Friday, October 31, 2008

VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA SOUNDTRACK ALBUM

1. Barcelona / Giulia y Los Tellarini 2:22
2. Gorrion / Juan Serrano 3:05
3. Entre dos aguas / Paco De Lucia 6:00
4. El noi de la mare / Jean-Felix Lalanne, Muriel Anderson 2:49
5. Granada / Emilio de Benito 1:53
6. La ley del retiro / Giulia y Los Tellarini 2:14
7. When I Was A Boy / Biel Ballester Trio, Graci Pedro, Leo Hipaucha 3:13
8. Big Brother / The Stephane Wrembel Trio 5:07
9. Asturias / Juan Quesada 7:50
10. Your Shining Eyes / Biel Ballester Trio, Graci Pedro, Leo Hipaucha
11. Entre olas / Juan Serrano

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Vicky Cristina Barcelona / Vicky Cristina Barcelona. ES/US (c) 2008 Gravier Productions / Mediapro. EX: Jaume Roures. CO-EX: Charles H. Joffe, Javier Méndez, Jack Rollins. P: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley. D+SC: Woody Allen. DP: Javier Aguirresarobe - color - 1,85:1. M: "Barcelona" performed by Giulia y los Tellarini. "Entre dos aguas" by Paco de Lucía. "Granada" by Isaac Albéniz, played on guitar by Emilio de Benito. "Asturias" (Leyenda) (fragment) by Isaac Albéniz, played on guitar by Juan Quesada, etc. PD: Alain Bainée. AD: Iñigo Navarro. COST: Sonia Grande. ED: Alisa Lepselter. LOC: Barcelona, Avilés, Oviedo (Catalonia). CAST: Rebecca Hall (Vicky), Scarlett Johansson (Cristina), Javier Bardem (Juan Antonio), Penélope Cruz (Maria Elena), Chris Messina (Doug), Patricia Clarkson (Judy Nash), Kevin Dunn (Mark Nash), Christopher Evan Welch (Narrator). 96 min. In English, partially in Catalan and Spanish. Released in Finland by Scanbox with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Saliven Gustavsson. Viewed at Tennispalatsi 3, 31 Oct 2008.

Definition not first-rate, focus questions, sloppy digital intermediate? - Woody Allen's amazing quest continues, this time again without him as an actor or voice, although his gestures and speech rhythms are momentarily recognizable in Scarlett Johansson's performance. - I admire Woody Allen's great continuity since the 1960s to the present. His is a series of relationship studies that can be compared with Eric Rohmer. - This is an interesting and original study of "Americans abroad", recognizing stereotypes, but without succumbing to clichés. There are the obvious Catalonian attractions, and more. - Beneath the "small story" lurk big themes, such as how hard it is to learn to love. The strange roads of passion. - Vicky is the serious woman, Cristina is the wild woman. There is no simple answer to the great questions. Passion is living to the full but risking disaster. Settling for a life with a successful businessman gives security, but life can feel unfulfilled. - "You are a different person here". - Maybe for the first time in a Woody Allen film there is a significant and positive homosexual moment (Scarlett Johansson and Penélope Cruz in the infrared darkroom). - Also maybe for the first time there is a serious new angle to the triangle situation: Juan Antonio and Maria Elena can only be happy and balanced when they are together with Cristina. - Woody Allen is still curious, still exciting.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Apinan vuosi

Apans år / In the Year of the Ape. FI 1983. PC: Elokuvatuottajat Oy. P: Claes Olsson, Matti Penttilä. D: Janne Kuusi. SC: Harri Sirola, Janne Kuusi – based on the novel Abiturientti (1980) by Sirola. DP: Tahvo Hirvonen - colour - 1:1,66. AD: Erkki Saarainen. COST: Irmeli Toivanen. M: Pekka Rechardt. ED: Anne Lakanen. S: Mikael Sievers. CAST: Heikki Salomaa (Ile), Tiina Bergström (Suvi), Laura Heimo (Tanja), Rea Mauranen (Maria, the Finnish teacher), Elina Hurme (Sara, the girl in a leather jacket), Ilpo Kotanen (Klasu), Kari Väänänen (Rene), Heidi Krohn (Ile's mother), Aarre Karén (Ile's father), Marja-Leena Kouki (Suvi's mother), Esko Salminen (Suvi's father), Hanna Marttila (Suvi's friend), Ritva Sorvali (laughing woman), Markku Halme, Konsta Mäkelä, Ritva Rantasila (classmates), Kari Paukkunen (psychology teacher), Eero Tuomikoski (janitor), Jussi Parviainen, Tomi Salmela, Tapio Liinoja, Pekka Uotila, Seppo Luukkanen (Rene's henchmen), Timo Eränkö (De Sade), Paul Pentti (Marat), Aki Kaurismäki (Charlotte Corday), the Jack Helen Brut group. 94 min. A vintage print screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 29 Oct 2008. In the presence of Janne Kuusi hosted by Markku Varjola. - MV: the first Finnish surrealistic feature film. - JK: We were on terms with surrealism but tried to avoid aping. Initially planned as a tv movie it became a cinema film. We aimed at cinematic expression. There was in Finland a theatrical tradition and a literary tradition; we wanted to do cinema. The visual outlook is very distinctive. Heikki Salomaa got the lead role, soon to become well-known in the Lapinlahden Linnut team. The soundscape was also very ambitious. The film was the diploma work for Kuusi, Hirvonen, Lakanen, Sievers. - This is the story of the "abiturientti" (candidate for the matriculation examination, graduating senior, preparatory student, upper-secondary school leaver) who is at the threshold of becoming an "ylioppilas" (student, undergraduate, upper secondary school-leaver), qualified to apply for admission to a university. These are the months of transition to adulthood. - Janne Kuusi and Harri Sirola turned Sirola's novel around and created a surrealistic vision. Ile, the young man, wants to apply for admission to the medical faculty. The "ylioppilaskirjoitukset" (the student exam, the written examination for higher certificate) are under way, but there is also partying and meeting girls. Ile is aimless in his relationships. There is the lovely and playful Suvi (Tiina Bergström), there is the dark, hard-to-get Tanja (Laura Heimo), there is the strongly personal Sara, the girl in the leather jacket (Elina Hurme), and even the striking Maria, the Finnish teacher (Rea Mauranen). Maria's boyfriend is the violent Rene (Kari Väänänen), and through him there is a criminal gang element in the story. There is no clear line between dream and reality in the film, though. The "lakkiaisjuhla" (the private party of passing the student exam and getting the white student cap) is a big baroque banquet with scantily clad nymphs on horseback and a living Havis Amanda (the famous nude statue at Helsinki's Market Square, the Venus of Finland) (from the long shot it is difficult to see whether the live Havis Amanda is Tiina Bergström). The mounted nymphs take Ile with them and throw him to the basin at the statue Havis Amanda's fountain (the traditional place where students celebrate the First of May).

Nonstop

Nonstop / Nonstop. FI (c) 1987 Filmitakomo. P: Klaus Heydemann. D+SC: Kari Paljakka. DP: Tahvo Hirvonen - 16mm - b&w. COST: Jaana Mertama. M: Jussi Hirvi; Hanoi Rocks. S: Markku Honkanen. ED: Alvardo Pardo. Cast: Esko Nikkari (man), Armi Sillanpää (woman), Carl-Kristian Rundman (young man), Jane Sarlund (girl), Mikko Rasila (ticketseller woman), Niko Saarela (boy), Vesa Vierikko (bum), Pertti Sveholm (father). 20 min. Print: SES, with English subtitles, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 29 Oct 2008. - In the presence of Kari Paljakka interviewed by Markku Varjola. - Print ok, focus problem in the screening. - KP: the film was inspired by M.C. Escher [1898-1972] with his impossible play with the dimensions. The idea was to use the third dimension of the cinema, time, in the same way. The film is based on the rondo idea. Together with Dildo, the film was planned to be a part of the trilogy, but the third film was not made. There was also an inspiration of the anamorphic art of the 17th century (not the same thing as anamorphic cinema image). - A never-ending film which returns to the same moments but with different consequences. A parody of film drama with passion and murder. One of the locations is Cinema Takaportti [Back Door], where soft core films were shown, presumably non stop (the current film seems to be Emmanuelle 5). The story spins in an impossible circle. "Where are you going, wife dear". "Day screening again". "This will hardly ever stop". "Non stop". "Back in a moment".

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cluny Brown

Piika, joka ei tiennyt paikkaansa / Husan, som inte visste sin plats. US © 1946 20th Century Fox. P+D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Samuel Hoffenstein, Elizabeth Reinhardt – based on the novel by Margery Sharp (1944). DP: Joseph La Shelle. AD: Lyle Wheeler, J. Russell Spencer. COST: Bonnie Cashin. M: Cyril Mockridge. ED: Dorothy Spencer. S: Arthur L. Kirbach, Roger Herman. CAST: Charles Boyer (Adam Belinski), Jennifer Jones (Cluny Brown), Peter Lawford (Andrew Carmel), Helen Walker (Betty Cream), Reginald Gardiner (Hilary Ames), Reginald Owen (Sir Henry Carmel), Sir C. Aubrey Smith (Col. Duff Graham), Richard Haydn (Wilson), Margaret Bannerman (Lady Alice Carmel), Sara Allgood (Mrs. Maile), Ernest Cossart (Syrette), Una O'Connor (Mrs. Wilson). 95 min, 100 min. A Filmoteca Española print of the long version with Spanish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 28 Oct 2008. - Uneven print, sometimes good definition, sometimes low contrast and soft. - The film starts disappointingly with too much talk, the main actors not yet in character. But there is the spirit since Jennifer Jones meets C. Aubrey Smith at the railway station. - This is a comedy of misunderstandings: Cluny Brown is a young woman "who does not know her place". Adam Belinski is an exiled Czech intellectual, an ex-professor, now a bum mistaken for a persecuted resistance fighter. As a foreigner I cannot judge how successful the satire of English class society is in its authentic detail and how convincing Jennnifer Jones is as an English working-class woman. But I like the spirit of the story, about the real worth of the human beings, and how ridiculous external labels can be. - The servants are even more severe about keeping appearances than the masters. - The proper manners of the town chemist as death-in-life, in contrast to Belinski's bum existence. Belinski does not lie, but he does not correct misunderstandings, either. - Shakespeare saves Cluny Brown and Adam Belinski. - "Squirrels to the nuts". - "You know what plumbing does to me". - Final pantomime beyond the bookstore window. "The Nightingale Strikes Again". The end of the last all-Lubitsch film. There were also films started by him and finished by Preminger. I love Preminger, but he didn't have the Lubitsch touch.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

To Be Or Not To Be

Ollako vai eikö olla / Att vara eller icke vara. USA © 1942 Romaine Film Corporation. Presenter: Alexander Korda. P+D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Edwin Justus Mayer – from a story by Melchior Lengyel [and Ernst Lubitsch]. DP: Rudolph Maté. AD: Vincent Korda. Interior decorations: Julia Heron. Miss Lombard's costumes: Irene. M: Werner R. Heymann. ED: Dorothy Spencer. CAST: Carole Lombard (Maria Tura), Jack Benny (Joseph Tura), Robert Stack (Ltn. Stanislav Sobinski), Felix Bressart (Greenberg), Lionel Atwill (Rawitch), Stanley Ridges (Prof. Siletsky), Sig Ruman (Col. Ehrhardt), Tom Dugan (Bronski), Charles Halton (producer Dobosch), George Lynn (actor-adjutant), Henry Victor (Capt. Schultz), Maude Eburne (Anna), Halliwell Hobbes (Gen. Armstrong), Miles Mander (Maj. Cunningham), James Finlayson (Scotch farmer). 99 min. A Cinémathèque Royale print with French / Flemish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 26 Oct 2008. - A worn print with a dark duped fourth reel. - Quite a laugh success with the audience again, the comedy works very well. - The more I see this the more audacious I realize it is: a comedy made in 1942 with topics such as Hitler, the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, concentration camps... and there is nothing cynical in it. - It is a Resistance comedy which does not glorify its heroes nor demonize its villains. They / we are all dumb, frail, inconsistent, erring human beings, capable of good and evil to each other. - "What you are I won't eat". - Maria Tura wears her evening best for the scene where her character is due to the concentration camp. - "Three tons of dynamite in two minutes". - "Take me to 3000 meters". - Maria's reaction to Siletsky's kiss: "Heil Hitler!". - Joseph Tura impersonating Col Ehrhardt: "I'm running out of dialogue". - The real Ehrhardt is the only one who has seen Joseph on stage: "What he did to Shakespeare we are now doing to Poland". - The comedy starts at a high gear, and manages to climax five times during the last minutes.

