Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Monterey Pop (50th Anniversary Restoration 2017 / 4K / The Criterion Collection / L'Immagine Ritrovata)

The original movie poster from Wikipedia. Janis Joplin sings "Ball and Chain".

The original The Monterey International Pop Festival poster from Wikipedia.

US 1969. PC: The Foundation. A California non profit organisation. Original distributor: Leacock Pennebaker, Inc. P: John Phillips, Lou Adler. D: D. A. Pennebaker.
    CIN (17 cameras): James Desmond (aka Nick Doob), Barry Feinstein, Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, Roger Murphy, D. A. Pennebaker, Nicholas Proferes 16 mm 1,37:1 shot on Ektachrome, released on Eastman Color blown up for release to 35 mm. Camera operator: John Maddox. Assistant camera: Brice Marden. Stage manager: Bob Neuwirth.
    Titles: Tomi Ungerer. ED: Nina Schulman. Assistant ED: Mary Lampson. S: Wally Heider recorded on his eight-channel recorder original releases: 4-Track Stereo or Mono.
    The soundtrack listing below is according to Wikipedia.
    Loc: filmed at The Monterey International Pop Festival Monterey County Fairgrounds 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey, California, USA
    Dates of shooting: 1618 June 1967. Release date: 26 Dec 1968.
    The film had no theatrical premiere in Finland. On screen it has mostly been seen at the Finnish Film Archive. At Midnight Sun Film Festival in 1987 it was screened in the presence of D. A. Pennebaker. First telecast in Finland: 10 Nov 1998.
    For The Criterion Collection in 2009 the soundtracks were remixed in 5.1 Surround Sound by Eddie Kramer.
    50th Anniversary Restoration 2017 / 4K / The Criterion Collection / L'Immagine Ritrovata at 4K. 80 min
    4K DCP from Janus Films by arrangement with Jane Balfour screened at Bio Rex, Helsinki (Helsinki Festival 50th Anniversary / Monterey Pop 50th Anniversary / 50 Years Ago / The Crazy Year 1968), 29 Aug 2018

The Monterey International Pop Festival was a key event of the Summer of Love in 1967.

Monterey Pop the movie, released the year after, became a manifesto of counterculture. As a concert documentary it builds on insights from legendary predecessors: Bert Stern's Jazz on a Summer's Day and Murray Lerner's Festival. Not forgetting the Electronovision production of The T.A.M.I. Show.

The biggest difference to the previous Pennebaker Leacock music documentary, Don't Look Back, is that in Monterey Pop we see full and unabridged performances, usually one song per artist.

"The festival is remembered for the first major American appearances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who and Ravi Shankar, the first large-scale public performance of Janis Joplin and the introduction of Otis Redding to a mass American audience." (Wikipedia)

The complete Monterey Pop Festival records with all performers and their performances have been published by The Criterion Collection on dvd and blu-ray. But this original compact edit of this original movie still works beautifully, although its final number, the never-ending raga excerpt by Ravi Shankar may test the patience of some patrons although it is only a sample from a four hour long performance!

Beautifully directed, beautifully photographed, beautifully edited.

For me personally this film is deeply moving. Listening to pop music in 19661969 at the tender age of 1114 had an enduring impact on me. I keep being surprised at how well this music wears.

Scott McKenzie – "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" studio version played over film footage of pre-concert activity.  "All across the nation, Such a strange vibration, People in motion. There's a whole generation, With a new explanation, People in motion, People in motion..." The song written to promote the festival and released in May 1967 announces the California theme. Soon this song became an international anthem for young people, including in the Prague Spring. The song has been overplayed but now sounds like newborn.

The Mamas & the Papas – "Creeque Alley" studio version played over film footage of pre-concert. Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips. Tens of thousands of people keep arriving.

The Mamas & the Papas – "California Dreamin'". The California theme is reinforced in another legendary anthem.

Canned Heat – "Rollin' and Tumblin'". Frank Cook, Bob Hite, Henry Vestine, Alan Wilson, Larry Taylor. Blues roots: an inspired performance of the delta blues favourite.

Simon & Garfunkel – "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)". Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel. Folk roots: "Slow down, you move too fast".

Hugh Masekela – "Bajabula Bonke (The Healing Song)". African jazz: the B-side of "Grazing in the Grass".

Jefferson Airplane – "High Flyin' Bird" and "Today". Marty Balin, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Grace Slick. At the top of their game.

Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company – "Ball and Chain". Janis Joplin, Peter Albin, Sam Andrew, Dave Getz, James Gurley. Janis Joplin's jaw-dropping interpretation of Big Mama Thornton's blues standard. She screams her agony into the wide open space. There is a fundamental difference in watching this at home or at a large cinema. She fills the space even in the biggest cinema.

Eric Burdon & The Animals – "Paint It Black". Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, Barry Jenkins, Danny McCulloch, John Weider. The breakthrough of Burdon's anti-war, hard rock style. Burdon was deeply influenced by Monterey, and he went on to write a song called "Monterey".

The Who – "My Generation". Roger Daltrey, John Entwhistle, Keith Moon, Pete Townshend. The breakthrough of The Who into the U.S. mainstream. People try to put us down / Talking 'bout my generation / Just because we get around / Talking 'bout my generation / Things they do look awful cold / Talkin' bout my generation / I hope I die before I get old / Talkin' bout my generation. The first guitar smashing performance of the movie.

Country Joe and the Fish – "Section 43". Country Joe McDonald, Bruce Barthol, David Cohen, Chicken Hirsh, Barry Melton.

Otis Redding – "Shake" and "I've Been Loving You Too Long". Otis Redding with Booker T. & The M.G.s: Steve Cropper, Donald Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr., Booker T. Jones. "Otis Redding: This is the love crowd, right? We all love each other, don't we? Am I right? Let me hear you say: Yeah! Audience: Yeah! Otis Redding: Alright. [singing] I've been loving you too long to stop now, You were tired and you want to be free...". A brilliant interpretation. Even with sudden repetitions the interplay of Otis Redding and Booker T. & The M.G.s remains perfect. The dynamics in the outbursts of Otis's passion and the accuracy of the master musicians is electrifying.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – "Wild Thing". Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding. Next to Janis Joplin, the most incredible performance of the movie. Hendrix starts by evoking mythical powers of thunder and lightning. His guitar is at once an ancient phallic cult fetish and a lightning rod. Heaven and earth are shaking in this song about wild love.

The Mamas & the Papas – "Got a Feelin'". The return of the mamas and the papas of the festival.

Ravi Shankar – "Dhun" ("Dadra and Fast Teental") (mistitled as "Raga Bhimpalasi"). Introducing Ravi Shankar to a wide U.S. audience, but film-lovers already knew him from Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy. Spiritual meditation on the sitar.

