Thursday, August 29, 2013


Pieter Bruegel de Oude: De "Kleine" Toren van Babel (ca 1563). Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Naqoyqatsi: Life as War. US (c) 2002 Qatsi Productions / Miramax Films. P: Joe Beirne, Godfrey Reggio, Lawrence S. Taub. D+SC: Godfrey Reggio. DP: Russell Lee Fine. VFX: Manuel Gaulot. M: Philip Glass. Cello solos: Yo-Yo Ma. ED: Jon Kane. VET 171885 – S – 86 min. Park Circus print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Philip Glass, Helsinki Festival), 29 Aug 2013

"America is test-driving the future" (tagline).

Three movements: 1., 2. Circus maximus, 3: Rocketship twentieth century.

Naqoyqatsi is Hopi for war as a way of life. This final, digital entry to the Qatsi trilogy starts with Brueghel the Elder's painting of the Tower of Babel. This is the most abstract entry, with studies of digital abstraction, deep structures of ones and zeros, negative imagery, beings of light, computer graphics, waves of the sea, three-dimensional human models, fan-like impressions like in Norman McLaren's Pas de deux, moving inside the computer, into the cyber experience, a bit like in cyberpunk, exploding into Tussaud's Wax Museum images of famous personalities, montages of weapons, nuclear bombs, accelerando, airstrips, jetées, Zoetropes, crash test dummies, images of velocity, dromology, montages of brands, pizzas, hamburgers, symbols of religions, extreme political movements, images of disaster, political violence, mass gatherings, melting images from the history of painting, images from outer space, weightless conditions.

Awesome visions in an abstract movie which has moments of aesthetic hesitation.

The music of Philip Glass has again a leading role, and is again different from the others. The solo cello played by Yo-Yo Ma is prominent.

A fine photochemical print of a largely digitally created vision.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Powaqqatsi – Life in Transformation. US (c) 1988 NorthSouth 2, Ltd. PC: Golan Globus Productions, NorthSouth, Institute for Regional Education, Santa Fe. P: Mel Lawrence, Lawrence Taub, Godfrey Reggio. D: Godfrey Reggio. SC: Godfrey Reggion, Ken Richards. DP: Graham Berry, Leonidas Zourdaoumis. M: Philip Glass. ED: Iris Cahn, Miroslav Janek, Alton Walpole. Featuring: David Brinkley, Cheryl Tiegs. Telecast in Finland: 20.1.1994 TV1 - VET 110779 –  S – 96 min. A SFI-FA print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Philip Glass, Helsinki Festival), 28 Aug 2013

Powaqqatsi - the Hopi word means "life in transformation", or "a parasitic life" - is an exalted global vision juxtaposing utterly different ways of life, ancient and modern. There are long, epic sequences on hard manual labour, awesome and troubling. Powaqqatsi is a journey towards the origins of labour as a social phenomenon. It is also a majestic travelogue to some of the most breathtaking landscapes of the world: Alps, waterfalls, aerial views, fishermen. The journey proceeds to religious experiences, of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam. Beauty and squalor are juxtaposed. There are montages of commercials, television, and entertainment. Yet a sense of spirituality transcends them all.

The film is music-driven. The music of Philip Glass is rhythmic - there is a big orchestra - and choirs - there is a majestic grandeur - and epic heroism - a strong pulse - the music is very versatile - there are voices of children - there is train music - there are passages for the flute - and passages driven by percussions.

The colour is deep and good in this fine print.


Toivo Kärki and Reino Helismaa in the 1950s. Museovirasto.
Repe ‒ sirpaleita Reino Helismaan elämästä / Fragments of the Life of Reino Helismaa. FI 1979. PC: Yleisradio / TV1 / Viihdetoimitus. P: Erkki Pohjanheimo. D+SC: Peter von Bagh. DP: Antero Virta, Pauli Laalo. S: Pekka Heinonen. ED: Paavo Eskelinen. Featuring: Reino Helismaa, Esa Pakarinen, Toivo Kärki, Tapio Rautavaara, Regina Sjöholm, Tamara Dernjatin, Ossi Runne, Olavi Virta, Matti Louhivuori, Jorma Ikävalko, Metro-Tytöt. First telecast: 22.2.1979 Yle TV1 ‒ VET A-25259 ‒ S ‒ colour + b&w, 1,37:1 ‒ 63 min
    "Fragments from the life of Reijo Helismaa. A cinematic portrait of a great figure of entertainment."
    Risto Jarva Prize at Tampere Film Festival 1980.
    Vhs release: 1985 Yleisradio / Tallennepalvelu.
    Yle Export digibeta viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Peter von Bagh), 28 Aug 2013

Reino Helismaa (Repe, 1913-1965) was a Finnish writer, entertainer, comedian, singer, songwriter, lyricist, composer, actor, and screenwriter. He wrote some 5000 song lyrics, 1500 of which were recorded. Many of his songs have become evergreens. He also wrote many popular radioplays.

Peter von Bagh's tv movie is a tribute to the great entertainer, told by Repe's best friends and compagnons, full of memorable songs, covering important aspects such as - the lure of Lapland - the rillumarei phenomenon of lowbrow farce - touring life on the road - teaming with Tapio Rautavaara - teaming with Toivo Kärki the genius songwriter - teaming with Ossi Runne the bandleader - the incredible speed - the Wild West in the comic radioplays - voracious reading of the best poets: Asunta, Jylhä, Leino, Shakespeare - the secret sources of a great sense of humour - he was a shy guy deep down - the popular tradition of jätkä, reissumies: the tramp, the vagabond, the lumberjack, "Me tulemme taas" - he was a country boy fundamentally.

The key to von Bagh's story is the friendship of Tapsa and Repe, based on a deeply moving account by Tapio Rautavaara, perhaps with aspects of "print the legend" for instance in the unforgettable deathbed story.

The autumn landscape, filmed for Repe, has a Tarkovskyan quality. "Repe ei oo enää". "Repe is no more".

Visual quality: digibeta from a 1979 tv production.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Matti Ijäs in a discussion with Lauri Timonen

Matti Ijäs: Katsastus [Inspection] (tvm, FI 1988) starring Markku Maalismaa (Junnu) and Vesa Vierikko (Viltteri). A cult movie, a road movie, a Northern Finland movie based on the short stories of Joni Skiftesvik, the most popular Finnish teleplay of the 1980s.

Cinema Orion, Helsinki (The Short Story and the Cinema seminar arranged by the Novelli palaa! project of Nuoren Voiman Liitto), 24 August 2013

The film director Matti Ijäs talked over an hour with Lauri Timonen, the author of a splendid new book on Ijäs, and I took six pages of notes. Ijäs told how Katsastus was constructed from three short stories by Joni Skiftesvik and the importance of the open ending.

Different authors are interesting for different reasons: Anton Chekhov for his versatility, Veijo Meri for his sparseness.

First of all, good characters are essential. Secondly, the atmosphere can be open to associations.

A novel needs to be approached with a bulldozer, a short story with sharp scissors. A novel is enslaved by plot. A short story needs to be embellished by writing more full versions of secondary characters.

The only writers I have collaborated with are Joni Skiftesvik and Arto Melleri. The other adaptations have been very free, indeed. It is customary to search for additional material from the world of the author.

Tuulikaappimaa is based on the novel by Jari Tervo. The plot is convoluted in the extreme, throwing somersaults, bordering on the incredible. It is exasperating what to throw out. Generally writers give me my freedom. A novel is much more difficult to dramatize.

Martti Joenpolvi is a leading short story writer. Johanneksen leipäpuu has a strange tension, it is a longish short story about the grim fate of a small enterpreneur, who via his focus on his enterprise destroys his own family. Juha Lehtola was a screenwriter also in my other Martti Joenpolvi adaptation, Pala valkoista marmoria.

It would be great to make a ten part series of the best Finnish short stories, from Pentti Haanpää to the 1980s.

Kolme suudelmaa was only inspired by Anton Chekhov, his story A Man in a Case. I added also material from his notebooks and created an account of a contemporary man in a case.

Fables can be a starting point, but I'm interested in conflict, paradox, surprise. A fox who is not sly. A stupid ass with a good heart. The basic structure needs to be clear cut. Then you can introduce twists and turns. Simplicity is great.

Matti Pellonpää had a quick grasp. He was like a sponge. He soaked up influences from everywhere.

Characters create the milieu.

Literary humour and cinematic humour are different things.

Pelistä pois: I admire Jacques Tati. There is often no climax. Yet one needs an uplift. It is more an inner event. Not external.

Something that is little from the exterior but great in the interior, that is a hallmark of a good short story.

I enjoy a good plot, but myself, I'm not good at that. A plot has become a sofa, things made too easy. A different way of storytelling is felt strange.

Weakness makes a character good, it stirs up action. Weakness is human, say, in a night watchman who is afraid of the dark. A hero is always a coward in some respect. Conflict evokes action, plot.

A tension in a story is created from little things, fears, obsessions, secrets. The turning point is about how the characters expand, are revealed.

Language is difficult to translate into images, and especially difficult when there is little external action.

Dialogue was easy in Katsastus, in the Skiftesvik spirit, there is good dialogue there.

Sometimes you can cover ten pages of a story with a single image. Milieu: you do not need to explain it.

Q: In existentialist literature no emotions are exposed or registered. When directors follow them slavishly all protagonists are coole, without emotions. A: There is increasingly a mere registration of things. Nobody can touch the hard-boiled one. For me it is interesting how much is covered. The character is shattered, and the facade is leaking. A cool facade is essential in the movies. Via close-ups you can examine it better than in the theatre.

Q: Which short story would you take to the desert island? A: Chekhov's collected works.

