Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Modern Musketeer (2006 DFI restoration)

US 1917. D: Allan Dwan. Dal racconto D'Artagnan of Kansas di F.R. Lyle Jr. SC: Allan Dwan. DP: Hugh McClung, Harry Thorpe. ED: Billy Shea, Allan Dwan. C: Douglas Fairbanks (Ned Thacker/ D'Artagnan), Marjorie Daw (Elsie Dodge), Kathleen Kirkham (Mrs. Dodge), Frank Campeau (Chin-de-dah), Eugene Ormonde (Forrest Vandeteer), Edythe Chapman (Mrs. Thacker), Tully Marshall (James Brown), ZaSu Pitts (ragazza bionda di Kansas street). P: Douglas Fairbanks per Douglas Fairbanks Pictures. Premiere: 30 dicembre 1917. 35 mm. 1333 m. 73' a 16 f/s. B&w. Da: Det Danske Filminstitut. Accompagnamento al piano di Antonio Coppola. Cinema Jolly (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 30 June 2013

"That whole picture was an accident. Doug was wooing Mary Pickford at the time she was married to Owen Moore, who lost his patience and began making threats of some kind or another. I was coming back from New York to make a picture with Doug, and I got on the train and was rid- ing toward Los Angeles when I got a telegram from him saying, "Imperative. Meet me in Salina, Kansas, and we will return to New York". So I got off at Salina and Doug arrived on the next Chief, and while we rode back to New York, he told me why he had to get away from Los Angeles and that embarrassing situation. But we still had to make a picture, so between Salina and New York, we cooked up the idea of A Modern Musketeer. I asked him if he'd ever been to the Grand Canyon because I thought it'd be an interesting place to work, and he said, "No", so that was one location. And I'd never seen Canyon de Chelley over in the Navajo country near Albuquerque, so we decided to work out there, too. We made up a story of an imaginative young fellow who's very restless in his little Kansas hometown. He dreams of riding out like D'Artagnan on a horse. To show how restless he was we had him run through the town and onto the church and up the steeple. Well, finally, he rides out in a little yellow Model T Ford-that's his steed-and he gets into a series of adventures we invented as we went along. It was a comedy, but with plenty of melodrama. We had our heavy and we had to throw him off a cliff. Whenever I see a cliff, I've got to throw someone off it. [...] We had plenty of suspense, but we were playing from the humorous side. These dangers were all real to him, though, and the audience enjoyed his discomfort. We had a lot of funny things in that one. [...] Fairbanks contributed a lot. He didn't do any directing per se, but he did a lot of creating, a lot of the stories, the movements, the gags. We all did. Vic Fleming was our cameraman and he used to come up with ideas, too. Sometimes we'd invent them on the spur of the moment. It was a team at work, and I always insisted on that, so I can never recall which member of the team was responsible for any definite thing. Everybody contributed." Allan Dwan, in Peter Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary  Film Directors,  Alfred  A.  Knopf, New York 1997

I visited the 2008 screening of this restoration of A Modern Musketeer in Pordenone but was then able to watch the first half only.

"I was born in a cross-fire hurricane" sing The Rolling Stones in "Jumping Jack Flash" and so is Douglas Fairbanks's character ("Kansas had a hunch he was coming"). "Cyclone" is the nickname for the character. This is one of his films that still define action, action comedy, and action fantasy. There is a sense of joy and irrepressible energy. The film is based on the Douglas Fairbanks character, but Allan Dwan was a true soulmate. The direction of action is brilliant, the sense of rhythm is perfect, and there is a lot of visual invention and humour. In Grand Canyon there are extreme long shots in which the characters are so tiny that they border on the invisible. There are striking visual ideas. "May I see the bride?" asks the "sweet, unspoiled Park Avenue flapper" from the rock Indian who turns his knife towards her so that she can see her mirror image on its blade.

He Comes Up Smiling

US 1918. D: Allan Dwan. Dal romanzo omonimo di Charles Sherman e dall'adattamento teatrale di Byron Ongley ed Emil Nyitray. SC: Frances Marion. DP: Joseph August, Hugh McClung. C: Douglas Fairbanks (Jerry Martin), Marjorie Daw (Billy Bartlett), Herbert Standing (Mike), Frank Campeau (John Bartlett), Bull Montana (Baron Bean), Albert MacQuarrie (Batchelor), Kathleen Kirkham (Louise), Jay Dwiggins (il generale). P: Douglas Fairbanks per Douglas Fairbanks Pictures. Premiere: 15 settembre 1918. 35 mm. 500 m. (incompleto). 24' a 18 f/s. B&w. Da: Lobster Films. Accompagnamento al piano di Antonio Coppola. Intertitres français. E-subtitles in Italian and English. Cinema Jolly (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna) 30 June 2013

"The surviving fragment of this 1918 feature - the last of Dwan's contemporary comedies with Douglas Fairbanks - finds Fairbanks as a bank teller placed in charge of his boss's pet canary. When the bird escapes, Doug chases it up, down and around the small town where the story is set, in a marvelously dynamic sequence that demonstrates Dwan's early and complete mastery of match cuts as a way of sustaining a sense of continuous, seamless movement across a series of complex spaces." Dave Kehr

A comedy full of mad action and crazy ideas. The search for the elusive bird leads Douglas Fairbanks to defy gravity, scaling walls as a human fly, and so on. The chase is full of acrobatic fantasy, irrepressible energy, and incredible inventions. He falls down and becomes a bum, and while washing himself is attacked by bees. Due to a change of clothes by the lake he can in the next moment pose as a great financial wizard, the richest man in the world. Another financial mogul has run out of gas, and soon his daughter is infatuated with Doug, but it turns out that the father is an arch rival at the stock exchange of the character Doug is pretending to be. This incomplete print ends with the encounter of Doug the fake with the real millionaire.

There is also something unsettling in the hyperactivity of the Douglas Fairbanks character, and there is a certain link between Fairbanks and Jerry Lewis.

This print is pleasant to watch.

Sampling Ragbar / Downpour (2011 restoration by World Cinema Foundation)

IR 1971. D+SC: Bahram Beyzaie. DP: Barbod Taheri. ED: Mehdi Rajaeeyan. M: Shida Garachedaghi. C: Parviz Fannizadeh (Hekmati), Parvaneh Masumi (Atie), Manuchehr Farid (Rahim), Mohammad Ali Keshavarz (Nazem), Hossein Kasbian, Jamsheed Layegh, Chehrazad. Prod.: Barbod Taheri per Mehregan Film. 2K DCP. 122'. B&w. English subtitles burned on the source print, provided by Khoury & Ebeid (Beirut-Lebanon). Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), 30 June 2013

Restored by the World Cinema Foundation L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in 2011. Funding provided by Doha Film Institute

Introduce Cecilia Cenciarelli

"The source element for this restoration was a positive print with English subtitles provided by director Bahram Bayzaie. Since this is the only known surviving copy of the film - all other film sources were seized and are presumed destroyed - the restoration required a considerable amount of both physical and digital repair. The surviving print was badly damaged with  scratches,  perforation  tears and mid-frame splices. Over 1500 hours of work were necessary to complete the restoration."

Bahram Bayzaie: "During Downpour, the equations of commercial and intellectual films were the same. The common morality of the action/ drama films of the commercial cinema had a tone of political ideology and social activism. The intellectual films were praised for communicating with the mass culture. In that sense, I don't want to be popular. Many of these (popular) moralities, in my opinion, are wrong and we are all victims of them. So, I have betrayed my people if I endorse them. I have deviated from the morals of the political parties, hence they have labeled me (inaccessible), not the people. At the heart of my harsh expression, there is a love and respect, for the people, that does not exist in superficial appraisals of the masses. My audiences are those who strive to go one step further, not those who are the guardians of the old equations nor those who dread self examination and self reflexivity." Bahram Bayzaie

Martin Scorsese: "I'm very proud that the World Cinema Foundation has restored this wise and beautiful film, the first feature from its director Bahram Bayzaie. The tone puts me in mind of what I love best in the Italian neorealist pictures, and the story has the beauty of an ancient fable - you can feel Bayzaie's background in Persian literature, theater and poetry. Bayzaie never received the support he deserved  from the government of his home country - he now lives in California - and it's painful to think that this extraordinary film, once so popular in Iran, was on the verge of disappearing forever. The original negative has been either impounded or destroyed by the Iranian government, and all that remained was one 35 mm print with English subtitles burned in. Now, audiences all over the world will be able to see this remarkable picture." Martin Scorsese

I was able to see half an hour of Ragbar, Bahram Bayzaie's fine work which I want to see again in its entirety. Cecilia Cenciarelli told in her introduction that Iran's fundamentalist government seized and destroyed all prints of Ragbar, and this restoration was produced from the single surviving source.

The story about a harassed school teacher brings to my mind in some ways Jan Troell's Ole Dole Doff. There is also something Truffautian in the way the children are portrayed. The cinematography is energetic and delightful, the montage fast and lively. The focus is on the pranks of schoolchildren, and in this Ragbar belongs to a main tradition of Iranian cinema, at least as it is known outside Iran. First the children harass the teacher when he is moving to his new apartment with a horse-driven cart. The pranks continue at school, where the teacher has a hard time with discipline. He is a bachelor, and along comes Woman: the big sister of one of the worst of the schoolchildren. - Here I had to leave.

The visual quality of the image seems good, and the restoration has been very well conducted.

Le joli mai / The Merry Month of May (2012 restoration by AFF-CNC)

Chris Marker & Pierre Lhomme: Le joli mai / The Merry Month of May (FR 1962).

Ihana toukokuu.
    FR 1962. D: Chris Marker e Pierre Lhomme. SC: Chris Marker, Catherine Varlin. DP: Pierre Lhomme, Étienne Becker, Denys Clerval, Pierre Villemain. M: Michel Legrand. "Joli mai", theme song written for the film - paroles: C. Varlin, B. Mokroussov, M. Issakovsky -  musique: Philippe-Gérard - sung by Yves Montand. ED: Eva Zora, Annie Meunier, Madeleine Lecompère. C: Yves Montand (commento). P: Catherine Winter, Gisèle Rebillon per Sofracrima. Premiere: 2 marzo 1963. 35 mm.
    The duration of the screening was 148 min (with the song intermission and the music after the image). B&w.
    Da: CNC - Archives Françaises du Film.
    Viewed at Sala Scorsese, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 30 June 2013

Restored by CNC - Archives Françaises du Film. The first photochemical restoration was made in 2009 by CNC - Archives Françaises du Film having been cut by 17 minutes from the original version, as desired by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme. In 2012 Mikros Image laboratory, with support from CNC, made a 2K scan, with digital restoration of the image and sound. New cuts were made because the directors never considered the original version to be definitive.

