Sunday, August 28, 2022

Pelle Hermanni / Herman the Clown (2022)

Timo Koivusalo: Pelle Hermanni / Herman the Clown (FI 2022) starring Vesa Vierikko.

Clownen Herman.
    FI 2022 Artista Filmi. P: Timo Koivusalo.
    D: Timo Koivusalo. SC: Simo Ojanen, Timo Koivusalo. Cin: Pentti Mutanen. AD: Markku Myllymäki. M: Esa Nieminen.
    Based on the character created by Simo Ojanen for the children's series Sirkuspelle Hermanni at Yle TV2 Pikku Kakkonen 1978–1988, starring Veijo Pasanen (1930–1988). The opening theme was Radetzky-Marsch (1848) by Johann Strauss (Vater) and the end tune was the Anvil Chorus from Il trovatore (1853) by Giuseppe Verdi.
    C: Vesa Vierikko (Pelle Hermanni), Milo Tamminen (Roni, 12), Oona Hakanpää (Julia, 11), Martti Suosalo (Maximilian), Iina Kuustonen (Viola), Tom Lindholm (Viktor), Ylermi Rajamaa (kuvaaja), Linda Wiklund (Mona), Heikki Nousiainen (Father Kasperi), Hannu-Pekka Björkman (Circus Director), Tuija Piepponen (Äitiliini), Minttu Mustakallio (Sylvia), Helena Vierikko (desk clerk), Tom Petäjä (postman), Kalle Lamberg (security controller).
    Theme song and music video: Diandra: Ootko tosissas (FI 2022).
    Dedication: "Lämmöllä muistaen Simo Ojanen 1940–2021".
    Loc: Kirjurinluoto (Pori).
    Helsinki premiere: 9 Sep 2022.
    Children's Movie Sunday Previews, 28 Aug 2022.
    Viewed at a preview at Finnkino Strand 1, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 28 Aug 2022.

Synopsis: "Simo Ojasen aikoinaan käsikirjoittama sydämellinen hahmo seikkaili Ylen Pikku Kakkosessa vuosina 1978–1988. Useamman sukupolven suursuosikki astuu nyt elokuvan myötä 2020-luvulle suurilla klovnin kengillään, valmiina valloittamaan uudet areenat. "

" Pelle Hermanni lähtee etsimään isäänsä, jota ei ole nähnyt sen jälkeen kun tämä lähti mittaamaan maapalloa jaloillaan. Perään karkaa salaa Taikuri Maxin poika, kymmenvuotias Roni. Tästä alkaa riemastuttava seikkailu täynnä taikuutta, hullunkurisia käänteitä ja värikästä sirkuselämää, elokuva uuden sukupolven lapsille ja nostalgian nälkäisille aikuisille. "

" Elokuva on vauhdikas ja hyväntahtoinen tarina, joka sopii kaikenikäisille, teemanaan toisista välittäminen ja ystävyys. "

" VOI ÄNKERÖINEN! on englanniksi ” Cantankerousimos!”

AA: The mood was joyous in the Children's Movie Sunday preview of Herman the Clown, the first in a series of film adaptations of a perennial Finnish television children's favourite series created by Simo Ojanen, whose last work the screenplay for this movie turned out to be.

Timo Koivusalo sustains a jovial and genial mood, the cast is composed of top actors, and the sunny locations of Pori and Naantali are appealing. The clown is a mysterious creature that has inspired the cinema since the beginning, especially during the silent era and the early sound film (He Who Gets Slapped, The Blue Angel), and later film-makers ranging from Fellini (La strada) to Bergman (Gycklarnas afton), not forgetting the Joker in the Batman franchise. The figure of the clown is a trick mirror of identity, explored here in comical and existential ways ("I'm lost", "Might that be me?").

Although all actors are in good form, my favourite is Iina Kuustonen as Viola. She speaks in proverbs, but always twists them without realizing it. In a recurrent gag, she gets corrected and answers without missing a beat: "that's what I just said". In the final dialogue surprise she gets the proverb right: "better later than never".

I don't belong to an age group familiar with Herman the Clown the tv series, but I understand that key features have been faithfully sustained, including the theme tune, Radetzky-March by Johann Strauss, Sr. This selection obeys a great tradition of the music hall in juxtaposing the sublime with the ridiculous in music choices, familiar for instance in Charles Chaplin's sonorization of The Gold Rush where Tchaikovsky's Grande Valse Villageoise from the Sleeping Beauty is played in the most heartbreakingly pitiful dance hall sequence in the history of the cinema.


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Ali & Ava

Clio Barnard: Ali & Ava (GB 2021) starring Adeel Akhtar (Ali) and Claire Rushbrook (Ava).

