Sunday, June 30, 2019

Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2019, reactions on the web


Apocalypse Now The Final Cut at Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, 28 June 2019. Photo: Lorenzo Burlando. Please click on the image to enlarge it.

Ehsan Khoshbakht (Notes on Cinematograph), 8 Aug 2019
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/08/americana.html?fbclid=IwAR3aPmdfUFee9kwoicDoFZSWP03IdyfNKgU2NEdgQO3Q4GGWJS0SMdb6zKo
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/06/youssef-chahine.html
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/06/georgian-short-docs.html

https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/06/first-case-second-case.html
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/06/Gaucho.html
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/05/becky-sharp.html

https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/05/  
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/05/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019.html
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/05/100-must-see-films-at-il-cinema.html
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/05/ICR1.html
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/05/soul-and-craft-portrait-of-henry-king.html
https://notesoncinematograph.blogspot.com/2019/05/destry-rides-again.html

Davide Turrini (Il Fatto Quotidiano), 25 June 2019
https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2019/06/25/easy-rider-de-filippo-chahine-al-cinema-ritrovato-di-bologna-tornano-grandi-capolavori-che-hanno-fatto-politica-dando-spettacolo/5281127/

Mariangela Martini (Vero Cinema), 27 June 2019
http://verocinema.com/2019/06/27/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-obaltan-il-dramma-sud-coreano-nel-dopoguerra/
http://verocinema.com/2019/06/25/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-hanyeo-the-housemaid/

Mathieu Macheret (Le Monde), 28 June 2019
https://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2019/06/28/a-bologne-le-festival-il-cinema-ritrovato-redonne-vie-a-des-films-oublies_5482572_3246.html

Paul Joyce (ithankyou), 29 June 2019
http://ithankyouarthur.blogspot.com/2019/06/il-cinema-ritrovato-ten-take-aways-from.html

Simone Tarditi (Vero Cinema), 29 June 2019
http://verocinema.com/2019/06/29/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-jesse-james/
http://verocinema.com/2019/06/29/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-speciale-su-felix-e-feist/
http://verocinema.com/2019/06/27/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-journey-into-light/
http://verocinema.com/2019/06/24/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-state-fair-di-henry-king-la-giostra-della-vita/

Celluloid Liberation Front (The Brooklyn Rail), July-August issue 2019
https://brooklynrail.org/2019/07/film/Il-Cinema-Ritrovato-Forward-into-the-Past

Marius Hrdy (The Brooklyn Rail), July-August issue 2019
https://brooklynrail.org/2019/07/film/About-Some-Meaningful-Events-African-Cinema-and-50-Years-of-FESPACO

Federico Grilli (MyWhere), 2 July 2019
http://www.mywhere.it/che-bello-ritrovare-il-cinema-ritrovato/

Esther Buss (Der Tagesspiegel), 2 July 2019
https://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/filmfestival-il-cinema-ritrovato-bologna-feiert-das-kino-der-vergangenheit/24513600.html

Nick Vivarelli (Variety), 3 July 2019
https://variety.com/2019/film http://www.mywhere.it/che-bello-ritrovare-il-cinema-ritrovato//news/cinema-ritrovato-chief-gianluca-farinelli-on-modernity-of-cinema-of-the-past-1203256830/

Fabiana Proietti (Sentieri Selvaggi), 3 July 2019
https://www.sentieriselvaggi.it/cinemaritrovato2019-musidora-e-le-altre-icone-femminili-dal-muto-al-cinemascope/

Pamela Hutchinson (Silent London), 4 July 2019
https://silentlondon.co.uk/2019/07/04/ritrovato-roundtable-il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-podcast/
https://silentlondon.co.uk/2019/07/02/silents-in-the-piazza-il-cinema-ritrovato-2019/
https://pamhutch.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/gigi-in-bologna/

Carlos Nogueira (Público [Lisboa]), 4 July 2019
https://www.publico.pt/2019/07/04/culturaipsilon/noticia/il-cinema-ritrovato-manual-sobrevivencia-1878345?fbclid=IwAR0lfAGVNzMZLIKgDDH_YUdZcVL6X8Tk7ueRvLy-KgKgsXtDqbxnndAY6-M

Moen Mohamed (ICS / International Cinephile Society), 5 July 2019
https://icsfilm.org/features/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019/

Geert Op de Beek (Filmmagie [Belgium]), 5 July 2019
https://filmmagie.be/nieuws/il-cinema-ritrovato-briljantie-plus-een-genant-moment

Ivo Blom, 7 July 2019
https://ivoblom.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/cinema-ritrovato-in-retrospect-2/?fbclid=IwAR0UbuQe6dtd7XKeUmMzkUxVqJx7Pj-97e53y2LX9JJ7JLpAznloBYTWI3A

Geoffrey Gardner (Film Alert 101), 7 July 2019
https://filmalert101.blogspot.com/2019/06/bologna-diary-1-stopover-in-florence.html
https://filmalert101.blogspot.com/2019/07/bologna-diary-2-round-up.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR2nPQDaQ4wANPcTnYq7sB4DAqCh9752ceYCyUIn3Gk3GAp8T5EwPBkvXI0

Quinlan, Rivista di critica cinematografica, 8 July 2019
https://quinlan.it/2019/07/08/jess-il-bandito/ Alessandro Aniballi
https://quinlan.it/2019/07/03/lezioni-di-piano/ Daria Pomponio
https://quinlan.it/2019/07/01/montagne-russe/ Daria Pomponio

European Film Star Postcards, 8 July 2019
https://filmstarpostcards.blogspot.com/2019/07/15-films-we-loved-at-il-cinema-ritrovato.html

Charlotte Crofts / UWE [University of the West of England] Bristol (Bristol, City of Film), 9 July 2019
http://bristolcityoffilm.co.uk/uwe-bristol-at-il-cinema-ritrovato/

Critic.de, 10 July 2019: Andrey Arnold, Florian Widegger, Maurice Lahde, Michael Kienzl, Robert Wagner, Silvia Szymanski, Stephan Ahrens, Jenny Jecke, Lukas Foerster
https://www.critic.de/special/sonderbarer-kollektiver-traumwandel-il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-4324/

José Arroyo (First Impressions), 11 July 2019
https://notesonfilm1.com/2019/07/11/pepe-le-moko-julien-duvivier-1937/?fbclid=IwAR1XVqFgj2_FGWvyYqfhDN4qPKdn92fXm-irQgW3UGHgTR3Pkz60liRhcoA
https://notesonfilm1.com/?s=le+clan+des+siciliens&fbclid=IwAR3BjPIkeyPtaCeE1MFBQwQ6y9Ohd8imbVJTLlY0SXemGkee3bByVLwpqkY
https://notesonfilm1.com/2019/07/09/ritrovato-re-cap-quick-millions/
https://notesonfilm1.com/2019/07/07/oblako-ray-cloud-happiness-nicolay-dostal-1990/
https://notesonfilm1.com/2019/07/05/one-of-the-most-striking-images-from-ritrovato-deauville-trouville/
https://notesonfilm1.com/2019/07/05/processing-ritrovato-2-podcast-on-faubourg-montmartre-and-high-and-low/
https://notesonfilm1.com/2019/07/05/martin-roumagnac/
https://notesonfilm1.com/2019/07/05/ritrovato-recap-1-abbas-kiarostamis-ghazieh-shekle-aval-shekle-dovom-or-first-case-second-case/
https://notesonfilm1.com/2019/07/04/richard-layne-and-nicky-smith-on-under-capricorn-destry-rides-again-and-the-first-few-days-of-cinema-ritrovato-2019/

David Hudson (The Criterion Collection), 11 July 2019
https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/6486-il-cinema-ritrovato-2019

David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson (Observations on Film Art), 12 July 2019
http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2019/06/29/a-hundred-years-ago-and-less-at-cinema-ritrovato-19/
http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2019/07/07/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-who-put-the-pan-in-pan-african-cinema/?fbclid=IwAR09fRxX60B-T2JrupkBXPRhXPHpbl4oTcRaIpkjDHC5p6c9HMmI4GFm1yk
http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2019/07/12/il-cinema-ritrovato-more-and-more/?fbclid=IwAR3F7soBjvUV6fb1l06p__RjXbdwEEZ1vkRHo8zb9hQE7SaHnTrIxWT0pZc

Giovanni Vimercati (Film Comment), 12 July 2019
https://www.filmcomment.com/blog/festivals-il-cinema-ritrovato-3

B. P. Flanagan (Seventh Row), 12 July 2019
https://seventh-row.com/2019/07/12/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019/

