Sunday, September 12, 2021

Näin pilvet kuolevat / How to Kill a Cloud

Tuija Halttunen: Näin pilvet kuolevat / How to Kill a Cloud (FI/DK 2021), a documentary on bringing rain to the desert on the Arabian peninsula, featuring Hannele Korhonen, Professor at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Näin pilvet kuolevat (2021)
Theme: Maailma palaa / The World Is Burning
Country: Finland, Denmark
Director: Tuija Halttunen
Screenplay: Tuija Halttunen
Starring: Hannele Korhonen
Production: Niina Virtanen, Pasi Hakkio, Ulrik Gutkin / Wacky Tie Films, Copenhagen Film Company
Duration: 80 min
    Language: Arabic, English, Finnish
    Subtitles: English
    Distribution: Pirkanmaan elokuvakeskus
    Cinematography: Ville Hakonen
    Editing: Jussi Sandhu
    Music: Kristian Eidnes Andersen
    Sound: Kristian Eidnes Andersen
Festival premiere: 22 March 2021 Copenhagen International Film Festival
Finnish premiere: 10 Sep 2021
To be screened and streamed also at Love & Anarchy The Helsinki Film Festival, 16-27 Sep 2021, theme: Maailma palaa / The World Is Burning
Viewed from a festival platform in a copy with English commentary on a 4K tv set at Midnight Sun Film Festival 2021 online, 19 June 2021

Finnish Film Catalogue: "The scientist Hannele Korhonen has one ultimate passion: to work at the top of the atmospheric science community in the world. She wishes to be totally independent and concentrate on her science while maintaining high ethical values."

"Her life changes dramatically when she is awarded a 1,5 million USD research grant by the United Arab Emirates. The funder expects her to find ways to make the migratory clouds above the UAE to rain on the country suffering of drought. The opportunity to get proper funding for such a special research is perfect. Gradually she learns that the aim of the funder is to benefit one country, not science at large. Korhonen’s enthusiasm morphs into an ethical dilemma and inner conflicts." Finnish Film Catalogue – facts and presentation copied from Love & Anarchy: Helsinki Film Festival (2011) catalogue

Cursed be, at once, the high ambition
Wherewith the mind itself deludes!
Cursed be the glare of apparition
That on the finer sense intrudes!

Cursed be the lying dream’s impression
Of name, and fame, and laurelled brow!
Cursed, all that flatters as possession,
As wife and child, as knave and plow!

Cursed Mammon be, when he with treasures
To restless action spurs our fate!
Cursed when, for soft, indulgent leisures,
He lays for us the pillows straight!

Cursed be the vine’s transcendent nectar,
— The highest favor Love lets fall!
Cursed, also, Hope!—cursed Faith, the spectre!
And cursed be Patience most of all!

From: Goethe: Faust, Part One (quoted in the film's motto)

AA: I remember Tuija Halttunen as the director of an unforgettable documentary feature film, Mielen tila (2007), shot at the Vanha Vaasa Hospital, the special mental hospital dedicated to criminal psychiatry. Amazingly, Halttunen was able to collaborate with three patients who have been diagnosed non compos mentis or are too dangerous or difficult to treat in regular hospitals. She earned the confidence of Dr. Markku Eronen, a respected expert in the field. The more one reflects on this sober film, the more incredible it seems that it was made at all.

In How to Kill a Cloud, Halttunen again finds a subject that borders on the inconceivable: how to bring rain clouds to the desert of the Arabian peninsula. We visit five star hotels at Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. (My mind wanders to Sex and the City 2, also shot there, perhaps of the clash of independent Western woman with archaic patriarchal conditions). Extreme wealth resides next to abject poverty and exploitation. Two thirds of the inhabitants are expatriates.

Where Mielen tila was shot in confined spaces of a prison, How to Kill a Cloud is a movie of infinity, displaying cosmic views of the sky, the clouds and the desert. We are not very far from the area where three great world religions were born. This movie belongs to the realm of the sublime. Besides gorgeous cinematography by Ville Hakonen, animation is employed to convey meteorology, just like in television weather forecasts.

Again there is a scientist, an authority of her field, in the center. Professor Hannele Korhonen. Because she is a woman, one of the tensions of the movie is confronting the world of a religious order in which women are marginalized and discriminated. The sharia law is enforced, and there is a separate queue for women.

