Thursday, February 28, 2008

Three Women

Kolme naista / Tre kvinnor. US (c) 1924 Warner Bros. P+D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hans Kraly - based on the novel The Lilie by Yolanthe Marès. DP: Charles J. Van Enger. AD: Svend Gade. Starring: Pauline Frederick (Mabel Wilton, mother), May McAvoy (Jeanne Wilton, daughter), Marie Prevost (Harriet), Lew Cody (Edmund Lamont), Pierre Gendron (Fred Armstrong). 2414 m /20 fps/ 105 min. George Eastman House, a French print with reconstructed English titles, /20 fps/ 89 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 28 Feb 2008. The second film by Lubitsch in his new sophisticated style is not a comedy but a drama of love, sex, money, and ageing, told with a sense of humour. The three women are the mother Mabel who wants to enjoy life, the daughter Jeanne experiencing her first love affairs and even her first marriage, and the good-time girl Harriet. The man linked with them all is the scoundrel Edmund, whom we first see surrounded by flower-girls and in the next scene by creditors. Told with elegantly simple cinematography by Charles Van Enger, with some memorable close-ups (the first shots about scales) and one wild party scenes (The Monkey Bar). A short appearance by Max Davidson as the jeweller.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Vain kaksi tuntia

[Two Hours Only] / Från sex till åtta. FI (c) 1949 Fenno-Filmi. P: Yrjö Rannikko. D+SC: Roland af Hällström. DP: Esko Töyri. M+ED: Tapio Ilomäki. Starring: Regina Linnanheimo (senior nurse Magda), Liisa Tuomi (Mrs. Irja Kaarila), Eino Kaipainen (senior physician Kaarlo Kaarila), Leif Wager (assistant physician Alec von Wentell), Elvi Saarnio (Laila Niemikkö, a vagrant woman), Leena Häkinen (Tellervo Ritvala, a young bride), Martti Katajisto (Pelle Teiri, a young groom), Saara Ranin (nurse Varma), Kalle Viherpuu (police officer), Rauha Rentola (Mrs. Maj-Lis von Wentell). 103 min. A Digibeta (from a used film print) (alas!) presentation at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 27 Feb 2008. Two hours in the emergency room of a little town, full of drama, love and death. This is a multi-character film, but the core is the triangle drama between the frustrated wife (Liisa Tuomi), his devoted doctor-husband (Eino Kaipainen) and the consoling young assistant physician (Leif Wager). The cinematography of Esko Töyri is atmospheric, with interesting angles, camera movements and soulful close-ups of many of the main characters. A signature performance by Eino Kaipainen as the dutiful and devoted man cheated by his fickle wife. Regina Linnanheimo for once in a sober role. Liisa Tuomi gets to play the frustrated, unsatisfied lady, who has a near fatal crash overspeeding into a secret encounter in a notorious hotel. There is perhaps a bit too much excitement for two hours of supposedly real time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Forbidden Paradise

Kielletty paratiisi / Det förbjudna paradiset. US (c) 1924 Famous Players-Lasky. P+D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hans Kraly, Agnes Christine Johnston - based on the play and novel by Lajos Biro and Menyhert Lengyel (1913). DP: Charles J. van Enger. AD: Hans Dreier. Starring: Pola Negri (the Czarina), Rod La Rocque (Alexei), Adolphe Menjou (the Chancellor), Pauline Starke (Anna). Orig. 2299 m /18 fps/ 111 min, /20 fps/ 100 min. The surviving Czech print 1534 m /18 fps/ 74 min, /2o fps/ 67 min. Narodni filmovy archiv, Czech titles (a weak print), E-subtitles AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 26 Feb 2008. Ernst Lubitsch and Pola Negri take Catherine the Great as the subject of their historical parody, which is totally different from their versions of the French and Egyptian history. This is fun without any particularly profound undercurrents, at least in this surviving short (but consistent) version. Nothing essential is missing at least if one compares the original intertitle list with this surviving version. 20 fps too fast, should be screened at 18 fps or slower.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

THE UNKNOWN ERNST LUBITSCH

Curator: Stefan Drössler. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 24 Feb 2008. E-subtitles AA.
Der Blusenkönig (Ernst Lubitsch, DE 1917), fragment of /18 fps/ 11 min, his comedy as Sally Katz, the shirt king and charmer of women.
[Lubitsch in Germany and Hollywood], video presentation by Stefan Drössler
Die Flamme (Liekki / Montmartre, Ernst Lubitsch, DE 1922, premiere 1923), starring Pola Negri, Alfred Abel, Hermann Thimig, Digibeta reconstruction by Stefan Drössler, 44 min
[Test Footage for Faust], US 1923, P: Mary Pickford, D: Ernst Lubitsch, tests for Mephisto, 12 min
The Patriot Trailer, US 1928, dvd, 3 min
The Patriot: the Portuguese fragment, 7 min
Die Flamme was the highlight, for the first time since decades this film makes sense in this fine reconstruction, the previously existing 20 min fragment did not work.

