Monday, January 27, 2014

Suomi-Filmin tarina 1 (1920‒1935): Ehdottomasti suomalaisia elokuvia / [The Suomi-Filmi Story 1 (1920‒1935): Absolutely Finnish Films]

Erkki Karu, pioneer of film production in independent Finland.
Series credits:
Suomi-Filmin tarina 1–5
Suomalaisen elokuvan kulta-aika. Suomi-Filmin tarina / Berättelsen om Suomi-Filmi / [The Suomi-Filmi Story]
    FI 1993. PC: Yleisradio / TV2 / Tiede ja talous. P: Risto Järvinen. D+SC: Peter von Bagh. ED: Heikki Salo. Tuotantosihteeri: Seija Saarikivi. Kuvaussihteeri: Seija Pajanne. Stills editors: Kai Vase, Pekka Riihimäki. Sound archival editor: Pekka Gronow. Archival editors: Ilkka Kippola, Vuokko Andelin. Graphic design: Seppo Selkälä. VET I-06398 ‒ S – b&w and colour, 1,37:1 ‒ 291 min
    Vhs: 1994 Yle Tallennepalvelu.

Episode credits:
Suomi-Filmin tarina 1 (1920‒1935): Ehdottomasti suomalaisia elokuvia
[The Suomi-Filmi Story 1 (1920‒1935): Absolutely Finnish Films]
    First telecast: 7.10.1993 Yle TV2 ‒ 59 min
    A tv series on the history of Suomi-Filmi, the oldest and most longevous film production company in Finland. The first part covers the 1920s dominated by Erkki Karu; that was when the rural idyll started to change into an urban Finland. In the 1930s the breakthrough of sound takes place, musicals get started, often starring Georg Malmsten. Siltalan pehtoori is the first Finnish film seen by a million viewers. The immortal romantic screen couple Tauno Palo and Ansa Ikonen appears for the first time.
    Interviewees: Kari Uusitalo, Risto Orko, Erkki Karu's daughter Sinikka Järviluoma, Erkki Karu's son Olavi Karu, Armas Vallasvuo, Eugen Malmsten, Risto Orko, Hanna Taini-Lefko ja Ville Salminen.
    Clips: Jääkärin morsian, Finlandia, Koskenlaskijan morsian, Nummisuutarit, Kun isällä on hammassärky, Sotagulashi Kaiun häiritty kesäloma, Ollin oppivuodet, Anna-Liisa, Se parhaiten nauraa, Polyteekkarifilmi, Rakkauden kaikkivalta, Runoilija muuttaa, Myrskyluodon kalastaja, Suvinen satu, Suursalon häät, Pohjalaisia, Muurmanin pakolaiset, Tukkijoella, Noidan kirot, Meidän poikamme, Korkein voitto, Kajastus, Aatamin puvussa ja vähän Eevankin, Tukkipojan morsian, Meidän poikamme merellä, Voi meitä anoppi tulee, Meidän poikamme ilmassa, Herrat täysihoidossa, Minä ja ministeri, VMV 6, Kaikki rakastavat, Vaimoke.
    Songs: "Sukellusvenevalssi", "Sinitakkien marssi", "Auringon lapset", "Vaimoke".

Erkki Karu, suomalaisen elokuvatuotannon uranuurtaja / [Erkki Karu, pioneer of Finnish film production]. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 Jan 2014

The introductory lecture was given by Dr. Outi Hupaniittu, who has discussed the early decades of Finnish film business in her excellent dissertation which she defended last September.

Outi Hupaniittu made clear the high risk taken by film producers in Finland. Before Erkki Karu, film production in Finland was modest, especially in comparison with Denmark and Sweden. Cinema chain owning companies had produced movies that they exhibited themselves. Although Ollin oppivuodet, the first feature film produced by Suomi-Filmi, was incredibly more successful than any previous film, the financial loss was huge. For the first time films were produced outside cinema chains. Erkki Karu's provided a financial background for his film production by a factory producing theatrical sets and by commissioned films for commercial use. These two sidelines kept his company afloat. He knew that he should not start with too difficult projects. Gradually the production became profitable. In 1926 Suomi-Filmi bought the biggest cinema chain, Suomen Biografi. There was a determined press campaign to build a prestigious company image for Suomi-Filmi. Previous enterprises were ridiculed. In the 1920s Suomi-Filmi was pre-eminent. The only possible contender was Erkki Karu, himself, and when he was ousted from Suomi-Filmi he launched a new, even bigger company, Suomen Filmiteollisuus. He had the skill, and many friends. Already in the 1920s "suomifilmi" was a household word. Erkki Karu was the primus motor. He lived beyond his means, entertained lavishly, drove expensive cars, and wanted to build a skyscraper in the middle of the deepest depression. (My digest of Hupaniittu's intro.)

Peter von Bagh's documentary on the early years of Suomi-Filmi is a moving introduction to the Erkki Karu story, with growing value. Most profoundly moving are the interviews with Erkki Karu's children Sinikka Järviluoma and Olavi Karu, made on the nick of time. "Täytyy olla konsti kourassa" was Erkki Karu's intranslatable motto, meaning that no matter how well you are funded, you still need to have the knack to do it right.

Erkki Karu had the passion to launch an entire ambitious film production programme during the silent era in a country that was poor and horribly ravaged by a civil war. He also had the enduring enthusiasm to restart production during the sound era, making the first authentic Finnish film musical, Meidän poikamme merellä / Ours Sons at Sea, starring Georg Malmstén.

Erkki Karu was himself a seafarer from a seafaring family. "Moni oli sinne jäänyt", many of his family had been lost at sea.

Erkki Karu belongs also to the sympathetic category of film-makers who have written songs. "Auringon lapset" / "Children of the Sun" became an evergreen. He was a true romantic.

When Karu was ousted from the company he had founded, he stated: "Kaikkea on viety, mutta ei konstia kourasta" / "They have taken everything but the knack how to do it".

As a film-maker Karu had a strong sense of the public taste, having toured all Finland for ten years as a travelling actor. His touch was rustic. His successors at Suomi-Filmi had a lighter, more urban touch.

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