Saturday, December 31, 2022

Senses of Cinema World Poll 2022: my favourites

Dror Moreh: The Corridors of Power (US 2022). For me, the film of the year. Seen in Telluride in the presence of Dror Moreh.

Antti Alanen
Senses of Cinema World Poll 2022

Top tens in viewing order.

Madres paralelas / Parallel Mothers (Pedro Almodóvar, 2021). DCP, Finnkino Strand, Lappeenranta.
Pahanhautoja / Hatching (Hanna Bergman, 2022), DCP, Finnkino Strand, Lappeenranta.
Petite maman (Céline Sciamma, 2021) DCP, Finnkino Strand, Lappeenranta.
Babi Jar. Kontekst / Babi Yar. Context (Sergei Loznitsa, 2021) DCP, Midnight Sun Film Festival.
Elvis (Baz Luhrmann, 2022) DCP, Finnkino Strand, Lappeenranta.
On ne sait jamais / You Never Know (Victoria Schultz, 2022) Vimeo
The Corridors of Power (Dror Moreh, 2022), my film of the year, greatly enhanced by seen as a sequel to The U.S. and the Holocaust 1–3 (Ken Burns, 2022). DCP, Telluride, in the presence of Dror Moreh.
Tár (Todd Field, 2022) DCP, Telluride, in the presence of Cate Blanchett.
She Said (Maria Schrader, 2022) DCP, Finnkino Strand, Lappeenranta.
Holy Spider / Ankaboote moghaddas (Ali Abbasi, 2022) DCP, Finnkino Strand, Lappeenranta.

Kahdeksan surmanluotia / Eight Deadly Shots (Mikko Niskanen, 1972) 2022 restoration by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, Yleisradio Oy, Fiction Finland ry and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. World premiere of the long version in 35 mm. Viewed at Midnight Sun Film Festival. I introduced the Bologna and Telluride screenings.
Protéa (Victorin Jasset, 1913). DCP. 2013 restoration. Bologna
À Vendredi, Robinson (Mitra Farahani, 2022). DCP. Jean-Luc Godard and Ebrahim Golestan in long-distance dialogue. Bologna.
The Raid (Hugo Fregonese, 1954). In this annus mirabilis of his, Fregonese also directed Black Tuesday. Both 35 mm, Bologna.
Cheshmeh / The Fountain (Arby Ovanessian, 1972). 35 mm, 2022 restoration by La Cinémathèque francaise, Bologna
Canoa: Memoriade un hecho vergonzoso / Canoa: A Shameful Memory (Felipe Cazals, 1976). DCP, 2022 restoration The Criterion Collection, Bologna
Thamp / The Circus Tent (Aravindan Govindan, 1978). DCP, 2022 restoration Film Heritage Foundation, Bologna
Poznavaya belyi svet / Getting to Know the Big, Wide World (Kira Muratova, 1980). DCP, Telluride, introduced by Kira Kovalenko and Kantemir Balagov
Segundo de Chomón in Barcelona (Segundo de Chomón, 1912), DCP, 2021 restoration by Filmoteca de Catalunya. Pordenone.
Lumière Suisse: Lavanchy-Clarke (Société Lumière, 1896–1904). DCP, curated by Roland Cosandey, Dominique Moustacchi and Hansmartin Siegrist. Pordenone.

2022 is a candidate for the worst year in film history. There were excellent films, but too few. There were big box office hits, but not enough. This is a year in which I rooted for Tom Cruise, the last film star in the sense of being the only one able to break a film everywhere (Top Gun: Maverick). The turmoil of the film industry, the film transport and the film culture continued. Add to that the climate crisis, the pandemic, Putin’s Feldzug against Ukraine, the energy crisis and the financial crisis. But I am an optimist in all counts.

Antti Alanen, film programmer (KAVI / National Audiovisual Institute, Helsinki).

Published in the Senses of Cinema web magazine, Issue 104, 1 Feb 2023.

This year was the toughest in my working life. I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that I usually failed to write about the films I saw. May that soon change.

On 17 July 2022 I quit the social media because of hate speech (against others, not me). I had shared a wonderful interview with the author Rosa Liksom (writer of the novel Compartment Number 6) from the Sunday Helsingin Sanomat in their series "My Russia". Liksom is a well-known critic of the Russian government who has stated that the war against Ukraine has been anticipated since 1991, but she loves the Russian people. That seemed too much to some. In my conviction Russophobia only serves Putin. I miss all the wonderful friends and stimulating conversations in the social media but refuse to provide a platform for hate speech.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Holy Spider / Ankaboote moghaddas

Ali Abbasi: عنکبوت مقدس / Holy Spider / Ankaboote moghaddas / Les Nuits de Mashhad (DK 2022). The figure in the Persian carpet: a prostitute gives the "come on" sign.