THE MAGICAL LANDSCAPE (Exhibition at Meilahti Art Museum)

THE MAGICAL LANDSCAPE - Works from the State Tretyakov Gallery 20.2. - 1.6.2008. Viewed on 24 Feb 2008. From the official presentation:
"
The Magical Landscape presents work by 55 artists from the Golden Age of Russian landscape painting. The works cover a period from the middle of the 19th century to the start of the 20th, from romanticism to the aftermath of realism. The paintings in the exhibition are divided into nine thematic groups: The Forest, The Sea, Mountains, The Sky, Night Scenes, The Four Seasons, Man and Nature, Roads and Townscapes.
Landscape rose to prominence as a subject in Russian painting in the beginning of 19th century. Landscape paintings were not merely depictions of the forests, seas or mountains of Mother Russia, however; they were also vehicles with which the artists explored the identity of the Russian people.
Many of the artists of the period belonged to the group of artists called The Wanderers, or Peredvizhniki, whose aim was to create realistic pictures of Russian nature. The face and beauty of Mother Russia were seen even in the most trivial things. The unity of spiritual life and nature was important for the landscape painters.
The State Tretyakov Gallery was founded by the Moscow merchant (1832-1898) Pavel Tretyakov. When Tretyakov began collecting art, he also decided to establish a museum of Russian art for the public. In particular, Tretyakov bought many works from the exhibitions of the Peredvizhniki and supported artists who wanted to promote social development in a more democratic direction."
Among the artists exhibited: Julius Klever, Konstantin Korovin, Pyotr Korovin, Olga Lagoda-Shishkina, Alexey Bogoliubov, Mikhail Clodt von Jürgensburg, Ivan Shishkin, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Isaac Levitan, Fyodor Vasilyev, Vasily Polenov, Joseph Krachovsky, Apollinary Vasnetsov, Arkady Rylov, Rufin Sudkovsky, Vasily Vereshchagin, Vladimir Shervud, Maxim Vorobyov, Konstantin Yuon, Ivan Aivazovsky, Nikolai Roerich, Konstantin Kryzhitsky, Anton Ivanov, Arseny Meshchersky, Alexey Stepanov, Pavel Kovalevsky, Nikolai Dubovskoy, Igor Grabar, Boris Kostudiyev, Alexey Savrasov, Mikhail Nesterov, Ilya Repin, Vasily Vereshchagin, Abram Arkhipov, Grigory Myasoedov, Alexander Kiselyov, Valerian Kamenev, Vasily Perov, Pyotr Sukhodolsky, Ivan Khrutsky, Vasily Perepletchikov, Vladimir Orlovsky, Konstantin Somov, Stanislav Zhukovsky, Konstantin Pervukhin, Vladimir Makovsky, Nikolay Pimonenko, Illarion Pryanishnikov, Alexander Beggrov, Vasily Vereshchagin, Maria Fyodorova, Andrei Rakovich, Karl Bodri, Nikolay Kuznetsov
Some of the best of Russian figurative art of the 19th century, my favourite: Isaac Levitan: Above Eternal Rest (1893)
http://www.taidemuseo.fi/english/meilahti/programme/tretyakov.html

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Arn - tempelriddaren

Arn: the Knight Templar / Arn - temppeliritari. SE / DK / FI / DE / GB (c) 2007. P: Waldemar Bergendahl. D: Peter Flinth. SC: Hans Gunnarsson - based on the novel Vägen till Jerusalem / Tie Jerusalemiin (1998) by Jan Guillou. DP: Eric Kress - shot on 35mm - digital intermediate - film print 35mm 1:2,35. Starring Joakim Nätterqvist (Arn Magnusson), Sofia Helin (Cecilia Algotsdotter), Bibi Andersson (Mother Rikissa). Mainly in Swedish, but also in Arabic, English, French, and Latin. 141 min. Released by FS Film with Finnish subtitles. Viewed at Tennispalatsi 3, 23 Feb 2008. Reportedly the most expensive film ever produced in the Nordic countries (but how does one compare the four-part Karl XII?). No Seventh Seal, it does not even begin to approach the profundity of Ingmar Bergman's knight templar saga. But it is an interesting epic film that covers both the bloody power struggles in Sweden and the Crusades in the Holy Land. Arn gets even to meet and conquer Saladin, although it is clear that the bigger victory will be the Muslims'. The characters are not compelling, they feel like modern people in costume. The visual quality of the Swedish nature scenes suffers from the lossy digital intermediate.

Friday, February 22, 2008

There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood / There Will Be Blood. US (c) 2007. PC: Ghoulardi / Paramount Vantage / Miramax. P: Paul Thomas Anderson, JoAnne Sellar, Daniel Lupi. D+SC: Paul Thomas Anderson - based on the novel Oil! (1927) by Upton Sinclair. DP: Robert Elswit. PD: Jack Fisk. COST: Mark Bridges. M: Jonny Greenwood [Radiohead]. ED: Dylan Tichenor. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis (Daniel Plainview), Ciarán Hinds (Fletcher Hamilton). 158 min. Released in Finland by Buena Vista International Finland. Viewed at Maxim 2, Helsinki, 22 Feb 2008. Paul Thomas Anderson does not follow the multi-character concept of Boogie Nights and Magnolia, focusing instead on the rise of a single character, the manic oil prospector Daniel Plainview. The film connects with classics of American cinema such as Greed, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Giant, and Chinatown. Itself already hailed as a modern classic, perhaps I viewed There Will Be Blood with too great expectations, finding Daniel Day-Lewis's two-note performance powerfully Hustonesque but not complex. Neither do I share Anderson's quasi-Fundamentalist "sin and deluge" world-view. I enjoyed the cinematography with its strong photochemical look. I prefer Boogie Nights and Magnolia to this.

