Monday, April 15, 2019

Ani ohev otach Rosa / I Love You Rosa (in memoriam Moshé Mizrahi 1930–2018)

Ani ohev otach Rosa / I Love You Rosa. Gabi Otterman (Nissim as a child), Michal Bat-Adam (Rosa).

אני אוהב אותך רוזה
Rose – jeg elsker dig / Rosa, je t'aime.
    IL 1972. PC: Leisure Media, Noah Films. EX: Yoram Globus. P: Menahem Golan. Assoc P: Itzik Kol. D+SC: Moshé Mizrahi. Cin: Adam Greenberg – 35 mm – Eastmancolor – 1,85:1. AD: Kuli Sander. M: Dov Seltzer. S: Roger LeClair – mono. ED: Dov Hoenig.
    C: Michal Bat-Adam (Rosa), Gabi Otterman (Nissim / Nessim at 11), Moshe Tal (Nissim at 20), Joseph Shiloach (Eli, wool carder), Levana Finkelstein (Jamila, Rosa's friend), Avner Hizkiyahu (rabbi), Zivi Avramson (Esther), Naomi Bachar (Luna), Yehuda Efroni (Don Yitzhak Peres), Esther Grotes (Alegra), Gunther Hirschberg (narrator), Elisheva Michaeli (Regina, Nissim's mother), Aliza Rosen (Rabbi's wife), Sarit Yishai-Levi / Sharit Yishai (Fortuna).
    In Hebrew.
    Loc: Jerusalem.
    (IMDb 77 min), 92 min.
    Israel release date: 12 Feb 1972.
    Denmark release date: 22 Feb 1973.
    Not released in Finland.
    Vintage 35 mm print of 92 minutes with Danish subtitles by Erik Horskson. E-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio.
    Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (History of the Cinema: Israel), 15 April 2019.

The framing story takes place in contemporary Jerusalem. The drama proper takes place in 1887–1896 when Jerusalem belonged to the Ottoman Empire.

Biblical reference: Deut 25, 5–10 (5 Mos 25, 5–10).

In memory of Moshé Mizrahi, born in cosmopolitan Alexandria in 1930, a great humanist of the Middle East who dedicated his life to the brotherhood of Jews and Arabs.

Mizrahi was a director distinguished in complex and unusual portraits of women. I Love You Rosa, inspired by the life of the director's great-grandmother, stars Michal Bat-Adam in a moving debut leading role. After the film, Mizrahi and Bat-Adam got married, and Bat-Adam became a screenwriter, director and teacher in her own right, the first Israeli woman to direct a film. Her debut film Moments (1979) dealt with a lesbian / bisexual friendship before such themes entered the mainstream.

Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, I Love You Rosa is a display of their commitment to artistic cinema in their native Israel before their expansion into international production and Hollywood.

Mizrahi and his cinematographer Adam Greenberg catch the warmth of the Israeli sunlight memorably. There is also a winter sequence with snow during the most arduous period of Rosa and Nissim's separation. The mise-en-scène is assured and the visual composition constantly engaging whether in wide landscape panoramas or revealing close-ups.

Dov Seltzer has composed a subtle and evocative score.

Above all I Love You Rosa is a character-driven film. The approach is controversial and rebellious in many ways. The opening setup is about the 20-year old widow Rosa's quandary: her husband has just died, and since they had no children, she is expected to marry a brother-in-law, but the only available one, Nissim, is just 11 years old. Instead of marrying, Rosa starts to take care of Nissim like a mother, causing a scandal in Jerusalem. When Nissim grows up and starts to earn money, he proposes to Rosa, instantly assuming macho stances, and Rosa throws him away. Five years later Nissim returns, now a grown-up man who has learned manners at the cultured house of Don Isaac Peres in Thessaloniki.

A true love story can start. Every love story is unique and different, a journey into the unknown in a constantly changing hall of mirrors. This complexity is captured by Moshé Mizrahi and his cast with psychological sensitivity, tenderness, and a sense of tragedy and humour. Rosa belongs to a generation of pioneering women defying reactionary gender roles. Nissim needs to fight both external and internal prejudices. His love is a matter of life and death. Without her he loses his appetite and will to live. He cannot live without her.

The film is both a drama of Rosa's ordeal and Nissim's Bildungsroman in a transitional period from ancient ceremonies towards modernity.

The film has special religious value in recording ancient customs of the Chalitza ceremony in which a widow must formally reject the expected suitor. Rosa's quandary stems from an obedience of decrees of the Deuteronomy.

In the synagogue we witness her having to remain hidden in the balcony. On the other hand, the life-affirming rabbi states that God is everywhere and loves people. A fundamentally positive attitude to sexuality prevails. Nissim quotes the Song of Solomon: "love is as strong as death".

The film also records old customs of wool carding with a string instrument, similar as the ones known in ancient India. The instrument is the symbol of Rosa's deceased husband Rafael. Also Eli, who would like to propose to Rosa, is a wool carder. He also teaches the craft to Nissim who soon becomes dexterous in the job. Eli coughs constantly, probably due to an occupational disease. The viewer may suspect that pneumoconiosis has brought Rafael to a premature grave.

There is an authentic feeling of a traditional way of life next to the nature and countryside, with sheep farming as a major occupation.

Print quality: a watchable vintage Eastmancolor print with the expected colour fading, duration 90 min.

Dhunuri cotton carder from India. A similar string instrument appears in Ani ohev otach Rosa. A "Cotton carder". An old engraving copied from artist Pierre Sonnerat's 1782 illustration Engraver: Poisson, Painter: Sonnerat, Pierre, 1748-1814, uploader Dr.saptarshi. Credit: Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library Image. "A man carding raw cotton". (Carding is using a card or comb to clean or disentangle the fibres prior to weaving. Carding is an approximate description for this. The actual word for this profession, according to the author who is uploading it, is Dhunuri in eastern India). Illustration from Sonnerat's 'Voyage aux Indes Orientales et a la Chine, fait par ordre du roi, depuis 1774 jusqu'en 1781' ('Voyage to the East Indies and China, made by order of the king, from 1774 to 1781'), published in 1782. Image and caption from Wikipedia.


Tuesday, April 09, 2019

La rabbia di Pasolini (2008 hypothetical reconstruction by Istituto Luce / Minerva / Cineteca di Bologna)

La rabbia (1963). The finale of the section on Marilyn: footage from a detonation of a nuclear bomb. Photo: my snapshot from YouTube.

La rabbia / The Rage / The Anger [the latter translation is used in the 2008 reconstruction].
La rabbia. IT 1963. PC: Opus Film. P: Gastone Ferranti. Organizzazione generale: Antonio Morelli (A.D.C.).
    Soggetto, montaggio, commento: Pier Paolo Pasolini.
    D: Pier Paolo Pasolini. Ass D: Carlo Di Carlo. SC: Pier Paolo Pasolini, including original poetry: Pier Paolo Pasolini. Voices of the readers: Giorgio Bassani (poetry), Renato Guttuso (prose). Paintings: Ben Shahn, Jean Fautrier, George Grosz, Renato Guttuso. ED: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Nino Baragli, Mario Serandrei. Ass ED: Sergio Montanari. Mv, 1,66.
    M: main theme: ”Adagio per flauto: Archi e organo” (attributed to Albinoni, actually comp. Remo Giazotto, 1958). – Cuban revolutionary songs, Los Barbudos; Algerian revolutionary songs; Russian folk songs; "Lo shimmy" (A. F. Lavagnino); "I sogni muoiono all'alba" "Concerto disperato" (Simoni, Rosso); "Tiger Twist" and "Suoni in coreografia" (A. Sciascia).
    Featuring: Gandhi, Nehru, Sukarno, Nasser, Tunisian leaders, Fidel Castro, Charles de Gaulle, Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, Queen Elizabeth II, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ike Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Patricia Nixon, Pope John XXIII, Maxim Strauch as Lenin in Rasskazy o Lenine by Yutkevich, Marilyn Monroe, Nikita Khrushchev, Yuri Gagarin.
    Premiere: Genova: Cinema Lux, 13.4.1963. 1449 m / 53 min.
    The first release of the film was in a two part whole in 104 minutes (53 min + 51 min) in which the second part was by Giovannino Guareschi.

La rabbia di Pasolini (2008). IT 2008. PC: Istituto Luce / Minerva / Cineteca di Bologna. P: Giuseppe Bertolucci. Commentator: Vittorio Magrelli. Featuring Tatti Sanguineti. Final Pasolini interview by Jean-André Fieschi in Cinéastes de notre temps: Pier Paolo Pasolini (1966) by André S. Labarthe. Colour correction in 2K by L'Immagine Ritrovata. Premiere: Venice Film Festival 2008. 83 min. Includes the 53 min Pasolini original plus introductions and bonus materials. Black and white with colour inserts of paintings.
    35 mm print at 80 min with English subtitles by Title House Issaverdent (Roma) from Cinecittà Luce. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano di Cultura (Helsinki).
    Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (Pier Paolo Pasolini), 9 April 2019.