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex

Baader Meinhof Komplex / Baader Meinhof Komplex. DE/FR/CZ (c) 2008 Constantin Film Produktion / Nouvelles Éditions de Films / G.T. Film Production. P: Bernd Eichinger. CO-P: Manuel Cuotemoc Malle. D: Uli Edel. SC: Bernd Eichinger - based on the book by Stefan Aust (1985, 2008). DP: Rainer Klausmann - 35mm Kodak - digital intermediate ARRI - released in 35mm - colour - 1:1,85. PD: Bernd Lepel. ED: Alexander Berner. CAST: Martina Gedeck (Ulrike Meinhof), Moritz Bleibtreu (Andreas Baader), Johanna Wokalek (Gudrun Ensslin), Bruno Ganz (Horst Herold), Simon Licht (Horst Mahler), Stipe Erceg (Holger Meins), Sebastian Blomberg (Rudi Dutschke). 152, 157 min. Released in Finland by Nordisk with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Tarja Sahlstén / Saliven Gustavson. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 25 Oct 2008. - A high quality print with many different kinds of imagery (from the sunny beach to the prison world). No objections to the digital intermediate. - The story of the Baader Meinhof terrorist group based on the book of the former editor of the prestigious Der Spiegel magazine, Stefan Aust. It covers the ten years from the Shah demonstrations of 1967 to the German Autumn of 1977. I am not an expert of this subject, but from an outsider's point of view it feels true and plausible. It may even be useful in trying to figure out contemporary terrorism. - It is also a good thriller, without banalizing the subject matter. - I like the basic sense of this film: it strives for honesty and balance in even the most absurd turns of the story, such as the drill at the Arab terrorist training camp. The charisma of Rudi Dutschke and Andreas Baader is evident in the performances of Sebastian Blomberg and Moritz Bleibtreu. - One can understand the indignation of the radicals in the start, but things take a crazy turn. - The film is a veritable panorama of history from the "Crazy Year 1968" with its documentary montages, the Rudi Dutschke assassination attempt, the Middle East situation, bank robberies in West Berlin, the police round-ups, attacks on US military bases, the attack on the Axel Springer building, the prison life of the main terrorists, the trials, Stammheim, the Lufthansa hijack, the liberation of the hostages at Mogadishu, to the collective suicide of the main terrorists and the murder of Hanns Martin Schleyer (the final image). - The performances of the actors are first rate.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Le Diable probablement

Paholainen luultavasti / Djävulen förmodligen / The Devil Probably. FR (c) 1977 Sunchild Productions. D+SC: Robert Bresson. DP: Pasqualino De Santis – Eastmancolor – 1:1,66. M: Philippe Sarde; Claudio Monteverdi (”Madrigal Ego Dormio”). Cast: Antoine Monnier (Charles), Tina Irissari (Alberte), Henri de Maublanc (Michel), Laetitia Carcano (Edwige), Régis Hanrion (the psychoanalyst, Dr. Mime), Nicolas Deguy (Valentin), Geoffroy Gaussen (the bookseller), Rogert Honorat (the inspector). 96 min. A vintage Diana-Filmi release print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Satu Laaksonen / Lisbet Eriksson viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 24 Oct 2008. - The Eastmancolor of this print is fading. - Robert Bresson: "Ce qui m'a poussé à faire ce film, c'est le gâchis qu'on a fait de tout. C'est cette civilisation de masse où bientôt l'individu n'existera plus. Cette agitation folle. Cette immense entreprise de démolition où nous périrons par où nous avons cru vivre. C'est aussi la stupéfiante indifférence des gens, sauf de certains jeunes actuels, plus lucides." Robert Bresson - The story of a suicide. The young people of Paris facing Weltschmerz: ecocatastrophe, nuclear danger. The questions of crime, sabotage, terrorism. The nihilism of clochard life, soulless sex, drug addiction. - The question of the church and the religion: "when a priest enters the church, God leaves". - An exchange in the bus: "Who is guiding us now?" "Le Diable probablement". - The encounter with the psychoanalyst, the death wish, the exaggerated libido. "I'm just clear-sighted". - Charles has failed in his suicide attempts, he loves the sensual side of life too much, but the psychoanalyst gives him the clue that ancient Romans asked slaves and friends to help. - Charles hires his drug addict friend to be his contract killer to execute him.

Sauna



Sauna / Sauna. FI © 2008 Bronson Club. P: Tero Kaukomaa, Jesse Fryckman. D: AJ Annila. SC: Iiro Küttner. DP: Henri Blomberg – shot on 35 mm Fuji – digital intermediate DFF – released both in digital and in 35 mm. AD: Vladimir Bedrich Dvorak, Antti Nikkinen, Ville Vauras. COST: Anna Vilppunen. M: Panu Aaltio. Sound design: Panu Riikonen, Vesa Meriläinen. ED: Joona Louhivuori.
    Cast: Ville Virtanen (Eerik), Tommi Eronen (Knut), Viktor Klimenko (Semenski), Sonja Petäjäjärvi (boy), Kari Ketonen (Musko), Kati Outinen (old woman), Rain Tolk (Rogosin), Vilhelmiina Virkkunen (good girl) / Maija Nurmio (bad girl), Ismo Kallio (village elder), Taisto Reimaluoto (father), Ivo Kubecka (monk), Dick Idman (Roukkula).
    In Finnish and Russian with Finnish subtitles, written information in Finnish only (no Swedish), 85 min. Distributed in Finland by Sandrew.
    A 35 mm film projection viewed at Tennispalatsi 14, Helsinki, 24 Oct 2008.

A film of original visionary power. The music and the soundscape are interesting. The performances are powerful.

A Gothic fantasy set in real history, in the horrific 16th century. Sweden and Finland have entered into the Treaty of Tyavzino (Teusina / Täyssinä) after 25 years of war. This has been the century of Ivan the Terrible in Russia, and the Reformation in Sweden. After the death of Gustaf Wasa his sons have succumbed to an era of violent chaos, depicted in the cinema in Mauritz Stiller's Herr Arnes pengar.

The story takes place in 1595 in Kiertämäjoki. As Sweden (to which Finland belongs) and Russia draw the new Teusina border they cross a horrible swamp and find a gruesome dark building which is called a sauna but which may be the doorway to hell.

There are affinities with Tarkovsky and Hideo Nakata in this story.

Among the interesting visual items: the faces of the old people, the old compass and other old objects. The fascination with the water, the river, the snow, and the blood. – The script is the weakness of the film. – Homepage: www.pesesyntisi.fi

The digital projection is reportedly better. The film is visually ambitious and consistent, and it has been tuned into a gray-cold colour scale. The digital intermediate look is obvious but not annoying.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Matka maan keskipisteeseen 3D / Till jordens medelpunkt. US (c) 2008 New Line Cinema / Walden Media. P: Beau Flynn, Cary Granat, Charlotte Huggins. D: Eric Brevig. SC: Michael D. Weiss, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin - based on the novel Voyage au centre de la Terre (1864) by Jules Verne. DP: Chuck Shuman - camera PACE Fusion 3-D - film negative format: HDCAM - cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (master format), Fusion Camera (dual-strip 3-D), HDCAM SR (1080p/24) (source format) - projection format: 35 mm (anamorphic), D-Cinema (3-D version). M: Andrew Lockington. Cast: Brendan Fraser (Prof. Trevor Anderson), Josh Hutcherson (Sean Anderson), Anita Briem (Hannah Ásgeirsson). 92 min. Released by FS Film with Finnish subtitles (only) by Janne Mökkönen. 3-D Digital projection (DLP Cinema Barco) at Flamingo 1, Vantaa, 18 Oct 2008. - Technically impressive, the 3-D impact is effective. The polarization 3-D system was already very good but complicated. - A good sense of humour accompanies this tale of Jules Verne revisited: Verne's novel is the basic reference point, and the contempary travellers are also on the track a missing brother/father. We start in Iceland and erupt from the Vesuvius. An amusement park ride in the company of the sympathetic trio.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kaze no tani no Naushika

Tuulen laakson Nausikaa / Nausicaa av vindens dal / Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. JP 1984. PC: Studio Ghibli. P: Isao Takahata. D+SC: Hayao Miyazaki - based on his manga (1982-1994). M: Joe Hisaishi. AN: Kazuo Komatsubara (an d). Voice talent: Sumi Shimamoto (Nausicaä), Mahito Tsujimura (Jihl), Hisako Kyôda (Oh-Baba). 118 min (the long version). Released in Finland (premiere 2008) by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Mökkönen / Sanna Hulden. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, Helsinki, 17 Oct 2008. - A beautiful analogue print. - Miyazaki's second feature film has already his hallmarks: the feeling for the secrets of nature, the concern for ecocatastrophe, the meditative tempo, the young girl as the protagonist, the dream of flying, and the visions of war. - It is a dystopia of the world a thousand years after "the seven days of fire": the nuclear holocaust and the following ecocatastrophe. The visions of the Toxic Jungle and the Giant Ohm creatures and the toxic plants in the Sea of Decay are memorable.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nausica%C3%A4_of_the_Valley_of_the_Wind

