Monday, August 31, 2020

After the Festival: Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 25–31 August 2020


Film concert Sylvester (1924) at Il Cinema Ritrovato, Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, 29 Aug 2020. Photo: Lorenzo Burlando, Margherita Caprilli.

When the news was announced that Il Cinema Ritrovato is going to take place in real life and not only online, friends asked me if I'm going, and I replied: "I must go, but I hope they will cancel".

The catalogue was released online three weeks ahead. I spent two days reading, connecting my computer to a big tv screen with an HDMI cable. Normally, the paradox of the catalogue is that there is no time to read it until afterwards.

Everybody warned me not to go, but having read the catalogue I had no choice.

I returned from my forest retreat for a week to a Helsinki that was neglecting safe distances, face masks and hand hygiene. It was the opposite in Bologna where I felt relaxed all the time. If I'm not relaxed I cannot focus, but at Il Cinema Ritrovato I felt safe.

Everything was different. Numbered tickets had to be booked in advance. It was not permitted to change seats. It was still sweltering hot (around 32 degrees Centigrade or more) in the end of August. Wearing face masks from morning till night, also during screenings, did not make it easier.

I can watch movies without glasses, but for an accurate assessment of the visual finesses I wear glasses, and the combination of a face mask and glasses can be paradoxical because glasses tend to get foggy. I learned to manage all that. Safety first.

When I returned to unsafe Helsinki, I took the corona test at the airport and got the negative diagnosis (no virus) the day after. More than usually I had stayed in a bubble. Wearing that mask reduces the desire to meet people and engage in conversations. Such live exchanges are essential to the festival experience.

But I'm happy and grateful that they did not cancel the festival. Seeing the films in actual projections and visiting the events in person cannot be compensated by online access.

There were more venues than ever, and the catalogue was bulging with films of which only a small selection it was possible to see. As usual, I skipped the well-known and focused on films that can be hard to see on screen. I wanted to follow the retrospective of Gösta Werner, the great cineaste who I had the great pleasure to know personally, and considered indulging in the Henry Fonda retrospective, with some of my greatest favourite films, starting with Young Mr. Lincoln, but something's got to give.

The Frank Tuttle / Stuart Heisler double retrospective was a novel and illuminating concept, of two directors both richly deserving further study. Frank Tuttle's background in Paramount's elegant comedies and musicals provided a special background to films that are essential in the genesis of film noir. This Gun for Hire launched the hitman anti-hero of the screen in a way that resonates to this day, and catapulted Alan Ladd as a star.

Stuart Heisler was for decades a top editor in Hollywood before his career as a director started. Many films of his are topical for today's Black Lives Matter movement, including The Negro Soldier and Storm Warning. Heisler had also an original and passionate approach to women's films, such as Smash-Up (launching Susan Hayward as a grand melodrama diva) and The Star (metacinema with Bette Davis).

Ladies Should Listen (1934).
The Glass Key (1935).
This Gun for Hire (1942).
Hostages (1943).
Suspense (1946).
Hell on Frisco Bay (1956).

Among the Living (1941) .
The Negro Soldier (1944) .
Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) .
Storm Warning (1951) .
The Star (US 1952).

The Annales approach has been distinctive and indispensable in Bologna. The Cento anni fà series started in 2003 with "The First Great Year of the Cinema: 1903", and that series still continues. In 2015, a parallel Annales series started with Anno Zero, of the first films released in 1895. This year the series went on with a changed title, "Century of Cinema: 1900", but for my own memory organization, I still call the series also "Anno Cinque". In the beginning, the Annales series were global and representative, but soon they turned Eurocentric and quite selective even at that. They are indispensable all the same. This year's highlights included a Méliès magic show: a delightful attempt to recreate the full Méliès experience. I saw the complete Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre show when it was reconstructed eight years ago in Pordenone, but this year's Bologna selection was exquisite; a smaller sample does more justice to individual films, all extraordinary records of the greatest performers of the age. Unique and outstanding was the Giancarlo Stucky collection made on the first cinema format specifically designed for home movie use: Gaumont-Demenÿ's Chrono de Poche.

1900 ANNO CINQUE (Century of Cinema: 1900 / Il secolo del cinema: 1900)
Lumière: Cinématographe Géant at the 1900 Paris Exposition .
Lumière: Indocina occupata .
Méliès .
Gaumont: Sieurin's French Collection (in Stockholm) .
Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre .
Nice Moves – British Film in 1900 .
Gaumont Chrono de Poche: Giancarlo Stucky .

Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström continued their epic project of programming Japanese cinema for heritage festivals. Yuzo Kawashima was revealed as the "missing link" between traditional and modern Japanese cinema, active from the mid-1940s until the early 1960s. I liked best his films conveying a strong community spirit (Tonkatsu taisho, Ai no onimotsu), but another prominent theme of his is the dissolution of that spirit in a new age of anomie. Kawashima was most highly regarded as a director of broad comedy (Bakumatsu taiyoden), which I need to revisit to learn to relate to.

Tonkatsu taisho / Our Chief, Our Doctor (1952).
Ai no onimotsu / Burden of Love (1955).
Ginza 24 chou / Tales of Ginza (1955) .
Suzaki paradaisu: aka shingo / Suzaki Paradise: Red Light District (1956) .
Bakumatsu taiyoden / The Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate (1957) .

Just when we thought that we already know Soviet cinema, Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz introduce to us many Soviet women directors in a rich collection of films that have been difficult or impossible to see. All talented and worthy in a "Women Make Film" age of rediscoveries. We saw the first film adaptation of Anton Chekhov's beloved dog tale Kashtanka (by Olga Preobrazhenskaya), highly personal and visually compelling films by Aleksandra Khokhlova, bold and engrossing Georgian visions by Nutsa Gogoberidze (the Ur-mother of a prominent film family in three generations), defiant and surprising works by Margarita Barskaya, a persecuted director who committed suicide during the Great Terror, a heroic Bildungsroman about the revolutionary generation by Vera Stroeva (simultaneously perhaps a Troyan Horse with a double-coded message), and Nadezhda Kosheverova's evergreen Cinderella, one of the most popular Russian films of all times.

Olga Preobrazhenskaya: Kashtanka (1926)
Aleksandra Khokhlova: Delo s zastyozhkami / An Affair of the Clasps (1929)
Aleksandra Khokhlova: Sasha (1930)
Nutsa Gogoberidze: Buba (1930)
Nutsa Gogoberidze: Uzhmuri (1934)
Margarita Barskaya: Rvanye bashmaki / Torn Boots (1933).
Margarita Barskaya: Otets i syn (1936) / Father and Son (1936)
Vera Stroeva: Pokolenie pobeditelei / A Generation of Victors (1936).
Nadezhda Kosheverova: Zolushka (1947) / Cinderella (1947).

Among the single highlights in the classics series a special discovery was Mohammed Reza Aslani's Chess of the Wind, a refined and poetic Iranian detective story, a true revelation of a film believed lost and never properly launched. Pietro Germi's Seduced and Abandoned, starring an already formidable young Stefania Sandrelli, remains a startling satire of patriarchy. Two Weimar classics from the golden year 1924 were seen in restorations. Paul Leni's Waxworks is his masterpiece. Lupu Pick's Sylvester is a work of purely visual poetry, and a new exquisite restoration does justice to it. Klaus Pringsheim's original score, one of the best original scores of the silent period, was heard at Piazza Maggiore for the first time in 96 years. My greatest favourite at the festival was Hiroshi Inagaki's The Rickshaw Man. It was cut in two instances of censorship by 20 minutes, and the cuts are still believed lost, but even in this unintentionally elliptic form the movie radiates timeless wisdom and mystery.

Mohammed Reza Aslani: Shatranj-e baad / Chess of the Wind (1976).

Hiroshi Inagaki: Muhomatsu no issho (1943) / The Rickshaw Man (1943) .

Pietro Germi: Sedotta e abbandonata / Seduced and Abandoned (1964).

Paul Leni: Das Wachsfigurenkabinett / Waxworks (1924).
Film concert: Lupu Pick: Sylvester (1924), with the original score by Klaus Pringsheim.

My immediate reactions on the last evening of the Festival: 31 August 2020 .

Il Cinema Ritrovato selections about which I have also blogged recently:
Esfir Shub: К.Ш.Э. Комсомол – шеф электрификации / K.S.E. Komsomol – Leader of Electrification (1932).
Marco Ferreri: La donna scimmia / The Ape Woman (1964).

On the last evening: Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 25–31 August 2020


The poster boy and the poster girl: Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg filming À bout de souffle / Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960).