Revisited La rabbia by Pier Paolo Pasolini, his vision of a poet's anger facing the human condition anno 1963. It starts with the detonation of a nuclear bomb and offers a devastating montage of world events since 1945: the liberation of Europe from Fascism, and the reaction of the world to the atrocities of Stalin in East Germany, Hungary, Rome and Paris. There is a quick montage about the liberation of the world from colonialism in India, Indonesia, Egypt, Tunisia and Cuba. We meet world leaders from the USA, England and Russia, and religious leaders from Rome and London. Not forgetting love goddesses from Italy and the United States, and the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.

The footage is ordinary newsreel stuff, but Pasolini's montage and commentary elevates it to poetry. La rabbia is a magisterial exercise in the art of the montage film, following models by Shub, Vertov, Vedrès, Resnais, and Marker.

Pasolini's favourite sequence was the one devoted to Marilyn Monroe. Giorgio Bassani recites Pasolini's poem written for this film. We see a montage of familiar MM photographs, but in this context they are elevated to something unique and special. In the Pasolini context Marilyn is the muse of modernity, the tragic Aphrodite – Venus of the atom age. Associations flash to the figures of antiquity in Pasolini's oeuvre including Medea, Iocaste (in Oedipus Rex), Athene and Elektra (in his plan for the Oresteia africana). The Marilyn montage ends with a shot of a nuclear detonation.

The spellbinding poetic quality of the 53 minutes section directed by Pasolini is accentuated by the additional material included in the 2008 edition of 80 minutes called La rabbia di Pasolini because the contrast is so striking. Pasolinian poetry is utterly missing from the rest of the 2008 edition.

The main music theme is "Adagio per flauto: Archi e organo" attributed to Tomaso Albinoni, actually composed by Remo Giazotto in 1958. It had been discovered for the cinema by Orson Welles in The Trial and Serge Bourguignon in Les Dimanches de Ville d'Avray (Sundays and Cybèle) the year before. Intriguingly, both Welles and Pasolini combine the adagio with the mushroom cloud of a bomb.

Connections emerge between movies seen one after the other: we had just screened the Norwegian classic The Fight for the Atom Bomb.

The last name quoted by Pasolini in the bonus materials is Socrates. For me, the message of Socrates is wisdom as love and love as wisdom, as in Symposium. For Pasolini, it is la rabbia, anger at the human condition.

The visual quality of the restoration is excellent.


Pier Paolo Pasolini: Marilyn (a poem from La rabbia, 1963)

Marilyn Monroe in Korea, 1954.

    Del mondo antico e del mondo futuro
    era rimasta solo la bellezza, e tu,
    povera sorellina minore,
    quella che corre dietro i fratelli più grandi,
    e ride e piange con loro per imitarli,

    tu sorellina più piccola,
    quella bellezza l’avevi addosso umilmente,
    e la tua anima di figlia di piccola gente,
    non ha mai saputo di averla,
    perché altrimenti non sarebbe stata bellezza.

    Il mondo te l’ha insegnata,
    così la tua bellezza divenne sua.

    Del pauroso mondo antico e del pauroso mondo futuro
    era rimasta sola la bellezza, e tu
    te la sei portata dietro come un sorriso obbediente.
    L’obbedienza richiede troppe lacrime inghiottite,
    il darsi agli altri troppi allegri sguardi
    che chiedono la loro pietà! Così
    ti sei portata via la tua bellezza.
    Sparì come un pulviscolo d’oro.

    Dello stupido mondo antico e del feroce mondo futuro
    era rimasta una bellezza che non si vergognava
    di alludere ai piccoli seni di sorellina,
    al piccolo ventre così facilmente nudo.

    E per questo era bellezza,
    la stessa che hanno le dolci ragazze del tuo mondo…
    le figlie dei commercianti
    vincitrici ai concorsi a Miami o a Londra.
    Sparì come una colombella d’oro.

    Il mondo te l’ha insegnata,
    e così la tua bellezza non fu più bellezza.

    Ma tu continuavi a essere bambina,
    sciocca come l’antichità, crudele come il futuro,
    e fra te e la tua bellezza posseduta dal Potere
    si mise tutta la stupidità e la crudeltà del presente.
    La portavi sempre dietro come un sorriso tra le lacrime,
    impudica per passività, indecente per obbedienza.
    Sparì come una bianca colomba d’oro.

    La tua bellezza sopravvissuta dal mondo antico,
    richiesta dal mondo futuro,
    posseduta dal mondo presente,
    divenne un male mortale.

    Ora i fratelli maggiori, finalmente, si voltano,
    smettono per un momento i loro maledetti giochi,
    escono dalla loro inesorabile distrazione,
    e si chiedono: “È possibile che Marilyn,
    la piccola Marilyn, ci abbia indicato la strada?”

    Ora sei tu, quella che non conta nulla, poverina, col suo sorriso,
    sei tu la prima oltre le porte del mondo
    abbandonato al suo destino di morte.

Pier Paolo Pasolini

Recited by Giorgio Bassani in La rabbia (1963). The poem had been performed by Laura Betti in 1962.

Kampen om Tungtvannet / The Fight for the Atom Bomb

Taistelu atomipommista / Kampen om atombomben / The Fight for the Atom Bomb / Operation Swallow: The Battle for Heavy Water / La Bataille de l’eau lourde.
    NO / FR 1948. PC: Hero Film (Oslo) i samarbeid med Le Trident (Paris). P: Nino Constantini.
    D: Titus Vibe-Müller, Jean Dréville. [Credits on the print viewed: Supervisor Jean Dréville / Director Titus Vibe-Müller]. [In the Norwegian version only Titus Vibe Müller is credited.] Ass D: John Willem Gran.
    SC: Jean Marin, Arild Feldborg, Diana Robertsen, Knut Haukelid. [Credited in the Norwegian version as: Etter manuskript av Jean Marin – Bearbeidet for filmen av Arild Feldborg, Diana Robertsen, Knut Haukelid]. [In the Norwegian version: Kommentarer: Haakon Bugge Mahrt. Lest av Hartvig Kiran.]
    DP (Sjef-fotografer): Hilding Bladh, Marcel Weiss. M: Gunnar Sønstevold – innspilt av Paris-Konservatoriets Orkester – dirigent: Georges Van Parys. ED: Jean Feyte.
    C (in the Norwegian version):
    Franske politikere og videnskapsmenn
Rustningsminister / Raoul Dautry
Professor / Joliot-Curie
Laboratoriesjef / Lew Kowarski
Professor / H. H. Halban
Sprengstoff-offiser / Jacques A...
    Britiske offiserer
Oberst Wilson / Major Holme
Liaisonoffiser / Major Lourdier
R. A. F. - offiser / Major Stibbard
    Norske offiserer og mannskaper
Major Professor Leif Tronstad / Øyvind Øyen
Fenrik Jens-Anton Poulsson
Fenrik Knut Haugland / Johannes Eckhoff
Sersjant Arne Kjelstrup
Sersjant Claus Helberg
Sersjant Einar Skinnarland / Henki Kolstad
Fenrik Joachim Rønneberg / Claus Wiese
Fenrik Knut Haukelid
Fenrik Kasper Idland / Andreas Aabel
Sersjant Hans Storhaug
Sersjant Fredrik Kayser
Sersjant Birger Strømsheim / Odd Rohde
    Fra hjemmestyrkene
Ingenier Rolf Sørlie
Damvokter Torstein Skinnarland
Knut Lier-Hansen
    Norske sivile
Generaldirektør Axel Aubert / David Knudsen
Ingeniør Jomar Brun / Thorleif Reiss
En vaktmann / Finn Bernhoft
En maskinist / Einar Vaage
En gammel mann / Halvor Haugen
Sjåffør Ola Hansen
    Tyske militære og sivile
Generaloberst von Falkenhorst / Harald Schwenzen
En utsending / Alf Nølke
En militæringeniør / Stevelin Urdahl
En teknisk rådgiver / Folkman Schaanning
    Loc: Telemark.
    Premiere: Norway 5.2.1948, France 13.2.1948.
    Helsinki premiere: 18.3.1949 Aloha, Astor, distributor: Filmituonti Oy – telecast: 11.1.1962 Yle TV1 – VET 29571 – K16 – durations: 80, 98, 107 min
    There were three language editions: Norwegian, French, and English. Later film dramatizations of the subject: Telemarkin sankarit (The Heroes of Telemark, GB 1965) and tv series Kampen om tungtvannet (NO 2015).
    A 35 mm print from Nasjonalbiblioteket of the English dubbed version The Fight for the Atom Bomb at 82 min.
    Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (History of the Cinema), 9 April 2019.

"En beretning om begivenheter som virkelig fant sted under den siste verdenskrigen.
    De menn som medvirker i filmen er, på få unntagelser nær, de samme som deltok i denne kampen."