Niko - lentäjän poika

Niko - flygarens son / Niko & The Way to the Stars. FI/DK/DE/IE (c) 2008 Anima Vitae [and four other companies]. P: Petteri Pasanen, Hannu Tuomainen. D: Michael Hegner, Kari Juusonen. SC: Hannu Tuomainen, Marteinn Thorisson. M: Stephen McKeon. Songs sung in the Finnish-language version by Vuokko Hovatta. ED: Per Risager. AN: Luca Bruno, Goro Fujita. Voice talent in the Finnish-language version: Olli Jantunen (Niko), Hannu-Pekka Björkman (Julius), Vuokka Hovatta (Wilma), Vesa Vierikko (Black Wolf), Risto Kaskilahti (Rimppa), Jussi Lampi (Räyskä), Minttu Mustakallio (Essie), Juha Veijonen (Raavas), Puntti Valtonen (Hirvas), Elina Knihtilä (Oona, Niko's mother), Tommi Korpela (leader of the reindeer pack). 83 min. - A digital animation released in Finland in Finnish, Swedish and English language editions by Nordisk Film. - Digital projection viewed at Tennispalatsi 2, Helsinki, 17 Oct 2008. - High standard digital projection. Colour scale a bit simplified. - I liked the brisk, boyish touch of this fairy-tale. There is also a mocking dimension to this tale about the dream of flying. The wolf pack scares the self-assured team of flying reindeer so that they lose their powers momentarily. - The chorus singing is funny.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Une visite au Louvre

FR 2004. PC: Straub-Huillet / Atopic / Le Fresnoy. D+SC: Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet - based on Joaquim Gasquet: Cézanne (1926). DP: William Lubtchansky, Renato Berta. SD: Jean-Pierre Duret, Jean-Pierre Laforce. Initiator: Dominique Païni. Voices: Julie Koltaï (Paul Cézanne), Jean-Marie Straub (Joachim Gasquet). 80 min. - A La Cinémathèque francaise print, e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 16 October 2008. - A beautiful print, beautiful colour. - A twice-told film. It literally ends at 49 minutes and starts again identically, but with a slightly different edit. - I watched the first 49 minutes. - A visit to the Louvre with Cézanne as imagined / remembered by Joaquim Gasquet. The idea of the painting filling the frame follows the Bazin concept (his essays on Resnais etc.). Cinema as a vehicle for painting. The paradise of the senses.

That Uncertain Feeling

Tuo epävarmuuden tunne / Korsdrag i paradiset. US (c) 1941 Ernst Lubitsch Productions. P+D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Donald Ogden Stewart - adaptation Walter Reisch - based on the play Divorçons by Victorien Sardou and Emile de Najac (1880). DP: George Barnes; [Photography Merritt Gerstad]; AD: Alexander Golitzen; ED: William Shea; AD: A. E. Freudeman; Miss Oberon's gowns: Irene; Miss Oberon's jewelry Flato; M: Werner R. Heymann; S: Arthur Johns; Cast: Merle Oberon (Jill Baker), Melvyn Douglas (Larry Baker), Burgess Meredith (Alexander Sebastian), Alan Mowbray (Dr. Vengard), Sig Rumann (Kafka). 84/89 min. - A BFINA print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 15 October 2008. - A dark print which borders on the unwatchable in the Egeszegere scene. - I watched the first 30 minutes of a Lubitsch favourite of mine. It has not his most brilliant sparkle, but it's a film that I often remember with pleasure. Keeks! Egeszegere! Phui! Softer!

Neljä miljardia silmänräpäystä

Fyra miljarder ögonblick / [Four Billion Blinks of an Eye]. FI 1980. First transmitted in 1981. PC: Yleisradio TV2 Teatteritoimitus. P+D+ED: Jaakko Pyhälä. SC: Jukka Asikainen, Antti Hytti, Jaakko Pyhälä. CIN: Kalervo Katajavuori, Jaakko Pyhälä, Tahvo Hirvonen - 16mm - colour - Eastmancolor 7247. M: Antti Hytti. Performed by: Juhani Aaltonen (flute), Toni Edelmann (piano, organ), Esko Heikkinen (trumpet), Antti Hytti (bass, piano, vocals, synthetizator), Jarmo Korhonen (bassoon), Esa-Pekka Salonen, Tero Sarikoski (percussions), Jone Takamäki (tenor sax), Hasse Walli (guitar), Veli-Pekka Bister, Sirpa Juvonen, Vesa Raiskinen, Pirkko Vartiainen (string quartet). With Kari Väänänen, Eila Halonen, Pirkko Koskenniemi, Tauno Lehtihalmes, Raimo O. Niemi, Raila Leppäkoski, Jaakko Talaskivi, Markku Toikka, Timo Torikka, Pekka Ojamaa, Ari Piispa, Jukka Asikainen, Arto af Hällström, Pertti Lumirae, Heikki-Tapio Partanen, Eero Tuomikoski, Kari Paukkunen, Petri Aalto, Pentti Asikainen, Pekka Bogel, Matti Kuortti, Kyösti Mankamo, Markku Laakso, Jami Laine, Helena Luukkonen, Lotta Myllymäki, Ari Rauhanen, Sari Rauhanen, Lyyli Kauhanen, Ida Kurki, Heidi Pirkola, Aune Toivonen, Ritva Torvinen, Mari Ahola, Minna Ahola, Dina Enberg, Raimo Holmgren, Kira Kaipiainen, Timo Laakkonen, Petri Kaipiainen, Kalle Kultala. 74 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 15 October, 2008. - A bad, faded 16mm print of 72 min. - An essay film about photography. A film of Godardian inspiration, totally original. - Starts with a quotation from Kafka. - Chinese delegation in Finland. - Photography is an intrusion to privacy. - A funeral: each journey to eternity is immortalized. In each funeral there is always somebody whom nobody knows. - Kari Väänänen as a mumbling, confused, slacker kind of guy in his debut film, even spaced out. His task: to organize the archives of a photographer who has committed suicide. - The Laterna Magica. - Early cinema (Lumière: Debarquement du Congrès des photographes à Lyon), at overspeed. - Väänänen's girlfriend in beautiful nude scenes. - A parodic tv panel. Väänänen's day work as an assistent at a tv studio. Documentary value in the tv segment. - I could not confess to anyone that I did not understand anything. I dreamt that I was late and arrived at an empty stadium. - The National Museum: it is not allowed to have a conversation with the museum objects. - The piano has already been taken. - The cry of the crow. - Gavrilo Princip and the role of the photographer in WWI. The clown of history. Four billion blinks of an eye. The fleeting moment as the image of eternity. Behave or I'll photograph you out of history. A break of the information flow for half a year. The books of the Alexandria library were used to heat baths. - A bear looks clumsy but it's fast and strong. - The death of a tv journalist. A rainy night. The images of the magic lantern of an angel and grief at the grave. - Interesting montages. Interesting music, from modern concert music to jazz. - Lively discussion about the film after the show, this film would deserve to be made better available.

Taivaan lahja

A Gift from Heaven / [Himlens gåva]. FI 1987. PC: Enokuva. D+SC: Markku Pölönen. DP: Heikki Oksanen - 16mm. ED: Jukka Nykänen. M: Vesa Mäkinen. S: Markku Honkanen. CAST: Ilkka Heiskanen, Erkki Nuutinen, Auvo Vihro, Riitta Juntunen, Simo Jääskeläinen, Juha Muje, Kaarlo Pellinen, Saara Väänänen, Veikko Väänänen. 35 min. A Suomen Elokuvakontakti print viewed in Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 15 Oct 2008. - A beautiful colour in the print. - The world of Markku Pölönen already recognizable. Rural madness: serial suicides by hanging, a meteor falls from the sky, young boys witness female nudity. - Brilliant dialogue, engaging music.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

J'entends plus la guitare

I Can't Hear the Guitar Anymore. FR 1991. PC: Les Films de l'Atalante / CNC / Procirep. D+SC: Philippe Garrel. Dial: Marc Chodolenko. DP: Caroline Champetier. M: Faton Cahen. Cast: Benoît Régent (Gérard), Johanna Ter Steege (Marianne), Yann Collette (Martin), Mireille Perrier (Lola), Brigitte Sy (Aline), Anouk Grinberg (Adrienne). A MAE print with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki 14 Oct 2008. Dedicated to the memory of Nico. - Good colour, ok print. - I watched the first 30 min. - L'homme, la mer. L'homme, la mère. - L'amour at once, baby not at once. - I never see you as a whole. - Love: fear of not being loved. Love: everything you can't say. - Dialogue by Marc Chodolenko. A conversation piece literally. Two couples. - Twilight or darkness in the images. - Defining what love is. - This is cinema bordering on the hermetic.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