Ali & Ava / Ali & Ava.
    GB 2021. PC: Moonspun Films. P: Tracy O'Riordan.
    D+SC: Clio Barnard. Cin: Ole Bratt Birkeland. PD: Stéphane Collonge. Set dec: Celina Norris. Cost: Sophie O'Neill. Makeup: Fiona Lobo-Cranston. Hair: Rebecca Gavin. SFX: Scott MacIntyre. VFX: Louise Hastings. M: Harry Escott. S: Michael Maroussas, Gunnar Óskarsson. ED: Maya Maffioli. Casting: Shaheen Baig.
    C: Adeel Akhtar (Ali), Claire Rushbrook (Ava), Shaun Thomas (Callum), Natalie Gavin (Dawn), Mona Goodwin (Michelle), Krupa Pattani (Usma), Vinny Dhillon (Jameela), Tasha Connor (Karen), Macy Shackleton (Venice), Ariana Bodorova (Sofia).
    Soundtrack credits: "Radio" (Amelia Meath & Nicolas Sanborn) perf. Sylvan Esso. "Mama, You Been On My Mind" (Bob Dylan) perf. Bob Dylan, "Grace" (Frank and Seán O'Meara, 1985, arr. Harry Escott, 2021), sung by Karan Casey.
    Loc: Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, UK.
    Language: English.
    95 min
    Festival premiere: 11 July 2021 Cannes Quinzaine des Réalisateurs.
    British festival premiere: 13 Oct 2021 BFI London Film Festival.
    British premiere: 4 March 2022.
    Finnish premiere: 26 Aug 2022, released by Atlantic Film, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Maarit Tulkki / Michaela Palmberg.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 4, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta 27 Aug 2022.

Cannes Quinzaine des Réalisateurs synopsis:

" Both lonely for different reasons, Ali and Ava meet through their shared affection for Sofia (six years old), the child of Ali’s Slovakian tenants, whom Ava teaches. Ali finds comfort in Ava’s warmth and kindness and Ava finds Ali’s complexity and humour irresistible. Over a lunar month, sparks fly and a deep connection begins to grow. However, the legacy of Ava’s past relationship and Ali’s emotional turmoil at the breakdown of his marriage begins to overshadow their newfound passion. "

AA: Ali and Ava have both experienced hardship. Ava, the mother of four, works as a school assistant. Ali, an enterprising Pakistanian taxi driver, landlord and DJ, helps a tenant's daughter to school, and that's how they meet.

Daily, Ali meets racist abuse. Ava has been suffering from domestic abuse from her husband Paul who has recently died. Her racist son Callum seems to follow in his father's footsteps and chases Ali away with a sword.

But Ali & Ava is a tale of friendly persuasion. Ali refuses to resign, and Ava is patiently pursuing her own path. Against prejudice from all sides, Ali and Ava recognize that their hearts must come together.

Clio Barnard's visual storytelling ranges from kitchen sink to cosmic visions (the progress of the lunar month is a key visual theme), from handheld extreme close-ups to gorgeous panoramas of the city vista of Bradford.

The soundtrack is enormously appealing. Ali and Ava get acquainted via their contrasting musical preferences. In my favourite sequence of the movie, Ali uses his DJ skills to deflect a racist situation and turns it into song and dance.

The soundtrack is topped during the end credits when we hear Karan Casey give a breathtaking interpretation of the 1985 ballad "Grace" by Frank and Seán O'Meara. That ballad is the story of Grace Gifford (1888–1955) who "married her fiancé Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham Gaol only a few hours before he was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising" (Wikipedia).

Grace is also the name of Callum's baby born during the movie. The name is essential in the context of the anagnorisis. Callum has been ignorant of his revered father's domestic violence against both Ava and his girlfriend who has Indian ancestry. Callum now gives up his father's boots with which Paul used to kick the women and also the sword with which Callum had threatened Ali. Callum's daughter will not be called Paula but Grace.

Ali & Ava is character-driven, and Clio Barnard directs Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar and everyone else in deeply felt and authentic performances. As I saw the poster of this movie my instant reflex was Angst essen Seele auf / Fear Eats the Soul, but Ali & Ava is nothing like that. It's an optimistic film, not of an "optimism of the will" but an optimism of character and faith in humanity. And grace.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Laitapuolen hyökkääjä / On Thin Ice

Aleksi Mäkelä: Laitapuolen hyökkääjä / On Thin Ice (FI 2022) starring Severi Saarinen as the ice hockey forward Marko Jantunen.

På hal is.
    FI 2022 Solar Films. P: Rimbo Salomaa, Jukka Helle, Markus Selin. Line P: Maria Kaurismäki.
    D: Aleksi Mäkelä. SC: Petja Lähde, Mikko Kouki. Cin: Pini Hellstedt. AD: Pirjo Rossi. Cost: Riitta-Maria Vehman. Makeup: Jenni Aejmalaeus-Pyysing. VFX: Hugo Kiekeben, Tero Malinen. M: Janne Puurtinen. S: Pekka Karjalainen. ED: Kimmo Taavila. Ice hockey experts: Ilmari Pitkänen, Eetu Pöysti. Archival sources: Suora Broadcast Oy, Jääkiekon SM-liiga Oy.
    Theme song and music video: Apulanta: "Kämmenen kuva poskeen" (2022).
    C: Severi Saarinen (Marko Jantunen / Marko's father), Katariina Havukainen (Kati), Jorma Tommila (Pomo), Tommi Eronen (Timo).
    Haiku Tiensuu (Marko at 6), Anna Airola (Marko's mother), Tero Jartti (dealer), Kari Hietalahti (keeper of the sport memorablia store), Jukka Rasila (sportscaster), Jelmeri Nurminen (Rasmus at 15).
    Special acknowledgement: Marko Lempinen: Läpi helvetin [Through Hell] (2016), a biography of Marko Jantunen, the inspiration for the movie.
    Loc: Lahti: Salpausselkä.
    98 min
    English subtitles: Mika Karttunen, Swedish subtitles: Frej Grönholm. Finnish subtitles: Anitra Paukkula. Subtitles for the hard of hearing: Iira Tuominen.
    The title Laitapuolen hyökkääjä is untranslatable. It means both "winger" (in ice hockey) and a "raider from the margins" (in society). The Swedish title På hal is means: "on thin ice".
    Finnish premiere: 26 Aug 2022, distributed by Nordisk Film Finland.
    Viewed without subtitles at Finnkino Strand 1, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 26 Aug 2022.

