Sunday, December 31, 2023

Senses of Cinema World Poll 2023: my favourites

Donata Wenders: Komorebi Dreams. Her dream sequences appear in Wim Wenders: Perfect Days (2023). Wenders was at his best this year. From: Tokyo Art Beat, 22 Dec, 2023

Antti Alanen
Senses of Cinema World Poll 2023
In viewing order. Seen in the cinema unless otherwise noted.

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras, 2022)
The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg, 2022)
Walad min al janna / Conspiracy in Cairo / Boy from Heaven (Tarik Saleh, 2022)
Asteroid City (Wes Anderson, 2023)
Armageddon Time (James Gray, 2022) Sodankylä
Tori et Lokita / Tori and Lokita (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, 2022) Sodankylä
Saint Omer (Alice Diop, 2022) Sodankylä
Kievski protses / The Kiev Trial (Sergei Loznitsa, 2022) Sodankylä
Monica in the South Seas (Sami van Ingen, Mika Taanila, 2023) Sodankylä
Universumin kaiut - Kaija Saariahon musiikki / Echoes of the Universe - The Music of Kaija Saariaho (Riitta Rask, 2023) Sodankylä - audio only outside the sold out cinema screening
Kuolleet lehdet / Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismäki, 2023) Sodankylä
Barbie (Greta Gerwig, 2023) Barbenheimer day 21 July 2023
Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan, 2023) Barbenheimer day 21 July 2023 - film of the year
Anselm - Das Rauschen der Zeit / Anselm (Wim Wenders, 2023) Telluride
The Holdovers (Alexander Payne, 2023) Telluride
The Pigeon Tunnel (Errol Morris, 2023) Telluride
Perfect Days (Wim Wenders, 2023) Telluride
Past Lives (Celine Song, 2023) Love & Anarchy
20 dniv u Mariupoli / 20 Days in Mariupol (Mstyslav Chernov, 2023) Ukrainian Film Days
Banat Olfa / Les Filles d'Olfa / Four Daughters (Kaouther Ben Hania, 2023) Love & Anarchy Campaign
Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023)
Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, 2021) Yle Areena online
Kimitachi wa do ikiruka / The Boy and the Heron (Hayao Miyazaki, 2023)
Neljä pientä aikuista / Four Little Adults (Selma Vilhunen, 2023)
Valoa valoa valoa (Inari Niemi, 2023)

The Hotel Room suite of eight films: ASAP, Doggystyle, Wrist Shot, Hookup, Lollipop, The Piston, Satisfyer, and Glance (by Reeta Annala, Hannu-Pekka Peltomaa, Veera Lamminpää, Josefina Rautiainen, Gyöngyi Fazekas, 2023) total 68 min also edited to a short resume Huone 409 - siivottu sinua varten / 409 - Please Make Up My Room, but the full cycle is definitive for me

Sois belle et tais-toi ! / Be Pretty and Shut Up (Delphine Seyrig, 1981) 2023 re-release, seen at Luminor Hôtel de Ville Paris
Danza macabra / Danse macabre (Antonio Margheriti, 1963) 2022 Lyre restoration, Toute la mémoire du monde
Istoriya grazhdanskoi voiny / History of the Civil War (Dziga Vertov, 1921) 2021 restoration Nikolai Izvolov, Toute la mémoire du monde
Mary Sweeney Morning Discussion, 17 June 2023 Sodankylä, hosted by Otto Kylmälä
Twin Peaks S2.E7 Lonely Souls (David Lynch, 1990) in the presence of Mary Sweeney, Sodankylä
Yam daabo / The Choice (Idrissa Ouédraogo, 1986) 2022 restoration, Bologna
Ceddo / The Outsiders (Ousmane Sembène, 1977) 2023 restoration, Bologna
Amok (Fedor Ozep, 1934) 2023 restoration, Bologna
Al-makhdu'un / The Dupes (Tewfik Saleh, 1972) 2023 restoration, Bologna
Gharibeh va meh / The Stranger and the Fog (Bahram Beyzaie, 1974) 2023 restoration, Bologna
Cherike-ye Tara / The Ballad of Tara (Bahram Beyzaie, 1979) 2022 restoration, Bologna
Macario (Roberto Gavaldón, 1960) 2023 restoration, Bologna
The Straight Story (David Lynch 1999) 2023 restoration, Bologna
Man Ray: Return to Reason. The 2023 restoration of Le Retour à la raison (1923), Emak Bakia (1926), L'Étoile de la mer (1928) and Les Mystères du château de Dé (1929). Love & Anarchy screener
Laurel & Hardy Year One: The Newly Restored 1927 Silents (Flicker Alley 2023) blu-ray
Rêves de clowns (René Hervouin, Blanche Vigier de Maisonneuve, 1924) Pordenone
Pierre Loti (early cinema compilation 1897-1923 by Elif Rongen Kaynakçi, 2023) Pordenone
Merry-Go-Round (Rupert Julian, [Erich von Stroheim], 1923) 2023 restoration, Pordenone
Amazonas, Maior Rio do Mundo (Silvino Simões dos Santos Silva, 1918) 2023 identification, Pordenone
Pêcheur d'Islande / The Iceland Fisherman (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1924) Pordenone
Die Strasse / The Street (Karl Grune, 1923) 2023 restoration, Pordenone
Hindle Wakes (Maurice Elvey, 1927) Pordenone 
Der Berg des Schicksals / The Peak of Fate (Arnold Fanck, 1924) 2022 restoration, Pordenone 

The film year 2023 was better than 2022. Big films got bigger, others suffered. Film industry and film culture are in an existential crisis. Although big films were successful, there are not enough of them. Most streaming services suffered also. There was a revival of home formats such as blu-ray, in reaction to the dearth of quality on streamers. Film festivals thrived. After the pandemic, people enjoy the common experience of cinema-going.

My life changed. In May I established an office of my own and started my independent working life as a historian, critic and teacher, also continuing as a member of the board of the Finnish Film Foundation (major funder of Finnish film production, distribution and exhibition). I am now also a FIAF Supporter.

The topic of the year was generative IT, such as ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer), based on a large language model. Machine learning and data mining are transformative, indeed, and for their champions they change everything while for critics, they are a big bubble. A wise friend of mine finds both claims correct. In 1941-1954, the term "AI" ("artificial intelligence") was launched (first called "machine intelligence" by Alan Turing), but I avoid it. For me, intelligence, or at least intellect, is a defining feature of the human being, and probably to an unknown degree of animals. In the core is logos, a combination of consciousness, language and intention. In 1950, Alan Turing launched the concept "the imitation game". The Turing test is about a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour indistinguishable from that of a human. My conviction is that the machine will never pass the Turing test. In 1966, Joseph Weizenbaum built the first chatbot, and early enthusiasts thought that soon we will not distinguish the man from the machine. But Weizenbaum thought different, because in communication, we never fully know the other. More profoundly, we never fully know ourselves. We are secrets to each other and ourselves. Communication is always a journey to the infinities of the partners in dialogue. In the machine, there is imitation but no infinity. The imitation is based on pre-existing material. No true creativity can take place. Just an imitation game.

The world is burning because of the climate change and the warmongers. Grave injustice is being committed to young generations. But I keep being an optimist on all counts. "Peace is a question of will. All conflicts can be settled, and there are no excuses for allowing them to become eternal. " Martti Ahtisaari (1937-2023) Nobel Lecture 2008

Antti Alanen
Film historian, critic, teacher

Neljä pientä aikuista / Four Little Adults

Selma Vilhunen: Neljä pientä aikuista / Four Little Adults (FI 2023) with Eero Milonoff (Matias) and Alma Pöysti (Juulia). The nuclear family is open to expansion.

Fyra små vuxna.
    FI 2023. Tuffi Films Oy, Hobab, Aurora Studios Oy. P: Elli Toivoniemi, Venla Hellstedt. Assoc P: Nima Yousefi (Hobab), Ari Tolppanen, Roosa Toivonen, Petri Kemppinen. EX: Kirsikka Saari, Jenni Toivoniemi, Selma Vilhunen.
    D+SC: Selma Vilhunen. DP: Juice Huhtala. PD: Sattva-Hanna Toiviainen. Cost: Karoliina Koiso-Kanttila. Makeup: Kaisu Hölttä. VFX: Sami Haartemo (James Post). M: Sarah Assbring, Jacob Haage. Musiikkivastaavat: Rasmus Thord, Li Stanley (Solid Music Supervision).  S: Lotta Mäki. ED: Antti Reikko. Intimacy coordinators: Marjo-Riikka Mäkelä, Siobhan Richardson.
    C: Alma Pöysti (Juulia), Eero Milonoff (Matias), Oona Airola (Enni), Pietu Wikström (Miska), Iivo Tuuri (Miro), Kaija Pakarinen (Kaarina), Esko Roine (Paavo), Peter Kanerva (Kerkko Salonen), Salla Kozma (Iida Pihkala), Timo Tuominen (Timo Viljanen), Pertti Sveholm (Jaakko Holopainen), Emilia Sinisalo (Amanda).
    122 min
    Festival premiere: 29 Jan 2023 Rotterdam.
    Finnish premiere: 27 Dec 2023, distributed by SF Studios with Swedish subtitles by Heidi Nyblom Kuorikoski.
    Viewed at Tennispalatsi 14, Helsinki, 31 Dec 2023

Tagline: "Love and let love".