David Cairns (Shadowplay), 14 July 2019
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/the-sunday-intertitle-positively-the-same-monkey/?fbclid=IwAR28ce1YkG_13Nbz98rVAwjgwx7g32C6h8GmMGMcB9nork81ypVgsHS52ZE
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/kings/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/07/11/ruth-roman-road-movie/?fbclid=IwAR1mPSbamnKlUxu_tMDx6FBvpV_60Gb1KuPurPbAfjo6GMyoST7mb0wpzVE
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/07/09/after-the-fox/?fbclid=IwAR2pMC05yPSpBw_DdQQicCS7KnwCdu4rUEHA1z_F4Rt9s9LCACFkD6-jwA8
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/the-sunday-intertitle-riders-of-the-purple-prose/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/07/06/king-of-the-movies/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/07/02/return-from-ritrovato/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/thumbing-rides/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/30/happiness-is-no-lark/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/29/maximum-effort/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/giovedi-27/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/its-cecil-parkers-film-festival-we-just-live-in-it/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/26/the-silver-tongued-chevalier/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/26/monkey-with-a-movie-camera/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/24/the-wrong-films/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/23/welcome-to-bottleneck/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/fair-weather/
https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/best-laid-plans/

Andrea Pedrazzi (Cinema in viaggio), 16 July 2019
http://www.cinemainviaggio.com/2019/07/16/viaggio-cinefilo-tra-passato-e-presente-il-cinema-ritrovato-2019/

Lorenzo Sciofani, 18 July 2019
https://lorciofani.com/2019/07/18/indiscreto-stanley-donen-1958/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/07/12/inediti-alessandria-perche-youssef-chahine-1979/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/07/04/wait-till-the-sun-shines-nellie-henry-king-1952-recensione/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/07/01/le-mura-di-malapaga-rene-clement-1949/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/06/29/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-day-by-day-giorno-7/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/06/28/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-day-by-day-giorno-6/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/06/27/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-day-by-day-giorno-5/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/06/26/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-day-by-day-giorno-4/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/06/25/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-day-by-day-giorno-3/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/06/24/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-day-by-day-giorno-2/
https://lorciofani.com/2019/06/23/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-day-by-day-giorno-1/

Phil Concannon (Phil on Film), 23 July 2019
http://www.philonfilm.net/2019/07/il-cinema-ritrovato-2019.html?m=0

Christopher Small (Filmmaker Magazine), 1 Aug 2019
https://filmmakermagazine.com/107922-il-cinema-ritrovato-2019-forgotten-fragments-and-technicolor/#.XVKLaUdS-Uk

Ela Bittencourt (MUBI Notebook), 2 Aug 2019
https://mubi.com/notebook/posts/the-pearls-of-south-korean-cinema-from-the-1960s
Ela Bittencourt (Hyperallergic), 17 July 2019
https://hyperallergic.com/509351/youssef-chahine-il-cinema-ritrovato/

Matthias Dell (Filmdienst), 16 Aug 2019
https://www.filmdienst.de/artikel/27784/das-wiedergefundene-kino-siegfried-kracauer-stipendium-essay-1

Imogen Sara Smith (The Criterion Collection), 14 Aug 2019
https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/6540-look-back-in-rapture-il-cinema-ritrovato

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK:

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Crisis: A Film of the "Nazi Way" (2019 restoration in 4K by MoMA and The Film Foundation)


Crisis: A Film of the Nazi Way. Photo: Il Cinema Ritrovato.

Director: Herbert Kline, Hans Burger, Alexander Hackenschmied. Year: 1939. Country: USA. Scen.: Vincent Sheean. F., M.: Alexander Hackenschmied (Alexander Hammid). Mus.: H. W. Susskind, Jaroslav Harvan. Int.: Leif Erickson (voce narrante). Prod.: Herbert Kline. DCP. D.: 70’. Bn.
    M selections include "Der Hohenfriedberger" / "Hohenfriedberger Marsch" (1745) attributed to Friedrich der Grosse – "Horst-Wessel-Lied" (1929) – Richard Wagner – Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich – charming puppet show tunes.
    Not released in Finland.
    Restored in 2019 in 4K by MoMA and The Film Foundation with funding provided by George Lucas Family Foundation.
    Copy from MoMA.
    Original version with subtitles.
    Documents and Documentaries.
    Introduce Dave Kehr (MoMA)
    Viewed at Auditorium – DAMSLab, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, 29 June 2019.

Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Released in 1939, Crisis: A Film of the Nazi Way was the first documentary report on the approaching catastrophe in Europe by filmmakers Herbert Kline and Alexander Hackenschmied (the second, centered on the invasion of Poland in 1940, was Lights Out in Europe, restored by MoMA and screened at Il Cinema Ritrovato in 2018). Affiliated with the leftist Film and Photo League in the US, Kline hoped to use the power of non-fiction cinema to enlist American sympathies on behalf of the small republic that had struggled to stand up to German aggression, but ultimately failed when the Munich Agreement effectively delivered the Sudetenland to Hitler on September 29, 1938."

"Kline’s film builds up to that moment of betrayal by Czechoslovakia’s democratic allies by interspersing scenes from daily life – captured over the 12-month period the filmmakers spent in Czechoslovakia – with graphics illustrating the rise of German belligerence and Nazi appeals to the German-speaking residents of the country’s western district. Included are scenes filmed at a summer camp for refugee children, two extended performances by the politically engaged cabaret performers Voskovec and Werich, and rallies staged by the fascist Sudeten German Party."

"“Kline has achieved, in brief, a concise, complete, obviously authentic and extraordinarily graphic record of a significant and tragic event – all of which is excellent from a documentary point of view. But he has also – and this is of equal importance – created a dramatic, beautifully photographed and highly interesting motion picture. Its plot, of course, is absurd: how could any dictator tell England and France where to head in and take over a free country?” (Frank S. Nugent, “The New York Times”, March 13, 1939)." Dave Kehr

AA: A first-rate contemporary documentary film relevant to understanding the Munich Agreement, the policy of appeasement, the history of the Czech Republic, and the road to WWII.

The film was deeply moving, not only to Czech members of the audience, but to everybody. I wish we could say that menaces such as the ones seen in this film have been consigned to the past.

With Czechoslovakia, Hitler was methodically putting into practice his geopolitical strategy which he had made public in Mein Kampf in 1925 ("Drang nach Osten"). His government was superior in its divide and conquer strategy. Returning home after Munich the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stated that "I believe it is peace for our time", a saying as legendary in infamy as the concept of appeasement.

The film-makers present a sketch of Czechoslovak culture and democracy and the natural frontiers that the mountains present for outside aggression. German-language books banned in Nazi lands are freely available in Czechoslovakia where there is no censorship. Czechoslovakia is also receiving refugees from Nazi Germany since 1933, including fugitives from concentration camps.

Animated maps help make sense of strategy. Among the dramatis personae is Konrad Henlein, the future Sudeten Gauleiter, in rousing Nazi demonstrations, here as head of Storm Troopers.

Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich are recorded in two performances of brilliant satire in solidarity camps. Children know their songs by heart. I saw some of the 2002 Voskovech & Werich retrospective in Bologna, and I believe there were problems then with print quality. Anyway it was great to see Voskovec and Werich here in perfect visual quality, doing political satire when it mattered. In the context of this year's Bologna festival it was an experience similar to Georges Méliès's L'Affaire Dreyfus. (Voskovec appeared also in this year's Henry King retrospective under his American name George Voskovec as shopkeeper Steinmetz in The Bravados). There is also an excellent record of a puppet show performance.

Solidarity for anti-Fascist refugees is covered, food help is provided in breadlines. We visit the rich fields of Bohemia and witness various industries that have survived the economic depression. There is an open threat to Czech miners who oppose the storm troopers. Nazis are getting active in the Sudeten areas. But Czechoslovakia is taking excellent care of German culture. We visit the "Czech Maginot line". Victims of Nazi violence are mourned. In the congress leading to the Munich Agreement, Czechoslovakia and the USSR are not even invited. The result spells murder for Czechoslovakia. Edvard Beneš is forced to resign. Western democracies sacrify their prestige in the deal of Munich. In the final images we see a refugee camp.

Dave Kehr in his introduction told that Herbert Kline had donated his negatives to The Museum of Modern Art. The visual quality of the restoration was brilliant.

Varastettu kuolema / The Stolen Death (2019 KAVI restoration in 4K)


Varastettu kuolema / The Stolen Death with Ralph Enckell (Robert) and Tuulikki Paananen (Manja) holding "the stolen death" or "the meat-grinder" of the title of the original story, about to be smuggled in a baby cart. Photo: Elonet / KAVI. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.

