Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Madama Butterfly (opera)

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly. Tragedia giapponese in due atti. IT 1904. Libretto Giuseppe Giacosa e Luigi Illica (da John L. Long e David Belasco).

Seen in the Olavinlinna Castle, at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, 20 July 2009. Sung in Italian, with e-surtitles in Finnish and English.

Conductor: Stefan Soltesz
Stage Director: Henry Akina
Stage Design: Dean Shibuya
Costumes: Anne Namba
Lighting Designer: Ilkka Paloniemi
Make-up: Pekka Helynen
Chorus Master: Matti Hyökki

Cio-Cio-San, Madama Butterfly: Hiromi Omura
Suzuki: Edyta Kulczak
Kate Pinkerton: Tiina-Maija Koskela
F.B. Pinkerton: Marian Talaba
Sharpless: Heikki Kilpeläinen
Goro: Dan Karlström
Yamadori: Andrey Bondarenko
Bonzo: Mikhail Kolelishvili

An excellent interpretation of Puccini's tragic opera. Seen in the Olavinlinna castle, built in the 15th century. The castle can be great for epic subjects, but it works also with Madama Butterfly, an intimate chamber piece, where everything takes place in the same setting.

Film-relevant aspects: the drama was formed by David Belasco, many of whose works were important in the formation of the feature film in America (Famous Players in Famous Plays, Paramount, the young Cecil B. DeMille).

There are many film adaptations of Madama Butterfly, but only the Japanese silhouette animation version Ocho fujin no genso (The Fantasy of Madame Butterfly, Kazugoro Arai, Nakaya Tobiishi, JP 1940), 12 min, can be called a masterpiece. Some of the other most memorable examples include:

Harakiri (Fritz Lang, DE 1919) with Mia May
The Toll of the Sea (D: Chester Franklin, SC: Frances Marion, US 1922) with Anna May Wong, in two colour Technicolor

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Summing up Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2009

Artistic director: Peter von Bagh. Advisory board: Nico de Klerk, Gian Luca Farinelli, Nicola Mazzanti, Mark-Paul Meyer, Peter von Bagh. Festival coordinator: Guy Borlée.

The Year of Many Centenaries: the centenary of film festivals, newsreels, aerial films, Futurism, the film star, the film diva, the Western as a true genre

This was yet another great year for Il Cinema Ritrovato with triple programming. I kept focusing on the offers of the Lumière 1 (silents), paying visits to the Lumière 2 (sound) and the Arlecchino (scope etc.).

For the seventh time the Festival presented a special feature called "A Hundred Years Ago" curated by Mariann Lewinsky. This "festival inside the festival" consisted of 12 shows with over 100 films. 1909 turned out to be a more important year in the history of the cinema than might have been expected. The opening topic was a tribute to the first film festival, organized in 1909 in Milan, with a display of the current notable film companies. A hundred years ago the first newsreels were launched. Serge Djaghilev's Ballets russes were filmed for the only time. The first aerial films were made. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published the Futuristic Manifesto, and Maria Montessori her main works on the education of children, and James Joyce ran the Volta Cinema in Dublin: all these were illustrated by film examples.

In 1909 the film star was born – the famous, popular performer credited on screen and on advertisements. The first film star was apparently the comedian Cretinetti, and the first film diva Stacia Napierkowska. Films got longer, and the evolution towards the feature-length film was evident. In the field of the documentary accounts of production processes were getting refined (records of making rope, producing wigs, fishing).

In France Albert Capellani was an exemplary director, and L'Assommoir, based on the novel by Emile Zola, the tragedy of alcoholism featuring the fates of Gervaise and Coupeau, was one of the high points of the weeks in a new restoration. Henri Bousquet has called L'Assommoir the first French feature film. Film d'Art kept getting established by treating great classic themes, focusing on high quality and developing the language of the cinema. Luke McKernan has introduced the concept "A Cinema of Distractions" into the research of early cinema, referring to the excitement of incidental phenomena visible on screen. Life surprises also the makers of fiction that is being shot on location, and the boundary of fiction and non-fiction are mobile and flexible. In her selections Mariann Lewinsky explored the aesthetics of the incidental in a way that has links with the Realist aesthetics of Béla Balázs, André Bazin, and Siegfried Kracauer.

The year 1909 was an annus mirabilis of D.W. Griffith: 142 films, the quality of which was often high. Tom Gunning in his introductory text highlighted the evolution of parallel editing in suspense, political commentary, and psychological exploration. Griffith's attention to the image, to composition, and lyrical beauty expanded as well. I would add that Griffith was the first film artist to consciously present landscape as soulscape. Unfortunately the quality of the Griffith prints screened was miserable, although negatives exist.

In 1909, before mass tourism, cinema programmes had a global quality, and views from foreign countries were in great demand. In Denmark the year 1909 was the last dominated by short films. In Italy Giovanni Pastrone created historic epics and Cretinetti made people laugh with his comedies. From today's viewpoint the films of 1909 depict a lost world still characterized by sails at sea, washerwomen by rivers, and stray animals on streets. The age of the féerie was coming to an end. Also the high tide of the films with sound on disc was coming to an ebb, as the expenses were not met by the income.

In the USA Vitagraph was going strong. A Midsummer Night's Dream seemed clumsy filmed theatre, but The Tell-Tale Blotter offered crisp cinematic narration. In Selig's repertory the Western was consolidating into a popular genre with films starring Tom Mix. At Essanay, slapstick was evolving. The success of Hiawatha produced by Imp (future Universal) challenged MPPC's monopoly.

A main series, in collaboration with Sony Columbia, was dedicated to the formative years of Frank Capra. I have held the opinion that Capra's true years of mastery start with American Madness, while also his Harry Langdon comedies are great, and there was not much need to revise that opinion. It was certainly evident that Capra was a confident professional from the beginning, capable of shedding conventional entertainment at a brisk pace. From the start he loved the military, and he directed a Marines trilogy (Submarine, Flight, Dirigible). He tried the gangster film (The Way of the Strong) without matching Sternberg. He ventured into the popular Jewish genre (The Younger Generation), but the result was not as heart-rending as Humoresque or The Jazz Singer. The electric spark into Capra was struck by Barbara Stanwyck in 1930; they did five films together. In The Ladies of Leisure there is a new kind, original, hard-to-define, unique spirit, certainly also thanks to the screenwriter Jo Swerling, and the Pre-Code freedom. The visual standards with Capra were always excellent thanks to the cinematographer Joseph Walker. The restauration work, often via 4K digital intermediate, by Sony Columbia, was exemplary.

