Thursday, January 31, 2008

Brute Force

Raakaa voimaa / Läpi harmaan kiven (tv 1972) / Med våldets rätt. US (c) 1947 Universal Pictures, [on print: (c) 1947 G.G. Gottlieb]. P: Mark Hellinger. D: Jules Dassin. SC: Richard Brooks - based on a story by Robert Patterson. DP: William H. Daniels. M: Miklos Rosza; Wagner: Tannhäuser Overture. Starring: Burt Lancaster (Joe Collins), Hume Cronyn (Captain Munsey), Charles Bickford (Gallagher). 98 min. A good 35mm print. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 30 Jan 2008. A prison mutiny masterpiece revisited after 35 years: (1) the final showdown still terrific, (2) Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn still excellent, (3) supporting cast is first-rate, (4) William Daniels, who started with Stroheim, does great with film noir imagery, (5) Miklos Rozsa's music is melodramatic and inflammatory, (6) Jules Dassin is great with actors and mise-en-scene, (7) the choreography of the mass movements is exciting, (8) Mark Hellinger, Jules Dassin, and Richard Brooks may have channelled their feelings about the Holocaust in this film, (9) Warden Munsey beats the prisoners to the rhythm of Wagner, (10) there is a profound sense of doom, of "no escape".

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Madame Dubarry (Lubitsch 1919)

Madame Dubarry (1919) poster by Theo Matejko.
Madame Dubarry / Madame Dubarry. DE 1919. PC: Union. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Norbert Falk, Hanns Kräly. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl. PD: Kurt Richter. COST: Ali Hubert. Starring: Pola Negri (Jeanne Vaubernier>Madame Dubarry), Emil Jannings (Louis XIV), Reinhold Schünzel (Duke von Choiseul, Minister), Harry Liedtke (Armand de Foix). 2280 m /18 fps/ 110 min.

Restored version from tinted and toned, French/German titled material, print from Transit Film / FWMS, /18 fps/ 127 min. It is longer than the original because of the double titles. E-subtitles by AA.

Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 29 Jan 2008.

Observations on revisiting a familiar film in a version I had not seen before: 1) it is great to see this in authentic colours, 2) the titles take slightly too much time in this bilingual version, 3) there are small things missing (nothing important), 4) this is a frivolous version of the French Revolution, 5) the crowd scenes are powerful, and there is true frenzy in the revolutionary crowd, 6) the film is visually first-rate, 7) the theme of the formal marriage and the irrepressible libido is central to Lubitsch, and there is a link to Renoir (Nana, Toni, La Règle du jeu, etc.), 8) it is nice to see the familiar trio Negri-Liedtke-Jannings playing variations of some eternal patterns in Egypt... in Carmen... and here, 9) the atmosphere is lively, 10) although the film trivializes the chain of events leading to the Revolution, it conveys its seriousness and some of the background. This is tragedy.

Coup de foudre

Meidän kesken / Franska väninnor / GB: At First Sight / US: Entre nous. FR (c) 1983 Partner's Productions, etc. P: Ariel Zeitoun. D+SC: Diane Kurys - based on the book by Olivier Cohen and Diane Kurys (1983). DP: Bernard Lutic - Eastmancolor - Panavision 1:2,35. PD: Jacques Bufnoir. M: Luis Bacalov. Starring: Miou-Miou (Madeleine), Isabelle Huppert (Lena), Guy Marchand (Michel), Jean-Pierre Bacri (Costa), Robin Renucci (Raymond), Patrick Bauchau (Carlier). 113 min. A fine Ministère des Affaires Etrangères print with English subtitles by A. Whitelaw & B. Byron. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 29 Jan 2008. "A eux trois, je dédie ce film". A fine film about two women during some ten years, starting in 1942 during the Occupation of France and continuing until the 1950s. The character of Lena is based on the mother of Diane Kurys. Lena is rescued by marriage from a Nazi concentration camp in the Pyrenees, and Madeleine's boyfriend is killed by a Gestapo bullet. Lena has to face the insensitivity of her husband, and Madeleine is estranged from hers, and there are the children. The family situations are presented with vitality, the film is full of life. The women are more important to each other than men. The film is much better than I had expected by reading male reviews about it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

THE FINNISH CIVIL WAR OF 1918 AND CINEMA

90 years have passed since the Finnish Civil War of 1918, as serious for Finland as the U.S. Civil War for Americans. Fiction films include: Dreyer: Blade af Satans Bog (1921), Pakkala: Sotapolulla (1921), Molander: En natt / Serments (1931), Särkkä: 1918 - mies ja hänen omatuntonsa (1957), Laine: Täällä Pohjantähden alla (1968), Pennanen: Mommilan veriteot 1917 (1973), Honkasalo & Lehto: Tulipää (1980), Jartti: Aapo (1994), Saarela: Lunastus (1997), and Törhönen: Raja 1918 (2007).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

VALOHOITOA - IN THIS LIGHT: NEW FINNISH LAMP DESIGN (exhibition at Design Forum Finland)

Design Forum Finland 25 Jan - 17 Feb 2008, Helsinki, visited 27 Jan 2008. Pisara standard lamp by Petri Vainio /Doctor Design (2007), Innosol Origo standard and desk lamp by Eero Aarnio / Innojok (2007), H+ collection of lamps by Heikki Ruoho / Moire Japan (2006), Foxfire standard and desk lamp by Jukka Korpihete (2007), DNA wall lamp by Carola Lindh-Hormia / FLUX (2005), Double Bubble by Eero Aarnio / Melaja (2003), Overpass wall lamp by Anu Penttinen / Nounou Design (2007), Helsinki Lighthouse ceiling light by Timo Salli / Saas Instruments (2006), Medusa ceiling light by Mikko Paakkanen / Saas Instruments, 34OY desk lamp by Yrjö Kukkapuro & Henrik Enbom / Saas (2007), Atto ceiling light by Seppo Koho /Secto Design (2007), Tre standard lamp by Elina Järvinen / Selki-Asema (2007), Jako standard lamp by Mikko Laakkonen / Selki-Asema (2006), and Plink ceiling light by Jari-Petri Voutilainen /Selki-Asema (2006). Exhibition producer: Laila Alanen. Particular emphasis on sources of light making use of state-of-the-art technology and the latest materials. Ecologically minded consumers will choose light sources that can reduce energy consumption. LED lighting design presented by Sami Suihkonen, working for OptoGaN, producing LED wafers and chips. - Innovative, stylish, simple and energy-saving solutions, including the moving Medusa, Kukkapuro's new transparent lamp, fine woodwork in Atto, fun form in Double Bubble, and dawn/dusk design in Foxfire. http://www.designforum.fi/pressrelease?pressrelease=10639401

JORMA HAUTALA: PAINTINGS, GRAPHICS (exhibition at Galerie Anhava)