AA: Four Little Adults represents a new stage of accomplishment in the development of Selma Vilhunen, the distinguished director of Pitääkö mun kaikki hoitaa? / Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?, Tyttö nimeltä Varpu / Little Wing, Hobbyhorse Revolution and Hölmö nuori sydän / Stupid Young Heart.

The partners in the ménage à quatre include a well-off middle class couple who have already been married for twenty years. First Matias (Eero Milonoff) and then Juulia (Alma Pöysti) discover other partners: Enni (Oona Airola) and Miska (Pietu Wikström).

The film's premiere was postponed by a year. It was moved into a safe distance from the avalanche of the post-pandemic oversupply: 2022 was a record year of 57 Finnish cinema premieres.

During the long waiting period, Four Little Adults became the talk of the town, inspiring comments about the fashionable topic of polyamory. Frenchmen call it polyamour.

Selma Vilhunen's approach is honest and responsible. I would guess that for most patrons, Four Little Adults serves as a dire warning against polyamory.

Most of the fundamental issues are eternal. Bigamy and polygamy are ancient arrangements, as are marriages of convenience with love affairs or established lovers on the side. The heartbreaks and the headaches have been with us always, as are traumatized and inflamed relations between children and relatives. Bitte Westerlund has published this year (with Philip Teir) a book of reckoning of the multiple affairs of her husband, Jörn Donner. She discovered them after his death.

The crucial difference and the point of polyamory in Four Little Adults is that of an open marriage: no more secrets, everything basing on transparency and agreements. All are friends, and if children are born outside marriage, full responsibility prevails.

Can it work? Nobody among the quartet's circle of friends believes it can, as the four protagonists, fools for love, stray from crisis to crisis. There is a lot of crying and shouting and confusion. The foursome get friendly pieces of advice and warnings from family and colleagues, but they keep navigating further into the unknown.

Life is difficult, and they are not making it easier.

Love is a play with fire, and they act like pyromaniacs.

Selma Vilhunen has selected a strong cast, and Oona Airola, Alma Pöysti and Pietu Wikström provide deeply moving performances. The stranger among the quartet is Eero Milonoff, who plays his role like a sleepwalker. He is like a somnambulist reading his lines correctly but without conviction. Matias, his character, is a vicar by profession, and maybe his interpretation is about the alienation and obsolescence of religion in contemporary life.

In the supporting roles, Kaija Pakarinen and Esko Roine as Matias's parents are excellent. Maybe the odd feeling of Matias's being absent from his own life - from himself - is a consequence of his parents's presence. They are not overbearing. But it is not always nice to select one's parents' profession. As a character Matias seems other-directed, not inner-directed. To speak with Donald Winnicott, Matias seems to project a false self and be devoid of a true self.

" Le bonheur n'est pas gai. " 
- Max Ophuls: Le Plaisir, based on four stories by Guy Maupassant.


Kimitachi wa do ikiruka / The Boy and the Heron

Hayao Miyazaki: 君たちはどう生きるか / Kimitachi wa do ikiruka / The Boy and the Heron (JP 2023).

君たちはどう生きるか / Poika ja haikara / Pojken och hägern.
    JP © 2023 Studio Ghibli. P: Toshio Suzuki. EX: Koji Hoshino, Goro Miyazaki and Kiyofumi Nakajima.
    Hand-drawn and hand-painted animation.
    A Hayao Miyazaki film. Original story, screenplay and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Color / Vista Vision / Dolby Cinema / Dolby Atmos IMAX. AN director, character designer: Takeshi Honda. AD: Yoji Takeshige, Noboru Yoshida. M: Joe Hisaishi. Theme song "Spinning Globe" by Kenshi Yonezu (Sony Music Labels Inc.).
    124 min
    Japanese premiere: 14 July 2023.
    Festival premiere: 7 Sep 2023 Toronto.
    Finnish premiere: 17 Nov 2023, distributed by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Mökkönen / Frej Grönholm.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki, 31 Dec 2023


A young boy named Mahito yearning for his mother
ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead.
There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new 

Mahito’s guide is part-heron, part-man,
and cunningly juggles lies and the truth. 

The boy makes new friends, reunites 
with his mother, and meets the 
world’s creator, the Granduncle. 

“I’m so glad you were here.” 

A semi-autobiographical fantasy 
about life, death, and creation, in
tribute to friendship, from the
mind of Hayao Miyazaki


The Boy and the Heron” is a fantasy film with an element of semi-autobiography. Its Japanese title, “Kimitachi wa do ikiruka” (published in Japan by Shinchosha), literally meaning “How do you live?”, is borrowed from an eponymous novel by Genzaburo Yoshino that filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki was given in his youth by his mother. What’s more, certain events from Miyazaki’s childhood are depicted in this new animated feature for the first time ever. 

Its story takes place in a past Japan that still exists vividly within Miyazaki’s memories. 

After losing his mother in a fire in Tokyo, 11-year-old Mahito moves to the countryside with his father Shoichi to take up residence at the Gray Heron Mansion, a fusion of Japanese and Western architecture on a sprawling leafy estate. 

Mahito struggles with his complex feelings toward his bold and forceful father, as well as his new stepmother Natsuko, who also happens to be his late mother’s younger sister. Isolation and alienation drive Mahito to self-harm and shut himself off inside his new home. Everything changes when he is visited by a gray heron, who eventually reveals himself to be the avian guise of a shapeshifting “heron man.” 

The estate was once the abode of the Granduncle, who is said to have become mentally unstable from reading too many books, and ultimately vanished into thin air. The mansion is staffed by several elderly maids, who watch over Mahito. Led by the gray heron, Mahito ventures further into the dark corners of the estate, where time and space begin to warp, dreams and reality blend into one another, and a world far beyond exerts an inescapable pull.

He sets foot into a world where life and death exist on the same plane. After passing through a gate, he meets Kiriko, a fisherwoman who bears a similar scar on her head, who introduces him to the secrets of the world. 

The Warawara, creatures who embody both life and death. Pelicans who continue to soar high into the sky despite the injuries it causes them. A parakeet king leading legions of his fellow birds, who are caricatures of human mass society. 

Himi, a girl with the power to wield fire. 

Mahito and the heron man delve deeper and deeper into this world — which appears to be a simulacrum of our own — that has suddenly sprung into being and lost all balance and control. 

Why has Mahito been led into this domain shared by the living and the dead? Is his late mother actually still alive? Who is the mysterious maiden Himi, and what does the Granduncle, who maintains the equilibrium of this world, want from Mahito...

AA: Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest masters of the cinema. Every movie of his is a precious gift. In The Boy and the Heron he again achieves a sense of wonder.

A psychedelic animation, a cosmological vision, a pantheistic odyssey, a story of spiritual growth, a saga of childhood during war, a handmade animation in the digital age.

The Boy and the Heron is a companion piece to Grave of the Fireflies, and the opening sequence is a direct hommage to Isao Takahata's masterpiece, including the imagery of the "fireflies" - the sparks from the Tokyo firebombings.

The boy's birdman friend evokes for me a distinguished Finnish film, Liisa Helminen's Pelicanman, based on the novel by Leena Krohn.

Hayao Miyazaki's movie is not directly autobiographical, but it has personal links: early childhood memories of bombings, the beloved figure of the mother, the more distant father who is the director of an airplane company during WWII. In the movie, the mother dies in the firebombing, and the father marries her sister, who becomes the boy's tender mother-in-law. But Hayao Miyazaki's parents survived the war. 

Like always, Miyazaki's female characters are interesting, complex individuals seen without objectification and stereotyping. Besides the stepmother, we meet the non-binary fisherwoman-magician Kiriko and the pyrokinetic Himi. 

The dreamlike charge is compelling. We discover mysteries of the nature, the forest, and the sea. We proceed deeper into the essence of the fantastique: between reality and fantasy, waking state and dream, human and animal, life and death, genesis and apocalypse.

As an avian fantasy, The Boy and the Heron impresses no less than Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Besides the central figure of the birdman, there are predatory pelicans and man-eating parakeets. But also hordes of frogs, sea creatures and mystery beings, the "soul creatures" named wara-waras.

We move into domains of birth and death, being and nothingness, portals to other dimensions and primordial stones that launch apocalyptic storms. We contemplate cosmic building blocks. The way opens to outer space. Time will cease to exist. The film's philosophy is a fantasy in the dimensions of quantum physics.


Beyond the Canon of the Sight & Sound 2022 Greatest Films Poll: my suggestions

Mauritz Stiller: Sången om den eldröda blomman / Song of the Scarlet Flower (SE 1919) with Edith Erastoff (Kyllikki) and Lars Hanson (Olof Koskela). It is hate at first sight. Because they realize that their life is over. They cannot resist each other nor live without the other.