Official synopsis: "Laitapuolen hyökkääjä kertoo jääkiekkoilija Marko Jantusen fiktiivisen selviytymistarinan. Elokuva alkaa Lahdesta vuonna 2015, hetkestä, jolloin koditon Jarna on ajautunut elämänsä syvimpään ahdinkoon. Velkojat tulevat perimään huumerahoja, ja Jarnalle annetaan vuorokausi aikaa maksaa velkansa, mistä alkaa hurja piripäinen taistelu aikaa vastaan. Maaninen vauhti, pelko perässä vaanivista tappajista, vainoharhat ja itseinho vanhoista vääryyksistä johtavat lopulta liikenneonnettomuuteen. Jarna ei jaksa enää paeta, vauhti hidastuu ja hän on luovuttamaisillaan."

"Elokuva näyttää Jarnan rauhattomana sieluna, joka pakenee tavallista ja tasarytmistä arkea. Nuoresta saakka päihteet ja jääkiekko ovat olleet hänelle rakkaita. Hän on mies, joka rakastaa vauhtia. Mutta jos vauhtia ei hidasta, loppuu se kokonaan. Hän polttaa siltoja yksi kerrallaan. On tullut hetki, jolloin lähes koko elämän mittaisen pakomatkan on päätyttävä.

AA: Laitapuolen hyökkääjä is a fictional biopic and survival story of the ice hockey player Marko Jantunen, inspired by the biography Läpi helvetin [Through Hell] written by Marko Lempinen.

Marko Jantunen (born in 1971 in Lahti) had a brilliant playing career as an ice hockey forward in 1990–2010, position right wing, shot left, in the SM-liiga team Pelicans, in Finland formerly in KalPa, TPS and Jokerit, in Sweden in Frölunda HC (Elitserien), Färjestad BK (Elitserien) and Timra IK (Elitserien). He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. Jantunen is an exceptionally deft skater who in the most difficult turns is like flying on skates.

Jantunen suffered from substance abuse, and was sentenced in 2014 for drunken driving and drug use. In 2015 he went into rehabilitation, completed the degree of a sports instructor and dedicated his life to drug prevention of young people at the Avominne clinic, based on the Minnesota model of treating alcoholism.

Marko Jantunen has lived three lives, and Aleksi Mäkelä's movie focuses on the middle part, "through hell". It's a brutal and terrifying account of a life torn apart, damaging everyone in Marko's wake. The movie is powerfully interpreted by Severi Saarinen and photographed by Pini Hellstedt, with top work by cast and crew.

Laitapuolen hyökkääjä can be seen as a parallel by Solar Films to their documentary biopic Karalahti (2021). Marko Jantunen and Jere Karalahti played together for instance at TPS in 1994, together with Saku Koivu.

Sports biopics are popular in Finland, and they can be divided into two categories: bad guys going through hell (Jantunen and Karalahti) and role models who don't glorify decadence (Kuningas Litmanen, Selänne).

The cinema's romanticized inferno trips are usually "rise and fall" sagas of music stars. We seem to have an insatiable need to see them fall.

A story of rise and fall is the very substance of tragedy. The definition of tragedy can be summed up: "grandeur was within his reach, but he perished due to a fatal flaw in his character". In the cinema, specialists of rise and fall have included great actors such as Emil Jannings (The Blue Angel) and Orson Welles (Citizen Kane). In biopics of music and sport heroes, rise and fall is too often reduced to a lazy formula.

Laitapuolen hyökkäjä has a flashback structure. The "now" of the story is the last day of Marko Jantunen's voyage to hell. He seems to face certain death in the hands of the mobsters. I liked most some offbeat sequences such as Jantunen's visit to a sport memorabilia store to clear some of his debt by selling his trophies. But the quote is ridiculously small.

Saturday, August 20, 2022


Jordan Peele: Nope (US 2022).

