Saturday, April 27, 2024

Hkheil hnalm / The Vanishing Soldier

Dani Rosenberg: / החייל הנעלם / Hkheil hnalm / The Vanishing Soldier (IL 2023) with Ido Tako (Shlomi Aharinov).

החייל הנעלם / Le Déserteur
    IL 2023. PC: Israel Film Fund / United Channel Movies. Production  Avraham Pirchi, Chilik Michaeli, Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, Itamar Pirchi
Réalisation  Dani Rosenberg
Scénario  Dani Rosenberg, Amir Kliger
Image  David Stragmeister
Décors  Ben-Zion Porat
Costumes  Ofri Barel
Musique originale  Yuval Semo
Son  Neal Gibbs
Mixage  Michael Stoliar
Montage  Nili Feller
Shlomi Aharinov / Ido Tako
Shiri / Mika Reiss
Rachel Aharinov, Mère de Shlomi / Efrat Ben Zur  
Grand-mère de Shlomi / Tiki Dayan
Père de Shlomi / Shmulik Cohen
    Fiction / 1h38 / VO : Hébreu / Couleur / 2.35 / 5.1 / RCA 161.321
    Festival premiere: 5 Aug 2023 Locarno
    Sortie en France : 24 avril 2024 - Dulac Distribution, sous-titres francais : Malkiel Itzhaky
    Viewed at Arlequin, Salle 1, 76 rue de Rennes, Paris 75006, samedi le 27 avril 2024

IMDb : " Eighteen-year-old Israeli soldier flees back to his girlfriend in Tel Aviv only to discover that the military elite is convinced he was kidnapped in the fog of war. "

Dulac Distribution : " Shlomi, un soldat israélien de dix-huit ans, fuit le champ de bataille pour rejoindre sa petite ami:e à Tel-Aviv. Errant dans une ville à la fois paranoïaque et insouciante, il finit par découvrir que l’armée, à sa recherche, est convaincue qu’il a été kidnappé… Un voyage haletant, une ode à une jeunesse qui se bat contre des idéaux qui ne sont pas les siens. "

AA: Twenty-four hours in the life of a deserter from the war front in Gaza, shot and premiered before 7 October 2023.

A chase story, and even more than from Tsahal, Shlomi is on the run from himself. From the destruction on the front he wants to return home, but there is no home. The food at his home is rotten. His father is in a hospital after a stroke. His mother breaks down in tears when she learns about Shlomi's desertion. Shiri is his girlfriend more in imagination than reality. The most sympathetic is the grandmother who has dementia. Shlomi's desperate attempt to fall in love has dramatic consequences.

Life during wartime, on the eve of destruction. Gaza is in ruins, and Tel Aviv is one big party - with its jubilant street scene and happy beach with French tourists like from Les Vacances de M. Hulot. People are living in a militarist and nationalist dream like there is no tomorrow.

Shlomo runs, speeds on a bicycle, drives in borrowed or stolen cars, in an increasingly self-destructive way, until he considers suicide. The film evokes amok, but Shlomo is not a mad killer, on the contrary. There are some affinities with Nadav Lapid's Synonymes (IL 2019).

There is a Nouvelle Vague ambience (À bout de souffle), but The Vanishing Soldier is more profoundly disturbing. There is a disconnect between wartime reality and Tel Aviv illusion. Something has been broken, to the point of honest communication turning impossible.

Shot on location in Tel Aviv and Qulansawe (an Israeli Arabic village near the West Bank) and against digital backgrounds (the destroyed Palestinian village).

The tense free jazz score was composed by Yuval Semo, and the drumming was performed live while the film was running. The grandmother's theme is a song by the wonderful Argentinian Mercedes Sosa.

Davud Stragmeister has conducted the cinematography in scope, largely in long tracking shots of Shlomo on the run. There are also sensitive close-ups and extreme close-ups. 


Aku wa sonzai shinai / Evil Does Not Exist

Ryosuke Hamaguchi: 悪は存在しない / Aku wa sonzai shinai / Evil Does Not Exist (JP 2024).

悪は存在しない / Le Mal n'existe pas.
    JP 2024. Production: NEOPA (Satoshi Takata) / FICTIVE
    Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Screenplay: Ryūsuke Hamaguchi
Cinematographer: Yoshio Kitagawa - 2K DCP - 1,66:1
Production Designer: Masato Nunobe
Visual Effects: Tetsuya Shiraishi
Music: Eiko Ishibashi
Sound: Izumi Matsuno - Dolby 5.1
Editor: Ryūsuke Hamaguchi, Azusa Yamazaki
Assistant director: Kaoru Enda
Directeur de la production: Tomohisa Ishii
    Main Cast: Hitoshi Omika (Takumi), Ryo Nishikawa (Hana), Ryuji Kosaka (Takahashi), Ayaka Shibutani (Mayuzumi), Hazuki Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Miura
    Loc: the film was mainly shot in the Suwa area of Nagano Prefecture, including around Yatsugatake Mountains.
    Language: Japanese
    Running Time: 106’
Festival premiere: 4 Sep 2023 Venice - ventes Internationales M-Appeal - le grand prix du jury (Silver -Lion)
French and Belgian premiere: 10 April 2024 - Diaphana Distribution - sous-titres francais: Léa Le Dimma
Japanese premiere: 26 April 2024
    Viewed at UGC Odéon, 124 bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, samedi le 27 avril 2024

" Takumi and his daughter Hana live in Mizubiki Village, close to Tokyo. Like generations before them, they live a modest life according to the cycles and order of nature. One day, the village inhabitants become aware of a plan to build a glamping site near Takumi’s house offering city residents a comfortable “escape” to nature. When two company representatives from Tokyo arrive in the village to hold a meeting, it becomes clear that the project will have a negative impact on the local water supply, causing unrest. The agency’s mismatched intentions endanger both the ecological balance of the plateau and their way of life, with an aftermath that affects Takumi’s life deeply. "

" In this film, I had a wonderful opportunity to work with Drive My Car’s composer Eiko Ishibashi again. The film project began when she asked me to create some footage for her live performance Gift, and I conceived of the film as an “original source material” for the footage. As I became more and more connected to this film we were creating, Eiko and her friends helped me a lot in the shooting, too. This very free way of filmmaking vitalised me a lot. After the shoot, I felt that I had captured interactions of people in nature and completed the work as a single film with Eiko Ishibashi’s beautiful theme music. I hope the audience will feel the life force of the figures that are stirring in nature and music. "

" Takumi et sa fille Hana vivent dans le village de Mizubiki, près de Tokyo. Comme leurs aînés avant eux, ils mènent une vie modeste en harmonie avec leur environnement. Le projet de construction d’un « camping glamour » dans le parc naturel voisin, offrant aux citadins une échappatoire tout confort vers la nature, va mettre en danger l’équilibre écologique du site et affecter profondément la vie de Takumi et des villageois... "

AA: The genesis is a twin project. Drive My Car's composer Eiko Ishibashi mounted a live music performance to Ryusuke Hamaguchi's footage called the Gift, and Hamaguchi edited the feature film Evil Does Not Exist from the same material. The Gift performance has been described as a "mystical and meditative experience".

Evil Does Not Exist is a pantheist, animist mystery play about people living in harmony with nature in the village Mizubiki / Mizuhikicho near Tokyo on the Yatsugatake mountains. A real estate company is planning a project of glamping (glamour camping) there. The startup is aggressively rushing into things, but its two PR people fall in love with the inhabitants and are about switch sides. They also start to learn about the rare deer of the mountain but are still far from knowing how to negotiate nature.

The account of the clash of cultures is intelligent, devoid of clichés. The PR people are genuinely considerate, but they get into a crosscurrent between their arrogant neoliberalist bosses and the gentle village inhabitants. Hamaguchi's observations about the timeless routines of the village and the contemporary hectic of the remote meetings are accurate.

Much of the film evolves in the very air of the mountain forest, starting from extended low angle tracking shots of the trees in winter. Nature itself is a / the protagonist. At times the approach borders on the experimental and the psychedelic.

Evil Does Not Exist is Ryusuke Hamaguchi's follow-up to his masterpiece Drive My Car. There is much to admire, but I fail to connect with the Eiko Ishibaki score, the raison d'être of the movie.


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Histoire de ne pas rire. Le Surréalisme en Belgique (2024 exhibition at Bozar)

René Magritte : Le Bain de cristal, 1946, gouache, collection privée © Photothèque R. Magritte, Adagp Images, Paris, 2019.

Xavier CANONNE (sous la dir. de), Histoire de ne pas rire. Le surréalisme en Belgique, Fonds Mercator et Bozar Books, 2024, 288 p., 49 €, ISBN : 978-94-6230-371-3

" Histoire de ne pas rire. Le Surréalisme en Belgique "
Jusqu'au 16 juin 2024.