How to Kill a Cloud poses huge questions about geo-engineering, rain enhancement science and cloud management. We engineer the atmosphere all the time. Clouds have been sown since 1946. Could a country claim ownership to a cloud? Water is power: true equality is randomness of power. When Donald Trump considered a nuclear weapon to annihilate a hurricane, the answer was that a hurricane equals a million atom bombs. Cloud-engineering has been used as a weapon since the Vietnam War. Silver iodine was utilized for weather modification to manipulate the monsoon season.

The issues in How to Kill a Cloud could not be more alarming, but cinematically and dramatically, the documentary lacks some sense of urgency.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Gerald Peary: American Film Noir Poll (1940–1959) on Facebook 6 July – 3 August, 2021

Billy Wilder: Double Indemnity (US 1944), based on the tale (1936) by James M. Cain, screenplay by Raymond Chandler. Scene deleted: the claims adjuster Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) witnesses his protégé Walter Neff (Fred McMurray) enter the gas chamber.

Billy Wilder: Double Indemnity (US 1944), based on the tale (1936) by James M. Cain, screenplay by Raymond Chandler. Scene deleted: the claims adjuster Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) witnesses his protégé Walter Neff (Fred McMurray) executed in the gas chamber.

Gerald Peary, 3 August 2021:

"Thanks to 145 voters in 14 countries including film critics, cinema historians, filmmakers, academics, and knowledgeable fans for participating in my Facebook contest for the Best of American Film Noir, 1940-1959. The winner on 94 ballots is Billy Wilder's masterful Double Indemnity, beating out two atmospheric cult classics, Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past (87 ballots) and Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (81). All power to the "B" movie: Detour 5th and Gun Crazy 9th. What happened to Hitchcock, with Shadow of a Doubt buried at 19th, Strangers on a Train at 21st? The top 20:

1. Double Indemnity (94 votes)
2. Out of the Past (87)
3. Touch of Evil (81)
4. Kiss Me Deadly (61)
5. Detour (59)
6. In a Lonely Place (57)
7. The Big Heat (52)
8. The Big Sleep (50)
9. Gun Crazy (41)
10. The Killing (40)
11. The Maltese Falcon (39)
12. The Asphalt Jungle (34)
13. Pickup on South Street (33)
14. Scarlet Street and The Killers (26)
16. Force of Evil (25)
17. Sunset Boulevard (24)
18. Criss Cross (22)
19. Shadow of a Doubt and Lady from Shanghai (21)"

Antti Alanen: My Film Noir Top Ten:

This Gun for Hire (1942)
The Seventh Victim (1943)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Phantom Lady (1944)
Gilda (1946)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Out of the Past (1947)
Caught (1949)
Criss Cross (1949)
In a Lonely Place (1950)
    It would be easier to create a top ten list of films noirs of 1946, 1947, 1948...
    Gerald Peary: "Thanks for doing what was not easy."

AA: Making lists for Gerald Peary was a summer pastime, but there was a lively discussion on the definition of film noir and the origins of the term on Gerald's page. The term was minted by Nino Frank in Paris in 1946, and the first book was Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton's Panorama du film noir américain in 1955. Inspired by this debate, I finally read that book for the first time. The term was apparently established in Anglophone discourse in 1970 by Raymond Durgnat. 

There are many definitions of film noir, all valid and rewarding. As for me, this chain inspired me to define it for myself anew. I copy some of my remarks in Gerald Peary's Facebook chain here:

Noir: "The streets were dark with something more than night" (Raymond Chandler).

"For me, noir has a sense of cosmic agony. It acknowledges death in metaphysical terms, and has affinities with the Orphic lineage of poetry: a quest into the underworld, the femmes fatales being the maenads. There is a transcendent dimension. The peculiar existential dread was probably inspired by the awareness of Nazi terror conducted by citizens who appear perfectly harmless. In addition to the other criteria detailed by Gerald."

"I don't know if this is a commonplace to say, but for me, a (the?) keyword to film noir is the Holocaust. It started in 1941, and the premiere of The Maltese Falcon was in October 1941. There is a general sense of an unfathomable evil and a gravity of a completely different order in film noir than in the crime films made before 1941. It is a different Weltanschauung, a different cosmology, a different metaphysics. It is a subtext, of course, but a profound one."

