Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Natalia Goncharova (exhibition)

Natalia Goncharova: Harvest polyptych: The Phoenix. Harvest n:o 3 (1911). Н. Гончарова. Жатва. Птица феникс. 92 х 97.5 холст, масло. Ж-1438. © The State Tretyakov gallery.

Natalia Gontcharova (1881 - 1962): Peacock / Le paon (Harvest / Moisson) n:o 1. 1911. Huile sur toile 100 x 92,5 cm. Un des 9 éléments du polyptyque "Moisson". Donation Etat soviétique, 1988. Numéro d'inventaire : AM 1988-873. Date 1911. Musée National d'Art Moderne - Centre Pompidou. Domaine publique.

Гончарова Н.С. Angels Throwing Stones on the City. Harvest n:o 2 / «Ангелы, мечущие камни на город» (Rev 6:14-17). 100 x 129. Инв. Ж-1439 Date 1911. Photo: The State Tretyakov Gallery.

Natalia Goncharova: Feet Pressing Grapes. Harvest n:o 7. Н. Гончарова. Жатва. Ноги, мнущие виноград. 100×92. 1911. Natalia Gontcharova (1881 - 1962) Pieds foulant le raisin (Moisson) [1911] Huile sur toile 99,5 x 92,5 cm. Pieds foulant/le raisin/de la série/Moisson /N 596 v. Un des 9 éléments du polyptyque "Moisson". Donation Etat soviétique, 1988. Numéro d'inventaire : AM 1988-872. Musée National d'Art Moderne - Centre Pompidou.

N. Goncharova: Maiden on the Beast. Harvest n:o 5. Дева на звере. 168 x 129,5. Костромской Государственный историко-архитектурный, художественный музей-заповедник. 1911. Source Kostroma State Museum.

Natalia Goncharova: A Prophet. Harvest n:o 6 / Пророк. 1911. 166 х 92 холст, масло. Ж-1437. State Tretyakov Gallery.
Natalia Goncharova: Harvest. Harvest n:o 9. Урожай (Жатва). 1911. 99 x 93. Омский музей. M. A. Vrubel Omsk Regional Museum of Fine Arts.

Natalia Goncharova. Exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum
, Helsinki, 27 Feb to 17 May 2020.
    The exhibition is organised by the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Tate Modern in London and Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, in collaboration with State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The exhibition is curated by Timo Huusko, chief curator at the Ateneum Art Museum; Matthew Gale, head of displays at Tate Modern; and Natalia Sidlina, curator of international art at Tate Modern.
    The touring show was launched at Tate Modern, London, 6 June – 8 September 2019.
    It comes to Helsinki from Palazzo Strozzi, Florence: Natalia Goncharova. A Woman of the Avant-garde with Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso. 28 Sep 2019 – 12 Jan, 2020
    Helsinki exhibition architecture: Hannele Grönlund.
    Press preview visited on 26 Feb 2020.
    Наталья Сергеевна Гончарова / pronunciation: Ната́лья Серге́евна Гончаро́ва / Finnish transliteration Natalia Gontsharova.

Natalia Goncharova. Edited by Matthew Gale and Natalia Sidlina. With contributions by Timo Huusko, Evgenia Iliukhina, Evgenia Petrova, Jane Pritchard, Ludovica Sebregondi, Zelfira Tregulova and Katy Wan. London: Tate Enterprises Ltd 2019. ISBN 978 1 84976 629 6. 224 pages. In English.
    There are Finnish and Swedish editions for Ateneum. Helsinki catalogue design: Hanne Selkokari.

AA: For the first time in Finland there is a solo exhibition of Natalia Goncharova (1881–1962), the early master of Russian avantgarde who moved to Paris with her companion Mikhail Larionov before the Revolution and never worked in Soviet Russia.

For me, it's a revelation. I have seen Goncharova's art at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, at the excellent avantgarde collections of Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum and at Centre Pompidou, but this is my first opportunity to see Goncharova in full.

The timing is perfect. We have had a black winter in Helsinki, and Goncharova's exhibition is a burst of sunlight and glowing warm colour. Her signature cadmium orange shines triumphantly.

The heart of the show is the Harvest polyptych (see images above): seven paintings that remain from the original set of nine have been brought together at last for this touring show. The only time all paintings were seen together was in Goncharova's first solo exhibition in 1911 in Moscow. The Harvest cycle is based on the Book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse of John. Goncharova's radiant colour palette is in extreme contrast to the doomsday motifs. I see in the Harvest polyptych a battleground between Eros and Thanatos.

Goncharova was inspired by her great contemporaries in France such as Derain, Gauguin and Picasso, also displayed in the exhibition. She was influenced by impressionism, cubism and futurism, and by a drive towards abstraction. On display is her contribution to the Russian avantgardist phenomena of Jack of the Diamonds, Donkey's Tail and Rayonism as well as her participation in Der Blaue Reiter. A typical movement for Goncharova was Everythingism (Vsechestvo) because her taste was catholic.

Her drive towards the abstract was always rooted in the material, the sensual and the concrete, perfectly expressed in the Harvest polyptych. Goncharova came from an aristocratic family who lived in the countryside. She shared her family's liberal sense of social consciousness, but she was not a Bolshevik revolutionary. She loved to dress in peasant style and portray herself in peasant dress, and she was also a skillful tailor who made clothes for herself and designed dresses for others.

A streak of sunny spirituality runs through her work. She was inspired by icons, and her avantgardist approach to religious art was considered blasphemous. In her joy in naivism there is an affinity with Chagall.

Goncharova was also influenced by the primitive folk art of the lubok: popular prints of religious subjects or historical topics with a fairy-tale approach and a two-dimensional pictorial space. One of the most impressive sets of images in the exhibition is Mystical Images of War (1914):  a suite of lithographs in lubok style. A motif that obsessed Goncharova, also stemming from luboks, was "maiden on the beast": in the exhibition it appears in two great cycles the Harvest series (see above) and the Mystical Images of War.

The exhibition is rich and versatile, starting with early impressionism, highlighting the "spiritual autobiography" of her giant 1913 solo exhibition and proceeding to Goncharova's later remarkable career as an art director (Ballets Russes for starters) and costume and interior designer. We also see posters and book illustrations. Her pioneering body art and performances are not neglected. Like Picasso, Goncharova was happy to switch abruptly between isms, styles and modes of expression. She seems to court eclecticism, but in all her different incarnations she retains and expands her recognizable self. She never stood still, and an original spirit shines through a multitude of expressions.

Goncharova loved also Russia in its multitude of traditions and ethnicalities, including the Jewish culture in what was known at the time the Pale of Settlement. It would be interesting to see a complete set of these works.

The passage from la Belle Époque to the Age of Extremes was devastating in art, but Goncharova never lost her sunny disposition. There is a smile on her face whether in self-portraits or portraits painted by Larionov. Even in images bordering on the non-figurative there is a peculiar sense of humour. I don't sense escapism but a life-affirming mission of art as a counter-image in dark times. As an artist Goncharova was an incarnation of la joie de vivre. Her art is deeply religious, and her emphasis is not in suffering but in goodness. Even in the great apocalyptic suites (Harvest, Mystical Images of War) the power of love is overwhelming.

The hanging, the colour patterns of the rooms, and the lighting are beautiful at Ateneum, the museum architect Hannele Grönlund perfectly in tune with the spirit of Goncharova. Most of the artworks have been seen in other legs of the touring show. The copies of luboks, Goncharova's book illustrations and Mystical Images of War are on loan from the National Library of Finland (see a list below of the works from Finnish collections).