Galerie Anhava 10 Jan - 3 Feb 2008. Visited on 27 Jan, 2008. Jorma Hautala's acrylics: Wing - Shadow (2006), Wing - Reflection (2006), Dance in Light (2006), Dance in Dark (2006), One Other Glass of Wine (2005), Marked (2007), Helios (2006), Duo (2006), Rondo (2006), Sounding Forest II (2005), Walking Music I (2005), Walking Music II (2005), Road Movie II (2006), Road Movie I (2006), Night Wind (2007), Morning Wind (2007), lithographs: Tango III (2007), Tango V (2007), Tango VI (2007), Tango VII (2007). Kimmo Pasanen's catalogue essay "The Pulse of Space and Light": "Jorma Hautala's purely abstract paintings present the viewer with an interesting challenge. Looking at the world around us, or pictures of it, our mind immediately seeks to identify the objects of the gaze: houses, trees, stairs etc. Identification is also naming; we can describe verbally what we see. Such identifiable features are rare in abstract painting; there are only dots, lines and coloured surfaces. This is also the case in Hautala's works. At the same time, however, they contain something else, something that cannot be named, that we cannot express in words. Having set out to identify something, our gaze is lost and we are confused. From its initial stages, abstract art has sought to liberate itself from making reference to surrounding and visible reality, and has therefore always been perplexing and outright difficult to perceive for the unaccustomed viewer. How then should such paintings be viewed? Should we be satisfied with only seeing more or less pleasant ornamental designs in them? In ornament, details as such have no individual nature, no "identity", being instead interchangeable with others that are similar, without diminishing or altering decorativeness as a result. The "danger" of ornamentality has, in fact, been a threat to abstract art since its very beginning, and among others Wassily Kandinsky, one of Jorma Hautala's paragons, had to consider for long its possibility in his own art. A look at Hautala's paintings, however, soon reveals that despite certain repeated graphic motifs, the works are not decorations, for the role of their elements is clearly not to create a pleasant impression, nor can they replaced by other elements. They are carefully chosen and placed in the entity of the painting, and they cannot be removed or altered without altering or even breaking down the work itself. What then should our gaze be seeking? The answer is that our gaze should not seek anything! On the contrary, we should allow the gaze and the mind to rest and permit ourselves to be led by the work, not as passive followers but as active and receiving participants. In doing so, the rhythm of composition of the work and the beat created by its graphic elements, such as dots and lines, and the space and mood created by the colours are perceived by the receptive gaze and mind as a living and continuously changing entity in the strong sense of the word. The viewer enters a world that can only be created with the means of painting and the gaze directed at it. The artwork is ultimately created only when it begins to take shape in the viewer's mind.
This also places requirements on the viewer. According to conventional thinking, pictures and artworks depicting reality should be of such a nature that the viewer can recognize their content immediately, at first glance. Abstract art has separated itself from this recognizability, and the viewer has to make a conscious effort to steer his or her mind in the right direction. The more accustomed the viewer is to this, the more easily and sensitively will the gaze and mind be put in a receptive state. Abstract art is truly "different" art. Its contribution lies in the endless interaction of the gaze and its object. Looking at our surroundings, or for instance a photograph of them, the recognition of things that are seen satisfies in a sense the gaze and the mind: we have understood the significance of our visual perception. The gaze and the mind will then move on to consider other objects - unless perception launches some other related action. An abstract painting cannot be "exhausted" by this manner of reading, for as a whole it lies beyond conceptual and linguistic recognition and consequently it carries on its existence as a kind of enigma for as long as the gaze is directed at it and each time this happens. Of course a figurative work may do this, but figurativeness introduces a great number of "exhausting" recognizable elements leading towards a reading of the work. We might add that an abstract painting has succeeded when it retains its enigmatic nature. Hautala's paintings are successful abstract paintings.
Hautala's paintings are also accessible and even viewer-friendly. Their calm aesthetic greatly aids the gaze and mind to let themselves be led by the world of the work. The multi-layered space created by Hautala is intimate, close, and within it the pulse of black and white points subtly creates the boundaries of the space in depth. The vertical division of space receives viewers with their heads upright, allowing their minds to move into the space of the painting, constructed with contrasts and colour and value. Because of them, spaces may change place; the space in the rear will suddenly move forward. Thus, the movement of the mind in the space of work is endless, as in a labyrinth of transparent walls. In works operating with the impression of space, black is both a colour and a space, and owing to boundary contrast it gives the work light that we see unconsciously. The black field of colour also expressed the boundary at which the space of the work ends with regard to depth. Though the artist does not lead the viewers beyond it, he gives them the opportunity to venture there.
The graphic pattern extending from one end of the painting to the other insinuates that the work is in a space larger than itself. Space is, in fact, markedly conceptual in Hautala's works; it is perceived in our minds, gaining properties that are not included in visual perception. The impression of space created by Hautala is not based on the traditional structure of perspective, reducing space towards a vanishing point. On the contrary, the conception of space applied by Hautala permits the expansion of space in all directions, towards infinity. His works are like condensed "shots" of this continuum, functioning like the mirror through which Alice entered Wonderland. They give access to a larger space with a different logic than on this side of the mirror. Gravity loses meaning, everything can turn upside-down, the front may be at the back, right may be left, just as the viewer wants to move in the space.
A scale of colour based on harmony creates a stable and positive mood. Colour as such, being the domain of emotion for Hautala, is beyond the control of reason, but it is under control in the composition of its places and in the carefully considered arcs and sections of the line motifs, the "means of reason" and its often softened and sometimes even completely hidden lines. They have not been assigned any figurative role, and therefore they gain full weight as independent graphic and rhythmic elements. But a line is always drawn, and thus the viewer will also sense the artist's hand in the works. For Hautala, the making of a work of art, the craftsmanship, is mediation, and the mark of his hand is also evident in the living surface of the planes of colour, underscoring the immaterial nature of colour as the reflection of light. Craftsmanship also brings the work closer to the viewer, almost to touching distance. Hautala's paintings realize Josef Albers's magic formula of 1+1=3, a work of art being more than the sum of its parts, an entity that despite all its controlled elements, lies beyond the complete command of even the artist.
Hautala, "a hardened abstractionist", as he calls himself, is a Finnish representative of the international modernism that began to emerge particularly in Paris in the 1930s and was known at the time as "concrete art". It sought to develop means of expression specific to painting upon the latter's own conditions and terms, freed of the figurative or symbolic tasks of painting. Working along these lines, Hautala maintains many of the ideals of modernism in his art, such as the clarity and economy of expression and the aim of creating art for the sake of art. Hautala explicitly acknowledges the inspiration and guidance that he has received from the masters of modernism, while creating individual art clearly free of the formulas of different schools. He was helped in liberating himself from the formulas of strict Continental European concretism by the works of American abstract expressionists, which showed to him that abstract art could be created in other ways. While international, Hautala is at the same a Finnish artist, whose works exude a Finnish aesthetic in a calm and analysed manner, taking their light from the magical moment of the summer night between daylight and soft dusk. Although the summer nights inevitably turn into the darkness of winter, Hautala's works continue their subtle pulse of light." http://www.anhava.com/

Saturday, January 26, 2008

8 päivää ensi-iltaan

8 dagar till premiären / [8 Days to the Premiere]. FI (c) 2008 Juonifilmi. P: Matti Halonen. D+SC: Perttu Leppä. The play within the film: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, the Finnish translation by Yrjö Jylhä. DP: Jyrki Arnikari. AD: Pirjo Rossi. M: Pauli Hanhiniemi. Songs include "If I Ever Fall In Love Again" sung by Mikko Leppilampi. Starring: Laura Birn (Vilma), Mikko Leppilampi (Lauri), Elina Knihtilä (BB), Unto Helo and Timo Lavikainen (Ros / Gil), Konsta Hiekkanen (Head), Ada Kukkonen (Jenni), Iina Kuustonen (Noora), Matti Onnismaa (the monk), Svante Martin (Boss), Antti Reini (the director), Mi Grönlund (Charlotta), Outi Mäenpää (Paula). Released by FS Film. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 26 Jan 2008. A romantic comedy during the theatre production of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. An ultra-shy prompter (Laura Birn) has to take the role of Julia, and there is a triangle drama around the heartthrob Mikko Leppilampi. No tragedy this, and "the fate worse than death" is falling in love with Leppilampi. Perttu Leppä has a firm grasp of entertaining story-telling, but the comedy is formulaic, sitcom style, and there are one-note characters. Original touches include the interaction of the ghosts of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and "the twilight bark" of the young Goths. The audience had a good time, the well-timed comedy points were rewarded with laughter, and the young females did not hide their pleasure at the sight of Leppilampi's trimmed upper body. For comparison: All About Eve, and Les Amants de Vérone, with Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani. http://8paivaaensi-iltaan.fi/