Peter von Bagh: "After Africa, Siberia, China, Israel and Cuba comes the first film focused on Paris by Chris Marker, introduced - Simone Signoret is speaking - as "the most beautiful city in the world. One would like to see it for the first time at dawn, without having seen it before, without memories, without habits. One would like to track it like a detective, with a telescope and a microphone". The film is aptly dedicated - paraphrasing Stendhal - "to the Happy Many". And true happiness it is: people - some known, most ordinary - are enjoying the end of the atrocious Algerian war (Marker's 55 hours of film were shot during the first May following the war), living the short collective moment on the threshold of utopia that might soon vanish. The cruel realities are not hidden: miserable salaries, inequality, police violence, new developments in the munitions industry. According to the author, the first part of the two and half hour film is a presentation of space, the second of time. Both images and words create time travel over and over, as the masterful, rich cinematography of Pierre Lhomme conveys both the classic beauty of a city and the brave new world of modern technology, always one of the core areas of Marker's deep enthusiasm: the camera constantly produces unexpected elements, in the cityscape and in people. Marker never misses details and facts about groups, gestures and individual faces that are generally overlooked, and such images emerge from the weather or nature as well. The editing, more invisible than in most of Marker's montage masterpieces, proceeds according to the laws that arose from the material: "In the beginning a plan was developed with themes according to which the interviews would be conducted. But during the editing, it was revealed that on certain occasions a theme yielded something completely different and that the linking of these themes was different than what I had envisioned abstractly. In life new connections turned up, sometimes due to an image. The film began to have a life of its own, and suddenly it had rules of its own". Like many of the most beautiful films, Le Joli mai is unclassifiable - essay, film poem, cinéma vérité (as such, a sister film, yet totally different from Rouch and Morin's Chronique d'un été). Whatever it is, for me it might be Chris Marker's finest film. Yves Montand reads the most lyrical commentary the cinema has given us: "So what do you say? You are in Paris, the capital of a rich country. You are hearing a secret voice that tells you that as long as poverty exists you cannot be rich, as long as people are in distress you cannot be happy, as long as there are prisons you cannot be free"." Peter von Bagh

The originally 165 minutes long movie has now been edited into a definitive version of 148 minutes.

From the intimate to the world-historical, Le joli mai is a vision of Paris in a year which we now know was the most dangerous during the Cold War. We visit The Eiffel Tower, Rue Mouffetard, the "Celesteville" of the 15. arrondissement, Aubervilliers, Pont de Neuilly, Porte de Clintagnout, a railway station, Rue de Tolbiac, Champs-Elysées, Place de la Pyramide, Place de l'Étoile, and the walls of a great prison. 1962 was the year of assassination attempts against De Gaulle, and we see security patrols on roofs when the President is on the move.

This is a speech-driven picture with the commentary read by Yves Montand, and with dozens of long interviews (among the interviewers' voices there is the one by Chris Marker).

We saw a traditional way of living on La Mouff, the "ridiculous" modernism among skyscrapers, a young couple with the man soon going to war but not thinking about society, nor history. The Évian accords have just enabled a cease-fire in the Algerian war. The OAS terror is rampant, and there is a giant funeral celebration to eight victims of street atrocities. "The country is on the verge of a civil war". The Madison is the newest dance craze, and there is a world record of the twist. There are montages of cats. Among the interviewees there is an African from Dahomey, a worker from Algeria ("la France, c'est comme une mère") and a religious trade unionist. Discussions range from leisure time to superhero comics to television as a window to the world to religion ("God is the great explanation") and to fundamental values. There are time lapse montages of Paris at all times of the day and long lists of statistics. "As long as there is poverty you are not rich. As long as there is unhappiness you are not happy. As long as there is oppression you are not free."

A rich cinematic survey into life during the Cold War, right after the collapse of colonialism. Its value will keep growing.

The visual quality is cinéma-vérité with a look that may be rough, contrasty, or soft. I would guess that it's been shot on 16 mm with available light and blown up to 35 mm.

The Hitchcock 9 presented by Nigel Algar and Charles Barr

Sala Scorsese (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 30 June 2013

Hosted by Peter von Bagh, Nigel Algar (BFI) presented The Hitchcock 9 project, "the largest and most complicated project we have undertaken".

Charles Barr gave an inspired lecture about Alfred Hitchcock's early career. He referred to Paula Cohen's words that "to study Hitchcock is to study the entire history of the cinema", and to Jane Sloan's characterization of Hitchcock as a sponge, in the positive way, as "an intelligent absorber" - dispelling the notion of Hitchcock as a lonely romantic artist.

Barr discussed the three main periods of Hitchcock's career before The Pleasure Garden, at Famous-Players-Lasky British, in different tasks, and at Gainsborough with Michael Balcon.

He presented several "Hitchcock firsts", including Hitchcock first published article (23 July 1921), the first caricature about him, and early examples of his handwriting and drawing.

He reminded that among Hitchcock's favourite films in his first top ten list (published in 1939 upon his arrival in Hollywood) there were nine silents, among them two movies directed by John S. Robertson: The Sentimental Tommy, and The Enchanted Cottage.

"Graham Cutts has obviously been an important early influence, as can be seen for instance in the intricate exchange of looks in The Passionate Adventure." In the sequence of domestic violence in Flames of Passion, with Mae Marsh, we saw a striking parallel to a similar scene in Marnie, with Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. Graham Cutts's daughter appears in North by Northwest (in the "Stop!" - "Stop..." scene).

Eliot Stannard was the credited screenwriter in all Hitchcock's silents until The Manxman (in The Ring he was apparently involved, but not credited, as Hitchcock was switching production companies). He was known for his mordant wit and brutal candour.

Stannard was also a prolific writer on the cinema, and in 1915 he already wrote about "The Scenario Writer as Author". Ten years before Pudovkin he wrote about the use of symbols in scenarios. His solutions for the adaptation of Galsworthy's play Justice can be compared with Pudovkin.

With Stannard, Hitchcock made only one crime film, The Lodger. With the switch to the thriller form, Charles Bennett became Hitchcock's main screenwriter.

There were three film excerpts about Hitchcock's approach to the point of view.

Hitchcock expertise with the point of view is evident from the beginning, from the first sequence of The Pleasure Garden. In the montage Hitchcock takes care to include a subjective shot of the binoculars from the viewer's point of view.

In Champagne there is a montage where the man with the moustache looks through the champagne glass.

In The Manxman there is the introduction of the triangle structure, with Anny Ondra and her two men in the same sequence.

Les Épingles / Unprotected Hairpins


Unprotected Hairpins [the title on the print]. FR 1913. D: Léonce Perret. DP: Georges Specht. C: Léonce Perret (Léonce), Suzanne Grandais (Suzanne), Émile Keppens (il dottore). P: Gaumont. 35 mm. 269 m. 13' a 18 f/s. Col. English intertitles. Da: EYE - Film Institute Netherlands(Desmet Collection). Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), earphone translation in Italian, grand piano: Antonio Coppola, 30 June 2013

Mariann Lewinsky: "Any industry is constantly optimising its product line-up: successful lines remain in production and are further improved and what does not appeal to customers, or no longer appeals, will disappear from the shelf or screen. And every season something brand new comes onto the market."

"Thus in 1913 the earliest standard length for a film format was still a valid norm for newsreel items. These were about one minute long and consisted of one or just a very few shots, exactly like the earliest films of 1895-1903."

"But the very latest thing in 1913 was the mega-film of 3000 m. or more. Les Misérables (3445 m.), it is true, was shown in four parts in January 1913 and Les Trois Mousquetaires (3800 m.) over two evenings in October, but Germinal (3000 m., i.e. two and a half hours) ran, also in October 1913, full length in a single session."

"Films of around 2000 m. such as Quo Vadis?, L'Enfant de Paris and Ma l'amor mio non muore! became box office hits worldwide and the long feature film now had a great future before it. The average length, however, for a 1913 film, was 318 m., or about a quarter of an hour."

"And only 3% of the films produced in 1913 were 1000 m. or longer. (See Thierry Lefèbre's analysis of 3660 films that ran in France that year, L'année 1913 en France, in "1895", hors serie 1993, pp. 205-216)."

"Who would have thought it? 1913 was a golden age for short films, with 120 m.-150 m. the norm for documentary and comedy scenes and the one-reeler of about 300 m. the standard length for both light-hearted and more serious fiction films. It is most certainly in this format, which had been used for some years and was therefore finely honed, that the most elegant films appeared, for the filmmakers had the necessary experience and knew how to pack a great deal of action, beauty and narrative into 15 minutes." Mariann Lewinsky

Les Épingles was a representative of the typical length (ca 15 minutes) of a 1913 movie and a part of an inbuilt Léonce Perret in 1913 retrospective inside the A Hundred Years Ago 1913 series.

It is a funny marital comedy. Léonce pretends to be a victim of an unprotected hairpin. Through the keyhole the deception is revealed. Soon the wife, too, pretends to be injured - in her legs: "the blind and the lame". There are goofy receipts, kisses to "where it hurts"... Outside the door the maid is aghast at what she thinks is soon going on inside.

The toning is beautiful; might this be a colour duplicate from an original colour print? For a while the colour is fading and disfigured.

Sampling Slesar i kantsler / Locksmith and Chancelor

Domenica 30 giugno 2013,10.15: SLESAR' I KANCLER / KLJUČI SČAST’JA / PLEBEJ
Due to the long reel change breaks in Silver Lode my plans to see the fragments of Klyuchi schastja / The Keys of Happiness and Plebej / [Miss Julie] crashed, and I missed also most of Locksmith and Chancelor.

Слесарь и канцлер / Locksmith and Chancelor / Il fabbro e il Primo Ministro / Kancler i slesar'. SU 1923. D: Vladimir Gardin. Co-D: Ol'ga Preobraženskaja. Sog.: ispirato alla pièce Kancler i slesar' di Anatolij Lunačarskij. SC: Vladimir Gardin, Vsevolod Pudovkin. DP: Evgenij Slavinskij. AD: Vladimir Egorov. C: Ivan Chudoleev (imperatore di Nordlandia), Nikolaj Panov (il cancelliere von Turau), Nina Tairova (sua moglie), Vladimir Gardin (commendatore Hammer), Vladimir Maksimov (avvocato Frank Frei), Zoja Barancevič (contessa Mitsi), Iona Talanov (Berenberg, aiutante maggiore), Nikolaj Sal'tykov (Franz Stark, il fabbro), Liana Iskrickaja-Gardina (Anna), Oleg Frelich (Leo von Turau, figlio del cancelliere), Ivan Kapralov (Robert, suo fratello), Vera Valickaja (Lora, sua moglie), Ol'ga Bystrickaja (Anna, amante di Leo), Semenov (Netli, segretario del cancelliere), Ol'ga Preobraženskaja. P: VUFKU (Jalta e Odessa). Premiere: 12 luglio 1924. 35 mm. 1140 m (incompleto). 50' a 20 f/s. B&w. Da: Gosfilmofond. Accompagnamento al piano di Antonio Coppola. Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 30 June 2013.

