Friday, January 31, 2020

Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö / The Match Factory Girl

Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö / The Match Factory Girl. Iris (Kati Outinen) visits her father's grave. Please click on the photos to enlarge them.

Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö / The Match Factory Girl. Iris (Kati Outinen) visits the Queen of the Night at the Botanical Garden.

Flickan från tändsticksfabriken / La Fille aux allumettes / Das Mädchen aus der Streichholzfabrik / La fiammiferaia.
    FI 1990. PC: Villealfa Filmproductions Oy / SFI Svenska Filminstitutet.
    P+D+SC: Aki Kaurismäki. DP: Timo Salminen. AD: Risto Karhula. Cost: Marja-Leena Helin. S: Jouko Lumme. ED: Aki Kaurismäki. Ass D: Pauli Pentti. P (SFI): Klas Olofsson, Katinka Faragó. Photographs: Marja-Leena Helin.
    M selections: Aki Kaurismäki. Original M: Mauri Sumén. "Satumaa" (Unto Mononen), perf. Reijo Taipale. "Sidran" and "Donoussa" (Klaus Treuheit). "Cadillac" (Kim Brown, Denys Gibson, Graham Johnson, Ian Mallett) perf. The Renegades (1964). P. I. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor "Pathétique" I adagio – allegro non troppo. "Kuinka saatoitkaan" (Kathleen Twomey, Benjamin Weisman, Fred Wise, Finnish lyrics Sauvo Puhtila) perf. Olavi Virta.
    C: Kati Outinen (Iris Rukka), Elina Salo (mother), Esko Nikkari (stepfather), Vesa Vierikko (Aarne), Reijo Taipale (singer), Silu Seppälä (brother), Outi Mäenpää (coworker), Marja Packalén (doctor), Richard Reitinger (man at the bar), Helga Viljanen (clerk), Kurt Siilas (police officer), Ismo Keinänen (police officer), Klaus Heydemann (worker), Erkki Friman (accordionist), Tapani Ikonen (drummer), Jari Lappalainen (violinist), Lasse Luoto (bassist).
    Loc: Helsinki. Toinen linja 11 inner courtyard (Iris's home). Laajasalo VPK hall (dance hall). Hietaniemi graveyard. University of Helsinki Botanical Garden: Kaisaniemi Garden. Eira Hospital. Cinema (Museokatu 44). Handelsgillet (Kasarmikatu 23). Kannas (Eerikinkatu 43). – Finn-Match (Jyväskylä rural commune).
    69 min
    Finnish premiere: 12 Jan 1990, Helsinki: Andorra 1, Diana.
    Festival premiere: 1990 Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin / Forum des jungen Films.
    2014 digital transfer supervised by Aki Kaurismäki.
    2K DCP with English subtitles viewed at Filmmuseum München (Aki Kaurismäki) 31.1.2020.

The Match Factory Girl is Aki Kaurismäki's masterpiece, one of his most highly regarded, popular and lasting achievements. The title refers to a fairy-tale by H. C. Andersen which has been filmed by Jean Renoir, among others. The name of the protagonist is from a popular Finnish novel for girls, Iris rukka ("Poor Iris"). Its talented writer Anni Swan was the founder of Finnish literature for girls. The motto is from the Angélique series of novels by Anne Golon. Iris's mother keeps buying her daughter second-hand copies of Angélique novels as birthday presents. Popular in the 1960s, the novels were romantic historical adventures from the period of the Sun King in France.

Aki Kaurismäki has also mentioned Herttasarjat as a point of reference. Herttasarjat was a popular series of romance comics. Hertta is a woman's name, and it signifies also hearts in playing cards. Herttasarjat comics were often translations of the same American romance comics (such as Secret Hearts) that were the basis of Roy Lichtenstein's pop art paintings (see below).

A direct point of inspiration for Kaurismäki was the novel Se tavallinen tarina [The Usual Story] by Hannu Salama. The usual story is about a girl who has been seduced and abandoned, Sedotta e abbandonata as in the title of Pietro Germi's film. Such a story has been also filmed by Griffith and Mizoguchi, as well as by Paul Fejos (Marie) and Robert Bresson (Mouchette). One can also evoke Teuvo Tulio, the wild bird of Finnish cinema. But when an artist films the usual story the result is unusual.

Aki Kaurismäki creates his unusual mix from fairy-tales, escapism, melodrama and neorealism. Paradoxically, he makes melodrama without exaggeration. His touch is more austere and elliptical than ever. The editing is sharp and merciless like a guillotine. It has been said that in this film Kaurismäki finally achieved a union of the rigour of Bresson and the backwoods melodrama of Tulio.

The Match Factory Girl is the final part and the culmination of Kaurismäki's "trilogy of losers" which started with Shadows in Paradise and Ariel. All films start with montages on processes of labour and production.

Romances, fairy-tales and songs take us into the world of dreams. Television news take us to reality. It was important for Aki Kaurismäki to preserve in this film newscasts from the bloodbath of Tiananmen, the Place of Heavenly Peace.

A strange poetic element is Iris's habit to visit the Botanical Garden at night. She visits a special cactus, the Queen of the Night, which blossoms only once a year.

Iris weeps only once, in the cinema while watching a Marx Brothers film.

Aki Kaurismäki's films are halls of mirrors. Their simplicity is misleading. Power is evoked in stillness. From the collision of dream and reality Kaurismäki creates poetry.

(Based on my introduction at Filmmuseum München).

Roy Lichtenstein: "Drowning Girl". 1963. Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 171.6 cm × 169.5 cm (​67 5⁄8 in × ​66 3⁄4 in). Museum of Modern Art, New York City. Accession 685.1971. The painting derives from the splash page from "Run for Love!" illustrated by Tony Abruzzo and lettered by Ira Schnapp in Secret Hearts #83 (November 1962), DC Comics. Image and data: Wikipedia.

Neue Pinakothek München (permanent exhibition)

Vincent van Gogh: Sonnenblumen. 1888. Vincent van Gogh hatte dieses Bild einer strahlenden Farbigkeit und hochgemuten Lebensstimmung, gemalt im August 1888, zum Schmuck seines Ateliers in Arles bestimmt, in dem er zusammen mit Paul Gauguin malen wollte. Auf einfache Weise, in hohem Maß flächig, hat der Maler Vase, Blumen, Standfläche und Hintergrund dargestellt. Das eiskalte Türkis des Grundes steigert dabei die Gelb- und Gelbbrauntöne außerordentlich, sodass die Blumen die Vorstellung der sommerlichen Provence und eines - im doppelten Sinne des Wortes - glühenden Lebens erwecken, wie es van Gogh selbst geführt hat. Die Blume versinnbildlicht hier die Sonne, die der Künstler als Symbol des Lebens verstanden und so auch in etlichen Werken dargestellt hat. Die einfache Form und die starke Farbigkeit gehen auf Anregungen japanischer Druckgraphik zurück, sodass zugleich auch Beziehungen zum so genannten Cloisonismus des Gauguin-Kreises sichtbar werden. Wie van Gogh den Süden Frankreichs in einem umfassenden Sinn als "Japan" verstand, wo sich ein glückliches Leben verwirklichen ließe, so bezeugen auch die "Sonnenblumen" diese große Idee. Das Münchner Gemälde ist nicht die einzige Version der "Sonnenblumen", die van Gogh gemalt hat, aber es ist eine besonders wichtige. Der Künstler hat diese und die Fassung in der National Gallery in London stets als Pendants gesehen. Später dachte er daran, zwei Sonnenblumengemälde für das Gemälde "La Berceuse" als besonders festliche Rahmung zu verwenden, sodass ein Triptychon entstanden wäre. AP EG Saal III. Inventory Number 8672. 92,0 x 73,0 cm. Öl auf Leinwand. Malerei. 19. Jahrhundert. 1912 als anonyme Schenkung im Rahmen der Tschudi-Spende erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Neue Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Neue Pinakothek website. - Please click on the images to enlarge them!

Neue Pinakothek (temporarily at Alte Pinakothek)
Barer Straße 27
Eingang Theresienstraße
80333 München
Permanent exhibition visited on Friday, 31 Jan 2020.

All texts and captions: from the Neue Pinakothek website.