Den stulna döden.
    Director: Nyrki Tapiovaara. Year: 1938. Country: Finlandia. Sog.: dal racconto Lihamylly [The Meat-Grinder] di Runar Schildt. Scen.: Erik Blomberg, Eino Mäkinen, Matti Kurjensaari. F.: Olavi Gunnari, Erik Blomberg. M.: Erik Blomberg, Nyrki Tapiovaara. Scgf.: Kaarlo Oksanen, Ilmari Tapiovaara. Mus.: George de Godzinsky.
    Int.: Tuulikki Paananen (Manja), Ilmari Mänty [Ralph Enckell] (Robert Hedman), Santeri Karilo (Jonni Claesson), Annie Mörk (signora Johansson), Bertha Lindberg (madre di Robert), Hertta Leistén (la zia), Gabriel Tossu (calzolaio), Jalmari Parikka (guardiano della prigione), Aku Peltonen (guardiano dell’obitorio).
    Prod.: Erik Blomberg. DCP 4K. D.: 104’. Bn.
    Finnish premiere: 4 Sep 1938 in Helsinki (Bio Rex), Kotka, Kuopio, Pori, Tampere, Turku and Viipuri, distributed by Adams Filmi Oy.
    Restored in 4K in 2019 by KAVI from the original negatives and the original nitrate prints.
    Copy from KAVI (National Audiovisual Institute / Finland).
    by courtesy of Erkka Blomberg.
    In Finnish, with some Swedish and Russian, with English subtitles on DCP.
    Recovered & Restored.
    Introduce Antti Alanen (KAVI).
    Screened at Sala Scorsese, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra, 29 June 2019.

Antti Alanen (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Arguably, the three most original spirits in the history of Finnish cinema are Nyrki Tapiovaara, Risto Jarva, and Aki Kaurismäki. During his short career Tapiovaara mastered both all-Finnish subjects and modernist musical satires. Varastettu kuolema was his most ambitious film, an irreverent resistance thriller displaying a youthful rebel spirit. Tapiovaara’s register was open to experimental influences from French, German and Soviet cinema to dadaism (Entr’acte) and surrealism (Un chien andalou), all reworked with panache."

"The film is based on a short story by Runar Schildt on the taboo subject of Finland’s 1918 civil war, but the narrative was transferred to the time of the Russian-Japanese war leading to the revolutionary year of 1905. At the time Finland belonged to the Russian Empire, and in Varastettu kuolema we follow freedom activists operating a clandestine printing press and smuggling weapons for the armed resistance."

"In 1954 the film was re-released in a cut-back 90-minute version that privileged the main plot. When it was restored to its original 102-minute length in 2017, a wealth of lost bizarre details and humorous digressions emerged. While the thriller plot is not lacking in suspense, romance and espionage, Tapiovaara as a storyteller is not terribly compelling here. Instead, Varastettu kuolema is driven by wit, mood, and an irresistible joy in the cinema."

"The final escape to freedom at sea is symbolic on many levels, including as a vision of liberation from a repressive atmosphere in which Finland’s first film society had been closed after harassment from the secret police."

"The female lead, the wonderful Tuulikki Paananen, an American citizen, had to return to Hollywood after World War II broke out. Behind the pseudonym Ilmari Mänty was Ralph Enckell, Finland’s future UN Ambassador during the Cold War. The producer-cinematographer Erik Blomberg was in an early stage of a long and distinguished film career – while Nyrki Tapiovaara himself died in the frontline of the Winter War in 1940.
" Antti Alanen

I have blogged previously about the 2017 reconstruction of The Stolen Death.

AA: This was the world premiere of the restoration, performed by KAVI professionals for Il Cinema Ritrovato.

A KEYSTONE FILM
The Stolen Death is a keystone film in the Finnish independent cinema of the 1930s. Domestic films were hugely popular in Finland, and they were produced for domestic audiences. Nyrki Tapiovaara was different: he saw himself in the context of modern art, international cinema and international cinephilia. Tapiovaara was both deeply Finnish and deeply cosmopolitan. The Stolen Death has always been available, but since 1954, until recently, only in a short re-release version.

SHORT VERSION AND LONG VERSION
With the short version and the long version of The Stolen Death it is like Fritz Lang’s M, starring Peter Lorre. There is nothing in the long version that changes the plot or the main events. But in both cases the long version has a richer ambience, more interesting obversations, oddball touches, and additional aspects of character. The atmosphere of the long version is fuller, and the poetic vision makes better sense. The short version is more plot-driven, the long version gives us a more novelistic vision of the world. As for the plot, there is a devil-may-care attitude anyway.

RECONSTRUCTION (from notes by Pekka Tähtinen)
In 2017 the complete version of The Stolen Death was reconstructed, authorized by the Blomberg family. The source materials were the original negative, two vintage nitrate prints, and outtakes. The original negative was incomplete: the image of the main credits, 1A, 2A+B, 3A, 4B and 5 were missing. The second print was truly inferior but more complete. Especially part 2, the end of part 4 and part 5 were difficult. Airless looking footage, partially overexposed. Severe damage in the soundtrack. The reconstruction was based on the original screenplay, but the script did not always match with the existing footage. For instance the early dialogue over coffee is much longer in the script and deals sometimes with quite different topics.

RESTORATION (from notes by Pekka Tähtinen)
The 2019 restoration was launched when the film was invited to Bologna at two weeks' notice, taking KAVI by surprise. The 2017 reconstruction was not a restoration at all. In two weeks as much restoration was performed as time allowed. Some bad flicker was corrected. The damage in source materials was so severe that not everything was possible to achieve at this notice. Footage was stabilized. Scratches and debris was removed. At times the image was so grainy that debris removal was extremely demanding. The definition of colour was revised especially in reels 4-5. Research was conducted regarding missing opening music. It turned out that in original release prints there was no extended overture. It remained only in the short re-release version. Everything was scanned and post-produced in 4K. On display is a 4K DCP, a world premiere of the restoration.

NYRKI TAPIOVAARA
The director Nyrki Tapiovaara (1911–1940) was born to a super-patriotic family with 11 children, three of whom become notable artists. The Tulenkantajat (Torchbearers) movement inspired him to modern art and the cinema, and soon he was active as a film critic, theatre director, an activist at Finland's first film society Projektio and the leftist cultural association Kiila.

Juhani Aho's sons Heikki Aho and Björn Soldan asked him to direct the first sound adaptation of Juha, creating a film with a feeling for female sensuality and the deep forest, the rivers and the waterfalls.

The Stolen Death was Tapiovaara's Sturm und Drang project, breaking conventions of film-making, inspired by recent study trips to Paris and Moscow. In the spirit of René Clair Tapiovaara also directed modernist musicals (Kaksi Vihtoria, Kadonnut sävel).

Miehen tie (A Man's Path), based on F. E. Sillanpää, was another connection to the legacy of Stiller, another film of genuine Urkraft, atavistic power, starring Erik Blomberg's formidable wife, Mirjami Kuosmanen.

Tapiovaara was an engaged film-maker, at home in the spirit of le Front Populaire and the solidarity movement for the legal Spanish government against Franco and Fascism.

Disillusioned by Stalin's reversal of strategy in Spain and devastated by the Hitler-Stalin pact he had no mixed feelings about fighting the USSR in the Winter War. Second lieutenant in Sissipataljoona III (light infantry frontline unit for reconnaissance, guerrilla and sabotage missions against special forces etc.) Tapiovaara died on the frontline in February 1940, two weeks before the end of the war, the last man to leave his position.

Tapiovaara's legacy inspired the Finnish New Wave in the 1950s. Jörn Donner always selects The Stolen Death to his top ten list when we ask a carte blanche series from him. Aki Kaurismäki has paid an irreverent tribute to the finale of The Stolen Death more than once.

ERIK BLOMBERG
The producer-cinematographer Erik Blomberg (1913–1996) was one of the finest independent film-makers in Finland, best known for The White Reindeer, which he created with his wife-screenwriter-actress Mirjami Kuosmanen as an equal partner. He started as a photographer, served in the photo unit of the Finnish Air Force, studied at The Regent Polytechnic in London, and worked with Georges Saad and at Pathé Natan, Studio Cinéma, Tobis, and Paramount in France. He was only 21 when he got his first DP assignment with Suomi-Filmi. He then shot all the early films of Teuvo Tulio and became the producer-cinematographer of Tapiovaara. During WWII Blomberg served as cinematographer at the surveillance unit of the Air Force. After the war he made documentaries for workers' parties, shot five films in Sweden and created a series of documentaries in Lapland with Eino Mäkinen. After the world success of The White Reindeer he continued with feature films and documentaries, and in the 1960s started a new career as a producer for tv documentaries. The last part of his career he enjoyed the best, feeling that he had at last learned his craft.