"That said, some noir directors also discussed Nazi Germany directly, such as Farrow (The Hitler Gang), Zinnemann (The Seventh Cross, The Search) and De Toth (None Shall Escape). Some even documented it (Fuller: Falkenau) or advised on documentaries (Wilder, Hitchcock). An interesting parallel is Melville: the Resistance veteran whose cycle of crime films mirror his Resistance film trilogy, particularly L'Armée des ombres."

"Of course also Fritz Lang created a Resistance series of films: Man Hunt (my favourite), Hangmen Also Die!, Ministry of Fear, Cloak and Dagger and American Guerrilla in the Philippines.

On the recommendation of Imogen Sara Smith I'm now reading James Naremore's book More Than Night. Its discussion of Double Indemnity includes the deleted ending with Walter Neff's execution in the gas chamber, witnessed by his senior colleague Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson)..

I agree with Borde and Chaumeton in seeing film noir from the viewpoint of surrealism. These films are dream plays. They have affinities with dreamwork, including displacement (Verschiebung). Films noirs were powerful in a dream mode, open to many interpretations; subversive, ambiguous and incoherent in many ways. For me, essential in the genesis of film noir was an awareness of the Holocaust that made the streets dark with something more than night.


Anthony Mann, Glenn Kenny, Paul Byrnes, Garen Daly, Tanja Bresan, Jan Lumholdt, Andrew Luria, Paul Brenner, Lewis Klahr, Larry Knapp, John Powers, Jessica Rosner, John Anderson, Joseph McBride, David Reeder, Allan Arkush, A. S. Hamrah, Eric Martin, Eric Werthman, Brad Stevens, Michael Atkinson, Mike White, Patrick McGilligan, Peter Keough, Derek Lam, Joe Ebbinger, Stephen Rebello, Christian Monggaard, Liam Lacey, Nat Chediak, Steve Ellman, Al J. Meyer, Elliot Lavine, Mike Maggiore, Anne Thompson, Dmitry Martov, Laurent Vachaud, Murray Neilse Stone, Reid Rosefelt, Rick Winston, Larry Gross, John Ned, Alex Simon, Douglas Brode, Richard Herskowitz, Mark Goldblatt
Michael Sragow, David Ansen, Larry Jackson, Jim Beaver, Chris Fujiwara, Nat Segaloff, Geoff Pevere, Adrian Danks, Peg Aloi, Barbara Bernstein, Jim Healy, Stephen Winer, Steven Pope, Louis Alvarez, Chale Nafus, Daniel Moore, Steve Fagin, Howard A. Rodman, Carol Summers, Susan Wloszczyna, Lyn Vaus, Eddie Cockrell, Diane Waldman, Godfrey Cheshire, Gabe Klinger, Steven Fagan, Louis Goldberg, Dean Michael Kuehn, Carl Rollyson, Dennis Fischer, Patricia Gruben, John F. Davis, Reece Beckett, Alan Zweig, Matthew Sorrento, Garner Simmons, Gene Seymour, Carrie Rickey, Howard Gelman, Jerry Carlson, David D'Arcy, Sean Axmaker, Terrence Rafferty, Jack Vermee, Hadley Obodiac, Mike Bowes, Brecht Andersch
Axel Kuschevatzky, Tim Miller, Anand Venigalla, Desson Thomson, Evelyn Rosenthal, Drew Todd, Peter Kemp, Richard Brody, Chris Morris, Jayne Loader, David Sterritt, Andy Klein, Tom Brueggemann, Maurie Alioff, Larry Karaszewski, Antti Alanen, Geoff Andrew, Rob Ribera, John Paizs, Tim Jackson, Rahul Hamid, Greg Klymkiw's TFC – The Film Corner, Jack Miller, Paul Mollica, Jay Atkinson, Barry Marshall, Kevin Stoehr, Maitland McDonagh, Dennis Delaney, Paul Sherman, John Hall, Paul Schrader, Scott Braid, Tom Meek, Mike Downey, Danny Peary, Stephanie Piro, Ken Eisner, Steve Elworth, Dante Del Corso, John Kaufman, Peter Lynch, Paul Buhle, Preston Gralla, Dror Izhar, Adrian Martin, Matt Hanson, Tony Joe Stemme

Friday, September 10, 2021

Sokea mies, joka ei halunnut nähdä Titanicia / The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic

Teemu Nikki: Sokea mies, joka ei halunnut nähdä Titanicia / The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic (FI 2021) starring Petri Poikolainen.