The catalogue to the touring show has been edited at Tate by Matthew Gale and Natalia Sidlina. Worth noticing next to the illuminating essays and articles is "Goncharova on Colour", the artist's inspired laudatio to the glories of colour ("colours have a strange magic quality") – red, black, yellow, orange, green, blue, palepink, grey, yellow-yellow ochre, earth brown, violet, and white. Visiting a Goncharova exhibition we take a bath in colours. Also very useful and rewarding is Katy Wan's "Natalia Goncharova: Chronology", an illustrated capsule biography in 16 pages. The illustrations are wonderful. This book is a valuable keepsake.

Gallery 20: Neo-Primitivism
Gallery 21: Countryside and Folk Art
Gallery 22: Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov
Gallery 23: Moscow and Western Art
Gallery 24: Mystical Images of War
Gallery 25: Harvest
Gallery 27: 1913 Exhibition
Gallery 28: Cubo-Futurism and Rayonism
Gallery 29: Art and Religion
Gallery 30: Goncharova in Paris
Gallery 31: Fashion and Ballets Russes

LUBOKS FROM THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF FINLAND (prints on paper, artist unknown):
Lubok: The Rich Man and Lazarus (1862), 45 x 35.
Lubok: Подвечерь осенью ненастной / Podvecher osenyu nenastnoi / Candlelight in Rainy Autumn (1866), 35 x 45.
Lubok: Отгадай, моя родина... / Otgadai, moya rodina... / Guess, My Fatherland... (1871), 35 x 45.
Lubok: Вот извольте видеть / Vot izvolte videt / Here You Can See (1878), 45 x 35.

Mystical Images of War Nr. 1: St. George
Mystical Images of War Nr. 2: The White Eagle
Mystical Images of War Nr. 3: The English Lion
Mystical Images of War Nr. 4: Галльский петух / The Gallic Rooster
Mystical Images of War Nr. 5: Maiden on the Beast
Mystical Images of War Nr. 6: Peresvet and Oslyabya
Mystical Images of War Nr. 7: Archangel Michael
Mystical Images of War Nr. 8: Vision in the Clouds
Mystical Images of War Nr. 9: Devoted Christian Troops
Mystical Images of War Nr. 10: Angels and Aeroplanes
Mystical Images of War Nr. 11: The Doomed City
Mystical Images of War Nr. 12: The Pale Horse
Mystical Images of War Nr. 13: Communal Grave
Mystical Images of War Nr. 14: Saint Alexander Nevski

Exhibition catalogue: Natalia Goncharova / Mikhail Larionov (1913). 30 x 23.
Book: Aleksandr Blok: Двенадцать / Скифы / The Twelve / The Scythians (1920). 24 x 18.
Book: Tihon Churilin: Весна после смерти / Spring After Death (1915). 33 x 25.

Mother of God, Hodegetria, Byzantine icon (16th century), 39,5 x 31.
Archangel Michael from the Deesis, Russian icon. (late 17th / 18th century), 77 x 37. Sinebrychoff Art Museum / Sara Hildén.

Paul Gauguin: Landscape in Tahiti (Mahana Maà), 1892. 54,5 × 31 cm, oil on canvas. Purchase, A II 986.


Saturday, February 08, 2020

Little Women (2019)

Pikku naisia / Unga kvinnor.
    US © 2019 Columbia Pictures / Monarchy Enterprises S.á.r.l. P: Denise Di Novi, Amy Pascal, Robin Swicord.
    D+SC: Greta Gerwig – based on the novel (1868) by Louisa May Alcott. DP: Yorick Le Saux – colour – 1,85:1 – negative: 35 mm – source format: Super 35 – master format: 4K – release formats: 35 mm and D-Cinema. PD: Jess Gonchor. AD: Chris Farmer. Set dec: Claire Kaufman. Cost: Jacqueline Durran. Makeup: Judy Chin. Hair: Fríða Aradóttir. VFX: Matt Akey. M: Alexandre Desplat. S: Michael Feuser – Dolby Atmos. ED: Nick Houy. Casting: Kathy Driscoll, Francine Maisler.
    C: Saoirse Ronan (Jo March), Emma Watson (Meg March), Florence Pugh (Amy March), Eliza Scanlen (Beth March), Laura Dern (Marmee March), Timothée Chalamet (Theodore "Laurie" Laurence), Tracy Letts (Mr. Dashwood), Bob Odenkirk (Father March), James Norton (John Brooke), Louis Garrel (Friedrich Bhaer), Jayne Houdyshell (Hannah), Chris Cooper (Mr. Laurence), Meryl Streep (Aunt March).
    Loc: Massachusetts, US. Concord, Harvard, Gibbet Hill, Fruitland Museum, Castle Hill: Ipswich, Lawrence, Stoughton, William Hickling Prescott House, Boston, Lyman Estate: Waltham, Thayer Estate: Lancaster, Franklin. 6 Oct – Dec 2018.
    135 min
    New York premiere: 7 Dec 2019.
    Finnish premiere: 31 Jan 2020 – released by SF Studios – Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Hannele Vahtera.
    DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 8 Feb 2020.

I have enjoyed all the major theatrical film adaptations of Little Women.

In 1933 the first sound adaptation was produced by David O. Selznick and directed by George Cukor, starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo with Joan Bennett as Amy and Paul Lukas as Professor Bhaer. It was a perfect Cukor-Hepburn vehicle and an engrossing growing-up story of a young woman as Cukor loved to make them. Hepburn created an unforgettable Jo.

I love even the glossy MGM Technicolor adaptation of 1949, directed by the studio workhorse Mervyn LeRoy with June Allyson as Jo and an all star cast including Elizabeth Taylor (Amy), Janet Leigh (Meg) and Mary Astor (Marmee). The lounge lizard Peter Lawford was cast as Laurie.

Even better was Gillian Armstrong's version of 1994 based on a screenplay by Robin Swicord. Winona Ryder was Jo, and Gabriel Byrne was Friedrich Bhaer. Trini Alvarado was Meg, Kirsten Dunst was Amy and Claire Danes was Beth. Christian Bale was Laurie, Eric Stoltz was John Brooke, and Susan Sarandon was Marmee. What a cast, and what a film. Directed by Armstrong it is a revelation to compare her Little Women with her debut feature film, My Brilliant Career, which presents a similar story set in Australia.

Now Greta Gerwig has created a fresh and original version based on a "double helix" dual temporal structure: we are in the present while looking back in the past. The original novel was published in England as two novels, the second being titled Good Wives.

Gerwig's concept introduces a new spin to the well-known story. Again there is a great cast: Saoirse Ronan (Jo), Emma Watson (Meg), Florence Pugh (Amy) and Eliza Scanlen (Beth) are the sisters, Laura Dern is Marmee, and Meryl Streep is Aunt March. It's a multi-character study. In the George Cukor version the narrative solution was to create a cycle of vignettes. Here the present is constantly being juxtaposed with the past. The present audience has gotten used to such juggling in fiction.

All sisters are individuals, each has her own way and approach in life. During the Civil War the Massachusetts-based March family lives in genteel poverty, but they are rich in love, joy and family spirit. Their Christmas breakfast they donate without hesitation to the truly poor Hummel family: shared joy is doubled joy. When Beth contracts scarlet fever (from the Hummel family) everybody takes care of her. And when father is wounded in the battlefield, Jo lets her beautiful hair be cut and sold so that Marmee can buy a train ticket. The Civil War is a matter of conviction for the March family who hate slavery: "My whole life I've been ashamed of my country", states Marmee.