TUULIKKI PAANANEN
Tapiovaara's leading ladies were always wonderful. In his first film, Juha, Irma Seikkula gave an unforgettable interpretation of female desire. The film was based on Juhani Aho's classic novel, also filmed by Stiller and Kaurismäki. In Tapiovaara's last film, Miehen tie [A Man's Path], Mirjami Kuosmanen was powerful as F. E. Sillanpää's formidable Alma. Tuulikki Paananen was discovered for the Finnish screen by Valentin Vaala and Nyrki Tapiovaara, and she became a bright star for the period before the start of WWII. A US citizen, she had to return to the States in 1939. An Angeleno, she had graduated from Hollywood High School and become a professional dancer. In the US she campaigned for solidarity for Finland about to be crushed by Stalin in the Winter War. She later ran dance studios in California and Hawaii. Her ashes were scattered on Waikiki beach.

RALPH ENCKELL
The actor in the leading male role is not an actor at all. Behind the pseudonym "Ilmari Mänty" is Ralph Enckell, a member of the Enckell cultural family of painters, poets, writers and psychoanalysts. Ralph Enckell (1913–2001) became a top diplomat. He was Finland's UN Ambassador in 1959–1965 during the most dangerous years of the Cold War. The cold war was about to become hot during the Cuban missile crisis, and a lot was at stake for tiny Finland which had the longest border against the USSR in the Western world. Neutral Finland was active as a mediator between the US and the USSR. Ralph Enckell was up to the task.

GEORGE DE GODZINSKY
The composer and conductor George de Godzinsky (1914–1994) created his first film score for The Stolen Death. He studied at the Helsinki Conservatory (today's Sibelius Academy) in 1930–1938 while already also working as the répétiteur of the Finnish Opera. George de Godzinsky composed or arranged the scores for 56 feature films, and in 1953–1980 he was the conductor of the entertainment orchestra of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation. He composed many beloved songs, including evergreens such as "Katupoikien laulu" and "Sulle salaisuuden kertoa ma voisin". He also composed 12 operettas, music plays or musicals, four television ballets, 50 orchestral works and 200 iskelmä songs (Schlagers). The Leitmotif dramaturgy which he introduced in The Stolen Death he also applied to his orchestral work. He was born in St. Petersburg in the Russian Empire, and his family escaped to Finland after the Revolution in 1920 over the frozen Lake Ladoga. His father was of Polish-Czech-Georgian-Rumanian lineage, and his mother was of Swiss-Dutch stock.

MATTI KURJENSAARI
The dialogues for The Stolen Death were written by Matti Kurjensaari (1907–1988) who also appears as a pallbearer in the scene where the machine gun is being smuggled in a hearse (a scene inspired by René Clair's L'Entr'acte). Kurjensaari, a prolific writer with a long career, wrote his memoirs with the title "Born an Outsider". He was an editor, a journalist and an essayist with a French touch of wit and spirit. He was well connected, in the know of what went on behind the scenes in politics and culture. He was a major link to the movement of the Tulenkantajat (The Torchbearers) both in its 1920s cosmopolitan and the 1930s political incarnations. He was head of the theatre unit of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation in the 1940s.

ILMARI TAPIOVAARA
The art director together with Kille Oksanen was the director's brother Ilmari Tapiovaara (1914–1999), a major industrial designer, who had become an assistant of Alvar Aalto and had worked in the studio of Le Corbusier. During the wartime he learned a trick or two more about simplicity and minimalism. Several of his furniture designs are still in production. He worked in close collaboration with his designer wife Annikki Tapiovaara, and there was often a feminine, sensual and even erotic touch in his modernist design. He became a teacher at the Illinois Institute of Design in Chicago, and his work has been on display at The Museum of Modern Art. Ilmari, too, appears as one of the pallbearers.

An ardent cinephile, Nyrki Tapiovaara would have felt at home at Il Cinema Ritrovato where favourite directors of his such as Charles Chaplin, René Clair and Luis Buñuel are scheduled this year. I guess you can say that he was our kind of guy.

(From my notes to the introduction at the screening).

Jesse James (1939)


Jesse James (1939). Tyrone Power (Jesse James), Nancy Kelly (Zerelda).

Jesse James, suuri seikkailija / Utanför lagen / Jess il bandito.
    Director: Henry King. Year: 1939. Country: USA. Scen.: Nunnally Johnson. F.: W. Howard Greene, George Barnes. M.: Barbara McLean. Scgf.: William S. Darling, George Dudley.
    Int.: Tyrone Power (Jesse James), Henry Fonda (Frank James), Nancy Kelly (Zerelda), Randolph Scott (Will Wright), Brian Donlevy (Barshee), Donald Meek (McCoy), Henry Hull (maggiore Rufus Cobb), John Carradine (Bob Ford), Slim Summerville (il carceriere), J. Edward Bromberg (Mr. Runyan).
    Prod.: Darryl F. Zanuck per Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 35 mm. D.: 106’. Col.
    Helsinki premiere: 13 Aug 1939 Bio Rex, distributed by O.Y. Fox Films A.B.
    Copy from BFI.
    by courtesy of Park Circus.
    A Technicolor safety re-release print.
    Soul and Craft: A Portrait of Henry King.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, 29 June 2019.

Ehsan Khoshbakht (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "The western, as far as the statistics show, was not Henry King’s forte. His mostly unseen early silents aside, he contributed very few entries to the genre. However, King’s revisionism and stylistic rigour made his westerns essential works: whether pioneer romance epic (The Winning of Barbara Worth), anti-capitalist outlaw western (Jesse James), anti-violence tragedy (The Gunfighter) or anti-vengeance drama (The Bravados)."

"Here, the myth of the James brothers is depicted sympathetically and as the title suggests, the more charismatic, tobacco-spitting Frank James (superbly acted by Henry Fonda) is a secondary character – pushed to the centre only later, in Fritz Lang’s sequel, The Return of Frank James (1940). There are other colourful supporting characters, such as the perpetually Judas-like John Carradine as Bob Ford; the ranting, cussing Henry Hull as a newspaperman; and Randolph Scott as the sympathetic sheriff. Yet, the film is less a character study than a record of events, whose historical accuracy King took great pride in. If John Ford got the story straight from the horse’s mouth by meeting Wyatt Earp, King spoke to Frank James’ son, then a retired attorney in Kearney, Missouri. Throughout the shoot, he tried to retain a sense of accuracy – in the props, realist use of colour and choice of locations. The latter also involved King’s skill in aviation, using his aeroplane to scout locations, which brought a sense of command over the space in his direction of action sequences, contributing enormously to his adventure films."
 

"If one doesn’t consider historical facts as spoilers, then it would seem harmless to point out that Jesse gets shot in the back. Producer Zanuck disliked this ending, so much so that while King was in hospital, he asked director John Cromwell to shoot an alternative ending. Fortunately the result was disappointing, and the original was reinstated. Eventually a box-office hit, the film proved that “on some occasions it’s better to use a little common sense than a lot of manufactured fiction”, as King himself put it." Ehsan Khoshbakht

AA: The year 1939 has often been called the best film year of all times.

William K. Everson emphasized the year 1939 also as the most decisive turning-point in the history of the Western film. Since the advent of sound, the Western had mainly survived as a low budget genre, thriving mostly in popular series of programmers, with interesting exceptions of course, such as The Big Trail.

All changed in 1939 with many A-budget Westerns directed by A directors, such as Destry Rides Again (also screened at this year's Il Cinema Ritrovato), Dodge City, Drums Along the Mohawk, Frontier Marshal, Jesse James, The Oklahoma Kid, Stagecoach, and Union Pacific. It was the start of the second golden age of the Western.

Both Henry King and John Ford had directed a number of silent Westerns, but neither had made one since 1926 when King directed The Winning of Barbara Worth and Ford made Three Bad Men (both screened in Bologna this year).

I had seen Jesse James before on home video, but like The Bravados, I saw the film's true grandeur only on the cinema screen. It was like a different film.

In the silent Henry King retrospective in Pordenone in 1995 I noticed that King's best films were based on strong scripts. The screenwriter of Jesse James is Nunnally Johnson, one of the best scenarists at 20th Century-Fox; he had been on contract at the studio since its founding / merger year of 1935. (Last year in Bologna we saw Johnson's favourite film, Holy Matrimony, directed by John M. Stahl.) For King Johnson would produce his next Western, The Gunfighter.

For Peter von Bagh, Jesse James was Henry King's masterpiece, seen in the context of the 20th Century-Fox ethos, a parallel work to The Grapes of Wrath which would have its premiere a year later, sharing much of the same cast, both written by Nunnally Johnson and both produced by Darryl F. Zanuck personally. A fury at social injustice is the driving force of both films, remarkably since the film-makers were no radicals.

Nunnally Johnson's script is not based on historical facts about Jesse James. It is a Robin Hood fairy-tale reflecting on key periods of social injustice, mainly the period of the original accumulation of building the transcontinental railroads in the 19th century: the "Robber Barons, standing for a Gilded Age of corruption, monopoly, and rampant individualism. Their corporations were the Octopus, devouring all in its path" (Richard White). There is also an undercurrent about more recent financial speculators before the Great Depression.

