Sunday, November 19, 2017

Reading classics of Antiquity XII: Virgil: Aeneid completed

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo / Giandomenico Tiepolo (1727–1804): La processione del cavallo di Troia / The Greeks Entering Troy / Kreikkalaiset tunkeutuvat Troijaan / Grekerna invaderar Troja III. 1760. Bozzetto. Oil on canvas. 41 x 55 cm. Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Accession number: inv. no. S–1996–105. Photo: Hannu Aaltonen. Wikimedia Commons. The first two bozzettos of Tiepolo Junior's Troyan Horse series belong to the National Gallery (London). Please click to enlarge the images.

J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851): Dido Building Carthage (The Rise of the Carthaginian Empire, 1815). National Gallery. Oil on canvas. Source/Photographer: The Athenaeum. Permission: "You can reuse the artwork (but not our logos or original text) in any way, as long as you credit us." Wikipedia.

Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625): Aneas en de sibille in de onderwereld (Aeneas and a Sibyl in the Underworld, ca. 1600). Color on copper. 36 × 52 cm (14.2 × 20.5 in). Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Accession number: GG_817. Object history: 1619 Vienna. Notes: The painting depicts Aeneas' journey in the Underworld led by the Cumaean Sibyl (Aeneid VI, 269–282). Wikipedia.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867): Tu Marcellus eris / (Virgilio lee la Eneida a Livia, Octavia y Augusto) / [Virgil Reads the Aeneid to Livia, Octavia, and Augustus]. 1811 (date de début d'exécution). Huile sur toile. 326 x 307 cm. Statut administratif: Legs de Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Numéro d'inventaire: RO 124. Photothèque Musée des Augustins, Toulouse. Photo: Daniel Martin. © Musée des Augustins. L'histoire de cette œuvre est des plus complexes. Commandée par le général Miollis, gouverneur français à Rome, pour sa résidence de la villa Aldobrandini, la peinture est revendue à Francesco Borghèse avant qu'Ingres lui-même ne la rachète en 1835. En 1868, la peinture entre au musée mais singulièrement ruinée. Peu avant sa mort, Ingres entreprend en effet d'en corriger certains aspects qui ne le satisfont pas mais laisse l'ensemble inachevé. Jean Pichon, un de ses élèves, en réintègrera finalement les parties manquantes alors même que la toile se trouve déjà aux Augustins. - La scène présente Virgile, sur la gauche, tenant le manuscrit de l'Enéide déroulé. L'Empereur Auguste et sa sœur Octavie lui font face. Cette dernière s'évanouit lorsque le poète prononce les mots de « Tu Marcellus eris », rappelant son fils mort assassiné. Enfin, assise à côté d'eux, voici Livie, épouse d'Auguste et probable commanditaire du meurtre. [Octavia faints at the words "Tu Marcellus eris" {"You will be Marcellus"}, remembering her assassinated son. Livia, the wife of Augustus, is the probable contractor of the assassination.] - L'influence du néo-classicisme de David – David, dont Ingres fut l'élève après avoir fréquenté l'Académie des beaux-arts de Toulouse - est ici particulièrement remarquable. Les musées royaux des beaux-arts de Bruxelles conservent un tableau de même sujet et de composition très proche, peint par Ingres autour de 1820. © Musée des Augustins, Victor Hundsbuckler. Wikipedia.

Vergilius: Aeneis
Virgil: Aeneid. Written in Brundisium, the Roman Empire. Year of publication: Virgil left his work unfinished when he died in 19 BC. Written in dactylic hexameter in Latin, Golden Latin. Divided into 12 books. Originally published in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines). Survival status: complete. Read in Finnish:
Publius Vergilius Maro: Aeneis. Aeneaan taru
Finnish translation (in hexameter) by Päivö Oksala (I–IV: Aeneas and Dido) and Teivas Oksala (V–XII). Introduction, explanations, name glossary, maps and sources written and edited by Päivö Oksala. 451 p., Porvoo / Helsinki / Juva: WSOY, 1999.

Having first read the first four books of the Aeneid that were published in one volume in the Antiikin klassikot series translated by Päivö Oksala I then read the whole thing, brought to a finish by the son Teivas Oksala and published as a separate edition outside the series.

In Book Five we visit "the Olympiad", the funeral games in memory of Aeneas's father. In Book Six Aeneas enters the shores of Cumae, and guided by the Cumaean Sibyl descends to the underworld (katabasis), to the banks of the river Acheron. Charon the ferryman takes him to the other side, passing by Cerberus and Tartarus, until we enter the fields of Elysium where Aeneas meets his father and sees visions of the golden age of Rome.

In Book Seven Aeneas arrives in Italy. Juno provokes the peoples of Italy to war. In Book Eight the war is being prepared. In Book Nine the Troyans are surrounded and attacked. In Book Ten Gods meet and Pallas leads the Arcadeans to fight. In Book Eleven the dead are buried and the cavalries fight. Camilla fights her brave fight. In Book Twelve the war is settled via a single combat between Aeneas and Turnus.

The grandeur of the tragedy of Dido becomes fully evident in Book Six. In this official foundation myth of the Roman Empire we are already made to understand the genesis of its most formidable foe, Carthage. The antagonism is historical and psychological. Dido shatters the validity of Aeneas's calling to the core, and in the conscience of Aeneas the guilty agony for the destiny of Dido will never heal.

T. S. Eliot found the meeting of Aeneas with the shade of Dido in the underworld exemplary in What Is a Classic? Dido's dignity is like a projection of Aeneas' own conscience. "Instead of railing at him, she merely snubs him". "What matters most is that Aeneas does not forgive himself". Virgil compares Dido with the moon glimpsed through the clouds, aut videt aut vidisse putat. In this account Virgil grows into "the conscience of Rome" (Eliot).

