Monday, February 28, 2005

The 77th Annual Academy Awards

US 2005. ABC transmission from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Hosted by Chris Rock. P: Gilbert Cates. D: Louis B. Horvitz. SC: Hal Kanter, Buz Kohan, Rita Cash. M: Bill Conti.
On the Red Carpet, ca 2 hrs
Entering the Kodak Theatre, ca 30 min
Opening Sequence ("What Is Cinema"), D: Chuck Workman, narrator: Dustin Hoffman
Johnny Carson Remembered, D: June Beallor
Special Tribute to Sidney Lumet, D: Michael Shapiro
Jean Hersholt Award to Roger Mayer, D: Jon Bloom, host: Martin Scorsese
In Memoriam, D: Jon Bloom, M: Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach live
The whole transmission ca 5 hrs 45 min, transmitted in Finland by Nelonen. EET 28 Feb 2005. I taped it to watch in the evening. A wonderful show, great entertainment, musical numbers could have been better, excellent special sequences, but not one of the very best Oscar galas. Johnny Carson was the best Oscar host I have seen, and Billy Crystal has been very close. Chris Rock was good. - So now we know that Charlie Kaufman exists. Other sympathetic winners: Jamie Foxx, Mar adentro, The Incredibles, Sideways. ***

ACADEMY AWARDS FOR 2004: WINNERS AND NOMINEES

Academy Awards® for outstanding film achievements of 2004 were presented on Sunday, February 27, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland® and televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PST.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Don Cheadle in “Hotel Rwanda” (United Artists in association with Lions Gate Entertainment through MGM Distribution Co.)
Johnny Depp in “Finding Neverland” (Miramax)
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Clint Eastwood in “Million Dollar Baby” (Warner Bros.)
* Jamie Foxx in “Ray” (Universal)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Alan Alda in “The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Thomas Haden Church in “Sideways” (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox)
Jamie Foxx in “Collateral” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
* Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby” (Warner Bros.)
Clive Owen in “Closer” (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Annette Bening in “Being Julia” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Maria Full of Grace” (HBO Films in association with Fine Line Features)
Imelda Staunton in “Vera Drake” (Fine Line Features, Alain Sarde and UK Film Council in association with Inside Track Films)
* Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby” (Warner Bros.)
Kate Winslet in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (Focus Features)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
* Cate Blanchett in “The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Laura Linney in “Kinsey” (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox)
Virginia Madsen in “Sideways” (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox)
Sophie Okonedo in “Hotel Rwanda” (United Artists in association with Lions Gate Entertainment through MGM Distribution Co.)
Natalie Portman in “Closer” (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Best animated feature film of the year
* “The Incredibles” (Buena Vista) Brad Bird
“Shark Tale” (DreamWorks) Bill Damaschke
“Shrek 2” (DreamWorks) Andrew Adamson

Achievement in art direction
* “The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Art Direction: Dante Ferretti
Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
“Finding Neverland” (Miramax)
Art Direction: Gemma Jackson
Set Decoration: Trisha Edwards
“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Paramount and DreamWorks)
Art Direction: Rick Heinrichs
Set Decoration: Cheryl Carasik
“The Phantom of the Opera” (Warner Bros.)
Art Direction: Anthony Pratt
Set Decoration: Celia Bobak
“A Very Long Engagement” (Warner Independent Pictures)
Art Direction: Aline Bonetto

Achievement in cinematography
* “The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Robert Richardson
“House of Flying Daggers” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Zhao Xiaoding
“The Passion of the Christ” (Icon and Newmarket )
Caleb Deschanel
“The Phantom of the Opera” (Warner Bros.)
John Mathieson
“A Very Long Engagement” (Warner Independent Pictures)
Bruno Delbonnel

Achievement in costume design
* “The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Sandy Powell
“Finding Neverland” (Miramax)
Alexandra Byrne
“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Paramount and DreamWorks)
Colleen Atwood
“Ray” (Universal)
Sharen Davis
“Troy” (Warner Bros.)
Bob Ringwood

Achievement in directing
“The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Martin Scorsese
* “Million Dollar Baby” (Warner Bros.) Clint Eastwood
“Ray” (Universal) Taylor Hackford
“Sideways” (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox) Alexander Payne
“Vera Drake” (Fine Line Features, Alain Sarde and UK Film Council in association with Inside Track Films) Mike Leigh

Best documentary feature
* “Born into Brothels” (THINKFilm)
A Red Light Films, Inc. Production
Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski
“The Story of the Weeping Camel” (THINKFilm)
A Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München Production
Luigi Falorni and Byambasuren Davaa
“Super Size Me” (Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn Films)
A Kathbur Productions/The Con Production
Morgan Spurlock
“Tupac: Resurrection” (Paramount)
An MTV - Amaru Entertainment, Inc. Production
Lauren Lazin and Karolyn Ali
“Twist of Faith”
A Chain Camera Pictures Production
Kirby Dick and Eddie Schmidt

Best documentary short subject
“Autism Is a World”
A State of the Art Production
Gerardine Wurzburg
“The Children of Leningradsky”
A Hanna Polak Production
Hanna Polak and Andrzej Celinski
“Hardwood”
A Hardwood Pictures and National Film Board of Canada Production
Hubert Davis and Erin Faith Young
* “Mighty Times: The Children’s March”
A Tell the Truth Pictures Production
Robert Hudson and Bobby Houston
“Sister Rose’s Passion”
A New Jersey Studios Production
Oren Jacoby and Steve Kalafer

Achievement in film editing
* “The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Thelma Schoonmaker
“Collateral” (DreamWorks and Paramount )
Jim Miller and Paul Rubell
“Finding Neverland” (Miramax)
Matt Chesse
“Million Dollar Baby” (Warner Bros.)
Joel Cox
“Ray” (Universal)
Paul Hirsch

Best foreign language film of the year
“As It Is in Heaven”
A GF Studios Production
Sweden
“The Chorus (Les Choristes)”
A Galatée Films/Pathé Renn/France 2 Cinema/Novo Arturo Films/Vega Film AG Production
France
“Downfall”
A Constantin Film Production
Germany
* “The Sea Inside”
A Sogecine and Himenóptero Production
Spain
“Yesterday”
A Videovision Entertainment Production
South Africa

Achievement in makeup
* “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”
(Paramount and DreamWorks)
Valli O’Reilly and Bill Corso
“The Passion of the Christ”
(Icon and Newmarket )
Keith Vanderlaan and Christien Tinsley
“The Sea Inside”
(Fine Line Features and Sogepaq)
Jo Allen and Manuel García

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
* “Finding Neverland” (Miramax) Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (Warner Bros.) John Williams
“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Paramount and DreamWorks) Thomas Newman
“The Passion of the Christ” (Icon and Newmarket ) John Debney
“The Village” ( Buena Vista ) James Newton Howard

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Accidentally In Love” from “Shrek 2” (DreamWorks)
Music by Adam Duritz, Charles Gillingham, Jim Bogios, David Immergluck, Matthew Malley and David Bryson
Lyric by Adam Duritz and Daniel Vickrey
* “Al Otro Lado Del Río” from “The Motorcycle Diaries” (Focus Features and Film Four)
Music and Lyric by Jorge Drexler
“Believe” from “The Polar Express” (Warner Bros.)
Music and Lyric by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri
“Learn To Be Lonely” from “The Phantom of the Opera” (Warner Bros.)
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyric by Charles Hart
“Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)” from “The Chorus (Les Choristes)” (Miramax)
Music by Bruno Coulais
Lyric by Christophe Barratier

Best motion picture of the year
“The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
A Forward Pass/Appian Way /IMF Production
Michael Mann and Graham King, Producers
“Finding Neverland” (Miramax)
A FilmColony Production
Richard N. Gladstein and Nellie Bellflower, Producers
* “Million Dollar Baby” (Warner Bros.)
A Warner Bros. Pictures Production
Clint Eastwood, Albert S. Ruddy and Tom Rosenberg, Producers
“Ray” (Universal)
A Universal Pictures/Bristol Bay Production
Taylor Hackford, Stuart Benjamin and Howard Baldwin, Producers
“Sideways” (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox)
A Sideways Productions, Inc. Production
Michael London, Producer

