Monday, November 26, 2018

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (2018 restoration by Nikolai Izvolov) introduced by Nikolai Izvolov

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (1918). Happy days, 28 February 1917, Moscow.

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (1918). Title credit frame. Photo from: Nikolai Izvolov.

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (1918). Photo from: Nikolai Izvolov.

Godovshchina revoliutsii / Anniversary of the Revolution (1918). V. I. Lenin on the Red Square, 16 October 1918. Photo from: Nikolai Izvolov.

Годовщина революции / Godovshtshina revoljutsii / [Vallankumouksen vuosipäivä]
    RU 1918. PC: Narodny komissariat prosveshtshenija / Film Department. D: Dziga Vertov. Cin: cinematographers of the Skobolev committee and the Foto-Kino Unit of the Moscow Film Committee. ED: Dziga Vertov.
    A documentary film, a compilation of Russian actuality footage from February 1917 until October 1918.
    Featuring: Mikhail Rodzianko, Vladimir Purishkevich, Aleksandr Kerensky, Aleksandr Guchkov, Aleksandr Gruzinov, Pavel Milyukov, Nikolai Nekrasov [the last Governor-General of Finland], Mikhail Stakhovich, Ivan Efremov, Mikhail Yakubovich, Aleksandr Manuilov, Nikolai Chkeidze, Abram Gots, Fedor Dan, Kuzma Gvozdev, Georgi Plekhanov, Irakli Tsereteli, Matvei Skobelev, Aleksei Brusilov, Aleksandr Kolchak, Nikolai Avksentyev, Aleksandr Zarudny, Aleksei Nikitin, Pyotr Yurenev, Anton Kartashev, Ekaterina Breshko-Breshkovskaya [the grandmother of the revolution], Nikolai Kishkin, Fedor Kokoshkin, Leon Trotsky, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Aleksandra Kollontai, Pavel Dybenko, Lokaichuk, Lev Kamenev, Adolf Joffe, Lev Karakhan, Peter Gantchev, Theodor Anastasov, Carl Adolf Maximilian Hoffmann, Prince Leopold of Bavaria, Vladimir Lenin, Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich, Yakov Sverdlov, Jukums Vacietis, Pokrovsky, Chicherin, Karakhan, Steklov, Radek, Sereda, Stuchka, Tsuryupa, Rykov, Podbelsky, Shlyapnikov, Kamenev, Rakovsky, Krasin, Rogov, Zalezhsky, Pavlovsky-Pavlovich, Sosnovsky, Schlichter, Proshyan, Vladimirsky, Schmidt, Demyan Bedny, Mikh. Tomsky, Karelin, Sklyansky, Podvoysky, Rattel, Zagge, Muralov, Kin, Poznansky, Oplotsin, Mikhalkov, Lev, Volodya Alekseev, Aleksandr Ge, Khvesin, Lindorf, Zhukov, Savin, Antonov, Zakharov, Chapayev [yes, the same one], Ivanov, Kondraty Koganov, Efim Parfyonov, Vasily Ksenzov.
    Premiere: 7.11.1918
    Reconstruction: 2018 – Nikolai Izvolov (Vserossiiski gosudarstvenny institut kinematografii imeni S. A. Gerasimova / VGIK, Moscow) – archival footage: Rossiiski gosudarstvenny arhiv kinofotodokumentov (RGAKFD, Krasnogorsk) – original intertitles discovered by: Svetlana Ishevskaya (Rossiiski gosudarstvenny arhiv literatury i iskusstva  / RGALI, Moscow)
    Premiere of the reconstruction: 20.11.2018, IDFA, Amsterdam.
    119 min
    2K DCP with English subtitles.
    Introduced by Nikolai Izvolov. Event arranged by Birgit Beumers / Alexander Institute.
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Centenary of the Revolution) with Marko Puro at the piano, 26 Nov 2018

Anniversary of the Revolution is the most amazing restoration event of the year.

A film that had been believed lost almost a century ago is now again with us, thanks to Nikolai Izvolov who conducted the reconstruction and Svetlana Ishevskaya who discovered the complete intertitle list which made the reconstruction possible. Thanks to Birgit Beumers, currently at the Alexander Institute, we got the film and Nikolai Izvolov to Helsinki within a week of the IDFA premiere of the reconstruction in Amsterdam.

This film contains a wealth of imagery that I am not familiar with although I have seen most of the surviving legacy of Dziga Vertov, including his Kino-nedelya series. Approximately 20% of this film overlaps with that series. I have seen Esfir Shub's classic compilation films and been under the illusion that the scarce materials of the revolutionary year have been thoroughly mined over and over again. How wrong I have been.

There is a tremendous sense of topicality and energy in the huge epic scenes, intercut with dozens of vivid portrait shots. This film is another salutary reminder of the artificial quality of the depictions in the fictional masterpieces of the heroic era whether classically lyrical (Pudovkin) or mannerist-baroque (Eisenstein). Anniversary of the Revolution is the most vibrant account of its subject that I have seen.

This is the official Bolshevist version of the year 1918 of course, not an objective and balanced account of events. But it is fascinating also as a document of the official approach in the middle of the thunderstorm.

Nobody expected the Bolsheviks to survive, least of all the Bolsheviks themselves. They saw themselves as successors to the Paris Commune, destined to perish gloriously while leaving an undying example. Surrounded from every side by superior enemies they were prepared to fight to a finish. This film documents the revolutionary zeal before the stabilization of the Bolsheviks to a new tyranny.

To a contemporary viewer, one figure is conspicuously missing among the vast cast of characters: Stalin. Mr. Izvolov explained to me that this is how it was in 1918: Stalin was not prominent. The outstanding figure is Trotsky, portrayed here as a military commander constantly on the move.

Lenin is introduced only after the midpoint in a lengthy scene on the Red Square discussing jovially with his personal secretary Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich. Mr. Izvolov told me that this scene was shot with a hidden camera since Lenin did not like to be filmed. He had just survived one of the assassination attempts against him, and the scene was filmed to prove that he was alive and well.

I was amazed at the high quality of the cinematography. The lighting and composition is often excellent. There are illuminating high angle shots displaying huge and unpredictable crowd movements. The camera is often mobile, and the movement is steady and impeccable. The magnificent panoramic shots are stunning and revealing.

War scenes include tragic images of carnage and ruins. Funeral scenes are deeply moving. The first decree of the Bolsheviks is on peace. The second decree is on land.

