Friday, December 02, 2022

Sight & Sound Top Ten 2022: The Greatest Films of All Time: My Top Ten


Louis Lumière: Barque sortant du port / Boat Leaving the Port (FR 1897). Société Lumière. Catalogue Lumière, vue N° 9.

1.    Barque sortant du port / Boat Leaving the Port
Year: 1897
Director(s): Louis Lumière
Comment: Société Lumière. Catalogue Lumière, vue N° 9. The art of observation, the art of the poetic image, a timeless vision in less than a minute.

2.    Lyudyna z kinoaparatom / Man with a Movie Camera
Year: 1929
Director(s): Dziga Vertov
Comment: Dziga Vertov's Cine-Eye vision at its most exciting. All possibilities of the moving image are dynamized, including the capacity of self-reflection. Cinema like this is not for passive consumption but for changing the world, yet a wake-up call like this is also stimulating entertainment.

3.    City Lights
Year: 1931
Director(s): Charles Chaplin
Comment: "You can see now?" The finale is unforgettable, and its grandeur is based on all that has happened before. The figure of the Tramp has never been more topical. There will be hundreds of millions of tramps as refugees from the global climate crisis.

4.    Letter from an Unknown Woman
Year: 1948
Director(s): Max Ophuls
Comment: One of the best-known and least-known films. We seem always to miss the point just like Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan) always forgets Lisa Berndle (Joan Fontaine) who has loved him all his life. This story of the mysterious power of transference is an anti-romantic tale told in the most tenderly romantic manner as a double narrative.

5.    Kahdeksan surmanluotia / Eight Deadly Shots
Year: 1972
Director(s): Mikko Niskanen
Comment: A rich and engrossing family saga from a period of a violent transformation of an agricultural country. People who have always lived in harmony with nature are about to face modernization, urbanization and globalization. The universal theme is that of being out of time, obsolete: what happens when the world we knew suddenly vanishes around us. It is also a seismic blow to patriarchy and masculinity in general. The father is no longer able to sustain his family and loses respect and self-respect. As a director, Mikko Niskanen is equally talented in scenes of action and duration. As an actor in the leading role he creates an enduring portrait of an alcoholic.

6.    Sambizanga
Year: 1972
Director(s): Sarah Maldoror
Comment: Sarah Maldoror's revolutionary masterpiece about the liberation and resistance movement of the Angolan people against Portuguese colonizers is also a great story of love strong as death, told in the glorious colours of the African light.

7.    Yek etefagh sadeh / A Simple Event
Year: 1973
Director(s): Sohrab Shahid Saless
Comment: Before Abbas Kiarostami, there was Sohrab Shahid Saless and his A Simple Event, focusing on the ordeal of a little boy. The intensity in the account of the everyday is tremendous. Such cinema of duration is about being itself in the same sense as the concept of byt (быть) in Russian literature. In the cinema, Shahib Saless is most clearly a heir to Anton Chekhov.

8.    Hotaru no haka / Grave of the Fireflies
Year: 1988
Director(s): Isao Takahata
Comment: The ordeal of children in the firebombings of the Second World War is a subject that transcends the limits of understanding. Animation is the very means to handle even such a subject. From Akiyuki Nosaka's semi-autobiographical story Isao Takahata created an anti-war masterpiece of cosmic grandeur.

9.    Dekalog / Decalogue
Year: 1987–1989
Director(s): Krzysztof Kieslowski
Comment: The culmination of Kieslowski's "cinema of moral anxiety": a panorama of life inspired by the ten commandments. In collaboration with the screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz and the composer Zbigniew Preisner, Kieslowski obeys the classical unities of action, time and space to a certain extent, although all episodes tell differents stories with different actors and almost all have different cinematographers pursuing different visual expressions. TO THE EDITOR: if Dekalog is ineligible, my selection is: Krotki film o milosci / A Short Film About Love, 1988.

10.    Nomadland
Year: 2020
Director(s): Chloë Zhao
Comment: Female directors have been reinventing the Western, and it took a Chinawoman, Chloë Zhao, to create the greatest work of this recent trend. The powerfully landscape-driven film brings fresh insight into the classic Western figure of the wanderer. It also evokes The Grapes of Wrath, Dersu Uzala and The Ballad of Narayama. It includes a topical sequence at Amazon, and opens to the cosmic view of Shakespeare: "to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow" from Macbeth's "sound and fury" monologue.

Antti Alanen
Film Programmer
National Audiovisual Institute
Helsinki

© 2022 British Film Institute. All rights reserved. Registered charity 287780.

Sight & Sound Top Ten 2022: The Greatest Films of All Time


Chantal Akerman: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (BE/FR 1975) with Delphine Seyrig as Jeanne Dielman.

CRITICS' TOP TEN
1. Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (BE/FR 1975) D: Chantal Akerman.
2. Vertigo (US 1958) D: Alfred Hitchcock.
3. Citizen Kane (US 1941) D: Orson Welles.
4. Tokyo monogatari (JP 1953) D: Yasujiro Ozu.
5. In the Mood for Love (HK/FR 2000) D: Wong Kar Wai.
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (US/GB 1968) D: Stanley Kubrick.
7. Beau travail (FR 1998) D: Claire Denis.
8. Mulholland Dr. (FR/US 2001) D: David Lynch.
9. Lyudyna z kinoaparatom / Man with a Movie Camera (SU-UA 1929) D: Dziga Vertov.
10. Singin' in the Rain (US 1951) D: Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen.

DIRECTORS' TOP TEN
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (US/GB 1968) D: Stanley Kubrick.
2. Citizen Kane (US 1941) D: Orson Welles.
3. The Godfather (US 1972) D: Francis Ford Coppola.
4. Tokyo monogatari (JP 1953) D: Yasujiro Ozu.
5. Jeanne Dielman 23, quai du Commece, 1080 Bruxelles (BE/FR 1975) D: Chantal Akerman.
6. Vertigo (US 1958) D: Alfred Hitchcock.
7. 8½ (IT/FR 1963) D: Federico Fellini.
8. Zerkalo / Mirror (SU 1975) D: Andrei Tarkovsky.
9. Persona (SE 1966) D: Ingmar Bergman.
9. In the Mood for Love (HK/FR 2000) D: Wong Kar Wai.
9. Close-Up (IR 1989) D: Abbas Kiarostami.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

She Said


Maria Schrader: She Said (US 2022) starring Carey Mulligan (Megan Twohey) and Zoe Kazan (Jodi Kantor).

US © 2022 Universal Pictures. Universal Pictures presents An Annapurna & Plan B Production. P: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner. EX: Brad Pitt, Lila Yacoub, Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle.
    D: Maria Schrader. SC: Rebecca Lenkiewicz – based on the New York Times investigation by Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Rebecca Corbett and the book She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement (2019) by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Cin: Natasha Braier – colour – 1,85:1. PD: Meredith Lippincott. Cost: Brittany Loar. M: Nicholas Britell. Cello: Caitlin Sullivan.
    Music track listing includes: Aarre Merikanto: 4. Pieces No. 3 Arietta (1916).
    Soundtrack includes: authentic audio recording with Harvey Weinstein and Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.
    C: Carey Mulligan (Megan Twohey), Zoe Kazan (Jodi Kantor), Patricia Clarkson (Rebecca Corbett), Andre Braugher (Dean Baquet), Jennifer Ehle (Laura Madden), Samantha Morton (Zelda Perkins), Angela Yeoh (Rowena Chiu), Ashley Judd (As Herself).
    128 min
    Festival premiere: 13 Oct 2022 New York Film Festival
    Finnish premiere: 18 Nov 2022, released by Finnkino with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Iira Tuominen / Joanna Erkkilä.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 19 Nov 2022

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS

" Two-time Academy Award® nominee CAREY MULLIGAN (Promising Young Woman, An Education) and Emmy nominee ZOE KAZAN (The Plot Against America, The Big Sick) star as New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who together broke one of the most important stories in a generation— a story that shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood and impelled a shift in American culture that continues to this day."

"From the Academy Award® winning producers of 12 Years a Slave, Moonlight, Minari, Selma and The Big Short and the Oscar®-nominated producer of Zero Dark Thirty and American Hustle, the film is based on the New York Times investigation by JODI KANTOR, MEGAN TWOHEY and REBECCA CORBETT and the New York Times bestseller, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey."

"A testament to the incalculable importance of investigative journalism, She Said details the journey of reporters and editors engaged in the unrelenting pursuit of the truth and highlights the courage of survivors and witnesses who chose to come forward to stop an accused serial predator from committing further harm. Together, their commitment and fortitude sparked a global conversation, helped propel the #MeToo movement, and fueled a reckoning of the system that had enabled him."

"At its heart, She Said is an inspiring true story about people, many of them women, many of them mothers, who summoned the courage to speak out and seek justice, not just for themselves but for those in the future, both in the U.S. and around the globe. The film is a compelling, moving reminder of the power of individual people, armed with determination and grit, to, together, change the world.
"

AA: She Said is the story of one of the most epochal cases of investigative journalism in history.

Against overwhelming odds, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey exposed the decades-long practice of sexual harassment at Miramax Studios by Harvey Weinstein. When that dam broke, suppressed cases of sexual abuse were revealed all over the world.

She Said is a story of standing up against intimidation. The set-up has affinities with the paranoid tradition of the political thriller of the 1970s, but She Said is a post-paranoid drama. It is a tale of liberation, the liberating power of truth.

What I admire most in She Said is its wide perspective, its awareness of the philosophy of history. It is a case study, and a huge one, yet the journalists know that their story is bigger than Weinstein. It is about a system of abuse and harassment with roots going back to the dawn of civilization and before.

The conveyor-belt style sexual abuse of stars and starlets "on the casting couch" flourished during the studio era. I belong to the ones who were shocked to discover that it still survived in contemporary film business. A system with affinities with the lordly privileges in slave societies (including in the Deep South and Classical Antiquity) and feudalism (droit du seigneur). But also with the harem systems of baboons.

We have seen just the tip of the iceberg, and it is important that this tip is impeccably documented, as Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey and their The New York Times editorial support system did in an exemplary way.