Official introduction: "“Rediscover the 19th Century” is the motto of the Neue Pinakothek. A richly varied tour provides an opportunity to view paintings and sculptures of the Neoclassical, Romantic, Impressionist, Art Nouveau and Gründerzeit periods and to encounter masterpieces by major pioneers of Modern art: Max Liebermann, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. Regularly presented thematic exhibitions and accompanying events, such as concerts and readings in the Neue Pinakothek, expand and deepen this spectrum. The original edifice of the Neue Pinakothek was built from 1846-53 at the behest of Ludwig I, King of Bavaria, to house his collection of contemporary art of the time, which was intended to be the most important of its kind in Germany. Accessible to the general public from the outset, the Neue Pinakothek was thus the first museum in the world devoted to the permanent presentation of works by contemporary artists. After its complete destruction during the Second World War, the architect Alexander von Branca was entrusted with the design of the current building, which opened its doors in 1981."

Jean-François Millet: Bauer beim Pfropfen eines Baumes. 1855. AP EG Kabinett 1-3. Inventory Number 14556. 80,5 x 100,0 cm. Öl auf Leinwand. Department 19. Jahrhundert. 1978 aus dem Kunsthandel erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Neue Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Neue Pinakothek website.

Arnold Böcklin: Ein heiliger Hain. Um 1871. Böcklin hat häufig Mythen und Fabelwesen dargestellt, um seine Gemälde mit einer Aura des Geheimnisvollen und Unwirklichen zu umgeben. Vor dem dunklen Hain erkennt man zwei goldene Opferschalen und ein liegendes Einhorn. Die Deutung ist rätselhaft. Graf Schack meinte, Böcklin habe hier „einen von Einhörnern bewachten Zauberwald der Armida“ dargestellt. Sammlung Schack Saal 13. Inventory Number: 11530. 80,5 x 103,1 cm. Öl auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 19. Jahrhundert. Vor 1874 durch Adolf Friedrich Graf von Schack erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Schack München. - Caption: from the Neue Pinakothek website.

Camille Pissarro: Straße in Upper Norwood. 1871. Das Gemälde entstand während des deutsch-französischen Krieges 1870/71 in England, wohin sich damals auch Claude Monet und Alfred Sisley zurückgezogen hatten. Der Originaltitel lautet bezeichnenderweise »Route de Upper Norwood [südl. Stadtteil von London], avec voiture, temps gris«. Die Angabe des Wetters, der Lichtstimmung ist bezeichnend für den Impressionisten, der seinen Gegenstand nicht als etwas Beständiges, Sich-gleich- Bleibendes sieht, sondern in seiner transitorischen Gestalt, die es in ihren subtilsten, vergänglichsten Stadien wiederzugeben gilt. Das Problem der Farbzerlegung bewegte Pissarro damals allerdings noch nicht in dem Maße wie später, auch ist die Malweise hier von einer ruhigen Breite und Gebundenheit, die sich jedoch bald zunehmend in bewegte Vibration verwandeln werden. AP EG Saal II. Inventory Number: 8699. 45,5 x 55,6 cm. Öl auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 19. Jahrhundert. 1913 als Schenkung von Ludwig Prager im Rahmen der Tschudi-Spende erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Neue Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Neue Pinakothek website.

Claude Monet: Seinebrücke von Argenteuil. 1874. Dargestellt ist die 1872 nach dem Deutsch-Französischen Krieg neu erbaute Brücke über die Seine bei Argenteuil. Monet hat den Blickwinkel stromaufwärts gewählt, hinter der Brücke sind das Ufer und die Hügel von Orgemont zu erkennen. Der Krieg von 1870 hatte Monet mit seiner Familie aus Paris nach London vertrieben. Als er über Holland zurückkehrte, nahm er sich in Argenteuil eine Wohnung. Auf den ruhigeren Randgewässern der Seine und kleineren Flussläufen arbeitete Monet erstmals in seinem Atelierboot. Nun entstanden fast ausschließlich Landschaften, die er wiederholt unter den verschiedensten Wetter und Lichtverhältnissen direkt vor der Natur schuf. Ein Jahr zuvor hatte Monet in seinem berühmten und namenstiftenden Bild "Impression, soleil levant" erstmals Bauten des modernen Lebens zum Bildthema gemacht. Während dort die Kräne des Hafens von Le Havre zum Bildmotiv wurden, ist es hier in Argenteuil die beeindruckende Eisenkonstruktion der die ganze Breite des Flusses überspannenden Brücke. Dass zudem die spontane Wiedergabe der aktuellen Stimmung von Licht und Farbe seiner Umgebung nicht leicht zu bewältigen war, schrieb Monet im Januar desselben Jahres aus Le Havre an Pissaro: "Je travaille, mais quand on a cessé la marine, c'est le diable après - très difficile; cela change à tout instant et ici le temps varie plusieurs fois dans la même journée." AP EG Saal II. Inventory Number: 8642. Öl auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 19. Jahrhundert. 1912 als Schenkung von Eduard Arnhold und Robert von Mendelssohn im Rahmen der Tschudi-Spende erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Neue Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Neue Pinakothek website.

Max Liebermann: Münchner Biergarten. 1884. Der Blick fällt auf einen gut besuchten Münchner Biergarten, der dem Augustinerkeller ähnelt. Unter den dichten Laubkronen der Bäume sitzen Männer und Frauen verschiedener sozialer Herkunft beim Bier zusammen. Im Vordergrund des Bildes ist eine freie Fläche geblieben, auf der zwei Mädchen spielen. Im Bildhintergrund spielt vor einer holzverkleideten Wand auf einem Podest die Kapelle. Die zahlreichen Einzelszenen des Biergartens sind farblich und durch das Sonnenlicht in Form von Kringeln und Flecken betont, ein "Markenzeichen" Liebermanns. Auf dem ockerfarbenen Kiesboden mit den hellen Sonnenflecken bewegt sich das schnell wechselnde Bunt der Menschenmenge, das vom dichten Grün der Baumkronen überschattet wird. Es handelt sich jeweils um ganz bestimmte Menschen, die trotz des pastosen Farbauftrags und des schnellen Duktus in Physiognomie, Haltung und Kleidung präzise charakterisiert sind. In Münchner Biergärten war allerdings Musik wie auch der Verkauf von Mahlzeiten nicht erlaubt. Die Kapelle ist also eine Erfindung Liebermanns. Auch die Einrichtung mit Klappstühlen erinnert an Liebermanns Stühle im Berliner Atelier; die geraden Stühle finden sich aber auch in anderen Darstellungen des Augustinerkellers. Wesentlicher als diese topographischen Details ist die Stimmung des sonnigen Nachmittags, an dem eine Vielzahl verschiedener Menschen mitten in der Stadt einen Platz im Grünen aufgesucht hat, der auf den ersten Blick von Trubel, Musik und Geselligkeit erfüllt ist, gleichzeitig aber auch einen Ort der Muße und des Verweilens darstellt. Die Vielfalt in der Typisierung schafft dabei ein authentisches Bild des Lebens in seinem vollen Umfang. Das 1884 vollendete Bild verweist bereits vom Sujet her auf Liebermanns moderne Themen nach 1900: Städter suchen Erholung in der Natur. Vorzugsweise unter schattenspendenden Bäumen bzw. auf luftigen Terrassen sitzend, geben sie sich dem Nichtstun hin. AP EG Kabinett 6-7. Inventory Number: 14979/ESK 3. 95 x 68,5 cm. Öl auf Holz. Genre: Malerei. Department: 19. Jahrhundert. 1986 gemeinsam mit dem Ernst von Siemens-Kunstfonds aus dem Kunsthandel erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Neue Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Neue Pinakothek website.

Paul Cézanne: Stillleben mit Kommode. Um 1883/87. Seit den 1860er Jahre hat Cézanne Stillleben gemalt und im Laufe seines Lebens in dieser Gattung eine große, wichtige Gruppe von Werken geschaffen. Bei ihm wie bei entsprechenden anderen Malern, unter ihnen Holländer des 17. sowie Franzosen des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts als wichtige Vorläufer, ist es nicht die 'tote Natur' (nature morte), sondern wirklich das 'stille Leben', das den Gehalt solcher Bilder ausmacht. Wie Cézanne hier die Gegenstände vor dem dunkelbraunen Grund der Kommode auf dem Tisch arrangiert hat, wie der Teller nicht nur die bunten Äpfel trägt, sondern wie sie - umfangen vom Faltenwurf des hellen Tuches - als Früchte und damit als Zeugnisse des Lebens wahrhaft dargeboten werden, wie die Gefäße die Rundformen variieren, zugleich auf von der Kleinteiligkeit und Unruhe vorn zu der einfacheren, ruhigen Form der Kommode hinten überleiten und trotzdem von eigener Wertigkeit sind - das zeugt sowohl von hohem Kompositionsvermögen wie auch von feinem Sinn für das je unterschiedliche Wesen der Dinge. Die verhältnismäßig harten Formen mit den sie begrenzenden scharfen Konturen, der mäßig deckende Farbauftrag und die verhaltene Farbigkeit deuten auf eine Entstehung Mitte der 1880er Jahre hin. Eine etwas kleinere Version im Fogg Art Museum dürfte dem Münchner Gemälde unmittelbar vorausgegangen sein. AP EG Saal II. Inventory Number: 8647. 73,3 x 92,2 cm. Öl auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 19. Jahrhundert. 1912 als anonyme Schenkung im Rahmen der Tschudi-Spende erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Neue Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Neue Pinakothek website.