Zhiqu wei hushan

Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. CN 1970. PC: Beijing Film Studio. D: Xie Tieli. 125'. A vintage print, reddening, with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 Feb 2008. Introduced by Prof. Chris Berry. I viewed the first reel and the final sequence only. This film belongs to one of the maddest genres, the filmed Revolutionary Model Opera of the Chinese Cultural Revolution era. Theoretically, an example of dead-end non-cinema, yet surprisingly electric and hyperactive, never giving a break. The opera performers are brilliant, and their virtuosity carries the film. To be compared with the cinema of Stalin's final years, when Soviet film production almost stopped. The years of human terror coincided with an age of cinema dearth.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Marriage Circle

Avioliiton ilveilyä / Äktenskapsvirveln. US (c) 1923 Warner Bros., released 1924. P+D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Paul Bern - based on the play Nur ein Traum (1909) by Lothar Schmidt. DP: Charles J. Van Enger. AD: Svend Gade. Starring: Adolphe Menjou (Prof. Joseph Stock), Marie Prevost (Mizzi Stock), Monte Blue (Dr. Franz Braun), Florence Vidor (Charlotte Braun), Creighton Hale (Dr. Gustav Müller). Originally 2499 /22 fps/ 99 min. MoMA restored print /22 fps/ 94 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 21 Feb 2008. This is the best print of this film, much better than the ones available before the MoMA restoration, although it is struck from a dupe negative which is not perfectly sharp. Revisiting this familiar film I enjoyed it more than ever, and the screening was rewarded by laughter from the audience, proving that the comic timing of Lubitsch remains effective. It is a comedy of manners, but beneath the surface there is the deep current of real feeling and concern about human relationships. The foundation work of the mature Lubitsch touch.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rosita

Rosita / Rosita. US (c) 1923 Mary Pickford Company. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Edward Knoblock - treatment by Norbert Falk, Hanns Kräly - based on the play Don César de Bazan (1844) by Philippe Francois Pinel Dumanoir and Adolphe Philippe Dennery. DP: Charles Rosher. AD: William Cameron Menzies, Svend Gade. COST: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Mary Pickford (Rosita), Holbrook Blinn (the King), Irene Rich (the Queen), George Walsh (Don Diego). Originally 2682 m /20 fps/ 117 min. Surviving Russian print 2242 m /2o fps/ 98 min. A Digibeta presentation of the film with Russian intertitles, e-subtitles AA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 19 Feb 2008. I have seen this film maybe six times, and this was not the worst presentation, although in Digibeta. This magnificent production (cinematography by Rosher, art direction by Menzies, costumes by Leisen) would deserve the best possible restoration one day, based on all surviving material. No masterpiece, but a fascinating turning-point for both Pickford and Lubitsch. Pickford wanting to break out of her woman-as-girl formula, and Lubitsch making his big entrance in Hollywood. This is a continuation to the Dubarry-Boleyn-Pharaon cycle of Lubitsch, and his last such spectacle. It looks great, and in the Sevilla Carneval Lubitsch shows his talent in mounting lively crowd scenes (interesting to see the similarities here to his previous films). There are also the nice small touches such as the close-up of the imprisoned Rosita's hand touching secretly Diego's and the Queen's small pocket mirror turned into a spyglass. It is interesting to compare Mary Pickford with Pola Negri as Carmen and Bergkatze; Mary is good, but Pola would have been better. Mary is at her best in the end, after the fake execution of Don Diego, as she shocks the king with her intensity. Adult scenes include the lovers' night in prison and Rosita's attempted assassination of the King. Holbrook Blinn is no Jannings as the King, but Irene Rich is very good with her telling looks as the Queen.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

BIGGER THAN LIFE (Exhibition at Ateneum)

ELÄMÄÄ SUUREMPAA (Bigger than Life, Works from the Collections), Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, since 6 Dec 2007. Visited on 17 Feb 2008. A fascinating way to look at familiar masterpieces together with less known and unknown ones. From the official presentation: "The underlying theme of the new display is the role of an artist, seen from different points of view. The display is not chronological but divided into several themes, such as the artist at work, observing nature, the artist's inner world and the artist as a storyteller. The theme of the artist shaping national identity is related in particular to the 90th anniversary of Finland's independence." The most direct cinematic link is in Joseph Beuys: Das Schweigen (Ingmar Bergman). Themes: The artist's inspiration, The artist's inner world, Hugo Simberg, Helene Schjerfbeck, The woman as an artist, Focus on J.J. Tikkanen, The artist at home, The artist's self-portraits, Working, The artist as storyteller, Focus on Gunnar Berndtson, The artist as an observer of nature, The artist giving form to national identity, Mega Museum.
http://www.ateneum.fi/default.asp?docId=11990
http://www.ateneum.fi/default.asp?docId=15532

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Le Renard et l'enfant

Tyttö ja kettu / Flickan och räven. FR (c) 2007 Bonne Pioche / France 3 Cinéma. P: Yves Darondeau, Christophe Lioud, Emmanuel Priou. D: Luc Jacquet. SC: Luc Jacquet, Eric Rognard. DP: Eric Dumage, Gérard Simon - 35mm - digital intermediate - print 35mm 1:2,35. Starring: Bertille Noël-Bruneau (the girl). Released by Cinema Mondo, Finnish-spoken version supervised by Pekka Lehtosaari and narrated by Minttu Mustakallio. Viewed at Tennispalatsi 9, Helsinki, 16 Feb 2008. This is a beautiful tale about a young girl and her friendship with a wild she-fox during the four seasons of the year. The superior film based on this format is Arne Sucksdorff's Det stora äventyret (The Big Adventure), and in Finland, Raimo O. Niemi has directed The Boy and the Lynx and The Mystery of the Wolf. But the storyline is but a pretext to a wide variety of scenes about the wonders of nature, which in each case are different. Very nice, but I did not like the special digital animation scenes and the digital look of the forest.