The Kinojudaica retrospective based on the series mounted by la Cinémathèque de Toulouse and Gosfilmofond was offered much new insight. On display was a drama of a persecuted woman (Vu iz emes), a tragedy of childlessness that offered self-critisism of reactionary Jewish tradition (Gore Sarry), epic accounts of terror, rebellion, and pogroms (Protiv voli otsov), a drama critical of anti-semitism with biting montages (Zapomnite ih litsa), Yevgeni Bauer's tragedy of a heartless climber (Leon Drey), a story of the borderland at the Pale of Settlement (Granitsa), a satire of those who return from the USA to the USSR during the Great Depression (Vozvrashtshenije Nathan Beckera), and Mark Donskoy's shelved Holocaust drama Nepokorjonnye, in which the Babi Jar massacre (mere two minutes in the print viewed) changes the lives of all the protagonists.

World Cinema Foundation had several new high profile restored films on display. The restoration of relatively new films may also be necessary. Screened was the Egyptian Shadi Abdel Salam's El momia (1969), a unique masterwork echoing with eternity. The Taiwanese Edward Yang's four-hour A Brighter Summer Day (1991) is a slow account of coming of age in the Taipei of the youth gangs of the early 1960s, highly influenced by the American pop culture.

The Argentinian-born, Hollywood-based Harry D'Abbadie D'Arrast was one of the razor-sharp masters of style in the 1920s and the 1930s in the spirit of Chaplin and Lubitsch. A Gentleman from Paris is a witty gem starring Adolphe Menjou. Laughter is a bitter comedy, where women marry old millionaires and make love with poor artists.

The tribute to Josef von Sternberg was complemented with two remarkable documentary films. Harry Kümel's Josef von Sternberg, een retrospektieve, includes a long filmed interview with the master a few months before his death, and also "Sternberg's last film", where he lights the face of the actress Dorothée Blank in the same way as he had lit Marlene Dietrich. Bill Duncalf's excellent The Epic That Never Was, familiar from tv, a study on the unfinished Charles Laughton drama I, Claudius, was screened as a 35mm film print. This gave us the opportunity to enjoy a high quality of the image, as the makers of the documentary had access to the negative, and the original footage with editing and definition of light by Sternberg, himself. Almost all Sternberg prints in circulation now, including the most famous restored ones, are, in contrast, duped in many generations.

The young John Ford was seen as an actor in a film of his brother, Francis Ford, The Bandit's Wager. The first artistically ambitious Greek fiction film, Daphnis and Chloe, was screened in a restored version. Claude Autant-Lara's famous, lighting-fast Feydeau comedy Occupe-toi d'Amélie has returned to public viewing after 30 years of hiding.

Lobster Films turned out with high profile special programmes. The authors' rights of Georges Méliès have expired last year, and now his films may be screened by others than members of the Méliès family. Serge Bromberg was the presenter, pianist, and bonimenteur of a great Méliès show. Lobster Films had also edited an impressive study of the unfinished, experimental, cinetic drama of jealousy by Henri-Georges Clouzot, L'Enfer, starring Romy Schneider and Serge Reggiani.

As a morning person I missed the great evening spectacles at Piazza Maggiore. Unfortunately I had to skip also Anita Berber, the colour film, Rodolfi and Gigetta, Tutto Maciste, the British 1930s, the Vichy France, Vittorio Cottafavi, almost all Dossiers (Blasetti, Metropolis, Financial Crisis, Cinefilia), and the censorship specials.

The success of the festival was also due to its professional management, warm hospitality, atmosphere of friendship, and the high standard of the notes in its programme catalogue.

I saw also excerpts from many films not mentioned in my notes. Speaking of restorations I feel that 2K is not enough. 4K is needed for 35mm normal image, and 6K for real CinemaScope.
Some high-profile restorations seem to be marketing hype. Well-known quality films, which have been available all the time in good prints, are now re-released in new prints from digital intermediates, but these new prints are not necessarily always better than the familiar ones.

Cento anni fà 12 – USA 1909 II: Alcuni film da scoprire

A Hundred Years Ago 12 – USA 1909 II: Films to Discover.
Presenta Mariann Lewinsky, grand piano: Neil Brand. Viewed in Bologna, Cinema Lumière 1, on the Fourth of July, 2009.

From Tom Gunning's introductory text:
- Vitagraph was Griffith's major rival in sophistication, producing a number of ambitious literary adaptations, but failing to achieve the new conception of staging Griffith was introducing to film.
- However, Vitagraph's more modest narratives showed a clarity of storytelling often based around a particular object
- In 1909, Selig began producing westerns, a genre, which truly found international popularity this year
- At Essanay, the slapstick comedy was evolving
- Hiawatha represents the first major film of the independent company challenging the monopoly of the MPPC, Carl Laemmle's Imp, the ancestor of Universal

Due to technical problems, the order of the programme was changed to:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream. US 1909. D: Charles Kent. Based on the play by William Shakespeare. CAST: Maurice Costello (Lysander), Clara Kimball Young (Penelope), James Young, Dolores Costello (fairy), Helene Costello (fairy), Gladys Hulette (Puck), William W. Ranous (Bottom), Charles Chapman (Quince); PC: Vitagraph. 35mm. B&w. From: GEH / Restoration funded by GEH. - Print looks bad in the beginning, from bad original materials, with a scratched image, but it turns ok toward the end. A fairy-tale film based on William Shakespeare's play, with Puck, Hermia (Rose Tapley), Lysander, Demetrius (Walter Ackerman), Helena (Julia Swayne Gordon). It is a condensation of the whole story, not very successful. - Dolores Costello, daughter of Maurice Costello, grandmother of Drew Barrymore, in her first film as a six-year old fairy. - 15 min
The Tell-Tale Blotter. US 1909. PC: Essanay. 35mm. B&w. From: GEH / Restoration funded by GEH. - An effective detective story, with a clear mise-en-scène, the blotter paper as vital evidence to the burglary of a safe. 5 min
The Cowboy Millionaire. US 1909. D: Otis Turner. CAST: Tom Mix, Carl Winterhoff, William Garwood, Mac Barnes, Adrienne Kroell, William Stowell; PC: Selig. 35mm. B&w. From: NFM. - Tinted print with Dutch intertitles. - Tom Mix gets married in the city, and his cowboy friends visit him with their horses and lassoes. The boisterous cowboys have a good time in the train, too. A lot of rodeo stunts. 2o min
Dope Head Clancy. US 1909. PC: Phoenix. 35mm. 155 m. B&w. From: GEH / Restoration funded by National Endowment for the Arts. - Ok print. Farce. Visiting a show without paying, thrown out. Wrestling match. Attempting to act in films, a parody of film production. 8 min
Buon anno. IT 1909. PC: Ambrosio. 35mm. From: Museo Nazionale del Cinema. - Good bye to a great retrospective (a hundred years ago: 1909). 1 min

Due to the delay in the programme I missed:
Hiawatha. US 1909. D: William V. Ranous. Based on the poem "The Song of Hiawatha" di Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; CAST: Gladys Hulette, William V. Ranous; PC: IMP. 16mm. B&w. From: MoMA
Lines of White on a Sullen Sea. US 1909. D: D.W. Griffith. DP: Billy Bitzer; CAST: Linda Arvidson, Kate Bruce, Dell Henderson, Florence Lawrence, Arthur Johnson, James Kirkwood, Owen Moore, Billy Quirk; PC: Biograph. 16mm. 11’. B&w. Intertitles reconstructed by Killiam/Blackhawk. From: MoMA. - I managed to see a bit of this print as it was shown in reverse in the beginning, and it did not look very good.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Laughter