Katsastus / [The Inspection]

FI 1984. PC: Yleisradio / TV1 / Televisioteatteri. P: Hannu Kahakorpi. D: Matti Ijäs. SC: Joni Skiftesvik - dramatized by Matti Ijäs and Timo Torikka - based on the short stories "Vanha mies" (1983), "Näprääjä" (1983), and "Katsastus" (1985) by Joni Skiftesvik - published in the collections Viltteri ja Mallu (2003) and Katsastus (2010). DP: Pauli Sipiläinen. AD: Paula Salonen. Cost: Outi Harjupatana. M: Antti Hytti. "My Way", "Blue Suede Shoes", "Nuoruusmuistoja" ("on arkea elomme tää"), "Not Fade Away". S: Martti Miettinen. ED: Pipsa Valavaara. C: Vesa Vierikko (Viltteri), Sulevi Peltola (Öövin), Markku Maalismaa (Junnu), Kaija Pakarinen (Mallu the wife), Taneli Mäkelä (the priest), Olli Pellikka (iskelmälaulaja / the pop singer), Tuula Nyman (keeper of the hot dog stand), Veikko Kerttula. - The car: Hillman Minx (1958). - Loc: Tornionjokilaakso. First telecast 1.9.1988 Yle TV1 (Kunnon Kino) - video release: 1989 Yle Tallennepalvelu - VET I-01564 - S - 56 min. Yle Tallennepalvelu digibeta screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (The Short Story and the Cinema seminar), 24 Aug 2013

Elonet synopsis: "An optimistic tragedy about three ageing bachelors, Viltteri, Öövin, and Junnu. Viltteri takes his sweetheart Mallu to wed, but the wedding party is interrupted by the imminent urgency to rush to the birth clinic. Viltteri has to remain with his other "sweetheart", a 1958 Hillman Minx motorcar which breaks down in an embarrassing moment. On the Swedish side of the border it might be possible to pull the car inspection off."

This television movie by Matti Ijäs has become an authentic Finnish cult movie. Many know it by heart, and it is being repeatedly shown in video and dvd evenings.

This tragicomical and deeply felt story has an affinity with the 1950s classics by Federico Fellini (I vitelloni, La strada, Le notti di Cabiria). There is a sadness, a sense of humour, and a profound, irrepressible sense of vitality in the account of people who have remained in the marginal, and whom the world of the successful may regard as losers. Yet we are them and they are us.

This is an actor-, performance- and character-driven story.

I have been intrigued by the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding. This account of a cancelled wedding party comes close to that territory.

Video quality.

Le Plaisir, followed by a lecture on Maupassant on the screen by Satu Kyösola

Max Ophuls: Le Plaisir (FR 1952), central episide La Maison Tellier, sequence: la première communion. Paulette Dubost as Madame Fernande. The most moving religious scene in the history of the cinema.

Lemmenunelma / Kärlekens fröjder [the Swedish title on screen].
    FR 1952. PC: Compagnie Commerciale Française Cinématographique (CCFC) / Stera Films. P: M. Kieffer – Le Modèle: Édouard Harispuru – Ben Barkay, Max Ophüls (n.c.).
    D: Max Ophüls [thus spelt in the credit sequence]. SC: Max Ophüls, Jacques Natanson – dialogue: Jacques Natanson – based on three short stories, Le Masque (1889), La Maison Tellier (1881), and Le Modèle (1883), by Guy de Maupassant. DP: Christian Matras – Le Modèle: Philippe Agostini. PD: Jean D'Eaubonne, assistant PD: Jacques Guth. Set dec: Robert Christidès. Cost: Georges Annenkov. Makeup: Carmen Brel, Roger Chanteau. Hair: Jules Chanteau, Simone Knapp. S: Pierre-Louis Calvet, Jean Rieul. ED: Léonide Azar.
    M: Joe Hayos (Joe Hajos), Maurice Yvain – themes of Jacques Offenbach and W. A. Mozart.
"Plus près de Toi, mon Dieu" ("Nearer, My God, to Thee", 1841, comp. Lowell Mason, lyrics Sarah Flower Adams).
– The theme waltz: "Ma grand'mère" (P.–J. de Béranger, ca 1820, lyrics translated into Finnish as "Yö" by Lauri Viljanen).
–  W. A. Mozart: "Ave verum corpus" (1791) KV 618 [the church sequence and the beach of the finale].
    LE MASQUE: Claude Dauphin (le docteur), Janine Vienot (la poule du docteur), Jean Galland (Ambroise, "the mask"), Gaby Morlay (sa femme Denise).
    LA MAISON TELLIER: Madeleine Renaud (Madame Tellier), Danielle Darrieux (Madame Rosa), Ginette Leclerc (Madame Flora dite Balançoire), Mila Parély (Madame Raphaële), Paulette Dubost (Madame Fernande), Mathilde Casadesus (Madame Louise dite Cocotte), Pierre Brasseur (Julien Ledentu, le commis-voyageur), Jean Gabin (Joseph Rivet), Amédée (Frédéric, le serveur).
     LE MODELE: Daniel Gélin (Jean, le peintre), Simone Simon (Joséphine, le modèle).
    Loc: Normandie: Calvados (Clécy, Trouville) – les environs de Pontécoulant – la scène de la communion est filmée autour de l'église de La Chapelle-Engerbold (Calvados) et à Trouville-sur-mer. Studios: Franstudio (Joinville-le-pont, Val-de-Marne), Studios Éclair (Épinay-sur-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis), Studios de Boulogne-Billancourt/SFP.
     Helsinki premiere 14 Nov 1952 Ritz, released by Columbia Films – telecast 11.9.1976 Yle TV2, 17.6.1977 and 21.7.1989 Yle TV1 – VET 36666 – K16 – 2650 m / 97 min.
     A SFI Filmarkivet print with Swedish subtitles by Gunnar Tannefors and e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio (incorporating the Finnish translation of Lauri Viljanen to the theme waltz lyrics) viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (The Short Story and the Cinema), 24 Aug 2013

"Le bonheur n'est pas gai."

The old bon vivant who dons the mask of a youngster at the dance palace. The maison close whose ladies take a vacation to participate in the confirmation of the brothel-keeper's niece. The model who falls fatally for an artist.

A masterpiece which keeps growing in stature at each viewing. I saw it first as a schoolboy, only being able to admire the virtuosity of the mise-en-scène at the time. But Le Plaisir is also a work of bitter wisdom.

LE MASQUE: The delusion of "eternal youth" is always topical, today taking place with facelifts and Viagra. LA MAISON TELLIER: the experience of the sublime in unusual circumstances; close to the teaching of Jesus, however. LE MODELE: mistaking desire for love can be fatal.

Max Ophuls rises to the level of Guy de Maupassant. These are stories told with verve, gusto, and refinement. There is a stinging bite of irony in them. But the basic undercurrent is that of tenderness.

The stories seem to witness that carnal desire leads us astray. Sex is a good servant and a bad master.

The greatest tenderness is evident in the Tellier ladies' pilgrimage to the countryside. The feelings of warmth and generosity are genuine. The pastoral idyll is profound. At night the theme waltz is sung. After that there is an "infinite, almost holy silence", "a silence that reaches to the stars". "Le silence me casse les oreilles". The silence is so overwhelming that the women cannot sleep. The contrast between the holy and the ostensibly profane is striking.

The actual première communion sequence at the church is the climax of the story and the entire film, and one of the most unforgettable holy scenes in the history of the cinema. Something higher touches the congregation. Something holy is present. Everybody cries. - My guess is that everybody in Cinema Orion cried, as well. - This feeling befits my Durkheimian approach to religion.

Guy de Maupassant's words have been incorporated into the film with the device of Jean Servais as the author-narrator. Servais also plays the friend of Jean and Joséphine in the final, the most tragic, story. We can find in him Maupassant's alter ego appearing in his own story. It is a wise and moving solution.

Satu Kyösola gave a fine lecture on Maupassant and the cinema, inspired by Jean-Pierre Berthomé's study Le Plaisir (1997). She took her time with wide-ranging contextualization. The lecture got more focused towards the end, and probably a lot had to be cut due to a lack of time. I look forward to being able to read her full version.

Friday, August 23, 2013

World premiere in public screening: Film concert Walt Disney / Jean Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela (Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra / Erkki Lasonpalo)

Walt Disney: The Swan of Tuonela (US 1940 sketched, 2000 reconstructed for Fantasia Anthology: Fantasia Legacy).

A Walt Disney Production of Jean Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela (sketched in 1940, reconstructed for Fantasia Anthology: Fantasia Legacy, 2000)
    9 min
    Triple screen Coolux digital video projection at Helsinki Music Centre, 23 August 2013 (Helsinki Festival / Disney Concert Library / Film Concert Disney Fantasia).
    Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor: Erkki Lasonpalo.

The Swan of Tuonela was a part of the original Fantasia Continued project. The animation was sketched during the 1940s, but when Fantasia Continued was discontinued, nothing more happened until a reconstruction was made for the Fantasia Legacy disc in the Fantasia Anthology triple box set in 2000.

The reconstruction has been conducted with good taste from the pastel sketches. The camera moves inside them, and the montage effects are subtle.

Tuonela is the Hades of the Finnish mythology, the Land of Death. A daring subject for a Disney anthology, but not completely strange. Disney's first Silly Symphony was The Skeleton Dance to the tune of the Trolltog / March of the Trolls by Edvard Grieg (Lyriske stykker, Hefte V, Nr. 3, 1891).

The sketches are at times almost abstract. There is a world of ice, in which the ship of Tuonela sails amongst the icebergs. The swan swims in the icy waters, the gloomy streams, evading the maelström. There are vapours, there are rings of water, there are vortexes. The death is the final home. There is a sense of the death instinct, der Todestrieb.