Le Palais des Beaux-Arts / Centre for Fine Arts
Ravensteinstreet 23
1000 Bruxelles
Visited on 20 April 2024

OFFICIAL : " Bozar commémore les 100 ans du surréalisme avec une exposition consacrée au célèbre mouvement d'avant-garde belge sur une période de pas moins de 60 ans. 1924 : comme à Paris, les activités surréalistes commencent dans notre pays avec des pamphlets audacieux du poète Paul Nougé, entre autres, véritable fil rouge de cette exposition. "

" Les surréalistes singuliers de Belgique vont au-delà de l'esthétique pure - ils veulent transformer le monde avec leur art subversif. Dans Histoire de ne pas rire, nous accordons une attention particulière à leurs contacts internationaux, au contexte politico-historique et aux femmes artistes importantes. Comprend des œuvres signées, entre autres, Paul Nougé, René Magritte, Jane Graverol, Marcel Mariën, Rachel Baes, Leo Dohmen, Paul Delvaux ainsi que Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dalí, Giorgio De Chirico et bien d'autres. "

The title of the exhibition means "Not a laughing matter". It refers to a familiar saying in Belgian conversation. It also refers to the title of a book of the collected writings by the Belgian surrealist Paul Nougé: Histoire de ne pas rire (Bruxelles: Les Lèvres nues, 1956).

AA: The centenary exhibition of Belgian surrealism at Bozar is arguably an even greater revelation than the exhibition of international surrealism at MRBAB (Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique). The surrealist movement started in Belgium simultaneously with France, but where the French movement was officially terminated in 1969, the Belgian movement continued at least until the 1980s and apparently never ended.

With 238 works on display, the Bozar exhibition is bigger than the one at MRBAB. Quantity turns to quality. This exhibition is about the versatility of surrealism. Among other things, it is a many-sided tribute to René Magritte, whose career we follow from 1920 until 1965 in the context of mentors and friends such as Paul Nougé and Marcel Mariën. Magritte's inspirer Giorgio di Chirico is also on display. This is a story of networks, friendships, publications and events that promoted the movement. During his transition to surrealism, Magritte moved from suspicious Brussels to supportive Paris, but in 1934, the first international manifestation of surrealism was arranged in Brussels - at Le Palais des Beaux-Arts, today's Bozar.

In the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, Christophe Slagmuylder and Zoë Gray condense seven characteristics of Belgian surrealism:

1. Le couple inséparable du mot et de l'image. / The inseparable pairing of word and image.
2. L'humour subversif narguant l'autosatisfaction et les collègues surréalistes. / The subversive sense of mockery towards complacency and fellow surrealists.
3. Les images oniriques tirées du quotidien ou d'une vision fascinée par un étrange réalité. / The oneiric images drawn from the everyday or from an enthralled vision of a strange reality.
4. La sobriété scientifique dans la lutte contre la raison. / Scientific sobriety in the combat against reason.
5. L'anonymat maîtrisé du groupe. / Anonymity cultivated by a group.
6. La croyance - temporaire - dans le communisme. / Temporary faith in communism.
7. Le paradoxe de petits bourgeois bien mis qui se transforment en révolutionnaires au service de la communisme. / The paradox of well placed petits bourgeois transforming into revolutionaries in the communist cause.

Even from a strictly Belgian viewpoint it is rewarding to view also the MRBAB international exhibition, because it casts its web deeper into the Belgian roots in symbolism in works by Jean Delville, Guillaume Vogels, Fernand Khnopff, Max Klinger and León Dardenne. 

The affinity of symbolism and surrealism reminds us of connections even further in the past - in Deutsche Romantik (Caspar David Friedrich) and Gothic fiction (Edgar Allan Poe). William Blake, Giuseppe Archimboldo and the Brueghel family are also meaningful in the context, to say nothing about indigenous art and sacred objects in many cultures.

The main difference between the old masters and the artists of the surrealist movement is that the latter were conscious about the unconscious. They practised automatic writing and the interpretation of dreams in awareness of psychoanalysis. "Wo Es war soll Ich werden". But that very awareness made surrealists seem dull and predictable in the eyes of Freud.

The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts in this exhibition. I liked particularly:
Marcel Mariën: La Traversée du rêve (1938-1945). Assemblage, 62,7 x 5,6 cm. Collection privée
René Magritte: Autoportrait (1923). Huile sur bois. 43,1 x 35,5 cm. Collection Sisters L
Pierre-Louis Flouquet: Composition (1920-1922). Huile sur toile. 156 x 117 x 5 cm. Anvers, Galerie Ronny Van de Velde
Marcel Stobbaerts: Portrait de Marthe Beauvoisin (Portrait de Madame Nougé) (1926). Huile sur toile, 93 x 60 cm. Bruxelles, MRBAB
Giorgio De Chirico: Les Plaisirs du poète (1912). Huile sur toile. 69 x 86 cm. Esther Grether Family Collection
René Magritte: La Traversée difficile (1926). Huile sur toile. 80 x 65 cm. Collection R. Vanthournout
Max Ernst: La Révolution la nuit (1923). Huile sur toile. 116,2 x 88,9 cm. Tate, acquis en 1981, inv. T03252
Man Ray: Boule de neige (1927-1928). Photographie. 20,2 x 15,5 cm. Gand, Amsab-Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, inv. fo028393
E. L. T. Mesens: La Lumière déconcertante (1926). Collage et photographie. 23 x 16,9 cm. Gand, Amsab-Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, inv. fo028003
René Magritte: Portrait de Paul-Gustave Van Hecke (1928). Huile sur toile. 65 x 60 cm. Courtesy Opera Gallery
Joan Miró: Tête de fumeur (1924). Huile sur toile. 51 x 66,5 cm. Musée communal d'Ixelles, inv. MJ 34
Paul Nougé: L'Ombre et son ombre (1932). Épreuve à la gelatine argentique, tirage moderne, 27,7 x 27,9 cm. Charleroi, Musée de la Photographie, inv. MPC 96/568
Paul Nougé: Subversion des images : Les Vendanges du sommeil ou Yeux clos, bouche scellée - Les Buveurs - Manteau suspendu dans le vide - Femme étendue sur une cheminée ou Les profondeurs du sommeil - La Naissance de l'object ou Les Spectateurs - Femme effrayée par une ficelle (1929-1930). Photographies, Anvers, Coll. Sylvio Perlstein --- [reproduction de négatifs par Marc Trivier] Le Grenier - Cils coupés - Femmes au miroir - La Vengeance - Table aimantée, tombeau du poète - Le Fard - Mur murmure - Femme dans l'escalier - ... les oiseaux vous poursuivent - Linges et cloche - Le Lecteur - La Jongleuse - Le Bras révélateur (1929-1930). Photographies, 20 x 30 cm. Bruxelles, AML. 00568/0087-0105
Paul Delvaux: L'Incendie (1935). Huile sur toile. 140,2 x 85,5 cm. Bruxelles, MRBAB, inv. 11541
Raoul Ubac: La Chambre (1938). Épreuve gélantino-argentique, 53,8 x 75 cm. Paris, Centre Pompidou - Musée national d'Art moderne - Centre de Création industrielle, inv. AM 1988-649
Marcel Lefrancq: the Parc de Mons series (1938-1939). Épreuves à la gélatine argentique, tirages modernes, 28,2 x 28.4 cm. Charleroi, Musée de la Photographie
Raoul Ubac: La Nébuleuse (1938). Épreuve à la gélatine argentique, tirage d'époque. 11,7 x 8,7 cm. Charleroi, Collection de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, en dépôt au Musée de la Photographie, inv. APC 22.048
René Magritte: La Liberté de l'esprit (1948). Huile sur toile, 100 x 80 cm. Charleroi, Collection du Musée des Beaux-Arts, inv. 340 01000156
Paul Delvaux: L'Aube sur la ville (1940). Huile sur toile, 172 x 202 cm. Belfius Art Collection, inv. 13222

Surrealism was a celebration of l'amour fou - mad love. It was the central tenet, fundamental and profound, in the art and life of the surrealists (René Magritte / Georgette Berger, Louis Aragon / Elsa Triolet, Man Ray / Kiki de Montparnasse, Lee Miller...). L'amour fou is the keyword to Un chien andalou and L'Âge d'Or. It is also the key to favourite movies of the surrealists such as Peter Ibbetson. It is also the reason why Vertigo is relevant here (the Edgar Allan Poe connection).

Female nudity and sexuality is a major subject (I was about to write "asset") in surrealist art. There was a male bias in the movement, as in the art world in general. I hesitate to write "male gaze", but it is justified here. Female artists such as Jane Graverol and Rachel Baes get represented in the Bozar surrealist exhibition from the 1940s onwards. 

