Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Herz aus Glas / Heart of Glass

Lasisydän / Hjärta av glas. DE 1976. PC: Werner Herzog Filmproduktion (München). P+D: Werner Herzog. SC: Herbert Achternbusch – based on his text (later published as a part of the novel Die Stunde des Todes). DP: Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein - 1,1:66 - Eastmancolor. AD: Henning von Gierke, Cornelius Siegel. M: Popol Vuh, Studio der Frühen Musik. ED: Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus, Angelika Dreis. C: Josef Bierbichler (Hias, shepherd), Stefan Guttler (owner of the glassworks), Clemens Scheitz (Adalbert, servant), Volker Prechtel (Wudy), Sepp Müller (Ascherl), Sonja Skiba (Ludmilla), Brunhilde Klöckner (Paulin), Wolf Albrecht (Sam), Thomas Binkley (lute player), Sterling Jones, Richard Levitt (musicians), Andrea von Ramm (singer), Janos Fischer (Ägide), Wilhelm Friedrich (factory owner's father), Edith Gratz (wife of the innkeeper), Werner Lederle (innkeeper), Alois Hruschka (Gigl, glass blower). Telecasts in Finland: 1.4.2007, 1.7.2009 YLE Teema. 94 min. A SFI Filmarkivet print with Swedish subtitles by [Gun Muresso], screened with e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Cinéma Deleuze), 26 Feb 2013.

The name of the film refers to Stefan Guttler's remark to Hias in prison: "Du hast ein Herz aus Glas" - "your heart is made of glass".

Synopsis from Filmportal: "A glassworks in the Bavarian forest in the 19th century. The foreman Mühlbeck dies, and with him the secret formula for ruby glass. Now, the psychic shepherd Hias is supposed to solve the riddle but instead has visions of catastrophes that get bleaker by the day. The factory owner, too, tries to find out the formula for ruby glass and believes that human blood is an indispensable ingredient. He then stabs his maid Ludmilla and sets the glassworks on fire. The other villagers and, finally, Hias himself also go insane."

"Werner Herzog shot this mystic Heimatfilm almost exclusively with hypnotized actors." (Filmportal)

Herzog meets Achternbusch.

The two wild poets of Bavaria work together very well.

Achternbusch provides the words, including the incredible prophesies of the visionary shepherd.

Herzog provides the imagery, starting with the Alps, above the clouds, and ending in the ocean where the hermit islanders embark on a quest for the end of the world to see with their own eyes whether there is truly an abyss there. These images are in the dimension of the sublime in the classical sense of the world. "One can see it as a token of hope that the birds followed them to the high seas".

I like the words, I like the music (Popol Vuh and Studio der frühen Musik), and I like the images.

Hypnotizing actors sounds intriguing but does not work at all. It is impossible to relate to any of the characters except to the prophetic shepherd.

The print is good and gives an authentic-seeming impression of the colour world.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Peter von Bagh: Cinefilia (a book)

Peter von Bagh: Cinefilia: Filmihulluuden syvempi olemus. Ulkomailla julkaistut esseet 1989-2012 [Cinephilia: The Deeper Essence of Movie Madness. Essays published abroad 1989-2012]. Edited and translated into Finnish by Sampsa Laurinen. Helsinki: Johnny Kniga, 2013.

Peter von Bagh has been at his best as a writer in his recent works, my favourite among them being the giant Tähtien kirja [2006, The Book of the Stars, a thousand pages in small type, mostly newly written material].

Peter has written more than 30 books, many of them large in scope and format (History of the Cinema, co-writer in The Golden Book of the Finnish Hit Songs, Films Bigger Than Life I-II, The Golden Book of the Finnish Cinema, The Mirror without a Memory [on compilation films], The Book of the Stars, The Blue Song [history of the arts in independent Finland], The Story of the Century [a history of the documentary film], The Origin of the Genres, Sodankylä Forever... )

Those books are in Finnish, but all would deserve to be translated.

Peter has also published many essays abroad: in Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, the United States, Japan, Spain, Portugal... Nuances and dimensions of his ideas and poetic style tend to get lost in other languages. Now those essays are being published for the first time in glorious Finnish, expertly translated by Sampsa Laurinen, catching perfectly Peter's unique and idiosyncratic style.

There is a unity in these writings because they are all reflections of an original concept of the history of the cinema, understood from the viewpoint of a philosophy of history.

Secondly, there is a unity in these essays because they are all part of a particularly personal story. This book has elements of an autobiography of a cinephile. The cinema is like a big bang in the universe of Peter's life and times, and his project is to explore its galaxies and supernovas. But even trivial particles are reflections of big events, and sometimes they express more than the blatantly obvious titles.

The expression that came to my mind while reading this book is "Sydämeni laulu" [The Song of My Heart], the name of a poem by Aleksis Kivi in his novel Seven Brothers.

This book is also Peter's counterpart to Truffaut's The Films in My Life whose motto was adapted from Henry Miller: "these films were alive, and they spoke to me".

The 85th Academy Awards (for the best films of 2012 in the United States)

The 85th Academy Awards ceremony, organized by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, honouring the best films of 2012, took place on 24 February, 2013, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, hosted by Seth MacFarlane.

Best Picture
Argo – Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney

Amour – Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, and Michael Katz
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, and Michael Gottwald
Django Unchained – Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, and Pilar Savone
Les Misérables – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, and Cameron Mackintosh
Life of Pi – Gil Netter, Ang Lee, and David Womark
Lincoln – Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy
Silver Linings Playbook – Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, and Jonathan Gordon
Zero Dark Thirty – Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, and Megan Ellison

Best Director
Ang Lee – Life of Pi

Michael Haneke – Amour
David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln as Abraham Lincoln

Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook as Pat Solitano, Jr.
Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables as Jean Valjean
Joaquin Phoenix – The Master as Freddie Quell
Denzel Washington – Flight as William "Whip" Whitaker

Best Actress
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook as Tiffany Maxwell

Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty as Maya
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour as Anne Laurent
Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild as Hushpuppy
Naomi Watts – The Impossible as Maria Bennett

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained as Dr. King Schultz

Alan Arkin – Argo as Lester Siegel
Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook as Pat Solitano, Sr.
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master as Lancaster Dodd
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln as Thaddeus Stevens

Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables as Fantine

 Amy Adams – The Master as Peggy Dodd
Sally Field – Lincoln as Mary Todd Lincoln
Helen Hunt – The Sessions as Cheryl Cohen-Greene
Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook as Dolores Solitano

Best Writing – Original Screenplay
Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino

Amour – Michael Haneke
Flight – John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty – Mark Boal

Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Argo – Chris Terrio from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez & The Great Escape by Joshuah Bearman

Beasts of the Southern Wild – Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin from Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar
Life of Pi – David Magee from Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Lincoln – Tony Kushner from Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell from The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Best Animated Feature
Brave – Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Frankenweenie – Tim Burton
ParaNorman – Sam Fell and Chris Butler
The Pirates! Band of Misfits – Peter Lord
Wreck-It Ralph – Rich Moore

Best Foreign Language Film
Amour (Austria)

 Kon-Tiki (Norway)
No (Chile)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
War Witch (Canada)

Best Documentary – Feature
Searching for Sugar Man – Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

5 Broken Cameras – Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers – Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, and Estelle Fialon
How to Survive a Plague – David France and Howard Gertler
The Invisible War – Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering

Best Documentary – Short Subject
Inocente – Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

Kings Point – Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
Mondays at Racine – Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
Open Heart – Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Redemption – Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill

Best Live Action Short Film
Curfew – Shawn Christensen

Asad – Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
Buzkashi Boys – Sam French and Ariel Nasr
Death of a Shadow (Dood Van Een Schaduw) – Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
Henry – Yan England

Best Animated Short Film
Paperman – John Kahrs

Adam and Dog – Minkyu Lee
Fresh Guacamole – PES
Head over Heels – Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly
The Longest Daycare – David Silverman

Best Original Score
Life of Pi – Mychael Danna

Anna Karenina – Dario Marianelli
Argo – Alexandre Desplat
Lincoln – John Williams
Skyfall – Thomas Newman

Best Original Song
"Skyfall" from Skyfall – Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

"Before My Time" from Chasing Ice – J. Ralph
"Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from Ted – Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane
"Pi's Lullaby" from Life of Pi – Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashri
"Suddenly" from Les Misérables – Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer, and Alain Boublil

Best Sound Editing
Skyfall – Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty – Paul N. J. Ottosson

Argo – Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained – Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi – Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

Best Sound Mixing
Les Misérables – Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, and Simon Hayes

Argo – John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Jose Antonio Garcia
Life of Pi – Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill, and Drew Kunin
Lincoln – Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Ronald Judkins
Skyfall – Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, and Stuart Wilson

Best Production Design
Lincoln – Rick Carter and Jim Erickson

Anna Karenina – Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent, and Simon Bright
Les Misérables – Eve Stewart and Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi – David Gropman and Anna Pinnock

Best Cinematography
Life of Pi – Claudio Miranda

Anna Karenina – Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained – Robert Richardson
Lincoln – Janusz Kamiński
Skyfall – Roger Deakins

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Les Misérables – Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Hitchcock – Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, and Martin Samuel
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater, and Tami Lane

Best Costume Design
Anna Karenina – Jacqueline Durran

Les Misérables – Paco Delgado
Lincoln – Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror – Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman – Colleen Atwood

Best Film Editing
Argo – William Goldenberg

Life of Pi – Tim Squyres
Lincoln – Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook – Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty – Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Best Visual Effects
Life of Pi – Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan de Boer, and Donald R. Elliott

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, and R. Christopher White
Marvel's The Avengers – Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, and Dan Sudick
Prometheus – Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, and Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman – Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould, and Michael Dawson

Saturday, February 23, 2013

8-pallo / [8-Ball]

8-ball. FI © 2013 Blind Spot Pictures Oy / Mjölk Oy. P: Marko Antila, Tero Kaukomaa. D: Aku Louhimies. SC: Jari Olavi Rantala - based on the novel Elävien kirjoihin (2011) by Marko Kilpi. DP: Mika Orasmaa - camera equipment: P. Mutasen Elokuvakonepaja Oy - Post-production: James Post Oy, producer: Petteri Linnus - colour def: Adam Vandor - DCP mastering: Tommi Gröhn. AD: Petri Neuvonen. Cost: Anne-Maria Ylitapio. Makeup: Mari Vaalasranta. VFX: Troll VFX. "Paradiset" (Rauli Somerjoki, Arja Tiainen, Swedish lyrics by Bo Sundström) sung by Jessica Grabowsky. "Ihanaa Leijonat, ihanaa" perf. A-Tyyppi. "Vapaus käteen jää" (Jere Marttila / Rauli Eskolin, lyr. Elli Haloo) perf. Haloo Helsinki! S: Kirka Sainio. ED: Samu Heikkilä. Thanks: Pohjois-Savon poliisilaitos [The Police Dept. of Northern Savo]. C: Jessica Grabowsky (Pike), Eero Aho (Lalli), Pirkka-Pekka Petelius (Elias Kaski), Mikko Leppilampi (Olli Repo). With: Jakob Öhrman (Limppu), Cecilia McMillan (Aleksandra), Rosa Salomaa (Tiina), Manna Jäntti (Krisu), Max Ovaska (Tärpätti), Mikko Kouki (Halonen), Lenna Kuurmaa (Anna), Johanna Af Schulten (Riitta), Kristo Salminen (Ilkka), Angelina Ilkkanen (Emma), Kaija Pakarinen (prison guard), Pekka Valkeejärvi (police chief), Kari Ketonen (Ivakka), Antero Vartia (Savela), Elina Pekkanen (model), Zaida Hämäläinen (Halonen's girlfriend), Jenny Rostain (the redhead), Jenni Utriainen (the blonde), Sue Willberg (doctor), Marko Kilpi (the policeman at the monitor), Tea Khalifa (Päivi), Sami Kämäräinen, Janne Tikka, Tommi Lukkari (policemen). Loc: Kuopio. Co-Production in Lissabon: SouthWest Productions. In Finnish with some Swedish (Pike's first language). 107 min. Released by Nordisk with Swedish subtitles by Saliven Gustavsson. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 23 Feb 2013 (premiere weekend).