Holy Spider / Holy Spider / عنکبوت مقدس /  Ankaboote moghaddas.
    DK/DE/SE/FR © 2022 Profile Pictures / One Two Films (PC) and Nordisk Film Production, Wild Bunch International, Film i Väst, Why Not Productions, ZDF/ARTE and ARTE France Cinéma (co-PC).
    A film by Ali Abbasi.
    In cooperation with DR – Danish Broadcasting Corporation and SVT, in association with The Imaginarium Films, Rotor Film. Supported by The Danish Film Institute, Eurimages, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Filmförderungsanstalt, Swedish Film Institute, DFFF, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, MOIN Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein. 
    Produced by: Sol Bondy, Jacob Jarek. P: Ali Abbasi. Co-P: Eva Åkergren, Calle Marthin, Peter Possne, Fred Burle, Vincent Maraval, Pascal Caucheteux, Gregoire Sorlat, Olivier Père, Rémi Burah. Assoc P: Holger Stern, Alexander Bohr, Barbara Häbe, Zar Amir Ebrahimi. EX: Ditte Milsted, Christoph Lange.
    D: Ali Abbasi. SC: Ali Abbasi & Afshin Kamran Bahrami. DP: Nadim Carlsen. PD: Lina Nordqvist. M: Martin Dirkov. ED: Olivia Neergaard-Holm.
    C: Zar Amir Ebrahimi (Rahimi), Mehdi Bajestani (Saeed), Arash Ashtiani (Sharifi), Forouzan Jamshidnejad (Fatima), Alice Rahimi (Somayeh), Sara Fazilat (Zinab), Sina Parvaneh (Rostami), Nima Akbarpour (judge), Mesbah Taleb (Ali).
    Loc: Jordan.
    117 min
    Language: Farsi.
    International sales: Wild Bunch International.
    Festival premiere: 22 May 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
    US festival premiere: 2 Sep 2022 Telluride Film Festival.
    Finnish premiere: 23 Dec 2022 – released in Finland by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Kauppila / Marcus Hallenkranz.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 2, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 26 Dec 2022.

"Ali Abbasi’s riveting true-crime story follows a serial murderer of prostitutes in Mashhad, Iran’s holy city. Working from a screenplay cowritten with Afshin Kamran Bahrami, Abbas presents Saeed, superbly played by Mehdi Bajestani, not as a frothing-at-the mouth, eye-bulging maniac, but as a hard-working, pious family man who hopes to do something meaningful with his life. In a parallel story, the female investigative reporter Rahimi (played by Zar Amir Ebrahimi, winner of Cannes Best Actress award for her intense performance) must constantly confront the misogyny of her colleagues, the cops and of Iranian society, which in some cases even encourages the killings. Abbas’ first film BORDER was a delightfully disturbing and comedic erotic horror film that unfolded in Sweden. Here, with a story set in the country of his birth, he transitions to a documentary-style social realism with astonishing skill. –LG (Denmark-Germany-Sweden-France, 2022, 117m) In person: Ali Abbasi, Zar Amir Ebrahimi" (Larry Gross, Telluride Film Festival, 2+3+4 Sep 2022)

"A female journalist travels to the Iranian holy city of Mashhad to hunt a serial killer."
"Female journalist Rahimi travels to the Iranian holy city of Mashhad to investigate a serial killer targeting sex workers. As she draws closer to exposing his crimes, the opportunity for justice grows harder to attain when the murderer is embraced by many as a hero. Based on the true story of the ‘Spider Killer’ Saeed Hanaei, who saw himself as on a mission from God as he killed 16 women between 2000 and 2001." (Holy Spider press notes)
AA: First impressions and remarks:

1. "Everyone must meet what one wants to avoid." The film's motto seems to refer to the protagonist, the journalist Rahimi.

2. Serial killer fiction is a tired trend, but Holy Spider is different in many ways.

3. The account of sexual violence is brutal and unflinching, but Ali Abbasi's gaze is not sadistic. It is revelatory.

4. The story of sexual violence precedes the serial killer narrative. The victims are opium-addicted sex workers. Their customers identify sex with violence. Their agenda is to make women suffer. There is even an explicit purpose to damage the vulva. Women are serially punished, then murdered, the corpses disposed to wasteland.

5. Martin Dirkov's powerful score is hallucinatory, and one might call it hallucinogenic. It seems to connect with the opium-altered state of the sex workers' consciousness.

