Thursday, January 22, 2015

Le Jour se lève / Daybreak (2014 re-release version, a digital restoration in 4K by Éclair Group)

Click to enlarge.
Varjojen yö / Päivä koittaa. FR 1939. PC: Productions Sigma. P: Jean-Pierre Frogerais. D: Marcel Carne. SC: Jacques Viot - adaptation and dialogues: Jacques Prévert. DP: Curt Courant - assisted by Philippe Agostini, André Bac, and Albert Viguier - 1:1.37. AD: Alexandre Trauner. Cost: Boris Bilinsky. M: Maurice Jaubert. ED: René Le Hénaff. S: Antoine Petitjean. C: Jean Gabin (François), Jacqueline Laurent (Françoise), Jules Berry (Mr. Valentin), Arletty (Clara), Mady Barry, René Génin, Arthur Devère, Rene Bergeron, Bernard Blier (Gaston), Marcel Pérès, Jacques Baumer, Jacqueline Lauren Françoise), Georges Doukin, Léonce Corne, Germaine Lix (la chanteuse). Helsinki premiere: 1.5.1940 Kino Palatsi, released by Suomi-Filmi – tv: 19.2.1976 MTV2, 26.6.1993 YLE TV1 – classification number 22969 – K16 – 92 min
    Screened a 4K DCP from Tamasa with English subtitles - 2014 restoration by Éclair (image) and Diapason (sound), "version restaurée inédite", "version non censurée pour la première fois depuis 1940" - source: a second generation nitrate print - three scenes deleted during the Vichy regime reinstated - Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Marcel Carné), 22 Jan 2015

AA: It feels futile to write about Le Jour se lève after reading André Bazin's remarks about it. Bazin's major insight is that Le Jour se lève is a tragedy which can even literally be compared with classic Greek tragedy. Just a few thoughts here.
     Fatalism is prominent in this last film of the wonderful Carné team (including Prévert, Trauner, Jaubert, Gabin, Arletty, etc.) before WWII. François and Mr. Valentin seem marked by death from the start.
    François is a sandblaster at an engine mill, and he has pneumoconiosis. His coughing, his constant feeling of his chest, and even his incessant smoking belong to the signs of death. The final tear gas is merely a redundant supplement to the dangerous substances. François is dead already.
    The screenplay by Jacques Viot and the dialogue by Jacques Prévert are great literature. For example the dialogues of François and Clara are full of biting wit and unique tenderness.
    There is an atmosphere of magic created by the Carné team. A strong unity of vision, each detail pregnant with meaning (the eyes, the teddy bear, the brooch, the bicycle, the flowers, the gun, the photographs, the postcards, the alarm clock).
    Le Jour se lève is a demonstration of the genius of the system in studio production entirely created on constructed sets (Alexandre Trauner). A masterpiece in the Expressionistic tradition.
    The events take place at night, and the film is dream-like in its overwhelming darkness and the fluidity of its superimpositions and flashbacks. Le Jour se lève is a death dream.
    The performances are perfect. Jean Gabin compared by Bazin with heroes of Greek tragedy. Jules Berry as the pathological liar. Jacqueline Laurent as sweetness incarnate. And especially Arletty as the second woman to both men. Her performance is the most demanding, and she manages it with subtle tenderness. Her expressions are delicate and illuminating.*
    The final score by Maurice Jaubert (he died on the front in WWII in 1940) is stark and ominous. The chanson sung by Germaine Lix adds a personal touch to the cabaret sequence.
    The cinematography by Curt Courant, assisted by Philippe Agostini, André Bac, and Albert Viguier has a special graphic quality in each scene, in each shot. There is nothing indifferent here.
    This film of dark foreboding is, however, peculiarly exhilarating. That is the secret of tragedy. We emphatize with the fundamental greatness and dignity of the protagonists, even though a fatal weakness or mistake makes them perish. The other secret is that this film is so breathtakingly well made that it is a sheer pleasure to watch even though the subject is fatalistic. There is an assured sense of mythical crystallization here.

The restoration has been conducted by the best talent with utmost care, and mostly the result looks really great, but as the Éclair Group states in their restoration report (see beyond the jump break) there were problems and difficulties in the source material. For starters, the camera negative has been destroyed. Due to the source material there are minor instances of fluctuation, wavering and lack of definition. But overall this is a great restoration and a complete one as scenes deleted during the Vichy regime have been reinstated.

* Again Arletty gets some wonderful self-parodical lines that seem to debunk the fatalistic Carné corpus: "Des souvenirs... Est-ce que j'ai une gueule à faire l'amour avec des souvenirs?" It seems to reflect on Arletty's remark in Hôtel du Nord: "Atmosphère? Atmosphère? Est-ce que j'ai une gueule d'atmosphère?"


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Rolf Lindfors (FIAF obituary by Jon Wengström)

FIAF, International Federation of Film Archives

Dear colleagues,

We are sad to inform you that Rolf Lindfors, former Head of the Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute in Stockholm, died on December 22nd, 2014 at the age of 75.

After studies in Uppsala, where he also ran the local ciné-club, Rolf Lindfors was in 1968 hired by Harry Schein, founder and then-CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, to become the Curator of the Archival Film Collections, a position he held until 2003. When Rolf arrived, the collections were still held at the Museum for Science and Technology, and with Schein he ensured that the new facilities of Filmhuset, when they were ready to take in use in 1971, included one of the first sub-zero climate controlled vaults in the world.

In the 1980s and 90s, together with his partner Bertil Wredlund, Rolf published Långfilm i Sverige, a series of volumes on all Swedish and non-Swedish films submitted to the Swedish censorship authorities. The publication included facts about lengths, cuts, distribution titles, release dates etc, which over the years has proven to be an invaluable source of information for scholars and journalists, and arguably the most consulted publication in the daily work of the Stockholm archive staff.

Rolf was a keen champion of the global archival movement, and he was very happy to be involved in hosting the FIAF congress twice (in 1983 and 2003). He served on the FIAF Cataloguing Commission between 1979 and 1997, during which time he worked on the current FIAF cataloguing rules. This experience made Rolf the key figure in the conversion of the catalogue card holdings into the first database of the Swedish Film Institute in the 1990s. He was also very much involved in the establishing of the film archive in Grängesberg, the first Swedish archive for small-gauge and non-professional film, for which he worked as a consultant in his final year at the Swedish Film Institute before retiring in 2004.

Rolf was a very kind and sociable person, with a wry sense of humour and appreciating good food and drinks among friends, and used his vast knowledge of film and archiving for the benefit of others. He was a member of the executive committee of Svenska filmakademin (the Swedish film academy) for many years, and he enjoyed touring all corners of Sweden with illustrated lectures, screening films from the region. I remember with great fondness his generosity in sharing his tremendous experience with me when I was asked to succeed Rolf after his retirement

Jon Wengström
Curator of the Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute & FIAF Treasurer

Reproduced with the kind permission of Jon Wengström and FIAF.