The Finnish hexameter works very well, at best read aloud, even alone, and it could easily be composed to song. Greek and Roman epic poetry started in rhythmical, musical modes.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Reading classics of Antiquity XI: Lucretius: De rerum natura

Lucretius: De rerum natura. In Latin, Copied by Girolamo di Matteo de Tauris for Sixtus IV, Italy, 1483 - Lucretius, De rerum natura // This elegant manuscript of Lucretius's philosophical poem, copied by an Augustinian friar for a pope, is an example of the interest in ancient accounts of nature taken by the Renaissance curia. The work, written in the first century B.C., contains one of the principal accounts of ancient atomism. The poem was little known in the Middle Ages and its author dismissed as an atheist and lunatic, but after the discovery of an early manuscript in 1417 by the humanist and papal secretary Poggio Bracciolini, it circulated widely in Italy. This is one of numerous copies made at that time. The coat of arms of Sixtus IV appears on this page. Vat. lat. 1569 fol. 1 recto medbio04 NAN.13. Wikipedia

Lucretius: De rerum natura
On the Nature of Things. Written in [domicile unknown], the Roman Republic, 55 BC, in Latin, in dactylic hexameter, Golden Latin. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in six tomes / volumines). Unfinished.
    Survival status: almost complete.
    Read in Finnish:
T. Lucretius Carus: Maailmankaikkeudesta
Finnish translation (in hexameter), introduction and glossary by Paavo Numminen. Series: Antiikin klassikot. 449 p. Porvoo / Helsinki: WSOY, 1965.

Hardly anything is known about Lucretius who introduced Epicurean philosophy to Rome. He is supposed to have lived in 15–55 BC in the Roman Republic where his grand philosophical poem De rerum natura was left unfinished.

The reigning philosophical currents in Rome were Epicureanism and Stoicism, seen as diametrically opposed. It is interesting to discover, reading Seneca, the first prominent representative of Roman Stoicism, that he has only praise for Epicurus and Lucretius. What was generally called Epicureanism was a vulgar form close to hedonism.

None of the works of the classics of Greek materialism survive. Leucippus, Democritus and Epicurus we only know from comments of others and a few scattered fragments. De rerum natura is priceless not only in itself but also as a condensation of this distinguished tradition of materialism. But Lucretius is not a strict materialist, having been influenced by the cosmologies of Empedocles, Xenophanes and Parmenides, although he has chapters denouncing Heraclitus, Empedocles and Anaxagoras.

Lucretius was following the model of his predecessors both in the vision of his grand cosmology and in his choice of expressing himself in hexameter: De rerum natura is epic philosophical poetry, a magnum opus that served as a model for Virgil. Philosophy and poetry form an inseparable whole. There are chains of free associations. Suspension of thought is a characteristic device. This was the age when Golden Latin was developed as a language of poetry.

De rerum natura is also a textbook and an encyclopedia. It starts with a hymn to Venus, the genesis, the mother of Aeneas. (Later there is a similar praise to the great mother Cybele). Lucretius attacks religion without being an atheist. His praise to the Gods is a poetic way of celebrating forces of life. The divine message of beauty is of the essence: the foundation is materialistic but the view of life celebrates the sacred.

Of the six books the books I–II are devoted to atomism and the eternity. Books III–IV focus on spirituality: animus (spirit) and anima (soul). Books V–VI discuss the university, the earth, and cosmic circumstances such as magnetism.

In Book IV Lucretius discusses the senses, the vision, based on a theory of atom-thin (143–173) and lightning-fast (143–173) membranes, simulacra that move between the objects and the eye. The membranes have also been translated as fine films. There is a notion of a cinematographic stream (794–801). Dream is a limbo between being awake and death (907–961). At the end of the chapter Lucretius writes about the awesomeness of passion, the traps of Venus, and the best position for fertility (a tergo). In scientific terms, this chapter is a lot of nonsense, but in poetic terms, there is a dream vision of the cinema. Lucretius is also one of the pioneers of the concept of simulacrum.

In Book V Lucretius expresses thoughts that include early ideas of natural selection, archaelogical stages of human evolution, the development of society, and cosmology.

As a poet Lucretius immediately influenced Virgil, Horace, and Ovid, and as a writer also Cornelius Nepos (and even Seneca). When Lucretius was rediscovered during the Renaissance, Botticelli painted Primavera inspired by him. Ben Jonson, Thomas Jefferson, Montaigne and Goethe studied Lucretius, as did Saint-Exupéry and Santayana, and in Sweden, Levertin, and in Finland, Koskenniemi.

This book of the so-called materialist Lucretius is a wild flight of fancy with affinities with psychedelia. Lucretius was a visionary poet, and some of his visions are relevant for atom physics.

I read Lucretius in Finnish hexameter with excellent and thorough introductions to each book by the translator Paavo Numminen.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bill Krohn on Hitchcock and harassment

Sexual harassment is a big topic this autumn. Even Alfred Hitchcock's name appears among the harassers. This claim seems out of character regarding Hitchcock's often genial relationships with his leading ladies (some of whom became lifelong family friends). What's more, Hitchcock in my opinion is the greatest film artist to have dramatized sexual harassment, from Blackmail to Marnie, always with profound empathy towards the suffering of the female protagonist. Last night I wrote to Bill Krohn, a scholar known for his sober studies based on documents and other primary sources. With his kind permission I copy his remarks.

"Hitchcock never engaged in the kind of physical abuse Harvey Weinstein and others who have been named recently heaped on actresses and actors alike. Here are the facts as I know them:

1927–1950:  Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville was his closest collaborator from the early days through STAGE FRIGHT, the last credit she received on one of his films.  During the writing of STAGE FRIGHT she had an affair with Whitfield Cook (played by Danny Huston in HITCHCOCK). 

55:  Hitchcock then tried to even the score by verbally propositioning Brigitte Auber when he took her home in his limousine after a day spent working on TO CATCH A THIEF.  Auber, a sophisticated French girl who was, I believe, in love with Cary Grant, politely demurred, pretending she thought it was a joke.  By the way, Hitchcock was slimmed down thanks to one of his periodic reducing regimens, so if anything had happened they'd have been a couple like Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman.

1964:  Hitchcock was mad about 'Tippi' Hedren, a model he brought from New York and turned into a movie star.  His collaborators -- Harold Michelson, Robert Boyle and Albert Whitlock -- told me off the record when we did the BIRDS round-table for Cahiers that he ran the commercial he'd seen her in over and over in his private screening room, "quivering with lust," and the pot finally boiled over during the making of MARNIE:  He verbally propositioned her in her trailer, and she told him he was a "disgusting, fat pig" and she'd never let him touch her. 