Because of the inflammatory nature of the subject the film-makers, including the director Maria Schrader, the screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz and the excellent duo Carey Mulligan (Megan Twohey) and Zoe Kazan (Jodi Kantor) have adopted a sober, mundane approach, avoiding melodrama and emphasis. Because of this, She Said will have a long life as a case study in film schools, journalism schools and contexts of women's rights.

I notice a Covid compliance team in the end credits. She Said belongs to the films that have excellent production values and a highly talented team and cast but a slightly "pandemic phlegmatic" ambience. I know nothing about its production circumstances, but everywhere remote work, breaks in the schedule, sick leaves and long absences mean that the end result is not as engrossing and irresistible as it would normally be. The profound, compelling drive underneath is missing.

Go see this wonderful and intelligent film with your friends. Five years ago something happened, and the world will never be the same again. There is still a lot to discuss and a lot to be done. We have hardly started yet.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: FROM THE PRODUCTION NOTES:

Sunday, October 16, 2022

The Lost King


Stephen Frears: The Lost King (GB 2022) starring Sally Hawkins (Philippa Langley), Steve Coogan (John Langley) and Harry Lloyd (Richard III / Pete).


The Lost King / The Lost King
    GB © 2022 Pathé Productions Limited and British Broadcasting Corporation. A Baby Cow Production for Pathé, BBC Film and Magaritz Productions.
   Pathé, BBC Film, Ingenious Media and Creative Scotland present – with the participation of Canal+ and Ciné+ – a Baby Cow production. P: Steve Coogan, Christine Langan & Dan Winch.
    D: Stephen Frears. SC: Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope. Based on the book The King's Grave: The Search for Richard III by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones. Based on a true story. Her story. DP: Zac Nicholson. PD: Andy Harris. Cost: Rhona Russell. Makeup: Maxine Dallas. M: Alexandre Desplat. S: Stuart Bruce. ED: Pia Di Ciaula.
    "King's Lynn" (English folksong arr. by Ralph Vaughan Williams from The English Hymnal).
    Supervising locations manager: Lloret Mackenna Dunn. Casting: Leo Davis & Lissy Holm.
    C: Sally Hawkins (Philippa Langley), Steve Coogan (John Langley), Harry Lloyd (Richard III / Pete), Mark Addy (Richard Buckley). Amanda Abbington (Sarah Levitt), James Fleet (John Ashdown-Hill), Lee Ingleby (Richard Taylor).
    Filmed on location in Scotland, Leicester and London, United Kingdom. Around Edinburgh, including Morningside and Newtongrange.
    108 min
    Finnish premiere: 14 Oct 2022, distributed by Cinemanse Oy with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Samuli Kauppila / Ditte Kronström.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 16 Oct 2022

Distributor's synopsis: " Tositapahtumiin perustuvassa The Lost King -elokuvassa amatöörihistorioitsija Philippa Langley (Oscar®-ehdokas Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine, The Shape of Water) päättää kaikkia esteitä uhmaten löytää kuningas Richard III:n yli 500 vuotta kadoksissa olleet jäännökset. Hänen työhönsä suhtautuivat skeptisesti asiantuntijoiden ja tutkijoiden lisäksi myös hänen oma lähipiirinsä. Langley haastoi maan merkittävimmät historioitsijat ajattelemaan uudella tapaa yhdestä Englannin historian kiistanalaisimmista kuninkaista. "

" Stephen Frearsin (The Queen, Philomena) ohjaama elokuva on hämmästyttävä tositarina siitä, miten tavallinen nainen vastuksista huolimatta löysi historiallisesti merkittävät kadonneet jäännökset. Langley kieltäytyi muiden ihmisten määrittelystä ja löysi lopulta oman äänensä. The Lost King tutkii myytin taustalla olevia tosiasioita paljastaen hyvin erilaisen kuninkaan kuin mitä Shakespearen tulkinta on antanut ymmärtää. "

" In 2012, having been lost for over 500 years, the remains of King Richard III were discovered beneath a car park in Leicester. The search had been orchestrated by an amateur historian, Philippa Langley, whose unrelenting research had been met with incomprehension by her friends and family and with scepticism by experts and academics. The Lost King is the life-affirming true story of a woman who refused to be ignored and who took on the country's most eminent historians, forcing them to think again about one of the most controversial kings in England's history.
"

AA: I like The Lost King for several reasons.

It is a humoristic account of a nation passionate about its own history. Richard III died over 530 years ago, yet he still matters much, both in official history-writing and in popular culture. He is well-known thanks to William Shakespeare's historical play in which he is seen as a tragic villain. The point of Philippa Langley's quest is to rehabilitate him.

According to the British media, The Lost King is full of all kinds of inaccuracies. As it may well be, but it does not affect the most appealing feature of the movie: the affirmation that a commitment to history exists. That used to be the case in Finland, as well. I don't know when it ended, but this year I have been amazed at the ignorance of history in dialogues of Finnish security politics. It is revealed on the highest levels of government, not to speak about the media.

We are living in the age of Instagram. We are losing our sense of the past. Perhaps because we prefer to forget about the future. Perhaps we are unconsciously like Tanya (Marlene Dietrich) in Touch of Evil. Her reply to Hank Quinlan about his future: "There isn't any".

The main reason for me to enjoy The Lost King is that is so affectionate about the past. Thinking about the past, also playfully and foolishly, gives a more profound meaning to the present. British critics have disliked the eccentric and ridiculous aspects of the movie. I like them.

The other great reason to like The Lost King is that it is another wonderful Sally Hawkins showcase. Sally Hawkins was instantly unique when she debuted in the films of Mike Leigh. Another great director for her is Woody Allen. Here as Philippa Langley she gives one of her greatest performances. Langley is suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (M.E. = myalgic encephalomyelitis), and her story is a triumph of the spirit against overwhelming odds.

It is also a story of a woman against the patriarchal establishment, to be compared with Ammonite. Such a condition is all too real, but if a story based on real events distorts circumstances it may have a reverse effect.

I also enjoy Stephen Frears's humoristic approach as the director and Zac Nicholson's epic cinematography with impressive high angle and aerial shots. Alexandre Desplat has composed another rousing score, but I'm puzzled by the Bernard Herrmann influence in the opening (inspired by North by Northwest in my opinion, whereas the credit design seems inspired by Saul Bass for the same movie). While Philippa is pursuing Richard III, the rest of the family goes to watch Skyfall, also a movie obsessed about history.

2022 has been a transition year in the history of British monarchy. The Lost King is an interesting contribution to the mystery of monarchy. I'm thinking about a maxim of Elizabeth II (1926–2022): "I have to be seen to be believed".

PRESSBOOK MATERIAL BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK:

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Kikka!


Anna Paavilainen: Kikka! (FI 2022) starring Sara Melleri as Kikka.

FI © 2022 Elokuvayhtiö Komeetta. P: Kaisla Viitala.
    D: Anna Paavilainen. SC: Maarit Nissilä. Cin: Pietari Peltola – colour – scope. AD: Kari Kankaanpää. Cost: Tiina Kaukanen. Makeup: Riikka Virtanen. S: Micke Nyström. ED: Tuuli Alanärä.
    Soundtrack listing: see beyond the jump break.
    Theme song (original for the movie) (the first track during the end credits): "Kateus", perf. Erika Vikman.
    Final song: "Onnen nainenkin silloin vasta saa", perf. Kikka.
    C: Sara Melleri (Kikka), Elena Leeve (Paula), Jakob Öhrman (Henkka), Martti Suosalo (Juha "Watt" Vainio), Aku Hirviniemi (Ile Vainio), Kai Vaine (director of the record company), Samuli Niittymäki, Tuomo Prättälä, Sanna-Kaisa Palo, Rea Mauranen (grandmother), Ville Tiihonen.
    115 min
    Premiere 14 Oct 2022, Swedish subtitles by Frej Grönholm, distributed by Nordisk Film.
    Viewed without subtitles at Finnkino Strand 4, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 15 Oct 2022.

Official synopsis: "Kikka! on musiikkia pursuva elokuva artisti Kikasta ja aikakaudesta, jolloin Suomi oli matkalla lamasta kohti nousukautta. Kikka! on elokuva viihdetaiteilijasta ja laulajasta, joka rakasti esiintyä ja antoi iloa muille, vaikka hänen taiteilijuuttaan kyseenalaistettiin."

"Kosmetiikkamyyjä Kirsi Viilonen haaveilee tähtiartistin urasta. Kun Kirsi tutustuu DJ ja radiotoimittaja Paulaan, päättää hän antautua kokonaan laulajaunelmalleen. Paula tunnistaa Kirsissä tähden ainekset ja yhdessä he hankkivat hänellä levytyssopimuksen. Kikka on syntynyt. Kikan ura lähtee jyrkkään nousukiitoon, kun hänen nänninsä vilahtaa tahattomasti Jukebox-ohjelmassa. Kikasta tulee välittömästi koko maan tuntema julkkis ja yksi Suomen myydyimmistä naisartisteista."

"Kikka! is a music-filled film about the artist Kikka and a time when Finland was rising up from recession to an economic boom. Kikka! is a film about an entertainer and singer who loved to perform and let others enjoy, even though her artistry was questioned."

"Cosmetics sales girl Kirsi Viilonen dreams of a career as a star artist. When Kirsi gets to know the DJ and radio broadcaster Paula, she decides to go all out on her singing dream. Paula recognises that Kirsi has star potential, and together they get her a record contract. Kikka is born. Kikka's career takes off like a rocket when her nipple is accidentally exposed on the Jukebox TV show. Kikka immediately becomes famous throughout Finland and is one of the best-selling female artists in the country."

"Kikka on yksi Suomen kaikkien aikojen eniten myyneistä naisartisteista. Kikka on persoonana ja aiheena kiinnostanut monia medioita ja tekijöitä viime vuosien aikana. Kikka herättää edelleen monimutkaisia tunteita ja muistoja ihmisissä. Toisille Kikka on edelläkävijä, esikuva ja rohkea tekijä, toisille typerä mauton bimbo ja sketsihahmo, kolmansille uhri ja muistutus 1980- ja 90-luvun arvomaailmasta ja tyylitajusta. Silti hän oli myydyimpiä artisteja, aikana jolloin naisen avoin seksuaalisuus oli liikaa," kommentoi käsikirjoittaja Maarit Nissilä.
" (official synopsis)

AA: Kikka! has been inspired by the life story of the Finnish popular singer Kirsi Hannele Sirén (1964–2005). Directed by Anna Paavilainen, written by Maarit Nissilä and produced by Kaisla Viitala, Kikka! is a performance-driven movie.