Best animated short film
“Birthday Boy” An Australian Film, TV and Radio School Production
Sejong Park and Andrew Gregory
“Gopher Broke”
A Blur Studio Production
Jeff Fowler and Tim Miller
“Guard Dog”
A Bill Plympton Production
Bill Plympton
“Lorenzo”
A Walt Disney Pictures Production
Mike Gabriel and Baker Bloodworth
* “Ryan”
A Copper Heart Entertainment & National Film Board of Canada Production
Chris Landreth

Best live action short film
“Everything in This Country Must”
A Six Mile LLC Production
Gary McKendry
“Little Terrorist”
An Alipur Films Production
Ashvin Kumar
“7:35 in the Morning ( 7:35 de la Mañana)”
An Ibarretxe & Co. Production
Nacho Vigalondo
“Two Cars, One Night”
A Defender Films Limited Production
Taika Waititi and Ainsley Gardiner
* “Wasp”
A Cowboy Films Production
Andrea Arnold

Achievement in sound editing
* “The Incredibles” ( Buena Vista ) Michael Silvers and Randy Thom
“The Polar Express” (Warner Bros.) Randy Thom and Dennis Leonard
“Spider-Man 2” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Paul N.J. Ottosson

Achievement in sound mixing
“The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Tom Fleischman and Petur Hliddal
“The Incredibles” ( Buena Vista )
Randy Thom, Gary A. Rizzo and Doc Kane
“The Polar Express” (Warner Bros.)
Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis Sands and William B. Kaplan
* “Ray” (Universal)
Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer and Steve Cantamessa
“Spider-Man 2” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Joseph Geisinger

Achievement in visual effects
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (Warner Bros.)
Roger Guyett, Tim Burke, John Richardson and Bill George
“I, Robot” (20th Century Fox)
John Nelson, Andrew R. Jones, Erik Nash and Joe Letteri
* “Spider-Man 2” (Sony Pictures Releasing) John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier

Adapted screenplay
“Before Sunset” (Warner Independent Pictures)
Screenplay by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke
Story by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan
“Finding Neverland” (Miramax)
Screenplay by David Magee
“Million Dollar Baby” (Warner Bros.)
Screenplay by Paul Haggis
“The Motorcycle Diaries” (Focus Features and Film Four)
Screenplay by José Rivera
* “Sideways” (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox)
Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

Original screenplay
“The Aviator” (Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros.)
Written by John Logan
* “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (Focus Features)
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman
Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth
“Hotel Rwanda” (United Artists in association with Lions Gate Entertainment through MGM Distribution Co.)
Written by Keir Pearson & Terry George
“The Incredibles” ( Buena Vista )
Written by Brad Bird
“Vera Drake” (Fine Line Features, Alain Sarde and UK Film Council in association with Inside Track Films)
Written by Mike Leigh

http://www.oscars.com/oscarnight/winners/index.html
http://www.oscars.org/77academyawards/nomswins.html

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Moonrise

Kuun noustessa / Månen går upp. US (c) 1948 Chas K. Feldman Group. A Republic release. D: Frank Borzage. P+SC: Charles Haas - based on a novel by Theodore Strauss (1946). DP: John L. Russell. M: William Lava. "Moonrise" (William Lava, Harry Tobias). "Lonesome" (Theodore Strauss, William Lava) sung by David Street. Starring Dane Clark (Danny Hawkins), Gail Russell (Gilly Johnson), Ethel Barrymore (Grandma), Allyn Joslyn (Clem Otis), Rex Ingram (Mose), Harry Carey, Jr. (Jimmy Biff), Lloyd Bridges (Jerry Sykes). 88 min. Brilliant print from UCLA restoration master; beautiful definition of light. Viewed at Orion, Helsinki, 27 Feb 2005. A dramatic opening montage brings us straight to the heart of this film noir: the curse of the convicted and hanged man shadowing the life of the son. The oblique and forceful visual conception is consistent through the picture: night, fog, shadows, silhouettes, fragmented bodies, partly seen faces. This is a strongly visual film. Also the music is good noir. The actors are a bit pale, themselves on the verge of being drowned in the menacing shadows. ***+

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Sideways

Sideways. US/HU (c) 2004 Twentieth Century Fox. D: Alexander Payne. SC: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor - based on the novel by Rex Pickett. DP: Phedon Papamichael. M: Rolfe Kent - performed by the Sideways Orchestra. Starring Paul Giamatti (Miles), Thomas Haden Church (Jack), Sandra Oh (Stephanie), Virginia Madsen (Maya). In English and some Armenian. 123'. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Katja Paanala / Marko Hietikko. Viewed at KinoPalatsi 7, Helsinki, 26 Feb 2005. I have missed Alexander Payne's Citizen Ruth (1996) and Election (1999) but liked About Schmidt (2002), and now comes Sideways highly recommended. It's a laid back piece which does not push hard for effect. Reminiscent of the 1960s/1970s new / independent American cinema (Hal Ashby) it has connections to the road movie and the buddy movie but is quite an original. Miles and Jack are 40-something men who have not realized their aspirations in life. Miles the pessimist and Jack the optimist make a tour of the California vineyards a week before Jack gets married, tasting wine, playing golf and meeting women while Miles waits for an answer from his agent about the fate of his third unpublished novel manuscript. Nice acting, nice sense of atmosphere, nice music. The actors enjoy parodying their stereotypes but build their characters to more than that. This wine film simultaneously relishes in wine connoisseurship and mocks it. Like good wine, this film might grow with time. At least ***+
http://ww2.foxsearchlight.com/sideways

Friday, February 25, 2005

Humoresque

See entry 22 Feb 2005. - SECOND HUMORESQUE FILM CONCERT, music arranged by Tuula Hällström, with Paula Nykänen (violin) and Tuula Hällström (piano). Themes from Dvorak, Kreisler, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Bach, Bruch (Kol Nidre). Orion, Helsinki, 25 Feb 2005. Excellent musical interpretation by the two young professionals, deeply felt and well timed. This musical arrangement would be worthy of touring and a release on DVD.
ADDED NOTES: For 20 years I have been involved in organizing music for silents, and I have heard more than a thousand attempts. This interpretation I think of as exemplary because of the match of the image and the music and because of the beauty of the performance.
Again a reminder of how misleading the concept "silent movie" is. Also in Finland, 1896-1931, live music was as essential in the cinema experience as the film itself. As it was the golden age of Finnish music, the music must have been wonderful. In Orion (then Athena) 7 musicians belonged to the staff.
Some highlights: Leon Kantor "playing for his own", including the Kol Nidre, with the montage of the Jewish audience. The Rendezvous with Death, Leon's farewell piece before entering the war.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Suomalaista kansantaidetta

Folk Art in Finland. Commissioned by the State Department. FI 1977. D: Eino Ruutsalo. SC: Eino Ruutsalo, Ritva-Liisa Elomaa, Eero Naskali. DP: Eino Ruutsalo, Leena Valasmo - 35mm, released in 16mm. M: trad. folk music arr. Erik Dannholm (I recognized "The Wanderer" played with the kantele). Reader of commentary: Juhani U.E. Lehtonen. 24 min. Betacam SP viewed in Orion, Helsinki, 23 Feb 2005. Later in his career Ruutsalo delved more deeply into the roots of art, starting with pre-historical rock paintings, moving to the rustical arts and crafts and the ancient ornaments and forms reflected in more modern designs. How the magic of the past lives in present art. A great homage to tradition, a film of visual beauty.

Hvitträsk - talo metsässä

Hvitträsk - a House in the Forest. Commissioned by the State Department. FI 1972. D+DP: Eino Ruutsalo - 35mm, distributed in 16mm. SC: Tatu Tuohikorpi, Eino Ruutsalo. M: Jean Sibelius: Kullervo. Reader of commentary: Pekka Suhonen. 14 min. Betacam SP viewed in Orion, Helsinki, 23 Feb 2005. Back to the origins of the Finnish Design: the team Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen build their dream house and studio, Hvitträsk, in 1902. From there, Eliel Saarinen and his little son Eero Saarinen moved to the US and to a distinguished international career. A film of visual beauty and no experimental effects.