Hedren, who has told many versions of the story, is a Southern woman, hence a flirt.  I don't think she was innocent in what happened in the trailer.  But she went to Hitchcock's best friend Lew Wasserman, then head of MCA-Universal, and begged him not to green-light MARY ROSE, which would have concluded a trilogy of films by Hitchcock starring Hedren, and Wasserman, as much out of concern for Alma as for Hedren, put it in Hitchcock's contract that he could do any film he wanted for $3 million "as long as it wasn't MARY ROSE."  That's how we got FRENZY and FAMILY PLOT.

I have read the script Hitchcock wrote himself for MARY ROSE -- Dan Auiler missed it while researching Hitchcock's Notebooks.  (I quote some of it at the end of Hitchcock at Work.)  It would have been very beautiful.  And for the record, contrary to what has been claimed, Hitchcock didn't destroy her career in revenge.  Two years later she starred opposite Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren in A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG -- directed, ironically, by a very real Humbert Humbert, Charlie Chaplin.

Reading classics of Antiquity X: Seneca

Estatua de Séneca en Córdoba, su lugar de nacimiento. Bronce de Amadeo Ruiz Olmos, 1965. Bronze de Amadeo Ruiz Olmos (1913-1993) : statue inaugurée en 1965 de Sénèque (philosophe de l'école stoïcienne, dramaturge et homme d'État romain du Ier siècle de l'ère chrétienne) dans sa ville natale, l'actuelle Cordoue en Andalousie. Wikipedia. La enciclopedia libre.

Seneca the Younger:
2. De constantia sapientis / On the Firmness of the Wise Person, 55 AD, dialogue addressed to Serenus.
De clementia / On Clemency, 56 AD, essay written to Nero on the virtue of the emperor.
7. De vita beata / On the Happy Life, 58 AD, dialogue addressed to his older brother Gallio.
9. De tranquillitate animi / On Tranquillity of Mind, 63 AD, dialogue addressed to Serenus.
12. Ad Helviam matrem, de consolatione / To Mother Helvia, On Consolation, 42 AD, letter to mother on Seneca's absence during exile.
Epistolae morales ad Lucilium / Moral Letters to Lucilius / Moral Epistles. 65 AD, 124 letters addressed to Lucilius Junior.
    Written in Rome (except Ad Helviam in exile in Corsica), the Roman Empire, in Latin. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).

    Read in Finnish:
Seneca: Tutkielmia ja kirjeitä.
Five essays (Viisaan ihmisen mielenlujuudesta. Lempeydestä. Onnellisesta elämästä. Mielentyyneydestä. Lohduttautumisesta) and 32 letters (a selection from the 124 letters to Lucilius Junior). Translated into Finnish from Latin by J. A. Hollo. Introduction by Jussi Tenkku. Series: Antiikin klassikot. 341 p. Porvoo / Helsinki. WSOY, 1964.

The great Cordovan Stoic philosopher and "humanist saint" Seneca (4 BC–65 AD) lived during the reign of the first five emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

When Domitius (the later emperor Nero) was 12 years old, Seneca became his teacher and advisor, and Seneca taught him principles of good governance. According to Trajan the first five years of Nero's reign were the happiest in the history of Rome. After Burrus, Nero's other advisor, died, Nero started to receive other kinds of counsel from Tigellius, Poppea Sabina, and Agrippina, and turned into a monster. Those other advisors could not stand Stoics. When a conspiracy against Nero was exposed, Poppea and Tigellius framed Seneca. Nero, who had respected his teacher so far, condemned Seneca to death, but Seneca was allowed to select his own way of death as a special clemency.

Epicureanism and Stoicism were the reigning philosophical schools in imperial Rome. Epicureanism degraded into shallow hedonism, Stoicism became the philosophy of the most influential men, and Seneca was the first prominent representative of Roman Stoicism. The goal was ataraxia: the peace of mind, equaniminity (a term also used by Epicurus). The proper attitude to matters which are beyond our influence is indifference (adiaphora). The wise man is God-like, with the exception of immortality, and he aims at self-sufficiency (autarkeia). Human happiness needs to be dignified. Virtue (arete) is the only real human good (agathos). Happiness is the possession of goodness. The supreme and only true goal is virtuous action. A virtuous person is likely to receive more dignified pleasure in life without pursuing it than the Epicurean who pursues it as the supreme good.

Epicurus advised to withdraw from the bustle of life. Stoics aimed at an active life. The events in life are guided by an omnipresent divinity, providence. Reality with all its events is fundamentally good.

Seneca was a representative of Silver Latin. He started to use a language which could appeal to the general public.

Seneca believed in equality, insisted on lenient treatment of slaves, opposed gladiator shows, defended women's rights and preferred duty to self-indulgence.

Seneca was not a profound thinker in philosophical theory but he was a great philosopher of ethics, of the good life, and his writings are based on experience gained during the first five emperors of Rome. His teachings are so close to Christianity that there has been a tradition that he was in correspondence with St. Paul. This tradition is spurious but Seneca does, indeed, adhere to the Golden Rule (see the Letter to Lucilius on Philosophy and Friendship, p. 197 in this volume). However, this teaching is not theological, and Seneca was also admired by the Enlightenment philosophers Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau.

This volume could be perfect bedtime reading: the letters are usually only two pages long. Each letter could be a model for today's column writers or bloggers. The letters are addressed to Lucilius but perhaps were never sent; the mere idea of correspondence can give shape to thought.

Regarding the presumed antagonism between Stoicism and Epicureanism it is interesting to observe that Seneca has only good things to say about Epicurus (p. 23–24, 87 in this volume) and Lucretius (p. 118, 313 in this volume). The antagonism was obviously between Stoicism and a degraded form of "Epicureanism".

Words of wisdom abound. De tranquillitate animi seems especially topical today. Seneca discusses the zeal of travelling (p. 117–118 in this volume).

"Aliud ex alio iter suscipitur et spectacula spectaculis mutantur. Ut ait Lucretius:

    Hoc se quisque modo semper fugit.