The best performance I have seen of this movie. The image has been tenderly restored, transferring the raw immediacy of the 16 mm grain to digital. The colour is bright as it should but never garish. The restored sound is refined and full-bodied.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Ilosia aikoja, Mielensäpahoittaja / Happier Times, Grump

Glada tider, Kverulanten.
    FI 2018 Solar Films. P: Jukka Helle, Markus Selin. D: Tiina Lymi. SC: Tiina Lymi, Juha Lehtola, Tuomas Kyrö – based on the novel by Tuomas Kyrö. DP: Hena Blomberg. PD: Sattva-Hanna Toiviainen. Cost: Anna Vilppunen. Makeup: Pia Mikkonen. M: Juri Seppä, Miska Seppä. S: Pekka Karjalainen. ED: Joona Louhivuori.
    C: Heikki Kinnunen (Mielensäpahoittaja / The Grump), Satu Tuuli Karhu (Sofia), Elina Knihtilä (Katri), Jani Volanen (Pekka), Iikka Forss (Hessu), Mari Perankoski (miniä), Sulevi Peltola (Kolehmainen), Janne Reinikainen (Kivinkinen).
    ♪ "Vihreät niityt" ("Green Fields", Terry Gilkyson, Richard Dehr, Frank Miller, 1956) perf. Olavi Virta.
    ♪ "Miljoona ruusua" / "Million Roses" ("Dāvāja Māriņa meitenei mūžiņu", Raimonds Pauls, Leons Briedes, 1981, covered by Alla Pugatsova as "Миллион алых роз" in Russian with lyrics by Andrei Voznesenski), perf. Vera Telenius – and by Jarkko Honkanen & Taiga feat. Talonpoika Lalli.
    DCP released by Nordisk Film with Swedish subtitles by Frej Grönholm, 115 min
    Premiere 24 Aug 2018.
    Viewed at Tennispalatsi Scape, 24 Aug 2018

Tiina Lymi has directed the sequel to the beloved Mielensäpahoittaja / The Grump (2014).

The biggest change is in the change of the actor. Antti Litja had created the character for the radio, the theatre and the cinema. Now Heikki Kinnunen steps into those big rubber boots. His interpretation is different. He seems more angry and aggressive, but a warm heart beats in his chest.

The other major change is that we now connect with a different family among the descendants. In the first film we learned to know the weak-willed son Hessu (Iikka Forst), dominated by his wife (Mari Perankoski). This time Hessu and Mari are in the background.

In the foreground is the other son, Pekka (Jani Volanen), married with Katri (Elina Knihtilä). They have a 17-year-old daughter, Sofia (Satu Tuuli Karhu). Pekka is a tyrant, making life hell for everybody. Everything is paved for a brilliant, successful path for Sofia starting from Princeton University.

The film begins startlingly with death. The Grump's wife dies, having suffered from Alzheimer's for a long time. The funeral and the memorial are disastrous, due to the inflamed relationships in the family.

The Grump is so depressed that he immediately starts to prepare his own funeral. He marks his belongings with masking tape notifications on who will inherit what. He digs his potatoes from the ground and donates them to his neighbour, Kolehmainen (Sulevi Peltola). The frugal Grump even begins to carve his own coffin.

The turning-point is Sofia's decision to cancel her planned visit to the Helsinki Business Forum. Instead, she returns to the Grump, to the consternation of the angry old man. And the Grump, of all people, is the only one to divine Sofia's secret. She is pregnant, as a result of a drunken party night in Brussels. She does not even know the name of the father.

Most of all Sofia fears her own father who wants to interrupt the pregnancy although the fetus is already six months old. But Sofia has her baby, and it is also a journey of self-discovery for her father Pekka, son of the Grump. Pekka realizes that while rebelling against his father he has turned into his mirror image. As the Grump states: "I'm sorry that you have become me".

Instead of a coffin the Grump carves a cradle.

It is a good story, and there is much to like, most of all the performances of Heikki Kinnunen and Sulevi Peltola. Satu Tuuli Karhu is very nice in the female leading role. But the character of Pekka becomes overdone and monotonous. He is a monster like the Grump but not equally interesting. Perhaps the character is underwritten.

Some of the moments relating to the ultrasound image of the fetus are especially moving. Tiina Lymi conveys the full power of the experience. This tiny being changes the lives of everybody.

Among the fascinating details is the presence of the Thai berrypickers in the forest. They seem to understand the spirit of the forest instinctively. This aspect brings to mind the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady, Uncle Boonmee). The Thai people immediately connect with The Grump and save his life.

A sense of nature is a link connecting Tiina Lymi's theatrical feature films. In Off the Map the women find a forest hideaway where it turns out that the heroine is devoid of survival skills.  Lapland Odyssey 3 takes place in the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. The odyssey is about Janne's trying to find out who he is and achieve a peace of mind. He wants to experience a period of contemplation in the nature.

But we have become strangers in our own land. We cannot read nature anymore. Perhaps that is a fundamental reason for the malaise for the wanderer of Lapland Odyssey 3 and The Grump who cannot relate to the generation of his children. But now he is connecting with his grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. There is a note of hope.

Tiina Lymi creates moments of genuine emotion in this sequel which is less satirical but more engrossing than its predecessor. It is both more serious and more hopeful. The narrative is slightly prolonged, and the film might be better if it were a bit more compact. Lymi has a talent of crisp wit, but in this film sentiment is needlessly emphasized, including in the superfluous music score. Less could be more.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Andy Warhol: The Closet

Andy Warhol: The Closet, with Nico and Randy Borscheidt. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art (New York).

US 1966. Andy Warhol.
    Featuring: Nico, Randy Borscheidt.
    16 mm, b&w, sound, 66 min
    US © 1999 Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.
    16 mm print from MoMA Circulating Library screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Andy Warhol 90, Nico 80), 22 Aug 2018

A film that approaches the territory of the Theater of the Absurd.

In the Screen Tests we have the image without sound. In The Closet we for a long time have a static view of closed doors while hearing dialogue from the inside, almost a case of "sound without image". But the closet doors are opened and we see Nico and Randy sitting inside.

They are supposedly perfect strangers. Why they are in the closet and why don't they get out we never know. The situation is similar to Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel.

Nico and Randy have nothing terribly important to say but they seem to have a good time together.

The static camera becomes mobile. There are close-ups and jerky camera movements, picking details such as shoes and knees. The camera seems to have a life of its own. Sometimes it just ignores the people.

An hour of life in real time. Nothing happens, nothing is said. But the human presence is strong and memorable.

Andy Warhol was a predecessor of reality television, and he already went further.


Andy Warhol Screen Tests, Reel #18

Andy Warhol Screen Tests: Nico (Hershey), 1966

Andy Warhol Screen Tests: Lou Reed (Hershey), 1966

US 1964–66. Andy Warhol.  
    Reel 18
    The films can be screened at 16 fps or 18 fps. We screened them at 18 fps.
    16 mm, b&w, silent, 18 fps, 40 min   
    US © 1999 Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.
    16 mm prints from MoMA Circulating Library screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Andy Warhol 90, Nico 80), 22 Aug 2018

#1 Nico (Hershey) (1966) ST 246
    Camera exercises back and forth, from side to side, swinging, stuttering, crawling while Nico enjoys a Hershey bar. She laughs.

