Friday, July 21, 2023


Christopher Nolan: Oppenheimer (GB/US 2023) with Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer. 

GB/US © 2023 Universal Pictures. Data in the official production information:

A SYNCOPY Production


Executive Producers

Produced by

Based on the book 
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer 

Written for the Screen and Directed by 

Written and directed by CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, Oppenheimer is an IMAX®-shot epic thriller that thrusts audiences into the pulse-pounding paradox of the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world in order to save it. 
The film stars CILLIAN MURPHY as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Golden Globe winner EMILY BLUNT as his wife, biologist and botanist Kitty Oppenheimer. Oscar® winner MATT DAMON portrays Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, and Oscar® nominee ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. plays Lewis Strauss, a founding commissioner of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. 
Academy Award® nominee FLORENCE PUGH plays psychiatrist Jean Tatlock; JOSH HARTNETT plays pioneering American nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence; Oscar® winner CASEY AFFLECK plays Boris Pash, chief of Army counter-intelligence at the Presidio in San Francisco; Oscar® winner RAMI MALEK plays David Hill, an associate experimental physicist; and Oscar® winning filmmaker and actor KENNETH BRANAGH plays Nobel Prize winning physicist Niels Bohr.  
Also starring are BENNY SAFDIE (Licorice Pizza) as theoretical physicist Edward Teller, DYLAN ARNOLD (Halloween films) as Frank Oppenheimer, Robert’s younger brother; GUSTAF SKARSGÅRD (Air) as Manhattan Project member Hans Bethe; DAVID KRUMHOLTZ (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) as Nobel Prize winning physicist Isidor Rabi; MATTHEW MODINE (The Dark Knight Rises) as Vannevar Bush, head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development; DAVID DASTMALCHIAN (Dune: Part One) as William Borden, a zealous advocate for U.S. nuclear superiority; and Oscar® nominee TOM CONTI (The Dark Knight Rises) as Albert Einstein. 
The cast includes, as members of the Manhattan Project, Emmy nominee MICHAEL ANGARANO (Haywire) as Robert Serber, JACK QUAID (Logan Lucky) as Richard Feynman, JOSH PECK (Red Dawn) as Kenneth Bainbridge, OLIVIA THIRLBY (Juno) as Lilli Hornig, DANE DEHAAN (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) as Kenneth Nichols and DANNY DEFERRARI (Shiva Baby) as Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi.
ALDEN EHRENREICH (Solo: A Star Wars Story) appears as a Senate Aide; JEFFERSON HALL (Tenet) plays Haakon Chevalier, a friend of Oppenheimer; JASON CLARKE (Zero Dark Thirty) plays special counsel Roger Robb; JAMES D’ARCY (Dunkirk) plays Patrick Blackett, Oppenheimer’s head tutor at Cambridge; and TONY GOLDWYN (King Richard) plays Gordon Gray, a former Secretary of the Army who chaired the 1954 committee overseeing the security clearance hearing of Oppenheimer.  
The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by KAI BIRD and the late MARTIN J. SHERWIN. The film is produced by Oscar® nominee EMMA THOMAS p.g.a. (Dunkirk, Inception), for Atlas Entertainment by Oscar® nominee CHARLES ROVEN p.g.a. (The Dark Knight trilogy, American Hustle), and CHRISTOPHER NOLAN p.g.a.  
Nolan’s films, including Tenet, Dunkirk, Interstellar, Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy, have earned more than $5 billion at the global box office and have been awarded 11 Oscars and 36 nominations, including two Best Picture nominations. 
Oppenheimer is filmed in a combination of IMAX® 65mm and 65mm large-format film photography including, for the first time ever, sections in IMAX® black and white analogue photography. 
The director of photography is Oscar nominee HOYTE VAN HOYTEMA ASC, FSF, NSC (Dunkirk, Tenet); the production designer is RUTH DE JONG (Us, Nope), the costume designer is winner ELLEN MIROJNICK (Fatal Attraction, Speed), the editor is JENNIFER LAME ACE (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Tenet); and the music is by Academy Award® winner LUDWIG GÖRANSSON (Black Panther films, Tenet). " (Oppenheimer: Production Information, 2023)

    Shot and finished on film.
    Loc: New Mexico (Ghost Ranch, Santa Fe).
    180 min
    French premiere: 11 July 2023 (Paris), 19 July 2023 (wide)
    British premiere: 13 July 2023 (London), 21 July 2023 (wide)
    US premiere: 17 July 2023 (New York City), 21 July 2023 (wide)
    Finnish premiere: 21 July 2023 - released by Finnkino - Finnish / Swedish subtitles: Juho Lähde / Frej Grönholm.
    Viewed as regular D-Cinema: DCP 2,20:1.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 1, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 21 July 2023

AA: Today is "Barbenheimer Day" and we embark on the full double bill experience. Barbie and Oppenheimer could not be more different, but both are films for a general audience made without insulting anyone's intelligence. Both are highly cinematic and full of wit.

Oppenheimer is Christopher Nolan's second epic about the Second World War. Where Dunkirk was the drama of a major operation, Oppenheimer's scope is infinitely larger: it is about the making of the atom bomb, an invention that changed the world irrevocably. For the first time, there was a doomsday machine capable of ending all life on Earth.

Ingeniously, Nolan conveys the fabula of the three hour movie on several time levels. There are two parallel trials which help condense action in thrilling flashbacks. We follow key passages and visionaries in quantum physics. A large cast of characters covers many of the "who is who" in the field. Everyone is individual and memorable. There is no hero worship. We learn about the complex private life of Oppenheimer.

The moral question is the greatest of all: the fate of mankind. Many experts oppose the Manhattan Project. Others pursue it because otherwise the enemy will get the atom bomb first.

Oppenheimer is also in a most profound way a tale relevant to the Jewish experience (and existence). Hitler is also pursuing an atom bomb project, under the leadership of Werner Heisenberg. But Oppenheimer is confident that America will be first. Why? "Because of antisemitism. For Hitler, quantum physics is Jewish science".

After the war, the drama turns to J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy territory because of the Communist past of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Yet Oppenheimer is always an American patriot, committed to the New Deal agenda of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but unhappy with Harry S. Truman, the vice president who became President after Roosevelt's sudden death. 

In a final anagnorisis, a revelation puts everything into a new light. Lewis Strauss, founding commissioner of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, seemingly Oppenheimer's main supporter, turns out to have been his secret enemy all along. The motive: envy, in a dramatic set-up that reminds us of Mozart and Salieri in the Pushkin play. Pushkin reversed the true story, but I have no idea whether Nolan's plot is faithful to the truth.

In his previous films, Nolan has explored the subject of time in new and ingenious ways. I discuss this in my notes on Tenet. Oppenheimer is also relevant to that preoccupation since it is about the birth and development of quantum physics.

Nuclear threat has been previously visualized by Nolan in The Dark Knight Rises. The theme grows to full cosmic grandeur in Oppenheimer, one of the greatest artworks about the nuclear age.


PS 24 July 2023.

Oppenheimer would be worthy of an entire series of essays. One of them could be dedicated to the great cast. The doomsday saga is about a man's world, but "it would be nothing" without the women. Oppenheimer requires Los Alamos to be family friendly and women to have employment. They are not token women. Emily Blunt as Kitty Oppenheimer and Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock create complex, full-dimensional characters. Without them Robert would be nothing.

Hoyte Hoytema's cinematography is stunning and powerful. In this DCP screening, the distinction of the acclaimed 65 mm black and white cinematography (on film stock manufactured specially for this movie) was not in evidence, lost in the transfer to digital. There was a slightly flat quality in the black and white definition. I look forward to a true IMAX film screening in 1.43:1 with a full range of contrast.

PS 27 July 2023.

Oppenheimer enjoys huge success at the box office. Perhaps even more was expected. One possible reason for some audience loss: Oppenheimer is rated R - because of Jean Tatlock's nudity. The nudity has been digitally covered in large territories but not in the US. A thought-provoking situation: in an epic about the nuclear holocaust and the end of mankind, the reason for a high rating is nudity. Especially for a viewer from Finland. Finland is a sauna country where nudity is innocent. It still has the aura of Paradise before the Fall. In Finland, nudity has never been a cause for rating.


Barbie (2023)

Greta Gerwig: Barbie (US 2023) with Margot Robbie (Barbie) and Ryan Gosling (Ken).

US © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
    Data from Wikipedia:
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Written by Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
Based on Barbie by Mattel
Produced by David Heyman, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Robbie Brenner
Starring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, Will Ferrell
Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto
Edited by Nick Houy
Music by Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt
Production companies: Heyday Films, LuckyChap Entertainment, NB/GG Pictures, Mattel Films
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
114 minutes
Language English
Budget $145 million

    US premiere: 9 July 2023 (Los Angeles, Shrine Auditorium), 21 July 2023 (wide)
    Finnish premiere: 21 July 2023 - Warner Bros. Finland - Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Hannele Vahtera
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 4, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 21 July 2023

IMDb synopsis: " Barbie suffers a crisis that leads her to question her world and her existence. "

Wikipedia: " Barbie is a 2023 American fantasy comedy film directed by Greta Gerwig from a screenplay she wrote with Noah Baumbach. Based on the Barbie fashion dolls by Mattel, it is the first live-action Barbie film after numerous computer-animated direct-to-video and streaming television films. The film stars Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, who go on a journey of self-discovery after their expulsion from the utopia Barbieland, alongside a large ensemble cast that includes America Ferrera, Simu Liu, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, and Will Ferrell. "

AA: I did not know what to expect and was totally amazed by Barbie. Greta Gerwig's Barbie is both a toy movie and a meta-reflection, brilliantly aware of the many levels of the world of game and play. For Aristotle, the human was the most mimetic being, and it all starts in child's plays, including with dolls and other toys. They are our early mediators between our interior and exterior worlds. That is the very subject of Gerwig's movie, here under the names "Barbieland" and "the Real World", separated by a portal, the destiny of which is a theme in finale of the film.