The silent films of Il Cinema Ritrovato in 2020 were screened at the Bologna Opera House, the legendary Teatro Comunale di Bologna, built in 1763 and designed by the architect Antonio Galli Bibiena. The musicians have never been happier. The acoustics was perfect, and the Steinway Concert Grand Piano was top of the game.

Il Cinema Ritrovato made a strong statement by realizing a full scale festival in the pandemic year 2020. Against all odds, and during a period when other high profile festivals, including Telluride and Pordenone, were cancelled.

It was a much needed statement. My previous film festival visit was to Tampere, 4-8 March, five and a half months ago. Meanwhile I have been watching films online and even had my first online film festival experience: Midnight Sun Film Festival 2020.

All this has been great, but it's not the same. We need the living simultaneous connection. There is a unique electricity in the cinema experience. Big films need the big space. Intimate films need the charged intimacy. Suspense is more thrilling when felt together. Comedy is funnier when there are escalating, successive waves of laughter. Even silliness is funnier when shared. Audiences with children are the greatest elixir.

Bologna 2020 was like arriving at an oasis after a half-year wandering in the wilderness. Thank you directors Gian Luca Farinelli, Cecilia Cenciarelli, Ehsan Khoshbakht and Mariann Lewinsky. Thank you festival coordinator Guy Borlée and all of the dedicated staff. 

We obeyed safe distances and hand hygiene, and in our masks we were like a cast of characters from a Louis Feuillade serial.

We are terrified by the recent news from Hollywood where careers of the most experienced professionals, our beloved colleagues, are on the line. For the current studio heads, streaming is king. But the cinema experience is indispensable.

My three highlights of Il Cinema Ritrovato Anno 2020:

Storm Warning (Stuart Heisler, 1951). One of the greatest political thrillers of all times. Theme: the Ku Klux Klan. In a casting coup, Ginger Rogers and Ronald Reagan play the heroes who defy mob rule.

Sylvester / New Year's Eve (Lupu Pick, 1924). The well-known Weimar classic was reborn in the film concert on Piazza Maggiore. The 2020 Deutsche Kinemathek restoration is based on the brilliant Komiya Collection nitrate print, and the subtle théâtre intime experience is greatly enhanced by the visual refinement. For the first time since the premiere the original music by Klaus Pringsheim was heard, played by the orchestra of Teatro Comunale, conducted by Timothy Brock. It is one of the greatest original silent film scores.

The Rickshaw Man / Muhomatsu no issho (Hiroshi Inagaki, 1943). This engrossing masterpiece of Japanese cinema was shown in a brand new 2020 restoration in the Venice Classics strand of the festival. I have been wanting to see this movie since Nagisa Oshima praised it in his Century of the Cinema tribute to the history of Japanese cinema in 1995. Seeing the film at last, it greatly exceeded my expectations.

Bakumatsu taiyoden / The Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate

Yuzo Kawashima: 幕末太陽傳 / Bakumatsu taiyoden / The Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate (JP 1957).

Yuzo Kawashima: 幕末太陽傳 / Bakumatsu taiyoden / The Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate (JP 1957).

Yuzo Kawashima: 幕末太陽傳 / Bakumatsu taiyoden / The Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate (JP 1957).

幕末太陽傳 / A Sun-Tribe Myth from the Bakumatsu Era / The Sun Legend of the End of the Tokugawa Era / Sun Legend of the Shogunate's Last Days / Chronique du soleil à la fin de l'ère Edo.
JP 1957. Director: Yuzo Kawashima.
    Scen.: Keiichi Tanaka, Yuzo Kawashima, Shohei Imamura. F.: Kurataro Takamura. M.: Tadashi Nakamura. Scgf.: Kazuhiko Chiba, Kimihiko Nakamura. Mus.: Toshiro Mayuzumi. Ass. regia: Shohei Imamura.
    Int.: Frankie Sakai (Inokori Saheiji), Sachiko Hidari (Osome), Yoko Minamida (Koharu), Yujiro Ishihara (Shinsaku Takasugi), Izumi Ashikawa (Ohisa), Toshiyuki Ichimura (Mokubei), Nobuo Kaneko (Denbei), Hisano Yamaoka (Otatsu, moglie di Denbei), Yasukiyo Umeno (Tokusaburo, figlio di Otatsu), Masao Oda (Zenpachi).
    Prod.: Nikkatsu. DCP. 110 min. Bn.
    Unreleased in Finland.
    Bologna: Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020: Yuzo Kawashima: The Missing Link
    DCP from Nikkatsu. A digital restoration was conducted in 2012 to the Nikkatsu Centenary.
    Japanese version with English subtitles on DCP by Dean Shimauchi and e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, 31 Aug 2020

Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): "Widely regarded as Kawashima’s signature work, this witty, relaxed and irreverent film unfolds in the mid-19th century in and around a brothel in the pleasure quarter of Yukaku in Shinagawa, now a district of Tokyo, then the first of the numerous post towns along the Tokaido highway stretching westwards toward Kyoto. Protagonist Saheiji, played by Kawashima’s regular collaborator, comedian Frankie Sakai, proves unable to pay the bill, and is obliged to pay off his debt to the brothel by working there. Inspired by the tradition of comic storytelling, or rakugo, Kawashima integrates characters from its classic repertoire with elements of the turbulent history of the so-called bakumatsu period, as the Shogunate which had governed Japan for more than 250 years stood on the verge of collapse. As critic Frederick Veith writes, Kawashima was “always attentive to the complex mediation and negotiation of social forces in a society in the midst of change”, and “often visualised this in the ebb and flow and constantly shifting, subtle reorientation of bodies as they move through space… In Bakumatsu taiyoden the focal point of this is the large central corridor of the Sagami-ya [brothel], through which he conducts traffic as if he were filming a busy street, full of economic activity”. Indeed, this period film is also arguably a comment on the postwar Japan in which it was made – the era of economic growth and transformation – as the opening shots of Shinagawa’s modern red light district (then on the verge of closure after a change in Japanese law) suggests. The “Kinema Junpo” reviewer, one may suppose, was reflecting on this contemporary context in his cryptic comment that the film, although a jidaigeki, “reeked of butter” (ie, evoked the West), and when he identified the young samurai revolutionaries as après-guerre figures. He praised the way in which Kawashima depicted the eroticism of the pleasure district with humour, commented that the character of Saheiji as played by Sakai reminded him of Figaro, and noted that the film was, “as always, very well made”. Kawashima himself, interviewed in “Kinema Junpo”, observed that “depicting serious characters in a serious way is always difficult, and therefore I am afraid that my characters always become rather careless, or at least almost certainly scatterbrained. It is not that I am looking for an easy way out, but I kind of feel like I want to leave [myself] an escape route”. Commenting on the film’s fusion of fact and fiction through the characters of Inokori Saheiji and Shinsaku Takasugi (a fictional character and a historical figure respectively), he said: “It goes without saying that they have different personalities. However, to my mind, they both lived life with vigour, and I think that they fit together. Five or six years ago I thought of this combination, and this is the result. These two characters were not easy to tie down, and pushed me to the breaking point. That is to say, the energy that these two characters have, perhaps best called vital force, was stronger than I had expected, and overpowered my own meagre strength”. Shohei Imamura, just about to embark on his own directorial career, cowrote the screenplay; the film is, as he wrote, “essential to an understanding of Kawashima”." Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020)

IMDb synopsis: "In the last days of the Shogunate, a resourceful grifter seeks to outwit competing prostitutes, rebellious samurai and other inhabitants of a brothel in order to survive the hardened times."

Nikkatsu synopsis: "Set in the last few years of the Shogun's rule, this period / ensemble movie depicts the lives of the young and the restless at a whorehouse. The protagonist is Saheiji, a resourceful, witty free spirit. It's 1862, six years before the Shogun turned his political power over to the Emperor. Penniless Saheiji splashes out at a famous Shinagawa whorehouse. He's forced to stay on at the whorehouse to repay his debt. At first Saheiji is regarded as an unwelcome guest who never leaves but it turns out he is not just a poor grifter. None of the whorehouse's guests, hosts, servants and attending ladies are innocent but they are pragmatic schemers. Saheiji soon endears himself to them all and solves many whorehouse disputes with his wit. But it is slowly revealed that the seemingly perfect Saheiji is suffering from tuberculosis and his future is uncertain..."

AA: I saw for the first time Bakumatsu taiyoden. For the curators Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström, it's Yuzo Kawashima's signature work. It gets repeatedly voted among the best Japanese films of all times.