Le Scaphandre et le papillon

Perhonen lasikuvussa / Fjärilen i glaskupan. FR/US (c) 2007 Pathé / France 3 Cinéma / CRRAV. D: Julian Schnabel. SC: Ronald Harwood - based on the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby (1997). DP: Janusz Kaminski - 35mm negative - digital intermediate - 35 mm print 1:1,85. AD: Laurent Ott, Michel Eric. Songs include "La Mer" by Charles Trenet, "All The World Is Green" and "Green Grass" by Tom Waits. Starring: Mathieu Amalric (Jean-Dominique Bauby), Emmanuelle Seigner (Céline Desmoulin), Marie-Josée Croze (Henriette Roi), Anne Consigny (Claude), Max von Sydow (Papinou, the father). Released in Finland by Scanbox, Finnish /Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik /Saliven Gustavson. Viewed at Tennispalatsi 7, Helsinki, 26 Jan 2008. The true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of Elle, who was paralyzed in a locked-in syndrome and could only move one eye. He devoted the rest of his life to writing a book. This belongs to the small but memorable group of "films with impossible protagonists" such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Breakdown, Johnny Got His Gun, The Singing Detective, Mar adentro, My Left Foot, and A Brief History of Time, and it has also affinities with other extreme experiments of subjective camera (Lady in the Lake) and brings to mind images of Christopher Reeve and the situation in Reversal of Fortune (Sunny von Bülow in coma since 1980, apparently still in 2008). As in Hitchcock and Amenábar, this is a challenge to the film-maker, solved by Schnabel by interior monologue, subjective camera and strong imagery. The rhythm of the eyelids (one bat = yes, two bats = no) gives a peculiar tempo to the film.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Guest at Cinema Orion: Mayer Franck

Mayer Franck (born in Zgierz near Lodz, Poland, in 1928), an Auschwitz survivor, settled in Finland in 1947. He was our guest in Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 25 Jan 2008 in the screening of Ostatni etap, a film he saw for the first time. After the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939 the Franck family was sent to the Lodz ghetto, where Mayer stayed until he was deported to Auschwitz in July 1944. From there he was sent to another labour camp, Tzebin. In January 1945 the camp was closed, and during the march Mayer managed to hide in a barn. He was saved by farmers, spotted but ignored by SS men, and captured by the Red Army who suspected he was a spy but fortunately the examiner was also a Jew. Life in post-war Poland was terrible for Jews, and in January 1947 Mayer came to Finland to stay and founded a family.

Mayer's comments on Ostatni etap: 1) it's about the women's block, foreign to him, 2) every day I expected that the planes would come to bomb Auschwitz, 3) I expected to be taken to Birkenau, but the orders changed by the day, 4) every day there was the selection, 5) the selection was the worst, 6) the young cruel women with their Schäfers were more horrible than men, children were ruthlessly crushed, 7) the orchestra I never heard, 8) doctors I never saw, 9) we only had numbers, no names, 10) everybody belonged to a certain work unit, 11) we did not sleep in beds but on the floor (stone or sand), without clothes, without lavatories, piled on top of one another, 12) there was no tea but dirty water, 13) we were not in stone but wooden barracks, 14) one was provoked against another.

To sum up: for Mayer Franck, Auschwitz was basically like in Ostatni etap but worse. He still has nightmares every night and needs sleeping pills to be able to sleep.

Ostatni etap / The Last Stage

Ken tästä käy... / Sista etappen. PL 1948. PC: Film Polski. P+D: Wanda Jakubowska. SC: Wanda Jakubowska, Gerda Schneider. DP: Borys Monastyrski. PD: Roman Mann, Czeslaw Piaskowski. M: Roman Palester. Starring: Tatjana Gorecka (Eugenia, doctor-prisoner), Antonina Gordon-Gorecka (Anna, nurse-prisoner), Barbara Drapinska (Marta Weiss), Aleksandra Slaska (superintendent of the women's block). A 35 mm Filmoteca Narodowa print with English subtitles (often good definition of light, partly high-contrast and dark). Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Forum Holocaust), 25 Jan 2008.

Observations revisiting a classic film: 1) this is the story of the women's block, 2) strong opening scene, bullied women prisoners, one of them pregnant, are kept standing, but they stay tough and express solidarity by swinging rhythmically, 3) the story of the baby in Auschwitz, 4) here are iconic images such as the smoke from the crematorium chimneys, suicide victims on the electric fence, the endless heaps of hair, toys, suitcases and so on, 4) strong dramatic score, 5) the women' s orchestra playing classical music, 6) the songs of the prisoners in Polish, Russian, and French, 7) banal schlager music in the torture chamber, 8) the prisoners are au courant of the war events, 9) the underground resistance with a secret telegraph and radio, 10) many Nazis are thieves, including the fake doctor, 11) this is the story of women's solidarity, 12) the Communists are heroes, there is jubilation for a declaration from Stalin, and the Red air force is the image of coming liberation. Final message: "never again".

Carmen (1918 Lubitsch)

Carmen / Carmen. DE 1918. PC: Union. P: Paul Davidson. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hanns Kräly based on the novella by Prosper Mérimée (1847). DP: Alfred Hansen. PD: Kurt Richter. Starring: Pola Negri (Carmen), Harry Liedtke (Don José). Enno Patalas reconstruction from Münchner Filmmuseum, 1850 m /18 fps/ 88 min. E-subtitles in Finnish by AA.
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 24 Jan 2008.

This is certainly a stark and original interpretation of the well-known story. The Lubitsch-Pola Negri-Harry Liedtke works together very well. Lubitsch takes advantage of the terrible conditions in which the movie was made, and the sense of squalor among the Romani and the smugglers smells real. Pola Negri is relaxed, true, sensual, passionate, all fire. Hers is not an idealized Carmen. She is a sexual woman, a force of nature, and one can understand that Don José falls for her. Falls for good.

My favourite scenes: Carmen seduces the prison guard, and the scene of the four sulking smugglers. There is humour in this, but this is the first successful serious drama by Lubitsch. The reconstructed Munich print is reportedly the best, and in several scenes one can admire the fine definition of light. Lubitsch is good in crowd scenes: they are always full of life, never empty or decorative.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Shadow of the Holy Book

Pyhän kirjan varjo / [Skuggan av den heliga boken]. DK / FI /CH (c) 2007 Art Films Productions. P+D: Arto Halonen. SC: Halonen, Kevin Frazier. DP: Hannu Vitikainen, Arto Halonen - shot on low definition video - screening format 35mm. Released in Finland by FS Film. In English and Finnish, with English subtitles. DocPoint opening film, Bio Rex, Helsinki, 23 Jan 2008. From the programme notes: "Turkmenistan is a closed dictatorship with great oil and gas reserves. The now deceased dictator Saparmurat Niazov wrote the Ruhnama, also known as The Book of Soul, as guidance and law for his citizens. Ruhnama restricts freedom of speech as well as human rights and, despite the dictator´s death, the book is still a significant influence in the country. In hope of business opportunities, international corporations have started to translate the propaganda-filled book. The appraisal of the book has helped corporations attain significant agreements with the rich dictatorship. Western co-operation has helped Turkmenistan to maintain the dictatorship and to silence the opposition and non-conformists. The Shadow of the Holy Book raises questions about the moral responsibility and obligations of large corporations." (Emma Taulo). The film follows the Michael Moore pattern of Roger & Me, with Halonen and Frazier trying to interview heavyweights, never getting answers. http://www.shadowoftheholybook.com/