The Beyond the Canon team asked people to propose film titles that were not mentioned among the 4363 films in the Greatest Film poll of Sight & Sound in 2022. These are my suggestions.

7 Men from Now (1956) Budd Boetticher
10 on Ten (2004) Abbas Kiarostami
Al-ard / The Land (1970) Youssef Chahine
Amiche, Le / The Girlfriends (1955) Michelangelo Antonioni
Amok (1934) Fedor Ozep
Anselm – Das Rauschen der Zeit (2023) Wim Wenders
Baby ryazanskie / Women of Ryazan (1927) Olga Preobrazhenskaya
Barbie (2023) Greta Gerwig
Bend of the River (1952) Anthony Mann
Blind Husbands (1919) Erich von Stroheim
Blood Money (1933) Rowland Brown
Breaking Point, The (1950) Michael Curtiz
Broken Blossoms (1919) D. W. Griffith
Carabiniers, Les (1963) Jean-Luc Godard
Carnet de bal, Un (1937) Julien Duvivier
Classe tous risques (1960) Claude Sautet
Corpo celeste (2011) Alice Rohrwacher
Corridors of Power, The (2022) Dror Moreh
Criss Cross (1949) Robert Siodmak
Croix de bois, Les / Wooden Crosses (1932) Raymond Bernard
Csend és kiáltás / Silence and Cry (1968) Miklós Jancsó
Da no tian gong / The Monkey King (1961) Wan Laiming
Dead of Night (1945) Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden
Detstvo Gorkogo / My Childhood (1938) Mark Donskoy
Deuxième souffle, Le (1966) Jean-Pierre Melville
Fängelse / Prison (1949) Ingmar Bergman
Femme douce, Une / A Gentle Creature (1969) Robert Bresson
Festival (1967) Murray Lerner
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) Mike Newell
Freshman, The (1925) Harold Lloyd – Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Fröken Julie / Miss Julie (1951) Alf Sjöberg
Gamperaliya / Changes in the Village (1963) Lester James Peries
Gardiens de phare / The Lighthouse Keepers (1929) Jean Grémillon
Gaslight (1944) George Cukor
Gatekeepers, The (2012) Dror Moreh
Giorgobistve / Falling Leaves (1966) Otar Iosseliani
Girl Shy (1924) Harold Lloyd – Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Grande guerra, La / The Great War (1959) Mario Monicelli
Grandma's Boy (1922) Harold Lloyd – Fred C. Newmeyer
Hindle Wakes (1927) Maurice Elvey
Holdovers, The (2023) Alexander Payne
Hôtel du Nord (1938) Marcel Carné
House of Bamboo (1955) Samuel Fuller
Ihmiset suviyössä / People in the Summer Night (1948) Valentin Vaala
Iko shashvi mgalobeli / Once Upon a Time There Was a Singing Blackbird (1970) Otar Iosseliani
Iluminacja / The Illumination (1973) Krzysztof Zanussi
Incredibles, The (2004) Brad Bird
Inde fantôme, L' 1–7 / Phantom India (1969) Louis Malle
Johan (1921) Mauritz Stiller
Joueur d'échecs, Le / The Chess Player (1927) Raymond Bernard
Jour de fête (1949) Jacques Tati
Judex I–XII (1917) Louis Feuillade
Karin Ingmarsdotter (1920) Victor Sjöström
Kid Brother, The (1927) Harold Lloyd – Ted Wilde
Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) Martin Scorsese
King & Country (1964) Joseph Losey
Komissar / The Commissar (1967) Aleksandr Askoldov
Kuun metsän Kaisa / Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest (2016) Katja Gauriloff
Lady and the Tramp (1955) Walt Disney – Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Letyat zhuravli / The Cranes Are Flying (1957) Mikhail Kalatozov
Letter, The (1940) William Wyler
Lettre de Sibérie / Letter from Siberia (1958) Chris Marker
Letzte Chance, Die / The Last Chance (1945) Leopold Lindtberg
Lincoln Cycle, The 1–10 (1917) John M. Stahl
Long Voyage Home, The (1940) John Ford
Loviisa – Niskavuoren nuori emäntä / Louisa (1946) Valentin Vaala
Lust for Life (1956) Vincente Minnelli
Maison du mystère, La 1–10 (1923) Alexandre Volkoff
Man Hunt (1941) Fritz Lang
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The (1966–1977) Walt Disney – John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, Ben Sharpsteen
Maternelle, La / Children of Montmartre (1933) Jean Benoît-Lévy, Marie Epstein
Merry Widow, The (1934) Ernst Lubitsch
Ministry of Fear (1944) Fritz Lang
Miracolo a Milano / Miracle in Milan (1951) Vittorio De Sica
Misérables, Les I–IV (1925) Henri Fescourt
Moana (1926) Robert Flaherty, Frances Flaherty
Monterey Pop (1968) D. A. Pennebaker
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) Frank Capra
Müde Tod, Der (1921) Fritz Lang
Muhamatsu no issho / The Rickshaw Man (1943) Hiroshi Inagaki
Naked Spur, The (1953) Anthony Mann
Nightmare Alley (1947) Edmund Goulding
Nixon director’s cut (1995) Oliver Stone
Notti bianche, Le / White Nights (1957) Luchino Visconti
Nóż w wodzie / Knife in the Water (1962) Roman Polanski
Okraina / Outskirts (1933) Boris Barnet
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) Walt Disney – Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
Oppenheimer (2023) Christopher Nolan
Painters Painting (1972) Emile de Antonio
Pasażerka / The Passenger (1963) Andrzej Munk
Past Lives / 패스트 라이브즈 (2023) Celine Song
Patsy, The (1964) Jerry Lewis
Pépé le Moko (1937) Julien Duvivier
Pervyi uchitel / The First Teacher (1965) Andrei Konchalovsky
Peter Pan (1953) Walt Disney – Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Pechki-lavochki / Happy Go Lucky (1972) Vasili Shukshin
Pickup on South Street (1953) Samuel Fuller
Pigeon Tunnel, The (2023) Errol Morris
Plein soleil / Purple Noon (1960) René Clément
Post, The (2017) Steven Spielberg
Prestuplenie i nakazanie / Crime and Punishment (1970) Lev Kulidzhanov
Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (1962) Robert Bresson
Proverka na dorogah / Trial on the Road (1986) Aleksei German
Pursued (1947) Raoul Walsh
Rabochi posyolok / Workers’ Quarters (1966) Vladimir Vengerov
Ragbar / Downpour (1972) Bahram Beyzaie
Raid, The (1954) Hugo Fregonese
Rakkaus on aarre / Love Is a Treasure (2002) Eija-Liisa Ahtila
Road Back, The original cut 2016 restoration (1937) James Whale
Run of the Arrow (1957) Samuel Fuller
Safety Last! (1923) Harold Lloyd – Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Sarraounia (1986) Med Hondo
Seed (1931) John M. Stahl
Seemabaddha / Company Limited (1971) Satyajit Ray
Sparrows (1926) Mary Pickford – William Beaudine
State Fair (1933) Henry King
Strannye lyudi (1970) Vasili Shukshin
Strong Man, The (1926) Harry Langdon – Frank Capra
Szindbád / Sinbad (1971) Zoltán Huszárik
Sången om den eldröda blomman / Song of the Scarlet Flower (1919) Mauritz Stiller
Såsom i en spegel / Through a Glass Darkly (1961) Ingmar Bergman
Testament d'Orphée, Le / Testament of Orpheus (1960) Jean Cocteau
Tête contre les murs, La / Head Against the Wall (1959) Georges Franju
This Gun for Hire (1942) Frank Tuttle
Touchez pas au grisbi (1954) Jacques Becker
Traffic (2000) Steven Soderbergh
Trafic (1971) Jacques Tati
Trou, Le (1960) Jacques Becker
Trouble in Paradise (1932) Ernst Lubitsch
Tuntematon sotilas / The Unknown Soldier (1955) Edvin Laine
V ogne broda net / No Ford in the Fire (1968) Gleb Panfilov
Varieté / Variety (1935) E. A. Dupont
Vechir na Ivana Kupala / The Eve of Ivan Kupalo (1968) Yuri Ilyenko
Who's Minding the Store? (1963) Jerry Lewis – Frank Tashlin
Why We Fight 1–7 (1942–1945) Frank Capra – Anatole Litvak, Anthony Veiller
Wind, The (1928) Victor Sjöström
You Only Live Once (1937) Fritz Lang
Zed & Two Noughts, A (1985) Peter Greenaway

Monday, December 25, 2023

Lapua 1976

Toni Kurkimäki: Lapua 1976 (FI 2023) with Linnea Leino (Kaisa Mäkelä) and Konsta Laakso (Matti Holma).