Towards the finale we witness how "life begins to surge on the market". A tracking shot from a boat on the Volga takes us to witness desolation among the homeless, the orphans, in temporary shacks, results of the devastation of war.

The audience was amused at the final scenes on collective farming. There is a feeling in the harvest and milking scenes that these people have never tried their hand at farming before. But such scenes also contribute to a certain sense of authenticity in this film. It is a propaganda film but moments of relaxation are still possible.

As for Dziga Vertov, we witness here the 22 year old director learning his craft in conventional, traditional, linear documentary story-telling. He already proves that he has an eye for lively footage and the telling detail plus a fine judgement in structure in a two hour film which never feels boring.

The visual look of this work has had compilation quality since the beginning; it comes with the territory. But if it is possible to replace some scenes from sources of superior visual quality I am convinced that that would do even more justice to Vertov. That is what he would have done, I think.

Anyway this is a thrilling experience, and it would be rewarding for professional historians to see this. It puts things into a different perspective and gives much to think about.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Una familia de tantas / One Family Among Many (2016 restoration Cineteca Nacional México)

MX 1948. PC: Producciones Azteca. P: César Santos Galindo. D: Alejandro Galindo. SC: Alejandro Galindo. Cin: José Ortiz Ramos. AD: Gunther Gerszo. Makeup: Carmen Palomino. M: Raúl Lavista. S: Luis Fernández. ED: Carlos Savage.
    C: Fernando Soler (don Rodrigo Cataño), David Silva (Roberto del Hierro), Martha Roth (Maru), Carlos Riquelme (Ricardo), Eugenia Galindo (doña Gracia Cataño), Isabel del Puerto (Estela), Alma Delia Fuentes (Lupita), Enriqueta Reza (Guadalupe).
    Premiere: 11.3.1949.
    Restored in 2K in 2016 by Cineteca Nacional México at Laboratorio de Restauración Digital from a 35 mm acetate positive film, thanks to the support of Nuevo Cinema Latino
    Not released in Finland – 131 min
    Revolution and Adventure: Mexican Cinema in the Golden Age, curated by Daniela Michel and Chlöe Roddick, originally for Il Cinema Ritrovato (2017).
    2K DCP with English subtitles from Cineteca Nacional México.
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki 24 Nov 2018

An excellent humoristic family drama about the clash of tradition and modernity.

It is interesting to compare this with classic contemporary Japanese jidai-geki films, for instance those produced at the Shochiku studio. Mexicans are completely different than the Japanese, but the challenge of modernity is the same.

Una familia de tantas starts in a realistic vein by introducing its large family at its morning routines. The director Alejandro Galindo at once establishes a lively mise-en-scène.

Maru (Maria, played by Martha Roth) soon emerges as the protagonist of the young generation. She is about to turn 15 which means she will be a woman soon. Shoes are highlighted as the symbol of womanhood.

The harbinger of modernity is Roberto, a vacuum cleaner salesman. He is convincing in his sales routine. This could be an occasion for a satire of consumerism and commercialism, but Galindo switches to a different approach. Roberto's products (the vacuum cleaner and the refrigerator) are good and useful, especially for the women at home, helping them in major ways.

The irascible father, Don Rodrigo (Fernando Soler in a masterful performance) of course blows his top. "The insolence!" he exclaims learning that Maria had been alone at home when Roberto had entered. "An invention to take women out of their homes". The truly humoristic part starts here. Roberto keeps his cool, stays polite and reverential in a dignified way and uses psychology to sell the vacuum cleaner to Don Rodrigo. "It was the best way to get rid of the upstart", is the explanation of the father having bought the machine.

The account of Don Rodrigo's micromanagement of the family is humoristic, but we never forget that his is a reign of terror. The oldest daughter Estela's dates with her boyfriend are ridiculously controlled. The oldest son Hector lands in trouble with a baby out of wedlock.

Nevertheless, Maria's 15th anniversary party sequence is full of tenderness. She dances her first waltz with her father. The scene is full of delicious nuances in a film that keeps growing towards the finale.

Maria has to keep meeting Roberto secretly during her evening visits to the bakery. Roberto addresses Maria on the level of equality and true sharing. Meanwhile, Don Rodrigo hurries towards an arranged marriage between Maria and a cousin, the industrialist Ricardo.

In the funniest and most surprising twist of the film Roberto has a refrigerator introduced into the household, and when he delivers the sales talk he succeeds in selling the machine to both Don Rodrigo and Ricardo. He is a brilliant salesman, and an honest one, too, when he states that the machine "will pay for itself in no time". But when Roberto has left Maria starts to cry and confesses that she cannot marry Ricardo.

The voice of wisdom belongs to the maid Guadalupe who has supported the young generation all the way. Now she states to Maria: "The doors of heaven are never open wide". Maria goes to buy bread one last time. She and Roberto keep chiding each other on the street, and then they decide to act. "Vamos".

Maria defends Robert to the raging father. "It's me living in him as he is living in me". The wedding sequence is original and deeply moving. The biggest crisis is experienced by the mother. During the drama it becomes clear that Maria is now becoming a model for others. "The hopes of many girls are riding on you".

Alejandro Galindo directs the finale with a masterful sense of tempo and silence. The children of the yard are playing while the young couple leaves Maria's paternal home. The emotion is powerful but not in conventional melodramatic terms. There is a sense of a new age and a new life, and a sense that you must fight for your happiness.

This kind of story evolves almost completely within the interiors of the family home. The mobile camera of the cinematographer José Ortiz Ramos keeps it alive. Panoramic shots from the rooftop give us a sense of space and the big city.

The visual quality of the digital presentation was very good, but not always brilliant. As explained in the opening restoration credits, the sources have been preserved in highly variable conditions. An enjoyable result has emerged from the difficult restoration project.


Friday, November 23, 2018

Historia de un gran amor / The Story of a Great Love

Historia de un gran amor. Domingo Soler (padre Trinidad) and Jorge Negrete (Rodrigo Venegas). The father has risked his life retrieving documents from the burning house of Don Elías to protect innocent people from financial catastrophe.

Historia de un gran amor. La festividad del Santo Niño.