"It's never too late" (the motto of the film).

Official synopsis: "Pike, the mother of a little baby girl, is released from prison. Her past is tattered, her future uncertain. Pike has firmly decided to get a grip on a new life. She cannot afford to commit mistakes anymore."

"Lalli, her ex-boyfriend, returning from abroad, messes up Pike's plans. Passion returns with Lalli, but he also opens up a window into a past into which Pike no longer wishes to return."

"Interested in Pike's future is also the police detective Elias who is committed to ensure that his former customer can survive in her new life. Or might it be a case of love? His colleague Olli, assigned to be his partner in the crime investigation department, is recuperating from a serious violent assault on duty, and he is also burdened by a recent divorce."

"Where Pike would want to realize her opportunity to start a new life, Olli would want to have his previous life back. There is no returning to the past, and no way of forgetting it. One has to face the future." (Official synopsis, my translation)

I have not read Marko Kilpi's acclaimed novel on which this movie is based. Marko Kilpi is a senior police officer in the city of Kuopio, and much of his crime fiction is inspired by reality.

This novel was inspired by a single image, a young mother with her baby behind prison bars. This is also a powerful vision in the movie. It is easy to understand that having a baby can change a young woman into a tigress who is capable of anything to break out of a vicious circle of crime.

The lack of a social network, the dearth of choices of jobs, having to live in a modern world without a mobile phone, a bank account or a computer, visiting the supermarket with a special document from the social security office: in such circumstances it would almost seem that there is no way out.

Lalli introduces a dimension of insane violence in the movie. The violence is relentless, the drug fiends are seen as a negation of humanity, as human refuse. They are figures of absolute evil. 8-pallo belongs to the most violent crime films in the history of Finnish cinema. In this movie there are more violent deaths than in a year in the district of Pohjois-Savo.

The sense of even more profound frustration, depression and despair is evident also in the account of the two policemen, Elias Kaski and Olli Repo. Their figures are pale, they seem devoid of vitality, they are like sleepwalkers in a world of nightmare. The question whether Elias Kaski has stolen drug money remains unanswered in the conclusion where Pike meets Elias on the beach. They have managed to escape from the world of crime, but is it a happy ending?

8-pallo is not a movie of psychological realism. It is an expressionistic, starkly stylized movie. Jessica Grabowsky, excellent and full of vitality in Där vi en gång gått / Missä kuljimme kerran / Where Once We Walked, is totally different here, a ghostly figure who is fighting to return to life again.

As a view of the city of Kuopio 8-pallo is as intentionally reduced as Vuosaari was as an account of the real place.

Like Vuosaari, 8-pallo is about the death drive.

Visually, 8-pallo is a drab, dreary, bleak, and pallid vision of a world of squalor, refuse, insanity, violence and humiliation. This sense seeps also into the life of the policemen. The digital view is adequate to the vision intended.

Palmarès 2013 - 38ème cérémonie des César

Palmarès 2013 - 38ème cérémonie des César - 22 February, 2013. There are links to clips of every nominated film on the Académie des César website.

Meilleure Actrice
[Gagnant] Emmanuelle Riva / Amour

Marion Cotillard / De rouille et d'os
Catherine Frot / Les saveurs du Palais
Noémie Lvovsky / Camille Redouble
Corinne Masiero / Louise Wimmer
Léa Seydoux / Les Adieux à la Reine
Hélène Vincent / Quelques heures de printemps

Meilleur Acteur
[Gagnant] Jean-Louis Trintignant / Amour

Jean-Pierre Bacri / Cherchez Hortense
Patrick Bruel / Le Prénom
Denis Lavant / Holy Motors
Vincent Lindon / Quelques heures de printemps
Fabrice Luchini / Dans la maison
Jérémie Renier / Cloclo

Meilleure Actrice dans un Second Rôle
[Gagnant] Valérie Benguigui / Le Prénom

Judith Chemla / Camille Redouble
Isabelle Huppert / Amour
Yolande Moreau / Camille Redouble
Edith Scob / Holy Motors

Meilleur Acteur dans un Second Rôle
[Gagnant] Guillaume de Tonquedec / Le Prénom

Samir Guesmi / Camille Redouble
Benoît Magimel / Cloclo
Claude Rich / Cherchez Hortense
Michel Vuillermoz / Camille Redouble

Meilleur Espoir Féminin
[Gagnant] Izia Higelin / Mauvaise Fille

Alice de Lencquesaing / Au galop
Lola Dewaere / Mince alors !
Julia Faure / Camille Redouble
India Hair / Camille Redouble

Meilleur Espoir Masculin
[Gagnant] Matthias Schoenaerts / De rouille et d'os

Félix Moati / Télé Gaucho
Kacey Mottet Klein / L'enfant d'en haut
Pierre Niney / Comme des frères
Ernst Umhauer / Dans la maison

Meilleur Scénario Original
[Gagnant] Michael Haneke / Amour

Bruno Podalydès, Denis Podalydès / Adieu Berthe ou l'enterrement de mémé
Noémie Lvovsky, Florence Seyvos, Maud Ameline, Pierre-Olivier Mattei / Camille Redouble
Leos Carax / Holy Motors
Florence Vignon, Stéphane Brizé / Quelques heures de printemps

Meilleure Adaptation
[Gagnant] Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain / De rouille et d'os

Lucas Belvaux / 38 témoins
Gilles Taurand, Benoit Jacquot / Les Adieux à la Reine
François Ozon / Dans la maison
Matthieu Delaporte, Alexandre de la Patellière / Le Prénom

Meilleure Musique Originale
[Gagnant] Alexandre Desplat / De rouille et d'os

Bruno Coulais / Les Adieux à la Reine
Gaëtan Roussel, Joseph Dahan / Camille Redouble
Philippe Rombi / Dans la maison
Rob, Emmanuel d'Orlando / Populaire

Meilleur Son
[Gagnant] Antoine Deflandre, Germain Boulay, Eric Tisserand / Cloclo

Brigitte Taillandier, Francis Wargnier, Olivier Goinard / Les Adieux à la Reine
Guillaume Sciama, Nadine Muse, Jean-Pierre Laforce / Amour
Brigitte Taillandier, Pascal Villard ,Jean-Paul Hurier / De rouille et d'os
Erwan Kerzanet, Josefina Rodriguez, Emmanuel Croset / Holy Motors

Meilleure Photo
[Gagnant] Romain Winding / Les Adieux à la Reine

Darius Khondji / Amour
Stéphane Fontaine / De rouille et d'os
Caroline Champetier / Holy Motors
Guillaume Schiffman / Populaire

Meilleur Montage
[Gagnant] Juliette Welfling / De rouille et d'os

Luc Barnier / Les Adieux à la Reine
Monika Willi / Amour
Annette Dutertre, Michel Klochendler / Camille Redouble
Nelly Quettier / Holy Motors

Meilleurs Costumes
[Gagnant] Christian Gasc / Les Adieux à la Reine

Pascaline Chavanne / Augustine
Madeline Fontaine / Camille Redouble
Mimi Lempicka / Cloclo
Charlotte David / Populaire

Meilleurs Décors
[Gagnant] Katia Wyszkop / Les Adieux à la Reine

Jean-Vincent Puzos / Amour
Philippe Chiffre / Cloclo
Florian Sanson / Holy Motors
Sylvie Olivé / Populaire

Meilleur Réalisateur
[Gagnant] Michael Haneke / Amour

Benoit Jacquot / Les Adieux à la Reine
Noémie Lvovsky / Camille Redouble
François Ozon / Dans la maison
Jacques Audiard / De rouille et d'os
Leos Carax / Holy Motors
Stéphane Brizé / Quelques heures de printemps

Meilleur Film de Court Métrage
[Gagnant] Le cri du homard / réalisé par Nicolas Guiot, produit par Fabrice Préel-Cléach

Ce n'est pas un film de cow-boys / réalisé par Benjamin Parent, produit par David Frenkel, Arno Moria
Ce qu'il restera de nous / réalisé par Vincent Macaigne, produit par Jean-Christophe Reymond
Les meutes / réalisé par Manuel Schapira, produit par Jérôme Bleitrach
La vie parisienne / réalisé par Vincent Dietschy, produit par Alain Benguigui, Thomas Verhaeghe, Nicolas Leprêtre

Meilleur Film d'Animation
[Gagnant] Ernest et Célestine / réalisé par Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar, Stéphane Aubier, produit par Didier Brunner, Henri Magalon

Edmond était un âne / réalisé par Franck Dion, produit par Francine Langdeau
Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes / réalisé par Michel Ocelot, produit par Didier Brunner
Oh Willy... / réalisé par Emma de Swaef, Marc Roels, produit par Nidia Santiago
Zarafa / réalisé par Rémi Bezançon, Jean-Christophe Lie, produit par Valérie Schermann, Christophe Jankovic

Meilleur Film Documentaire
[Gagnant] Les invisibles / réalisé par Sébastien Lifshitz, produit par Bruno Nahon