FI © 2023 Blankface Oy. P: Pekka Pohjoispää, Mikko Jokipii.
    D: Toni Kurkimäki. SC: Tuukka Haapamäki. DP: Tero Saikkonen - colour - 2,39:1. Drone operator: Taneli Hiekka. PD: Ilona Lassila. Makeup: Terhi Väänänen. Cost: Elina Vättö. SFX: Konsta Mannerheimo. VFX: Eki Haikka. M: Joona Vainionkulma. Original songs: Harmaa Pardon? S: Toni Kurkimäki, Joni Hakola - Dolby Surround 7.1. ED: Tuukka Haapamäki.
    C: Linnea Leino (Kaisa Mäkelä), Konsta Laakso (Matti Holma), Hannu-Pekka Björkman (Aarne Mäkelä), Leo Sjöman (Juhani Stenfors), Johanna Koivu (Liisa), Jussi Lampi (fire chief Tapio), Pirkko Uitto (Rauha Holma), Timo Teem (Reijo Holma), Katri Swan (author), Heikki Kinnunen (Matti Holma today), Matti Mustajärvi (President of the Republic of Finland Urho Kekkonen).
    112 min
    Premiere: 1 Sep 2023 - distributed by Finnkinon elokuvalevitys.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki, Swedish subtitles by Frej Grönholm, licensed for alcoholic drinks K18, 25 Dec 2023

Logline: Joskus sattuma muuttaa elämän.

IMDb synopsis: " On April 13th 1976, a devastating munitions factory accident shook the town of Lapua, Finland. Hundreds of kilograms of gunpowder ignited, causing an explosion that took the lives of 40 workers. Lapua 1976 tells a story of love, life, perseverance, grief and hope in the face of unbelievable calamity. "

AA: The debut feature film by the director Toni Kurkimäki, Lapua 1976 is the first Finnish disaster movie.* A true story, but the characters are fictional. The narrative is based on the same concept as James Cameron's Titanic: young lovers cross class barriers and become identification figures in the epic. They help make the suffering personal. A conventional solution which I accept because it works.

I was impressed already by the trailer. It conveyed a real sense of urgency. Like in Titanic, the disaster occurs after we have been properly introduced to the milieu and the cast.  It is important that we have a sense of "before" before moving to the "after" where nothing is the same again. The pyrotechnics and the special and visual effects are shockingly effective in the explosion.

It is a good solution to start the movie with another disaster, a fire, in which we meet the munition factory's volunteer fire department in action, including the male protagonist Matti Holma (Konsta  Laakso).

In the cast of characters I like the fact that they are not idealized heroes but complex characters with weaknesses and difficult family situations. Nobody is perfect, but they are doing their best.

Aarne Mäkelä, the director of the factory, a patriarchal old school boss, is played charismatically by the dependable Hannu-Pekka Björkman. This is not a story of a greedy owner compromising safety measures (like Titanic). The factory runs under the control of the Ministry of Defence. There are clues about possible reasons for the disaster, but the cause for the explosion was never established.

Linnea Leino as Kaisa Mäkelä is deeply moving in the female leading role. Flashbacks introduce the tragedy of her teenage love affair with Matti, broken by her father Aarne. The film is her Bildungsroman: she grows up to defy her father and take charge of her own life. In two electrifying scenes, Matti throws the abusive rival Juhani (Leo Sjöman) out, and Kaisa for the first time rebels against her father, thereby winning his admiration.

In these scenes there is something of the true spirit of Pohjanmaa (Ostrobothnia). Pohjanmaa has had a lingering reputation of violence because of the reign of terror of the häjy badmen before the 1870s, but since then, Pohjanmaa has been the province with the least violent crime in Finland. Lapua in the early 1930s was also notorious for the extreme right wing terror of the Lapua Movement, led by the Finnish Mussolini, Vihtori Kosola. Even more importantly, Pohjanmaa has been a major ground for Finnish enlightenment and national awakening with figures such as Anders Chydenius, J. V. Snellman, Zacharias Topelius, J. L. Runeberg and Santeri Alkio. A keyword has always been freedom, including freedom of speech and enterprise, a pioneer of which was Anders Chydenius, a predecessor of Adam Smith.

Lapua 1976 does not discuss these themes but it makes me think about them because of my Ostrobothnian roots. My father was born in Isokyrö (South Ostrobothnia), and my mother's father in Haapavesi (North Ostrobothnia). My own conscious memories start from Vaasa and Isokyrö, and the South Ostrobothnian dialect is a language of love for me since childhood. I don't speak the dialect, but I enjoy it in Lapua 1976. I feel that it is in character in the movie.

In the Lapua Cartridge Factory explosion, 35 of the 40 deceased were women, and it has been commented that in the movie there is not sufficient emphasis on the female viewpoint and agency. A valid point.

What the movie conveys is a powerful and dignified sense of the Lapua community and the shared tragedy. The funeral sequence has epic grandeur. It is an accurate reconstruction of the real event as can be verified from the newsreel footage on display at the Yle Areena Elävä arkisto website ("Lapuan patruunatehtaan räjähdys jätti jälkeensä surun").

One of the most powerful scenes makes me think about Tolstoy's War and Peace, Book Three, where the rivals for Natasha's love, Anatole Kuragin and Andrei Bolkonsky, meet as lethally wounded invalids at the field hospital after the battle of Borodino. In Lapua 1976, the heartbroken rivals Matti and Juhani sink to the cellar floor of the Seinäjoki hospital, because Kaisa is no more.

In the touching finale, the intensity of the presence of Katri Swan and Heikki Kinnunen elevates a brief vignette to timeless transcendence.

Lapua 1976 is a feat of regional film-making. It was produced outside established production structures, without funding from the Finnish Film Foundation and without television commitment. The film-makers took a huge chance, and the production itself is a proud achievement of the Pohjanmaa spirit of enterprise. It has become the most popular film in Pohjanmaa, and one of this year's greatest audience favourites nationwide.

There are rough edges, but because of the passion and the commitment of the film-makers, the film as a whole is a winning and engrossing experience and an enduring commemoration of a national tragedy.


* "The sinking of the MS Estonia, the deadliest civil maritime disaster in European waters" (as formulated in IMDb), while crossing the Baltic Sea from Tallinn to Stockholm on 28 September 1994, is the subject of the television series Estonia 1-8 (FI 2023, D: Måns Månsson, Juuso Syrjä), telecast and streamed by MTV Katsomo / C More, the most expensive drama series produced in Finland.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Drive My Car

Ryusuke Hamaguchi: Drive My Car / ドライブ・マイ・カー (JP 2021) with Hidetoshi Nishijima (Yusuke Kafuku), Toko Miura (Misaki Watari) and a Saab 900 Turbo sedan.

AA: The best Chekhov movie I have seen.

The buzz about Drive My Car has been good since Cannes 2021. It has appeared on best of the year lists and it is already being mentioned on best of the century lists. I am happy to join the club.

Since the first shots there is a compelling intensity which the director Ryusuke Hamaguchi sustains for the duration of the three hour movie.

We meet an artist couple, the actor turned director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and the television screenwriter Oto Kafuku (Reika Kirishima). (The name Kafuku seems to be a reference to Kafka). They work together and inspire each other. Oto reads on compact cassettes plays for which Yusuke is preparing, leaving out his dialogue, such as that of Uncle Vanya. Yusuke's favourite way of preparation is listening to Oto's tapes and rehearsing while driving his car.

It's not just any car. It's a 15 year old red Saab 900 Turbo sedan, a Swedish-Finnish car, with manual transmission, manufactured for demanding climate conditions in four seasons. Yusuke is reluctant to let anyone else drive it, including Oto. The car's smooth driving qualities seem to inspire his playing and directing.

The movie is based on the eponymous short story in Haruko Murakami's Men Without Women plus two other stories in the collection. The first 40 minutes are a "prequel" inspired by the story "Scheherazade". Making love, Oto's climax liberates her to tell stories, which she forgets but Yusuke recalls and relays back to her. In her half-dream state Oto senses that she is sea creature, a lamprey. She has also a recurrent story about a secret love during high school.

The Kafukus have been devastated by the death of their two year old daughter almost two decades ago. Suddenly, Oto dies of brain hemorrhage. After the funeral, the doubly devastated Yusuke is no longer able to perform as Uncle Vanya, but he accepts an assignment to direct a multilingual production of the play in Hiroshima. The actors don't understand each other's languages (Japanese, Mandarin, English, Korean Sign Language) but during a patient rehearsal process they create a powerful performance, equipped with electronic surtitles in many languages.

In Hiroshima, Yusuke, a good driver, is banned from driving, because a previous guest had caused a lethal traffic accident. Reluctantly, he accepts a driver, Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), a young woman, who turns out to be the better driver. Grudgingly, Yusuke confesses that her driving is so smooth that he does not even notice. At first, they don't communicate, because Yusuke focuses on listening to Oto's Uncle Vanya audiotape, now doubly valuable because of the presence of the voice of the woman lost. Yusuke is increasingly spellbound by Chekhov and inhibited to perform, because the play gets too deep and demanding.