Risto Räppääjä

Risto Rappare [SE] / [Risto the Rapper]. FI (c) 2008 Kinotar. EX: Lasse Saarinen. P: Risto Salomaa. D: Mari Rantasila. SC: Sinikka Nopola, Tiina Nopola - based on their RR books (nine, the film based mainly on the ones published in 2000 and 2001). Digital intermediate by Generator Post. AD: Minna Santakari. M: Iiro Rantala. Starring: Niilo Sipilä (Risto Räppääjä), Mimmi Lounela (Nelli Nuudelipää), Annu Valonen (Rauha Räppääjä), Ulla Tapaninen (Elvi Räppääjä), Martti Suosalo (Lennart Lindberg). 80 min. Released by Nordisk. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 16 Feb 2oo8. This is an energetic children's film based on the drummer boy character created by the Nopola sisters. The director Mari Rantasila keeps the zany events moving at a good pace. I have liked her previous films Greippi (1999) and Pieniä eroja (2002) actually even more than this one, which is a bit marred by the over-the-top digital colour and the fact that all the grown-ups act in such an anti-grown-up way, almost forcing the children to act precocious. Anyway, it's fun, and a memorable contribution to the too meagre genre of the Finnish musical.
http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risto_R%C3%A4pp%C3%A4%C3%A4j%C3%A4

Friday, February 15, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Menetetty maa / No Country for Old Men. US (c) 2007 Miramax / Paramount. P: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin. D+SC+ED: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen - based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (2005). DP: Roger Deakins - negative Kodak Vision2 Super35 - 2K digital intermediate by Efilm - print 35mm 1:2,35. M: Carter Burwell. LOC: Texas, New Mexico. Starring: Tommy Lee Jones (Ed Tom Bell), Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh), Josh Brolin (Llewellyn Moss), Woody Harrelson (Carson Wells), Kelly Macdonald (Carla Jean Moss). 122 min. Released in Finland by Finnkino, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Marko Hietikko. Viewed at Bristol, Helsinki, 15 Feb 2008. The Coen brothers back in form on their strongest terrain. Downbeat Texas story based on the Cormac McCarthy novel, which I have not read. The plot (about a bystander who happens at the site where a bloody showdown of druglords has taken place near the US/MX border) resembles on the surface that of a mainstream thriller, but the angle is completely different. This film belongs to the core of the Coen bros., along with Blood Simple. and Fargo. It's a post-western and a post-crime film, with cattle stun guns and transponders bringing odd touches to familiar situations. There is a conscience in this story, and it is represented by Tommy Lee Jones' character. The imagery is extremely bleak, and the digital intermediate look is appropriate to this valley of death.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Das Weib des Pharao

Faaraon vaimo / Faraos hustru. DE 1921. PC: Ernst Lubitsch-Film / EFA. P: Paul Davidson. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Norbert Falk, Hanns Kräly. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl, Alfred Hansen. AD: Ernst Stern, Kurt Richter. COST: Ernst Stern, Ali Hubert, Ernö Metzner. Starring: Emil Jannings (Amenes the Pharaon of Egypt), Dagny Servaes (Theonis, a Greek slave girl), Paul Wegener (Samlak, king of Ethiopia), Lyda Salmonova (Makeda, his daughter), Albert Bassermann (Sothis, the king's building master) Harry Liedtke (Ramphis, his son). Originally 2976 m /16 fps/ 162 min. 2005 reconstructed version via 2K digital intermediate from Adoram, /16 fps/ 124 min. E-subtitles AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 13 Feb 2008. A colossal epic lost in its original form, painstakingly reconstructed via all available materials. The German Lubitsch ensemble together once again, working at full speed. Historically and psychologically unconvincing, yet a breathtakingly impressive Egyptian fantasy with top actors, designers, etc. Cinematography by Theodor Sparkuhl and Alfred Hansen is brilliant. Scenes with mothers and children on the Pharaoh's steps are as powerful as the Odessa steps in Battleship Potyomkin. Once again history is reduced to a consequence of private passions: humiliation over a girl, jealousy, unrequited love. This is an early (first?) example of the classic Emil Jannings performance: the tyrant at the height of his power perishes utterly. He descends into madness, is stripped of the external emblems of his might, falls into the gutter and dies. A magnificent reconstruction with a loss of visual quality via the digital intermediate.

Die Bergkatze

Vuorikissa / Bergkatten. DE 1921. PC: Union. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hanns Kräly, Lubitsch. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl. AD: Ernst Stern. Starring: Pola Negri (Rischka), Paul Heidemann (Ltn. Alexis), Victor Janson (commander of the fort), Hermann Thimig (Pepo). 1818 m /18 fps/ 88 min. Transit Film / FWMS restored (2000) print /18 fps/ 82 min. E-subtitles AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 12 Feb 2008. One of Lubitsch's most original and elaborate German comedies revisited. The winter inspires Lubitsch again, and he tries for once to play with Expressionism, not letting it inhibit him. The set design is lovely, also in Pola Negri's dream sequence with its band of snowmen. The anti-militaristic satire is pretty mild. Pola Negri is at her best here in a comic variation of her Carmen interpretation. Lubitsch has his fun with reversed sex roles: Pola Negri is the active and aggressive protagonist, to whom the males have to react. There are the formal marriages in the end, but no choice of possible pairings would be ideal. One spectator commented that Lubitsch in this film tries too hard and preferred his more relaxed comedies. The restored version is great but the visual quality of this screening print not so hot.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kohlhiesels Töchter

