Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer reading

Peter Bogdanovich: Allan Dwan: the Last Pioneer. Movie Paperbacks. London: Studio Vista Limited. Movie Magazine Limited, 1971. A Louis B. Mayer American Oral History Project prepared under the direction of The American Film Institute. - Revisited twice a book I first read as a schoolboy when it was fresh from the printers. It is a story of Hollywood, a Bildungsroman of a master of the mise-en-scène who rose to the top as the inspired director of Douglas Fairbanks and Gloria Swanson, and never stopped although he was no longer an A director after the transition to sound, yet made arguably his best movies during his last decade as a film director in the 1950s. This autobiographical interview book is hugely enjoyable to read, but healthy skepticism is necessary as when reading the interviews of Ford, Walsh, Hawks...

David Phelps and Gina Telaroli (ed.): Allan Dwan (A Dossier). E-book, free access, Lumière (Spain), June 2013, 460 pages. Multi-lingual, each essay in its original language only. - A huge and fascinating e-book anthology of 45 new essays on the long and rich career of the Hollywood master. I have read half of it and look forward to reading more, but essays on films I have not yet seen I may postpone for later. Fully illustrated.

Il Cinema Ritrovato, Catalogue 2013, XXVII edizione, Bologna, 29 giugno - 6 luglio, 2013. Bologna:  Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, 2013. In Italian and in English. - The Pordenone and Bologna catalogues keep getting better and have been for a long time valuable volumes on film history with accurate facts, new research and inspired interpretations, great reading even for ones who do not visit those festivals. I received the catalogue on arrival at the Bologna hospitality point but managed to read it from cover to cover first post festum, a week after the ending of the festival. I felt even more miserable realizing more acutely what I had missed. (It was possible to see but a fifth of the programme.)

Charles Barr: Vertigo. 2nd Edition. BFI Film Classics. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. A BFI book. Original edition 2002. - Revisited Charles Barr's sober and and intelligent study into cinema's most haunting study of romantic obsession.

Fritz Lang: Erinnerungen an Wien / Memories of Vienna. Vienna: Viennale, 2012. Bilingual: in German and English. Introduction by Bernard Eisenschitz. - An essential document written by Fritz Lang about his early days in Vienna. These memories have been available to the Fritz Lang biographers, and there are no new facts here, but it is a pleasure to read Lang's own humoristic and affectionate text, quoting some of his favourite songs and poems in extenso.

Peter von  Bagh, Markku Koski, Pekka Aarnio: Olavi Virta - legenda jo eläessään [Olavi Virta - a Legend during His Lifetime]. Third Edition. Full discography. The first edition was published in 1977. This edition: Porvoo - Helsinki - Juva: WSOY, 1995. - Olavi Virta was the greatest Finnish tango singer, whom we in Finland rate actually higher than Carlos Gardel. Virta was also a great and versatile popular singer in many musical genres that flourished before the breakthrough of rock'n'roll. Olavi Virta's life was a rise-and-fall story. This book is an engrossing evocation of the life and the times of a great popular artist, written with empathy and insight.

Tuhannen ja yhden yön tarinat 1-6 / Alf laila wa laila / ألف ليلة وليلة / A Thousand and One Nights. Originally from India, Iran, and Egypt, collected during ca 600-1300. This edition based on the Norwegian Waldemar Brøgger edition, Boken om tusen og en natt, 1950, based on the 1839 Calcutta edition. Translated into Finnish by Kaija Rainerla, Laila Järvinen, Seppo Heikinheimo, L. and R. Orispää, poems translated by Kaija Rainerla. Dovre D. Magnus Andersen Copyright Nasjonalforlaget A.S., Oslo 1968. - This belongs to my favourite summer cottage reading, and this time I focused on the final volume, with one of the most amazing tales, "Maaruf the Cobbler and His Wife Fatimah" at the very end. This volume is well edited with fascinating introductions, well translated Arabic poems and positively X rated inserts.

Johanneksen evankeliumi / Gospel of John / τὸ κατὰ Ἰωάννην εὐαγγέλιον. Originally written by the Johannite community in 85-90. In: Pyhä Raamattu / The Holy Bible, the 1938 Finnish translation by A. W. Ingman, Gabriel Geitlin, Juhani Aho, Otto Manninen, A. F. Puukko, Aug. F. Peltonen, and Juho Mannermaa. - My grandmother's Bible is always on my bedside, and I read it regularly, although I do not believe in God and do not belong to the Church. I keep learning new things during each round. Now I had reached the fourth gospel, the strangest of them all in its stark spirituality ("In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."). The Finnish translation is excellent and haunting, still bearing the influence of Agricola, the founder of Finnish literature. Connoisseurs rate the Finnish Bible translation highly, and I am sometimes disappointed when I try to find the King James equivalent to some Biblical expression. The most disturbing aspect of the Gospel of John is its anti-semitism. Written after the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish religious community it is particularly alarming. I interpret this as a sheltering procedure in an era when the atrocities of Nero were still in fresh memory and the persecutions of Domitian were going on. Nero made Christians the scapegoats of the burning of Rome, and in the Gospel of John Jews (instead of Romans) are made the culprits of the persecution of Jesus. This Gospel would have consequences from the Spanish Inquisition till the Holocaust.

Suomen sana 1-24. Kansalliskirjallisuutemme valiolukemisto [The Word of Finland. The Best of Finnish National Literature]. Conceived and edited by Yrjö A. Jäntti, board of editors: Martti Haavio, Yrjö A. Jäntti, Kauko Kare, Th. Warburton, Pekka Saloranta. Porvoo: WSOY, 1963-1967. The mightiest anthology of Finnish literature also belongs to my favourite summer reading. It was a folly of Yrjö A. Jäntti, the CEO of WSOY, Finland's top publishing house. Criticized for its conservative bias, it's not a balanced work, but I enjoy reading it as a magnificent one-sided survey into a lot of otherwise forgotten literature. This summer I discovered Eliel Lagercrantz's account of his fateful ski trek in Lapland in 1920, visiting hostile, even murderous Laestadian old believers in remote villages, and Tatu Valkonen's "My Adventure in Murmansk" about the year 1918 on the Red Russian side of the border, where he meets the actor Aarne Orjatsalo wearing an English officer's uniform magnificently. Both stories could be filmed and would seem incredible if they were not true. - A book about the love of the Word, also in the Biblical sense of the Logos, as in the opening sentence of the Gospel of John.

Rachel L. Carson: Meren ihmeet (The Sea Around Us, 1951). Read in the 1953 Finnish translation by Hilkka & Jussi Koskiluoma, second printing 1954. - A non-fiction masterpiece by the great marine biologist and pioneering conservationist. I have no idea how well the scientific facts hold true today, but the book is still a magnificent testimony about the oceanic experience anno 1951.

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