The first surrealist film-maker was Germaine Dulac, but she was unhappy with Antonin Artaud's screenplay for La Coquille et le clergyman. Since Maya Deren there has been a growing prominence of female avantgarde in the cinema, including surrealist affinities.

Both catalogues are valuable keepsakes. They contain the illustrations in extenso. As usual today, the reproductions fail to convey the true colour brightness of the artworks.

On a personal note, my earliest memory of surrealism is a reproduction of La persistència de la memòria (ES 1931) by Salvador Dalí. That was in the 1960s, and at the time, surrealism, often mixed with psychedelia, was prominent in pop culture, including in poems, lyrics and songs by Bob Dylan, John Lennon and David Bowie. I have written two books on the music video, and my fascination started with works such as The Beatles: Strawberry Fields Forever (GB 1967, D: Peter Goldmann) and David Bowie: Ashes to Ashes (GB 1980, D: David Bowie & David Mallet). Lennon's standup piano with strings turned into a cobweb evoke the grand piano in Un chien andalou. The barren trees remind us of Dalí's Persistence of Memory. Bowie's Beachy Head appears as "a strand of eternity" like Dalí's Portlligat.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Imagine ! 100 Years of International Surrealism (2024 exhibition at Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique)

Salvador Dalí : Construction molle aux haricots bouilles (prémonition de la guerre civile) (1936). © Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia (Pennsylvania). The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.

Catalogue: IMAGINE! 100 ans de surréalisme international. Ludion. Expo: 21/2/2024 - 21/07/2024, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles et ensuite Hamburger Kunsthalle en de Fundación. Francisca Vandepitte, e.a. HB, 320 x 220 mm, 240 p. Publication date: Maart 24. ISBN: 9789464781120 (HB - FR). € 35,00. --- Cent ans après la publication du "Manifeste du Surréalisme" (1924) d'André Breton, les MRBAB célèbrent le centenaire de la naissance du surréalisme avec IMAGINE!, une exceptionnelle exposition itinérante internationale conçue en collaboration avec le Centre Pompidou (Paris). Une immersion dans la poésie surréaliste, à travers les thématiques du rêve, du labyrinthe, de la métamorphose, de l'inconnu et du subconscient, emmenée par les grands noms du surréalisme, de Max Ernst à Giorgio de Chirico, en passant par Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Joan Miró, Jane Graverol, Sorothea Tanning, Man Ray, Leonor Fini, etc. --- IMAGINE! se concentre sur les liens, les similitudes, mais aussi les lignes de fractures, entre le surréalisme et un de ses précurseurs, le symbolisme. En effet, à partir de 1880, Bruxelles est un exceptionnel carrefour des arts et avant-gardes, qui se manifeste notamment par le biais des expositions du Groupe Les XX et La Libre Esthétique. Le symbolisme, incarné notamment par Rops, Spilliaert, Khnopff, Delville ou Minne, s'y développe et anticipe largement l'émergence du mouvement surréaliste. --- Quelques décennies plus tard, Bruxelles devient le foyer du surréalisme belge. Malgré la rupture culturelle provoquée par la Première Guerre mondiale, les anciens symbolistes et la jeunesse émergente ne sont pas fondamentalement étrangers l'un à l'autre. --- Après Bruxelles et Paris, l'exposition continuera son parcours européen et international par la Hamburger Kunsthalle, puis à la Fundación Mapfre Madrid et s'achèvera au Philadelphia Museum of Art.

100 Years of International Surrealism
Exposition internationale
Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (MRBAB)
Regentschapsstraat 3 rue de la Régence
1000 Bruxelles
21.2. > 21.7.2024
Visited on 19 April 2024

- Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique : Francisca Vandepitte, Conservatrice de l'art moderne
- Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'Art Moderne : Didier Ottinger, Directeur adjoint chargé de la programmation culturelle du Musée national d'Art moderne - Centre de création industrielle (MNAM/CCI) & Marie Sarré, Attachée de Conservation au Service des collections modernes
- En collaboration avec le Centre Pompidou (Paris), la Hamburger Kunsthalle, la Fundación Mapfré Madrid et le Philadelphia Museum of Art.


" Les Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique inaugurent IMAGINE!, une exceptionnelle exposition itinérante internationale conçue en collaboration avec le Centre Pompidou (Paris).

Une immersion dans la poésie surréaliste, à travers les thématiques du rêve, du labyrinthe, de la métamorphose, de l’inconnu et du subconscient, emmenée par les grands noms du surréalisme, de Max Ernst à Giorgio de Chirico, en passant par Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró,  Jane Graverol, Dorothea Tanning, Man Ray, Leonor Fini, etc.

Prêt pour ce grand voyage poétique ?

Chaque musée partenaire accueille le noyau dur de l’exposition itinérante et le décline en mettant l'accent sur son propre patrimoine. À Bruxelles, la volonté des MRBAB est d’offrir une lecture élargie du surréalisme à travers une perspective symboliste, à travers plus de 130 œuvres d'art (peintures, œuvres sur papier mais aussi sculptures, objets, assemblages et photographies).

IMAGINE! se concentre sur les liens, les similitudes, mais aussi les lignes de fractures, entre le surréalisme et un de ses précurseurs, le symbolisme. En effet, à partir de 1880, Bruxelles est un exceptionnel carrefour des arts et avant-gardes, qui se manifeste notamment par le biais des expositions du Groupe Les XX et La Libre Esthétique. Le symbolisme, incarné notamment par Rops, Spilliaert, Khnopff, Delville ou Minne, s’y développe et anticipe largement l'émergence du mouvement surréaliste.

Quelques décennies plus tard, Bruxelles devient le foyer du surréalisme belge. Malgré la rupture culturelle provoquée par la Première Guerre mondiale, les anciens symbolistes et la jeunesse émergente ne sont pas fondamentalement étrangers l'un à l'autre.

De janvier à juillet 2024, la Belgique assurera la présidence du Conseil de l'Union européenne. En raison du centenaire de la publication du “Manifeste du Surréalisme” (1924), de l'importance de ce mouvement pour la Belgique, de sa diffusion et de sa signification dans un contexte européen, 2024 est une année propice pour mettre le surréalisme à l'honneur. Avec l'exposition IMAGINE!, les MRBAB célèbrent le centenaire de la naissance du surréalisme en s’insérant dans un contexte européen optimal.

Après Bruxelles et Paris, l'exposition continuera son parcours européen et international par la Hamburger Kunsthalle, puis à la Fundación Mapfré Madrid et s'achèvera au Philadelphia Museum of Art. "

AA: I celebrate the centenary of surrealism by visiting two magnificent exhibitions in Brussels: international today (at Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique = MRBAB) and Belgian tomorrow (at Bozar). The scope of the MRBAB is international, but even here there is a Belgian accent: the continuity of 1880s Belgian symbolism into post-WWI surrealism.

MRBAB highlights nine themes:
    The Labyrinth
    The Night
    The Forest
    Mental Landscapes
    Metamorphoses & Myths
    Dream & Nightmare
    The Tears of Eros
    The Cosmos

Stimulating and inspiring, mixing the familiar with the unfamiliar. 

My favourites include:
Jean Delville: The Dead Orpheus (1893) oil on canvas
Giorgio de Chirico: Melancholy of a Beautiful Day (1913) oil on canvas
Max Ernst: Capricorn (1948/1964) bronze
Guillaume Vogels: Impasse des Quatre-Livres, Evening (ca 1883) oil on canvas
René Magritte: The Dominion of Light (1954) oil on canvas - I like his whole cycle in this series
Paul Klee: Uhrpflanzen (1924) oil drawing with transfer colouring
Hans Arp: "Mirr" (1936) gilded bronze
Pablo Picasso: Blue Acrobat (1929) charcoal and oil on canvas
André Kertesz: Distorsion no. 40, Paris (1933/1977) gelatin-silver print
Paul Delvaux: Pygmalion (1939) oil on wood
Man Ray: Portrait of a Poet (Juliet) (1973) photo printed in 23 copies
Fernand Khnopff: Portrait of Marguerite Khnopff (1887) oil on canvas, mounted on wood
Dorothea Tanning: The Guest Bedroom (1950-1952) oil on canvas
Joan Miró: Woman and Birds at Sunrise (1946) oil on canvas
Valentine Dobrée: Black Gloves (ca 1930) mixed media, collage
Max Klinger: The Glove (Paraphrase About the Discovery of a Glove (1881) ten plates
Dora Maar: Untitled [Manos saliendo de una concha / Hand-seashell] (1934) modern print
Wilfredo Lam: Soulless Children (1964) oil on canvas
Léon Dardenne: The Angel That Lost Gomorrah - The Spirit of the Ruins - The Song of Hours (1886) triptych, charcoal on paper
Barnett Newman: Genetic Moment (1947) oil on canvas
Jackson Pollock: The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle (1943) oil on canvas
Rufino Tamayo: Man Facing the Infinite (1950) oil on canvas
Jean Arp: Star (1941) plaster sculpture
Alexander Calder: Mobile [ca 1953-1954] three-dimensional object with moving parts, painted metal sheet, metal rods, steel wire

Surrealism as an "ism" started a hundred years ago, one of the seismic movements that changed the course of art after the First World War. Its central features had always existed in poetry, tales of mystery and imagination and authors such as Dostoevsky. The distinction of  the surrealist movement was that it was conscious about the unconscious, in practices including automatic writing. It was inspired by psychoanalysis, but Sigmund Freud rejected the movement, because it was too obvious for him.