US © 2022 Universal Pictures. PC: Monkeypaw Productions. Presented in association with: Dentsu. P: Jordan Peele, Ian Cooper.
    D+SC: Jordan Peele. DP: Hoyte Van Hoytema – 65 mm – IMAX – released in D-Cinema. PD: Ruth De Jong. AD: Samantha Englender. Set dec: Gene Serdena. Cost: Alex Bovaird. Makeup: Shutchai Tym Buacharern. Hair: Carla Farmer. Cloud tank footage: Zack Berwick. VFX: Future Associate, MPC, SSVFX M: Michael Abels. S: Johnnie Burn. ED: Nicholas Monsour. Casting: Carmen Cuba.
    C: Daniel Kaluuya (OJ Haywood), Keke Palmer (Emerald Haywood), Brandon Perea (Angel Torres), Michael Wincot (Antlers Holst), Steven Yeun (Ricky "Jupe" Park), Wrenn Schmidt (Amber Park), Keith David (Otis Haywood, Sr.), Devon Graye (Ryder Muybridge), Terry Notary (Gordy).
    Film within the film: Eadweard Muybridge: Plate 626 Gallop; thoroughbred bay mare Annie G. from Animal Locomotion (US 1885).
    Production: Firestone Ranch (Santa Clarita, CA), Agua Dulce Canyon (CA), 7 June 2021.
    130 min
    US premiere: 18 July 2022, wide release 22 July 2022.
    Finnish premiere: 19 Aug 2022 – released by Finnkino with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Toni Koskelainen / Joanna Erkkilä.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 20 Aug 2022.

SYNOPSIS (Universal Pictures):

" The residents of a lonely gulch in inland California bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery. "

" After random objects falling from the sky result in the death of their father, ranch-owning siblings OJ and Emerald Haywood attempt to capture video evidence of an unidentified flying object with the help of tech salesman Angel Torres and documentarian Antlers Holst. "
– Universal Pictures

"I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile and make you a spectacle."
– Nahum 3:6, the Bible verse that opens the film

AA: Two remarkable new wave horror films premiered in Finland yesterday: Julia Ducournay's Titane and Jordan Peele's Nope.

To their impact of the uncanny belongs the difficulty to define them. They are genre films avoiding genre conventions.

Much more than in average horror fare, the characters are interesting, memorable and well played. The human presence is engaging and appealing but the film is not anthropocentric. Instead, the world view is close to H. P. Lovecraft's idea of cosmicism. "Humanity is an insignificant part of the cosmos" which "could be swept away at any moment", to quote Wikipedia. Nope is Lovecraftian horror.

It is an unforgettable visual experience. A haunting meditative energy radiates from Hoyte Van Hoytema's subtly grandiose IMAX cinematography. Like in Nomadland, there is a dimension of self-reflection of the Western iconography of the desert and the mountains. The West has been won, but there are still unfathomable mysteries on the Western sky.

In novel ways, Nope is also a self-reflection of the visual media, from Eadweard Muybridge's chronophotographs to live television shows and the current transition to digital cinematography. Digital has won, but photochemical film survives in high profile productions such as Nope.

Nope is a philosophical quest, too, an essay in the themes of perception and consciousness. Instead of Plato's shadows on the cave wall, we have clouds in the sky hiding and revealing creatures of infinite horror.

A fine sense of humour and a wisdom in dealing with racist currents are further hallmarks of Jordan Peele's cinema. Humans fight the alien with ingenious wit and a fighting spirit.

Perhaps the most original feature of Nope is its refusal to succumb to pessimism and defaitism in the face of overwhelming evil.

In pandemic times mankind has shifted to streaming and other home viewing. Nope belongs to the masterpieces of a purely cinematic spectacle art. It needs to be seen on a huge cinema screen.

P.S. 1 Sep 2022. Thinking further about Nope I am playing with the dream association of colonialism: the appearance of a superior military power (Europe) in other continents during the centuries of colonialization.


Verimalja / The Chalice of Blood

Jarno Elonen: Verimalja / The Chalice of Blood (FI 2022) starring Marko Salminen (Juha-Matti Myllykoski), Antti Peltonen (Pekka Lahtinen) and Marko Loukaskorpi (Veikko Koivisto). "Not for a cause, nor fatherland". Above: the Holy Grail.

FI © 2022 Autere Films. P: Pekka Rintala, Toni Tikkanen.
    D: Jarno Elonen. SC: Pekka Rintala, Jarno Elonen. DP: Jarno Elonen. AD+Cost: Pekka Rintala. Makeup: Elisa Kervinen, Nina Laitala. Pyrotechnics: Lohjan Ilotulitus Oy Tähtiraketti. M: Heikki Kareranta. Soundtrack selections include: "Matrosenchor" from Richard Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer (1843). S: Aleksi Tegel. ED: Toni Tikkanen.
    C: Marko Salminen (Juha-Matti Myllykoski), Antti Peltonen (Pekka Lahtinen), Marko Loukaskorpi (Veikko Koivisto), Matti Toivio (SS Lieutenant Hauser), Pasi Gerlander (SS Captain von Ballack), Paavo Peltonen (SS Major Collan), Heikki Häkkä (Bishop Alberto Argentino), Jarno Elonen (Father Stefano Lombardus), Grigori Tchaban (NKVD Major), Leo Nikita Kadieff (NKVD Captain), Jaana Joensuu (Kaarina Lahtinen).
    90 min
    Finnish premiere: 19 Aug 2022, released by Black Lion Pictures.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 3, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 20 Aug 2022.

Storyline in IMDb: " Finnish volunteers join an SS treasure hunt in 1943, orchestrated by a Vatican bishop. As the journey leads them ever deeper behind the eastern front, Myllykoski, a would-be priest, has to decide if the mission is a calling or a curse. "

AA: The Chalice of Blood is a Finnish independent production, a war adventure movie, a labour of love that was more than ten years in the making. There are warts and unpolished features (such as haircuts implausible for WWII soldiers), but most importantly, there is genuine genre energy in this production, a distinction that can be missing from hundred-million-dollar blockbusters. There is an engaging flow of action in the war and combat sequences which have been directed with devotion.