Jo is determined to become a writer, starting with exercises "of the scandalous variety" in magazine stories and family drama club productions. Yet she already possesses Shakespeare's collected works. Reading for Beth she starts to develop her own approach, still doubting herself: "who'd be interested in domestic struggles?"

Dreaming of art and romance they are constantly reminded of financial facts of life. Aunt March, a rich widow, keeps reminding them. And Marmee sighs: "I'm angry nearly every day of my life". The little women are aware that "marriage is an economic proposition" and if a wife earns money it belongs to the husband. Jo keeps learning both the lessons of devotion to art and financial independence: she is a tough negotiator for the copyright terms of her novel.

I love all these interpretations, and they do not replace each other. In George Cukor's version I was moved by the compelling approach to the Pygmalion theme and the vision of old New York. In it, Jo visits the opera for the first time (inevitably, on display is Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor), and has the epiphany of great art. Friedrich is disappointed by the triviality of Jo's stories but sees her special talent and encourages her to write something real, something she knows first hand. In Greta Gerwig's version Jo's Bildungsroman is a more independent journey of self-discovery.

The physical production is wonderful: the cinematography by Yorick Le Saux in all four seasons, the production design by Jess Gonchor, the costumes by Jacqueline Durran and the hairdos by Fríða Aradóttir. The warm hues of Massachusetts have been caught on 35 mm film. It is a joy to the eyes.

But the most rewarding feature is the emotional truth. The better we learn to know the characters the more we care about them. A momentum of pure emotion keeps growing towards the conclusion.


Bombshell (2019)

Bombshell – hiljaisuuden rikkojat / Bombshell – när tystnaden bryts.
    US ©  2019 Lucitic / Lionsgate. PC: Bron Creative / Annapurna Pictures / Denver + Delilah Productions / Gramsci / Lighthouse Management & Media / Creative Wealth Media. P: A. J. Dix, Aaron L. Gilbert, Robert Graf, Michelle Graham, Beth Kono, Charles Randolph, Margaret Riley, Jay Roach, Charlize Theron.
    D: Jay Roach. SC: Charles Randolph. DP: Barry Ackroyd – colour – 2,39:1 – source format: 2.8K – master format: 2K – release format: D-Cinema. PD: Mark Ricker. AD: Christopher Brown. Set dec: Ellen Brill. Cost: Colleen Atwood. Makeup: Vivian Baker. Hair: Anne Morgan. Prosthetic makeup design: Kazu Hiro. SFX: Brendon O'Dell. VFX: David D. Johnson. M: Theodore Shapiro. Song during end credits: "One Little Soldier" by and perf. by Regina Spektor. S: Renee Tondelli. ED: Jon Poll. Casting: Allison Jones.
    C: Charlize Theron (Megyn Kelly), Nicole Kidman (Gretchen Carlson), Margot Robbie (Kayla Pospisil), John Lithgow (Roger Ailes), Allison Janney (Susan Estrich), Malcolm McDowell (Rupert Murdoch), Kate McKinnon (Jess Carr).
    US premiere (wide): 20 Dec 2019.
    Finnish premiere: 7 Feb 2020 – released by Nordisk Film – Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Tarja Sahlsten / Nina Ekholm.
    DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki, 8 Feb 2020.

I had a super movie day today, seeing five films, all great, and Bombshell was the greatest. I usually take in extenso notes in screenings, but the speed and drive of Bombshell was so compelling that I had no time for notes.

It's a character driven movie, with the leading trio of Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie shining as Fox newscasters. Equally great are John Lithgow as Roger Ailes and Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch.

It's also a dialogue driven movie with a screenplay by Charles Randolph (The Big Short) as brilliant as the classic screwball scripts by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur for Howard Hawks.

The bombshell is related to the Me Too revolution. I have been convinced from the beginning that Me Too was ignited by Donald Trump, and this movie seems to confirm the hypothesis. (As we know, Roger Ailes became a Trump advisor after he had been fired from Fox News).

The implications are widespread. The tempo of the movie is so fast that there is no time to think. But we do hear that in employment interviews ladies are asked to service not only Roger Ailes but also others. And that there is a back door through which ladies enter discreetly into service, via the make-up room.

We have been aware of the harem system in the old days before the 1960s, but the revelation of the Weinstein affair was that it is alive and well even in our times. It's a tragic and disturbing revelation of a system of corruption that affects everybody. Women are in the frontline, but men (those who are not predators) also suffer from collateral damage.

“If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you”. This bon mot I first discovered in Herman G. Weinberg's book The Lubitsch Touch, where it was attributed to Mark Twain. Also Oscar Wilde and G. B. Shaw have been mentioned as potential sources, but nobody has been able to document them. Even Billy Wilder loved the quote.

Anyway that is the agenda and approach of Bombshell which attacks tragedy as comedy. The director is Jay Roach whose breakthrough achievement was the Austin Powers trilogy. The sexual politics of Austin Powers was dubious to put it mildly. But a reversal has taken place in Jay Roach's trajectory: his previous theatrical feature film was Trumbo, and also in Bombshell he gives us an account of harassed protagonists who defy the establishment.

Hawks, Lubitsch and Wilder were not perfect, either, in matters of sexual politics. But I can hear them laughing approvingly with the ladies who have had enough of harassment. I look forward to revisiting Bombshell.


A Hidden Life

A Hidden Life / Ein verborgenes Leben. Valerie Pachner (Franziska Jägerstätter), August Diehl (Franz Jägerstätter).

Ein verborgenes Leben.
    DE/US 2019.
    An Elizabeth Bay Productions Presentation. In Association with Aceway and Mister Smith. A Studio Babelsberg Production.
    P: Grant Hill, Dario Bergesio, Josh Jeter, Elisabeth Bentley. EX: Marcus Loges, Adam Morgan, Bill Pohlad, Yi Wei, Christoph Fisser, Henning Molfenter, Charlie Woebecken.
    D+SC: Terrence Malick. DP: Jörg Widmer – colour – 2,35:1 – source format: 6K – 7K for winter scenes – master format: 4K – release format: D-Cinema. Newsreel inserts in b&w and colour and in 1,33:1. PD: Sebastian T. Krawinkel. Cost: Lisy Christl. M: James Newton Howard. ED: Rehman Nizar Ali, Joe Gleason, Sebastian Jones. Casting: Anja Dihrberg.
    M selections include:
– Händel: Israel in Egypt, HWV 54 / Pt. 1: Exodus.
– Arvo Pärt: Tabula rasa: II. Silentium
– Antonín Dvořák: Ceska suita in D Major, Op. 39
– Henryk Górecki: Male requiem dla pwenej polki, Op. 66
– P. I. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique"
– Max Richter: On the Nature of Daylight
– Johannes Brahms: Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11
– Antonio Vivaldi: Sinfonia in B Minor, RV 169 "Al santo sepolcro"
– W. A. Mozart: Requiem in D Minor
– Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"
– Franz Schubert: Four impromptus, Op. 90, D. 899
– Edward Elgar: "Salut d'amour", op. 12
– Ernest Bloch: From Jewish Life, B. 55
– Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 3
– Gabriel Fauré: Pavane, Op. 50
– Gabriel Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine
– Philip Glass: Facades
– Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 2
    C: August Diehl (Franz Jägerstätter), Valerie Pachner (Franziska / Fani Jägerstätter), Maria Simon (Resie, Fani's sister), Tobias Moretti (Fr. Ferdinand Fürthauer), Bruno Ganz (Judge Werner Lueben), Matthias Schoenaerts (Captain Herder), Karin Neuhäuser (Rosalia Jägerstätter), Ulrich Matthes (Lorenz Schwaninger, Fani's father), Martin Wuttke (Major Kiel), Michael Nyqvist (Bishop Joseph Fliessen), Jürgen Prochnow (Major Schlegel).
    Studio: Studio Babelsberg (Potsdam).
    Loc: St. Radegund (Austria), Sappada (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy), Brixen, Dietenheim (South Tyrol, Italy). Prison scenes: Zittau, Tegel (Berlin), Hoheneck (near Dresden). Court trial scene: Kammergericht building (Schöneberg, Berlin). Shot in 2016.
    174 min
    Language: English.
    Festival premiere: 19 May 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
    Finnish premiere: 7 February 2020 – released by SF Studios – with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Frej Grönholm / Jennifer Warrender.
    DCP viewed at Maxim 2, Helsinki, 8 Feb 2020.