I saw five Kawashima films in Bologna's retrospective, and Bakumatsu taiyoden was the only one that left me indifferent, no doubt because of my lacking understanding of its cultural codes and verbal jokes based on a slang that can be difficult even for native speakers.

It's a comedy and a farce, and I found Kawashima's sense of humour appealing in all the other films, not here. It's not only about the grotesque tone. In the earlier films I appreciated a life-affirming ambience, a self-evident conviction that adversities are to be overcome.

Here the obsession to ridicule seems to me forced and overdone. This is no laughter with tears. It's a hollow laughter with a sense of darkness and pessimism that the laughter tries in vain to hide.

I fail to connect with the shallow characters and find the lowbrow shenanigans tiresome. I miss the engrossing sense of community in Kawashima's earlier films.

Perhaps it's the brothel milieu, a life based on mutual exploitation, an instrumental approach to human relationships. Only a Max Ophuls can create a bordello film with a sense of generosity (La Maison Tellier in Le Plaisir). Kenji Mizoguchi introduces a passionate empathy to his tragic tales in the Red Light District. In Kawashima's vision I find only futility and triviality.

Donald Richie compares Bakumatsu taiyoden with Humanity and Paper Balloons, which I liked, and I see the connection between the protagonists, but I find the approaches of Yuzo Kawashima and Sadao Yamanaka incompatible.

I need to revisit both and learn to understand the Japanese sense of frivolity, the rakugo spirit of the Japanese comedy of manners. Perhaps there is an affinity with commedia all'italiana, the kind of comedy that does not make us laugh.

The narrative approach: a multi-character study, a cross-section film, a Grand Hotel set in a Shinagawa whorehouse in 1862. "People come, people go. Nothing ever happens".

Kashtanka (1926)

Olga Preobrazhenskaya: Каштанка / Kashtanka (SU 1926).

Olga Preobrazhenskaya: Каштанка / Kashtanka (SU 1926). The carpenter Luka Aleksandrovich (Antonin Pankryshev), his son Fedyushka (Yura Zimin) and their dog Kashtanka.

Каштанка / Fedus pes.
    SU 1926. Director: Olga Preobraženskaja. 76 min
    Sog.: from the eponymous short tale (1887) by Anton Pavlovič Čechov.
    Translated into Finnish as "Kashtanka" by Matti Lehmonen in Valittuja kertomuksia ja novelleja 1 (1945, Smia).
    Scen.: Jurij Bolotov, Ol’ga Preobraženskaja. Ass. regia: Ivan Pravov, N. Zubova. F.: Grigorij Giber. Scgf.: Dmitrij Kolupaev.
    Int.: Nikolaj Panov (clown Georges), Evgenija Chovanskaja (affittacamere), Antonin Pankryšev (Luka), Naum Rogožin (Mazamet, suonatore d’organetto), Leonid Jurenev (Chiodo, vagabondo), Jura Zimin (Fedjuška), Elena Tjapkina (Nastas’ja, lavandaia), Michail Žarov, B. Snegirev (Agafon), Gulja Koroleva. Il cane Jackie.
    Prod.: Sovkino. 35 mm. Bn.
    Bologna: Il Cinema Ritrovato: Early Women Directors in the Soviet Union
    Print from: Národní filmový archiv (print made in 1995)
    Czech intertitles
    E-subtitles in English and Italian by Violetta Zardadi.
    Digital piano: John Sweeney.
    Introduce Mariann Lewinsky.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, 31 Aug 2020
Kashtanka is the name of a dog. "Kashtan" means "chestnut".

"Anton Chekhov's story was first published in Novoye Vremya's No. 4248, 25 December (old style) 1887 issue, originally under the title "In Learned Society" (В учёном обществе; V uchyonom obschestve). Revised by the author, divided into seven chapters and under the new title it came out as a separate edition in Saint Petersburg in 1892 and enjoyed six re-issues in 1893–1899. Chekhov included it into Volume 4 of his Collected Works published by Adolf Marks in 1899–1901. In 1903 the story came out illustrated by Dmitry Kardovsky and in such form continued to be re-issued well into the end of the 20th century." (Wikipedia)

Mariann Lewinsky (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): “Kashtanka by Olga Preobrazhenskaya, print 1995, a film of winter, of night and snow, of children and animals, a film about loss, a masterpiece”, read my viewing notes from 2012. My Prague colleagues had it screened for me because they knew I was interested in colour in silent cinema, and they knew a tinted Soviet silent film to be a rare item. I had never heard the name of the director. My encounter with her work was enhanced by the shock of discovering that a major director who had reached international audiences with Baby ryazanskie and Tikhiy Don (The Quiet Don) around 1930 could disappear without a trace from official film history. In 2013, Il Cinema Ritrovato dedicated a retrospective to her." Mariann Lewinsky (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020)

Natalya Nusinova (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): "In the original story by Chekhov, Kashtanka is a little dog that gets lost following the trail of his drunken owner. In the film he is stolen, sold, tossed out into the street and saved by a clown. The boy Fedyushka gets lost looking for the dog and ends up a prisoner of the sinister Mazamet who compels him to rove from house to house to make money, while Fedyushka’s father wanders through the streets in search of his lost child. The film was approved by the censors in 1926 and received the authorisation for international distribution the following year. Before the Czech print was discovered in 2012, Kashtanka had been considered lost in Russia, following the decision by the Central Committee of film censorship to ban the film in 1932 (“the underclass is portrayed as evil, lacking in class consciousness and social awareness”)." Natalya Nusinova (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020)

AA: In Anton Chekhov's oeuvre, Kashtanka was published during an extremely important and productive year, 1887, just before his great turning-point, the long story The Steppe. Olga Preobrazhenskaya's Kashtanka was the first of six film adaptations of Chekhov's beloved story.

For several generations the film was missing, believed lost. Then a Czech print was preserved from apparently the sole surviving source, battered, in low definition and low contrast and with a lot of "rain", but still conveying an idea of the original film.

Anton Chekhov's story has been completely changed, but a core idea remains: the ordeals of a little dog in the hands of several owners. In the movie the dog's tale is mirrored by a parallel adventure of the little boy Fedyushka who loves it more than anything else.

There are memorable aspects in the movie. The desolate winter, with snow, wind and a freezing cold. Luka Aleksandrovich's infinite sorrow when his son Fedyushka goes missing (kidnapped by underworld figures). Nikolai Panov's magisterial performance as the Clown Georges. Electrifying long shots of the circus by Grigori Giber.

The story belongs to a distinguished lineage about a child's love to a pet animal. From Bologna we remember William A. Wellman's Good-bye, My Lady. Olga Preobrazhenskaja conveys this central theme with sincere emotion, eliciting fine performances both from Yura Zimin as Fedyuschka and the dog Jackie as Kashtanka.

On the other hand, the tale belongs to another great tradition: an animal's adventure with different owners as a mirror of humanity. Several models have been quoted as Chekhov's real-life inspirations. I suspect that he might have also been inspired by Leo Tolstoy's masterful horse saga Kholstomer (1886), published the year before. In the cinema, a parallel masterpiece is Robert Bresson's Balthazar. The concept remains fruitful for fresh and original interpretations such as Anca Damian's animation Marona's Fantastic Tale (2019). And looking for an even wider context, one may even think about the novel The Golden Ass by Apuleius (late 2nd century BC), where a human protagonist, metamorphosed into an ass, has to endure all its ordeals.

Dmitri Kardovsky (1866–1943): Kashtanka, Fedyushka and his father, the carpenter Luka Aleksandrovich, an illustration to Anton Chekhov's Kashtanka. Charcoal and India ink. «Каштанка» А. П. Чехова. Илл. Д. Н. Кардовского. Уголь, тушь, 1903.

Muhomatsu no issho / The Rickshaw Man (1943) (world premiere of the 2020 digital restoration by Kadokawa Corporation and The Film Foundation)

Hiroshi Inagaki: 無法松の一生 / Muhomatsu no issho / The Rickshaw Man (JP 1943) starring Keiko Sonoi (Mother), Hiroyuki Nagato (Toshio bambino) and Tsumasaburo Bando (Matsugoro the Rickshaw Man).

Hiroshi Inagaki: 無法松の一生 / Muhomatsu no issho / The Rickshaw Man (JP 1943) starring Tsumasaburo Bando as Matsugoro.

Hiroshi Inagaki: 無法松の一生 / Muhomatsu no issho / The Rickshaw Man (JP 1943) starring Tsumasaburo Bando as Matsugoro who still knows the secret of Gion daiko drumming of Kokura. My screenshot from Taiko Source.