Paul Gauguin: Die Geburt - Te tamari no atua. 1896. Die Beschriftung lautet übersetzt "Kinder Gottes". Gauguin hat also versehentlich die Mehrzahl verwendet, doch gemeint hat er "Kind Gottes". Er hat sich in diesem Gemälde auf ein sehr persönliches Erlebnis bezogen: Ende des Jahres 1896 hatte das tahitianische Mädchen Pahura, das mit ihm zusammenlebte, ein Kind geboren, welches nach wenigen Tagen starb. Der baldige Tod des Neugeborenen ist in dem Bild durch die "Amme" mit der schwarzen Kappe und den Engel hinter ihr angedeutet. Die "Amme" ähnelt in ihrer Erscheinungsweise sehr stark Darstellungen des Totengeistes auf Tahiti. Das Kind ist hier durch den Tod der Mutter genommen und wird dem Engel übergeben. Die Figur des Engels, das Stallinnere und die Heiligenscheine von Mutter und Kind sind Mittel, um die Darstellung auch mit einem christlichen Sinne zu erfüllen. Diese Anspielung auf die Geburt Christi im Stall zu Bethlehem erklärt sich aber weder durch eine Frömmigkeit des Malers noch durch dessen mögliche Absicht, die Eingeborenen an der christlichen Heilslehre teilhaben zu lassen, sondern es handelt sich hierbei um ein schon bewährtes Mittel der Bedeutungssteigerung, auf das Gauguin mehrfach zurückgegriffen hat. Darin sind ihm zahlreiche Künstler gefolgt, von den "Nabis" bis zu Künstlern der Gegenwart. AP EG Saal III. Inventory Number: 8652. 96,0 x 131,1 cm. Öl auf Rupfen. Genre: Malerei. Department: 19. Jahrhundert. 1912 als Schenkung von Eduard Arnhold und Robert von Mendelssohn im Rahmen der Tschudi-Spende erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Neue Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Neue Pinakothek website.

Lovis Corinth: Der rote Christus. 1922. PdM Saal 4. Inventory Number: 12383. 130,2 x 107,4 cm. Öl auf Holz. Genre: Malerei. Department: 19. Jahrhundert. 1956 aus Privatbesitz erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Neue Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Neue Pinakothek website.


Alte Pinakothek München (permanent exhibition)

Albrecht Dürer: Selbstbildnis im Pelzrock. 1500. In diesem Gemälde schuf der 28-Jährige das wohl ungewöhnlichste Bildnis der Porträtgeschichte. Die Frontalität und der hohe Grade der Idealisierung erinnert an Christusdarstellungen, beides ist jedoch auch nicht von Dürers in dieser Zeit beginnenden Studien zur menschlichen Proportion zu trennen. Der betonte Blick und die schöpferische Hand als Werkzeuge des Künstlers machen das Gemälde als künstlerisches Programmbild deutbar ebenso wie die kaum angemessen zu übersetzende lateinische Inschrift, die das Material des Malers betont: "So schuf ich, Albrecht Dürer aus Nürnberg, mich selbst mit charakteristischen Farben im Alter von 28 Jahren." Displayed: AP OG Saal II. Inventory Number 537. 67,1 x 48,9 cm. Lindenholz (Tilia sp.). Altdeutsche Malerei. 1805 aus Nürnberg angekauft. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Alte Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Alte Pinakothek website. - Please click on the images to enlarge them.

Alte Pinakothek
Barer Straße 27
Eingang Theresienstraße
80333 München
Permanent exhibition visited on Friday, 31 Jan 2020.

All texts and captions are from the Alte Pinakothek website.

Official introduction of the permanent exhibition: "The collection of the Alte Pinakothek, one of the most significant in the world, encompasses over 700 artworks from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Here, milestones of the European painting tradition join to form a survey, in unique concentration, that spans the development from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and Baroque, through to the late Rococo period."

"Experience encounters with works by Dürer, Raphael, Leonardo, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Rembrandt, Boucher and their contemporaries. The museum, contracted by the Bavarian King Ludwig I, was built by Leo von Klenze between 1826 and 1836 in the Neoclassical style, which at the time represented a new and pioneering effort in European museum architecture. Originally, the Alte Pinakothek was intended to make sufficient space available for the art collection of the House of Wittelsbach. Over and above this, King Ludwig I sought to use the construction of the Alte Pinakothek as a means of providing the general public access to his collection.

"In addition to the permanent presentation of outstanding works from the golden ages of German, Flemish, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish painting, a host of temporary special exhibitions, guided tours and events make a visit worthwhile.

Pieter Bruegel d. Ä.: Das Schlaraffenland. 1567. Grundlage ist eine 1546 in Antwerpen erschienene Erzählung nach einem Schwank des Hans Sachs, die Müßiggang, Völlerei und Faulheit der Menschen geißelt. AP OG Kabinett 11. 8940. 51,5 x 78,3 cm. Material: Eichenholz. Malerei. Flämische Malerei. 1917 erworben; ehem. kaiserliche Sammlung Prag. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Alte Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Alte Pinakothek website.

Peter Paul Rubens: Der Höllensturz der Verdammten. Um 1621. Verbildlicht werden die Worte des Weltenrichters nach dem Matthäus-Evangelium (25,41): "Weichet von mir, ihr Verfluchten, in das ewige Feuer, das bereitet ist dem Teufel und seinen Engeln." Die tröstlichen Elemente des Jüngsten Gerichtes - die Seligen, die Fürbitter Maria und Johannes - fehlen. AP OG Saal VIII. Inventory Number 320. 286 x 224 cm. Material: Holz. Malerei. Flämische Malerei. Origin: 1806 aus der Galerie Düsseldorf. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Alte Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Alte Pinakothek website.

Jean Honoré Fragonard: Mädchen mit Hund. Um 1770. AP OG Saal XIIa. Inventory Number HUW 35. 89 x 70 cm. Material: Leinwand. Malerei. Französische Malerei. Dauerleihgabe der HypoVereinsbank, Member of UniCredit. - 1977 erworben durch die Bayerische Hypotheken-und Wechsel-Bank. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Alte Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Alte Pinakothek website.

Jacopo Tintoretto: Die Kreuzigung Christi. Um 1550/55. AP OG Saal V. Inventory Number 4590. 153,5 x 247 cm. Material: Leinwand. Malerei. Italienische Malerei. Aus der Kurfürstlichen Galerie. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Alte Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Alte Pinakothek website.

Giotto di Bondone: Christus in der Vorhölle. Ca. 1303/06 vor 1312/13. AP OG Kabinett 1-2. Inventory Number 5295. 45,6 x 44 cm. Material: Pappelholz. Malerei. Italienische Malerei. 1813 von König Max I. Joseph vom Grafen Lucchesi erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Alte Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Alte Pinakothek website.

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez: Junger spanischer Edelmann. Um 1631. Das Bildnis des Unbekannten ist unvollendet. Die Hände sind nur als Kontur in schwarzen breiten Strichen angegeben, das Wams ist ohne weitergehende Modellierung angelegt, der Hintergrund kaum an die Figur herangemalt. Vielleicht ist es gerade dieser Zustand, der das plastische Gesicht des Unbekannten um so eindringlicher erscheinen lässt. AP OG Saal XIII. Inventory Number 518. 89,2 x 69,5 cm. Material: Leinwand. Malerei. Spanische Malerei. 1806 aus der Galerie Düsseldorf. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Alte Pinakothek München. - Caption: from the Alte Pinakothek website.


"With its Online Collection, the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections) is making its entire holdings accessible to the public for the first time: that’s 25,000 artworks in Bavaria, Germany and Europe viewable on a single platform! It is now possible to have an overview not only of all the artworks on display in the Munich galleries – the Alte and Neue Pinakothek, the Sammlung Moderne Kunst in the Pinakothek der Moderne, the Museum Brandhorst and the Sammlung Schack – and in the other state galleries of Bavaria (several thousand works in total), but also of works in the museum storerooms (17,000 works) and more than 4000 works on permanent loan from the Munich collections to over 400 sites, some belonging to institutions which are only partly open to the public."