The same kind of level of wit and insight has been the hallmark of Pixar's The Toy Story series. All these films remind me of one of my favourite books, which I discuss in my note about Toy Story 3: Yrjö Hirn's Barnlek / Leikkiä ja taidetta [Child's Play / Play and Art, 1916]. Hirn argued that in children's games and toys there is a profound, noble and even sacred background that can be traced back to ancient forms of culture. 

It starts in Barbieland, an even-coloured world (like that of Asteroid City), however with associations of "the air-conditioned nightmare", where "the best day is every day". Dreams have come true. Barbieland is a matriarchy where Ken is a minor character. There are girls' nights only. Female agency rules.

But the real world reverberates into Barbieland with dystopian dreams of a "Death Barbie" and "Cellulite Barbie", although the portal is supposed to be closed ("never the twain shall cross"). "Who is playing with me?" In the finale, further Barbies are proposed, including a "Self-Effacing Barbie".

On the other side, Barbie discovers scathing dismissal of her entire world and existence as "a professional bimbo" and "capitalist stereotype", and Ken learns patriarchy. There is a revolution. Barbieland turns to Kenland and Kendom. But women take back agency in a counter-revolution.

I would not have expected in a Barbie movie dialogue about "Proustian flashbacks" and "cognitive dissonance". 

And I'm happy to rediscover the long-lost, ultimate dimensions of the American musical here. The dialectics of dream and reality. The play of identity best expressed in musical numbers where the sublime meets the ridiculous. Simple and fundamental dialogue such as "I don't know who I am without you" and "I only exist in the warmth of your gaze".

Such a grandeur in the horizon of the musical dreamland has hardly been achieved since the masterpieces of Jacques Demy. 

The reincarnated spirit of Ruth Handler (creator of Barbie at Mattel) becomes a major character, discussing death. "Humans have only one ending. Ideas live forever".


Friday, July 14, 2023

Return to Reason (2023 restoration)

Man Ray: Le Retour à la raison (FR 1923) featuring Kiki de Montparnasse.


AA: My program note for HIFF 2023 catalog (print and online):

Pariisin villillä 1920-luvulla Man Ray ohjasi neljä avantgarde-elokuvan merkkipaalua Kiki de Montparnassen innoittamana. 100-vuotisjuhlan kunniaksi ne on restauroitu, ja Jim Jarmusch ja Carter Logan ovat luoneet niihin visuaalista musiikkia kuin kyseessä olisi kokonaisteos.

Man Ray (1890-1976), maalari ja valokuvaaja dadaismin ja surrealismin ytimessä, oli ohittamaton ja luokittelematon, myös oman tekniikkansa perustaja. Rayogrammeilla tarkoitetaan ilman kameraa suoraan negatiiville luotuja kuvia.

Vuonna 1921 Man Ray kohtasi lumoavan Alice Prinin (Kiki de Montparnasse), joka oli Pariisin legendaarisen 1920-luvun keskushahmoja taiteilijana ja mallina. He olivat yhdessä kahdeksan vuotta, ja sinä aikana syntyivät Man Rayn neljä kuuluisinta elokuvaa Le Retour à la raison (1923), Emak-Bakia (1926), L’Étoile de mer (1928) ja Les Mystères du Château de Dé (1929). Ne ovat rakkausrunoja. Kysymys ”mieskatseesta” on surrealistien kohdalla epäilemättä aina aiheellinen. Mutta Kiki de Montparnasse on naissubjekti. Hän katsoo ja haastaa meitä.

Kuvarunoissaan Man Ray näyttää meille taivaan merkit. Niissä on tähtitaivas ja meritähti. Niissä on tulikukkia ja vauhdin hurmaa. Niissä kiihottavat naisen muodot ja peilautuvat katseet. Ne ovat kineettistä taidetta, jossa on monivalotuksia, päällekkäiskuvia, abstrakteja valoilmiöitä, geometrisiä muotoja, negatiivikuvia, 360 asteen panorointeja ja tietenkin rayogrammeja. Mutta myös tanssin ja transsin hurmiota. Niistä kasvaa elävä virta, tajunnanvirta, matka ulkoiseen ja sisäiseen.

Man Rayn elokuvat ovat innoittaneet taiteilijasukupolvia sadan vuoden ajan. Tänä vuonna sai Cannesin elokuvajuhlilla ensiesityksensä neljän mykkäklassikon uusi digitaalinen esityskokonaisuus. Restaurointi on tyylikäs, ja kuvia siivittää Sqürlin (Jim Jarmuschin ja Carter Loganin) musiikki. Man Rayn elokuvat on tuotu nykypäivään tavalla, joka houkuttelee palaamaan niihin seuraavat sata vuotta. "

Antti Alanen (HIFF 2023)



Return to Reason is a 100th anniversary restoration of Man Ray’s cinematic œuvre, restored for the first time in 4K. All four films were inspired by Kiki de Montparnasse. Now they have inspired Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan to create visual music as if they were forming one unique piece.


In 1923, Man Ray improvises his first film. This movie, boldly surrealist, is called Le Retour à la raison. Subsequently, he renews the experience with Emak Bakia in 1926, L’Étoile de mer in 1928 and Les Mystères du château de Dé in 1929.

Le Retour à la raison deconstructs cinema in all its aspects. On the one hand, Man Ray emphasises the fragment, or series of fragments, denying any sense of unifying wholeness (independently of the principle of unity: story, theme, style). He explains his choices in a piece published in “Close Up” in 1927: “You can appreciate the abstract beauty of a classical work much better through a fragment than the whole; in a similar fashion, this film attempts to reveal the essential elements of contemporary cinema”. However, the film also negates the fundamental components of the medium itself: its material base and the use of light. Instead of filming, we have the “rayogram”, a direct printing/impression on the negative; there is no division between individual frames, but rather a violation of the tiny gaps that are normally rendered invisible during projection, and there is a deliberate lack of respect for the chemical nature of the celluloid base. Moreover, movement is not recorded but deliberately constructed, and the traditional boundaries of the representation of space and objects are overturned (high/ low, the tidy organisation of the frame, proportionality, perpendicular framing, and a prism-effect that duplicates the same shot in a single image). Similar violations are also applied to the treatment of time (repetition) and the notion that the various elements should be coherently linked (heterogeneity of the successive images). François Albera, Avanguardie, Il Castoro, Milan 2004

Director: Man Ray
Year: 1923
Country: Francia
Scen.: Man Ray. Int.: Kiki de Montparnasse. DCP. D.: 3’. Bn

Director: Man Ray
Year: 1926
Country: Francia
Scen.: Man Ray. Int.: Kiki de Montparnasse. DCP. D.: 19’. Bn

Director: Man Ray
Year: 1928
Country: Francia
Scen.: Man Ray. Int.: Kiki de Montparnasse. DCP. D.: 27’. Bn

Director: Man Ray
Year: 1929
Country: Francia
Running time: 27'
Scen.: Man Ray. Int.: Kiki de Montparnasse. DCP. D.: 27’. Bn



In 1923, Man Ray improvises his first film. This movie, boldly surrealist, is called Le Retour à la raison. Subsequently, he renews the experience with Emak Bakia in 1926, L‘Étoile de mer in 1928 and Les Mystères du château de Dé in 1929.

In 2023, Jim Jarmush and Carter Logan, the founding members of the group Sqürl, compose a soundtrack to the four films as if they were forming one unique piece.

Return To Reason celebrates the 100th anniversary of Man Ray’s cinematic Œuvre, restored for the first time in 4K. Il reveals the unique dialogue between two multitalented artists, and creates an undefinable object, a piece of visual music that resonates through its modernity and poetry.

Directed by : Man RAY
Year of production: 2023
Country: France
Duration: 70

When Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan, founders of the alternative rock group Sqürl, encounter Man Ray. In Return to Reason, screened at Cannes Classics in their presence, the New York duo puts into music four short films in a row from the surrealist photographer to celebrate the centenary of his work.

After their collaboration on the feature film Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), selected at Cannes in 2013, Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan are bacck with a musical cinematographic project in the form of a sonic exlporation.

The American director and producer have reformed their duo, Sqürl, to take on Man Ray’s cinematic work. Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan have imagined the music of four of the photographer’s silent films: Le Retour à la raison (1923, 19 minutes), Emak Bakia (Leave Me Alone, 1926, 19 minutes), L‘Étoile de mer (The Starfish) (1928, 17 minutes) andLes Mystères du château de dé (1929, 25 minutes).

The group brought together the four films as a single and unique artistic object and developed a semi-improvised score that relies on loops, synthesizers and effected guitars, in a vein that is deeply experimental, to create a visual, sonic and musical shock. The result also reveals an original dialogue between two multi-disciplinary artists and forms an unidentified object, a visual music that is affecting through its modernity and its poetry.

Produced by Womanray (Marieke Tricoire) and Cinenovo (Julie Viez). Films directed by Man Ray. Music composed and performed by Sqürl (Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan).

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Susan Sontag: Under the Sign of Saturn (collection of essays, 1980)

Imprint: Penguin Classics
Published: 02/07/2009
ISBN: 9780141190082
Length: 224 pages
Dimensions: 196mm x 16mm x 130mm
Weight: 160g
Price: £12.00

Publisher's summary: " Susan Sontag's third essay collection brings together her most important critical writing from 1972 to 1980. In these provocative and hugely influential works she explores some of the most controversial artists and thinkers of our time, including her now-famous polemic against Hitler's favourite film-maker, Leni Riefenstahl, and the cult of fascist art, as well as a dazzling analysis of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Hitler, a Film from Germany. There are also highly personal and powerful explorations of death, art, language, history, the imagination and writing itself. "

Dedication: For Joseph Brodsky


"On Paul Goodman" (1972)
"Approaching Artaud" (1973)
"Fascinating Fascism" (1974) [on Leni Riefenstahl]
"Under the Sign of Saturn" (1978) [on Walter Benjamin]
"Syberberg's Hitler" (1979)
"Remembering Barthes" (1980)
"Mind as Passion" (1980) [on Elias Canetti]

Having read the irresistible Conversations with Susan Sontag in the spring I was caught in what has become a Susan Sontag project. I celebrated my first visit to the Librairie Galignani (depuis 1801, 224 Rue de Rivoli) by buying five volumes of Susan Sontag, and have just finished reading the last of them, Under the Sign of Saturn. But appetite grows while eating. I will also need to read Where the Stress Falls (her last essay collection published in her lifetime) and At the Same Time (posthumous 2022, with a preface by her son David Rieff). Further posthumous collections are being edited. This year Sontag's feminist writing was collected as On Women, and for October 2024 Sontag on Film is foreseen, edited by David Thomson and Tom Luddy (1943-2023).