MX 1942. PC: Films Mundiales. P: Agustín J. Fink. D: Julio Bracho. SC: Julio Bracho – based on the novel El niño de la bola (1880) by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. Cin: Gabriel Figueroa. AD: Jorge Fernández. Cost: Agustín Lazo Royer. Makeup: Ana Guerrero. M: Miguel Bernal Jiménez, Manuel Esperón, Raúl Lavista. S: José B. Carles, Howard E. Randall. ED: Emilio Gómez Muriel.
    C: Jorge Negrete (Manuel / Rodrigo Venegas), Domingo Soler (padre Trinidad), Gloria Marín (Soledad), Julio Villarreal (Don Elías), Narciso Busquets (Manuel), Miguel Ángel Ferriz (Antonio Arregui), Andrés Soler (Vitriolo), Eugenia Galindo (Polonia).
    Premiere: 19.9.1942.
    Not released in Finland – 150 min
    Revolution and Adventure: Mexican Cinema in the Golden Age, curated by Daniela Michel and Chlöe Roddick, originally for Il Cinema Ritrovato (2017).
    Digitally transferred in 2K by Cineteca Nacional México at Laboratorio de Restauración Digital from a 35 mm nitrate negative, thanks to the support of Televisa.
    DCP with English subtitles from Cineteca Nacional México.
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki 23 Nov 2018

Historia de un gran amor is worthy of its name: a grandiose romantic tragedy of a love that transcends boundaries.

It is about spiritual love, a love as a life-defining devotion, a love elevating the souls of the lovers. A transcendental love which will never be consummated but which dictates the fates of the lovers and the entire community.

It is about a strange, serious love that never brings joy and happiness. The lovers never even smile. In their only dance together they are oddly stiff and formal.

There is an affinity with the love stories of the age of chivalry, the great dramas of early 19th century romanticism, and the operas of Richard Wagner. Historia de un gran amor belongs also to a special category of the cinema's love stories, the master of which was Frank Borzage. I was also thinking about Peter Ibbetson, but although the love affair of Manuel and Soledad borders on the impossible, it always evolves in the real world, not in a dream world.

This magnificent movie introduces to our Northern shores a legendary Latin performer, Jorge Negrete (1911-1953), a phenomenally popular superstar whose success was comparable with Frank Sinatra. Most prominently he was a singer, and his beautiful voice is on display also in this film. His special range was from the tenor to the baritone, and it has been defined as primo barítono assoluto.

The background story is of a great injustice. A ruthless usurer, Don Elías (Julio Villarreal) takes possession of the fortune of Manuel's father. (He makes a point of auctioning the possessions simultaneously with the father's funeral).

The orphan Manuel is taken care of padre Trinidad (Domingo Soler). Already as children Manuel and Soledad fall in love; Soledad is Elías's daughter. Soledad's parents do everything to keep the lovers apart. Negrete plays the grown-up Manuel as a moody young hero defying injustice and determined to set things straight in his hometown.

Don Elías the ruthless patriarch always has his way. But his wife is disconsolate. "I don't know if I can call this place home". She has a vision how it all will end and tries to stop Manuel and Antonio.

Music and dance are essential especially in key scenes of the annual Festividad de Santo Niño. There is an especially powerful huapango sequence. The playing and the dancing are extraordinary. Manuel, his arm in bandages after a wrestling match with a bear, is not allowed to dance with Soledad.

He throws his knife to the family tree where it stays deeply stuck. Soledad falls seriously ill. Five years later the wound in the tree has healed. The factory owner Antonio presents Soledad with the knife that he has removed, a signal that she now can marry. The extended flashback that has covered 90 minutes of the film's duration ends, and we now follow the rest of the story unfolding in the present tense.

Gabriel Figueroa's cinematography is magnificent, complete with majestic crane shots. Elevated views from the mountains and the path to the church bell tower convey visually the grandeur of spirit central to the narrative. The love story may be impossible but it keeps alive a hope of love, justice and rebellion necessary for the survival of the spirit of humanity.

Julio Bracho has an instinctive touch as a storyteller of how such a special saga must be told. Key images (the bear, the tree, the knife) contribute to the visual potency.

The digital transfer has been conducted with a fine artistic sense. The deepest black seems to be missing at times.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Aventurera (2016 restoration by Cineteca Nacional México)

Aventurera. Ninón Sevilla (Elena) and Rubén Rojo (her husband Mario).

    MX 1950. PC: Producciones Calderón. P: Pedro A. Calderón, Guillermo Calderón. D: Alberto ”Tito” Gout. SC: Álvaro Custodio, Carlos Sampelayo, Alberto ”Tito” Gout – from a story by Álvaro Custodio. CIN: Alex Phillips, Jr. AD: Manuel Fontanals. Cost: José Díaz ”Pepito”. Makeup: Ana Guerrero, Enrique Hutchinson. Hair: Agripina Lozada. M: Antonio Díaz Conde.
    Songs: “Aventurera” voc. Pedro Vargas & Ana María González. “Contigo” voc. Pedro Vargas. “Adios” voc. Ana María González. “En un Mercado Persa” chor. Ninón Sevilla & Julián de Meriche, perf Ninón Sevilla. ”Chiquita Bacana”, chor. Ninón Sevilla, perf. Ninón Sevilla. “Arrimate Cariñito” chor. Ninón Sevilla, perf. Ninón Sevilla. “Zig-Zig-Bum” chor. Ninón Sevilla & Julián de Meriche, perf. Ninón Sevilla. “Frenesi” chor. Ninón Sevilla, perf. Ninón Sevilla.
    S: James L. Fields. ED: Alfredo Rosas Priego.
    C: Ninón Sevilla (Elena Tejero / Elena Montez), Tito Junco (Lucio Sáenz), Andrea Palma (Rosaura de Cervera), Rubén Rojo (Mario Cervera), Miguel Inclán (Rengo), Jorge Mondragón (Pacomio Rodriguez), Maruja Grifell (Consuelo Tejero), Luis López Somoza (Ricardo Cerver).
    Studio: Estudios Churubusco Azteca.
    Premiere: 18.10.1950.
    Restored in 2K in 2016 by Cineteca Nacional México at Laboratorio de Restauración Digital, Ci-neteca Nacional México from a 35 mm nitrate negative, thanks to the support of Olympus O&O Hispanic Network.
    Note: “En un Mercado Persa” = "In a Persian Market", comp. Albert Kètelbey (1920).
    Not released in Finland – 102 min
    "Revolution and Adventure: Mexican Cinema in the Golden Age" tribute curated by Daniela Michel and Chloë Roddick, premiered in Il Cinema Ritrovato (Bologna), 2017.
    2K DCP from Cineteca Nacional México with English subtitles.
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 Nov 2018

Last summer in Bologna I saw Víctimas del pecado / Victims of Sin (1951), an electrifying rumbera starring Ninón Sevilla and Tito Junco with an exciting music track composed by Antonio Díaz Conde and with Pedro Vargas as a lead singer. Now I saw their previous film, Aventurera, both films belonging to the popular cabaretera genre blending underworld drama with stunning musical production numbers.