Kampen on tungtvannet, the first film dramatization of the story also known as The Heroes of Telemark, was a film of special interest for Peter von Bagh. He picked it as one the one hundred fiction films illuminating the world history of the film age in his book The Almanac of Cinema published posthumously last year. He also programmed it in Bologna's Il Cinema Ritrovato where the French language parallel version directed by Jean Dréville was seen. We screened the English dubbed version The Fight for the Atom Bomb because a Norwegian language print was not available.

Dramatized are Second World War operations for the prevention of Germany having access to the atom bomb. Operation Grouse a.k.a. Swallow in October 1942 joined forces with Operation Gunnerside in February 1943. The special troops sabotaged a heavy water plant at Vemork in Telemark. In a commando strike in February 1944 the ship SF Hydro about to transport heavy water to Germany was exploded via a time bomb.

Titus Vibe Müller is the only credited director in the version we screened. Jean Dréville was evidently in charge of the French edition of the Norwegian-French coproduction. There is a sober and matter-of-fact approach to the saga whose events are no less thrilling than in an Alistair MacLean novel. Thanks to this approach the film rises above the level of a conventional action movie.

Kampen om tungtvannet is an exceptionally good action movie because it does not try to be one. We just see teams of dedicated men committed to an extremely difficult mission. The survival in German occupied Norway in a particularly desolate winter on the mountains borders on the impossible. The special commando men need to be champion league skiers to evade Nazi Alpenjäger troops. Kampen om tungtvannet has a distinguished status as a resistance movie, a partisan movie, a mountain movie and a skiing movie.

The winter cinematography and the nocturnal cinematography is outstanding. Hilding Bladh would later shoot Ingmar Bergman's Gycklarnas afton and Arne Mattsson's colour cycle of thrillers preceding inventions credited to Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Marcel Weiss seems to have debuted in his career as a cinematographer in this movie.

The music score by Gunnar Sønstevold is often laid back but suitably atmospheric.

The most distinctive feature of the film is of course that the drama is performed by the heroes themselves who had conducted the actual commando missions 4–6 years earlier. We can feel the truth of the spirit, the gestures, the conditions of survival, and the incredible mountaineering and skiing skills. This film is not a documentary but it comes as close to authenticity as fiction can be.

The print viewed at 82 minutes was visually impressive, doing justice to the achievement of the breathtaking nocturnal winter vision.

From left, Joachim Rønneberg, Jens-Anton Poulsson and Kasper Idland receive King Haakon VII of Norway at the premiere of Operation Swallow: The Battle for Heavy Water (1948). Photo and caption from Wikipedia.


Sunday, April 07, 2019


Medeia / Medea.
    IT / FR / DE 1969. PC: San Marco S.p.A. (Rome) / Les Films Number One (Paris) / Janus Film und Fernsehen (Frankfurt). P: Franco Rossellini. Ass P: Klaus Hellwig, Pierre Kalfon.
    D: Pier Paolo Pasolini. SC: Pier Paolo Pasolini – based on the tragedy (431 BC) by Euripides. DP (Eastmancolor, 1,85): Ennio Guarnieri. AD: Dante Ferretti, Nicola Tamburro. Cost: Piero Tosi. Make-up: Romolo Sensoli. Hair: Maria Teresa Corridoni (il truco della Sig.ra Callas e le pettinature da), Marcella De Marzi (hair stylist), Goffredo Rocchetti (il truco della Sig.ra Callas e' stato curato da). Jewels: Nino Lembo. S: Carlo Tarchi – mono. ED: Nino Baragli.
    Compilation score, musical supervisor: Elsa Morante. Musiche sacre giapponesi, edizioni Bixio Sam, Milano. Canti d'amore iraniani, edizioni Bixio Sam, Milano. Musiche tibetane: campanelli buddisti, Khyabjug Chenden, Musica del Ricevimento (tratta dall'LP Tibet III, A Musical Anthology of the Orient, U.N.E.S.C.O.).
   C: Maria Callas (Medea / voice dubbing: Rita Savagnone), Giuseppe Gentile (Jason / voice dubbing: Pino Colizzi), Massimo Girotti (Creon), Laurent Terzieff (Chiron the centaur / voice dubbing: Enrico Maria Salerno), Margareth Clémenti (Glauce), Annamaria Chio (wet-nurse), Paul Jabara (Pelias), Luigi Barbini (an argonaut), Gérard Weiss (second centaur), Giorgio Trombetti, Franco Jacobbi (an argonaut), Gian Paolo Durgar, Sergio Tramonti (Apsirto, Medea's brother).
    Production dates: May 1969 – August 1969.
    Loc: Grado lagoon (Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia), Campo dei Miracoli (Pisa, Tuscany), Anatolia, Cappadocia (Turkey), Göreme Open Air Museum (Göreme, Nevsehir, Turkey), Aleppo (Syria).
    Premiere: Milano 28.12.1969.
    Helsinki premiere: 11.2.1972 Aula, distributor: Kino Filmi o.y. – VET 78979 – K12 – 3060 m / 112 min.
    35 mm Cinecittà Luce print with English subtitles by Title House Issaverdent. Courtesy Minerva Pictures. Courtesy Istituto Italiano di Cultura (Helsinki).
    Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (Pier Paolo Pasolini), 7 April 2019.

Revisited Pier Paolo Pasolini's Medea which I had seen only once before: in October 1970 during the Italian Cultural Week in Helsinki. I seem to remember that there were no subtitles in that screening. I had planned to revisit Medea in our Pasolini tribute in May 1995, but print access had been cancelled.

Pier Paolo Pasolini gives an original interpretation to the tragedy of classical antiquity. The film feels both personal and genuinely strange. Medea and Jason are not persons we could relate to if we would bump into them on the street.

The film is a journey into mythical consciousness, into an animistic world in which sacrifices have a real meaning. Medea is a revered sorceress, although she herself feels helpless before the elements.

Sun, blood, fire, horses, and the wind are felt in their elementary powers. Medea consults the sun and is in dialogue with him.

There is an archaic and atavistic approach to ritual. Aesthetically there is an affinity with the contemporary works of Sergei Paradzhanov. But Medea is a part of Pasolini's lifelong quest into the holiness of the reality. "Tutto e santo" is being repeated.

To Euripides's tragedy of Medea Pasolini adds the pre-history of Jason and the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece. The first part (Jason) is about a successful male conquest, the second part (Medea) about a woman's revenge.

Maria Callas in her only film role gives a sculptural performance of the tragedy, suffering, betrayal and bitterness of Medea. She has sacrificed everything, including literally her brother, for Jason. From a sorceress she evolves into one of the Furies. There is a cold determination in her revenge which brings disaster to everybody, herself included. It is a kind of a collective suicide. But the worst fate is reserved for Jason who as the only survivor will have to live with the infinite loss for the rest of his life.

Medea is an amazingly original Gesamtkunstwerk. The locations are real, but there is a constant feeling of an alien landscape, from the ancient Göreme temples to the Aleppo Citadel (recently battered in Syrian Civil War).

Again, Pasolini offers an intriguing compilation soundtrack: "commento musicale: Elsa Morante" state the opening credits. We hear sacred Tibetan bells and throat singing, Iranian love themes and holy Japanese music.

The costume design by Luchino Visconti's regular collaborator Piero Tosi is wonderful and imaginative, as are all other elements of design.

Ennio Guarnieri's painterly colour cinematography is magisterial. All colours have a full and solid character, and there is a particular glow and intensity in the palette. The warm colours are juicy and lively. The cold and dark colours are severe and foreboding.

A special narrative twist is that we see two alternative versions about Medea's curse inflicted on Glauce and Creon. My wife Laila observed that in the first version we see the curse as Medea's dream. In the second version the dream comes true, but differently.

The gorgeous Cinecittà Luce print does justice to the visual quality of the film. The screening ran 109 minutes.


The Haunted House (2015 Lobster Films restoration with a Neil Brand score)

Noiduttu talo / Kummitustalo.
    US 1921. PC: Joseph M. Schenck Productions / Buster Keaton Productions. Original distributor: Metro Pictures Corporation. P: Joseph M. Schenck. D+SC: Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton. Cin: Elgin Lessley. Technical director: Fred Gabourie. ED: Buster Keaton.
    C: Buster Keaton (bank clerk), Virginia Fox (bank president's daughter), Joe Roberts (bank cashier), Dorothy Cassil (flirty bank customer), Mark Hamilton (tallest ghost), Natalie Talmadge (fainting female bank customer).
    Loc: Bonebrake Mansion, Los Angeles (haunted house).
    Premiere: 21 Feb, 1921.
    Helsinki premiere: Apollo 19.11.1923, distributed by Adams Filmi Oy – telecast 13 Jan 1989, 6 March 1990 Yle TV1 – film control 12381 – S – 494 m.
    Lobster Films restoration (2015) with a simulation of toning and a Neil Brand piano score at 24 min.
    2K DCP screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (Buster Keaton), 10 March 2019.

Wikipedia plot synopsis:

"Keaton plays a teller at a successful bank. Unbeknownst to him, the manager at the bank and his gang are planning on pulling off a robbery and hiding in an old house which they have rigged up with booby traps and effects to make it appear to be haunted."