Hiroshi Inagaki: 無法松の一生 / Muhomatsu no issho / The Rickshaw Man (JP 1943) starring Hiroyuki Nagato (Toshio bambino), Tsumasaburo Bando (Matsugoro the Rickshaw Man) and Keiko Sonoi (Mother).

無法松の一生 / Wheels of Fate / L'Homme au pousse-pousse
    JP 1943. Director: Hiroshi Inagaki. 78 min
    Sog.: dal romanzo Tomishima Matsugoro den (1939) di Shunsaku Iwashita. Scen.: Mansaku Itami. F.: Kazuo Miyagawa. M.: Shigeo Nishida. Mus.: Goro Nishi.
    Int. Tsumasaburo Bando (Matsugoro, detto ‘Matsu’), Yasushi Nagata (capitano Kotaro Yoshioka), Keiko Sonoi (la moglie di Yoshioka), Kamon Kawamura (Toshio), Hiroyuki Nagato (Toshio bambino), Ryûnosuke Tsukigata, Kyôji Sugi.
    Prod.: Daiei Film. DCP. Bn.
    The original version was 99 min. 20 minutes of censorship cuts are believed lost.
    Bologna: Il Cinema Ritrovato: Venezia Classici – The Film Foundation 30
    DCP from Kadokawa Pictures
    Original in Japanese with Italian subtitles by Antonella Viardo on the DCP and e-subtitles in English by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Restored by Kadokawa Corporation and The Film Foundation at Cineric in New York and Lisbon, with the cooperation of The Kyoto Film Archive. Special thanks to Masahiro Miyajima and Martin Scorsese for their consultation
    Introduce Andrea Meneghelli.
    Viewed at Teatro Auditorium Manzoni, 31 Aug 2020.

Jacques Lourcelles, Dictionnaire du cinéma: les films, Laffont, Paris 1992, quoted at Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2020: "A film portrait: the flashbacks and present-day sequences, located on the same plane, reveal the different aspects of the character of Matsugoro, The Rebel, an almost legendary figure for the Japanese lower classes. Matsugoro embodies, in his modest condition, some eternal features of the national character: oversensitive pride, courage, devotion, adherence to tradition, respect for the moral code of the time, to the point of sacrifice. Beyond its few experiments (such as the linking sequences and the unfolding of time marked by the visual leitmotif of the ever-spinning rickshaw wheel), the film’s worth is in its spontaneity, its freshness, its bonhomie. In its modesty too, as it understates any character’s dismay, even despair."

"Fifteen years later, Inagaki would shoot an extremely faithful remake of his own film, but in Cinemascope and colour: a more explanatory, more diluted, more outdated work, less touching and less convincing. It was the cuts made by the very strict censorship of the time, Max Tessier recalls (in Images du cinéma japonais, Veyrier, 1981) that pushed Inagaki to undertake the remake. However, everything had been said in the original, allusive and endearing in its form. In the 1958 version, Toshiro Mifune’s overly plodding and overly picturesque interpretation prevents the figure of Matsugoro from ‘coming across’ as well as in the first version. A third adaptation of Iwashita’s novel was made in 1965 by Kenji Misumi.
" Jacques Lourcelles, Dictionnaire du cinéma: les films, Laffont, Paris 1992, quoted at Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2020

AA: The world premiere of the 2020 restoration of The Rickshaw Man (1943) was screened in the Venice Classics strand of the festival.

I have been looking forward to this film ever since Nagisa Oshima praised it in his Century of the Cinema tribute to the history of Japanese cinema in 1995. In his montage, the excerpt was followed by the most heart-breaking superimposition in Oshima's oeuvre – the Hiroshima mushroom – and a close-up of Keiko Sonoi, the female star of the film, killed from exposure to the atomic bomb in Hiroshima – the only moment in an Oshima film that makes me cry.

In a parallel case, seeing The Rickshaw Man was for me both the greatest highlight of Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020 and the only film that made me cry, but this had nothing to do with Oshima's Hiroshima association, which I had forgotten.

There is a secret and a mystery buried in this movie, perhaps not even conscious to the director Hiroshi Inagaki or his cast and crew, but they have sensed and nurtured it. There is a unique and compelling emotional charge in The Rickshaw Man.

That charge I sensed already in Oshima's excerpt, and in his interpretation, the movie embodied a spirit of ancient, original Japanese humanity, a counter-image to the contemporary reality of militarism, coercion and class society. The Rickshaw Man is also a story of unrequited love transcending class boundaries. Even with anticipations like this, the movie greatly exceeded my expectations.

The action takes place in the city of Kokura (today merged with four other cities into Kitakyushu) on the island of Kyushu in Southern Japan, near the Tsushima Strait and the Korea Strait. Kokura lies between Hiroshima (to the Northeast) and Nagasaki (to the Southwest). The historical city is known for Kokura Castle and Miyamoto Musashi, a philosopher and swordsman well-known in the cinema from films by Daisuke Ito, Kenji Mizoguchi, Hiroshi Inagaki, Tomu Uchida and others.

The year is 1905, that of the Russo-Japanese War. Kotaro, the father of the Yoshioka family, is a captain of the army. When he dies during a military exercise in a rainy season, Matsugoro, a rickshaw man, becomes a surrogate father to his son Toshio, now raised by Mrs. Yoshioka as a widowed mother.

Matsugaro is a notorious brawler, drunkard and troublemaker. The hulk can devour 16 bowls of Udoi noodles. He manages to get into quarrel with the Wakamatsu police kendo teacher. On a rare visit to the theatre, he arrives with a portable stove and cooks garlic, to the consternation of the theatre audience. But he is a superb rickshaw man.

One day, he helps the crying boy Toshio, who has injured himself while playing on stilts, and wins the trust of the Yoshioka family. After Kotaro's death, Matsugoro becomes a reliable surrogate father who teaches Toshio to be brave and face adversity. He escorts Mrs. Yoshioka and Toshio to Sunday festivities, and, at their incitation, spontaneously enters a sprint race which he wins. While helping raise Toshio, Matsugoro himself grows up.

When Toshio lands into fights with other boys, Matsugoro teaches him self-defense skills. Years go by, and Toshio now fails to recognize the humble rickshaw man. But on Kokura Gion Daiko Day, Toshio is accompanied by his teacher from Goko. He wants to hear authentic Gion Daiko drums, and they visit the festival street where a magnificent double-sided nagado-daiko drum is installed on a float.

As the official drummers are clueless about authentic drumming, Matsugoro volunteers to demonstrate. To the amazement of the festival public, he gives a powerful and playful performance of three classic drumming styles, 流れ打ち、勇み駒、暴れ打ち (nagare-uchi, isami koma, abare-uchi). Old-timers who still recognize them have not heard them in years. This scene has became a model of new waves of drummers to the present day. Partly it was, however, an invention by Denji Tanaka for this movie. The drumming we hear is not by Tsumasaburo Bando, who only pantomimes it.

In scenes deleted by the censor, Matsugoro confesses his secret affection to Mrs. Yoshioka. Having failed, he reverts to sake and dies in the snow. Among his estate, a hefty bankbook is found for Mrs. Yoshiko and Toshio, with all his gifts from the family untouched.

The film was shot by Kazuo Miyagawa who during this period was Hiroshi Inagaki's trusted cinematographer. He proceeded in the 1950s to masterpieces by others, including Rashomon, Ugetsu, Ukigusa and Tokyo Olympics. Here he was also in charge of the elaborate on-camera visual effects, enchanting superimpositions achieved by multiple exposures using a method called Kanjin-cho. While the film in general follows an approach of vivid realism, the visual effects introduce a stream of consciousness, a window to dreams, memories, and poetic impressions of the stormy sea. A recurrent visual motif, like a rhyme, is the fast movement of the rickshaw wheels.

After WWII, scenes relevant to the Japanese Empire were removed: a lantern procession to celebrate the Russo-Japanese war, and scenes where Toshio and his schoolmates sing military songs like "Blood of the Amur River"「アムール川の流血や」.

The blunt censorship cuts contribute to an approach of ellipsis. The film at times proceeds in jump cuts, but the impact is not jarring; it's electrifying. The most moving ellipses are the deaths of Kotaro Yoshioka and Matsugoro the rickshaw man.

Although this is a film about a son and his two father figures, the female perspective is central. The mother appreciates Matsugoro for his positive and life-affirming masculinity. In his spirit of cheerful bravery she finds a good model for Toshio.

Matsugoro himself has no good childhood memories. With Toshio he can experience a happy childhood and become a father figure like he never had. His own father was a miserable drunkard, a fate Matsugoro now has a reason to avoid. Flying kites and balloons and observing flocks of birds are among the memorable visual motifs. Simply and eloquently, they convey a yearning to the beyond.