The mythical dimension is huge. As far as I know, The Chalice of Blood is the first Finnish film about the Holy Grail, a theme that has reverberated across the Western culture since the sagas of the Knights of the Round Table in the Middle Ages. It is about the archetypal quest familiar from Chrétien de Troyes, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Rabelais, Richard Wagner, T. S. Eliot, C. G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, The Silver Chalice, Umberto Eco, Steven Spielberg, Robert Bresson, Éric Rohmer, Terry Gilliam, Dan Brown, Monty Python, Sailor Moon, The Saint (Simon Templar) and Amando de Ossorio's "Blind Dead" series (about the Knights Templar surviving as ghost riders).

The Nazis, especially Heinrich Himmler (SS Reichsführer), were interested in the Holy Grail. As a schoolboy I devoured Trevor Ravenscroft's The Spear of Destiny covering the mumbo-jumbo surrounding the Nazi fascination of the occult aspects of the Holy Grail mythology.

The Chalice of Blood is the second Finnish film highlighting the SS (Schutzstaffel). The first one was the official Finnish SS film, Aseveljeyden sankarit (Heroes of the Brotherhood in Arms, FI 1943). In Finland, there is still a widespread perception that Finnish SS men were "Soldaten wie andere auch", despite recent studies demonstrating otherwise. Supposedly Finnish SS men "did nothing, knew nothing and saw nothing". Yet, of personal memories, one may refer to Heikki A. Reenpää's autobiography Pojanpoika (1998) where he testifies having heard at the Syväri River on our Eastern front in the spring 1942 from a Finnish SS man about mass atrocities against civilians in Ukraine. His father, in charge of Valtion tiedoituslaitos (the government office of information), confirmed this top secret information, insisting in it being hush-hushed.

The Chalice of Blood does not ignore atrocities but downplays them. It is simultaneously enchanted and appalled by the SS charisma. Personally, I'm puzzled by the role of Christianity. The Nazi movement, particularly the SS, was anti-Christian. Hitler was exalted by the opportunity to banish "the curse of Sinai", that is, the Ten Commandments. Particularly the commandment of "Thou shalt not kill".

There were Celtic and other "pagan" elements in the Holy Grail mythology. For Otto Rahn, the Grail was a symbol of a pure Germanic religion repressed by Christianity. Nazis tapped into the "pagan" dimension of the Holy Grail myth and assigned Christianity a merely decorative role as a traditional ritual.

The Chalice of Blood is an incoherent text, to borrow a concept from Robin Wood. The homespun production brings an irreverent and energetic charge to atavistic mythology. The ending is a domestic counterpart to the Indiana Jones saga. The Holy Grail ends ups in the attic of an ordinary Finnish farmhouse.

In the third Finnish SS film it would be time to face honestly the legacy of the Finnish SS involvement.


Friday, August 19, 2022


Julia Ducournau: Titane (2022) with Agathe Rousselle (Alexia).

Julia Ducournau: Titane (2022) with Agathe Rousselle (Alexia).

Titane / Titane
    FR/BE © 2021 Kazak Productions – Frakas Productions – ARTE France Cinéma – VOO 2020. P: Jean-Christophe Reymond.
    D+SC: Julia Ducournau. DP: Ruben Impens. PD: Laurie Colson, Lise Péault. Cost: Anne-Sophie Gledhill. SFX Makeup Artist: Olivier Afonso – CLSFX Atelier 69. Effets visuels: Martial Vallanchon – Mac Guff. Makeup: Flore Masson. Hair Stylist: Antoine Mancini. M: Jim Williams. S: Fabrice Osinski, Séverin Favriau, Stéphane Thiébaut. ED: Jean-Christophe Bouzy.
    C: Vincent Lindon (Vincent), Agathe Rousselle (Alexia), Garance Marillier (Justine), Laïs Salameh (Rayane). Featuring: Bertrand Bonello, Dominique Frot.
    Soundtrack listing includes: "The Wayfaring Stranger" ["I'm just going over Jordan..."] (US trad. folk and gospel, 1858 or earlier, Roud 3339). J. S. Bach: "Kommt, ihr Töchter, helft mir klagen" from the Matthäus-Passion (1727, BWV 244), "Nessuno mi puo giudicare" (Luciano Beretta, Miky Del Prete, Mario Panzeri, Daniele Pace, 1966) perf. Caterina Caselli [this song was a hit also in Finland, as "Erehdyin kerran", Finnish lyr. Tuula Valkama, perf. Seppo Hanski 1967].
    Language: French.
    108 min
    Finnish premiere 19 Aug 2022, released by Night Visions with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Emilia Hietala / Cristina Nyqvist.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 3, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 19 Aug 2022.