The mountains are desolate, the colour world is dark, gloomy, cold, and gray. A ghostly light emerges from beyond the clouds. Spectral, radiant beings emerge like in a near death experience.

The interpretation of Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Erkki Lasonpalo, was profoundly moving. I kept hearing this music in my mind for days afterwards.

Although the visual quality of this Fantasia film concert was generally dreary, in the Swan of Tuonela episode there was no problem because there is hardly any warm colour in the animation.

Vesa Sirén wrote about the Jean Sibelius / Walt Disney collaboration in Helsingin Sanomat (23 August, 2013), revealing previously unknown facts for the first time.

Vesa Sirén reports that in December 1940 Jean Sibelius received a letter from Walt Disney Company with an illustrated logo of Walt Disney's Fantasia, complete with dancing hippopotami.

John C. Rose wrote (I translate back to English from Sirén's Finnish translation) that "Walt Disney has admired your music for a long time and considers that animated pictures have now reached such a standard that they could do justice to The Swan of Tuonela on the screen".

Mr. Rose stated that The Swan of Tuonela is not protected by copyright in the United States but Disney would not proceed without the composer's permission. According to Rose the film would reverently depict the tale of the swan of Tuonela based on the great epic poem Kalevala.

The letter was accompanied by a recommendation by Hjalmar J. Procopé, the Ambassador of Finland in the U.S.A.: the project would bring favourable publicity to Finnish culture.

The original Fantasia had just been released, and Disney wanted to revive it annually. The Swan of Tuonela was planned for the next edition.

Sometimes it has been assumed that Sibelius refused to participate, but in fact he was more enthusiastic than has been known. I happened upon a letter from Rolando Pieraccini's private collection, dated in February 1941. In it Sibelius asks his friend for help in the contacts with Disney.

"Disney's films are world-famous. I would figure I might receive a substantial reward, which would be highly desirable, as I am getting hardly any compensations from America", wrote Sibelius.

Many sketches were drawn at the Disney company for The Swan of Tuonela. Yet the original Fantasia film did not succeed in the box office as well as had been expected, and plans about new Fantasia versions were put on ice.

Erkki Lasonpalo comments that he is forced to keep the tempi quite slow in other Fantasia segments, following Leopold Stokowski (in Fantasia 1940) and James Levine (in Fantasia 2000).

But in The Swan of Tuonela the imagery does not consist of rapidly changing and fast moving cartoon characters. Instead, on display are slowly changing sketches in which the camera zooms about. 

"I need to pay attention to the total duration but otherwise we can play as in a regular concert".

In the Thursday rehearsal the The Swan of Tuonela sketches radiated with respect towards Sibelius and the Kalevala mythology, precisely as the Disney company had assured to the composer. 

The players of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra burst into an applause when the opus had been played together with the visualization.

"It did look fine. No need for Donald Duck to scurry about in Tuonela", smirked the violinist Erkki Palola. (End of my digest from Vesa Sirén's article.)

Film concert Disney Fantasia (Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra / Erkki Lasonpalo)

Triple screen Coolux digital video projection at Helsinki Music Centre, 23 August 2013 (Helsinki Festival / Disney Concert Library).

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor: Erkki Lasonpalo.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5: Allegro con brio - Fantasia 2000 - 3 min
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 6: excerpt - Fantasia (1940) - 11 min
P. I. Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Chinese Dance, Dance of the Flutes, Arabian Dance, Russian Dance, Waltz of the Flowers) - Fantasia (1940) - 15 min
Claude Debussy: Clair de lune - (produced in 1940, the animation initially released as Blue Bayou, later released with the originally intended Debussy score in Fantasia Anthology: Fantasia Legacy, 2000) - 6 min
Jean Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela (sketched in 1940, reconstructed in Fantasia Anthology: Fantasia Legacy, 2000) - 9 min


Amilcare Ponchielli: Dance of the Hours - Fantasia (1940) - 12 min
Paul Dukas: The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Fantasia (1940) - 9 min
Edward Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance - Fantasia 2000 - 8 min
Ottorino Respighi: Pines of Rome - Fantasia 2000 - 10 min
Camille Saint-Saëns: The Carnival of the Animals: Finale - Fantasia 2000 - 2 min

The encore (the jazz variation of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Bumble Boogie, from Melody Time, 1948) was not played, although there were four rounds of applauses.

The best and the worst of Disney... The highlights of the film concert were The Nutcracker Suite, Clair de lune, The Swan of Tuonela, Dance of the Hours, and The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Top laugh number with the chidren was Dance of the Hours (the ballet of the ostriches, the hippopotami, the elephants, the crocodiles).

It makes a difference to hear these compositions live. There was a sense of fun, joy, and yes, fantasy, in The Nutcracker Suite, as well as in Dance of the Hours and The Sorcerer's Apprentice. The sound was magnificent in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Pomp and Circumstance, and Pines of Rome. In Pines of Rome, a wind instrument section appeared in the very back of the concert hall and filled the space with a gorgeous sound. The hall was vibrating with the power and beauty of music.

The visual quality of the presentation was terrible, far from the authentic, gorgeous quality of the Fantasia imagery. The warm colours were consistently off, garish or tasteless. The blacks, the blues, the grays, and the whites were not bad. The visual experience was like that on a flat-screen television in a department store: drab or garish.

See separate entry on Fantasia: The Swan of Tuonela - the world premiere screening of the reconstruction that was initially released in the Fantasia Anthology dvd box set (in 2000).

Jukka Isopuro reviewed the Film Concert Disney Fantasia in Helsingin Sanomat (on 25 August, 2013). "A silent concentration testified to the reverence of the reception at the Fantasia film concert. Half were grown-ups, half children. Finally a laughter was ringing out loud when the funniest episodes were displayed on the screen."

"The music played by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra was a luxury production of giant proportions. The film, Disney's Fantasia with added episodes, projected on three screens, occupied a more modest, yet appropriate space. The conductor Erkki Lasonpalo maintained the synch between the music and the images with the help of the video monitor. Even the recurrent knocking motif of the conclusion of the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was in perfect synch, complete with the ritardandi."

"The pieces were mostly compilations, arrangements, and digests of the original compositions. Caramel colours, chubby fairy-tale figures, and transparent fairies soared on the screen. As the images dictated the tempi, the spirit of the 1940 conductor Leopold Stokowski was revived. In contemporary performances one never gets to hear such a juicy ring of a bass clarinet."

"The illustration to Sibelius's The Swan of Tuonela was different from the others. The leisurely zooms into the pastel sketches displayed a symbolistic Nordic landscape and a swan in the shape of a boat. The fit of Elgar's composite march Pomp and Circumstance to a story of Donald Duck in Noah's Ark was strained."

"After a stunning condensation of Respighi's Pines of Rome illustrated with humpback whales, the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns was a welcome relief."

Démanty noci / Diamonds of the Night, preceded by a reading of Arnošt Lustig by Laura Laitinen, followed by a lecture "The Short Story and Cutting" by Jan Forsström

Yön timantit / Nattens diamanter. CZ 1964. PC: Filmové studio Barrandov. D: Jan Němec. SC: Arnošt Lustig, Jan Němec – based on Démanty noci by Arnošt Lustig. DP: Jaroslav Kučera. Second camera operator: Miroslav Ondříček. PD+AD: Oldrich Bosák. Cost: Ester Krumbachová, Zdena Snajdarová. ED: Miroslav Hájek. S: Frantisek Cerný. C: Ladislav Janský (1. boy), Antonín Kumbera (2. boy), Ilse Bischofová (woman), Jan Říha, Ivan Aič, August Bischof, Josef Koggel, Oskar Miller, Anton Schich, Rudolf Stolle. Helsinki premiere: 11.11.1966 Sininen Kuu, distributed by Suomi Filmi – VET 74276 - K12 - 64 min - the Finnish release version was 1840 m / 67 min (withdrawn from circulation after the crushing of the Prague Spring).
    A NFA Prague print with English subtitles by the Barrandov Studios viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (The Short Story and the Cinema seminar arranged by the Novelli palaa! project of Nuoren Voiman Liitto), 23 August 2013

Before the screening Laura Laitinen read the opening of Arnošt Lustig's novel version of the story, Tma nemá stín / Darkness Casts No Shadow (1991), translated by Nina Saikkonen as Pimeydellä ei ole varjoa (Like, 2008).

A stark, atavistic survival story, a chase story reduced to bare essentials. Fleeing from a train to Auschwitz, the fugitive Jewish boys run for their lives. The story is about utter exhaustion, about a reality which is like a nightmare. The energy is drained, the force is vanishing, the spirit is disappearing. Hunger, exhaustion, mortal danger, barking dogs, extreme states of consciousness. The shoe is too tight, the foot rag is bloody, the mouth so dry that bread tears wounds in the mouth. Old rangers hunt the boys methodically and catch them. The darkness of the forest is waiting. The boys manage to escape, but is it a death dream?

A visually powerful experience based on subjective camera, amplified by dream-like flashbacks, and spiced by alternative realities. The high contrast look is intentional.

A great NFA Prague print.

Jan Forsström gave a splendid lecture focusing on three topics: 1) the golden age of Czech cinema in the 1960s, 2) the short story and cutting, and 3) literary adaptation.

In a short period, in 1963-1969, many great directors such as Milos Forman, Jiri Menzel, Ivan Passer, Vera Chytilova, Evald Schorm, Jan Nemec, etc., produced an amazing number of inspired films. Even some of the older guard, such as Frantisek Vlacil and Karel Kachyna, found a new inspiration. A significant number of the new talent graduated from the FAMU film school in 1961-1963. (FAMU = Filmová a televizní fakulta Akademie múzických umění).