[The film was never released in Finland]. US 1930. D: Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast. Story: Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast, Douglas Z. Doty; SC: Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast, Douglas Z. Doty, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Donald Ogden Stewart; DP: George J. Folsey; ED: Helene Turner; M: Vernon Duke, Frank Tours; S: Ernest Zatorsky; CAST: Nancy Carroll (Peggy Gibson), Fredric March (Paul Lockridge), Frank Morgan (C. Morton Gibson), Glenn Anders (Ralph Le Sainte), Diane Ellis (Marjorie Gibson), Leonard Carey (Benham, il maggiordomo), Ollie Burgoyne (Pearl), Eric Blore, Charles Halton; P: Monta Bell per Paramount Pictures; 35mm. [announced duration 85’]. Actual duration 77 min. From: BFINA per concessione di Paramount. - Earphone commentary in Italian, Viewed at Cinema Lumière 2, Bologna, 4 July 2009. - A good print. - A strong and fascinating film. An important transitional film from the 1920s sophisticated comedy of manners to the 1930s screwball. This black comedy of manners starts with a suicide plan, examines the empty life of the idle rich, features charming girls who marry for money and find fulfillment in relationships with poor artists. It starts darkly, turns comical, and towards the end develops as a grim drama. - Fine dialogue, fine performances.

Nepokorjonnye

Непокорённые / [Lannistumattomat] / [The Unvanquished]. SU 1945. D: Marc Donskoï. Based on a story by Boris Gorbatov; SC: Boris Gorbatov, Marc Donskoï; DP: Boris (Benzion) Monastyrski; DP: Moriz Oumanski; M: Lev Shwartz; S: Alexandre Babi; CAST: Amvrossi Boutchma (Tarass), Véniamine Zouskine (il dottor Aron Davidovitch), Lidia Kartachova (Efrosinia), Daniil Sagal (Stepan), Evgueni Ponomarenko (Andreï), V. Slavina (Nastia), M. Samosvat (Antonina), Nikolaï Zimovets (Vassiliok), Mikhaïl Troïanovski (Nazare), Ekaterina Osmialovskaïa (Valia), Ivan Kononenko (Maxime), Samuïl Stollerman (l’artista), Alexeï Vatoulia (Ignat), Anton DounaÏski (Chtchovkounov) (Panas), G. Dolgov (Petouchkov), Mikhaïl Vyssotski (l’ingegnere tedesco), Viktor Khalatov (Porossenkov) (il comandante tedesco), Hans Klering (un luogotenente tedesco), Dmitri Kapka (il fabbro), Vadim Zakourenko (Lionka), Iounona Iakovtchenko (Mariïka), Liouda Lizenguevich (la nipotina del dottor Aron Davidovitch); PC: Studio di Kiev; 35mm. 2590 m. 94’. B&w. Russian version. From: Gosfilmofond. - Presenta Valérie Pozner, earphone commentary in Italian and English, viewed at Cinema Lumière 2, Bologna, 4 July 2009. - Catalogue: The story of a Ukrainian family of workers during German occupation, which the father, Taras, thinks he can ignore by barricading himself in his house. The other members of the family are slowly swept by the events and join the resistance movement, while the father looks after the daughter of Doctor Aron Davidovitch, who has been murdered in the Babi Yar massacre. - The only pre-1960s Soviet fiction film that directly deals with the Holocaust on Soviet territory. The sequence, though shortened, was not banned, despite the opposition of some members of the Artistic Council of the Committee on Cinema. - A brilliant image quality in the print, but some fuzz on the soundtrack. - The motto is from Taras Bulba (Gogol) which the son of the main family is shown to read, a familiar motif with Donskoy (The Gorky Trilogy). Another familiar Donskoy feature is a score by Lev Schwartz, always with Gorky references. - The theme of the story: Never surrender. - The Jewish doctor is the embodiment of dignity in the picture. - The legendary Babi Jar scene is at 44 min of the film. In this print the scene lasts ca two minutes. - The mission of the father: to save the life of the daughter of the doctor slaughtered in Babi Jar. - The thriller element: one of the villagers has turned into a Nazi collaborator, but he has a change of heart after Babi Jar. - Not one of the best films by Donskoy but an important resistance and Holocaust film with a strong personal commitment by the Odessa-born master.

The Younger Generation

[The film was never released in Finland]. US 1929 D: Frank Capra. Based on the play It Is to Laugh di Fannie Hurst; SC: Sonya Levien; Dial: Howard J. Green; DP: Ted Tetzlaff, Ben Reynolds; ED: Arthur Roberts; DP: Harrison Wiley; CAST: Jean Hersholt (Julius “Pa” Goldfish), Lina Basquette (Birdie Goldfish), Ricardo Cortez Morris Goldfish), Rosa Rosanova (Tilda “Ma” Goldfish), Rex Lease (Eddy Lesser), Sid Crossley (Butler), Martha Franklin (Mrs. Lesser), Julanne Johnston (Irma Striker), Jack Raymond (Pinsky), Otto Fries (Tradesman), Julie Swayne Gordon (Mrs. Striker); P: Frank Capra; 35mm. B&w. [announced 75’ a 24 fps.] actual duration 83 min. From: Sony Columbia. - Presenta Rita Belda, [piano music announced, but screened was] a sound print of Columbia's first sound film, earphone commentary in Italian, viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 4 July 2009. - A new print of the sound film important for the history of Columbia Pictues. - A brilliant print. - Frank Capra's contribution to the great Jewish film cycle of the 1920s, which started with Frank Borzage's Humoresque and culminated with The Jazz Singer. - Capra is clearly influenced by them, starting with the fascinating half-documentary opening in New York's Lower East Side. - This is a story of rags to riches, and of assimilation. - Money does not bring happiness. Everybody is sad under the rule of the young businessman son Morris Goldfish. - Lina Basquette is charming in this film. - This is not a very good film, and it lacks the passion of Humoresque and The Jazz Singer, but it is extremely important (as Joseph McBride writes) as Frank Capra's veiled autobiography of "the catastrophe of success".