Official synopsis: "Based on real events, A Hidden Life is the story of an unsung hero, Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II. When the Austrian peasant farmer is faced with the threat of execution for treason, it is his unwavering faith and his love for his wife, Fani, and children that keeps his spirit alive."

AA: A Hidden Life, directed by Terrence Malick, and shot on location on the Alps, is a true life story of an Austrian farmer, Franz Jägerstätter, who became a conscientious objector. He refused to swear the oath to Hitler in WWII.

As usual in Malick, there is a sense of the pastoral, at times almost a touch of pantheism. A Hidden Life is a religious film, and the elevated locations fit the religious themes perfectly: "we lived above the clouds". Malick's work has always been linked with transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau), and in this story he finds fresh inspiration for his quest.

A Hidden Life is a Christian story with Franz Jägerstätter himself a Christ figure. His encounters with the officials of the church bring to mind Ernst Lubitsch's The Man I Killed: "son, you only did your duty". The dialogues evoke the temptation of Christ, the ingenious arguments of Satan. "Is it pride? Are you better than the rest?" "We all have blood on our hands". "He created evil". "Conscience makes cowards of us all". "Sign and you'll be free", Franz is told. "I am free", he answers.

During his tour of Nazi prisons Franz realizes that there is no way out. As soon as he gives up, "a new light comes forth". "Now you have all you need". He is kind to others and lets them share his food. The wardens reward him by brutally kicking and beating him.

A Hidden Life brings fresh blood to the perennial German film genres of Heimatfilm and Bergfilm. Sometimes they have been linked with conventional and even reactionary nostalgia (in the 1950s) and with the Nazi ideology of Blut und Boden (in the 1930s and 1940s). But the genres are bigger than that, and even Sound of Music, with its anti-Nazi stance, can be found relevant in the context.

One of the foundation works of the phenomenon is Wilhelmine von Hillern's novel Die Geier-Wally (1873) with several film adaptations across various historical periods of Germany. Let's also remember Ernst Lubitch's fascination with the genre both in Germany and Hollywood (Eternal Love / Edelweiss).

Arnold Fanck, Luis Trenker and Leni Riefenstahl belonged to the masters of the genre. Siegfried Kracauer interpreted their mystic reveries in terms of ideological criticism, but Terrence Malick uses an identical imagery of the sublime (breathtaking mountains, waterfalls, ascents beyond clouds) to express a reverse ideology of peace and love. Like in the films of Bresson and Kaurismäki, the wind is God's breath.

It is uncanny, though, that we are so close Hitler, not far from where he was born, and not far from Obersalzberg (Berchtesgaden, Berghof, Kehlsteinhaus). "Auf der Alm, da gibt’s ka Sünd"? ["No Sin on the Alpine Pastures"]?

What to do when leaders are evil? Church bells are forged to bullets, priests are sent to concentration camps, and religious processions are banned. "Someday I'll paint the true Christ", promises Franz's friend, the church painter. Michael Nyqvist interprets the demanding role of the bishop who instead of God serves Hitler. After the war, Franz Jägerstätter was declared a martyr and beatified by the Catholic Church.

A parallel process takes place in the legal system. Again, Franz is being persuaded that nobody is being helped by his stance, and nobody is even aware of it. "Do you judge me?" asks judge Lueben. "I can't do what I believe is wrong", says Franz. "Do you have a right to do this?" asks Lueben. "Do I have a right not to?" It is not mentioned in the film, but next year Werner Lueben committed suicide. In the movie he is interpreted with stooped gravity by Bruno Ganz in his final role.

The ordeal of the family in their native Radegund is as crushing as Franz's experience in the machinery of the clerical and legal systems. The Jägerstätters are the only ones who refuse to participate in the Nazi order. They are isolated, harassed, bullied and marginalized. Even children participate. A Hidden Life is a powerful dramatization of peer pressure, the pressure of conformity. But there is a subtle change when we reach the year 1943. More people are beginning to understand. Malick conveys these changes with meaningful looks and gestures.

Above all, A Hidden Life is a love story. "You looked at me and I knew", we learn in the beginning. "Whatever comes I'm with you always" and "I'll meet you there in the mountains" are among the final words.

It's a rewarding film, and because of the magnificent cinematography in scope it should be seen in a cinema. The photography is truly wonderful. Together with his DP Jörg Widmer Malick paints with light. Their way of framing close-ups and medium shots in scope is fresh and original. I do register the digital quality; digital is still getting better.

At almost three hours it's too much of the good thing. The film would lose nothing and gain a lot if it were an hour shorter.

I thank Olaf Möller for recommending A Hidden Life. I had already resigned to thinking that I have seen too much Malick*, but he is at his best in this movie which has all his strengths and much that is fresh to boot.

* I last saw To the Wonder / À la Merveille (2012).

Die Geier-Wally (Germany 1921), D: E. A. Dupont, starring Henny Porten.


Orkesterin edessä / Conductivity

Framför orkestern.
    FI 2020 © 2019 Tuffi Films. P: Venla Hellstedt.
    D+SC: Anna-Karin Grönroos – based on the idea by Venla Hellstedt and Juuso Ikonen. Cin: Mika Mattila. M: Salla Luhtala. S: Tuomas Klaavo. ED: Okku Nuutilainen.
    Students: Emilia Hoving, I-Han Fu, James Kahane.
    Teachers: Atso Almila, Hannu Lintu, Susanna Mälkki.
    Orchestras: Sibelius Academy Conductor Band (kapubändi), Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Nordiska Kammarorkestern.
    M selections:
– Igor Stravinsky: Petrushka 1947
– Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 6
– Claude Debussy: La Mer
– Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 3
– Johannes Brahms: Serenade No. 1, Op. 11
– Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3
– Igor Stravinsky: Firebird
– Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 6
– Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 49
– Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
– P. I. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 Op. 64
– Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
– Alice Tegnér: "Goder afton, Goder afton (Julafton)"
– Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 2
    Loc: Helsinki Music Center, Temppeliaukio Church (Helsinki), Sundsvall (Sweden).
    Languages: Finnish, Swedish, English, French.
    75 min
    Finnish premiere: 7 Feb 2020 – distributed by Tuffi Films – Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Pohjanrinne / Heidi Nyblom-Kuorikoski.
    DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 8 Feb 2020.