#2 Rosebud (1964) ST 283
     Rosebud Felieu-Perret. Unflinching, sculptural, staring. The embodiment of the "don't blink" agenda.

#3 Chip Monck (1966) ST 221
    The future lighting designer of Woodstock. Arrogant, smoking, face half cut by shadow.   

#4 Susan Sontag (1964) ST 322
    Sporting large sunshades she sits crossing her hands over her ankles. Unsmiling. With a touch of sadness, ennui. She keeps changing her position on the chair. Each one of these tests has a different visual approach.

#5 John Palmer (1964) ST 254
    The Warhol's associate who invented the concept of Empire. His look is what we in Finnish call syrjäkarein. Not looking directly but with eyes turned to the side: sideways, obliquely, with a slanted look.

#6 Richard Markowitz (1964) ST 204
    The composer. A frontal view. A thin shadow crosses his face. Sadness, pain, disappointment.

#7 Isabel Eberstadt (1964) ST 87
    The influential figure of the fashion scene. Her head is askew. Her head droops. Not without a smile.

#8 John Cale (Eye) (1966) ST 39
    An extreme close-up of John Cale's Eye. The field size changes until we see more and recognize his face.

#9 Lou Reed (Hershey) (1966) ST 271
    A parallel to Nico's Hershey Bar film. Again the camera is doing physical exercises, as if checking its various possibilities, including time lapse.

#10 Star of the Bed (1964) ST 327
    Unidentified even in the Andy Warhol Catalogue raisonnée. A handsome guy smiles, full of happiness, to the rhythm of music which we don't hear.

The people are not identified in the films. There is no text and no sound.

Andy Warhol's Screen Tests are a unique contribution in the history of art: how to portray the human face.

The closest parallel is to painted and drawn portraits.

Often I'm thinking about sculpture. Particularly when the movement of the head shows us many sides of it.

Today we live in the Age of the Selfie. The Screen Tests are the opposite of the selfies, but there is a similar attitude of narcissism.

These are literally exercises, about learning to film, nonchalantly clumsily in many ways. "Only by your mistakes you can learn", said Ingvar Kamprad.

The Griffithian insight of the close-up is reinvented: the unique invention of the hugely magnified close-up of the living human face. Like it had never been seen before. This is the connection between Griffith, Bergman and Warhol.

Timeless. Haunting.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Bergman – A Year in a Life – continued: Bergman and Women

Nära livet / So Close to Life (1958). Eva Dahlbeck, Bibi Andersson, and Ingrid Thulin as mothers-to-be. "For the contemporary audience this drama of childbirth came as a shock. Nevertheless, it was successful and won three awards in Cannes in 1958. / För dåtidens publik kom detta förlossningsdrama som något av en chock. Framgångsrik blev filmen hursomhelst och prisbelönades trefaldigt vid filmfestivalen i Cannes 1958." © Nordisk Tonefilm / Folkets Hus och Parker. Photo and caption: Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman. Please click to enlarge the image.

In Jane Magnusson's documentary film Bergman – A Year in a Life there is a tendency to insinuate that Ingmar Bergman abused women. I wish Magnusson would state this outright and examine the evidence pro and contra. I'm not sure whether she really thinks that Bergman abused women but in this year of the Me Too movement it is a lucrative insinuation to make.

I am myself a supporter of the movement. Ingmar Bergman did not participate in movements but I'm sure he would have supported the Me Too movement whole-heartedly. Real cases of abuse and harassment in society are widespread and devastating, and one should focus on them. The movement is weakened by unfounded insinuations.

Bergman was no angel. His personal life was in turbulence before the 1970s. But abuse and harassment were alien to him. His relationships were based on mutual love. His affairs with women were not particularly numerous. He had ten major relationships, all serious. He was discreet about them.

Mikael Timm who interviewed all the women for his Ingmar Bergman biography was astounded by the fact that they spoke well of Bergman and of each other. Those whom he had treated worst called back to Timm to ensure that the biographer would not speak ill of Ingmar.

Timm asked Bergman how this is possible. Ingmar laughed happily. "Look, it is more important to have a good relationship with your wife after divorce than during marriage!" With the exception of the first one, Karin Lannby, Bergman stayed in touch with everybody and learned to know their new partners.

"I am a very good friend with all my wives. We have always tried to surround ourselves with love and proofs of tenderness after divorce. When the duties and the roleplay disappear, all the attributes one once fell in love with emerge again. Then even the original feelings return and one can have extraordinarily interesting discussions of the shared life".

This is the special and perhaps unique feature in Bergman's relationship with his women.

Women were Bergman's prime inspiration. His portraits of women are among the most exciting and versatile in the history of art. He ignored stereotypes and portrayed interesting, modern, and independent Swedish women. He encouraged his actresses to grow, and many rose to greatness and spread their wings in brilliant, independent careers. It was a fruitful collaboration in many ways. Bergman never belittled women, on the contrary.

Magnusson cites a remark on sexual violence which Bergman had deleted from his manuscript for Laterna Magica. This act happened in the Karen Lannby relationship in 1940. It was a stormy one. Not only was Karen older but she was more experienced. Because Ingmar was discreet, and quick to admit his own weaknesses while not blaming others, we will never know the whole story, but evidently they were experimenting the full range of sex, including S/M.

There is a "dark side of genius" in the Bergman story. He did neglect his children, as discussed by Margarethe von Trotta in her documentary In Search of Ingmar Bergman.

P.S. 20 Aug 2018. Magnusson also insinuates that Bergman abused women by inserting nude scenes in the beginning of his career.

In fact discreet nudity was not unusual in the Nordic cinema of the 1930s, 1940s, and the 1950s. (The world changed radically in the 1960s but that's another story). Bergman was not different from the rest. In Nordic summer films young people tend to wear bathing suits, but that is realism, and it seems that such films were popular with men and women alike. There is little nudity in Bergman's early films, certainly not more than in films of other Nordic directors.