L'Enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot

FR 1964-2009. (c) 2009 Lobster Films, France 2 Cinéma. D: Serge Bromberg, Ruxandra Medrea. Concept: Serge Bromberg, dai rushes di L’Enfer (1964) di Henri-Georges Clouzot; SC: Henri-Georges Clouzot, José-André Lacour, Jean Ferry; DP: Andréas Winding, Armand Thirard; S: William-Robert Sivel; CAST: Romy Schneider (Odette), Serge Reggiani (Marcel), Dany Carrel (Marylou), Jean-Claude Bercq (Martineau), Maurice Garrel (Dr. Arnoux), Mario David (Julien); crediti film 2009: Op.: Irina Lubtchansky, Jérôme Krumenacker; ED: Janice Jones; DP: Nicolas Faure; M: Bruno Alexiu; S: Jean Gargonne; CAST: Bérénice Bejo (Odette), Jacques Gamblin (Marcel); P: Serge Bromberg per Lobster Films/France 2 Cinéma/MK2; 35mm. [95’ announced], real duration 100 min. French version From: MK2 in collaborazione con Lobster Films. - English subtitles: Lenny Borger. - Presentano Gian Luca Farinelli, Serge Bromberg. Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 4 July 2009. - Via digital intermediate. - A fascinating study of the unfinished big budget film by Henri-Georges Clouzot, on the morbid jealousy felt by Marcel (Serge Reggiani) to his wife Odette (Romy Schneider). Unseen for 45 years, the 15 hours of camera negative consist of bits and pieces presented by Serge Bromberg in an imaginative way. Romy Schneider is in top form. This is also interesting as kinetic art, in the same way as Clouzot's La Prisonnière. Memorable and effective new music by Bruno Alexiu.

Cento anni fà 11 – Mondo perduto / Addio, cinema degli origini

A Hundred Years Ago 11 – Lost World / Farewell, Early Cinema!
Presenta Mariann Lewinsky. Grand piano: Neil Brand. Viewed in Bologna, Cinema Lumière 1, on 3 July 2009.

From Mariann Lewinsky's introduction:

"Lost world: the sea lost its sails, the rivers their washerwomen, the fields their shade trees, the streets their animals and pedestrians, the humans their co-existence with livestock and the grown-ups their games with children".

Farewell, early cinema: soon the cinema would lose some genres characteristic to the first decade.
The féerie would disappear.
Films with sound on disc came to an abrupt end when at their peak, the reason being overproduction and a consequent collapse in price, with production costs exceeding sales revenue.
Oskar Messter, until then the major German producer, retired from the market in the autumn 1909.

Latham’s Machine Being Towed in after His Wonderful Flight on Oct 22nd [GB] 1909. 35mm. 50 m. B&w. No intertitles. From: BFINA. - Non-fiction. - Ok print. - 2 min
Hunting Scenes. [DE 1909]. 35mm. 76 m. B&w. No intertitles. From: BFINA. - Non-fiction. - Low contrast print. - Dullish. - 4 min
En Camargue – Course de taureaux à Saintes Maries / A Bull Fight. FR 1909 ; PC: Pathé 35mm. 102 m. B&w. English intertitles. From: BFINA. - Non-fiction. - Bull fight without killing. - 6 min
Un monsieur qui a mangé du taureau. FR 1909. PC: Gaumont. 35mm. 180 m. B&w. From: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique. - Good image in the print - Fiction: comedy. - Les effets de la viande du taureau - Having eaten good beef the man attacks a woman like a bull - Matadors are alerted - A funny telegraph sequence, with the text of the message on the image - too repetitious - 11 min
Kobenhavn i sne / Eine Groszstadt in Schnee. DK 1909. PC: Nordisk. 35mm. 96 m. Deutsche Zwischentitel. B&w. From: BFINA - Non-fiction - beautiful winter images - skating on long skateways in the city - Alberti collects money for the unemployed - snow fight - 5 min
Un voyage à toute vapeur. NL 1909. 35mm. 62 m. Dutch intertitles. From: NFM. - Non-fiction. The print has a Dutch title. Sailing on an ocean liner in the grand style. 4 min
Comment se fait le fromage de Hollande / Herstellung von holländischer Käse. FR 1909. D: Alfred Machin. PC: Pathé 35mm. 200 m. B&w. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: BFINA. - Non-fiction. Ok print. A good documentary about all the phases, from dog-driven carts to images of the greatest cheese markets.
[Collection de cartes postales]. FR 1908? PC: Pathé. 35mm. 112 m. B&w. English intertitles. BFINA. - Fiction. A variation of the popular subject of an illicit love affair being revealed via photography. The setting is on the beach, and the revelation takes place as the wife browses a funny set of holiday pictures at the postcart stand. 5 min
Le Philtre maudit. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 183 m. Pochoir. From: AFF/CNC. - Fiction, historical, 1480, with féerie and ballet elements. Beautiful print with pochoir colour. 9 min
Porcelaines tendres. FR 1909. D: Emile Cohl. PC: Gaumont. 35mm. 65 m. B&w. From: AFF/CNC. - Animation. Porcelain figurines come to life. 4 min
Der Graf von Luxemburg – Mädel klein Mädel fein. AT 1909. M: Franz Lehar; SC: Alfred M. Willner; Testi: Robert Bodanzky; Conduzione: Franz Lehar; With: Louise Kartousch, Bernhard Bötel; Registrazione sonora: Gramophone, Vienna 16 novembre 1909. Fonoscena. Beta SP. Orig: 50 m. 5’. B&w. From: Filmarchiv Austria. - A charming phonoscene with the original music by Franz Lehar conducted by Lehar himself! 3 min
Schutzmann Lied aus Donnerwetter – Tadellos!. DE 1908. M: Paul Lincke; Testi: Julius Freund; Conduzione: Bruno Seidler-Winkler; Int: Henry Bender; PC: Messter; Registrazione sonora: Zonophon Fonoscena. Beta Sp. Orig: 48 m. 5’. B&w From: Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek. Digital reconstruction: Christian Zwarg. - Phonoscene. A boisterous, funny, parodic German "po-po-police" march, one of the funniest films of the festival. Sung by Henry Bender, accompanied by other marching police-clad fellows. "New insight into Kaiser Wilhelm's Berlin" (Mariann Lewinsky). 3 min

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Epic That Never Was

An account of the making of the unfinished film I, Claudius (GB 1937). - GB 1965. D: Bill Duncalf. SC: Bill Duncalf; Op.: Charles Parnall, David Findlay, David Samuelson, Alan Featherstone, Robert Kauffman; ED: Brian Keene; Narrator: Dirk Bogarde; WITH: Robert Graves, Josef von Sternberg, Merle Oberon (Messalina), Flora Robson (Imperatrice Livia), Emlyn Williams (Caligola), Eileen Corbett (segretaria di edizione), John Armstrong (costumista). In the vintage footage only: Charles Laughton (Claudius); PC: Bill Duncalf per BCC (TV) 35mm. 71’. From: collezionista. - Presenta Janet Bergstrom, earphone translation in Italian, viewed at Cinema Lumière 2, Bologna, 3 July 2009. - A rare 35mm screening of the fine documentary. - I had seen it before on Finnish television in January 1978 ("Minä Claudius", suurelokuva jota ei ollutkaan). - Now, with having seen many Sternberg prints with a duped look, the great revelation was to see this print which looked like it's struck from the original negative. At least, with access to the original negative. - Janet Bergstrom stressed that Sternberg himself was the main editor of his films; this is confirmed in the statement of Eileen Corbett in this documentary. - Thus, the edited footage of I, Claudius is literally the director's cut. - And also the definition of light in the negative has been approved by Sternberg, himself an ASC cinematographer.