Alvar Aalto

FI 1972. Commissioned by the State Department. D+DP: Eino Ruutsalo - shot on 35mm, released on 16mm. SC: Tatu Tuohikorpi, Juha Tanttu, Eino Ruutsalo. M: Erik Bergman: Aubade, Energien Exsultate. Featuring Alvar Aalto, 19 min. Betacam SP viewed in Orion, Helsinki, 23 Feb 2005. A distinguished tribute to the whole career of the architect and designer Alvar Aalto. No more rapid montage sequences.

Finland ABC

FI 1969. Commissioned by Finnish Tourist Board. D+DP: Eino Ruutsalo - 35mm, released on 16mm. SC: Juha Tanttu, Eino Ruutsalo. M: Otto Donner. 24 min. English version. Betacam SP viewed in Orion, Helsinki, 23 Feb 2005. A playful take on the theme of Finland as an exotic land for tourists, in alphabetical order, as in a film by Peter Greenaway. Ambitious montage effects.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Sinisilmäinen Helsinki / Blue-Eyed Helsinki

FI 1963. Commissioned by the City of Helsinki. D: Eino Ruutsalo. DP: Timo Tanttu, Eino Ruutsalo - 35 mm, distributed in 16 mm. M: Otto Donner. 18 min. Viewed on Betacam SP, Orion, Helsinki, 23 Feb 2005. The kinetic film artist Ruutsalo let loose on the topic of Helsinki with more pure visuals and montage effects than in routine tourist fare.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Humoresque

Humoreski. US (c) 1920 International Film Service. PC: Cosmopolitan. P: W.R. Hearst, released thru Famous Players-Lasky / Paramount-Artcraft / Adolph Zukor. D: Frank Borzage. SC: Frances Marion - based on a story by Fannie Hurst. DP: Gilbert Warrenton. M: Hugo Riesenfeld, including Humoresque by Dvorák, Fritz Kreisler played the violin in the premiere. Starring Gaston Glass (Leon Kantor), Alma Rubens (Gina Berg = Minnie Ginsberg), Vera Gordon (Mama Kantor), Dore Davidson (Abraham Kantor). 5631 ft /20 fps/ 76 min. Beautiful toned print restored by UCLA ca. 1986, some preserved scenes on the verge of decomposition.
FILM CONCERT, arranged by Tuula Hällström, with Paula Nykänen (violin) and Tuula Hällström (piano). Themes from Dvorak, Kreisler, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Bach, Bruch (Kol Nidre). Orion, Helsinki, 22 Feb 2005. Excellent musical interpretation by the two young professionals, deeply felt and well timed. This musical arrangement would be worthy of touring and a release on DVD.
Borzage's first masterpiece revisited, has lost none of its power. There is a special visual intensity, both in the glowing faces of the actors and the glimpses of Jewish life in New York. Borzage had already discovered the close-up as an art form. The faces of the old-timers seem to be inscribed with ancient history. This film started the great 1920s Jewish cycle in American cinema, another culmination of which was The Jazz Singer, a story which has many parallels with this one: the mother's love; the Kol Nidre / the mortal music. ****

Monday, February 21, 2005

AFTER THE BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL 2005

My personal awards for the Berlin Film Festival:
BEST FILMS: Sorstalanság (Fateless), Paradise Now, In Good Company
BEST DIALOGUE: Patrick Marber in Asylum
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Kong que (The Peacock)
BEST FEMALE LEAD: Julia Jentsch (Sophie Scholl - die letzten Tage)
BEST MALE LEADS: Michel Bouquet (Le Promeneur du Champ de Mars), Marcell Nagy (Sorstalanság)
BEST EXHIBITION: Stanley Kubrick
BEST COMEDY: Hitch
BEST GERMAN FILMS: Gespenster, Sophie Scholl - die letzten Tage
BEST FINNISH FILMS: Brasileirinho, Eläville ja kuolleille
THE MOST MOVING MOMENT: Imre Kertesz and Marcell Nagy presenting Sorstalanság in Berlinale-Palast, next to the former Hitler headquarters
There was a profile and an identity to the main series of the Berlin Film Festival. It was openly and inspiringly political. The horror of the past was faced in several films as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the victory over Fascism. Both Rwanda films (Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April) connected this theme to the present. Also Kinsey has an important subterranean connection to these matters.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Kinsey

DE/US/GB (c) 2004 N1 European Filmproduktions-GmbH & Co. KG. D+SC: Bill Condon. DP: Frederick Elmes. Starring Liam Neeson (Alfred Kinsey), Laura Linney (Clara McMillen >Kinsey), Chris O'Donnell (Wardell Pomeroy), Peter Sarsgaard (Clyde Martin), Timothy Hutton (Paul Gebhard), John Lithgow (Alfred Kinsey Sr.), Tim Curry (Thurman Rice), Lynn Redgrave (the final interviewee). 118 min. An Icon Entertainment release, German subtitles by Gaby Gehlen. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (main series, outside competition), 20 Feb 2005. A first-rate work from Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) in the style of the Warner Bros. 1930s biopics: the crusader fighting for truth despite contempt and prejudice. The theme of the film: the infinite variety of life, also finding its expression in sex. Kinsey belongs also to the current trend of re-discovering homosexuality in the mainstream (cf. De-Lovely, Alexander). Thanks to the excellent actors, a moving experience. Condon handles tenderly private moments such as Kinsey's bitter clash with his father, and his repeating the pattern with his own son. The Kinseys' own marital life is handled with humour. - George Cukor tackled the theme in his The Chapman Report, also based on Kinsey, hampered by the Code, yet including the magisterial Claire Bloom story. ***½

Saturday, February 19, 2005

DISCUSSION WITH KLAUS EDER ON NEW GERMAN CINEMA

GOETHE-INSTITUTE FILM EXPERT TOUR DISCUSSING GERMAN FILMS WITH KLAUS EDER, SECRETARY GENERAL OF FIPRESCI. Goethe-Institut, Berlin 19 Feb 2005. Topics: the 1990s generation of German cinema, its diversity, commercial hits, its new international breakthrough, the return of comedy, the wave of films on the Third Reich, the German Turkish films, the school of Berlin. - My comment: intriguing is also the recent phenomenon that many Hollywood films are by financing German films, including such current offers as The Aviator and Kinsey. There is more money than ever in Germany's film funds, but mostly it is channeled into American films. I believe this is because of the superiority of American film marketing. There is no structure of European film distribution that can compare with the Americans.

Hitch

US (c) 2005 Columbia Pictures. D: Andy Tennant. SC: Kevin Bisch. DP: Andrew Dunn. Starring Will Smith (Alex "Hitch" Hitchens), Eva Mendes (Sara Melas), Kevin James (Albert Brennaman), Amber Valletta (Allegra Cole). 113 min. A Sony release with German subtitles. Viewed at Urania, Berlin Film Festival (Main Series Outside Competition) 19 Feb 2005. Following the publicity text: Hitch is New York's master dating counselor, who pairs off ordinary men with extraordinary women. The hard-boiled gossip columnist Sara goes undercover to reveal him. Sara, like Hitch, no longer believes in true love and has nothing but sober cynicism for romantic relationships. Ironically, it's precisely this attitude that makes them perfect for each other. Hopelessly in love, Hitch finds himself behaving in exactly the same awkward manner as his clients. - A great entry in the tradition of the matchmaker comedy. Sharp dialogue, sharp observations. Will Smith at his best. Eva Mendes has fast advanced to a role where she can display her talent as a brilliant comedienne. Probably Andy Tennant's best film. The audience, especially the women, laughed out loud all through the picture. ***½

De battre mon coeur s'est arreté

The Beat That My Heart Skipped. FR 2004. PC: Why Not. D: Jacques Audiard. SC: Jacques Audiard, Tonino Benaquista - based on the film Fingers by James Toback. DP: Stéphane Fontaine. Starring Romain Duris (Tom), Aure Atika (Aline), Emmanuelle Devos (Chris), Linh Dan Pham (Miao-Lin). 107 min. A Celluloid Dreams release with German subtitles. Viewed at Urania, Berlin Film Festival (Competition), 18 Feb 2005. A grungy, edgy take on James Toback's story where a brutal character from the milieu of crime establishes himself as a pianist. The fifth film as a director of Jacques Audiard, the son of the top screenwriter. I saw the first half only.