Sed quid prodest, si non effugit ? Sequitur se ipse et urget gravissimus comes."

Travel, but you cannot escape yourself. You will remain your own heaviest yoke.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reading classics of Antiquity IX: Cicero

Cesare Maccari: (1840–1919): Cicerone denuncia Catilina, affresco di Cesare Maccari a Palazzo Madama in Roma che raffigura Cicerone mentre pronuncia una delle orazioni contro Catilina. Fresco. Palazzo Madama, Roma. Pubblico dominio. Wikipedia. Please do click to enlarge the image.

Cicero: Cato maior de senectute
Cato the Elder on Old Age. Written in Rome, the Roman Republic, 44 BC, in Latin. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).

Cicero: Laelius de amiticia
Laelius on Friendship. Written in Rome, the Roman Republic, 44 BC, in Latin. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).

Cicero: De officiis
On Duties / On Obligations. Written in Rome, the Roman Republic, 44 BC, in Latin. Published posthumously (Cicero was assassinated shortly after the assassination of Julius Caesar). Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).

Read in Finnish:
Cicero: Vanhuudesta / Ystävyydestä / Velvollisuuksista. Translated into Finnish from Latin and introduction written by Marja Itkonen-Kaila. Series: Antiikin klassikot. 275 p. Porvoo / Helsinki: WSOY, 1967.

I would sum up the message of Cato maior de senectute thus: old age is the best time in life. A humoristic paradox, it can be taken at face value, or as a brilliant demonstration of the ability of the master orator to defend even the most improbable case, or most philosophically, as a case of a man always completely at ease with himself – for him every age is the best time in life. We are truly alive only in the now, but the now is always the end of the past and the beginning of the future. It is great fun to read how Seneca, in the guise of Cato the Elder, refutes the four reasons to deplore old age (obstacles to action, losing the strength of youth, missing the pleasures of the senses, the vicinity of death) and turns them into advantages. One can interpret this as denial or as supreme affirmation.

 "True friendship can only exist between decent people" is the key sentence of Laelius de amiticia. What would be better than be able to talk about anything like only with yourself? Friendship brings more flair to success and less pressure on adversity. The opposite of friendship is the life of the tyrant who can never feel love and must live in constant suspicion. Nothing is more important than friends, true friends who are faithful, unwavering and with a strong character. The true friend is revealed only in danger. Pretense is the death of friendship; even enemies are more valuable than such friends, because enemies often tell the truth, but sham friends never. Virtue is the only guarantee of real friendship.

De officiis, published posthumously after Cicero's assassination, is his spiritual testament and one of the most influential books of all time, an inspiration to St. Thomas Aquinas, Petrarch, Erasmus, Melanchthon, Grotius, Locke, and Voltaire. Cicero discusses what is honorable and what is profitable and finds out that they are the same. The concrete historical context is the dictatorship of Julius Caesar against whom Cicero presents a profound criticism: the most magnanimous man can fail because of his lust for power. De officiis is a great philosophical study on the foundations of society, social life. Cicero's key concepts include εὐταξία / modestia / moderation and εὐκαιρία / occasio / occasion – the art of knowing when is the proper moment to act. In Book III, chapters 21–22 Cicero presents a compact criticism of exploitation: it makes human social interaction impossible because it inevitably cuts the bonds of human society. It is like one member of the body would try to suck the energy from other members; the whole body would suffer. "This, then, ought to be the chief end of all men, to make the interest of each individual and of the whole body politic identical. For, if the individual appropriates to selfish ends what should be devoted to the common good, all human fellowship will be destroyed." (Book III, Chapter 26). With the same argument Cicero defends philoxenia, the hospitality to strangers.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Reading classics of Antiquity VIII: Plutarch: Parallel Lives

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912): The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra in 41 BC, 1885, oil on panel, 65.5 × 92 cm (25.8 × 36.2 in), Private collection, source: All Art Painting, public domain, Wikipedia.

Plutarkhos: Bioi paralleloi
Πλούταρχος: Βίοι παράλληλοι / Plutarch: Parallel Lives / Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans / Plutarch's Lives. Written in Chaeronea / Delphi (Boeotia, Roman Empire), 115 AD, in Ancient Greek. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).
    Survival status: 48 biographies survive. The lives of Epaminondas and Scipio Africanus are considered lost; many others are truncated.
    Read in the Finnish digest:
    Plutarkhos: Kuuluisien miesten elämäkertoja. Translated from Ancient Greek by Kalle Suuronen in the 1940s. The translation supervised and the introduction and the glossary written by Edwin Linkomies. 626 p. Porvoo / Helsinki: WSOY, 1955.
    This Finnish digest is a selection. Of the 48 surviving biographies only 11 are included. The parallel structure has been dissolved, the chapters are in reversed chronological order, and the introductions save one have been omitted.

I read for the first time Plutarch whose Parallel Lives is one of the most influential works in history.

The 1565 French translation by Jacques Amyot became a classic in its own right, influencing Montaigne, Rabelais, Corneille, Racine, Rousseau, and de Maistre. Based on it Thomas North made his 1579 English translation, influencing in turn Shakespeare, Jonson, Milton, and Emerson. Frederick the Great and Napoleon were inspired by the world-historical figures depicted, and in Germany, Goethe and Schiller were under its spell, as well.

Plutarch, the philosopher and priest of Delphi preferred to stay in his home land Chaeronea in Boeotia, but he was highly educated and enjoyed the trust of the good emperors Trajan and Hadrian.

All the 11 biographies in the selection I read are amazing, in this edition they appear in reversed chronological order: Anton, Brutus, Cicero, Julius Caesar, Sulla, Tiberius Gracchus, Gaius Gracchus, Demosthenes, Alexander, Alcibiades, and Pericles. One can understand how Shakespeare got a spark from here for Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Timon of Athens.

Plutarch is not one of the great historians in terms of accuracy, consistency and source criticism; he is not in the same league as Tacitus. Neither is he an entertainer in the manner of Cornelius Nepos who also created a series of parallel lives (almost all of which are consided lost). Plutarch belongs to the school of Herodotus: he is a master storyteller who follows the basic currents of historical reality but has also always an appetite for the grand tale. More than him, and uniquely, he has rare psychological insight and a profound understanding of the human nature. Plutarch is not only interested in fact but the fundamental motivations, the passions, the ambitions. He is fascinated to discover what makes these extraordinary men move.