Kikka! is carried by an extraordinary, multi-dimensional performance by Sara Melleri. She is completely believable, also conveying the sense that the public image of the sexy and funny singer is a performance in itself. We thus feel a subtle, amused distance between Kirsi Hannele Sirén and her character Kikka – and Sara Melleri playing both. Her performance is of Jussi Award caliber.

I was only superficially aware of Kikka in her years of fame 1985–2005, and my perception was based on the cruel and shallow media attention. She was a contemporary of the ski jumper Matti Nykänen, equally heartlessly abused in the tabloid press. Kikka!, like countless biopics of music and sport stars, is a rise-and-fall saga, but, like the best of them, it defies the formula and the cliché.

First of all, it is a celebration of female desire. Kikka's career as a singer and performer started in a period where Madonna and Kylie Minogue were hot new stars, and figures including Baccara, Cicciolina, Samantha and Sabrina ("Sam and Sab") were hugely popular. [As I'm writing I notice the trend of performers' names ending with the letter "-a", including Kikka]. They were about fun and joy, and an open celebration of sex. Kikka was also inspired by Marilyn Monroe, but she was an original.

Kikka's performances were about sex and love, and the frank lyrics, bordering on "happy pornography", were at first written by Juha "Watt" Vainio, whose expertise covered the genre of "isojen poikien lauluja", blue lyrics banned from radioplay. It was liberating at first, but when the music industry typecast Kikka who wanted to move on to more serious material, tragedy started.

The other original feature is the focus on the friendship between Kikka and her manager Paula (Elena Leeve). In the beginning, Kikka is utterly dependent on her, but when Paula gets exhausted and disappointed in her thankless role, Kikka callously lets her go. There is a reconciliation in the end, but the hurt remains. The scenes about the betrayal of friendship are powerfully moving.

The male roles are bland and unengaging with one exception. Portraying Juha "Watt" Vainio, Martti Suosalo appears only briefly in the early stages of the movie, but he is charismatic as Kikka's discoverer and mentor. He encourages her and connects with her innate talent. The lyrics to "Sukkula Venukseen" ["A Shuttle to Venus"] were Vainio's last work before his sudden and premature death. After him, Kikka keeps getting dismal treatment from record labels, and the nadir is a visit to the Sabatti talk show at Yle TV2, where Kikka is made a target of scorn and contempt. According to this biopic, the hurt was so great that Kikka never got over it.

The final song is the final message.
"Onnen nainenkin silloin vasta saa / hellästi kun häntä koskettaa"
["Only a tender touch can make a woman happy"].

PRESSBOOK MATERIAL BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK:

Monday, October 03, 2022

Po horách, po dolách / [Over Mountains, Over Valleys]


Karel Plicka: Po horách, po dolách / [Over Mountains, Over Valleys] (CS 1930). From.: Slovenský filmový ústav, Bratislava.


PO HORÁCH, PO DOLÁCH [Per monti e per valli] (CS 1930)
Karel Plicka; DCP, 101'
prod: Matica slovenská.
dist: Slovensko-film, Bratislava.
uscita/rel: 13.3.1930.
copia/copy: DCP, 101’ (da/from 35 mm, 1842 m, 16 fps); did./titles: SVK.
fonte/source: Slovenský filmový ústav, Bratislava.
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM) 2022: Venezia 90/Venice 90
Grand piano: Günter Buchwald announced + Frank Bockius alla batteria + Romano Todesco.
Viewed with e-subtitles in English and Italian at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 3 Oct 2022

Rastislav Steranka, Federico Striuli (GCM 2022):

When I saw a Slovak village for the very first time, I already imagined what it would look like on film. It was its pure, picturesque, at that time still indeterminate artistic charm that captivated me.”  – Karel Plicka

"Karel Plicka (1894–1987) was a folklorist and ethnographer of the Slovak Matica (Matica slovenská), a national cultural and scientific organization established in 1863 and revived in 1919 with the mission of developing and strengthening Slovak patriotism and awakening the national consciousness of Slovaks at home and abroad. Considered a founder of Slovak film education and filmmaking, Plicka began as a still photographer, recording the vanishing cultural traditions of the Slovakian countryside. But already his photographs showed that he possessed a strong poetic vision of the world, with a purposeful effort to find the harmonious counterpart of folksongs in his images. In 1926 he acquired his first motion-picture camera and began to familiarize himself with filmmaking, first shooting short segments as a way of chronicling what he saw, which he later edited into longer films, always with an ethnographic aim. Over Mountains, Over Valleys is a further elaboration on themes from his previous film, Za slovenským ľudom (About the Slovak Folk, 1928), and in many respects it marks his return to familiar places, this time with new equipment and experiences."

"The film’s title, Over Mountains, Over Valleys, is borrowed from the lyrics of a folksong: “Got a horse named Fako, who carries me comfortably, over mountains, over valleys, over cold dew in the mornings.” The similarity between the film and the song is reflected in both title and content. The dramaturgical intention of the film was ethnographical documentation, with a broader geographical framework to explore cultural phenomena. Plicka’s main aim was to record classical forms of traditional folk culture before they vanished for good. The film’s structure consists of sequenced thematic units containing brief profiles of distinctive Slovak villages. The contents of each sequence are not a variation of schematic models; in depicting each of the villages, he strives for a thematic uniqueness. The greater part of the film consists of children’s games set against the backdrop of the picturesque architecture of the village of Čičmany, the landscape of the Upper Hron region in Heľpa, and the majestic scenery of the Belianske Tatras mountain range in Ždiar. The depiction of youth, movement, demonstrations of physical strength, ingenuity, dexterity, and the immediate atmosphere of the children’s games that we see here were interests to which Plicka would constantly return in his films."

"In Plicka’s work, his sensitivity to light, effective compositional layout, and lyricism are hallmarks of his style. His “moving” photography grew out of still photography, and indeed, the camera is largely static, with only occasional pans. It places the characters on the horizon, or shoots them from below, monumentalizing them. The form (image) is subordinated to the content (ethnographic documentation). Separate scenes build towards thematic sequences without any motivational continuity or dramaturgical concept. The image is mostly a mosaic of separate sequences connected by an external framework (e.g., the theme of the village), rather than by the internal motivation of the action. The whole has neither a subject nor a smooth narrative flow, instead forming a composition of loosely assigned units. Within the composition, as he shifts from ethnographic fact to artistic structure, a synthesis of documentary and poetry occurs, creating a cinematic symphony."

Venice 1932 

"Non-fiction films made up a considerable part of the first Venice International Film Exhibition programme. The Czechoslovakian ethnographic film Po horách, po dolách, by director Karel Plicka, was screened on the 5th evening, Wednesday 10 August, to a packed audience. Despite this, no contemporary account about the reception of the movie seems to exist, and even the text by Mario Gromo mistakenly published in the 1992 book Venezia 1932: il cinema diventa arte actually refers to Zem spieva (The Earth Sings), another movie by Plicka (for information about this film, see La Stampa, Thursday, 23 August 1934). However, because Czechoslovakia participated at Venice with four titles two years later (among which was Zem spieva), it’s possible to presume that Po horách, po dolách was also in fact met with generally positive reactions."

The print 

"The film will be presented in a digital copy, as the only surviving acetate duplicate negative didn’t retain all of the original picture information from the nitrate from perforation to perforation, the so-called “full-gate 35 mm”. Working with the dupe negative, the laboratories copied first a portion of the so-called “Academy 35 mm frame” and then the missing portion to the audio track. Partial shifts and overlaps also occurred due to the incorrect position of the picture starts. The reason why the laboratories’ copying process was so elaborate was probably due to the fact that they didn’t have full-gate 35 mm equipment; they thus strove to preserve as much of the picture area as possible, taking this shortcoming into account. Thanks to digital technology, we were able to partially reconstruct the picture, and thus provide the viewer with the opportunity to see a result comparable to the original nitrate print." Rastislav Steranka, Federico Striuli (GCM 2022)

AA: Maximum overdrive in Karel Plicka's ethnographic film, a celebration of Slovak village life on the Tatra mountains, non-narrative, displaying collector mania and anthology madness in showcasing work traditions, folk customs, types, practices, costumes, games, dances and pranks of all kinds. Unhinged Flahertyism soon turns tiresome, but when it goes on and on, it becomes a joke, if not a catalogue aria.

The laconic English intertitles are funny. "Brigands twisting". "Jump on a stump". "One lifts the other". "Pulling tomcats". "Poaching game".

The visual quality is variable in the duped print. There are appealing, expressive portrait shots of the people of the mountains. The sense of the sublime in the landscape footage is not as exalted as in Bergfilm classics, but this more laid back attitude is pleasing in its own way. The gorgeous cloud and mist foundations evoke the recent achievements of Olivier Assayas in Clouds of Sils Maria and its film-within-the film, Das Wolkenphänomen von Maloja.

The trio of musicians did not find a proper rhythm to the catalogue method at first, but by the section of the dances they had found an exhilarating approach. Some of the dances are fabulous, and so was the music.

Regen / Rain (the 1932 re-release edited by Helen van Dongen) (GCM 2022)


Joris Ivens & Mannus Franken: Regen / Rain (NL 1929). From: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.