Bovines ou la vraie vie des vaches / réalisé par Emmanuel Gras, produit par Nicolas Anthomé, Jérémie Jorrand
Duch, le maître des forges de l'Enfer / réalisé par Rithy Panh, produit par Catherine Dussart
Journal de France / réalisé par Claudine Nougaret, Raymond Depardon, produit par Claudine Nougaret
Les nouveaux chiens de garde / réalisé par Gilles Balbastre, Yannick Kergoat, produit par Jacques Kirsner

Meilleur Premier Film
[Gagnant] Louise Wimmer / réalisé par Cyril Mennegun, produit par Bruno Nahon

Augustine / réalisé par Alice Winocour, produit par Isabelle Madelaine, Émilie Tisné
Comme des frères / réalisé par Hugo Gélin, produit par Danièle Delorme, Laetitia Galitzine, Hugo Gélin
Populaire / réalisé par Régis Roinsard, produit par Alain Attal
Rengaine / réalisé par Rachid Djaïdani, produit par Anne-Dominique Toussaint, Rachid Djaïdani

Meilleur Film Étranger
[Gagnant] Argo / réalisé par Ben Affleck, distribution France WARNER BROS

À perdre la raison / réalisé par Joachim Lafosse, coproduction France LES FILMS DU WORSO (Sylvie Pialat)
Bullhead / réalisé par Michael R. Roskam, distribution France AD VITAM
Laurence Anyways / réalisé par Xavier Dolan, coproduction France MK2 (Nathanaël Karmitz, Charles Gillibert)
Oslo, 31 août / réalisé par Joachim Trier, distribution France MEMENTO FILMS DISTRIBUTION
La part des anges / réalisé par Ken Loach, coproduction France WHY NOT PRODUCTIONS (Pascal Caucheteux, Grégoire Sorlat)
Royal Affair / réalisé par Nikolaj Arcel, distribution France JOUR2FÊTE / CHRYSALIS FILMS

Meilleur Film
[Gagnant] Amour / produit par Margaret Menegoz, réalisé par Michael Haneke

Les Adieux à la Reine / produit par Jean-Pierre Guérin, Kristina Larsen, réalisé par Benoit Jacquot
Camille Redouble / produit par Jean-Louis Livi, Philippe Carcassonne, réalisé par Noémie Lvovsky
Dans la maison / produit par Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, réalisé par François Ozon
De rouille et d'os / produit par Pascal Caucheteux, Grégoire Sorlat, réalisé par Jacques Audiard
Holy Motors / produit par Martine Marignac, Maurice Tinchant, réalisé par Leos Carax
Le Prénom / produit par Dimitri Rassam, Jérôme Seydoux, réalisé par Matthieu Delaporte, Alexandre de la Patellière

César d'Honneur
[Gagnant] Kevin Costner

Friday, February 22, 2013

Anssi Mänttäri: How My Films Were Made (a lecture)

Anssi Mänttäri: Miten elokuvani ovat syntyneet? Lecture in the series organized by the HYY:n Elokuvaryhmä / The Film Society of The Student Union of the University of Helsinki. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 22 Feb 2013.

Feature-length movies and series: Pyhä perhe / [The Holy Family] (1976), Toto (SMK = under the pseudonym Suvi-Marja Korvenheimo, 1982), Regina ja miehet / [Regina and Men] (SMK, 1983), Huhtikuu on kuukausista julmin / [April Is the Cruellest of Months] (SMK, 1983), Kello / [The Clock] (1984), Rakkauselokuva / [The Love Film] (1984), Viimeiset rotannahat [The Last Rat's Skins] (1985), Ylösnousemus [Resurrection] (1985), Morena (1986), Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan / [The King Goes Forth to France] (1986), Salama (dok, 1986), Näkemiin, hyvästi [Farewell, Goodbye] (1986), Tyttö ja bassokitara [The Girl and the Bass Guitar] (tvm, 1987), Isku suoneen I–III / [A Stab into the Vein] (tv-sarja, 1988), Isku vasten kasvoja / [A Slap in the Face] (tvm, 1988), Jumalia ei uhmata / [Don't Defy Gods] (tvm, 1988), Anni tahtoo äidin / [Anni Wants a Mother] (1989), Terveysasema / [Health Care Center] (tv-sarja, 1989), Annabel Lee (Tvm, 1990), Lumisade / [Snowfall] (tvm, 1990), Muuttolinnun aika / [Bird of Passage] (1991), Petterin parempi elämä / [The Better Life of Peter] (tvm), Mestari / [The Master] (1992), Marraskuun harmaa valo / [The Grey Light of November] (1993), Kake 40 v. / [Kake, Forty Years Old] (tvm, 1994), Mahdottoman tavallinen Jorma Laine / [The Impossibly Regular Jorma Laine] (tv-sarja, 1995), Jäähyväiset ilman suudelmia / [A Farewell without Kisses] (tv-sarja, 1995), Kuubalainen serenadi / [A Cuban Serenade] (dok, 1997), Romana (dok, 1997), Palkkasoturi / [Soldier of Fortune] (1997), Kulttuurikolari Mosambikissa / [A Cultural Clash in Mosambik] (1999), Jäähyväiset ilman kyyneleitä / [A Farewell without Tears] (tv-sarja, 1999), Dirlandaa (tv-sarja ja elokuva, 2000), Joensuun Elli / [Elli from Joensuu] (2004), Sata vuotta, tuhat taistelua – Suomen Elintarviketyöläisten Liitto 100 vuotta / [A Hundred Years, a Thousand Fights - the Centenary of the Finnish Food Workers' Union] (dok, 2005), Varpunen jouluyönä / [A Sparrow on Christmas Night] (2005), What Is This? – Eero Koivistoinen ja musiikki / [What Is This? - Eero Koivistoinen and the Music] (dok, 2008), Tarkastaja / [The Inspector] (2011), Saunavieras / [The Sauna Guest] (2012)

Anssi Mänttäri (*1941, Sippola) is one of the most experienced veterans in the Finnish cinema, active since over 50 years. He got started during the last years of the studio era in the early 1960s and proceeded to establish his own production companies in the 1980s. He has directed some 20 theatrical feature films, usually wearing three hats as screenwriter, producer, and director, and sometimes a fourth one as an actor. He has been equally productive in television. The budget has been low, and the issues have been big. Mänttäri's oeuvre is an original vision about his life and times, the state of the society, the relations between men and women and their children. He has discussed alcoholism (Pyhä perhe), swinish men, female tv journalists and Bohemian writers (in the "Suvi-Marja Korvenheimo" trilogy Toto, Regina ja miehet, Huhtikuu on kuukausista julmin), the failure of rapport between men and women (Kello), childlessness (Rakkauselokuva), neo-Bohemian life (Viimeiset rotannahat, Morena), fake suicide (Ylösnousemus), violence and power in a historical drama by Paavo Haavikko (Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan), a legendary modern Finnish writer (Salama), the situation of a single parent (Näkemiin, hyvästi), a single father's daughter who wants a new mother (Anni tahtoo äidin), the alienation of a divorced mother's child from her father (Muuttolinnun aika), scandal journalism around the ski champion Matti Nykänen (Mestari), Tallinn underground (Marraskuun harmaa valo), the state of the world seen from a pub as a man is enlisted to the Balkan war as a mercenary soldier (Palkkasoturi), Finnish holiday culture in Spain (Dirlandaa), women leaving the countryside during the great structural change when Finland urbanized in the 1960s and the 1970s, based on a novel by Heikki Turunen (Joensuun Elli), fraud in the financial world (Tarkastaja), and a hitman being invited to the sauna by his unsuspecting victim (Saunavieras).

GENRE

Half of my movies are difficult to explain, half of them I don't remember so well.

It all started in Inkeroinen when as a kid I was nailing movie posters to utility poles. I got to see some four films a week. That's how I got acquainted with genre films. The word "genre" itself I learned much later, but genre I always found interesting, although few of my films are genre movies. Perhaps there is a Mänttäri genre. Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan is science fiction. Anni tahtoo äidin is a children's film and a musical. That's about it.

The Western is dearest for me, and there's film noir on the side. In Marraskuun harmaa valo there is a hunch of film noir. A Western I have yet to do. It would not be an Aarne Tarkas style Northern nor a Finnish Italowestern.

My Western would be based on Runar Schildt's short story "Hemkomsten" ["Homecoming"] from 1919, about the circumstances after the civil war of 1918. For 36 years I have tried. My original choice for the leading role, the actor Juha Mäkelä, has retired. Daniel Olbrychski was interested, but nobody in the Finnish Film Foundation knew him. Ville Haapasalo is busy. Now I have to find yet another candidate. But a Western there will be.

WRITING

Writing is a part of directing. I claim that I cannot imagine myself making a film to which I would not have written the final screenplay. There are always many ideas from others available, but my own idea always gets there first.

Three of my theatrical movies are based on works of others: Pyhä perhe is based on a play by Claes Andersson, Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan on a radioplay by Paavo Haavikko, and Joensuun Elli on a novel by Heikki Turunen.

It was the year 1974, the bottom year in Finnish film production, and only two films were released: Karvat ["Body Hair"], and Viu-hah-hah-taja ["A Streaker"]. That's when I decided to start directing.

Claes Andersson's play provided clear cut problems for the film Pyhä perhe: - the fight for power in a family - and alcoholism. There were but few locations and a limited number of characters. Jörn Donner accepted the project pretty easily.

Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan was trickier. The idea came from Heikki Katajisto, my cinematographer.

In Joensuun Elli I was mistaken to believe that it would be a commercial subject. Money has usually been a very rare phenomenon in my productions.

The collaboration with the writers went well. Claes Andersson was a gentleman, and he presented no conditions. With Paavo Haavikko the collaboration went particularly well. We went to Rivoli, not far from here. "We won't talk art". We talked cars, although we understood nothing about cars. ("I have a Ford", I once said on location. "It's a Volkswagen", corrected my DP.)

I have filmed 6-7 detective novels of Pentti Kirstilä for television. We were in Sicily in which one of the stories is set. One morning he had a hangover. "May I kill the wife of that merchant?" "Go ahead".

Heikki Turunen had no comment having seen Joensuun Elli. "My son praised the music". Markku Pölönen had just made Kivenpyörittäjän kylä, which was a popular success, and my film was not quite like that.

Film-making for me is also personal therapy. The work must be fun, and it must be therapy, as well.

There are 4-5 quite personal films that I have made. I have made changes such as switched the sexes of characters, made two characters out of one, and one character out of two. You cannot track down the real-life models that easily.

Most of my films are based on my own ideas.

The screenplay is usually quite precise, especially the dialogue, and also the scenes.

But the actor can adapt the dialogue to fit his own mouth.

I have observed that people as a rule talk much, and this is the case in my movies, as well.

I would compare dialogue to improvisation in jazz. People meet face to face, and often they talk past each other.

The first line of dialogue is the most difficult.