"After a mishap that afternoon with Keaton getting glue all over the money and himself, he almost thwarts the gang's robbery but when the owner of the bank walks in and sees Keaton armed with a gun he assumes it was he who tried to rob it."

"Keaton flees and takes refuge in the old house; however, a troupe of actors from a theatre production are also in the house and are clad in their scary costumes (ghosts, skeletons etc) leading Keaton and the gang of robbers to believe the house actually is haunted."

"After Keaton has many encounters with the "ghosts" and the house's booby traps, he discovers the scam and the manager is revealed as being behind the robbery. As the manager is about to be taken away, he hits Keaton over the head and knocks him out before escaping."

"Next we see Keaton being awoken by two angels at the foot of a large stairway which he ascends all the way to Heaven. He asks Saint Peter to be let in but is denied and is sent all the way down to Hell. However, this is all revealed to be a dream sequence as Keaton regains consciousness in the house seconds later.

AA: The Haunted House, Buster Keaton's fifth released independent production, might not be one of his greatest, but who's complaining? In his independent productions he maintained a constantly high level of inspiration. Also The Haunted House is full of jaw-dropping incidents and inventions, sometimes flashing past in split seconds. The story takes place on three locations.

The first location is a bank where Buster the teller botches a burglary by spilling glue on bank notes. There is an escalating process of catastrophe comedy as everything gets stuck, including hair and trousers. On the other hand Buster is a wizard who can tell the correct amount of money just by ear while riffling through a wad of notes. In the middle of the mayhem the bank owner and the police mistake Buster for the robber, and he must escape.

"That night the Daredevil Opera Company was executing Faust – and he deserved it". Irate patrons repay an incompetent production of Faust by throwing vegetables on the actors who take flight before the fury of the audience.

The bank robbers' lair is "a haunted house" rigged to fool the police. For instance a staircase can turn into a slide. Buster the fugitive falls into all the traps before he realizes how the place works. Also the artists on the run from the Daredevil Opera Company find their refuge there, and Faust, Marguerite, and Mephisto emerge amongst the great race between robbers, police, and Buster.

An example of the split-second gags is a fainted Marguerite waking up between two robbers in skeleton costumes and instantly knocking them out. (This "young maiden" soprano belongs to the venerable operatic stout madam category).

A fine restoration with an appealing colour toning simulation and a reliably brisk Neil Brand piano score. The score is heard already before the image during the footage in which the opening credits are missing.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Lebedinoe ozero / Swan Lake (1968)

Swan Lake (1968). Yelena Yevteyeva as Odette.

Swan Lake (1968), the finale. The final union of Siegfried (John Markovsky) and Odette (Yelena Yevteyeva). Cropped Academy frame. Photo: my snapshot from YouTube.

Лебединое озеро / Lebedinoje ozero / Joutsenlampi / Svansjön.
П. И. Чайковский  Лебединое озеро  [on screen title].
    SU 1968. PC: Lenfilm. P: Pyotr Sviridov.
    A film ballet of Lebedinoye ozero / Swan Lake (1876) composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
    Based on the staging and choreography of the 1895 revival by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.
    Arranged by Konstantin Sergeyev.
    Featuring ballet dancers of Leningradskogo teatra opery i baleta imeni S M. Kirova and students of Leningradskogo khoreograficheskogo uchilishcha imeni A. Ya. Vaganova.
    Orchestra: Orkestr Leningradskogo Gosudarstvennogo Akademicheskogo teatra opery i baleta imeni S. M. Kirova. Conductor: Viktor Fedotov.
    D (mise-en-scène / postanovka): Apollinari Dudko, Konstantin Sergeyev. SC: Isaak Glikman, Apollinari Dudko, Konstantin Sergejev. DP: Anatoli Nazarov – Orwocolor – 70 mm 1:2,20 – also released in cropped 35 mm at 1,37:1 (to be avoided). AD: Viktor Volin, Boris Bykov. Cost: Marina Azizyan. Makeup: R. Kravtshenko, B. Solovjov. Trick photography: Aleksandr Zavyalov, Georgi Senotov (operatory), Boris Mikhailov (hudozhnik). S: Vladimir Yakovlev – sound mix: 70 mm 6-track. ED: Izolda Golovko (montage), Vsevolod Schwartz (redaktor).
    C: Yelena Yevteyeva (Odette / Odile), John Markovsky (Siegfried), Mahmud Esambayev (Rothbart), Valeri Panov (jester), Angelina Kabarova (Siegfried's mother), Viktor Ryazanov (tutor).
    There is no dialogue.
    Helsinki premiere: 24.1.1969 Capitol, distributed by Kosmos-Filmi – VET 77278 – S – 80 min
    Introduced by Olaf Möller (Colour).
    KAVI 35 mm print screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (Film Heaven / Colour), 6 April 2019.

This film adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake is a feast of classical ballet and music. The distinction of the film is that it is traditional, a contribution to an unbroken chain dating back to the 1895 revival of Swan Lake staged by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov for the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre.

In charge of the choreography is Konstantin Sergeyev (1910–1992), head choreographer and artistic director of the Kirov Theatre, founded as the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in 1860 and known as State Academic Mariinsky Theatre since 1992.

The mise-en-scène has been carried out strictly on the terms of the ballet. Dance numbers are recorded with cameras moving on tracks and cranes. From long shots we move to close-ups at standstill moments. Camera angles vary from regular eye level viewpoints to revealing high angles. Dissolves and superimpositions are frequently in use. Apparitions disappear from view, and images of the same character are doubled.

Swan Lake is a fairy-tale about transfiguration. In the prologue added to the film Rothbart turns Odette into a white swan. Sources tell that a changed, optimistic Soviet ending was typical to the Kirov Theatre period. Odette is saved back to life after the Liebestod of Odette as Siegfried breaks Rothbart's spell. But this film interpretation remains ambiguous. Certainly, Siegfried defeats Rothbart. Odette has died, but for me the film ending is about the union of Odette and Siegfried in death.

This is one of the interpretations in which the double role of Odette and Odile is played by the same artist. The primaballerina Yelena Yevteyeva rises to the challenge of the double role's tragic grandeur in a breathtaking performance. She makes the incredibly difficult task seem effortlessly elegant.

The music and the dancing are so spellbinding and ecstatic that no special cinematic means are needed. Every time it is amazing to observe how many fantastic melodies Tchaikovsky composed for a single work; at least 30 memorable ones.

Film references include the key theme ("the flight of the swans") first introduced in Act I:9: Finale (andante) and Act I:10: Scène (moderato), repeated in Act II:14: Scène (moderato) and climaxing in Act IV:29: Finale. In the 1930s this theme was adapted as the theme of Universal horror (Dracula, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Mummy). More obscurely, "the dance of the cygnets" (Act IV:27) reminds me of Bezhin lug in the Yutkevich-Kleiman reconstruction.

A special joy melodically and visually is Act III in which princesses from all over Europe woo Siegfried by csárdás, Russian, bolero, Neapolitan, and mazurka dancing. But waltz time is always Tchaikovsky's priority among traditional dances.

The music and the dancing are sharp and precise. The sets and the visuals are soft and blurred. The Orwocolor belongs to the Agfacolor – Ansco Color lineage, ideally suited for dream spaces, transcendence, the beyond, and death. We can think about the unreality of Immensee or Brigadoon. Transparent veils and curtains further blur our view.

We were not able to project our 70 mm print due to our second projector's magnetic sound playback trouble. Seen instead was a 35 mm print in which the pastel hues seem authentic to the period.

However, in the 35 mm print at 1,37:1 the image is cropped from widescreen to Academy. It fails to convey the authentic impact of the choreography and the mise-en-scène. We look forward to screening Swan Lake in glorious 70 mm and 6-track magnetic sound soon.


Thursday, April 04, 2019

My Brilliant Career

Judy Davis as Sybylla Melvyn and Sam Neill as Harry Beecham.