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

DOCPOINT (2008)

DocPoint - The Helsinki Documentary Film Festival 23-27 Jan 2008. Opening at Bio Rex, Helsinki, 23 Jan 2008.
Opening words by:
Mr. Jari Matala, Executive Director
Ms. Irina Krohn, Executive Director (The Finnish Film Foundation)
Ms. Virpi Suutari, Artistic Director
The Apollo Prize was given to:
Mr. Jörn Donner
The opening film was:
In the Shadow of the Holy Book - in the presence of some 20 of the film-makers

Paimen, piika ja emäntä / [Katri, Girl of the Meadows]

Vi kämpa för fädernesgården / [Kleine standhafte Katri] / [Makiba no shouji Katori]. FI 1938. PC: Väinän Filmi. P: Väinö Mäkelä. D+ED: Roland af Hällström. SC: based on the novels by Auni Nuolivaara: Paimen, piika ja emäntä (1936) and Isäntä ja emäntä (1937). DP: Olavi Gunnari. PD: Lasse Elo. M: Alvar Andström. LOC: Orivesi. Starring: Martta Kontula (Ukonniemen Katri), Kaarlo Kytö (Ruuhiniemen Santeri), Kosti Elo (Vaakerlunti), Aili Tikka (Ukonniemen Leena, Katri's sister), Elna Hellman (the old mistress of Ruuhiniemi), Vappu Elo (Veikkolan Annastiina), Eino Haavisto (Rantalan Juuso), Hemmo Airamo (Ruuhiniemen Iivari), Eero Leväluoma (the merchant Ephraim Tervola), Eero Roine (Wahlgren). A low-contrast Betacam SP from worn source material. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 23 Jan 2008. A strong woman's story, which starts in the novel in the year 1852 but in the film in the beginning of the 20th century. The novels (successful also in Germany and Japan) had an important role in the development of the figure of the strong, independent woman in Finnish fiction. They tell the story of the maid of strong character who saves the big house. Martta Kontula carries the role of Ukonniemen Katri well. She belongs to the tradition of Selma Lagerlöf, and, in Finland, also the writer of popular entertainment, Hilja Valtonen. The landscapes of Orivesi are beautiful, the work montage sequences seem authentic. The only film produced by Väinän Filmi. There is a 49-episode anime series based on the novels (1984).
http://koti.phnet.fi/otaku/reviews/katori/katori.htm

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CARMEN (novella by Mérimée)

Prosper Mérimée: Carmen. Novella. FR 1848. Translation into Finnish by Reino Hakamies. Helsinki: Otava, 1959, 101 p. Characteristics of the novella that are usually not present in the opera, drama, and film adaptations: 1) a framing story by the narrator, who is a scholar on horseback in Andalusia in 1830, 2) Don José is Basque, 3) Carmen is, among other things, a whore, 4) long reflections on the Romani people, 5) the Basque connection between Don José and Carmen, 6) the narrator is a character in the story: first he meets Don José the bandit, and later Carmen in a potential sexual encounter.

Meyer aus Berlin

Meyer Berliinistä / Meyer från Berlin / Sally op reis (title of the print). DE 1919. PC: Union. P: Paul Davidson. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hanns Kräly, Lubitsch, Erich Schönfelder. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl, Alfred Hansen. Starring: Ernst Lubitsch (Sally Meyer), Ethel Orff (Paula Meyer), Trude Troll (Kitty), Erich Schönfelder (Harry). Toned and tinted print from Filmmuseum (Amsterdam), Dutch titles, /18 fps/ 51 min. E-subtitles in Finnish by AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 Jan 2008. The second-to-last appearance by Lubitsch as an actor, and his last comedy role, once more as the Meyer character, the rascal from Berlin. It's a farcical parody both of the Jewish stereotype and of the mountain cult. The pushy character belongs to the same line as What Makes Sammy Run and Duddy Kravitz. The mountain theme appeared also in films like Kohlhiesels Töchter, Romeo und Julia im Schnee, and Eternal Love (Edelweiss). Nicola Lubitsch reveals in the documentary Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin that her father loved to climb mountains. The image of the four protagonists yawning in the mountain hut is one of the most delicious in the Lubitsch oeuvre. Lubitsch was shooting this farce in leather pants, feather cap and alpenstock in Berchtesgaden as Hitler was still fighting the WWII in the Bavarian army.

Die Augen der Mumie Mâ

[Muumion silmät] / Orientens dotter, DE 1918. PC: Union. P: Paul Davidson. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hanns Kräly, Emil Rameau. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl, Alfred Hansen. PD: Kurt Richter. LOC: Kalkberge Rüdersdorf, Freigelände Berlin-Tempelhof. Starring. Pola Negri (Ma), Emil Jannings (Radu), Harry Liedtke (Alfred Wendland, painter), Max Laurence (Prince Hohenfels). Print: Transit Film / Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung /18 fps/ 57 min. E-subtitles in Finnish by AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 Jan 2008. Lubitsch's first attempt at great, exotic drama, has some nice touches, and it is interesting to see the familiar Lubitsch team working together here, especially Pola Negri in her first Lubitsch role, but this one is mostly for the completists.

Monday, January 21, 2008

FORUM HOLOCAUST

Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 21 Jan 2008. Organized by Yad Vashem Finland, chaired by Mr. Matti Myllykoski. Ms. Irene Jelin spoke about anti-semitism before the Holocaust, and Mr. Michel Grünstein about modern anti-semitism. My presentation on cinema and Holocaust was inspired by the new book edited by Jean-Michel Frodon: Le Cinéma et la Shoah: Un art à l'épreuve de la tragédie du 20e siècle (Paris: Editions Cahiers du cinéma / Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, 2007). It has also a useful filmography in six categories: 1) Documentary and compilation films, 2) Fiction, 3) Essays, 4) Television, 5) Original footage, 6) Nazi propaganda. The discussion was so lively that the event lasted much longer than planned. Personally, I find the theme the more profoundly disturbing the more I think about it, and I took the next day off for mental ventilation.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

YRJÖ KUKKAPURO - DESIGNER (exhibition at Design Museum)