The first surrealist film was Germaine Dulac's La Coquille et le clergyman (1928) and a corpus of surrealist avantgarde started to grow in the cinema, including Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). The most famous film was Un chien andalou (1929) by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí.

My favourite text about surrealism is Henry Miller's "The Golden Age", a celebration of his favourite movie, Luis Buñuel's L'Âge d'Or (1930). It is about repression and liberation in the same spirit as Freud's essay Das Unbehagen in der Kultur. Miller and the surrealists shared an inspiration in the cinema, starting in 1890s early cinema shows mixing a Chinaman walking over Brooklyn Bridge in the rain with nightmarish pursuits in which houses collapsed and people disappeared through trapdoors. Surrealists loved pre-war Louis Feuillade serials such as Fantomas, shot in newsreel style on the streets of Paris. Henry Miller celebrates also a Laurel & Hardy masterpiece, The Battle of the Century (US 1927). Clashes and montages of the absurd and the unexpected were a key surrealist experience. An avid moviegoer was also Franz Kafka, another surrealist.

A great surrealist film-maker was Georges Franju both in documentaries (Le Sang des bêtes, Hôtel des Invalides) and the cinéfantastique (Les Yeux sans visage, Judex). I met Franju in April 1978 and with him conducted my first interview with a film-maker. His catchword was the "insolite", roughly the same as "uncanny" - "das Unheimliche" to speak with Freud.

When Hitler occupied France, surrealists moved to America. Salvador Dalí came into collaboration with Walt Disney (in the Destino project), but there had always been a surrealist affinity in Disney - likewise with the Fleischer Brothers, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones. The affinity lives on in the work of Hayao Miyazaki, includíng in The Boy and the Heron. In Finland, Tove Jansson was a surrealist in the 1930s (for instance in Mysterious Landscape), but the surrealist inspiration continued in her Moomin novels and cartoons.

Dalí was also in collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock in Spellbound, and it is illuminating to register that the most surrealist, compellingly oneiric scenes - whether in dream or awake - are the most sober ones. Vertigo is Hitchcock's most surrealist film, but the semi-factual The Wrong Man is surrealist, as well, in its Kafkaesque approach.

Susanne Langer explored film art as a dream mode. I would expand her insight to cover also non-fiction, including newsreels. Films appear in a time continuum. They are timebound but also timeless and endlessly repeatable. André Bazin observed in his essay on bullfights that we only die once, except in the cinema, where death is repeated every afternoon. The sense of the absurd is inherent in cinematic montage which cuts temporal continuity into pieces. Buster Keaton caught this in Sherlock, Jr.

Surrealism is in the lifeblood of the cinema.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

La Dame à la Licorne (six tapestries at Musée de Cluny)

One of the six tapestries: Tenture de la dame à la licorne-le gout -Cl.10831 -1 - N° Inventaire : Cl. 10831 à 10836

Musée de Cluny, Musée National du Moyen Âge
28 rue du Sommerard
75005 Paris
Visited on 17 April 2024

Musée de Cluny, Musée National du Moyen Âge: A Guide (2015), 192 s. 
Élisabeth Taburet-Delahaye & Béatrice de Chancel-Bardelot : The Lady and the Unicorn (2018), 120 s.


" Le Toucher, le Goût, l’Odorat, l’Ouïe et la Vue… et une sixième pièce, avec une tente bleue et l’inscription mon seul désir : immédiatement reconnaissables, les tapisseries qui forment la tenture de la Dame à la licorne sont parmi les œuvres les plus célèbres des collections du musée de Cluny. "

" Le fond rouge et un même schéma de composition unissent les six tapisseries. Sur un grand ovale bleu, la Dame, élégante, parée de bijoux et souvent assistée d’une demoiselle, se tient solennellement, entre un lion et une licorne porteurs de bannières, de capes ou d’écus à trois croissants. Ce groupe est encadré par des arbres de quatre essences : des chênes, des orangers, des pins et des houx. Le sol des six "îles" est planté de fleurs, et les fonds rouges sont parsemés de plantes à fleurs et d’animaux : lapins blancs, renardeaux, un lionceau, des agneaux, des oiseaux… mais aussi des singes ou une panthère… "

" Les armoiries, de gueules (rouge) à la bande d’azur (bleu) chargée de trois croissants d’argent (blanc) ont permis d’identifier la famille qui a fait tisser ces pièces : les Le Viste, originaires de Lyon, mais possédant des terres en Bourgogne et des résidences parisiennes. L’identité du commanditaire reste l’objet de débats : ce serait soit Jean IV Le Viste, mort en 1500, soit son neveu Antoine, mort en 1532, deux personnages de l’époque des rois de France Charles VIII et Louis XII, pourvus de charges dans la haute administration du temps. "

" Les modèles des femmes et des animaux à grande échelle ont été dessinés par le peintre Jean d’Ypres. Actif à Paris de 1489 à 1508, il est connu comme enlumineur au service de la reine Anne de Bretagne et comme auteur de modèles pour des vitraux ou pour des gravures illustrant des livres imprimés. Les plantes et les animaux ont pu être tissés à partir de modèles détenus dans les ateliers des liciers. Le tissage est très soigné, voire virtuose, mais le lieu de production des tapisseries n’est pas connu. Elles peuvent provenir des métiers à tisser implantés aux Pays-Bas méridionaux, dans des villes comme Bruxelles ou Tournai, mais elles pourraient tout autant être l’œuvre des liciers parisiens. "

" Un sentiment de paix et d’harmonie se dégage des six tapisseries. On y voit peu d’objets et d’accessoires, tandis que les vêtements et les bijoux sont décrits avec attention. Les végétaux et les animaux sont partout représentés, tantôt stylisés, tantôt inspirés par l’observation directe. "

" La tenture a été comprise de diverses manières, en particulier en fonction de l’interprétation que l’on peut faire de la sixième pièce. Comment comprendre l’inscription, comportant deux initiales, A et I encadrant l’expression mon seul désir ? Peut-être les prénoms d’Antoine Le Viste et de son épouse Jacqueline ? La Dame prend-elle ou remet-elle un collier dans le coffret tendu par la demoiselle ? Est-ce une allégorie des sens et d’un sixième sens, proche de l’âme et du cœur ? Peut-on faire une lecture courtoise de ces tapisseries, puisque la Dame est dans un jardin où nombre de plantes et d’animaux font allusion à la quête amoureuse ? Mon seul désir est-il une devise ? Quel sens donner au mot désir, dans un monde encore profondément chrétien, mais au seuil de la Renaissance ? "

N° Inventaire : Cl. 10831 à 10836
Hauteur : 311 à 377 cm
Largeur : 290 à 473 cm
Complément d'information sur le lieu : Lieu de production : Paris (réalisation des cartons)
Périodes : 4e quart du 15e siècle; 1er quart du 16e siècle
Technique : tapisserie
Œuvre incontournable

AA: Before entering the Musée de Cluny, there is time to visit the medieval garden and meditate by the ruins of the Roman Empire. My first visit to the museum is focused to one room only, Salle 13, dedicated to the six huge tapestries of the La Dame à la Licorne cycle. 

I only know them from illustrations and reproductions, including in Harry Potter movies. Seen for the first time "live" in the dim, tender lighting of Musée de Cluny, they cast a magic spell.

They are breathtaking. I have never seen anything like them. They are subtle, refined and vivid. Medieval discipline is combined with a Renaissance sense of life.

Wool and silk threads join in a rich and warm union. The colours may be fading but they are still mesmerizing. The glow is unique and mysterious.

In the guide to the six tapestries, Rainer Maria Rilke's Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (1910) is liberally quoted. He writes about each. The experimental novel, an early exercise in the stream of consciousness, is in public domain and legally online. In the Zeno online publication, the Dame à la Licorne passage is on pages 64-66.

Five of the tapestries are dedicated to the senses of the touch, the taste, the smell, the hearing and the sight. The sixth gives a clue to its sense in the coat of arms "À mon seul désir". What does it mean?

What is the sixth sense? The other senses are physical, and this one might be spiritual. It might be intuition. It might be the wisdom of the heart. It might be the sense of the sacred. It might be love.