Official synopsis:
    " Après une série de crimes inexpliqués, un père retrouve son fils disparu depuis 10 ans. "
    " Titane : Métal hautement résistant à la chaleur et à la corrosion, donnant des alliages très durs
. "

AA: I have been aware of Julia Ducournau since the acclaimed Grave / Raw (2017) which I have yet to see because I have no appetite for cannibalism. Now, having seen Titane, I am a Julia Ducournau convert. Her approach is gripping and personal in the genre territory of horror / épouvante / fantastique. It is a terrain vague. Horror is about the emergence of something extraordinary into the ordinary.

I wrote in 1985 together with my brother Asko Alanen the first Finnish book on the horror film genre, called Musta peili [Dark Mirror]. An extraordinary creative period of the then most recent 25 years (from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s) was coming to an end, to be followed with decades of commercially successful but creatively uninspiring fare, consisting too frequently of sequels, remakes and gratuitous brutality. Great work kept being made, but masterpieces such as The Silence of the Lambs were few and far between.

A new wave of inspiring and original horror movies started around 2014. To its masters belong both Julia Ducournau and Jordan Peele, both of whom have stunning new films in a Finnish premiere today. A fresh and welcome aspect in this current trend is the prominence of women film directors, including the Finn Hanna Bergholm with Pahanhautoja / Hatching (2022).

My first impression of Ducournau and Titane: I recognize an engaging talent in the dream mode. When we are caught in the stream of the unconscious as powerfully as this, anything can happen, and we don't reject it, although the narrative is full of holes, mysteries and questions. Why is Alexia like that? Already as the obnoxious brat on the back seat of her father's car she is raising hell. And why does her father keep closing his eyes at the murder rampage of her daughter turned serial killer? Titane is a tale of two families, both dysfunctional, to say the least. Is there an incest subtext in both families? Or just a case of deranged love? Might the serial revenge theme in Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman (2020) provide a clue?

There is a genuine surrealist dimension in Titane, to be compared with some works by David Lynch (Eraserhead), David Cronenberg (The Brood, Crash), Leos Carax (Holy Motors) and even Charley Bowers (Egged On). The horror of motherhood evokes Rosemary's Baby, Hatching and The Omen trilogy.

Further affinities include Fritz Lang's Robot Maria (Metropolis) and other unholy creatures of the fantasy film like Alraune and The Bride of Frankenstein. Titane is a machine woman tale but not a cyberpunk movie. Body parts are being replaced with machine parts, and there are aspects of the "new flesh", but this story is not about computers and the cyberspace, not to speak of the metaverse. The play takes place in a more traditional, even atavistic, dream space.

The cast and the crew excel in all departments. The unique and powerful interpretations of Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon carry the film.


Fire of Love

Sara Dosa: Fire of Love (CA/US 2022). A non-fiction film based on the lives, films and archives of the volcanist couple Katia Krafft and Maurice Krafft. The harnesses are made of titanium. Red volcanoes are safer. Gray volcanoes are the most deadly.

Fire of Love / Fire of Love.
    CA/US © 2022 Fire of Love Productions.
    D: Sara Dosa.
    Non-fiction film based on the lives, films and archives of the volcanist couple Katia Krafft and Maurice Krafft. The original footage was shot in 1,37:1.
    Includes animated passages.
    Narrator: Miranda July.
    98 min
    Festival premiere: 20 Jan 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
    Finnish premiere: 19 Aug 2022, released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish subtitles by Miika Tuohima.
    No pandemic restrictions.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 2, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 19 Aug 2022.

Fire of Love”: Would You Die for Science?

By Vanessa Zimmer (Sundance Film Festival 2022)

"Despite Fire of Love’s awe-inspiring images of fire spewing and spattering from the mouths of volcanoes — and then oozing and pulsating downward like a blazing snake —  what endures after this film ends are the beaming faces of Katia and Maurice Krafft."

"Slight Katia and curly-haired Maurice became media darlings for their on-site observations and documentation of volcanic eruptions in the 1970s and ’80s. She a geochemist, he a geologist, they turned to the Earth because they were “disappointed in humanity,” said Maurice. But they also absolutely loved chasing and studying volcanoes; they could not imagine doing anything else."

"Their footage, still photos, media tours, and books (19 of them!) contributed to a greater understanding of the science and danger of volcanoes. By filming the fury and devastation of eruptions, the Kraffts aimed to influence better warning systems and government evacuation policies."

"In a Q&A following the premiere of Fire of Love Thursday night, director Sara Dosa said her crew stumbled onto the work of the Kraffts while working on another film project. They marveled at the absolute treasure trove of footage within the Krafft archives. But the couple’s love story, their playfulness and devotion to each other, sealed the decision to tell the volcanologists’ story. “They were passionate about volcanoes, but also about life itself,” said Dosa. "

"The Kraffts would walk within feet of the glowing lava flows and peer down into the maw of a crater. “I want to get closer, right into the belly of the volcano,” said Maurice. “It will kill me one day, but that does not bother me at all.” "

"And in fact, that is what happened. In an effort to unravel the unpredictability of killer “gray volcanoes” like Mount St. Helens, which emit dense clouds of burning ash, the French couple, both just in their 40s, lost their lives. They perished in a pyroclastic surge, a sudden, billowing cloud belched from Japan’s Mount Unzen in 1991, as they and companions observed from a not-distant-enough green hillside.
" (Vanessa Zimmer, Sundance Film Festival 2022)

AA: Fire of Love, Sara Dosa's outstanding documentary film about the volcanist couple Katia Krafft and Maurice Krafft, evokes thoughts.