Orkesterin edessä ["In Front of the Orchestra"] is a rich and rewarding documentary about training conductors at the Sibelius Academy, alma mater of many world class conductors. The director Anna-Karin Grönroos gives us a privileged view to intimate scenes, starting with breathing and relaxation of hands. Young students are mercilessly thrown into the fire, conducting difficult works with a real orchestra. Everything is visually recorded, and the achievements are analyzed together.

It is tough and demanding, but a symphony orchestra is one of the most refined achievements of culture, and the art and skill of conducting can only be transmitted in a living master and pupil contact. We follow three students, James Kahane (France), Emilia Hoving (Finland) and I-Han Fu (Taiwan) being taught by the top conductors Hannu Lintu, Susanna Mälkki and Atso Almila.

It's a long journey into the theory and practice of music, and it is also about personal growth and learning more about culture at large. The teachers are not soft with students, and the students also resist some of the teaching: James Kahane clashes openly with Atso Almila, and I-Han Fu has his reservations with Hannu Lintu. We learn about cultural differences: I-Han Fu is impressed by the Finns' habit of giving people space. While still studying the future conductors also already take real gigs: James Kahane conducts a concert at the Church on the Rock, and Emilia Hoving travels to Sundsvall to conduct a Christmas concert.

Needless to say, the soundtrack is full of some of the greatest music ever composed.

Gisaengchung / Parasite

Bong Joon Ho: 기생충 / Parasite (KR 2019). Brilliant mise-en-scène by Bong Joon Ho. Please do click to enlarge the photo!

    KR © 2019 CJ Entertainment Corporation / Barunson E&A. PC: Barunson E&A. Presented by: CJ Entertainment. Produced by: Kwak Sin Ae, Moon Yang Kwon. EX: Miky Lee. Producer: Jang Young Hwan.
    D: Bong Joon Ho. SC: Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won – based on a story by Bong Joon Ho. DP: Hong Kyung Puo – colour – 2,39:1 – source format: 6.5K – master format: 4K – release format: D-Cinema. PD: Lee Ha Jun. Cost: Choi Se Yeon. Make Up & Hair: Kim Seo Young.
VFX: Hong Jeong Ho. SFX: Jung Do Ahn, Park Kyung Soo. Special make-up: Kwak Tae Yong, Hwang Hyo Kyun. M: Jung Jae Il. S supervisor: Choi Tae Young. S effect design: Kang Hye Young. Dolby Atmos. ED: Jang Jinmo.
    C: Song Kang Ho (Ki-taek), Lee Sun Kyun (Mr. Park), Cho Yeo Jeong (Yeon-Kyo), Choi Woo Shik (Ki-woo), Park So Dam (Ki-jung), Lee Jung Eun (Moon-gwang), Jung Hyeon Jun (Da-song), Chang Hyae Jin (Chung-sook), Jung Ziso (Da-hye), Lee Jung.
    Studio: Goyang Aqua Studio. Loc: Seoul. 27 May – 19 Sep 2018.
    Language: Korean.
    131 min
    Festival premiere: 21 May 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
    Finnish premiere: 31 Jan 2020 – released by Future Film – Finnish / Swedish subtitles.
    DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 12, Helsinki, 8 Feb 2020.

From the international press kit:


"The arrival of a new film from BONG Joon Ho is always an event, but the premiere of Parasite at Cannes is the cause for particularly strong anticipation. Having worked over the last decade on the expansive, internationally-set features Snowpiercer and Okja, BONG now returns to his home country for a film that is more focused in its setting, but perhaps even more ambitious in its execution. Consensus is building that Parasite represents not merely a new film, but the beginning of a new stage in BONG Joon Ho's accomplished career. "

BONG has taken care not to reveal too much ahead of the film's premiere, but in one sense, no advance knowledge could lessen the experience of watching Parasite for the first time. Completely unpredictable in its development, the film resists categorization and doesn't fit into any established genre. Its mix of black humor, social commentary, satire and suspense is characteristically BONG Joon Ho, and yet it's hard to find another film from his filmography – or from that of any other director – that quite resembles this work. "

"Although viewers will experience a rush of emotions while watching it, what Parasite has to say about contemporary society is particularly poignant. In an age when economic polarization and inequality show no signs of abating, and large sections of the world's population feel more and more desperate, there is a temptation to blame others and promote easy, one-sided solutions. What Parasite provides is a complex, honest allegory about the challenges we all face in a world where co-existence is an increasingly difficult ideal to achieve."


"A family tragicomedy depicting the inevitable collision that ensues when Ki-woo, the eldest son in a family of four unemployed adults, is introduced to the wealthy Park family for a well-paid tutoring job."


"Ki-taek's family of four is close, but fully unemployed, with a bleak future ahead of them. The son Ki-woo is recommended by his friend, a student at a prestigious university, for a well-paid tutoring job, spawning hopes of a regular income. Carrying the expectations of all his family, Ki-woo heads to the Park family home for an interview. Arriving at the house of Mr. Park, the owner of a global IT firm, Ki-woo meets Yeon-kyo, the beautiful young lady of the house. But following this first meeting between the two families, an unstoppable string of mishaps lies in wait.


"For people of different circumstances to live together in the same space is not easy."

"It is increasingly the case in this sad world that humane relationships based on co-existence or symbiosis cannot hold, and one group is pushed into a parasitic relationship with another. "

"In the midst of such a world, who can point their finger at a struggling family, locked in a fight for survival, and call them parasites?"

"It's not that they were parasites from the start. They are our neighbors, friends and colleagues, who have merely been pushed to the edge of a precipice. "

"As a depiction of ordinary people who fall into an unavoidable commotion, this film is:

a comedy without clowns,
a tragedy without villains,

all leading to a violent tangle and a headlong plunge down the stairs."

"You are all invited to this unstoppably fierce tragicomedy.

Director BONG Joon Ho (From the international press kit)

AA: Parasite is Bong Joon Ho's sharp, witty, brilliant and original account about life in the world today.

The title "Parasite" has a double meaning. The super-rich live in a world of luxury, based on a system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The poor ones are drowning in the gutter and falling underground. Both become parasites for each other.

Top actors interpret the members of the Kim family on the hill and the Park family in the slum. We also learn to know the former housekeeper and her husband hiding from loan sharks and their gangsters who chase them because of their unpaid debts. We recognize their nice potential as individuals, but the film is a cruel satire, even a horror story, about what happens to people in a "dog eat dog" world.

The film is full of memorable observations. Everybody is dependent on mobile devices, but it's almost impossible to access WiFi range in a half-basement home. The daughter of the Kim family has artistic talent, but she is reduced to using it to forge documents in Photoshop. In the confrontation of the two poor families there is a memorable sequence of a "mobile phone standoff" where both threaten to expose the other.

The theme of communication is ubiquitous, and even Morse code figures in the narrative. The little boy of the rich family has learned it at the junior boy scouts. He is also the one to observe that all Kim family members smell the same (the basement).

The background of the Korean war is felt in the presence of nuclear shelters and characters parodying North Korean news anchors. It is also a reminder that things could get worse.

The Park family is seen in a humoristic and sympathetic light. Yeon-kyo, the lady of the house, is gentle and beautiful, but she is no housewife and cannot even cook, which is why a housekeeper is obligatory. An original touch is a love-making sequence with clothes on.

The Kim family has fallen into desperate straits and resorts to ruthless measures to survive. In the thunderstorm sequence their home is flooded with sewage. The term "the safety-belt of trust" is mentioned, and this film is fundamentally about the fragility of the social contract and what might be called "the basic trust" in justice in society.