Loistava urani / Min lysande karriär (SE) / Min strålende karriere (NO).
   AU © 1979 Margaret Fink Film Productions Pty Ltd. PC: Margaret Fink Productions – in association with: The New South Wales Film Corporation / Greater Union Organisation (GUO). P: Margaret Fink. Assoc P: Jane Scott.
    D: Gillian Armstrong [credited as Gill Armstrong]. SC: Eleanor Witcombe – based on the novel (1901) by Miles Franklin – not translated into Finnish. Cin: Donald McAlpine – 35 mm – Eastmancolor – 1,85:1. PD: Luciana Arrighi. Cost: Anna Senior. S: Ned Dawson, Julian Ellingworth, Phil Judd – mono. ED: Nicholas Beauman. Casting: Hilary Linstead, Liz Mullinar.
    M: Nathan Waks. Theme music: Robert Schumann: "Kinderszenen" Op. 15, No 1 "Von fremden Ländern und Menschen" (1838). [Other themes include: "Beautiful Dreamer"].
    C: Judy Davis (Sybylla Melvyn), Sam Neill (Harry Beecham), Wendy Hughes (Aunt Helen), Robert Grubb (Frank Hawdon), Max Cullen (Mr. McSwatt), Aileen Britton (Grandma Bossier), Peter Whitford (Uncle Julius), Patricia Kennedy (Aunt Gussie), Alan Hopgood (father), Julia Blake (mother), David Franklin (Horace), Marion Shad (Gertie), Aaron Wood (Stanley), Sue Davis (Aurora), Gordon Piper (barman).
    Supporting C: James Moss (pub drinker), Bill Charlton (Joe), Suzanne Roylance (Biddy), Zelda Smyth (Ethel), Amanda Pratt (Blance Derrick), Dorothy St. Heaps (Mrs. Derrick), Gerry Duggan (Squatter), Babs McMillan (neiti Benson), Tony Hughes (Peter McSwatt), Carole Skinner (rouva McSwatt), Tina Robinson (Lizer McSwatt), Aaron Corrin (Jimmy McSwatt), Robert Austin (Willie McSwatt), Mark Spain (Tommy McSwatt), Simone Buchanan (Mary Anne), Ray Meagher (mailman).
    Shooting: Oct–Nov 1978 in the Monaro region of New South Wales.
    Australian premiere: 17 Aug 1979. 9005 ft / 100 min
    VHS release in Finland: 1991 Alfa-Panorama Film & Video oy – VLV I-01122 – S12
    A vintage 35 mm print with Norwegian subtitles by Per Aamot.
    Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (History of the Cinema: Australia), 4 April 2019.

The story takes place in late 19th century New South Wales. The four main milieux are called Possum Gully, Caddagat, Five-Bob Downs and McSwatts.

I saw for the first time Gillian Armstrong's debut feature film, also the breakthrough movie for Judy Davis and Sam Neill.

My Brilliant Career is an original growing up story of a young woman. Relevant to feminism, it is based on Miles Franklin's novel which was ahead of its time as an account of a woman's emancipation.

Sybylla Melvyn is an artistically talented woman with special passions for literature and music. She comes from a poor family, but her well-off relatives are motivated to guide her to a good marriage. Because of warning examples all around, the experienced relatives advise against love marriage and find friendship marriage best. And only marriage can give a woman respectability.

My Brilliant Career is a tale of Sybylla's two courtships, and the one with Harry Beecham, her childhood friend, evolves into a true meeting of souls. Sybylla and Harry avoid each other, they hate each other, and they cannot ignore each other. But Sybylla insists that she cannot live another person's life, she must have an independent life, she must become a writer.

Judy Davis and Sam Neill are perfectly cast as the almost-lovers ("I'm so near loving you") who never get each other because, as Sybylla says: "I want to be a writer. I want to do it now". They, too, are ahead of their time.

Beautifully shot on location. The approach to the period feels believable. It is easy for a Finn to relate to this story since Finland and Australia were pioneering countries in women's suffrage. In our country the aficionados of Minna Canth (1844–1897) should be interested in My Brilliant Career.

The colour of the vintage Eastmancolor has faded in the print which runs 98 minutes.

My Brilliant Career. Sybylla Melvyn (Judy Davis) writing her debut novel.


Wednesday, April 03, 2019

The Shining (the US cut)

The Shining. The Overlook Hotel. Please do click on the images to enlarge them.

The Shining. On their way to the Overlook Hotel: Wendy (Shelley Duvall), Danny (Danny Lloyd) and Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson).
The Shining. Lisa and Louise Burns as Grady Sisters.

The Shining: Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance.

The Shining – hohto / The Shining.
    GB / US © 1980 Warner Bros. PC: Hawk Films / Peregrine Productions / The Producer Circle Company. Warner Bros. presents. EX: Jan Harlan. P: Stanley Kubrick.
    D: Stanley Kubrick. SC: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson – based on the novel by Stephen King (1977, translated into Finnish as Hohto). DP: John Alcott – 35 mm – colour – negative 1,37:1 – theatrical US & UK 1,85:1 – theatrical 1,66:1. PD: Roy Walker. AD: Leslie Tomkins. Cost: Milena Canonero. Makeup: Barbara Daly, Tom Smith. Hair: Leonard. SFX: Les Hillman. ED: Ray Lovejoy. Casting: James Liggat. Personal assistant to Mr. Kubrick: Leon Vitali.
    M: Wendy Carlos & Rachel Elkind (theme music “Shining” & “Rocky Mountains”).
    [The Shining main title theme music is "Dies irae" / "Day of Wrath": "dies irae, dies illa", a Gregorian chant probably from the 13th century, comp. probably Tommaso da Celano. In Finland it is Hymn 158 "Vihan päivä kauhistava", Finnish lyrics by Hemminki Maskulainen (1605). Via Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique: "Dream of a Witches' Sabbath".]
    Further soundtrack listing according to Wikipedia:
    "Lontano" by György Ligeti, Ernest Bour conducting the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra (Wergo Records)
    "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta": adagio by Béla Bartók, Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon)
    "Utrenja" – excerpts from the "Ewangelia" and "Kanon Paschy" movements by Krzysztof Penderecki, Andrzej Markowski conducting the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra (Polskie Nagrania Records)
    "Als Jakob erwachte...", "De Natura Sonoris No. 1" (Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Henryk Czyż) and "De Natura Sonoris No. 2" by Krzysztof Penderecki (Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Andrzej Markowski, Polskie Nagrania Records)
    "Home (When Shadows Fall)", performed by Henry Hall and the Gleneagles Hotel Band (Columbia Records)
    "It's All Forgotten Now" by Al Bowlly, performed by Ray Noble and His Orchestra
    "Masquerade", performed by Jack Hylton and His Orchestra
    "Kanon (for string orchestra)" by Krzysztof Penderecki
    "Polymorphia (for string orchestra)" by Krzysztof Penderecki, Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Henryk Czyż
    "Midnight, the Stars and You" by Al Bowlly, performed by Ray Noble and His Orchestra (not on soundtrack)
    C: Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance), Shelley Duvall (Wendy Torrance), Danny Lloyd (Danny Torrance), Scatman Crothers (Dick Hallorann), Barry Nelson (Stuart Ullman), Philip Stone (Delbert Grady), Joe Turkel (Lloyd), Lia Beldam (young woman in bath), Billie Gibson (old woman in bath), Barry Dennen (Bill Watson). Not in the final cut: Anne Jackson (doctor), Tony Burton (Larry Durkin), Robin Pappas (nurse) and Burnell Tucker (policeman).
    Studio: EMI Elstree Studios. Loc: Timberline Lodge (Oregon), Glacier National Park (Montana), Ahwanee Hotel (Yosemite National Park).
    London preview: 21.5.1980. Los Angeles and New York City: 23 May 1980. General release: 13 June 1980.
    Helsinki premiere: 26.9.1980 Arena 1, Bristol, released by WarnerColumbia – VET 88473 – K16.
    Original version 146 min. After a few weeks in the US: regular American release 3970 m / 144 min. London and European release 3295 m / 119 min
    The short European version is Kubrick's Final Cut (source: Jan Harlan 14.9.2002).
    35 mm print from Park Circus of the US cut at 142 min.
    Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (Stanley Kubrick), 3 April 2019.

I saw for the first time the US cut of The Shining, at 144 minutes longer than the European cut which runs 119 minutes. All material is great, but I can now understand why Stanley Kubrick preferred the short version. It is more effective.

By now The Shining is generally acknowledged as a masterpiece, and it is also a cult movie in a true sense of the word. It has a cult following meaning that people know much of its dialogue by heart, and there is an ongoing discourse about the mysteries of the movie.

The original reaction to The Shining was contradictory. Myself, when I saw the movie during its first run in 1980, I felt both intrigued and distanced. The Shining is both a horror film and a meditation on horror. But it never takes the easy way out, there is nothing glib or flippant. It is a true original.

Based on the novel by Stephen King, the author was disappointed with Kubrick's interpretation and preferred the tv miniseries remake called Stephen King's The Shining (US 1997) which ran 254 minutes, was directed by Mick Garris and starred Rebecca DeMornay, Steven Weber, Melvin Van Peebles and Elliott Gould.

There is one strength in the remake. The emotional bond between father and son is more profound. It reminds me of my favourite Stephen King film adaptation, Cujo (1983) directed by Lewis Teague, with a magisterial performance by Dee Wallace as the mother of the son threatened by a rabid dog.

Such a shattering passion of emotion is missing from Kubrick's film which might have tapped a great father and son tradition ranging from King Vidor's The Crowd, via Yasujiro Ozu's 1930s films to Vittorio De Sica's Ladri di bicicletti, but that territory is not Kubrick's.

Jack Nicholson's interpretation of Jack Torrance belongs to the legendary and unforgettable performances in the history of the cinema. It is a display of rampant madness. Nicholson overacts with gleeful abandon. His hamming can be compared with the most unhinged interpretations of Emil Jannings and Orson Welles.