REGEN (Rain) [Pioggia]
La Pluie [the title on the print]
(NL 1929)
Directed by Joris Ivens, Mannus Franken
photog: Joris Ivens.
prod: Capi-Holland.
dist: Filmliga, Amsterdam.
uscita/rel: 14.12.1929.
copia/copy: 35 mm, 324 m, 11’48” (24 fps); did./titles: NLD.
fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
The 1932 re-release edited by Helen van Dongen.
The credited musician was Günter Buchwald at the grand piano. Besides, there were also Frank Bockius alla batteria, and Romano Todesco.
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2022: Venezia 90/Venice 90
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 3 Oct 2022

Mark-Paul Meyer, Federico Striuli (GCM 2022): "The long career of Dutch documentary filmmaker Joris Ivens (18981989) took off with the international acclaimed success of two short films, De Brug (The Bridge, 1928) and Regen (Rain, 1929). Both films were silent, with a strong emphasis on the poetic qualities of the photographic image and montage. Inspired by Ruttmann’s Berlin, Die Symphonie einer Großstadt, which Ivens saw during a visit to Berlin in 1927, and by his then companion, photographer Germaine Krull, with whom he made the lyrical Études des mouvements à Paris (1927), Ivens made The Bridge in 1928, and, one year later, with Mannus Franken, Rain. Pudovkin saw the films during a visit to Amsterdam in 1929 and invited Ivens to come to Russia and show his films there. In Paris the films were warmly received by critics such as Germaine Dulac. By 1930 the international reputation of Ivens was established. Ivens came in contact with Pudovkin through the Filmliga, a film society that was principally interested in film as an autonomous artistic form and presented films and filmmakers of the international avant-garde in the Netherlands. The screenings were gatherings of members of the Dutch and international intelligentsia. The writer/composer Lou Lichtveld (19031996) was the music specialist of the Filmliga; in 1931 he wrote the music for Ivens’ film Philips Radio. In 1932 Ivens asked Helen van Dongen and Lou Lichtveld to create a sound version of Rain. Lichtveld travelled with Van Dongen to Paris, where they recorded the score for the film in the studio at Épinay. The sound version was half-heartedly received. Although the music intended to reinforce the visual strength of the film, Ivens himself felt that the music failed in this regard. During the 1930s Ivens worked on a number of films with Hanns Eisler, a collaboration that Ivens highly esteemed. In 1940 Eisler wrote a new score for Rain; his work was entitled Fourteen Ways to Describe Rain (Vierzehn Arten, den Regen zu beschreiben)."

Venice 1932 

"The first Venice Film Exhibition was definitely one of the main springboards for the international contemporary success of Joris Ivens’ masterpiece. Screened as the opening film on the final [16th] evening, Sunday 21 August, Regen was affected by the fact that in the following day’s articles the press coverage focused more on reviewing the success of the whole festival, rather reducing the space for the last day’s shows."

"Nevertheless, it is clear that both the audience and the film critics enthused over the “Dutch short”. One of the first reviews appeared in the local newspaper Il Gazzettino, describing Regen as “an extraordinary documentary, sent by the Dutch Government, depicting the rage of a violent and sudden storm with a meticulous wealth of detail”. A few days later, the political daily Il Lavoro Fascista couldn’t help praising the film: “But, as for documentaries, Joris Ivens’ and Franken’s Regen deserves an honorable mention; finally, the simple photographer from Amsterdam, who, in a short time, thanks to his documentaries, has become one of the most prominent directors, has been introduced to Italy. His Regen (Rain) is one of the most felicitous examples of documentary, where editing creates a perfectly spot-on rhythm of images.”
" Mark-Paul Meyer, Federico Striuli (GCM 2022)

AA: Revisited Regen, which I saw in a version I probably did not know before. We have screened the print with the Hanns Eisler music, which was also shown in Bologna in Madeleine Bernstorff's La donna con la Kinamo shows. On 12 Feb 2012 we even mounted a film concert Regen conducted by Dalia Stasevska in which "12 manières de décrire la pluie” by Hanns Eisler was played live by a 25 piece orchestra.

I confess I cannot spot the differences between the versions having seen the projections within many years' distance. The movie starts "before the rain" and builds slowly into a crescendo. The rain changes everything. Ivens and Franken play with the blurred vision. Hitchcock may have been inspired by the umbrella vision in Foreign Correspondent. The streets get empty.

I keep thinking about Tarkovsky for whom water was the perfect way to convey time. The many ways, forms and densities in which time passes and flows. After a break the rain starts again, building into a new crescendo.

The musicians let themselves be inspired by the images, undaunted by their predecessors Lou Lichtveld (whose name is printed in the opening credits as the composer) and Hanns Eisler. Frank Bockius was in great form, electrified by the rhythms of the rain.

Dutch Colonial Films 1: The Modern Colony (GCM 2022)


J. C. Lamster: Remonte-Depot en stoeteru te Padalarang / [Remount Station and Stud Farm at Padalarang] (NL 1912–1913/[1923]). From: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2022: Film coloniali olandesi / Dutch Colonial Films, Prog. 1: Una colonia moderna / The Modern Colony
A cura di: Nico de Klerk.
Grand piano: José Maria Serralde Ruiz
E-subtitles in English and Italian.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 3 Oct 2022

AANKOMST VAN EEN MAILSTOOMER TE TANDJONG-PRIOK [Arrivo di un battello postale a Tanjung Priok / Arrival of a Packet Boat at Tanjung Priok] (NL, 1912–1913/1923)
regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 96 m., 4′ (18 fps), b&w + imbibito/tinted; did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Packet boats provided inter-insular services for passengers and cargo in the Indonesian archipelago. Since the mid-19th century this network had been an important part of an emerging communication infrastructure that enabled and supported the economic expansion and administrative unification of the colony. The intensification of inter-insular as well as intercontinental shipping necessitated the building of a new, shore-based seaport at Batavia (today’s Jakarta). The old one, small and shallow, had forced the new, bigger steamships to remain in the roadstead while their cargo and passengers were taken ashore by smaller vessels. Opened in 1883 in Tanjung Priok, northeast of Batavia, the new port accommodated the increased volume of traffic of larger-sized ships. Trains took new arrivals quickly to the capital." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: My thoughts fly to the early novels of Joseph Conrad, such as Almayer's Folly, and Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Empire: 1875–1914. We are in the last years of the Belle Époque, on the brink of the First World War. Indigenous workers unload the heavy luggage of Dutch imperialists. In long shots and long takes we get a feeling in real time of how it was, today seeing it educated by new colonial history. Heartbreaking beauty and grandeur on the ship called Rembrandt.

REIS LANGS DE STAATS-SPOORWEGEN OP JAVA. LIJN WELTEVREDEN‒MR. CORNELIS [In viaggio sulle ferrovie nazionali di Giava. La linea Weltevreden-Meester Cornelis / Traveling Along the National Railways in Java. The Weltevreden to Meester Cornelis Line] (NL, [1919–1923])
regia/dir: ?. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 124 m., 6′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Part of a series of films on the colonial railway infrastructure, this episode shows the route between the uptown district of Weltevreden, on the southeastern edge of Batavia (today’s Jakarta), and the town of Meester Cornelis (today’s Jatinegara). Passing Manggarai with its railway workshops and employee housing one notices the modern Dutch architecture that dotted the colony’s urban areas in the late colonial era. While at the turn of the 20th century 80% of the colony’s Dutch population was born in the Indies, the new architecture signaled the increasing influx of so-called totoks, Netherlands-born immigrants who planned to settle only temporarily in the colony, and were less inclined to adopt local habits of clothing and food – and less able to afford villas." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: A phantom ride gives us a vivid, epic panorama of life in colonial Batavia / Jakarta.

REIZIGERS VERKEER [Traffico turistico / Tourist Traffic] (NL, 1912–1913/1923)
regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 55 m., 2′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Two brief impressions of tourism, featuring, first, the neo-gothic Hotel Homann, in Bandung. Mrs. Homann’s famous rijsttafel [literally, “rice table”] attracted many Dutch planters in the region for this elaborate Indo-European meal. Car ownership, more plentiful than in the Netherlands at the time, enabled these day-trips. Next, the first-class Grand Hotel Java. Located in the posh Weltevreden district of Batavia, it provided European standards of luxury, comfort, and food for well-heeled local and international – mostly American – tourists, at a minimum of 10 guilders per night." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: Lavish circumstances in Hotel Homann in Bandung and Grand Hotel Java in Batavia.

JAARBEURS EN PASAR-MALAM TE MEDAN, OOSTKUST VAN SUMATRA [Fiera campionaria e mercato serale a Medan, sulla costa orientale di Sumatra / Trade Fair and Evening Market, Medan, East Coast of Sumatra] (NL 1923) regia/dir: J. John. prod: Gewestelijk Jubileum Comité [Regional Jubilee Committee]. copia/copy: 35 mm, 288 m., 14′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "In the 1860s, the gradual abolishment of the so-called “Cultivation System” (a cooperation between the colonial administration and the Javanese aristocracy that forced peasants to set aside land and time to grow export crops) heralded a new economic era of private enterprise. It flourished particularly in the newly exploited regions outside Java. Most lucrative was Sumatra’s east coast: the tobacco and rubber plantations in the Deli sultanate and the palm oil industry and oil wells in the Langkat sultanate, as well in Palembang in the south, slowly shifted the economic center of gravity away from Java. The trade fair shown in the film, in the boomtown of Medan, was organized on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Queen Wilhelmina’s investiture, but appears above all to celebrate Dutch entrepreneurial success (albeit boosted by the American automobile and tire industries)." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: A huge overview of industry and enterprise at the great trade fair and evening market in Medan, including brands still familiar today such as Van Houten, Buick, Firestone and Deutz. Entertainment includes indigenous acrobatics, music bands and a wrestling show. Recognizable faces are rare in this show, but here are a few glimpses. An aubade is joined by 2000 schoolchildren. A sabha, a Hindu art society, appears, as well as a costumed sport match, a display bicycle ride by armed police, and gymnastic by their wives, all indigenous.

REMONTE-DEPOT EN STOETERU TE PADALARANG [Stazione di monta e scuderia a Padalarang / Remount Station and Stud Farm at Padalarang] (NL, 1912–1913/[1923]) regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 173? m., 8′ (18 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "Founded in 1888, this remount station’s purpose was to breed horses better prepared for military service than local breeds, which had often been neglected or subjected to heavy duty by the time they were purchased. Coupled with an increased demand and the introduction of heavier artillery, the supply of replacement horses was becoming urgent. The military therefore decided to buy sturdier breeds at a younger age. Brought to this new facility, they were properly fed and gradually disciplined. Although at first sight an old-fashioned means of transport, horses remained of vital importance for the administrative unification of the Indonesian archipelago, particularly in areas where a modern infrastructure of railways and paved roads was still in its infancy, the landscape too formidable, or resistance, particularly on Sumatra, not subdued." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: A documentary of a horse remount service, covering many stages, including trot, gallop, dressage mounted, dressage riding, sandalwood mares with foals, loose stallions, march in the meadow and crossbred geldings.