Fascinatingly, in 1939–1940:
– Henry Fonda plays Frank James and Tom Joad. (And Abraham Lincoln). (And Gilbert Martin in Drums Along the Mohawk).
– Jane Darwell plays the mother of the James brothers (called by now Mrs. Samuels by remarriage) and Ma Joad ("we are the people").
– John Carradine is Bob Ford and Preacher Casey. And Hatfield in Stagecoach.
– Donald Meek, playing McCoy, representative of the robber barons, is also the prosecutor in Young Mr. Lincoln and Samuel Peacock in Stagecoach.
– Randolph Scott, playing the marshal, also stars as Wyatt Earp in Allan Dwan's Frontier Marshal.
– Nancy Kelly, appearing as Jesse's wife Zerelda, is the female lead also in Frontier Marshal.

From the viewpoint of Henry King, the saga of Jesse James is relevant to his affection of rural America, the honesty and dignity of its gentle farmers. When that dignity is violated by brutal agents of robber barons, the farmers are not going to meekly submit. This is an important extension to the tradition of Americana at Fox, a main founder of which was Henry King, following D. W. Griffith, together with John Ford, Frank Borzage et al.

Tyrone Power is cast against type as Jesse James, and that makes the film more interesting. Like Richard Barthelmess in Tol'able David he is the all-American boy, gentle, nice and wholesome. The brutalization of his character is all the more alarming. Nancy Kelly gives a strong performance as Zerelda whose ultimatum Jesse cannot ignore. Finally, realizing that he only brings disaster to everybody he loves, Jesse tries to change, but it is already too late. Jesse James is a tragedy in the form of a folktale, sincerely felt and deeply moving.

The action scenes are exciting and well executed, including a superb train robbery sequence and a stunning Northfield, Minnesota bank raid. There are different accounts about a horse being hurt in a fall. A scene with a falling horse is included in the print viewed. Concern for what happened in filming Jesse James led to the practice of the American Humane starting to monitor motion picture productions in 1940. Henry King's action footage was recycled in Nicholas Ray's The True Story of Jesse James (1957) and reformatted for CinemaScope.

On display was a Technicolor safety re-release print, a truly beautiful BFI print, doing justice to the concept of "glorious Technicolor" and the art of George Barnes who was advised in Technicolor by W. H. Greene.

William K. Everson on 1939, the golden year of the Western


On location in Pineville, McDonald County, Missouri: Jesse James (1939) with Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power. Photo: Joplin Globe.

On location in Pineville, McDonald County, Missouri: Jesse James (1939) with Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power. Photo: Joplin Globe.

On location in Pineville, McDonald County, Missouri: Jesse James (1939) with Nancy Kelly, Tyrone Power. Photo: Greenbriar Picture Shows.

William K. Everson on the year 1939 in his book The Hollywood Western (New York: Citadel Press, 1992), adopting some of the contents of A Pictorial History of the Western Film (1969).

"An outstanding year in many ways, 1939 was quite certainly the one of a major renaissance of the Western film, and of the launching of the biggest and longest sustained cycle of Westerns ever. At least ten deluxe Westerns were released throughout 1939 and the catalyst for most of them was the political climate in Europe". (p. 204)

"Few Americans believed that the United States would actually be embroiled in a war, but feeling against Nazi Germany ran high, none could deny that dark days lay ahead, and the patriotic zeal that had lain dormant for almost two decades was suddenly rekindled" (p. 204).

Stand Up and Fight / Kapteeni Peloton (MGM / W. S. Van Dyke / Robert Taylor, Florence Rice)
US premiere 6 Jan 1939
Helsinki premiere  1 June 1939
   WKE: "the first major Western to take up the social issue of slavery" (p. 205).

Jesse James / Jesse James, suuri seikkailija (Fox / Henry King / Tyrone Power, Nancy Kelly)
US premiere 27 Jan 1939
Helsinki premiere 13 Aug 1939
    WKE is not impressed: "long drawn out and tame". "More related to the Depression years than contemporary Europe". "In the long run, the main function of Jesse James was to establish the place of the badman 'biography' as one of the three main thrusts of the upcoming Western cycle". (p. 205)

Let Freedom Ring / Vapauden laulu (MGM / Jack Conway / Nelson Eddy, Virginia Bruce)
US premiere 24 Feb 1939
Helsinki premiere 27 Aug 1939
    WKE discusses the film's relevance to the US vs. the Nazis. (p. 205).

Stagecoach / Hyökkäys erämaassa (Walter Wanger Productions / John Ford / John Wayne, Claire Trevor)
US premiere 3 March 1939
Helsinki premiere 23 Nov 1951
    WKE: "it was the Ford film that ensured that the new revival of interest was no flash in the pan but was here to stay" (p. 205). Finally established Wayne as a major star.

The Oklahoma Kid / Oklahoman sankari (Warner Bros. / Lloyd Bacon / James Cagney, Rosemary Lane)
US premiere 11 March 1939
Helsinki premiere 16 July 1939
    WKE: "little more than an outrageous though highly entertaining frolic, with Cagney and Bogart transferring their big city personas to the West without the slightest change of pace". (p. 206-207).

Dodge City / Lännen valloittajat (Warner Bros. / Michael Curtiz / Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland)
US premiere 8 April 1939
Helsinki premiere 19 Nov 1939
    WKE: "the town, an armed camp run by a despot, could be equalled with Europe, and the soft-spoken, hopefully neutral marshal who brings law and order was a prophecy of America's potential role in the world conflict". "Among other things, the film provided proof of the grandeur-inducing capabilities of Technicolor. Seen in color, it was a grand-scale epic (...)." (p. 208)

Union Pacific / Urhojen tie (Paramount / Cecil B. DeMille / Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea)
US premiere 5 May 1939
Helsinki premiere 17 Sep 1939
    WKE: "Paramount's last epic Western of the decade was not only one of its best, but also one of DeMille's best". Joel McCrea took a major step forward to establish himself in Union Pacific as an actor in the same league as Gary Cooper. One of the blockbusters of 1939, and the longest talkie Western yet.

Man of Conquest (Republic / George Nichols, Jr. / Richard Dix, Gail Patrick)
US premiere 15 May 1939
Not released in Finland.
    WKE: "one of the most interesting (and most forgotten) of the revitalized epics, and a credit to a small company like Republic whose first really big production it was". The big mass action scenes of the fall of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto don't have the spectacle that Warners could have given them, they do benefit from the ultra vigorous second-unit direction (Reaves Eason) and stuntwork (Yakima Canutt). Sam Houston is one of the most potentially interesting  of all the Western empire builders, and it is surprising that Man of Conquest is the only big film made on his life. "Again, the plight of refugees from Santa Anna's tyranny is made to equate that of refugees, and oppressed minorities, in the Europe of 1939".

Drums Along the Mohawk / Liekehtivä erämaa (Fox / John Ford / Claudette Colbert, Henry Fonda)
US 10 Nov 1939
Helsinki premiere 3 Nov 1940
    WKE: The first Western to go into release after Britain and France officially declared war on Germany, and to address itself, obliquely to that war. Unusually harsh and realistic (despite its Technicolor photography) in establishing the pain, suffering, loss, and sacrifice of war.

Destry Rides Again / Ei mikään enkeli (Paramount / George Marshall / Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart)
US premiere 29 Dec 1939
Helsinki premiere 21 Nov 1943
    WKE: Friends of producer Joe Pasternak insist that he saw Destry as a very specific anti-Nazi allegory, and that it could be broken down point by point, character to character to prove it.

...

Elsewhere Everson discusses or mentions also:

Frontier Marshal / Rautaisin ottein (Fox / Allan Dwan / Randolph Scott, Nancy Kelly)
US premiere 28 July 1939
Helsinki premiere 29 Oct 1939
    WKE: A decent production but far from an "A", it was relatively short, but Allan Dwan's experienced direction and a good cast turned it into a surprisingly successful film that was sold as an "A". [WKE may somehow mix Fox's two 1930s films both called Frontier Marshal.] (p. 187, introduction to The Thirties).

Geronimo / Punainen ratsastaja (Paramount / Paul Sloane / Preston Foster, Ellen Drew)
US premiere 26 Nov 1939
Helsinki premiere 22 Dec 1940
    [WKE mentions Geronimo, "on which more later" but there is only a still with a caption] (p. 154, 207).

...

1939 reissue:
Tumbleweeds / Aavikon kulkuri (William S. Hart Productions / King Baggot / William S. Hart, Barbara Bedford)
US premiere 20 Dec 1925
Helsinki premiere 12 Sep 1927
William S. Hart, the first master director of Westerns, made his last film, Tumbleweeds, released for Christmas 1925; during the following year John Ford and Henry King released their last silent Westerns. Significantly, Hart reissued Tumbleweeds in 1939. (p. 55-58).