It is an atlas and a travelogue of the world's volcanoes which the Krafft couple studied first hand. We learn that each volcano is an individual, but there are two main categories. The red ones one can live with but the gray ones are the most dangerous. Despite extensive scientific study, we have not learned to predict when volcanoes erupt.

Fire of Love is love story of the Kraffts with the volcanoes, but not in any kinky sense. The Kraffts are fascinated by the Earth and its power. They identify with the Earth's mysteries, not only with the organic nature, but especially geology. We are reminded that there is no hard border between the organic and the inorganic. Fertile ground emerges from the ashes of grey volcanoes.

The movie is also a love story between the Kraffts. Opposites attract, and are united by a common passion.

Until WWI, classical aesthetics was based on the keywords "beautiful" and "sublime", the latter meaning experiences that transcend the limits of human understanding. After WWI it became awkward to use either word in art criticism, but in nature documentaries "the sublime" retains its original value and sincerity. Fire of Love is all about the sublime in the classical meaning. Also the sexual symbolism goes without saying.

Equally unobtrusively, Fire of Love is a grand allegory, familiar from the expression "dancing on a volcano". Alban Berg used it to describe the Weimar Republic in 1933. Jean Renoir used it about La Règle du jeu, made on the eve of WWII. Today, the allegory is more potent than ever.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Karaokeparatiisi / Karaoke Paradise

Einari Paakkinen: Karaokeparatiisi / Karaoke Paradise (FI 2022).

    FI © 2022 Napafilms Oy. P: Marianne Mäkelä, Liisa Karpo.
    D+SC: Einari Paakkanen. Cin: Marita Hällfors. S: Pietu Korhonen. ED: Antti Reikko, Einari Paakkinen.
    Complete song list beyond the jump break.
    End credit songs: "Paratiisi" (Rauli Badding Somerjoki, Arja Tiainen, 1973) and "I Want To Know What Love Is" (Mick Jones, originally recorded by Foreigner, 1984).
    A non-fiction film about karaoke in Finland, starring the karaoke hostess Evi, Toni, Kari, Elina and Laura.
    75 min
    Finnish premiere 12 Aug 2022, released by Aurora Studios.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 2, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 13 Aug 2022.

IMDb capsule: "Places. People. Songs sung like a liberation, fragments of happiness, memories that are sometimes funny, sometimes painful. These moments of life are captured on camera during karaoke performances throughout the Finnish landscape. Joy and melancholy merge in this film's friendly approach, which will leave a lasting impression on its audience."

Official synopsis: "Suomalaiset eivät näytä tunteitaan – he laulavat karaokea"

"Suomen kokenein karaoke-emäntä Evi haluaa halata asiakkaidensa tuskan pois. Hän käynnistää autonsa ja lähtee matkaan läpi pohjoisen maan kauniiden maisemien. Hän yhdistää rakkauden ja menetyksen tarinat, jotka löytyvät karaoken kliseen takaa. Toni, maailman ujoin kaveri, rohkaistuu lavalle kerta toisensa perään. Kari etsii rakkautta ja laulaa öisin autokorjaamossaan. Elina ei pysty kävelemään Parkinsonin taudin takia, mutta punk-kappaleet saavat hänen sielunsa lentämään. Laura laulaa, koska puhuminen on liian tuskallista."

"Einari Paakkasen lämmin dokumenttielokuva on kertomus suomalaisista, jotka paljastavat sielunsa laulaessaan, niin ilossa kuin surussa.

AA: Where words fail, there is music, and when words join music, there are songs. Songs are able to express feelings beyond the everyday. Not everybody writes songs, and thus for most, popular songs can become meditors of personal emotions by singing yourself, together with others, and also in sing-alongs and karaoke.

Finland used to be a land of song (Kalevala, Kanteletar...), until mechanical reproductions on the radio, gramophones, movies etc. took over, starting in the 1920s. I am not sure about this, but in my early childhood memories the 1950s still seemed to be filled with song. The more one sings, the better one gets, and when singing becomes less frequent, standards fall. Karaoke in Finland is keeping a great tradition alive as a melange of live and mechanical song.

Before karaoke, there was the phenomenon of bar and pub singing. In the cinema, memorable and touching scenes are in Luchino Visconti's Ossessione and Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life.

Einari Paakkanen's outstanding documentary about Finnish karaoke is affectionate and profound. We meet shy men, Toni and Kari, who find in karaoke an outlet for their passionate dimension. They are transformed via song – in fact, they discover their true self *, their complete self – via singing. Elina is limited in life via Parkinson's disease but she, too, can express herself fully via song. Laura has lost a daughter, and song helps her transcend the overwhelming pain. The karaoke hostess Evi is the one who connects everything. Her travel covers all of Finland, from nursing homes to bars. She, too, has a hidden traumatic past, healing with music. She had planned to become a psychotherapist, but her karaoke hostess profession is a therapeutic calling, too. A calling of compassion and understanding. Music is a mission of love.

Karaoke Paradise grows into an emotional atlas of Finland. My favourite book last year was Oliver Sacks's Musicophilia (2007). Sacks would have loved this movie.