Tsumasaburo Bando gives a great performance in the title role. I have never seen a film of his before, although he has 162 acting credits in the Internet Movie Database. Affectionately called Bantsuma, he was one of Japan's greatest stars from the 1920s till the 1940s, and from 1925 till 1937 he had his own production company, the first Japanese star to achieve that. He was a master of the swordfighting period film genre of jidai-geki. For Bando the role in The Rickshaw Man was exceptional. He had to be persuaded to it by his trusted director Hiroshi Inagaki who had directed his first sound movie.

The rickshaw man is a humble character, performing a heavy chore usually carried out by an animal. But the interpretation of Hiroshi Inagaki and Tsumasaburo Bando is a display of extraordinary humanity and a privileged access to something sacred and timeless. This revelation may have an affinity with Bantsuma's unconventional approach to the samurai tradition in films starting with Orochi (1925).

Kokura Gion daiko statue at south exit of Kokura station. 5 January 2005. Photo © Ian Ruxton (Historian) at English Wikipedia.

Hell on Frisco Bay


Frank Tuttle: Hell on Frisco Bay (US 1955).

Frank Tuttle: Hell on Frisco Bay (US 1955). Alan Ladd (Steve Rollins), Paul Stewart (Joe Lye), Edward G. Robinson (Victor Amato).

The Darkest Hour / La baia dell'inferno / Friscon alamaailma / Helvetti Friscon lahdella / Frisco Bay [Swedish title].
    US. Year of production: 1955. Year of copyright and general release: 1956. Director: Frank Tuttle. 99 min
    Sog.: from the novel The Darkest Hour (1955) by William McGivern. Scen.: Sydney Boehm, Martin Rackin. F.: John F. Seitz. M.: Folmar Blangsted. Scgf.: John Beckman. Mus.: Max Steiner.
    Int.: Alan Ladd (Steve Rollins), Edward G. Robinson (Victor Amato), Paul Stewart (Joe Lye), Joanne Dru (Marcia Rollins), William Demarest (Dan Bianco), Fay Wray (Kay Stanley), Perry Lopez (Mario Amato), Renata Vanni (Anna Amato), Rod Taylor (John Brodie Evans), Peter Hansen (detective Connors), Jayne Mansfield (ragazza al dance club).
    Prod.: George C. Bertholon, Alan Ladd per Jaguar Productions. DCP
    © 1956 Ladd Enterprises, Inc.
    Songs: "The Very Thought Of You" (comp. and lyr. Ray Noble, 1934) and "It Had To Be You" (comp. Isham Jones, lyr. Gus Kahn, 1924), sung by Joanne Dru in the nightclub (dubbed by Bonnie Lou Williams).
    US limited release: 31 Dec 1955, general release: 28 Jan 1956.
    Helsinki premiere: 27 July 1956, Rea, distributed by Warner Bros.
    Bologna: Il Cinema Ritrovato: Guns for Hire: Frank Tuttle vs. Stuart Heisler
    DCP from Warner Bros.
    E-subtitles in Italian by SubTi Londra.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, 31 Aug 2020.

Ehsan Khoshbakht (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): "Following a five-year absence from Hollywood, his career sadly in decline, Tuttle returned with a tersely directed crime story. Alan Ladd (whose company produced the film) was responsible for this comeback, paying some of his dues to the man who made him a star. The script by Boehm and Rackin is hardly original but it is sensitively and sharply written, giving Tuttle the chance to focus in on the drama. As with Suspense, however, Tuttle took an unconventional approach by leaving most of the killing and the action off-screen. Steve, an ex-cop who has been jailed on charges of manslaughter, is released from San Quentin after five years (an allusion to Tuttle’s own situation?). His only concern is to find the guilty party. He heads straight to the fishing ports of San Francisco Bay – superbly shot on location in CinemaScope by John F. Seitz – where everything is controlled by Vic Amato, a crooked businessman and gangster who is in fact behind the murder for which Steve was charged. This is Edward G. Robinson’s film through and through. He crackles with amazing energy and makes the air thick with corruption. Vic manipulates the dock workers, many of whom are fellow Italian immigrants, and even gives the order to kill a member of his own family. He uses people’s weaknesses to push them into a corner, sucking them dry. When they are no longer useful, they are cast into the Bay. To Vic, people are little different from the fish. Conveying both charisma and evil, when he gives a statue of Christ an empty look in one scene, the depth of his bitterness and immorality is revealed. Tuttle brings the background dramas to the fore, which become the film’s main driving force: Vic’s relationship with his devout wife, and the redeeming connection between his assistant Joe, a conman with a heart, and the washed-up movie star he is in love with, played by Fay Wray. In A Cry in the Night, made a year later and again produced by Ladd, Tuttle would still show a sense of command and an ability to muster new ideas – but this is perhaps the last film of his in which every scene has the stamp of a master." Ehsan Khoshbakht (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020)

AA: The blacklisted director Frank Tuttle got to make this comeback film thanks to Alan Ladd whom he had groomed to stardom in This Gun for Hire, The Glass Key and Lucky Jordan.

Typically for a Bologna retrospective, we are following a director's progress from the silent days (Kid Boots, Bologna 2017) to the sound period, and finally to colour and CinemaScope.

There is a breath of fresh San Francisco bay air in the atmospheric WarnerColor cinematography by John B. Seitz, the veteran who had risen to prominence with Rex Ingram, become the DP of Paramount classics by Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder, and who on the last leg of his career worked regularly with Alan Ladd and Frank Tuttle. Learning to navigate in scope, Tuttle directs the action in long takes and reinvents visual dynamics in the elongated mise-en-scène.

Hell on Frisco Bay is a gangster film featuring a rogue cop interpreted by Ladd. The rogue cop cycle was prominent in the 1950s in films such as Where the Sidewalk Ends (Otto Preminger, 1950), The Prowler (Joseph Losey, 1951), Detective Story (William Wyler, 1951), On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1952), The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953) and Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958).

The writer William P. McGivern was a specialist of the trend, covering corruption in big cities in novels that were filmed as Shield for Murder (Howard W. Koch, Edmond O'Brien, 1953), Rogue Cop (Roy Rowland, 1954), and, most famously, The Big Heat. Of the screenwriters, Sydney Boehm was a film noir expert, while Martin Rackin was an Alan Ladd regular who had also written The Enforcer for Bretaigne Windust and Raoul Walsh (1951), about Murder, Inc.

Alan Ladd plays the ex-cop Steve Rollins who is released from San Quentin Prison after five years, having been framed for manslaughter by the dockyard mafia boss Victor Amato. Without any official mandate he pursues the mob with single-minded fervour. Rollins's brutality and recklessness and his unflinching use of torture and coercion make him no different from the gangsters he is pursuing. "You really wanted to kill him".

Edward G. Robinson gives a great performance as Victor Amato. It is more than acting: he is in his element, he lives the part, he owns the place. "Severance pay" is an ominous expression when uttered by Amato. Observing Rollins's efficiency Amato offers to hire him as his right hand man as a replacement of the one who has failed.

It's a man's world, but it would be nothing without a woman in it. The emotionally challenged Steve refuses to communicate with his devout and loyal wife Marcia, whom he has shut completely off during his prison term.

Steve is aware of a one night stand of Marcia's during his absence, and that is reason enough for incommunicado. Steve calls her "unfaithful", but he should look in the mirror and think who is being even more unfaithful. On the other hand, Steve wants to protect Marcia, and that is a major reason why he does not want to be involved just now. "I don't want to get you in trouble".

Joanne Dru (who had been discovered to stardom by Howard Hawks and John Ford) gives a dignified performance as the night club singer Marcia. Other exciting female performers include Fay Wray, Tina Carver and Renata Vanni, and, in bit parts, the rising star Jayne Mansfield, and in a lovely casting coup, the Hollywood veteran Mae Marsh, who had started with Griffith (Intolerance) and who ended her film career in John Ford's stock company.

There was a half an hour delay in the screening (supposed to start at 9.15, it started at 9.45), and I missed the ending, needing to catch The Rickshaw Man. I managed to follow Hell on Frisco Bay until Steve's scenes with Bessie (Tina Carver).

A first rate DCP from Warner Bros.

Hell on Frisco Bay 2020: as I am writing these remarks post festum, "photos show eerie orange sky over California’s Bay Area as devastating wildfires rage." 10 Sep 2020. This photo is uncredited, but other photos in the article are credited to Burak Arik and Neal Waters, Anadoly Agency via Getty Images.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Uzhmuri (2018 digital transfer, world premiere outside Georgia)

Nutsa Gogoberidze: უჟმური / Uzhmuri (SU 1934).