"Every artwork is documented with a photograph, basic information (catalogue/accession number, artist, title, support, size, provenance), and details of its location. The relevant specialist area is also given, to assist with classification.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Total Balalaika Show

Total Balalaika Show. Mikhail Mozalin (The Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble) and Jore Marjaranta (Leningrad Cowboys) sing "Happy Together".

FI 1993. PC: Sputnik Oy. D: Aki Kaurismäki. Featuring: The Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble and Leningrad Cowboys. Full credits and song list: see my blog note 8 Dec 2010.
    Digital transfer supervised by Aki Kaurismäki in 2014.
    2K DCP viewed at Filmmuseum München, 30 Jan 2020

AA: In today's screening we see two films by Aki Kaurismäki in which he comes closest to making a straight record.

When Mika and Aki Kaurismäki emerged into the Finnish film scene in 1980 there had been an empty period after the death of Risto Jarva in 1977. The brothers cultivated close relations with the new wave Suomi rock music scene, artists such as Sielun Veljet, Eppu Normaali, Juice Leskinen, Rauli Somerjoki und Tuomari Nurmio. They connected in young, irreverent energy.

Aki established a special connection with the comedy rock band Sleepy Sleepers. He directed their short music film Rocky VI where Igor (Sakari Kuosmanen) beats Rocky (Silu Seppälä). In Aki's subsequent music shorts the band transformed into Leningrad Cowboys.

Total Balalaika Show is a document of the concert of Leningrad Cowboys and The Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble on the Helsinki Senate Square, in the monument centre, in front of the Cathedral, on 12 June 1993 not long after the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991. It was one of the outstanding events celebrating the Fall of the Wall, our counterpart to Roger Waters's The Wall Live in Berlin (1990).

Aki, accustomed to shoot with one camera only, now had four Super 16 cameras at his disposal and a top team of cinematographers (see my previous blog note on this movie).

"The worst rock band" meets one of the best choirs in the world. Anarchy meets discipline. A goofy joke turns serious. Madness became reality.

Chris Marker called this movie "a milestone of post-modern kitsch", a snapshot after the fall of the Brezhnev empire. American film magazines wrote about "the irony curtain". A parody of cold war and iron curtain stereotypes had been a constant in the trajectory of Sleepy Sleepers / Leningrad Cowboys.

A remark about the song selections. The Red Army choir gave their first performance in Finland in 1945, after Finland had lost the war against the USSR and switched to the Allies. The choir arrangement of "Finlandia" by Jean Sibelius was the opening number of the Red Army choir in 1945, ideal for breaking the ice. "Kalinka", the Russian traditional, features prominently in the most popular Finnish film of all, The Unknown Soldier: the soldiers confiscate a Red Army choir record of "Kalinka" as war loot, and it becomes popular among them. "Happy Together" and "Those Were the Days" gain a special meaning in this concert.

Total Balalaika Show is a farewell concert to the iron curtain.

A parody of "peaceful coexistence" now turned into reality.

A big laugh at the paradoxes of the cold war.

The handshake is a key image in Aki Kaurismäki's films. Total Balalaika Show is a film about an epic handshake.

(Based on my introduction to the film).


PS. Cinema screenings of this movie are rare at least in Finland (it is mostly being seen in home formats, television, and online services). It was very rewarding to see this film again on the screen. The epic scope of the event can be fully conveyed only in a cinema experience. It keeps growing. The Cold War was a terrible time. The feeling of relief was deep when it ended, and this happy moment is documented here.

Jörn Donner died today, and in Facebook Messenger after the show I got in touch among others with Mauri Sumén who arranged the songs of the film. He told that Leningrad Cowboys were deeply shocked and sent their condolences to the Red Army Choir after their horrible airplane disaster in 2016 in which 64 key choir members died. He told also that Total Balalaika Show was widely circulated in Russia in memorials of the catastrophe. Sumén also mentioned that many of the best music numbers had to be left out of the film for copyright reasons.

Likaiset kädet / Les Mains sales / Dirty Hands

Likaiset kädet / Dirty Hands. Sulevi Peltola (Hoederer), Matti Pellonpää (Hugo).

Die schmutzigen Hände / De smutsiga händerna / Le mani sporche.
    FI 1989. PC: Yleisradio / TV 1 / Teatteritoimitus. – Sputnik Oy. P: Hannu Kahakorpi.
    D+SC: Aki Kaurismäki – based on the play (1948) by Jean-Paul Sartre. Cin: Matti Kurkikangas – 16 mm – colour – 1,33:1. PD: Risto Karhula. Set dec: Risto Jokinen. Cost: Outi Harjupatana, Mari Ropponen. Makeup: Zoe Burtsow. M from: Dmitri Shostakovich. S: Lasse Litovaara (rec), Ari Lyytikäinen (monitoring), Jussi Olkinuora (mixer). ED: Paavo Eskalinen.
    C: Matti Pellonpää (Hugo), Kati Outinen (Jessica), Sulevi Peltola (Hoederer), Kaija Pakarinen (Olga), Pertti Sveholm (Louis), Kari Väänänen (Ivan), Pirkka-Pekka Petelius (Slick), Aake Kalliala (Georges), Esko Nikkari (Karsky), Hannu Lauri (the Prince), Hannu Viholainen (Charles), Asmo Hurula (Frantz).
    68 min
    TV movie.
    Telecast: 5 Oct 1989 Yle TV1 Kunnon Kino.
    2015 digital transfer supervised by Aki Kaurismäki.
    Finnish festival premiere: 2015 Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä (Peter von Bagh in memoriam).
    International festival premiere: 2015 Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna (Peter von Bagh in memoriam).
    2K DCP with English subtitles viewed at Filmmuseum München, Munich, 30 Jan 2020.

AA: Les Mains sales is an interesting exception in Aki Kaurismäki's oeuvre: his only tv movie, shot in seven days, from nine to five, his only period movie, with Total Balalaika Show his only film in 16 mm, and the only one without his trusted DP Timo Salminen. The focus in this film and Total Balalaika Show is not on visual expression.

As for the cast, Aki Kaurismäki's "dream team" is here at its most complete, starting with Kati Outinen and Matti Pellonpää, including the solid presences of Esko Nikkari and Sulevi Peltola, as well as beloved sketch comedians Aake Kalliala and Pirkka-Pekka Petelius. There is little room for self-expression. Actors recite dialogue monotonously. Did somebody mention Straub & Huillet?

Yet the essence of the tragedy comes through. Thinking about Les Mains sales I was struck by an affinity with Martin Scorsese's The Irishman in the drama of the respected leader and his assistant. We can imagine Robert De Niro playing Hugo and Al Pacino as Hoederer.

The distinction of Les Mains sales is that it is Aki Kaurismäki's sole faithful film adaptation. It is probably also his most talkative film. It is based on Jean-Paul Sartre's play from 1948. The play premiered immediately also in Helsinki in the autumn of 1948 at the National Theatre. We still had the Control Commission of the Allied Forces based in Hotel Torni in Helsinki, in reality a Soviet commission. The chairman was no other than Andrei Zhdanov. In December Sartre's play was withdrawn as an act of political self-censorship.

It may seem paradoxical that this film is so faithful to the original play, yet feels integral to the Kaurismäki corpus. But Kaurismäki has been strongly influenced by Existentialism, and at one stage he stated in an interview that he is 60% Existentialist. Some of the most typically Akiesque dialogue in this movie stems directly from Sartre. Most importantly, Sartre's irony has close affinities with Kaurismäki.

(Based on my introduction to the screening.)


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates. Sofiko Chiaureli.

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates.

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates.

Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates. Le sang d'un poète. Il meurt mais sa poésie est immortelle.