The formidable essay "Approaching Artaud" now belongs for me to the seminal writings of Susan Sontag, together with "Against Interpretation", "The Aesthetics of Silence" and On Photography. They are art criticism and culture criticism on the highest level, where art meets philosophy, expanding the boundaries of understanding, and the limits of what art can be.

There are portrait essays on the kindred souls Paul Goodman, Roland Barthes and Elias Canetti, plus the title essay on Walter Benjamin, which interestingly enough is not among the author's best. Perhaps the subject was too close to Sontag, whose classic studies On Photography and Regarding the Pain of Others belong to the greatest achievements of Benjaminian inspiration.

There are two essays in this volume that are of more Benjaminian grandeur than the title essay: "Fascinating Fascism" (on Leni Riefenstahl) and "Syberberg's Hitler", both of which also belong to Sontag's greatest writings on the cinema. In the scathing Riefenstahl essay we do learn that Sontag does not suffer gladly fools of the Riefenstahl rehabilitation fashion. The Syberberg essay contains Sontag's assessment of the end of the golden age of film art.

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Les Enfants des autres / Other People's Children

Rebecca Zlotowski: Les Enfants des autres / Other People's Children (FR 2021). "The sandwich" made of Virginie Efira (Rachel Friedmann), Callie Ferreira-Goncalves (Leïla) and Roschdy Zem (Ali Ben Attia). 

Muiden lapset / Andra människors barn.
    FR © 2021 Les Films Velvet / France 3 Cinéma. P: Frédéric Jouve.
    D+SC: Rebecca Zlotowski. Cin: George Lechaptois  colour  2,39:1  released on DCP. PD: Katia Wyszkop. Cost: Bénédicte Mouret-Cherqui. Makeup: Amélie Bouilly. Hair: Rudy Marmet. M: Robin Coudert. Co-composer: Gael Rakotondrabel. M supervisors: Lucas de Moidrey, Jeanne Trellu. S: Thomas Desjonquères. ED: Géraldine Mangenot. Casting: Christel Baras.
    C: Virginie Efira (Rachel Friedmann), Roschdy Zem (Ali Ben Attia), Chiara Mastroianni (Alice), Callie Ferreira-Goncalves (Leïla), Yamée Couture (Louana Friedmann), Henri-Noël Tabary (Vincent), Victor Lefebvre (Dylan Leklou), Sébastien Pouderoux (Paul), Mireille Perrier (Madame Roucheray), Frederick Wiseman (Le docteur Wiseman, le gynécologue), Antonia Buresi (Mia), Marlene Saldana (Soraya), Anne Berest (Jeanne), Marwen Okbi (Tarik).
    103 min
    In French and Hebrew.
    Film clip from: Les Liaisons dangereuses (FR/IT 1959, D: Roger Vadim).
    Soundtrack selections include:
 Antonio Vivaldi: Mandolin Concerto in C major, RV 425 I. Allegro
 Thelonious Monk: "Pannonica" perf. Thelonious Monk.
 "Cocaine Blues" (Gary Davis) perf. Dave Van Ronk
 "Again" (comp. Lionel Newman, lyr. Dorcas Cochran) perf. Doris Day
 "Les Eaux de Mars" ("Águas de Março") (comp. + lyr. Antonio Carlos Jobim, French lyr. Georges Moustaki) perf. Georges Moustaki
    Loc:  Paris: Tour Eiffel ; Métro Pereire, Paris 17.  Camargue. – April 2021.
    Festival premiere: 4 Sep 2022 Venice Film Festival.
    Sortie en France et Belgique: 21 Sep 2022.
    Premiere in Finland: 7 July 2023  released by Cinema Mondo  Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Frej Grönholm.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 2, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 8 July 2023.

IMDb: " A childless woman forms a deep bond with her boyfriend's young daughter. "
    Press kit: " Rachel is 40 years old and childless. She loves her life: her high school students, her friends, her ex, her guitar lessons. When she falls in love with Ali, she becomes attached to Leila, his 4-year-old daughter. She tucks her into bed, cares for her, loves her like her own. But loving other people’s children is risky. "

AA: Au-delà de cette limite votre ticket n'est plus valable (Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid), the novel by Romain Gary about male impotence, inspired Rebecca Zlotowski to make this film, but she turned the protagonist from a man to a woman, who at age 40 recognizes the urge to become a mother. Alas, she does not succeed, but in a beautiful case of life inspired by art, the director herself became a mother during the production.

The theme is increasingly topical from both male and female viewpoints. I have just been reading an interview with Dr. Shanna Shaw about the falling sperm count worldwide, evidently caused by the use of plastic and toxic chemicals including phthalates and pesticides.

Rachel (Virginie Efira) is a teacher who meets the separated father Ali (Roschdy Zem) during a guitar lesson. They have a beautiful and passionate love affair, and Rachel also grows increasingly fond of Ali's 4-year-old daughter Leïla. But finally Ali decides to return to Leïla's mother Alice (Chiara Mastroianni) to raise the daughter together with her.

Les Enfants des autres belongs to the anti-melodramatic (even anti-dramatic) school of wisdom in French cinema, best known for the films of Claude Sautet. It is a contemporary family story set in the world of blended families, in this case leading to the restoration of the original nuclear family. 

The performances are convincing and deeply felt. Les Enfants des autres also records subtle shifts of perspectives in contemporary relationships. Although Ali's actions are decisive, and he is able to make or break the relationship with Rachel, he is not the traditional patriarchal male, but a sensitive and considerate modern man.

Les Enfants des autres is a sensual film. There is no shortage of frank and passionate love scenes. Again it is evident that women directors have greater talent in conveying them. There is a feeling of true arousal and consummation. In the extended shower sequence it is the clothed Rachel whose gaze is turned on the nude Ali.

Rachel Friedmann is Jewish, and Jewish life in Paris with its holidays and gatherings brings a particular rhythm to the narrative. The life-affirming approach of Jews to matters of love and family provides a warm social context. Ironically, Rachel's sister Louana becomes surprisingly pregnant and gives birth to a baby during Rachel's ordeal. The family gynecologist is played by Frederic Wiseman, the venerable 93-year old maestro of documentary film.

The film has been shot in Paris, but the "sandwich trio" of Rachel, Leïla and Ali also pay a weekend visit to the Camargue delta. The flamingos, the white Camarguais horses and the bullfights bring about a vivid change of scenery.

Speaking of the scenery, there has been a curious rehabilitation of the Eiffel Tower in recent French cinema. Even this film starts with a view of the landmark. There is a sense of it being so far beyond cliché that it can be reappropriated for a range of meanings, most importantly involving transcendence. Like church towers, also secular towers are about reaching for the beyond.

Virginia Efira has become an eloquent and versatile presence in recent films including Benedetta, Revoir Paris and Les Enfants des autres. Her presence is deeply moving as a committed teacher, a woman in love, a tender guardian of the child, a woman betrayed and a dignified lady in the epilogue.

"My time is up" was the original concept, but such a statement could not be farther from the truth in this story. "It takes a village to raise a child". Everyone can contribute to the education of the children and the young. A main character is the problem schoolboy Dylan who is about to be expelled and who fails miserably even in work training. Only thanks to the trust and commitment of Rachel and her colleagues he gets continued support, and in the epilogue there is a peripeteia at the restaurant between Rachel and the grown-up Dylan who has for years wanted to find Rachel in order to thank her.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

P. E. Svinhufvud (1956)

Martti Santavuori: P. E. Svinhufvud (FI 1956). A portrait documentary on P. E. Svinhufvud (18611944, President of Finland in 19311937).

FI 1956. PC: Suomi-Filmi Oy. Commissioned by: P. E. Svinhufvudin muistosäätiö, Jääkäriliitto.
    A portrait documentary on President P. E. Svinhufvud (18611944, President of Finland in 19311937).
    D+SC: Martti Santavuori. B&w, Academy. Speaker: Reino Palmroth. S: Pentti Hämäläinen. ED: Harry Lewing.
    Soundtrack: Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 5  "Björneborgarnas marsch" (comp. trad).  Väinö Haapalainen: "Gavotte"  Toivo Kuula: "Pirunpolska"  Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 1  "The March of the Finnish Cavalry in the Thirty Years War" (comp. trad. 16181648)  Jean Sibelius: Finlandia.
    11 min
    Viewed on a video loop at Kotkaniemi, the P. E. Svinhufvud Home Museum, Luumäki, 6 July 2023.
    See the movie on Elonet.

AA: A visit to Kotkaniemi, the family friendly P. E. Svinhufvud Home Museum, is a perfect summer excursion. 

Svinhufvud (18611944) was the first Head of State of independent Finland, as Chairman of the Senate and as Protector before the election of the first President, K. J. Ståhlberg. Later Svinhufvud became also the third proper president of Finland (19311937).

As a hard-line conservative, he was not the whole people's president, but he enjoyed wide respect for his tough stance against the repressive line and the Russification policy of Imperial Russia. For his unflinching defence of legality he was removed from his office as a judge in 1914 and sentenced to Siberia from which he returned to Finland after the resignation of the Czar.