უჟმური / Uzhmuri (The Wicked Deity of Mengrelian Swamps – Tropical Malaria) / Ujmuri, la regina della malaria.
    SU 1934. Director: Nutsa Gogoberidze. 56 min
    Scen.: Šalva Dadiani, Nutsa Gogoberidze. F.: Šalva Apakidze. Scgf.: Mikheil Gotsiridze. Recorded score composed by Giya Kancheli.
    Int.: Kote Daušvili (Parna), Merab Čikovani (Kavtar), Nutsa Čkeidze (Mariam), Ivlita Djordjadze (Tsiru), N. Iašvili (Gocha), O. Gogoberidze (Iagundisa), M. Tsitlidze (Kitsi), I. Slutsker (Gvada).
    Prod.: Goskinprom Gruzii. DCP. Bn.
    Bologna: Il Cinema Ritrovato: Early Women Directors in the Soviet Union
    DCP from 3003 Film Production. [Georgian version announced. But there were no intertitles, Georgian or otherwise on the DCP. Also the soundtrack was on-and-off. Perhaps we saw an unfinished workprint.]
    E-subtitles in Italian by SubTi Londra. English subtitles were missing, except for a short while.
    Introduce Salomé Alexi, the director's granddaughter, hosted by Bernard Eisenschitz.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, 30 Aug 2020.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): "Rediscovered in 2018, and as yet never screened outside Georgia, Uzhmuri was banned after its release in 1934. Presumed lost, the chances were that it would not surface again. It was made during the turmoil of the transitional period between the dissolution of the Association of Proletarian Writers (1932) and the official proclamation of socialist realism (1934). The screenplay was reworked several times, and a discussion in October 1933 showed that Nutsa Gogoberidze was facing the by-then defamatory accusation of making an agitprop film. In truth, if the film does once again conform to the obligatory theme of ‘old and new’, its poetry and its strong dramatic construction shine out. Gogoberidze switches her focus from the Caucasus mountains to the marshes of Mingrelia, which the authorities want to drain to combat malaria. The opening images of bucolic nature are followed by a world of illness: “Even the trees have malaria”. And the young communists who take on this operation for sanitation find themselves in conflict with local superstitions. Many can’t imagine pitting themselves against Uzhmuri, the Queen of the Frogs who haunts the marshes. She is said to lead anybody who chances upon her territory down into the depths, where she forces them to marry her. Sadly, the film doesn’t show the Queen of the Frogs but instead a kulak; and after some breathtaking suspense, he is defeated. This happy ending did not, however, prevent the wrath of the censors. At the beginning of the film, a beautiful sequence shows a dying buffalo, drowning in the marsh that swallows him up. The children who had been responsible for looking after him are crying, and calling for help. The buffalo’s head, filmed very close, is slowly covered by the mud. Did this harrowing scene, and other brutally pessimistic ones, seal the film’s fate?" Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020)

AA: The battle between modernity and ancient customs and beliefs in the marshes of Mingrelia. In the beginning, a helpless buffalo cannot be saved from drowning, but in the finale, the Komsomolets Kavtar is rescued by his fiancée who offers him the barrel of his rifle (see photo above).

The milieu and the atmosphere are quite different from Buba, but there is a similar sense of grandeur in the footage of mighty clouds, flooding rivers and montages about building a new world. Romantic scenes are distracted by mosquitoes, and modernity is clouded by appearances of the village witch. The images of building a dam, establishing the first telephone lines, and engaging in collective work are engrossing. On the other hand, everything is sabotaged by arson, and superstition is rampant.

The cinematographer is Shalva Apaqidze, whom we know also for instance from Mikhail Kalatozov's Lursmani cheqmashi / [The Nail in the Boot]. Evidently we are here at the root of a magnificent tradition of cinematography, world famous in the Thaw era Kalatozov-Urusevsky collaborations such as The Cranes are Flying, The Letter That Was Not Sent and I Am Cuba.

In Uzhmuri, I also register an affinity with the groundbreaking cinematography of Eduard Tissé in Eisenstein's ¡Que viva México! The copy viewed of Uzhmuri, however, seemed highly duped with a loss of contrast.

What we saw was apparently a work-in-progress. A Georgian version was announced, but there were no intertitles, Georgian or otherwise. The soundtrack was on-and-off. E-subtitles in Italian by SubTi Londra ran smoothly during the whole presentation. English subtitles were missing, except for a short while. The sonorization was too obtrusive to my taste. Sound effects should be avoided in silent films as a rule. They distract from the grandeur of the visuals.



Making of: Nutsa Gogoberidze: ბუბა / Buba (SU 1930).

Nutsa Gogoberidze: ბუბა / Buba (SU 1930).

Nutsa Gogoberidze: ბუბა / Buba (SU 1930).

SU 1930. Director: Nutsa Gogoberidze. 37 min
    Scen.: Nutsa Gogoberidze. F.: Sergej Zaboslaev. Scgf.: David Kakabadze.
    A documentary film.
    Prod.: Goskinprom Gruzii. DCP. Bn.
    Unreleased in Finland.
    Bologna: Il Cinema Ritrovato: Early Women Directors in the Soviet Union
    DCP from 2003 Film Production with English intertitles only, no Georgian, and music recorded and composed by Giya Kancheli
    E-subtitles in Italian by SubTi Londra.
    Introduce Salomé Alexi, the director's granddaughter, hosted by Bernard Eisenschitz.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, 30 Aug 2020.
    Buba is the name of a mighty glacier.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): "Nutsa Gogoberidze was born in 1902 the Georgian province of Saingilo (now Azerbaijan). Her father, a teacher, encouraged all six of his daughters to go into higher education. Fluent in Georgian, Russian, German and French, she studied philosophy in Tbilisi, then in Jena (1923–1925). On her return to Georgia she met the young Bolshevik leader Levan Gogoberidze, whom she married, despite her family’s opposition. She was hired by the film studio in Tbilisi, and with Mikhail Kalatozov (born Mikheil Kalatozishvili) co-directed a short documentary against the Menshevik government of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918–1921), Ikh tsarstvo (Their Kingdom, 1928). Her first feature film, the impressive Buba (1930), bears a family likeness to Sol Svanetii (Salt for Svanetia), Kalatozov’s documentary of the same year. The film was banned almost immediately. Shelved in the archives of Gosfil’mofond, it was rediscovered in 2013 and made a sensation at film festivals. Her second film, Uzhmuri (1934), suffered from the repercussions of the dissolution of the Association for Proletarian Writers (RAPP) on 23 April 1932. Her screenplay no longer appealed to the taste of the moment. Sergei Eisenstein, Viktor Shklovsky and Alexander Dovzhenko intervened but the film was banned, then lost. It was found again in December 2018 at Gosfil’mofond. In December 1936, her husband Levan Gogoberidze, from whom she had been separated for years, was arrested on Beria’s orders. He was executed on 21 March 1937. Fired from the studio, Gogoberidze made her living by translating the tales of Perrault, under a false name. She was arrested in late 1937 as “a relative of an enemy of the people”, and condemned to 10 years’ exile, first in a camp in Potma, Mordovia, then in a camp for women in Vorkuta. When she returned from the Gulag, she took a job in the linguistics department in the University of Tbilisi. She died in 1966, having seemingly passed on the baton to her daughter, Lana Gogoberidze, an important Soviet filmmaker of the Thaw generation (and who refers to her mother in her 1978 film, Ramdemime interviu pirad sakitxebze, Some Interviews on Personal Matters). Her grand-daughter Salomé Alexi, a graduate of La Fémis in Paris, made her first feature film, Kreditis limiti / Line of Credit, in 2015." Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020)


Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): "This documentary was filmed in the Ratcha region in the North of Georgia, separated from the neighbouring Svanetia by the peaks of the Greater Caucasus. Buba is the name of a mountain village, whose ancestral poverty would be turned upside down by the arrival of Soviet power. It’s hard not to think of Salt for Svanetia, Mikhail Kalatozov’s documentary filmed the same year on the same subject, and in the nearby mountains. They also shared the same art director, painter David Kakabadze, who had been employed to build the set for Kalatozov’s Slepaya (The Blind Woman), filmed in the same region, and eventually banned. When, in superb shots, Gogoberidze shows us the storming masses of clouds above the Caucasus, or the villagers’ traditional dance, the syncopated montage has a familiar feel to it. The drive of the generation, and the thriving Georgian art scene is undeniable: for the avant-garde groups, Tbilisi was on a par with Leningrad. What is unquestionably unfair is that Salt for Svanetia is so famous and that Buba has remained invisible for decades. It bears comparison beautifully, complementing a constellation in which we also find Luis Buñuel’s Las Hurdes, made two years later. In Buba there are none of the violently discordant images to be found in its two illustrious cousins. We sense in Gogoberidze’s work her attention to and sympathy for those mountain dwellers of an old world, and, as was typical in Soviet cinema, for the children temporarily sacrificed to agricultural work, but who will build Socialism in the future." Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020)

AA: Nutsa Gogoberidze is the grandmother of a film family in three generations: her daughter is Lana Gogoberidze, and presenting this screening was her granddaughter Salomé Alexi.