6. The performances of Zar Amir Ebrahimi as the journalist Rahimi and Mehdi Bajestani as the serial killer Saeed are extraordinary.

7. Saeed is a pious family father. On the topic of whether he is crazy he answers: "I'm crazy about cleansing the world", "I'm crazy about God".

8. The fearless journalist Rahimi knows about harassment. She was fired from her previous job having refused her editor-in-chief's advances. Now in Mashhad she has to fend off a police officer's violent harassment, and refuse her male journalist colleague's unwelcome passes.

9. Themes revealed along the investigation: the post-traumatic stress disorder of Saeed, a veteran of the Iran-Iraqi war. The despair of the women of the street. The complicity of the wife who knows about her husband's murderous ways.

10. The violence escalates. It culminates with the tough woman who proves almost impossible to kill. Followed by Rahimi who risks her life by turning into a decoy.

11. After the journalist Rahimi has exposed the killer, the imam congratulates the police.

12. Like in Krzysztof Kieslowski's A Short Film About Killing, the execution procedure is played in almost real time. There is time to reflect on capital punishment. Capital punishment does not reduce crime, on the contrary. It brutalizes society because when a one-time killer knows that he may be executed, he can kill more without concern for further punishment.

13. The film begins when it ends. The next generation may follow in the father's footsteps. Much of the society condones Saeed's acts. But as we know from today's news 20 years later, women of Iran are increasingly following Rahimi's way.

14. The spider is a many-layered image. The spider killer is Saaed. His neighbourhood is his spider's web, and the center is his home where many murders take place.
    But there is more. I quote from the Ali Abbasi interview in the press notes of Holy Spider:
    Q: "Discuss the spider in your title".
    A: "There’s a double meaning there. In the Iranian press, Saeed was referred to as the Spider Killer because he was luring victims into his web — often his apartment itself. The metaphor came out of that. But when I flew into Mashhad, I saw the famous shrine in the center of the city and it looked like a web. Saeed probably visited it often, and many of his victims were picked up in the vicinity. The idea of him coming out of that web and dragging his victims into darkness became a strong image for me, because in his mind he was doing holy work."
    Spider associations in culture run from tarantella dancing and dreamcatchers to arachnophobia and Spiderverse. Luis Buñuel, the great entomologist, and his entire family were obsessed by spiders (Luis devotes a chapter to them in his memoir Mon dernier soupir, the juiciest parts supplied by his sister Conchita).
    I don't know about other countries, but in Finland the sexual symbolism of the spider is familiar even for children, who can draw the female Thing-In-Itself as a stick figure of the eight-legged creature. (See the final image beyond the jump break).

15. Among serial killer films, Holy Spider is exceptional. In many of the best, the elusiveness of the killer seems to evoke that more is at stake than tracking down the singular culprit.
    A prototype of a serial killer stalking sex workers was Jack the Ripper in film adaptations of The Lodger, including Hugo Fregonese's Man in the Attic. (Not forgetting Weimar fascination in Jack the Ripper in Das Wachsfigurenkabinett und Die Büchse der Pandora).
    The distinction of Holy Spider is that it opens into the wider horror of misogyny in religion, society and history.
    Like in The Silence of the Lambs, the investigator protagonist is female.
    In both movies, killers evoke insect imagery. In The Silence of the Lambs, it is the butterfly: "Caterpillar into chrysalis, or pupa, from thence into beauty".
    In Holy Spider, we begin to realize that the monster is sustained by a world wide web of misogyny.

The holy city of Mashhad, the second most populous city of Iran. Photo supplied by Ehsan Khoshbakht. After Mecca, Mashhad is the second most important Holy City. Near the border of Afghanistan, it is a pilgrim hub.


Friday, December 23, 2022

Jeanne Dielman as Number One at the Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll 2022

The cover of Sight & Sound – Volume 33, Issue 1, Winter 2022/2023. Photo from: Chantal Akerman: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce – 1080 Bruxelles (BE/FR 1975) starring Delphine Seyrig as Jeanne Dielman.

The announcement on 2 December 2022 that Number One in Sight & Sound's prestigious The Greatest Film of All Time poll is now Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce – 1080 Bruxelles has elicited a lot of comment, this week also in major Finnish media. Tero Kartastenpää covers Jeanne Dielman in Helsingin Sanomat, and Tuomas Karemo at Yle the Finnish Broadcasting Company website.

Jeanne Dielman has its official Finnish theatrical premiere today, released by the enterprising ELKE society – coincidentally just now, and independently of the Sight & Sound poll.