On New Year's Eve, on the last hour of the last day of December 1917, together with Carl Enckell and Gustaf Idman, he met in Saint Petersburg V. I. Lenin, who gave his official recognition to Finnish Independence.

Svinhufvud was not a supporter of Parliamentarism, and he wanted to keep the Social Democrats outside of the Cabinet. But in 19311937, when fascism and authoritarianism reigned all over Europe, except in Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, France, England, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Nordic countries, there was a violent right-wing movement, the Lapuanliike, who planned a military coup and even kidnapped the ex-President K. J. Ståhlberg. Svinhufvud with his unquestioned authority in right-wing Finland was the man able to stop Lapuanliike and prevent Finland from following the course of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, etc.

The portrait documentary film of 1956 directed by Martti Santavuori conveys the earthy charisma and authority of Svinhufvud very well while steering away from his controversial aspects.


Finland has never won more international attention, sympathy and respect than during the Sanna Marin Cabinet (20192023). In this year's election, the parties in her coalition fared well, but even more votes were won by the National Coalition and the populist-nationalist Finns party, which houses also extreme right wing elements who flirt with racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, Adolf Hitler affiliations and Holocaust denial / belittling (including Speaker of the Parliament Jussi Halla-aho) plus supporting the glory of Finnish SS men legacy (Minister for Foreign Affairs Elina Valtonen). Thanks to them, in the international press such as Süddeutsche Zeitung 4 July 2023, the Petteri Orpo Cabinet has been dubbed "Das Gruselkabinett" (the Horror Cabinet). I wish Petteri Orpo strength in the spirit of P. E. Svinhufvud when he had to deal with the Lapua Movement.

The blogger greets the lifesize replica of P. E. Svinhufvud at Kotkaniemi, the P. E. Svinhufvud Home Museum, Luumäki, 6 July 2023. Foto Laila Alanen.

Erkki Räikkönen (Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti):

" After trying in vain to meet the Soviets on December 30, 1917  then Sunday  the next day, the delegation managed to submit this letter to Lenin's secretary, and in the evening at 9 o'clock it went to Smolny, Saint Petersburg to hear the decision. "We waited a couple of hours in the big hallway and sat at the corner of the table," says Svinhufvud, "and we had the furs on and the caps on hand, because they didn't dare leave them." Smolny was busy despite the late hours. Guests came and went, typists ran down the hallways, even toddlers on the floor. On several occasions, Enckell tried to rush to the Soviet government's head of office, Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich, but nothing helped. "We could only see," says Enckell, "how in one room the People's Commissars sat in thick tobacco smoke and probably pondered our case." Despite the fact that the furs were on, it became cold in the hallway while waiting. Finally, almost at midnight, Bonch-Bruyevich brought the decision of the Board of Commissioners. "

" It was worded as follows: "We rose one after another and signed with special satisfaction the recognition of Finland's independence," writes I. Steinberg, who was a justice commissioner in Lenin's government. "We knew that Finland's current hero Svinhufvud, once sent to exile by the tsar, was our public social enemy. and that he would not spare any of us in the future. But if we free the Finnish people from the oppression of Russia, there will be one less historical injustice in the world." Despite the fact that this letter merely announced the proposed recognition of Finland's independence, it actually meant full recognition of independence, as the confirmation of the Executive Committee was only a formality. Thus, in the last hour of the last day of the year, Finland had received an official certificate of resignation from Russia. After handing over this formal declaration of independence to the delegation, Bonch-Bruyevich planned to say goodbye and leave, but then Enckell pointed out: "When the Chairman of the Finnish Government is here, would it not be desirable for him to meet Lenin in person and express his gratitude to the Finnish people for the recognition of their independence." "

" Bonch-Bruyevich now went back to the commissioners' room, informing the commissioners that Svinhufvud was waiting in the hallway and wanted to thank Lenin. This resulted in great confusion, Lenin shrugged, laughed a little embarrassed, and refused. "What can I say to those bourgeoisie!" It was then suggested that Leon Trotsky go to greet the guests, but he too refused sharply. It was finally invented that Justice Commissioner Steinberg should agree to the request. "What can I tell them," he asked and continued: "I could only arrest them in my post!" Trotsky laughed cunningly at this: "Like you would capture!" Now Bonch-Bruyevich was nervous. He interrupted the play and again asked Lenin to go out to greet the Finns. In a worn suit and head presses, Lenin was now following Bonch-Bruyevich, while the hall was still laughing and counting dives. "Lenin came and held out his hand to us, and we introduced him to Svinhufvud," says Enckell of this historic scene, adding that "Lenin squeezed Svinhufvud's hand cordially.""Are you satisfied now?" Lenin asked. "Very satisfied," replied Svinhufvud. "Russia was spoken there and answered in Russian," says Svinhufvud, adding that "it only said a sad thank you for the letter of resignation." The Finns left now. Svinhufvud, Enckell, and Idman rushed quickly to the Secretary of State’s Office. A typewritten copy of the recognition of independence was urgently taken there, after which we left for the station and from there continued by train to Finland. A few days later, the Russian Central Executive Committee confirmed the recognition of Finland's independence, which was thus finally decided for Russia. " Via Wikipedia: Erkki Räikkönen (Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti, Helsinki: Otava, 1935)

Monday, July 03, 2023

Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXVII edizione (Bologna 2023 Catalog)

Cover photo: Damiano Damiani: Quién sabe? / A Bullet for the General / Yo soy la revolución / El Chuncho, quien sabe? / Naurava paholainen (IT 1967)  with Lou Castel (Bill "Niño" Tate), Klaus Kinski (El Santo), Martina Beswick (Adelita), Gian Maria Volontè (El Chuncho Muños).

Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXVII edizione : Bologna 24 giugno  2 luglio 2023
Supervisione: Gian Luca Farinelli, Ehsan Khoshbakht, Mariann Lewinsky, Cecilia Cenciarelli.
Cura editoriale: Alice Autelitano, Alessandro Cavazza, Gianluca De Santis con l'assistenza de Nora Diofili
Grafica: Mattia Di Leva con la collaborazione di Elena Nannetti
Soft cover, 448 pp.
Bologna: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, 2023

"Madamina, il catalogo è questo!"

This catalog is no leporello but a weighty tome, brilliantly illustrated, with original texts from internationally leading experts, a keepsake, a significant contribution to international film literature.

It is possible to see but a fraction, and during the festival there is no time to read, so I start reading tomorrow on my way back home from Bologna, to learn what I missed.

GUIDA AL CINEMA RITROVATO 2023 / Cecilia Cenciarelli, Gian Luca Farinelli, Ehsan Khoshbakht, Mariann Lewinsky

Omaggio a Joe Dante
Omaggio a enrico ghezzi
Omaggio a Jonathan Nossiter
Omaggio a Nan Goldin
Omaggio a Ruben Östlund
Zeffirelli 100

Il secolo del cinema: 1903 / Mariann Lewinsky e Karl Wratschko
Cento anni fà: 1923 / Oliver Hanley
Progetto Samama Chikli / Mariann Lewinsky
Dive russe in Italia / Tamara Shvediuk e Federico Striuli
Documenti e documentari / Gian Luca Farinelli

Teinosuke Kinugasa: dall'ombra alla luce / Alexander Jacoby e Johan Nordström
Cinemalibero / Cecilia Cenciarelli – texts by Bahram Beyzaie, Cecilia Cenciarelli, Mohamed Challouf, Ehsan Khoshbakht, Marco Lena, Tiziana Manfredi e Aboubakar Sanogo
Elfi Mikesch: filmare è dedizione / Martin Koerber
I colori del Cinema Ritrovato 2023
L'ultimissima risata: commedie tedesche dell'esilio: 1934–1936 / Lukas Foerster
Leopold Lindtberg: la Svizzera e il mondo / Frédéric Maire

Ritrovati e Restaurati / Gian Luca Farinelli
Anna Magnani: l'irripetible / Emiliano Morreale
Rouben Mamoulian: sfumature di desiderio / Ehsan Khoshbakht
Suso Cecchi d'Amico, scrivere su misura / Masolino d'Amico, Silvia d'Amico, Caterina d'Amico
Attraverso la nebbia: Powell prima di Pressburger / James Bell con Ian Christie e Thelma Schoonmaker
16 mm – Piccolo grande passo / Karl Wratschko con André Habib, Marion Brouant, Benoît Charpentier, Garance Fromont, Guillaume Lafleur, Rémi Llorens, Johanne Sloane e Naeje Soquer
Il Cinema Ritrovato Kids e Young

"Osservate, leggete con me!"

Like Midnight Sun Film Festival one week earlier, Il Cinema Ritrovato enjoyed a record year in attendance. Both for four reasons, I would propose: the uncompromising quality of the programming, an advance ticket booking system that guarantees entry to screenings even when queues are long, the graceful commitment of the dedicated staff and the extraordinary joy of the theatrical experience put into relief by a comparison with the dreary remote viewing circumstances of the pandemic years.

The more the merrier!


24 JULY 2023

Visiting the festival and reading the catalog, the mission is: film history revisited.

I have now finished reading the catalogue, one month after the festival started. When Il Cinema Ritrovato expanded beyond what was possible to see, and the participation fragmented so that it was no longer possible to meet everybody or even know who was present, I used to be depressed and heartbroken. Now the explosion has magnified beyond heartbreak.

Before this year's festival edition, I decided on the following selection criteria:
- No silents.
- No Piazza Maggiore (with one exception).
- No films that I had seen before. For instance I had seen the Rouben Mamoulian retrospective in the Berlin Film Festival in 1987.