"Lunacarskij's play The Locksmith and the Chancellor, a success in the theater, was set in two imaginary lands, Nordlandia and Galikania, but the subtext offered references to German revolutionary rumblings taking place in November of 1918. The co-writers of the screenplay on which the film was based, Gardin and Pudovkin, took their inspiration however from the Russian revolution of February 1917, and transformed one of the protagonists - the demagogue lawyer Frank Frei - into a parody of Kerenskij. Nominated Minister of Labor after the Chancellor of Nordlandia, von Turau, has lost both his children, his sight and his position of power, the socialist Frei ends up betraying the proletariat and is mixed up in orgies and wild parties. After the emperor and the representatives of the old order step in to lay down the law, he is banished into exile and the blacksmith Franz Stark is named the People's Commissioner. The playwright was happy with the screenplay adaptation, but apparently the two screenwriters were not entirely in harmony: Pudovkin refused to work alongside Gardin in the direction and went to work as an assistant to Kulešov. One might suppose that, as a more modern thinker, he did not find the combination of archaism and innovation found in The Locksmith and the Chancellor to his liking. Stylistically, the film is more similar to the later melodramas of pre-revolutionary Russian cinema (ornate interiors, heavy makeup, double exposures), while at the same time showing elements of the Soviet revolutionary cinema of the 1920s, with its influences of American adventure films. The Locksmith and the Chancellor was panned by "Pravda" for aesthetic rather than ideological reasons: having to live up to the original successful play at the Korš Theater was a burden on the film version, and the harsh review criticized the confused plot, and slammed the work of the director of photography and the art director as lacking any clear genre: the amateurish "American-style tricks" are "neither fish nor fowl". The socialist Frei, played by Maksimov, is blatantly stood in for in the parade scene (following the revolution) by another actor who doesn't resemble him in the least; at one moment in the film a cement bridge is blown up (which was shot in the Crimea) but the bridge that subsequently collapses is an iron construction, footage that was obviously lifted from an American crime film... The actors were also criticized, and perhaps that was the bitterest pill to swallow: among them were students from Gardin's school, who then moved to Preobraženskaja's studio. The credit attributed to Preobraženskaja in the direction likely had to do with her work with the young actors. Today, the erratic style of the film and the apparent lack of any clear genre are not seen as defects per se as much as an interesting peculiarity of its cinematic language. The first and sixth parts of the film have not been restored." Natal'ja Nusinova

I came in the middle of this film and could only state that the crowd scenes seemed impressive, but it was too late to make sense of the film.

Silver Lode

Ratsastavat hurjat / Stad i panik / La campana ha suonato. US © 1954 RKO Radio Pictures. D: Allan Dwan. Scen.: Karen De Wolf. DP: John Alton. ED: James Leicester. AD: Van Nest Polglase. M: Louis Forbes. C: John Payne (Dan Ballard), Lizabeth Scott (Rose Evans), Dan Duryea (Fred McCarty), Dolores Moran (Dolly), Emile Meyer (sceriffo Woolley), Robert Warwick (giudice Cranston), John Hudson (Mitch Evans), Harry Carey Jr. (Johnson), Alan Hale Jr. (Kirk), Stuart Whitman (Wicker), Frank Sully (Paul Herbert), Morris Ankrum (Zachary Evans). P: Benedict Bogeaus per Pinecrest Productions. Premiere: 24 giugno 1954. 35 mm. 80'. Col. Da: George Eastman House per concessione di Sikelia Productions. Cinema Jolly, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, e-subtitles in Italian, 30 June 2013

Peter von Bagh: "If there's a single unifying theme to Dwan's work", writes Peter Bogdanovich in the introduction to his interview with Allan Dwan, "it has a lot to do with the amazing diversity of people and with an optimistic sense of humanity; his generosity and of-ten genial humor are there throughout". The films are about the lives of simple people and their innocence, ordinary and dignified lives reflected with a "profound sense of the essential indomitability and deathlessness of the human spirit". Well,  looking  at  Silver  Lode:  whateverhappened to people? Evidently the film delivers a message from hard times - the years of McCarthyism about which Dwan's film is, from any angle, one of the finest testimonies, even if it was seen at the time as a routine programmer - John Payne instead of John Wayne. Among the many fine westerns of the genre's great- est decade, no film seems to be more ordinary; Serge Daney hailed the air de famille of that period, the return of "the days of the intimate western", inseparably archaic and refined, and creating the magic of a "story about a secret". Daney addressed his words as well to the beginning of a fabulous period in Dwan's oeuvre: ten films (in five years) with the producer Bogeaus Benedict and (mostly) the legendary cinematographer John Alton (including films like The Cattle Queen of Montana, Tennessee's Partner, Slightly Scarlet, The River's Edge). Silver Lode is both a timely and an original masterpiece, not at all just a happy accident of a good script. Dwan projects an image that is so deep that there is no need to show it: peace of mind, a sense of paradise lost. The beauty of the concept is that the prismatic image arises directly from the mise-en-scène, as Jacques Lourcelles indicates when he wrote that the film has "an absolute classicism": "Dramatically, Dwan uses with genius and perhaps with more intensity than anyone before him in the cinema the  constraint and the discipline of the three unities. As to the mise-en-scène properly speaking, it creates the triumph of the kind of shot arrangement known as 'classical', enriched by prodigious single shot sequences with a moving camera that punctuate the strongest moments in the story". Dwan himself was, as were his ways, modest: "This is not, properly speaking, a political film, as it has been called. It is more of a satirical description of a hypocritical small community. I like the theme a lot: a man is condemned for false reasons and he is also set free for false reasons". Perhaps Silver Lode was not a political film, but its ironic twists come to the same thing - the portrait of a political age and its soulless mindscape is no less vigorous for being veiled by the Western setting. The distanced format is even an asset; it heightens the sense of mental terror, brutal uniformity and demagogic evil lurking in all the sacred institutions: school, the Mayor's office, the court, church. There is no hope from any of them, only lying, pretensions, cowardly behavior, greediness and a stream of false testimonies. Deep dislike is targeted against a civilization gone wrong: mentally lazy and aggressive good citizens turn so easily into a lynch mob. Finally, one nice detail, never overlooked: the villain, played by the magnificent Dan Duryea, even has a familiar name - McCarty..." Peter von Bagh

From familiar ingrediants, a taut and lean Western with a good script, sharp dialogue, excellent mise-en-scène, a strong approach to action sequences, and a satiric view about society and morality.

I have been intrigued by the cinema's obsession about the cancelled wedding, and Silver Lode is a film entirely based on one. The Fourth of July is the wedding day for Dan and Rose, and then rides into town one Mr. McCarty, presenting himself and his men as a federal marshal with his deputies. They have come to arrest Dan, accused of murder and robbery two years ago.

Silver Lode has been constructed as a classical drama, respecting the unities of time, place and action. Within two hours Dan needs to clear his reputation, but McCarty's gang has cut the telegraph wires, and they know that on a national holiday the Sacramento authorities cannot be reached anyway.

Some of the sharpest truths are uttered by the women, including the saloon hostess Dolly (Dolores Moran), Dan's girlfriend before Rose. The townspeople are quick to believe McCarty's accusations. Soon there is a lethal escalation of violence, which makes Dan look very bad, indeed.

In the funniest scene of the movie Rose and Dolly escort the reluctant telegrapher to his office, to finally to send the telegraph to verify or disqualify McCarty's claims. (First after everything has already been settled comes the answer confirming that it was McCarty himself who was wanted for murder and rustling.)

The showdown takes place at a church tower. McCarty is killed by his own bullet which ricochets from the bell. "An act of God". Everybody is sweating.

Into the sunny atmosphere of the "safe and sane Fourth of July" dark forces have suddenly erupted. "Mob violence is the death of any town" states a voice of reason, and that is what has now happened. There is a happy ending with misgivings.

The GEH / Sikelia print is intact and clean, turning very slightly red. The breaks between the reel changes were so extended that I had to cancel what I had planned to see next.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Film concert A Burlesque on Carmen (Chaplin 1915) (2013 restoration), score adapted by Timothy Brock from Georges Bizet, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna

Charles Chaplin: A Burlesque on Carmen (US 1915), PC: Essanay, with Charles Chaplin (Darn Hosiery), Edna Purviance (Carmen), Leo White (Morales), John Rand (Escamillo) and May White (Frasquita). There is no Micaëla in this parody.

Charles Chaplin: A Burlesque on Carmen (US 1915), PC: Essanay, with Edna Purviance (Carmen) and Charles Chaplin (Darn Hosiery)

CARMEN / A BURLESQUE ON CARMEN. Serata promossa da GUCCI. Musiche eseguite dall'Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, dirette da Timothy Brock. Piazza Maggiore (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna)


A BURLESQUE ON CARMEN (Carmen Charlot, USA/1915). D: Charles Chaplin. Dal racconto Carmen di Prosper Mérimée. SC: Charles Chaplin. DP: Roland Totheroh. AD: Albert Couder. C: Charles Chaplin (Darn Hosiery), Edna Purviance (Carmen), Jack Henderson (Lillas Pastia), Leo White (Morales), John Rand (Escamillo), May White (Frasquita), Lawrence A. Bowes (gitana), Bud Jamison, Frank J. Coleman (soldati). P: Jess Robbins, George K. Spoor per The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. Premiere: 18 dicembre 1915. 2K DCP. 2 reels 31 min. English intertitles with Italian subtitles. Piazza Maggiore (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 29 June 2013

Da: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna e Blackhawk Collection/Lobster Films.

Original score composed by Timothy Brock, freely adapted from the music of George Bizet, and commissioned by Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid – performed at a strength of 15 players

David Shepard: "Chaplin intended this burlesque of Cecil B. DeMille's popular film Carmen, starring the great opera diva Geraldine Farrar with Wallace Reid as Don Jose, to be released as a two-reel short. After Chaplin left Essanay, the company inserted discarded material and produced new scenes with Ben Turpin and Leo White, extending the film to four reels so it could be sold as a feature when belatedly released in April, 1916 (long after DeMille's film had come and gone)."

"The altered version of the A Burlesque sent Chaplin to bed for two days, and he filed a lawsuit against Essanay for mutilating his work; however, the film was judged to be Essanay's to use as they wished, which emboldened them in 1918 to create Triple Trouble out of other leftover Chaplin footage, as well as two feature films edited from portions of Essanay- Chaplin shorts."