HET DOKKEN VAN EEN SCHIP IN DE HAVEN VAN TANDJONG-PRIOK [L’attracco di una nave nel porto di Tanjung Priok / Docking a Ship in the Harbour of Tanjung Priok] (NL, 1912–1913/1923)
regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 128 m., 6′ (18 fps), b&w, imbibito/tinted; did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "With the colony’s weather and water conditions fouling ships’ hulls quickly, a floating dry-dock had been put in operation in 1856 in the roadstead of Batavia (now Jakarta). With the completion of the shore-based port of Tanjung Priok in 1883, docking facilities were brought within its perimeters. In rough stop-motion style the film shows the arrival of a ship in the floating dock. As can be seen in many other films of services, industries, or agricultures in the colony (the public sector, except for ceremonial occasions, largely steered clear of being filmed), private enterprise’s division of labour was quite strictly organized along ethnic lines." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: An epic account of a huge ship maintained and cleansed on a dock.

TOCHT PER AUTO DOOR WELTEVREDEN [Giro in auto per le strade di Weltevreden / Car Ride through Weltevreden] (NL, 1912–1913/[1923]) regia/dir, photog: J. C. Lamster. prod: Koloniaal Instituut. copia/copy: 35 mm, 313 m., 15′ (18 fps), [b&w], imbibito/tinted; did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    "The Colonial Institute’s lecture text for this “phantom ride” through Weltevreden, the southern suburb of Batavia (today’s Jakarta), is uncharacteristically outspoken. Its European residential area, once called “The Queen of the East”, is said to be “decaying”, as its panoramic design with villas and parks is expected to be sacrificed to the construction of row houses, due to a lack of real estate. Sobering, to say the least, is the comment on its Chinese quarter, where one finds “dirty dwellings along narrow alleys and canals”. In fact, the shot of an opium den, acquired from Pathé Frères in 1918, signals that the films, changes notwithstanding, gradually lost their topicality. The end of World War I finally offered opportunities for other companies to make more up-to-date films." Nico de Klerk (GCM 2022)
    AA: An epic travelogue largely conducted as a phantom ride through Batavia/Jakarta, covering many sights, including opium dens, the bustle of town traffic, Club Harmony, the "French Quarter", Tanah Abang, King's Square, a society of art and sciences displaying Hindu deities, the Golden Room, and crown jewels of collapsed principalities. An indigenous cleaning man directs a serious look at us in one of the rare eye contact shots in the programme. There is also a precious collection of weapons. Les statues meurent aussi. Follows a phantom ride from a horse-driven carriage. Waterloo Square, where a football match is mounted. There is a slow long panoramic shot of the audience, but we cannot identify faces. Until we do, in the most memorable moment of the program, serious, unsmiling faces of the indigenous people. They are silently watching us. Cornelis de Houtman is evoked. The film ends with a wide general view of the Ciliwung / Liwung River.

AA: A magnificent time travel experience in Dutch Colonial Indonesia. We need to read between the lines and images to realize what is left unsaid.

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Segundo de Chomón in Barcelona (Ibérico Films) (2021 Filmoteca de Catalunya)


Segundo de Chomón: Metamorfosis / Métamorphoses (ES/FR 1912) starring France Mathieu. From: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Bois d’Arcy.


Segundo de Chomón in Barcelona (Ibérico Films)
14 films, DCP, 66'29''
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Cinema delle origini / Early Cinema.
Grand piano: Stephen Horne, alla batteria: Frank Bockius.
Screened with e-subtitles in English and Italian.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 2 Oct 2022.

Mariona Bruzzo, Rosa Cardona (GCM 2022): Segundo de Chomón in Barcelona (Ibérico Films)

" “Chomón was a restless man, here, then there; he would appear and disappear when you least expected, but he never wasted time, because when he came back he always had something new to tell you that could be applied in the immediate future.”"

"That was how director and producer Albert Marro described the somewhat elusive and hyperactive Segundo de Chomón, with whom he shared a friendship and projects in Barcelona in the early 20th century."

"Segundo de Chomón (Teruel 1871‒Paris 1929) moved to Barcelona as a child with his family, and it was there that he started out in film, joining Pathé Frères in 1902. Within a few years he had made a name for himself at the French production company as a specialist in special effects and animation, but it was his work at Turin’s Itala Film in 1912 and on the epic Cabiria (1914) by Giovanni Pastrone that would earn him renown in early cinema as a film technician."

"Following his death Chomón was largely forgotten until the late 1940s, when historians such as Carlos Fernández Cuenca took an interest in him, although it wasn’t until 1971, the centenary of his birth, that the first monographs were published. In the last few decades he has been acclaimed by specialists such as Juan Gabriel Tharrats, Joan M. Minguet Batllori, and Jean-Claude Seguin, and more recently at the 2017 international conference organized and published by the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé (FSJP), Les mille et un visages de Segundo de Chomón, which cleared up many aspects and pointed out gaps in the story of Chomón’s life. In 2021, as part of the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth, the Filmoteca de Catalunya put together another international conference, “Laboratori Chomón”, turning the spotlight on his time in Barcelona, particularly from 1910 to 1912. Research in archives and personal collections, and the consulting of documents in the FJSP, combined with networking by FIAF film archives to locate films, revealed that this was an intensely creative period for the filmmaker, of which, incredibly, barely a trace remains."

"In the spring of 1910, Chomón returned to Barcelona with all the knowledge acquired at Pathé Frères, where he had worked from 1906 on over 80 films as a special-effects wizard and director. He encountered a Barcelona centred on the sale and rental of films, a very lucrative business given the enthusiasm with which the city welcomed cinema. He himself played a significant part in the origins of the industry, setting up a film colouring workshop associated with production companies like Hispano Films and Lluís Macaya’s branch of Pathé. This branch came under the direction of Frenchman Louis Garnier in 1906, and moved to the Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s grand avenue, lined with impressive buildings belonging to Catalonia’s industrial middle class. There the company occupied the ground floor of the still-amazing Casa Batlló, entirely refurbished by the innovative modernist architect Antoni Gaudí, an ideal showcase for the most modern of businesses, cinema. It was a benchmark company in the city at the time, and even had its own laboratory."

"Chomón and Garnier signed a contract on 1 June 1910, under which the filmmaker undertook “to shoot and edit for international release films that were essentially Spanish, acted in accordance with the country’s customs by Spanish actors”; it specified that two negatives would be made, and that Chomón would be paid 11 francs for every metre accepted. It turned out to be a short-lived agreement, rescinded on 12 May the following year with no reference to the titles or material delivered. The fact that a copy of Chomón’s notebook, containing an initial block of 37 “Spanish” plots, has been preserved led to the belief that they were films shot under that contract, but following a fruitless search of the Spanish press and Pathé catalogues, these titles are now presumed to have remained in the project phase."

"We don’t know why the contract was cancelled, but new documents show that almost simultaneously Chomón would shut down one project to start another. On 1 May 1911, Segundo de Chomón and Francisco Fuster Garí, the brother of an impresario and film distributor, established the Societat Chomón-Fuster, a company for “the printing or production of motion picture films [cintas cinematograficas]”. Fuster provided the capital, and Chomón the “machinery, objects, and film material, and will provide and develop his technical and practical knowledge”. The partners set up a studio to shoot films in the summer of 1911, which would also be used as a film-colouring workshop. It must have been around this time that the agreement between the partners and Pathé began to take shape to launch Ibérico Films, the Spanish brand published and distributed by the French company."

"Thanks to preserved sources, an initial filmography for Chomón’s Ibérico work can be established between autumn 1911 and May 1912, by which time he was at Itala Film in Turin. The first Ibérico films to be released were “natural landscapes”, such as Entre arrozales (currently untraced), La histórica Toledo, and Pintorescas cascadas de Alhama de Aragón."

"The firm produced 12 fiction films with special effects, such as the gruesome El gusano solitario, a unique copy of which is in the Eye Filmmuseum – the only film in which the city of Barcelona is recognisable – and La Maison des revenants, recently restored from an original incomplete negative at the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, and trick films such as L’iris fantastique, Metamorfosis, and El Biombo de Cagliostro (Cagliostro’s Folding Screen)."

"These all appear in Chomón’s notebook, in which he wrote down the dates the negatives were sent to Paris, instructions for editing, which effects he used, how he used two cameras… But it’s the films that have been preserved – 6 of the 12 fiction and special-effects films which appear in the notebook – that show the studio, the set, and the acting company, headed by Christian [surname unknown], France Mathieu and her sister Julienne (Chomón’s wife), and Joan Balaguer, a famous Catalan actor with ties to Hispano Films."

"Many of the Ibérico films went into the Pathé-KOK catalogue, and were available as 28mm black & white prints. Such is the case of Excursion en Kabylie (Algeria) and Una excursión a la isla de Mallorca, the only two films shot outside the Iberian Peninsula, and Gerona la Venecia española, but the original 35mm versions were advertised as coloured using the Cinémacoloris system. It was thought for some time that this system was developed by Chomón himself, but current evidence suggests that it was actually Pathécolor under a different brand name. Barcelona, Pintorescas cascadas de Alhama de Aragón, La històrica Toledo, Las dos principales ciudades de Portugal, and El Biombo de Cagliostro, as well as the magnificent Superstición andaluza (Andalusian Superstition), brimming with effects ingeniously inserted into the narrative, were all coloured using this system."

"Chomón’s involvement with the Ibérico films in Barcelona is documented up to April 1912, just prior to his departure for Turin. Ibérico continued to produce films for local distribution until at least 1916, including the commissioned film Boda en Premià de Dalt servida por autos Ford, which is being shown in this Giornate programme, along with films that ended up in the Pathé catalogue."