On Tuesday afternoon, I became the victim of theft. After a screening delayed because of overlong introductions, there was a double throng on the alley to Cinema Jolly, people trying to get out and to get in at the same time. In the middle of the throngs was a thief posing as a beggar. She was aggressive, and when she hit me violently, I did not mind, but ten minutes later I realized that she had stolen my wallet during the assault. The kind festival staff helped me immediately to the carabinieri where I filed a report and mortified my credit cards. The process took a few hours, and in the afternoon heat I had no money to buy water, caught a sunstroke and a cold and became bedridden for three days. I could identify with the film I had just seen - The Dupes - and also reconfirm that the "lesson in crime" in Robert Bresson's Pickpocket, about which I had just been reading in Lauri Timonen's mammoth Robert Bresson monograph, was still perfectly au courant. This episode also created a "selection criterium", because I could not see any films in the next three days.

The quality of writing in the catalogs of the Italian heritage festivals keeps rising. They represent the best in film literature, not only as separate introductions to films and themes, but in their constantly evolving sense of history in general, and world cinema as a whole.

Because of the high quality of the writers, it is worth the effort to read the entire catalog with focus and attention. Mounting the festival, the programmers go to the best sources, and every film is revisited or reconsidered also from a technical point of view, as a real, concrete object. In the cinema, form and material is also of the essence, a matter of substance.

One of the tributes was dedicated to Anna Magnani, and La voce umana was included. The image of the Bologna 2023 totebag was the logo of the film in which it's included in letters of fire:


That is all you need.

Mariann Lewinsky (a cura di): Albert Samama Chikli : Fotografo, cineasta, navigatore (a book, 2023)

Albert Samama Chikli. Fotografo, cineasta, navigatore
A cura di: Lewinsky, Mariann
    Foreword: Gian Luca Farinelli
Il fondo Albert Samama Chikli : Cecilia Cenciarelli, Elena Correra, Nina Fortuna
Albert Samama Chikli: La vita : Mariann Lewinsky
La fotografia : Michele Smargiassi, Elena Correra
Il cinema : Mariann Lewinsky
Haydée : Cecilia Cenciarelli
Filmografia : Mariann Lewinsky
La riscoperta di Albert Samama Chikli, pioniere del cinema africano : Aboubakar Sanogo
Il padre del cinema tunisiano : Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud
"L'Enfant du pays" : Morgan Corriou
Una cassetta color polvere : Liliane Barda
    Anno: 2023 Categorie: Libri
prezzo: 40.00 38.00 €
Coffee table size
Hard cover
Richly illustrated
lingua: italiano / inglese
pp. 336
ISBN / EAN: 9791280491145

Cinestore (Cineteca di Bologna) blurb: " Albert Samama Chikli (1872-1934) è stato pioniere del cinema africano, geniale fotografo, tecnofilo e inventore, marinaio, principe, nomade, artista poliedrico e libero, che ci riporta sulle sponde di un Mediterraneo crocevia di saperi e civiltà. Dai meravigliosi scatti di Chikli emerge un profondo amore per il suo paese, la Tunisia, di cui ci mostra per la prima volta il profilo dall’alto di un pallone aerostatico, i lavori della campagna e della pesca, il mondo beduino del grande Sud, la ricchezza di una città colonizzata ma fiorente come Tunisi. I suoi film rivelano un indiscusso talento e un pensiero moderno. Documenta la Grande guerra per l’armata francese e realizza, in collaborazione con la figlia Haydée, sceneggiatrice e attrice, due lungometraggi di finzione. Il volume – in doppia lingua italiano e inglese e accompagnato da un ricco corredo iconografico – ne ripercorre la multiforme parabola artistica, proponendo per la prima volta una filmografia completa, in gran parte ricostruita sulla base dei materiali d’archivio depositati presso il fondo Chikli della Cineteca di Bologna."

" Albert Samama Chikli (1872-1934) was a pioneer of African cinema, a brilliant photographer, a technophile and inventor, a sailor, a prince, a nomad, a polymath and an independent artist. His life, works and passions take us back to the shores of the Mediterranean, a crossroad of knowledge and civilisation. A deep love of his homeland, Tunisia, emerges from Samama’s photography; he shows us, for the first time, the profile of this land from the heights of a hot-air balloon, the labour of farmers and fishermen, the Bedouin world of the great south, the riches of the colonised but flourishing city of Tunis. The films he made reveal his indisputable talent and modern mindset. He documents the Great War for the French army and shoots, along with daughter Haydée as screenwriter and actress, two feature-length films. This dual language volume – Italian and English – is accompanied by a wealth of images. It retraces the course of Samama’s multifaceted artistic career and reconstructs his complete filmography for the first time, thanks in large part to the archive materials held by the Samama Chikli Collection of Cineteca di Bologna. "

AA: Father of Tunisian cinema, father of Arab cinema, father of African cinema. We have been following the rediscovery of the rich oeuvre of Albert Samama Chikli at Il Cinema Ritrovato for years, witnessing early footage from Tunis in fiction and non-fiction movies, also views from the First World War and stunning aerial scenes shot from a hot air balloon.

Samama was an outstanding cinematographer and photographer. His family has been involved in the project since the beginning, and also thanks to the family archives gorgeous photogaphs have been made available. A work has resulted that is both an indispensable contribution to (early) cinema studies and an artistically high quality publication in its own right.

I blogged about the opening program of the Albert Samama Chikli project eight years ago:

Lauri Timonen: Robert Bresson, luultavasti / [Robert Bresson, Probably], a book (2023)

900 pages
Kustantaja: Rosebud
Sidosasu: Pehmeäkantinen
ISBN: 978-952-7313-64-0
Ilmestymisvuosi: 2023
Kirjastoluokka: 77.4

The publicity blurb from Rosebud:

"Bresson on ranskalaiselle elokuvalle mitä Dostojevski venäläiselle romaanille ja Mozart saksalaiselle musiikille."

Robert Bresson (1901-1999) oli vuosisatansa lapsi ja eli käytännössä koko 1900-luvun. Ensimmäisen ja viimeisen teatterielokuvan väliin mahtuu 40 vuotta ja kolmetoista pitkää ohjausta kattava filmografia kuuluu taiteenlajinsa korkealaatuisimpiin ja johdonmukaisimpiin saavutuksiin. Historian lehdillä Bresson esiintyy mystisenä, yksityisyyttään J. D. Salingerin vakaudella varjelleena hahmona, josta ei ole julkaistu ensimmäistäkään elämäkertaa. Tutkimuskirjallisuutta ja esseistiikkaa on ilmestynyt sitäkin enemmän ja haastavana pidettyä tuotantoa runnotaan akateemisessa sementtimyllyssä milloin mihinkin suuntaan. Syvästi katolista, henkilökohtaiseen näkemykseensä syvästi luottanutta ohjaajaa on arvuuteltu vuoroin surrealistiksi, transsendentalistiksi, jansenistiksi tai ateistiksi, mutta totuus lienee toisaalla.

Timosen kansainväliselläkin mittapuulla poikkeuksellisen järkälemäinen tietoteos avaa Bressonin elokuvat ja henkilön ennennäkemättömällä tavalla, käy läpi uran merkittävimmät klassikkosovitukset ja kirjailijakohtaamiset (Jean Cocteau, Blaise Pascal, Georges Bernanos, Fjodor Dostojevski, Leo Tolstoi), esittelee olennaisimmat aikalaiset ja vaikutteet, järkähtättömimmät teoriat ja kuuluisimmat analyysit; rikkoo entisiä tutkintalinjoja ja rakentaa uusia. Mukana on kattava otos elokuvien dialogeja, ohjaajan haastattelulausuntoja ja lajin ranskalaista historiaa. Näiden sivujen jälkeen Bressonin vaikeaselkoiseksi leimattu filmitaide avautuu puhtaana, kirkkaana ja selkeänä.
Lauri Timonen (s. 1980) on kirjailija, ohjaaja, muusikko ja Filmihullu-lehden päätoimittaja. Hän on julkaissut teokset Aki Kaurismäestä (2006),Matti Pellonpäästä (2009), Matti Ijäksestä (2013), Jean Sebergistä (2018), Rainer Werner Fassbinderistä (2019) ja Federico Fellinistä (2021). Robert Bresson, luultavasti, päättää Timosen "eurooppalaisen elokuvan trilogian".

AA: Lauri Timonen's most recent mammoth book was published in Sodankylä, the Midnight Sun Film Festival, where I bought it from the Rosebud pop-up store on day one. It was great travel reading in the hour-long queues of Sodankylä and on the plane to Bologna. By the way, the emblem of this year's edition, on the t-shirt and the totebag, was from Au hasard, Balthazar: Anne Wiazemsky and Balthazar.

Finland has been a great Bressonian country since the early 1960s. Aito Mäkinen was Bresson's friend and champion and personally exported most of his films in Finland. A significant moment in my own cinephilia was reading Jukka Kemppinen's insightful review about Au hasard, Balthazar in Elokuva-Aitta in 1967. Reportedly Bresson was more popular in Finland than France. I believe this is what Bresson confessed to Mäkinen, but someone should verify this.

Timonen, an experienced writer and critic, and editor of the Filmihullu magazine since the death of Peter von Bagh, has had a formidable period of creativity, and quantity has translated into quality. The more the better. The long form brings the best out of him.

His most recent books have resulted in a trilogy of mammoths about giants of European cinema: Fassbinder (2019, mere 724 pages), Fellini (2021, 1019 pages). The Balzacian / Zolaesque / Peter von Baghian urge shows no signs of diminishing: new trilogies are in the works.

In this book, the life of Robert Bresson remains as mysterious as ever, but Timonen pursues admirable close-reading of the films that demand repeat viewings if you want to make sense of their elliptic narratives. He discusses major Bresson experts and offers special chapters on Bresson's main sources and the ways his films have inspired others.

The book is an ideal companion of lasting value to the master's timeless oeuvre, with a special foreword by Dominique Sanda. In the wake of Me Too, even Bresson's way with her young female actors has been put into scrutiny. What emerges is not exactly what one would expect, even if one has read Anne Wiazemsky's memoirs.

