy as Jim Grant's Secretary
Stanley Tucci as Ray Fuller, Ben's boss at the newspaper
Chris Cooper as Daniel Sloan, Nick Sloan's brother

Technical specs from the IMDb: – Camera: Arricam LT – Laboratory: Company 3, Los Angeles (CA), USA (digital intermediate), Technicolor Creative Services, Vancouver, Canada (dailies) – Film negative format (mm/video inches): 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219) – Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) – Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema, DCP – Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

From the production information: "Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is a public interest lawyer and single father raising his daughter in the tranquil suburbs of Albany, New York. Grant's world is turned upside down,when a brash young reporter named Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) exposes his true identity as a former 1970s antiwar radical fugitive wanted for murder. After living for more than 30 years underground, Grant must now go on the run. With the FBI in hot pursuit, he sets off on a cross-country journey to track down the one person that can clear his name."

"Shepard knows the significance of the national news story he has exposed and, for a journalist, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Hell-bent on making a name for himself, he is willing to stop at nothing to capitalize on it. He digs deep into Grant's past. Despite warnings from his editor and threats from the FBI, Shepard relentlessly tracks Grant across the country."

"As Grant reopens old wounds and reconnects with former members of his antiwar group, the Weather Underground, Shepard realizes something about this man is just not adding up. With the FBI closing in, Shepard uncovers the shocking secrets Grant has been keeping for the past three decades. As Grant and Shepard come face to face in the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, they each must come to terms with who they really are."

"Secrets are dangerous things, Ben. We all think we want to know them. But if you've ever kept one yourself then you understand to do so is not just knowing something about someone else, it's discovering something about yourself." (from Jim Grant's dialogue)

Filmed in and around Vancouver, BC, principal photography for The Company You Keep began on September 19, 2011 and continued through late November of that year. Redford worked with many of his key production collaborators for the first time, including the award-winning director of photography, Brazilian Adriano Goldman (Sin Nombre), and production designer Laurence Bennett (best known for his work with Paul Haggis and, most recently, Michel Hazanavicius on The Artist).

Robert Redford: "When I was a kid I loved Frankenstein, I loved The Three Stooges, I loved musicals. I still love all of it. But when you become an artist, you do what's important to you. What's important to me are stories about American life. It's a great country, but let's look at the gray area of our country too. And that's what interests me because I've lived through it."


The Company You Keep can be seen as a cat and mouse game between two men – journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) and fugitive Jim Grant (Robert Redford) – both attempting to expose the truth and, in the process, redefine their lives. While the film, which is set in the present day, recalls the history and aftermath of the radical antiwar protest movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s (and in particular one of its most violent manifestations, The Weather Underground), it remains a work of fiction. Indeed it was the dramatic potential of the story itself, even more so than the meticulously researched underpinnings of Neil Gordon's 2003 novel, which first attracted Robert Redford to the project.

"I thought it was a good story and it gave you a chance to look inside of an event that is a piece of American history," says Redford of the film, his first as both actor and director since his 2007 drama, Lions for Lambs. "It truly gets inside how people were living their lives thirty years later... underground and with a false identity."

"For me it was a bit like Les Misé́rables, with the character Jean Valjean sentenced to nineteen years for a loaf of bread," Redford explains. "He escaped from prison, built a false identity, had a daughter, had a good life, but the pain of that time was always going to haunt him. So how do these people deal with that? Do they change? Do they not change? That was the interesting story to be told. It wasn't so much about the antiwar movement itself, because that belongs to history."

Working with fellow producers Bill Holderman, who previously collaborated with Redford on Lions for Lambs and his most recent directorial effort, The Conspirator (2010), and Nicolas Chartier (The Hurt Locker), the project was developed over the course of four years. Adapted by Lem Dobbs, who scripted Haywire and The Limey for Steven Soderbergh, the screenplay centers on Grant's journey as he reconnects with the ghosts of his past – many still living underground – with the hope of ultimately exonerating himself from the murder charges he fled as a student linked to the radical fringe of the antiwar movement. All the while, Ben Shepard and the FBI pursue him, never more than a few steps behind his trail.

"This is about a group of people that were underground," Redford explains. "They were very close, bonded by the styles of their time, the passions of their time, and now they've grown older and they've taken different paths. Some resent that they did it. Others have remorse. Some believed in it at the time, but feel they have to spend the rest of their lives paying for it. Others feel it was a just cause at the time and still is a cause for today. So there's also all these multiple feelings and relationships – how they all interacted fascinated me."