"We do not know about the business organization of other Pathé brands, like Nizza Film, or if it was the same as what appears to be the way Ibérico operated in Barcelona. But what is important for us is that Chomón’s Ibérico films enable us to understand the filmmaker’s work, which was normally part of projects of less obvious authorship. These films show us a Chomón whose interest in colour and effects, which feature increasingly in his work, remains intact, while helping us to understand how Pathé’s small-scale production worked, highlighting the filmmaker’s organizational ability in terms of both the quality and the quantity of his productions, which were quite exceptional compared to what was being made in Barcelona at the time."

"Finally, thanks to his knowledge of the distribution system, Chomón was able to establish what might appear to be a chameleon-like camouflage strategy, passing off his films as French productions, incorporating them fully into the worldwide distribution programmes of Pathé, the production company with which he worked up until 1912."

"The Ibérico films recovery project was made possible by the wise and generous efforts of colleagues who provided access or undertook the preservation and digitization of films. Our most sincere thanks to Béatrice de Pastre and Hermine Cognie (CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée); Paolo Tosini (Vulcanus Film; Cineteca Nacional, Mexico); Arianna Turci (Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique), Giovanna Fossati, Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi (Eye Filmmuseum); Pénélope Riboud-Seydoux, Stéphanie Salmon, and Manon Billaut (Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé); Francesca Bozzano (Cinémathèque de Toulouse); Bryony Dixon (BFI National Archive); and Aleksandar Erdeljanović (Jugoslovenska kinoteka).
"

Mariona Bruzzo, Rosa Cardona (GCM 2022)

LAS PINTORESCAS CASCADAS DE ALHAMA DE ARAGÓN / CHUTES D’EAU A MONASTERIO DE PIEDRA (The Waterfalls of Monasterio de Piedra) (ES 1911 / FR 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4664. uscita/rel: 15.12.1911 (Kursaal, Barcelona), 1.2.1912 (FR). copia/copy: DCP, 2’45”, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 50 m., 18 fps, pochoir/stencil-colour); did./titles: ENG. fonte/source: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Bois d’Arcy. Restauro/Restored 2021, CNC.
    AA: Non-fiction. Cinema of attractions. Fabulous views of breathtakingly wonderful waterfalls.

LA HISTÓRICA TOLEDO / L’ANTIQUE TOLÈDE (ES 1911 / FR 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4670. uscita/rel: 1.11.1911 (Palacio de la Ilusión, Barcelona), 1.3.1912 (Omnia Pathé, Paris). copia/copy: DCP, 8’30”, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 173 m, 16 fps, pochoir/stencil-colour); did./titles: SPA. fonte/source: Vulcanus Film, Messina.
    Restored 2021 by Vulcanus Film from a 35 mm nitrate print (Viaje a Toledo/La Antigua Toledo) from the Cineteca Nacional, Mexico City.
    AA: Non-fiction. Cinema of attractions. Rising above travelogue, a grandiose visual account of old Toledo. Magnificent compositions, distant views, long shots, tragic historical references to the prison of the inquisition. The house of El Greco is also visited.

EXCURSIÓN A KABILYE / EXCURSION EN KABYLIE (ES 1911 / FR 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4839. uscita/rel: 15.2.1912, Barcelona), 5.4.1912 (Omnia Pathé, Paris). copia/copy: DCP, 2′ (da/from 28 mm pos. acetate, 40 m, 16 fps); did./titles: FRA. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Restored 2022 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya from an original 28 mm acetate print from the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, Brussels.
    AA: Non-fiction. Cinema of attractions. Visiting the land of Kabylia in Algeria. Wild mountains and ravines, crossing a river in a ravine on an aerial ropeslide. The camera pans slowly upwards on a steep mountain slope. Visiting hot sulphuric sources with a 90° temperature.

FISICA DIABOLICA / PHYSIQUE DIABOLIQUE (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4858. uscita/rel: 1.4.1912 (Palacio de la Ilusión, Barcelona), 1.5.1912 (FR). cast: Christian. copia/copy: DCP, 4′, col. (da/from 35 mm pos., 73 m, 16 fps, imbibito/tinted); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    Scanned in 2K in 2011 from a photochemical restoration print made in 1988.
    AA: Fiction, fantasy, féerie, cinema of attractions, non-narrative. The devil is driven by fire, and metamorphoses are mediated by fire. Ghost women appear as superimpositions. The set design: painted backdrops. There is a phoenix quality in the figures. The devil is great but not as deeply felt as in the films of Méliès. The ladies belong to the Belle Époque but are not as full figured as in Méliès. The flights of fancy are spirited, and there is a consistent sense of style.

LA CASA DE LOS DUENDES / LA MAISON DES REVENANTS (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 4862. uscita/rel: 11.3.1912 (Cine Excelsior, Barcelona), 1.6.1912 (FR). cast: Christian. copia/copy: DCP, 6′ (incomp., da/from 35 mm neg., 130 m, 16 fps); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris.
    Restored in 4K in 2022 from a Pathé negative from the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, at L‘Image Retrouvée laboratory (Paris) and the Filmoteca de Catalunya’s 2CR conservation centre.
    AA: Non-fiction, fantasy, horror, comedy, cinema of attractions. A company of partying friends observes a haunted house with windows transforming into faces. The pantomime is unabashedly exaggerated when they decide to enter the mysterious house following a Don Quijote like armoured figure. The ghosts are superimposed in a big mayhem. A chain of transformations follows in this poltergeist tale.

EL IRIS FANTÁSTICO / L’IRIS FANTASTIQUE (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5038. uscita/rel: 31.3.1912 (Cine Kursaal, Barcelona), 23.7.1912 (FR). cast: France Mathieu. copia/copy: DCP, 4′ (da/from 35 mm, 85 m, 16 fps); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya (Colleció Chomón).
    Digitized from a conservation element from the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé.
    AA: The wonderful lily. Cinema of attractions, non-narrative, dedicated on the beauty of a woman and the beauty of the flower. A flower dance in Belle Époque mode. Fan-like compositions (in a lineage later to be developed by Busby Berkeley). The starry sky. The ideal Chomón woman is more graceful than the Méliès dream female.

EL BIOMBO DE CAGLIOSTRO / LE PARAVENT DE CAGLIOSTRO (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5163. uscita/rel: 12.3.1912 (Cine Kursaal, Barcelona), 26.7.1912 (FR). cast: France Mathieu, Julienne Mathieu. copia/copy: DCP, 6′, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 130 m, 16 fps, imbibito/tinted); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Restored 2022 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya from a nitrate print from the collection of the Cinémathèque de Toulouse.
    AA: Fiction, féerie, magic, wonders, transformations, cinema of attractions, inspired by the occultism of Cagliostro. Five-way split screens, rococo ambience, superimpositions, all for the show.

SUPERSTICIÓN ANDALUZA (SOÑAR DESPIERTO) / SUPERSTITION ANDALOUSE (Andalusian Superstition) (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5181. uscita/rel: 24.6.1912 (Cine Soriano, Barcelona), 16.8.1912 (FR). cast: Christian, Joan Balaguer. copia/copy: DCP, 10′, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 183 m, 16 fps, pochoir/stencil-colour, imbibito/tinted); did./titles: ENG. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Restored by the BFI National Archive from a nitrate print in its collection.
    AA: Fiction, narrative, dream play, revenge tragedy, cinema of attractions. A triangle drama, kidnapping by Romani, a thrilling chase, caves, secret passages, explosions, fantasy bowls and pots with monstrous little creatures, animation, special effects, ghosts. Reconciliation.

METAMORFOSIS / MÉTAMORPHOSES (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5221. uscita/rel: 1912 (Cine Excelsior, Barcelona), 1912 (FR). cast: France Mathieu. copia/copy: DCP, 4’22” (da/from 35 mm, pos. acetate, 77 m, 16 fps); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona (Chomón Collection).
    Digitized from a preserved safety element from the CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Bois d’Arcy.
    AA: Fiction, féerie, transformations, cinema of attractions, non-narrative. Art for art's sake: a series of transformations following only the logic of beauty and dreams. A beautiful woman (France Mathieu) is the primus motor in quick, breathtaking series of metamorphoses, with the woman herself in the center of flower successions and female fountains (again in lineage followed later by Busby Berkeley). Paradis artificiels.

EXCURSION A MALLORCA / EXCURSION À L’ÎLE DE MAJORQUE (Een Uitstapje Eiland Majorca & Spaans Eiland in de Middellandse Zee. Behoort tot de Groepp der Balearen) (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5271. uscita/rel: 1.7.1912 (Palacio de la Ilusión, Barcelona), 5.4.1912 (Omnia Pathé, Paris). copia/copy: DCP, 4′ (da/from 28 mm pos. diacetate, 114 m, 16 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Digital restoration made in 2021 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya, from a 28 mm print from the collections of  Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    AA: Non-fiction, travelogue, starting from a long tracking shot from a boat following the coast of Mallorca. Later there is a phantom ride from a train following a mountain track. Lively townscapes and views of fishermen.

LAS PRINCIPALES CIUDADES DE PORTUGAL: LISBOA Y OPORTO / LES DEUX PLUS GRANDES VILLES DU PORTUGAL: LISBONNE ET OPORTO (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5333. uscita/rel: 1.8.1912 (Barcelona), 16.10.1912 (FR). copia/copy: DCP, 2′, col. (incomp., da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 40 m, 16 fps, pochoir/stencil Cinémacoloris; senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    Digitized from the analog preservation made in 2010 by Eye Filmmuseum at Haghefilm Digitaal from an original 35 mm nitrate print in the Cinémacoloris stencil-colour system, from the collection of The Cinema Museum, London.
    AA: Non-fiction, travelogue, views of Lisbon and Porto full of life.

BODA EN PREMIÀ DE MAR SERVIDA POR AUTOS MARCA FORD (ES, 1912?)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón?. prod: Ibérico Films. copia/copy: DCP, 2’32” (da/from 16mm dupe neg., 47 m, 16 fps; did./titles: SPA. fonte/source: Filmoteca de Catalunya, Barcelona.
    Digitized 2021 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya.
    AA: Non-fiction, wedding film, promotional film for Ford motorcars, exactly like the ones familiar from Keystone and Hal Roach comedies.