LE GIORNATE DEL CINEMA MUTO 4-11 OCT 2008, PORDENONE

LE GIORNATE DEL CINEMA MUTO. Associazione Culturale "Le Giornate del Cinema Muto". President: Livio Jacob. Director: David Robinson. Comitato direttivo: Paolo Cherchi Usai, Lorenzo Codelli, Piero Colussi, Luciano De Giusti, Carlo Montanaro, Piera Patat.
BRIGHTON 30 YEARS AFTER. "Brighton 30 Years After" was a main topic of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone in 2008, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the FIAF Congress in Brighton in 1978, the symposium of which was "Cinema 1900-1906". It started a new era in the interest in early cinema. It started a new era in FIAF symposia. André Gaudreault founded Domitor, dedicated to the study of early cinema. Le Giornate del Cinema Muto and we, its participants, can be considered children of Brighton. Georges Sadoul had coined the phrase "L'Ecole de Brighton" in the 1940s. David Francis and his friends had 12 of the participants of the Brighton Congress select a fascinating tribute in Pordenone in 2008, the heart of the Festival.
In addition, an inspired special programme titled "Before the Lonely Villa" and "The Jonathan Dennis Memorial Lecture: Eileen Bowser: The Telephone Thriller" with its three film selections were strong contributions about the evolution of cinematic storytelling and editing during the first decade of the 20th century.
A surprisingly strong contribution to the same concerns was the fascinating programme of the Australian Corrick Collection, with thoughtful programme notes by Leslie Anne Lewis.
An excellent show on cinema "before Brighton" was Paul Spehr's programme on W.K.L. Dickson, divided into three parts: Experimental Films for Edison, Production in the Black Maria, and "Biographing". We followed his track from the embryonic Monkeyshines (1889) to the 68mm Biographs from the Boer War (1899). One of the most amazing careers in the history of the cinema. Paul Spehr's 700-page volume The Man Who Made Movies: W.K.L. Dickson (2008) gives solid background information to it.
ALEXANDER SHIRYAEV. Also from the age of the Brighton School came the big surprise discovery of the Festival. Alexander Shiryaev (1867–1941) was a Russian ballet master, who before the First World War started to draw precise notations of ballet movements, shot home movies, filmed cartoons, and prepared elaborate puppet animations, for private use only. His art and films of all four categories survived, were first shown for the public in the Belye Stolby film festival in 2004, and have been restored for public viewing in 2008. Although Shiryaev was an artist outside film history (even Starewich did not know about him), he became a master of animation and dance film who now gets a place of honour in the history books. "A belated premiere", indeed, to quote the title of the documentary film about him. In the presence of Viktor Bocharov, Daniil Saveliev and Yuri Grigorovich.
D.W. GRIFFITH. The largest film retrospective ever dedicated to a single artist anywhere came to the finish in Pordenone after 12 years. Almost the complete D.W. Griffith catalogue (opus numbers 1–633) was screened. In this year, his final feature films were seen. Griffith in the late 1920s was in touch with his time, the Jazz Age (The Battle of the Sexes), was cinematically up to date, working with Murnau's cameramen and showing a new fluidity of camera movement and finding new, active female protagonists (Lady of the Pavements). But he was no longer the leader in the evolution of the cinema. The bad 16mm print of The Drums of Love reminded us that even those who had faithfully followed the 12 years of the Griffith retrospective have not yet really seen his films... in their true cinematic splendour, as most of the prints have been awful, though negatives exist. Abraham Lincoln was my personal favourite film of the Festival, despite its weaknesses, because of its deeply felt conviction in the life story of the peacemonger. The four Biograph shorts preserved from 8mm sources prove that miracles are still possible (all films were worth seeing, all had been missing from the retrospective).
The magnificent book series, The Griffith Project 1-12, edited by Paolo Cherchi Usai, came also to a finish. Seminal contributions in the final volume include Charlie Keil's "D.W. Griffith as a Transitional Filmmaker" and André Gaudreault and Philippe Gauthier's "Crosscutting, a Programmed Language", which presents a new opening in the sometimes confusing terminology in the English and French cinema studies.
W.C. FIELDS. Sally of the Sawdust proved that Griffith could even do comedy, and W.C. Fields was an actor of a completely new kind to his films. I saw other W.C. Fields silents for the first time, and it was surprising to witness how advanced his persona was already in his first short, Pool Sharks. So's Your Old Man (remade as the sound film You're Telling Me!) was already a masterpiece, directed by Gregory La Cava.
MUSICAL AMBITION. The opening and closing gala concerts offered pleasures of musical ambition. The opening event was Mary Pickford's unique horror film Sparrows with a new score by Jeffrey Silverman, conducted by Hugh Munro Neely, and performed by Orchestra Sinfonica del Friuli Venezia Giulia. The closing event was Jacques Feyder's conservative political satire Les nouveaux Messieurs with a droll score by Antonio Coppola, performed by L'Octuor de France. Michael Nyman engaged in an energetic piano solo attack on Vigo (A propos de Nice) and Vertov (Kino-Pravda Lenin). But my favourite music experience was the school orchestra who played Stravinsky to Buster Keaton's One Week. A fun act to follow! The magnificent pianists (more than seven) were tireless in the screenings.
HOLLYWOOD ON THE HUDSON. Richard Koszarski published a giant book Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff (2008), and there was a film series to accompany it. A delicious discovery was His Nibs, one of the most fascinating metafilms.
THE FRENCH TOUCH. Lenny Borger's witty introductions provided a good background to his special series of French comedy to accompany the René Clair retrospective of last years. Highlights included Triplepatte, La merveilleuse journée and Jacques Feyder's early shorts.
RESTORED TREASURES. Among the single restored treasures there were three first rate comic adventure films. Bardelys the Magnificent, starring John Gilbert, from King Vidor's best period, was seen as the Lobster Films restoration. A turning-point in Douglas Fairbanks' career, A Modern Musketeer, could be seen thanks to Det Danske Filminstitut. And fittingly included in the programme was also Max Linder's marvellous Fairbanks parody The Three Must-Get-Theres, also from Lobster, at last in a version close to the original.
FILM AND HISTORY. From the Helsinki archive's (now called Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen arkisto) foreign film collections was found the vintage nitrate print that had been preserved by the Austrian film archive: Die zwölfte Isonzo Schlacht. Excellent quality of image, and very moving to see it in Friuli, close to the site of the original horror.
ELECTRONIC SUBTITLES. For the first time in Le Giornate del Cinema there was electronic subtitling – in all films, in English and Italian. And very good ones, too.

LES NOUVEAUX MESSIEURS CONCERT WITH ANTONIO COPPOLA AND L'OCTUOR DE FRANCE

Les nouveaux Messieurs / [the film was not released in Finland]. FR 1929. PC: Films Albatros / Sequana Films. P: Alexandre Kamenka, Simon Schiffrin; D: Jacques Feyder; SC: Jacques Feyder, Charles Spaak, based on the play by Robert de Flers & Francis de Croisset (1926); cin: Georges Périnal, Maurice Desfassiaux; ad: Lazare Meerson; filmed: Brie-Comte-Robert; Créteil; Brunoy; Château de Bisy; Studios Billancourt; cast: Albert Préjean (Jacques Gaillac), Gaby Morlay (Suzanne Verrier), Henry Roussell (Comte de Montoire-Grandpré), Guy Ferrant (journalist), Henry Valbel (a deputy), Charles Barrois (Director of the Opéra), Andrée Canti (Julie), Raymond Narlay (Cabinet director), A. Duchange (prefect); 2805 m /20 fps/ 123 min; print: La Cinémathèque française, reconstituée 1990 par Renée Lichtig. Original in French with e-subtitles. The closing gala of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, 11 October 2008.
Score composed and conducted by Antonio Coppola
Performed by l'Octuor de France
Feyder's handsome and extraordinary (conservative) political satire revisited. It keeps astonishing with its stunning visuals and witty inventions. The weakness: its characters fail to move.
It was a pleasure to experience Antonio Coppola's rich and many-sided music which responds to the satire of the "pomp and circumstance" and has both magnificent and droll patterns.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

So's Your Old Man

[the film was never released in Finland]. US (c) 1926 Famous Players-Lasky. D: Gregory La Cava. SC: J. Clarkson Miller - based on the story "Mr. Bisbee's Princess" by Julian Street. CAST: W.C. Fields (Sam Bisbee), Alice Joyce (Princess Lescaboura), Charles Rogers (Kenneth Murchison), Kittens Reichert (Alice Bisbee), Marcia Harris (Mrs. Bisbee), Julia Ralph (Mrs. Murchison), Frank Montgomery (Jeff), Jerry Sinclair (Al). Print: LoC, 6072 ft /22 fps/ 73 min, original in English, e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Philip C. Carli. Viewed at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, 10 October, 2008.

Excellent print. - I saw this film for the first time. It is already a W.C. Fields masterpiece, a sharp and strong satire with a heavy dose of eccentricism. - Fields as Sam Bisbee plays an inventor who has invented a non-breakable windshield. - The social division line of the town of Waukeagus is strong. The Bisbees belong to the wrong side, and the Murchisons to the right side. But as Kenneth Murchison falls in love with Alice Bisbee, there is an encounter between the two families. - Sam takes his car to Washington, but as his misparked car is hauled away, he tests wrong cars with disastrous results. - In the train back home he considers suicide but meets Princess Lescaboura, who later helps him miraculously as Sam is already almost in the gutter. - There is another rich social scandal at the founding of the Country and Golf Club of Waukeagus. W.C. Fields performs the same routine as in The Golf Specialist. - Remade as You're Telling Me! - Alice Joyce is charming as the Princess, whom Bisbee always believes to be a fake.

Pool Sharks

US 1915. PC: Gaumont Casino Star Comedies. D: Edwin Middleton. Starring W.C. Fields. 11 min. A dvd from the 1963 Raymond Rohauer release from Cineteca del Friuli. English intertitles, with e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Philip C. Carli. Viewed at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, 10 October 2008. - I saw W.C. Fields' first film for the first time. The dvd has been made from very good source material. - This is violent slapstick, showing already a full-formed W.C. Fields with no redeeming values.

Friday, October 10, 2008

MICHAEL NYMAN SOLO

Michael Nyman on the grand piano in the gala evening at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, 10 October, 2008.
A propos de Nice
FR 1930. P: Jean Vigo. D: Jean Vigo, Boris Kaufman. DP: Boris Kaufman. Print: BFI Distribution, 2057 ft /20 fps/ 27 min, no intertitles. - Beautiful print.
“One of the most unconventional documentaries ever made – with a bitterness and irony comparable to von Stroheim’s, the camera explores this centre of middle class decadence, the monstrous hotels with their armies of servants, the baroque casinos, the amorous elderly women with their ruthless gigolos, the stinking alleys and grimy bistros filled with tramps, ponces, fences: a scathing contrast of the idle poor and the idle rich.” (George Morrison, Sequence 6, London, Winter 1948)
Boris Kaufman: “He seemed both to love and to hate the town in which, for reasons of health, he had been obliged to live for two years with his wife. Nice was getting ready for the Carnival… The focal point was the Promenade des Anglais, centre of action (or inaction) for the internationally lazy. The method was to take by surprise facts, actions, attitudes, expressions, and to stop shooting immediately the subject became conscious of being photographed. Le point de vue documenté. Old Nice, its narrow streets, washing hung between the houses, the baroque Italian cemetery. Pleasures. Regattas. Warships at anchor. Hotels. Arrival of tourists… Factories. An old woman. The young girl changing her dress in the middle of the promenade (trick shot) and finally appearing nude. A burial service… Crocodiles. Sun. The female ostrich. The male ostrich. The carnival, the Battle of Flowers, the gradually slackening dances. Above all this absurd gaiety, the ominous vistas of chimneys. All this may look a little naïve now, but we were sincere. We rejected out of hand anything that was picturesque without significance, any facile contrasts. The story had to be understood without commentary or subtitles. We shot the film relying on the evocation of ideas by purely visual means. Which is why, in the cutting, we were able to juxtapose the Promenade des Anglais with the Nice cemetery, where marble figures (baroque style) had the same ridiculous features of the human being on the promenade. Working with Vigo – his unfailing taste, his integrity, his depth and his lightness, his non-conformism, the absence of any kind of routine – took me into a kind of film-makers’ paradise. It was ideal.” (All texts from Jean Vigo, compiled by Joseph and Harry Feldman, edited by Herman Weinberg, New Index Series No. 4, London: British Film Institute, [1951]. Original source of Vigo and Kaufman texts: Ciné-Club (Paris) no. 5, February 1949, special Vigo issue.)
Kino-Pravda No. 21. Leninskaia Kino-Pravda. Kinopoema o Lenine
[Lenin Kino-Pravda. A Film Poem About Lenin]. SU 1925. PC: Kultkino. A work by Dziga Vertov; DP: Grigorii Giber, A. Aleksandr Levistky, Aleksandr Lember, Piotr Novitsky, Mikhail Kaufman, Eduard Tisse, et al.; 664 m /20 fps/ 29 min, print: Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Wien. Russian intertitles, with e-subtitles in English and Italian. - The print has the marks of several duplications, probably dating to its origins as a compilation montage.
Yuri Tsivian: "Lenin Kino-Pravda is a special, longer-than-usual issue of Kino-Pravda made to mark the first anniversary of Lenin’s death. It consists of 3 parts, announced laconically by I, II, III, and of smaller sections marked by no-less laconic references to years. The one-two-three structure relates the film’s narrative to the famous Hegelian (now also Marxist) dialectical triad. Part I begins with Lenin being wounded by an S.R. assassin (1918); goes on from there to "1919" — the year when the Red Terror policy was declared by the Bolshevik government in response; the "1920", "1921", and "1923" sections are organized around shots of Lenin speaking, intercut with quotations from his speeches and documentary shots which illustrate Soviet Russia’s progress under Lenin’s leadership. This is the thesis. Part II is the antithesis, about the decline in Lenin’s health. We see the title "1922-1923", and then the words: "The iron leader is ill." The course of his illness is represented in what can be seen as a tour de force, Vertov and Rodchenko’s animated titling: we see a table of sorts, with a calendar for dates, a clock for counting the hours, a graph showing the temperature, and two pulsating lines representing Lenin’s pulse and breath rate. The bottom-line inscription says "General state satisfactory", but note how this word — "satisfactory" — is being split by an ominous slit. Then follows the funeral sequence, famous for its antiphony of images and titles; then, the no-less famous progression of mourners: wife, sister, Stalin, etc. — and then, 200,000 — 400,000 — 700,000. Note the way in which the size of the font grows with the size of the figures; note also the size of the font for "Stalin". Remember the all-Union funeral from the 1922 Kino-Pravda No. 13? Vertov already knew how to transform funerary footage into an affecting film.
Part III was designed to serve as the synthesis of I and II. It looks at the year that has elapsed since Lenin’s death. "Lenin is gone, but his strength is with us," says the title. The most remarkable thing about this part (and, for me, about this film) is the boldness and ease with which Vertov jumps between newsreel and drawn animation. An animated caricature lasting 30 meters shows the face of a Capitalist changing from gloating to despair — as he sees more and more people, crowds of them, join the Communist Party after Lenin’s death (there was a recruitment campaign, exhorting people to join). Note how the animated stream of workers willing to join the Party turns into a photographed one. Peasants are not forgotten, either: we are shown how a worker and a peasant shake hands, then there is a close-up of their handshake with the word "smychka" superimposed on it." – Yuri Tsivian.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln / Abraham Lincolns liv. US (c) 1930 Feature Productions. EX: Joseph M. Schenck. P+D: D.W. Griffith. SC: Stephen Vincent Benet, Gerrit J. Lloyd - based on the story by John W. Considine, Jr. DP: Karl Struss. AD: William Cameron Menzies. M: Hugo Riesenfeld. CAST: Walter Huston (Abraham Lincoln), Kay Hammond (Mary Todd Lincoln), Una Merkel (Ann Rutledge), Fred Warren (General Ulysses S. Grant), Hobart Bosworth (General Robert E. Lee), Frank Campeau (General Philip Sheridan), Henry B. Walthall (Colonel Marshall). 93 min. Print: MoMA, three sections missing soundtrack. Viewed at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, 10 October 2008. - Mostly excellent visual quality, some sections looked like 16mm blowups, partly missing soundtrack. - I saw this film for the first time and liked it. Yes, the Ann Rutledge scenes are hammy, but true feeling shines through the clumsiness and the bad makeup. - DWG takes a humoristic look into the great man, just as John Ford did in Young Mr. Lincoln. - Kay Hammond is good as his harridan wife. - The Civil War and its generals are seen on a human scale. - Walter Huston gets better and better during the picture, and the assassination is shocking after his touching speech. In the last images we see the shack where Lincoln was born and the Lincoln monument, and hear The Battle Hymn of the Republic, but we have seen the human being from the cradle to the grave. - This is a folklore version of Lincoln. - There is a strong storyline: the Union must be preserved. - DWG's dear quotes: the Southerners were "rebels, not traitors"; "deal with them as though they'd never been away". - On Grant: "find out what brand he drinks and send a barrel to all our other generals" [Old Crow seems to have been that victorious brand]. - Not the best film of the Festival, nor a masterpiece, but my favourite film of the Festival. It is the portrait of the peacemaker. It is easy to stir violence, it is hard to stop it. - Today Matti Ahtisaari got the Nobel prize, and for a Finn there are certain similarities between Lincoln and Ahtisaari: both have shown strength of character in putting an end to civil wars. - This year in Finland we have the 90th anniversary of our civil war, still a sensitive theme, and we can understand how Americans feel about theirs.