Eläville ja kuolleille

For the Living and the Dead. FI (c) 2005 Sputnik. D+SC: Kari Paljakka. DP: Pekka Uotila. ED: Timo Linnasalo. Starring Hannu-Pekka Björkman (father), Katja Kukkola (mother), Johannes Paljakka (Timo), Mari Rantasila (Leena), Tommi Korpela (Kaitsu). 95 min. Pleasant photochemical look. A Bavaria release with English subtitles. In the presence of Kari Paljakka and Johannes Paljakka. Viewed in Zoo-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Special), 18 Feb 2005. Based on a true story, this is a film of Trauerarbeit: the family is deeply shaken by the accidental death of the little son. After the film, Kari Paljakka told that the film as actually a mild version of the true story. A psychologically sound and authentic film to be recommended to professionals in psychology, clerical work, etc., and for everyone who has suffered such a loss. Blatantly uncommercial, the film avoids cheap tricks, but most likely it's a keeper as a sincere account of overcoming a traumatic experience. ***

Kong que

The Peacock. CN 2005. PC: Asian Union Film & Media. D: Gu Changwei. SC: Li Qiang. DP: Yang Shu. Starring Zhang Jingchu (sister), Feng Li (brother), Lu Yulai (younger brother), Hunag Meiying (mother). 144 min. Beautiful photochemical look. An Asian Union Film & Media release with German subtitles. In the presence of Gu Changwei and his team. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (Competition), 18 Feb 2005. The master cinematographer of Hong gaoliang and Ju dou debuts as a film director. It's the story of a working class family in a small village 1977-1984. The younger brother is ashamed of his sister's romantic attachments and his mentally deranged brother. Deep humilitiations are suffered. The cinematography is gorgeous. **

KARL GRIEP PRESENTS BUNDESARCHIV / FILMARCHIV (HOPPEGARTEN)

THE GOETHE INSTITUTE FILM EXPERT TOUR: BUNDESARCHIV / FILMARCHIV (HOPPEGARTEN). 18 Feb 2005. Director Karl Griep took us to a tour of the brand new Hoppegarten center where the oldest treasures - the nitrate holdings - of German cinema are kept. Hoppegarten is outside Berlin, over one hour's drive to the east from the center of Berlin. The largest part of the Bundesarchiv/Filmarchiv collections are in Koblenz and Wilmershagen. The equipment, the laboratories and the double projection cinema with full controls from the viewing room are top-of-the-game. All in all there are 980.000 cans of film in the Bundesarchiv/Filmarchiv's collections.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Solntse

The Sun. RU/IT/FR/CH (c) 2005 Nikola Film and four other companies. D+SC: Alexander Sokurov. SC: Juri Arabov. Starring Issey Ojata (Emperor Hirohito), Robert Dawson (General MacArthur), Kaori Momoi (The Empress), Shiro Sano. In Japanese and English. 110 min. Very gray digital look, in severely limited monochrome. Released by The Works, German subtitles by Marina Koreneva. In the presence of Aleksandr Sokurov and many of the actors. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival, 17 Feb 2005. 60 years have gone after the downfall of Emperor Hirohito soon after Hiroshima. In his chamber piece style (Moloch, Taurus) Sokurov explores the epochal change as the Emporer renounces his divine status. The twilight look is not easy on the eye. **

Sometimes in April

US/RW (c) 2004 Home Box Office. D+SC: Raoul Peck. DP: Eric Guichard. LOC: Rwanda, Paris, Washington. Starring Edris Elba (Augustin Muganza), Debra Winger (Secretary Bushnell), Pamela Nomvete (Martine), Carole Karemera (Jeanne). In Kinyarwanda and English. 139 min. Digital post look. A HBO release, German subtitles by Thomas Schröter. In the presence of Raoul Peck, Jacques Comets (ED), Bruno Coulais (M) and the actors Idris Elba and Carole Karemera. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (Competition) 17 Feb 2005. The Rwanda 1994 genocide as seen from the viewpoint of a Hutu soldier married to a Tutsi woman. The story has similarities with Hotel Rwanda. There was a standing ovation after the film. ***

MEETING DIETER KOSSLICK, DIRECTOR OF BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL

THE GOETHE INSTITUTE FILM EXPERT TOUR MEETS DIETER KOSSLICK, DIRECTOR OF THE BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL. Golden Bear Lounge, Grand Hyatt Berlin, Marlene-Dietrich-Platz, 17 Feb 2005. Between kissing Anjelica Huston and Nicole Kidman, Mr. Kosslick found time for our touring group. He has reigned for four years. What is new? 1. The special German section. 2. The Talent Campus. 3. The stronger section for children and the young (14+). 4. World cinema. 5. Co-Production Market. 6. Selling Democracy section. What are the trends in world cinema now? 1. Low budget films. 2. Authenticity. 3. Personal cinema. 4. Political cinema. Exploring the trouble in communication, loss of identity, attempts to communicate through sex, in a world of globalization.

Les Mots bleus

Words in Blue. FR (c) 2004 Les Mots Bleus / France 3 Cinéma. D: Alain Corneau - based on the novel Leur histoire by Dominique Mainard. DP: Yves Angelo - HD Cam + 35mm. M: Christophe, Jean-Michel Jarre. Starring Sylvie Testud (Clara), Sergi Lopez (Vincent), Camille Gauthier (Anna), Mar Sodupe (Muriel). 114 min. Ugly digital look. Viewed at Urania, Berlin Film Festival (Competition) 17 Feb 2005. Released by ARP, German subtitles. The six-year old Anna refuses to speak. Her mother Clara has never learned to read or write. The contact with the teacher Vincent turns their world around. **½

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tian bian yi duo yun

The Wayward Cloud. FR/TW/CN 2004. PC: Arena Films. D+SC: Tsai Ming-Liang. DP: Song Wen-Chong. Starring Lee Kang-Sheng (Hsiao-Kang), Chen Shiang-Chyi (Shiang-Chyi). 112 min. German subtitles. In the presence of Tsai Ming-Liang and members of the team. Viewed at the Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (Competition), 16 Feb 2005. Another ideosynchratic contribution from Tsai Ming-Liang, who brought us Rebel of the Neon Gods, Vive l'amour, and The River. A Chinese salad whose ingredients include views of urban solitude, puerile sex jokes with watermelons and pornography, realistic scenes of a city suffering from water shortage, kitsch songs and lowbrow farce. **

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

US (c) 2005 Touchstone Pictures. D: Wes Anderson. SC: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach. DP: Robert Yeoman. Music: David Bowie songs performed as bossa nova versions by Seu Jorge. Starring Bill Murray (Steve Zissou), Owen Wilson (Ned Plimpton), Cate Blanchett (Jane Winslett-Richardson), Anjelica Huston (Eleanor Zissou), Willem Dafoe (Klaus Daimler), Jeff Goldblum (Alistair Hennessey), Michael Gambon (Oseary Drakoulias). 118 min. A Buena Vista release with German subtitles. In the presence of Wes Anderson, Cate Blanchett, and Anjelica Huston. Viewed in Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (Competition). 16 Jan 2005. Another highly original offer from Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums). The retro-futuristic adventure follows the Team Tissou in their hunt for a vicious shark. Brimming with audacious detail and invention. ***

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Sorstalanság

Roman eines Schicksallosen / Fateless. HU / GB / DE 2005. PC: EuroArts / Magic Media / Renegade Films. D: Lajos Koltai. SC: Imre Kertész based on his novel. DP: Gyula Pados. M: Ennio Morricone. Song: "In einer mondhellen Nacht". Starring Marcell Nagy (Gyuri Köves). 136 min. Digital, consciously dirty, quasi-monochrome look. With German subtitles. In the presence of Lajos Koltai, Imre Kertész, Marcell Nagy, Gyula Pados and members of the team. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (Competition) 15 Feb 2005. An ambitious film based on the novel by Imre Kertész the Nobel Prize winner. The first two hours are a solid account of Holocaust in Hungary and in three concentration camps (Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buchenwald, Zeitz). The final half hour is the most exceptional: the story of the returned survivor. We are made to understand that the same thing could happen all over again. Although the screening went on well past midnight the compelling film kept me totally focused. Marcell Nagy is exceptional, even more moving than Adrian Brody in The Pianist. One of the great Holocaust films. ***½