"The version I prepared in 1999 attempts to reconstruct the two-reel version of A Burlesque on Carmen, based upon an af fidavit from the lawsuit provided by the Chaplin archives in which Charlie details his intended two-reel version. It was impossible to be guided exactly by Chaplin's testimony. Some of Chaplin's original shots were removed in the process of editing the four-reel expansion, which now seems to survive only with reissue intertitles from 1928. A few 1916 shots are retained for continuity in this version and most of the intertitles derive from DeMille, but we hope it captures Chaplin's intention. For those familiar with DeMille's production, the two-reel A Burlesque on Carmen is actually one of the better Essanay-Chaplin comedies." David Shepard

AA: I enjoyed the new restoration of Charles Chaplin's Carmen, and the double bill with Cecil B. DeMille's version was an inspired idea. I had not realized before that Chaplin's film is a direct parody of DeMille's film and had just enjoyed it as a spoof of the Carmen theme in general.

The version I have been used to seeing is the 1940s sonorized re-release version, with Herman G. Weinberg as an advisor, also with a Georges Bizet parody score. Perhaps also this version would be worthy of restoration and including as an extra on a dvd release?

It was a great pleasure to hear the music live and follow the film with its scene-by-scene references to the DeMille version, including the tragic ending where Darn Hosiery (Chaplin) stabs first Carmen (Edna Purviance) and then himself to death, but after the pompous toreador has discovered them, aghast, they stand up laughing, and Chaplin shows us the trick of the fake theatrical dagger.

There is no Micaëla in either DeMille's or Chaplin's version. There are those for whom "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante" is the heart of the work.

A very nice humoristic Bizet interpretation by Timothy Brock and the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, at a strength of a third of the ensemble that played for the DeMille version.

Mostly a very good pictorial quality in this 2013 restoration. For the first time I saw Carmen in full frame (the 1940s sonorized version is cropped).

Film concert Carmen (Cecil B. DeMille 1915) (restored in colour by George Eastman House), Hugo Riesenfeld / Georges Bizet score, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, conductor Timothy Brock

CARMEN / A BURLESQUE ON CARMEN. Serata promossa da GUCCI. Musiche eseguite dall'Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, dirette da Timothy Brock - at a strength of 48 players. Piazza Maggiore (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna)


CARMEN. US © 1915 Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Co. D: Cecil B. DeMille. Dal racconto Carmen di Prosper Mérimée. SC: William C . DeMille. DP: Alvin Wyckoff, Charles Rosher. ED: Anne Bauchens, Cecil B. DeMille. AD: Wilfred Buckland. C: Geraldine Farrar (Carmen), Wallace Reid (Don Jose), Pedro de Cordoba (Escamillo), Horace B. Carpenter (Pastia), William Elmer (Morales), Jeanie Macpherson (ragazza gitana), Anita King (ragazza gitana), Milton Brown (Garcia). P: Cecil B. DeMille per Jesse L . Lasky Feature Play Company. Premiere: 31 ottobre 1915. 35 mm. 1325 m / 64' a 18 f/s. B&w. English intertitles. Da: George Eastman House. Piazza Maggiore (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 29 June 2013

A restoration of the original 1915 compilation score by Hugo Riesenfeld from the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet

"No living woman has had greater stage triumphs than Geraldine Farrar; but whatever these triumphs have been her conquest in the picture Carmen will be infinitely greater. Miss Farrar has caused the New York Fire Commissioners to look anxiously at the Metropolitan Operahouse when she played the cigarette girl within its walls. But at most, only three or four thousand people heard and saw her. When the new and immortalized Carmen is released, tens, scores, even hundreds of thousands may see and acclaim her at one time. And in the immemorial springtimes of the future, when her lithe and passionate beauty is as much history as the wars of yesterday, all the glory and splendor and fire of her impersonation may be rekindled, studied, analyzed, thrilled over. In perpetuating the furnace-heat of this tropic, exotic characterization the Carmen film will, in its own way, stand alongside The Birth of a Nation as an epochmaker. [...] Cecil DeMille must have enthusiastic mention for his direction of this photoplay, and Alvin Wycoff for his photography. The artistry of both is beyond criticism." Julian Johnson, in "Photoplay", vol. 8, n. 6, November 1915

"Considerable publicity was thus generated when Geraldine Farrar, an internationally acclaimed soprano who had refused offers to sing in big-time vaudeville, signed a contract to star in DeMille's feature film. She became an asset to the Lasky Company equivalent to Famous Players' biggest marquee attraction, Mary Pickford. Grand opera, especially in an age when culture was sacrosanct, was the citadel of highbrow culture. Farrar, a American- born singer and Hohenzollern protégée, had made her debut in Berlin and was an accomplished diva who could sing in German, Italian, and French. She brought to film the aura of high culture patronized by European royalty. [...]"

"Significantly, William [DeMille]'s name as scriptwriter was billed over Cecil's in a strategy to dignify Farrar's first film release with emblems of respectable middle-class culture. Publicity accorded the soprano's screen debut in a silent version of a well- known opera was a bonus for the Lasky Company but, for the moment, obscured DeMille's effort to establish himself as an author in his own right. [...]"

"DeMille used art titles with drawings that prefigure the shot beginning the next sequence; low-key lighting in conjunction with color tinting in shades of red, pink, amber, and blue to produce shimmering textures; a high ratio of medium shots and medium close-ups, especially of the diva; a spectacular high angle shot of the bullfighter with Carmen, seated in the fore- ground of the ring, as she throws him a favor; and several deep focus shots of the gipsy campsite and tavern. [...] Carmen represents a milestone because DeMille's artistry, though overshadowed by Farrar's acting debut, equalled her international renown and charismatic screen presence." Sumiko Higashi, Cecil B. DeMille and American Culture: The Silent Era, University of California Press, Berkeley-Los Angeles 1994

"Hugo Riesenfeld, conductor of New York's Roxy Theatre Orchestra, was commissioned by American impresario Samuel 'Roxy' Rothapfel to adapt the Bizet for all screenings of Carmen nationally. This is a tremendous task as each theatre, large and small, has vastly varying degrees of sizes and utterly different instrumentation. Being the talented arranger that he was, however, he made it in such a way that an ensemble of any size or combination could perform it without the loss of a single voice or line. Which is why one could hear the same exact score in New York, symphonically, as they could in Omaha, Nebraska, with a piano, trumpet and a triangle. It was after Carmen that this technique became common practice among all silent film composers, and beyond." Timothy Brock

AA: I had not seen this adaptation of Carmen since the 1991 Cecil B. DeMille retrospective in Pordenone. It was one of more than 15 films that DeMille made during the year 1915. It is a solid work made in the theatrical mode of the period.

I enjoyed very much the Timothy Brock / Hugo Riesenfeld adaptation of the Georges Bizet music, played by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna. The overture was played before the film started. The interpretation was discreet, avoiding the most uninhibited display of passion and agony.

The George Eastman House restoration looks magnificent, and the toning and tinting are beautifully performed.

Allan Dwan: Beginnings - The One-Reel Westerns

Allan Dwan: Le origini - I western da un rullo. Introduce Dave Kehr, curatore della rassegna. Accompagnamento al piano di Maud Nelissen. Cinema Jolly (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 29 June 2013

Dave Kehr: "Allan Dwan's homeric career as a director began by accident in 1911, when, as a 26-year-old scenario writer and production manager, he was sent by the American Film Manufacturing Company of Chicago to work with the company's Western unit in California. Dwan  found the unit's cast and crew sitting idle in San Juan Capistrano, abandoned by a director who had run off for a drinking binge in Los Angeles. As Dwan told Peter Bogdanovich (the anecdote would later serve as the premise for Bogdanovich's 1976 Nickelodeon), "So I got the actors together and said, 'Now either I'm the director or you're out of work. And they said, 'You're the best damn director we ever saw. You're great.' I said, 'What do I do? What does a director do?' So they took me out and showed me. And it worked".The one-reel Westerns in this program, all preserved by the Library of Congress, date from Dwan's first two years of frenetic activity, during which he averaged two films a week. Working with a small stock company - hero (J. Warren Kerrigan), heroine (Pauline Bush - later to become the first Mrs. Dwan) and heavy (Jack Richardson), Dwan can be seen quickly mastering the new medium, as he moves from uncertain framing (The Ranch Girl) and intertitles that helpfully summarize the action we are about to see (The Blackened Hills) to a metaphorical use of landscape (Maiden and Men), confident pictorial effects (Man's Calling) and psychologically complex characters (The Thief's Wife). Major themes begin to emerge as well, with Bush as the first representative of Dwan's distinctively self-reliant women, whose unshakeable confidence in matters erotic and romantic is played in contrast to convoluted, intergenerational conflicts among the male characters." Dave Kehr

AA: In his introduction Dave Kehr took note of the current year 2013 as a remarkable one in the Allan Dwan studies. Besides Bologna, there is a retrospective going on at the MoMA. Frederic Lombardi's book Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios (2013) was published earlier this year. David Phelps and Gina Telaroli have published online and free of charge Allan Dwan (A Dossier) (2013) in the Spanish Lumière series. Dave Kehr pointed out that in the five one-reelers to be screened we can observe some very dramatic development in matters of portraying a character, lighting, and framing. "We'll see the beginning of a 50 year journey which continues without a break during the classical era of Hollywood, continually surprising, always finding new solutions to the same problems" (Dave Kehr).

THE RANCH GIRL. US 1911. D: Allan Dwan. 9'. C: J. Warren Kerrigan (Jack), Pauline Bush (Alice), Jack Richardson (Mike). PC: American FilmManufacturing Company. Premiere: 10 agosto 1911. 35 mm. 193 m. 9'. a 18 f/s. B&w. English intertitles. Da: Library of Congress. - AA: Alice is the ranch owner and also an expert markswoman who demonstrates her gun prowess to warn the new foreman. The strong woman (qf. Barbara Stanwyck as The Cattle Queen of Montana) appears right in the beginning. There is stark cowboy authenticity in this extremely simple, bare-bones Western. Print quality: main title card missing, rain, high contrast.

BLACKENED HILLS. US 1912. D: Allan Dwan. 9'. C: J. Warren Kerrigan (Jack Upham), Jessalyn Van Trump (Martha Vail), Jack Richardson (Joe Canfield), Louise Lester (la strega), Charlotte Burton (Jenny Hart). PC: American Film Manufacturing Company. Premiere: 26 dicembre 1912. 35 mm. 191 m (incompleto). 9' a 18 f/s. B&w. English intertitles. Da: Library of Congress. - AA: The story of an evil hearted woman and a kind hearted man. Visual quality: from a source with heavy damage to the point that the image disappears entirely at times.