PROLOGUES TO THE BIRTH OF A NATION SOUND REISSUE

(1) [CONVERSATION BETWEEN D.W. GRIFFITH AND WALTER HUSTON ON THE BIRTH OF A NATION] (D.W. Griffith, Inc., US 1930). D: David W. Griffith; cast: D.W. Griffith, Walter Huston; [16mm?], 213 ft., 6 min, sound; print : MoMa, original in English, e-subtitles in Italian - shown in some other format than 16mm
(2) [INTERMISSION PROLOGUE TO THE BIRTH OF A NATION REISSUE] (D.W. Griffith, Inc., US 1930). D: David W. Griffith; cast: D.W. Griffith; 225 ft., 2’30”, sound; print: LoC, original in English, e-subtitles in Italian
Kevin Brownlow: "This interview between Walter Huston and Griffith was planned as the prologue to the 1930 reissue (with soundtrack) of The Birth of a Nation, but it was probably not used. Huston and the crew had come off Abraham Lincoln. It was photographed by Karl Struss, Griffith’s regular cameraman at this period. The assistant director was the veteran Herbert Sutch, the head electrician was Edward Seward, and the children were Byron Sagee, Betsy Heisler (the daughter of Stuart Heisler?), and Dawn O’Day, a child actress who grew up to be Anne Shirley. Since the crew came from Abraham Lincoln, one can safely assume that Griffith directed it and that the assistant cameraman was Stanley Cortez." – Kevin Brownlow.
In the prologue to the second half of the film, Griffith reads intertitles from the silent version and quotations from Woodrow Wilson’s A History of the American People (1902).
"The Huston-Griffith prologue was shown when The Birth of a Nation opened as a road show at the Geary Theater in San Francisco in September 1930, and played for 3 weeks. This was a grand affair, complete with live prologue. The Griffith reading may have been shown too. But the run was a financial disappointment, involving legal entanglements with the co-producer, W.H. Kemble, a Brooklyn theatre man who with Aitken revived the Triangle Film Corp. in order to create the sound reissue of Birth. The pre-recorded interview was dropped when the show moved to Los Angeles. I don’t think it was ever used again." – Russell Merritt.
William M. Drew: "[The Walter Huston prologue] seems to have been cut from the film not long after [the run at the Geary Theatre in the fall of 1930], as I can find no mention of the prologue in the many articles and advertisements heralding the nationwide reissue of the synchronized version throughout 1931 when I was searching the online newspaper archive. Fortunately, however, the prologue was eventually rediscovered and made available in the 1960s." (William M. Drew)
It is sad to witness Walter Huston speaking of "the great Ku Klux Klan", and Griffith affirming that "rather true does it sound". And both had just filmed Abraham Lincoln.

ALEXANDER SHIRYAEV (1867-1941) 3: DANCE, TRICKS, AND ANIMATION

The highlight of the Festival, introduced by David Robinson, the world premiere of the restored films from the Prestech laboratory, Joao de Oliveira getting the award, with John Sweeney excellent on the grand piano (these are films where music counts), together with a violin (by Günter Buchwald?) in Harlequin's Jest. Presented with live commentary at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, 10 October 2008.
The following list is from the Catalogue:
1. Dance Films with Shiryaev and Matveeva
[COSSACK DANCE] (source: 17.5mm neg., restored and transferred to 35mm, 1113 frames, 1’09”)
[FOLK COURTSHIP DANCE] (source: 35mm neg., 1’35”)
[“FOOL’S DANCE” FROM PETIPA’S MLADA] (source: 35mm neg., 2’15”)
[HUNGARIAN? DANCE] (source: 35mm neg., 2’56”)
[“MATELOTE”] (source: 17.5mm neg., 51”)
[POLISH? DANCE] (source: 17.5mm pos., 2’37”)
[POLISH? DANCE] (source: 17.5mm pos., 54”) Shiryaev solo.
2. Trick Films
[BOY IN A SACK] (source: 17.5mm pos., 52”)
[CHAIRS] (source: 35mm neg., 35”)
[THE ENCHANTED TEA TABLE] (source: 17.5mm pos., 42”)
[MAGICAL DRESSING] (source: 17.5mm neg., 500 frames, 35”)
[PIERROT AND THE MAID 1] (source: 17.5mm neg., 1820 frames, 1’52”)
[PIERROT AND THE MAID 2] (source: 17.5mm pos., 2’02”)
[PIERROT AND THE MAID 3] (source: 17.5mm neg., 2292 frames, 2’23”)
3. Paper Films
[BIRDS IN FLIGHT] (source: 45mm paper film, digitally re-animated by Aardman Animations, Bristol, 2008, 4”, now looped, DigiBeta)
[“BUFFOON’S DANCE” FROM THE NUTCRACKER] (source: 45mm paper film, reanimated by Viktor Bocharov, 2003, 1’30”, DigiBeta)
[CAKEWALK] (source: 45mm paper film, re-animated by Viktor Bocharov, 2003, 1’04”, DigiBeta)
[SNAKE] (source: 45mm paper film, re-animated by Viktor Bocharov, 2003, 5”, DigiBeta)
4. Puppet Animation Films
[“BABY DANCE” FROM DIE PUPPENFEE] (source: 35mm neg., 1’17”)
[HARLEQUIN’S JEST] (source: 35mm neg.; 5 scenes, 12’41”, plus interpolated titles)
[“HINDU DANCE” FROM LA BAYADÈRE] (source: 35mm neg., 3’)
P’ERO-KHUDOZHNIKI [No.1] (Artist Pierrots 1) (source: 35mm neg., 5’35”)
P’ERO-KHUDOZHNIKI [No. 2] (Artist Pierrots 2) (source: 35mm neg., 3’05”)
[TWO PIERROTS PLAYING BALL] (source: 35mm neg., 1’17”)
The films were not shown in the order of the catalogue. Comments on the actual screening: 1-7 dvd, 8-11 35mm, 12-13 dvd, 14-18 35mm, 19-22 DigiBeta, 23-29 35mm. The films almost never had title cards. All four film groups had a special charm of their own, but maybe the most marvellous was the last section. Harlequin's Jest was the final number.
A milestone in the history of dance in the cinema and animation.