The Czech New Wave ended with the occupation of the Warsaw Pact tanks which crushed the Prague Spring of 1968.

Josef Skvorecky has detailed four factors which made the Czech New Wave.

The good sides of socialism included: no budget problems, long production periods, the FAMU experience with the best teachers. The period of "socialist realism" really was restricted to the early 1950s only. The audiences rejected those idealistic stories. The thaw made rebellion possible.

The contribution of the writers was great. There was a renaissance of literature (Kundera, Skvorecky, Hrabal, Lustig), and there was also a solid literary tradition (Jan Neruda, Kafka, Capek, Hasek). There was also a long tradition of mutual influence between literature and cinema. All writers participated in film adaptations. An interesting case is Perlicke na dne / Pearls from the Deep, based on five stories by Hrabal. The best talents worked together.

Jan Nemec was un enfant terrible of the new wave. The Party and the Guests and Martyrs of Love were among his other main works. His approach was the opposite of Forman and Menzel. He wanted to distance himself from verisimilitude. He pursued a pure cinema, his models were Chaplin, Bresson, Buñuel, Fellini, and Bergman.

Nemec's wife was Ester Krumbachová, a mother figure of the Czech new wave, 13 years older, 40 years of age, a costume designer, art director and screenwriter, and unofficial dramatist and production designer.

When Nemec was forced to emigrate he did not adapt to US production culture. He branched to directing wedding videos with ambition. Back in Czechoslovakia after the fall of the wall he made extremely experimental, subjective, essayistic documentaries.

Krumbachová stayed and went on as a costume designer in theatres.

The books of Arnost Lustig were based on his own experiences, how he lost his family in the Holocaust. His own favourite was Diamonds of the Night (1958), a collection of short stories. The tale on which the film is based was first a short story of 50-60 pages in that collection.

In his U.S. emigration Lustig expanded the short story to a novella, a short novel. I personally prefer the original story. It is expressive, painted with a large brush, psychologically laconic, the dialogue is concrete, there is an aspect of litany, with an odd mental state, a strange childish innocence, expressive of an emptiness after a state of shock, a feeling of a state of zero, with a loss of depth, feelings of hunger and thirst highlighted. The feelings are not deep, there are only hunches of the concentration camp experience. There is an affinity with Beckett and Keaton in the sense of banality and absurdity.

In the novel there are changes inspired by the film adaptation, but the tale works better without dialogue. The original tension disappears. The more full background information and the expanded room for self-reflection expel the sense of an after-shock, the sense of what it is to be a human in an extreme state of being.

A human being in such an extreme state is volatile and dangerous.

Understatement is a major stylistic means of expression, based on authentic psychological observation.

In the film adaptation the plot is the same. The film starts after the prologue of the novel version which we just heard as read by Laura Laitinen. The dialogue has been stripped away. The vaudeville duo of the boys has been omitted. The actors resemble Bressonian models.

The absurdity, the repetitiveness remains, including the extended, grotesque and absurd section with the old men.

There is nothing ennobling in either the book or the film.

The concentration camp memories have been omitted. The only remaining detail is the shoe which has been exchanged with a bit of bread, the shoe that starts to chafe.

The movie focuses more on the dark-haired, younger boy. The goal is universal, to go deep into one mind. The goal is already evident in Lustig. There are few period details.

The boys do not look Jewish. The movie is a generalized vision about escape, about man in an extreme situation.

The emphasis is on physical aspects: - rain - thirst - hunger - fatigue. There is a Bressonian affinity, but spirituality is missing, the approach is more humanistic. It is more carnal, more sexual, more Buñuelian. The explicit element is the image of the ants on the hand.

It is about the experience inside the mind, and outside, a cruel and absurd experience, of flesh, dirt, of sanctification, sometimes close to Tarkovsky, also in the imagery of water and mud.

About the characters we know nothing. They lie, they do not admit they are Jewish.

The flashbacks offer no information. They are mere emotion, mere associations.

The film is a cinematic stream of consciousness. It also resembles Fellini's 8½ and Polanski's Repulsion as an account of a mind falling apart.

The cinematography is bold and expressive, by Jaroslav Kučera, the husband of Věra Chytilová, assisted by the hand-held camera of the second camera operator Miroslav Ondříček.

The soundscape is Bressonian, based on concrete sounds, enlarged - tight and focused. Everyday sound is emphasized. There is no composed music, only diegetic music. There are no actual sound effects.

The performances are understated, quasi amateurish, resembling Bressonian models, non-acting. The physical presence of the persons is emphasized, and the physical presence is in a way documented.

There are rough edges in the film wich was made in a hurry before it would be banned. There is a sense of generalization, of being based on types. The security of fiction is missing. An unpredictable world is on display.

There are affinities with Bresson, Buñuel, and Resnais in the editing. The time layers are mixed. The editor Miroslav Hájek has edited 178 films.

There are inexplicable images. There are flashbacks, memories, fantasies, mind games, and associations.

In the beginning the film is objective. Then it gets tighter. It turns Expressionistic. The number of extreme close-ups keeps growing.

We are plunged into a physical experience. At times the cut does not take place, and the situation just goes on and on. The boys are just plain exhausted.

The first memory is a fantasy. The notion of death is present. There is an alteration of sound and silence. During the forest trek the scene of covering oneselves with tree branches may be just a mind image. At the woman's house three- four times the boy goes through the thought process of whether the woman should be killed. The woman puts on a scarf, goes out and perhaps betrays the refugees. The home security patrol is alerted. There is also a memory of a tram ride in the city. There is a scarcity of information. Certain images are just images of memories.

There are two endings: of dying and not dying. As for me, they do not die, and the "execution" is just a black joke. The youngsters escape into the depth of the forest.

Like in Albert Camus's L'Hôte / Yövieras the conclusion is symbolic. There is no exit. It is a Sisyphus variation. Like in Primo Levi, there is no escape, it does no really happen. The act transforms the one who experiences it. He will always remain in the eternal forest.

The editing was profoundly influenced by Resnais, and there are affinities with Hiroshima, Marienbad, and films that the makers had not yet seen such as Muriel, and La Guerre est finie. The editing is a revolution. It is a mental truth. It did not emerge out of nowhere. There were predecessors such as - Soviet montage - Buñuel and Dali - Deren and Hammid (Meshes of the Afternoon) - with later reverberations in Lynch. Hammid was a Czech, and he had been the art director of Ekstase, famous for its nature mysticism.

The meta-filmic editing is based on memory, as in Toute la mémoire du monde, Nuit et brouillard, and Hiroshima, mon amour. The woman sees her lover's hand, there is a memory of the hand, and memories condensed, a compilation of memories.

There is a cinematic conditional tense: "maybe thus", as later in La Guerre est finie.

In literature, such devices had been developed in le nouveau roman, in works by Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet. Nathalie Sarraute's daughter was the editor of Hiroshima, mon amour.

The account is not of the objective world, but of states of mind, memories, everything is approached via the consciousness.

In Modernistic literature (Joyce, Woolf, Proust) the mind is more important than external events. Démanty noci is an exercise is a cinematic stream of consciousness, based on psychological editing, phenomenological editing, editing as an expression of experience

"Kill your darlings" is the first commandment of an editor, and thus the opening of the story has been cut. The film is created from a memory bank, and in the sound bank there is a continuity from the soundscape of the previous image.

Antti Alanen: The Short Story and the Cinema (a lecture)

Antti Alanen: Novelli ja elokuva / The Short Story and the Cinema. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 23 Aug 2013

The film we just saw, Lady with the Dog (1960), is based on a short story by Anton Chekhov, and the film adaptation was directed by Iosif Kheifits. Kheifits had debuted in the 1920s collaborating with Alexander Zarkhi, and switched to a solo career after Stalin's death, becoming one of the first directors of the thaw, launching Aleksey Batalov and directing him in six films. Batalov became a signature actor of the thaw in films such as The Cranes Are Flying. Lady with the Dog is Kheifits's masterpiece, followed by further Chekhov adaptations (In the Town of S, based on Ionich, and The Duel).

A big fan of Kheifits's Lady with the Dog film adaptation was Ingmar Bergman who stated that Chekhov's stories are practically synopses ready to be filmed: - visually suggestive - with a strong atmosphere - with characters clearly drawn - and with a lot of dialogue. The fundamental reason for such adaptability being that Chekhov was always a dramatist who thought in scenes.

Seán Ó Faoláin highlighted Chekhov's story Lady with the Dog in his book The Short Story which became influential in Finland, as well, quoted liberally by Annamari Sarajas, and Pekka Tarkka, among others, in key writings.

Ó Faoláin quoted the first sentence in Chekhov's late story (Chekhov only wrote four more stories after that, having by then already written over 600 stories altogether): "Говорили, что на набережной появилось новое лицо: дама с собачкой." / "It was reported that a new face had been seen on the quay; a lady with a little dog."

"The amount of information conveyed in that sentence is an interesting example of the shorthand of the modern short-story. What do we gather from it? 'It was reported that a new face had been seen on the quay; a lady with a little dog.' We gather, altogether by implication, that the scene is laid in a port. We gather that this port is a seaside resort, for ladies with little dogs do not perambulate on commercial docks. We gather that the season is fine weather - probably summer or autumn. We gather that this seaside resort is a sleepy, unfrequented little place: for one does not observe new faces at big, crowded places like Brighton or Deauville. Furthermore, the phrase 'it was reported' implies that gossip circulates in a friendly way at this sleepy resort. We gather still more. We gather that somebody has been bored and wakes up at this bit of gossip; and that we shall presently hear about him. I say 'him,' because one again guesses, when it is a question of a lady, that the person most likely to be interested is a man. And sure enough the next sentence confirms all this. 'Dimitri Gomov who had been a fortnight at Yalta and got used to it... ' And so on." (Seán Ó Faoláin: The Short Story, p. 151).