MAIDEN AND MEN. US 1912. D: Allan Dwan. 13'. C: Pauline Bush (la ragazza), Jack Richardson (il cattivo del ranch), J.Warren Kerrigan (lo spasimante deluso), Louise Lester (la proprietaria del ranch), George Periolat (il padre). PC: American Film Manufacturing Company. Premiere: 4novembre 1912. 35 mm. 283 m. 13'.a 18 f/s. B&w. English intertitles. Da: Library of Congress. - AA: Melancholy passages about the solitude of a daughter yearning for love, keeping her secret treasure, a romantic novel, well hidden. She receives "a job of slavery on a distant ranch". The men all stare at the sole woman there. There is a constant wind. The mood is strikingly downbeat. The visual quality is now more satisfactory.

MAN'S CALLING / Almost a Friar [the on-screen title]. US 1912. D: Allan Dwan. 13'. Almost a Friar. C: J. Warren Kerrigan (John Wallace), Jessalyn Van Trump (Mrs. Wallace), George Periolat (il padre di John). PC: American Film Manufacturing Company. Premiere: 11 novembre 1912. 35 mm. 272 m. 13'a 18 f/s. B&w. English intertitles. Da: Library of Congress. - AA: The son of a deeply religious father is about to join the brotherhood of monks. At the gate he sees "the little baker of the mission". The next morning he asks her mother for work. "The call of love conquers the call of the church". Soon the son does enter the church - to wed. A year later: the old man rejects his son. The wife shows the baby. The old man gives them his blessing. The blocking of the actors, often in triangles, is simple and effective. The visual quality of the print is on the soft side.

THE THIEF'S WIFE. US 1912. D: Allan Dwan. 14'. C: J. Warren Kerrigan (lo sceriffo), Pauline Bush (la moglie del ladro), Jack Richardson (il ladro). PC: American Film Manufacturing Company. Premiere: 18 novembre 1912. 35 mm. 290 m. 14' a 18 f/s. B&w. English intertitles. Da: Library of Congress. - AA: There is psychological complexity and intensity in the characters, especially in the wife, who in the beginning discovers that her husband is a thief. The composition in depth is sophisticated, and the blocking of the actors is dynamic. The composition is interesting in each shot. One can get a pretty good idea of the visual quality from this print. *

The Pleasure Garden (The Hitchcock 9) (BFI National Archive 2012 Restoration)

Il giardino del piacere. DE/GB © 1925 Münchener Lichtspielkunst. D: Alfred Hitchcock. Dal romanzo omonimo di Oliver Sandys. SC: Eliot Stannard. DP: Baron Ventimiglia. AD: Ludwig Reiber. Ass. D: Alma Reville. C: Virginia Valli (Patsy Brand), Carmelita Geraghty (Jill Cheyne), Miles Mander (Levet), John Stuart (Hugh Fielding), Frederic K. Martini (Mr Sidey), Florence Helminger (Mrs Sidey), George Snell (Oscar Hamilton), C. Falkenburg (principe Ivan). P: Erich Pommer, Michael Balcon per Gainsborough Pictures, Emelka. 35 mm. 2076 m. 92’ a 20 f/s. Tinted. English intertitles.
    Accompagnamento al piano di Donald Sosin. E-subtitles in Italian. Da: BFI National Archive per concessione di Park Circus. Cinema Jolly (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 29 June 2013
    Restored by BFI National Archive in association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment and Park Circus Films. Preservation funded by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, The Film Foundation, Matt Spick con Deluxe 142

Bryony Dixon: "The 25 year old Alfred Hitchcock had done nearly every job on the studio floor by the time he was given his first directing job by the Gainsborough studio boss Michael Balcon he had designed titles, written scripts, art directed and had been assistant director to the studio’s most successful director, Graham Cutts. His first assignment was an adaptation of the bestselling 1923 novel by Oliver Sandys, the pseudonym of Marguerite Florence Barclay. The fates of two chorus girls fall into sharp relief Jill, the schemer, finds success, and Patsy, the good hearted girl, is betrayed by her unscrupulous husband. Hitchcock’s confident filmmaking style is evident from the first frame, with a cascade of chorus girls’ legs tripping down a spiral staircase, but it is his ability to condense the story and then to weave in extra layers of meaning that is truly impressive. The Pleasure Garden is a conventional enough story of the period as Hitchcock conceded: “Melodramatic. But there were several interesting scenes in it”. He may not have cared much for the subject matter but he certainly gave it an extra dimension. The Pleasure Garden is a treatise on voyeurism, sexual politics and the gap between romantic dreams and reality. Hitchcock uses the minor characters to comment on the principals, to contrast the behaviour of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters through the use of parallel action. The shot of the casually discarded apple, one bite taken from it, effectively symbolises Patsy’s husband’s disregard for her on their wedding night, and hints at his future conduct. It also fits into a scheme of visual images of ‘natural’ elements, such as fruit and flowers, that Hitchcock uses to express the Patsy’s character. Reintroduced by the restoration, these little flourishes and Hitchcock ‘touches’ reveal how much of his talent was present in his very first film as director."

"It was presumably this kind of artiness that C.M. Woolf, one of the partners in the early Gainsborough enterprise, took against and he postponed the release of the film for over a year. The reaction from other quarters was much more positive. “The Daily Express” in their review of The Pleasure Garden saw the cleverness that we see now and dubbed Hitchcock the “Young Man With a Master Mind”. His career was launched."

"More than any other of Hitchcock's silent films, The Pleasure Garden has been transformed by restoration. An international search for material revealed copies held in France, the Netherlands, the United States as well as the BFI National Archive. It was thought for many years that The Pleasure Garden had circulated, in what appeared to be two versions, perhaps representing two different releases but close comparison of the five copies, four of them original nitrate prints, meant that they could all be traced back to the same negative. Major narrative strands and twists have now been reintegrated making it possible to reconstruct, as fully as possible, the original edit and using the best of these sources we have been able to achieve a huge improvement in image quality." Bryony Dixon

AA: It's been 25 years since I last saw The Pleasure Garden, and I cannot really compare the new reconstruction to the print that was available in the 1980s. But the film certainly looked different this time. It is now also a deeper and richer affair.

Hitchcock affection towards the world of show business is evident in the backstage and rehearsal scenes of this movie. The audition and rehearsal sequence is the funniest in the movie.

Already in this film religion is a serious matter for Hitchcock. Patsy (Virginia Valli) has a habit of reading her evening prayer before going to bed. Also during her honeymoon she prays in front of a statue of Christ. Faith helps Patsy in her ordeal with her treacherous husband Levet (Miles Mander). Concepts of grace and salvation are relevant here. Rohmer and Chabrol were on the right track in their pioneering study on Hitchcock.

In the opening sequence we already have Vertigo (the spiral staircase) and Rear Window (the voyeurist with the binoculars). We also have a woman returning the look. The Pleasure Garden is already very consciously about the look and insight. Patsy and Hugh (John Stuart) are at first deceived by the surfaces of Mr. Levet and Jill Cheyne (Carmelita Geraghty) respectively. The drama is about their eyes being opened.

Perhaps Hitchcock had seen Stroheim's The Merry Widow which had just been released? In the Italian honeymoon sequence there is an interesting span of feeling from the holy to the profane. For Patsy the honeymoon is a holy experience, but Levet is already getting bored ("after you get what you want you don't want it"). The apple remains only partly bitten, and Levet throws the special rose into the water ("it's faded now"). Patsy is delighted when she meets children; Levet chases them away, thinking Patsy is "sloppy with those filthy brats". Viaggio in Italia! On board the ship to the Tropics Levet is already casting an eye to another woman while Patsy is still at the port waving goodbye.

The tragic climax of the film is the murder scene: the delirious Levet drowns his native mistress (uncredited in the film!) who has already waded into the sea and is delighted to see Levet whom she believes has arrived to rescue her.

There are many instances of striking cinematography by Baron Ventimiglia in the movie, especially the Lake Como sequence shot on location.

The visual quality of the restoration: the definition of light is beautiful, as are the tinting and the toning. It is a top job of reconstruction. The digital restoration has been conducted in a 2K resolution. It would be interesting to see a 4K restoration for perhaps even more fine detail in the images.

A Hundred Years Ago: The Glorious Year 1913. Cinematographing Cinema. Tragico convegno / [A Tragic Reunion]

Cento anni fa. Il glorioso 1913. Il cinema fa del cinema. Introducono Mariann Lewinsky, curatrice della rassegna e Elif Rongen (EYE Film Institute Netherlands). Accompagnamento al piano di Gabriel Thibaudeau. Earphone commentary into English and Italian. Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 29 June 2013.

TRAGICO CONVEGNO / Maria Pansa het kleine meisje / [A Tragic Reunion]. IT 1915. D: Ivo Illuminati. C: Ivo Illuminati, Maria Jacobini, Enzo Boccacci. PC: Celio Film. 35 mm. 600 m. (incompleto, orig. 900 m). 30' a 18 f/s. Tinted. Dutch intertitles. Da: EYE - Film Institute Netherlands

"A review of Tragico convegno in the magazine "La Cinematografia Italiana ed Estera" emphasized the film's "elegance", "finesse", and "decorum", characteristics which distinguished most Celio productions. Between 1913 and 1914 the Roman film studio regularly employed a host of extraordinary actors such as Alberto Collo, Emilio Ghione, Francesca Bertini, Leda Gys, not to mention the star of Tragico convegno, Maria Jacobini, a theatrically trained actress who by 1915 had already made a name for herself in Italian cinema. On this occasion she was flanked by Ivo Illuminati, co-star and director of the film. After a brief stint with Celio, Illuminati's career peaked in 1917, when he directed for Medusa Film one of the most significant Italian silent films: Il re, le torri e gli alfieri (King, Castles and Bishops), based on a story by Lucio D'Ambra." Giovanni Lasi

"In 1957, when the Desmet Collection was donated to EYE, the Dutch distribution print of Tragico convegno (or Maria Pansa het kleine meisje in Dutch) was not among the circa 900 films. It reappeared only recently, in a private collection that arrived to EYE in 2000."

"The two newly discovered reels are in very good condition, but unfortunately the ending is missing and our search in other FIAF archives for other prints yielded no results. However, in the paper archives of the Desmet Collection we found 12 photographs, two posters and one publicity flyer in Dutch. This flyer introduces Maria Jacobini as "the sister of Francesca Bertini, the famous Italian diva" and gives a detailed synopsis of each reel, including even some dialogue lines. In restoring the film we have preserved the existing parts without any intervention through analog duplication and Desmet color system. However, since the film finishes abruptly we decided to complete it with a reconstruction of the ending, using the the synopsis of the 3rd reel on the flyer and six original photographs. This new finale is attached 'loosely' to the tail, so it can be replaced easily if the last reel reappears as we hope it will sooner or later."