The status of Jeanne Dielman has slowly consolidated. It featured prominently in Mark Cousins's epic survey Women Make Film (2019). The film historian Gerald Peary conducted in April 2022 a vast survey on the best films directed by women, and Jeanne Dielman was number one also in it.

Jeanne Dielman is far more radical and experimental than any other Sight & Sound Top Ten film during the last 70 years.

These polls started in the year 1952. Those were the days of classical cinephilia, when there was consensus about classics.

Consensus prevailed until the 1980s when home viewing formats and the explosion of films on television and later in the web made us all more aware about the world wide wonders of the cinema.

Simultaneously, a silent film revival took place. Although most silents are lost, we have now wider access to silent goldies than ever.

This is an age of a thousand flowers. The collective top ten is the most boring part of the top ten exercise. Individual top ten lists are more interesting, such as this one:

Alice Rohrwacher

Strike / Stachka (Sergei Eisenstein, SU 1925)
Miracle in Milan / Miracolo a Milano (Vittorio De Sica, IT 1951)
Nights of Cabiria / Le notti di Cabiria (Federico Fellini, IT/FR 1957)
The Earth Seen from the Moon / La Terra vista dalla Luna (Pier Paolo Pasolini, IT/FR 1967)
Getting to Know the Big, Wide World / Poznavaya belyi svet (Kira Muratova, SU 1978)
Tale of Tales / Skazka skazok (Yuri Norstein, SU 1979)
The Blue Planet / Il pianeta azzurro (Franco Piavoli, IT 1982)
Vagabond / Sans noit ni loi (Agnès Varda, FR 1985)
Le Havre (Aki Kaurismäki, FI/FR/DE 2011)
The Colour of Pomegranates / Nran guyne / Sayat Nova (Sergei Parajanov, SU-Armenian 1969)

What do I make of Jeanne Dielman's new standing?

I think it's a great twist to the consensus.

In Helsinki, Jeanne Dielman has belonged to our programming repertory since 1988 when it opened our series "The Challenge of Feminism" curated by Tuike Alitalo. Before that, I had seen the film in West Berlin where it was regularly screened at Arsenal. Freunde der deutschen Kinemathek possessed a 35 mm print of their own.

Tuike Alitalo in our 1988 program note stressed the revolutionary status of Jeanne Dielman as a feminist film. It was not only about tearing away from a traditional way to portray a woman. It was not only telling different stories about women or portraying women differently. It was about questioning the very idea of the cinema. It was about a totally novel relationship between image and story, cinema and storytelling. For Alitalo, Jeanne Dielman reflects on all subsequent feminist cinema.

Since then, I have been getting to know Akerman's versatile oeuvre better. Her presence was felt at Midnight Sun Film Festival in 1991, hosted by Peter von Bagh at the morning discussion. I have learned to appreciate her talent in non-fiction and also in fresh approaches to unfilmable classics such as In Search of Lost Time in La Captive, based on La Prisonnière.

As her penultimate movie Akerman filmed Joseph Conrad's first novel, Almayer's Folly. It is a veiled confession, a coming to terms with the director's distant father. A deep Conradian bond was based on the theme of exile and a fascination with the Other. Akerman discussed all this in an illuminating interview with Cyril Béghin.

Then came the final movie, a last will and testament: No Home Movie. In Almayer's Folly, Akerman was indirectly discussing her own father. No Home Movie was about her mother, just like Jeanne Dielman.

Both No Home Movie and Jeanne Dielman take place in homes that are spaces of homelessness. No Home Movie could be an alternative title for Jeanne Dielman, and the same could be said about The Captive, as well.

The sense of a philosophy of history is powerful. Akerman's oeuvre can be seen as a coming to terms with the Holocaust, the trauma unhealed, the basic bond of trust in society broken, the faith in humanity unrestored.

Jeanne Dielman is superficially a naturalistic movie, even kitchen sink. But in many ways it is an uncanny film. "No Home Movie" is a possible literal translation of an "unheimlich" movie, "unheimlich" meaning "not homely". But the word has a double sense, since in German the main meaning of "heimlich" is "secret".

Many currents in Jeanne Dielman's world lead to the experience of the uncanny. From the viewpoint of feminist theory, Julia Kristeva's concept of abjection is the most essential. It covers the Jeanne Dielman experience.

Towards the end of Akerman's oeuvre many of those currents connected, made sense and illuminated also retroactively the towering achievement of Jeanne Dielman, which Akerman created with a great sense of purpose at the age of 25 – the same age in which Orson Welles directed Citizen Kane.