"You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows..."
"Subterranean Homesick Blues" – Bob Dylan, 1965

The Weather Underground Organization-colloquially known as the Weathermen-was the most radical and militant faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the left-wing activist movement that shook university campuses across the United States in the 1960s and early '70s. Advocating armed revolution, the overthrow of the U.S. government, and an end to the war in Vietnam, the Weather Underground was formed in 1969 in Ann Arbor, Michigan by SDS leaders impatient with the protest rhetoric and civil disobedience tactics of the mainstream organization. The new group was both clandestine and high-profile; membership was secretive, but they seized the public stage with the "Days of Rage"riots during the 1969 trial of the Chicago Seven co-conspirators, and went on to carry out bombings and jailbreaks.

Weather Underground vowed to "bring the war home." Their stated targets were politics and property, not people. Weather Underground bombings and arson attacks targeted banks, police stations and government centers including the U.S. Capitol, State Department, and the Pentagon. To protect against human casualties, Weather Underground always issued evacuation warnings, and no fatalities have ever been conclusively tied to a Weather Underground action. They did, however, lose three of their own members when a nail-bomb they were building accidentally detonated in 1970, destroying a Greenwich Village, NY safe house.

In the post-Vietnam era, the movement contracted to a small number of fugitives. One faction, calling themselves the Prairie Fire Coalition (most famously married couple Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers) came out of hiding in 1980 to face criminal charges, do time briefly and move on to lives in academia, law, and organizing. Another faction, the May 19 Coalition, combined former Weathermen and Black Liberation Army members in an underground guerrilla campaign funded by armed robbery. The 1981 holdup of a Brink's armored car near Nyack, NY ended in the death of a Brink's guard and two police officers (including the first African-American on the Nyack police force). Former Weather Underground members Judith Clark, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert were among those apprehended.

Boudin and Gilbert's infant son was brought up by Dohrn and Ayers; Judith Clark's infant daughter by her grandparents. Boudin was paroled in 2007; Gilbert and Clark remain incarcerated.

Fictional versions of these real life stories resonate in The Company You Keep. (From the production information)

AA: A mainstream entertainment chase thriller about The Weather Underground activists still being hunted 40 years after their radical acts. The Company You Keep can be compared with the recent high profile German and French films about student radicalism and terrorism in the late 1960s and the early 1970.

The ex-activists have been living for decades under assumed identities as good citizens and parents, in constant fear. The key discussion is between the investigative journalist Ben (Shia LaBeouf) and Sharon (Susan Sarandon). Ben asks what made Sharon turn herself in. Sharon: "Children. They change you". Ben thinks it must have been groovy being a radical. Sharon: "It was hardly groovy". The government was killing millions in wars. Students protested, skulls were cracked in Kent and Jackson, murdered on campuses. Everybody knew somebody who was drafted or came back in a coffin. Sharon: "What are you willing to take a risk for?" Ben: "Would you do it again?" Sharon: "Yes. Smarter, better, differently. We made mistakes, but we were right." Sharon acknowledges Ben for being interested in the truth. "Most people aren't". "We never betrayed each other". This sequence is the most powerful in the movie. It is well directed and performed. It also provides the core complexity of motivation. Truth is difficult. Truth is not simple.

The movie is based on the Hitchcockian structure of the chase of an innocent man who is himself chasing somebody who can provide his alibi. It's complicated because that somebody is a person who does not want to confess because of political reasons. It's still more complicated because they are ex-lovers, still profoundly attracted to each other. And what's most delicate, they have a daughter who does not know who her parents are.

Redford compares his Jim Grant character with Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, being chased all his life for old things while living under an assumed name and becoming a pillar of society and a responsible parent.

One of the backstories is the fate of investigative journalism in an age when quality media is suffering crushing blows. "I just laid off my sports department", remarks Ray Fuller (Stanley Tucci), Ben's editor-in-chief.

In many of his most memorable films Robert Redford casts a Goy (played by himself or somebody else) against a Jewish character or actor. Here it is Shia LaBoeuf, following a tradition with Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting), Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were), Dustin Hoffman (All The President's Men), and Debra Winger (Legal Eagles). John Turturro played a Jew against the Goy of Ralph Fiennes in The Quiz Show, my favourite among the films directed by Redford I have seen.

I like the sense of integrity in the performances of Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie. Robert Redford's star image has been that of the golden boy, but here the agony of the old-timer he projects is quite moving. Redford is an old guy now (he is 76), wrinkled, bulky, worried, harassed, yet carrying his age with dignity. What keeps his character spiritually young is his passion for the future, for the young generation.

I like the glimmer in Redford's eye when Jim Grant sees Ben for the last time.

The movie has been shot on 35 mm, and the digital intermediate has been performed well, but forest footage is still difficult to digitize.