"The case of Tragico convegno testifies to the importance of having preserved the entire Desmet Collection: now that the film print and the paper documents were reunited after more than half a century, it has been possible to complete the film by using material from the paper collection." Elif Rongen

AA:  Reels 1 and 2 were seen, and Reel 3 was a reconstruction based on texts and stills. The story is mediocre, but the film is worthy for the performance of Maria Jacobini as Maria. She comes to Texas, and a nursery has been prepared to her as it is believed that she is a little baby. There are funny bits of comedy as Maria turns out to be a young woman of 18 years. Lucien's lover, Baroness Fulvia, instantly gets jealous. Maria gets to see the horse stables of the ranch, she loves to read on the branch of a tree (like our Finnish domestic cultural hero Elias Lönnrot used to do as a child), and when she discovers a gun, she immediately finds about "the American pastime". Little by little Maria gets interested in Lucien, and she starts to interfere with the extramarital affair of Fulvia with Lucien. There is a tragic confrontation, and it is Maria who gets shot, but she recovers, and Lucien's eyes are now opened to recognize Maria's love. Towards the end of the second reel Maria Jacobini is building up into full diva mode.

I liked the beautiful shots of Maria Jacobini in the blossoming garden, her tea party introduction to society in the beginning of the second reel, and the blue-toned sequence of Maria's desperation towards the end of the second reel.

One can appreciate the beauty of the visual quality in this restoration.

FR 1913. D: Léonce Perret. C: Léonce Perret, Suzanne Le Bret, Gaston Modot, Maurice Vinot. PC: Gaumont. 35 mm. 280 m. 14' a 18 f/s. B&w. French intertitles. Da: Gaumont Pathé Archives. - AA: A funny comedy about the wife's jealousy of her film star husband. He has a lot of admirers, and he is showered with fan mail. Print ok, with a slightly low contrast. +

AT 1913. D: Ludwig Schaschek. PC: Sascha. 35 mm. 144 m. 7' a 18 f/s. Col. German intertitles. Da: EYE - Film Institute Netherlands (dalla collezione di Filmarchiv Austria). - AA: A witty stop motion animation about many aspects of film manufacture: - perforation - camera - tripod - principal photography - the film is rolled - developed - washed - dried - wound - edited - cleaned - copied - titled - and mailed. All in meticulous detail in stop motion animation. An ok print in colour. *
Some of the following remarks may be mixed up, as there were title cards missing, and it was not always clear which film was being screened.

IT 1913. D: Eleuterio Rodolfi. Story: Arrigo Frusta. C: Fernanda Negri Pouget (Silvietta o Silviette, l'attrice giovane), Mary Cléo Tarlarini (Jenny Smart, la prima attrice), Ubaldo Stefani (Conte de Sivry), Luigi Chiesa (Piccolini, il regista), Marcel Fabre (se stesso), Anna Crosetti, Annetta Ripamonti. PC: Ambrosio. 35 mm. 69 m (incompleto, l. orig. 815 m). 4' a 18 f/s. Col. Italian intertitles. Da: Museo Nazionale del Cinema - AA: Just a meta-filmic glimpse of this movie remains.

Музыкальный момент (фильм-балет). RU 1913. D: Jakov Protazanov. C: Ekaterina Geltser, Vassiliy Tikhomirov. P: Jakov Protazanov. 35 mm. 162 m. 8' a 18 f/s. B&w. Da: EYE - Film Institute Netherlands. - AA: No title card. A humoristic study of a dancing pantomime, the spell broken by a man who makes a chalk mark for the camera. A good print.

HR-AT 1913. P+D: Ignaz Rheinthaler. 35 mm. 356 m. 18' a 18 f/s. B&w. Da: Filmarchiv Austria. - AA: Footage of a children's band and soldiers, among others. A good definition of light.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine / Blue Jasmine. US © 2013 Gravier Productions. EX: LeRoy Schechter, Adam  B. Stern. Co-EX: Jack Rollins. P: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson. D+SC: Woody Allen. DP: Javier Aguirresarobe - DI: Company 3. PD: Santo Loquasto. VFX: Phosphene, Method Studios. Cost: Suzy Benzinger. M: no composed score - compilation of jazz classics etc. Theme tune: "Blue Moon". ED: Alisa Lepselter. Casting: Juliet Taylor, Patricia DiCerto. C: Starring (in alphabetical order): Alec Baldwin (Hal), Cate Blanchett (Jasmine), Louis C.K. (Al), Bobby Cannavale (Chili), Andrew Dice Clay (Augie), Sally Hawkins (Ginger), Peter Sarsgaard (Dwight), Michael Stuhlbarg (Dr. Flicker). Co-starring (in alphabetical order): Tammy Blanchard (Jasmine's Friend Jane), Max Casella (Eddie), Alden Ehrenreich (Danny). Loc: New York, San Francisco. 98 min. Release date NY/LA 26 July 2013. Scanbox preview, 2K DCP without subtitles at Cinema Andorra, Helsinki, 28 June 2013

Technical specs from the IMdB: Sound Mix: Dolby Digital - Color: Color - Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 - Camera: Arricam LT, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses, Arricam ST, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses - Negative Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 500T 5219) - Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format), Printed Film Format: 35 mm (anamorphic), D-Cinema.

Synopsis from the pressbook: "After everything in her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), elegant New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves into her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) modest apartment in San Francisco to try to pull herself back together again."

"Jasmine arrives in San Francisco in a fragile mental state, her head reeling from the cocktail of anti-depressants she’s on. While still able to project her aristocratic bearing, Jasmine is emotionally precarious and lacks any practical ability to support herself. She disapproves of Ginger’s boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), who she considers another “loser” like Ginger’s ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay). Ginger, recognizing but not fully understanding her sister’s psychological instability, suggests that she pursue interior design, a career she correctly intuits that Jasmine won’t feel is beneath her. In the meantime, Jasmine begrudgingly accepts work as the receptionist in a dentist’s office, where she attracts the unwanted attentions of her boss, Dr. Flicker (Michael Stuhlbarg)."

"Feeling that her sister might be right about her poor taste in men, Ginger starts seeing Al (Louis C.K.), a sound engineer whom she considers as a step up from Chili. Jasmine sees a potential lifeline when she meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a diplomat who is quickly smitten with her beauty, sophistication and style."

"Jasmine’s flaw is that she derives her worth from the way she’s perceived by others, while she herself is blind to what is going around her. Delicately portrayed by a regal Cate Blanchett, Jasmine earns our compassion because she is the unwitting instrument of her own downfall. Woody Allen’s new drama BLUE JASMINE is about the dire consequences that can result when people avert their eyes from reality and the truth they don’t want to see."

After lightweight comedies such as Paris at Midnight and To Rome with Love Woody Allen has made a strong drama.

It's a drama with a female leading role deserving of comparison to such works as A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams and Autumn Sonata by Ingmar Bergman. The great performance by Cate Blanchett as Jasmine carries the film. It is one of her best performances, and one of the finest in Allen's films.

Woody Allen has had a rare continuity in his film career since the 1960s. Not many directors have been able to make films for mainstream distribution for such a long time - during six decades - without compromises.

Allen has also been able constantly to rejuvenate himself. Partly this has taken place quite simply by making films abroad, like in Great Britain, France, Spain, and Italy.

Another simple and effective method of rejuvenation has been casting: he always finds actors that are new and fresh to him, also enjoying super ensembles with inspired combinations.

Allen has again "returned" to the U.S. after three European productions.

A good drama is based on contrast. Here it's about the rich and the poor, and New York and San Francisco.

In Annie Hall, New York was about intellect, California about hedonism. Here the New York life is fake, San Francisco more authentic.

The movie proceeds on two time dimensions: the present in San Francisco, where Jasmine tries to launch a new life, and flashbacks to the golden life in New York.

Jasmine has experienced a mental breakdown. She has been married to the financial speculator Hal. Hal's real estate projects have collapsed, his fraud has been exposed, and he has hanged himself in prison. Jasmine has lost everything, including her expensive lifestyle. She has even had "Edison medicine" (electric shocks) for her mental collapse. She is on a heavy diet of antidepressants. She drinks. "Jasmine has had a habit of looking the other way", observes her sister Ginger. She has also learned to cultivate a way of evading the truth. Even the name Jasmine is not original, but there is poetry in the choice of the name: jasmine is "a flower which comes alive at night".

"I don't know what to do with the rest of my life" is the observation of Jasmine upon her arrival in San Francisco.. Jasmine tries to build a new life by educating herself to become an interior decorator online. That is why she starts to take lessons in computers, of which she understands nothing. Computer language is "like Suahili to her".

She makes ends meet by working as a receptionist at a dentist, who, however starts to make passes at her.

She really hits it off with the diplomat Dwight, but when her lies are exposed, Dwight cancels the plan to buy their engagement rings at the very door of the jeweller. Jasmine starts to lose herself deeper into her delusions.

All through the picture Jasmine has blamed her sister Ginger for dating losers. But finally Ginger gets to say that Jasmine has dated the biggest loser of all. Because of Hal the lives of everybody around him have been ruined.

Blue Jasmine is one of the richest, deepest, and most tragic works of Woody Allen.

There is a lot of humour in it. The satire of the dream life based on financial fraud is forceful, but there is a sense of avoiding exaggeration in a topic that does not need any.

During the digital transition there has been a period of insecurity in the visual quality of Woody Allen's films, which used to look brilliant. Blue Jasmine is a step to better quality from the previous ones. Blue Jasmine has still been shot on 35 mm photochemical film, and the digital intermediate has been conducted more successfully than in Allen's previous films.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Danton (1982)

Andrzej Wajda: Danton (France/Poland 1982) starring Gérard Depardieu as Georges Danton.