In Hiroshima, the hot shot Koji Takatsuki (Masaki Okada) is cast as Uncle Vanya. He had been introduced to Yusuke by Oto, and unbeknownst to both, Yusuke knew they were lovers. Koji can barely control his sex drive, and he has been punished for interfering with minors. Koji cannot stand paparazzi, and when he beats one brutally, the photographer dies. Before going to jail, Koji reveals to Yusuke something about Oto he did not know. With his Uncle Vanya in jail, Yusuke has two days to make up his mind: to call the whole thing off or accept the role of Uncle Vanya himself. 

He needs a retreat, and Misaki offers to take him to Hokkaido, her home ground. Because she is a superb driver, she can make it on time from Hiroshima to Hokkaido without sleeping. During the trip, Yusuke learns about Misaki's secret, her childhood with a brutal mother whom she had to drive twice a day so smoothly that she could sleep. A few years ago, her mother has died in a landslide. Misaki found her way to Hiroshima as a driver, because that was the only thing she knew.

An unexpected emotional connection opens between the withdrawn protagonists Yusuke and Misaki who confess each other their hidden pain. This is no May-September romance. Instead, a surrogate father-daughter relationship, Misaki taking the place of Yusuke's lost daughter, who would be of the same age if alive.

Having been overwhelmed by Uncle Vanya during his period of crisis, Yusuko has now grown to accept the challenge again.

The central soundtrack is the taped Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya dialogue read by Oto and complemented by Yusuke reciting the title role. The dialogue resonates in multiple ways. The result is both a true Chekhov performance and a tribute.

The title is a tribute to the 1965 Beatles song. For copyright reasons, the song was not available, and I think the movie is stronger for it. I feel so also for personal reasons. Rubber Soul and the related "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out" single belong to my foundational pop treasures. They made sense to me and they helped make sense of me. Hearing them in this movie would throw it off balance for me.

Instead, the love music consists of Mozart (Rondo D Major, KV 485) and Beethoven (3. String Quartet, D Major, Op. 18 No. 3).

Gorgeously shot on many locations by Hidetoshi Shinomiya, he and Ryusuke Hamaguchi turn Chekhov's chamber play into an original road movie. Might Drive My Car have inspired Wim Wenders in Perfect Days?

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Killers of the Flower Moon

Martin Scorsese: Killers of the Flower Moon (US 2023). The Osage-Catholic wedding with Lily Gladstone (Mollie Burkhart), Robert De Niro (William Hale) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Ernest Burkhart).

AA: A historical epic, a genocide tragedy, a detective story. In his last two films (The Irishman and Killers of the Flower Moon), Martin Scorsese has perfected his grasp of the historical genre, combining epic grandeur with psychological depth in a cast of complex characters. Formidable production values have been made possible by generous funding of the streaming giants Netflix and Apple TV.

Visually, Killers of the Flower Moon is stunning, and although made by Apple TV, it should be experienced on a cinema screen. The cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and the production designer Jack Fish create an unending series of setpieces which immerse us in the foreign country known as the past. A good opportunity to revisit the visual highlights is the IMDb Media Viewer gallery of 854 photos from the movie.

In charge of editing is Scorsese's trusted partner Thelma Schoonmaker. In his recent epics, Scorsese creates something rare and original. His sometimes stately objectivity has an affinity with Visconti's historical films. The subject could not be more inflammatory, but the distanced approach elevates the film from being a merely partisan statement, importantly in our times of divisive identity politics.

It would be an understatement to call the leading male characters anti-heroes. They are forces of evil, perhaps even irredeemably so, yet with deep complexities. Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a WWI veteran. He is a naive, simple and stupid guy,  an alcoholic, who becomes a stooge for his uncle William Hale. He falls genuinely in love with Mollie, but at the same time participates in the systematic destruction of her tribe and family - and herself. He perhaps never completely understands the extremity of his betrayal.

William Hale (Robert De Niro) is the "King" of the community. He is happy to play the great benefactor of the Osage Nation and the whole community, but in fact he has a systematic agenda of buying oil headrights from the Osage and hastening the process with methodical contract killings. Mollie, already almost lethally poisoned by Ernest, manages to meet President Calvin Coolidge in Washington and alert him about the genocide. The Bureau of Investigation (BOI), precursor of FBI, already under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, takes the plea seriously and exposes the conspiracy.

Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart plays the leading female role with strength and dignity. Hers is a situation of existential agony. She is not naive, and she and her friends openly discuss the white males in terms of animal predators. But white men are worse than their worst nightmares. To live in an atmosphere of such extreme lying and betrayal is devastating. The character of Mollie grows into an embodiment of the Indigenous American experience.


Friday, December 15, 2023

Aalto ELO Film School Finland: 2023 Autumn Show of Student Films, Part II



Tennispalatsin iSense-Sali (3. Krs), Salomonkatu 15, Helsinki
New Student Films
Friday 15.12.2023


OPENING SPEECH: Tuomas Auvinen, Dean
UUSIEN OPISKELIJOIDEN ESITTELY - introducing the new students

documentary, 2024, dir. Juho Luukkainen, 17’, MA film
    AA: Experimental. A moving poetic meditation of Trauerarbeit, on loss and endless grief, bordering on avantgarde, set on a seashore, with a central image of drowning, with underwater footage including jellyfish. Intriguing apocalyptic soundscape.

documentary, 2024, dir. Jani Peltonen, 23’, MA film
    AA: Experimental. An essayistic film poem on asentoaisti (proprioception), the dance ban on rukouslauantai [the Saturday devoted to prayer], Ryan O'Neal as Rodney Harrington visiting Finland on Midsummer 1970 (footage possibly from Jörn Donner's Perkele!), phantom rides from the 1890s from the Library of Congress (courtesy Zoran Sinobad), Biafra / Nigeria footage from 1967, James Drury as The Virginian mobbed in Finland in 1971. - 30 km per second is the speed in which the Earth revolves the Sun.

JE M’APPELLE MARIIA (My Name is Mariia)
documentary, 2024, dir. Juho Reinikainen, 26’, MA film
    AA: Non-fiction. A cinéma-vérité record of Mariia from Ukraine coming to Finland and continuing to Paris to study, escorted there by her mother. "I only have you". A lot of handheld footage. Moments of discovering tourist attractions, moments of fun like learning from the internet how to heat the bottleneck to remove the cork. The displaced, refugee, stranger experience in Europe today.

ISÄN MÄYRÄ (My Father’s Badger)
fiction, 2024, dir. Sameli Muurimäki, 20’, välityö
    AA: Fiction, drama with the experienced actors Armi Toivanen, Vesa Vierikko, Tiina Weckström and Sherwan Haji. The daughter (Armi Toivanen) owns a bar in Thailand and has come to fetch the preserved badger of her deceased father. Taxidermy was their shared passion. But mother (Tiina Weckström) is reluctant to relinquish it. The argument takes place in a bar where Vesa Vierikkö, a man at the last stage of cancer, keeps her company. A black comedy on intergenerational incommunicado.

Aalto ELO Film School Finland: 2023 Autumn Show of Student Films, Part I



Tennispalatsin iSense-Sali (3. Krs), Salomonkatu 15, Helsinki
Friday 15 Dec 2023

OPENING SPEECHES - Saara Toivanen - introduction of the film-makers

fiction, 2023, ohj, Sonia Gran, 2’, Course Exercise: Studiotyö 2022
    AA: To "Yumeji's Theme" by Shigeru Umebayashi from In the Mood for Love, a wordless, glowing, sensual pantomime. An actress in front of a mirror in the dressing-room changes clothes and removes her jewels.

documentary/experimental, 2023, dir. Mikael Rutkiewicz & Anna Törrönen, 3 x 2’, Shorts published by Aalto Communications, Exercise Films
    AA: I  Desolation of war-destroyed Mariupol via surveillance camera footage. II Boys balance on rails. Ancient imprints. Extreme low res on the threshold of perception. III  I did not believe that the war might begin. Europeans care a lot about European tragedies, not about Palestine.

SUURET TUNTEET (Great Emotions)
fiction, 2024, ohj. Veera Lamminpää, 21  min, MA film
    AA: A drama school lesson in extreme emotion, living the part to the max, discovering the point that hurts, radical realism, Gestalt therapy, hate projection. "An ordinary actor portrays. A star actor is fully genuine". The great emotion of crying happens when the lesson is over.

HUONE 409 – siivottu sinua varten (409 – Please Make up My Room)
fiction, 2023, ohj. Reeta Annala, Hannu-Pekka Peltomaa, Veera Lamminpää, Josefina Rautiainen, Gyöngyi Fazekas, 30 min
    AA: I saw the eight separate films (ASAP, Doggystyle, Wrist Shot, Hookup, Lollipop, The Piston, Satisfyer, Glance) of The Hotel Room series in the Aalto ELO Film School Spring Show on 29 May 2023. That screening of 68 minutes is one of the most memorable experiences for me this year. This abridged montage of 30 minutes fails to sustain the engaging, dynamic drive of the full version.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Banat Olfa / Les Filles d'Olfa / Four Daughters / بنات ألفة

Kaouther Ben Hania: Banat Olfa / بنات ألفة / Les Filles d'Olfa / Four Daughters (FR/TN/DE/SA 2023). 