The six senses have also been linked with six virtues of medieval nobility: richesse (wealth), franchise (pure and direct sensation), beauté (rapture of the soul towards harmony), liesse (an elevation of the soul), oiseuse (appearance) and largesse (generosity).

I was alerted to these tapestries a year ago by a film, À mon seul desir (FR 2023) by Lucie Borleteau. It is about the desire of the body, but the secret of that matter is that it is always also about the desire of the soul.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

God's Little Acre

Anthony Mann: God's Little Acre (US 1958) with Robert Ryan (Ty Ty Walden) and Buddy Hackett (Pluto Swint, later during the film elected sheriff). Photo: La Cinémathèque française.

Le Petit Arpent du bon Dieu / Luojan oma maatilkku / Guds lilla land.
Anthony Mann
États-Unis / 1957 / 110 min / 35 mm [announced] / VOSTF
D'après le roman Le Petit Arpent du bon Dieu d'Erskine Caldwell.
Avec Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray, Fay Spain.
Helsinki premiere: 31 Oct 1958 - Savoy - United Artists.
Rétrospective Anthony Mann
Viewed at La Cinémathèque française, Salle Georges Franju, 51 Rue de Bercy, 75012 Paris, M° Bercy Lignes, 14, 6, dimanche 14 avril 2024.

La Cinémathèque française : " Dans la moiteur du Sud, une histoire d'or caché dans le jardin d'un pauvre planteur de coton. Robert Ryan et Aldo Ray (héros de Cote 465) dans une adaptation bigarrée du livre de Caldwell, qui mêle le drame familial à la farce paysanne, d'un érotisme outrancier et audacieux. "

AA: Anthony Mann directed two films for his own production company Security Pictures: Men in War and God's Little Acre, both starring Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray.

Both films strive for earthy naturalism in contrast to Hollywood glamour. In Men in War, Mann succeeded. In God's Little Acre, he failed.

There seemed to be a curse around Erskine Caldwell in Hollywood. John Ford created masterpieces of working people in The Grapes of Wrath, The Long Voyage Home and How Green Was My Valley but failed in Tobacco Road (although the cinematography of Arthur C. Miller was magisterial).

I believe that the trouble was about sex. This was the era of the Production Code Administration (PCA, 1934-1968). Before the MPAA rating system was introduced in 1968, an American film as a rule had no rating, that is: everything had to be suitable for children. A frank, naturalistic account of sex was impossible in mainstream Hollywood. Instead there was circumlocution, euphemism, symbolism, or baroque excess. 

In God's Little Acre, Anthony Mann experimented with open sexuality as daringly as he could and showed naked skin (cheesecake and beefcake) as much as the PCA allowed. Fay Spain and Tina Louise  are unique love goddesses in Anthony Mann's world, and together with Aldo Ray they emit an authentic pheromone charge and a high sex appeal, but Hollywood restrictions make the performances seem repressed and contrived. Although the actors are formidable, the beating around the bush feels embarrassing. 

For once Mann loses his assured approach. Even the exciting and original score by Elmer Bernstein feels out of touch in such circumstances.

After John Ford's 1940's films, it became rare in Hollywood to make films about fighting workers. From this angle, God's Little Acre is also exceptional. The workers break into a closed cotton mill with the intention of taking the production into their own hands, but a guard shoots and kills their leader Will Thompson (Aldo Ray).

There is a restoration of God's Little Acre at the UCLA Film and Television Archive supervised by Robert Gitt, but that was not on display. 35 mm was announced. The screening started as what looked like a battered 16 mm print. The visual quality improved, and turned into what looked like a decent 16 mm print.

Reign of Terror

Anthony Mann: Reign of Terror (US 1949) with Richard Basehart as Robespierre.

Le Livre noir / Yllämme giljotiini / Över oss giljotinen.
Anthony Mann
États-Unis / 1949 / 89 min / 35 mm / VOSTF
Avec Robert Cummings, Arlene Dahl, Richard Basehart.
Helsinki premiere: 24 Feb 1950 - Savoy - released by Parvisfilmi Oy.
Sous-titres français on print by Michel Herbuveaux.
Rétrospective Anthony Mann
Viewed at La Cinémathèque française, Salle Georges Franju, 51 Rue de Bercy, 75012 Paris, M° Bercy Lignes, 14, 6, dimanche le 14 avril 2024.

La Cinémathèque française : " Les codes du film noir au service d'un épisode de la Révolution française : la disparition du « livre noir » de Robespierre où sont inscrits les noms de ses ennemis. Dans un Paris éclairé aux flambeaux, un thriller en costumes, impeccablement interprété, méconnu et palpitant. "

La Terreur (the Reign of Terror, 5 September 1793 - 27 July 1794) conveyed as a film noir. 

It was a special thrill to see this Anthony Mann masterpiece in Paris.

Set on the last day of la Terreur (26 July 1794), the movie is dramatized as one big chase, dynamic and relentless. Essentially, it is one ride in the night for life and death - for the protagonists and for France. It is a well made play with suspense moments, false identities, stunning revelations and last minute rescues. The decisive clue in the impossible search of the elusive Black Book is provided by Robespierre's dog. A person who stays in control during every twist is Fouché (Arnold Moss) the survivor, the chief of the secret police. In the finale, Robespierre meets his end at the guillotine and "La Marseillaise" sounds for the only time. A soldier whose back is turned remarks to Fouché that the art of being a Frenchman is knowing what comes next. Fouché asks his name. "Bonaparte, Napoléon Bonaparte". Follows the text frame "The End of the Reign of Terror".

Mann and his cinematographer John Alton create pure visual poetry in the Expressionist idiom. The mise-en-scène is magisterial. It all plays out in darkness, physical and metaphysical. The composition in depth is electrifying. Mirrors expand the field of vision. High angles and low angles enhance drama. Much of the action is covered in silhouettes and shadows. 

The subjects of a reign of terror, dictatorship, mob rule, mass killings, sadistic tortures and pervasive fear feel acute in a movie made in the 1940s. As well as the cynicism of the villains, their callousness in front of extreme suffering and their hard-boiled dialogue. In the Mann retrospective, I have felt a special cold fury in scenes of brutal violence. It is about looking into the blackest darkness and transcending it.

Robert Cummings and Arlene Dahl carry the leading roles. Richard Basehart who had just played the cold-blooded burglar-killer in He Walked by Night returns to play Robespierre in a great ensemble cast with Wade Crosby (Danton), Richard Hart (Barras), Norman Lloyd (Tallien) and Jess Barker (Saint-Just). It is a pleasure to glimpse the 15 year old Russ Tamblyn in his second movie. He returned to an Anthony Mann production as Cherokee Kid in Cimarron.

This good 35 mm projection did justice to John Alton's extremely ambitious high contrast cinematography with impressive black levels.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Serenade (1955)

Anthony Mann: Serenade (US 1955). With Mario Lanza (Damon Vincenti) and Sara Montiel (Juana Montès). Photo: La Cinémathèque française.

Sérénade / Serenadi / Serenad.
Anthony Mann
États-Unis / 1955 / 121 min / 35 mm Copie unique / VOSTF
D'après le roman Serenade de James M. Cain.
Avec Mario Lanza, Joan Fontaine, Sara Montiel.
Helsinki premiere 23 Nov 1956 Gloria - released by Warner Bros.
Rétrospective Anthony Mann
Viewed at La Cinémathèque française, Salle Georges Franju, 51 Rue de Bercy, 75012 Paris, M° Bercy Lignes 14, 6, 13 April 2024.

La Cinémathèque française : " D'après le roman de James M. Cain, l'histoire d'un ouvrier agricole à la voix d'or, interprété par le ténor Mario Lanza, tiraillé entre la blonde Joan Fontaine et la brune Sara Montiel. Opéra et hacienda mexicaine dans un mélodrame musical en Technicolor. "

AA: A melodrama of the purest kind, unique in Anthony Mann's oeuvre.

A James M. Cain movie, an entry in a formidable lineage including When Tomorrow Comes (US 1939), Ossessione (IT 1943), Double Indemnity (US 1944), Mildred Pierce (US 1945) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (US 1946), but far from their level. James M. Cain's novel was completely changed because of numerous taboo issues clashing with the Production Code.

A lavish spectacle with gorgeous music and dance performances carried by the wonderful voice of Mario Lanza, in great form as a singer here.

The greatest hits of the opera fill the cinema auditorium (see soundtrack listing below). Visually, Serenade impresses by truly magnificent landscapes and views of Guanajuato and Mexico City. Anthony Mann displays his visual talent in them.

Joan Fontaine is the silky smooth but lethal femme fatale socialite, Sara Montiel (Mrs. Anthony Mann 1957-1963] the Mexican bullfighter's daughter with a heart of gold and a sharp sabre ready to redress an insult. Vincent Price and Joseph Calleia add layers to their underwritten roles.