Occupe-toi d'Amélie!

Occupati di Amelia FR/IT 1949 D: Claude Autant-Lara. Based on the play (1908) by Georges Feydeau; SC: Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost; DP: André Bac; ED: Madeleine Gug; DP: Max Douy, Jean André, Jacques Douy; M: René Cloërec; S: William Sivel; CAST: Danielle Darrieux (Amélie), Jean Desailly (Marcel), Carette (Pochet), Victor Guyau (Van Putzboum), Grégoire Aslan (il principe di Palestrie), Armontel (generale Koschnadieff), André Bervil (Etienne), Charles Deschamps (il sindaco), Louise Conte (Irène), Marcelle Arnold, Lucienne Granier, Primerose Perret, Colette Ripert, Robert Auboyneau, Richard Francoeur; PC: Lux C.C.F. (Paris)/Lux Film (Roma); 35 mm. 2374 m. 86’. French version. From: AFF/CNC. Presenta: Eric Le Roy, earphone commentary in English and Italian, viewed at Cinema Lumière 2, Bologna, 3 July 2009. - Eric Le Roy told that the rights to the film reverted to the Autant-Lara family, and because of that, the film was for a long time difficult to see. This print was made 30 years ago and had barely been screened. - Immaculate print. - My French is not good enough, and I tried to follow the earphone commentary, which was always a few sentences late, so I stopped. - I could see that this is a brilliant meta-film which moves on several dimensions with lightning speed and with a powerful sense of the absurd. I look forward to seeing it again with proper translation.

Dafnis kai Chloe

Δαφνισ και Χλοη / Daphnis and Chloe. GR 1931 D: Laskos Orestis; Based on the story by Longus; SC: Laskos Orestis; DP: Dimitris Meravidis; M: Agis Asteriadis; LOC: Lesbos. CAST: Apollon Marsyas (Dafni), Matli Lucy (Cloe), Avlonitis Ioannis (Dryantas), Georgiadis Giorgos (Lamonas), Korina (Lykainio), Vitsoris Timos, Raftopoulou Marika, Paleologos Costas; PC: Astra Film 35mm. 64’ a 24 f /s. B&w. Greek intertitles with English subtitles. From: Greek Film Archive. - Presenta: Maria Komninos, grand piano: Marco Dalpane. Viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 3 July 2009. - Following the introduction by Maria Komninos: The first Greek film with purely artistic aspirations and an accomplished personal form of expression. The young poet Laskos Orestis / Orestis Laskos [Orestis is the given name, Laskos the family name] (1908-1992) started his film career with a screen version of the pastoral romance from the 2nd century AD by Longus / Longos. The story of the two abandoned children who grow up as shepherds in the meadows of Lesbos. Their close friendship is shaken by the first signs of adolescent sexuality, and they pass various trials before their relationship reaches its natural conclusion. The cinematography takes advantage of the soft landscape of Lesbos. The quality of the images and the lyrical disposition of the director more than make up for the film's imperfections. In the bathing scenes the nudity of the young lovers is innocent and natural. After WWII the film was considered lost, only fragments survived in Greece. In 1990 a major part of the film was located in the USA. The restoration was completed in 1992 with the assistance of Orestis Laskos, who died a few days after the premiere of the reconstruction. - I saw the beginning only of this charming and lyrical film.

Un'ora con Georges Méliès (e con qualche Lobster)

An Hour of Pure Georges Méliès (and some Lobsters). Presenta, grand piano (good), last film's bonimenteur: Serge Bromberg. Viewed in Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 3 July 2009.

From the catalogue introduction: Georges Méliès was not only a pioneer of the cinema but also a last representative of the magic theatre and fantasy spectacle of the 19th century, the "long century" (Eric Hobsbawm), which ended in 1914. Méliès and his Star Films were at their peak in 1903-1904, and crucial for the cinema before 1910, but for legal reasons it has been difficult to screen his films. - NB. Having finished his film career Méliès burned all his negatives and prints. Most of the Méliès films are lost forever, and the rest can never be seen again in good prints.

All films: Country: France, PC: Star Film, D: Georges Méliès, 35 mm, from: Lobster Films

Le Cauchemar. 1896. - Passable b&w print - man asleep in bed, in his nightmare, transforms into a woman, etc. - 1'33"
Un homme de tête. 1898. - Passable b&w print - he severs his heads repeatedly, and the severed heads give a concert - 1'11"
L'Illusionniste double et la tête vivante. 1900. - Passable b&w print - the magician doubles himself and meets a magical vanishing lady who comes alive from a paper head - 1'25"
Le Livre magique. 1900. - B&w print from damaged source - the figures in a giant book come alive: Pierrot, Arlecchino, Pulcinella, Colombina, Cassandra - 3 min
Nouvelles luttes extravagantes. 1900. - Passable b&w print - buxom ladies wrestle in tights, transformations, disjecta membra, flattening as in animation - 3 min
Le Rêve du radjah. 1900. - Passable b&w print - The rajah's dream: changes in space, apparitions, transformations, fight with the pillow - 2'20"
Le Réveil d'un monsieur pressé. 1900. - The man wakes up, tries to dress, but his clothes undergo relentless transformations, exhausted, he returns to bed - 2 min
Le Sorcier, le prince et le bon génie. 1900. - Passable b&w print - two men and a woman - magic dresses, apparitions, disappearances, constant transformations - 2'08"
Le Tonneau des danaîdes. 1900. - B&w print - 8 woman and 1 man - the magic barrel can contain an endless number of women - 1'11"
Le Chapeau à surprise. 1901. - B&w print - a magician's miraculous table and trunk - a giant top hat - the magician conjures even his dinner guests from his trunk - even the painting on the wall comes alive - 2'33"
Excelsior! 1901. - Passable b&w print - the magician conjures a handkerchief from his assistant's mouth, and a bowl from the handkerchief - the magician uses his assistant as a water pump - he even gets fish to the bowl from his assistant's mouth - fire to the torch - the bowl turns into a shrimp and into a beautiful woman dressed as a clown - 2'04"
Nain et géant. 1901. - Passable b&w print - he doubles himself - one grows into a giant - the other shrinks into a midget - 0'51"
La Danseuse microscopique. 1902. - Passable b&w print - the bearded magician conjures eggs from his assistant's mouth - breaks the eggs into his top hat - a big egg grows even bigger - a dancing mini woman grows into life size - changes of form and place - 2'50"
L'Equilibre impossible. 1902. - Starting with images of classical antiquity - the acrobat GM multiplies into four identical copies, three of them performing acrobatics on his head and arms - 1'11"
Les Trésors de Satan. 1902. - Print has low contrast in the beginning - in the Satan's tresure cave - female assistants give the Devil a hard time - diabolic dance with a miser - 2'39"
L'Auberge du Bon Repos. 1903. - Passable b&w print - the slightly intoxicated traveller tries to go to sleep - but the portrait on the wall comes alive - his boots start to walk on the walls - the bed rocks like a boat on waves - strange faces on the walls haunt him - the Devil jumps in from the window - 5'30"
Le Monstre. 1903. - In Egypt, the sphinx, the pyramid - a living skeleton from the tomb becomes a ghost - who turns into a living woman, a temple beauty - and back to skeleton again - 2'31"
L'Oracle de Delphe. 1903. - In Egypt, in Delphi, the sphinxes come alive - a thief's head turns into that of a donkey - 1'40"
Le Chaudron infernal. 1903. - Colour print - Belphegor puts a woman into his devil's cauldron - the vapours of the cauldron turn into ghosts - 1'39"
La Fée carabosse. 1906. - Bonimenteur: Serge Bromberg - Colour print - a princess appears from a mirror - money turns into sand - the witch's revenge, magic dagger, magic smoke - chase by a magic broom at full moon - the shamrock: the ghosts disappear - a giant frog, an immense owl, a dragon, two snakes - a magic whisk, a magic sword - the prince met the princess - the flight in the sky - refuge by the sea - 9'58"

