Friday, May 02, 2014

Mannekäng i rött / Mannequin in Red (SFI 2000 restoration)

Mannekäng i rött. En Hillmanthriller skriven av Folke Mellvig och Lars Widding / Punainen mannekiini.
    SE 1958. PC: Sandrew Film & Teater AB. P: Rune Waldekranz.
    D: Arne Mattsson. SC: Folke Mellvig, Lars Widding. DP: Hilding Bladh – Eastmancolor - vidfilm 1,66:1. AD: Bibi Lindström. Cost: Mago. M: Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist.
    – "Oskar Svensson" ("Monsieur Williams", 1950, Léo Ferré, Jean-Roger Caussimon, in Swedish Bo-Ivan Petersson, 1958) perf. Gio Petré lip-synching singer Monica Nielsen.
    – "It's Up To You" (Angy Palumbo, 1940, instr.).
    – W. A. Mozart: Serenade Nr. 13 für Streicher in G-Dur (Eine kleine Nachtmusik, 1787).
    – Felix Mendelssohn: Hochzeitsmarsch (Ein Sommernachtstraum, 1842).
    ED: Lennart Wallén. S: Lars Lalin.
    C: Karl-Arne Holmsten (Captain John Hillman, private detective), Annalisa Ericson (Kajsa Hillman, private detective), Nils Hallberg (Freddy Sjöström, assistant to the Hillmans), Lena Granhagen (Sonja Svensson, Freddy's fiancée, sales clerk at La Femme),
    Anita Björk (Birgitta Lindell, top mannequin at La Femme), Lillebil Ibsen (Thyra Lennberg, owner and chief of La Femme), Gio Petré (Gabriella von Hook, Thyra Lennberg's niece, her sister's daughter), Bengt Brunskog (Johan Robert 'Bobbie' Nordahl, Thyra Lennberg's foster son), Lennart Lindberg (Rickard von Hook, Thyra Lennberg's nephew, her sister's son),
    Kotti Chave (Sune Öhrgren, detective superintendent), Torsten Winge (Oskar Lindkvist, caretaker), Lissi Alandh ('Peter' Morell, fashion designer), Silvija  Bardh (Märta Falk, head seamstress), Eivor Landström (the lady with the cat), Elsa Prawitz (Katja Sundin, the mannequin in red), Kerstin Dunér (Anette, mannequin).
    Studio: AB Sandrew-Ateljéerna, Stockholm, Sverige.
    Loc: Gävle teater, Gävle. – Nordiska museet, Stockholm. – Ulriksdals galoppbana, Solna. – Uppsala, Sverige. – Örbyhus slott, Tierp. – Sigtuna.
    Helsinki premiere: 2.9.1960 Maxim, released  by Filmipaja – telecast: 17.3.1966 Yle TV1 - VET 54499 – K16 – 3020 m / 110 min
    Folke Mellvig (1913-1994) published Mannekäng i rött as a novel next year (1959).
    Arne Mattsson filmed a "colour cycle" of five of Folke Mellvig's thrillers featuring the Hillman detective couple: Damen i svart / [The Lady in Black] (1958), Mannekäng i rött (1958), Ryttare i blått  / [The Rider in Blue] (1959), Vita frun / [The Woman in White] (1962), and Den gula bilen / [The Yellow Car] (1963). Mellvig had created the Hillman concept in 1950 and his many Hillman adventures were popular as radio series, short stories and novels. Mattsson had directed one Hillman radio series, Grönt för mord [Green for Murder] (1957). Karl-Arne Holmsten always played Captain Hillman. Various actresses interpreted Kajsa Hillman.
    Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet restoration (2000) viewed with e-subtitles in Finnish by Leena Virtanen at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Thriller Sverige), 2 May 2014

Swedish thrillers have enjoyed world class success in the last decades. This perfectly crafted piece of light entertainment belongs to the 1950s-early 1960s wave when popular detective characters and stories of Folke Mellvig and Maria Lang were adapted into films, often by Arne Mattsson.

There is a spoof aspect in this entertainment. It lacks gravity, there is a cavalier attitude to plot credibility, and there is no psychological depth in the characters although the actors are good.

There was then an European trend of such light entertainment detective stories. In Germany there was a cycle of Edgar Wallace films. In Finland Matti Kassila filmed four Inspector Palmu films with a humoristic touch.

Arne Mattsson was a top professional film-maker. I have liked his film adaptations of Nordic classics such as Salka Valka (Halldór Laxness) and Hemsöborna (Strindberg). Mattsson filmed also two interesting films with a Finnish angle (Kärlekens bröd inspired by our Winter War, Ingen morgondag based on Mika Waltari). He made romances of young summer love. Hon dansade en sommar / One Summer of Happiness was his big international breakthrough.

Folke Mellvig's detective stories I read as a child. They were published in Finnish, and I read at least Mord på halsen / Kuoleman kouraisu, which left no deep memory traces. Folke Mellvig thrillers feel shallow and superficial, but they can be seen with a Pop Art approach - as studies of surfaces.

1. Arne Mattsson was determined to make a genre film, and he inspired his crew and cast to work consistently in a stylized and artificial way. There is a unique mood in Mannequin in Red. The only real things are the fashion and the style. There is in the artifice something that resembles a musical.
    2. The cinematographer Hilding Bladh was a veteran who had among other things two visually striking Ingmar Bergman films in his résumé: Gycklarnas afton, and Kvinnodröm. Part of the latter takes place in a model agency.
    3. Mannequin in Red is an interesting experimental colour film, worth watching for the colour itself.
    4. The art director Bibi Lindström was another distinguished veteran (Flicka och hyacinter, Hon dansade en sommar, Fröken Julie, Vägen till Klockrike, Gycklarnas afton, Salka Valka, Hemsöborna, Prästen i Uddarbo, Ingen morgondag, Nära livet). In Mannequin in Red she was able to play with fantasy.
    5. For his costume designer Mattsson got the best: Mago, whose regular customers included Marlene Dietrich, Harriet Andersson, and Ingmar Bergman. The fashions in the film are real and of high quality.
    6. Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist creates a playful score with whistling and drums which can be compared with some ideas which Ennio Morricone brought to Italian thrillers of the 1960s. Also with Osmo Lindeman's innovative scores for the Palmu films.
    7. The character of Thyra Lennberg, the owner of La Femme fashion house, brings to mind recent film portraits by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, and Anna Mouglalis as Coco Chanel, and also the documentary portrait of Sara Hildén in Mesenaatti.
    8. The cast is full of beloved familiar actors starting with Karl-Arne Holmsten, Annalisa Ericson, Nils Hallberg, and Lena Granhagen. Of the more exotic members of the cast, the Norwegian actress and dancer Lillebil Ibsen had worked with Max Reinhardt. She appeared in few film roles, but among them was the unforgettable Elli the Gazelle in Stiller's Song of the Scarlet Flower (1919). Her wheelchair and white cat brought to my mind for a moment Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the arch-enemy of James Bond.
    9. The young Gio Petré is striking here, also in her lip-synched song sequence. There is conviction in the cruel determination of her character.
    10. Anita Björk (Fröken Julie, the screen's best Kyllikki in Molander's Song of the Scarlet Flower) is perhaps too good for her part as the top model of La Femme. Yet she contributes to a sense of more substance than meets the eye.

Whatever Mannequin in Red is, it is a very assured accomplishment. There is something parodical in the approach to the detective story, and the plot is so full of holes that it gets amusing. It is not a satire, but the film-makers don't paint a flattering picture of the world of envy, glamour and greed. In the center is a rich old family with fortunes that date back to the Thirty Years' War (in the 17th century). There is not a single happy member in that family. Instead, they use their vintage daggers to precipitate the chain of inheritance.

Mannequin in Red has been quoted as a predecessor of the stylized 1960s Italian thrillers of Mario Bava, Elio Petri, and Dario Argento. The focus on style, surface, fashion, and colour, the absence of psychological credibility and social realism, the plot of multiple murders, and the quirky score are among the parallels. But in Mannequin in Red there is hardly any explicit or gratuitous cruelty, sadism, splatter, or even blood. There is no evidence that the Italians would have seen Mannequin in Red.

The Svenska Filminstitutet print of the 2000 restoration (Kodak is credited with a special contribution) is fine and gives a gratifying experience of the bold colour concept.

Lauri Lehtinen, e-mail 4 May 2014: "The similarities between Arne Mattsson's film and Mario Bava's Sei donne per l'assassino are more on the level of the detail than the whole, but there is plenty of such detail like the mambo-like dance music in dangerous situations, extended tracking shots in studio spaces "after office hours", the final shot ending with a confession on the telephone, the partial lighting of faces in the dark... The overall atmosphere of The Red Mannequin is like a melange of the very light detective comedy touch of Bava's first thriller La ragazza che sapeva troppo and the despair behind the scenes characteristic of Sei donne per l'assassino thrown together in the same film."

Antti Suonio, e-mail 5 May 2014: "I personally believe that at least one of the key talents behind Sei donne per l'assassino must have seen The Red Mannequin since the similarities are really striking. If you have Bava's movie fresh in your memory you realize it feels like a copy. Might the connection have taken place via Germany since Sei donne per l'assassino is a German co-production."

Our 2014 programme note written by Lauri Lehtinen:

Ruotsalainen dekkarikulttuuri tuotteistaa ja kierrättää sisältöjään monimuotoisesti. Suosituista kertomuksista on tapana tuottaa kirjoja, elokuvia ja tv-sarjoja, joiden tutut, luottamusta herättävät ratkaisijahahmot näyttävät löytävän yleisönsä monissa formaateissa. Brändijännityksen varhaisiin perusnimiin kuuluvat yksityisetsiväpari John ja Kajsa Hillman sekä heidän koheltava avustajansa Freddy Sjöström. Hillmanit esittäytyivät Folke Mellvigin (1913-1993) novellikokoelmassa Uppdrag för Hillman (1950) ja jatkoivat tutkimuksiaan romaaneissa, radiokuunnelmissa ja elokuvissa. Hillman-kirjoja ilmestyi 20 ja Hillman-elokuvia viisi, ensimmäisenä Kuka oli mustapukuinen nainen? (Damen i svart, 1958) ja viimeisenä jäi Den gula bilen (1963). Kaikkien ohjaajana toimi tuottelias Arne Mattsson (1919-1995), joka oli ohjannut myös Hillman-kuunnelmia.

Folke Mellvigin yksinään tai Lars Widdingin kanssa käsikirjoittamat elokuvat eivät ole romaanien sovituksia vaan pikemminkin päinvastoin: yleensä elokuvat valmistuivat ensi-iltaan vähän ennen samojen mysteerien ilmestymistä kirjamarkkinoille. Hiottu, teknisesti ajanmukainen visuaalisuus on keskeistä elokuvasarjassa, jonka jokaisen osan nimessä esiintyy jokin väri. Sven Nykvist kuvasi ensimmäisen elokuvan mustavalkoisena, toinen osa Punainen mannekiini (Mannekäng i rött, 1968) toteutettiin väreissä ja kolmas Sininen ratsastaja (Ryttare i blått, 1959) kuvattiin Agascope-laajakangasmenetelmällä.

Punainen mannekiinin tapahtumat keskittyvät La Femme -muotitaloon, jota pyörätuoliin joutunut katkera entinen malli Thyra Lennberg johtaa ankaralla otteella. Kajsa Hillman selvittää kadonneen tytön arvoitusta soluttautumalla mallien joukkoon. Sillä välin hänen miehensä John tutkii murhasarjaksi kärjistyvää tapausta yhdessä poliisin kanssa.

Elokuvassa nähtävät asut on suunnitellut Max ”Mago” Goldstein, natseja Ruotsiin paennut saksalaissyntyinen muodinluoja, joka puvusti lukuisia Tukholman teatterien esityksiä ja muun muassa Ingmar Bergmanin elokuvia. Mago tunnettiin myös Marlene Dietrichin hovivaatturina.

Jotkut eurooppalaisen kauhuelokuvan tuntijat pitävät Punaista mannekiinia italialaisen kauhutrilleriestetiikan kulmakiven, Mario Bavan Himotappajan (Sei donne per l’assassino / Blood and Black Lace, 1964), epävirallisena esikuvana; elokuvia yhdistävät muotimiljöössä tapahtuvat brutaalit murhat, tyylittelevä värien ja kamera-ajojen käyttö sekä yleinen glamourin ja kuolemanvaaran jännite, joka saa Bavan elokuvassa rajumpia ja abstraktimpia muotoja. Samankaltaisuuden johdosta Punainen mannekiini on löytänyt uutta kohdeyleisöä giallo-katsojien joukoista. Teoria italialaisten ruotsalaisilta ammentamista vaikutteista on kuitenkin enemmän uskonasia kuin elokuvahistorian fakta; näyttöä siitä, että Mario Bava tai hänen työtoverinsa olisivat katsoneet Mattssonin elokuvaa, ei ole toistaiseksi tullut esille.

- Lauri Lehtinen 1.5.2014

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