From Nutsa Gogoberidze I had previously only seen the remaining fragments of Mati samepo / Their Kingdom (1928), co-directed with Mikhail Kalatozov. In 1930, Gogoberidze had a parallel but separate project with Kalatozov who shot The Salt of Svanetia while Gogoberidze directed Buba, about a hard-to-reach glacier.

The emancipation of women is an emphasis distinctive for this movie about the people in the sublime mountain region. The observations of the mountain people still living in a Middle Age mode of life are exciting, fighting the Earth from morning till night. The movie is of ethnographical value.

Muck is precious here. Already little children must participate in picking nettles. It's a patriarchal way of life in an extended family that consists of 30 members or more. Women in close-ups look celestial. Singing and dancing provide moments of bliss. Mighty clouds and turbulent rivers give a sense of grandeur.

Buba belongs also to the lumberjack films: there are mightly logging and rapid-shooting sequences. The waterfalls are extremely dangerous. The summer is short, and the harvest must be gathered on time. A small cloud can bring snow.

Traditional life is dangerous, but mineral springs contribute to healthcare. In the new world, children can be taken to health sanatoriums. Building dams takes us to the future of electricity.

The visual quality of the source of the presentation was duped in low definition, and the recorded score was slightly too obtrusive to my taste. Sound effects are jarring and distract from the experience of a distinguished film.

Zolushka / Cinderella (1947)

Nadezhda Kosheverova, Mihail Shapiro: Золушка / Zolushka / Cinderella (SU 1947). Janina Zheimo (Cinderella), Aleksei Konsovsky (the Prince).
Плакат к фильму «Золушка» (СССР, 1947).
Время создания: 1947 (издан).
Автор или правообладатель: Лев Львович Офросимов (1912—1989) — художник, автор плаката; Издательство «Рекламфильм». From: Wikipedia.

Nadezhda Kosheverova, Mihail Shapiro: Золушка / Zolushka / Cinderella (SU 1947) with Faina Ranevskaya (Stepmother) and Janina Zheimo (Cinderella).

Золушка / Cenerentola / Tuhkimo / Askungen .
    SU 1947. Directors: Nadežda Koševerova, Mihail Šapiro. 82 min
    Sog.: dalla fiaba omonima di Charles Perrault. Scen.: Evgenij Švarc. F.: Evgenij Šapiro. M.: Valentina Mironova. Scgf.: Nikolaj Akimov. Mus.: Antonio Spadavekkia.
    Int.: Janina Žejmo (Zoluska), Aleksej Konsovskij (il principe), Ėrast Garin (il re), Faina Ranevskaja (la matrigna), Vasilij Merkur’ev (forestale), Aleksandr Rumnev (Pas-de-trois), Varvara Mjasnikova (fata), Igor’ Klimenkov (paggio).
    Prod.: Lenfilm. 35 mm. Bn.
    Songs: "Дразнят Золушкой меня" ["Tease Me, Cinderella"], "Добрый жук" ["A Kind Beetle"], "Песня принца" ["Song of the Prince"], "Я не знаю, что со мною" ["I Don't Know What's Wrong With Me"].
    Soviet premiere: 16 May 1947.
    Helsinki premiere: 28 Nov 1947 at Royal, distributed by Kosmos-Filmi Oy.
    Bologna: Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020: Early Women Directors in the Soviet Union
    Print from Gosfilmofond of Russia
    E-subtitles in Italian and English by Violetta Zardani.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, 30 Aug 2020

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): "Upon returning to a war-torn Leningrad, Nadezhda Kosheverova filmed a fairytale. With Zolushka she turned her back on reality and took a resolutely aesthetic perspective. Faithful to individuals and ideas, she surrounded herself with close collaborators and longtime friends. Theatre director and production designer Nikolay Akimov (1901–1968) had been her first husband (in 1953 she would film his production of Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Teni / Shadows). He had been collaborating for 20 years with the playwright and satirist Evgeny Schwartz (1896–1958), who wrote the screenplay. Schwartz wrote plays that incorporated fairytale elements with contemporary allusions (here, to name one example, about the importance of being well-connected) – and his vitriolic humour earned him numerous bans. He wasn’t taking that risk with Zolushka but, instead of making a fairytale that conformed to the dominant ideology, as Aleksandr Ptushko was doing in his films, he wrote lines that would delight Soviet audiences for a long time afterwards."

"Unlike Ptushko’s Kamennyy tsvetok (The Stone Flower) made in Moscow and filmed in Sovcolor the previous year, Zolushka had to be shot in black and white. However, Nikolay Akimov’s colour sketches have been preserved (many of those sketches have been published in colour in Peter Bagrov’s book, Zolushka, zhiteli skazochnogo korolevstva, ZAO, Moscow 2011) and they give an idea of the intense desire to create a synthetic world, evoking miniature art, book illustrators or theater decorators at the end of the 19th century."

"Kosheverova’s co-director was Mikhail Shapiro (1908–1971), also from Leningrad, for the second of their three collaborations. Above all, she fought to give the main role to Yanina Zheymo (1909–1987), one of FEKS’s greatest talents (in two short films by Antonina Kudriavtseva, Schwartz had created for Zheymo the comic character of Lenochka), despite her age. “We don’t need”, said Kosheverova, “a budding sexuality to make the role a success, but a kindness, spontaneity and child-like innocence. And no one can play that better than Yanina Zheymo. Even at the age of 37”. She was supported by enthusiastic actors Erast Garin and Faina Ranevskaya. This creative reunion made the film an immediate and lasting success, achieving the dubious triumph of being colourised in 2009.
" Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020). There is an extensive photo set of the 2009 colourized version of Zolushka at Internet Movie Database.

AA: I saw this hardy perennial for the first time. I can only agree with the general consensus about the freshness, tenderness, wisdom and charm of this interpretation. The most familiar fairy-tale of all times is reborn in the witty screenplay by Yevgeni Schwartz and in the nuanced direction by Nadezhda Kosheverova and Mikhail Shapiro.

In the genre of musical comedy make-believe everything must fit together, or everything falls. This Cinderella adaptation moves ahead in high spirits, without ignoring dark themes of jealousy, discrimination, machinations and injustice, but never giving up tenderness, humour, kindness and style. The cast is excellent, in the cinematography by Yevgeni Shapiro the tricks with transparencies work like a dream, and the music and songs by Antonio Spavadekkia are full of fun, panache and enchantment.

There is a special emotional commitment, tenderness and goodness in this movie that may be specific to the historical moment. The war, the most horrible of all times, had ended. Everywhere there was a spirit of reconstruction and an unheard-of baby boom. Children were welcome to this world, and the way the fairy-tales were told reflected this. In Finland our most popular classical fairy-tale movie was made during these years, Sleeping Beauty directed by Edvin Laine in 1949.

Cinderella may be the most-filmed fairy-tale. Last year in Bologna's 1899 Anno Quattro series we saw one of the earliest ones, Georges Méliès's Cendrillon (1899), his first multi-tableau film, "une grande féerie extraordinaire en 20 tableaux", in which he himself played Father Time. Also in Zolushka, the King decides to turn back time so that the party can go on one hour longer.

Cinderella is a universal tale, belonging in the Aarne-Thompson classification to ATU 510 A: "persecuted heroine". The oral tradition (the tale of Rhodopis) stems from ancient Egypt, where the shoe-fitting motif already appears, written down in the classical Antiquity in Greece, emerging also in Ancient China (Ye Xian) and One Thousand and One Nights (in several stories featuring three daughters), in Basile's Pentamerone (Cenerentola), retold by Perrault (Cendrillon) and the Brothers Grimm (Aschenputtel).

I missed the beginning because the screening overlapped with 1900 Anno Cinque: Gaumont Chrono Poche: Giancarlo Stucky at the Teatro Comunale.