Neljä tytärtä / Fyra döttrar
    France, Tunisia, Germany, Saudi Arabia / documentary / 2023 / Arabic / 110 minutes / sound 5.1 / 1:85
    A production by Tanit Films
in collaboration with Cinetelefilms / Twenty Twenty Vision
Co-produced by Red Sea Film Festival Foundation / ZDF Arte / Jour2Fête
    Produced by Nadim Cheikhrouha
with Habib Attia, Thanassis Karathanos, Martin Hampel
    A film written and directed by Kaouther Ben Hania
Image  Farouk Laaridh
Sound  Amal Attia, Manuel LAval, Henry Uhl, Maxim Romasevich
Set  Bessem Marzouk
Make up / Costumes  Anissa Ghelala
Music  Amine Bouhafa
Edited by  Jean-Christophe Hym, Qutaiba Barhamji, Kaouther Ben Hania
Hend Sabri in the role of Olfa
Olfa Hamrouni  herself
Eya Chikhaoui  herself
Tayssir Chikhaoui  herself
Nour Karoui  in the role of Rahma Chikhaoui
Ichraq Matar in the role of Ghofrane Chikhaoui
Majd Mastoura in the role of the men
Kaouther Ben Hania
Farouk Laaridh 
Amal Attia, Manuel Laval, Henry Uhl, 
Maxim Romasevich
Bessem Marzouk
Anissa Ghelala
Amine Bouhafa
    Festival premiere: 19 May 2023 Cannes
    French premiere: 5 July 2023
    Tunisian premiere: 20 Sep 2023
    Finnish premiere: 12 April 2024 - released by Cinemanse
    Bio Rex Lasipalatsi, Helsinki: Love & Anarchy: Helsinki International Film Festival: Save Love & Anarchy Campaign Screening, 27 Nov 2023
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: " The life of Olfa, a Tunisian woman and mother of 4 daughters, oscillates between light and shadow. One day, her two eldest daughters disappear. To fill their absence, director Kaouther Ben Hania calls upon professional actors and sets up an extraordinary film mechanism to unveil the story of Olfa and her daughters. An intimate journey full of hope, rebellion, violence, intergenerational transmission and sisterhood, which will question the very foundation of our societies. "

CINEMANSE OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: " Cannesin elokuvafestivaaleilla 2023 parhaan dokumenttielokuvan Golden Eye -palkinnon saanut ja Kultaisesta palkinnosta kilpaillut koskettava Neljä tytärtä on intiimi kuvaus perheestä ja poikkeuksellinen dokumentti, jonka sisällä yhdistyvät fakta ja fiktio. Oscarilla palkittu ja kriitikoiden jo vuosien ajan ylistämä elokuvantekijä Kaouther Ben Hania seuraa dokumentissään tunisialaisen Olfan elämää ja neljää tytärtä, joista kaksi yllättäen katoaa. Osaksi perhettä kutsutaan kaksi näyttelijää, joiden sulautuminen perheeseen paljastaa Olfasta ja tämän perheestä jotakin ennennäkemätöntä. "

" Neljä tytärtä on toivon, kapinan, väkivallan, muutoksen ja sisaruuden intiimi matka, joka kyseenalaistaa kaiken mille yhteiskuntamme on rakennettu. "

" Suomen elokuvasäätiön maahantuontituki 2023. "

" Between light and darkness stands Olfa, a Tunisian woman and the mother of four daughters. One day, her two older daughters disappear. To fill in their absence, the filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania invites professional actresses and invents a unique cinema experience that will lift the veil on Olfa and her daughters' life stories. An intimate journey of hope, rebellion, violence, transmission and sisterhood that will question the very foundations of our societies. "


English Wikipedia: " Tunisian Olfa Hamrouni rose to international prominence in April 2016 when she publicized the radicalization of her two teenage daughters, Rahma and Ghofrane Chikhaoui. Both teenagers had left Tunisia to fight alongside the Islamic State (IS) in Libya. Hamrouni publicly criticized the Tunisian authorities for not preventing her daughter Rahma from leaving the country. After the arrest of the two women by Libyan forces, the authorities again did not react. Hamrouni is also said to have been prevented from leaving the country in order to look for her daughters in Libya on her own. "

AA: Kaouther Ben Hania's extraordinary meta-documentary is the story of the Chikhaoui family (a single mother and her four daughters) in Tunisia before and after the Jasmine Revolution that ignited the Arab Spring in 2011.

Ben Hania's approach is Pirandellian - Brechtian - Kiarostamian - Wellesian. 

The borderline between reality and play is fluid.

There are affinities in the subject with Sofia Coppola's Virgin Suicides and Udayan Prasad's My Son the Fanatic.

Part of the family is played by themselves, part by actresses, the mother Olfa is at times played by an actress, and at times by herself.

From tragedy to comedy there is but one step.

Ben Hania's experimental approach is bold, she takes chances, and succeeds. The film is powerful and engrossing but not melodramatic, although the subject would be ideal for melodrama.

The visual solution is at once reduced and complex. There are stirring inventions such as a four-way split screen where we see the ultrasonic fetus images of the four daughters with birth year labels.

It is the story of women in a violent, patriarchal, reactionary and heartbreakingly injust society. Ever since childhood, women need to learn to defend themselves from men (all interpreted by the same actor). The mother Olfa beefs herself up via weightlifting.

Included is a contender for the most extraordinary wedding night sequence in the history of the cinema. Olfa is not interested in her husband. Instead of romancing, Olfa turns him down, beats him up brutally, bloodying him, rubbing the bedsheet in his face and parading the bloody sheet to the cheering wedding guests. The female guests burst into the traditional Mahgreb wail of delight (resembling the Indian war cry in Westerns or maybe the rebel yell).

Once a year Olfa makes an exception, and four daughters are born. The father abandons them. Olfa confesses that she hates girls, and those words cut deep. Mobile phones are introduced, and the daughters take teasing photos where a close-up of an innocent bodyline can be imagined to be something indecent. After the Jasmine Revolution, Olfa invites Wissem, a fugitive from prison, to the home. "We were not used to such kindness", but Wissem also turns out to be an abuser, taking turns with the mother and the daughters. One of the daughters becomes a Goth, a devil worshipper and a heavy metal fan. In May 2013, veils start being sold, and soon all daughters wear hijab. They turn into extreme islamist fanatics. Thus they find a way to dominate their mother. Olfa finds them jobs as cleaning women. The sisters' games take extreme turns, including self-flagellation, threats of stoning a friend of Olfa who becomes pregnant out of wedlock, and spending a night buried alive. Olfa informs on her jihadi daughters to the police. They are taken to a juvenile detention centre. "I had nightmares and cried almost all day". "That was one of the best experiences of my life. My life turned over".

Rahma and Ghofrane leave Tunisia to join ISIS in Libya. Especially after the US airstrike to the Islamic State training camp in Sabratha, Libya, in 2016, Olfa's quest to save her daughters turns desperate. Ghofrane gives birth to a baby, Fatma. She looks at us with expressionless eyes. Rahma and Ghofrane are sentenced to 16 years in prison in Libya. In the finale, Fatma is eight years old.

Four Daughters is about the vicious circle of every mother transferring to the next generation the teaching of the previous one. "But this is a generation who can break the chain".

Four Daughters is a shattering film. It also leaves much for further exploration about the exact process of transformation of the wild and liberated girls into hijab-clad angels of death and terror.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

We Will Not Fade Away / My ne zgasnemo

Alisa Kovalenko: We Will Not Fade Away / Ми не згаснемо (UA/FR/PL/US 2023).

Ми не згаснемо
Alisa Kovalenko, 2023, Ukraine, France, Poland, USA, documentary, 100 min
Languages: Ukrainian, Russian
Subtitles: English
Kino K13, Helsinki: Kettupäivät, 23 Nov 2023

Kettupäivät 2023: " Synopsis: Matka Himalajalle tarjoaa hetkellisen pakopaikan todellisuudesta viidelle teini-ikäiselle, jotka asuvat konfliktin koettelemalla Donbassin alueella. Elokuva on kuvaus sukupolvesta, joka kykenee kaikesta huolimatta tunnistamaan elämän hauraan kauneuden ja juhlistamaan sitä. "

" Synopsis: For five teenagers living in the conflict-ridden Donbas region of Ukraine, a Himalayan expedition provides a brief escape from reality. A portrait of a generation that, in spite of everything, is able to recognize and celebrate the fragile beauty of life. "


Berlin Film Festival 2023: " “I don’t remember a single year in my life as well as 2014.” – “It’s as if a new timeline began at that moment.” 