Նռան գույնը / Цвет граната / Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / Brotseulis kvaviloba / Tsvet granata / Granaattiomenan väri / Granatäpplets färg.
    SU 1968. PC: Armenfilm. D: Sergei Parajanov. SC: Sergei Parajanov – inspired by and incorporating poems by Sayat Nova. DP: Suren Shahbazyan – 35 mm – colour – 1,37:1. PD: Stepan Andranikyan. AD: Sergei Parajanov. Set dec: Mikael Arakelyan. Cost: Elene Akhvlediani, I. Karalyan, Zh. Sarabyan. Makeup: V. Asatryan, P. Aschyan. VFX: H. Hovhannisyan, L. Karamyan. M: Tigran Mansuryan. Choreography: Sergei Parajanov. ED: Sergei Parajanov, Marfa Ponomarenko. S: Yuri Sayadyan.
   C: Sofiko Chiaureli (Poet as a Youth / Poet's Love / Poet's Muse / Mime / Angel of Resurrection), Melkon Alekyan (Poet as a child), Vilen Galustyan (Poet in the cloister), Gogi Gegechkori (Poet as an old man), Spartak Bagashvili (Poet's father), Medea Japaridze (Poet's mother), Hovhannes Minasyan (Prince), Onik Minasyan (Prince).
    Tournage: 17 Aug 1967 – 22 July 1968 Studios Armenfilm (Yerevan). The baths: shot at the studio in Kiev. – Loc: Armenia: Haghpat Monastery, Sanahin Monastery, Saint John Church (Ardvi), Akhtala Monastery. – Georgia: Alaverdi Monastery, David Gareja monastery complex, Dzveli Shuamta. – Azerbaijan: Old City of Baku, Nardaran Fortress.
    Russian version (1970) edited by: Sergei Yutkevich.
    Digital restoration: 2014 (Film Foundation / Cineteca di Bologna).
    Yerevan premiere: October 1969.
    Moscow premiere: 29 Aug 1970.
    Festival premiere: 25 Nov 1977 Venice Biennale.
    French premiere: 27 Jan 1982.
    Digital restoration premiere: May 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
    No theatrical release in Finland – telecast 11 Feb 2015, 1 March 2017 Yle Teema.
    Film control VET 94355 (film archive screening SEA 1987) – K12 – Russian version 72 min – Armenian version 79 min
    Armenia Fest, Savoy Theatre, Helsinki, 25–26 Jan 2020.
    DCP with English subtitles of the 2014 digital restoration viewed at Savoy, Helsinki, 25 Jan 2020. 

Wikipédia: La vie de Sayat-Nova, poète arménien du XVIIIe siècle, en huit chapitres:
    I : L'enfance du poète.
    II : La jeunesse du poète.
    III : Le poète à la cour du prince / Prière avant la chasse.
    IV : Le poète se retire au monastère / Le sacrifice / La mort du katholikos.
    V : Le songe du poète / Le poète retourne à son enfance et pleure la mort de ses parents.
    VI : La vieillesse du poète / Il quitte le monastère.
    VII : Rencontre avec l'Ange de la Résurrection/Le poète enterre son amour.
    VIII : La mort du poète / Il meurt mais sa poésie est immortelle.

AA: Բարև՛ Ձեզ! Barev dzhez!

I was happy to introduce at the Armenia Fest Sergei Parajanov's Nran guyne / Sayat Nova / The Colour of Pomegranates, a contender for the most beautiful film of all times. It is exceptional that a motion picture manages to pay tribute to a great poet and find the proper wavelength with him. It helps if the film-maker is a great poet herself/himself such as Forough Farrokhzad, Jean Cocteau or Pier Paolo Pasolini. Sergei Parajanov belongs to these happy few.

Nran guyne is inspired by the life of Sayat-Nova, the great Armenian poet who was born in Tbilisi, lived in the 18th century and wrote poetry in four languages: Armenian, Georgian, Azerbaijani and Persian. Equally multi-cultural was Parajanov, also born in Tbilisi whose vibrant Armenian community was also the home of the composer Aram Khachaturian and Rouben Mamoulian the great Broadway and Hollywood director. Parajanov's first languages were Georgian and Armenian, and he went to school in Russian. He directed films in five languages: besides the aforementioned also in Ukrainian and Azerbaijani. "The brotherhood of nations" was a key tenet of the official Soviet ideology, and this particular tenet was cordially embraced by Parajanov in the spirit of old Tbilisi where many cultures had co-existed for centuries without being assimilated or mixed.

Parajanov's career as an assistant director and director started during the Stalin era, and he directed several reportedly conventional films until in 1962 he saw the feature film debut of a much younger colleague: Ivan's Childhood by Andrei Tarkovsky. This film electrified Parajanov who experienced a rebirth as a film artist.

In Ukraine he directed Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors based on a story by Mikhail Kotsyubinsky: a flight of cinematic imagination so extraordinary that one started to speak about Soviet psychedelia. In any event it was a foundation work of the poetic school of 1960s Soviet cinema, following Tarkovsky. The cinematographer was Yuri Ilyenko who was strongly inspired by the Mikhail Kalatozov / Sergei Urusevsky school of the moving, roving, flying, unhinged camera. There was a very big collision with Parajanov who was about to discover his true calling as a poet of the tableau vivant. But they managed to collaborate, and Ilyenko was launched on a career of his own as a director, as one of the masters of Ukrainian cinema together with Leonid Osyka who directed The Stone Cross, both inspired by Parajanov.

The film studios of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia were also impressed, and Parajanov got to direct in all of them, and his next film was the miraculous Nran guyne, a poetic film produced on a big budget. The result was wonderful, but the Thaw period was coming to an end in the Soviet Union, and dozens of remarkable films were being shelved, starting with the long version of Marlen Khutsiev's I Am Twenty (The Gate of Ilyich), soon including Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublyov and masterpieces by Kira Muratova, Otar Iosseliani, Yuri Ilyenko, Aleksandr Askoldov, Larisa Shepitko, Elem Klimov and Aleksei German.

Nran guyne was not banned. It was given a limited release in its Armenian and Russian versions, and screenings were possible on demand. But in contrast to Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors it was not widely released nor sent to international film festivals.

Homosexual acts were illegal in Russia, and the bisexual Parajanov did not live in a closet. There is even a subtle "queer look" in his movies. Sexual identity is fluid also in Nran guyne. There is nothing provocative or intentionally transgressive in this. Instead, Parajanov seems to reach back to something atavistic and primordial. In the prologue of Nran guyne we even hear quotes from the Genesis.

In the 1970s Parajanov landed to the prison archipelago of Siberia in a series of hard labour camps, nominally for indecency but probably the real reason was his openly expressed contempt towards the Soviet system. Andrei Tarkovsky was the first to defend his friend, and there was an international protest movement of prominent artists to support Parajanov. Finally he was released, probably thanks to the intervention of Louis Aragon, Elsa Triolet and John Updike.

In the 1980s Tbilisi became the hotbed of glasnost. It was there that Tengiz Abuladze directed Repentance, the first glasnost film, a direct confrontation with the Stalin legacy. In Tbilisi Parajanov was also able to make his next film, The Legend of Suram Fortress, premiering 16 years after Nran guyne.

Parajanov's art is a unique combination of the archaic and the modern. His cinema was inspired by the naive art of the Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani and by old Iranian miniatures which Parajanov loved to examine in the museums of Tbilisi. His cinema has an affinity with masters of the early cinema starting with the magic visions of Georges Méliès, the tableaux vivants tradition and the symbolism of Maurice Tourneur and Yevgeni Bauer.

But he was also ahead of his time. In the contemporary cinema of the most recent decades there are masters who have revived early cinema approaches. Geographically the nearest one can be found in Sweden: Roy Andersson has directed commercials and feature films with the tableau approach. True, in contrast to Parajanov, the landscapes are drab, the persons are glum and the colours have no glow. Flamboyant colours can be found in the commercials, music videos and feature films of the Indian, Bengalese director Tarsem. When Tarsem visited Helsinki we showed him Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by his favourite director Parajanov, a film which he seemed not to have seen before.

Parajanov was influenced by Iranian culture, and Parajanov's films have been popular in Iran. Last summer at the Midnight Sun Film Festival among the guests was a famous artist couple of Iranian film-makers: Mohsen Makhmalbaf whose Gabbeh, about making Persian carpets is clearly indebted to Nran guyne, and his wife Marzieh Meshkini whose The Day I Became a Woman is full of imagery with Parajanovian affinities.

Nran guyne is a mysterious film. No matter how often you see it it surprises you. It transcends boundaries – boundaries of cultures, boundaries of history. It is a timeless work of art.

(Based on my introduction to the screenings).


I was also happy to catch samples of the wonderful concerts of The Naghash Ensemble and the Vardan Hovanissian Trio.

Savoy used to be a cinema in the 1960s of my childhood, known at the time as Cinerama Savoy. I saw 70 mm screenings there of films such as Ice Station Zebra. I also saw 2001 A Space Odyssey there during its first run. And Savoy was also one of the cinemas rented by the Finnish Film Archive. There I saw for the first time Satan Never Sleeps, very impressive in scope on the giant screen.