The most disheartening feature is the brutalization of the Kim family. Lying and fraud are trivialized. Unscrupulously the Kims poison a nice and capable housekeeper and discredit and frame those in their way. They have a good family spirit, but as Leo Tolstoy said, also jackals have a good family spirit.

It's a great story, but it's not the bloodbath that bothers me most. It's what has been going on since the beginning. Moral vacuum was permanently introduced into the heart of fiction via Existentialism. But I cannot figure out the Weltanschauung of Parasite, and I feel unable to relate to the story and the characters. I remain on the outside, admiring the brilliance, without being engaged.

Bong Joon Ho's handling of the temporal dimension is masterful, both in scenes of duration and narration via ellipsis. His mise-en-scène is impeccable, and Parasite is an outstanding example of a powerful architectural vision in the cinema.

Parasite is a key film about the state of the world after 2008.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

I Hired a Contract Killer

I Hired a Contract Killer. Aki Kaurismäki sells a pair of sunglasses to Jean-Pierre Léaud.

J'ai engagé un tueur / Ich engagierte einen Berufskiller / Ho affittato un killer / Я нанял убийцу.
    FI/SE 1990. PC: Villealfa Filmproductions Oy / SFI Svenska Filminstitutet.
    P+D+SC: Aki Kaurismäki. Based on the idea by Peter von Bagh. DP: Timo Salminen – 35 mm – Metrocolor – 1,85:1. PD: John Ebden. AD: Mark Lavis. Cost: Simon Murray. S recording: Timo Linnasalo. S editor: Jouko Lumme. ED: Aki Kaurismäki.
    C: Jean-Pierre Léaud (Henri Boulanger), Margi Clarke (Margaret), Kenneth Colley (Harry, the contract killer), Serge Reggiani (Vic), Nicky Tesco (Pete), Charles Cork (Al), Angela Walsh (landlady), Michael O'Hagan (Harry's contractor), Walter Sparrow (hotel desk clerk), Tony Rohr (Frank, doctor), Trevor Bowen / T. R. Bowen (department head), Imogen Claire (secretary of the department head), Cyril Epstein (taxi driver), Joe Strummer (guitar player, pub singer), Tex Axile (bartender at Honolulu Bar), Peter Graves (jewel seller), Ette Eliot (Harry's daughter), Roberto Pla (bongo player), Minna Virtanen (flower seller), Aki Kaurismäki (seller of sunglasses).
    M selections include: "Avant de mourir" (1926) / "Ennen kuolemaa" (Georges Boulanger), perf. Olavi Virta (1944). "Need Your Love So Bad", "Don't Play with Love", "Suffering with the Blues", "My Nerves", "Young Girl" and "I'm Sticking with You Baby" perf. Little Willie John. "Body and Soul" and "Time On My Hands" perf. Billie Holiday. "Burning Lights" and "Afro-Cuban Be-Bop" perf. live Joe Strummer. "Mi Buenos Aires querido" and "Cuesta abajo" perf. Carlos Gardel.
    Loc: London, England, UK: Holborn Viaduct, Portobello Road, 227 Westbourne Park Road, Silvertown: Cranbrook Point tower block, Dunbridge Street (Bethnal Green), Whitechapel: Winthrop Street, Mile End tube station, Kingsland Road (Dalston), Abney Park cemetery.
    80 min
    Festival premiere: 13 Sep 1990 Venice Film Festival.
    Finnish premiere: 12 Oct 1990, in Helsinki at Andorra 1, Nordia 1, released by Finnkino Oy with Finnish / Swedish subtitles.
    Digital transfer supervised by Aki Kaurismäki in 2014.
    2K DCP viewed at Filmmuseum München, 1 Feb 2020.

Having completed a series of films about Finland Aki Kaurismäki went international. I Hired a Contract Killer, his first film abroad, was shot in London. Aki commented: "People complain that my London looks like Finland. But Finland looks like that only in my films".

I Hired a Contract Killer is based on a traditional comedy theme: the man who fails even in suicide. To the cinema it was probably introduced by Max Linder (Le Pendu / The Man Who Hanged Himself, 1906). Charles Chaplin is often mentioned in the context of Aki Kaurismäki, but also Buster Keaton belongs to his favourites. Here one can mention Hard Luck, Keaton's interpretation of the theme of the chronically unsuccessful suicide attempt.

The most famous variant of hiring a contract killer to execute a suicide is Jules Verne's novel Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine (1879, Voyages extraordinaires #19). An early Decla-Bioscop serial, Die Jagd nach dem Tode (1920) had loose affinities with Verne's story, as did the Robert Siodmak comedy Der Mann der seinen Mörder sucht (1932). Philippe de Broca finally filmed the Verne novel itself in 1965, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Aki Kaurismäki was not inspired by any of them but instead by a British film, Last Holiday (1950), written and produced by J. B. Priestley, directed by Henry Cass and starring Alec Guinness. It is a film in a distinguished tradition, preceding Ikiru and Umberto D. In all of them an ageing protagonist has to retire and meets poverty and solitude; in Last Holiday and Ikiru he is told that he is terminally ill.

Cast in the leading role is Jean-Pierre Léaud. In The Liar, Opus number 1 in the Kaurismäki corpus, Aki played the title role in open homage to Léaud. While making I Hired a Contract Killer Léaud confessed that Aki taught him his métier again after a pause of 15 years in film-making.

The movie is an optimistic tragedy where Léaud interprets the knight of the sad figure. The romance is poetic and in fairy-tale mode. A point of comparison might be Broken Blossoms by D. W. Griffith. The flower girl may have been inspired by Charles Chaplin's City Lights.

From the soundtrack one can single out a key song, "Avant de mourir", heard in a recording from the year 1944 by Olavi Virta. The composer is Georges Boulanger: Aki's protagonist is called Henri Boulanger in homage to him.

Perhaps even more than The Match Factory Girl, I Hired a Contract Killer is strongly visual, telling its story in the language of images, maybe also because the social scene of London is for Aki not as self-evident as that of Finland.

Aki's films are counter-images to a period of consumer excess and what was called in Finland "casino economy". (The American counterpart, in a somewhat bigger scale, was discussed in works such as The Bonfire of the Vanities and Wall Street). In these and other films Kaurismäki is always on the side of the outsider, the marginalized and the lonely one.

Extremely laconic, compressed to comic book simplicity, yet complex, being reflected in Aki's hall of mirrors, or perhaps a dazzling Fresnel lens like in the film The Lighthouse by Robert Eggers.

(Based on my introduction at Filmmuseum München).

P.S. Brexit happened yesterday. In the screening there was a special charge in the story of a Frenchman in London. Nobody could fail to notice an affinity of the department head (Trevor Bowen / T. R. Bowen) with Boris Johnson.

Pinakothek der Moderne: Sammlung Moderne Kunst (München)

Paul Klee: Der Vollmond. 1919. PdM Saal 3. Inventory Number: 15249. 49,8 x 38 cm. Material: Karton Papier. Genre: Malerei. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 1991 erworben als Ankauf aus dem Nachlass Etta und Otto Stangl - Miterbengemeinschaft, München. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website. - Please click on the images to enlarge them.

Pinakothek der Moderne
Barer Straße 40
80333 München
Sammlung Moderne Kunst visited on 1 Feb 2020.