Cento anni fà 10 – Italia 1909

A Hundred Years Ago 10 – Italy 1909.
Presenta Giovanni Lasi. Grand piano: Antonio Coppola. Viewed in Bologna, Cinema Lumière 1, 2 July 2009.

Prima parte – Arte e storia: il destino italiano / First Part – Art and history: The destiny of Italy

Iulius Caesar. IT 1909. D: Giovanni Pastrone. Based on William Shakespeare. PC: Itala-Film 35mm. 255 m. B&w. Titres français. From: Cineteca di Bologna. - The assassination plot. The dream of Calpurnius. The shocked Marcus Antonius. Brutus and his friends evicted from Rome. The battle of Philippes. The death of Brutus. 12 min
Il piccolo garibaldino. IT 1909. PC: Cines. 35mm. Orig: 242 m. 224 m. B&w. [NOT: Deutsche Zwischentitel, as announced but Italian ones]. From: Cineteca Nazionale. - Restored in 2007, partly digitized, Desmet colour, ok print. - The boy wants to volunteer to fight with Garibaldi. The boy's dream projected on the wall. Meeting the father at the voluntary camp. A battle sequence. "I want to die next to him". The appearance of Garibaldi. A fairy-tale image of heaven. - 13 min
La signora dalle camelie. IT 1909. PC: Film d’Arte Italiana. Based on Alexandre Dumas, fils. 35mm. 343 m. B&w. No intertitles From: Museo Nazionale del Cinema. - The image is a bit dim, with a digital intermediate look. - 16 min
Spergiura! / Meineidig / The False Oath. IT 1909. PC: Ambrosio. Based on a novel by Honoré de Balzac (which one?). 35mm. 250 m. Tinted and toned. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek. - A beautiful image. - Historical drama.
Cretinetti re dei ladri. IT 1909. PC: Itala-Film. 35mm. 100 m. B&w and tinted. No intertitles. From: Cineteca di Bologna. - Comedy

The second part of the show I missed partly because the show was running late of schedule.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cento anni fà 9 – Sogni, incubi e censura

A Hundred Years Ago 9 – Dreams, Nightmares, and Censorship.
Presenta Mariann Lewinsky. Grand piano: Mariann Lewinsky e Donald Sosin. Viewed in Bologna, Cinema Lumière 1, 2 July 2009.

Prima parte: Invisibile – Visibile / First Part: Invisible – Visible

Le Voleur invisible. FR 1909. D: Segundo de Chomón. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 104 m. B&w. From: Lobster Films. - Ok print. - A fine and funny trick comedy based on the novel by H.G. Wells. Only the clothes make the hero visible. The policemen are baffled at his escape from his clothes. 6 min. *
Rêve d’une féministe. FR 1909. PC: Pathé [2643]. 35mm. 110 m. B&w. From: AFF/CNC. - Farce, satire. - An incomplete print from damaged material. - Buxomy heroine participates at an emancipatory congress. Members of the Femina Club beat up a male doll and then the women attack a man together. The man is made to wash the dishes. 4 min.
La Mort du Duc d’Enghien en 1804. FR 1909. D: Albert Capellani. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 275 m. B&w. From: Cin. fr. - Historical drama. - Brilliant print based on a nitrate negative. - Fine composition, fine sense of the image, fine sense of movement. - On the orders of Napoleon, the Duke of Enghien is abducted from his exile in Baden, court-martialled and executed in Vincennes in 1804. - His faithful dog follows him to the grave. - 15 min
[Le] Chien jaloux. FR 1909. PC: Gaumont [2304]. 35mm. 183 m. 6’40’’ a 24 fps. B&w. From: AFF/CNC. - Drama. The dog is jealous of the attention given to the child. The dog causes a fire but rescues the child from it. - 7 min
La Lampe. FR 1909. PC: Pathé [3244]. 35mm. 120 m. B&w. From: AFF/CNC. - Comedy about the transportation of a lamp. - Magic tricks such as being flattened under a steamroller and being pumped back to life by a passing cyclist. - 4 min

Seconda parte: Empatia fisica e repulsione / Second Part: Empathy and Repulsion

Comme on se rencontre. FR 1909. PC: Pathé Frères. 35mm. 100 m. B&w. No intertitles. From: Cineteca di Bologna. - A farce. - Ok quality of image, based on 28 mm material. - Face being cut by a barber's knife. - 6 min
La Cinématographie des microbes. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 180 m. B&w. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: BFINA. - Non-fiction. - A good print. - Rat tests, samples from the tail. - Footage through the microscope on microbes. - No music during this film: good. - 5 min
Le Moulin maudit / The Mill. FR 1909. D: Alfred Machin. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 130 m. Col. English intertitles. From: Cin. fr. Restored by AFF/CNC. - Tragedy, cruel revenge bordering on horror. - Subtle colour. - Johanna decides to marry the wealthy miller in preference to Wilhelm. Wilhelm visits the miller's wife. - A triangle drama. The husband catches the couple in flagranti. His revenge: he ties Wilhelm to the wing of the mill and his wife to a tree. He gets mad and jumps into the river. 9 min
Chasse à la panthère. FR 1909. D: Alfred Machin. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 131 m. Pochoir. From: Cineteca di Bologna. - Non-fiction. - A brilliant print with very effective colour. - A trap to the panther. The panther gets caught and is shot. - Not a particularly brave hunt. - The panther's jaws are opened, it is carried on a pole, and skinned. 8 min
NOT SHOWN: [Industrie de la peau des serpents au Java. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 152 m. From: Archives Gaumont-Pathé]