Bergman's films were good, they were exported, and their realism was abused in U.S. marketing, but that was hardly Bergman's fault. The same thing happened to Arne Mattsson. (And even to some Finnish films). "Swedish sin" was an invention of U.S. puritans.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Bergman – A Year in a Life – continued: Bergman and Nazism

William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice / Köpmannen i Venedig (1940), school play production at Norra Latin directed by Ingmar Bergman starring Gösta Prüzelius as Shylock and Erland Josephson as Antonio (top left). Teater, 1940: Köpmannen i Venedig. Bergman och Erland Josephson samarbetar för första gången i denna "fickupplaga" av Shakespeares klassiker. "Det kunde kanske tyckas att Shylockdramat skulle vara en alltför vansklig uppgift att föra i land för en trupp ungdomar, men de lyckades faktiskt överraskande bra." Jerome i Dagens Nyheter. Den tonårige Erland Josephson fascinerades av den knappt vuxne Bergman: Jag var imponerad, hänförd, omtumlad. Det här var en sanslöst begåvad människa. Dessutom hade han en älskarinna. Hon svepte in i Norra Latin insvept i något pälsartat om halsen för att bevista vår repetition. Ingmar förde henne med belevad sirlighet till första bänk. Han presenterade henne som Sveriges Största Amatörskådespelerska. Han var redan en erfaren man. Jag gapade. Erland Josephson i titelrollen ansågs ”värdig och imposant” medan Gösta Prüzelius gjorde en ”ypperlig” Shylock. I Dagens Nyheter konstaterade signaturen Jerome (Göran Traung): "Det kunde kanske tyckas att Shylockdramat skulle vara en alltför vansklig uppgift att föra i land för en trupp ungdomar, men de lyckades faktiskt överraskande bra." Källor: Ingmar Bergmans Arkiv. Erland Josephson, Rollen: antecknat på turné med Körsbärsträdgården 24/2 – 15/5 1989, (Stockholm, Bromberg, 1989). Henrik Sjögren, Lek och raseri: Ingmar Bergmans teater 1938-2002, (Stockholm, Carlssons Bokförlag, 2002).
 Medarbetare: Gösta Prüzelius, Shylock. Erland Josephson, Antonio. Image and text: Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman.

In her documentary film Bergman – A Year in a Life Jane Magnusson discusses the topic of Ingmar Bergman and Nazism. In his memoir Laterna Magica and his interviews Bergman consistently emphasized his Nazi enthusiasm that lasted until well after the end of World War II when he became convinced of the truth about the Holocaust.

The trouble with Ingmar's account is that nobody confirms it.

I have never believed it because it is out of character. Nazism is consistent with what Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer called the authoritarian personality. Ingmar's personality was nothing if not anti-authoritarian. Since his first film credit, Torment (1944), Ingmar had a high profile in attacking authority. The account of the sadistic schoolmaster Caligula (played by Stig Järrel) was immediately understood as an anti-Nazi allegory. The young Bergman sympathized and identified with young non-conformists at odds with society. There is an affinity in Bergman's screenplay with Weimar cinema, its rebellious stance against an insane authority which had led Germany to the First World War.


In 1940–1941 Karin Lannby was the woman in Ingmar Bergman's life. Lannby (1916–2007) was the first woman with whom Ingmar Bergman lived together. Although she was only two years older than the 22 year old Ingmar she was already a woman of the world.

Lannby's mother was the director of the Swedish office of MGM and a co-owner of Hotel Carlton in Stockholm. Since youth Karin was well connected and travelled, participating with her mother on luxury cruises and trips abroad. Since Karin was 15 years she was also a militant anti-fascist, a member of the socialist student union Clarté and the Swedish Communist Youth. She participated in the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer interpreter and secretary at a hospital in Alcoy in red Valencia. She stayed for a year in Barcelona and became involved with the Comintern. She also published a collection of poetry, Cante Jondo, in 1937. In 1939 she cut her ties with communists and became a spy for the counter-intelligence of the Swedish Defence Staff (Försvarsstaben).

Lannby was Ingmar's partner at Sagoteatern and Medborgarteatern where they mounted plays for children (in which professional actors performed for children). Lannby had rarely been mentioned in the context of Bergman but when Mikael Timm asked about her Ingmar answered: "I have her to thank for a lot. She shook me from my intellectual lassitude". The multilingual Karin urged Ingmar to study new international drama. She was excellent in networking and financing. She played the mother in Bergman's production of August Strindberg's The Pelican at the Student Theatre in 1940. Among their successes at the children's theatre was H. C. Andersen's The Tinderbox. Karin recommended to Ingmar the dancer and choreographer Else Fisher who soon became Ingmar's first wife.


In 1940 Ingmar Bergman started also his lifelong collaboration with Erland Josephson (1923–2012) whom he already knew before. Erland, author, director, theatre director and actor, became Ingmar's best friend.

In 1940 Erland was a schoolboy, a student at the Norra Latin Läroverket. The student society Concordia had decided to mount a production of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and they were auditioning for a director. Ingmar Bergman made an instant impression when he appeared in front of the Concordia accompanied with his woman-of-the-world companion Karin Lannby.

Although the production was a school play it drew fine reviews from the press, including from the leading newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

The Merchant of Venice is always sensitive material because of Shylock, one of the most famous / infamous Jewish characters in world literature. In Nazi Germany and Austria it was often produced in terms of anti-semitism. Werner Krauss played Shylock in Vienna in 1943 in a viciously ingenious interpretation that reportedly efficiently converted audiences to anti-semitism.

In contrast, Bergman's interpretation was philosemitic, portraying Shylock as a a victim of oppression and prejudice. Casting against type, Erland Josephson got to play Antonio, the merchant. Erland Josephson later remembered that the production was "clearly anti-Nazi". In the Concordia annual booklet that was available at the performances Tore Tegengren wrote: "For us Shylock appears as a tragic figure, a victim of racial hatred and Christian intolerance".

This experience inspired Erland Josephson to become an actor.

Erland's father Gunnar Josephson was the head of the Jewish Congregation of Stockholm, deeply involved in the congregation's activity to help Europe's Jews in 1933–1945. He was the CEO of Sandberg's Bookstore, Ingmar's favourite bookstore where he used to hang around because as a student he could not afford to buy many of the books he wanted.

The Josephson family is a prominent Swedish Jewish family, well-known members of which include Ernst Josephson (1851–1906, poet and painter), Erik Josephson (1864–1929, architect), Ragnar Josephson (1891–1966, head of the Royal Dramatic Theatre), and many more.

The interpretation of The Merchant of Venice was no exception in Bergman's work in the 1940s. Mikael Timm details a long list of productions with contemporary social relevance. Bergman was never a political director but neither was he escaping reality.

Ingmar had been banned from his home after a violent clash with his father. Ingmar envied Erland's liberal home "teeming with cultural figures". Perhaps the two homes in Fanny and Alexander are a reflection of this: the bishop's authoritarian home and the liberal Jacobi home. During their lifelong friendship Ingmar admired Erland's wisdom that "dated back thousands of years" as reported by Mikael Timm.


I had been puzzled by Bergman's Nazi claims for a long time, and provoked by Geoffrey Macnab's article in Sight & Sound, December 2007, I decided to ask Erland Josephson about them.

I was kindly given his telephone number by Jon Wengström at the Swedish Film Institute and called him on 29 November 2007, expecting to be answered by someone who would take a telephone appointment for me. But it was Erland Josephson himself on the phone, and I was not equipped with a recording device; I just wrote down notes after the conversation. I had to focus on listening and was not able to take notes simultaneously. I asked Josephson whether it would be possible to visit him and discuss the theme of Bergman and the Nazis. He apologized that he was not in particularly good health.