Design Museum, Helsinki, 20 Jan 2008. From the official presentation: "The career of designer and interior architect Yrjö Kukkapuro from his early works designed in 1956 to his most recent ones from 2007. Kukkapuro's oeuvre is characterized by a strict command of form and the carefully considered use of details. Throughout the decades his ideal has been the human body and its lawlike regularities. Kukkapuro has been the head designer of the Haimi, Lepokalusto and Avarte companies. He is known for his design of public spaces and as a collaborating partner with the architectural profession. Born in 1933 a chimneyless cabin near Viipuri and having spent his youth in Imatra, Kukkapuro's first successful collection was Moderno, created in 1957 and still in production. Inspired by the ergonomics of the human body, he designed dozens of fiberglass chairs in the 1960s, for example Karuselli from 1965, his most widely known chair design on the international market. In 1973 Kukkapuro moved on to strict minimalist design, finally turning his back on plastic materials. His products of the 1970s include the Remmi chair, with a tubular frame. Birch plywood became Kukkapuro's main material, leading to countless chair versions, including the Fysio office chair, which has won international prizes and awards. The period of postmodernism in the 1980s reintroduced colours and decorative forms into Kukkapuro's designs. The ergonomic approach became increasingly prominent. Works of this period include the Experiment collection and the Sirkus office chair. The 1990s introduced ecological challenges and a new visual image. Kukkapuro began to employ prints and abstract designs on the plywood backrests and seats of his chairs. Well-known works of this period are the "tattooed" chairs and cross-disciplinary installations such as "Magic Room", a kinetic spatial work, of which reproduction will be on display in the exhibition at Design Museum. Kukkapuro's versatile career has led him around the world, most recently to China, where he lectures and serves as an expert on design. Collaboration with the Nanjing Forest University has introduced a new dimension in his work. As the design expert for a UNESCO bamboo project he has discovered fast-growing giant bamboo as a material. Glued bamboo laminate is a recyclable, environmentally friendly and extremely durable wooden material. Kukkapuro's bamboo furniture collection, designed in 2004 for the domestic Chinese market, will now be on show for the first time in Europe. Kukkapuro continues to work, his most recent achievement being the Element sofa and armchair collection from 2007. Produced with digitized methods, the items of the collection can be assembled from elements. Kukkapuro and his wife, graphic artist Irmeli Kukkapuro, live and work in the studio and home that they built at Kauniainen near Helsinki in the 1960s, a single space of 200 square metres. The Design Museum showing presents a broad overview of Kukkapuro's work, featuring furniture and their prototypes, light fittings, spatial works, a compilation of video documents etc. Visitors may test some of the chairs on show. A richly illustrated catalogue of 200 pages is published in Finnish and English versions in connection with the exhibition." - A personal note: Kukkapuro's Fysio office chair is ideal for heavy-duty dvd viewing! http://www.designmuseum.fi/main.asp?sid=2&sivu=18&kpl=54&show=1

Saturday, January 19, 2008

L'ultimo paradiso / The Last Paradise

Rakkauden laguuni / Kärlekens lagun. IT 1956. PC: Lux Film, Paneuropa Cinematographica. D: Folco Quilici. SD: Folco Quilici, Dario Cecchi, Ennio Flaiano. DP: Masino Manunza, Marco Scarpelli - Ferraniacolor - scope. M: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. 89 min. A vintage 35 mm dupe print with Swedish commentary and Finnish subtitles.
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 19 Jan 2008.

A beautiful colour semi-documentary from the French Polynesia; Bora Bora, Tahiti, the Easter Islands and the Pentecostal Island. This is cinema of attractions: the daredevil liane jumps (like benshi), the pearl diving, the bravery with sharks, the tiger shark, and the muraena.

The battle with fear is the theme of the first part, starring the boy Atemi and the girl Areva. The second part is the story of Maeva and Terei in the native paradise, where Terei dreams of the white man's world, gets a job on the phosphate mines and celebrates Quatorze Juillet in Papeete. The innocent nude charms of a Tahitian dancer girl are captured by an American photographer. Terei fights a storm trying to return to his small island. There is a midnight bonfire. There is a wedding celebration at Bora Bora. NB. the shark theme by Lavagnino.

A noble and innocent documentary before the trashy mondo films, a lament on the last paradise on Earth before the Western people corrupted it. I checked Yrjö Hirn's wonderful survey Valtameren saari (En ö i världshavet, 1928, "An Island in the World Ocean") for the deep roots of this fascination. Folco Quilici seems to be a talent in the league of Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

My Blueberry Nights

My Blueberry Nights / My Blueberry Nights. HK /CH / FR 2007. PC: Block 2 Pictures, Jet Tone Production, Lou Yi Ltd., Studio Canal. D: Wong Kar Wai. SC: Wong Kar Wai, Lawrence Block - based on the story by Wong Kar Wai. DP: Darius Khondji - 1:2,35. Starring Norah Jones (Elizabeth), Jude Law (Jeremy), David Strathairn (Arnie), Natalie Portman (Leslie), Hector A. Leguillow (Cafe Cook), Rachel Weisz (Sue Lynne). 111 min. Released by Cinema Mondo, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Minna Nuutinen / Ditte Kronström. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 19 Jan 2008. This film has not gotten the best reviews, but it is my favourite Wong Kar Wai film so far. Or maybe I just caught up with him first now. He is the poet of urban solitude, and it's his first film in America. There are the bright, warm, and lurid colours, without fear of complementary colours such as green vs. orange. There is the urban noise. There are the traditional romantic ballads. The slow motion. The glass panels, the merciless lights, the reflections. The shots are like paintings or art photographs. There is a fresh look at the familiar American pop images (the highways, the casinos). It starts at the Kljutsh (The Key) Café in New York. It's a multi-story film about broken hearts on the way from New York to Las Vegas. It's based on metaphors: the keys without owners, the blueberry pies without customers, the sobriety chips that are not redeemed, the chips on the gambling table. I like the mixture of the mellow and the bitter in this film.

Charlize Theron Dior J'adore

In the Valley of Elah

In the Valley of Elah / In the Valley of Elah. US 2007. PC: Blackfriars Bridge Films, NALA Films, Samuels Media, Summit Entertainment. P: Laurence Becsey, Darlene Caamano, Paul Haggis, Steve Samuels, Patrick Wachsberger. D+SC: Paul Haggis - based on a story by Mark Boal, Paul Haggis. DP: Roger Deakins - negative: Super 35 - digital intermediate - 35mm print 1:2,35. Starring Tommy Lee Jones (Hank Deerfield), Charlize Theron (Det. Emily Sanders), Jason Patric (Lt. Kirklander), Susan Sarandon (Joan Deerfield), James Franco (Sgt. Dan Carnelli), Barry Corbin (Arnold Bickman), Josh Brolin (Chief Buchwald), Frances Fisher (Evie). 123 min. Released by Sandrew Metronome Distribution Finland, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Topi Oksanen / Ditte Kronström. Viewed at Tennispalatsi 9, Helsinki, 19 Jan 2008. Paul Haggis, the top screenwriter for three recent Clint Eastwood films and the director of the multi-story Crash, keeps giving surprises with this tough detective story in the military milieu where father investigates the disappearance of his son. It's a powerful and brave look into the mess that lurks in the circumstances of the Iraq situation. The name is a reference to the First Book of Samuel. In Finnish it should read: Tammilaaksossa. The cinematography is dirty, flat and ugly to look at. Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron are great. A few hours afterwards it felt odd to see the glamorous Charlize Theron in a Dior J'adore poster. In this film she is absolutely unglamorous and all tough determination as a cop who fights discrimination based on sex.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Jesse Jamesin salamurha pelkuri Robert Fordin toimesta / Mordet på Jesse James av ynkryggen Robert Ford. US (c) 2007 Warner Bros. / Virtual Studios LLC. D+SC: Andrew Dominik - based on the novel by Ron Hansen (1983). DP: Roger Deakins - negative: Super35 KodakVision 2 - via 2K digital intermediate - print: 35mm anamorphic Fuji. 1:2,35. "The Ballad of Jesse James" performed by Nick Cave. Starring Brad Pitt (Jesse James), Casey Affleck (Robert Ford), Mary-Louise Parker (Zee James), Brooklynn Proulx (Mary James), Dustin Bollinger (Tim James), Sam Rockwell (Charley Ford), Jeremy Renner (Wood Hite), Garret Dillahunt (Ed Miller), Paul Schneider (Dick Liddil). 162 min. Released in Finland by Sandrew Metronome Distribution Finland, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Janne Staffans. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, Helsinki, 18 Jan 2008. An unglamorous look into the final stage of the life of Jesse James (1847-1882), who became a figure of folklore during his lifetime. Various episodes of the story have been told in films by Henry King, Fritz Lang, Samuel Fuller, Nicholas Ray, Philip Kaufman, and Walter Hill. This film has the same concept as Fuller's, but the story is different. Fuller's film is sharp and stark, this one is slow and meditative. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_james