A beautiful "35 mm Copie unique". WarnerColor looks like Technicolor. It's bright, warm and passionate, perfect for the experience.


Nessun dorma
from "Turandot"
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni
Performed by Mario Lanza

Dio ti Giocondi
La prière de l'Acte 3, Scène 4
from "Otello"
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Arrigo Boito
Performed by Mario Lanza and Licia Albanese

Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Performed by Mario Lanza

My Destiny
Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Performed by Mario Lanza

Il mio tesoro
from "Don Giovanni"
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
Performed by Mario Lanza

Ave Maria
Music by Franz Schubert
Performed by Mario Lanza

Lamento di Federico
from "L'Arlesiana"
Music by Francesco Cilea
Libretto by Leopoldo Marenco
Performed by Mario Lanza

Di quella pira
from "Il Trovatore"
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano (as Salvatore Cammarano Bardare)
Performed by Mario Lanza

Italian Tenor Aria
from "Der Rosenkavalier"
Music by Richard Strauss
Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Performed by Mario Lanza

Torna a Surriento
Written by Ernesto De Curtis
Performed by Mario Lanza

O paradiso
from "L'Africaine"
Music by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Libretto by Eugène Scribe
Performed by Mario Lanza

O soave fanciulla
from "La Boheme"
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Luigi Illica
Performed by Mario Lanza and Jean Fenn

Amor ti vieta
from "Fedora"
Music by Umberto Giordano
Libretto by Arturo Colautti


"Cielito lindo"
"Les Pêcheurs de perles" ?

Strategic Air Command

Anthony Mann: Strategic Air Command (US 1954) with James Stewart as Robert "Dutch" Holland. Photo: La Cinémathèque française.

Strategic Air Command (France) / Ilmojen kiitäjät / Luftens jättar.
Anthony Mann
États-Unis / 1954 / 114 min / 16 mm / VOSTF
Avec James Stewart, June Allyson, Frank Lovejoy.
Helsinki premiere: 18 Nov 1955 Joukola, Kino-Palatsi - released by Paramount Pictures.
Copie 16 mm issue des collections de UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Viewed at La Cinémathèque française, Salle Georges Franju, 51 Rue de Bercy, 75012 Paris, M° Bercy Lignes 14, 6, samedi le 13 avril 2024

La Cinémathèque française : " Au sommet de sa carrière de joueur de baseball, un réserviste de l'armée de l'air est rappelé en pleine Guerre froide aux commandes d'un bombardier. Dernier opus de la collaboration entre Anthony Mann et James Stewart, et le moins connu. "

AA: The James Stewart - Anthony Mann collaboration in 1950-1955 resulted in five Westerns and three non-Westerns. Two were particularly personal for Stewart. Thunder Bay reflected Stewart the oilman, Strategic Air Command revealed Stewart the Air Force fighter.

Stewart's military record was unique for a Hollywood professional. The son of a family with a long military tradition, he possessed both a private pilot certificate and a commercial pilot certificate. In WWII, he fought five years in the U.S. Army Air Corps, reorganized as U.S. Army Air Forces and later as United States Air Force. He interrupted his film career: after Ziegfeld Girl (1941), his next film was It's a Wonderful Life (1946). 

Several films reflected Stewart's flying passion, including No Highway in the Sky (1951), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Airport ´77 (1977). Let's also remember the role of the Major Glenn Miller Army Air Forces Orchestra as the forerunner of US military big bands and its tragedy in The Glenn Miller Story (1954).

The distinction of Strategic Air Command is in its semi-documentary and "military procedural" approach. It is about the dangerous profession of the men in the air force. It's hard work and little pay. It is the driest of the Stewart-Mann movies.

In real life, Stewart was a true war hero. As a film star, he was the opposite of heroic posturing. He was not afraid of showing vulnerability. He processed agony, torment, pain and suffering. He was able to portray a loser, an invalid, an alcoholic, a mental patient and a suicide candidate. In Strategic Air Command, his character Robert "Dutch" Holland injures his left arm in a crash landing in Greenland, making him permanently invalid and unfit to fly.

Strategic Air Command was Stewart's third movie with June Allyson, here playing a long-suffering military wife, with a newborn baby. It is also one of Stewart's vehicles exposing his character's authoritarian and patriarchal streak. (In Hitchcock's films, The Man Who Knew Too Much, co-starring Doris Day, explored this.). 

Strategic Air Command is a Cold War film like A Dandy in Aspic. Like The Heroes of Telemark, it is a Nuclear Age film, but this time in glorification of the nuclear arms race. It is about the development and testing of nuclear age bombers, including in a thrilling sequence involving mid-air fueling.

The master cinematographer is William Daniels. In charge of the aerial photography was Tom Tutwiler whose aerial film credits also included Blaze of Noon, The Bridges of Toko-Ri, The Spirit of St. Louis and The Hunters. The documentary accuracy is fascinating, the composition is magnificent and the danger and excitement feel authentic.

Strategic Air Command was the second VistaVision release. On a curved screen, shots of the B-36 "caught in majestic solitude against the sky brought awed gasps and wild applause" from the audience. For the New York premiere, the largest motion picture screen in the world was installed. In Paris, it was possible to experience real VistaVision in the Paramount cinema.

That's where André Bazin went to see Strategic Air Command, the newest film by one of his favourite directors. CinemaScope was essential in Bazin's aesthetics, and he was interested in VistaVision's capability of solving CinemaScope's biggest flaw: the blur (le flou). Bazin recognized that the definition on traditional screens was superior to CinemaScope. VistaVision solved the problem of the blur. Bazin was gratified with the technical achievement.

As for the film, Bazin found it one of the most boring brought to us by America since The Robe. "It is irritating that a new procedure must always be applied to the most stupid scenarios". "But if you are as bored as I, you can as a distraction count James Stewart's gray hair or train your eyes to the different textures in civil and military costumes". (André Bazin : "Strategic Air Command. Cinéma en piqué", Le Parisien Libéré, N° 3447, 11 octobre 1955)

On display was "Copie 16 mm issue des collections de UCLA Film & Television Archive." It is not a good 16 mm print. The ratio is Academy. The spectacle of grandeur is left to the imagination. The image is duped with a dark bias. There is a studio echo in the sound. The heroic Victor Young score sounds great.

Cimarron (1960)

Anthony Mann: Cimarron (US 1960) with Glenn Ford (Yancey "Cimarron" Cravat) and Maria Schell (Sabra Cravat). Photo: La Cinémathèque française.

La Ruée vers l'Ouest / Cimarron (Finland).
Anthony Mann
États-Unis / 1960 / 147 min / 35 mm / VOSTF / Copie unique
D'après le roman La Ruée vers l'Ouest (1930) d'Edna Ferber.
Avec Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter.
Production dates 30 Nov 1959-mid Feb 1960, addl scenes began Apr 1960, Oklahoma City premiere 1 Dec 1960
Helsinki premiere: 21 April 1961 - Boston - released by Oy MGM-Fox Ab.
Rétrospective Anthony Mann
E-sous-titres français: Scena Media.
Viewed at La Cinémathèque française, Salle Georges Franju, 51 Rue de Bercy, 75012 Paris, M° Bercy Lignes 14, 6, le 13 avril 2024

La Cinémathèque française : " Pendant l'effroyable ruée vers les terres vierges de l'Oklahoma, le portrait d'un brave colon incapable de vivre dans un cadre social organisé. Au héros épris d'espace et d'aventures, Mann oppose les bâtisseurs, les profiteurs, mais aussi les femmes, tous prêts à composer avec les réalités du capitalisme. "

IMDb: " The Oklahoma Land Run of April 1889 sets the stage for an epic saga of a frontier adventurer, his wife and family and their friends. "

Cimarrón is Spanish and means "feral": a domesticated one turned wild. It appears as a name of a place in Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. There is also a USS Cimarron Navy ship and Cadillac Cimarron. - The title of Edna Ferber's novel refers to the Cimarron Territory, also known as No Man's Land, area once inhabited by Native American tribes. - Cimarron is the nickname of the male protagonist Yancey Cravat (Glenn Ford). Yancey and Sabra Cravat (Maria Schell) also name their son Cimarron (nickname Cim).

AA: In his last Western Anthony Mann is at the top of his game. Cimarron is full of grace and grandeur. In this most epic Western production of his Mann is not crushed under its weight but inspired by the challenge to reach new heights. Based on a novel by Edna Ferber, the multi-character saga covers several destinies over a span of 25 years, from the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 until the First World War.

I was frankly stunned by how great Cimarron was. Famously, Mann left in mid-production because of creative differences with the producer Edmund Grainger. The direction was then taken over by Charles Walters. Mann wanted to shoot entirely on location, but Grainger insisted on the photography mostly staged in the studio. Mann refused to see the finished film which he believed was mutilated beyond recognition.