Gespenster

Ghosts. DE / FR (c) 2005 Schramm / BR / ARTE. D: Christian Petzold. SC: Christian Petzold, Harun Farocki. DP: Hans Fromm. Starring Julia Hummer (Nina), Sabine Timoteo (Toni), Marianne Basler (Francoise). 85 min. Photochemical look. A Bavaria release with English subtitles. In the presence of Christian Petzold and team, including the main actresses. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (competition), 15 Feb 2005. The director tells that he found an inspiration reading Grimms Märchen to his daughter and finding "Das Totenhemdchen" which he did not know before. It's the story of a mother who grieves her dead daughter so that she cannot enter heaven. She returns to the mother in her burial shirt all soiled by the earth of the grave. First as the mother lets go of her grief can the daughter be free. This linked in the director's mind to the phantom images on display in French and Belgian post offices: digitally processed images of lost children as they might look years after they have disappeared. Petzold brings together a profoundly disturbed mother who lost her daughter years ago and two familyless teenage girls wandering around Potsdamer Platz. I watched this one distractedly, but maybe it's ***

Kakushi ken - oni no tsume

The Hidden Blade. JP 2004. PC: The Hidden Blade Film Partners / Shochiku. D: Yoji Yamada. Based on short stories by Shuhei Fujisawa. DP: Mutsuo Naganuma. Starring Masatoshi Nagase (Munezo Katagiri), Takako Matsu (Kie), Hidetaka Yoshioka (Samon Shimada). 132 min. A Shochiku release with German subtitles. In the presence of Yoji Yamada. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (competition) 15 Feb 2005. A Shochiku 110 years jubileum contribution. The second samurai film by Yoji Yamada, again based on stories by Shuhei Fujisawa. It takes place during the turmoil of the samurai classes on the verge of the modernization of Japan in the mid-19th century. It's more a study of society and manners than a martial arts picture. Yoji Yamada displays again his sense of humour and understanding of human relationships. I viewed this one distractedly, maybe ***

THREE EXHIBITIONS AT FILMMUSEUM BERLIN

The Goethe Institute's Film Expert Tour visited three exhibitions at Filmmuseum Berlin, hosted by Dr. Rolf Giesen, 15 Feb 2005.
1. THE FILMMUSEUM BERLIN PERMANENT EXHIBITION covers the history of German cinema from Skladanowsky to the present day, with special emphases on the Marlene Dietrich collection, part of which is also on display at the KaDeWe department store and the Paul Kohner collection (Paul Weisz had reportedly just paid a visit).
2. ARTIFICIAL WORLDS is a wonderful introduction to special effects and fantasy film, with an emphasis on Ray Harryhausen.
3. THE PRODUCTION DESIGN & FILM exhibition is linked with the Retrospective of the Berlinale. Bewegte Räume is the German title. Five aspects are covered: Interiors, Transit, Power, Stage, and Labyrinth. Among the Berlinale guests is Sir Kenneth Adam, whose work is presented both here and in the Kubrick exhibition.

DEUTSCHE FILM- UND FERNSEHAKADEMIE (DFFB)

The Goethe-Institute's Film Expert Tour included a visit to Professor Reinhard Hauff, Director of the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie (DFFB), a world-class institute, 15 Feb 2005. There are 150 students from all over the world at DFFB, which was established 38 years ago. Many German directors in the Berlinale programme are DFFB alumni. There are seven film schools in Germany for the moment. Germany's biggest film library, the former DFFB library, with 80.000 volumes, is in the house, now managed by Filmmuseum Berlin.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Tickets

IT/GB (c) 2005 Fandango and two other companies. D: Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach. DP: Fabio Olmi, Mahmoud Kalari, Chris Menges. Starring Carlo Delle Piane (Professor), Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (PR Woman), Filippo Trojano (Filippo). 115 min. In Italian. Attractive photochemical look. Released thru The Works with German subtitles. In the presence of Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and Filippo Trojano. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (main series, out of competition), 14 Feb 2005. The train goes from Central Europe to Rome. The three directors tell three small stories: about an old professor dreaming about love, a young guy tending to a general's widow, and three Scotsmen who meet an Albanian refugee family on their way to a football match in Rome. ***

Le Promeneur du Champ de Mars

The Last Mitterrand. FR (c) 2004 Film Oblige and two other companies. D: Robert Guediguian. SC: Gilles Taurand, Georges-Marc Benamou - based on Benamou's book Le dernier Mitterrand. DP: Renato Berta. Starring Michel Bouquet (Francois Mitterrand), Jalil Lespert (Antoine Moreau). 116 min. Pleasing photochemical look. Released by Pathé with German subtitles. In the presence of Robert Guediguian and his team. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (competition) 14 Feb 2005. A fictional account of a young journalist's series of encounters with the long-term President Mitterrand who knows his days are numbered. It's an essay in self-awareness and self-deception, political and private. Magisterial interpretation by Michel Bouquet as the ageing President. ***

Paradise Now

NL/DE/FR (c) 2005 Augustus Film / four other companies. D: Hany Abu-Assad. SC: Hany Abu-Assad, Bero Beyer, Pierre Hodgson. DP: Antoine Heberlé. LOC: Palestina. Starring Kais Nashef (Said), Ali Suliman (Khaled), Lubna Azafal (Suha). Less than the 90 min announced. Pleasing photochemical look. In Arabic. Released by Celluloid Dreams, German subtitles. In the presence of Hany Abu-Assad and 13 members of the cast and the team. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (competition) 14 Feb 2005. Rana's Wedding attracted attention to Hany Abu-Assad's talent which this film confirms. It's the tale of two suicide bombers in Tel Aviv and how their plan goes awry. ***½

NEW GERMAN FILMS RECOMMENDED

During the Berlin Film Festival the following new German films have been recommended:
Willenbrock (Andreas Dresen)
Alles auf Zucker! (Dani Levy)
Netto (Robert Thalheim)
One Day in Europe (Hannes Stöhr)
Napola (Dennis Gansel)
Der Untergang (Oliver Hirschbiegel)
Sophie Scholl - die letzten Tage (Marc Rothemund)
Weltverbesserungsmassnahmen (Jörn Hintzer, Jakob Hüfner)
(T)raumschiff Surprise: Periode 1 (Michael Bully Herbig)
Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (Hans Weingartner)
Gespenster (Christian Petzold)
Stadt als Beute (Irene von Alberti, Miriam Dehne, Esther Gronenborn)
Happy End (Sebastian Strasser) 30 min
Blackout (Maximilian Erlenwein) 30 min
Was lebst du? (Bettina Braun)
Verschwende deine Jugend.doc (Jürgen Teipel, Sigrid Harder)
Katze im Sack (Florian Schwarz)
Aus der Tiefe des Raumes (Gil Mehmert)
NB. Huge sums from German film production funds are channeled to big productions that are by copyright German but that we think as Hollywood films (The Aviator, Bourne Supremacy, Coffee and Cigarettes, Kinsey...).