Because of this his lives are still alive and engrossing to read.

And we need to get all of them translated into Finnish, following the original parallel structure. But the translation in our existing samples is also very good, indeed. Plutarch has not only inspired Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Goethe, but translators in many languages, as well!

Reading classics of Antiquity VII: Tacitus: Annales

Title page "C. Cornelii Taciti Opera quæ exstant Ex recensione Jacobi Gronovii". 1721
Center: Female figures hold a laurel crown and fasces with axe above a bust, text "JVL. Agricolae". Medallion shield picturing emperor Tiberius "TI. DIVI ... F. AUG. IMP."
To the right: A vase with satyrs and a medallion of Roma Victrix on a pedestal. Below a putto holding a rectangular image of four German warriors (one leader) with winged helmet, arrows, swords and shield. Below two putti, one with a book, seated in front of a portrait medallion shield showing emperor Claudius emperor of Germania "TI.CLAUD.CAES.AUG.GERM." Both are sitting on and pointing to a map with inscription "Sol Rhenus ... Oriental...? Rheni". Above them a portrait shield of emperor Nero "IMP.NERO.CLAUD.CAES.AUG.GERM.".
To the left: A queen with scepter and a winged angel with a writing stylus in hand. At her feet the Roman wolf with Romulus and Remus and two manuscript rolls. Above them Roman soldiers with eagle standard, insignia??, and a horn.
Source Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 55–116/120); Jacobus Gronovius (1645–1716); Beatus Rhenanus (1485–1547): C. Cornelii Taciti Opera quæ exstant, Integris Beati Rhenani, Fulvii Ursini, M. Antonii Mureti, Josiæ Merceri, Justi Lipsii, Valentis Acidalii, Curtii Pichenæ, Jani Gruteri, Hugonis Grotii, Joannis Freinshemii, Joannis Frederici Gronovii, et selectis aliorum commentariis illustrata. / Ex recensione et cum notis Jacobi Gronovii
Opera quæ exstant. Publisher: Trajecti Batavorvm : Apud Jacobum à Poolsum, et Johannem Visch. Printer: Poolsum, Jacob van, Utrecht, 1701–1761. Visch, Johan, Utrecht, 1702–1740.
Series: C. Cornelii Taciti, Opera quae extant : ex recensione et cum notis Jac. Gronovii ; 1 By Creator: Jan Goeree - Peace Palace Library, Public Domain,

Tacitus: Annales
Annals / Ab excessu divi Augusti historiarum libri [Books of History after the Death of Holy Augustus]. Written in Rome, Roman Empire. The last work of Tacitus who died ca. 120 AD. Written in Latin. Covers the history of Rome from the death of Augustus (14 AD) until the death of Nero (68 AD). Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines) in 16 (or 18) books. Long believed lost, most of the Annals were discovered during the Renaissance. Annals 1–6 survived at Corvey Abbey in Germany and Annals 11–16 at Monte Cassino. The rest is missing, only a few pages of Book 5 survive, Book 16 ends in the middle of a sentence, and the single manuscripts on which all translations are based are riddled with errors. The biggest gap is in the missing Books 6–10 (Caligula and the ascent of Claudius). Read in Finnish:
Tacitus: Keisarillisen Rooman historia. Annaalit. Translated and edited into Finnish by Iiro Kajanto. Also the introduction, glossary, pedigrees and maps are provided by Iiro Kajanto. Series: Antiikin klassikot. 516 p. Helsinki / Porvoo: WSOY, 1969.

Tacitus and Suetonius wrote their histories of the Roman emperors simultaneously. Suetonius covers the first twelve holy emperors from Julius Caesar until Domitian, Annales focuses on the four tyrants only, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero (the holy emperors # 3–6), but from the surviving manuscripts Caligula is missing and from Claudius the account of his ascent to power has not survived. The remaining Annales essentially deal with Tiberius and Nero only.

Tacitus's Histories covers the year of the four emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian), the also short-lived Vitellius, as well as the rise of the Flavian Dynasty (Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian), thus covering the holy emperors # 7–12, which means that Tacitus in these two books covers most of the same ground as Suetonius.

This is grim reading. Tacitus is considered the greatest master of Roman historical writing. As a senator he had access to the primary documents, including the Acta Senatus. There is a much more sober approach in his account than in Suetonius's work which has sometimes a lurid tabloid perspective. But the focus on the main facts only makes Tacitus's story of the excesses of Tiberius and Nero even more devastating.

Even reading this in translation it is possible to appreciate Tacitus's witty, laconic, elliptic and aphoristic style. Although based on documents, Tacitus's history has been written with real literary flair. He is a true storyteller who expresses himself in concise, precise sentences in a style called parataxis.

There is timeless wisdom in Tacitus's matter-of-fact observations of the decadence that seems inevitable during a social order based on absolute, unchecked power. And the degradation, servility and adulation of the people around the despot. Germanicus is one of the rare positive characters in the Annales. Women are not better than men: the portraits of Livia, Messalina, and Agrippina are ruthless.

There is also a callous touch in Tacitus's Annales. He has nothing but hate and contempt towards Jews and Christians in Book 15, chapter 44, one of the documents of the existence of the historical Jesus ("auctor nominis eius Christus Tibero imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat"). "Tacitus was a member of the Quindecimviri sacris faciundis, a council of priests whose duty it was to supervise foreign religious cults in Rome, which as Van Voorst points out, makes it reasonable to suppose that he would have acquired knowledge of Christian origins through his work with that body." (Wikipedia, referring to: Van Voorst, Robert E. (2011). Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus. Brill Academic Pub. p. 2159. ISBN 978-9004163720).

Reading classics of Antiquity VI: Cornelius Nepos: Lives

Creator: William Rainey (1852-1936).: Epaminondas Defending Pelopidas. Description: Illustration for Plutarch's Lives retold by W H Weston (Jack, 1910). Location: Private Collection. Medium: colour lithograph. © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images.