Danton / Danton.
    FR/PL 1982. PC: Les Films du Losange (Paris) and Zespoly Filmowe: Zespol X (Warsaw) - for Gaumont, TF1 Films, SFPC, and TM – supported by Ministère de la Culture and Film Polski. P: Margaret Ménégoz ja Barbara Pec-Slesicka.
    D: Andrzej Wajda. SC: Jean-Claude Carrière – based on the play Afera Dantona / L'Affaire Danton (1929) by Stanislawa Przybyszewska. DP: Igor Luther – colour – 1,66:1. M: Jean Prodromides. AD: Allan Starski, Gilles Vaster. ED: Halina Prugar-Ketling.
    C: Gérard Depardieu (Georges Danton), Wojciech Pszoniak (Maximilien de Robespierre), Anne Alvaro (Eléonore), Roland Blanche (Lacroix), Patrice Chereau (Camille Desmoulins), Emmanuelle Debever (Louison), Krzysztof Globisz (Amar), Ronald Guttman (Herman), Gérard Hardy (Tallien), Tadeusz Huk (Couthon), Stéphane Jobert (Panis) Marian Kociniak (Lindet), Marek Kondrat (Barère de Vieuzac), Boguslaw Linda (Saint Just), Alain Mace (Héron), Bernard Maitre (Legendre), Lucien Melki (Fabre D’Eglantine), Serge Merlin (Philippeaux), Erwin Nowiaszak (Collot d’Herbois), Leonard Pietraszak (Carnot), Roger Planchon (Fouquier-Tinville), Angel Sedgwick (Eléonore's brother), Andrzej Seweryn (Bourdon), Franciszek Starowieyski (David), Jerzy Trela (Billaud-Varenne), Jacques Villeret (Westermann), Angela Winkler (Lucile Desmoulins), Jean-Loup Wolff (Hérault de Seychelles), Czeslaw Wollejko (Vadier), Wladimir Yordanoff (vartiopäällikkö), Malgorzata Zajaczkowska (palvelijatar), Szymon Zaleski (Lebas).
    Helsinki premiere 2.3.1984 Diana, released by Diana-Filmi with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Satu Laaksonen / Maya Vanni – tv: 15.7.1989 Yle TV2 – VET 91262 – K12 – 3760 m / 136 min.
    A vintage KAVA print deposited by Diana-Filmi screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Gérard Depardieu), 23 June 2013

Wikipedia synopsis: "The film begins in the spring of 1794, when the Reign of Terror was in full swing. On the borders of Paris, any vehicles entering Paris, including the carriage of Danton, who has just ridden in, are being searched. Robespierre, meanwhile, is sick in his bed. His landlady's daughter, Éléonore Duplay, attempts to comfort him, but is unable to. Her nephew, whom she is taking care of, is meanwhile being made to memorize lines from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Back in the streets of Paris, starving lines of people, waiting for bread, discuss the possible reasons for the lack of it. Whether or not it is an enemy plot, the people do know that they are hungry, and that hunger leads to revolt. Once the bread store actually opens, and they finally begin to receive their bread, they are distracted by their other source of faith and hope in life: Danton. As Robespierre is watching, Danton is swarmed by a mob of supporters and fans, who all cry out for help. Robespierre, in his flat, is visited by Heron, the chief of the secret police, and instructs him to destroy the print shop of Camille Desmoulins, who is publishing pro-Dantonist circulars."

"As the shop is being attacked, Robespierre is having his wig powdered. His friend Saint-Just comes in, and urges him to have Danton guillotined, but Robespierre ignores him. Later, when Robespierre meets with the other members of the Committee of Public Safety, they push the same point. Robespierre resists for various reasons, mainly because Danton is a brilliant and highly popular statesman and orator, but also because Danton is his personal friend. Before the National Convention commences for the day, Danton discusses with general Westermann about a coup to overthrow Robespierre and the committee, of which Danton disapproves. Danton’s closest supporters warn him that Robespierre is planning on having him jailed. Danton, however, is positive that his newspaper and the support of the people will prevent anything like that from ever happening. All of his supporters urge him to strike now and take power, but he resists. That day, at the convention, one of Danton’s supporters, Bourdon, makes a speech against Heron and his secret police (a central part of Robespierre’s regime), and has Heron jailed."

"That night, Danton and Robespierre have dinner together. Danton puts much work into setting the meal, but Robespierre refuses to drink or eat, insisting on a serious discussion. Robespierre wants Danton to join his cause and stop fighting because he does not want to be forced to have Danton executed. Danton simply drinks until he passes out, and refuses Robespierre’s advances. As Danton leaves the hotel, he is met by a group of armed men who turn out to be Westermann's assistants, preparing to stage a coup. Danton rebuffs Westerman's attempt to coerce him into helping. Next, Robespierre goes to Camille Desmoulin’s house, where Camille entirely ignores his presence. Robespierre tries to convince Camille that Danton is exploiting him, but he is again ignored. His wife Lucile begs Robespierre to stay and talk sense into her husband because she wants him to live, but Robespierre can do nothing. With no other options, Robespierre has Lacrois, Phillipeaux, Desmoulins, Westermann, Danton and other supporters arrested and jailed in the Luxembourg jail, after having the warrant signed by the Committee of General of General Security and the Committee of Public Safety. Although Danton has the power to raise up a force and resist, he doesn’t because he does not want any more bloodshed. The man who arrests Danton is scared of him, and Danton has to practically drag him along."

"The next day at the national convention, the members are outraged by the arrest, but Robespierre simply justifies his action by stating that Danton is an enemy of the Republic, and must be tried regardless of his popularity. To save his own life, Bourdon joins Robespierre's side, deserting Danton and Desmoulin, which disgusts Lucile."

"While Danton waits in custody, Robespierre plans out his trial. Only seven jurors are to be used, which is against the law, but Robespierre can only ensure seven men who will find Danton guilty. Danton has given up on the Revolution and on the people. At the trial, Danton consistently breaks the order by speaking out of turn. The people are still in support of him, and judge Fouquier finds no grounds to prosecute him. The accused are kept in prison overnight and there is a solitary scene in where Danton is brought to his knees when a condemned prisoner tells him how overjoyed he is to hear that Danton, the first president of the committee, is to be executed. While Robespierre is visiting David, he is informed that Danton's charisma is interrupting the planned process of the trial, and the sentence is going nowhere. In response a decree is issued that if anyone speaks out of turn again, which Danton has done repeatedly, they will be removed from court. Within minutes, the entire accused team has been dismissed, and the verdict of guilty is read. The day before his execution, Danton is depressed. Not due to his death, but due to the fact that he feels that he failed the people. They are led off to the scaffold and guillotined. When Robespierre finally hears of Danton’s death, he turns ghostly pale, and realizes how he has violated liberty, and the goals of the revolution. His mistress’s nephew, now fully practiced, is finally sent in to recite. As he reads off the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, Robespierre is fully brought to the reality of what he has done."

AA: The Danton-Robespierre clash belongs to the classic conflicts of drama, most famously in Georg Büchner's Dantons Tod. Andrzej Wajda has selected as his starting-point the Polish play The Danton Affair by Stanislawa Przybyszewska. Together with Jean-Claude Carrière he changed the story to reflect better the current situation in Poland, the Walesa-Jaruzelski conflict. Frenchmen had a hard time recognizing one of the most tragic periods of their history in this interpretation. Poetic license has been taken here like in the Mozart-Salieri dramatizations.

Danton has been changed to a much nicer and gentler guy in the Wajda interpretation. Of the film adaptations I have seen the one by Dimitri Buchowetzky, based on Büchner, is certainly no more faithful to historical facts than Wajda's version, but its two holy monsters, Emil Jannings and Werner Krauss as Danton and Robespierre, may convey something more authentic about the furious figures of the French Revolution and the Great Terror.

As interpreted by Gérard Depardieu Danton is no more the unforgettable monster known in historical records, but certainly he is a commanding presence in the immortal trial at the Tribunal révolutionnaire. It is a great performance, and in this age of supporting actors Depardieu in unquestionable a leading actor who makes the world shake with the power of his voice like Danton did. Danton roars like a lion until he loses his voice. But facing the guillotine he still manages to roar: "Tu montreras ma tête au peuple, elle en vaut la peine!" "Robespierre, tu me suis! Ta maison sera rasée! On y sèmera du sel!" Depardieu is the actor to carry a role like this.

A well-made film with memorable scenes and dilemmas: - The destruction of the printing press used by Desmoulins. - The agony of opportunism with both Danton and Robespierre. - Danton comparing the revolution to Cronos which eats its own children. - The sequence at the studio of the painter David, immortalizing history. - Danton has unleashed the terror which he now wants to stop, but its too late. Robespierre wants to save the revolution, but it may no longer be possible. - The mortal agony of Robespierre is the final image of the movie. He is almost drowning in his own sweat.

The score has a special quality of creating an ominous soundscape. "La Marseillaise" is sung; not much other period music is heard.

The quality of the print: intact and complete; the visual quality is ok. Composed for 1,66, it can also be screened in full frame.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Naked Lunch

Alaston lounas / Den nakna lunchen [on screen] / Naken lunch. CA/GB © 1991 Recorded Picture Company (RPC) / Naked Lunch Productions. PC: Film Trustees, Ltd. / Naked Lunch Productions / Nippon Film Development and Finance / The Ontario Film Development Corporation / Recorded Picture Company (RPC) / Téléfilm Canada. P: Jeremy Thomas. Co-producer: Gabriella Martinelli. D+SC: David Cronenberg - based on the novel (1959) by William S. Burroughs. DP: Peter Suschitzky. PD: Carol Spier. AD: James McAteer. Set dec: Elinor Rose Galbraith. Special creatures and effects: Chris Walas. Animatronics team: Big. Credit sequence: Balsmeyer and Everett. End sequence: Film Effects. Cost: Denise Cronenberg. Makeup: Christine Hart. Hair: Rhoda Ancill, jne. M: Ornette Coleman, Howard Shore. Perf: The Ornette Coleman Trio. S: Bryan Day. ED: Ronald Sanders. Loc: Toronto. Casting: Deirdre Bowen. C: Peter Weller (Bill Lee), Judy Davis (Joan Frost / Joan Lee), Ian Holm (Tom Frost), Julian Sands (Yves Cloquet), Roy Scheider (Dr. Benway), Monique Mercure (Fadela), Nicholas Campbell (Hank), Michael Zelniker (Martin), Robert A. Silverman (Hans), Joseph Scoren (Kiki), Peter Boretski (voices of creatures). Helsinki premiere: 16.10.1992 President 1, released by: Finnkino with Finnish / Swedish subtitles – telecast: 7.9.1999 MTV3, 10.10.2010 Nelonen – vhs: 1995 Nordisk Film Home Entertainment – dvd: 2005 Future Film – VET 97973 – K16 – 3170 m / 116 min. A vintage KAVA print deposited by Finnkino viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (David Cronenberg), 18 June, 2013

Wikipedia synopsis: "William Lee is an exterminator who finds that his wife Joan is stealing his insecticide (pyrethrum) to use as a drug. When Lee is arrested by the police, he begins hallucinating because of "bug powder" exposure. He believes he is a secret agent whose controller (a giant bug) assigns him the mission of killing Joan, who is an agent of an organization called Interzone Incorporated. Lee dismisses the bug and its instructions and kills it. He returns home to find Joan sleeping with Hank, one of his writer friends. Shortly afterwards, he accidentally kills her while attempting to shoot a drinking glass off her head in imitation of William Tell."