There is an intentionally cartoonish approach in Nicholson's performance. Trying to break into the chambers of his wife and son he emulates Big Bad Wolf: "then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll break your house in". Associations run to other legendary antinaturalistic characters like Anthony Quinn's Zampanò in Fellini's La strada (also based on Big Bad Wolf) and Robert Mitchum's Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter and why not also his Max Cady in Cape Fear ("Maybe I'm the big bad wolf " says Robert De Niro in the Cape Fear remake).

In the history of the horror film Nicholson's macabre performance invites comparison with Conrad Veidt and Lon Chaney. Nicholson's performance is so powerful that it throws the film off balance, but Kubrick uses the situation to his advantage.

There are many interpretations of The Shining. For me, it is a tale of madness, une folie à trois. Jack Torrance is a failed writer who dreams of writing his masterpiece in the peace and quiet of wintertime Overlook Hotel. But the perfect conditions for concentration only serve to reveal glaringly his lack of talent.

Jack's self-image is based on illusion. He fails to face the truth, and his ego is crushed. Kubrick's interpretation is a tale of toxic patriarchy. Jack has no flexibility; he is unable to reassess his resources. Instead of turning to his wife and son for support, he projects his frustration on them, and makes them victims of a horrible revenge.

In the intimate closeness of the nuclear family Jack's madness is also reflected on his wife and son. They are caught in the maelstrom of Jack's nightmare.

In the interpretation of Nicholson and Kubrick The Shining becomes primarily Jack's story in the tradition of the monster movie. Whenever Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Mummy or King Kong is involved, other characters tend to remain secondary. Nicholson and Kubrick manage to create an equally immortal monster of Jack Torrance.

A weakness in the performance is that it is instantly clear that Jack is deranged. We never see a happy and relaxed dad.

Books have been written on The Shining. I think all references to ancient Indian burial grounds, jet set parties of the roaring twenties and the four presidents who have stayed at Overlook Hotel are relevant. I also agree that all Kubrick's films are on some level about the Holocaust.

Remarkably for a horror film, Kubrick uses challenging modern concert music on the soundtrack, juxtaposed with ballroom music from bygone days. In the opening title theme he joins a distinguished tradition of Fritz Lang (Metropolis), Carl Th. Dreyer (Day of Wrath), and Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal) by playing the medieval theme of "Dies irae", also popular in heavy metal.

The title of the novel and the film is apt for a characteristic motif in Kubrick's œuvre: a dazzling light coming through a window or another source. For me, it is the light from beyond.

The print screened was clean and complete, with a visual quality that was satisfactory but not great.


Appunti per un'Orestiade africana / Notes for an African Oresteia (2005 restoration by Cineteca di Bologna)

Appunti per un'Orestiade africana. Pier Paolo Pasolini directs Aeschylus's Oresteia as a jazz performance with Archie Savage as Orestes and Yvonne Murray as Athene. Donald F. Moye at drums, Marcello Melio at the bass, and Gato Barbieri at the saxophone. Photo: my screenshot from YouTube.

Notes Towards an African Orestes.
   IT 1970. PC: IDI Cinematografica. P: Gian Vittorio Baldi.
   D: Pier Paolo Pasolini. SC: Pier Paolo Pasolini. Narrator: Pier Paolo Pasolini. Cin: (16 mm, b&w): Pasolini, Giorgio Pelloni, Mario Bagnato, Emore Galeassi. In collaboration with African students at the University of Rome. S: Federico Savina.
    M: Gato Barbieri. Perf: Gato Barbieri (sax), Donald F. Moye (dr), Marcello Melio (bass), Yvonne Murray and Archie Savage (voc).
    Loc: Tanganyika (Kigoma, Lake Victoria, Kasalu), Uganda (Kampala), Tanzania (Dar es Salaam).
    Festival premiere of the unfinished version: Cannes Midem 1970, festival premiere of the finished version Venice 1973, premiere 1975– 2006 m / 73 min
    Restored by Cineteca di Bologna (2005), 35 mm blow-up of the 16 mm originals.
    35 mm print from Cinecittà Luce with English subtitles of the Bologna restoration. Courtesy Istituto Italiano di Cultura.
    Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (Pier Paolo Pasolini), 3 April 2019

Revisited one of Pier Paolo Pasolinis essays on interrupted film projects.

Pasolini travels in Africa casting for Oresteia.

He discusses his project with African students in Rome.

He decides that it's best to produce a singing version of Oresteia to jazz. Gato Barbieri's jazz trio plays inspiredly to a performance sung by Archie Savage as Orestes and Yvonne Murray as Athene.

During the movie Pasolini himself recites eloquently from an Italian translation of Aeschylus's tragedy. To Pasolini, it is about the birth of democracy.

In these films of Pasolini it's the journey, not the destination that counts.

Gato Barbieri had been discovered for the cinema by Bernardo Bertolucci in Prima della rivoluzione. His performance in this movie is fantastic.

Typically for Pasolini, there is an element of counter-programming on the soundtrack. The Red Army Choir sings a gentle and elegic interpretation of the "Warszawianka", the Polish revolutionary song composed by Józef Pławiński and with lyrics by Wacław Święcicki (1879, published 1883)


Sunday, March 31, 2019

Mir vkhodyashchemu / Peace To Him Who Enters

Мир входящему / Peace to Him Who Enters. Lidiya Shaporenko (Barbara, the German woman who gives birth on Victory Day) and Viktor Avdyushko (Ivan Yamschikov, the soldier who has stopped speaking after his family has been slaughered in the war). Behind them a signpost to Kwickau.

Мир входящему / Peace to Him Who Enters. Viktor Avdyushko (Ivan Yamschikov), Aleksandr Demyanenko (Ltn. Shura Ivlev), Lidiya Shaporenko (Barbara).

Мир входящему / Mir vhodjashtshemu / Ei kenenkään ihminen / Ingens människa / Paix à celui qui entre / Pace a chi entra.
    SU 1961. PC: Mosfilm. P: Ilya / Ilja Gurman. D: Aleksandr Alov, Vladimir Naumov. SC: Leonid Zorin, Vladimir Naumov, Aleksandr Alov. Cin: Anatoli Kuznetsov – 35 mm – b&w. PD: Jevgeni Chernjajev. Cost: T. Kasparova. Makeup: Jekatarina Jevsejeva. M: Nikolai Karetnikov. S: Vladimir Sharun. ED: Nadezhda Anikejeva.
    C: Viktor Avdyushko / Avdjushko (Ivan Yamschikov / Jamshtshikov), Aleksandr Demyanenko / Demjanenko (Lieutenant Shura Ivlev), Stanislav Khitrov / Hitrov (Pavel Rukavitsyn / Rukavitsin),  Lydia / Lidiya / Lidija Shaporenko (Barbara, German woman expecting a baby), Vera Bokadoro (French woman), Nikolai Grinko (American chauffeur driving a Studebaker), Nikolai Timofeev / Timofejev (battalion commander), Izolda Izvitskaya / Izviskaja (Klava, female military traffic regulator), Andrei Fajt / Fayt (old Serb), Stepan Krylov (Colonel Chernyaev), Vladimir Marenkov (foreman), Nikolai Hryaschikov (wounded man in Kwickau), Erwin Knausmüller (German officer), Viktor Koltsov (General), Mikhail Logvinov (Hitler Jugend storm trooper), Vasili Makarov (Lieutenant), Vladimir Marenkov (Sergeant Major), Galina Samokhina (interpreter at the commandant's office), Aleksandr Kuznetsov (Slava).
    Helsinki premiere: 23.2.1962 Allotria, Capitol, released by Kosmos-Filmi with Finnish / Swedish subtitles – telecast 19.9.1964 YLE TV1 – VET 59515 – K16 – 2451 m / 89 min
    Vintage 35 mm print.
    Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (History of the Russian Cinema), 31 March 2019.

I have been wanting to see Peace to Him Who Enters for a long time for instance because I remember Herman G. Weinberg having liked it. It is one of the most sympathetic Thaw films, a war film with an anti-war message, a Soviet film without chauvinism. The international cast of characters is portrayed with respect. Besides Russians we meet a French woman, a Serb, an American chauffeur – and Barbara, the German woman who gives birth on Victory Day.

Three Red Army soldiers get a mission to escort Barbara from the ruins of Berlin to give birth in Kwickau. The father of the baby is a Nazi, but the baby belongs to the future and not to the past. In the final twist it marks a pile of discarded arms with its piss.

The chauffeur Pavel is a happy-go-lucky fellow who has seen it all and is quick to get acquainted with women. There is an affinity with the protagonist of Vasili Shukshin's debut film There Lives a Lad. Pavel is a survivor but he gets killed in a Nazi ambush on the way to Kwickau.

Travelling in the car is also Ivan, a soldier whose family has been slaughtered in the war and who has stopped speaking suffering from a post traumatic stress disorder.

In charge of the mission is the young officer Shura whose first mission this is. Senior officers, aware of the fact that the war is about to end, want him sent to safety from the dangerous ruins of Berlin. The movie is Shura's Bildungsroman. He needs to make quick decisions in seemingly hopeless circumstances, he gets into his first combat, and he gets drunk with an American chauffeur. Most importantly, he escorts his charges to safety although he loses Pavel on the way.