STANLEY KUBRICK EXHIBITION

Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, visited on 14 Feb 2005. The wonderful exhibition is a reminder about how each of Kubrick's films was special. Besides materials to the finished films there are displays of his great unfinished projects: NAPOLEON and WARTIME LIES. Also Kubrick's Wunderkind career as a photographer in the 1940s and in the 1950s is presented. The fact that the Kubrick family (Jan Harlan, Christiane Kubrick, etc.) is behind it provides a personal touch to it all. ****

Monday, February 14, 2005

In Good Company

US (c) 2004 Universal. P: Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz. D+SC: Paul Weitz. DP: Remi Adefarasin. M: a nice selection of tracks by Steely Dan, Peter Gabriel, etc. Starring Dennis Quaid (Dan Foreman), Topher Grace (Carter Duryea), Scarlett Johansson (Alex Foreman). Released thru Focus, German subtitles by Frank Sahlberger. In the presence of Paul Weitz, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, etc. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (competition), 13 Feb 2005. The story of a 50+ advertising executive and his family and his company is told with such wit, insight and observation that Paul Weitz, who made About a Boy, as a director does indeed find himself in good company, namely in that of Billy Wilder. The satire of the business world and the dialogue are sharp, and Paul Weitz seems also to have a good grip on the theme of the sentimental education. I look forward to revisiting this film and more from Paul Weitz. ***½

Sophie Scholl - die letzten Tage

Sophie Scholl - the Final Days. DE (c) 2005 Goldkind / Broth. D: Marc Rothemund. SC: Fred Breinersdorfer. CA: Martin Langer. Starring Julia Jentsch (Sophie Scholl), Fabian Heinrichs (Hans Scholl), Alexander Held (Robert Mohr), Florian Stetter (Christoph Probst). Released thru Bavaria, English subtitles by Gerhard Lehmann. In the presence of Marc Rothemund, Julia Jentsch and ca 20 members of the team. Viewed at the Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (Competition) 13 Feb 2005. After Percy Adlon's Fünf letzte Tage (1982) and Paul Verhoeven's Die Weisse Rose (also 1982) already the third remarkable film on the subject. In Munich in spring 1943 members of the Weisse Rose secret network start spreading anti-Nazi propaganda. They are captured and condemned to death at the Volksgerichtshof. Great story in the Jeanne d'Arc tradition. Sober but strong. Julia Jentsch stands out in the title role. ***

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha

ZA 2004. PC: Spier Films. D: Mark Dornford-May. Based on the opera Carmen, music by Bizet, libretto by Meilhac & Halévy, based on the tale by Mérimée. DP: Giulio Biccari. Starring Pauline Malefane (Carmen), Andile Tshoni (Jongikhaya). In Xhosa with German subtitles. In the presence of the director, the stars and members of the team. Viewed at Berlinale-Palast, Berlin Film Festival (Competition) 13 Feb 2005. Following the model of Carmen Jones this is another all-black Carmen, this time set in South Africa. The songs sound great also in Xhosa. Carmen and the others are very Rubensian in contrast to the cinema's Carmen tradition. The talented singers perform in their own voices (Carmen Jones was dubbed) very well. The film interpretation does achieve the tragic power of the tale. **

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Les Temps qui changent

Changing Times. FR (c) 2004 Gemini Films / France 2 Cinéma. D: André Téchiné. SC: Téchiné, Laurent Guyot, Pascal Bonitzer. DP: Julien Hirsch. Songs by Angélique Kidjo: "Tumba", "Okanbale", "Les petits riens". Starring Catherine Deneuve (Cécile), Gérard Depardieu (Antoine), Gilbert Melki (Nathan), Lubna Azabal (Nadia / Aicha). 98 min. Ugly digital look. Released thru Gemini, German subtitles. Viewed at Urania, Berlin Film Festival (Competition), 13 Feb 2005. After an absence of 30 years Gérard Depardieu revisits his teenage love Catherine Deneuve. The location is Tangiers, the actors are excellent, the storytelling not compelling, the ugly digital look distracting. I had a hard time trying to focus. Téchiné is not at his best this time.

Provincia meccanica

Smalltown, Italy. IT 2004. PC: Medusa Film. D: Stefano Mordini. SC: Silvia Barbiera, Stefano Mordini. DP: Italo Petriccione. Starring Stefano Accorsi (Marco Battaglia), Valentina Cervi (Silvia Battaglia). 107 min. Poor visual look. German subtitles. Viewed at Urania, Berlin Film Festival (Competition), 13 Feb 2005. An entry in the minimalist school of new Italian cinema, the story of an unconventional family. I saw 30 minutes.

One Day in Europe

DE/ES 2005. PC: Moneypenny Filmproduktion. D+SC: Hannes Stöhr. DP: Florian Hoffmeister. MOSCOW starring Megan Gay (Kate), Ludmila Tsvetkova (Elena). ISTANBUL starring Florian Lukas (Rokko), Erdal Yildiz (Celal). SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA starring Peter Scherer (Gabor), Miguel de Lira (Sargento Barreira). BERLIN starring Rachida Brakni (Rachide), Boris Arquier (Claude). 100 min. Digital look. In seven languages. Released by Beta Cinema 1 / Beta Film, German subtitles. In the presence of the film-making team. Viewed at Berlinale Palast, Berlin Film Festival (Competition) main screening, 12 Feb 2005. Tales of four cities during the Champions' League football game. The pretext is much like Jim Jarmusch (Night on Earth, Coffee and Cigarettes), but Hannes Stöhr has a humoristic approach which is all his own. As it was close to midnight and this was the fifth film of the day, I had difficulty focusing, but this might be a film worth revisiting.

Brasileirinho

BR/FI/CH (c) 2005 Marco Forster Productions / Marianna Films / Studio Uno. D: Mika Kaurismäki. M: Brazilian Choro music. Featuring Marcello Goncalves, Zé Paul Becker, Elza Soares. 90 min. Digital look. In Portuguese with German subtitles. In the presence of Mika Kaurismäki and eight other filmmakers / artists. Viewed at Delphi, Berlin Film Festival, 12 Feb 2005. A continuation to Moro do Brasil, this musical journey focuses on the Choro music tradition, older than the Samba. The first film was a panorama of the many kinds of popular music of Brazil; this one is more focused on one current. The music is great, the atmosphere infectuous. There was a discussion with the film-makers after the show hosted by Christoph Terhechte. ***

Hotel Rwanda

GB/ZA/US/IT (c) 2004 Kigali Films. D: Terry George. SC: Keir Pearson, Terry George. DP: Robert Fraisse. Starring Don Cheadle (Paul Rusesabagina), Sophie Okonedo (Tatiana), Joaquin Phoenix (Jack), Nick Nolte (Colonel Oliver). 121 min. In English. Released by Lions Gate Films, German subtitles. Viewed at Urania, Berlin Film Festival (competition), 12 Feb 2005. Digital look. Epic story of the 1994 Rwanda genocide centers at the hotel Mille Collines. The Belgian Hutu Paul Rusesabagina, married to the Tutsi Tatiana, fights for his operation and for the safety of his people in the middle of the unspeakable bloodbath. A dignified effort to help understand the harrowing goings-on where almost a million people lost their lives in a hundred days. ***

Asylum

US/IE 2004. PC: Seven Arts Pictures. D: David Mackenzie. SC: Patrick Marber - based on the novel by Patrick McGrath. DP: Giles Nuttgens. Starring Natasha Richardson (Stella), Ian McKellen (Peter Cleave), Marton Csokas (Edgar Stark), Hugh Bonneville (Max Raphael), Joss Ackland (Mr. Straffen). 93 min. Distributed by Seven Arts / Sony Pictures, German subtitles. Viewed at Urania, Berlin Film Festival (Competition) 12 Feb 2005. Patrick Marber is the sharpest writer of dialogue of the moment: as in Closer, he provides excellent lines for top actors, and there is a strong audience reaction to his wit. After Young Adam, David Mackenzie again confirms his talent in creating a strong atmosphere. Both men seem to be inspired by sexual obsessions and strange passions. The film is compelling until midpoint. The tale of degradation through love is powerful but leaves me asking about the point. ***

Thumbsucker

US 2004. PC: This Is That. D+SC: Mike Mills - based on the novel by Walter Kim. DP: Joaquin Baca-Asay. Starring Lou Taylor Pucci (Justin Cobb), Tilda Swinton (Audrey Cobb), Vincent D'Onofrio (Mike Cobb), Keanu Reeves (Dr. Perry Lyman), Vince Vaughn (Mr. Geary). 94 min. Heavy digital look. With German subtitles. Viewed at Urania, Berlin Film Festival Competition, 12 Feb 2005. The 17-year-old Justin is still a thumbsucker: this is the starting-point of an original American growing-up story: painful, funny, with great dialogue, good actors. ***