Cikáni

Gypsies. CZ 1921. PC: AB. D+SC: Karel Anton - based on the novel by Karel Hynek Mácha (1835). DP: Karel Kopriva. AD: Bohuslav Sula; CAST: Theodor Pietek (Valdemar Lomecký), Olga Augustová (Angelina), Hugo Svoboda (Giacomo), Bronislava Livia (Lea), Karel Schleichert (old veteran), Karel Faltys (Napoleon) Restored print: Národní Filmový Archiv (Praha). 2426 m /22 fps/ 96 min. Original in Czech with e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau, violin: Günter Buchwald. Viewed at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Cinema Verdi, Pordenone, 10 October 2008. - Blazena Urgosikova: "The 23-year-old Karel Anton, who was subsequently to become a significant figure in Czech cinema, chose a very difficult subject for his first film. Gypsies, written in 1835 by the first modern Czech poet, Karel Hynek Mácha, is a short but very complex novel: the story and the truth about the protagonists is not narrated in a linear way, but revealed step by step through the recollections of different characters. Anton, who also wrote the script, retained most of Mácha’s narrative, but added two scenes: the Marquis’ saturnalian diversion, and the Napoleonic episode.
The entire prologue takes place in Venice, where the filmmakers spent many days; the plot set in Bohemia was shot in an evocative Kokorin landscape, and in the authentic surroundings known to Mácha. Critics immediately recognized the film’s contribution to the art of Czech cinematography. Karel Koprva’s photography is quite extraordinary: already at the beginning of the 1920s, he introduced into Czech cinema a “lyrical manner derived from landscape painting” (Lubos Bartosek); this characteristic was to persist in Czech films in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.
For years Gypsies was known only in a shortened version of around 1800-1900 metres, whereas its original length, according to censorship records, was 2400 metres. Four elements were used for this restoration: two on nitrate stock, and two that had already been reprinted on acetate. A toned nitrate print and a tinted first-generation copy with Czech intertitles were the longest, at 2020 metres. The second nitrate element was the original negative, consisting of unassembled fragments with Czech and German cued intertitles. A new copy was reconstructed from this material, with a total length of 2426 metres. It was subjected to the process of tinting and toning after being printed.
Karel Anton was born in Prague in 1898, and died in Berlin in 1979. Anton’s masterpiece is Tonka Sibenice (Tonka of the Gallows, 1930), based on a novel by Egon Erwin Kisch. Anton’s subsequent early talkies were shot in Czech and German versions . After the commercial success of these films he moved to France, where he made more than 10 films, and subsequently to Germany, where he worked as producer, writer and director of films in a range of genres and of varying degrees of artistic success until the early 1960s."
- Blazena Urgosikova - I saw the Venetian prologue only, which looked very interesting, and the restoration work was handsome with lucrative tinting and toning effects. - The live music by Gabriel Thibaudeau and Günter Buchwald had a charming Gypsy sound.

BRIGHTON 30 YEARS AFTER 12: PAUL SPEHR

Beginning of a Skyscraper
US 1902. PC: Biograph. D: Wallace McCutcheon?. DP: Robert K. Bonine. Print: LoC, 35 ft /15 fps/ 0'25", no intertitles. - From paper print? A panorama
Paul Spehr: "Filmmakers based in New York City were fascinated by the ever-changing urban scene that surrounded them — and audiences shared their enthusiasm. This scene showing the excavation for one of New York’s signature high-rise buildings, filmed on 18 January 1902, is typical of the films documenting the city’s evolution." – Paul Spehr
The Skyscrapers
The Skyscrapers of New York (title on print). US 1906. PC: Biograph. P+D: Frank J. Marion. DP: Fred A. Dobson. CAST: Gene Gauntier, James Slevin. Print: LoC, 710 m /15 fps/ 12 min, English intertitles
Paul Spehr: "In the late 1890s actuality films were the most reliable source of income for most American film producers, and for a while it seemed that audiences would never have their fill of racing fire engines, roaring trains, and phantom rides, as well as views of famous people and places both familiar and exotic. But while the passion for speeding machines and the fascination with the exotic remained, around the turn of the century audiences began to tire of repetitious views of the same old scenes. So producers were forced to explore ways to make familiar fare more satisfying. One of the most successful methods was to tap into the public’s growing taste for stories by intermingling documentary with melodrama – or dress-up a melodrama with documentary scenes.
This trend is evident in the best known films from this era, The Life of an American Fireman and The Great Train Robbery. It is not difficult to find other examples, The Skyscrapers being a case in point. The producer, the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, learned very early that audiences thrilled to vicarious danger. Cameras were placed close to the rails and trains rushed towards the audience at full speed; horses charged towards the camera, passing it on both sides. Speed, movement, and action were production characteristics for the company, and the thrills were equally satisfying if the danger threatened someone on screen – a group of workers dangling on a cable; tossing rivets high above a constructions site (both filmed from below to emphasize the position); or a life-threatening fight on the heights.
All of these are elements of the melodramatic plot of The Skyscrapers, one of a pair of dramas documenting major New York construction projects which Biograph released near the end of 1906. They were produced and probably directed by Frank Marion and photographed by Fred A. Dobson. (...) In The Skyscrapers, shot in November and released in December 1906, the drama revolves around a dispute between a workman who has been discharged for fomenting trouble and his supervisor. The worker, “Dago Pete”, seeks revenge by stealing the contractor’s watch and planting it in his supervisor’s home. His efforts are foiled by a young girl who saw him plant the watch.
The stereotyping of Italians and a distinctly pro-management and anti-labor overtone elevates what is otherwise a studio-bound melodrama which might be forgettable, but it is the remarkable shots of steel workers in action and the fight high above the street that makes this film truly unusual. While it lacks sophistication and subtlety, it is clearly a precursor of a host of adventures filmed on America’s urban skylines.
Biograph described the film this way in their Bulletin No. 88, dated 8 December 1906:
“Following The Tunnel Workers we offer a new sensational production in which the action takes place largely on the dizzy heights of the uppermost girder of a twenty-story skyscraper in the heart of New York. The building is said to be the highest is [sic] the city, and overlooks Union Square. [Author’s note: Not far from the company’s studio.] In the distance are to be seen the Flatiron Building, the Times Building and other modern marvels.
“The opening of the production includes a panoramic view of the skyscraper district and several thrilling ‘stunts’ by iron-workers, such as throwing and catching redhot rivets, riding a girder into its position and adjusting it in place, and a group of workmen hanging to the chains and being lowered by the derrick from the top of the building to the ground.
“The action of the story involves the contractor, superintendent and several workmen. ‘Dago Pete,’ an iron-worker, is discharged for fomenting trouble, and to get even, steals the contractor’s watch and charges the superintendent with the crime. To make his deed still blacker he conceals the watch in the superintendent’s home. The latter is accused of the theft by the owner of the watch, and as a result, the two men engage in a hand-to-hand fight on the very top of the building. The contractor is worsted and narrowly escapes death from a fall. The superintendent is arrested and haled [sic] into court, but a little girl who has seen the hiding of the watch denounces the villain. The contractor and the superintendent shake hands, while the thief is hustled off to prison.” – Paul Spehr - Quite a surprising film with raw force and a feeling of real danger and violence.

BRIGHTON 30 YEARS AFTER 11: MARTIN SOPOCY

[Announced: L'Arroseur arrosé, actually shown:]
LA PREMIERE SEANCE
A Centenary compilation of Lumière films, films not identified in the compilation, my guesses are that they were:
La Sortie des usines Lumière (FR 1895)
La Voltige (FR 1895)
La Pêche aux poissons rouges (FR 1895)
Neuville-sur-Saône: Débarquement du congrès des photographes à Lyon (FR 1895)
Les Forgerons (FR 1895)
L'Arroseur arrosé (FR 1895)
Repas de bébé (FR 1895)
Le Saut à la couverture (FR 1895)
Place des Cordeliers à Lyon (FR 1895) - very nice prints
Martin Sopocy: "This anecdote of one continuous uncut shot pictures a man sprinkling his garden when a mischievous boy, unseen by him, plants his foot on the hose to stop the flow of water, then waits for the moment when the puzzled gardener, looking for a blockage, brings the hose up to his face. The boy then takes his foot off the hose. Louis Lumière departs from his model, a contemporary cartoon by Hermann Vogel, by showing us the chase the cartoonist mentions only in passing (in which, apparently, the boy escapes), and thereby introduces into the story film one of its most basic and cinematic standbys. Its popularity with audiences is shown by the three worn negatives in the Lumière museum, for he was obliged to restage it twice. We may well wonder why audiences that may have grown blasé to what was after all a standard routine of circus clowns, should have been so affected by this one. The answer may lie in the circumstance that this, the first chase ever photographed by a moving picture camera, produced a novel impression by objectifying it for its viewers, by bringing to the fore the fact that still photography, which functions as our stand-in or surrogate, is transformed by the medium of cinematography into becoming the intermediary for the entire experience, making it possible to see the action between the gardener and the prankster as a fresh experience despite its familiarity. And so the chase, reborn, has now entered the art of cinema. Soon to follow would be elaborations, by other filmmakers, of the race to the rescue, the race against time, and the myriad of all its other cinematic descendants and variants." – Martin Sopocy
A Reservist Before the War and After the War
GB 1902. PC: Williamson. D: James Williamson. Orig. l: 290 ft. Print: BFINA, 288 ft /16 fps/ 5 min, no intertitles
Martin Sopocy: "A descendant of the life-model slide narratives of Bamforth and York, this little tale owes most of its beauty to James Williamson’s ideas on the actor’s proper role in the making of film narratives, of which this has become the finest extant example. From Lumière’s films he seems to have learned that cinematography created new possibilities for drama, but on his own he saw that these possibilities somehow simultaneously – he never explained how – created a demand for natural behavior in its interpreters. He has obviously been working with his players, coaching them in the ways of expressing their feelings in the body language of the everyday. (He would later learn that his ideas worked best in stories about ordinary people performed by ordinary people; not until 8 years later, at Biograph, was a collaborative breakthrough made jointly by Mary Pickford and Griffith – he also felt the need for photogenic acting – pragmatically at first, and then, definitively, by Thomas Ince not long afterwards.) Here Williamson has already adopted the stage-frame for his interiors, although he free-frames the exterior shot in which the Reservist, having left his cottage, steals the loaf from the baker’s cart, which leads to an implied but unshown chase before the narrative (and the stage-frame) resumes in the cottage again. However many times I see it, this little film remains, for me, one of the most beautiful silents ever made." – Martin Sopocy. - A simple story of the reservist who steals bread for his starving family. Yes, there is a similarity with Griffith and Biograph.

BRIGHTON 30 YEARS AFTER 10: BARRY SALT

Attack on a China Mission - Bluejackets to the Rescue - see Brighton programme 3
[A Photograph Taken from Our Area Window] [A Study in Feet]
GB 1901. PC: G.A. Smith / Warwick Trading Company. D: G.A. Smith. Orig. l: 100 ft. Print: BFINA, 35mm blowup from 17.5mm Biokam, 44 ft /16 fps/ 0'45", no intertitles
Barry Salt: "The effects of the 1978 Brighton conference of FIAF on film historiography were not just due to the fiction films made between 1900 and 1906 that were shown there. The contributing film archives also sent any unidentified films they possessed that they thought might have been made in the period. The smaller the archive, the more optimistic their attributions. There were even a couple of films clearly made in the 1920s that were viewed. The participants at the conference screenings quickly developed an eye for the stylistics that indicate the date of manufacture of an early film, and soon a jolly shouted chorus of “Later” greeted all the films that were out of bounds.
But for myself and others, some of the most revelatory films shown were the many Pathé films made in the next couple of years after 1906. It was clear that these films had a major role in polishing and diffusing the basic features of film continuity established around 1900 by George Albert Smith and James Williamson. The films of latter duo did get a showing at Brighton, but some of them were still undiscovered at the time. Much the most important of these is James Williamson’s Attack on a China Mission Station. One shot from this film, which was all that was believed to exist, was shown at Brighton, but subsequently it was discovered that almost the complete film was in the Imperial War Museum collection. When I saw a print of this copy, it was obvious that it had been tampered with at some time, and the order of two of the shots in it reversed. The well-known single shot version was clearly an unedited “rush” print of one of the shots of the film, as various people had speculated. What was less obvious was that the unedited shot contained a little more footage at its beginning and end than appeared in the nearly complete version. So I used this shot to make up a reconstructed version of the film, with the other shots put into their right order as well. More details on the film can be found in my article “Cut and Shuffle” in Cinema: The Beginnings and the Future, edited by Christopher Williams and published by the University of Westminster in 1996. (This article is also included in my book Moving Into Pictures, published by Starword in 2006, and the film itself can be seen on the BFI DVD Early Cinema – Primitives and Pioneers.)
The more often I see this film, the more remarkable it seems. Besides the continuous action running through its four shots, which are shot at different angles to the area of action, there is also the division of one of the takes into two parts, which are spliced into separate parts of the finished film. This is real film editing, and James Williamson did it for the first time in 1900.
The George Albert Smith films that have re-appeared since Brighton don’t reveal any major new discoveries, but it is good to have his A Photograph Taken from Our Area Window of 1901. This is one fixed set-up showing a set representing the view through the window in a semi-basement room. A frame from the film is illustrated on page 37 of John Barnes’ The Beginnings of the Cinema in England 1894-1901, Volume 5: 1900. Through the window can be seen the footpath outside, with the legs of passing people. Various incidents are suggested, mostly flirtatious, purely by the interaction of the feet of the people. This notion, which probably comes from acts in the variety theatre of the time using a partially raised curtain, was expanded through a string of subsequent films over the next two decades." – Barry Salt. - Just the feet tell the story, much like the hands and feet only star in the Jacques Feyder short Des pieds et des mains seen earlier during the Festival.