Susan Sontag: Styles of Radical Will (collection of essays, 1968)

Imprint: Penguin Classics
Published: 02/07/2009
ISBN: 9780141190051
Length: 288 pages
Dimensions: 196mm x 24mm x 128mm
Weight: 220g
Price: £14.00


"The Aesthetics of Silence" (1967)
"The Pornography of Imagination" (1967)
""Thinking Against Oneself": Reflections on Cioran" (1967)


"Theatre and Film" (1966)
"Bergman's Persona" (1967)
"Godard" (1968)


"What's Happening in America" (1966)
"Trip to Hanoi" (1968)

In March I happened on a wonderful book called Conversations with Susan Sontag which covers her whole life and all her activities, most importantly her inspiring presence as a great conversationalist and debater. The interview was elevated into an art form. Which leads us to the origins of Western philosophy in Socratic dialogues. I now begin to understand that Susan Sontag was first and foremost a philosopher with a ten year formation in Boston, Harvard, Oxford and Sorbonne.

I had read Susan Sontag here and there since 1968 when "The Imagination of Disaster" was translated into Finnish. I knew the notes on camp, On Photography, Illness as Metaphor and so on, but in a superficial way. Sontag never regretted her notes on camp, but in later years she regretted not having defended the great tradition of high culture more. Camp is still on the rise, high culture is an endangered species since a long time.

This year I have (re)read Against Interpretation, On Photography, its sequel Regarding the Pain of Others and now Styles of Radical Will. Sontag's essays on Bresson, Godard and Bergman still belong to the best on them. "Against Interpretation" and "The Aesthetics of Silence" are key contributions to aesthetics after WWII. 

I don't always agree with Sontag, but there is never an uninspiring sentence in her books.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

The Straight Story (2023 restoration supervised by David Lynch, presented by Mary Sweeney at the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna)

David Lynch: The Straight Story (US//FR/GB 1999) with Richard Farnsworth (Alvin Straight).

David Lynch: The Straight Story (US//FR/GB 1999). In the morning, Alvin Straight discovers the bundle tied by the hitch-hiker Dorothy.

Una storia vera.
    US/FR/GB 1999. D: David Lynch. Scen.: John Roach, Mary Sweeney. F.: Freddie Francis. M.: Mary Sweeney. Scgf.: Jack Fisk. Mus.: Angelo Badalamenti. Int.: Richard Farnsworth (Alvin Straight), Sissy Spacek (Rose Straight), Harry Dean Stanton (Lyle Straight), Jane Galloway Heitz (Dorothy), Dan Flannery (dottor Gibbons), Everett McGill (Tom), Kevin Farley (Harald), John Farley (Thorvald). Prod.: Mary Sweeney, Neal Edelstein per Asymmetrical Productions, Canal+, FilmFour Productions, Ciby 2000, Le Studio Canal+. DCP. 112 min
    Restored in 4K in 2023 by courtesy of StudioCanal at Fotokem and L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratories, from the original negative. Soundtrack remastered by Ronald Eng and David Lynch. Restoration supervised by David Lynch.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2023: Recovered and Restored.
    Introduced by Mary Sweeney (screenwriter, producer and editor).
    Piazza Maggiore, open air screening, 2 July 2023.

Roy Menarini (Bologna 2023 catalog): " The Straight Story is a bedrock film in which Lynch inverts all his places, objects and characters by exposing all of them without exception towards the sun. Clearly, it is a film of contrast, capable of demonstrating that the “matter” of Lynch’s cinema, when solarized, can take on a classic and moving tone… "

" An elderly man wants to reach his brother to make peace with him but has only one way of getting there: taking a small tractor across half of America. The Straight Story recaptures, although in  a deconstructed version, the spirit of the classic road movie. Somehow, Lynch intends to suggest that The Straight Story is Wild at Heart turned upside down: Big Tuna is replaced with a hospitable and very human rural community, the most ferocious accidents are replaced with tragic conflicts of a benign nature, and man-on-man violence is healed through a journey and forgiveness. Now, there are two ways of interpreting The Straight Story: there are those who think that Lynch has not changed much and look for the film’s disturbing elements to prove that we are still dealing with a world that is more like a nightmare than a dream; and those who think Lynch is (too) conciliatory… Both seemingly feuding factions are wrong. The Straight Story is pure Lynch, but upside down. The film seems to be an easy win: use all of Lynch’s materials, expose them “to the sun”, shape them positively and tell the story of America… The Straight Story is a story of decency, dignity and honour in all its forms through a journey in stages (and a false start) that presents itself as “straight” like the direct and stubborn protagonist. The deviations do not impede the journey – unlike its antithesis Wild at Heart – on the contrary, they reinforce it. In fact, Alvin not only chose to make the journey, but he chose to do it slowly. Respectful of his age, the protagonist travels at eight kilometres an hour and takes the time he needs to walk across the slab of America that separates him from his sick brother. The road becomes the space of earning forgiveness. " Roy Menarini

AA: I avoid Piazza Maggiore night screenings, because open air circumstances distract my focus especially in subtle and intimate movies or passages. And because I am a morning person, an early bird, with a farmer's genes. I am the one who might wake up the rooster. But today I fortified myself by taking an afternoon nap.

The Straight Story was also programmed in the Midnight Sun Film Festival two weeks ago, with Mary Sweeney as a guest of honour (her morning discussion was one of the best ever). In Sodankylä, I only view new films, but Otto Kylmälä recommended The Straight Story and claimed that it is David Lynch's best. It was the only theatrical film by Lynch that I had never seen. 

Otto was right.

The Straight Story is completely different from the other films by David Lynch. Yet it is also the film with the strongest and purest essence of his work. Gone is the fantasy, the dreamwork and the surreal nightmare ambience.

But the sense of the mystery of life is even greater. The Straight Story is Lynch's simplest and most cosmic work. It is based on a true story and takes place in circumstances that are familiar to David Lynch and his screenwriter-producer-editor Mary Sweeney.

Until today, my favourite David Lynch work (the one I selected to my MMM Film Guide, of the 1000 best, and in the second edition, 1100 best films) was the Twin Peaks Special Pilot (1989), the 113 minute extra long, alternative version that was released in Europe on home video. There is an emotional connection in The Straight Story, and in Angelo Badalamenti's opening theme I imagine a reference to the sound of Twin Peaks.

The Straight Story is a road movie and a pilgrimage. It is a restrained celebration of the best in America, the unsung virtues beyond surface markers of success.

Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) disarms everyone with his Quixotic project: to visit his brother by a lawn tractor which means that it will take months to reach him. They smile, they are amazed, but they admire him. Everywhere he makes friends.

Alvin, a war veteran, meets a fellow veteran, and shares a traumatic war memory of "friendly fire": in the darkness, Alvin shot the scout of his own unit. He never told anyone.

Alvin meets a hitch-hiker, a young pregnant woman who has left home and family. At the campfire Alvin takes a stick and breaks it into half. A single stick is vulnerable, but a bundle is strong. In the morning, when Alvin wakes up, the hitch-hiker is gone, but there is a bundle tied together by a ribbon.

During the journey, we learn of the tragedy of Alvin's daughter (Sissy Spacek).

Finally, Alvin comes to the destination, his brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton), who has become his enemy. Lyle takes a look at Alvin's pathetic vehicle. Did you ride it just to see me? "I did, Lyle".

It is night. The brothers look at the stars. Today, Piazza Maggiore is the perfect place to experience this, because it is midnight, and the stars are shining over Bologna in the last screening of the festival.

Rysopis / Identification Marks: None (Restored by Studio Filmowe KADR and Wytwórnia Filmów Dokumenalnych i Fabularnych)

Jerzy Skolimowski: Rysopis / Identification Marks: None (PL 1964) with Jerzy Skolimowski  (Andrzej Leszczyc).

Segni particolari nessuno / Irrallinen / 13 timmar.
    PL 1964. Director: Jerzy Skolimowski. Sog., Scen., Scgf.: Jerzy Skolimowski. F.: Witold Mickiewicz. M.: Halina Grondek, Jerzy Skolimowski. Mus.: Krzysztof Sadowski. Int.: Jerzy Skolimowski (Andrzej Leszczyc), Elżbieta Czyżewska (Teresa/Barbara/ la moglie di Leszczy), Tadeusz Minc (Mundzek Kruszyfiskì), Andrzej Żarnecki (Raymond), Jacek Szczęk (Mundek), Juliusz Lubicz-Lisowski, Marek Piwowski. Prod.: PWSTiF. DCP. Bn. 71 min
    Language: Polish.
    Restored by Studio Filmowe KADR and Wytwórnia Filmów Dokumenalnych i Fabularnych at DI Factory laboratory, from the 35 mm duplicate negative. Funding provided by Ministerstwo Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego and Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej .
    DCP from WFDiF (Wytwórnia Filmów Dokumenalnych i Fabularnych) with English subtitles.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2023: Recovered and Restored. E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Viewed at Arlecchino Cinema, 2 July 2023.

Michel Ciment (quoted in the Bologna 2023 catalogue: " Rysopis is an imperfect autobiography since Andrzej Leszczyc’s existence resembles that of the director only at certain moments. It is more like a portrait of someone who resembles him like a brother (“What does resemble mean?” J.S.). The line between truth and fiction, between “I” and “he” is blurry, and Skolimowski’s great originality is abolishing the distinction between subjective and objective. We do not stop “following” Andrzej, but we see and hear the world like him while becoming judges and involved parties at the same time. No film had ever pushed identification with a main character to this point, and without using flashbacks or the artificial solutions of off-screen commentary, or the subjective camera employed by Daves or Montgomery. Concerned about the involvement of personal experience, Skolimowski concentrated his films’ timelines; they never take place over more than a day or two… But during those crucial hours when the hero unwittingly takes stock of his life, the camera is always on him. 39 shots in Rysopis…, this is how, at the price of technical prowess, the filmmaker hopes to depict his character’s journey as succinctly as possible… "

" These peregrinations are linked to a psychology of behaviour. Andrzej is unstable, perpetually seeking his own balance and even his ego.  And it’s not just at the gym where he practises shadow-boxing, in other words, fighting against his shadow. Leszczyc is extremely focused on himself. A coffee counter and a cracked mirror suggest narcissistic reveries to him. Egocentrism is the key to his personality, space interests him only as an extension of his own body, and masochism (Skolimowski, clearly a playboy and proud of his physique, receives a severe beating in every film) is yet again a way to feel one’s existence. " Michel Ciment, La Tête et les jambes, “Positif ”, n. 77-78, July 1966

AA: Revisited a Polish New Wave landmark film, Jerzy Skolimowski making a clean break with the post-WWII cinema focusing on the tragedy of the war and the subsequent social upheaval. But that had also already happened with Roman Polanski.