Cornelius Nepos: De viris illustribus: Excellentium imperatorum vitae / De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium / Vitae excellentium imperatorum
Cornelius Nepos: [Illustrious Men] / Lives of the Eminent Commanders. Written in Rome, the Roman Republic, 35 BC. Written in Latin. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).
Survival status: only 24 of the 350-400 biographies in the Lives series survive: the cycle of Greek warlords, and the biographies of Hamilkar, Hannibal, Cato the Elder, and Atticus.
Read in Finnish:
Cornelius Nepos: Kuuluisia miehiä
Translated into Finnish by Marja Itkonen. The introduction written by Jaakko Suolahti. Series: Antiikin klassikot. 170 p. Helsinki / Porvoo: WSOY, 1963

Most is lost of the literary oeuvre of Cornelius Nepos, including his History of the World, the first of its kind written by an Italian. Nepos is not considered a great writer or historian, but he writes in a simple and clear language, perfect for Latin studies, which is why he has always been on the school curriculum. Nepos loved anecdotes and strange phenomena, and his Exempla was his most popular work, now lost. It was a favourite source for speech-writers for juicy and amusing asides.

Even of his 400 biographies of Illustrious Men only 24 survive. Originally it consisted of 16 books with parallel biographies of Greek and Roman men. Only the volume of famous Greek warlords survives. These biographies are entertaining to read, and they contain interesting remarks such as the account of the law of amnesty and the statement "small gifts are durable, excessive ones transient" in the chapter on Thrasybylos, and the principle "only the character forms the destiny for each" in the chapter on Atticus.

But having read Herodotus it is illuminating to read Nepos's version of Miltiades with his different account of the battle of Marathon. Nepos's biography of Themistocles can be compared with Herodotus and Thucydides. Other leaders of the Peloponnesoan War covered by Nepos include Pausanias, Alcibiades, Thrasybulos, and Konon. The biography of Dion is as amazing as that of Alcibiades. Timotheos for Nepos is the last great warlord. Datames, Hamilkar and Hannibal, the Barbarian warlords, are treated by Nepos with awe. The highest praise Nepos reserves for Epaminondas, the self-effacing leader who earned the admiration of everybody with dignity.

Reading classics of Antiquity V: Sallust

Alcide Segoni (1847–1894): Il ritrovamento del corpo di Catilina / The Discovery of the Body of Catiline after the Battle of Pistoia, 1871. Public domain. Source: Galleria dell'Arte, Firenze. Photo: Wikipedia.

Numidia 112–105 B.C. and battles of the Jugurthine war. Vectorized from the original work in the U.S. Military Academy. By Frank Martini. Cartographer, Department of History, United States Military Academy - The Department of History, United States Military Academy. Public Domain. Wikipedia.

Sallustius: De coniuratione Catilinae / Bellum Catilinae
Sallust: The Conspiracy of Catiline. Written in Rome, the Roman Republic, 43 BC. Survival status: complete. Written in Latin. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).
Sallustius:  De bello Iugurthino / Bellum Jugurthinum
Sallust: The Jugurthine War. Written in Rome, the Roman Republic, 41 BC. Survival status: complete. Written in Latin. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).
Read in Finnish
Sallustius: Catilinan salaliitto * Jugurthan sota
Translated into Finnish by Marja Itkonen. The introduction written by Jaakko Suolahti. Series: Antiikin klassikot. 172 p. Helsinki / Porvoo: WSOY, 1963.

Sallust is the earliest Roman historian whose books are still with us, and his two historical monographs survive in a complete form. As a historian of the last decades of the Roman Republic Sallust's model was Thucydides. Like Thucydides, Sallust was partial and biased, yet aimed at rising above his prejudices and being fair and generous towards the opponent. He, in turn, became a model for Tacitus.

Sallust's portrait of Catiline and his conspiracy anno 63 BC may have been inspired by Thucydides's account of Alcibiades. They are complex and contradictory figures: amazing intriguers and fearless fighters. Sallust's account is based on official documents, the Acta Senatus, but he uses them selectively and minimizes the role of Cicero, the main conqueror of the conspiracy, and emphasizes the role of Julius Caesar.

The war of the Roman Republic against king Jugurtha of Numidia (= Algeria and Tunisia) took place in 112–105 BC, the Roman warlords being Marius and Sulla. The portrait of Jugurtha is the most impressive feature of the book, and there is again something of the amazing quality of Alcibiades in Sallust's account. The book has interesting excursions into the history of Africa. Marius was the general who transformed the Roman army, and Sulla became a Dictator of the Roman Republic, paving the way to Julius Caesar's dictatorship.

Sallust came from the provinces and was appalled at the degeneration and corruption of Rome, yet participated in it as he confesses in the first pages of The Conspiracy of Catiline. Rome had achieved grandeur during the Punic Wars against Carthage but corruption started after the victory.

Sallust:  The Jugurthine War, Chapter 41:

"For, before the destruction of Carthage, the senate and people managed the affairs of the republic with mutual moderation and forbearance; there were no contests among the citizens for honor or ascendency; but the dread of an enemy kept the state in order. When that fear, however, was removed from their minds, licentiousness and pride, evils which prosperity loves to foster, immediately began to prevail; and thus peace, which they had so eagerly desired in adversity, proved, when they had obtained it, more grievous and fatal than adversity itself. The patricians carried their authority, and the people their liberty, to excess; every man took, snatched, and seized1 what he could. There was a complete division into two factions, and the republic was torn in pieces between them. Yet the nobility still maintained an ascendency by conspiring together; for the strength of the people, being disunited and dispersed among a multitude, was less able to exert itself. Things were accordingly directed, both at home and in the field, by the will of a small number of men, at whose disposal were the treasury, the provinces, offices, honors, and triumphs; while the people were oppressed with military service and with poverty, and the generals divided the spoils of war with a few of their friends. The parents and children of the soldiers, meantime, if they chanced to dwell near a powerful neighbor, were driven from their homes. Thus avarice, leagued with power, disturbed, violated, and wasted every thing, without moderation or restraint; disregarding alike reason and religion, and rushing headlong, as it were, to its own destruction. For whenever any arose among the nobility, who preferred true glory to unjust power, the state was immediately in a tumult, and civil discord spread with as much disturbance as attends a convulsion of the earth." – Sallust, The Jugurthine War, John Selby Watson, Rev. John Selby Watson, M.A., Ed., 1899 – The Perseus Project online. – Boldfaced by me.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Masters of Finnish Cinematography (seminar)

Juha (1937). Heikki Aho and Björn Soldan, the sons of the author Juhani Aho, produced and photographed the film adaptation directed by Nyrki Tapiovaara. With Irma Seikkula (Marja) and Walle Saikko (Shemeikka). Photo: KAVI. Please click to enlarge the images.