To evoke yet another top ten film, Akerman's work, although set at home, also grows into a space odyssey – an interior space odyssey, un Voyage autour de ma chambre. Or Tao Te Ching, as channeled by George Harrison in "The Inner Light":

Without going out of my door
I can know all things on Earth

Without looking out of my window
I could know the ways of Heaven

The Sight & Sound 2022 Poll: All Voters.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water

James Cameron: Avatar: The Way of Water (US 2022) starring Zoe Saldaña (Neytiri) and Sam Worthington (Jake Sully).

US © 2022 20th Century Studios, Inc. / TSG Entertainment. A Lightstorm Entertainment Production. PC: Lightstorm Entertainment & TSG Entertainment. Distributor: 20th Century Studios. P: James Cameron, Jon Landau.
    D: James Cameron. SC: James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver. Story by: James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Josh Friedman, Shane Salerno. Based on: characters by James Cameron.
    Cin: Russell Carpenter. Camera: Sony CineAlta Venice 3D. Source format: X-OCN RAW. Master format: Digital Intermediate 4K. Release format: D-Cinema, 4K, also 3-D: RealD 3D, Dolby Cinema, IMAX ja IMAX 3D. Select showings also support dynamic high frame rate up to 48 fps. Released in Dolby Vision.
    PD: Dylan Cole, Ben Procter. AD: Luke Freeborn, Kim Sinclair. Set dec: Vanessa Cole. Cost: Bob Buck, Deborah L. Scott. Makeup & hair: Sarah Rubano. Senior VFX Supervisor: Joe Letteri. Lightstorm's VFX Supervisor / Virtual 2nd Unit Director: Richard Baneham. Tattoo artist: Michael Krehl. Prosthetics: Jess Reedy (ProFX). Animatronix: Weta Workshop. VFX: Weta FX, Lightstorm Entertainment. AN: Weta FX.
    ED: Stephen E. Rivkin, David Brenner, John Refoua, James Cameron. S: Dick Bernstein, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle. M: Simon Franglen. The Avatar theme: James Horner (1953-2015). Casting: Oryan Landa.
    C: Na'vi / Recombinants (recoms): Sam Worthington (Jake Sully), Zoe Saldaña (Neytiri), Sigourney Weaver (double role as Kiri and Dr. Grace Augustine), Stephen Lang (double role as Colonel Miles Quaritch Recombinant and the original Quaritch in a recording), Kate Winslet (Ronal), Cliff Curtis (Tonowari), Britain Dalton (Lo'ak), Jamie Flatters (Neteyam), Trinity Jo-Li Bliss (Tuktirey), Bailey Bass (Tsireya), Filip Geljo (Aonung), Duane Evans, Jr. (Rotxo), CCH Pounder (Mo'at), Matt Gerald (Corporal Lyle Wainfleet), Alicia Vela-Bailey (Zdinarsk), CJ Jones (Metkayina interpreter).
    Humans: Jack Champion (Spider), Joel David Moore (Dr. Norm Spellman), Edie Falco (General Frances Ardmore), Brendan Cowell (Captain Mick Scoresby), Jemaine Clement (Dr. Ian Garvin), Dileep Rao (Dr. Max Patel), Giovanni Ribisi (Parker Ribisi).
    Studios: Stone Street Studios (Wellington, NZ), MBS Media Campus (Manhattan Beach, CA).
    Filming dates: 25 Sep 2017.
    Languages: English, Na'vi.
    192 min
    London premiere: 6 Dec 2022.
    US premiere: 16 Dec 2022.
    Finnish premiere: 14 Dec 2022, released by Walt Disney Motion Pictures Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Janne Staffans.
    3D HFR DCP viewed at Finnkino Strand 1, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 17 Dec 2022.

AA: I liked the original Avatar (2009) 13 years ago, as I liked Titanic in 1997.

First impressions of Avatar: The Way of Water: there is an irresistible, compelling drive. Although James Cameron had given his permission to go to pee during the movie, I did not go, nor did I glance at my watch, and it took a long while until I was able to start to take notes.

James Cameron belongs to what I call the architectonic-industrial school of the cinema: these directors are like generals or urban planners designing huge public spaces and spectacles. The Way of Water is a new amazing achievement in this major current of popular cinema.

One of the best pieces on James Cameron I know is Daniel Mendelsohn's essay on Avatar in The New York Review of Books. Mendelsohn's point of reference is The Wizard of Oz, Cameron's favourite movie. Like in The Wizard of Oz, there is in Avatar a visual contrast between the drab monotonous world of normality and the staggering colour and the ravishing light from beyond. Mendelsohn names Cameron's visual look, already familiar from The Abyss, "bioluminescence". Mendelsohn found visual ravishment the principal experience of the movie, enhanced by the "surprisingly subtle use of 3-D technology". (I blogged about Mendelsohn in 2010.)

