Thursday, October 06, 2016

Sinfonie della città: Chicago, Tokyo, Beograd (+ a short film on Warsaw)

Beograd – prestonica kraljevine Jugoslavie (YU 1932), D: Vojin Djordjević, photo: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. Please click on the images to enlarge them.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto
Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti, grand piano (and accordeon, digital keyboards, and the flute): Stephen Horne, 6 Oct 2016.

AMERYKANIZACJA STOLICY [Americanizzazione della capitale / Americanization of the Capital City] (PL, ca 1931-1932). D: ?. Cinematography: B. Borkowski. PC: Towarzystwo Filmowe “Wytwórnia Doświadczalna”. 35 mm, 62 m, 2'17" (24 fps); titles: POL. Source: Filmoteka Narodowa, Warszawa.
    "Newsreel item. The skyscraper of the Telecommunications and Telegraph Of f ice (Urząd Telekomunikacyjny i Telegraficzny) was built in Warsaw between 1928 and 1934. Situated at the corner of Nowogrodzka and St . Barbara streets, the tower, designed by Polish modernist architect and engineer Julian Puterman-Sadłowski (1892-1953), is 42. 5 metres high, and was one of the tallest buildings on the skyline of the pre-war Polish capital." – Katarzyna Koła-Bielawska

AA: Dizzying heights caught impressively by the documentary camera. "The Polish Rin-Tin-Tin" climbing the ladder on the construction site of the skyscraper. Perilous-looking views from the top.

Sinfonie della città 2, Prog. 2 Chicago, Tokyo, Beograd

Halsted Street (US 1934), D: Conrad Friberg, photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Halsted Street (US 1934), D: Conrad Friberg, photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

HALSTED STREET (US 1934). D: Conrad Friberg. P: Conrad Friberg, Film and Photo League of Chicago. DCP (from 16 mm, 397 ft), 11' (transferred at 24 fps); titles: ENG. Source: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
    "In 1934, after the introduction of sound, Conrad Friberg, a member of the Workers Film and Photo League who also used the pseudonym Conrad O. Nelson, made a silent domestic city symphony about Chicago. That same year another semi- professional filmmaker, the German writer, traveler, and photographer Heinrich Hauser, made another city symphony about Chicago, the feature-length Weltstadt in Flegeljahren. Ein Bericht über Chicago (A World City in Its Teens. A Report on Chicago), which was screened in Pordenone last year. Both Hauser and Friberg placed some emphasis on the situation of the working class in the Depression era. However, whereas Hauser, like Ruttmann and others, presented the city as a space of simultaneity, Friberg introduced an alternative to the cross-section idea of the life of a city. By tracing the length of Halsted Street from south to north through the entire cityscape, his short film preserves the spatial structure of urban space, and literally cuts through the city. Indeed, Friberg announces his course in an opening intertitle, “This Film Presents a Cross Section of Chicago As Seen On Halsted Street.”
    "Tom Gunning has described Friberg’s film, originally shot on 16 mm, as one of the most original urban documentaries produced before World War II, a neglected masterpiece that offers a unique approach to urban geography and an alternative to the city symphony concept. The street defines the structure of the film, a linear path determined by a progressive trajectory along the course of Halsted Street. Due to the length of the street, the film shows a variety of Chicago neighborhoods, which unfold successively on the screen; shop and restaurant signs mark the different ethnic districts, as the film also explores the city as a space of textual inscription. However, Friberg combines this specificity of location and the street-determined cross-section structure, which suggests a linear montage, with the associative and contrasting editing techniques typical of city symphonies, thereby adding another layer of meaning to the film. Halsted Street is not only a genuine cross-section, but also a distinct montage film."
    "The curators of this series would like to thank Tom Gunning (University of Chicago) for drawing our attention to this film and for his inspiring analysis of Halsted Street in “One-way Street: Urban Chronotopes in Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City and Conrad’s Halsted Street”, published in Urban Images: Unruly Desires in Film and Architecture, Synne Bull, Marit Paasche, eds. (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2011). My note is based on Gunning’s article and refers to some of his ideas." – Eva Hielscher

AA: A journey along Halsted Street: horses vs. cars, thumbing the nose at Depression, demonstrations against unfairness and lynchings, debris, snow, sausages and cattle, road construction sites, a montage on religions represented, Jesus saves cripples, the immense accumulation of commodities at the market square, Halsted Poultry, a policeman catching a criminal, a barbershop, a slum of shacks, burlesque, talkies with a promise of a "naked exposé of sex", parents with childrens, inns and taverns, a streetcar, riders on horseback. Ethnic references include Swedish records, a Vilnis store, a kosher store, Mouzakios store. The credits are chalk drawn on blackboard. Impressive observations in a film with a somewhat rambling approach. Digitized from 16 mm with a duped look.

FUKKÕ TEITO SHINFONI [Sinfonia della ricostruzione della metropoli imperiale / Symphony of the Rebuilding of the Imperial Metropolis] (JP 1929). D, PC: Tokyo shisei chosa kai [Tokyo Institute for Municipal Research]. 35 mm, 570 m, 32' (16 fps); titles: JPN. Source: National Film Center of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Print struck in 2009, from the 35 mm intermediate negative transferred from the 35 mm nitrate print repatriated from the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
    "The film Fukkõ Teito Shinfoni focuses on the rebuilding of Tokyo in the 1920s as its central theme. On 1 September 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake devastated Tokyo, causing an enormous fire that burned 36 square kilometers to the ground and killed 68,000 people."
    "Following the disaster, the master commission for rebuilding the city seized the opportunity to make extensive changes in regulations affecting the cityscape, most importantly replacing traditional modes of wooden construction and introducing new architectural styles and materials, such as reinforced concrete and steel. Tokyo was rebuilt, re-emerging as a modern metropolis. In October and November 1929, the Tokyo shisei chosa kai (Tokyo Institute for Municipal Research), which was established in 1922 by Tokyo Mayor Shinpei Goto, organized an exhibition, “Teito Fukko” (Rebirth of the Imperial Capital), to document and display the progress achieved thus far. For this exhibition the Institute also produced the film Fukkõ Teito Shinfoni, which was screened at the city hall in Hibiya."
    "The film follows the city symphony dawn-to-dusk structure, portraying a day in the life of the rebuilt Japanese metropolis. We see the city’s bridges over the Sumida River, modern means of transportation, streets, markets, factories, residential, off ice, and government buildings, work, leisure activities, and neon lights at night, as well as other characteristic city symphony motifs. In addition, further rebuilding activities are underlined. The film also includes a return trip from Tokyo to Yokohama, showing different urban zones and the city’s spatial expansion."
    "In its structure and content of modern urban life, Fukkõ Teito Shinfoni relates to other city symphonies of the era. Its filmmakers were most probably familiar with Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin, as it was widely screened in Japan in 1928 and was proclaimed a great work of art, even though contemporary critics were split between a celebration and a sharp critique of the film."
    "I would like to acknowledge Chris Dähne’s research on this film. My notes are based on her writings (Die Stadtsinfonien der 1920er Jahre, 2013, and “Cinematic Urbanism and Architecture of Tokyo in Times of Epochal Upheaval,” in Eselsohren 2, 2014)." – Eva Hielscher

AA: There is a sense of an indomitable spirit in this account of the reconstruction of Tokyo after the 1923 earthquake. A montage on the New Tokyo, its new buildings. The city is cleaned. A kindergarten. Trains arrive at the station, people come to work. A huge machine shop. Large amounts of vegetables. After the beginning the film proceeds without titles. Crowd gymnastic exercises. Chidren at play in big groups. Construction sites. Steam baths. A dolly shot from a fire engine. The zoo: seals, swans, a polar bear, an elephant, lions. Sumo wrestling. Basketball. A market hall with a special fountain. City traffic at dusk. A cinema poster: Buster Keaton in The Cameraman. Stephen Horne played Japanese sounds on his electronic keyboards.

Beograd – prestonica kraljevine Jugoslavie (YU 1932), D: Vojin Djordjević, photo: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd.

Beograd – prestonica kraljevine Jugoslavie (YU 1932), D: Vojin Djordjević, photo: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd.

Beograd – prestonica kraljevine Jugoslavie (YU 1932), D: Vojin Djordjević, photo: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd.

BEOGRAD – PRESTONICA KRALJEVINE JUGOSLAVIJE (Beograd – Na razmedji Istoka i Zapada) [Belgrado, la capitale del Regno di Jugoslavia (Belgrado al crocevia tra Est e Ovest) / Belgrade – the Capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslav ia (Belgrade – At the Crossroads between East and West)] (YU 1932). D: Vojin Djordjević. Cinematography: Josip Novak, Anton-Harry Smeh. PC: Jugoslovenski Prosvetni Film, Beograd. DCP (from 35 mm, 1534 m), 56' (transferred at 25 fps); titles: ENG. Source: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd (digital restoration 2K, 2016).
    "The gala premiere of the first great domestic film about our country’s capital city, Beograd – Prestonica Keraljevine Jugoslavije (Belgrade – the Capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), took place in mid- March 1932, at a sold- out screening at the cinema “Uranija”. Its director, Vojin M . Djordjević (1897–1985), was a well - known journalist , photographer, and film historian, who at the time was also the General Secretary of the National Film Centre in Belgrade. He had started to make a short documentary film about Belgrade a few years earlier, but had to abandon it due to lack of funds. In the meantime, Jugoslovenski Prosvetni Film [Yugoslav Educational Film], a production company with offices in Belgrade and Zagreb that enjoyed preferential status and the strong support of the official authorities, was founded, in 1931. Shortly afterwards Djordjević finally was able to obtain the backing he needed for his long-standing project."
    "At the time of the film’s press premiere two months earlier, in mid-January 1932, it was known by its alternate title, Beograd – Na razmedji Istoka i Zapada (Belgrade – At the Crossroads between East and West) and was 2050 metres long. For the public premiere in March it was shortened to around 1500 metres. After the January press show, a reporter for the Belgrade municipal newspaper Beogradske opštinske novine wrote: “It shows the capital as it was and as it is now; the film is a part of the capital’s history as well as a genuine document about the intensive life of today, its modern development and construction, the dynamics of its great progress, and its signif icant role in state, home, and international life. Belgrade that vanishes and Belgrade that is being born, Belgrade that advances with a vigour before which foreigners halt, Belgrade that lives from dawn till dusk.”"
    "Although reactions were largely positive, critics generally thought the film was too long, that it lacked a strong structure, and needed to be greatly shortened to dispense with certain unnecessary repetitions and made more comprehensible for foreign audiences. As a compromise solution, the March premiere version was cut by more than 500 metres. This was received more favourably, as this positive text by a critic in the politically influential journal Vreme (Time) demonstrates: “In a series of scenes representing various views and parts of the capital, magnificent edifices, traffic, parks, landmarks and monuments, street life, points of interest, picnic spots, docks, festivals, sports, construction works on the capital’s modernization, etc., the complete outer appearance of Belgrade was shown... After tiny fragmented films without distinctive significance for the general depiction of the city, Jugoslovenski Prosvetni Film, our biggest production company, has finally created a film about Belgrade that completely shows the life, creation, perspectives, history, and beauty of our capital city.”"
    "From today’s point of view, it seems that this pioneer venture was rather unjustly attacked and criticized at the time it was made, since it did not claim to resemble either in conception or style those significant “city symphony” experiments such as Alberto Cavalcanti’s Rien que les heures (1926) and Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin. Die Symphonie der Großstadt (1927). It undoubtedly created in its unique and documentary manner a film fresco of Belgrade, the city that is a link between East and West, the city that leaped into the age of asphalt and modern multi-storey buildings directly from Turkish cobblestones and damp houses made of mud, rising like a phoenix from the ashes after dreadful destruction and looting in World War I."
    "The film has been restored using the 6 reels of the work print , in which shots were completely out of order and all the intertitles were missing. All of the intertitles incorporated in this new digital copy have been reconstituted using Vojin Djordjević’s original screenplay, which has survived, although today some frames of the film do not exist." – Aleksandar Saša Erdeljanović

AA: A valuable 2016 reconstruction of a Belgrade city documentary, originally 2050 m, of which 1568 m survive. A factual account with little artistic ambition. We start with the historical significance of Belgrade at the Sava and Danube rivers, visiting the tomb of the unknown soldier, discovering Belgrade's status as a link between the East and the West. A long pan from the top gives us an overview. A map illuminates Belgrade's location as a hub. The railway station. The harbour. The growth of Belgrade since the 18th century is illustrated as an animation. Landmarks and monuments. Buildings of power and prestige. There is a dolly shot from a ship on the river: Belgrade seen from the river. A long sequence at the cemetery. Good houses are being built. On Sunday there are horse races. Wintry Belgrade in the Royal Park. "One day at the capital". Streets are washed. Traffic. A street photographer. A change of guards at the royal palace. A live concert on listeners' wishes is sent on the air. At night there is another life in the illuminated city of Belgrade. It is sometimes difficult to make sense of the structure of the film due to the incomplete nature of the surviving footage. The visual quality is fair, tending to low contrast. The flute was among the instruments played by Stephen Horne in this film.

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