Kohlhieselin tyttäret / Krögarens döttrar. DE 1920. PC: Messter. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hanns Kräly, Lubitsch. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl. Starring: Henny Porten (Gretel and Liesel), Emil Jannings (Peter Xaver), Gustav von Wangeheim (Paul Seppl), Jacob Tiedtke (Mathias Kohlhiesel). 1129 m /19 fps/ 52 min. Print from Münchner Filmmuseum, /19 fps/ 61 min. E-subtitles AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 12 Feb 2008. This is one of Lubitsch's most relaxed films, simple fun roughly based on The Taming of the Shrew, with Henny Porten in a double role, both as the shrew and the lovely sister. Lubitsch clearly loved winter and the mountains. It is nice to see this after Anna Boleyn, with its co-stars, Jannings and Porten, in completely different roles. Here there is another lovely dancing sequence. As for the intertitles, there are two completely different versions of this film. I was familiar with the DIF print, but this Munich print is better.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

PIXAR - 20 YEARS OF ANIMATION (Exhibition at Art Museum Tennis Palace)

PIXAR - 20 Years of Animation, Exhibition at Art Museum Tennis Palace, 30 Jan - 27 April 2008. Viewed on 10 Feb 2008. From the official presentation: Featuring more than 500 original works of art. It will take visitors behind the screen to reveal how Pixar’s beloved characters and fantastic worlds were created. The works include concept drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations that offer exciting audiovisual experiences. All of the Pixar artwork and digital media are on loan from the archives of Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar is one of the world’s leading animation studios. It was founded in California in 1986. Its first box office hit was Toy Story in 1995, followed by other feature films; A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Cars and the most recently, Ratatouille in 2007. Pixar - 20 Years of Animation will take you to the provenance of these stories. The exhibition will present the history of the studio and a peek into its future. It covers Pixar’s work from its earliest shorts to its newest feature film WALL-E, which will premiere in 2008. Included in the exhibition are also numerous video interviews introducing the audience to the Pixar artists and their work. Although Pixar’s films are computer animations, traditional media are still indispensable in the creative process. John Lasseter, who is one of the studio’s founding members and its Chief Creative Officer, emphasises the importance of personal creativity: “Technology doesn’t make the motion picture, people do. (...) The animator is someone who breathes life into a character, which is something the software and technology can’t give you.” The exhibition was originally produced by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Helsinki will be its first Nordic venue. Pixar: 20 Years of Animation exhibition is managed by Barbican Art Gallery. Barbican Art Galleries are provided by the City of London Corporation. - An impressive exhibition, well loved by children, many-sided. Although it is about the leading computer animation studio, most artworks are created by the traditional pencil, charcoal, crayon, pastel, watercolour, oil, sculpture, etc. The long preparation is handmade, the final product is created in the computer. http://www.taidemuseo.fi/english/tennispalatsi/programme/pixar.html

Se, jie

Lust, Caution / Lust, Caution. US / CN / TW / HK (c) 2007 Hai Sheng Film Production Company etc. P: William Kong, Ang Lee. D: Ang Lee. SC: James Schamus, Hui-Ling Wang - based on the story by Eileen Chang. DP: Rodrigo Prieto. Starring Tony Leung (Mr. Yee), Wei Tang ("Mrs. Mak", Wong Chia Chi), Joan Chen (Mrs. Yee). In Finland the long uncut version 157 min. Released by Sandrew, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Arto Vartiainen / Ditte Kronström. Viewed at Maxim 1, Helsinki, 9 Feb 2008. A resistance story during the Japanese invasion of China in 1938-1942. Young students plan to assassinate the collaborationist leader, Mr. Yee, by planting a young woman as his mistress, "Mrs. Mak". An elaborate scheme of sex and violence develops. Having recently watched Lubitsch spectacles where the French Revolution and the English Reformation are observed from the viewpoint of the bedchamber I noticed in this film some affinities with them, as well as with Notorious and North by Northwest by Hitchcock. As a Western viewer I would have been interested to learn more about the terrible occupation and the brave resistance, too little known outside China. The sex scenes are powerful but isn't there some imbalance between the epic and the intimate? Anyway, it's another high profile and novel contribution from Ang Lee.

Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilsonin sota / Charlie Wilsons krig. US / DE (c) 2007 Universal / MP Munich Pape. P: Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks. D: Mike Nichols. SC: Aaron Sorkin - based on the book by George Crile. DP: Stephen Goldblatt - shot on 35mm Kodak Vision Super 35 - 2K digital intermediate by Efilm - print Kodak Vision 1:1,85. Starring: Tom Hanks (Rep. Charlie Wilson), Amy Adams (Bonnie Bach), Julia Roberts (Joanne Herring), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Gust Avrakotos). 97 min. Released in Finland by Finnkino, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Saliven Gustavson. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 9 Feb 2008. An intelligent political satire based on the true story of US covert involvement in the Afghan war during the Soviet invasion. Having read Steve Coll's excellent book Ghost Wars I was familiar with the figures of Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos; some other characters may be fictive. The strategic weight of Afghanistan for the U.S. has been crystallized in the expression "Operation Bear Trap", that is, the trap to kill the Soviet bear. The trap worked. There is a grim postscript, though. The war was won, the peace was not. Covertly armed by the US against the USSR, the frightful Mujaheddin started a new era in world history.