SUOMALAISET MESTARIKUVAAJAT -seminaari elokuvateatteri Orionissa 4.11. klo 10–16.00
    In the presence of Jouko Aaltonen, Pekka Aine, Pia Andell, Erkka Blomberg, Tahvo Hirvonen, Jorma Höri, Lasse Naukkarinen, Erkki Peltomaa, Hannu Peltomaa, Seppo Rustanius, Pauli Sipiläinen, Kari Sohlberg, Ville Suhonen, and Juha-Veli Äkräs.
    Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 4 Nov 2017.

Klo 10.00 – 12.00     
1930-luvun modernistit

Erik Blombergin, Olavi Gunnarin, Eino Mäkisen, Heikki Ahon ja Björn Soldanin uraa esittelevät Jouko Aaltonen, Erkka Blomberg ja Ville Suhonen.

This photo is not from Kamerat pyörivät / [Roll the Cameras] (1935) but from the production of a film discussed in it: Kaikki rakastavat / [could be translated as: Love Is All Around]. The crew in Hanko. From the left the camera assistant Sulo Tammilehto, the director Valentin Vaala, the cinematographer Theodor Luts and the camera crew member Eino Heino. Luts's Askania silent camera has been equipped with a sound blimp. Photo: KAVI.

Kamerat pyörivät (1935)

Eino Mäkinen (1908–1987) was a master photographer and cinematographer who shot some 40 ethnographical documentaries with a Flahertyan approach. This photograph is Lehmisavua / Cow Smoke. Cows smoked themselves to repel gadflies.

On location for VMV 6 (1936) at the Pirttisaari island. The cinematographer Erik Blomberg stands to the right. The producer-director Risto Orko is checking the camera angle. Photo: KAVI

Erik Blomberg – elämä ja kamera (1982)

katkelmia dokumentista sekä runsaasti näytteitä kuvaajien töistä.

Tauko. Aulassa kahvila ja valokuvanäyttely suomalaisten kuvaajien työstä.

Klo 12.30 – 14.30
Studiokauden kuvaajat

Felix Forsman was the cinematographer of Valkoiset ruusut / White Roses (1943), Hannu Leminen's adaptation of Stefan Zweig's Letter from an Unknown Woman that preceded Max Ophuls by five years. With Helena Kara as the unknown woman and Tauno Palo as the internationally renowned artist who always forgets her. Photo: KAVI.

Pia Andell kertoo Felix Forsmanista
katkelmia Forsmanin haastatteluista ja kuvaamista elokuvista.

Mitä on Suomi-filmi? / [What Is Suomi-Filmi?] (1938), a 20th anniversary introduction to the Suomi-Filmi company, very well photographed by Felix Forsman, screened in a beautiful digital transfer.

Felix Forsman shot the Finnish Defense Forces' newsreels #49 and #52 covering Adolf Hitler's visit to Finland to celebrate Marshal Mannerheim's 75th birthday on 4 June 1942 and Mannerheim's return call on 27 June 1942. Hitler's only visit abroad (outside territory occupied by Germany) during his reign. The photo is not from the newsreels. Mannerheim was not happy that the visits were filmed and photographed and demanded the release of the newsreels to be restricted to the minimum.

Felix (1988), on Felix Forsman, by Juho Gartz and Lauri Tykkyläinen. Starring Salla Huovinen. Narrator: Asko Sarkola.

katkelmia Uno Pihlströmin kotielokuvista, mm. Herra ja ylhäisyys -elokuvan kuvauksista.

Shot by Esko Nevalainen: Elokuu / Harvest Month (1956), directed by Matti Kassila, with Toivo Mäkelä, Emma Väänänen, and Severi Seppänen.

Esko Nevalaisen haastattelusta ja  Nevalaisen elokuvista.
Reino Tenkasen haastattelusta.

Studiokauden murrosvaiheesta esittää puheenvuoron mm. Kari Sohlberg.

The editor Armas Vallasvuo and the cinematographer Osmo Harkimo editing Tuntematon sotilas / The Unknown Soldier (1955).

Klo 14.30–16.00
Tuntemattoman sotilaan kuvaajat

Tahvo Hirvonen kertoo Osmo Harkimosta ja Olavi Tuomesta näytteiden kera.
Katkelmia Edvin Laineen versiosta ja Harkimon haastattelusta.

Yhteistyössä: Risto Jarva -seura ja Suomen Elokuvaajien Yhdistys F.S.C.

AA: Finnish cinematography had a high standard from its beginning around the year 1905:  from the start the composition and the definition of light were beautiful for instance in views photographed by Oscar Lindelöf for Atelier Apollo.

This seminar organized by the Finnish Society of Cinematographers (F.S.C.) focused on influential masters from the 1920s to the 1960s. Cinematographers still active or alive today were intentionally omitted.

The first section was devoted to the modernists Heikki Aho, Björn Soldan, Olavi Gunnari, Eino Mäkinen, and Erik Blomberg.

The second section focused on masters of the studio system such as Felix Forsman, Uno Pihlström, and Esko Nevalainen.

The third section had been reserved for three film adaptations of The Unknown Soldier (1955, 1985, and 2017), but as their invited cinematographers were unable to attend there was a general discussion instead. Kari Sohlberg, Tahvo Hirvonen, and Pekka Aine shared their comments on Osmo Harkimo and Olavi Tuomi.

We watched a sequence from the black and white 1955 film adaptation, shot by Pentti Unho, Osmo Harkimo, Olavi Tuomi, and Antero Ruuhonen, newly restored by KAVI. We saw the sequence of the night patrol where Lehto (Åke Lindman) and Riitaoja (Olavi Ahonen) meet their maker. Brilliantly shot with the smooth and assured studio age approach, and realistic enough with artificial light.