In a film adaptation such an art of suggestion is lost, and the essence of the work must be conveyed in an entirely different manner.

The question of adaptation has been central in narrative cinema since the earliest days, since Georges Méliès, and since the veritable flood of adaptations that was launched fast already during the period of early cinema.

When Alfred Hitchcock was asked why he does not film works of his favourite authors such as Dostoyevsky, Poe, and Kafka, he answered that he would not have anything to add to them. Almost all of his films were adaptations, but not of the greatest classics of literature.

Yet great films have been made on the basis of great literature. Our "The Short Story and the Cinema" series has been a year in the planning, and we decided to mount a programme of great films based on great stories:

Lady with the Dog / Anton Chekhov - Iosif Kheifits
Diamonds of the Night / Arnošt Lustig - Jan Němec
Le Plaisir / three stories by Guy de Maupassant - Max Ophuls
Katsastus / The Inspection / Joni Skiftesvik - Matti Ijäs
The Dead / James Joyce - John Huston
La Chute de la Maison Usher / Edgar Allan Poe - Jean Epstein
Rashomon / Ryunosuke Akutagawa - Akira Kurosawa
Kun on tunteet / Feelings at Play / Maria Jotuni - Erik Blomberg and Mirjami Kuosmanen
Brokeback Mountain - Annie Proulx - Ang Lee

Returning to the origins of storytelling, to the age before the emergence of the short story as an established literary form, we need to discuss fairy-tales. Hopefully for each of us this refers to the origins of storytelling in our personal lives, too, as it is a great privilege that fairy-tales have been read aloud to us when we were little children and could not yet read. Fairy-tales may be short or long (even The Lord of the Rings is a fairy-tale); short stories are as a rule short works of prose which take place in a realistic world. Yet fairy-tales are relevant for several reasons. They are fountainheads of the narrative, and several currents of narrative run from fairy-tales. The distinction of the folk-tale and the art tale is important. Vladimir Propp's analysis of the functions of the folk-tale has been hugely influential and fruitful in the analysis of entertainment cinema in general. Many art tales, such as certain dark tales by H. C. Andersen, are actually not suitable for children at all.

The fairy-tales of Aisopos, Perrault, Grimm, Andersen, Topelius, Swan, Krylov, and others have been always been material for an immense amount of film adaptations, including animations. It is in the nature of the fairy-tale that they are destined to be re-told and re-adapted, and the cinema has done its share. A Thousand and One Nights belongs to the most important wellsprings, also of film adaptations.

The first artist of the cinema, Georges Méliès, also belonged to the family of the great masters of the fairy-tale, as did another early film artist, Wladyslaw Starewicz who filmed Krylov, Aisopos, and Gogol.

Direct links from the fairy-tale heritage lead to
STORIES OF HORROR AND FANTASY - E. T. A. Hoffmann (The Sandman, The Nutcracker) - "une intrusion brutale du mystère dans le cadre de la vie réelle; il est généralement lié aux états morbides de la conscience" - le fantastique in the the cinema - Feuillade, Cocteau, Franju - Pushkin and The Queen of Spades - Edgar Allan Poe

Linked to the fairy-tales of A Thousand and One Nights are also
EROTIC STORIES - they have a short story format even when they are compiled into episodic novels, plays or memoirs - such as Li Yu's The Play of the Wind and the Moon (The Carnal Prayer Mat), Don Juan's conquests, Casanova's memoirs, Reigen / La Ronde, or The Song of the Scarlet Flower - all these are favourites in film adaptation

Besides fairy-tales another fundamental source of veritable origins is
THE HOLY BIBLE the stories of which have provided models and inspiration for short stories, and many stories of which have been adapted into films. Also the object lessons of Jesus Christ were often provided in the form of stories and parables (The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, The Hidden Treasure, The Good Shepherd, The Mustard Seed, The Rich Man and Lazarus).

After such great predecessors
the actual tradition of the short story in Western literature starts in Boccaccio's Decamerone, which in its turn inspired Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. 

There is one film-maker who has filmed all three works most relevant to birth of the short story - A Thousand and One Nights, Decamerone, and The Canterbury Tales: Pier Paolo Pasolini, who also got to film parables of Jesus Christ in The Gospel According to St. Matthew.

To its greatest prominence the short story rose in the 19th century thanks to the emergence of the modern press. Both newspapers and magazines published short stories and serial novels. Norms of lengths of various categories of stories became more standardized. Serious authors could earn a living with short stories. New genres emerged such as the detective story (Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes - most of his adventures appeared in short stories, although there were a few novels, as well).

Key names in establishing the short story as an art form in the U.S.A. include Washington Irving (Rip van Winkle, Sleepy Hollow), Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Henry James and Herman Melville.

In France the masters of the short story included Honoré de Balzac, Prosper Mérimée, Guy de Maupassant, Alphonse Daudet, and Anatole France.

In Russia, Alexander Pushkin was the first great artist of the short story, a model for all who followed, such as Nikolai Gogol ("we have all emerged from under Gogol's coat", said Dostoyevsky), Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky.

Anton Chekhov wrote at first all kinds of stories, entertainment novels, comedies, piquant stories in the manner of Boccaccio and Balzac, story-driven prose, and cynical sketches. Starting with The Steppe he focused on his own personal characteristic strengths: the power of observation and the development of an urgent latent, interior development.

The Steppe was the turning-point not only for Chekhov but for the entire history of the short story. Chekhov now broke conclusively free from the traditional, Boccaccio-inspired, plot-driven, dramatic novella, and created an oeuvre of stories based on atmosphere and interior development that became the foundation of the art of the modern short story.

(However, the case of The Steppe is a bit more complicated than that: Chekhov considered The Steppe a cluster of stories or sketches, tied together by the framing story of the little boy's first voyage from the safety of his childhood home towards an uncertain future.)

In Ingmar Bergman's opinion Chekhov's stories were synopses ready to be filmed, but hardly any immortal masterpieces of the cinema have been made from them, with the exception of Lady with the Dog. One reason may be that the film-makers have tried to adapt the films from the externals, and doing so they have lost the art of concision well analyzed by Ó Faoláin. Instead, the focus should be on the inner currents, which can be difficult to convey in a film adaptation. Bergman, himself, may have been influenced by Chekhov in films such as Wild Strawberries and Winter Light, but a direct adaptation might have been overwhelming even for him.

Kheifits succeeded exceptionally in bringing out the inner current of Chekhov's story in Lady with a Dog by focusing on his splendid actors Aleksei Batalov and Iya Savvina. More precisely: by focusing on their eyes. In the film adaptation their eyes and their looks tell Chekhov's story of interiority. And there is a special charge in this film about unlived lives, thwarted hopes and ambitions. During the age of the thaw truths could be told after long decades of silence and oppression.

I have not come across a comment by Anton Chekhov on the cinema whereas the comments of his contemporaries such as Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky are famous.

These brief chronological remarks about the evolution of the short story lead us to the start of the Film Age.

James Joyce (The Dubliners) and Ernest Hemingway (The First Forty-Nine Stories) became masters of the short story, both memorably filmed. Hemingway also refined "the iceberg theory" of the short story. Sean Ó Faoláin's remarks on the first sentence of Lady with the Dog are an excellent object lesson on the iceberg theory of the short story.

New avenues were opened by Jorge Luis Borges in stories of essayistic fantasy (The Garden of Forking Paths), with cinematic affinities and influences from Orson Welles to Bernardo Bertolucci.

The circle of a brief chronological survey of the short story can be closed with Franz Kafka. His stories and parables can be compared with The Book of Job in the Bible. They can be called surrealistic, absurd, and existentialistic. They can also be compared with the fairy-tales of H. C. Andersen. "But in Kafka's evil fairy-tale nobody can tell how it is with the emperor's new clothes" (Annamari Sarajas).

A "protean variety" is a hallmark of the short story.

The short story can be a little sketch.
In the other extreme, it can be a novella (a short novel).

It can be a yarn, a fable, a parable, a fairy-tale (Märchen, skazka). It can be a Humoreske (a humoristic story), a tall tale, a horror story, un conte drolatique, a wilderness story, or a detective story.

The terms in various languages hardly translate at all into other languages, and they are inconsistent even in their own languages.

In English, there are the (short) story and the tale.
In Italian, there are la novella and il racconto.
In French, la nouvelle and le conte.
In Russian, rasskaz, skazka, povest.
In German, Kurzgeschichte, Erzählung, Novelle, Märchen.

For instance, in English, the novella can mean two completely different things: a story in the classic Boccaccio format - and a long tale which comes close to a novel and is often also called a novel (Death in Venice, Heart of Darkness).

Within the fairy-tale the distinction between a folktale and a literary tale is crucial. - Skazka folklornaya / skazka literaturnaya. - Volksmärchen / Kunstmärchen. - Conte populaire / conte littéraire. - La fiaba popolare / la fiaba d'autore.

In this jungle of terminology the essential distinction is again between - this key distinction is worthy of repeating:
THE CLASSIC NOVELLA, "the falcon story" of Boccaccio, based on the art of compression, with something curious to tell, with a striking turning-point, and
THE MODERN SHORT STORY, based on an inner charge, an illumination, an insight, what James Joyce called epiphany.

THE CYCLE: there is a tendency towards forming cycles of short stories: - Dubliners (James Joyce) - Winesburg, Ohio (Sherwood Anderson) - Go Down Moses (William Faulkner) -  Sketches from a Hunter's Album / Записки охотника (Ivan Turgenev) - Lettres de mon moulin (Alphonse Daudet) - Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allan Poe)... - in which there is an affinity with films with an episodic structure and multi-character studies. In Finland, too, feature films have been made based on compiled short stories by Aapeli or Maria Jotuni. - Anton Chekhov saw his The Steppe as a cycle of short sketches.