For Barbara the journey is a terrible ordeal of ruins, bad roads, night, rain, and ambushes. But she survives and gives birth.

The movie contains a holocaust episode, rare in a Soviet film. The travellers encounter a group of concentration camp survivors, including ones with a yellow star. In a scene straining credibility the survivors help move the car over a river where a bridge has been destroyed.

The film has been flamboyantly shot by Anatoli Kuznetsov. The expressionistic vision is full of compositions in depth, exciting camera movements, ambitious night sequences, breathtaking crane shots and bold camera angles including extreme low angles and startling high angles. The cinematography has an affinity with the virtuosity of Viktor Urusevsky in The Cranes Are Flying and I Am Cuba. Time and again there are startling juxtapositions, credible in terms of the surrealism of ruined landscapes. Which reminds us that surrealism was born in a war. For instance René Magritte was a WWI veteran.

Some of the most moving scenes seem to be authentic newsreel footage of starving civilians running for food.

The story is too good to be true. It all happens like in a movie. Maybe the best way to approach Peace To Him Who Enters is as a fairy-tale. The only glory in this war is that it ends.

A watchable vintage print (with some duped looking passages) that has seen a lot of service bringing the duration down to 84 minutes, yet there are no obvious plot holes.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon: the opening shot. Death of Redmond Barry's father, the duellist to the left. Please do click on the images to enlarge them.

Barry Lyndon. First love, first love triangle. Ryan O'Neal (Redmond Barry), Gay Hamilton (Nora Brady), Leonard Rossiter (Captain Quin).

Barry Lyndon. Ryan O'Neal.

Barry Lyndon. The wedding. Murray Melvin (Reverend Samuel Runt), Patrick Magee (Chevalier du Balibari), Ryan O'Neal (Barry Lyndon), Marisa Berenson (Lady Lyndon), Marie Kean (Belle, Barry's mother), and Dominic Savage (young Lord Bullingdon, Lady Lyndon's son from the previous marriage).

Barry Lyndon. Barry (Ryan O'Neal) depressed and alcoholized after the death of his son Bryan.

Barry Lyndon / Barry Lyndon.
    GB / US © 1975 Warner Bros. PC: Hawk Films / Peregrine Productions. EX: Jan Harlan. P: Stanley Kubrick. Assoc. P: Bernard Williams.
    D: Stanley Kubrick. SC: Stanley Kubrick – based on the novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), reissued as The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. by William Makepeace Thackeray – there is no Finnish translation. DP: John Alcott – 35 mm – 1,66:1 – Metrocolor / Eastmancolor – Arriflex 35 BL, Cooke Speed Panchro, Zeiss and Angenieux Lenses – Mitchell BNC, Canon K35, Zeiss and Angenieux Lenses – Arriflex 35-IIC, Cooke Speed Panchro Lenses. PD: Ken Adam. AD: Roy Walker. Cost: Milena Canonero, Ulla-Britt Söderlund. SFX: Gerry Johnston. ED: Tony Lawson. Casting: James Liggat.
    M: conductor and music adaptor: Leonard Rosenman.
Georg Friedrich Händel: Sarabande aus der Cembalosuite Nr. 4 in d-Moll / from the Suite for Harpsichord No. 4 in d minor, HWV 437, (comp. 1703–1706, publ. 1733), solo composition arranged for the orchestra as "Sarabande–Main Title" "Sarabande–Duel" "Sarabande–End Title", perf. National Philharmonic Orchestra.
Seán Ó Riada: "Women of Ireland", perf. Peadar Ó Doirnín, The Chieftains, harp: Derek Bell.
Sean Ó Riada: "Tin Whistles", perf. tin whistles: Paddy Moloney & Seán Potts.
"Piper's Maggot Jig", trad., perf. The Chieftains.
"The Sea-Maiden", trad., perf. The Chieftains.
"The British Grenadiers", trad., perf. Fifes & Drums"Lillibullero", trad., perf. Fifes & Drums, perf. Leslie Pearson.
"Der Hohenfriedberger" / "Hohenfriedberger Marsch" (1745), attributed to Friedrich der Grosse, perf. Fifes & Drums.
W. A. Mozart: March from Idomeneo KV 366, (1781), perf. National Philharmonic Orchestra.
Franz Schubert: "Deutscher Tanz Nr. 1 in C-Dur" aus 5 Deutsche Tänze mit 7 Trios und einer Coda, für Streichquartett, D 90 (1813), perf. National Philharmonic Orchestra.
Giovanni Paisiello: film adaptation of the cavatina from Il barbiere di Siviglia (1782), perf. National Philharmonic Orchestra.
Antonio Vivaldi: Sonata n. 5 in mi minore
RV 40 (della serie Sonate per violoncello e basso continuo) (not dated, Vivaldi died 1741), perf. Lucerne Festival Strings, cello Pierre Fournier, cond. Rudolf Baumgartner (Deutsche Grammophon).
J. S. Bach: Konzert c-Moll für zwei Cembali BWV 1060, Adagio 12/8 Es-Dur (late 1730s), perf. Münchener Bach-Orchester, harpsichords: Hedwig Bilgram, Karl Richter.
Franz Schubert: film adaptation of Klaviertrio Es-Dur op. 100, 2. Satz (1827), perf. Moray Welsh / Anthony Goldstone / Ralph Holmes.
    C as edited in Wikipedia: Michael Hordern (voice) as Narrator
    Ryan O’Neal as Redmond Barry (later Redmond Barry Lyndon)
    Marisa Berenson as Lady Honoria Lyndon
    Patrick Magee as the Chevalier du Balibari
    Hardy Krüger as Captain Potzdorf
    Gay Hamilton as Nora Brady
    Godfrey Quigley as Captain Grogan
    Steven Berkoff as Lord Ludd
    Wolf Kahler as Prince of Tübingen
    Marie Kean as Belle, Barry's mother
    Murray Melvin as Reverend Samuel Runt
    Frank Middlemass as Sir Charles Reginald Lyndon
    Leon Vitali as Lord Bullingdon
        Dominic Savage as young Bullingdon
    Leonard Rossiter as Captain John Quin
    André Morell as Lord Gustavus Adolphus Wendover
    Anthony Sharp as Lord Hallam
    Philip Stone as Graham
    David Morley as Bryan Patrick Lyndon
    Diana Körner as Lieschen (German Girl)
    Arthur O'Sullivan as Captain Feeney, the highwayman
    Billy Boyle as Seamus Feeney
    Roger Booth as King George III
Loc: England, Eire, Germany.
Filming dates: Dec 1973 – July 1974.
London release date: 11 Dec 1975.
Helsinki premiere: 24 Sep 1976, released by Warner-Columbia Films – VHS release 1980 by Scanvideo – DVD release 2001 by Sandrew Metronome Distribution – VET 84918 – K16 – 187 min – 185 min – Finnish premiere length 5075 m / 184 min
    35 mm print from Park Circus.
Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (Stanley Kubrick), 30 March 2019.

Barry Lyndon was the first Stanley Kubrick film which I reviewed – in September 1977 in Aviisi, the students' paper at the University of Tampere. Now at last I saw Barry Lyndon on a big screen again. Meanwhile I had revisited the epic on the home screen only.

My first impression had been that Kubrick had a problem of focus, but so it was often (always?) with Kubrick. And it always turned out that the focus problem was with the spectator whose expectations were frustrated because Kubrick kept changing his approach from film to film. Kubrick was like an explorer who always discovered new land. His films kept getting better when you revisited them. It's best to watch them with an open mind.

Barry Lyndon was not Kubrick's first historical epic, but in contrast to Paths of Glory and Spartacus the protagonist is not an identification figure. And in contrast to Tom Jones this work is not a piece of feelgood entertainment.

The protagonist is difficult to relate to. He is a shallow and opportunistic anti-hero, but he can also be generous, he risks his life to save his superior officer, his love to Lady Lyndon is genuine, as is his love to their son Bryan. Barry Lyndon is a complex figure but not in an engrossing way like Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind. There is a connection between these characters. The greatest love in both men's lives is their child. Both lose the child in a riding accident. Lady and Barry Lyndon's agony for the death of their child is their last great mutual emotional experience.

Barry Lyndon is a picaresque story set in the Rococo period "before the Revolution". During the Seven Years' War King George III reigned in England, Frederick the Great was the king of Prussia and Louis XV was the absolute monarch in France. Sweden (including Finland), having lost its might in the Great Northern War, entered the Age of Liberty, participated ignominiously in the Seven Years' War and proceeded after a coup d'état into the Gustavian era. In America the Revolutionary War started.

In the cool but loving objectivity of this movie there is an affinity with Luchino Visconti's Senso and Il gattopardo. Although these films have been designed with a devotion to detail in landscapes, buildings, lived spaces, costumes, equipment and hairdos, the attention is not decorative. The period detail is informed by a sense of a philosophy of history.