The theme song "Aventurera" sung by Pedro Vargas and Ana María González introduces the concept. The title has been translated as "gold digger" in the English subtitles. Both titles are misleading. Elena has been looking for a job after her mother has abandoned her home and her father has committed suicide. Lured by Lucio she has become employed at a cabaret, and drugged and harassed, forced to prostitution.

Elena's only wish is to break free, but the humiliation has been so deep that it is a struggle to find a way back to normal life again. Fortunately the young lawyer Mario is free from the hypocrisy and pretense of the previous generations.

The narrative is a case of full-blooded melodrama with royal disregard for plausibility. About to get married with Mario, Elena meets his mother at last, and she turns out to be none other than Rosaura, the ruthless proprietor of the cabaret-brothel. The director Alberto "Tito" Gout wastes no time in getting fussy with realistic psychology. Instead, he plunges into a nightmare mode where anything is possible but not arbitrary.

Ninón Sevilla is fantastic in her musical numbers. The first number is based on Albert Kètelbey's "In a Persian Market", featuring Sevilla as a harem dancer. ”Chiquita Bacana” is Sevilla's superb interpretation of Brazilian dances, an alternative to Carmen Miranda. The blatantly sensual “Arrimate Cariñito” is the number during which Mario revisits his estranged wife at the cabaret.

There is an approach relevant to feminism in the narrative. It is a hard-hitting saga of sexual abuse of all kinds – casual, violent and structural. Even stronger is its celebration of the resilience of the heroine who overcomes gangsters and hypocrites and, perhaps the most difficult feat of all, a lure of cynicism and brutalization.

The cinematography by Alex Phillips is exciting, the digital restoration is pleasant to watch, and the soundtrack is engrossing to listen to. The darkest black seemed to be missing in this presentation.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Marilyn – the Woman Behind Her Roles (an exhibition from the collections of Ted Stampfer)

Marilyn Monroe. Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt (1953). Time / Life / Getty Images / Vapriikki exhibition.

The exhibition Marilyn - the Woman Beyond Her Roles. Photo: Vapriikki 2018.

Ted Stampfer, Marilyn Monroe collector and exhibition curator, next to a display of Monroe's appointment book. Photo: Saana Säilynoja / Vapriikki, 2018.

Marilyn – nainen roolien takana / Marilyn – the Woman Behind Her Roles
Exhibition 8 June – 2 December, 2018
Curator: Ted Stampfer.
Producer: Marjo Meriluoto.
Vapriikki, Tampella, Alaverstaanraitti 5, 33100 Tampere, Finland.
Visited on 17 Nov 2018.

Touring exhibition catalogue:
E. von Walchenberg (ed.): Marilyn Monroe's Nachlass. Die Privatsammlung Stampfer / Marilyn Monroe's Estate. The Stampfer Collection. Special Edition. This catalog is published as an exclusive publication to the exhibitions on Marilyn Monroe's private collection by Ted Stampfer and is available accompanying exhibition only. Bilingual in German / English. Large format. ISBN 978-3-00-042854-8. 203 p. Mannheim: Brentwood GmbH, 2013

Vapriikki exhibition catalogue: 
E. von Walchenberg (ed.): Private Marilyn: Suurkokoelma. Marilyn: nainen roolien takana / Private Marilyn. The Ultimate Collection. Marilyn: The Woman Behind Her Roles. This catalogue is published as an exclusive publication to supplement the exhibition of the Private Collection of Ted Stampfer and his collaborating partners. It is not commercially available. Bilingual in Finnish / English. ISBN 978-3-9818756-3-8. 156 p. Mannheim: Brentwood GmbH, 2018

My resume from the exhibition catalogue introduction: The Marilyn Monroe estate remained in storage with Santini & Bros. from 1962 until 1999. Since 1999 it has been getting sold in auctions at Christie's and Julien's. The world's largest private Marilyn Monroe collection (over 1000 individual pieces) has been acquired by Ted Stampfer. It is divided into five main sections: private clothing and accessories, original vintage photographs from the studio and press archives, private documents and books, film documents and props, and memorabilia from contemporaries.

This exhibition focuses on the strong side of Marilyn Monroe: a woman purposefully inventing her own image and advancing her career, unashamedly using her femininity to achieve her goals and striving to free herself from the narrow role reserved for women in the 1950s. 

More than 300 objects from the private collection of Ted Stampfer are on display. Most of them originate from Marilyn Monroe's estate. (My resume from the exhibition catalogue introduction)

AA: Since 1999, the availability of a wealth of materials from the Marilyn Monroe estate has enabled publications such as Marilyn Monroe: Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters (2010) and MM – Personal: From the Private Archive of Marilyn Monroe (2011) and groundbreaking biographies, most importantly the superior two-part magnum opus of Gary Vitacco-Robles (2015).

Ted Stampfer's touring exhibition belongs also to the new wave of Marilyn Monroe revelations. Costumes, personal items, letters, contracts, scripts, telephone books and appointment books help us come closer to the remarkable woman.

The most important legacy has always been with us: the films, the photographs, documentations of live performances, and song recordings. Of all of these elements this exhibition has been mounted in good taste and a passion for the exciting protagonist. I visited it for the second time, and it seems to be constantly well attended.

I like the focus on beauty, elegance, dignity and style in this exhibition. Marilyn Monroe was a woman of her times, but she also always had a timeless quality, as documented here.

There is an emphasis on the career woman: Monroe consciously constructing her star image, instead of being a victim of the star system. It is an important accent. But my personal initial reaction to Monroe was always tinged with embarrassment because of the narrow range of roles offered to the woman of talent. So I guess Monroe was both Dr. Frankenstein and the monster.

I was given the opportunity to give one of the lectures in the context of this exhibition, and among other things I referred to Monroe's contemporaries in Europe such as Sophia Loren (Italy), Brigitte Bardot (France), Harriet Andersson (Sweden) and Anneli Sauli (Finland). All love goddesses of their respective countries – all with the opportunity to expand their scope and play the parts of mature women. All alive as I write these remarks.

This inspired, original and lovingly mounted exhibition can be warmly recommended for both a general audience and the most devoted aficionados.

Sara Hildén & The Classics (exhibition)

Paul Delvaux: Summer (1938). Oil on canvas, 110 x 130 cm. Sara Hildén Foundation Collection. Photo: Sara Hildén Art Museum.