...

Everson concludes that the immediate cycle broke down into three basic groups: 1) the epic themes of national progress, 2) the town-taming Westerns, and 3) the badman cycle. The boom continued for a full three years, even upgrading the quality of B Westerns.

"Just as 1919 was a remarkable year that laid the groundwork for major changes and advances in the twenties, so had 1939 prepared the way for the Western's most prolific and distinguished decade, the forties" (William K. Everson).

Friday, June 28, 2019

Fellini: A Director's Notebook



Fellini: A Director's Notebook. The cinema of the childhood, watching a historical epic about the Roman Empire.

Fellini: A Director's Notebook. A subway trip becomes a journey back in time. Ancient Romans are waiting on the stations.

Fellini: A Director's Notebook. The audition.

Fellini: A Director's Notebook. Federico Fellini to the left. The images are my screenshots from YouTube.

Block-notes di un regista.
    Director: Federico Fellini. Year: 1969. Country: USA. Scen.: Federico Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi, dialoghi inglesi Eugene Walter. F.: Pasqualino De Santis. M.: Ruggero Mastroianni. Mus.: Nino Rota.
    Int.: Federico Fellini, Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni, David Maumsell, Cesarino, Lina Alberti, Caterina Boratto, Marina Boratto, Bernardino Zapponi, Alvaro Vitali.
    Prod.: Peter Goldfarb per National Broadcasting Company (NBC). DCP. D.: 52’. Col.
    PC: NBC Production International Corporation (Rome). With the cooperation of Producers International Corp.
    NBC Educational Enterprises presents.
    NBC Experiment in Television [television series].
    Shot on 16 mm.
    Copy from Cineteca Bologna.
    by courtesy of Compagnia Leone Cinematografica.
    Documents and Documentaries.
    Introduce the producer Peter Goldfarb, hosted by Gian Luca Farinelli.
    The copy itself is in English and has English subtitles when Italian is spoken. There were also e-subtitles in English in the screening.
    Viewed at Auditorium - DAMSLab, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, 28 June 2019.

Roberto Chiesi (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "In 1966, Federico Fellini experienced in real life the distressing reality he had imagined three years before in 8½: devastated by a psychological and creative crisis, the director backed out of making his new film, Il viaggio di G. Mastorna, even though the sets were already in place and the contracts signed."

"Two years later, when he had already presented the Toby Dammit segment and was getting ready for the great enterprise of Satyricon, he was invited by the American television company NBC for an interview, which was to be part of a programme about his work. The invitation sparked a new film by Fellini, A Director’s Notebook, the first film where ‘The Magician’ shows, with digressive frivolity, the circus of film as it is being made, a behind-the-scenes movie that is actually staged, simulating the spontaneity of documentary filmmaking."

"It starts on the abandoned set of the film he never made, where Fellini wanders around scenery and costumes, revealing his (ephemeral) fondness for young hippies and shooting some scenes of Mastorna, almost like an exorcism. Combinations of the past and present take over with the reconstruction of the smoky and wild cinemas of the 1920s – where a beautiful Italian silent film (by Fellini himself) is being screened – and then continues with excerpts from mediums and phony historians, a re-invented audition of Mastroianni for Mastorna, another (brilliantly fake) audition at the slaughterhouse in Rome for Satyricon, a parade of extras and background artists from which the director chooses the most suitable faces."

"The film also surprisingly includes an excerpt of a sequence from Nights of Cabiria, which was cut by De Laurentiis due to pressure from the Vatican. These notes in film form have the charm of a confession told as a story, in which a lie, as usual, is the key to the truth. The only Fellini film made exclusively for television, it was not broadcast in Italy by RAI until 1972 and was unjustifiably cut by a quarter of an hour. The full version will be presented at Il Cinema Ritrovato."
Roberto Chiesi

AA: I saw for the first time Fellini: A Director's Notebook which has never been screened or telecast in Finland. Even we have not screened it in our Federico Fellini retrospectives.

It was not the first of Fellini's meta-films (those would be Otto e mezzo and Toby Dammit), but it was his first pseudo-documentary. He introduces his passion for auditions. He fakes candid meetings with movie stars like Mastroianni. He pretends to film in order to produce a documentary of the filming. In our age of dvd / blu-ray bonus features A Director's Notebook seems like a premature parody of the phenomenon.

Fellini honed this approach to mastery in his next film I clowns. A Director's Notebook also already includes sketches for Roma and prefigures aspects of his films Prova d'orchestra, La città delle donne, Ginger e Fred and Intervista.

Fellini had been preceded by Pasolini in his appunti series of films that he had not made in the way he had planned or not at all. The sketchbook can turn out to have permanent value. Here we have traces of Fellini's unmade Mastorna film, as well as sketches for Satyricon, his current big movie project, but also an outtake, "the man with the sack" from Le notti di Cabiria, arguably his masterpiece. During the Cabiria sequence we hear Nino Rota's haunting flute theme, transcendent, as if an expression of something beyond pain.

By the 1960s Fellini had entered his spectacle period. He had also embraced the concept that all his films are entries in one single big work-in-progress. Ingmar Bergman started to avoid making "Bergman films", although he could not help himself. Fellini could not help himself either, and he kept making "Fellini films" self-consciously. With meta-strategies and pseudo-documentary dimensions he strived to maintain a healthy distance to his own self-indulgence.

In the context of the Fellini oeuvre A Director's Notebook is minor, but the significance of the new approach was major.

Main sources of pleasure in A Director's Notebook are a self-parodical aspect and a sense that the film must have been a terrible disappointment for NBC who may have expected a new hip and cool work from Fellini, the director of La dolce vita, featuring Mastroianni, for American mainstream network television.

The screening was introduced by Fellini's producer Peter Goldfarb who gave a demonstration of Fellini's famous direction of dialogue :
– 1–2–3.
– 4–5–6?
– 7–8–9–10!
Actual dialogue was spoken only in the dialogue replacement phase.

Goldfarb also read aloud a long letter by Fellini in English, never published. The text is essential Fellini, and I look forward to it being published. Among other things, Fellini there explains his belief that screen tests are more fascinating than the film itself. (This is not the only affinity between Fellini and Warhol).

The film is a vision of alienation and desolation, of characters in search of a fiction, in a shadow world between dream and reality. In one of the finest moments it becomes a meditation, a collage of memories like Amarcord, with fake silent film inserts directed by Fellini for this work (parodying old Italian epics of Imperial Rome, run in overspeed).

We board the subway and our journey becomes a journey in time. It takes us to the catacombs, the seven civilizations of the underground city like in Fellini's Roma. On subway stations ancient Romans are waiting.

In his screen tests Fellini auditions modern Romans that seem to evoke ancient ones. The people in the auditions are ridiculous and profound, and it is impossible tell one from the other. "I am very fond of these characters", confesses Fellini. "They say they need me. I need them more".

Nino Rota's score is haunting, partly familiar, partly unfamiliar, often probably unique. I'd love to see a list detailing the motifs. A quiet guitar, the sound of the cicada, and a subdued flute theme seem to evoke a sense of loss, perhaps a danger of losing oneself. Amidst the chaos of the Cinecittà extravaganzas a psychic battle is going on.

In this year's Il Cinema Ritrovato my favourite composers were Armas Järnefelt (Song of the Scarlet Flower) and Nino Rota (Napoli milionaria and Fellini A Director's Notebook).

The visual quality of the presentation bordered on the unwatchable. It was far below a regular home video standard. Fellini A Director's Notebook is easily accessible online in 52 min versions, and it has also been published by The Criterion Collection as a Immagine Ritrovata transfer as a bonus film for Otto e mezzo, but I do not know about the technical quality of those releases. Typically for Fellini, different cuts are in circulation.

Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie



Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie. Gangsters from Chicago in need of a shave. To the right: David Wayne as the barber Ben Halper. In the chair: Richard Karlan  as the gangster boss Mike Kava hoping to experience Ben's "velvet touch".

1905 sheet music cover for "Wait 'Till the Sun Shines, Nellie". Cover has insert photos of songwriter/publisher Harry Von Tilzer and of singer Geo Brown. Photo and caption from Wikipedia.

Director: Henry King. Year: 1952. Country: USA. Sog.: dal romanzo I Heard Them Sing (1946) di Ferdinand Reyher. Scen.: Allan Scott, Maxwell Shane. F.: Leon Shamroy. M.: Barbara McLean. Scgf.: Lyle R. Wheeler, Maurice Ransford. Mus.: Alfred Newman.
    Int.: David Wayne (Ben Halper), Jean Peters (Nellie Halper), Hugh Marlowe (Ed Jordan), Albert Dekker (Lloyd Slocum), Helene Stanley (Eadie Jordan), Tommy Morton (Benny Halper, Jr.), Joyce MacKenzie (Bessie Jordan), Alan Hale Jr. (George Oliphant), Richard Karlan (Mike Kava).
    Prod.: George Jessel per Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.. 35 mm. D.: 109’. Col.
    Theme song: "Wait 'Till the Sun Shines, Nellie" (comp. Harry von Tilzer, lyr. Andrew B. Sterling), 1905. Special patter by George Jessel.
    Not released in Finland.
    Copy from 20th Century Fox by courtesy of Park Circus.
    Soul and Craft: A Portrait of Henry King.
    Introduce Ehsan Khoshbakht.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra, 28 June 2019.