Now Savoy Theatre is a vibrant site for concerts, festivals and cultural events. It is occasionally also a cinema, most prominently during film festivals. I was amazed to learn that Savoy Theatre, seating 750, is the biggest cinema in Finland, bigger than Tennispalatsi ISENSE or Bio Rex.

Because I started to frequent Savoy in the 1960s, seeing Nran guyne there was a special memory journey and a magical mystery tour. In the Internet Movie Database there is a well selected suite of 87 photos from Nran guyne. Because it is a tableau vivant film, it is also rewarding to study in photographs.

I have loved Nran guyne since I first saw it in 1983 in a brilliant print in West Berlin. The film was never theatrically released in Finland, and I programmed its first Finnish screenings at the Finnish Film Archive at Cinema Orion in 1987 and wrote the program note. The film is both opaque and accessible, inviting and estranged.

I now saw for the first time the 2014 digital restoration. Well done.


I used the opportunity to study two great books:
Érik Bullot : Sayat Nova de Serguei Paradjanov : la face et le profil. Crisnée : Yellow Now, 2007. 110 p. : ill. ; 17 cm. ISBN: 2-87340-212-1 ; 9782873402129.
James Steffen : The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov. Madison : The University of Wisconsin Press, 2013. 306 s. : ill. ISBN: 978-0-299-29654-4.



Taistelulähetit – 1917 / 1917.
    GB / US © 2019 Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC / NR 1917 Film Holding. PC: Neal Street Productions for DreamWorks Pictures in association with New Republic Pictures. P: Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne-Ann Tenggren, Callum McDougall, Brian Oliver. EX: Jeb Brody, Oleg Petrov, Ignacio Salazar-Simpson, Ricardo Marco Budé.
    D: Sam Mendes. SC: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Cin: Roger Deakins – colour – 1, 90:1 (IMAX), 2,39:1 – source format: ARRIRAW4,5K – master format: 4K – release format: D-Cinema.
PD: Dennis Gassner. AD: Simon Elsley, Elaine Kusmishko, Rod McLean, Niall Moroney, Stephen Swain, Robert Voysey (construction foreman). Set dec: Lee Sandales. Cost: David Crossman, Jacqueline Durran. Hair & makeup: Doone Forsyth. SFX: Alicia Davies, Dominic Tuohy. VFX: Sona Pak – MPC – Cheap Shot. M: Thomas Newman. S: Oliver Tarney. ED: Lee Smith. Casting: Nina Gold.
    C: George MacKay (Lance Corporal Schofield), Dean-Charles Chapman (Lance Corporal Blake), Mark Strong (Captain Smith), Andrew Scott (Lieutenant Leslie), Richard Madden (Lieutenant Joseph Blake), Claire Duburcq (Lauri), Colin Firth (General Erinmore), Benedict Cumberbatch (Colonel MacKenzie).
    Filming and production: England and Scotland. For instance in Salisbury Plains, Wiltshire. 1 April 2019 – 7 June 2019.
    119 min
    UK Royal Command Performance: 4 Dec 2019.
    Finnish premiere: 24 Jan 2020 – released by Nordisk Film – Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Jani Kyllönen.
    IMAX screening at Finnkino Itis, IMAX® Premium, Helsinki, 25 Jan 2020.

Tagline: "Time is the enemy".

IMDb capsule: "Two young British soldiers during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldiers' brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap."

Official synopsis: "Sam Mendes, the Oscar®-winning director of Skyfall, Spectre and American Beauty, brings his singular vision to his World War I epic, 1917."

"At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them."

"1917 is directed by Sam Mendes, who wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Showtime’s Penny Dreadful). The film is produced by Mendes and Pippa Harris (co-executive producer, Revolutionary Road; executive producer, Away We Go) for their Neal Street Productions, Jayne-Ann Tenggren (co-producer, The Rhythm Section; associate producer, Spectre), Callum McDougall (executive producer, Mary Poppins Returns, Skyfall) and Brian Oliver (executive producer, Rocketman; Black Swan)."

"The film is produced by Neal Street Productions for DreamWorks Pictures in association with New Republic Pictures. Universal Pictures will release the film domestically in limited release on December 25, 2019 and wide on January 10, 2020. Universal and Amblin Partners will distribute the film internationally, with eOne distributing on behalf of Amblin in the U.K."

AA: In tribute to his grandfather, Sam Mendes has created a memorial film to the First World War. To me it appears as a parallel enterprise to Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old. Both films are ambitious and experimental super-productions that help us see the much discussed war in a new way.

Both are created around a stunning special effect. Jackson created his vision from vintage propaganda footage at the Imperial War Museum united seamlessly via digital manipulation. Mendes has produced a quasi "single shot" movie, rare in feature films anyway, and unique in a project of such epic scope.

1917 is a magnificent spectacle, focusing on a single storyline that offers an epic cross-section of the war theatre near the Hindenburg Line on the Western Front. Its classical storytelling concept dates back to D. W. Griffith's "race to the rescue" films and Alfred Hitchcock's philosophy of suspense.

There is a crucial difference, however: Griffith and Hitchcock's films were built on parallel montage. Mendes's "single shot" concept eschews montage altogether. The film is like a digital game blown up to an IMAX screen, a relentless nightmare where there is an enemy worse than Germans – time. I also kept thinking about films such as Speed and Lola rennt. Among war films, there is an affinity with Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan which is also about a single-minded pursuit to save a surviving brother.

It's great, but in my opinion both Jackson and Mendes miss the point – the point of the First World War.

It was the first war in Europe with industrial scale slaughter (for instance in Verdun and Somme). Traditional fiction was powerless to depict that. Griffith understood this when he visited the battlefields and stated that no good drama can be made of a war like this.

Massive amounts of newsreels were shot, and I have seen dozens of hours of them during 2014–2018 in the heritage festivals of Pordenone and Bologna. I agree with the historian Marc Ferro that these "authentic" films fail to convey the reality of the war.

Several fiction films from Abel Gance's J'accuse to Joseph Loseys' King & Country managed that very powerfully, and special mention goes deservedly to films like The Big Parade, All Quiet on the Western Front, Les Croix de bois and Paths of Glory.

While Jackson and Mendes clearly know what they are talking about, their films fail to convey the horror of the total war. Unconsciously they revert to old-fashioned ideals of glory – the very ideals which were demolished in WWI.


I visited the magnificent Finnkino Itis cinema for the first time and was very impressed by the IMAX cinema where 1917 was screened and its dedicated staff. This movie is not being screened in the legendary IMAX super format that was established in 1970, but a great digital projection was seen on a huge screen in an exemplary cinema.


The IMAX Cinema at Finnkino Itis (official information)

Finnkino Itis

Itäkatu 1–7, 00930 Helsinki

Official introduction

Finnkino Itis opened a 9 auditorium cinema in Itäkeskus on 30.11.2018. This cinema has Finland's first IMAX®-auditorium! In addition to IMAX®, six other classic cinema auditoriums and two new LUXE premium auditoriums were opened. LUXE premium auditoriums have been improved with comfortable seating and reclining armchairs as well as their own side tables. A cozy Oscar's Bar was also opened on the 2nd floor of the movie theater, where guests can go for a glass of wine and order some 'movie food' to enjoy before or after the movie, or in premium auditorium during the movie.

IMAX® Cinema's next generation 4K laser projector technology produces crystal clear images. This new optical system delivers better resolution, sharper and brighter images, deeper contrast and a wider color scheme. Combined with IMAX®'s geometric, digital 12-channel audio, it gives movie fans a real cinematic experience as if they were in the movie itself.

The main difference between IMAX® and other cinemas is the larger screen. It literally extends from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. The screen is curved, which makes the image feel real no matter where the viewer sits. The IMAX® Theater is designed to bring the public closer to the screen and better positioned in terms of picture and sound.