Sara Hildén & The Classics
Sara Hildén Art Museum, Särkänniemi, Laiturikatu 13, 33230 Tampere, Finland.
Visited on 17 Nov 2018.

From the official info: "The exhibition includes works by leading masters of the informalist movement, which dominated European pictorial art in the 1960s, such as Zao Wou-Ki and Rafael Canogar. Informalism together with concretism and constructivism was joined by neo-realism and pop art in the late 1960s and 1970s. The developmental stage of the collection is represented by several works, such as those of Francis Bacon, Claudio Bravo, Chuck Close, Howard Kanovitz and Edward Kienholz, that bring reality to the exhibition space in a concrete form."

"Although Sara Hildén’s primary objective was to assemble a collection of contemporary art, she was from the very outset interested in the classic works of modern art. Thus some of the earlier masters of modern art, like the sculptors Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore and the painters Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Delvaux, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Giorgio Morandi, Georges Rouault and Yves Tanguy, are represented in the exhibition, while works by Pierre Bonnard, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger and Pablo Picasso also offer viewers an opportunity to acquaint themselves with developments in art in the early nineteenth century." From the official info.

AA: Revisiting exhibitions from the Sara Hildén permanent collection are special memory trips for me.

Living in Finland, in Tampere, in the 1970s, I knew the great masters from reproductions in books only. The Sara Hildén collection gave a privileged opportunity to see a distinguished selection of the real thing. I already visited the temporary premises at the Hatanpää manor. The opening of the museum proper in 1979 in Särkänniemi was a revelation, and the building itself was a piece of art, designed by the architect Pekka Ilveskoski.

A startling painting from Lucio Fontana's Concetto spaziale series stands out this time. Five knife slashes on pure red oil paint evoke sex and violence.

Paul Klee's Harbour Scene, gouache on paper, is a fantastic naivistic re-imagination of a harbour bustling with life, with a fairground atmosphere.

Giorgio de Chirico's Troubadour, an oil painting, belongs to his metaphysical visions. The figure of the troubadour resembles a sculptor's flexible wooden puppet model. The sense of cosmic solitude is palpable.

The Henry Moore sculptures Reclining Mother and Child and Study for a Stone Monument are strong and representative. The organic approach in the stone creations is warmly engaging and life-affirming. In Henry Moore's hands stone is full of life.

George Segal's installation The Aerial View is a popular selfie point, and for once this activity enhances the work. We stand next to the gypsum sculpted human form and stare at the nocturnal fluorescent light view.

A compact exhibition, but all works are top quality, and more than that, there is generally a sense of the definitive in the selections. Many masters are on display, and all selections feel essential to the characteristic quality of the artist. The collection has a pedagogical quality in the best sense of the word. As always, the hanging is perfect, not forgetting the beautiful views to the sculpture park and the Pyhäjärvi lake.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Old Dark House (1932) (2017 Cohen Collection restoration in 4K)

The Old Dark House (1932). There are 391 photos in the Internet Movie Database.

US © 1932 Universal Pictures Corp. P: Carl Laemmle, Jr. D: James Whale. SC: R. C. Sherriff, Benn W. Levy – based on the novel Benighted (1927) by J. B. Priestley, in Finnish Yön yllättämät (Aune Brotherus / WSOY 1933). Cin: Arthur Edeson. Interior design: Charles D. Hall. Set dec: Russell A. Gausman. SFX: John P. Fulton. Makeup: Otto Lederer, Jack P. Pierce. M: David Broekman. Songs hummed: “Singin’ in the Rain”, “Oh! Mr. Porter”, “Hochzeitsmarsch aus Lohengrin”, “The Roast Beef of Old England”. S: C. Roy Hunter. ED: Clarence Kolster.
    C: Boris Karloff (Morgan), Melvyn Douglas (Roger Penderel), Raymond Massey (Philip Waverton), Gloria Stuart (Margaret Waverton), Charles Laughton (Sir William Porterhouse), Lilian Bond (Gladys DuCane / Perkins), Ernest Thesiger (Horace Femm), Eva Moore (Rebecca Femm), Brember Wills (Saul Femm), Elspeth Dudgeon (Sir Roderick Femm).
    Premiere: 20.10.1932.
    Not released in Finland. 71 min
    2017 Cohen Collection restoration in 4K.
    The first screening of this movie in Finland.
    4K DCP from Park Circus screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (James Whale), 14 Nov 2018

Inspired by William K. Everson, I have always found James Whale's The Old Dark House his best horror film, the best haunted house film, and one of the greatest horror movies ever made. Everson states that this film invariably disappoints on first viewing, its greatness revealed only in repeat screenings.

It has been hard to put Everson's advice into practice because for decades it has been difficult to access prints. For home viewing I would not advise this subtle film which has an intensive sense of space (designed for the big screen and the cinema experience) and which is based on nuanced ensemble playing.

In Finland The Old Dark House has never been screened before because of difficulties in finding viewing prints. I have seen the film only once, in October 1983 at the Filmklubben / Svenska Filminstitutet in Stockholm's Bio Victor. It has been reverberating ever since, but today's screening felt virginal again. I had forgotten most of the profound strangeness of this work.

James Whale goes through the motions of displaying the register of the haunted house narrative as comprehensively as possible. Nobody has done it better. But his movie is most fundamentally a character study and an ensemble play.

There is the obvious monster, the horribly scarred butler Morgan, played by Boris Karloff at his best. The performance is made more powerful by the fact that the character is silent. Karloff's presence and charisma is certainly fundamental for the project, but he is not madder than most, although Morgan is known to become dangerous when drunk. Again, remembering that Whale was a war veteran, I was thinking whether Morgan might be a war invalid or the poet's representation of the war invalid experience.

The neurotic host is played by Ernest Thesiger who would continue with Whale as Dr. Pretorius in Bride of Frankenstein.

His sister, the religious fanatic, is played by Eva Moore with a memorably eccentric approach.

In the attic the guests discover the 102 year old father of the family (Elspeth Dudgeon).

But the most fearsome family member is brother Saul (Brember Wills), a murderous pyromaniac.

Of the visitors, Raymond Massey, Melvyn Douglas and Charles Laughton are caught here in early stages of their brilliant careers.

Gloria Stuart (1910–2010) had the most amazing career of all, playing old Rose in James Cameron's Titanic (1997) and it was not her last role, either.