Friday, February 11, 2005

Man to Man

FR/GB/ZA (c) 2005 Vertigo Productions / Skyline (Man to Man) / France 2 Cinéma / France 3 Cinéma / Boréales / The Imaginarium. D: Régis Wargnier. SC: Michel Fessler, Frédéric Fougea. DP: Laurent Dailland. Starring Kristin Scott Thomas (Elena van den Ende), Joseph Fiennes (Jamie Dodd), Lomama Boseki (Toko), Cécile Bayiha (Likola). 122 min. Digitally processed look (obvious loss of detail and definition in long shots of the jungle etc.). A Wild Bunch release. Original in English, with German subtitles by Heinz Schwarzinger. In the simultaneous video presence of Régis Wargnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joseph Fiennes, Lomama Boseki, Cécile Bayiha, etc. Viewed in CinemaxX 3, Berlin, 10 Feb 2005 (the parallel opening of the Berlin Film Festival). The story of a Central Africa jungle trader (Kristin Scott Thomas) and three Edinburgh scientists who believe they have found the missing link in 1870. The humanity of the two pygmies vs. the bigotry of the white ones. A fascinating story, soberly told, with good actors. ***

BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL 2005

Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale) 10-20 Feb, 2005. I arrive as a guest of the "Information Tour for Film Experts" by Auswärtiges Amt / Goethe-Institut. Starting from the arrival at the airport everything is being taken care of. Hotel Angleterre by Checkpoint Charlie is within a 15 minute walking distance from the Festival center.
The touring group of 22 is global, with:
Gary Maddox (The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia)
Antonio Mazon Robau (Cinemateca de Cuba)
Christos Mitsis (director of The International Film Festival of Athens, Greece)
Blagoja Kunovski (The International Film Camera Festival, Skopje, Macedonia)
Ludmila Nemyria (The Ukraine Film Foundation)
Teboho Moseling Mahlatsi (film-maker, South Africa)
Mary-Beatrix Mugishagwe (tv and film producer, Daressalaam, Tanzania)
Youssef Sherif Rizkalla (director of the Cairo International Film Festival, Egypt)
Saleh Al-Suhaimi (film producer, Riad, Saudi Arabia)
Chalida Uabumrungjit (Thai Film Foundation), Bangkok, Thailand
Aviva Meiron (Cinematheque Jerusalem) Israel
Nicolas Deocampo (director, festival director) Manila, the Philippines
Ibrahim Moumni (Al Hayat) Beirut, Libanon
Bartosz Zurawiecki (Film monthly magazine) Warsaw, Poland
Misrobiddin Nugmanov (tv producer) Duschanbe, Tadzhikistan
David Melo Torres (film counsellor, Ministry of Culture) Bogota, Columbia
Futoshi Koga (Asahi Shimbun, film festival organizer) Tokyo, Japan
Ruoyu Yang (Radio and TV Team Shechuan) Chengdu, China
Alfredo Barría (film festival director, counselor of the ministry of culture, professor of film history) Valparaiso, Chile
Ricardo Bedoya (film critic and historian, co-organizer of the South American Film Festival) Lima, Peru
Mark Jenkins (journalist) Washington, D.C., USA
Our expert guides are Miriam Dagan, Anna Held, Luciana Sollero, and Hamza Chourabi.
We are invited to the Thursday evening opening gala, featuring Man to Man directed by Régis Wargnier.
On Friday 11 Feb we are given a special Information Tour Berlin by bus, hosted by the city planning expert Mr. Ares Kalandides. I have lived in West Berlin (Zehlendorf, Charlottenburg, Dahlem) for three years 20 years ago, and I was a Berlinale regular during the era of the great retrospectives (Babelsberg, Pommer, Special Effects, Colour, Scope) and before the film festivals boomed in Finland (we have film festivals every month now). Berlin has changed totally since: the wall came down, Berlin became the capital of Germany, and for years the largest construction site of the world. Now most of the re-building has been accomplished. The Tour offered an impressive view. We started at the Checkpoint Charlie, where a part of the Wall has been reconstructed in a new site. We toured through Friedrichshain, witnessed the impressive renovation of Karl-Marx-Allee, saw Prenzlauer Berg, drove thru the Jewish area around the Synagogue and the Charité hospital area, went past the giant Lehrter Bahnhof construction site, to be the hugest railway station in Europe, saw the new German government buildings and witnessed the finishing stage of the Holocaust memorial next to the Weimar-era Reichstaghaus. Of West Berlin we visited the tour of Staatsbibliothek, Nationalgalerie, Wittenbergplatz, KaDeWe, Kurfürstendamm, Bahnhof Zoo, and the Embassy Area. We drove through the Sony Center / Marlene-Dietrich-Platz media area, saw the Museum Island and witnessed the nothingness of Berlin Alexanderplatz, so central until the downfall of the Third Reich and so devastated since. We took a walk to the attractive Hackescher Hinterhöfe near the Goethe-Institut. All in all, it was a two-hour sighting of top architects from all over the world. Berlin with its huge area and many parks, forests and lakes is not a crowded metropolis. The big majority rent their apartments, there are not relatively many private cars, the BVG public transport system is excellent, and after the wall, brown coal is no longer used as fuel, as a result of which the air is cleaner and there are no longer smog alarms.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Vägar ut ur lådan

Irti laatikoista / Ways Out of the Box. FI (c) 2005 Astrid-Film. P+D+SC: Ywe Jalander. Featuring Reima Pietilä and Raili Pietilä. 58 min. Original in Digital Betacam. Original in Swedish, with Finnish subtitles. Introduced by Ywe Jalander. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 9 Feb 2005. An exciting documentary on the visionary architects Reima Pietilä and Raili Pietilä. Many of their great projects are explored, including the Suvikumpu Project, the Dipoli, the Kaleva Church, the Finnish Embassy in New Delhi, the Metso Library, and the President's Mäntyniemi Residence. There are several insightful interviews. ***

Haapa ja bambu

Aspen and Bamboo / Aspen och bambun. FI (c) 1997 Astrid-Film. P+D+SC: Ywe Jalander. M: Paroni Paakkunainen. Featuring Fujiwo Ishimoto. 54 min. Betacam SP. Introduced by Ywe Jalander. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 9 Feb 2005. Beautiful documentary on the Japan-born designer Fujiwo Ishimoto who settled in Finland as a young man and became a top artist for Marimekko and Iittala. There is a spiritual undercurrent between Japan and Finland. How design is inspired by nature. ***

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Lazybones

US (c) 1925 Fox. D: Frank Borzage. SC: Frances Marion. DP: George Schneiderman. Starring Buck Jones (Steve "Lazybones" Tuttle), Madge Bellamy (Kit as a young woman), ZaSu Pitts (Ruth Fanning). MoMA print. 6395 ft /22 fps/ 78 min. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 8 Feb 2005, with music by Tuukka Terho (guitar) and Severi Salminen (violin). Borzage's second masterpiece invites comparison to Russian classics like Chekhov and Goncharov in its sense of the missed opportunities of life. Lazybones is the Oblomov of America: the world goes by, life goes by, and he is mostly content to fall asleep in a big tree by the riverside. Even WWI he experiences as a somnambulistic hero-by-accident. Having taking into his custody an abandoned baby he loses his girlfriend, and a generation later, as the baby is a young woman, he realizes that love has passed him by. Lazybones is a mirror to the question "what is life all about", what have all the others accomplished? This time I felt there is maybe a bit too much caricature, but there are several subtly humoristic scenes, including the laconic ending. ****

Monday, February 07, 2005

THE JUSSI GALA

THE JUSSI AWARDS FOR THE BEST FINNISH FILMS OF 2004
Best picture: Koirankynnen leikkaaja
Best director: Markku Pölönen (Koirankynnen leikkaaja)
Female lead: Outi Mäenpää (Kukkia ja sidontaa)
Male lead: Peter Franzén (Koirankynnen leikkaaja)
Female supporting role: Minttu Mustakallio (Lapsia ja aikuisia)
Male supporting role: Kari Väänänen (Juoksuhaudantie)
Screenplay: Markku Pölönen (Koirankynnen leikkaaja)
Cinematography: Kari Sohlberg (Koirankynnen leikkaaja)
Production design: Jussi Halonen, Samuli Halla, Petri Neuvonen (Pelikaanimies)
Costumes: Elina Kolehmainen (Keisarikunta)
Music: Sanna Salmenkallio (Melancholian 3 huonetta)
Sound design: Paul Jyrälä (Pelikaanimies)
Editing: Kimmo Taavila (Vares)
Documentary: Melancholian 3 huonetta / Pirjo Honkasalo
Popular favourite: Keisarikunta