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Let There Be Light

Tulkoon valkeus. US 1946. (c) 1948. PC: U.S. Army Pictorial Services. D+ED: John Huston. [SC: John Huston, Charles Kaufman n.c.] [M: Dimitri Tiomkin n.c.][DP: Stanley Cortez, John Doran, Lloyd Fromm, Joseph Jackman, George Smith n.c. - 35mm][Narrator: Walter Huston n.c.] LOC: Edgewood State Hospital, Commack, Long Island, New York. 59 min. 16mm print from Imperial War Museum. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 17 Jan 2008. A documentary on neuropsychiatric war invalids. 20% of the invalids were neuropsychiatric. This film focuses on neuroses: aphasia, amnesia, conversion hysteria, etc. (Psychoses, schizophrenia, catatonia, and shock therapy are not included.) Treatments include hypnosis, narcosynthesis ("a shortcut into the unconscious"), occupational therapy, music therapy, arts, religion, and sports. "Every man has his breaking point", the narrator states. These men have suffered experiences beyond human endurance. They are casualties of the spirit. The film is so optimistic, it's strange it was shelved well into the 1980s.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

GUEST AT ORION: ARTO AF HÄLLSTRÖM

Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 16 Jan 2008. Mr. Arto af Hällström, director at the National Theatre, son of Roland af Hällström and Elvi Saarnio, was the guest of honour to open our Roland af Hällström retrospective, starring Elvi Saarnio in 12 films. Roland af Hällström (1905-1956) was a journalist, always fast and efficient. He had a sharp pen, and so in 1935 Väinö Mäkelä asked him "to do it better", and that's how he got started as a director. Simultaneously, Roland wrote the first Finnish-language history of the cinema (still interesting, with original ideas about the silent era). Roland worked mostly for the Mäkelä family (Väinän Filmi, Fenno-Filmi, Fennada), as they got along well. He was always a fluent writer, often his own screenwriter. But he also had a stark visual sense since his film critic days in the silent era (he wrote a fine eulogy on Mauritz Stiller), he worked with the flaming visualist Teuvo Tulio in two films, and got an excellent DP, Esko Töyri, who has considered difficult to work with, but Roland found a good partner in him. Roland preferred strong and interesting female characters and was a good actors' director, much better than Tulio. Filming Läpi usvan, he met Elvi Saarnio, his future wife, mother of Arto. He died with his boots on, in the arms of Töyri, on location, directing Lain mukaan. His brother Raoul af Hällström was a top theatre and ballet critic, who wrote Finland's first history of the ballet. It was great to welcome Arto af Hällström and hear his reminiscences of the talented family.

Putkinotko

[Wild Chervil Valley] / Ödemarkens barn. FI (c) 1954 Fennada-Filmi. P: Mauno Mäkelä. D+SC: Roland af Hällström - based on the novel by Joel Lehtonen (1920) and the play by Urpo Lauri (1953). DP: Esko Töyri. M: Elvi Saarnio. Starring Elvi Saarnio (Rosina Käkriäinen), Matti Lehtelä (Juutas Käkriäinen), Lasse Pöysti (Malakias), Ritva Juhanto (Saara), Pentti Viljanen (Aapeli Muttinen), Hillevi Rautio (Lyygia), Leni Katajakoski (Sanelma). A terribly worn vintage 35mm print with Swedish subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, 16 Jan 2008. One day in the countryside of dreamy Savo in the summer of 1917. Based on a masterpiece of Finnish literature, influenced by naturalism and impressionism, a doubly satirical look on a poor, lazy and fertile country family and a merchant spending his holiday in the country with his girlfriend. No plot, no main characters, a portrait of life, where each detail counts, avoiding drama, capturing the sense of life in the country without idealization and illusions, but also without cliches and sordidness. It's full of life! This film, which avoids the conventions of popular storytelling, was a hit and still is, just like the play is still a summer stock favourite. Vibrant cinematography by Esko Töyri.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lumière d'été

Suudelma pimeässä / Bergtagen. FR 1943. PC: Discina. P: André Paulvé. D: Jean Grémillon. SC: Jacques Prévert, Pierre Laroche. DP: Louis Page, Roger Arrignon. PD: Alexandre Trauner, Léon Barsacq, Max Douy. Starring Madeleine Renaud (Cricri), Pierre Brasseur (Roland Maillard), Madeleine Robinson (Michèle Lagarde), Paul Bernard (Patrice Leverdier), Georges Marchal (Julien), Marcel Levesque (Monsieur Lerouge), Charles Blavette (Vincent). 110 min. Beautiful print from La Cinémathèque francaise. E-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 15 Jan 2008. Jean Grémillon's masterpiece is a strange continuation of the 1930s French cinema during the Occupation. It has aspects of romantic fatalism (love under threat), working-class milieu (complete with Charles Blavette, Renoir's Toni), the pension ensemble (like Renoir, Feyder), the château party (as in La Règle du jeu), and a hunter's gun, but there are surprising turns to all the familiar situations. In a bizarre role, there is even Marcel Levesque, the funniest member of the old Feuillade ensemble. In one of his earliest roles, there is Georges Marchal, the future Buñuel favourite. It's a rich web of relationships and stark juxtapositions between the idle castle and the construction site.

L'Ivresse du pouvoir

A Comedy of Power / Maktens rus. FR / DE 2006. PC: Alicéléo and four other companies. P: Patrick Godeau. D: Claude Chabrol. SC: Odile Barski, Claude Chabrol. DP: Eduardo Serra. M: Matthieu Chabrol. Starring: Isabelle Huppert (Jeanne Charmant-Killman), Francois Berléand (Michel Humeau), Patrick Bruel (Jacques Sibaud), Robin Renucci (Philippe Charmant-Killman), Thomas Chabrol (Félix). 110 min. A print from Non Stop (Sweden), Swedish subtitles by Camilla Stjerneholt. E-subtitles by Lena Talvio. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 15 Jan 2008. The seventh collaboration of Chabrol and Huppert. Huppert has usually played the killer, and in a way she does so now, too, complete with the symbolic name. This time, she is not the criminal but the judge determined to expose a web of big-time corruption. She is merciless and sacrifices even here private life to her crusade. There are interesting insights in the story, like the ploy to team two female judges, in the expectation that they will turn against each other, but those hopes are foiled. The material is top interesting, but this film is not Chabrol at his very best.

Die Austernprinzessin

The Oyster Princess / Osteriprinsessa / Ostronprinsessan. DE (1919) Projektions-AG Union. P: Paul Davidson. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hanns Kräly, Lubitsch. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl. PD: Kurt Richter. Starring Victor Jansen (Mr. Quaker), Ossi Oswalda (Ossi Quaker), Harry Liedtke (Prince Nucki), Julius Falkenstein (Josef, friend of Nucki), Curt Bois (the conductor). Print of the restored version based on the original negative by Transit Film / FWMS, /18 fps/ 63 min. E-subtitles by AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 15 Jan 2008. The first really wonderful film by Lubitsch is rewarding to revisit from time to time. The current version is much better than the ones seen previously.

Als ich tot war

[As I Was Dead / Kun olin kuollut / När jag var död]. DE (c) 1916 Projektions-AG Union. P: Paul Davidson. D+SC: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring Ernst Lubitsch (husband), Luise Scheurich (wife), Helene Voss (mother-in-law), Julius Falkenstein (rival). Transit Film / FWMS print of the film preserved by Slovenski Gledaliski in Filmski Muzei (Ljubljana) 760 m /18 fps/ 37 min. E-subtitles by AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 15 Jan 2o08. The earliest surviving film by Ernst Lubitsch is a charming farce where the chess-mad husband has to woo his wife back, repel the rival and scare off his mother-in-law disguised as a servant.

Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin

Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin - von der Schönhauser Allee nach Hollywood. DE (c) 2006 Transit Film. D: Robert Fischer. M: Aljoschka Zimmermann. Featuring: Nicola Lubitsch, Tom Tykwer, Michael Hanisch, Hans Helmut Prinzler, Enno Patalas, Jan-Christopher Horak, Wolfgang Becker, Dani Levy, Amanda Goodpaster (granddaughter). Archive footage: Evy Bettelhelm-Bentley (niece), Jörg Jannings (voice), Henny Porten (voice), Ernst Lubitsch. 110 min. Dvd with English subtitles. Transit Film. Viewed at Cinema Orion, 15 Jan 2008. A very nice biographical portrait of the first period of the life and work of Ernst Lubitsch.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

IMAGE AND AFTER (Exhibition at Kiasma)

KUVAN JÄLKEEN / IMAGE AND AFTER. Exhibition at Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Collections, Helsinki, 11 Jan 2008 - 11 Jan 2009. Curators: Leevi Haapala, Marja Sakari. Featuring Carl Andre, Lauri Astala, John Baldessari, Luciano Bartolini, Jan Berdyszak, Matti Braun, Elina Brotherus, Jacob Dahlgren, Jan Dibbets, A.K. Dolven, Carolus Enckell, Anne-Karin Furunes, Boris Gerrets, Jerzy Grabowski, Kristján Gudmundsson, Hanna Haaslahti, Juha Huuskonen, Jan Håfström, Juha van Ingen, Joan Jonas, Yishai Jusidman, Tuukka Kaila, Ari Kakkinen, Hannu Karjalainen, Angelika Kaufmann, Helena Kive, Joseph Kosuth, Robert Lucander, Sami Lukkarinen, Niko Luoma, Petri Makkonen, Kirsi Mikkola, Jussi Niva, Matti Nurminen, Marjatta Oja, Eric H. Olson, Marjatta Palasto, Matti Peltokangas, Tarja Pitkänen-Walter, Vesa-Pekka Rannikko, Silja Rantanen, Tuomo Rainio, Gerhard Richter, Nina Roos, Vitantonio Russo, Eino Ruutsalo, Jan Schoonhoven, Hannu Siren, Richard Smith, Mika Taanila, Aimo Taleva, Anu Tuominen, Marianna Uutinen, Antonio Violetta, Sampsa Virkajärvi, Denise Ziegler. Viewed on 13 Jan 2008. There are four main themes in this 10th anniversary exhibition of Kiasma: 1) IMMINENT IMAGE, 2) SYNTAXES OF THE IMAGE, 3) WRITTEN IMAGE, PAINTED WORD, 4) ATTITUDE AS METHOD: SERIES, REPETITION, EVENT. Highly interesting from a cinematic viewpoint, with several movie presentations (Lauri Astala: A Small Spectacle About Lightness, 1986, Mika Taanila: A Physical Ring, 2001, Juha van Ingen: (Dis)integrator, 1992, etc.). Worth re-visiting, and the exhibition catalogue is worth reading. http://www.kiasma.fi/index.php?id=1443&FL=1&L=1

Saturday, January 12, 2008

El orfanato

Orpokoti / Barnhemmet. MX/ ES (c) 2006 Rodar / Telecinco. P: Guillermo del Toro etc. D: J.A. Bayona. SC: Sergio G. Sánchez. DP: Oscar Faura - via digital intermediate Ifilm - 35 mm screening print 1:2,35. LOC: Llanes, Oviedo, Asturias; Barcelona, Spain. Starring: Belén Rueda (Laura), Fernando Cayo (Carlos), Roger Príncep (Simón), Mabel Rivera (Pilar), Montserrat Carulla (Benigna), Edgar Vivar (Balaban), Geraldine Chaplin (Aurora). 110 min. Decent digital intermediate. Released by Cinema Mondo, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Juho Lähde / [Maria Wilén-Malo?]. Viewed 12 Jan 2008 at Kinopalatsi 2. A good ghost story in the Henry James tradition of A Turn of the Screw. The authors are aware of previous quality efforts such as The Innocents, The Haunting, The Others, and The Ring. The old house, the curse of the children, and other elements are familiar, but on Spanish ground it all gets an original tone. The visual sense and the performances are first-rate. Clearly the horror had an impact, the young viewer next to me hid behind her coat. It all bodes well for the young director and screenwriter.
http://www.theorphanagemovie.com/

Tummien perhosten koti

De mörka fjärilarnas hem / The Home of the Dark Butterflies. FI (c) 2008 Solar Films. P: Markus Selin. D: Dome Karukoski. SC: Marko Leino - based on the novel (1991) by Leena Lander. DP: Pini Hellstedt - negative: 35mm and S16mm (dream sequences) - via digital intermediate - 35mm screening print - 1:2,35. Starring: Tommi Korpela (Harjula), Niilo Syväoja (Juhani), Eero Milonoff (Salmi), Niko Vakkuri (Hämäläinen), Iiro Panula (Sulkava), Ville Saksela (Rinne), Henri Huttunen (Simola), Roope Karisto (Sjöblom), Marjut Maristo (Vanamo), Kristiina Halttu (Irene), Kati Outinen (Tyyne), Pertti Sveholm (Erik), Matleena Kuusniemi (Maire). Released by Nordisk Film, Swedish subtitles by [Olle von Bonsdorff?]. Premiere 11 Jan. Viewed 12 Jan 2008 at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki. The digital intermediate gives the film a flat and lifeless look. Summarizing the producer's synopsis: "The principal character of the movie is 14-year-old Juhani, haunted by a traumatic childhood experience. After being bounced between foster homes and temporary families for six years, Juhani ends up in an isolated Boys’ Home, The Island. The place is run by the ruthless superintendent Harjula. Besides the seven boys and Harjula, the only other inhabitants of the Island are the superintendent’s wife Irene and their two daughters including the teenager Vanamo, along with Tyyne, in charge of livestock and catering." It takes place in Finland in the age Kekkonen, probably the early 1970s. Authoritarian methods of education are already out, a period of indifference to the "lost boys" is dawning. It's in the tradition of Wild Boys of the Road, Passport to Life, Los olvidados, etc. It starts violently and proceeds to find new turns, layers and sensitivity in the characters. It packs a punch, and the story is directed by second-timer Dome Karukoski with a good eye on the the rhythm of the story. The character-driven approach is successful with strong performances all through the picture.
http://www.solarfilms.com/elokuvat/kaikki/tummatperhoset/en_GB/darkbutterfiles/

Friday, January 11, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone / Gone Baby Gone. US (c) 2007 Miramax. D: Ben Affleck. SC: Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard - based on the novel (1998) by Dennis Lehane. DP: John Toll - negative 35mm Panavision - 2K digital intermediate - 35mm print 1:1,85. LOC: Boston, Massachusetts. Starring: Casey Affleck (Patrick Kenzie), Michelle Monaghan (Angie Gennaro), Morgan Freeman (Capt. Jack Doyle), Ed Harris (Det. Remy Bressant), John Ashton (Det. Nick Poole), Amy Ryan (Helene McCready), Amy Madigan (Beatrice McCready). Decent digital intermediate by Modern Videofilm. 114 min. Released by Buena Vista, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Marko Hietikko. Viewed on 11 Jan 2008 at Kinopalatsi 6, Helsinki. A strong directorial debut by Ben Affleck based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, whose Mystic River was previously filmed by Clint Eastwood. It's about child abuse again, a morality tale that gives a lot to think about, a detective story for a grown-up audience. As may be expected, the performances are strong. Casey Affleck is emerging as a leading actor with an original style, with strength beneath a gentle surface. Location shooting in Boston looks authentic, and there are other kinds of American faces on display.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Lehane

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Marja pieni!