"Having inadvertently accomplished his "mission", Lee flees to Interzone. He spends his time writing reports for his imaginary handler, and it is these documents which, at the insistence of his literary colleagues, eventually become the titular book. Whilst Lee is under the influence of assorted mind-altering substances, his typewriter, a Clark Nova, becomes a giant talking insect which tells him to find Dr. Benway, by seducing Joan Frost, who is a doppelgänger of his dead wife."

"After coming to the conclusion that Dr. Benway is, in fact, the secret mastermind of a narcotics operation for a drug called "black meat" which is supposedly derived from the guts of giant centipedes, Lee completes his report and flees Interzone to Annexia with Joan Frost."

"Stopped by the Annexian border patrol and instructed to prove that he is a writer as he claims, Lee produces a pen. As this is insufficient proof for passage he inexplicably offers a demonstration of his William Tell routine using a glass atop Joan Frost's head. He again misses badly and thus re-enacts the earlier killing of his wife. He is then allowed to enter Annexia."

A hommage to William S. Burroughs and his revolutionary novel Naked Lunch, there is a parallel here to the more recent On the Road film adaptation by Walter Salles. Both are well made movies with an exceptional amount of respect towards their literary sources. Both are rather commentaries on the Beat Generation than compelling expressions of the Beat spirit.

There is nothing to complain. Peter Weller, Judy Davis, and the rest are fine in their roles. The sense of paranoia is impressive. The concept of making a movie about the genesis of Naked Lunch is a brilliant solution to adapting the unfilmable anti-novel.

The special effects with the machine flesh of the living typewriters are essential Cronenberg, but there is something academic and reverent in them.

The utterly iconoclastic turns of the movie are performed brilliantly and respectfully.

Something of Burroughs's sense of daring and sense of play (on display for instance in Towers Open Fire, which we screened before the feature) is missing from the movie adaptation of Naked Lunch.

Naked Lunch the movie is a worthy study object, but it does not fly.

The print is complete with the usual rain in the starts and the tails, and the visual quality is satisfying but not brilliant, or perhaps the quality is slightly queer intentionally.

Towers Open Fire

GB © 1963 Armorial Film Services. PC: Antony Balch Films. P+D+DP+AN+S+ED: Antony Balch - in black and white with colour in the end. SC: William S. Burroughs. C: William S. Burroughs, Antony Balch, David Jacobs, Bachoo Sen, Alexander Trocchi. 11 min. A vintage KAVA 35 mm print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (50 Years Ago, screened before Naked Lunch), 20 June 2013

The LUX website: "Towers Open Fire is a straight-forward attempt to find a cinematic equivalent for William Burroughs' writing: a collage of all the key themes and situations in the books, accompanied by a Burroughs soundtrack narration. Society crumbles as the Stock Exchange crashes, members of the Board are raygun-zapped in their own boardroom, and a commando in the orgasm attack leaps through a window and decimates a family photo collection... Meanwhile, the liberated individual acts: Balch himself masturbates ("silver arrow through the night..."), Burroughs as the junkie (his long-standing metaphor for the capitalist supply-and-demand situation) breaks on through to the hallucinatory world of Brion Gysin Dream Machines. Balch lets us stare into the Dream Machines, finding faces to match our own. "Anything that can be done chemically can be done by other means." So the film is implicitly a challenge to its audience. But we're playing with indefinables that we don't really understand yet, and so Mikey Portman's music-hall finale is interrupted by science-fiction attack from the skies, as lost boardroom reports drift through the countryside..." (Tony Rayns, "Interview with Antony Balch", Cinema Rising No.1, April 1972)

"Installations shattered - Personnel decimated - Board Books destroyed - Electronic waves of resistance sweeping through mind screens of the earth - The message of Total Resistance on short wave of the world - This is war to extermination - Shift linguals - Cut word lines - Vibrate tourists - Free doorways - Photo falling - Word falling - Break through in grey room - Calling Partisans of all nations - Towers, open fire" (William Burroughs, Nova Express, 1964) - See more at: - From the LUX website

Towers Open Fire belongs to the top examples of cinema as an expression of the poetry of a major literary figure - comparable to the presence of Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet, and Samuel Beckett in the cinema. All these are worthy, part of the essence of their art.

The presence of William S. Burroughs and his creaking voice in Towers Open Fire is so commanding that Antony Balch can incorporate anything in his movie without losing a sense of unity.

We have extreme close-ups of Burroughs, his eyes at half-mast. White white white. The recitation of his prose poetry is hypnotic. There is a masturbation scene like by Warhol, only the face of the man visible. There is TV static like in a work by Nam June Paik. There is found newsreel footage of the 1929 stock market crash. There is pre-cinema imagery of a Zoetrope. There are ultra fast edits like in the movies of Gance or Vertov. There is op art, kinetic art, and experimental music while Burroughs injects himself with his shots. There are subliminal edits like in Scorpio Rising. Exposed to Burroughs' raygun people are reduced to radiation like in Star Trek. Hieroglyphs vanish in the wind. The black and white movie turns into colour in the Len Lye style flicker passage in the conclusion. It's a history of the experimental cinema, yet it's all William S. Burroughs.

There are signs of wear in the start, but essentially it's top visual quality.

The Intruder (1962)

Kiihotus / Uppvigling / I Hate Your Guts (Cinema Distributors of America release title) / The Stranger (GB) / Shame (1966 rerelease title). US 1962 © 1961 Los Altos Productions. PC: Filmgroup Inc. EX: Gene Corman. P+D: Roger Corman. Ass. D: Lou Place. SC: Charles Beaumont – based on his novel (1959). DP: Taylor Byars (b&w, 35 mm). Cameraman: Haskell Wexler. M: Herman Stein. S: John Bury. ED: Ronald Sinclair.  C: William Shatner (Adam Cramer), Frank Maxwell (Tom McDaniel), Beverly Lunsford (Ella McDaniel), Robert Emhardt (Verne Shipman), Jeanne Cooper (Vi Griffin), Leo Gordon (Sam Griffin), Charles Barnes (Joseph "Joey" Green), Charles Beaumont (Dr. Harley Paton), Katherine Smith (Ruth McDaniel), George Clayton Johnson (Phil West), William Nolan (Bart Carey), Phoebe Rowe (Mrs. Lambert), Bo Dodd (Sheriff), Walter Kurtz (Gramps), Ocee Ritch (Jack Allardyce). Loc: Sikeston, Charleston, and East Prairie (Missouri). Premiere: New York 14.5.1962. Helsinki premiere: 4.9.1964, Arita, released by Lii-Filmi with Finnish / Swedish subtitles n.c. - tv: 6.10.1967, 13.11.1995, YLE TV2 - VET 68744 – K16 – 2280 m / 84 min. A vintage KAVA print, deposited by Lii-Filmi, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Carte blanche à Tapani Maskula), 20 June 2013

AFI Plot Summary: "Adam Cramer, a member of the reactionary Patrick Henry Society, arrives in a small Southern town to instigate a campaign of hatred designed to arouse white citizens into opposing integration of local schools. Full of surface charm, he ingratiates himself with the townspeople and persuades them to harass black youngsters attending the previously all-white high school; his only articulate opponent is newspaper editor Tom McDaniel, who feels bound to obey the law. Cramer makes an enemy by seducing Vi Griffin while her husband, Sam, a traveling salesman, is out of town; later, when the guilt-ridden Vi runs away, Sam senses that Cramer is responsible. Meanwhile, the town's mood becomes increasingly violent as a black minister is killed by a bomb tossed into his church; in addition, McDaniel loses an eye in a confrontation when he leads black students into school. Cramer then warns McDaniel's teenaged daughter, Ella, that he will kill her father unless she accuses a young black, Joey Green, of attempted rape. The frightened girl agrees, and a lynch-hungry mob lashes the boy to a schoolyard swing; under the prodding of Griffin, however, Ella arrives and publicly confesses her lie. Ashamed and furious at having been deceived, the crowd withdraws, leaving Cramer without support."

Roger Corman's best film, at least of the ones I have seen. A mature film on an inflammatory topic, still resonant over 50 years later. Racism, alas, is still topical, and discussed in films like Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Mass hysteria and persecution of innocents are still topical questions, recently discussed by Thomas Vinterberg in Jagten / The Hunt. In a comparison with Tarantino and Vinterberg Roger Corman copes very well.

Similar themes had been discussed by John Ford, Clarence Brown, Jacques Tourneur, and Otto Preminger, among others.

The Intruder is original in many ways. The protagonist is an agitator against the integration of black citizens in society, particularly in schools. The Intruder is a study in the psychology of Adam Cramer, a racist - an intelligent, yet deranged character, brilliantly played by William Shatner. Also the other characters are interesting and surprising. Sam Griffin the salesman (Leo Gordon) seems like a slightly sleazy character, but his integrity surprises us both in a private confrontation and in the climax of the lynching hysteria, which he stops in a way very different from the characters played by Will Rogers and Joel McCrea in films by John Ford and Jacques Tourneur.

Interesting characters are also the courageous newspaper editor Tom McDaniel (Frank Maxwell) and his daughter, the schoolgirl Ella (Beverly Lunsford), whom Adam Cramer seduces to use her in a diabolical plot to compromise the black youngster Joey Greene (Charles Barnes). All these performances are convincing.

Charles Beaumont, the author of the novel and the screenwriter, plays the schoolmaster who tries to prevent lynch "justice".

Katherine Smith is interesting as Ruth McDaniel, Sam's wife. She is not just a nymphomaniac, she is apparently a sex addict, but this trait is not played for sensation. Due to her weakness Adam is able to seduce her, too, although she despises him ("I don't consider you my friend"). 

The film is visually intensive with its scenes of lynch patrols, KKK hoods, nocturnal car caravans, and the burning cross putting a new perspective into everything, including the scene where Adam seduces Ruth. The train is pounding away, and we see Ruth's bare back in the mirror. The lynch mob commits arson in the church of the black neighbourhood, and they murder the priest in the process.

Further climaxes include the one where Sam confronts Adam and exposes him as a coward. On the first school day Tom escorts the ten black students to the school, and he is battered so terribly in the head that he loses an eye. Also the story of how Ella gets to pretend that the black guy Joey has tried to rape her is very well developed.

Well written, well directed, well performed, and well shot. It's too bad that Roger Corman did not continue in this straight, mature and daring vein, but it's good that he made this one great, serious work.

The vintage print has been used quite a bit: there is rain in the starts and the tails of the reels, but the print is complete, and the visual quality is good to ok.