The Jussi Gala took place at Studio 51, Helsinki, Sunday 6 Feb 2005. The Jussi Awards were given for the 60th time.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicketin surkeiden sattumusten sarja / Lemony Snicket's berättelse om syskonen Baudelaires olycksaliga liv. US (c) 2004 Kumar Mor CCS. Released thru Paramount / DreamWorks. P: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parks. D: Brad Silberling. SC: Robert Gordon - based on the books by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and the Wide Window. SC: Emmanuel Lubezki. PD: Rick Heinrichs. Special FX: Michael Lantieri. Visual FX: Stefen Fangmeier / Industrial Light and Magic. AN: beginning: Littlest Elf; end credits: Axiom Design. M: Thomas Newman. Starring Jim Carrey (Count Olaf), Emily Browning (Violet Baudelaire), Liam Aiken (Klaus Baudelaire), Kara Hoffman and Shelby Hoffman (Sunny Baudelaire), Timothy Spall (Mr. Poe), Meryl Streep (Aunt Josephine), Jude Law (Lemony Snicket [voice]. Sophisticated digital look. Family film / fairytale. Released by Buena Vista Finland; Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Nina Ekholm. Viewed in Kinopalatsi 10, Helsinki, 5 Feb 2005. An ambitious and wonderfully bizarre fairytale film. I'm not familiar with the books, thus incapable of comparison, but here there is a consistency of tone and an abundance of visual invention. Certainly to be revisited. ****

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Shall We Dance

Saanko luvan? / Får jag lov? US (c) 2004 Miramax. D: Peter Chelsom. SC: Audrey Wells - based on the 1996 film by Masayuki Suo. DP: John de Borman. M: many styles of dance music. LOC: Winnipeg, Chicago. Starring Richard Gere (John Clark), Jennifer Lopez (Paulina), Susan Sarandon (Beverly Clark), Stanley Tucci (Link). 108 min. Released by Buena Vista Finland, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Tarja Dibaja / Janne Staffans. Viewed in Tennispalatsi 11, Helsinki, 4 Feb 2005. The 1996 Masayuki Suo film Shall We Dansu? was a wonderful celebration of dance and an interesting study of Japanese everyday life. The story of the middle-age salaryman who finds new vitality in dance was humoristic and sounded authentic. I remember thinking that it should be remade in Finland by Markku Pölönen. Now there is this American adaptation which takes the same story outlines and fills them with American detail. This is more a study on characters and relationships, and there is actually little great dancing in the film. Astaire and Charisse in The Band Wagon are glimpsed through a window on monitors. Still this perhaps calculatedly audience-pleasing film makes it point on the joy of dance, the actors are good, and the characters likeable. A good date movie. ***

Closer

Iholla / Closer. US (c) 2004 Columbia. D: Mike Nichols. SC: Patrick Marber - based on his play. DP: Stephen Goldblatt. M: Mozart: Così fan tutte; Rossini: La Cenerentola. LOC: London. Starring Natalie Portman (Alice), Jude Law (Dan), Julia Roberts (Anna), Clive Owen (Larry). 106 min. Released by CTSN, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Janne Staffans. Viewed in Bristol, Helsinki, 4 Feb 2005 (on premiere date). Brilliant dialogue, brilliant actors, brilliant scenes. However, it starts to drag, gets sour. In the end I found myself not caring about the characters. There's a lot to savour here: Nichols and Marber and the actors in great form. I suppose I would have to recommend this to ones looking for good modern film drama. There's much good satire on modern life in this film. ***

Friday, February 04, 2005

Humoresque

Humoreski. US (c) 1920 International Film Service. PC: Cosmopolitan. P: W.R. Hearst, released thru Famous Players-Lasky / Paramount-Artcraft / Adolph Zukor. D: Frank Borzage. SC: Frances Marion - based on a story by Fannie Hurst. DP: Gilbert Warrenton. M: Hugo Riesenfeld, including Humoresque by Dvorák, Fritz Kreisler played the violin in the premiere. Starring Gaston Glass (Leon Kantor), Alma Rubens (Gina Berg = Minnie Ginsberg), Vera Gordon (Mama Kantor), Dore Davidson (Abraham Kantor). 5631 ft /20 fps/ 76 min. Beautiful toned print restored by UCLA, brief preserved scenes on the verge of decomposition. Viewed at the musicians' rehearsal screening at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 4 Feb 2005. Borzage's first masterpiece revisited, has lost none of its power. There is a special visual intensity, both in the glowing faces of the actors and the glimpses of Jewish life in New York. Borzage had already discovered the close-up as an art form. The faces of the old-timers seem to be inscribed with ancient history. This film started the great 1920s Jewish cycle in American cinema, another culmination of which was The Jazz Singer, a story which has many parallels with this one: the mother's love; the Kol Nidre / the mortal music. ****

Ba mùa

Three Seasons / Kolme vuodenaikaa / Tre årstider. VN / US 1998. PC: October Films / Quan Giai Phong / Open City Films. D+SC: Tony Bui. DP: Lisa Rinzler. Starring Don Duong (Hai), Nguyen Ngoc Hiep (Kien An), Zoë Bui (Lan), Harvey Keitel (James Hager). A Kamras release. In Vietnamese with Finnish / Swedish subtitles. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 3 Feb 2005. An impressive debut feature by Tony Bui, the first American film shot in Vietnam since the war. The film covers four stories in Shanghai. The atmosphere is wonderful, there is an intensive feeling of heat, of lived life. The colour cinematography is sensually, vibrantly photochemical. Worth revisiting (I saw the first 30 minutes only).

History Is Made at Night

Kuin varas yöllä / Som en tjuv i natten / ...und ewig siegt die Liebe. US (c) 1937 United Artists. P: Walter Wanger. D: Frank Borzage. SC: Gene Towne, Graham Baker, additional dialogue by Vincent Lawrence, David Hertz. DP: David Abel. Starring Charles Boyer (Paul Dumond), Jean Arthur (Irene Vail), Leo Carrillo (Cesare), Colin Clive (Bruce Vail). 98 min. Good definition of light in an original language print with text frames in German only without sound. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 3 Feb 2005. Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur shine in a luminous romantic thriller with sparkling dialogue. Another example of how the Lubitsch touch and the Borzage touch came close in the 1930s, with much deeper feeling with Borzage. ****

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Niskavuori taistelee

Niskavuori Fights / Niskavuoris kamp. FI 1957. PC: Suomen Filmiteollisuus. D: Edvin Laine. SC: Juha Nevalainen - based on the play by Hella Wuolijoki Entäs nyt Niskavuori (1953). DP: Osmo Harkimo. PD: Aarre Koivisto (1920-2005). M: Heikki Aaltoila. Starring Elsa Turakainen (Loviisa, the old lady of Niskavuori), Mirjam Novero (Ilona, the young lady of Niskavuori), Tauno Palo (Juhani Mattila/Juhani Niskavuori Jr.), Martti Katajisto (Paavo, the son of Ilona). 96 min. Swedish subtitles. Beautiful, clean print viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 2 Feb 2005. The final play of the Niskavuori epic ends in 1945. Aarne, the lord of the house, falls in the war. Juhani, the illegitimate son, appears decades after his mother had left the house where she served as a maid. Loviisa, the old lady, is losing her strength, and the house is about to fall apart as all her surviving children want to sell it, but there is a future in Juhani Jr., Ilona, and Paavo. Laine and Nevalainen softened the bitter politics of the play, yet they turned out a marvellous epic film. Again several sequences are purely visual and have a documentary quality recording the hard work of the people of the home front. "I have often built on injustice. I won't take it with me", are among Loviisa's last words. The final camera movement from outside the Niskavuori manor on a rainy night stops at Loviisa's eyes looking at us from her portrait on the wall. Maybe ****