Dark Floors

Dark Floors / Dark Floors. FI (c) 2008 Solar Films. CO-PC: The Icelandic Film Company / Kisi Production. P: Markus Selin. D: Pete Riski. SC: Pekka Lehtosaari - from a story by Mr. Lordi and Pete Riski. DP: Jean-Noël Mustonen - shot on Super 16 mm - digital intermediate by Generator Post - screening format 35 mm 1:2,35. AD+COST: Tiina Anttila. Make-up: Mari Vaalasranta, Jim Udenberg. M: Ville Riippa, performed by the Czech Film Orchestra. Original song during end credits: "Beast Loose In Paradise" by Lordi. S: Jyrki Rahkonen. Lordi: Mr. Lordi (songwriter, lead vocalist), Amen (guitar, background vocals), Kita (perc, background vocals), OX (bass, background vocals), Awa (keyboards, background vocals). Roles: Skye Bennett (Sarah), Noah Huntley (Ben), Dominique McElligott (Emily), Leon Herbert (Rick), William Hope (Jon), Ronald Pickup (Tobias), Philip Bretherton (Walter). Original in English. 84 min. Released by Nordisk with Finnish subtitles by Aretta Vähälä & Pekka Lehtosaari. Viewed at Tennispalatsi 6, Helsinki, 9 Feb 2008. A vehicle for the Finnish hard rock / heavy metal band Lordi, famous for its elaborate monster characters and ambitious music videos directed by its house director Pete Riski. "Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind / es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind", wrote Goethe in his poem "Der Erlkönig", a classic of German Romantic horror. The poem is the vision of a dying child whom its father is trying to save. Dark Floors is a modern and original version of the classic concept. The framing story is about an autistic girl stuck in a magnetic resonance imaging machine, and the film draws us to join her in her journey to the dark floors of death. During her voyage she meets the various Lordi characters. The concept is strong, and the result is serviceable with good music and sound design but there could be more build-up of tension, the characters remain flat, the actors play one note, and the digital intermediate look is not very exciting on the big screen. Worth seeing for fans of Lordi and horror films.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lordi (much more thorough in the Finnish edition)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Anna Boleyn

Anna Boleyn / Anna Boleyn. DE 1920. PC: Messter-Film / Union. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Norbert Falk, Hanns Kräly. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl. Technical Director: Kurt Waschneck. AD: Kurt Richter. COST: Ali Hubert. Starring: Emil Jannings (Henry VIII), Henny Porten (Anne Boleyn), Hedwig Pauli (Queen Catherine), Hilde Müller (Princess Mary), Ludwig Hartau (Duke of Norfolk), Paul Hartmann (Henry Norris), Aud Egede Nissen (Johanna Seymour), Ferdinand von Alten (Marc Smeton), Adolf Klein (Cardinal Wolsey), Paul Biensfeld (the court jester). Originally 2793 m /19 fps/ 128 min. Restored Transit Film / FWMS version based on the tinted and toned print from Milan, /19 fps/ 124 min. E-subtitles by AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 7 Feb 2008. This is the greatest Lubitsch spectacle, a strong historical tragedy. The tinting and toning is subtle, the print is superb, the best I have seen of this film, could hardly be better. As always with the Lubitsch spectacles, this is a woman's story. Certainly it is no great historical drama, the epochal events (the break with Rome, the English Reformation, the creation of the Church of England, the dissolution of the monasteries, the union of England and Wales, the creation of many national buildings, the story of Thomas More) are ignored or reduced to a background of the private story, Henry the Renaissance Man is reduced to a lecher, and Anne Boleyn elevated to a saint. Jannings does look the part, very much like the Holbein painting. His brutality as the most fearsome English absolute monarch feels close to the reality. This is another German tyrant film from the Weimar era, and one of the best. The final sequences with confessions elicited in torture chambers are chilling, and the abrupt ending is very effective. Henny Porten at her best, Theodor Sparkuhl at his best. - Among the related films I kept thinking of A Man for All Seasons (Robert Shaw as Henry VIII, Vanessa Redgrave as Anne Boleyn, Paul Scofield as Thomas More, Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey) and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Bette Davis as Elizabeth I, the daughter of Anne Boleyn, her birth depicted so movingly by Lubitsch).

Die Fälscher

Väärentäjä / Förfalskaren. AT / DE (c) 2007 Aichholzer Filmproduktion / Magnolia Filmproduktion. P: Josef Aichholzer, Nina Bohlmann, Babette Schröder. D+SC: Stefan Ruzowitzky - based on the book Des Teufels Werkstatt (1951) by Adolf Burger. In cooperation with Adolf Burger. DP: Benedict Neuenfels - shot in Super 16mm - 35mm blowup - 1:1,85. Starring: Karl Markovics (Salomon Sorowitsch), August Diehl (Adolf Burger), Devid Striesow (Sturmbannführer Friedrich Herzog), Martin Brambach (Hauptscharführer Holst), August Zirner (Dr. Klinger), Veit Stübner (Atze), Sebastian Urzendowsky (Kolya Karloff). 98 min. Released in Finland by Nordisk, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Petra Honkala / Joanna Erkkilä. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 6, Helsinki, 6 Feb 2008. Based on the true story of the world's greatest forgery plan, Operation Bernhard, with the cooperation of Adolf Burger. The Nazis tried to collapse world economy by a huge and ingenious forgery industry, for instance printing counterfeit British pounds and U.S. dollars. The workers were concentration camp slaves who had to work at the risk of their lives. Apparently the protagonist Salomon Sorowitsch is fictive: a Jewish criminal from the Berlin underworld who has to endure 10 years of concentration camps and is saved from Auschwitz to Sachsenhausen because he is the genius of the counterfeiters, even admired by Nazis, to his dismay. A fascinating story, intelligently told. Drab digital intermediate look.
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Burger
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Bernhard