Erland Josephson told that he had learned to know Ingmar already in 1938-1939. He also confirmed that the The Merchant of Venice production was pro-semitic.

I then asked whether it was true that Ingmar was a Nazi sympathizer who only after the war woke up to the Nazi reality. Erland said that this was not true. About the Bergman family's Nazi sympathies Josephson said that it was more a case of German sympathies among the bourgeoisie.

He told that one knew in Sweden about the persecutions and the concentration camps in Germany, and facts about the Holocaust were well documented in Sweden already when it happened.

Referring to Fanny and Alexander, The Serpent's Egg, The Touch, and The Goldberg Variations I asked whether Bergman had any special interest in Jewish culture.

There was a long silence, and Erland said that nobody had asked that question before.

"Ja, det tror jag han hade", he said: "yes, that's what I think", but they never had a discussion about that, "aldrig någon diskussion". "Aldrig på det sättet", "never in that way".

The one time Josephson played a Jewish character in a Bergman film was the role of Isak Jacobi in Fanny and Alexander. Josephson wondered whether there was a real-life model for him, "en förebild i verkligheten".

Josephson was also aware that Bergman may have had a childhood love affair with a Jewish girl.

Mr. Josephson said he is not able to write himself about these things, and he has never done it before.

I thanked him and expressed a wish to come to visit him to talk about this in detail. I waited too long and perhaps Erland's health condition would have prevented the visit anyway. He had long suffered from Parkinson's disease (he was even a "voice of Parkinson" in public discourse), but his mental presence was bright and clear when I called him.

About one year later in Judisk Krönika ([The Jewish Chronicle, the cultural journal of Swedish Jews] 2 / 2009) there was a remarkable dossier on Erland Josephson and Ingmar Bergman. There was an in-depth interview with Erland Josephson by Michaela Lundell, titled "I Want to Know Who I Am". There was also a translation of an interview with Morton Narrowe, a rabbi of the Jewish Congregation in Stockholm, with Katharina Schmidt-Hirschfelder. Bergman had become intrigued with the concept of "another dimension" in Judaism while he was preparing the production of The Goldberg Variations. He received a crash course in Judaism and was so impressed that he asked whether it would be possible to become "a honorary Jew". To Bergman's disappointment Narrowe replied that no such thing exists.


While there was initially a positive attitude towards the Nazi government in the Bergman family, the attitude changed. Erik Bergman condemned the Nazis in his sermons. In 1939 Erik and Karin Bergman rescued a German boy, Dieter Winter, whose mother was Jewish and who was in danger to be called to a "labour camp". He stayed with the Bergmans for years.

Movingly, his son Jan Winter (born 1950) is interviewed by Jane Magnusson in her film, and this year, in May, Winter published a book, Dieters bok – flykting hos familjen Bergman [Dieter's Book - a Refugee in the Bergman Family] about his father's stay with Erik and Karin Bergman (Förlaget Tongång, 2018).


There is a perverse sense of self-demonization in Ingmar's Nazi claims. He was a friend of the Josephson family, seminal in helping Jewish refugees. An anti-authoritarian stance was consistent in his plays and films.

Perhaps Ingmar had an overdeveloped sense of guilt about his initial fascination with Hitler's Germany. There had been a musical evening in Thüringen, listening to the banned records from The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Bergman became infatuated with a girl called Rebecka. Rebecka wrote to him in Sweden, but Ingmar did not answer at once, and then he heard that the family had moved away from Weimar. "Her memory stayed with him like a minor chord" (Mikael Timm).

Perhaps the shame of not having helped Rebecka developed into a Nazi fabrication.

ADDED 3 November 2018: Jan Winter reveals that Ingmar Bergman denounced Dieter Winter to Karin Lannby who informed on him. A serious, dangerous, and potentially fatal act.

ADDED 3 November 2018: Luis Buñuel in his memoir Mon dernier soupir (1982), in the chapter on Paris during the Spanish Civil War, writes about his mission to Stockholm. He was assigned to engage a secret agent to find about fascists in the regions of Biarritz and Bayonne, and he asked "the very beautiful Swedish woman Kareen". "She was a member of the Swedish Communist Party. The wife of the ambassador knew the girl and recommended her. Kareen accepted the assignment, and we returned together by boat and train. During the voyage a veritable conflict developed between my perpetually vigilant sexuality and my sense of justice. The latter was victorious. We never even kissed, and I suffered in silence. Kareen took off to the Pyrenees and provided me the with a full report of what she discovered. I never met her again". (My re-translation from the Finnish edition, p. 199).

ADDED 4 November 2018: Jan Winter tips me to the book: Anders Thunberg: Karin Lannby: Ingmar Bergmans Mata Hari. Natur & Kultur, 2009, 415 p. Thunberg confirms that Karin Lannby was the woman employed by Luis Buñuel.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Bergman – ett år, ett liv / Bergman – A Year in a Life

Bergman yksi vuosi, yksi elämä.
    SE 2018. PC: B-Reel Films. Co-production companies: SVT, SF Studios, Gotland’s Film Fund, Film Capital Stockholm fund, Nordsvensk Filmunderhållning, Reel Ventures and Motlys. With support from: The Swedish Film Institute, The Norwegian Film Institute, Nordisk Film & tv fond and Creative Europe.
    D: Jane Magnusson. CIN: Emil Klang 1920 x 1080 2K DCP. ED: Hanna Lejonqvist. Head of research: Henrik von Sydow. Assistant researcher: Erik Galli. Sound: 5.1
    117 min.
    Original language: Swedish, English.
    From my viewing notes:
    Languages also include: French, German, and Norwegian.
    Featuring: archival: Ingmar Bergman, Dick Cavett, Dag Bergman, Bibi Andersson, Linn Ullmann.
    Featuring: new: Arne Strömgren, Gunnel Lindblom, Jan Troell, Thommy Berggren, Birgit De Geer, Dick Cavett, Gösta Ekman, Barbra Streisand, Arnold Weinstein, Jan Malmsjö, Jan Winter, Maria-Pia Boëthius, Michael Degen, Owe Svensson, Mikael Persbrandt, Anders Thunberg, Katinka Faragó, Inga Landgré, Gunilla Palmstierna Weiss, Birgitta Pettersson, Peter Fischer, Stefan Larsson, Lena Endre, Roy Andersson, Marie Richardson, Liv Ullmann, Kenne Fant, Suzanne Osten, Pernilla August, Benny Haag, Bengt Wasenius, Lena Olin, Madeleine Grive, Antonia Pyk, Agnetha Ekmanner, Thorsten Flinck, Anita Haglöf. Short remarks by (probably from Bergman's Video): Lars von Trier, John Landis, Holly Hunter, Zhang Yimou.
    Finnish premiere: 10 Aug 2018, released by SF, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Irmeli Kuusela / Lars Thorsell.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 3, Helsinki, 11 Aug 2018

Based on Finnish reviews yesterday I was not looking forward to seeing Bergman A Year in a Life. The emphases on the reviews were based on misrepresentations in the spirit of the "dark side of the genius" formula, fashionable in the 1970s, a latterday representative of which is the scandal journalist Thomas Sjöberg. Unfortunately this film has been influenced by him and it does play around with scandal in a way that is easy to misunderstand. There is a wealth of first rate material on Bergman which the film-makers have ignored. Of the several Ingmar Bergman centenary tribute films this is the weakest.