The Itis Shopping Center's parking spaces are always open, so you can drive out of the parking hall after a late movie. The parking lots closest to the theater are P3 Roof Park, -1 Yellow and -2 Blue.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Bié gàosù tā / The Farewell

Jäähyväiset / The Farewell.
    US © 2019 Big Beach LLC. – A24, Big Beach, Kindred Spirit and Ray Production present a Big Beach production in association with Depth of Field and Seesaw. – EX: Eddie Rubin. P: Daniele Melia, Marc Turtletaub, Peter Saraf, Andrew Miano, Chris Weitz, Jane Zheng, Lulu Wang, Anita Gou.
   D+SC: Lulu Wang – based on her story "What You Don't Know" originally shared by Wang on This American Life (2016). Cin: Anna Franquesa Solano – colour – 2,35:1 – ARRIRAW 2.8K – master format: 2K – release format: D-Cinema. PD: Young Ok Lee. AD: W. Haley Ho. Set dec: Joseph Sorelle, Hanrui Wang. Cost: Vanessa Porter, Athena Wang. M supervisors: Susan Jacobs, Dylan Neely. M: Alex Weston. S: Gene Park. ED: Matt Friedman, Michael Taylor. Casting: Anne Kang, Leslie Woo.
    M selections include:
– "Pathetique" (b.o. Beethoven: Klaviersonate Nr. 8 "Pathétique", 1799, Zweiter Satz, cantabile, Träumerei), arr. Alex Weston as a song without words.
– "Killing Me Softly With His Song" (comp. Charles Fox, lyr. Norman Gimbel [inspired by Lori Lieberman inspired by Don McLean], 1971).
– "Caro mio ben (1783, ascribed to Giuseppe Giordani) voc. Hyesang Park, piano Lulu Wang.
– "Come Healing" (Leonard Cohen, Patrick Leonard) perf. Elayna Boynton.
– "Senza di te" / "Without You" (Tom Evans, Peter Ham / Badfinger 1970) perf. Fredo Viola.
C (from Wikipedia): Awkwafina as Billi Wang (Chinese: 王比莉)
Tzi Ma as Haiyan Wang (王海燕), Billi's father
Diana Lin as Lu Jian (陆建), Billi's mother
Zhao Shuzhen as Nai Nai (奶奶), Billi's paternal grandmother
Lu Hong (playing herself) as Little Nai Nai, Billi's grandmother's younger sister
Jiang Yongbo as Haibin (海滨), Haiyan's older brother
Chen Han as Hao Hao (浩浩), Haibin's son
Aoi Mizuhara as Aiko (爱子), Hao Hao's girlfriend
Zhang Jing as Yuping, Haiyan's cousin
Li Xiang as Aunty Ling, Haibin's wife
Yang Xuejian as Mr. Li
Jim Liu as Dr. Song
    Loc: Changchun, China. – New York City, USA.
    Languages: Mandarin, English.
    119 min
    Festival premiere: 25 Jan 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
    US premiere: 9 Aug 2019.
    Finnish premiere: 24 Jan 2020 – released by Cinema Mondo – Finnish  / Swedish subtitles by Janne Mökkönen / Sophie Beckman.
    DCP viewed at Kino Engel 1, Helsinki, 24 Jan 2020.
The Chinese title of the film in translation: "Don't Tell Her".

A24 Press Notes: The Farewell: Synopsis: "In this funny, uplifting tale based on an actual lie, Chinese-born, U.S.-raised Billi (Awkwafina) reluctantly returns to Changchun to find that, although the whole family knows their beloved matriarch, Nai-Nai (grandma), has been given mere weeks to live, everyone has decided not to tell Nai Nai herself. To assure her happiness, they gather under the joyful guise of an expedited wedding, uniting family members scattered among new homes abroad. As Billi navigates a minefield of family expectations and proprieties, she finds there’s a lot to celebrate: a chance to rediscover the country she left as a child, her grandmother's wondrous spirit, and the ties that keep on binding even when so much goes unspoken. With The Farewell, writer/director Lulu Wang has created a heartfelt celebration of both the way we perform family and the way we live it, masterfully interweaving a gently humorous depiction of the good lie in action with a richly moving story of how family can unite and strengthen us, often in spite of ourselves."

AA: Lulu Wang's The Farewell – the Mandarin title of the film translates as "Don't Tell Her" – starts as a series of mundane observations and keeps growing towards a profound vision about the differences of Western and Chinese life.

It is a story of the Wang family, originally based in Changchun, with branches now extending into Shanghai, Japan and New York. The Wang family meets ostensibly for a wedding but in reality to spend time, as they believe, for the last time with the matriarch, "Nai Nai", who has been given by the doctors only months to live.

The central consciousness is that of Billi, a young Chinese American writer who grows to realize that Nai Nai is the heart of her familial love.

The theme is lying, and the tagline is "Based on an actual lie". Associations start running: True Lies... Liar Liar (associating with Lawyer Lawyer)... F for Fake... "Art is a lie that can lead us to truth" (Picasso)... "I am a sincere liar" (Fellini)... "Lie to me. Tell me all these years you've waited". Somehow, probably thanks to Pedro Almodóvar, I first hear the famous dialogue of Johnny Guitar in Spanish: "Dime una mentira. Dime que no me has olvidado en todos estos años". In Nordic countries we know Henrik Ibsen's livsløgn, called in German Lebenslüge, meaning a fundamental lie, a self-deception that becomes a foundation of life.

This story is different. Nai Nai is dying, and nobody tells her the truth because such is the tradition in China. Billi, coming from New York, is appalled. A series of comic and dramatic situations arise from the basic premise in which a wedding is celebrated while a funeral is being prepared.

But then Lulu Wang rises to a more profound level. Western life is based on the individual, Chinese life focuses on society. By lying to Nai Nai the family is saving her from the burden of knowledge and taking the burden to itself. Even the doctor seems to embrace this, becoming an accomplice in the deception.

Doctors' ethics are based on truth and honesty. But I have heard that there are risks of self-fulfilling diagnoses. The more we know, the better is our awareness of the mysteries of health. There is no message in The Farewell, but it may make us think that it pays to be an optimist.

And the family wedding / farewell party gives a lot to think about happiness in the different circumstances of Changchun, Shanghai, Japan, and New York.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

My Top Films of 2019 for Senses of Cinema World Poll

My film of the year: Tottumiskysymys / Force of Habit, a multi-character study with six stories about violence towards women. The most powerful story is Miia Tervo's Oikeudenkäynti / The Trial. It is a sober and realistic account of a rape case at the Helsinki Court House where it is a routine matter, business as usual. There is no melodrama, but this story is the burning heart of the project. It has the impact of a slowly detonating time bomb. The prosecutor Aleksi (Johannes Holopainen) and the victim Niina (Lotta Kaihua). Photo: Johanna Onnismaa © Tuffi Films 2019. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.

Amazing Grace (Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack, 2018, shot in 1972). The Gospel according to Aretha Franklin, documenting spiritual ecstasy and a moment of crisis in the civil rights movement.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Edward Burtynsky, Nicholas De Pencier, Jennifer Baichwal, 2018). A global odyssey about humans changing the face of the Earth and destroying the sublime of the nature.

Dolor y gloria (Pain and Glory, Pedro Almodóvar, 2019). A message from childhood inspires a film director to reassess his life and art. Almodóvar at his most serene and naked.

First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017). Arenas are full when Prosperity Gospel is being taught, but nobody listens to a lonely country priest who warns about the destruction of the planet. Schrader at his best.

For Sama (Waad al-Kateab, 2019). An extraordinary first person documentary of a journalist and mother documenting the destruction of Aleppo.

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019). Scorsese’s best crime film is an epic shadow history of America. There is a French touch in the account of the ageing mobsters. The parallel montage in three time dimensions is brilliant.

Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019). Robin Wood used the term “an incoherent text” to discuss films like Taxi Driver. Joker is disturbing in a similar way. The reboot of Bob Kane’s character also evokes masterpieces of Weimar cinema.

Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019). A Nordic viewer familiar with marriage tragedies by Ibsen, Strindberg and Canth can give Baumbach an approving nod. Nothing is sadder than a marriage inferno.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019). Something new from Tarantino: a portrait of a has-been, with universal appeal as a picture of the world we knew vanishing abruptly. Hollywood 50 years ago is recreated in loving detail.

Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach, 2019). A film about the gig economy: what happened to society after the 2008 crash. Also a love story about family solidarity. Loach’s talent of observation and crisp storytelling is undiminished.

The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, 2018). A visual poem, an evocation of mad love inspired by the director’s art school days. An original voice is becoming heard, sensitive to intimate conversations, based on vérité, conveyed via ellipsis.

Systemsprenger (System Crasher, Nora Fingscheidt, 2019). Helena Zengel gives the performance of the year together with Joaquin Phoenix as Joker, both as system crashers. A devastating portrait of a little girl who does not fit in.

Tottumiskysymys (Force of Habit, Kirsikka Saari, Elli Toivoniemi, Reetta Aalto, Alli Haapasalo, Anna Paavilainen, Miia Tervo, Jenni Toivoniemi, 2019). The most epochal movie of the year deals with harassment and violence towards women. I have never before seen a film in which the theme has been treated so comprehensively.