Paradoxically but symbolically, it is the draft to the military that brings the protagonist to leave his woman, discontinue his university studies and bring his dog to the veterinarian to be terminated. Catching the train in the nick of time he waves goodbye to his new girlfriend candidate.

Skolimowski's debut feature film, the first entry to his Andrzej Leszczyc trilogy (Rysopis, Walkower, Ręce do góry).

Experimental, a tale of unrest, a work of self-reflection, covered in long tracking shots (there are only 39 takes, or 29, depending on the source, in the whole movie), yet also including extreme close-ups, mirror images and X-ray images from the conscription medical tests ("identification marks: none"). Compiled from student shorts, without a script, yielding to an incoherent whole, with documentary value about the city Lodz, and about an identity in the process of its making.

I had seen the movie before and did not remember much, just a vague puzzling feeling.

I was also puzzled by the visual quality of the restoration. The image is largely in low definition, like a blow-up from narrow gauge, even 8 mm, but the source is reportedly 35 mm. To be confirmed.


Rysopis (film)

Rok produkcji

Data premiery
18 listopada 1965

Kraj produkcji


Czas trwania
71 min

Jerzy Skolimowski

Jerzy Skolimowski

Główne role
Jerzy Skolimowski
Elżbieta Czyżewska
Andrzej Żarnecki

Krzysztof Sadowski

Witold Mickiewicz

Jerzy Skolimowski

Halina Grondek

PWSTiF w Łodzi

Rysopis – polski film obyczajowy z 1964 roku w reżyserii Jerzego Skolimowskiego, debiut fabularny reżysera, a zarazem pierwsze ogniwo trylogii o Andrzeju Leszczycu, stanowionej również przez Walkower (1965) oraz Ręce do góry (1967). Zdjęcia kręcono w Łodzi.

Opis fabuły

Andrzej Leszczyc budzi się wczesnym rynkiem w swoim mieszkaniu, zostawia śpiącą dziewczynę Teresę i udaje się na komisję poborową. Ku zdumieniu komisji prosi o natychmiastowe powołanie do służby zasadniczej. Jako powód swojej decyzji wskazuje porzucenie studiów ichtiologicznych i potrzebę rozpoczęcia dorosłego życia w wojsku. Mając kilka godzin do odjazdu pociągu, z kartą poborowego Leszczyc powraca do opuszczonej dziewczyny. Robi zakupy, wychodzi z psem do weterynarza i zostawia tam zwierzę, aby zostało uśpione. Od spotkanego kolegi Mundka pożycza pieniądze. W tramwaju nawiązuje bliższą znajomość z Barbarą. Pobiwszy się z kolegami, po raz ostatni odwiedza swe mieszkanie, zabiera walizki i wskakuje do ruszającego pociągu, który wywozi go do jednostki wojskowej. Przez okno dostrzega machającą ku niemu Barbarę.


Elżbieta Czyżewska – Teresa/Barbara/żona Leszczyca
Jerzy Skolimowski – Andrzej Leszczyc
Tadeusz Minc
Jacek Szczęk – Mundek
Andrzej Żarnecki
Juliusz Lubicz-Lisowski – pan w budce telefonicznej
Marek Piwowski – mężczyzna w komisji poborowej


Już na pierwszym roku studiów w łódzkiej szkole filmowej Skolimowski zjawił się w dziale produkcji z prośbą, aby umożliwiono mu realizację etiud. Ze studenckich etiud realizowanych podczas studiów Skolimowski stworzył Rysopis, a swojemu filmowi nadał charakter autobiograficzny. Sam też wcielił się w głównego bohatera – Andrzeja Leszczyca – który stał się jego alter ego. Etiudy Skolimowskiego powstawały bez scenariusza, a reżyser improwizował kwestie dialogowe już na planie filmowym; dopiero na etapie montażu poszczególnych etiud powstał film pełnometrażowy, który jednak sam w sobie miał chaotyczną strukturę. Jednakże owa struktura, oparta na wewnętrznej niespójności, stała się cechą charakterystyczną późniejszych filmów reżysera.

Odbiór i nagrody

Zygmunt Kałużyński przyjął dzieło Skolimowskiego entuzjastycznie, uznając kreację twórcy Rysopisu za ucieleśnienie „warszawskiego Jamesa Deana [...], osobliwe połączenie dziecięctwa, brutalności i przedwczesnej zgrzybiałości z dodatkowym akcentem pozerstwa, która to mieszanina uchodzi za sam ekstrakt młodego człowieka współczesnego”. Janusz Gazda w swoim eseju na temat tzw. trzeciego kina polskiego pisał, iż w Rysopisie Skolimowskiego „autentyczna sceneria obdrapanych ścian, ponurych klatek schodowych, niekończących się schodów, bezładnie za­graconego poddasza, zwałów de­sek w przedziwnym, choć prze­cież konkretnym tartaku – tworzą konsekwentny świat chao­su, który jest jakby częścią osobowości bohatera i pod­kreśla jego obcość”. Alicja Helman uznała wręcz Rysopis za pierwszą zapowiedź trzeciego kina. Mariusz Dzięglewski, opisując po latach Rysopis w kontekście wczesnej twórczości Skolimowskiego, dostrzegł w dziele reżysera próbę polemiki z „heroizmem wojennego pokolenia” znanego z polskiej szkoły filmowej; jak pisze Dzięglewski, „reżyser rozprawia się też z kompleksem swojego pokolenia, które nie miało okazji do bohaterstwa”.

Film Skolimowskiego został uhonorowany nagrodą za reżyserię i zdjęcia Państwowej Wyższej Szkoły Filmowej w Łodzi, a także Syrenką Warszawską dla najlepszego filmu fabularnego oraz Grand Prix Festiwalu Filmowego w Arnhem.

Macario (2023 restoration by The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project)

Roberto Gavaldón: Macario (MX 1960) with Ignacio López Tarso (Macario) and Enrique Lucero (la Morte). Filming location: Grutas de Cacahuamilpa.

Morte in vacanza.
    MX 1960. Director: Roberto Gavaldón. Sog.: dal racconto omonimo (1950) di B. Traven. Scen.:Emilio Carballido, Roberto Gavaldón. F.: Gabriel Figueroa. M.: Gloria Schoemann. Scgf.: Manuel Fontanals. Mus.: Raúl Lavista. Int.: Ignacio López Tarso (Macario), Pina Pellicer (moglie di Macario), Enrique Lucero (la Morte), José Gálvez (il Diavolo), José Luis Jiménez (Dios), Mario Alberto Rodríguez (Don Ramiro), Consuelo Frank (Virreina). Prod.: Armando Orive Alba per Clasa Films Mundiales. DCP. D.: 91’. Bn.
    Language: Spanish.
    Unreleased in Finland.
    Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Fundación Televisa at L’Immagine Ritrovata in collaboration with Filmoteca UNAM and in association with Televisa S. de R.L. de C.V. Funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Special thanks to Guillermo del Toro.
    DCP from The Film Foundation.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2023: Recovered and Restored. E-subtitles in English and Italian by Robert Broch, Sub-Ti Londra.
    Viewed at Arlecchino Cinema, 2 July 2023.

Macario was first published in German by Büchergilde Gutenberg, Zürich, 1950. The original title was "The Healer", and the original manuscript is in English. Also known as "The Third Guest". Untranslated into Finnish. 

Imogen Sara Smith (quoted in the Bologna 2023 catalog). " In the mid-1950s, Gavaldón began to collaborate with different writers and new stars, moving away from urban noir and embracing a style of magical realism, as well as even more blistering social protest. He made a series of adaptations of stories by B. Traven, the mysterious writer best known for penning the source material for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre… Macario, adapted from a short story by Traven, became the first Mexican film to be nominated for an Academy Award, as well as Mexico’s entry in the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. By this point in his career, Gavaldón had begun a collaboration with the great cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa – whom Diego Rivera ranked alongside Mexico’s greatest muralists – and together they created a dark, unsentimental vision of peasant life that nonetheless leaves room for the poetic and the fantastic. "

" Death and its rituals are a constant refrain in Gavaldón’s films, from the funerals in The Other One and Rosauro Castro to onscreen murders and suicides, and it is often juxtaposed with carnivalesque revelry. Macario finally goes to the source of this motif, depicting Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration, which fills streets with raucous dancing skeletons and ornamented sugar skulls. "

" The film is a haunting, folkloric fairy tale peppered with sharp observations about inequality. “They’re so pretentious, even with their dead,” a poor wife says of a rich family, which lays on a lavish spread of food as offerings for their ancestors while her large family goes hungry. Her husband, Macario, is a woodcutter so tired of sacrificing his meager portions of beans and tortillas to his ravenous brood that he goes on a hunger strike, announcing that he will never eat again until he can devour a roast turkey all by himself. His wife, a laundress, steals a fowl from her customers to fulfil this wish, but when Macario sits down to enjoy his solitary feast in the forest, he is approached by three figures – the Devil, God, and Death – who each beg for a piece of it… "

" The simplicity of the film’s effects adds to its emotional power, and it culminates in one of the greatest achievements of Gavaldón and Figueroa: a scene set in a vast cave carpeted with hundreds of dripping wax candles. It looks like a city at night seen from an airplane, or a galaxy of fallen stars flickering and guttering. " Imogen Sara Smith, Heat of the Night, “Film Comment”, vol. 55, n. 3, May-June 2019

AA: A masterpiece of the cinefantastique, a death dream, an original and powerful interpretation of a timeless and atavistic subject.