The translation by Violetta Zardani was lovely, intelligent and seemed to catch the aroma of the dialogue.

The word I'd use to describe the spirit of Zolushka is generosity.

A good print from Gosfilmofond.

1900 Anno Cinque: Gaumont Chrono de Poche (2020 restoration in 4K of seventy home movies on 15 mm by Giancarlo Stucky)


Giancarlo Stucky: Ring a Ring o’ Roses on the Beach (Gaumont Chrono de Poche home movie n. 11, IT 1900). Bologna 2020 digital transfer from 15 mm.

Gaumont Chrono de Poche Home Movies
IT 1900. Director: Giancarlo Stucky. 45 min
    Bologna: Il Cinema Ritrovato (2020): Century of Cinema: 1900 / Il secolo del cinema: 1900 – I fantastici Stucky
    DCP from Cineteca Bologna
    Restored in 4K in 2020 by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, from original 15 mm and 9,5 mm prints held by Rosanna Chiggiato.
    Accompagnamento alla batteria de Frank Bockius e all'arpa di Eduardo Raon.
    Viewed at Teatro Comunale di Bologna, 30 Aug 2020.

Andrea Meneghelli (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020): "If taken as a compact body of work that needs no cutting or mending, Stucky’s films remind us that memory is splintered, visionary, diaphanous and intermittent. Close your eyes for a memory. Open them. Close them again for another. Or vice versa. Stucky’s images are revelations of a memory we thought foreign but suddenly we perceive as our own. Hanging from a trembling thread that looks like it could break at any moment, seemingly fragile, exhausted and yet so precise, sharp and uplifting. Stucky’s shots are dizzyingly dense. There is no hierarchy or distinction between centre, background and contour. Each detail is an allusion, a potential spell. Even the small gesture of a hand that reaches a hat, a twisting wind, a small foot rising, a merry-go-round in the distance. You could watch them again and again, and each time you would see a new ghost, a new story to lose yourself in. Stucky’s films make us aware of the presence of the movie camera. We see it in the quick comic sketches staged here and there by the kids at home, a constant attraction to that black hole called a lens, where eyes often land with joyful or stealthy glances. Two ragged little girls sitting in front of the doorway even imitate the actions of filmmaking, that turning of the hand that seizes the cameraman’s crank, visible and invisible all at once. It’s a game of reflexes. What’s in that box? And what’s outside of it? In Stucky’s world two themes reappear constantly: children and water. We suspect they have a powerful, hidden and reciprocal force of attraction. They are pictures in motion from a time that cinema can make move in any direction. You throw yourself in as a challenge to the abyss, in a moment that stops the world and makes it explode in splatters. Some knowledge of the facts helps, of course. Giancarlo Stucky (1881–1941) was a descendant of Giovanni, the ‘mill king’, Venice’s own Scrooge McDuck. In 1900, at the Paris Exposition, young Giancarlo was enchanted by the Gaumont-Demenÿ Chrono de Poche, the first amateur cinematograph (15 mm with centre perforation), and he got himself one. At home he started filming scenes of family life, city views, fishermen’s boats, moments of everyday life, parties, markets, work and leisure, rich people and proletarians… Today, a little more than 70 of his lightning films, which run about 30 seconds each, survive. Andrea Meneghelli" (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020)

[Scene, at School (n. 01);

Villa Exterior, Children Playing and Maids (n. 02);

Villa Exterior, Children and a Little Airplane (n. 03);

On the Street, Children Carding Wool (n. 04);

Diving from the Pier (n. 05);

Women Chatting on a Vaporetto and Children Sitting on a Pole (n. 06);

In the Square, Children and Passersby (n. 07);

In the Garden, Woman with Baby and Woman Spinning (n. 08);

Children and Chocolate (n. 09);

Girl Winding the Crank (n. 10);

Ring a Ring o’ Roses on the Beach (n. 11);

Girls and Chickens (n. 12);

Trieste, Carriages on Riva Tre Novembre (n. 13);

Bath in Tub and Candies (n. 14);

Bath in Tub, One Girl Washes Another (n. 15);

Canal Grande, Gondolas and Vaporetto (n. 16);

The Letter (n. 17);

Vacationers on the Lido (n. 18);

Kites and Roller Skates (n. 19);

Vegetable Shopping at the Market (n. 20);

Children’s Games on the Lido (n. 21);

In the Garden, a Magazine and Small Flowers (n. 22);

In the Lagoon, on a Stairwell (n. 23);

Scene, the Suffering Artist (n. 24);

Rowboat on the Canal (n. 25);

Comings and Goings in St. Mark’s Square (n. 26-1);

Girls in Giudecca, Ponte Lungo in the Background (n. 27-1);

Scene, the Contested Object (n. 29);

Religious Procession on Pontoon Bridge (n. 30);

Gondola and Vaporetto from Riva degli Schiavoni (n. 32);

Diving from the Ponte Lungo Fondamenta (n. 33);

Girl and Pigeons (n. 34);

Rowboat on Rio del Ponte Lungo (n. 37);

On the Island of Torcello (n. 38);

Boat Docking, Arsenal in the Background (n. 39);

Children Filling a Bucket at Campo San Piero di Castello (n. 40);

Scene, You Can’t Sleep in Peace! (n. 36-2);

Rough Sea and Passersby on a Bridge (n. 41);

Sailboat at the Dock (n. 42);

Throwing Shrubs in Giudecca (n. 43);

Men Working on Docked Boats in Giudecca (n. 45);

Coal Load (n. 46);

The Puppet (n. 47);

Children and Rabbits (n. 50);

A Boat Trip (n. 51);

Fishing Boats and Vaporetto (n. 53);

A Large Boat Pulling a Small One (n. 54);

Playing with the Cat (n. 56);

The Pontoon and the Rough Sea (n. 57);

Fishing (n. 58);

Passersby on a Bridge and Vaporetto (n. 60);

Children at the Pond (n. 61);

Children and Pigeons in St. Mark’s Square (n. 62);

Little Washerwoman, Skipping Rope, Lace, Coal and Chocolate (n. 63);

Leisure Time on a Tree-lined Avenue (n. 66);

Line of Oxen (n. 67);

Five Women on the Beach (n. 68);

Scene, Catch the Thief, Catch the Thieves! (n. 69-2);

Girls and the Little Washerwoman (n. 70);

A Busy Street (n. 71-1);

Draught Horses (n. 72);

Merry-go-rounds, Skipping Rope and Snowballs (n. 73);

Children and Lace (n. 74);

Children at the Fountain (n. 75);

Splashing Water and Children (n. 76);

Comings and Goings on Fondamenta de Canaregio (n. 77);

Breaking Waves (n. 78);

Washerwomen on the Shore (n. 52-2);

Sea Waves Crashing on Rocks (n. 79);

Elegant Ladies and Children at the Park (n. 82);

Children Feeding Chickens (n. 83);

Children at the Edge of a Pond (n. 84);

Children Sitting on the Street with a Wicker Basket (n. 85);

A Girl Embroidering (n. 88);

Children Throwing Stones in the Sea (n. 89);

Children Skipping Rope (n. 90-1);

Fishing Boats (n. 91);

Girls Skipping Rope (n. 90-2)]

AA: Many early cinema views belong to the realm of the home movies, such as those private views of the Lumière brothers that were not intended for public showing.

But the Chrono de Poche by Gaumont-Demenÿ was the first home movie format proper.

A collection such as this marvellous Giancarlo Stucky cycle has been very hard to view because of the rare gauge of 15 mm and the special perforation in the middle.

Now a restoration has been achieved by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata, and a rich and vivid survey of the world around Anno 1900 comes to life again.

We see many views of children at play guarded by mothers and nurses, pranks by children, children with rabbits, beautiful gardens, visions of Venice, Piazza San Marco, huge flocks of sparrows, gondolas, boat rides, sailboats, huge waves, seaside promenades, fishermen untangling their nets, shopping at the market, tying garlands, and visiting a Punch and Judy show.

Mostly upper class life is documented, but also children of poor families washing clothes are seen, also skipping the rope and playing in the boats. Children are also seen playing with snow and by a hydrant. Stucky also records the bustle of the city, and a gorgeous car parking. Five poor children have a lot of fun with a wicker basket. Children are also seen embroidering. Boys throw stones into the water by the sea. Skipping the rope is a favourite subject.

There are no title frames in the movies. The subject listing above, published by the Festival, is very valuable in identifying the rich variety of children's plays documented in this collection.

The musical interpretation by Frank Bockius at the percussions and Eduardo Raon at the harp completed and enriched this unique experience memorably.