Many performances in Karaoke Paradise are frankly amateurish, but sometimes amateur performances are more memorable than professional ones, because of the raw emotion and sense of naked urgency, not hidden behind virtuosity. (There are master singers who seem to convey "listen how great I am!" instead of: "listen to this great song"). Some of the karaoke performances are profound, original and revelatory. The singer changes and becomes someone special.


" True self (also known as real self, authentic self, original self and vulnerable self) and false self (also known as fake self, idealized self, superficial self and pseudo self) are psychological concepts, originally introduced into psychoanalysis in 1960 by Donald Winnicott. Winnicott used true self to describe a sense of self based on spontaneous authentic experience and a feeling of being alive, having a real self. The false self, by contrast, Winnicott saw as a defensive façade, which in extreme cases could leave its holders lacking spontaneity and feeling dead and empty, behind a mere appearance of being real. " From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, read on 28 Aug 2022.


Sihja – kapinaa ilmassa / Sihja, the Rebel Fairy

Marja Pyykkö: Sihja – kapinaa ilmassa / Sihja, the Rebel Fairy (FI/NL/NO 2022) with Elina Patrakka (Sihja the Rebel Fairy) and Justus Hentula (Alfred).

Sihja, rebellälvan.
    FI/NL/NO 2022. PC: Tuffi Films. Co-PC: Windmill Film / Den Siste Skilling. P: Venla Hellstedt, Elli Toivoniemi.
    D: Marja Pyykkö. SC: Kirsikka Saari, Jenni Toivoniemi. Cin: Remko Schnorr. AD: Otso Linnalaakso. Cost: Emmi Leeve. Makeup: Pia Mikkonen. M: Ginge. Songs: Kate Havnevik. S: Hugo Ekornes. ED: Jon Endre Mørk.
    C: Elina Patrakka (Sihja), Justus Hentula (Alfred), Pirjo Lonka (Lisbeth), Elmer Bäck (Eerik), Elena Leeve (Riia), Eero Ritala (Perttu), Paola Bärlund (Emma), Keijo Kuivanen (Veijo).
    89 min
    The original scheduled premiere 22 Jan 2021 was postponed due to the corona pandemic.
    Finnish premiere: 5 Aug 2022, released by SF Studios Finland
    No pandemic restrictions.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 1, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 13 Aug 2022.

"A story of an unconventional fairy and an eccentric boy who overcome their own fears and obstacles in order to save the nature." (IMDb storyline)

Official synopsis from the press kit:

"Elokuva kiltin pojan ja omintakeisen keijun ystävyydestä."

"Alfred (Justus Hentula) on yksinäinen kaupunkilaispoika, joka rakastaa perhosia. Kesäloman jälkeen kaupungissa Alfred löytää auton takakontista keijun, joka on takkutukkainen, suttuinen ja Alfredin mielestä ihana. Hän on Sihja Pönttöhiittinen (Elina Patrakka). Sihja on huonosti käyttäytyvä, mutta valloittava keiju, jonka kanssa Alfred uskaltautuu lentämään. Alfredin vanhemmat Riia (Elena Leeve) ja Eerik (Elmer Bäck) ihmettelevät tytön tapoja, mutta iloitsevat, että pojalla on kerrankin ystävä."

"Isä-Eerik on töissä Lisbeth Lukinmaan (Pirjo Lonka) johtamalla lannoitetehtaalla, jolla on mennyt huonosti. Perheen naapuri Perttu Nikkinen (Eero Ritala) kehittää uutta Mirakulaus-lannoitetta, joka näivettää samalla rikkaruohot. Siitä toivotaan tehtaan pelastusta."

"Sihja ja Alfred tempautuvat seikkailuun selvittäessään, miksi kaupungin kaduilta alkaa löytyä kuolleita lintuja. Kekseliäällä toiminnalla ja keijuvoimien siivittäminä lapset onnistuvat estämään ympäristökatastrofin.
" (Official synopsis from the press kit).

AA: Sihja, the Rebel Fairy is an engaging fairytale film with dimensions ranging from the contemporary to the timeless. Although it is a fairytale, it is not escapist entertainment. Reality is illuminated by magic and vice versa.

The character of Sihja, incarnated by the energetic Elina Patrakka, is close to Astrid Lindgren territory of irreverent girl heroines with agency (Pippi Longstocking, Ronja the Robber's Daughter). She is somehow both Tinker Bell and a Poltergeist.

Marja Pyykkö is a perfect choice as the director. I have admired her work as an actor since Kissan kuolema / The Killing of a Cat. As a director I remember fondly Sisko tahtoisin jäädä / Run Sister Run! and Yösyöttö / Man and a Baby. As far as I understand, Sihja is her first fantasy film and first children's film. The breakthrough is successful in both counts.

For the lonely nature lover boy Alfred, Sihja becomes a catalyst who opens for him new horizons and perspectives – literally, during their night flights. Reciprocally, Alfred saves Sihja when she is in danger of losing her fairy superpower.

The adventure story is about an epochal fertilizer innovation, "Mirakulaus" ["Miracle Gulp"], that does work miracles in the short term but destroys life in the long run.

I like the cosmic sense, the aerial shots, and the philosophy of time. It is all about the future of all.