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sumurun

Sumurun poster by Theo Matejko.
Sumurun / Sumurun. DE 1920. PC: Union. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hanns Kräly, Lubitsch - based on an Oriental pantomime by Friedrich Freksa. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl. Chief of technics: Kurt Waschneck. AD: Kurt Richter, assistant: Ernö Metzner. COST: Ali Hubert. Starring: Pola Negri (dancer), Jenny Hasselquist (Sumurun, the sheik's favourite harem woman), Aud Egede Nissen (Haidee, her servant), Margarethe Kupfer (the old hag), Paul Wegener (the old sheik), Carl Clewing (the young sheik), Harry Liedtke (Nur-al-Din, a cloth merchant), Jacob Tiedtke (head eunuch), Ernst Lubitsch (the hunchback), Paul Biensfeldt (the slave merchant Achmed). 2379 m /18 fps/ 114 min.

Restored version, tinted and toned, Transit Film / FWMS, /18 fps/ 102 min. E-subtitles by AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 5 Feb 2008.

One of the most ambitious Lubitsch films, it brings together once more his trusted team and ensemble. In the female leads we meet the Polish Pola Negri, the Danish Aud Egede Nissen (here in her first of her two Lubitsch roles) and the Swedish Jenny Hasselqvist, discovered by Stiller, here in her second film role. While not one of the great Lubitsch films, there is much of interest in it. 1) the harem theme probably interested L., the sheik's favourite, Sumurun, to be replaced with Pola Negri, note the remarkable fun the harem women seem to be having, except Sumurun, 2) it is fascinating to see the familiar faces and sets in new use, most actors are not particularly convincing as Orientals, 3) the crowd scenes are always lively, 4) there are playful ornamental patterns and variations of the film framing by different masks, 5) the mighty sheik belongs to the tyrant tradition of Weimar cinema (as well as Lubitsch's Louis XIV, Henry VIII, and the Pharaon), the young lovers' happiness threatened by the tyrant, the theme of absolute power, 6) based on pantomime, this film sports less titles than the previous Lubitsch films, this belongs to the trend of less titles in Weimar cinema, 7) the tragic clown / circus / variety / show folk theme was very popular during the silent era, this belongs to the same trend as the Danish circus triangle tragedies, and soon Sjöström, Chaplin, Dupont, Robison, Hitchcock, and Sternberg's The Blue Angel, 8) it is worth reflecting that in his last role as an actor Lubitsch plays a sad clown, he overacts, as directors tend to do as actors, 9) instead of fine pantomime the film offers often crude exaggeration, and even the farce is not up to the Lubitsch standard, 10) the foot fetish returns in the scene of Liedtke kissing Sumurun's foot, 11) this print does not add to the content of the ones available 20 years ago, but the colour is new, but the Desmet style of tinting hides a lot of detail and nuance. To sum up: a more rewarding film than I remembered.

Monday, February 04, 2008

THE JUSSI AWARDS

The Jussi Gala on Sunday, 3 February, 2008, at Studio 51, Helsinki
THE JUSSI AWARDS OF FILMS THAT HAD THEIR PREMIERE IN 2007
Best motion picture of the year: Musta jää / Black Ice - producers: Kai Nordberg, Kaarle Aho, Making Movies
Achievement in directing: Musta jää - Petri Kotwica
Performance by an actor in a leading role: Tommi Korpela - Miehen työ / A Man's Job
Performance by an actress in a leading role: Outi Mäenpää - Musta jää
Performance by an actor in a supporting role: Jani Volanen - Miehen työ
Performance by an actress in a supporting role: Kristiina Elstelä - Sooloilua / Playing Solo
Screenplay: Musta jää (original screenplay)
Achievement in cinematography: Mika Orasmaa - Joulutarina / A Christmas Story
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original score): Eicca Toppinen - Musta jää
Achievement in sound design: Kyösti Väntänen - Raja 1918 / The Border 1918
Achievement in film editing: Jukka Nykänen - Musta jää
Achievement in art direction: Jukka Uusitalo - Ganes
Achievement in costume design: Helena Paavilainen-Takala - Ganes
Best documentary feature: Yhden tähden hotelli (D: Ari Matikainen) / A One Star Hotel
...
Best motion picture of the year according to the public: Joulutarina - award was given by the Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen
The Concrete Jussi (life achievement award): ÅKE LINDMAN - standing ovation and a heartfelt speech by the 80-year old veteran, side by side with his wife, Pirkko Mannola.
BABA LYBECK was a great gala hostess, side by side with Jussi Heikelä.
...
MY PERSONAL FAVOURITE FINNISH FILM OF 2007: Raja 1918 was not even nominated as a best film candidate

Sunday, February 03, 2008

TAPANI RAITTILA (exhibition at Taidehalli)