Barry Lyndon's compilation soundtrack is one of the most engaging in the history of the cinema, and also in this aspect Kubrick was equal to Visconti. I believe that this score launched a revival for Händel's Sarabande (the main theme), Schubert's Piano Trio (the Lyndon marriage theme) and Séan Ó Riada's "Women of Ireland" (Nora's theme).

My initial frustration with Barry Lyndon had to do with the protagonist and the performance. Barry Lyndon is a hollow man, a man without qualities. Ryan O'Neal is convincing as an adventurer, soldier, gambler, lover, and boxer (being a trained boxer in reality). The film is a satire of class society and also a satire of Barry Lyndon as an outsider and upstart in high society. He copies the manners and mores of noblemen but he never really belongs. Also, he is an Irishman in England.

A special quality of the film is that it is not bitter or cynical. The story is a tragedy for all concerned, yet there is an epic sense of humour and a sunny disposition which is not cheap or flippant. While it does not make sense to relate to the protagonist, it is immensely rewarding to relate to the storyteller Stanley Kubrick.

Barry Lyndon belongs with Spartacus with the Stanley Kubrick films featuring homosexuality. I find Kubrick's approach neutral. His account of homosexuality is matter-of-fact, and it has not dated. Barry Lyndon also belongs to the Kubrick films which feature boxing like Day of the Fight, and there is an undercurrent of male passion sublimated as violence. There is also a beefcake aspect in these films. Ryan O'Neal's physical beauty is classical and harmonious like in Myron's sculptures, not exaggerated as in modern bodybuilding.

The cinematography of Barry Lyndon is one of the most breathtaking in the history of the cinema. I usually ignore Academy Awards, but the one won by the cinematographer John Alcott was richly deserved. In our previous Stanley Kubrick retrospectives it was possible to access the exceptionally brilliant Stanley Kubrick Estate Collection print. Now that that collection has been disposed last year, on display was a duped print which failed to convey the full glory of the cinematography but was clean and complete at 182 minutes.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Film and Psyche 12: The Look (a symposium)

City Lights. Charles Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill. "Yes, I can see now". The flower girl has never seen the tramp before, but she recognizes the touch of his hand.

Film and Psyche Symposium 12: The Look
15.–16.3.2019 at Kino Regina (Central Library Oodi, Töölönlahdenkatu 4, Helsinki)
Organized by: Suomen Psykoanalyyttinen Yhdistys, Helsingin Psykoterapiaseura and Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen instituutti (KAVI)

Un chien andalou. Luis Buñuel and Simone Mareuil.

FRIDAY 15.3.2019
8.50  Introduction
9.00  Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dalí: Andalusialainen koira (Un chien andalou, 1928), 22 min
9.25  Mikael Enckell: "Reportages from the repository of repressed temptations" read by Antti Alanen / mod. Harri Stenberg
10.00  Lecture: Timo Kaitaro

10.30  Charles Chaplin: Kaupungin valot (City Lights, US 1931), 87 min
12.00  Lunch break
13.30  Lecture: Stig Hägglund / mod. Vesa Manninen

Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography. The director Bonnie Sherr Klein, the performer Lindalee Tracey, the photographer Suze Randall.

14.30  Bonnie Sherr Klein: Tuote: nainen (Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography, CA 1981), 69 min
15.40  Coffee break
16.10  Lecture: Hannu Säävälä / mod. Ilpo Lahti – ends 17.10
17.30  Evening rendez-vous at Restaurant Vaakuna, Kaarre Hall (Kaivokatu 3)
    AA: Produced for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) by its experienced producer and director Bonnie Sherr Klein, Not a Love Story, is her most famous film and one of the best-know NFB productions. It started from inquisitive questions by the director's ten-year old daughter Naomi Klein who appears in the beginning. The result was a personal survey into an industry that was huge already at the time.
    A major character is Lindalee Tracey (1957-2006), introduced as stripper "Fonda Peters", offering explicit performances at sex clubs. During the movie she becomes a partner in investigative journalism to the director. Her life changed during the making of the movie.
    A memorable recital is given by Margaret Atwood of her poem "A Women's Issue" (1987). Also featured is Kate Millett, author of Sexual Politics (1970), leader of the women's movement. Plus Susan Griffin, author of Woman and Nature (1978) and Pornography and Silence: Culture's Revenge Against Nature (1981).
    Also featured is Suze Randall, fashion model, photographer for Page 3 of The Sun, Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler, pioneering female porn film director, mother of Holly Randall.
    I saw this movie for the first time. It now appears as a document of a more innocent time. An avalanche was going on. Since 20 years it has become an ever-growing deluge.
    In the discussion I made the remark that the birth rate has been falling in our country for several years. Also according to serious research people are having less sex. Might there be a connection?

Vertigo. The opening credit sequence by Saul Bass. computer graphics of the Lissajous curves by John Whitney, Sr.

SATURDAY 16.3.2019
9.00  Alfred Hitchcock: Vertigo (1958), 128 min
11.10  Coffee break
11.40  Lecture: Susanna Välimäki, musicologist / mod. Antti Alanen
12.10  Lecture: Anneli Larmo, psychoanalyst
12.40  Lecture: Juhani Pallasmaa, architect
13.15  Lunch break
    AA: Having seen last week Arthur Franck's The Hypnotist (2018) I was struck by the fact that Vertigo starts with something like an act of hypnotism: the spiral movement of the opening credit sequence to the music of Bernard Herrmann's hypnotic vertigo theme (the ascending steps and the dizzying downfall). We are being hypnotized into a dream mode to receive a strange tale which makes no sense in rational terms.
    After watching Vertigo we heard three different approaches to the mystery film. Vertigo was elected as Number One in Sight & Sound's most recent Top Ten poll, yet 80% of the participants did not mention it, and many film connoisseurs do not rate it highly. Even many of those who love it find it hard to explain why. Including me until recently.
    To fuel the general discussion I listed six more approaches. Before Vertigo Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol had just published the first serious study of Alfred Hitchcock in which they presented (1) a GEOMETRICAL approach, Hitchcock as a great inventor of forms particularly fascinated by the straight line and the circle - in Vertigo Hitchcock answered them by focusing on the spiral, the union of the line and the circle. Rohmer and Chabrol also paid attention to (2) a RELIGIOUS approach, Hitchcock's Catholic faith. Hitchcock himself was reticent about his faith, but Rohmer, Chabrol, and Truffaut seem to have been on the right track, and the approach is also relevant in Vertigo.
    In Finland, two monographs on Vertigo have been published. Peter von Bagh in 1968 published his master's thesis on the film, studying among other things (3) the EDGAR ALLAN POE affinity. In his short stories such as "The Fall of the House of Usher" (with a female protagonist called Madeline), "Ligeia", "Morella" and "The Oval Portrait" Poe's themes included a morbid obsession with a dead beloved and an artist solely devoted to the image while the living model dies. Heikki Nyman has published a separate volume, Vertigo: Loving the Image, of his magnum opus The Hitchcock Touch (1992), with a (4) PHILOSOPHICAL approach. Nyman, like Gilles Deleuze and Stanley Cavell, studies a film director as a thinker. He examines Hitchcock's films as studies in perception. Hitchcock's films are always about the look - also in the philosophically relevant sense of seeing.
    Robin Wood published two major assessments of Vertigo. In 1989 in Hitchcock's Films Revisited he presented (5) a FEMINIST reading of Vertigo: a tale of patriarchy and violent oppression of women relevant to the ideas of Kate Millett in Sexual Politics. But in 1965, in his original chapter on Vertigo, his focus had been (6) on DEATH DRIVE. The sensation of vertigo is the simultaneous powerful feeling of the life force and the death drive as Scottie Ferguson is hanging from the rooftop gutter. The concurrent awareness of Eros and Thanatos.
    What then is Madeleine? She is death incarnate, like the grim reaper in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal or the ghost woman in Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu monogatari. The psychoanalyst Anneli Larmo commented also that she is the third woman, represented by the third casket, as analyzed by Sigmund Freud in "Das Motiv der Kästchenwahl" (1913): the Goddess of Death, relevant to the three Moirai, Parcae, or Norns. The Law of Nature is mythically present since birth, since the life-giving mother to the silent and tender womb of Mother Earth. Robin Wood pointed out that in Scottie's nightmare the person falling to death is not Madeleine but Scottie himself.

Matka minuksi / Becoming Me. Elli.

14.45  Mina Laamo: Matka minuksi / Becoming Me (2014) 75 min
16.00  Lecture: Mina Laamo 40 min / mod. Anna Lilja

16.40  Alan Schneider: Film by Samuel Beckett (1965, starring Buster Keaton) 20 min
17.00  Lecture: Christel Airas / mod. Kristiina Kuula – ends at 17.45

The planning team: the psychoanalysts Johanna Eväsoja, Kristiina Kuula, Ilpo Lahti, Anna Lilja, Vesa Manninen and Harri Stenberg plus Antti Alanen (KAVI).