THE FRAMING DEVICE: there is also a tendency to using a framing device (eine Rahmenerzählung) in short story collections, starting with A Thousand and One Nights, Decamerone, and Canterbury Tales, not forgetting The Metamorphoses / The Golden Ass by Apuleius, or Die Serapionsbrüder by E. T. A. Hoffmann. - The framing device has been very popular in films of many kinds, with a straight narrative, with episodes, or with a mosaic structure. A masterpiece in the portmanteau format with a framing device is the Ealing horror film Dead of Night, where there is also a twist ending in the framing device.

EDGAR ALLAN POE'S view about the tale has been much quoted. (Edgar Allan Poe, “Review of Twice-Told Tales”, Graham’s Magazine, May 1842, pp. 298-300). A tale proper is "not to exceed in length what might be perused in an hour. Within this limit alone can the highest order of true poetry exist. We need only here say, upon this topic, that, in almost all classes of composition, the unity of effect or impression is a point of the greatest importance. It is clear, moreover, that this unity cannot be thoroughly preserved in productions whose perusal cannot be completed at one sitting.". "If his [the author's] very initial sentence tend not to the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design."

This view has inspired the still-continuing cultivation of good storytelling in the classical, Boccaccio-derived short story format. Besides the criteria of
- the story being readable - and analysable - in one sitting of no more than an hour and
- the unity of impression, further criteria include
- a moment of crisis and
- a symmetry of design.

THE UNITY OF IMPRESSION was applied by Poe to Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales, and his view was still within the classical-romantic perspective. But in the modern short story, from Chekhov on, the concept of "the unity of impression" is still valid. It now transcends the demands of drama and is linked to the core thematic level of the story (this expression is by Pekka Tarkka in Novelli ja tulkinta). In James Joyce's stories the impression pursued is epiphany. In Hemingway's story "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place", nothing is what it is about.

THE SYMMETRY OF DESIGN is based on Aristotle's Poetics (Περὶ ποιητικῆς), including his view that a plot must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This question is widely discussed by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren in their hugely influential textbook anthology Understanding Fiction (1943) in the spirit of New Criticism. A model story is Maupassant's The Necklace / La Parure. A woman sacrifices her entire life to be able to compensate a lost diamond necklace, but in the end she finds out in passing that the necklace was an imitation.

The Chekhovian turn can be defined as discarding the principle of the symmetry of design and the Aristotelian structure of drama. According to Chekhov a writer may write a beginning and an end to his story, but he should strike them before publication. This turn in storytelling is parallel to Chekhov's revolution of the play, in which he rejected the Aristotelian arc of classical drama and the popular structure of la pièce bien faite, the well-made play. Chekhov started as a traditional writer of stories, novels, and plays, and a definitive turn in his development as a story-writer took place around 1888 (The Steppe) and, in the theatre, around 1894 (The Seagull), but these turns did not emerge out of the blue.

HOW SHORT IS A SHORT STORY? It can be anything between less than one page and around a hundred pages. The "long short story" is called a novella. It can also be called a short novel, and it can be published as a separate slim volume. Yet it is still readable within one sitting.

There is a consensus that in a tale or a story there need to be at least three actions linked with one another. An example might be the tale of The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the first book (Genesis) of The Bible: - Eve tastes forbidden fruit - Adam tastes forbidden fruit - their eyes are opened - they are expelled from Paradise. This might also be the first epiphany.

The type of the short story best suited for the cinema is naturally the "long short story", the novella, the short novel - best suited in the sense that the scope of the story corresponds a feature film quite well, without a need for padding or removing things - the ca 100 pages length is quite compatible with a screenplay for a feature film - stories such as
Carmen by Prosper Mérimée, one of the most-filmed stories, often also via the opera by Georges Bizet,
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson), also very often filmed, with a dream role for an actor,
Death in Venice (Thomas Mann), filmed by Luchino Visconti,
or the povesti by Leo Tolstoy, such as
Father Sergius, filmed by Jakov Protazanov, starring Ivan Mozzhukhin
Hadji Murat, filmed by Alexandre Volkoff as The White Devil, also starring Ivan Mozzhukhin, and
The False Note, filmed by Robert Bresson as L'Argent, among others,
and stories by F. M. Dostoyevsky, such as
White Nights, filmed by Luchino Visconti and Robert Bresson (Quatre nuits d'un rêveur), or
A Gentle Creature, filmed by Bresson (Une femme douce).
Crainquebille by Anatole France was filmed with a fine sense of realism and humour by Jacques Feyder.
L'Étranger by Albert Camus is generally considered a novel; it was interestingly filmed by Visconti, starring Marcello Mastroianni.

The novel is an undisciplined and omnivorous beast which can contain almost anything, and we are not even speaking about Ulysses by James Joyce here. Digressions, sermons, lectures, history, geography, biology, astronomy... anything goes. Many great novels contain also short stories or semi-detached episodes which could be autonomously filmed. If I would film Moby Dick or Anna Karenina I might consider focusing on one of the great episodes, which are never filmed otherwise, because they are unnecesssary for the plot. Yet the whole is also in the part, and the part is a special reflection of the whole.

As we can see from the nine movies in our series, good films can be made from good stories in different ways.

Certain structures of the cinema are especially fruitful for short story adaptation. There is an affinity in certain films to short stories even when they are not based on short stories, and when they are actually based on novels.

THE ROBERT ALTMAN STRUCTURE, MULTI-CHARACTER STUDIES, Altman preceded by Otto Preminger, and followed by Paul Thomas Anderson, among others.
These films may take place on a train (The Lady Vanishes), an ocean liner (Ship of Fools), or a hotel (Grand Hotel). Querschnitt classics follow the path of money (L'Argent), a ball night ticket (Carnet du bal), war boots (Yhdeksän miehen saappaat / Nine Men's Boots), or a car (In jenen Tagen / In Those Days). Examples of Altmanian multi-character studies include Nashville, A Wedding and Short Cuts.

DER BILDUNGSROMAN (the coming-of-age story) is an essential form of the novel, yet with an affinity with a short story series. The episodes can be quite independent, connected by the theme of the development of the protagonist. We have already mentioned Anton Chekhov's The Steppe, which is a long short story, povest, and a coming-of-age story. The classic is Goethe's Wilhelm Meister series, filmed by Wim Wenders as Falsche Bewegung, revealing its road movie connection. A Nordic favourite is Johannes Linnankoski's The Song of the Scarlet Flower, filmed by Mauritz Stiller, among others. We have just screened in our 50 Years Ago series Sammy Going South by Alexander Mackendrick, an orphan boy's coming-of-age adventure with episodes of an African journey from Egypt to South Africa.

THE PICARESQUE NOVEL is also an important type of the novel, also close to the form of a short story cycle. They are very fruitful for film adaptation, as are VIA DOLOROSA STORIES, PILGRIMAGE STORIES and CHASE STORIES. Luis Buñuel's Nazarín is a classic secular via dolorosa story based on the novel by Benito Pérez Galdós. This fall we are screening Vittorio De Sica's La porta del cielo (The Gate of Heaven), a pilgrimage story which takes place on a train. We see as flashbacks ten desperate life stories of protagonists hoping for a miracle at the destination. The miracle may actually happen, but only when the protagonist discovers the solution inside, yet the voyage may have made it possible. 39 Steps is the first full-blown Hitchcockian chase film based on the concept of the chased chaser and taking us to many different locations across a country; also it is based on a novel; yet with a characteristic episodic or vignette structure.

THE ODYSSEY itself is one of the prototypes for narrative, for storytelling. The protagonist is a wanderer, an aberrant, Ulysses, Dante, Faust, Don Quixote, Don Giovanni, Sinbad, Jean Valjean, Captain Ahab - the structure of the adventure is episodic, and episodes can be added or removed. The Western, the swashbuckler, the adventure film, the Nordic lumberjack film, the space odyssey, the road movie - they all belong here, and they all are fruitful for short story like narration.

THE EROTIC CINEMA, as distinct from a romantic love story, also has an affinity with a short story cycle. Li Yu's The Play of the Wind and the Moon, Casanova's adventures, the conquests of Lola Montès, Bel Ami, and Reigen / La Ronde resemble short story cycles, and they have all been filmed with different selections of episodes. Even hard core pornography in the 1960s and the 1970s belonged here, until hard core porn exploded into cyberspace, where depersonalization became total, and it did no longer even matter who the partners were. They can be switched at will in the middle of the act without a problem. From characters in stories they were reduced to magma in the instinct world.

EPISODE FILMS are an old tradition, and they go back to the birth of the feature film.

At their most popular they were in Italy in the 1960s, often in pan-European co-productions, and the best directors participated - directors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, and Jean-Luc Godard. The tradition survives, and in many contemporary top directors' filmographies are entries for episode films.

In the commedia all'italiana episode films were very popular, and this autumn we screen some examples directed by Vittorio De Sica, such as Ieri, oggi, domani / Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. De Sica's Il giudizio universale / The Last Judgment is a mosaic-like vignette film, a multi-character study observing some twenty people's reactions to the announcement of an imminent end of the world.

EPISODE FILMS BASED ON A SPECIFIC AUTHOR have always been popular, as well. There are many Anton Chekhov episode films. W. Somerset Maugham episode films are a mini-genre. Good directors such as Howard Hawks participated in O. Henry's Full House. Horror episode films have been popular for a long time (a German favourite was Unheimliche Geschichten, filmed twice with inspired performances), and there are ones based on Edgar Allan Poe only, such as Histoires extraordinaires, with episodes by Federico Fellini and Louis Malle. In our series we screen two fine examples: Le Plaisir by Max Ophuls based on three stories by Guy de Maupassant, and Kun on tunteet by Erik Blomberg and Mirjami Kuosmanen, based on 13 stories by Maria Jotuni.