"  Having grown up among the ruins, minefields, bomb shelters and coal mines of the Donbas, Andriy, Illia, Lera, Liza and Ruslan live in a world where, ever since 2014, shelling and gunfire have been as commonplace as the ever-present yearning for a better life. An expedition to the Himalayas gives the five Ukrainian teenagers the chance to fulfil this dream for a brief moment, before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February of 2022 ends up destroying the last remnants of hope. With its sensitive, unobtrusively perceptive gaze, the film paints a moving portrait of a generation of young people surrounded by darkness, who are nonetheless – or perhaps all the more – able to recognise and celebrate the fragile beauty of life. "

IDFA 2023: " The people of the Donbas region of Ukraine have been living with war since 2014. Young people suffer in particular, leading an uncertain, hopeless life in a rural area that has little to offer in the way of excitement anyway, and where a future as a miner seems inevitable. "

" We follow teenagers Andriy, Ruslan, Ilya, Lisa and Lera in 2019, during golden summer days, swimming in the lake, tinkering with a moped, rehearsing a play or helping in the garden. But these pensive shots keep being rudely interrupted by the raw reality of the front, just around the corner from their homes: the rattle of gunfire, distant explosions, the discovery of a rocket casing during a peaceful walk in the woods. "

" An invitation to go trekking in the Himalayas brings hope, and the five teenagers embark on an intensive training program to get in shape. Meanwhile, they talk about their dreams and plans for the future, determined to make something of their lives when the war, which has already taken up half their youth, is finally over. "

AA: The distinction of Alisa Kovalenko's We Will Not Fade Away is dignity. This is a chararacteristic it shares with Mstyslav Chernov's 20 Days in Mariupol. Both film-makers understand the force of restraint in a subject full of horror.

We Will Not Fade Away is a lyrical documentary of young people in the shadow of war. In Donbas, war started already in 2014, and it has become the overwhelming generation experience. Lisa, Lera, Andriy, Ruslan and Ilya spend a lovely summer holiday, dreaming of the future. Inspired by Valentin Shcherbachov (Щербачов), they start to plan a trek to the Himalayas. They exercise all summer to get in shape.

The aesthetical approach of Alisa Kovalenko is based on the contrast of the shadow of the war in coalmining Donbas and the yearning to get higher, first to domestic hilltops, and finally to Nepal, where the youngsters reach the Annapurna Base Camp.

The sublime of the nature is a life-saving counter-image to the vile conditions in the war-torn homeland.

I have never seen more beautiful footage from Nepal: the glowing red rhododendra, the breathtaking mountain paths, passages in the rain, the sense of infinity, the trek in the darkness before sunrise, the Buddhist prayer. "Walking through the fog felt like a dream".

The low definition of much of the footage (perhaps shot with a mobile phone) gives We Will Not Fade Away a home movie quality. But what is gained is an exceptional sense of warmth and intimacy. In the finale we see fields of sunflowers and glimpses of family life. And shocking American Graffiti style resumes of the protagonists: what happened after Putin's Feldzug on 24 February 2022. 

Lift Up Your Voices

Arttu Nieminen: Lift Up Your Voices (FI 2023).

Arttu Nieminen, Finland, 2023, experimental, 12 min
Language: English
Subtitles: English
    Opening event hosted by Markku Heikkinen, in the presence of Isa Aaltonen and Nataliya Teramae, and Guest Speaker Jukka Kekkonen.
    Kino K13, Helsinki: Kettupäivät, 23 Nov 2023

Kettupäivät 2023: " Synopsis: Suurelta algoritmien epäpaikalta kajahtava ääni puhuttelee ihmiskuntaa, joka ottaa viimeisiä hengenvetojaan. Emily Dickinsonin runosäkeistöön "Tunsin hautajaiset, aivoissani" nojautuen ääni kutsuu meitä murtamaan leipää ja rukoilemaan yhdessä sekä kohtaamaan inhimillisten halujemme kohtalokkaat seuraukset. Lopulta ääni anelee meitä kohottamaan äänemme vastustaaksemme harhauskoisuuden helvettiä. "

"Synopsis: Voice from the noplace of an all-embracing algorithm addresses humanity in its last gasps. Punctuated by a song based on a stanza from Emily Dickinson’s poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” the Voice invites us to break bread and pray together, and to face the deadly consequences of our human desires. Finally, the Voice implores us to lift up our own voices against the hell of misbelieving. "

AA: The event started with the Kettupäivät 2023 trailer, also directed by Arttu Nieminen, a fast edit resume of Lift Up Your Voices.

Merging glorious Lapland nature footage with computer generated imagery, Arttu Nieminen creates a "surrealist requiem" in which a collective consciousness in the form of a computer* addresses mankind in its death throes.

Arttu Nieminen draws from euphoric ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) experiences to craft audiovisual incantations.

A psychedelic movie with wonders of nature, hallucinatory aspects, blitz montages, star gates and visions of death. Based on a radiocast by Gregory Whitehead, the movie impresses with its soundscape designed by Nieminen and Whitehead.

Followed by an information bulletin (tietoisku) on refugees. No one plans to become a refugee. They are desperate to find safety.



Kokeellinen lyhytelokuva, drone-, VFX- ja kollaasitekniikkat
12 min

Perustuu Gregory Whiteheadin radio-ohjelmaan.

Kaikkisyleilevän algoritmin paikattomuudesta kumpuava ääni puhuttelee henkitoreissaan olevaa ihmiskuntaa. Ääntä rytmittää laulu, joka perustuu Emily Dickinsonin runon säkeeseen “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”. Ääni kutsuu meitä murtamaan leivän ja rukoilemaan yhdessä sekä kohtaamaan ihmismäisten halujemme kuolettavat seuraukset. Lopulta ääni anelee meitä kohottamaan oman äänemme harhauskoisuuden helvettiä vastaan.

Arttu Nieminen (s.1981) on Rovaniemellä asuva ohjaaja ja mediataiteilija, jonka teosten lähtökohtana on arktinen luonto. Välillä luonto näyttäytyy hänelle omana tiedostavana olionaan, toisinaan taas mystisenä rajapintana näkyvän ja näkymättömän välillä. 

“Virtaavat luontokuvat, poeettinen lausunta, minimalistinen musiikki ja kokonaisuutta rikkovat brutaalit montaasit ovat ilmaisuni kulmakiviä. ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) ladattuja kohtauksia ketjuttamalla sorvaan audiovisuaalisia loitsuja, joihin pyrin istuttamaan muutosvoimaa. Olen siis eräänlaisen propagandaelokuvan äärellä, vaikka pyrinkin puhdistavaan taidekokemukseen.”


AV-ARKKI Centre for Finnish Media Art

Voice from the nonplace of an all-embracing algorithm addresses humanity in its last gasps. Punctuated by a song based on a stanza from Emily Dickinson’s poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”, the Voice invites us to break bread and pray together, and to face the deadly consequences of our human desires. Finally, the Voice implores us to lift up our own voices against the hell of misbelieving.

Production Year
Single channel
artificial intelligence, meditation, surrealism
Original Title
Lift Up Your Voices
English Title
Lift Up Your Voices

Dialogue: Yes
Sound: Yes
Arttu Nieminen (Author), Arttu Nieminen (Cinematographer), Nicholas Francett (Composer), Arttu Nieminen (Editor), R2 productions Ky (Producer), Arttu Nieminen (Script), Gregory Whitehead (Script), Arttu Nieminen (Sound Design), Gregory Whitehead (Sound Design), Taiteen edistämiskeskus (Funder), Suomen Kulttuurirahasto (Funder), AVEK (Funder)



Lift Up Your Voices 
12 min / 2023 / Experimental Drone-, VFX- ja kollaasitekniikalla videoinstallaatio

Kollektiivinen tietoisuus tekoälyn muodossa puhuu henkitoreissaan olevalle ihmiskunnalle. Viimeisellä matkallaan kokija lipuu läpi aikojen ja maailmojen. Surrealistisessa sielunmessussa kohdataan inhimillisten halujen tappavat seuraukset.

Arttu Nieminen: 

Olen Rovaniemellä asuva mediataiteilija (s. 1981) ja teosteni lähtökohtana on usein symmetrialla ja horisontilla leikittelevä muoto, arktinen hauras luonto sekä enteiden ja näkyjen kaltaiset rinnastukset ajankohtaisiin ilmiöihin. Virtaavat luontokuvat, poeettinen lausunta, minimalistinen musiikki ja kokonaisuutta rikkovat brutaalit montaasit ovat ilmaisuni kulmakiviä . ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) ladattuja kohtauksia ketjuttamalla sorvaan audiovisuaalisia loitsuja joihin pyrin istuttamaan muutosvoimaa. Olen siis eräänlaisen propagandaelokuvan äärellä, vaikka pyrinkin puhdistavaan taidekokemukseen.

Luonto, kuin myös ihmisen rakentamat kolossaaliset struktuurit ja kaupungin syke näyttäytyy minulle omana tiedostavana olionaan, toisinaan taas mystisenä rajapintana näkyvän ja näkymättömän välillä. Eristäytynyt, mystinen ja virtaava ovatkin määreitä joista teokset hallusinoivat muotoaan. Ne ovat houreisia oodeja luonnon mystisille piirteille ja houkuttaen metsään uusin silmin.