Pretty often I imagine the actor while writing dialogue. The figure of the actor gives the stimulus.

MUSIC

To a great extent I hear the music while writing the screenplay. I use a lot of source music - there is usually a radio on - or a performer in a restaurant, and so on.

I have never used stock music.

When I make King Lear I'll use Bach. In the Filmtotal production complex Aki Kaurismäki did Hamlet and Pauli Pentti directed Macbeth. I was supposed to do King Lear. I still need to do it.

CASTING

Many actors owed me since I paid for their drinks at bars. Palkkasoturi I cast based on which actors owed me. "Anssi, give me a line of dialogue" =  a shot of Koskenkorva. Matti Pellonpää had collected a big role, indeed, until he died.

EXCERPT 1: RAKKAUSELOKUVA.

In many cases I don't remember where my story ideas have come from. Saunavieras was inspired by... not an urban legend... but a rural legend about a hit ordered on an artist living in Loimaa. The hitman had been hired by a payment in Koskenkorva [the native title of Finlandia vodka]. He happened to arrive just in time for sauna, and he started to drink with the victim, and they became friends.

Another true story which I would like to film I heard from my cleaning person. It is about a Japanese pen friend of youth. Decades later there is the tsunami in Japan, and the Japanese man's entire family is washed out, destroyed. The man gets the advice to move away as far as possible to forget the trauma. So, after decades, he finally arrives into Finland. There is a shot where he is ice fishing, and a spacecraft appears on the sky. It will be an anti-nuclear power film. You have to fight nuclear power because ihminen mokaa aina = a man always blows it.

My latest idea is "How one should not write at the Eerikin Kulma" [a bar one block from Cinema Orion]. A woman was waving at me at a distance of 30 meters. She seemed unfamiliar, but at close range I recognized her. We had exchanged a few words once. I started to think that this could be a good pick-up strategy: starting to wave at unknowns. In my story I changed the sexes, and the same man would play six roles, as the woman would imagine who the waving man is. But a plot structure is not the subject of the film. It would turn out that the woman has a serious case of a fear of commitment. Her parents are divorced, and she will never want to have a serious relationship.

EXCERPT 2: MORENA

This is a case in point of how I use source music.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

I never use a storyboard. Nor have I images on the pages of the shooting script. My cinematographer Heikki Katajisto [who has shot most of Mänttäri's films until and including Tarkastaja] also thinks it makes no sense to visualize the script twice.

I usually shoot on location, in the real circumstances, not in studios. The places are dominating. It is fun to do a film so that the place gives impulses.

With the cinematographer we show films to each other.

The actual breakdown to shots takes place as we are going on.

Sometimes we had an argument with Heikki Katajisto. The best idea won. Usually the cinematographer knew what he was talking about. Each shot is precisely defined.

DIRECTION OF ACTORS

Casting is the most important aspect in the direction of actors.

I prefer to work with familiar actors. Then there is little need to talk. A case in point is Antti Litja. If there is a need for a second take or more takes, each time he plays it differently. That is his way to sustain the freshness in the performance. Ei sun tarvitse mulle selittää = You don't need to explain for me. When I told "how" he knew at once "why".

If an actor is very insecure, I cajole him/her to an even greater insecurity. Then he strains himself to give everything.

They say film acting is pientä = understated. It isn't. Iso = overstatement can be great. Take Welles. Akim Tamiroff in Touch of Evil. Or Dennis Weaver. Real life is full of these characters. Go to Eerikin Kulma. You'll meet similar figures there.

Some actors are good in giving an impression of acting naturally, yet they don't understand at all what they are talking about. You realize it first in the cutting room. Even the director can be fooled. They can act although they don't understand.

EXCERPT 3: KUNINGAS LÄHTEE RANSKAAN

No understatement in the performance of Harri Nikkonen, an opera singer. [Lasse Pöysti had one of the leading roles.] Lasselta meinas mennä repliikit sekaisin = Lasse almost fumbled his lines. Harri Nikkonen had been an opera actor during the term of Alfons Almi. In vain he asked for a raise from Almi. "Give me at least a part in which I can eat on stage".

PRODUCING

The most time-consuming part is putting the financing together.

Pyhä perhe I made in 1976, and since 1977, for 36 years, I have been soliciting financing for the Schildt project.

Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan was six years in preparation, Joensuun Elli for 24 years. Reima Kekäläinen at the [Finnish] MTV was also interested, and I would have been just the producer. "Anssi, sä oot liian vanha roikkumaan täällä jonossa" = "Anssi, you are too old to hang out in this queue anymore". A few hundred of thousand I managed to get from MTV for a tv series version of Joensuun Elli. The feature film became good, the series bad. The feature film was cut first, following the original screenplay pretty accurately. But for the tv series version we were forced to use all we had. We should have written a separate script for the tv series.

A project that we have not yet made is a movie on the Estonian / Russian relations. Yle [tv company]: what if you would just direct. SES [The Finnish Film Foundation]: what if you would just write. And Tuomas Sallinen would direct.

For Anni tahtoo äidin I asked Raili Rusto to direct and Pirkko Jaakola to write. Then Raili got ill, and Pirkko could not write. So I wrote the screenplay myself and sent it to SES without a writer's name. Pia Lallukka at the SES enthused how well that Pirkko can write. Raili was still ill, and so I got to direct, as well.

I have made a lot of movies without public funding. Television money has always been available.

Previously I was funded by KOP [Kansallis-Osake-Pankki, one of the two biggest private banks then in Finland] and [after it folded] Merita. There were four art-friendly bank managers in a row. We shared the same bank with SES, and Ilmo Mäkelä, then chairman of its board, said to our mutual banker: "mitä sinä sitä Mänttäriä rahoitat" = "why do you keep financing that Mänttäri".

When you are close to two million in debt it is much easier to get funding. Without SES. Without Yle. Quite a bit I have received from MTV.

In this way nobody has fumbled around with my screenplay. I hear a lot about 12-15 script versions circulating at the Finnish Film Foundation.

I pretty often use the first version.

EXCERPT 4: REGINA JA MIEHET
Includes a great, definitive Jörn Donner monologue, written by Mänttäri.

As I wrote this film I saw the locations from my window. We had access to Filminor's Kleinbus, and when we were about to settle the gasoline bill it turned out that the car had not been fuelled once. [The locations were that close.] Matti Pellonpää plays an artist who sells his paintings to his own mother and then steals them to sell them again.

Jörn Donner's fee for his performance was four bottles of whisky.

EDITING

Editing for me is simpler than for most.

There are hardly any scenes that can be left out.

Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan was edited by Irma Taina.

EXCERPT 5: JOENSUUN ELLI
The beginning.
♪ "Poimi minut puolukkana, maista minut mansikkana", sung by Sari Kaasinen.
There you hear that music that puzzled Heikki Turunen, how his son could have liked it.

ART DIRECTION

As a rule I shoot on location. In the studio I have only done three tv jobs, with multiple cameras, and I don't count them as movies.

On location I don't even want to change things that much. What counts is that the milieu should fit the character.

In Isku suoneen I blew it. Jukka Puotila plays the rapist, a drug dealer. There were too many book cases with good books in that apartment.

Sometimes the decision about the location takes place on the evening before. I realized that I did not have the location for the next morning's scene supposed to take place in a wealthy cultural home. I called Taru Mäkelä who knew one of the personal physicians of Kekkonen, and in the morning we indeed had access to his home. We got there in the morning, and there was not a single bookcase there.

In Näkemiin, hyvästi, in Espoo, I got to shoot at the home of my current car dealer. Lasse Pöysti was supposed to read a book, and there was not even any "How do I open my motor" brochure. So we bought the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper at the nearest gas station.

In Regina ja miehet I had access to the paintings of Max Salmi. Matti Pellonpää was playing a good artist.

EXCERPT 6: YLÖSNOUSEMUS
Ilkka Kylävaara, believed dead, sneaks into his own home and surprises his wife's lover (Kari Väänänen) in the bathtub. At the subway escalators his wife (Eeva Eloranta), going down while Ilkka Kylävaara is going up, is profoundly shocked.

There we have an apartment where nothing had been changed. It's the story of a fake suicide, about a man who prentends to have committed suicide to get to see the mourning of his close ones.

Let's skip the documentaries.

COMING NEXT

Let's move to the subjects that are forthcoming.

I have literary subjects: William Shakespeare, and Runar Schildt. Joel Haahtela intrigues me: Tule risteykseen seitsemältä [Come to the Crossing at Seven], and Lumipäiväkirja [Snow Diary].

I am also interested in the African novels of Paulina Chiziane from Mozambique, about polygamy. She has a story about five wives who are not aware of each other.

Then I have that story against nuclear power. I have also a Christmas story and a Kurdish story. There is also "Divorce, Finnish style".

I have also three subjects about great men. - Urho Kekkonen: we did shoot three days based on a Paavo Haavikko screenplay. I may revive it.  - The 1930s: Vihtori Kosola [an activist of the extreme right]: he was not one of the key men, but he was the figurehead. It would be a musical. - Then there is the Jesus movie. It was to star Gérard Depardieu before he started this fooling around in Russia. Jesus would be old, almost on the verge of retirement. Now the number one casting alternative would be John Malkovich. Jesus would have a look at the world and become jumalankieltäjä = an atheist. There would be no other way.

EXCERPT 7: SAUNAVIERAS

This film had 190 spectators during its theatrical run. Is there anybody here who has seen it? [More than ten hands are raised.] There is a poem by Einari Vuorela. "I am a lake person". "An ocean is so big that it is impossible to understand." "Well, isn't it great when there is a hell of a lot of zeroes in a number". "I am rather an ocean person".

In many of my movies I quote poems. There are three criteria of selection, all of which have to be met: 1) I like the poem, 2) the character likes the poem, and 3) the poem needs to be good.

Q & A

FILM OR DIGITAL. If I could decide I would shoot on film. But there is a big difference in the cost. Now they are getting rid of 35 mm, anyway, there is no stock, there are no labs, and there is no other choice. One has to do it on video.

ACTING YOURSELF. The big roles I have played have not been to save money. I have also acted for fellow directors at MTV, Ilkka Vanne, and Pauli Virtanen.

SOULMATES. Eric Rohmer, John Cassavetes.

FUNDING SAUNAVIERAS. I got an advance from my dvd sales. SES pondered over it for three and a half years before they refused funding. By then the film had already been released.

It is unavoidable to land in debt. After the first million it gets easier. The banks are more difficult now. Previously I explained the situation frankly to the bank manager who said: siinäpä rehellinen mies = there's an honest man. No more do I get to see the manager. Pankkisuhde ei enää toimi = the banking relationship is no longer working.