I loved Jane Magnusson's Bergman's Video series, based on an inspired and illuminating concept, full of humour and surprises. Magnusson loves Bergman's films but evidently despises him as a person. It his her right, but a film based on contempt can become tedious to watch.

That said, I'm infinitely grateful for the wealth of archival material included from Bergman's work in film, the theatre, and television, including his precious "making of" films, and the archival interviews with Ingmar. The real sensation here is the interview footage with Ingmar's brother Dag Bergman, which had been suppressed by Ingmar. Dag turns upside down Ingmar's claims about their common childhood (we already knew this from other accounts by family members).

Among the many new interviews it was engrossing to see here the one with Inga Landgré (born 1927), the star of Ingmar's debut film Crisis (1946). And Kenne Fant, who died two years ago at 93. And Gösta Ekman who died last year at 77. A surprise witness is Jan Winter, the son of Dieter Winter who as a child was rescued from the Holocaust by the Bergman family. Also the testimony of Liv Ullmann is important, swimming against Jane Magnusson's anti-Bergmanian current.

My emotional response to this film is that it does include a full official acknowledgement of Bergman's merits as an artist, but it does not come from the heart. Instead, the hate against Bergman as a person seems genuine and heartfelt.

Bergman A Year in a Life is a feature film connected with Jane Magnussons's multi-episode tv series project on Bergman. The announced focus of the feature film is on Bergman's annus mirabilis, 1957, but it keeps digressing to cover everything. The film might have been stronger if it had stayed in focus. There certainly would have been enough exciting material!

Now there is a bit too much surfing from topic to topic and soundbite to soundbite in regular dvd bonus feature fashion. Because Magnusson genuinely loves the films, it would have been rewarding to hear more about her personal in-depth evaluations of Bergman's films premiered in 1957, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries her own updated reaction to them. Wild Strawberries is not flawless, and The Seventh Seal has been endlessly spoofed. How have they stood the test of time?

And how would a woman evaluate Brink of Life, also produced in 1957 (but released the year after)? It's a practically all-woman affair, and not the only one in Bergman's oeuvre. What is the feminist reception of Bergman today? Bergman was never interested in female stereotypes. His women were modern, complex, surprising and independent. His actresses never had to repeat themselves. He loved to give them new challenges.

Technically the film is very well made. The music score is conventional.

The clips from the new digital restorations seem brilliantly unreal, sharp and airless. This is not how the films originally looked.


Monday, August 06, 2018

M – a Film by Anna Eriksson

FI © 2018 Anna Eriksson. P: Anna Eriksson / Ihode Management Ltd. / Cursum Perficio. Created and written by Anna Eriksson. Cinematography: Matti Pyykkö – scope 2,35:1.
    C: Anna Eriksson, Petri Salo, Gail Ferguson, Axel Sutinen, Pietari Kaakkomäki, Asta Vieno, Ari Vieno, Paola Bärlund, Veera Siivonen, Joni Segerroos, Dulce Rodriguez-Saldivar, Melanie Rodriguez-Saldivar, Britany Rodriguez-Saldivar, Augusting de Higuera Blanca, Susana Gonçalo, Steve Ramigio Delgado, José Paiva Wolff, Quim-Ze Grilo, Gloria Bleezard-Levister, Alonso Levister, Alexandre Fabião, Oliver Nurmi, Issey O'Brien.
    All female voices & narration: Anna Eriksson. Sound design: Anna Eriksson. Editing: Anna Eriksson. Colour grading: Anna Eriksson & Eliel Kilkki. Co-production in Portugal & Anubis character: Petri Salo & Axel Sutinen. Heavy metal track: "No Doubt" by Shapeless. Graphic design: Pietari Kaakkomäki. Production support: The Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike).
    Loc: Portugal.
    90 min
    Vimeo screener link viewed at home, Helsinki, 6 Aug 2018.

Anna Eriksson: "M is a work of art that explores the relationship between sexuality and death. These two appear to be at opposite poles, but in fact they merge in all of us, disguising the fear of death or the desire to die, the world of Eros."

AA: Ultimately, Marilyn Monroe was a poet although she emerged in the industrial circumstances of a dream factory. She was a living paradox. Susan Strasberg called her "an iron butterfly".

Her friends included poets from Dylan Thomas to Carl Sandburg. More than a hundred poets dedicated poems to her when she died. Among her friends were also writers from Carson McCullers to Truman Capote. Not forgetting playwrights such as Tennessee Williams and her husband Arthur Miller.

For Jean Cocteau poetry was an Orphic quest. Through a dark mirror the poet enters the kingdom of Death. When he returns he keeps hearing messages from the beyond.

Half a year before her death Marilyn Monroe visited Luis Buñuel in Mexico on the set of The Exterminating Angel. Silvia Pinal starred in Buñuel's films at the time, to be followed by Catherine Deneuve. Buñuel was in his blonde period, as was Hitchcock. Beauty and death was a shared theme. David Lynch was also obsessed by this theme in Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive, and Lost Highway.

A surrealistic current is present in Anna Eriksson's film M. The central character is not like Marilyn Monroe, but there are superficial and profound affinities with her. We meet a beautiful blonde going through an existential crisis. An Anubis character emerges as a representative of the underworld and afterlife.

M is also a passion play. Physical pain was a constant current in Marilyn Monroe's life. M is a story of torture. A tale not about the pleasures but the suffering of the flesh. This sex goddess is deeply unhappy.

Monroe achieved stardom in the final stage of the Hollywood studio system. She was a prisoner of the Production Code and the dated attitudes of a conventional generation. But she was also a harbinger of the future. The promise of hers has haunted film stars of later generations, including Melanie Griffith, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kim Basinger, Annette Bening, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, Scarlett Johansson, Sharon Stone, Patricia Arquette, and Michelle Williams.

Marilyn Monroe was a goddess of pop art since its beginning in 1956 when a Marilynesque character appeared in a work called "Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?" by Richard Hamilton (whom we remember this year also as the designer of The Beatles' White Album 50 years ago). Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Mimmo Rotella, George Segal, Nam June Paik and others would create Pop Art works inspired by her image. Particularly Warhol who had always a memento mori approach in them. Sex and death. Also Salvador Dalí created a Marilyn Monroe painting of his own called "Mao Monroe".

In pop music Marilyn has always been present since Bob Dylan and The Who. A new turn happened with Madonna's "Material Girl" concept. Marilyn had created a brilliant satirical interpretation as Lorelei Lee. Madonna seemed to celebrate what Marilyn had lampooned. Marilyn's was a battle of survival with her star image, "her albatross", which was always on the verge of overwhelming her. Madonna turned the tables and repurposed her image as a weapon, in the process turning into an anti-Marilyn. In a parallel process she adopted the Robot Maria persona, the anti-Maria in Metropolis.

Lady Gaga has also played with the legendary Marilyn image. More profoundly, she has been inspired by Alexander McQueen's oneiric visions, deep in the realms of Eros and Thanatos.

Anna Eriksson's quest has affinities with all of them: Buñuel, Lynch, Warhol, and McQueen, not forgetting Magritte. M is a mysterious and shocking trip, not for the faint hearted. The camera does not shy away from the secrets of the flesh. We do enter splatter territory. The physical frankness is startling. It has links with the heritage of female avant-garde film-makers from Maya Deren to Yoko Ono, Valie Export, Chantal Akerman and Penelope Spheeris, and also affinities with performance art. It goes beyond exhibitionism and voyeurism.

M is not a laff fest. We do not see the radiant, smiling habitus of the love goddess. We meet the shadow. Masters of comedy can be depressive out of the limelight. Martin Scorsese created a memorable study of this in The King of Comedy starring Jerry Lewis.

The soundscape is complex, haunting and evocative.

The visual world is assured and poetic. The cinematography has been conducted by Matti Pyykkö in Marilynesque CinemaScope. A parallel world to Los Angeles is discovered in Portugal, and also here the oceanic presence is of the essence.

The characters are not conveyed as psychologically well rounded personalities. They are emblematic figures, striking presences in a performance.

Anna Eriksson's M reverses expectations. Deliberate in tempo, it slowly grows into a shattering experience.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Skammen / Shame - continued

Skammen / Shame. The finale.

More about Shame.

Ingmar Bergman's film was a reaction to the Vietnam war. That first television war was present in our homes every night. Many were baffled by Bergman's abstracted account of war. Bergman was not at home in political cinema, and he stayed outside political commitment in his films. Shame was as far as he could go: an act of solidarity towards people, individual human beings caught in the war. His contribution was to show with special insight the psychological process of degradation in war.

Having seen Shame again after many years I find it relevant also for our contemporary Memorial Year 1918 in Finland. We are discovering important new emphases in our knowledge about our civil war a hundred years ago, including the fact that many decided to stay neutral, like Eva and Jan in Shame. (Jan even refuses to listen to the radio or watch television). But even people who stayed neutral were brutally punished.

Shame is also relevant to our contemporary discussion about fake news in the age of Trump and Brexit. Indoctrination and propaganda may be reasons for Jan and Eva to ignore the news. Still they become victims: Eva is forced to give a television interview, and her voice is post-synchronized to fit occupation propaganda purposes.

Also the finale resonates with today, our epic refugee crisis. The house of the musicians Jan and Eva has been burned, their musical instruments destroyed. They become refugees who escape in a boat with many others. When the motor fails the captain commits suicide by drowning. In the last images the boat gets stuck amid floating bodies.

Skammen / Shame (2015 digital restoration)

Skammen / Shame with Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann.

    SE 1969. PC: AB Svensk Filmindustri / Cinematograph AB. [Financial participation: United Artists via advance sales]. P: Lars-Owe Carlberg. D+SC: Ingmar Bergman. DP: Sven Nykvist – 1,37:1. PD: P. A. Lundgren. AD: Lennart Blomkvist. Cost: Mago. Makeup: Cecilio Drott, Helena Ulofsson-Carmback. SFX (pyrotechnics): Rustan Åberg. S: Lennart Engholm, Evald Andersson. ED: Ulla Ryghe. Script supervisor: Katherina Faragó. Military advisors: Lennart Bergqvist, Stig Lindberg.
    C: Liv Ullmann (Eva Rosenberg), Max von Sydow (Jan Rosenberg), Gunnar Björnstrand (Colonel Jacobi, Mayor), Birgitta Valberg (Mrs. Jacobi), Sigge Fürst (Filip, guerrilla leader), Hans Alfredson (Lobelius, antique dealer), Ingvar Kjellson (Oswald, the teacher in the interrogation room), Frank Sundström (interrogator), Ulf Johansson (the doctor in the interrogation room), Frej Lindqvist (the sadist in the interrogation room), Rune Lindström (a corpulent gentleman), Willy Peters (old officer), Bengt Eklund (the guard at Jacobi's expedition), Åke Jörnfalk (the condemned), Vilgot Sjöman (the television interviewer), Lars Amble (officer), Björn Thambert (Johan), Karl-Axel Forsberg (secretary), Gösta Prüzelius (the vicar in the interrogation room), Barbro Hiort af Ornäs (woman in the refugee boat), Agda Helin (merchant wife), Ellika Mann (female prison guard in the interrogation room).
    In collaboration with: Försvarsmakten (Swedish Armed Forces).
    No music, but Jan hums a few notes of Bach. J. S. Bach: 4. Brandenburgisches Konzert BWV 1049, Zweiter Satz: Andante (eine Sarabande).
    Principal photography: 11 Sep – 23 Nov 1967. Loc: Sudersand (Fårö), Visby (Gotland).
    Premiere: 29 Sep 1968.
    Helsinki premiere: 3.1.1969 Maxim, distributor: Oy United Artists Films Ab – telecast: 13.10.1975 MTV1 – VET 77205 – K16 – 2828 m / 103 min
    Digital restoration 2015.
    2K DCP with English subtitles by Jonathan Mair (Svenska Filminstitutet: Ingmar Bergman 100 / Unique Movietransit) screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Ingmar Bergman 100 / 50 Years Ago: The Crazy Year 1968), 2 Aug 2018.

In the crazy, politically engaged year 1968 Ingmar Bergman swam against the current and released two films: The Hour of the Wolf and Shame. During the production of Shame he also prepared a television feature film, The Rite, which was telecast in March 1969. A pressure to be politically engaged was enormous, but Bergman defiantly made films that focused on the intimate sphere.

Even Shame, a war film that had been inspired by newscasts of the Vietnam war, was unpolitical. It centers on the impact of the war on an artist couple, Eva (Liv Ullmann) and Jan (Max von Sydow).

I had not seen Shame since its original release. I saw it twice in Tampere in the early 1970s. I then found the film impressive but baffling. Shame is a war film but the war does not make sense because we do not know who is fighting who and why. Finns know that there are wars that are honourable. If a little country does not defend itself it will be crushed. It was easy for Finns to identify with other little countries like Vietnam fighting the monstrous war machine of an imperialist superpower.

Now as I knew what to expect I found Shame much more impressive. It is not a simple account of brutalization but a subtle and complex psychological portrait of the traumatic impact of war.