Watching the new restoration of Antonio Margheriti's Danza macabra in the Toute la mémoire du monde festival in March, I was inspired to digress about the international fascination in the topic of the All Souls' Day / Halloween / Toussaint, reverberating in culture from Camille Saint-Saëns to Toby Dammit.

Roberto Gavaldón takes us right to one of the wellsprings, the Mexican Día de Muertos, which I remember from Sergei Eisenstein's ¡Que viva México! and John Huston's Under the Volcano. The performers in the Day of the Dead festival include Pepe y sus Marionetas.

The master cinematographer is Gabriel Figueroa whose first movie ¡Que viva México! was (in collaboration with Eduard Tissé) and whose penultimate film was Under the Volcano. Figueroa was also a confidante of the family of B. Traven, and late in life he revealed for instance that Traven's mother was the Irish actress Helen Mareck, which helps explain the author's fluency in English. After The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, many B. Traven film adaptations were produced in Mexico, and the cinematographer in most was Figueroa.

The story takes place in the Virreinato de la Nueva España (1535-1821), the capital of which was Mexico City. The Mexican Inquisition, gruesomely in operation in the story, continued until the Mexican independence in 1821. B. Traven was inspired by national legends of the period.

The affinity with Grimms Märchen has also been noticed: the fairy-tale "Der Gevatter Tod" ("Godfather Death"), which belongs to the legacy of Aarne-Thompson 332, with roots and antecedents reaching to Icelandic sagas and probably sources in the Antiquity.

The climax of the movie takes place in the fabulous cave of the candles, where each candle represents a life.

I was reminded of Fritz Lang's Der müde Tod (Destiny, 1921) and its unforgettable hall of candles. Lang was inspired by H. C. Andersen's fairy-tale The Story of a Mother. Might B. Traven have been inspired by Der müde Tod? He was active in Germany, for instance as the publisher of Der Ziegelbrenner in 1917-1921. His presence in Mexico is verified since 1924. We know Der müde Tod as the film that changed the lives of Luis Buñuel, Jean Cocteau and Georges Franju, inspiring them to become film-makers. Perhaps it inspired also B. Traven in writing Macario and introducing a personified Death as a main character?

Gavaldón creates a story of magical realism where the realism is unvarnished and heartfelt. Macario is a tough account of social injustice. It is also a story of supreme love and sacrifice.

A beautiful restoration of a masterpiece of world art.

PS. I had forgotten that I had seen Macario before in our 1998 tribute to Mexican cinema. Even then I loved the film which, however, was screened in a print of bad definition. That has now been changed in this outstanding restoration.



Macario es una película mexicana de 1960 de los géneros drama, fantasía y misterio, dirigida por Roberto Gavaldón y producida por Clasa Films Mundiales. Está basada en la novela del mismo nombre de B. Traven, que se basa libremente en una antigua leyenda fronteriza, ambientada en el Virreinato de la Nueva España (hoy en día México).

Fue la primera película mexicana en ser nominada a un Premio de la Academia por Mejor Película en Lengua Extranjera.​ Además, también fue inscrita en el Festival Internacional de Cine de Cannes de 1960.


Un humilde campesino y leñador llamado Macario vive obsesionado con la pobreza que sufre y el miedo a la muerte. Debido a la precaria situación al borde del hambre que él y su familia viven, comienza a añorar poder disfrutar de un banquete sin tener que compartirlo con nadie.

En su obstinación, decide dejar de comer hasta encontrar un guajolote (pavo) que pueda comer solo. Su esposa, preocupada, le roba un guajolote, y Macario sale a la soledad del bosque para comérselo a escondidas de sus hijos. En el bosque, conoce consecutivamente a tres enigmáticas personalidades. El primero es el Diablo en forma de rico terrateniente, quien primero le ofrece sus botas con espuelas de plata, pero Macario le dice que no tiene caballo, y luego le ofrece las monedas de oro de sus pantalones, pero Macario lo rechaza diciendo que le cortarían las manos por ladrón; finalmente, le ofrece el bosque, pero Macario le dice que el bosque no le pertenece a él, sino a Dios y que, además, teniendo el bosque, no dejaría de ser pobre, porque tendría que seguir cortando leña. Tampoco lo comparte con el segundo personaje que aparece, Dios, en forma de anciano humilde; Macario sostiene que Él puede poseer lo que quiera, ya que todo lo posee y lo que quiere es un gesto, y, mientras Macario con vergüenza reconoce que no tiene ganas de compartir su guajolote ni siquiera con Dios, desaparece, antes de que Macario se arrepienta de su decisión.

Finalmente, se presenta la Muerte, en forma de campesino indígena, a imitación de Macario, que le dice que hace miles de años que él no comió, y Macario accede a invitarle (no con miedo, sino por entendimiento), ya que Macario se da cuenta de que, ante su ineludible designio, nadie escapa, y también confiesa que lo invitó porque, mientras comía, retrasaría la muerte del propio Macario. Como muestra de agradecimiento, la Muerte le concede su amistad y le da a Macario agua milagrosa que curará cualquier enfermedad, con la condición de que Macario tenga que ver a la Muerte a los pies de los enfermos. Pero, si lo ve a la cabeza de la cama del paciente, nada ni nadie podrá salvarlo, porque ese ser ya era de la Muerte.

Macario regresa a casa y encuentra a su hijo frío por caer al pozo. Macario prueba el agua con su hijo y, a partir de allí, se le conoce como un sanador milagroso, incluso dejando al médico y al enterrado del lugar sin clientes. Aunque en un principio no quiso cobrar, la gente empezó a ofrecerle comida y dinero, que luego compartió con los demás pobres, y su fama comenzó a extenderse por toda la región, hasta llegar a oídos de la Inquisición. Las autoridades eclesiásticas ordenan su captura, para juzgarlo por brujería.

Para saber si Macario realmente tiene poderes mágicos, lo ponen a prueba, donde entre varios presos tendrá que decir quién vive y quién no. Entre estos condenados, ponen al verdugo del reino, un hombre fuerte y musculoso, y un condenado a muerte, esperando que Macario se equivoque. Para sorpresa de todos, Macario le dice que el único que morirá es el verdugo. Cuando la gente empieza a burlarse de él, llega un mensajero con una carta donde perdona la vida del condenado, y cuando se acercan al verdugo para pedirle que se levante, es hallado muerto, ya que tenía temor a los magos y la conmoción de ver a Macario le provocó un paro cardíaco. Los religiosos entonces lo condenan por adivinación al tormento y a la hoguera.

Ante esto, la esposa del virrey suplica a Macario, preso en espera de ejecución, que vea a su hijo enfermo. Cuando lo llevan con el niño, el pide estar a solas con ella y se entera de que la Muerte ha decidido llevárselo; por mucho que Macario suplica que no lo haga (porque de esto depende su propia vida), la Muerte le dice que no hay alternativa. Temiendo, Macario huye, sabiendo que será condenado a muerte por no salvar al niño. Mientras todos lo persiguen, en el bosque se encuentra nuevamente con el Diablo y con Dios. Ambos le recuerdan que debería haber compartido el guajolote con ellos: el Diablo le recrimina que, si lo hubiera elegido, no le hubiera pasado nada, y lo invita a nuevamente a ir con él, pero Macario lo rechaza; Dios, en cambio, advierte a Macario que su propia muerte está cerca y que debe reflexionar sobre sus acciones. Cuando llega a la caverna de la Muerte, encuentra una gran cantidad de velas, cada una de las cuales representa la vida de una persona y, si es pequeña, significa que está a punto de apagarse y que la persona morirá. La Muerte afirma que Macario negoció con algo muy sagrado, que es la vida. Macario encuentra que su propia vela está a punto de apagarse e intenta huir con ella, pero ya es demasiado tarde; la Muerte le advierte que hay reglas que ni él mismo puede ignorar y que en realidad él no tiene poder para retrasar el momento en el que cada uno va a perecer, y le hace ver que es mejor prepararse para aceptar su destino en lugar de escapar, porque es inútil: nadie puede escapar de la Muerte.

Finalmente, la escena vuelve al lugar en que Macario compartió el guajolote con la Muerte. No volvió a casa desde entonces, y su esposa y algunos aldeanos buscan a Macario en el bosque solo para encontrarlo pacíficamente muerto, junto a un pavo dividido en mitades: uno comido, el otro intacto. Queda ambiguo si todo fue un sueño de Macario antes de morir o un breve preámbulo de la Muerte para jugar con él.

Ignacio López Tarso - Macario
Pina Pellicer - Esposa de Macario
Enrique Lucero - La Muerte
Mario Alberto Rodríguez - Don Ramiro
Enrique García Álvarez - Inquisidor
Eduardo Fajardo - Virrey
José Gálvez - El Diablo
Consuelo Frank - Virreina
José Luis Jiménez - Dios
Wally Barrón - Panadero
Sonia Infante - Esposa de Don Ramiro
Manuel Dondé - Enviado de la Inquisición
Miguel Arenas - Inquisidor
Luis Aceves Castañeda - Verdugo
José Dupeyrón - Fabricante de velas
Elizabeth Dupeyrón - Hija de Macario
Alicia del Lago - La viuda (no acreditada)


Este filme ocupa el lugar 59 dentro de la lista de las 100 mejores películas del cine mexicano, según la opinión de 25 críticos y especialistas del cine en México, publicada por la revista Somos en julio de 1994. Fue la primera película mexicana nominada al Oscar como Mejor Película en Lengua Extranjera.