BRIGHTON 30 YEARS AFTER 9: CHARLES MUSSER

Grandma's Reading Glass
GB 1900. PC: G.A.S. Films. D+DP: George Albert Smith. Print: BFINA, 88 ft /16 fps/ 2 min, no intertitles
Grandpa's Reading Glass
US 1902 © 3 October 1903 Biograph. D: Wallace McCutcheon; DP: Robert K. Bonine. Print: LoC 131 ft /15 fps/ 2 min, no intertitles
Charles Musser: "Grandma’s Reading Glass is a delightful achievement, but it is also a significant milestone in the history of cinema. Of course, the film was well known before the Brighton Conference, but for many of us in attendance it was the first time that we had seen it on the screen. (And certainly the fact that we were seeing a Brighton film in Brighton itself added a little piquancy to everyone’s viewing.) The picture immediately stood out for its use of point-of-view structures and for its number of shots – 10 total. The film alternates between different close views of objects, animals, and people, and an establishing shot showing Grandma – and a boy who looks at these objects using her reading glass. (Of course, the grandmother was almost certainly not the boy’s actual grandmother; in fact it was most likely a man dressed up as an old woman, but that is another issue.) As the Warwick Trading Company, its British distributor, explained the picture in its film catalog: “The conception is to produce on the screen the various objects as they appeared to Willy while looking through the glass in their enormously enlarged form. The big print on the newspaper, the visible working of the mechanism of the watch, the fluttering of the canary in the cage, the blinking of grandma’s eye, and the inquisitive look of the kitten, is most amusing to behold. The novelty of the subject is sure to please every audience.” The film thus uses a simple optical instrument – a lens or reading glass – as a stand-in for the camera. Likewise the boy is a stand-in for the cameraman. In this respect the film is consciously and necessarily self-reflexive. It enabled the audience to make sense of the sequence of shots.
This pairing of Grandma’s Reading Glass with Grandpa’s Reading Glass was inspired not so much by the significance of the Smith film as by the sophistication of the Biograph remake. (Note: Grandpa’s Reading Glass was not shown at Brighton, but was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in conjunction with the Brighton Conference.) From the earliest days of motion picture production, remakes were extremely common. Many were done by the people who had made the initial picture: if a negative wore out and there was still sufficient demand, the production company was expected to make a new negative of the same general subject. W.K.L. Dickson and William Heise made Cock Fight in March 1894, and Cock Fight, No. 2 in September 1894. While similar in many respects, the filmmakers improved on the subject by replacing a black background with a white one – to show the action of the roosters more clearly. It is well known that Cecil Hepworth remade Rescued by Rover twice (a total of 3 different negatives). Just as often (perhaps even more often!), production companies remade popular subjects that had been originated by their competitors. After Biograph showed its popular Empire State Express (September 1896), Edison responded with The Black Diamond Express (December 1896) – and so on. Many Biograph films were remade because the company used a large-gauge 68mm/70mm film stock and did not sell their prints. Rival producers could make their own 35mm versions, use the resulting films for their own exhibition service, and eventually sell copies to independent showmen. Correspondingly, when a 35mm film was particularly popular, Biograph could not show it on its large-format projectors and so, in turn, often remade these subjects for its own use. This was the case with Grandpa’s Reading Glass (July 1902).
Grandpa’s Reading Glass was not the first remake of G.A. Smith’s Grandma’s Reading Glass. Pathé Frères, which avidly remade the films of its competitors, produced La Loupe de Grand-Maman in 1901. It was not shown at Brighton, and may not even be extant. Biograph did not produce its remake until July 1902. Why? Thomas A. Edison was victorious in his patent infringement suit against the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company on 15 July 1901, and while the courts allowed Biograph to continue in business it restricted the company in what it could produce while the case was being appealed. Biograph continued to make news and non-fiction films, but was barred from making comedies and fictional subjects. When the decision against Biograph was reversed on 10 March 1902, the company once again operated without restrictions. Responding to important changes in the industry, Biograph began to make films using standard gauge (35mm) stock even though it did not entirely abandon its 68/70mm format. Grandpa’s Reading Glass was shot in the old, large format for its shrunken exhibition circuit (which still included the Keith theatres). The resulting film was 525 feet in length – that is, the equivalent to a 1050-foot 35mm film in terms of raw stock. Since each film frame was roughly 4 times the size of a 35mm frame, and the Biograph operated at about 30 frames per second (more than twice the rate of many American producers working in 35mm), this was a very expensive way to produce a film. Fourteen months later, Biograph began to sell 35mm reduction copies of Grandpa’s Reading Glass to independent exhibition services. These were not only reduction prints, they also apparently included only alternate frames, reducing the appropriate projection rate from 30 to 15 fps. Biograph also copyrighted the film in this 35mm format on 3 October 1903 – and it is the resulting paper print which survives.
It is easy to think of early cinema remakes as cheap knock-offs – quickly produced imitations made with little thought and strictly for money-making purposes. They readily mobilize our worst assumptions and prejudices: that early remakes were crude, that filmmakers lacked mastery and a deep understanding of their medium, that they lacked originality and artistic as well as ethical integrity. Undoubtedly there are pictures that could confirm such hypotheses, but I think this misconstrues how these films were generally meant to be seen and enjoyed – which is to say also how they were made. Filmmakers and audiences were far more attuned to nuance than we often assume. They were ready to compare films and enjoy their subtle differences in ways that are quite unfamiliar to us today.
Biograph changed just one little letter in the title of its film – the “m” becomes a “p” – but this tiny shift changed the gender of the person who possesses the reading glass. This is not the only thing that was inverted or reworked. In fact, McCutcheon systematically pursued this refiguration. For instance, Smith had a young boy wield the reading glass, while McCutcheon had not just one, but two girls. When showing things in close-up, Smith put them against a dark or black background, while McCutcheon used white. (In this respect, neither Smith nor McCutcheon created a seamless spatial matrix – these backgrounds always remove the object from their spatial context.) Smith opened his film with a panning close-up of a newspaper, using a circular matte to mime the circular lens of the reading glass, which is only introduced in the second shot. Grandma’s Reading Glass thus goes from close-up to establishing shot. McCutcheon did the reverse, and was much more careful in the way he introduced the viewer to the film’s “gimmick”. Grandpa’s Reading Glass starts with a frontal shot of the whole scene as Grandpa uses the reading glass to read the comics. The girls grab the glass and start to read it as well. The next shot is a medium shot of newspaper comics with the reading glass scanning the successive images on the page – but the camera is not moving with it (as is the case in the Smith film). McCutcheon then cut back to an establishing shot, and it is only the fourth shot – of a girl holding a kitten – that introduces the circular matte to signal that the enlarged image has been created by the circular lens of the reading glass. Moreover, if Smith filmed “Grandma” in profile, McCutcheon filmed “Grandpa” head-on. McCutcheon had his girls examine many of the same kinds of subjects in his remake, but in a highly self-conscious manner. Thus, both films show a bird in close-up, but Smith’s canary is in a cage and flutters about, while McCutcheon’s parrot rests quietly on a perch. Unlike Smith, McCutcheon did not show the moving mechanism of a watch, but showed a monkey – sitting on a bar and eating. If we associate monkeys with a mischievous predisposition, then McCutcheon was signaling that he was “monkeying around”, and thus involved here in some monkey business.
The Biograph film is 14 shots as opposed to Smith’s 10. The addition of 2 close-ups or inserts are thus worth noting. Smith shows the boy using the glass to get a close-up of “Grandma’s” eye. McCutcheon has the girls turn the lens on the mother, which first generates a portrait-like view of this attractive, smiling woman. (This shot has no immediate counterpart in Smith’s film.) The girls then move the glass closer to motivate a close-up of the eye – the mother’s right eye (Smith likewise had shot Grandma’s right eye). McCutcheon thus introduced a more complex structure – establishing shot, medium close-up, establishing shot, extreme close-up. The other new insert in Grandpa’s Reading Glass is the final close-up of a very young boy. The different endings to these films are thus worth considering. Smith concluded with an establishing shot, and McCutcheon with a close-up. The final close-up in Grandma’s Reading Glass is of a kitten, which Grandma has picked up so her grandson can look at it more closely. The scene then cuts back to the establishing shot as the kitten jumps off Grandma’s lap, which signals the end of the film. McCutcheon placed his close-up of the cat near the beginning of his film – in fact, the first shot in which he uses the circular matte (thus inverting the order). In the final establishing shot of Grandpa’s Reading Glass, the mother picks up the infant son who has been on her lap (as the cat was on Grandma’s lap) and the girls look at him with their glass. The film then concludes with the close-up of her smiling son. Unlike all the other shots in Grandpa’s Reading Glass, the son is against a black background, providing a visual counterpoint to the preceding close-ups and signaling the film’s conclusion.
McCutcheon’s attentive playfulness in Grandpa’s Reading Glass is impressive, and looks towards many of the engaging Biograph comedies he made in 1904-05 (Personal, The Suburbanite, and so forth). Indeed, he proves himself a highly adept reader of Smith’s picture. Both films are nostalgic depictions of family life – though G.A. Smith certainly takes a somewhat more sardonic view, given that “Grandma” seems to be played by a man in drag (and also when contextualized by some of his other films, such as Let Me Dream Again). McCutcheon pushes the depiction of domestic bliss much further – with a more developed family (and more pets!) – without entirely abandoning the comedy. Where is the father in these idyllic scenes? In both films, he is not strictly absent, but behind the camera, where he is creating this portrait of his beloved family. One ideological component shared by both films is thus a patriarchal impulse. In Grandma’s Reading Glass the son wields the reading glass while the father handles the camera. (Another interpretation of this is that the making of Grandma’s Reading Glass is itself a kind of child’s play, perhaps helping to explain why Smith abandoned this kind of filmmaking by about 1903.) Until the concluding shot of Grandpa’s Reading Glass, this idyllic domestic scene has old Grandpa surrounded by women. The introduction of the final shot somewhat unexpectedly produces the heir, and provides the film with both symmetry and closure within a generational thrust. While the film begins with the old man and ends with the young baby boy, it also progresses from Grandpa to the mother, and only then concludes with her son. If McCutcheon, like Smith, subtly privileged the male sex, he also foregrounded the young, virginal girls (dressed in white, while Smith’s boy is dressed in dark clothing) and their charming mother. Could The Lonely Villa (1909), itself a remake of Pathé’s Le Médecin du château (The Physician of the Castle, 1908), be far behind?" – Charles Musser