The use of 3-D technology is much more advanced in The Way of Water, and the 3D High Frame Rate (48 fps) presentation I experienced was impeccable. But as in the first Avatar, I noticed the preference for cold colours. Although a celebration of life is intended, the colour world is that of death. Anyway, the waterworld is breathtaking in 3D, the deep focus unique, the composition in depth stunning all the way.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) was the first film I saw in 3-D HFR. It was ultra-sharp and superior to previous 3-D experiences, but the ultra-sharpness also emphasized the uncanniness. The ambiguity remains in The Way of Water, but it is getting more refined.

Avatar: The Way of Water is a science fiction epic, a cyberpunk tale, a disaster film, a dystopia about ecocatastrophe, a fantasy, a myth, a war film and a guerrilla hero saga.

It is not a film of psychological subtlety or immortal dialogue. But it creates compelling worlds of imagination. It is about escapism, but also about the impossibility of escape: everywhere we find ourselves.

In the first Avatar we had destroyed the Earth and attacked Pandora to exploit its resources and suppress indigenous peoples. The war starts again in the sequel. Warlords of "the sky people" (= us) who have already died are resurrected as recoms. They can also assume the form of the indigenous Na'avi.

We encounter a whole new world of sea tribes, the Metkayina clan, and a new and original universe of visual fantasy is introduced. A central role is played by intelligent sea creatures, the tulkun, sentient, whale-like creatures. The entire ecosystem is interconnected in peaceful harmony. Other new creatures include the ilu and the skimwing.

As a poet of the ocean Cameron is a follower of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Rachel Carson. He has explored the oceanic theme before in Titanic, The Abyss, Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep. The Way of Water takes the Cameronian "bioluminescence", the term coined by Daniel Mendelsohn, to the next level.

Cameron also connects with the greatest sea tale of all, Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. When the "sky-people" attack the tulkun, the usually peaceful creatures finally react like the white whale.

Because life on Pandora is based on peace, love and harmony, it is vulnerable to the brutal attack of the sky people. The fact that the most evil power can brutalize all is one of the greatest tragedies in history. In The Way of Water, the war between the physically superior imperialists and the weaker guerrilla people evokes Russia's Feldzug in Ukraine and the USA's Quixotic attacks in Vietnam and Irak.

At stake is the pacifist's dilemma. The principle of "resist no evil" is an expression of the highest order: the reverence for life. Socrates, Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King lived as they taught and were executed or murdered. Did they lose? It is too early to tell. By dying for their cause they became immortal. Leo Tolstoy was devastated when the Czar's Imperial Guard massacred Father Gapon's peaceful demonstrators on St. Petersburg's Bloody Sunday in 1905, a turning-point leading to the violence in 1917.

As always, James Cameron creates strong female roles. Men are incarnations of the death drive. Women are the carriers of the life force. The young generation features prominently. Indigenous Maori actors are highlighted in this film largely produced in New Zealand.

The Avatar movies are milestones of animation, and in animation, human or humanoid characters are still far from being as engaging as actors in regular live action movies. There is still the uncanny valley: it is inherently difficult to relate to digital humanoids. James Cameron has created many fantastic worlds of imagination. The characters inhabiting the Pandora worlds are not yet irresistibly memorable, but they might be in the process of becoming so.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Souvenirs de désir / Memories of Desire

Victoria Schultz: Souvenirs de désir / Memories of Desire (FR/US 2019). "Much of the relationship is conducted via intimate letters". The word on the blackboard is "rakkaus" = love, emerging in various declensions.

FR/US © 2019 Victoria Schultz. PC: Kafard Films / Victoria Schultz Production. P+D+SC: Victoria Schultz. EX+Cin: Paul-Anthony Mille – Arriflex IIC 1958, 35 mm Fujifilm – Academy – mostly b&w. Asst cin+film loader: Juliana Velez. Set designer: Simon Legros. M arrangement: Charly Mandon.
    Leoš Janáček: String Quartet No. 2, Intimate Letters. Charly Mandon: Quartettsatz Op. 19. Jean Sibelius: String Quartet No. 4, Voces Intimae.
    Manon Galy (I violin), Helia Fassi (II violin), Clara Germont (viola), Anna Sypniewski (cello).
    Sound editor: Simon Legall. Film editor: Guillaume Caramelle.
    C: Milan Marsauche (Monsieur), Victoria Schultz (Girl), Ines Conceicao (Mother), Nick Mancuso (Voice for Monsieur).
    Studio: Cormont Studio, Loiret.
    Two language versions: French and English.
    30 min
    Vimeo link of the English version viewed at home.