Teemu Nikki: Sokea mies, joka ei halunnut nähdä Titanicia / The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic (FI 2021) starring Petri Poikolainen.

Director: Teemu Nikki
Production: It’s Alive Films (Jani Pösö), Wacky Tie Films
Running Time: 82’
Language: Finnish, English
Country: Finland
Main Cast: Petri Poikolainen, Marjaana Maijala, Hannamaija Nikander, Matti Onnismaa, Samuli Jaskio, Rami Rusinen
Screenplay: Teemu Nikki
Cinematographer: Sari Aaltonen
Editor: Jussi Sandhu
Sound: Sami Kiiski, Heikki Kossi
Producer: Jani Pösö
    Released by B-Plan Distribution, spoken in Finnish, subtitled in Swedish by Ditte Kronström.
    Festival premiere: 8 Sep 2021 Venice Film Festival, Orizzonti Extra.
    Finnish premiere: 10 Sep 2021.
    Viewed at a press screening at Tennispalatsi 2, Helsinki, 31 Aug 2021.

Synopsis (Venice Film Festival 2021):

"An intense movie, shot from a blind man’s perspective. An atypical action/thriller film about a man who has to go through hell to reach his loved one. Jaakko is blind and disabled, tightened to his wheelchair. He loves Sirpa. Living far away, they have never met in person, but they meet every day over the phone."

"When Sirpa is overwhelmed by the shocking news, Jaakko decides to go to her immediately despite his condition. In any case, he just needs to rely on the help of five strangers in five places: from home to taxi, from taxi to station, from station to train, from train to taxi and finally from taxi to... her."

Director’s Statement (Venice Film Festival 2021):

"In spring 2019 I asked my friend, Petri, whether he still would like to act. He admitted that it was still his dream, and I promised to write him a role in a short film. The role grew into a main role and the short film grew into a feature film. Petri’s MS is so aggressive that we were in a hurry to film. Petri told me that he still travels on his own, even though he is blind and only right-hand moves. That is where the idea came from. Nevertheless, I did not want to make a documentary about a disabled actor. I wanted to work with Petri, an actor who happens to be blind and in a wheelchair. Our main character has the same disease as Petri, but the script is fictional."

AA: The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic is the most extraordinary achievement of Teemu Nikki, all of whose films are special.

It is also one of the most interesting achievements in the lineage of films starring disabled protagonists. Let's remember the recent Sound of Metal, about a musician who loses his hearing.

Teemu Nikki's film starts and ends with Braille. This work belongs to the paradoxical category of films that take place in the world of the blind, beyond the visible. An early distinguished example is the German Aufklärungsfilm Vom Reiche der sechs Punkte (1927, D: Hugo Rütters). In such a story, in such a film, we can take nothing for granted. What's more: in such a life, in such a world, nothing can taken for granted.

It is a daunting challenge, but in creative hands, promising and rewarding material. Seeing (and unseeing) the world anew, when everything has to be achieved differently, there are surprises in every scene.

It is a love story and a death story.

Both protagonists, Jaakko (Petri Poikolainen) and Sirpa (Marjaana Maijala) are terminally ill. He, with MS, she, with cancer. They have never met in live contact. (A story for the pandemic age). It's now or never.

Jaakko and Sirpa are incurable film buffs whose dialogue consists largely of movie references. Stephen King, John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese... and this is where Titanic appears in a surprising way and with surprising identification structures: she as the iceberg, he as the Titanic.

But in a unique way, this saga of film nerd banter turns into an action thriller, more fearsome than many of the hit films that have been mentioned.

One of the greatest paradoxes is the visual concept based on first person identification with the blind Jaakko. The world is blurred, and extreme close-up is the favoured field size.

Teemu Nikki keeps the mind-boggling material with multiple meta-levels in firm control. The soundtrack and the sound world are exciting. Petri Poikolainen's death-defying performance is unforgettable. Finally, it's about love.