Ehsan Khoshbakht (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "A “virtually unknown minor masterpiece of nostalgia in all its aspects”, according to Clive Denton, chronicling nearly 50 years of life in the small town of Sevillinois, narrated in flashback  from the point of view of the town’s barber. One of the first instances in King’s cinema of a fully matured portrayal of a marital relationship, the barber and his beautiful and troubled wife are early character sketches for King’s late-period CinemaScope melodramas, especially Tender Is the Night. Based on a novel that was originally optioned by Edward G. Robinson’s company, with the plan being for him to star (which, considering Robinson’s age, could have led to something closer to film noir than melodrama), the film is a subtle take on King’s recurring motif of the fickleness of emotions. Here, King’s stoicism, his fascination with showing the process of building societies and his  yearning look back at a lost America reach a climax that, in contrast with the alluring Technicolor cinematography, has a heavier heart and a darker mood than most of his other films." Ehsan Khoshbakht

Miguel Marías: "One of the genres in which Henry King excelled was the very vaguely defined ‘Americana films’, scarcely appreciated outside their country of origin. I’m afraid that his affinity with something that many find uninteresting if not repellent will always hinder a fuller understanding of King’s cinema. Of the more than 100 films that he directed – at least half of which should be known by anyone dealing with Hollywood cinema – a good number can be labeled as Americana films, with Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie as the most naked and pure expression of this theme. People allergic to all things ‘American’ – apple  pie, hot dogs, chewing gum, marshmallows, Aunt Jemima Pancake Syrup and Life Savers – would probably miss King’s never-too-optimistic uncovering of warmth, humour, generosity, affection and resilience in his characters. King may often be labelled as ‘conventional’ and ‘conservative’, but I dare say that no other director in American cinema of this period could cover half a century in about 100 minutes, to have the courage (with the exception of Hitchcock) to eliminate one of the central characters halfway through the picture and, with the exception of Joseph Losey, to cast David Wayne in the main role, without trying to make him sympathetic to the audience." Miguel Marías (Il Cinema Ritrovato)

AA: A film title taken from a beloved song can cover all sorts of things as we know from John Ford's My Darling Clementine and The Sun Shines Bright. The title and the poster of Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie make us anticipate an idyllic romantic story.

The title song is a pop standard, an American standard, a Great American Songbook candidate. Dedicated to Nellie, it is a romantic song of great expectations, and the beginning of the film is inspired by its lyrics.

A counter-current soon emerges. Ben has promised Nellie to take her to Chicago, but instead they remain in the middle of nowhere in a (fictional) place called Sevillinois. Ben claims that he has only rented a barbershop, but in fact he has bought it. A barbershop is a place in which only men are allowed, and this comes as a surprise to Nellie. Ben also insists that he has only rented the house in which they settle, but he owns it. Ben keeps promising Nellie to take her to a holiday in Chicago, but he never keeps the promise. Without previously agreeing about it, Ben leaves for military service in the Spanish-American war.

The film presents a satirical and critical study of patriarchy. Instead of a love relationship between equals, Ben runs a household based on domination and deception. Nellie is chronically disappointed with Ben, and it is little wonder that she is vulnerable to the attentions of Ed Jordan.

I was looking forward to this movie which I now saw for the first time. It was never released in Finland, the only 1950s Henry King film without a Finnish premiere. (Almost all of King's Fox films were distributed in Finland, also his films before his Fox contract since Tol'able David and even before.) I could not find a Swedish or Italian title for this film, so it seems it was not widely released outside America. Americana may have been tricky in international distribution.

As popular entertainment, the film has a dimension of the musical: the theme song and other standards such as "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" are sung by a barbershop quartet or chorus. Ben also joins the town brass band and fire department. Ben's son Benny and his wife Eadie become music hall entertainers in Chicago. The producer George Jessel had presumably an interest in this aspect.

Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie, set not far away from Chicago, has also an element of the gangster film. After Benny is wounded in WWI, his career in Chicago gets a new turn: he becomes an associate of the gangster Kava. Eddie Muller commented in Bologna that Richard Karlan is the closest likeness to Al Capone he has seen on screen.

What is the Henry King distinction here? A heartfelt love of America. A celebration of shared experiences, values and traditions. A special attention to small town America. A joy in showing the building of the modern world. A tenderness in the family saga. A simultaneous awareness of family tensions. A special talent in covering a long historical time span without feeling rushed. A celebration of male dignity in the scene where the barber meets the Chicago gangsters. A critical distance to patriarchy in Nellie's story. Ostensibly the film is a celebration of Nellie; actually it shows her being ignored, neglected and crushed. Hope remains alive for the Nellie of the next generation. King is equally capable of covering the American dream and the American nightmare.

Ehsan Khoshbakht in his introduction called Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie Henry King's most beautiful Technicolor film. This 20th Century Fox print did justice to Leon Shamroy's cinematography.

NB. 13 Aug 2019. I confess I understood the joke of "The Barber of Sevillinois" only just now, reading Lorenzo Sciofani's blog.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Hai shang hua / Flowers of Shanghai (2019 restoration in 4K by Shochiku)


Hai shang hua / Flowers of Shanghai

海上花 / Hǎishàng Huā.
    Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien. Year: 1998. Country: Taiwan / Japan. Sog.: dal romanzo The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai (1892) di Han Bangqing. Scen.: Eileen Chang, Chen Tien-wen. F.: Ping Bin Lee. M.: Ching-Song Liao. Scgf.: Wen-Ying Huang. Mus.: Yoshihiro Hanno.
    Int.: Tony Chiu-wai Leung (Wang), Michiko Hada (Crimson), Michelle Reis (Emerald), Carina Lau (Pearl), Jack Kao (Luo), Vicky Wei (Jasmin), Hsuan Fang (Jade), Annie Shizuka Inoh (Golden Flower), Ming Hsu (Tao).
    Prod.: Shozo Ichiyama, Yang Teng-kuei per 3H Productions, Shochiku. DCP. D.: 113’. Col.
    In Cantonese and Shanghainese.
    Restored in 4K in 2019 by Shochiku in collaboration with Shanghai International Film Festival with funding provided by Jaeger-LeCoultreat at the L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory from the 35 mm original negative.
    Copy from Shochiku.
    Cantonese version with English subtitles.
    Recovered & Restored.
    Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, 27 June 2019.

Jonathan Rosenbaum (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Hou Hsiao-hsien’s 1998 feature, his 13th, represents a bold departure from his previous work. It’s his first film to be set completely outside Taiwan, the implicit or explicit subject of his earlier movies – most noticeably in his trilogy comprising City of Sadness (1989), The Puppetmaster (1993), and Good Men, Good Women (1995), but also in the bittersweet allegory of Son’s Big Doll, his seminal contribution to the 1983 sketch feature The Sandwich Man. After focusing mostly on families and landscapes, Hou fashions a chamberpiece set exclusively in the interiors of Shanghai brothels in the late 19th century, adapted from a novel by Han Bangqing by his usual screenwriter Chen Tien-wen."

"And after Hou showed striking stylistic affinities with Yasujiro Ozu, here’s a film whose long takes, camera movements, and concentration on sex work suggest a Kenji Mizoguchi but without the melodrama. But insofar as Hou’s previous films deal with existential and historical questions of identity related to Taiwan as a country, occupied and colonized at various times and in various ways by China, Japan, and the US, Hai shang hua finds similar issues arising from interactions between prostitutes (the ‘flower girls’), their madams (or ‘aunts’), and their wealthy and powerful customers."

"It’s characteristic of Hou’s distanced approach to power, economics, and sentiment that he doesn’t include actual sex among these interactions, focusing instead on conversations lubricated by food, tea, and opium. He also disperses our attention between various brothels, flower girls, madams, and patrons without persuading us to regard any of them as primary."
Jonathan Rosenbaum

AA: Mysteriously, Flowers of Shanghai has never been released in Finland or other Nordic countries, nor has there been a telecast in Finland.

Having never seen it before I was very much looking forward to what the most distinguished connoisseurs consider the masterpiece of Hou Hsiao-hsien, one of the greatest contemporary directors.