Marja liten! / Poor Little Maria!. FI (c) 1972 Jörn Donner Productions. D+SC: Eija-Elina Bergholm. DP: Kari Sohlberg, Pirjo Honkasalo. Starring: Liisamaija Laaksonen (Marja Maronen), Hannu Lauri (Jukka Nyholm), Elvi Saarnio (Irja Maronen), Leena Häkinen (Mrs. Talviainen), Irma Martinkauppi (Eila Mäkinen), Selma Miettinen (grandmother, Maija Takala). Vintage 35mm print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 9 Jan 2008. I hadn't seen this film since its run of first release, and I had a memory of a somewhat jarring and tendentious story curve. Eija-Elina Bergholm is a fine director of actors. I ignored the story and enjoyed the excellent performances, especially Liisamaija Laaksonen in the leading role as the narcissist young woman with dreams of upward mobility. She falls both emotionally and economically, having betted on superficial values. It's not really that she's been cheated, her rich and egoistic boyfriend (Hannu Lauri) having been honest with her, but she has not been listening. Liisamaija Laaksonen portrays the highs and the lows of her character with force. It's the story of three generations of women, Elvi Saarnio as the mother who has always been ignored, and Selma Miettinen as the grandmother with the heart of gold who is brutally institutionalized. Vibrant cinematography by Kari Sohlberg and Pirjo Honkasalo.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I'M NOT THERE (Soundtrack Album)

I'M NOT THERE. Original Soundtrack, a film by Todd Haynes. Produced by Randall Poster, Jim Dunbar, Todd Haynes. (c) 2007 Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Disc: 1 1. All Along the Watchtower - Eddie Vedder & The Million Dollar Bashers 2. I'm Not There - Sonic Youth 3. Goin' To Acapulco - Jim James & Calexico 4. Tombstone Blues - Richie Havens 5. Ballad Of a Thin Man - Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers 6. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again - Cat Power 7. Pressing On - John Doe 8. Fourth Time Around - Yo La Tengo 9. Dark Eyes - Iron & Wine & Calexico 10. Highway 61 Revisited - Karon O & the Million Dollar Bashers 11. One More Cup Of Coffee - Roger McGuinn & Calexico 12. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll - Mason Jennings 13. Billy 1 - Los Lobos 14. Simple Twist Of Fate - Jeff Tweedy 15. Man In the Long Black Coat - Mark Lanegan 16. Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power) - Willie Nelson & Calexico

Disc: 2 1. As I Went Out One Morning - Mira Billotte 2. Can't Leave Her Behind - Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers 3. Ring Them Bells - Sufjan Stevens 4. Just Like a Woman - Charlotte Gainsbourg & Calexico 5. Medley: Mama, You've Been On My Mind/A Fraction Of Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie - Jack Johnson 6. I Wanna Be Your Lover - Yo La Tengo 7. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere - Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova 8. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? - The Hold Steady 9. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Ramblin' Jack Elliott 10. The Wicked Messenger - The Black Keys 11. Cold Irons Bound - Tom Verlaine & the Millions Dollar Bashers 12. The Times They Are a Changin' - Mason Jennings 13. Maggie's Farm - Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers 14. When the Ship Comes In - Marcus Carl Franklin 15. Moonshiner - Bob Forrest 16. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine - John Doe 17. Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Antony & The Johnsons 18. I'm Not There - Bob Dylan with The Band
Excellent soundtrack album, an ideal companion to the film.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Katariina Lillqvist's Animated Films

Puppet animation films by Katariina Lillqvist (D, SC, ED):
Tyttö ja sotamies / Maiden and the Soldier. FI/CZ 1995. Based on: Bertolt Brecht: "The Legend of the Dead Soldier": AN: Ján Klos. 9 min
Hiilisangolla ratsastaja / Rider on a Bucket. FI/CZ 1992. Based on: Franz Kafka: "Der Kübelreiter". AN: Vlasta Pospíslová, Jiri Látal, Frantisek Vasa. 8 min
Kamarihaikara / The Chamber Stork. FI/CZ 1993. Based on: Franz Kafka: "Kun tulin illalla kotiin" / "As I Came Home in the Evening". AN: Ján Klos, Jiri Látal. 10 min
Maalaislääkäri / Country Doctor. FI/CZ 1996. Based on: Franz Kafka: "Country Doctor". AN: Ján Klos, Jiri Látal. 15 min
Ksenia Pietarilainen / Xenia of St. Petersburg. FI 1999. 29 min
    Beautiful 35 mm prints from Suomen Elokuvakontakti. Viewed 3 Jan 2008 at Cinema Orion, Helsinki.
    Katariina Lillqvist is a master of puppet animation, and in these films she reaches original dimensions with dark, surrealistic stories based on Kafka etc. An original talent with influences from Jiří Trnka and Jan Švankmajer and affinities also with Tim Burton.

Pilvilinna

[A Castle in the Air] / Luftslott. FI 1970. PC: FJ-Filmi. D: Sakari Rimminen. SC: Meri Kurenniemi, Sakari Rimminen - based on a story by Meri Kurenniemi. DP: Pirjo Honkasalo - 16mm > 35mm - b&w. M: Those Lovely Hula Hands. Starring: Meri Oravisto (Annika), Erik Uddström (Erik Saarinen). 89 min. Viewed in Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 2 January 2008. This film I had missed at the time of release, and it has been somewhat forgotten, but now it has a wonderful, relaxed, realistic, familiar quality, which I can almost witness personally, as I was some three years younger than the protagonists at the time of the shooting. It's about rebellious teenagers at high school, who dream about a better world in a chaotic and anarchistic way. They are active at the teinikunta (the high school student's association), they participate in demonstrations against the Vietnam war, and they provoke parents with leftism. It's also frank and warm about sexual awakening, the girl is the active one, and the film has fresh insight into female desire, based on a story by Meri Kurenniemi. Obviously influenced by Godard, but not imitatively. The cinematography by Pirjo Honkasalo is lovely, and the blowup from 16mm is successful.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Tali-Ihantala 1944

FI (c) 2007 Åke Lindman Film-Production. D: Åke Lindman, Sakari Kirjavainen. SC: Stefan Forss, Benedict Zilliacus, Esko Salervo. DP: Pauli Sipiläinen. A large cast, no protagonists. Digital intermediate look with bleakened colour. In Finnish, partly Swedish, a sequence in German, with Swedish or Finnish subtitles by Joanna Erkkilä. Released by Buena Vista International. Viewed in Cinema Bristol, Helsinki, 1 Jan 2008. The Tali-Ihantala battle of 25 June - 9 July, 1944 was the biggest in the history of the Nordic countries. There were 50.000 troops on the Finnish side (Finns and Germans) against 150.000 troops of the Red Army on the Karelian Isthmus. The Finns stroke back in Tali-Ihantala (and Vuosalmi and Viipurinlahti) with such a force that the Red Army interrupted its massive attack against Finland. These battles saved Finland from sharing the fate of the Baltic countries after WWII. This Finnish Thermopylai story is great, but unfortunately the film is just a collection of small episodes. It fails to build momentum.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tali-Ihantala