BARCELONA / BARCELONE, PRINCIPALE VILLE DE LA CATALOGNE (Barcelona. Haupstadt von katalonien [Spanien]) (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5368. uscita/rel: 31.8.1912 (Barcelona), 16.10.1912 (FR). copia/copy: DCP, 3′, col. (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 68 m, 16 fps, pochoir/stencil Cinémacoloris); did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Jugoslovenska kinoteka, Beograd.
    Restoration by the Jugoslovenska kinoteka from a 35 mm nitrate print in the Cinémacoloris stencil-colour system in its collections.
    AA: Non-fiction, a predecessor of city symphonies, a lively account of Barcelona, transcending the category of a mere factual record, conveying a sense of life, not forgetting to cover many landmarks and sights.

EL GUSANO SOLITARIO (Puceños tiene la solitaria) / ESCAMILLO À LE VERS SOLITAIRE (Escamillo heeft een lintworm) (ES/FR, 1912)
regia/dir: Segundo de Chomón. prod: Ibérico Films, per/for Pathé Frères; Pathé Cat. no. 5490. uscita/rel: 1.10.1912 (Barcelona). cast: Christian, Joan Balaguer. copia/copy: DCP, 8′ (da/from 35 mm pos. nitr., 146 m, 16 fps); did./titles: NLD. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    Analog preservation in 2021 by Eye Filmmuseum at Haghefilm Digitaal of a 35 mm nitrate print that entered their collections in 2019.
    AA: Fiction, comedy, farce, fantasy, special effects. A tall tale, about a man's fight with his giant tapeworm. The art of the hyperbole. Chomón exploits the possibilities of the ravenous worm to the extreme. The special effects and the stop motion animation are technically brilliant. The hyperactive performance is also realized with true art and style.

AA: This wonderful show covers Chomón's range in fiction and non-fiction during mere two years of productions in Barcelona. His visual sense and imagination is rich and gratifying. The documentation of life in Barcelona, Toledo, Mallorca and Kabylia is vivid. A cross-section of the beauty of life during the last years of la Belle Époque, before WWI. Beautifully curated, and also a showcase of international collaboration among many film archive. Hopefully this program will remain permanently accessible. It's both great entertainment and great education.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

41. Le Giornate del Cinema Muto – Pordenone Silent Film Festival – 1–8 October 2022


Cover art: Alan Crosland: Three Weeks (US 1924) starring Conrad Nagel (Paul Verdayne) and Aileen Pringle (the Queen). Based on Elinor Glyn's bestselling novel, a celebration of female desire. From: Museum of Modern Art (New York).

PREMIO JEAN MITRY – i vincitori dell'edizione 2022 sono Stella Dagna & Eva Orbanz
THE JONATHAN DENNIS MEMORIAL LECTURE – XVIII Conferenza – Stella Dagna: "Etica del restauro: segreti e bugie?"
ANNUAL LECTURE SERIES DEVOTED TO COSTUME DESIGN IN SILENT FILM, conceived by Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Director of the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA – Inaugural lecture: Michelle Tolini Finemore: "Character, Costume Design and Silent Cinema" 1. Dressing Norma: Fashion in Early Cinema
COLLEGIUM 2022: Luke Bailey (US), Rabei Javaid Bhatti (PK), Cǎlin Boto (RO), Gabriel Carvalho (BR), Yunus Erdoǧan (TR), Anastasia Filenkova (UA), Lena Stötzel (DE), Alejandra Arjona Suárez (CO), Giorgia Velluti (IT), Simone Winkler (DE), Russell Zych (US).
THE 2022 PORDENONE MASTERCLASSES: Dominic Irving and Camille Phelep.
EVENTI SPECIALI:
– Up In Mabel's Room
– Serata inaugurale: Film concert The Unknown - 2022 George Eastman Museum restoration - new score by José Maria Serralde Ruiz performed by Orchestra San Marco
– A colpi di note / Striking a New Note 15: Kri Kri Detective + Kri Kri ha perduto il cappelo + Robinet aviatore + Fra i due litiganti... – music played by children from the schools of Istitute Comprensivo Rorai Cappuccini and Istituto Compensivo Pordenone Centro – with the participation of Liceo Musicale "G. Marconi", Conegliano.
– Nanook of the North centenary film concert – music composed and conducted by Gabriel Thibaudeau – quartet of flutes from the Orchestra San Marco, Pordenone, with Inuit throat-singers Lydia Etokf and Nina Segalowitz, and vocal soloists Alberto Spadotto and Anna Viola, con Frank Bockius alla batteria
– Mid-Week Event: Film concert Borgslægtens historie – comp. Þórður Magnússon / Thordur Magnusson – perf. Orchestra San Marco, Pordenone – cond. Bjarni Frimann Bjarnasson
- Serata finale: Film concert The Manxman – 2012 BFINA restoration – 2012 Stephen Horne score, enhanced in 2022 – orchestrated and conducted by Ben Palmer – performed by Orchestra San Marco with soloists Louise Hayter and Jeff Moore
RURITANIA I – a cura di Amy Sargeant & Jay Weissberg
NORMA TALMADGE – a cura di Ben Brewster & Lea Jacobs
VENEZIA 90 / VENICE 90 – 90th Anniversary of Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia / Venice International Film Festival – a cura di Federico Striuli & Michał Pieńkowski – Biały ślad – Po horách po dolách – Regen – Tikhi Don
DUTCH COLONIAL FILMS – a cura di Nico de Klerk
THE IAC "WORLD TOUR OF PRIZEWINNING FILMS 1932–1934" – IAC = Institute of Amateur Cinematographers – a cura di Keith M. Johnston
THE CANON REVISITED: – La dixième symphonie – Europa – Manolescu – Nanook of the North
CINEMA DELLE ORIGINI / EARLY CINEMA
– Lumière Suisse: Lavanchy-Clarke – a cura di Roland Cosandey, Dominique Moustacchi & Hansmartin Seigrist
– Segundo de Chomón in Barcelona (Ibérico Films) – a cura di Mariona Bruzzo & Rosa Cardona
RISCOPERTI E RESTAURI: – Bobbed Hair – Die grosse Liebe einer kleinen Tänzerin – Hände – Just Around the Corner – Lāčplēsis – La Montagne infidèle – Ladroni (Italian version of Night Owls) – Profanazione
THE HAGHEFILM DIGITAAL – SELZNICK SCHOOL FELLOWSHIP 2022: Florian Höhensteiger – The Chicken Thief
THE HANS BERGE COLLECTION
CENTENARY OF PATHÉ-BABY
ITALIA: IL FUOCO, LA CENERE (Céline Gailleurd & Olivier Bohler 2021)

AA: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM) is back to normal after the pandemic. In 2020, it was mounted as an online festival. Last year, in 2021, GCM was live again with corona emergency security: half programming, half capacity, COVID certificate required, temperature measured, hand hygiene, face masks, and distancing.

I had never felt happier in a festival, although because of extreme pressure at work I was remote working in my hotel room most of the time and missed most of the action. The extreme pressure has not gone away. The world of the film industry and film transport is in chaos. The most reliable partners have turned unreliable due to reorganizations, part-time work, distant work, layoffs and mergers. Vicious circles and chain reactions have emerged, delayed communication leading to escalating trouble. Failures are so commonplace that people no longer apologize.

This week I have worked around-the-clock days all week and hope to catch more of the GCM programme than last year. The design of the festival is top elegant, and it is a royal privilege to read the catalogue. Last year there was no catalogue, but it was reportedly printed post festum. I ordered three copies that failed to reach me. Another sign of the times: mail is erratic, important mail gets lost. No explanation, no apologies. The GCM catalogue I miss the most, along with BFI Southbank programme booklets. I am a BFI member since 1980, and only now have I failed to get those precious booklets. Sight & Sound reaches me now at a two-three month delay. That's Brexit. Before Brexit, I always received it during the month before.

Reading the GCM 2022 catalogue I keep learning something new on every page, mostly on films about which I had never heard before. But also of the best-known films. On the centenary of Nanook of the North I expect to find a critical reception in the spirit of New Colonial History but instead find Francesco Rutini writing that "despite some of its flaws, stereotypes, and cultural inaccuracies, the film displays genuine Inuit skills and knowledge, and therefore is still considered historically and culturally significant by the Inuit" (p. 191). About The Manxman, a film I have always found special, I find a particularly illuminating essay by Charles Barr, who keeps discovering new profound connections in the much covered Alfred Hitchcock œuvre. This time it's the connection between Rebecca and The Manxman. Barr's contribution in last year's anthology Haunted by Vertigo was also of the highest order.

During the first day, Saturday, I enjoyed the warm feeling of the Pordenone street fair. I was thrilled to purchase The New York Times (weekend edition of the international edition) and FT Weekly at L'Edicola del Corso di Biscontin Omar and disappointed that Le Monde had failed to arrive. In Finland, since the pandemic started, we only get weekend issues of international quality papers, and they hit the newsstands only on Monday. The Guardian Weekly and Die Zeit come with a one or two weeks' delay, daily Le Monde not at all, Le Monde Diplomatique with a month's delay. International quality press is my lifeline. (I am also an online subscriber of several journals and newspapers. Common to all: I don't read them. I continue my subscriptions to support them.)

In July I left the social media because of escalating hate speech. In 1967, at 12, I was too childish to be anything more than a fan of the "Summer of Love" movement: "make love, not war", but it made a lasting impression. This year that young passion means even more to me. "Love is all you need."

PS. Society is officially back to normal after the pandemic. But it is not over. A good friend reported on Friday that 30 of his friends caught the corona in late June at Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, Lapland. He himself caught it for the third time and is still recovering. Symptoms of all the previous infections returned, and also his wife is still suffering since three months. Myself, I wear a facemask, carry a hand sanitizer, use it frequently, and cultivate distancing.

The only good thing I have learned from the pandemic: "namaste".

"An Oberoi Hotel employee doing Namaste, New Delhi". From: English Wikipedia: Namaste. "Namaste (/ˈnʌməsteɪ/, Devanagari: नमस्ते), sometimes called namaskar and namaskaram, is a customary Hindu non-contact manner of respectfully greeting and honoring a person or group, used at any time of day. It is found on the Indian subcontinent, and among the Nepalese and Indian diaspora. Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. This gesture is called añjali mudrā; the standing posture incorporating it is pranamasana." Namaste derives from Sanskrit.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Veden vartija / Memory of Water


Saara Saarela: Veden vartija / Memory of Water (FI 2022) starring Saga Sarkola.