It was also well-known that Edna Ferber denounced Mann's film adaptation, much preferring the first one, Cimarron (US 1931), produced by RKO, directed by Wesley Ruggles, starring Richard Dix and Irene Dunne and winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. Critics favoured the earlier version, too. By then, it had become hard to see. When it became available again, it lost its legendary status. Critics panned the 1960 Cimarron with a mean-spirited abandon that was out of proportion. The film would merit a frank and sober reappraisal.

I would love to see the 1931 Cimarron, famous for its epic land rush sequence, compared in grandeur with Intolerance. But I have seen William S. Hart's epic interpretation in Tumbleweeds (US 1925). Hart and Mann treated the same "end of the West" event in their final Westerns. André Bazin, Mann's greatest champion, found in him a successor to "the secret of Triangle" or Thomas H. Ince. Hart, of course, was a major Triangle player, groomed by Ince. Incidentally, even Intolerance was a Triangle release. (More recently, the Oklahoma land rush has been staged by Ron Howard in Far and Away [US 1992] starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. In 3 Bad Men [US 1926)], John Ford covered, not the Oklahoma but the Dakota land rush, in a similar epic approach, in his last Western before 1939).

Cimarron (1960) became the last adaptation in Edna Ferber's formidable filmography which included So Big (three times), Show Boat (twice), The Royal Family of Broadway, Dinner at Eight, Come and Get It, Stage Door, Saratoga Trunk and Giant.

Seen today, the immediate revelation of Cimarron (1960) is the connection with Martin Scorsese's magnificent Killers of the Flower Moon (US 2023) which covers much of the same ground.

While Cimarron (1960) is a novelistic multi-character saga, it has a single solid power core: the complex personality of the protagonist. Yancey Cravat is revealed by his actions and the reflections of people who know him, including his mentor, the newspaper editor Sam Pegler (Robert Keith) and his ex Dixie Lee (Anne Baxter) who later establishes a "social club". Dixie is a woman with a past, and Yancey is a man with a past, with aspects he has left behind. Yancey is known as an adventurer, a ladies' man, a lawman, a cowboy, a gunfighter, and a man of the Wild West including a way with "frontier justice". Everybody knows him, and he seems to know everybody. 

Before their journey from Kansas City to Oklahoma, Sabra knows hardly anything about her husband, and during the journey she may find that she learns too much. But one thing they have in common: a spirit of frontier generosity. They invite the family of Tom Wyatt (Arthur O'Connell) and Sarah Wyatt (Mercedes McCambridge) with their seven children into their covered wagons. 

During the journey, Sabra is naked taking a bath in a pond when she becomes verbally harassed by three young hoodlums, William Hardy "The Cherokee Kid" (aka "The Kid") (Russ Tamblyn), Wes Jennings (Vic Morrow) and Hoss Barry (George Brenlin), but Yancey pacifies the situation. He has been the friend of The Kid's father and tries to mentor him. When The Kid's father lost his land, he lost everything.

At the destination, together with a bigoted roughneck called Bob Yountis (Charles McGraw, familiar from Mann's films noir including T-Men, Reign of Terror, Border Incident and Side Street), The Kid terrorizes Sol Levy (David Opatoshu), a Jewish peddler, but Yancey stops the harassment.

When the elderly Sam Pegler is killed in the land rush, Yancey decides to take over his newspaper, the Oklahoma Wigwam.

To Sabra's further dismay, Yancey defends the Osage family of Ben and Arita Red Feather who are legally qualified to participate in the land run. Later, Yancey arrives too late to prevent the arson and lynching of Ben by a mob led by Bob Yountis. But Yancey kills Bob and the Cravats invite Arita and her daughter Ruby Red Feather to live with them. 

Years go by, and The Kid's gang turn into train and bank robbers. In a shootout, the outlaws take refuge in a schoolhouse with children as hostages. Yancey risks his life in defusing the situation. The Kid and his gang are killed. Yancey is sent a large check in reward, but he tears it to the outrage of Sabra. From Yancey's viewpoint, he has failed to save The Kid, and he wants no blood money.

Follows the most electrifying scene in the Anthony Mann oeuvre. The school term begins, and in great excitement, the little Ruby Red Feather starts her first day. In a minute, she comes out of the school door alone. She has been turned away. Yancey takes the case to the board, but Ruby is unanimously rejected.

Yancey goes away to participate in the Cherokee Strip, the second Oklahoma land run. He stays away five years, venturing into Alaska and fighting as a Rough Rider in Cuba. Sol Levy falls in love with Sabra, but the feeling is unreciprocated. Sabra learns from Dixie that Yancey loves her, not Dixie. When Yancey returns from Cuba, he is prepared a hero's welcome, but he disappears before the train stops and emerges at home unnoticed.

The most arid part of Oklahoma has been appointed as the reservation of the indigenous people, the Osage. Also Tom and Sarah Wyatt have happened on a barren stretch of land. Then oil is found on both lands believed worthless. Tom swindles the Indians and becomes a millionaire. He and his network promote Yancey as governor of the territory, but in Washington, Yancey is let understand that he will be nominated only if he cooperates with the businessmen. When Yancey refuses, Sabra orders him to leave.

When their son Cim marries Ruby Red Feather, Sabra shows them the door, as well. With the help of Sol Levy, now a powerful financier, Sabra develops the Oklahoma Wigwam into a big business. On the 25th anniversary of the newspaper, a sculpture celebrating the pioneer spirit is proposed in her likeness, but she feels like a fraud. The true spirit was Yancey, almost never appreciated. World War I is declared. Yancey is killed in action.

Cimarron is a great movie about America, the American spirit of "e pluribus unum" (out of many, one), the pioneer spirit and the Wild West spirit. It is a grand End of the West film. It is honest about violence and injustice, yet a celebration of courage and justice.

Like James Stewart, Glenn Ford as Yancey is an unusual Western protagonist. He seems at times confused, hesitant and uncomfortable because he is an intellectual who tries to cover all angles, but he always sets a clear main course. He is committed to the big picture. His is a Lincolnian vision of the Union. As a husband, he never hesitates about Sabra, although she is much more conservative. He feels the draw to the wild spirit of Dixie but does not stray.

Edna Ferber was a feminist or pre-feminist, unhappy with Maria Schell as Sabra. I should read the novel or see the 1931 Cimarron with Irene Dunne, accepted by Ferber, to try to understand what that was all about. Sabra is a protagonist with agency, but conservative. She is not a pioneer, not a cimarron, not ahead of her time or swimming against the tide but swimming with the tide. - The childbirth sequence is special. Beyond the curtain, heartfelt laughter is heard instead of agonized screams. Sarah Wyatt, the mother of seven, is guiding Sabra through the process with generous helpings from a whisky bottle.

Anthony Mann's early wartime female protagonists had agency, they took chances. In James Stewart's June Allyson films the female became the long-suffering homemaker. In Cimarron, Sabra is at first a cautious conservative home-maker who, finally alone, turns into a risk-taking entrepreneur.

A rousing epic score by Franz Waxman who had also composed The Furies for Anthony Mann. Gorgeous cinematography in Metrocolor and CinemaScope by Robert L. Surtees, a veteran of epics including Oklahoma! (yes), Ben-Hur and Quo Vadis (US 1951) in which Anthony Mann was a second unit director (n.c.).

" 35 mm / VOSTF / Copie unique " : the print was clean, intact and beautiful, and the colour was perfect. A joy to behold.

Winchester '73 / Winchester '73 - kohtalon ase (US 1950) Production mid Feb-late March 1950, New York opening 7 June 1950
The Furies / Raivotar (US 1950) Production 9 Nov-23 Dec 1949, added scenes and retakes 7 Jan 1950, Tucson, Arizona premiere 21 July 1950
Devil's Doorway / Paholaisen portti (1950) Production 15 Aug-mid Oct 1949, US release Sep 1950
Bend of the River / Maa vuorten takana (US 1952) Production 26 July-13 Sep 1951, Portland, Oregon premiere 23 Jan 1952
The Naked Spur / Teräskannus (US 1953) Production late May-30 June 1952, Denver premiere 6 Feb 1953
The Far Country / Seikkailijoitten luvattu maa (US 1955) Production 19 Aug-mid Oct 1953, US premiere 12 Feb 1955
The Man from Laramie / Muukalainen Laramiesta (US 1955) Production 29 Sep-26 Nov 1954, US premiere 13 July 1955
The Last Frontier / Viimeinen etuvartio (US 1955) Production began late March 1955, US premiere 7 Dec 1955
The Tin Star / Hopeatähti (US 1957) Filming 22 Oct 1956, US premiere 23 Oct 1957
Man of the West / Mies lännestä (US 1958) Filming 10 Feb 1958, US premiere 17 Sep 1958
Cimarron / Cimarron (US 1960) Production dates 30 Nov 1959-mid Feb 1960, addl scenes began Apr 1960, Oklahoma City premiere 1 Dec 1960

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Thunder Bay

Anthony Mann: Thunder Bay (US 1952) with James Stewart as the oilman Steve Martin. He was an oilman also in real life. Photo: La Cinémathèque française.