The cinema has received infinitely from other arts, including from the art of the short story. Narrative cinema started as filmed theatre. During the 20th century the development of the cinema was so compelling and persuasive that other arts started to approach the state of the cinema, as Andrew Sarris has observed. At the Helsinki Festival presently going on the use of the cinema in other arts is a basic theme, including in the Don Giovanni interpretation of last night, directed by Erik Söderblom. There is hardly a gallery exhibition without moving images. No longer do we see filmed theatre. Rather we see theatricized cinema.

The Short Story and the Cinema (seminar)

Cinema Orion, Helsinki

FRIDAY 23.8.2013

Moderator: Janette Hannukainen
09.00–10.30 Anton Tšehov / Anton Chekhov – Dama s sobatshkoi / Dama s sobachkoy (Nainen rannalta / Lady with the Dog, Josif Heifitz / Iosif Kheifits, SU 1960) 83'
11.00–12.30 Antti Alanen: Novelli ja elokuva / The Short Story and the Cinema

Moderator: Martti-Tapio Kuuskoski
Laura Laitinen reads from Arnošt Lustig's Pimeydellä ei ole varjoa / Tma nemá stín / Night and Hope
13.30–14.50 Arnošt Lustig – Démanty noci (Yön timantit / Diamonds of the Night, Jan Němec, CZ 1964) 64'
15.00–16.30 Jan Forsström: Novelli ja leikkaus / The Short Story and Cutting

SATURDAY 24.8.2013

Moderator: Antti Alanen
9.00–10.45 Guy de Maupassant – Le Plaisir (Lemmenunelma, Max Ophuls, FR 1952) 97'
11.00–12.30 Satu Kyösola: Ranskalainen novelli ja elokuva / The French Short Story and the Cinema

Moderator: Jan Forsström
Erkka Mykkänen reads from Joni Skiftesvik's Katsastus / Inspection
13.30 Joni Skiftesvik – Katsastus / Inspection (Matti Ijäs, FI 1988) 56'
15.15–16.30 Discussion with Matti Ijäs, interviewed by Lauri Timonen

Organized by: Runokuu, Novelli palaa!, Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen arkisto, and Like.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sampling The Lodger (1927) The Hitchcock 9 restoration in 2K

The Lodger. A Story of the London Fog / Vuokralainen. GB 1927. Year of production: 1926. PC: Gainsborough Pictures. P: Michael Balcon. D: Alfred Hitchcock. Ass. D: Alma Reville. Käsikirjoitus: Eliot Stannard – based on the novel of Mrs. Belloc Lowndes. DP: Baron Ventimiglia. AD: C. Wilfred Arnold. ED and titling: Ivor Montagu. Title Design: E. McKnight Kauffer. Studio: Piccadilly, Islington. C: Ivor Montagu (the lodger), June (Daisy Bunting), Marie Ault (Mrs. Bunting, the landlady), Arthur Chesney (Mr. Bunting), Malcolm Keen (Joe Betts, police detective, Daisy's fiancé). The film was not theatrically released in Finland – vhs: 1995 Castle Communications – 2342 m, National Film Archive 1989 (tinted and toned): 2011 m
    The Hitchcock 9 restoration (BFI 2012). Restoration supervised by: Bryony Dixon, Kieron Webb. Picture Restoration: Ben Thompson, Peter Marshall. Film inspection and comparison: Angelo Lucatello. 20 fps. Several hundred hours were spent on the removal and repair of dirt and damage. Digital imaging systems have enabled the film’s original tinting and toning to be reproduced to far greater effect than was previously possible. Particular attention was paid to the night-time sequences set in thick fog which are toned blue and tinted amber. A restoration by the BFI National Archive in association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment, Network Releasing and Park Circus Films. Principal restoration funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation, and Simon W Hessel. Additional funding provided by British Board of Film Classification, Deluxe 142, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, and Ian & Beth Mill. Newly Commissioned score by Nitin Sawhney. Score performance by London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and Nitin Sawhney Band. Available on 35 mm and 2K DCP. Orion 2013: 2K DCP – 91 min

The Hitchcock 9 project of the BFI National Archive is one of the finest restoration projects of our times. I have now seen two of the films in their entirety, Blackmail (silent version), and The Pleasure Garden. I was impressed with the visual quality of the first one (which I have always seen in good prints anyway). The Pleasure Garden has become a more substantial film with the intelligent reconstruction job involved.

After a long day with many meetings I sampled 25 minutes of The Lodger only, but what I saw was very impressive, indeed. The Lodger has looked good before, for instance in the restored colour print I studied in 1989 in our previous complete Hitchcock retrospective, but I guess The Lodger has never looked better for a modern audience than in this brilliant BFI restoration.

The Lodger is always a surprising film. It's already a full-blooded Hitchcock film with familiar major themes (the wrong man, the chased chaser), motifs (staircase, bathtub, knife), and obsessions (golden curls). Ivor Novello is the first ambivalent Hitchcockian protagonist, a predecessor of the Cary Grant characters. The most striking feature is the vision of modernity. Hitchcock is close to Lang, inspired by the Mabuse films, and perhaps inspiring M. The appearance of the lodger brings to mind Murnau's Nosferatu. The empty spaces on the lodger's wall are uncanny. The lodger has ordered all portraits of golden-curled girls to be removed.

The vision of modernity is relevant to a Benjaminian analysis. Benjamin claimed Edgar Allan Poe was the first poet of the modern metropolis in "The Man of the Crowd". Here Hitchcock joins a remarkable tradition.

There is a joy of the cinema and its many means of expression. Although The Lodger is Hitchcock's third film, there is a feeling of a true debut film, a film made to show what I can do.

The audience was impressed, but there was a discussion about the songs in the soundtrack.

Goethe-Institut Finnland celebrates its 50th annniversary

Goethe-Institut Finnland celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It was a pleasure to meet Mikko Fritze, Pirjo Brech, and Marjukka Mäkelä at the garden party at the residence of the German Embassy of Helsinki. Also the architect Juha Leiviskä, who has designed the Embassy, was among the guests.

The collaboration with the Goethe-Institut has always been vital for the Finnish Film Archive. We have done together several great series of German film history, invited special guests, and realized ambitious projects, such as great film concerts of Die Nibelungen and Nosferatu at the Finlandia Hall and the Savoy Theater.

The collaboration had started even before establishing Goethe-Institut Finnland. The Finnish Film Archive then worked with the Embassy directly and arranged remarkable series of German film classics together with it. They are still dearly remembered by those who followed them.

When the Germanies united, Goethe-Institut took over the valuable film holdings of the DDR Kulturzentrum seamlessly.

My personal memories start in the 1970s when I saw 16 mm series of German film classics at the Tampere branch of the German cultural service. That's how I first saw Der müde Tod and Die Nibelungen. I have never seen a better projection of Der müde Tod.

The 16 mm service was excellent until the end. I was stunned when I saw Die bitteren Träne der Petra von Kant in 2004. The photochemical quality was very close to a good 35 mm print. The same could be said of the other late 16 mm prints of the Goethe-Institut, such as Das Mädchen vom Moorhof (1958) von Gustav Ucicky. Haunting. I hope these extremely valuable collections are in good hands now.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Philip Glass at Cinema Orion

Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Philip Glass), 18 August 2013

Fokus: Philip Glass is a main theme at Helsinki Festival, and Mr. Glass has a busy schedule in Helsinki with a Solo Piano concert at Temppeliaukio Church on 18 August, Koyaanisqatsi Live! on 20 August, and Philip Glass Ensemble: A Retrospective on 21 August.

We were delighted that the maestro could fit a visit into our cinema into such a schedule. Philip Glass has created a unique corpus in the cinema, his sound is distinctive and original, and there are more than 100 works in his filmography. We are screening two prominent entities: three documentaries by Errol Morris (Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time, and The Fog of War), and the Qatsi trilogy by Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi) at Cinema Orion during the next two weeks. All in glorious 35 mm.

Philip Glass's discussion partner was Professor John Richardson from the University of Turku.

John Richardson asked about social ideas in the movies of Philip Glass. My collaborations with Errol Morris and Godfrey Reggio have not been a part of mainstream commercial film production. An interest in social ideas is true of both of them, both Morris and Reggio, but Godfrey's films have become more abstract. Godfrey Reggio is a category in himself, with no stories and no performances, with very radical ideas. They didn't like what he did. The interest in social ideas is more true of Errol, though. Glass discussed some of the unorthodox methods of Errol.

In the music for Thin Blue Line you used some of your pre-existing music. Yes, the piano concerto - some of that music comes in from there. Philip Glass told about the back and forth in composing film music, taking the music back, and so on. There are usually 30-35 cues for each film, but sometimes 50. Godfrey postpones the final cut as long as possible until there is a deadline from the distributor. It's a collaborative process.

The power of music: if you select different music to a film it will look different. The intelligent way is to work with the composer from the beginning, like Scorsese did in Kundun. When the images are cut to sound it makes the music very central. Godfrey once changed the order of the images, taking the music with them.

In the documentary on you last night on tv (Scott Hicks: Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts, 2007) the teams with which you work were discussed; does it vary a lot? The older they are the easier it gets. There  is a lot of give and take. Young film-makers are less secure, and they tend to be very bossy. The older ones won't say anything at all. The producer is not the problem. When the director was Hitchcock, he was the one who was making the movie. When there are three producers they are all fighting with each other. In commercial production the producers are not film people anymore. They come from consortiums. We know what we like. It has made the process of film-making awkward. But when it's Scorsese, he sets the agenda. A handful can resist the meddling.