Tapani Raittila: Paintings, drawings, watercolours and bronze reliefs, 1939-2004. Exhibition at Taidehalli, Helsinki, 2 Feb - 30 March, 2008. (The touring exhibition has already been seen in Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, The Rovaniemi Art Museum, and The Joensuu Art Museum). Viewed on 3 Feb 2008. Following the catalogue text: born in 1921, Tapani Raittila fought for five years in WWII, completed his studies and embarked on an exceptionally long and varied career as an artist. He is one of the most typical, yet also most versatile, representatives of the Finnish post-war Modernism. The veteran artist has continued to find new aspects to his refined idiom of form and colour up until the present. - Seen now, Tapani Raittila's works do not seem Modernistic. They are profoundly personal works of representational art. They convey a feeling of reflection and concentration. The exhibition has been put together with insight by the Sara Hildén Art Museum (Riitta Valorinta, Päivi Loimaala). A key is the long series of 11 self-portraits, from 1939 until 1996. We see the face of a thinker. In the room of official portraits from Kekkonen till Koivisto we see something of the same expression in every visage. There are many portraits in the exhibition and not a single smile. One starts to think about his Laestadian childhood (of Lutheran Fundamentalism) and his long war service. Tapani Raittila is a popular teacher, a member of a talented artist family, and an interviewee worth listening in the tv documentary Itse asiassa kuultuna: Tapani Raittila (YLE 2004, 52 min) planned by Paula Holmila and directed by Ritva Kuusisto.
http://www.tampere.fi/english/sarahilden/exhibition/previous/raittilaengl.html

Friday, February 01, 2008

Kolmistaan

På tremanhand / [Threesome]. FI (c) 2007 PetFilms, premiere 1 Feb 2008. P+D+SC: Peter Lindholm - dramatization: Kirsten Bonnén Rask. DP: Mark Stubbs - digital intermediate: Generator Post - 35 mm print 1:2,35. Starring: Kari-PekkaToivonen (Tomi Laakso), Liisa Kuoppamäki (Maria Laakso), Matleena Kuusniemi (Janita), Taneli Mäkelä (Martti), Marjaana Maijala (Ritva), Juhani Niemelä (Tomi's father). 110 min. Released by Buena Vista International Finland, Swedish subtitles by Janne Staffans. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 3, Helsinki, 1 Feb 2008. An original variation of the triangle drama. Tomi, married to Maria, with children, meets Janita, is profoundly moved, but "nothing" happens (they don't make love). With great effort, Tomi stays true to Maria, but his health is affected, he loses his joy of life, and marriage becomes a chore. Maria invites Janita to Christmas dinner. There is the parallel story of Martti's affair with his wife Ritva's best friend who gets pregnant, and Ritva changes into a horrendous devil of revenge. Meanwhile, Tomi's father lies dying in the hospital, having lost his power of speech (but not of writing). An interesting cast of characters, often acting against stereotype. Unfortunately there is little excitement in the cinematic expression and too much tv soap opera style. Digital intermediate, alas.

Juno

Juno / Juno. US / CA / HU (c) 2007 Twentieth Century Fox. P: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Mason Novick, Russell Smith. D: Jason Reitman. SC: Diablo Cody. DP: Eric Steelberg - negative 35 mm (Kodak Vision2 200T 5217, Vision2 Expression 500T 5229) - digital intermediate: 2K EFilm - print 35 mm 1:1,85. Music editor: Nick South - an excellent soundtrack compilation. Starring: Ellen Page (Juno MacGuff), Michael Cera (Paulie Bleeker), Jennifer Garner (Vanessa Loring), Jason Bateman (Mark Loring), Allison Janney (Bren MacGuff), J.K. Simmons (Mac MacGuff). 96 min. Released in Finland by FS Film, Finnish /Swedish subtitles by Janne Mökkönen / Ditte Kronström. Viewed at Tennispalatsi 6, Helsinki, 1 Feb 2008. The protagonist is a 16-year old girl who gets pregnant. What follows is constantly interesting, surprising, humoristic, offbeat, responsible, and poignant. Including the cast of characters who are not stereotypical. I liked the director Jason Reitman's Thank You for Smoking, and this is further confirmation of talent. I'm also looking forward to further work by the screenwriter Diablo Cody, she is in possession of wit. Too bad about the digital intermediate.

Die Puppe

Die Puppe poster by Theo Matejko.
Nukke / Nürnbergerdockan. DE 1919. PC: Union. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hanns Kräly, Lubitsch - freely based on A.E. Wilner's play. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl. FX: Kurt Waschneck. PD+COST: Kurt Richter. Starring: Ossi Oswalda (Ossi), Hermann Thimig (Lancelot), Victor Janson (Hilarius), Jacob Tiedtke (the abbot), Gerhard Ritterband (the apprentice). Filmarchiv Austria: tinted and toned print, /20 fps/ 57 min. E-subtitles by AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 31 Jan 2008. Maybe the most delightful of Lubitsch's German comedies, mixing comedy with satire and fairy-tale. The mechanical doll theme has its links with Hoffmann and Lessing. I saw for the first time this Viennese print from vintage tinted and toned material.

Romeo und Julia im Schnee

[Romeo ja Julia Alpeilla] / [Romeo och Julia i snö]. DE 1920. PC: Maxim-Film. D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hanns Kräly, Lubitsch. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl. PD: Kurt Richter. LOC: Schwarzwald. Starring: Lotte Neumann (Julia Capulethofer), Gustav von Wangenheim (Romeo Montekugerl), Jacob Tiedtke (Mr. Capulethofer), Marga Köhler (Mrs. Capulethofer), Ernst Rückert (Mr. Montekugerl), Josefine Dora (Mrs. Montekugerl), Julius Falkenstein (Paris). Tinted and toned print, Filmarchiv Austria, /18 fps/ 48 min. E-subtitles by AA. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 31 Jan 2008. Shot in Schwarzwald, this is relaxed fun about two fighting families, climaxing in a masked ball where Romeo meets his rival, a simpleton, who has come dressed as an angel. Switching into the angel dress Romeo can have his way with Julia. I saw for the first time this delightful colour print. The film itself stands repeated screenings very well.