Le Port des passions / Vihan lahti / Bragdernas man.
Anthony Mann
États-Unis / 1952 / 103 min / 35 mm / VOSTF
Avec James Stewart, Joanne Dru, Gilbert Roland.
Finnish premiere 1 Jan 1954.
E-sous-titres français: Éric LeBlanc.
Rétrospective Anthony Mann
Viewed at La Cinémathèque française, Salle Georges Franju, 51 Rue de Bercy, 75012 Paris, M° Bercy Lignes 14, 6, jeudi le 11 avril 2024.

La Cinémathèque française: " Au large de la Louisiane, l'affrontement entre prospecteurs pétroliers et pêcheurs de crevettes. Après une série d'excellents westerns, le tandem Mann/Stewart s'échappe du genre pour un film d'aventures au sujet captivant bien que démodé, une célébration de l'or noir et du progrès. "

AA: A film about the American spirit, taking chances. A film about capitalism and original accumulation. A film about the clash regarding the exploitation of natural resources, in this story leading to an antagonism between fishermen and oilmen. A film about industry, evoking Henry King (The Winning of Barbara Worth), King Vidor (An American Romance), George Stevens (Giant) and Hugo Fregonese (Blowing Wild).

Thunder Bay was unique in the trajectory of Anthony Mann, widening his horizon, but in retrospect it looks like a natural and organic step in his evolution towards an increasingly fullblown epic mode. 

Scribbling these notes on the retrospective at la Cinémathèque française, I discuss them as "Anthony Mann films". At the time, however, they were not seen that way. It is sobering to examine the vintage poster of Thunder Bay, with four names above the title - the four main actors, James Stewart of course being the biggest star draw. Below the title are four further actors in boldtype. Further below, in the smallest type, are Anthony Mann, the screenwriters Gil Doud and John Michael Hayes and the producer Aaron Rosenberg. Also above the title are "Universal-International presents" and "color by Technicolor" in italics.

Only certain critics, mostly French, saw these as "Anthony Mann films". Primus inter pares was André Bazin who compared Mann with Homer.

Arguably the most important name behind the Mann - Stewart cycle of eight films is missing from all discussions - Lew Wasserman, the super agent whose sensational new approach in promoting talent started with Winchester '73, the first Stewart - Mann collaboration. 

That happened at the turning-point of Mann's transition into the big league. It started with Side Street, The Furies and Devil's Doorway and continued in Winchester '73. (The Furies and Devil's Doorway were filmed before but released after Winchester '73).

Together with James Stewart (and Lew Wasserman beyond the credits) came the producer Aaron Rosenberg who later revealed that Thunder Bay was a James Stewart project. Stewart was a partner with a Texas oilman and wanted to deliver a message that oil production did not affect the environment. Rosenberg produced five of the Stewart - Mann collaborations. William H. Daniels, the cinematographer of the divine Garbo, shot five of them. John Michael Hayes started his four-picture collaboration with Stewart in Thunder Bay, soon continuing in Rear Window.

The cast is fascinating. As James Stewart's partner is Dan Duryea, often cast as a villain in film noir and capable of impressive versatility and sense of humour, like here. His first Anthony Mann role had been in The Great Flamarion, and with Stewart he played also in Winchester '73 and Night Passage (from which Mann backed out). Jay C. Flippen (excellent here as the investor Kermit MacDonough) also belonged to the "Stewart - Mann stock company", playing in five of their collaborations.

In the female lead is Joanne Dru, the fabulous Western star of Howard Hawks and John Ford. In Thunder Bay, Stella Rigaud (Dru) is the most formidable antagonist to the dubious schemes of Steve Martin (Stewart) and Johnny Gambi (Duryea), at least until the fairy-tale twist which validates the oilmen's plans, helps the fishermen to discover the elusive golden shrimp bed at last and leads the adventurers to true love with the Rigaud sisters. The younger sister is played by Marcia Henderson, in 1953 experiencing a dream breakthrough in the movies, also in All I Desire directed by Douglas Sirk.

Two Hollywood star veterans appear as leaders of the fishermen. Antonio Moreno, who had started in Griffith's Biograph shorts, is cast as the father Rigaud whose daughters refuse to obey him. Gilbert Roland was launched as a Latin lover in the silent era and enjoyed a versatile career ever since. He plays Teche Bossier, owner of the Port Felicity Fish Company.

Strengths of the film include Mann's grip on the violent and exciting scenes of hurricanes and armed resistance. He is an excellent action director. Stewart as Steve Martin is the unflinching and unyielding embodiment of private enterprise, also humble, capable of learning from his mistakes and with talent in psychological intuition. He does not seek confrontantion and treats those who think otherwise with respect. He is a hard taskmaster but also a true leader who can command enthusiasm even in the most desperate moment.

A keystone of the plot is the bond between Steve Martin and Kermit MacDonough. MacDonough's secretary Rawlins (Harry Morgan - another member of the "Mann - Stewart stock company", appearing in five of their films together) pursues due diligence and exposes Martin's catastrophic track record. MacDonough has had his share of failure, too, and he is at a dead end as a businessman. But he can read character and trusts Martin intuitively. It's not about failure. It's about learning from failure.

A clean and complete print, mostly of truly good visual quality, but in the beginning there was a feeling like watching a blowup from a faded 16 mm Eastmancolor print.

Today, we look at this celebration of oil drilling with different eyes. Thunder Bay shows the way we were back then.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Side Street (1949)

Anthony Mann: Side Street (US 1949) with Farley Granger (Joe Norson) and Cathy O'Donnell (Ellen Norson).

La Rue de la mort / Farlig väg.
Anthony Mann
États-Unis / 1949 / 82 min / 35 mm / VOSTF
d'après une histoire de Sydney Boehm
Avec Farley Granger, Cathy O'Donnell, James Craig.
Not released in Finland.
Sous-titres français on print by Mme ... Unat.
Rétrospective Anthony Mann
Viewed at La Cinémathèque française, Salle Georges Franju, 51 Rue de Bercy, 75012 Paris, M° Bercy Lignes 14, 6, le 10 avril 2024

La Cinémathèque française : " Un futur père dérobe de l'argent dans le bureau d'un avocat véreux et se retrouve coincé entre la police et les truands. Une intrigue serrée, un suspense soutenu et des prises de vue des rues de Manhattan à couper le souffle, pour une course-poursuite finale sensationnelle. "

AA: The last in Anthony Mann's series of contemporary crime films before turning mostly to Westerns for the next decade.

Clearly inspired by Nicholas Ray's They Live by Night, not only by the casting of Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell, the film it resembles most in Mann's earlier work is Desperate because of the balancing of the crime story with scenes of married happiness. 

Scenes of young love are more memorable than scenes of crime. Photographed by Joseph Ruttenberg, the close-ups and two-shots of the young lovers are warm and tender, and Side Street is Mann's most passionate love story so far. 

Granger and O'Donnell have great chemistry, and they provide the finest performances in Mann's 1940s movies. Starting with this movie, Mann's films would have great casts and engaging performances. Side Street was Granger's only role for Mann. O'Donnell returned to accept the female lead in Mann's last film with James Stewart, The Man from Laramie. 

Among the cast I'm also happy to discover two stars as hard-boiled underworld women. There is an early performance by Jean Hagen as Harriet Sinton who sings Cole Porter's "Easy To Love". Lucille Corner whose "love diary" is crucial to the plot is played by Adele Jergens. The gangsters murder both women, to be disposed to East River.

Having just seen He Walked by Night tonight, the two films strike me as opposites. He Walked by Night is a tale of a super professional criminal, a lone master burglar. Side Street is a story of a complete amateur, blundering every which way. Only opportunity makes him a thief. 

Joe Norson (Granger) is a poor postman who think he is stealing 300 dollars but instead gets a catch of 30.000, and instantly gangsters are on his trail. The police cannot help realizing that Joe is no career criminal. Joe will be guided back to the narrow trail by the police, his wife Ellen (O'Donnell) and their commitment to their newborn baby.

As a crime film, Side Street is a police procedural and a city film, with fascinating semi-documentary passages shot on location from a wide variety of angles, including aerial and other high angle shots. Also from this viewpoint He Walked by Night (a Los Angeles film) and Side Street (a New York film) provide a rewarding double bill.

Like He Walked by Night, Side Street has hallmarks of film noir. It is a great chase story and an engrossing thriller, but there is no existential dread nor revelation of unspeakable evil. For me, Side Street is relevant to film noir but not actual noir.

The visual quality is excellent in this print that looks like it has been struck from a source close to the negative.