Vozvrashtshenije Neitana Bekkera

Возвращение Нейтана Беккера / Vozvrachtchenie Neitana Bekkera / Il ritorno di Nathan Becker. SU 1931. D: Boris Shpis, Rachel Milman. SC: Peretz Markish, Boris Shpis, Rachel Milman; DP: Evgueni Mikhailov; DP: Isaac Makhlis; M: Evguéni Broussilovski; S: V. Beervald; CAST: David Gutman (Nathan Becker), Solomon Mikhoels (Tsale Becker, suo padre), Elena Kachnitskaïa (Meika), Kador Ben-Salim (Jim), Boris Babotchkine (Mikoulitch), Anna ZarjitskaÏa (Nata); PC: Belgoskino; 35mm. 1910 m. 69’. B&w. Russian version. From: Gosfilmofond. - Presentano Vladimir Bosenko, Natacha Laurent e Valérie Pozner. Viewed at Lumière 2, Bologna, 2 July 2009. - This was the first Yiddish sound movie in its original Belarusian and Yiddish sound version. The film was re-recorded in Russian [in the 1960s?], and the re-recorded version was the one screened. - From the catalogue: After having emigrated to America at the beginning of the century, bricklayer Nathan Becker returns with a black American friend to his shtetl because of the 1929 economic crisis. Becker starts work in a building yard created under the First Five Year Plan. Becker is unable to keep up with a Soviet worker who uses scientific techniques while Becker's productivity is the result of capitalist exploitation. However, he is not totally defeated. American building techniques can be copied and put to better use by Soviet builders. The second film by Boris Shpis, a stage designer who joined FEKS and became an assistant to Kozintsev and Trauberg. David Gutman was a master of satirical sketch comedy. The screenplay was written by one of the greatest Soviet Yiddish poets, Peretz Markish. - I was able to see just the beginning of this strange and interesting film.

Gu ling jie shao nian sha ren shi jian / A Brighter Summer Day

TW 1991. D: Edward Yang. SC: Edward Yang, Yan Hangya, Yang Shunqing, Lai Mingtang; ED: Chen Bowen; DP: Zhang Huigong, Li Longyu; DP: Yu Weiyan, Edward Yang; CAST: Zhang Zhen (Xiao Si’r), Lisa Yang (Ming), Zhang Guozhu (Zhang Ju), Elaine Jin (Mrs Zhang), Wang Juan (la sorella maggiore), Ke Yulun, Tan Zhigang (Ma); PC: Yang and His Gang Filmmakers; 35 mm. 237’ Col. Mandarin and Taiwanese version with English subtitles From: Central Motion Picture Corporation. Restored in 2009 by the World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna - L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory, Central Motion Pictures Corporation and Digimax laboratory in Taipei, from the original 35mm camera and sound negatives provided by the Edward Yang Estate and preserved at the Central Motion Pictures Corporation. Due to the deterioration of the original camera n[... text missing from the programme catalogue]. - Presenta Pierre Rissient. Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 2 July 2009. - An impressive restoration, albeit via digital intermediate. - I watched the first two hours of the four-hour story. - It is a story of youth in Taipei, growing up, building gangs, forming a new kind of identity in the Taiwan cut off from mainland China, under the influence of American popular culture. - The tempo is slow, and I understand that there is a cumulative power for the one who watches the whole four hours. Due to festival fatigue I did not manage it this time.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Cento anni fà 8 – Danimarca & Nordisk 1909

A Hundred Years Ago 8 – Denmark & Nordisk 1909.
Presenta Thomas Christensen, grand piano: Antonio Coppola. Viewed in Bologna, Cinema Lumière 1, 1 July 2009.

1909 was the last year when the short format was dominant in Danish film production. Nordisk was the dominant company. The last three films were also recently highlighted at the memorable "The Last Cigarette" retrospective at the DFI.

Capriciosa. DK 1909. D: Viggo Larsen. CAST: Lauritz Olsen, Gustav Lund, Petrine Sonne; PC: Nordisk. 35mm. 132 m. 7’ a 16 fps. B&w. From: DFI / Printed in 1993. - A fairy-tale about a young sailor who is given a wallet which is always full. However, he may not give anyone else any money. - In Méliès style about the inexhaustible wallet. The return of the prodigal.
Ved havet. DK 1909. D: Ole Olsen. PC: Nordisk. 35mm. 229 m. 13’ a 16 fps. Tinted. Svenska mellantexter. From: DFI / Printed in 2003. - A compilation of two films, one non-fiction, another realistic fiction. - The might of the sea. The net thrown to the sea, the boat keels over, the men are at the mercy of the sea, the funeral (fine composition).
Une vie gaspillée. DK 1910 ca. PC: Continental. 35mm. 154 m. 7’ a 20 fps. Tinted. Titres français. From: DFI / Printed in 2006. - Tragedy. - Unidentified Danish film. - Beautiful composition. - The two worlds: falling into the depths of squalor, a miserable saloon with Tuborg and Carlsberg ads. - In snowstorm the woman staggers back to her parents but is dismissed. Morte oubliée de tous.
Vidundercigaren. DK 1909. PC: Nordisk. 35mm. Orig.: 106 m. 55 m. 3’ a 16 fps. B&w. No intertitles. From: DFI / Printed in 1993. - A comedy. - A puff from the magic cigar knocks everybody down.
Dobbeltgaengeren / Die verräterische Cigarette. DK 1910. D: Holger Rasmussen. CAST: Aage Hertel, Victor Fabian, Otto Lagoni, Einar Zangenberg; PC: Nordisk. 35mm. Orig: 317 m. 265 m. 14’ a 16 fps. Tinted. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: DFI / Printed in 2007. - A detective story, sharp composition, a beautiful telephone triple screen with bustle on the street in the middle panel. - The story is about burglary of a safe, with several thrills, including a final chase where a car is after a train.

Cento anni fà 7 – Il passato è una paese straniero

A Hundred Years Ago 7 – The Past Is a Foreign Country.
Presentano Mariann Lewinsky e Hiroshi Komatsu. Grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. Viewed in Bologna, Cinema Lumière, 1 July 2009.

The global view a hundred years ago. Filmed journeys were very popular before the age of mass tourism. The films were also documents of colonialism. In Japan the survival rate of early cinema is close to zero, but some rarities exist.