BRIGHTON 30 YEARS AFTER 8: DAVID LEVY

Capture of Boer Battery by the British
US 1900. PC: Edison. P+DP: James White; orig. l: 100 ft.; print: LoC, 100 ft /16 fps/ 1'33", no intertitles. - Too slow.
The Great Train Robbery
US 1903. PC: Edison. D: Edwin S. Porter; CAST: Gilbert M. Anderson, Marie Murray, George Barnes, Frank Hanaway, A.C. Abadie; première: Dec 1903. Print: MoMA, 720 ft /16 fps/ 12 min colour [tinted]; no intertitles.
David Levy: "The Brighton screenings organized at the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art by Eileen Bowser and Paul Spehr in the fall of 1977 helped me understand the meaning of the 1904 Edison company catalogue description of Edwin Stanton Porter’s The Great Train Robbery. The film, said the January 1904 Edison Films catalogue supplement (p.5), “has been posed and acted in faithful duplication of the genuine ‘Hold Ups’ made famous by various outlaw bands of the far West.”
By “faithful duplication” the copywriter, Porter or someone else, was describing the film as a re-enactment, in other words a work of art rather than a “fake” which involved the false claim of a cameraman having been at the scene of an actual event. Fake newsreels and re-enactments accomplished the transformation of motion into action by the manipulation of frame depth and edge, a practice that shaped the compositional features of the film narrative.
In Robbery’s concluding scene, three felons in the frame foreground are counting out the loot as the seven-man posse emerges from out of the frame edge on the right-hand side and advances in the direction of the camera for the concluding shoot-out, firing in the direction of the robbery crew and the audience. The scene was itself a re-enactment of scenes previously seen in the fakes which before long led to questions in the press. (...)
A point of interest is the apparent need the Edison people felt to explain.
In Capture of Boer Battery by the British (1900), James White placed the camera behind the Boer unit to film the kilted Highlanders advancing out of the depth to overrun the Boer position.
“Nothing can exceed the stubborn resistance shown by the Gordon Highlanders, as we see them steadily advancing in the face of a murderous fire of the Boers, who are making their guns speak with rapid volleys. One by one the gunners fall beside their guns, and as the smoke clears for an instant the Highlanders are seen gaining nearer and nearer the disputed ground. Finally, a grand charge is made, the siege is carried, and amid cheers they plant the colors on the spot they have so dearly earned.” (Edison Films, July 1901, pp.28-29)
In the filming of actions based on Wild West Show stunts, men on horseback ride out of the frame depth at the camera, the scenes organized in patterns of arced and diagonal movement, animals and vehicles cut off at the bottom of the frame. In Biograph’s Roosevelt’s Rough Riders (1898) > (1903, per LoC Copyright Catalog), several dozen riders gallop at the camera, turning to the left a few yards from it. Charge of Boer Cavalry (1900) depicts riders charging the camera, passing close to it on either side. The Edison Films catalogue description (July 1901, p.28) recalls Sadoul’s Lumière train legend: “…you can see that they are straining every nerve and urging their horses to the utmost speed…so that the audience involuntarily makes an effort to move from their seats in order to avoid being trampled under the horses.”
It is not clear whether such an involuntary audience reaction had ever actually occurred; perhaps it had. The fact is that the newsreel aesthetic soon became dominant, displacing both Muybridge and Méliès visual modes." David Levy

BRIGHTON 30 YEARS AFTER 7: TOM GUNNING

Jack and the Bean Stalk
US 1902. PC: Edison. D: Edwin S. Porter. Print source: LoC, 625 ft /16 fps/ 11 min. No intertitles.
The Life of an American Fireman
US 1903. PC: Edison. D: Edwin S. Porter. Cast: Arthur White, Vivian Vaughan. Print source: LoC, 700 ft /16 fps/ 12 min, no intertitles
Tom Gunning: "As Charles Musser has shown in his detailed and insightful analysis of this film, Jack and the Beanstalk was one of the most elaborate productions ever offered by any American production company. The film quite consciously uses the theatrical aspects of the fairy pantomime tradition. The framing of the shots reproduces a proscenium arch, with the actors filling less than half the height of the frame when standing. The scenes are staged frontally, with the camera directly in front of the set at a right angle and with offscreen areas rarely playing important roles except for entrances and exits of characters. The sets use the system of painted flats placed at different distances that 19th-century theater had evolved to create a sense of depth and recession out of easily movable two-dimensional elements (see A. Nicholas Vardac, Stage to Screen). Although these sets strike the modern eye as artificial, they create a complex and carefully arranged scenic effect.
Theatrical fairy pantomimes consisted of a series of scenes, often described as “tableaux” or pictures, due to their highly spectacular nature.Thus, this form offered early filmmakers a highly visual scenography that strung scenes, each usually filmed in a single shot, together, united by the unfolding of the story. In Jack and the Beanstalk, the transition between shots is made by a brief overlap dissolve, a technique already used by Méliès in his fairy pantomime films but derived initially from the “dissolving views” of magic lantern shows, which used an optical overlapping to switch from one slide image to the next. Thus even the cutting between shots becomes a visually pleasant attraction.
Creating a consistent and continuous sense of time posed a new frontier for story films. As films began to follow actions over more than one shot, the models of practices that filmmakers drew on (such as the succession of magic lantern slides or the layout of a comic strip) did not exist in time in the same way that motion pictures did. In 1902-03, films tried out ways of dealing with time that differ from later practices.
A more extended example of temporal overlap occurs in a longer film that Porter filmed for the Edison Company in 1902 and released in 1903, The Life of an American Fireman. The film demonstrates the way a series of shots could be strung together to create a longer narrative, by focusing on process more than characters.
Life of an American Fireman follows an overarching action, forging a number of shots into a continuous dramatic danger-and-rescue scenario. But what type of story and what type of storytelling is this? As Musser has pointed out, the fire rescue was a familiar topic, the subject of lantern slides, a topic of amusement-park re-enactment (“Fighting the Flames” became an attraction at Dreamland and other amusement parks), and a familiar “sensation scene” in stage melodramas since the 19th century. Fire and rescue formed a spectacle, an attraction, even more than a narrative situation. Life of an American Fireman straightforwardly follows a process rather than creating the narrative enigmas and delays we associate with storytelling. From the alarm to the arrival of the firemen at the house, the film follows a sequence of preparing and racing to a fire that any urban dweller would find familiar. Physical action moving through the frame (the firemen down the pole, the engines out of the station, down the street) also propels the film, even overriding apparent inconsistencies. Besides the temporal overlaps that stretch out actions between shots, lapses in continuity indicate little concern for the consistencies that later Hollywood practice would try to preserve, as the number of vehicles and the colors of the horses vary from shot to shot. Actions rather than characters carry the film. The firemen are not individualized and even the woman and child, undoubtedly stirring audience sympathy, remain distant figures whose actions remain clearer than their faces."
– Tom Gunning

BRIGHTON 30 YEARS AFTER 6: ANDRE GAUDREAULT

Personal
US 1904. PC: Biograph. D: Wallace McCutcheon. D: G.W. Bitzer. Print: LoC, 16mm, 187 ft /16 fps/ 8 min, no intertitles
How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through The New York Herald "Personal" Column
US 1904. PC: Edison. D: Edwin S. Porter. Print: LoC, 35mm, 675 m /16 fps/ 11 min, one English title at the beginning
Meet Me at the Fountain
US 1904. PC: Lubin. Print: LoC, 35mm, 385 ft /16 fps/ 7 min, no intertitles
André Gaudreault: "As far as production is concerned, 1904 and 1905 are the years when the chase film came on the scene, a genre that would play a key role in the evolution of what we call “film form.” The critical importance of the chase film to the development of filmic expression lies in the fact that its basic storyline required the use of editing and that it encouraged filmmakers to conceive of animated views as a series of juxtaposed tableaux. Although the chase film is in some respects a fundamentally attractional genre, it is just as much an essentially narrative genre, telling a rudimentary story: what is an early chase film, in the end, if not the narration of a series of attractions? The chase film, historically speaking, was probably the ideal genre for moving from a paradigm in which attraction was the principal element around which views were conceived and produced to a paradigm in which narration took over.
In the chase film of the period an initial shot shows an event that sets the chase in motion, and the tableaux that follow almost invariably show the same action: a character (or sometimes several characters) runs toward the camera (and thus toward the viewer) and then leaves our field of vision, at which point several (rarely just one) characters appear in the background in pursuit, following the same route. This is how the most famous of these films, Personal (Biograph, 1904), unfolds.
In Personal, the chase extends over eight shots basically showing the same thing: a man running away from a group of women chasing after him. For this accumulation of shots to contribute something on the narrative level, it would have to advance the action. But here, it is not the action that advances (there are no new developments), it is the characters who advance (literally, as the chase proceeds). The filmprovides the viewer with a series of “acts,” each one as spectacular as the last. With Personal we are still closer to the tableau than we are to the shot. For there to be “shots”, there have to be “fragments”; the film has to be assembled out of bits and pieces. None of the segments here is a fragment: each is an independent tableau, containing and conveying a self-sufficient micro-narrative.
Personal also has the honor of being the film that inspired the most remakes in a brief period of several months. The first one of those is How a French Nobleman Got a Wife through the New York Herald “Personal” Columns, made by Edwin S. Porter just a few weeks after the release of the Biograph film. Some of the shots in this remake were even made in the same locations as the original film, such as Grant’s Tomb on Riverside Drive, New York, where in both versions the man meets the women responding to his ad. Porter didn’t even try to distinguish his film from the Biograph film. All the Edison company wanted to do with this film was to create a cheap copy of a competitor’s latest hit and to add it to their own sales catalogue. Not surprisingly Biograph dragged the Edison company before the courts, making it the (pur)sued in this legal chase. By initiating a court battle, Biograph was trying to convince lawmakers to regulate the practice. This” lawsuit had immediate effect: Lubin took a certain number of precautions in order to avoid legal problems. Two weeks after the release of his own version of the film, under the title A New Version of Personal, he decided to rename the film Meet Me at the Fountain and to add a supplementary scene of 75 feet in length, in order to head off possible lawsuits." – André Gaudreault. - A foundation film and two immediate remakes. It is surprising to see how close the imitations are to the model. The same chase idea was even the basis for Buster Keaton's Seven Chances.