Usually I have a finished screenplay, but of Kello I had written 14 pages. Yet we decided to do Kello next week, and by Thursday it had been shot.

I write fast, but the material has been brewing in my mind for a long time. The speed is illusory. I have been thinking about the subject for years.

Kuinka myöhään valvoo blues [How Late Is the Blues Staying Awake]: I wrote it daily while we were shooting. It gives a feeling of freshness at times, most of the times.

Q: HILKKA EKLUND: she declared to be a member of the Anssi Mänttäri Fan Club, meaning that she has seen all his films and paid for the ticket for all of them. - Previously small budget films stayed in the repertory for a longer time. - "I have said to Jörn Donner that Regina ja miehet is the best thing you have done."

After the lecture, on our way to Corona Bar, Anssi Mänttäri added Jacques Demy to his list of soulmates, especially Demy's debut feature film Lola.

Anssi Mänttäri's selection for the film to be screened after the lecture was Marraskuun harmaa valo.

The visual quality of the excerpts, taken from the Anssi Mänttäri dvd collection (VL-Musiikki, 2012-2013), was very good.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Banshun / Late Spring

Myöhäinen kevät / Sent om våren. JP 1949. PC: Shochiku / Ofuna. P: Takashi Yamamoto. D: Yasujiro Ozu. SC: Kogo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu – based on a story by Kazuo Hirotsu. The noh play in the film: Morikawa (identified by David Bordwell). DP: Yuharu Atsuta. AD: Tatsuo Hamada. M: Senji Ito. M in the concert sequence: Joachim Raff: Cavatina (identified by Robin Wood). ED: Yoshiyasu Hamamura. C: Chishu Ryu (Shukichi Somiya, father), Setsuko Hara (Noriko, daughter), Haruko Sugimura (Masa Taguchi, aunt), Yumeji Tsukioka (Aya Kitagawa), Jun Usami (Hattori), Kuniko Miyake (Akiko), Yoko Katsurahi (Misako), Masao Mishima (Yuzuru), Yosiko Tsubouchi (Kiku), Jun Tanizaki (Seizo), Toyoko Takahashi (Shige), Tomihiro Aoki, Takeshi Sakamoto. Telecasts in Finland: 17.6.1967 MTV1, 2.9.1982 YLE TV2, 31.1.1999 YLE TV1. 108 min. A SFI Filmarkivet print with Swedish subtitles by Wakako Hongo Sundfeldt and Per Sundfeldt screened with e-subtitles in Finnish by Eija Niskanen (she had also made a beautiful translation of the lyrics of the noh play) at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 21 Feb 2013.

We dedicated this screening to the memory of Donald Richie (born on 17 April, 1924 in Lima, Ohio, died on 19 February, 2013 in Tokyo). I had the pleasure to hear his Pordenone lecture in 2005 and to meet him again at the reception of the 2007 FIAF Tokyo Congress. He cut an equally distinguished figure in person as in his writings. Donald Richie came to Japan in 1946 and soon met young guys called Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune, and Takashi Shimura, who were shooting Drunken Angel. Richie's books on the Japanese cinema have been an inspiration to many generations. I look forward to reading his other works on Japanese culture.  

Donald Richie's synopsis: "A young woman, somewhat past the usual marriage age, lives with her father in Kamakura. She is happy with him, and when she hears of one of his friends remarrying, she disapproves. The father, however, feels that he is keeping her from marriage. She refuses several offers. Then her aunt tells her that her father is thinking of remarrying. She is disturbed, but believing that this is what he wants, she agrees to get married. Father and daughter go on a final trip together to Kyoto. When they return, she is married. The father, who had no intention of marrying, is left alone."

Donald Richie's remarks: "Called 'one of the most perfect, most complete, and most successful studies of character ever achieved in Japanese cinema,' this picture was one of Ozu's own favorites, along with There Was a Father and Tokyo Story. The various components of the Ozu style - the Ofuna-cho-flavored home drama, the interest in character, the haha-mono-like idea of a parent as central figure - are here combined in a perfectly balanced film, the whole of which far transcends any of its elements. One reason for this perfection was the depth of Ozu's feeling and the security of his style. Another was his return to collaboration with Kogo Noda, for the first time since 1935. And another was the new aesthetic that dominated all of Ozu's films from this one on, though glimpses of it had occasionally been visible in earlier pictures. This was a new simplicity in story, structure, and tempo, matched by a firm control over sets, properties, lighting, and actors. The results were, to be sure, not radically different from earlier pictures, but the later films were more laconic and more incisive. Kinema Jumpo First Prize."

Revisited the film that was Yasujiro Ozu's turning-point to his late, stark style and his first collaboration with Setsuko Hara. Banshun was also the original model and source for variations which Ozu kept making until his very last film.

After the film I read Donald Richie's, David Bordwell's and Robin Wood's (Sexual Politics & Narrative Film) remarks, and there is little that I can add to their excellent comments on one of the greatest masterpieces of the cinema.

I find Robin Wood's arguments persuasive but I don't find Banshun as anti-marriage as he. Admittedly, marriage is compared with a graveyard, and weddings are presented like funerals.

Noriko is a traditional woman who has suffered a lot during the war, and in a conventional view she is now "in late spring".

Noriko is also a shy and reserved woman. There is a general agreement that Hattori would be an ideal mate for her, but Noriko is aware of the fact that Hattori is already engaged to be married. Still Hattori keeps dating Noriko, but Noriko is too reserved to go on, and her seat in the concert hall besides Hattori remains empty. Robin Wood suggests and I agree that in the final image of the film the ocean waves at the empty beach are a reference to the unfulfilled relationship between Noriko and Hattori. Both are meanwhile married to others, and due to Ozu's elliptical style we have never seen the spouses of either.

Banshun is a study in tradition and modernity, and surprisingly Noriko, the only unmarried woman in her circle, is the most traditional figure in the entire story. She is even called old-fashioned. Even her dad is more modern and liberal. We visit a noh theatre and a zen garden in Kyoto, but there are also references to Gary Cooper and Coca Cola.

The print viewed was good and new but it has been struck from duped elements, and the quality of the sound is not brilliant.

Silver Linings Playbook

Unelmien pelikirja / Du gör mig galen! [No Swedish on-screen title in the Finnish release] US © 2012 SLPTWC Films. The Weinstein Company presents. P: Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon. D+SC: David O. Russell - based on the novel The Silver Linings Playbook (2008) by Matthew Quick. DP: Masanobu Takayanagi - DI: Technicolor. PD: Judy Becker. AD: Jesse Rosenthal. Set dec: Heather Loeffler. Cost: Mark Bridges. Makeup: Janeen Schreyer. Hair: Lori McCoy-Bell. VFX: DIVE - supervisor: Ed Mendez. Digital paint: DDMG. M and score producer: Danny Elfman. "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder: the wedding song which becomes an obsession for Pat. S: Odin Benitez. ED: Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers. Casting: Lindsay Graham, Mary Vernieu. Loc: Pennsylvania (Ridley Park, Philadelphia, Norristown, Lansdowne, Upper Darby, Delaware County). Released by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Kauppila / Kajsa Wickström. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 13, Helsinki, 21 Feb 2013.

THE CAST (AS EDITED IN WIKIPEDIA):
Bradley Cooper as Patrizio "Pat Jr." Solitano
Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell
Robert De Niro as Patrizio "Pat Sr." Solitano
Jacki Weaver as Dolores Solitano
Chris Tucker as Danny McDaniels, Pat's best friend, whom he met at the Baltimore mental health facility
Julia Stiles as Veronica Maxwell
Anupam Kher as Dr. Cliff Patel
Brea Bee as Nikki Solitano
Shea Whigham as Jake Solitano
John Ortiz as Ronnie, Veronica's husband
Paul Herman as Randy
Dash Mihok as Officer Keogh

TECHNICAL SPECS (IMDb): - Camera: Arricam LT, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, Arricam ST, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses - Film length: 3345 m (6 reels) - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) (some shots), Techniscope (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

THE OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
"Life doesn't always go according to plan. Pat Solatano has lost everything - his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother and father after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat's parents want is for him to get back on his feet - and to share their family's obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he'll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives." (The Weinstein Company)

The Weinstein brothers and David O. Russell are again "flirting with disaster" with this story of Pat and Tiffany who have experienced mental breakdowns. Pat has also evidently inherited a tendency to a mental disorder from his dad, Pat Sr., played daringly by Robert De Niro as a crazy old fool.

In the beginning I felt the film is too frenetic and relentless in scenes of high tension and instances of social disaster.

The actors are all good but Jennifer Lawrence stands out in a truly magnificent performance. When she enters, the movie rises to another level. With her, moments of contemplation also emerge.

I have not read the novel but I am aware that things have been changed in the screenplay. The parlay success, the double victory conclusion and happy endings for all are perhaps the Weinstein touch in this movie. Maybe the movie would never have been made without them.

The theme of madness is profound and complex in the movie. There is the concept that we all need some madness - as is evident in the Halloween and the football sequences with their monster make-ups and violent outbursts. The bookmaking and the keeping of playbooks can be fun and games, but they can come close to madness if taken too intensively.

There is also a dimension of everyday madness, a pervasive sense of breaking down, not only in the lives of Pat Junior and Pat Senior. Ronnie confesses to Pat that "I feel like I'm getting crushed". Pat and Tiffany are mad but there is an honesty in their madness, and there is a sense of pretense in the apparent normality of some of the other characters.

Visual quality: the film has been shot on photochemical 35 mm film, and the digital intermediate has been performed very well. The warm hues in the dancing sequences and the autumn colours look good.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lahja (1997) / [A Gift]

FI 1997. PC: Yleisradio / TV 1 / Draama. P: Kari Kyrönseppä. D: Matti Ijäs. SC: Heikki Vuento, Auli Mantila, Matti Ijäs. DP: Pauli Sipiläinen. Colour definition: Marko Terävä. AD: Paula Salonen, Minna Pajuoja. Cost: Outi Harjupatana. Makeup: Zoe Burtsow. FX: Esko Kares. S rec: Pekka Pylkkö. S design and mixing: A.-P. Heikkinen. ED: Pipsa Valavaara. Ass. D: Auli Mantila. Production manager: Ulla Löppönen. Script supervisor: Mari Karonen. C: Kaija Pakarinen (Leila), Antti Litja (Kuitunen), Turo Rannema (Jasso), Pirkka-Pekka Petelius (Jouni), Kristiina Elstelä (Hannele), Aake Kalliala (Matinlassi), Risto Salmi (Naamanka), Jari Pehkonen (Törmänen), Jouko Puolanto (Innanen), Esko Pesonen (Hokkanen), Sulevi Peltola (Pylvänäinen), Mintra Surapha (Pike), Sinna Virtanen (Kuitunen's daughter), Kari Sorvali (escort for Leila), Markku Toikka (escort for Leila), Jukka Rasila (bus driver), Sökö Kaukoranta (waiter), Petri Aalto, Henna Hakkarainen, Kalevi Heinämaa, Heikki Häkkinen, Daniel Katz, Martti Kaukanen, Kikka Nurminen, Olli Pellikka, Jorma Selin, Eero Soininen. 77 min. Telecasts: 13.10 1997, 31.8.1998, 3.7.2000 Yle TV1. Vhs: Yleisradio / Tallennepalvelu (1998), PAN Vision Publishing Oy. VET I-08505. Digibeta from Yle Export viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Matti Ijäs), 20 Feb 2013.