All texts and captions are from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Official introduction: "The Modern Art Collection (Sammlung Moderne Kunst) in the Pinakothek der Moderne picks up precisely where the collection presented at the Neue Pinakothek ends, namely with the art that came after 1900 or thereabouts. With its extensive stock totaling more than 20,000 works, it is one of the world’s leading institutions for painting, sculpture, photography and new media. Its collection ranges from the most important avant-garde movements of the early 20th century to current contemporary art. In dialogues offering comparisons and in rooms dedicated to individual artists, the displayed works raise formal and contextual issues about modern art. These artworks reflect how conditions have changed in an age shaped by technological optimism, the cult of progression on the one hand and by a heightened awareness of crises on the other. Particular attention is paid to making the historical circumstances of the 20th and 21st centuries visible in the presentation of the collection, and conveying the impact of war and dictatorship, for example, on art."

"Within the rich collection of Expressionist works, the Cubist and Futurist redefinition of autonomous art contrasts with the question of man’s changed circumstances in Modernism. The artists of the “Brücke”, the “Blaue Reiter” and Max Beckmann, who is represented in unique depth, address this issue impressively, as is also the case with modern photography, represented with August Sander, Albert Renger-Patzsch and Florence Henri. Pablo Picasso’s pictorial fantasies and formal richness of invention are illuminated in large groups of works along with the Surrealist enigmas of the worlds portrayed by Max Ernst, René Magritte and Salvador Dalí."

"Important themes since 1960, such as the formal and contextual extension of the term “art”, the “upgrading” of the trivial, and the ensuing related debate on whether low-brow and high-brow are equal in status are at the center of extensive groups of works by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Georg Baselitz, Jeff Wall, Rosemarie Trockel, and Anselm Kiefer."

"The latest developments, which expand the traditional understanding of the genre, are expressed specifically in spatial installations, performance and media art (Pipilotti Rist, Wolfgang Tillmans). Here the presentation is changed more frequently, as in the nearby Museum Brandhorst, which likewise belongs to the Bavarian State Painting Collections."