Videotaiteeni hengittää museoissa, gallerioissa, elokuvateattereissa, kuin myös tapahtumissa installaatioina ja julkisivuprojiisioina. Tapahtumissa ja festivaaleilla vierailen toteuttamassa videoinstallaatioita, sekä heittäydyn artistikollaboraatioihin, joissa törmäytän mediataidetta performansseihin, koreografioihin, runouteen ja musiikkiin.

Ympäristökysymykset ja ihmisen ristiriitainen luontosuhde ovat teemoja jotka toistuvat töissäni. Pohdin myös ihmiskunnan tietoisuuden taso ja valintaa joka meillä on joka hetki käsillämme herkistäessämme sisintämme polun risteymissä ja kurkottaessamme lajina korkeampaan tietoisuuden tilaan. Vaikka monesti tuntuu ettei yksilöllä merkitystä tässä suuressa taikinassa jota vaivataan, olemme kuitenkin osa suurempaa konsensusta, hermoverkostoa, jossa jokainen yksilö resonoi omalla värähtelyllään ja potentiaalillaan ympärillä olevaan sähköistäen tätä kollektiivisen tietoisuuden rihmastoa. Ehkä siinä piilee syy miksi pyrin puhuttelemaan teoksillani kokijaa ikään kuin he itse olisivat intensiivisellä tripillä, jotta teoksien lyhyeen kestoon saisin istutettua vipuvoimaa jonka kukin voi tulkita omalla tavallaa ja arvoistaan käsin ja näin parhaassa tapauksessa voisin jättää jotain kytemään kokijan sydänalaan.

Näyt ja kuvat joita työstän ammentavatkin usein estetiikkaa ja tyylilajia luontomatkojen lisäksi päänsiäisiltä matkoiltani, jolloin tajunta ikään kuin huokaa ja herää uusiin todellisuuksiin, taas sieltä sukeltaen uusiin mielen maisemiin, joiden äärellä haltioitua, pohtia elämää ja kokea pyhää, kaunista läsnäoloa itsensä ja universumien äärellä. Annan kaikkeuden resonoida minussa ja minuuteni liueta siihen.

* The program notes use the term Artificial Intelligence which I avoid, because there is no intelligence in "artificial intelligence".

Kettupäivät 23-25 Nov 2023

Kettupäivät: Festival of Political Cinema: Images of War and Peace, Kino K13, Helsinki, 23-25 Nov 2023.

Näytöksen ajankohta: to 23.11.2023 klo 18.30.
Näytöksen kesto: noin 140 min.
Ikäraja: K-12.
Kino K13, Helsinki: Kettupäivät, 23 Nov 2023

Puhujana: Jukka Kekkonen, oikeushistorian emeritusprofessori, rauhanaktivistien poika.

Näytöksessä esittäytyy: Ukrainalaisten yhdistys Suomessa ry.

Ukrainalaisten yhdistys Suomessa ry on perustettu 1997 Helsingissä, ja  sen tavoitteina ovat Suomessa asuvien ukrainalaisten yhdistyminen ja edustaminen,  ukrainalaisen kulttuurin saavutusten säilyttäminen ja Ukrainan tunnetuksi tekeminen laajalle yhteisölle. UYS ylläpitää kumppanuussuhteita ja järjestää yhteisiä kulttuuritapahtumia mm. Turun, Tampereen, Lahden, Oulun, Jyväskylän ukrainalaisyhteisöjen kanssa.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

20 Days in Mariupol / 29 dniv u Mariupoli (in the presence of Vasilisa Stepanenko)

Mstyslav Chernov: 20 Days in Mariupol / 20 днів у Маріуполі (UA 2023). 

20 днів у Маріуполі
UA 2023.
Director: Mstyslav Chernov
94 min
Genre: documentary
Languages: English, Ukrainian, Russian, with English subtitles
    Pulitzer Prize 2023 for public service
    Sundance Film Festival 2023 World Cinema Audience Award - Documentary
    NPO IDFA Audience Award 2023 [NPO = Nederlandse Publieke Omroep = the Netherlands Public Broadcasting System], [IDFA = International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam]
    Ukrainian proposal for the Academy Awards 2024
    Hosted by Nataliya Teramae
    Interpreted by Oleksi Prehodko
    In the presence of Vasilisa Stepanenko and other Mariupol survivors.
    Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki: Ukrainian Film Days (UFD), 19 Nov 2023

UFD 2023: " An Associated Press team of Ukrainian journalists trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol struggle to continue their work documenting atrocities of the Russian invasion. As the only international reporters who remain in the city, they capture what later become defining images of the war: dying children, mass graves, the bombing of a maternity hospital, and more. "

" The film offers a vivid, harrowing account of civilians caught in the siege, as well as a window into what it’s like to report from a conflict zone, and the impact of such journalism around the globe. "

" Awards and nominations:
    Award World Cinema Documentary at Sundance Film Festival 2023
    Mstyslav Chernov (film director), Evgeniy Maloletka (still photographer), and Vasilisa Stepanenko (field producer), received the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for courageous reporting from the besieged city of Mariupol that bore witness to the slaughter of civilians in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
    Ukraine’s submission for the best international feature category at the 2024 Oscars. "

" The film is presented and followed by the Q&A with Vasilisa Stepanenko, field producer: “I remember the eyes of the parents who were losing their children and voices of Mariupol residents, who asked to show this to the world. I hope that every person will see the film to find out the truth about what happened in Mariupol”. "

" Vasilisa Stepanenko is a video journalist from Kharkiv, Ukraine, whose work focuses on issues of human rights and social justice, especially related to the war in her country. Stepanenko has worked with Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka since before the start of the full-scale russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when she realized that it would be crucial to provide accurate information from eastern Ukraine. Starting in Kharkiv – the hometown of both her and Chernov – the team realized that Mariupol would be the first key to the war. They arrived hours before the first rockets landed and were the only journalists working for an international news organization to stay in the city for more than two weeks, leaving just ahead of the Russian takeover of the city center. Since then, Stepanenko has reported from Lviv and Kharkiv as well. She has dedicated her work in Mariupol to the people there who lost their lives, families and homes in the war. " (UFD 2023)


IDFA 2023: " On the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a team of Ukrainian journalists enter the strategic eastern port city of Mariupol. During the subsequent siege and assault, as bombs fall, inhabitants flee, and access to electricity, food, water, and medicine are severed, the team — the only international journalists left — struggles to cover the war atrocities and to transmit their footage out. "

AA: There were moments of silence in the beginning and the end in standing ovation to the victims and survivors of Mariupol, the Hero City of Ukraine.

A first hand account of the first twenty days in the Siege of Mariupol. The film is divided into 20 chapters: Day 1, 24 Feb 2022 till Day 20, 15 March 2022. It is based on original news despatches and private footage by the Associated Press (AP) journalist Mstyslav Chernov and his team. We saw the film in the presence of the field producer Vasilisa Stepanenko who was today also celebrating her 24th birthday.

On screen was the English version (narration, credits and subtitles in English).

The approach is one of dignity. The narrator's voice remains calm, a decision of sound judgement.

The film is evidence of a vast number of war crimes. Russian air strikes target civilians, not even sparing maternity hospitals and air raid shelters for civilians. A severe humanitarian crisis is caused intentionally. Safe corridors are blocked. The Red Cross calls the crisis "apocalyptic". 90% of the city's residential buildings are destroyed by tank fire. A project of ethnic cleansing is systematic, proof of the crime of genocide. In disgrace, Russian Armed Forces sink to the level of baby killers.

Much of the movie is in low definition, handheld, shaky and trembling, growing into an epic documentation of devastation, towards the end covering the destroyed city in drone footage, never losing the human perspective of children's suffering, parents' infinite agony, doctors overwhelmed when painkillers run out, a lethally injured pregnant woman crying "please kill me", homeless citizens moving their belongings in wheelbarrows. We visit makeshift hospitals, shelters where the lights are out, rubble that used to be someone's home. Stores and banks are plundered and robbed. In war, the good get better and the bad get worse.

Worst of all is isolation when communications do not work. Russian disinformation claims that Ukrainians are bombing the city themselves. The film-makers struggle to get their images for the world to see. There is a meta level running through the movie: the original footage as evidence, and the international media disseminating that footage in news programmes.

We visit mass graves and grave markers with only numbers on them.

This is documentation in the heat of the moment, warfare against civilians seen at close range.

For reference, I'm thinking about For Sama by Waad al-Kateab, her first person video diary about the massacre of Aleppo by Bashar al-Assad with the brutal help of Vladimir Putin's air force.

Tonight's event was made special by the live testimony of the three survivors on stage. "It was hard to believe that this is really happening". "War entered our homes". "To see a baby dying with my own eyes". "We decided to stay and show this to the world". "There is in the movie but a fraction of what really happened". "One of the worst things was the information vacuum, filled by disinformation". "I was also moved to register in the frontline many fighters of my own age". "God is dead".

PS 22 Nov 2023. An excellent article on this Helsinki screening by Sami Sillanpää in Helsingin Sanomat.