The sole milieux are brothels, reminiscent of films by Kenji Mizoguchi such as Akasen chitai. Jean Renoir's Nana is different, being a story of a freelancing courtesan. In Max Ophuls's adaptation of "La Maison Tellier" in his Guy de Maupassant triptych Le Plaisir, also on this year's Bologna agenda, the sex workers are having a weekend off in the countryside.

Seeing Flowers of Shanghai for the first time I felt like one of the hapless gentlemen circling around the locked doors of La Maison Tellier in the beginning of the Maupassant-Ophuls story.

The plot is complex and hard / impossible to make sense of on first viewing. Beyond the jump break I have copied the Wikipedia synopsis. The characters are opaque and impossible to relate to. It was an evening screening and the last film of the day, but I was alert, yet remained a stranger to the world of this film, composed of 38 immaculate long takes, often in plan-séquence style, familiar from early cinema.

The English subtitles are credited in the original film credits to Tony Rayns, but after the screening Tony was furious because his work had been ignored and replaced by an inferior set of subtitles. After the festival Tony reported that this is being corrected. He told that he had worked closely with Chen Tien-wen to get the nuances right in the dialogue based on the original novel's Wu, a now rare variety of Chinese unintelligible to Mandarin or Cantonese speakers, including Hou himself.

Tony Rayns confirmed that it is possible to make sense of the plot, but it is not necessary for the appreciation of the film which is essentially about the Tony Leung character's butterfly flight among the four flower houses and their various flower girls.

For me the immortal cinematic accounts of women of pleasure are the ones by Mizoguchi, Renoir and Ophuls, both in their vibrant joy of life and their desolate sense of a dead end. In this festival we also saw Mauritz Stiller's version of the theme in Song of the Scarlet Flower. When Olof meets Elli the Gazelle as a prostitute in a brothel, it's the nadir of his wandering years and the turning-point in his life, a wake-up call that it's finally time for the boy to become a man. As previously, Olof wants to do the right thing with Elli, but it's too late. As directed by Stiller, the sequence is poignant and original, free of cliché.

Visually, Flowers of Shanghai is almost oppressively stylish and cultivated, with a painterly approach to appealing colours. Even the colour world expresses the "flowers and butterflies" theme. The visual world also feels stifling and lifeless. Tony Rayns commented after the screening that the girls live in vacuum, completely isolated, in an opium drugged state, and the airless quality is how the film is meant to look.

The 2019 digital transfer is spotless. Photochemical grain has been polished away so that the images do not breathe. I spoke with connoisseurs who know the film well in 35 mm, and they all found the digital transfer perfect and faithful to the original.

The Bravados



The Bravados. Joan Collins (Josefa Velarde), Gregory Peck (Jim Douglas). His daughter has survived and met a new mother.

Bravados [Finnish, Swedish and Italian titles without the definite article].
    Director: Henry King. Year: 1958. Country: USA. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1958) di Frank O’Rourke. Scen.: Philip Yordan. F.: Leon Shamroy. M.: William Mace. Scgf.: Lyle R. Wheeler, Mark-Lee Kirk. Mus.: Lionel Newman.
    Int.: Gregory Peck (Jim Douglas), Joan Collins (Josefa Velarde), Stephen Boyd (Bill Zachary), Albert Salmi (Ed Taylor), Henry Silva (Lujan), Kathleen Gallant (Emma Steinmetz), Lee Van Cleef (Alfonso Parral), Barry Coe (Tom), George Voskovec (Gus Steinmetz), Herbert Rudley (sceriffo Sanchez).
    Prod.: Herbert B. Swope Jr. per Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 35 mm. D.: 98’. Col.
    Helsinki premiere: 3 Oct 1958 Metropol, distributed by O.Y. Fox Films A.B.
    Copy from 20th Century Fox by courtesy of Park Circus.
    Soul and Craft: A Portrait of Henry King.
    Introduce Imogen Sara Smith, hosted by Ehsan Khoshbakht.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra, 27 June 2019.

Imogen Sara Smith (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Henry King’s austere, morally ambiguous revenge drama The Bravados treads the same stony path as Fritz Lang’s Rancho Notorious (1952), Marlon Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (1961), and many of the great 1950s westerns of Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher. All these films track men whose festering psychological wounds, scabbed over by embittered stoicism, drive them to pursue a vengeance they imagine will make them whole again. Their causes may be just – often, as in The Bravados, they are seeking to avenge the rape and murder of a woman – but obsessive hatred warps them, twisting courage and integrity into neurotic monomania. No one is healed by revenge in these movies; the hero is either redeemed by abandoning his quest or gutted by achieving it. Here, King gives an extra twist to the pattern, planting early on the suspicion that the four outlaws that Jim Douglas (Gregory Peck) is hunting down may be the wrong men – and that he might not even care."

"This was the fifth of King’s six films with Peck, whose usual upstanding decency shades into self-righteous inflexibility, and makes his glints of sadism all the more shocking. Douglas kills one man as he grovels on his knees, and dispatches another by stringing him upside-down from a tree. The outlaws have already been sentenced to hang when the movie begins; after escaping, they kill without hesitation, and one kidnaps and assaults a young woman. Does it matter if they are innocent of one crime, when they are guilty of so many others?"

"Despite the grandeur of its landscapes – the sun-beaten plains and plunging cliffs of Mexico’s Michoacán and Jalisco provinces – and the ravishing colour cinematography by Leon Shamroy, The Bravados is lean and hard, with little of the tenderness found in King’s folksy portraits of rural America. It gestures toward redemption, with hints of the director’s Catholic faith, but remains a troubling portrait of blinkered, overbearing certainty, which Peck linked to the communal scapegoating of McCarthyism."
Imogen Sara Smith

AA: Revisited The Bravados which I knew previously from a dvd viewing of the handsome Twentieth Century Classics release of 2006. I found the film distinguished even then, but my eyes were opened to its full impact on the CinemaScope screen of Cinema Jolly. Henry King's philosophy of space and Leon Shamroy's outdoors cinematography can be fully appreciated only in the cinema.

Imogen Sara Smith again gave the best introduction of the festival. She put The Bravados in the context of the post-WWII Western revenge tragedies of Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, et al. Those movies offered sombre critiques of the cycle of violence in which the protagonist finds himself. Henry King brings a new angle to Gregory Peck's star persona in a role in which his character is limited by his inability to doubt and change. Traces of war, loss, disillusionment and the burden of the past were characteristic of the species of "the noir Western" (illuminatingly discussed by Smith in her book In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City). (End of my Smith resume).

Henry King was at his best when he had a strong screenplay, and the script of The Bravados is very good indeed, written by Philip Yordan, based on the novel by Frank O'Rourke. Yordan was famous for using surrogate screenwriters, especially during the black list era, but nobody has questioned his credit in The Bravados. Yordan gave an interview to Patrick McGilligan covering The Bravados among other things (see beyond the jump break). Perhaps the interview is not 100% reliable but it is revealing all the same.

"I'm a stranger here myself" is a line of dialogue that connects The Bravados with another Philip Yordan project, Johnny Guitar (that line got identified with the director Nicholas Ray to the extent that it became the title of his autobiography project). But the line also appears in The Gunfighter [tbc], not linked with Yordan but with Henry King and Gregory Peck. I'm a Stranger Here Myself was also the title of a 1938 Ogden Nash book and a 1943 Kurt Weill song with lyrics by Nash. All followers may have been inspired by him.

The Bravados was the newest film screened in Bologna's Henry King tribute, and it shares key themes with his earlier films. Revenge is central in Tol'able David and Jesse James. Heroism is questioned in King's other films with Gregory Peck such as Twelve O'Clock High and The Gunfighter. Henry King made conveyor-belt Westerns in the silent period, but starting with The Winning of Barbara Worth they were all special (Jesse James, The Gunfighter, The Bravados). The spiritual presence of the Catholic church is sincere in The Bravados. Like in Way of a Gaucho seen yesterday (directed by Jacques Tourneur but originally assigned to Henry King), it represents transcendence in a world of mindless violence.

The film is well cast and the cast is well directed. Movie star incongruities are handled with an approach that can be compared with the V-effect of the stage. Joan Collins brings her star quality to the female leading role, effective as a woman who has been around and whom the leading male has known in New Orleans. Gregory Peck has his usual limitations (with stardom he became a bit of a ham), and those limitations are channeled, if not into strengths, then into meaningful character traits. Henry King has an obvious affection for the Spanish-Mexican presence in his Westerns; it is also reflected in the beautiful score by Lionel Newman. There is a genuine sense of the sublime in the location shooting in the mountains and near wild rivers.

The Bravados is the latest film of Henry King's that I have seen. In it he has lost none of his command. In the finale King stages a complex situation simply, eloquently and powerfully.

The print was perfect, and the theme colour of night blue came off powerfully as announced by Smith. The image was out of focus during long passages due to absent-mindedness in the projection room.