The Two Popes (Fernando Meirelles, 2019). The Church is in crisis and the world is going under. Such epic themes are efficiently dramatized in the screenplay by Anthony McCarten, and Meirelles brings Southern hemisphere passion to the portrait of Pope Francis.

Varda par Agnès (Varda by Agnès, Agnès Varda, 2019). What a way to go! The mother of all new waves, not only in France but everywhere, never lost her youthful zest. She invites us to a walk through her life and oeuvre, her eyes always directed towards the future.

Werk ohne Autor (Never Look Away, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2018). The glossy surface notwithstanding I love this film covering three Germanies, all of which fail colossally to understand art. Kurt’s trajectory goes from “entartete Kunst” to socialist realism to capitalist realism. What remains: a bottomless sadness in his eyes.


Al-ard (The Land, Youssef Chahine, 1969). The masterpiece, often ranked as the best Arab film, now circulating in a new restoration, seen in Bologna.

Le Charme de Maud (René Hervil, 1913). Maud’s charms bring her so much trouble that she must hide them, risking the love of her life. Seen in Pordenone’s “Nasty Women” series.

Chushingura (Makino Shozo, 1910–1917). A 2019 restoration of the classic, seen in Pordenone with Ichiro Kataoka as the benshi and a Japanese trio of musicians.

Crisis: A Film of the “Nazi Way” (Herbert Kline, Hans Burger, Alexander Hackenschmied, 1939). A shattering documentary of the fate of Czechoslovakia after the Munich Agreement. A 2019 restoration seen in Bologna.

Duck Soup (Fred Guiol, 1927). A 2019 restoration-in-progress. They had not been planned as a comedy team, but in front of our very eyes Laurel and Hardy transform into one. Seen in Pordenone.

Ghazieh-e shekl-e avval, ghazieh-e shekl-e dovvom (First Case, Second Case, Abbas Kiarostami, 1979). A 2018 restoration of Kiarostami’s stark lesson in ethics seen in Bologna.

The Great Victorian Moving Picture Show (W. K. L. Dickson, 1896–1902). The 2018 BFI digital restorations of the technically superior Biograph films, four times as large as the standard. Seen in 4K in Kino Regina, Helsinki.

Oblomok imperii (Fragment of an Empire, Friedrich Ermler, 1929). The definitive experience of the classic film: a film concert of the 2018 restoration with the original Vladimir Deshevov score in Pordenone.

Our Hospitality (Buster Keaton, John G. Blystone, 1923). The beautiful 2019 restoration with a Robert Israel score. Seen in Kino Regina, Helsinki.

State Fair (Henry King, 1933). 2019 restoration by 20th Century Fox. A classic piece of Fox Americana that everybody had heard about but few had seen. The subtle masterpiece was a revelation in Bologna’s Henry King retrospective.

Sången om den eldröda blomman (Song of the Scarlet Flower, Mauritz Stiller, 1919). A centenary restoration of a masterpiece of the golden age of Swedish cinema, complete with the original score by Armas Järnefelt. Seen in a film concert at Helsinki Music Center.

Pordenone revelations included new copies of In the Sage Brush Country (1914), The Aryan (1916), The Gun Fighter (1917) and Wolf Lowry (1917) in the William S. Hart retrospective. On display was also an outstanding first sample of documentaries from Musée Albert-Kahn (1914–1925) and an innovative presentation of Flipbooks (1896–1898) on the screen.

Antti Alanen
Helsinki, film programmer, author, critic, historian.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Matthias et Maxime / Matthias and Maxime

Matthias & Maxime / Matthias & Maxime.
    CA © 2019 – 9375 5809 Québec, Inc. Filial of Sons of Manual. P: Xavier Dolan, Nancy Grant. Distributor: Les Films Séville.
    D+SC: Xavier Dolan. Cin: André Turpin – shot on 35 mm, 65 mm and 8 mm – colour – 1,85:1 – released on 35 mm and D-Cinema. PD: Colombe Raby. AD: Claude Tremblay. Set Dec: Pascale Deschênes. Cost: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Gayraud. Makeup: Edwina Voda. Hair: Marie-Lise Taupier. Special make up effects: Erik Gosselin. SFX: Mario Dumont. VFX: Marc A. Rousseau / Alchemy 24. M: Jean-Michel Blais. S: Sylvain Brassard.
    Équipe sous-marine: Aquamédia.
    M selections include (from Wikipedia): Jean-Michel Blais's piano piece called "Solitude" was inspired, amongst other sources, by Franz Schubert's "Themes and Variations". Notable songs used include "Work Bitch" by Britney Spears, "Cosmic Love" by Florence + The Machine, "J'ai cherché" by Amir Haddad, "Always on My Mind" by Pet Shop Boys, "Stranger's Kiss" by Alex Cameron and Angel Olsen and "Song for Zulu" by Phosphorescent.
    Also: Franz Schubert: Impromptu Op. 90 No. 4 (D. 899/4) in As-Dur / A♭ major (1827). – W. A. Mozart: 40. Sinfonie (1788).
    C: Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas (Matthias), Xavier Dolan (Maxime), Samuel Gauthier (Frank), Adib Alkhalidey (Shariff), Anne Dorval (Manon), Catherine Brunet (Lisa), Pier-Luc Funk (Rivette), Antoine Pilon (Brass), Micheline Bernard (Francine), Marilyn Castonguay (Sarah).
    Loc: Montréal, Québec, Canada.
    Language: French.
    119 min
    Festival premiere: 22 May 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
    Canadian and US premiere: 9 Oct 2029.
    Finnish premiere: 17 Jan 2020 – released by Atlantic Film – Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Tytti Heikkilä / Michaela Palmberg.
    DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, Helsinki, 18 Jan 2020.

Cannes synopsis: "Two childhood best friends are asked to share a kiss for the purposes of a student short film. Soon, a lingering doubt sets in, confronting both men with their preferences, threatening the brotherhood of their social circle, and, eventually, changing their lives."

AA: With Matthias et Maxime, Xavier Dolan has accomplished his eighth film by the age of 29 and managed an international cinema release for them. It is an admirable feat for a director who is uncompromising in his personal and experimental touch.

Matthias et Maxime is a free-wheeling film, a turbulent journey of self-discovery shot in the autumn colours of Montréal. By the finale we see the first snowflakes falling.

The film tells about a group of friends fooling around and trying to find their place in society. Maxime / Max (Xavier Dolan wearing a Gorbachovian facial mark) is "a single son" taking care of his violent and abusive mother who has a substance problem. The film's suspense builds on his impending departure to Australia. Matthias / Matt is at the bottom of the ladder in a company, but there are great expectations and a brilliant future foreseen for him.

Something is halting them, and a freak coincidence sets things in motion. To help their friend Erika Rivette with her student film Max and Matt reluctantly agree to kiss. They are deeply disturbed by the experience. Matt embarks on a dangerous swim across a lake. (He is an excellent swimmer, good at the Australian crawl). Max, quarrelling with his mother, is wounded in the forehead when she hits him with the remote device.

Matt's behaviour spirals out of control. He has a girlfriend who starts to nag. A visiting, openly gay lawyer seems to tune in with him. Matt gives an erratic farewell speech to Max, and Matt's mother lambasts him mercilessly in front of everybody. Both Max and Matt seem to have been raised by mothers, but there is no love lost in their homes.

Max has asked Matt to help get a letter of recommendation from his company, and it turns out that Matt indeed has managed that but failed to forward the letter to Max. Max cries when he learns about this. Meanwhile, they have experienced a coming out moment from which they have shied away. A heavy use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs fuels the overheated ambience. Disco beats, sex club surroundings and Matt's colleague's soliloquys about "us all being animals; we don't possess anyone", meant to contribute to liberation, add to the confusion.

Dolan conveys this with a bold and original approach. The main mode is cinéma-vérité / direct cinema, seemingly random: the weeks before the flight to Australia are seen in lyrical, spontaneous, impressionistic, freely flowing images. The water metaphor is apt, symbolically and literally, and Matt's perilous swimming tour is powerfully visualized by a special Aquamédia unit.

Dolan embraces visual motifs such as road markings flashing by, ubiquitous mobile devices and stroboscopic disco lights.

Matthias et Maxime has been shot on photochemical film. There is a lot of handheld footage, passages in slow motion and time lapse. A frenetic search for pleasure goes on. Desire is abundant. Love is scarce. The more we push ahead the further we return to the past. A childhood drawing reveals Max and Matt sharing a bed and living happily ever after in the countryside. All is set for Max's move to the opposite part of the globe, but a reversal of plans seems increasingly probable. The ending remains open in this aching quest for love and identity.