The charming Lilian Bond (1908–1991) enjoyed a long career also. The bright British star had appeared in Ziegfeld Follies and delightful paradiasical Alfred Cheney Johnston photographs in the 1920s. She had played in William K. Howard's The Trial of Vivienne Ware, and she would become William Wyler's Lily Langtry in The Westerner.

"The sins of the fathers". We have few clues to the degenerate atmosphere lingering in this old dark house. The sister Rachel has died mysteriously.

The new digital 4K restoration is refined and does justice to the excellent cinematography and the odd sequences with crooked mirrors and oversized shadows (see images above).

Again, the twists and spins are so unusual and unexpected that it takes a while to adjust, and the film keeps growing in memory days afterwards.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Panu Rajala: Suomussalmen sulttaani – Ilmari Kiannon elämä (a book)

Poster for Matti Kassila's film adaptation of Punainen viiva / The Red Line (1959).

Panu Rajala: Suomussalmen sulttaani. Ilmari Kiannon elämä / [The Sultan of Suomussalmi. The Life of Ilmari Kianto]. ISBN 978-952-222-698-3. 525 p. Helsinki / Riika: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2018

Ilmari Kianto (1874–1970) belongs to a small nucleus of key Finnish authors. He was incredibly prolific, lived to be almost a hundred years, and continued writing almost to the end, but his fame now rests on two novels, The Red Line (1909), and Ryysyrannan Jooseppi [title untranslatable, meaning something like "Joseph from the Rag Shack"] and several songs that were composed to his poems, including ones credited to his original name Ilmari Calamnius, such as Jean Sibelius's "Lastu lainehilla" ("Driftwood"). But the number of distinguished works in his oeuvre is bigger, and Kianto often had a magical touch with the language even in minor publications.

Kianto also belonged to the generation of the first anti-heroic authors in Finland, infamous for their irresponsible ways with family and fortune. Today they would be dragged through the mud by the tabloid media. It is a sordid story, and the chore must have been at times tedious for Panu Rajala to go through the enormous archives documenting decades of misery.

To sum it up: Ilmari Kianto had internalized an extremely severe religious discipline at his home boasting a long clerical lineage. Until 30 he lived in abstinence. After that, "it was an eternal wedding night".

We all know about the crisis of the book, but Panu Rajala seems to have ignored the news. In little more than ten years he has published an entire library about prominent Finnish authors, including Ilmari Kianto (2018), Eino Leino (2017), F. E. Sillanpää (2015), Olavi Paavolainen (2014), Veikko Huovinen (2012), Juhani Aho (2011), Aila Meriluoto (2010), Yrjö Jylhä (2009, with Vesa Karonen), Mika Waltari (2008), and J. H. Erkko (2006). All weighty tomes, usually boasting major new sources of information.

And Rajala seems not about to become crushed under the weight of documentation, rather the opposite: he revels in it. In his new Kianto biography he benefits enormously from first-hand sources studied for his Leino and Sillanpää books, for instance. Because of Kianto's exceptionally long life he was the contemporary of all of Rajala's previous subjects.

In our Year of Remembrance 1918 Kianto is an infamous figure because of his dehumanizing and brutalizing words about those who thought differently, especially female fighters. But Kianto was nothing if not a contradictory figure. His honesty as a writer was too much for the victorious White Guards to bear, and Kianto had to postpone his account of the Civil War for ten years, when it was still found uncomfortable and inflammatory. Kianto was also a militant champion of the "Greater Finland" idea: "Suomi suureksi, Viena vapaaksi" ["Make Finland Great, Free the White Sea"] was a slogan coined by him.

But there was also always a Don Quijote quality in Kianto's political aspirations. He was not a harmless figure, but an aspect of the clown was always there, probably consciously and intentionally. He landed into disgrace for his behaviour in the Winter War, but he was rehabilitated as an elder statesman of Finnish culture.

Kianto's most famous novel The Red Line is a memorial to the first democratic parliament election in Finland in 1907. Finland was the first county in the world where also women had full political rights, including the right to be elected. The first female members of the parliament were Finnish. The title "the red line" refers to the voting procedure. There is also an allusion to the red colour of the Social Democratic Party. And the blood red wound from the paw of the bear who strikes the protagonist in the finale.

In his books Panu Rajala has not generally been bashful about the sexual side of his protagonists. Now for once he seems to be happy to tone down the account of his sultan's excesses.

For the film-interested Rajala's books are rewarding because of his inside view in film and television adaptations of many of his subjects' works. In the case of Kianto Rajala was a screenwriter for Mikko Niskanen's Kianto biopic Omat koirat purivat ([Bitten by His Own Dogs], 1974).

I like the subtly distanced stance of Rajala confronting his material. It's not his task to judge his character. The reader is allowed to draw his own conclusions.

This book is engagingly written like a picaresque novel. The story would be incredible if it were presented as fiction.


Mikael Enckell: Öppna meningar (a book of essays)

Photo of Vesta Enckell by Jan Elfgren. The author's grandmother at 75.

Mikael Enckell. Photo by Cata Portin for Schildts & Söderströms.

Mikael Enckell: Öppna meningar. Essäer [The title is a wordplay, translatable as "Open Meanings" or "Open Sentences"]. ISBN 978-951-52-4408-6. 149 p. Helsinki / Latvia: Schildts & Söderströms, 2018.

The psychoanalyst Mikael Enckell (born in 1932) is one of the finest essayists in Finland. I quote from his introduction on the homepage of his publisher, Schildts & Söderströms:

Prefers to write: essays.
Prefers to read: Proust: In Search of Lost Time, since 1951.
Highest wish: to receive surprising thoughts and whims.

In his books Enckell circles almost obsessively around favourite themes such as Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, Gershom Scholem, Friedrich Hölderlin (about whom he has written a monograph), and the Swedish-Finnish poets J. J. Wecksell, Gunnar Björling, and Rabbe Enckell (his father of whom he has written a biography in three volumes).

But each time there is something new to discover. This volume starts with an essay on Risto Fried (1930–2004), a professor of psychology and psychoanalyst whose mother, the Viennese Jewess Anne Fried, survived Hitler in the United States. Enckell focuses on Risto Fried's magnum opus Freud on the Acropolis. A Detective Story (2004), discussing the unsettling implications of the confrontation of the Jewish and Greek heritages when Sigmund at last visited the Acropolis.

The further we proceed into the future the deeper we delve into the past. Mikael Enckell at 86 years of age still processes his childhood tragedy, the divorce of his parents in the year 1941. And in this quandary he discovers the profound link between his friend Risto Fried.