[NOT SHOWN: Nationale stoet ter verheerlijking vande inlijving van Congo bij België Antwerp (6.6.1909). BG 1909. 16mm. 60 m. B&w. From: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique]
Au Maroc: Tanger. FR 1908. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 120 m. B&w. From: NFM. - Non-fiction, transporting cattle by boat, black workers. Good print.
Dans l’Afrique mystérieuse. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 135 m. B&w. From: BFINA. - Non-fiction, black muslims bowing towards the Mecca, a black tribe armed with spears, gathering cocoanuts from the trees, transport by camels. Ok print.
Récolte, manipulation et exportation du café / Der Aufbruch zur Ernte. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 120 m. B&w. From: BFINA. - Marks of water damage in the original material. - Non-fiction, fascinating, in the jungle, all the phases of the production of coffee from the jungle to the coffee being served to a lady.
Tame Animals at Work / Wunder der Dressur. GB 1909. PC: Cricks and Martin. 35mm. 117 m. B&w. From: BFINA. - Print from damaged original material, titles missing. - At work: the pig, the camel, the dromedary, riding the ostrich, cattle, the zebra, the donkey, the horse, the yak, the lama.
ADDED: D'ou viennent les faux cheveux. FR 1909. Tinted. From: AFF/CNC. All the phases of the fabrication of a wig. Women's hair is cut, washed, sorted out, etc.
Revolución de Mayo. AR 1909. D: Mario Gallo. PC: Mario Gallo; 35mm [frammento]. ca. 75 m. B&w. From: Cinemateca Argentina. - This restoration reduced to be screenable on a widescreen format. - See my note from May 2009 in Buenos Aires.
Grande fête du cinquantenaire de Yokohama. FR 1909. PC: Pathé. 35mm. 83 m. Pochoir. From: BFINA. - From damaged material. - A parade film with archers and geishas.
Otello. IT 1909. D: Gerolamo Lo Savio. B.o. William Shakespeare. PC: Film d’Arte Italiana. 35mm. 228 m. Pochoir. English intertitles. From: National Film Center Tokyo, Komiya Collection. - A good print with fascinating colour and original intertitles. - Stately but not touching. - Reportedly the only surviving material of this film.
Asagao nikki / [Diary of a Morning Glory]. JP 1909. D: Shokichi Umeya. PC: M. Pathé. 16mm. ca. 60 m. B&w. From: Waseda University Tokyo. - From Hiroshi Komatsu's introduction: in Japan, the name Pathé was synonymous with the cinema, and that is why a Japanese company was named M. Pathé, although it had nothing to do with Charles Pathé. - A famous short story was the basis for a kabuki play and a puppet play. It is the tragedy of one who becomes blind. Rarely all acts are played. - [In the 1960s?] a 35mm nitrate print was found, a 16mm print was produced, and the nitrate was thrown away. In Bologna, the film is shown to a general audience for the first time in almost one hundred years. - Filmed kabuki theatre with long takes and long shots. The image is badly damaged.

Granitsa

Vaarallinen raja / Граница / Frontiera; SU 1933-35. D+SC: Mikhaïl Dubson. DP: Vladimir Rapoport - 1,2:1; DP: Efim Khiguer, Isaac Makhlis; M: Leib Pulver; S: Lev Valter; CAST: Veniamine Zouskine (il commesso Arié), Boris Poslavski (Novik), Elena Granovskaïa (Fleïga, sua moglie), S. Peïssina (la loro figlia), Nikolaï Valiano (Boris), Vera Bakun (Ania, la sorella di Boris), Vassili Toporkov (il calzolaio Tuvim, loro padre), P. Arones (il rabbino), T. Khazak (il cantore), Piotr Kirillov (Bart, il capo del contro-spionaggio), Nikolaï Tcherkassov (Gaïdul), Gueorgui Orlov (l’artigiano Moïsseï), Leonid Kmit (Vassia), Efim Althus, Sergueï Guerassimov, Emile Gal (gli artigiani); PC: Lenfilm; 35mm. 2600 m. 94’. B&w. Russian version. From: Gosfilmofond. - Presentano Natacha Laurent e Valérie Pozner, viewed at Cinema Lumière 2, Bologna, 1 July 2009. - Judging by the beginning, a good print, beautiful definition of light, a sepia tone, song in Hebrew in the synagogue scene. - The account of the religious service is parodic. - I saw but the beginning of this film. - From the catalogue: Mikhail Dubson was born in 1899 in Smolensk and lived in Germany, where he started career as a film director. Frontier was his first Soviet film. His original screenplay The Black Crowning wove two narratives together: one about a smallpox epidemic in a shtetl in Polish territory a few miles away from the Soviet border, which the rabbi wants to cure via an ancient ritual, the black crowning; the other one follows the trials and tribulations of a Jewish revolutionary arrested by the police while trying to cross the border. The main character, Ari, is an assistant of a factory owner, and his experience with the illegal immigrant slowly converts him to the cause of the revolution. The film was made in 1933 and banned, but Dubson was allowed to revise it. He cut mostly the first narrative, added poor worker characters in the shtetl, emphasized the political awakening of the main character and gave the film a more optimistic tone; with these changes the film was finally released, two years after the first version's completion.

Ladies of Leisure

[The film was never released in Finland]. US 1930. D: Frank Capra. From the play Ladies of the Evening di David Belasco e Milton Herbert Gropper; SC: Jo Swerling; DP: Joseph Walker; ED: Maurice Wright; DP: Harrison Wiley; M: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; S: John P. Livadary, Harry Blanchard; CAST: Barbara Stanwyck (Kay Arnold), Ralph Graves (Jerry Strong), Lowell Sherman (Bill Standish), Marie Prevost (Dot Lamar), Nance O’Neill (Mrs. Strong), George Fawcett (Mr. Strange), Juliette Compton (Claire Collins), Johnnie Walker (Charlie), Charles Butterworth; P: Frank Capra per Columbia Pictures; 35mm. 99’. B&w. From: Sony Columbia. - E-subtitles in Italian (Sub-Ti). Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, 1 July 2009. - A brilliant print. - Essential Capra. - Barbara Stanwyck brings her special presence to one of her first starring roles and to her first Frank Capra film of five (Ladies of Leisure, Miracle Woman, Forbidden, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, Meet John Doe). - Jo Swerling is the screenwriter, also he in one of his first films and in his first Frank Capra film of seven. - Lots of wisecracking, tough surfaces barely hiding a great vulnerability. - "Look through the ceiling". "The ceiling seems to be your limit". "You give up too easily". - I had to go in the middle of the film, but this picture would be worthy to revisit.

The Way of the Strong

Nyrkkivalta. US 1928 D: Frank Capra. Based on a story by: William M. Counselman; SC: William Counselman, Peter Milne; DP: Ben Reynolds; AD: Peter Milne; WITH: Mitchell Lewis (“Handsome” “Pretty Boy” Williams), Alice Day (Nora), Margaret Livingston (Marie), Theodore von Eltz (Dan), William Norton Bailey (Tiger Louie); P: Harry Cohn per Columbia Pictures; 35mm. D.: 65’ a 24 f/s. From: Sony Columbia. - Presenta Rita Belda, grand piano Marco Dalpane, earphone commentary in Italian, viewed at Cinema Lumière 1, Bologna, 1 July 2009. - Based on a 4K scan of a short version of the film. - A gangster film by Frank Capra, the story of the scarfaced crime lord who falls in love with a blind violinist. - The fourth film directed by Capra in 1928. - The idea of the film is based on the transforming power of music, but the live pianist ignored both this basic concept and the explicit music cues seen on screen (Liebestraum by Franz Liszt). - I did not see this film till the end.