AA: Victoria Schultz was born in Finland but has worked all her life in the United States and France and established independent production companies in both countries (Viva Vision and Kafard Films). After a distinguished career as a foreign correspondent, documentary filmmaker and photographer Schultz has worked extended periods with the Finnish Broadcasting Company and the United Nations.

Recently Schultz has embarked on a new path of expression with personal, poetic quests, returning at a mature age to painful encounters of youth in Memories of Desire (2019), photographed mostly in bold black and white high contrast Expressionist style, not in pastiche. Memories of Desire is an erotic Bildungsroman of a 17 year old girl in Helsinki in 1958. Victoria Schultz herself plays the part of her 60 years younger self.

The mode has affinities with the Kammerspiel films of the Weimar Republic such as Schatten and the whole théâtre intime cycle written by Carl Mayer. These are film of interiority, starkly abstracted with stylized characters, spaces often overwhelmed by large shadows.

The monologue intérieur quality is deepened by a music score based on Leoš Janáček's Intimate Letters, Charly Mandon's Quartettsatz Op. 19 and Jean Sibelius's Voces intimae played live for the movie.

The film is in black and white with one recurrent obsessive image in colour of a Midsummer bonfire in front of which the man and the woman struggle, the female trying to evade male desire. Love is a play with fire.

The dream stage is stark and powerful. The motifs include dolls and a penis shaped pastry, disassembled by the girl.

Memories of Desire is a bitter, poetic, oneiric confession of a woman's grand disenchantment in love.


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 (быт) 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

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

The Sight & Sound 2022 Poll: All Voters.

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.

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.

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.

Jordan Ruimy / World of Reel / 7 Dec 2022: preliminary collection of directors' individual lists.

The Sight & Sound 2022 Poll: All Voters.

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


" 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.


Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Alice Guy at Gaumont: 40 minutes attribuées à Alice Guy (1896–1910) GP Archives / Agnès Bertola 2022

Alice Guy tourne une Phono-Scène / [Alice Guy Films a Phono-Scène] (FR 1907). Elle dirige Le Bal des Capulets au Studio des Buttes Chaumont.

Following the lecture: History of the Cinema: Introduction to the history of the cinema and the origins of the cinema
40 minutes attribuées à Alice Guy * HD
GP Archives / Agnès Bertola
♪ piano Matias Tyni. Introduced by AA.
Kino Regina, DCP, 1 Nov 2022

Madame a des envies / [Rouvan mielihalut] / [Madame's Cravings] (FR 1906). The weirdest appetites of a pregnant woman, from absinthe to herring, from tobacco to cabbage.

La Fée aux choux / [Kaalien haltijatar] / [The Cabbage Fairy] (FR 1900). Wie sag ich's meinem Kinde? Where do babies come from? The enchantment of the fairy-tale.

Sage-femme de première classe / [Ensiluokkainen kätilö] / [First-Class Midwife] (FR 1902). Another version of the cabbage-fairy-tale of where the babies come from.

Sur la barricade / [Barrikadeille] / [On the Barricade] (FR 1907). A female viewpoint to the street fighting theme: the mother steps in front of her son, and the soldiers cease their fire.

Alice Guy tourne une Phono-Scène / [Alice Guy ohjaa äänielokuvan] / [Alice Guy Films a Phono-Scène at the studios in Buttes-Chaumont] (FR 1907). The job title "film director" had not even been established yet, but here we see already what it is all about.

Questions indiscrètes
/ [Sopimattomia kysymyksiä] / [Félix Mayol sings "Indiscreet Questions"] (FR 1906) sound film. Very charming.

Chapellerie et charcuterie mécaniques / [Hattu- ja makkarakone] / [The Hat-and-Sausage Machine] (FR 1900). Alice Guy's version of the popular early cinema idea.

Les Résultats du féminisme / [Feminismin seuraukset] / [The Consequences of Feminism] (FR 1906). Gender roles turn upside down. Men need to fend off female harassment. Men turn into dandies and sissies.

Le Coq dressé / [Koulutettu kukko] / [The Singing Rooster] (FR 1910) sound film. The commanding posture of the rooster.

Chirurgie fin de siècle / [Vuosisadanvaihteen kirurgiaa] / [Turn-of-the-Century Surgery] (FR 1900). Alice Guy's version of the idea also familiar from Méliès.

La Course à la saucisse / [Suuri makkarajahti] / [The Race for the Sausage] (FR 1907). A grand farce of escalation, a catastrophe comedy.