Franz Marc: Rote Rehe II. 1912. PdM Saal 2. Inventory Number: 8923. 70 x 100 cm. Öl auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 1917 erworben als Schenkung von Annette von Eckardt. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Robert Delaunay: L'Équipe de Cardiff. 1913. Zwar stark dem Gegenständlichen verpflichtet, unterscheidet sich dieses Gemälde dennoch durch die besondere Relevanz der Farbe deutlich von den gleichzeitigen, rein kubistischen Arbeiten von Pablo Picasso und Georges Braque. In erster Linie ist das Bild nicht aus Formen, sondern aus Farben zusammengesetzt. Delaunay entwickelte die systematischen Farbstudien von Paul Signac und Georges Seurat weiter und kam so schließlich zu abstrakten Kompositionen aus sich überlagernden Farbflächen, mit denen er Dynamik ausdrücken wollte. Motivisch versammelt dieses Bild das für Delaunay typische Gegenstandsrepertoire, mit dem er sich bewusst als Zeitgenosse einer modernen, Wissenschaft und Technik verschriebenen Großstadtgesellschaft ausweist: Rugby-Mannschaft und Riesenrad, Doppeldecker und Eiffelturm verbinden sich zu einem optimistischen, fortschrittsgläubigen Gesamtbild, dessen Prophet und eigentlicher Darsteller der Künstler selbst ist. In einer von Reproduktionsmedien geprägten Bildwiedergabe und Wahrnehmung wird hier nochmals der Versuch unternommen, die darüber hinausweisende Größe und Eigenständigkeit des Künstlers zu behaupten. Ging es Picasso und Braque um den Nachweis der Autonomie der Kunst, so ging es Delaunay um die des Künstlers. Der Dichter und Interpret der Avantgarde, Guillaume Apollinaire, charakterisierte 1912 die se Sonderform des Kubismus, die sein Freund Robert Delaunay entwickelte, mit der Bezeichnung Orphismus. In Anspielung auf Orpheus, den sagenhaften Sänger der griechischen Antike, wollte Apollinaire damit das Musikalische und Lyrische andeuten, das er in der Malerei Delaunays verwirklicht sah, die in letzter Konsequenz den Intentionen der Kubisten zuwiderlief. Delaunays Ziel war es, eine „reine“, ganz aus der Farbe entwickelte Malerei zu schaffen, die auf die Gegenstände verzichten, also vollkommen abstrakt sein konnte. PdM Saal 5. Inventory Number: 13340. 129,8 x 96,6 cm. Öl auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 1963 als Ankauf von Walther Scharf, Berlin-Dahlem, erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Franz Marc: Kämpfende Formen. 1914. PdM Saal 3. Inventory Number: 10972. 91 x 131,5 cm. Öl auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 1949 erworben als Ankauf von Maria Marc, Benediktbeuern. (lt. Erwerbungsbericht im Münchner Jahrbuch 1950, S. 246: erworben 1948 (Nachtrag G.G. 3.8.94)). Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Max Beckmann: Versuchung (Versuchung des Heiligen Antonius) Triptychon - rechter Teil. 1936/37. PdM Saal 9. Inventory Number: 14488. 215,5 x 100 cm. Material: Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 1977 erworben durch Ankauf von Stephan und Margaret Lackner, St.Barbara/Calif., USA. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Franz Radziwill: Grodenstraße nach Varelerhafen. 1938. PdM Saal 7. Inventory Number: 16486. 72 x 97 cm. Öl auf Leinwand auf Holz. Genre: Malerei. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 2018 mit Unterstützung der Theo Wormland-Stiftung GmbH durch Ankauf aus Privatbesitz erworben. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Arnulf Rainer: Weisse Übermalung II. 1958. Oil on hardboard. 86 x 86, inv. no 15644. Donation of Arnulf Rainer, 2005. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Francis Bacon: Crucifixion Triptychon. 1965. Die „Kreuzigung“ greift die sakrale Pathosformel des Triptychons auf. Francis Bacon folgt damit einer Tradition der Moderne, die von Hans von Marées über Max Beckmann und Otto Dix bis hin zu Blinky Palermo das dreiteilige mittelalterliche Altarbild zur Vermittlung komplexer künstlerischer Fragestellungen nutzt. Drei monumentale Bildtafeln konfrontieren den Betrachter mit einem Szenario des Grauens, in dem sich rationales Kalkül und besinnungslose Brutalität zu einem Albtraum verschränken. Eine alle drei Tafeln verspannende orangerote Rückwand und ein sandiger monochromer Fußboden, der im linken Teil in ein schwarzes Nichts mündet, bilden die ort- und zeitlose Folie für das entsetzliche Geschehen. Isolierte, biomorphe Figuren, expressive Farb- und Formknäuel verdichten sich zu blutenden Fleischklumpen, aggressiven Muskelpaketen, Eingeweiden und Totenschädeln. Breiig, in bläulichen Fleischtönen der Verwesung gehalten, wirken die sich auflösenden Formen durch ihre Unbestimmtheit ebenso bedrohlich wie abstoßend und stehen in kaum erträglichem Kontrast zur sterilen Geometrie der flachen Bildbühne, die auf Bacons Tätigkeit als Designer modischer Interieurs verweist. In der linken Tafel lässt eine nackte Frau eine deformierte männliche Figur auf dem chaotisch zerwühlten Matratzenlager zurück. Sexualität und Gewalt – man fühlt sich an die Vergewaltigungsopfer von Otto Dix erinnert – gehen eine untrennbare Synthese ein. In der Mitteltafel wird die gekreuzigte Figur kopfüber in ein Plattengerüst gespannt, auf gehängt wie ein Stück Schlachtvieh mit herausquellenden Eingeweiden und den Armen in brutal streckenden Folterklammern. Die mittelalterlichen Vorbilder – Bacon nennt ausdrücklich ein Kruzifix von Cimabue als Orientierungspunkt – werden inhaltlich in ihr Gegenteil verkehrt und mit heidnischen Opferritualen kombiniert. Eine Heilserwartung findet in diesem Höllenraum keinen Platz mehr, das sakrale Rot überhöht nicht, sondern unterstreicht die Ausweglosigkeit. Im rechten Teil assistieren zwei an Kafkas absurd schreckliche Richterinstanzen erinnernde Zeugen, die ihren hämischen Blick auf die Rückwand der Kreuzigung richten. Es sind die kühl taxierenden Beisitzer und Mitläufer in einem existentiellen Drama, das sie weder sehen können noch wollen. Daneben erwürgt ein muskelstrotzender, blonder Mann mit Hakenkreuzbinde sein unter ihm gekrümmtes, körperloses Opfer. Lediglich die französische Kokarde spielt in Verbindung mit dem Hakenkreuz- Motiv konkret auf die historischen Kata strophen an, die die Generation des Künstlers nachhaltig prägten. Es wäre jedoch zu einfach, die Interpretation damit auf Bacons Aufarbeitung einer alles überschattenden historischen Realität zuspitzen zu wollen. Eine solch eindimensionale Sicht widerspricht seinem Grundverständnis, das die Allgegenwart der „Gewalttätigkeit der Wirklichkeit selbst“ konstatiert und künstlerisch stetig neu „erschafft“. Dementsprechend sind Täter und Opfer nicht eindeutig differenziert, vielmehr entstehen beide anhand ähnlicher Bildmittel und sind untereinander wie auch vom Betrachter isoliert. Der von Bacon gewollte Abstand zwischen den Bildteilen sowie die fest mit dem Goldrahmen verschraubte Verglasung schaffen in doppelter Hinsicht Distanz und schließen diesen Albtraum in eine beklemmend luftleere Hülle ein. Der fragmentarische Charakter, der Verzicht auf eine Altarretabeln eigene, fortlaufende Erzählung lassen die „Kreuzigung“ zu einer Metapher von Realität werden. Mitleiden wird so unterbunden, das Werk zum Objekt entfremdeter Wahrnehmung. In aller Schärfe benennt Bacon jenen schmalen Grat, in dem sich Gewalt und Faszination, Brutalität und Sinnlichkeit berühren. Geometrische Farbfeldmalerei und eine orgiastisch expressive Bildsprache lassen ein subtiles, unwiderstehliches Nebeneinander von Anziehung und Abstoßung entstehen. Mit dieser exemplarischen Formulierung nimmt die „Kreuzigung“ im Werk von Francis Bacon eine herausragende Position ein. PdM Saal 15. Inventory Number: GST 1. GST 3. 197,5 x 147 cm (linker Flügel). 197,2 x 147 cm (rechter Flügel). Öl und Acryl auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 1967 als Leihgabe des Galerie-Verein München e.V; 1993 als Leihgabe der Stiftung Galerie-Verein zur Förderung der staatlichen bayerischen Museen, als Schenkung des Galerie-Verein München e.V. (ehem. Inv.-Nr. GV 1). Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Andy Warhol: Joseph Beuys. 1980. PdM Saal 19. Inventory Number: GV 126. 213,5 x 178 cm. Siebdruck, Kunstharz und Diamantstaub auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 2001 von PIN. Freunde der Pinakothek der Moderne (Galerie-Verein). Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Joseph Beuys: Das Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts. 1983. „Das ist das Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts“, äußerte Joseph Beuys 1983 in München über seine gleichnamige Installation, „das ist die alte Welt, der ich den Stempel der neuen aufdrücke.“ Die 44 naturbelassenen Basaltstelen, von Beuys zu einem spiralförmig kreisenden Steinfeld ausgelegt, versinnbildlichen keineswegs nur tote Materie und mithin ein apokalyptisches Jahrhundertende. Vielmehr hat der Künstler dieser über Jahrhunderte gewachsenen „alten Welt“ den Stempel der neuen aufgedrückt, indem er aus dem dichten und urtümlich wirkenden Stein am oberen Säulenende einen kegelförmigen Kern herauslösen ließ. In die entstandenen Löcher setzte er anschließend die abgeschliffenen Stöpsel wieder ein und erzeugte damit einen Kontrast zwischen gewachsener und bewusst hergestellter Form, zwischen Natur und Ratio, der zugleich als Dialog zwischen „alt“ und „neu“ gelesen werden kann. Darüber hinaus wurden unter jedem Kegel eine kleine, ursprünglich feuchte Tonkugel sowie ein Stück Filz eingebettet, sodass sich die Stöpsel, wie Beuys formulierte „nicht weh tun und es warm haben“. Alle Steine wirken so okuliert und mit teleskopartig aus dem Stein ragenden runden Augen wie archaische Urwesen, denen mittels Filz und Ton, den geläufigen Wärmeaggregaten im Beuysschen Materialkosmos, neues Leben eingepflanzt wurde. Dieser animistische Aspekt der Plastik wird durch die rätselhafte Herdenform der Anordnung der Steine noch verstärkt. – In der Umkehrung dieses belebenden Blicks auf die Steine bietet sich dem Betrachter der Eindruck eines ausgelegten Feldes naturgeformter Steine, die Gedanken an ein Gräberfeld wachrufen, an Steindenkmäler, an das Ruinenfeld einer Schlacht oder Erinnerungen an uralte Sippen, die längst von der Erde verschwunden sind. So behandeln Herstellungsweise und Gestalt der Arbeit offenbar ein vielschichtiges menschliches Dilemma: einerseits die respektvolle Einsicht in die Natur, andererseits ihre mit Verletzungen einhergehende Nutzung oder Ausbeutung. Um seine Arbeit verwirklichen zu können, griff Beuys in den Steinbruch ein und verletzte die gegebene Oberflächenstruktur der Steine. Mit dem anschließenden Arbeitsschritt bezeugte er jedoch sein Bedürfnis, die verursachten Verwundungen wieder zu heilen. Die aufeinander folgenden Handlungen lesen sich letztlich wie eine Beschreibung der alten und zugleich der neuen Conditio humana, denn nie zuvor wurden Berechtigung und Konsequenz der Aneignung der Natur so nachhaltig diskutiert wie am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts. Im Januar 2011 wurde der Saal den Mäzenen Christof und Ursula Engelhorn zum Dank für ihr herausragendes Engagement gewidmet. PdM Saal 20. Inventory Number: GV 81. 48 x 150 cm je Stein. Basalt, Ton, Filz, 44 Steine. Genre: Rauminstallation. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 1984 von PIN. Freunde der Pinakothek der Moderne e.V. (Galerie-Verein). Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.

Anselm Kiefer: Der Sand aus den Urnen. 2009. PdM Saal 30. Inventory Number: MES 295. 280 x 570 cm. Acryl, Öl, Schellack, Sand und Kohlestift auf Leinwand. Genre: Malerei. Department: 20./21. Jahrhundert. 2017 als Leihgabe der Michael & Eleonore Stoffel Stiftung, Köln. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München. - Caption: from the Pinakothek der Moderne website.