Leila has had enough of baby fever and failed attempts with her husband. She gets on the road to get pregnant. The movie is a merciless and humoristic survey on Finnish men, married and single. In the countryside the situation can be desperate. Because of the shortage (or absence) of women men are losing their touch in dealing with them. Women have to be imported from distant countries like in the Buddhist encounter towards the end of the movie.

Lahja is a performance-driven film. The ensemble of actors is great, with many of Finland's best performers, and the dialogue is rich, sharp and witty, full of humoristic observations that might be difficult or impossible to translate.

This television film which has been probably shot on film was now viewed on digibeta. It looks serviceable for a cinema screening, with atmospheric views of autumn colours and foggy fields.

Matti Ijäs is at his best in Lahja. Internationally, Lahja might be compared with certain films of Jiří Menzel: there is a similar blend of wit, humour, observation in human failure, and vitality.

Frankenweenie (2013) 3D

Frankenweenie / Frankenweenie. US © 2012 Disney Enterprises, Inc. P: Allison Abbate, Tim Burton. D: Tim Burton. SC: John August - based on the 1984 screenplay by Leonard Ripps - original idea: Tim Burton. DP: Peter Sorg - black and white - DI: Company 3 London - D colorist: Rob Pizzey. Puppet characters designed and created by: Mackinnon and Saunders - a huge team. AN dept: big. PD: Rick Heinrichs. AD: Tim Browning, Alexandra Walker. VFX: Nvizible. VFX P: Jonny ffinch. VFX 3D stereo services: Prime Focus World. VFX team: huge. M: Danny Elfman. End credit song: "Strange Love" written by and performed by Karen O (an original song for Frankenweenie). S: Oliver Tarney. ED: Chris Lebenzon, Mark Solomon. Casting: Ronna Kress. Film clip: Dracula (Hammer Film Productions, starring Christopher Lee, GB 1958). 87 min. Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Ulrika Lindfors-Davis. 2K DCP in Dolby 3D at Tennispalatsi 10, Helsinki, 20 Feb 2013.

VOICE TALENT (as edited in Wikipedia):
Charlie Tahan as Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who brings his dog (and best friend) Sparky back to life.
Catherine O'Hara as Susan Frankenstein, Victor's Mother / Gym Teacher / Weird Girl, an eccentric girl who is one of Victor's classmates and obsessed with the psychic predictions of her cat, Mr. Whiskers
Martin Short as Edward Frankenstein, Victor's father / Nassor, Toshiaki's partner and Victor's other rival-like former enemy, who has a flat head inspired by Frankenstein's monster and whose voice and face resemble that of Boris Karloff / Mr. Bergermeister, the grumpy Mayor of New Holland, the Frankensteins' next-door neighbor and Elsa's uncle; a homage to the villainous Burgermeister Meisterburger from the Rankin/Bass film Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town.
Martin Landau as Mr. Rzykruski, the eccentric but wise science teacher at Victor's school who speaks in a thick Eastern European accent. His teachings inspire Victor's effort to resurrect Sparky, and he acts as a mentor to Victor. The character was inspired by Burton's childhood icon, Vincent Price.
Winona Ryder as Elsa van Helsing, Victor's crush, kind next-door neighbor, and one of his classmates.
Atticus Shaffer as Edgar "E" Gore, a hunch-backed child (inspired by Igor) and one of Victor's classmates. He's the first to know of Victor's success in bringing Sparky back to life.
Robert Capron as Bob, an obese boy who is one of Victor's classmates.
Christopher Lee as Dracula (in stock footage from the 1958 Dracula).
Conchata Ferrell as Bob's mother, an obese and stereotypical suburban housewife who dotes upon her son. She believes in the status quo, and that her misguided actions are in Bob's best interest.
James Hiroyuki Liao as Toshiaki, Victor's rival-like former enemy and one of his classmates.
Tom Kenny as Fire Chief / Soldier / Townsfolk

TECHNICAL SPECS (IMDb): - Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II - Laboratory: Company 3, London, UK (digital intermediate), Deluxe Digital Cinema (DDC) (DCP mastering) - Source format: Digital - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Digital Stills (5K) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version) - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

In the 15-minute set of commercials and previews was included a retro animated commercial for the Jaffa orange soft drink designed by Erik Bruun, one of Finland's finest designers, in the 1950s. Erik Bruun even appears in its conclusion in a glimpse of newly shot footage at his drawing board, extending his hand towards a bottle of Jaffa.

I love Tim Burton's live action 30 minute short Frankenweenie (1984) and did not hurry to see the puppet animation remake because I did not see the necessity of it. We have screened the original film twice in our Tim Burton retrospectives at Cinema Orion, courtesy of the Walt Disney Pictures.

But! The new Frankenweenie is a masterpiece, one of Tim Burton's greatest, and now my Tim Burton favourite along with Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Ed Wood (and Henry Selick's A Nightmare before Christmas). The new Frankenweenie is also one of the best Frankenstein films and one of the most successful 3D films. Daringly in black and white, and effectively.

Tim Burton's unique mix of macabre comedy is at its best here. The characters look scary and sinister, but there is a genial and humoristic touch in all of them. Even the bad characters are victims of their particular curses.

The plot is very much the same. It has not been unnecessarily padded. Once I had the fleeting feeling that there is a "more is more" curse in current animation, even here.

While the movie is full of fascinating detail, and although it is an affectionate parody, fundamentally it is a serious and profound movie whose scope is cosmic as in all the best Frankenstein stories. It is a matter of life and death.

I like the aspect in both Frankenweenie films that the townspeople, after having been reduced to a lynch mob, regret what they have done and join forces to recharge Sparky with their jumper cables.

Danny Elfman is at his best in the wonderful score for Frankenweenie.

Amazingly, Frankenweenie has been reportedly been shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera. The film looks great, and the 3D looks flawless in Dolby 3D, for instance in scenes such as the one where Mr. Bergermeister sees through the rainswept window what is going on in Victor's house.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lincoln

Lincoln / Lincoln. US © 2012 DreamWorks SKG / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Dune Entertainment. P: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg. D: Steven Spielberg. SC: Tony Kushner - in part from the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2006) by Doris Kearns Goodwin. DP: Janusz Kaminski - DI: Technicolor - colour supervisor: Michael Hatzer. PD: Rick Carter. AD: Curt Beech, David Crank, Leslie McDonald. Set dec: Jim Erickson, Peter T. Frank. Cost: Joanna Johnston. Makeup: Lois Burwell. Hair: Kay Georgiou. VFX Supervisor: Ben Morris. VFX: Framestore Limited. M: John Williams. M excerpts include: "O nuit d'amour!" from Faust (Charles Gounod); Overture to Egmont (Beethoven), "Battle Cry Of Freedom", "They Swung John Brown To A Sour Apple Tree". S: Ben Burtt. ED: Michael Kahn. Casting: Avy Kaufman. 151 min. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Staffans. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 12, Helsinki, 19 Feb 2013.

Cast as edited in Wikipedia:

LINCOLN HOUSEHOLD
Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln
Sally Field as First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln
Gloria Reuben as Elizabeth Keckley
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln
Gulliver McGrath as Tad Lincoln
Stephen Henderson as Lincoln's valet William Slade
Elizabeth Marvel as member of the public petitioning Lincoln, a Mrs. Jolly

WHITE HOUSE
David Strathairn as Secretary of State William H. Seward
Bruce McGill as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton
Joseph Cross as John Hay
Dakin Matthews as Secretary of the Interior John Palmer Usher
Jeremy Strong as John George Nicolay
Richard Topol as United States Attorney General James Speed

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tommy Lee Jones as Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens
Hal Holbrook as Francis Preston Blair
Lee Pace as Democratic Congressman and fiery orator Fernando Wood
Peter McRobbie as Ohio Democrat, U.S. Representative George H. Pendleton, leader of the Democratic opposition
Bill Raymond as Schuyler Colfax: Colfax served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1863 to 1869.
David Costabile as Republican Congressman James Ashley
Stephen Spinella as radical Republican Congressman Asa Vintner Litton
Michael Stuhlbarg as Kentucky Democratic Congressman George Yeaman
Boris McGiver as Democratic Congressman, later Republican, Alexander Coffroth
Walton Goggins as Democratic Congressman Wells A. Hutchins
David Warshofsky as Congressman William Hutton, whose brother died in the war

REPUBLICAN PARTY
James Spader as Republican Party operative William N. Bilbo
Tim Blake Nelson as lobbyist Richard Schell
John Hawkes as Republican operative Colonel Robert Latham
Byron Jennings as Conservative Republican Montgomery Blair
Julie White as Elizabeth Blair Lee: Lee was the daughter of Francis Preston Blair, and wrote hundreds of letters documenting events during the Civil War
S. Epatha Merkerson as Lydia Smith: Smith was Thaddeus Stevens's biracial housekeeper.
Wayne Duvall as Radical Republican Senator Benjamin "Bluff Ben" Wade

CONFEDERATE STATES
Jackie Earle Haley as Confederate States Vice President Alexander H. Stephens
Gregory Itzin as John Archibald Campbell
Michael Shiflett as the third Confederate delegate to Hampton Roads, Senator Robert M. T. Hunter
Christopher Boyer (non-speaking role) as Robert E. Lee

UNION ARMY
Jared Harris as Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant
Colman Domingo as Private Harold Green
David Oyelowo as Corporal Ira Clark
Lukas Haas as First White Soldier
Dane DeHaan as Second White Soldier
Adam Driver as Lincoln's telegraph operator, historically Grant's operator, Samuel Beckwith

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2, Panavision Primo and Super Speed Z-Series MKII Lenses, Panavision Panaflex Platinum, Panavision Primo and Super Speed Z-Series MKII Lenses - Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA, Technicolor, Hollywood (CA), USA (digital intermediate), Technicolor, New York (NY), USA (dailies) - Film length: 4104 m (8 reels), 4119 m (Portugal, 35 mm) - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

THE INTRODUCTION OF THE PRODUCTION NOTES:

“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”
—Abraham Lincoln, in a letter dated December 1865 [1864? - AA]

In the final four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency, the full measure of the man—his passion and his humanity—came to bear on his defining battle: to plot a forward path for a shattered nation, against overwhelming odds and extreme public and personal pressure.

Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” provides an intimate immersion into the American leader’s most perilous and revealing moments, at a time when the dark shadow of slavery lifts and a country torn by war must be made whole.

A rich human drama plays out as Lincoln doubles down to end the devastating Civil War not merely by ending the war but by fighting to pass the 13th Amendment, permanently abolishing slavery. It will be an act of true national daring. He will have to call upon all the skill, courage and moral fortitude for which he’ll become legend. He will grapple with the impact of his actions on the world and on those he loves. But what lies in the balance is what always mattered most to Lincoln: to compel the American people, and those in his government of opposite persuasions, to alter course and aim higher, toward a greater good for all mankind.

Brought to life via a layered screenplay by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner, Spielberg’s starkly human storytelling and the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis leading an accomplished cast, the film invites audiences directly into the heart and soul of Lincoln’s final achievements. The Lincoln who emerges is a man of raw paradoxes: funny and solemn, a playful storyteller and fierce power broker, a shrewd commander and a vulnerable father. But in his nation’s darkest hour, when the times demand the very best of people, he reaches from within himself for something powerful and everlasting.

Twentieth Century Fox and DreamWorks Pictures present in association with Participant Media “Lincoln,” a film directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay written by Tony Kushner, based in part on the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The film’s cast is headed by Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook and Tommy Lee Jones. The producers are Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy and the executive producers are Daniel Lupi, Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King.

Spielberg joins with his long-trusted team behind the camera: director of photography Janusz Kaminski, production designer Rick Carter, costume designer Joanna Johnston, editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams—whose talents combine to make the war-torn world that Lincoln irrevocably changed in 1865 a visceral, contemporary experience. (The introduction to the production notes).

FROM THE PRODUCTION NOTES: ON GOODWIN'S BOOK

"When it was released, the rousing reaction to Goodwin’s book revealed that she had hit upon a part of Lincoln that people were hungry to know more about right now: how he made profound national changes for the better in such fiercely divided times. The “team of rivals” in the title refers to the three opponents Lincoln vied against in the 1860 presidential election—only to invite each bitterly defeated competitor into his cabinet. This bold move would embody Lincoln’s most outstanding qualities: his talent for getting along with his opponents, his political genius and his steady compass always pointing to the universal truths of justice and civil rights and a more perfect union."

"It would also lie at the heart of perhaps his most singular accomplishment: moving the nation to support “the new birth of freedom” and end the unconscionable practice of slavery at the conclusion of the Civil War—not just symbolically but via a constitutional amendment that would make abolition a permanent foundation of the law of the land."

"How did he do it? Goodwin says he was driven by understanding the unthinkable consequences of not succeeding. “I think it was key for Lincoln to get the 13th Amendment passed, because if it was part of our Constitution—and he so revered the U.S. Constitution—then he knew slavery would be undone in this country forever and ever. So he put all of his political skills, every bit of his human relationships, every bit of his ability to work his inner circle, into passing the 13th Amendment passing. Then, and only then, could he know that slavery had finally ended.”"

"She adds: “I think it came down to the belief he always had about this country—that it could be, as he often said, a beacon of hope around the world.”"

THE PRODUCTION NOTES ON THE CINEMATOGRAPHY

"Kaminski wanted a stripped-back sensibility, but also a texture and a palette that would transport audiences—not into something that feels historical but into scenes that could be happening right now. Observes Kathleen Kennedy: “Steven and Janusz discussed at length the use of color and light in ‘Lincoln.’ Steven didn’t want to make a black-and-white or sepia-toned film; rather, they used a rich saturation of color that has some qualities of black and white. We also have over 145 speaking roles in this film, so it was important to frame each scene so the characters are taking you to the next beat in the story and not necessarily the camera. That was a bit different for Steven.”"

"Though he and Spielberg pored through a plethora of historical paintings and photographs for reference, once on set, they keyed into a more instinctual approach. It became about finding the stark power in quieter moments—Lincoln and Grant talking on the porch while ghostly soldiers ride towards unknown fates; Lincoln standing in the hazy light of the window as he realizes the 13th Amendment has just ended slavery in America. “Steven is never afraid of strong imagery,” Kaminski comments. “He is very willing to use transcendent moments like these in his storytelling.”"

"Some of Kaminski’s favorite scenes came inside the chaotic House of Representatives. “Those scenes are all about the performances and the debate of ideas. There are some interesting dolly moves characteristic of Steven’s visual sensibility, but it is all very understated,” he explains."

"These scenes also electrified Kathleen Kennedy. “The camera never moves in these scenes unless it’s in the service of the narrative. Steven wanted to show the human intricacies of how a democratic government works, so it was never about cutting from one talking head to the next but about really giving the audience a sense of how the arguments were progressing,” she says. “More than anything, Steven wanted to capture the volatility of what was going on in this political battle.

Throughout the film, Kaminski aimed for period naturalism in the lighting. “It’s 1860, so Lincoln’s world would be lit with gas and oil lamps,” he notes. “We used a lot of existing light sources, light coming through windows, light from lamps, but we also created light sources to better serve the storytelling. Smoke was also utilized to give the film a moody patina and because Lincoln’s environs would have been filled with it. There were constantly people smoking pipes, smoking cigars and there was no ventilation, so rooms all had that smoky atmosphere.”"

Recommended for history buffs: a historical drama of high quality.

Steven Spielberg's film is deeply and personally felt, and while it focuses intelligently on a crucial moment in Lincoln's life it has also a feeling of contemporary relevance.

The 40 single-spaced pages of the production notes are interesting to read. They confirm the personal nature of the film and the fact that it was Spielberg's idea to focus on a single month, January 1865, the last month of the Civil War.

The web discussions on the historical accuracy of Lincoln are exciting to read. I am not an expert and cannot comment on these matters. Reading the production notes it becomes clear that the film-makers, especially Spielberg, were very well versed in history. In a dramatization it is never possible to project the full complexity of what happened.  I think the makers of Lincoln have come a long way in dramatizing the contradictions and intricacies of politics.

Tony Kushner has done a great job, inspired by Doris Kearns Goodwin, in creating this screenplay. But of the Kushner-Spielberg collaborations, I prefer Munich, my favourite of Spielberg's historical films.

The narrative of the Lincoln film is a unique race to the rescue: the Thirteenth Amendment on formally abolishing slavery must be passed before the war ends. Not quite "by any means necessary" but the means are sometimes far from noble.

I would want to like this film more, and I look forward to seeing it again. There is nothing wrong in any of the contributions of the artists; they are superb. The project is personal, yet it feels a bit too academic and polished, although the character of Lincoln is not idealized and although he is portrayed as a man of contradictions.

Daniel Day-Lewis rises to the occasion and his is now one of the best Lincoln performances. Yet I still slightly prefer Walter Huston and Henry Fonda.

Visually Lincoln is excellent, and the warmth of the photochemical 35 mm cinematography has been conveyed in the 4K digital intermediate very well.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Books on my table

André Gaudreault, Nicolas Dulac, and Santiago Hidalgo (ed.): A Companion to Early Cinema. Assisted by Pierre Chemartin. Editorial Board: François Albera, Jennifer Bean, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Jane M. Gaines, Richard Koszarski, Michèle Lagny, and Charles Musser. 631 p. Oxford / Malden: John Wiley & Sons / Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. - An essential opus on early cinema (the cinema before WWI) with 30 articles by top experts. - NB. Brise-glace en Finlande (FR 1910), p. 291-292.

Sarah Keller & Jason N. Paul: Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations. Amsterdam: S. Keller & J.N. Paul, 2012. The first extended English-language book on the great French poetic film artist and philosopher of the cinema. Many-sided and representative, with a fine selection of Epstein's own texts.

Giovanna Fossati: From Grain to Pixel. The Archival Life of Film in Transition. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009. A basic study on digital restoration and archiving.

Petteri Järvinen: Kodin digitekniikka. Kuva, ääni, laitteet & mahdollisuudet. [Home Digital Technology. Image, Sound, Equipment, Opportunities]. Jyväskylä: Docendo / WS Bookwell, 2007. - A good general survey, extensive and detailed, on the situation of home digital technology six years ago. Everything has changed, but the basic questions about durability remain.

Matti Rinne: Yksitoista Tapiovaaraa. Tuoleja, tauluja, elokuvia [Eleven Tapiovaaras. Chairs, Paintings, Movies]. Helsinki: Teos, 2008. - The great man of the cinema Nyrki Tapiovaara belonged to a remarkable cultural family. This is their story with new information and insight about Nyrki Tapiovaara.

Jaakko Seppälä: Hollywood tulee Suomeen. Yhdysvaltalaisten elokuvien maahantuonti ja vastaanotto kaksikymmentäluvun Suomessa. [Hollywood Comes to Finland. The Import and Reception of American Films in Finland in the 1920s]. Helsinki: Helsingin yliopisto, 2012. - Jaakko Seppälä's huge dissertation is a thorough study on the breakthrough of Hollywood films into Finland based on comprehensive archival sources. The Hollywood dominance in Finnish film distribution started in 1923.

Olivier Assayas: A Post-May Adolescence. Letter to Alice Debord. And two essays on Guy Debord. Translated and annotated by Adrian Martin and Rachel Zerner. Wien: SYNEMA, 2012. Olivier Assayas's key texts on politics and Situationism.

Olivier Assayas: Présences. Écrits sur le cinéma. Préface de Laurence Schifano. Paris: Gallimard, 2009. Writings for Cahiers du Cinéma (1980-1985) and a "En marge de mes films" section (1993-2008).

Vesa Manninen: Halun ja moraalin maisemia. Psykoanalyyttista suunnistusta [Landscapes of Desire and Morality. Psychoanalytic Orientations]. Forssa: Helsingin Psykoterapiayhdistys Ry. - Includes Vesa Manninen's psychoanalytical study on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (p. 71-84).