Much of this book is related to the cultural family of Enckell. Robert Enckell the man of theatre. Martin Enckell the writer.

Three essays are devoted to significant places in Mikael Enckell's life. Pitkäniemi, the mental hospital in Nokia where Mikael's stepfather Oscar Parland worked as a doctor. There in 1944 Mikael, not yet 12 years of age, helped as a postman, in uniform. He met at close range victims of post traumatic stress disorder from the Karelian Isthmus where the Red Army concentrated its forces to a massive attack.

The Lapinlahti mental hospital where Mikael as a young deputy trainee had his first encounters of paranoid patients, extremely intelligent, their delusions not immediately apparent. Also here the impact of our wars (both 1918 and 1941) was evident, as well as the question of repressed homosexuality as a root of paranoia. Since Mikael was 12 he had been determined to a psychoanalytic orientation.

The third location is Ericastiftelsen in Stockholm in the 1960s where Enckell worked as an assistant doctor with Gösta Harding as the senior physician, "the best job I have had in my entire life". This contact also helps Enckell understand a painful experience of his own a few years earlier with his stepmother Aina, another paranoiac. A rich and rewarding interaction came to an end.

The most painful and the most rewarding experience is discussed in the last essay, "Divorce". But now it is not principally about the divorce of Mikael's parents, Rabbe Enckell and Heidi (née Heidi Runeberg; Heidi Parland after divorce). It is about Mikael's parental grandmother Vesta Enckell (née Edgren; her maternal grandfather Herman Gisiko was Jewish), the "rare, unelectric one" and because of that she was the calming influence during the inflammatory period of the divorce. Rabbe Enckell stated late in life: "My poetry has my mother as the ideal". But her four sons' attitude was a mix of adoration and a certain superiority.

Vesta Enckell was the carrier of the Jewish heritage in secular and unobtrusive ways. At age 10–12 Mikael had a chance to take notes from his grandfather's archives in Vättilä and their family background during the reign of Gustav III of Sweden (1746–1792) when Jews in the circle of Aron Isak were allowed to move to Sweden. Books Vesta loved included those of Marcus Ehrenpreis (Landet mellan öster och väster, Österlandets själ), Aben Kandel (När stenarna dansa / The Stones Begin to Dance) and especially Jascha Golowanjuk (Min gyllne väg från Samarkand, Paraplymakarens barn, Farmor är galen)

Kafka and Proust keep returning until the last essay. Enckell wonders why there are hardly any little children in their works. "Is it because they hardly write about anything else? Unconsciously, from the inside, via constantly repeated processed, all their lives".

But also new books make appearances. Ulf Peter Hallberg's Europeiskt skräp [European Trash], Tom Sandqvist's Ahasuerus at the Easel, Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens.

Mikael Enckell is also one of the most prominent film essayists in Finland, and the one with the longest career after Jerker A. Eriksson and Jörn Donner. He published his first film essay, "The Interpretative Eye" in 1957, discussing Un chien andalou, La red, and La muerte de un ciclista, citing "Das Unheimliche" by Sigmund Freud, Psychoanalytical Explorations in Art by Ernst Kris – and In Search of Lost Time by Proust, speaking in the voice of the painter Elstir:

“When the mind has a tendency to dream, it is a mistake to keep dreams away from it, to ration its dreams. So long as you distract your mind from its dreams, it will not know them for what they are; you will always be taken in by the appearance of things, because you will not have grasped their true nature. If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.” (In Search of Lost Time: Within a Budding Grove / À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, 1919)

60 years later in his most recent film essay Enckell discusses Roman Polanski, his violent past, and his most sober film, related to his most painful childhood memories, The Pianist. It is not irrelevant that Enckell and Polanski (born 1933) share almost the same age, having lived in countries not far away, on both sides of the Baltic Sea.

The essays all add up, although it is left to the reader to connect all the dots. Mikael Enckell's oeuvre (see bibliography beyond the jump break) has for a long time been growing into his personal In Search of Lost Time.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

La Bataille de San Sebastian (70 mm) Ennio Morricone 90th Anniversary

Guns for San Sebastian / Los cañones de San Sebastián / I cannoni di San Sebastian / San Sebastianin tykit / Kanonerna på San Sebastian / Kanonerna vid San Sebastian
    FR/MX/IT/US 1968. PC: Compagnie Internationale de Productions Cinématographiques (CIPRA), Producciones Enríquez, Filmes Cinematografica, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). P: Jacques Bar, Ernesto Enríquez. D: Henri Verneuil. SC: Serge Ganz, Miguel Morayta, Ennio De Concini, Elinor Karpf [nc] – English screenplay: James R. Webb – based on the novel A Wall for San Sebastian (1962) by Barby = William Barnaby Faherty. DP: Armand Thirard – Metrocolor – Franscope 2,35:1 – released on 35 mm and in a 70 mm blow-up. AD: Robert Clavel, Roberto Silva. ED: Françoise Bonnot. SFX: Lee Zavitz. VFX: J. McMillan Johnson. Cost: Yvonne Wood. Makeup: Alex Archambault, Monique Archambault. M: Ennio Morricone. S: William R. Sivel – magnetic sound on 70 mm print. Ass D: Juan Luis Buñuel, Gilberto Martinez Solares, Claude Pinoteau.
    C: Anthony Quinn (León Alastray), Anjanette Comer (Quinita), Charles Bronson (Teclo), Sam Jaffe (el padre José) Silvia Pinal (Felicia), Jorge Martínez de Hoyos (Felipe Cayetano), Jaime Fernández (Lanza Dorada), Rosa Furman (Águeda), Leon Askin (el vicario general), José Chávez (Antoñito), Ivan Desny (el coronel Calleja), Fernand Gravey (el gobernador), Pedro Armendáriz, Jr. (el padre Lucas), Jorge Russek (Pedro), Aurora Clavel (Magdalena), Julio Aldama (Diego), Emilio Fernández.
    Loc: Sierra de Órganos National Park (Sombretete). Also El Saltito (Durango) and San Miguel de Allende (Guanajuato). Locations shot entirely in Mexico.
    Original in English.
    [The Finnish and Swedish titles of the film are misleading since there is only one cannon at San Sebastian (but very many muskets)].
    Helsinki premiere: 19.7.1968 Bristol (70 mm) – distributor: Filmipaja – vhs: in the 1980s Esselte Video – VET 76684 – K16 – 3065 m / 112 min
    Curated by Lauri Lehtinen and Antti Suonio. Introduced by Lauri Lehtinen.
    A print with Swedish subtitles by Gunnar Tannefors screened in 70 mm at Bio Rex, Helsinki (Ennio Morricone 90 / The Incredible Italy / 70 mm / The Crazy Year 1968), 10 Nov 2018

A full-blooded Ennio Morricone soundtrack with epic grandeur and wordless songs delivered by soprano Edda Dell'Orso filled the magnificent Bio Rex in our tribute to the incredibly productive and still active composer.