Minnet av vatten.
    FI/DE/NO/EE 2022 Oy Bufo Ab / Pandora Film / Allfilm OÜ / Mer Film. P: Misha Jaari, Mark Lwoff.
    D: Saara Saarela. SC: Ilja Rautsi – based on the novel Teemestarin kirja (2012) by Emmi Itäranta, in English: Memory of Water. Cin: Kjell Lagerroos – scope. PD: Otso Linnalaakso. Cost: Tiina Kaukanen. Makeup: Kaire Hendrikson. VFX: Thomas Loeder. SFX: Kristjan Pütsep. Choreography: Keisy Põldsam. M: Volker Bertelmann. "Šiella" and "Boares Gietkka" comp+perf Ulla Pirttijärvi. S: Andreas Hildebrandt. ED: Jussi Rautaniemi.
    C: Saga Sarkola (Noria), Mimosa Willamo (Sanja), Lauri Tilkanen (Taro), Pekka Strang (Major Bolin), Minna Haapkylä (Lian), Kheba Touray (Mikoa), Lyydia Mörä (Minja), Yuko Takeda (the supervising tea master), Ulla Pirttijärvi (the Sami woman), Erol Mintas (doctor), Tommi Eronen (father).
    101 min
    Finnish premiere 2 Sep 2022, distributed by B-Plan Distribution, international distribution by The Match Factory GmbH, English subtitles by Samuli Kauppila, Swedish subtitles by Michaela Palmberg.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 2, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 10 Sep 2022.

Official synopsis: "Puhdas vesi on loppumassa maailmasta, ja valtaa pitävä sotilashallinto kontrolloi niukkoja vesivaroja tiukalla otteella. Vesipulan keskellä sinnittelevän kylän uusi teemestari Noria (Saga Sarkola) saa isänsä kuoltua selville sukunsa tarkoin varjellun salaisuuden: erämaassa on säilynyt puhtaan juomaveden lähde. Kun Norialle selviää, että myös saastuneilta Menetetyiltä mailta saattaisi löytyä vettä, hänen on päätettävä, mitä hän hengenvaarallisella tiedolla tekee."

"Periksiantamattoman Norian tukena ovat paras ystävä Sanja (Mimosa Willamo) ja vesipulaa ratkova Taro (Lauri Tilkanen), mutta voiko heihin luottaa? Salaako sotilashallinto kansalta enemmänkin vesivaroja – voiko yksi ihminen pelastaa maailman kuivuudelta?"

"Pitkälle tulevaisuuteen sijoittuva Saara Saarelan ohjaama dystooppinen suurelokuva perustuu Emmi Itärannan moderniin klassikkoon Teemestarin kirja (2012)
."

AA: Directed by Saara Saarela, Memory of Water, based on the internationally acclaimed novel by Emmi Itäranta, is a magnificent dystopian science fiction epic with striking production values, eloquent cinematography, and an enchanting music and sound world (spiced with Sami ingredients). The cast is top drawer, with the luminous Saga Sarkola as the fearless protagonist. There is something of the feeling of the Hunger Games series in this film, including casting a young woman as the saviour of the world.

Science fiction is not one of the mainstays of Finnish cinema, but there is a native tradition even in this genre, with achievements such as Avaruusraketilla rakkauteen (Zurück aus dem Weltall / [Back from the Universe], George Freedland, 1958), Ruusujen aika / The Time of the Roses (Risto Jarva, 1969), MP – minä pelkään / I'm Scared (Pekka Hyytiäinen, 1982), 250 Grams – A Radioactive Film (Pirjo Honkasalo & Pekka Lehto, 1983) and W (Anna Eriksson, 2022). My favourite of the earlier films is Maria Ruotsala's Apeiron (2013) based on the novel by Leena Krohn, starring Saga Sarkola's brother Sampo Sarkola. Of earlier dystopian films, Mika Kaurismäki's The Last Border (1993) comes close to the themes of the Memory of Water, but it is completely different, belonging to the Mad Max inspired cycle of post-apocalyptic action films.

In Memory of Water, each ingredient is brilliant, but perhaps as a consequence of the pandemic circumstances of the huge production, the inner drive is not as irresistible and compelling as it would have been had the film had been created in normal times.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OFFICIAL INTRODUCTION:

Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä / The Grump: In Search of an Escort


Mika Kaurismäki: Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä / The Grump: In Search of an Escort (FI 2022), starring Heikki Kinnunen.

Kverulanten söker Eskort.
    FI/DE 2022 Solar Films Inc. Oy / Cuckoo Clock Entertainment GmbH. P: Markus Selin, Jukka Helle, Hanna Virolainen, Raoul Reinert.
    D: Mika Kaurismäki. SC: Daniela Hakulinen, Tuomas Kyrö – based on the novel (2019) by Tuomas Kyrö. Cin: Jari Mutikainen – scope. Drone cin: David Brickhill-Jones, Teppo Salonen. AD: Tuomas Kyrö, Pouya Mirzaei. Cost: Anna Vilppunen, Anette Schröder. Makeup: Marjut Samulin. Hair: Aune Peeterman. VFX of drowning the Ford Escort: Jari Nenonen. M: Anssi Tikanmäki, Eemil Tikanmäki, Eljas Tikanmäki. S: Pekka Karjalainen. ED: Markus Leppälä. C:
    Mielensäpahoittaja / The Grump – Heikki Kinnunen
    Tarmo – Kari Väänänen
    Hessu – Iikka Forss
    Liisa – Mari Perankoski
    Pekka – Ville Tiihonen
    Katri – Tiina Lymi
    Maria – Rosalie Thomass
    Otto – Samu Haber
    Larsson – Pekka Strang
    109 min
    Finnish premiere: 9 Sep 2022, distributed by Oy Nordisk Film Ab, Swedish subtitles by Frej Grönholm.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 4, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 10 Sep 2022.

Official synopsis: "Mielensäpahoittajan arki rullaa tuttujen rutiinien mukaan: kevät on tullut ja varhaisperunasato kypsyy. Mielensäpahoittaja kuitenkin kolaroi rakkaan Eskorttinsa ja auto täytyy romuttaa. Uusi, nykyaikainen kulkuneuvo ei käy laatuun ja lähin Eskortti vuosimallia 1972 löytyy Saksasta. Kun Mielensäpahoittajan pojat kieltäytyvät auttamasta, on hänen matkustettava Saksaan yksin."

"Mielensäpahoittaja tarvitsee Hampuriin saavuttuaan veljensä Tarmon apua. He eivät ole olleet tekemisissä vuosikymmeniin. Tarmo, joka on Mielensäpahoittajan täydellinen vastakohta, lupaa auttaa veljeään Eskortin etsinnässä. Auton etsinnän lomassa mutkaisen matkan varrella kaivetaan esiin veljesten väliset vanhat ja uudet kuopat."

"Mielensäpahoittaja Eskorttia etsimässä on lämminhenkinen elokuva sukupolvien kohtaamisesta vuosien jälkeen."

"The Grump’s daily life rolls along his familiar routines: spring has arrived and the early potato crop is almost ready. The Grump however crashes his beloved Ford Escort, and the car must be scrapped. A new, modern vehicle is out of the question, and the nearest ’72 Escort can only be found from Germany. When the Grump’s sons refuse to help him, the Grump has to travel to Germany alone."

"When the Grump arrives in Hamburg, he needs help from his brother, Tarmo. The brothers have not been in touch with each other in decades. Tarmo, who is the exact opposite to the Grump, promises to help his brother find the Escort. As they navigate the bumps in the road in search of the car, old and new disagreements between the brothers flare up."

"The Grump: In Search of an Escort is a warm-spirited film about family meeting after many years."

AA: Based on the popular character created by the author Tuomas Kyrö originally for the radio, and subsequently a series of novels, a successful motion picture franchise has emerged.

Themes of the Grump phenomenon include the generation gap, urbanization, a satire of living in "the good old days" of the past, and the deep transformation of gender roles. We laugh at the Grump but we can look in the mirror and learn lessons about the past including sustainability, living in harmony with nature, and a culture of "trust thy neighbour".

In The Grump (2014), director Dome Karukoski created a work that resonates in film history with classics including Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow, Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story and Alexander Payne's About Schmidt.

Happier Times, Grump (2018), directed by Tiina Lymi, introduced new, emotionally rich dimensions, starting with the death of the Grump's wife and a catastrophic funeral and memorial sequence and ending with the birth of the Grump's first great-grandchild.

In The Grump: In Search of an Escort, directed by Mika Kaurismäki, the saga expands geographically into Germany. We meet the Grump's brother Tarmo who has become an international nomad while the Grump remained at the home farm.

In a parallel story we follow the fates of the Grump's two sons. Iikka Forss and Mari Perankoski have interpreted the son Hessu and his wife Liisa in all films. Ville Tiihonen and Tiina Lymi are new actors as the son Pekka and his wife Katri. In Germany the Grump discovers a niece, Marie (Rosalie Thomass) and her five year old son.

In each story we meet crisis. The Grump's Ford Escort crashes. Pekka is fired. Hessu's children are so glued to their smartphones that they ignore everything else. Tarmo has been a negligent father and his daughter does not want to have anything to do with him.

The Grump: In Search of an Escort is a work of wish-fulfillment. There is a neat solution to each crisis. It is feelgood entertainment, and judging by the atmosphere in the screening I visited I predict it will be a success.

Missing is the aching sense of loss of the previous Grump films, to speak nothing about McCarey, Ozu and Payne.

But, more than before, Mika Kaurismäki injects a subtle sense of humour in the narrative. There are jokes and funny scenes, but more interestingly, there is an inherent humoristic dimension all around.

For the road movie veteran Mika Kaurismäki, the scope format is natural, enhanced by effective drone footage in Hamburg and a poignant scene of the drowning of the resurrected Ford Escort. "Vanhan vaahteran laulu" ["The Song of the Old Maple Tree"] (comp.+lyr. Eino Partanen), sung by Veikko Tuomi in 1952, is a perfect soundtrack choice. Such songs were listened by the generations that survived the war.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: SOUNDTRACK LISTING: