Tuesday, July 01, 2014

La IX Olimpiade di Amsterdam (2014 International Olympic Committee work-in-progress)

IT 1928. 120'. Did. italiane. Estratti delle diverse versioni del film. Introducono Adrian Wood (restoration producer for IOC) e Roberto Cicutto (Cinecittà Istituto Luce). Accompagnamento al piano di John Sweeney. Prod: Istituto LUCE. Original length 4980 m.
Nell'ambito di Film Restoration / FIAF Summer School
    Viewed with e-subtitles in English at Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Bologna (Il Cinema Ritrovato), 1 July 2014

Adrian Wood (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2014, catalogue and website): "The film is currently being restored by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in association with Istituto LUCE, as part of the IOC's ongoing preservation and restoration of all Official Record Films of the Games. This screening will comprise of un-restored scenes from both the original Italian version and the Dutch version (produced by UFA Berlin under the supervision of Wilhelm Prager) and material from the IOC's digital restoration. Further work on the restoration of the Dutch version is envisaged. This screening will also include a presentation on the film's production and its versioning (for Germany, Netherlands and the Soviet Union) as well as the IOC's restoration programme." Adrian Wood

"A special column on the Istituto Nazionale LUCE in the magazine "Cine Mondo" of June 5, 1928, stated loud and clear: "The Dutch government and the Olympic [Games Organizing] Committee awarded Istituto Nazionale LUCE the exclusive rights to filming the Olympics, acknowledging the institute's perfect technical organization." In reality, as reported by the "Official Report of the Olympic Games of 1928 celebrated at Amsterdam", the deal with Istituto LUCE for the filming and distribution of footage of the Olympic games was done hastily after the Swiss production company O.F.A. (Olympia Film AG) headed by Arnold Fanck, initially chosen for the prestigious job had withdrawn. The unexpected opportunity was extremely appealing, and Istituto LUCE sent some of the best cameramen to Holland to document in detail the Olympic gathering, filming the opening and closing ceremonies and all of the salient moments of each sports event. The result was a feature-length film of over 4900 meters titled La IX Olimpiade di Amsterdam. Despite the unquestionable productive effort involved and the excellence of the footage, the Olympic reportage shot by the Italian unit met an unhappy fate: the precarious commercial agreements made with the Olympic Committee and the Society of Dutch exhibitors prevented Istituto LUCE from fully taking advantage of the international distribution of the film, which would be disseminated in various countries around the world in a second edition overseen by the German director Wilhelm Prager for the UFA in Berlin, with which the Italian film institute had just signed a binding cooperation agreement. From the research still underway it appears that La IX Olimpiade di Amsterdam, in its original full-length version, was never released in Italian theaters, but instead screened as excerpts from the film of individual events in various LUCE newsreels. The lukewarm reception of the Olympic feature-length film in Italy was probably connected to politically-motivated reasons; in fact, at the end of the games, Mussolini declared that he was deeply disappointed by the results of the Italian athletes, so much so that he stripped Lando Ferretti of the presidency of the National Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and handed it to Augusto Turati, the powerful former secretary of the Italian National Fascist Party: under the circumstances, it is understandable how the grandiose release of a film that in reality only documented the failure of Italian athletics was completely unacceptable to Italian audiences." (Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2014, catalogue and website)

AA: We first saw 42 minutes of Italian footage (35 mm and video), and then 44 minutes of Dutch footage (35 mm). My remarks have a Finnish bias. Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928 were the legendary Olympic games for Finland. (In Amsterdam Finland was the number three medal winning country.) Of both, a feature film was made, and neither was screened in Finland.

The opening ceremony - flash titles only in the 35 mm footage - the Finnish team is included in the opening ceremony footage, but of the long shots it is impossible to identify team members - the Olympic torch - shot put (a shot of a Finnish athlete whom I fail to recognize) - a run [flash titles only], a triple victory for Finland [3000 m steeplechase?] - switch to video footage with intertitles - a relay run, a vigorous sense of speed, victory for the US team ( 4 x 100 or 4 x 400 m), excellent relay footage - the camera is in the centre of the stadium, covering the run in 360 degree pans, with a fine sense of balance, movement, and focus - triple jump: includes footage of Matilainen, Tulikorva, and Tuulos, bronze medal: Vilho Tuulos - women's 4 x 100 m relay, a lively shot of Canada's winning team - 3000 m steeplechase: beautiful footage of Nurmi at ease with the steeples, including the watery ones, Loukola is overwhelmingly the best, in a league of his own, a triple victory for Finland: Toivo Loukola, Paavo Nurmi, Ove Andersen - an extreme close-up - 400 m hurdles - 5000 m finale, a tight group, Nurmi: born to run, winners: Ville Ritola, Paavo Nurmi, Harri Larva [there is something wrong in this information, should be checked] - Marathon: Italians, first, a circle pan, number three: Martti Marttelin - the Dutch Royal Family - Gymnastics - Women's gymnastics - women's show montage

In the introduction covering the passage from the Italian to the Dutch footage Adrian Wood apologized for so many Finnish victories.
    He told that many Olympic films have been corrupted over the years. 
    1928 was a very special case. 
    Arnold Fanck had made the St. Moritz winter Olympics feature film Das weisse Stadion. 
    The 1924 Olympics feature film had been made but found no distribution in Paris, and was no success in GB. 
    For an Amsterdam olympics feature film Fanck and Gurtner could not secure money, and they failed to honour the second deal of payment. 
    The rights then were obtained by L.U.C.E. in Italy. The distribution was complicated by a boycott of LUCE in Netherlands, and by a collaboration between LUCE and Ufa.
    There is no director officially associated with the Amsterdam film, but there is an incorrect information on the internet that Wilhelm Prager directed it.
    Of the 13 reel film reels 1, 4, and 5 were now screened. The LUCE information states the length at 4980 m with intertitles. The content is listed in detail in the LUCE catalogue.
    There is no evidence that there was ever a screening of the entire 13-reel film.
    In the Bundesarchiv there are catalogued 10 shorts belonging to this project, with the credit Bearbeitung: Wilhelm Prager. There is no material in Germany.
    In Gosfilmofond there are some of these shorts, perhaps captured in the 1940s.
    De Olympische Spelen is a 11-part cut. The marathon there is an entire reel.
    There is in Russia also a 1931 Soviet-LUCE version Amsterdamska olimpiada v 1928 g. hronika in 11 reels. It is totally recut, an anti-Olympic film made as propaganda for the Spartakiade movement. The recut and renumbered version is at the Krasnogorsk archive.
    There is no evidence that LUCE ever made a payment for the rights for the Olympic film. (My notes of Adrian Wood's presentation. I apologize for possible misunderstandings.)

Gestaltet: Wilhelm Prager - 6de Akte - De Marathon - there is a much weaker visual quality in the Dutch footage - the Marathon teams - soon there is a leading group of 12 runners, 5 of which are Finns - there is a camera car - the cinematography from the camera car is deft - the water spot: among the drinkers, Martti Marttelin - fine footage from either a motorboat or from a car on the opposite side of the river - a shot of a row of several cameras - Bronze medal in marathon: Martti Marttelin
    9. Akte: Zeilen = Sailing, some fine footage from Zuiderzee, also getting a bit monotonous - Schermen = Fencing, pretty boring - Boxing, more exciting, including a long take of Hellström (not a medal winner) - Equestrian: Jumping - the cameraman is deft in following long and complicated movements
    Medal ceremonies

Finally, Adrian Wood emphasized the artistic view of the movie and the skill of the hand-cranking cameramen. The speed was 18 fps, and that was the projection speed and the digital transfer speed here, as well. The movement is natural.

AA: I watched this show from a provincial and patriotic viewpoint as an important document for Finland, then only 11 years old as an independent nation. We'll need to screen this film as soon as it is available.
    I agree with Adrian Wood that there is an artistic touch and vision in this footage. I admired many passages here, especially the relay runs and the steeplechases.
    On the cover of the Filmiaitta magazine a few years ago there had been Paavo Nurmi "teaching Douglas Fairbanks how to run" in a publicity stunt picture. Both shared a similar sense of the joy of action and movement.

The visual quality of the Italian footage is great, the Dutch quality is heavily duped.

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