Now there is a new Godfrey Reggio movie forthcoming, Visitors, which will have its first festival screening on September the eighth. Godfrey dropped the ideological, propagandistic aspect, and the movie became about the spectator looking at the film. The subtext is the subject.

Questions from the audience: Collaborations with other arts, in opera, and in the cinema. I cannot put it down in one word. It comes down to trust. Music has a lot to say.

Q: Your favourites? A: The one I'm working with. For each film for Godfrey the score has been completely different. For Visitors, it is again different.

Q: What happens when you get stuck, don't get the work done? A: No, no, no. I just do the work.

Thin Blue Line was a non-commercial production. There are places where the action is staged, which is really no, no, no, in a documentary. There were moments which were hilariously funny in the recreation of the event.

Errol changes the life of the people he films. He got the convicted person released. The murderer confesses on film. The person who benefitted most, the convicted man, three months later he was suing Errol.

Q: Do you have a favourite genre? I have made very few straight Hollywood films, such as Mishima, The Hours, and Kundun for Marty, also The Illusionist, a very small amount of such films. I'm an amateur film composer.

Q: What about abstract films? A: I work with abstraction, I scratch, I manipulate. Abstract film-makers are even less known than poets.

Q: Notes on a Scandal? A: The producer was under a lot of stress. Q: The score embodies the angst of the character. A: Do you think he was after that?

Q: The films - concert duality. A: Not all can be played. I don't even attempt to do that. The opening theme in this film: I have done a lot of that kind of work.

Q: La Belle et la Bête. A: It was an experiment. I got the rights from the Cocteau estate. A lot of the relationships are formulaic. I made three operas based on works by Jean Cocteau, Orphée, La Belle et la Bête, and Les Enfants terribles. Orphée I saw when it was new. When I look at a stage I picture it in a different way. The whole experience becomes radically different.

Peter von Bagh attended the event and reminisced how Michael Powell had visited Hvitträsk in 1987 and told that he would have wanted to shoot The Fall of the House of Usher there, with music by Philip Glass.

On his way to the rehearsal, waiting for the taxi, Philip Glass confirmed that it had been all set and the contract was ready for signing when Michael Powell died. As a consolation Philip Glass got to compose Kundun.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Richard Strauss: Daphne, at Helsinki Music Center, with Soile Isokoski, and Susanna Mälkki conducting the Finnish National Opera orchestra and choir

Daphne – Bukolische Tragödie in einem Aufzug / Daphne a Bucolic Tragedy in One Act (Opus 82, TrV 272). DE 1938. Composer: Richard Strauss. Das Textbuch / libretto: Joseph Gregor. Die Uraufführung fand am 15. Oktober 1938 in der Dresdner Semperoper unter der Oberspielleitung von Max Hofmüller statt. / Premiere: 15 October, 1938, at the Semperoper in Dresden. Dedicated to Karl Böhm, the conductor of the premiere. 105 min

The time and the place of the action: the hut of Peneios by the shore of the river Peneios, Greece, in mythical time.

A concert presentation at Helsinki Festival. A 50th anniversary event of the Orchestra of the Finnish National Opera. A special visit of the Orchestra and the Choir of the Finnish National Opera at the Helsinki Music Center. Sung in German with e-surtitles in Finnish and English, 17 August 2013

Conductor: Susanna Mälkki

Jyrki Korhonen (Peneios / Pineios, a fisherman / river god), bass 
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano (Gaea / Gaia, his wife / mother Earth, written for contralto)
Soile Isokoski (Daphne, their daughter), soprano
Ladislav Elgr (Leukippos, a shepherd), tenor
Scott MacAllister (Apollo), tenor
Tuomas Katajala, Jussi Merikanto, Koit Soasepp, Hannu Forsberg / Four shepherds
Anna-Kristiina Kaappola, Ann-Marie Heino / Two maids

The programme information reveals that this is a Finnish premiere of the late masterpiece of Richard Strauss.

Daphne is the oldest and one of the most frequently adapted themes in the history of music. The libretto is based on Greek mythology as written down by the Roman Ovid in Metamorphoses in the year 8. The first work of Jacopo Peri, the inventor of opera, was Dafne (around 1597, a lost work).

Daphne (Δάφνη = laurel), a Naiad, was a nymph associated with fresh water in Greek mythology. Because of her beauty Daphne attracted the attention of Apollo, the god of the sun. Just before falling in love with Apollo Daphne pleaded to her mother Gaia (mother Earth), and was swallowed into the earth and reborn as a laurel tree.

The libretto is also based on elements in the tragedy The Bacchae / The Bacchantes (Βάκχαι, 405 BC) by the Greek playwright Euripides. (Facts compiled from various language editions of Wikipedia).

Strauss developed for Daphne a special claire obscure style to endow "the character of Daphne with the obscurity she needs to express her fateful dependence from nature and her restraint towards people" (a letter from Strauss to Gregor, 26 January, 1936).

"Couldn't Daphne be seen as a human incarnation of nature, moved by the gods Apollo and Dionysos ... whom she can sense but not comprehend, and only through death she can grow into a symbol of an eternal artwork, a perfect laurel tree?" (Strauss to Gregor, 8 March, 1936).

Daphne, the daughter of the river god and the mother earth, is a pure-natured child, at one with trees, flowers, and fountains. At a vine celebration of Dionysos the childhood friends Leukippos and Apollo make advances to the fascinating nymph, but due to her nature she cannot feel sensual love. Leukippos proceeds with a ruse. He dresses as a girl and offers Daphne the drink of Dionysos in order to awaken her senses. Apollo reveals to Daphne the intentions of Leukippos and kills him after a row. Daphne feels she has been unduly accused and that wine has estranged her from her actual being. Apollo's symphathy is evoked. He asks Zeus to bring Daphne back to her original self and give her to Apollo, if not as a woman, then as an evergreen laurel tree. The metamorphosis takes place. (From András Batta: Opera. Komponisten - Werke - Interpreten, 2005)

In my spare time I have been working all summer long editing a book Citizen Peter, on Peter von Bagh, written by 50 amazing experts, colleagues and friends, finishing the last details yesterday, and then proceeding to the Helsinki Festival opening reception at the City Hall, exhausted but happy.

After a good night's sleep I'm all set for an eagerly anticipated event, Daphne with Soile Isokoski. I am not a concert-goer or an opera-goer, just an avid listener of music at home, and Isokoski is a big favourite. Just before the concert I have been listening to a programme about the music favourites of Paavo Suokko, with a special celebration of Isokoski. I usually turn the radio off when hymns are played, but when it is Isokoski, I turn up the volume.

I don't think I have heard Daphne before, but it is an enchanting and deeply moving work. There is a mythical feeling of eternal time. Written during the Nazi regime which Richard Strauss despised he continued working with themes that could not be banned.

Johan Tallgren was sitting nearby, and he told me about Isokoski's high international standing as a Richard Strauss interpreter.

Noblesse: Isokoski's was a superb and precious lyrical performance, with nobility and clarity. There was perhaps a slight touch of tension and struggle in the highly anticipated performance, the fine sensitivity having to make itself felt against the big orchestra and the big choir. All singers were great.

The orchestra and the choir of the Finnish National Opera played with passion and grandeur. I responded to the purity of the emotion in the interpretation.

I was also aware of the tremendous challenge that Susanna Mälkki must have been facing in adapting the volume of the orchestra and the choir to the sensitive lyrical soprano. An extremely difficult (impossible?) equation. Such a suspense element was, however, relevant to the theme of the opera.

This was a concert performance of an opera. I would not have been able to make sense of the story if I had not read about it in advance. The singers were not dressed in role costumes in this tale of disguises and metamorphoses. The translations were good and essential in getting out the lyrics even though I understand German. As the background to the electrical surtitles there were images that reminded me of karaoke videos of the 1980s, but they were discreet and not distracting.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Programmes at Filmmuseum München

Filmmuseum München, St.-Jakobs-Platz 1.

50th anniversary of Filmmuseum München

Internationale Stummfilmtage
Seijun Suzuki
Don't fence me in: about cowboys
Icons of film noir
Life in diaspora
Mikhail Kalatozov
Katrin Seybold
75th anniversary of the Munich agreement
8. UNDERDOX Festival
Rumanian Film Festival
Horst Buchholz
Film and psychoanalysis: Sisters
Eckhart Schmidt, 75th anniversary
Nazi crimes
50th anniversary of Filmmuseum München
Jean Cocteau

Mai Zetterling
German films 2012
Gold and power: Shakespeare's balances
Unknown East European cinema
Film and psychoanalysis: Revenge
Audrey Hepburn
The 1970s: Filmverlag der Autoren
Architecture: Demolition and Building. Ein Programm mit Bayerichen Architektenkammer
Kino der Kunst: "Es gibt eine Augenmusik". Cinema of Art: "Eye Music Exists"
Marguerite Duras
DOK.fest Retrospective: Werner Herzog
Richard Wagner Bicentennial
Tony Scott
4. Münchner 3D-Filmfest
Jiří Barta
Christopher Street Day
Filmische Utopien 1984-2054

Internationale Stummfilmtage 2012
Jean Rollin
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Ulrike Ottinger
Martin Scorsese, 70th anniversary
The Prague Spring
Das Erinnern weitertragen (Keep on remembering)
7. Underdox Festival
Rumanian Film Festival
Film and psychoanalysis: taking comedy seriously
Olympia 1936
70 Rosa Filme: Rosa von Praunheim
Naples and the cinema
Sonja Ziemann
Jean-Marie Straub, 80th anniversary
Film emigration from Nazi Germany
Denis Villeneuve
Henri-Georges Clouzot