Friday, February 15, 2013

Orson Welles: Rebecca (radioplay, 1938)

PC: Campbell Playhouse / Campbell Theater / [The Mercury Theatre on the Air]. Broadcast by: CBS, 9 December, 1938. P: John Houseman. D: Orson Welles. SC: Howard Koch - based on the novel (1938) by Daphne Du Maurier. M composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann. C: Margaret Sullavan (Mrs. de Winter), Orson Welles (Max de Winter), Mildred Natwick (Mrs. Danvers), Ray Collins (Frank Crawley), George Coulouris (Captain [Sow?]), Frank Readick (the idiot), Alfred Shirley (Frith), [Eustace Wyatt?] (Coroner), Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Van Hopper). Total broadcast time including the Campbell Playhouse series introduction (Rebecca was the first programme of the series), other introductions, the announcement of the forthcoming Rebecca film adaptation by David O. Selznick, Orson Welles star profile, conclusion, commercial breaks, Campbell's Soup theme anthem (Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1), Rebecca theme waltz "Songe d'automne" (Archibald Joyce) here called "Spring Fever", end credit announcements and next week's announcement 60 min.
   In the conclusion there is a telephone interview from New York to Daphne Du Maurier in London. What is the name of the protagonist? Daphne Du Maurier: "Mrs. Max de Winter".

The Mercury Theatre online: "The finest radio drama of the 1930’s was The Mercury Theatre on the Air, a show featuring the acclaimed New York drama company founded by Orson Welles and John Houseman. In its brief run, it featured an impressive array of talents, including Agnes Moorehead, Bernard Herrmann, and George Coulouris. The show is famous for its notorious War of the Worlds broadcast, but the other shows in the series are relatively unknown. This site has many of the surviving shows, and will eventually have all of them."

"The show first broadcast on CBS and CBC in July 1938. It ran without a sponsor until December of that year, when it was picked up by Campbell’s Soup and renamed The Campbell Playhouse. All of the surviving Mercury Theatre shows are available from this page in RealAudio format (some are also in MP3 format). There are several Campbell Playhouse episodes available here as well, in both RealAudio and MP3 formats; the rest are being added gradually." http://www.mercurytheatre.info/

Wikipedia: "The series made its debut with Welles' adaptation of Rebecca, with guest stars Margaret Sullavan and Mildred Natwick. Bernard Herrmann composed and conducted the imaginative score, and later used much of it for the film Jane Eyre. The radio drama was the first adaptation of the 1938 novel by Daphne Du Maurier; the author was interviewed live from London at the conclusion of the broadcast."

"The same creative staff stayed on, but the show had a different flavor under sponsorship. This was partially due to a guest star policy which relegated the Mercury Players to supporting roles. There was a growing schism between Welles, still reaping the rewards of his Halloween night notoriety, and Houseman, who became more like an employee than a partner. The primary writer, as during the end of the unsponsored run, was Howard Koch."

"Last night I dreamt I went back to Manderley again".

In the first adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's novel, Orson Welles's radioplay of 1938, similar words were uttered by Margaret Sullavan, the charming protagonist of the films of Frank Borzage, among others.

Rebecca is not the name of the protagonist of the story. The protagonist of Rebecca has no name. Rebecca, the ex-mistress of Manderley, is dead, gone before the narrative begins, but her memory reigns over Manderley and casts an overwhelming shadow over its new, shy mistress.

After the announcement of the 2012 Sight & Sound poll of the best films of the world I found it intriguing that both top films share an important credit - the composer Bernard Herrmann.

The current number one film, Vertigo, was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and the current number two, Citizen Kane, by Orson Welles. Hitchcock had started his film career almost twenty years before Welles: Citizen Kane was released in 1941.

Yet Welles managed to influence Hitchcock's first Hollywood film, Rebecca (1940). David O. Selznick sent to Hitchcock to London a recording of Orson Welles's radioplay. Perhaps it was the first opportunity for Hitchcock to listen to the music of Bernard Herrmann.

Herrmann did not get to compose the film Rebecca. The task was assigned to Franz Waxman, who did a great job. Herrmann, in turn, adapted elements of his Rebecca score to the film adaptation Jane Eyre, with Orson Welles as Rochester, a quite similar tale, and perhaps an inspiration for Daphne Du Maurier. Joan Fontaine who had the leading role in Rebecca (and in Hitchcock's Suspicion) was also Jane Eyre.

Orson Welles, in turn, was influenced as a film director by Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca, and Heikki Nyman has pointed out striking similarities in Rebecca and Citizen Kane: Manderley / Xanadu, the letter R / the letter K, the burning pillow / the burning sled...

Like Rebecca, Vertigo is also a story about the haunting presence of a woman who no longer exists. In the 1938 radio version of Rebecca we already hear familiar chords composed by Bernard Herrmann. They are sketches for a small live orchestra. In Vertigo some of those ideas grew and became a part of  a symphonic and operatic score which had a devastating force.

Tapsa - viiltoja reissumiehen elämästä / Tapsa

FI 1980. PC: Yleisradio / TV 1 / Viihdetoimitus. D+SC : Peter von Bagh. ED: Paavo Eskelinen. Featuring: Tapio Rautavaara. Telecasts: 20.3.1980 and 16.12.1982 YLE TV1, 16.6.2007, 17.6.2007 and 2.8.2008 YleTeema – vhs release: 1985 YLE Tallennepalvelu – VET A-25267 – S – 74 min – Orion 2013: digibeta / Yle Export. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (How My Films Were Made), 15 Feb 2013.

In the presence of Peter von Bagh. In the conclusion to his preceding lecture and in the introduction to this screening he commented that Tapsa was the incredible culmination of his career in the sense that there were 2,5 million viewers, half of the entire population. See my entry on Bagh's lecture for further comments.

A documentary film on Tapio Rautavaara (8 March 1915, Pirkkala - 25 September 1979, Helsinki), a wanderer and an artist. "The purpose of the film Tapsa was to reflect Rautavaara's personality. He himself as a character gave the keys. It has been tinged accordingly. From the material any kind of movie could have been made. It could have been in a deadly earnest register or entirely consisting of wisecracks. But as it is it is perhaps true to Rautavaara" (Peter von Bagh, 1980).

"For television Peter von Bagh launched in 1972 his huge project to cover Finnish popular culture, traditional and modern (in Olavi Virta, 1972, Paavo Nurmi, 1978, Tauno Palo, 1981, and in Suomi-pop – suomalaisen iskelmän historia [Suomi Pop - the History of the Finnish Hit Songs], 1-5, 1984–1985)."

"Inspired by Siegfried Kracauer Bagh coined into the Finnish vocabulary the expression about hit songs being 'a secret history of the nation'. Sinitaivas ([The Blue Sky], 1978) Repe (1979), and Tapsa (1980) were visionary works, and Vuosi 1952 ([The Year 1952] ,1980) was an early culmination of Bagh's collage approach. The high and the low, the sublime and the ridiculous were mixed like in John Ford's films. Along with the portraits of established stars of the Finnish popular music Bagh produced a remarkable series about the topical personalities of 'Suomi rock'. In the 19 episodes of the Lähikuvassa [In Close-Up] series in 1983-1992 the modern stars included Tuomari Nurmio, Remu Aaltonen, Pelle Miljoona, Juice Leskinen, Hassisen Kone, Eppu Normaali, Dave "Isokynä" Lindholm, and Rauli "Badding" Somerjoki." (Antti Alanen: Elokuvantekijät [Encyclopedia of Film-Makers], Helsinki: Otava, 2012).

Olaf Möller: "Tapio Rautavaara (1915-79) had it all: He was an Olympic Gold Medallist (javelin, London 1948) and master archer (world champion with the Finnish team, 1958), one of Finland's few chansonniers, as well as a mighty popular movie star. Tapsa, as he was called, is an honest-to-God Finnish pop-legend whose sheer appearance in a film still can make an audience go wild with joy. Difficult to imagine that this rugged-looking, unpretentious guy who ever so candidly shares his memories here with the audience was a man able to keep a nation spell-bound – yet what a wonderful certainty. Tapsa – viiltoja reissumiehen elämästä is driven by Peter von Bagh's admiration, nay: love for this axiom of post-war Finland, the nation's aspirations made flesh. Some of the material he had shot with Tapsa already found a place in Repe – sirpaleita Reino Helismaan elämästä. Not only for this, these two works should be considered as parts of the same project: Tapsa – viiltoja reissumiehen elämästä remembers the times, Repe – sirpaleita Reino Helismaan elämästä reconstructs them." (Olaf Möller: The Finland Inside, the Rotterdam 2012 essay expanded in 2013)

A documentary portrait on Tapio Rautavaara largely shot during his last months, shortly before he died in an accident. The foundation of the movie is a powerful and deeply felt interview, following in the same profound mood as the Tapio Rautavaara interviews for the preceding film Repe, on Rautavaara's close colleague and fellow wanderer Reijo Helismaa.

Intercut is Rautavaara's contemporary tour footage and excerpts from his appearances in newsreels, film performances and recordings.

Tapio Rautavaara is a born storyteller, and the movie is a chronological journey into his life and his times. The magic of this film is how it catches the spirit of Tapsa, his way and at the same time the entire stretch of the history of the independent Finland he covered and experienced: what it meant to be fatherless, how it was in the 1930s, during the wars, stardom after the war...

The essence of this movie is that is a documentary of a dream and of the spirit of a modern bard, Tapio Rautavaara, who was like a Woody Guthrie or a Johnny Cash of Finland, but entirely original.

Faaraoiden maa (1988) / The Land of the Pharaohs (1988)

FI 1988. PC: Yleisradio. D+SC: Peter von Bagh - excerpts from the novel The Egyptian (1945) by Mika Waltari - a compilation film made for television - based on Finnish fiction and non-fiction films from the years 1945-1946. ED: Pentti Kauranen, Risto Salo. 29 min – Orion 2013: digibeta / Yle Export. - Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (How My Films Were Made), 15 Feb 2013.

In the presence of Peter von Bagh. In the conclusion of his preceding lecture and in his introduction to the screening he commented: The Land of the Pharaohs is a film about the year 1945, about Finland which had lost the war. It is my nearly most unknown film. It has never been telecast again.

"Excerpts from Mika Waltari's classic of popular historical fiction, Sinuhe, egyptilainen (1945), considered as comments on postwar Finland. A lean work, clear in its conception, straight-forward in its execution, muscular in its movement, and deep in its thoughts. Splendid." (Olaf Möller, Rotterdam Film Festival, 2012)

A poetic, multi-perspective essay on the devastating year 1945 seen through two kinds of reflections. The first reflection is Mika Waltari's novel The Egyptian, one of the biggest bestsellers of all times in Finland, and a bestseller even abroad, including the United States, where it was the basis for one of the first CinemaScope films, unfortunately miscast. The second set of reflections is provided by the fictional and non-fictional films of the time. The images of the refugees (from Stalin's Eastern Karelia) and the devastation of Lapland (by Nazi German soldiers) are among the most poignant in Finnish history. Yet there is in the imagery a confidence of perseverance, survival, and a new start via reconstruction and a new political landscape.