My Alice Guy reading project:

Alice Guy: The Memoirs of Alice Guy Blaché (Autobiographie d'une pionnière du cinéma : 1873-1968. Paris : Denoël / Gonthier, 1976). Edited by Anthony Slide. Translated by Roberta Blaché and Simone Blaché. Filmography in France: Francis Lacassin. Filmography in the USA: Anthony Slide. Lanham, MD : Scarecrow Press, 1986. Additional material by Anthony Slide in 1996. ISBN 0-8108-3104-X.
    The indispensable cornerstone with research by Francis Lacassin and Anthony Slide. *)

Alice Guy: Memorie di una pioniera del cinema. (Autobiographie d'une pionnière du cinéma). Edited by Monica Dell'Asta. Translated by Paola Cristalli and Sandro Toni. Bologna : Cineteca Bologna, 2008. ISBN: 978-88-9586-207-1
    The Italian translation includes Monica Dell'Asta's introduction and a filmography with print source information.

Alison McMahan: Alice Guy Blaché : Lost Visionary of the Cinema. New York : Continuum, 2003. ISBN 0-8264-5158-6.
    An excellent major study, also placing Alice Guy in the history of early cinema storytelling and exploring key features such as her devotion to Catholicism.

Catel & Bouquet : Alice Guy : First Lady of Film (Alice Guy). Translated by Edward Gauvin. London: SelfMadeHero, 2022. ISBN: 978-1-914224-03-4
    The exhilarating graphic novel is based on solid research. Recommended for readers of all ages.

Janelle Dietrick : Alice & Eiffel: A new history of early cinema and the love story kept secret for a century. Portland: Book Baby, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-68222-766-4
Janelle Dietrick : Illuminating Moments : The Films of Alice Guy Blaché. Portland: BookBaby, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-54390-143-6
Janelle Dietrick : Mademoiselle Alice : A Novel. Portland: BookBaby, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-54390-999-9
    Janelle Dietrick's work-in-progress: Dichtung und Wahrheit about Alice Guy.

We have been screening Alice Guy's works over the years. Before this, we had screened the Swedish Film Archive's fabulous Sieurin collection with many films attributed to Alice Guy.

In Bologna's Il Cinema Ritrovato I saw the great 2011 Alice Guy retrospective.
Kim Tomadjoglou: tribute to Alice Guy.
Alice Guy 1: The Sieurin Collection.
Alice Guy 2: Comedy Is the Source of All Pleasures.
Alice Guy 3: Social Drama. Gender, Ethnicity, Race, and Class.
Alice Guy 4: The Best of Solax.
Alice Guy 5: Independent Features.
Alice Guy 6: Cinema and the Arts.

And the Sieurin show once again in 2020.
Questions indiscrètes (1906)
Une heroïne de quatres ans (1908)
Comment Monsieur prend son bain (1903)
Le vrai jiu-jitsu, Questions indiscrètes, La Vie du Christ (33 min)
Sur la barricade (1907)

In Pordenone's Le Giornate del Cinema Muto I have seen
The Great Adventure (1918)
La Femme collante
Madame a des envies (1907)
Algie the Miner (1912)
La Fiancée du volontaire (1907)
La Naissance, la vie et la mort du Christ : La Flagellation, Ecce Homo, La Crucifixion,  L’Agonie (1906)
A Fool and His Money (1912)
Chien jouant à la balle (1905)
La Charité du prestidigitateur (1905)

Nordic Meeting 2008
La Fée aux choux.
Chapellerie et charcuterie automatiques.

Berlin Film Festival 1995
La Statue (1905)

*) 1 Feb 2024: I have just bought a new edition:
Alice Guy : La Fée-Cinéma : Autobiographie d'une pionnière. (Posthumous. First edition : Paris : Denoël / Gonthier, 1976). Paris : Gallimard, 2023. 233 pp. ISBN : 978-2-07-296078-9. Extra features include:
- Préface Céline Sciamma : "Les preuves d'Alice Guy" (2022)
- Préface Nathalie Masduraud & Valérie Urrea : "La femme à la caméra" (2022)
- Épilogue : Lettre de Simone Blaché-Bolton, 29 avril 1975
- Préface de Nicole-Lise Bernheim à l'édition de 1976
- Préface de Claire Clouzot à l'édition de 1976
- Extrait d'une lettre d'Alice Guy à Louis Gaumont en février 1931 (fac-similé)
- Annotations d'Alice Guy en marge d'une "Notice sur les établissements Gaumont" (fac-similé)


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".


Saturday, October 15, 2022


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"].


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.