In contrast to the expressionistic The Hour of the Wolf, Shame has been shot almost in direct cinema style in available light, often in long takes. There is an approach of the ordinary, the everyday, the quotidian in the settings, the clothings and the performances. Shame is also a film where the sun was never to be seen. Shooting was interrupted whenever the sun shone.

The violence of the war is particularly shocking against this mundane background. Bergman and Sven Nykvist record the acts of war in a matter-of-fact way, without emphasis. The explosions, the killings, and the destruction are startling. The fury of the fire is terrifying.

Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow and Gunnar Björnstrand are at their best in their performances of ordinary people in harrowing circumstances. War degrades and abases all men who have to deal with violence.

A basic theme is the loss of human dignity in circumstances of war.

Shame is also one of Bergman's films about the death of art, like Persona. The crushing of Eva's piano and Jan's vintage violin has a symbolic meaning. There is no music in the film (except for Jan humming a few notes of Bach) because for Bergman it was about the end of music. Also The Rite was about the fate of art.

For Robin Wood in his Ingmar Bergman book Shame was the culmination of the art of the director (and the last film discussed in the original edition of his book). "To me (and, I suppose, to Bergman), most of the more 'advanced' aspects of contemporary art - action painting, aleatory and electronic music, musique concrète, William Burroughs - are comprehensible only as evidence of disintegration." This was part of a struggle towards a new synthesis. But Bergman's way was towards an opposite synthesis, a re-definition of humanity, embodied in the character of Eva.

Bergman stood in opposition to his time and faced a formidable attack from contemporary authors such as Sara Lidman who required explicit commitment. Bergman reacted by confessing unconditional admiration towards Lidman. In Finland there was no debate against Bergman, but critics had reservations about the ahistorical approach to war. (There has been no war in Sweden in 200 years; there had been four wars in Finland in recent memory).

Now we can see Shame as a consistent contribution in Bergman's work about war and oppression, belonging with Thirst, This Can't Happen Here, and Silence. Bergman knew that he was not at home with epic, historical, and political subjects. They could provide milieux for psychological drama, but then he could be criticized for not really coming to terms with the larger world.

In the cinematography of Bergman and Sven Nykvist Shame was a turn towards simple and raw realism. This tendency was also evident in Bergman's first feature-length documentary film, Fårödokument (1970), and the director was so enthusiastic about it that he discussed in public the possibility of switching entirely to making documentaries on 16 mm. (Vilgot Sjöman had released I Am Curious Yellow in 1967, and Stefan Jarl and Jan Lindkvist Dom kallar oss mods / They Call Us Misfits in 1968).

Until Shame Bergman shot his films in black and white with the exception of Now About All These Women. After Shame he turned to colour in his fiction films with the exception of From the Lives of Marionettes.

The war scenes and the special effects still seem frightening, assured and convincing.

On display was the 2015 digital restoration. I do not remember how the original looks like, and there are no vintage prints in Finland since United Artists destroyed them after the original release. In this screening full black was missing, and there was a slightly dull digital quality instead of a vibrant sense of plein air cinematography.


Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Leena / Meet the Bride (in the presence of Heidi Krohn)

Leena (1954): Heidi Krohn. Photo from: KAVI / The private collection of Heidi Krohn.

Leena / Meet the Bride (1954). The dealer Könssi (Matti Lehtelä) and Leena (Heidi Krohn). Photo from Elonet. Please click to enlarge the image.

Дерзкая девушка.
    Suomi 1954. PC+P: Veikko Itkonen. D: Sakari Jurkka. SC: Roy [Tapio Vilpponen]. DP: Kalle Peronkoski. AD: Roy [Tapio Vilpponen]. M: George de Godzinsky. Makeup: Mia Aaltonen, Sirkka Kaski. Choreography: Jaakko Lätti. ED: Veikko Itkonen. Järjestäjä: Lennart Lauramaa.
    C: Heidi Krohn (Leena Jonsson alias Mademoiselle du Pont alias Kaisa), Matti Oravisto (Lauri Huurros), Eija Karipää (reporter Salava, ”Nappula”), Mia Backman (Mrs. Consul Sanni Huurros), Paavo Jännes (Professor Möller), Arvo Lehesmaa (Professor Örn), Holger Salin (Tiirikka-Eemeli [Picklock Emil]), Fritz-Hugo Backman (Consul Klaus Huurros), Aku Korhonen (Männikkö, editor-in-chief of Iltatorvi [Evening Bugle]), Heikki Savolainen (butler), Matti Lehtelä (Könssi), Hannes Veivo (Ville), Leo Riuttu (Doctor Jurvanto), Kerttu Salmi (Jonssonska), Matti Aulos (department head at the department store), Leo Jokela (photographer).
    Helsinki premiere: 31.12.1954 Allotria, Capitol – VET: A-5387 – S – 2100 m / 77 min
    In the presence of Heidi Krohn.
    A vintage 35 mm KAVI print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Veikko Itkonen), 1 August 2018

Veikko Itkonen was one of the most important independent producers during the studio era of the Finnish cinema. Heidi Krohn was his most important star, a radiant talent famous for her eyes that shone like stars. Today we had the great honour to welcome Heidi Krohn in person, still radiant, her eyes still shining. She introduced Leena, her debut film.

Heidi Krohn was our Audrey Hepburn of the 1950s, with innate grace and charm, a gentle but irresistible presence and an ability to transcend flimsy plots and characterizations. She was a sunny personification of the new post-war generation, an embodiment of joy and goodness.

Itkonen first cast her in three comedies: Leena, Tähtisilmä [Starry Eyes], and Tyttö tuli taloon [The Girl Came to the House] and then to a major tragic role in Silja, nuorena nukkunut [The Maid Silja], a profoundly moving role in a story based on the novel by the Nobel laureate F. E. Sillanpää.

Leena is a light entertainment movie, a musical comedy and a romantic comedy.

We first meet Leena as a pickpocket in a department store. Follows a comedy of misunderstandings and impersonations, and when the thicket of pretense grows impenetrable, Leena must flee. Contemporary critics reproached that the plot was a copy of the Hollywood entertainment formula. Which it is, and the formula is equally familiar in European mainstream entertainment.

Plot here is merely an excuse for the jeu d'esprit. This kind of light and elegant comedy spirit had been introduced to the Finnish cinema by Valentin Vaala, and Leena has many moments worthy of this precious tradition. The beloved actor Sakari Jurkka here debuted as a director; with his sunny disposition he makes the most of this froth.

Like in Vaala's comedies, there is a deeper sense in the play with identities: our formal and official roles are not what matter most. Veikko Itkonen, Sakari Jurkka, and Heidi Krohn have an instinctive touch in this fundamental dimension of comedy and play.

Experienced professionals contributed in all departments: Kalle Peronkoski as cinematographer, George de Godzinsky as composer, Tapio Vilpponen as art director. The cast is full of faces familiar from the films of the golden age, even in fleeting roles, such as a pokerfaced Leo Jokela as a photographer.

The vintage print had usually good visual quality, but there were occasional damage marks in the first reel.