La Bataille de San Sebastian is a special case in the context of the European Western. It was shot on location in Mexico. It takes place as early as 1743, during the rule of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

But relevant to the Western is the antagonism between the Christian European settlers and the indigenous people, here the Yaqui. We are first led to see the Yaqui as mere marauders against the settlers. Then we learn that the colonialists have massacred the Yaqui in a genocidal purge before settlement. According to the Yaqui, first comes the missionary and then the military to crush indigenous people.

La Bataille de San Sebastian is as anti-clerical as any work of Luis Buñuel, and Father José (Sam Jaffe) is a follower of the Christ to be compared with Nazarín. (Further Buñuel connections are the presence of Silvia Pinal in the cast and the contribution of Juan Luis Buñuel as assistant director).

But the wily anti-hero Léon Alastray (Anthony Quinn) belongs rather to the tradition of Charles Chaplin as The Pilgrim (set next to the border of Mexico) or Humphrey Bogart as The Left Hand of God. Léon's desperate masquerade as a priest is taken seriously by the villagers, and he is himself moved by their faith.

The quandary of the villagers moves Léon profoundly, and he uses his wiles and his friendship with Felicia, the wife of the governor, to have Spanish guns transported to the God-forsaken village of San Sebastian.

The villagers have been harassed by the Yaqui, but the Yaqui have been provoked by Teclo (Charles Bronson), leader of a band of rogue vaqueros. In the climactic battle the villagers beat the Yaqui and the vaqueros, using their guns and their cunning.

The building of a dam has been crucial for the well-being of the village. Its demolition brings an end to the marauders.

A typical dark European 1960s edge to the story is in the realization that both the villagers and the Yaqui are victims of colonialism. When the battle has been fought, the Spanish administration reigns victorious. But a new father comes into the village, and he seems not to be of the conformist kind.

There is a complexity in the movie's religious stance. The last lines of dialogue:

Quinita: Where will you go?
Léon: This time only God knows.

Henri Verneuil keeps the big production powerfully moving. The mise-en-scène is to its advantage on the 70 mm screen. The handling of the deep focus epic scenes and massive battles is exciting.

The direction of the actors leaves a lot to be desired. Anthony Quinn and Charles Bronson are not compelling in their performances, and neither is lovely Anjanette Comer in the female lead. Silvia Pinal is good in her supporting role as the governor's wife. Sam Jaffe at 77 (but still about to continue for 16 years in films) is memorable as the genuinely Christian Father José.

The 70 mm image looks so good that it is hard to believe that it is a blow-up. There is a lot of fine detail visible in the epic long shots. It is truly rewarding to see this film on a big screen. The colour of the vintage print has survived remarkably well.


Thursday, November 01, 2018

Risttuules / In the Crosswind

Risttuules / In the Crosswind. In the front: Tarmo Song (Heldur Tamm). Behind him: Laura Peterson (Erna Tamm)

    EE 2014. PC: Allfilm. P: Piret Tibbo-Hudgins, Pille Rünk. D+SC: Martti Helde. CIN: Erik Põllumaa. Lighting: Taivo Tenso. S: Janne Laine. AD+Cost: Reet Brandt ja Anna-Liisa Liiver. Makeup: Liisi Roht. ED: Liis Nimik. M: Pärt Uusberg.
    C: Laura Peterson (Erna Tamm), Tarmo Song (Heldur Tamm), Mirt Preegel (Eliide), Ingrid Isotamm (Hermiine), Einar Hillep (chairman of the kolkhoz).
    Tallinn premiere: 26.3.2014. B&w, 87 min
    DCP from Allfilm / Eesti Filmi Instituut with English subtitles. In Estonian, title cards only in English in this presentation.
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Estonia 100), 1 Nov 2018

"Dedicated to the victims of the Soviet Holocaust".

590 000 Estonians perished in Soviet deportations and purges. This film is their requiem.

The overwhelming experience has been conveyed with a unique approach.

The camera is mobile, and the world has been photographed realistically. For instance, we are constantly aware of the wind, the element highlighted in the title of the film.

But people are often frozen like in tableaux vivants. The camera is not stopped, but the performers stop moving, and the mobile camera catches them as living statues in three dimensions. These are frozen moments of shock. Stillbilder: the time stands still. I am thinking about bullet time sequences in Matrix, time dilatation sequences in Jakob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man, and Carlo Rovelli's book L'ordine del tempo (2017) which I'm presently reading.

Risttuules is an experimental film. The experiment is eloquent. The message is clear.

Martti Helde and his cast and team convey the dignity of the people made to suffer in conditions below dignity.

Based on a true story, Erna Tamm's diary and letters, the film focuses on the tragedy of one Estonian family in 1941–1954. We witness the past happiness in bright, strong images. The deportation and the Gulag terror are conveyed in powerful views, including hard labour, torture chambers and execution sites. Meanwhile, not all people are bad, moments of happiness are possible even in these circumstances. The railway station sequences are epic.

The title of the film is a reference to the hopes of the young couple: Erna would be the west wind, and Heldur the east wind. Together they would create the crosswind. There is also an association to the braid of Erna's hair, the final image of the movie. Only the hope and the memory remain.

Listening to Pärt Uusberg's score I was reminded of a film I saw yesterday, Mia madre, whose soundtrack is largely based on Arvo Pärt, and I am beginning to understand that these sounds are (among other things) laments of the Estonian catastrophe.

A recurrent melody is also the tango "To ostatnia niedziela" ["This Is the Last Sunday"] by Jerzy Petersburski (1935), known in Russian as "Utomlyonnoe solntse", giving also the title to Nikita Mikhalkov's film Burnt by the Sun. All associations are relevant.

The digital cinematography sometimes borders on the abstract: dazzling, blinding lights, reduced compositions, silhouettes, close to low definition. Visually, Risttuules takes us beyond an ordinary experience of reality, while the spoken discourse remains warmly human, thanks to the tender, often half-whispered narration of Laura Peterson.