The 1985 film adaptation was shot in colour with handheld camera and available light by Esa Vuorinen. The look is very different. Much remains in the darkness.

The 2017 adaptation has been shot digitally by Mika Orasmaa. The handheld impact is less obtrusive, and there is more detail in the darkness than in the 1985 version.

This sequence is a study on ways of facing death. The Edvin Laine version is already excellent in this.

"In the face of death a man does not act". These men do act but they do it so well that they make us forget it. The sense of the presence of death is real.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Emu Lehtinen (1947–2017)

Ilkka "Emu" Lehtinen (1947–2017). Photo: Digelius Music Newsletter 30 Oct 2017.

Emu Lehtinen in the center, surrounded by his friends at the 40th Anniversary Concert of Digelius Music Store at Music Theatre Kapsäkki in 2011. Photo: Yle Areena. Please click to enlarge the photo.

Emu Lehtinen died on Sunday, 22 October, two days after having been diagnozed with an aggressive case of leukemia. To the end he enjoyed his life as a jazz record seller at Digelius Music Store and an avid bird watcher with annual lengthy birdwatching journeys to India. Before them he would be listening to birdsong records instead of jazz.

I did not belong to his close circles, but in August 2014 I became a pupil of his. Because I know nothing about jazz I dediced to take advantage of the situation and started to buy a "jazz record of the week" from Emu. Often there were box sets which meant that there would be a break in the weekly rhythm since I wanted to focus on listening to each record instead of building a collection, and I needed several weeks to digest a box set. Emu had a story to tell to each record and performer.

My last buy from Emu personally was "Jazz on Film: Biopics", a six record box set packed with ten original soundtrack albums. Then came the shock news from which I have not yet recovered. But yesterday I visited Digelius and bought the next record selected by Emu to my shopping list – Brilliant Corners by Thelonious Monk with Ernie Henry, Sonny Rollins, Oscar Pettiford, and Max Roach, from 1956. 1957 was the magic year of jazz for Emu, and this is close enough.

In Helsinki we have had paradises of culture. The Academic Bookstore was my favourite for decades, but it lost its gloria due to bad management after the retirement of Stig-Björn Nyberg. I used to buy a book every week from there, but gradually I lost my appetite. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why I started to frequent Digelius three years ago. There one could instantly sense the love for culture. I wish Digelius many prosperous years. The best way to honour Emu's memory and legacy is to keep buying records from Digelius.

Monday, October 16, 2017

La Prophétie des grenouilles / Raining Cats and Frogs

La Prophétie des grenouilles (FR 2003).

Sammakoiden ennustus / Grodmysteriet
France, 2003, 1h 30, couleur, format 1.85
Réalisation : Jacques-Rémy Girerd
Scénario : Jacques Rémy-Girerd, Antoine Lanciaux, Iouri Tcherenkov
Direction artistique : Iouri Tcherenkov
Photo : Benoît Razy
    Animation : Jean-Loup Felicioli, Zoïa Trofimova, Marys Tuzi, Kamal Aitmihoub, Odile Comon, Alain Gagnol, Rasmus Jensen, Maxime Martin, Marion Moreau, Morten Riisberg, Sylvain Vincendeau, Belá Weisz
    Musique : Serge Besset avec The Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra
Montage : Hervé Guichard
Production : Patrick Eveno, Jacques-Rémy Girerd, Folimage
    Présentation au Festival de Cannes : 15 mai 2003
    Sortie en France : 3 décembre 2003
    Remerciements à Folimage
    Festival Lumière, Lyon: Séance spéciale animation.
    En présence de Jean-Paul Commin et Jacques-Rémy Girerd, modérateur: Thierry Frémaux.
    Suivi de la signature de Kirikou et après... de Jean-Paul Commin, Valérie Ganne, Didier Brunner (Actes Sud / Institut Lumière)
    Institut Lumière (1ère salle), 16 Oct 2017   

Festival Lumière: "Au bout du monde, dans une ferme perchée tout en haut d’une colline, Tom et ses parents adoptifs, Ferdinand et Juliette, coulent des jours heureux. Mais au pied de la colline, les grenouilles s’affolent. Il n’y a plus de doute, le déluge arrive. Pendant quarante jours et quarante nuits, des pluies diluviennes vont s’abattre sur la Terre. Tom, sa famille et Lili, la petite voisine, transforment la ferme en arche et tentent de faire cohabiter tous les animaux des environs."

"Après son moyen métrage, L’Enfant au grelot, Jacques-Rémy Girerd s’attelle au format long avec La Prophétie des grenouilles. Réalisé par les studios Folimage de Valence, le film est presque entièrement fabriqué en France, chose inédite depuis Le Roi et l’Oiseau de Paul Grimault. Avec plus de deux cents animateurs, un million de dessins et six ans de travail, c’est un défi de taille."

"Porté par l’univers graphique délicat et mélancolique de l’artiste ukrainien Iouri Tcherenkov, La Prophétie des grenouilles porte bien haut ses deux dimensions. À l’heure du réalisme 3D, le film revient à un univers dessiné, laissant entrevoir le coup de crayon et deviner le grain du papier."

"L’animation, à fleur d'image, séduit par son sens touchant du détail et du geste : « J’essaie de me fier à mes intuitions profondes, d’exprimer des sentiments légers : une main passée doucement sur un visage, un enfant endormi qu’on remonte avec tendresse sur ses genoux, un déhanchement imperceptible. […] Je pars du principe que l’émotion doit toujours prendre le pas sur la technique » déclare Jacques-Rémy Girerd à la sortie du film."

"Du mythe de l’arche de Noé, Girerd ne retient que l’image poétique et universelle. Compagnons d’infortune, tigres, batraciens et hommes forment un troupeau insolite et haut en couleur. Les dialogues, pétillants, sont portés par une distribution de choix : Michel Piccoli prête sa voix à Ferdinand, vieux flibustier tonitruant, bien décidé à faire régner la paix entre les bêtes, Jacques Higelin joue les lions féroces, tandis qu’Annie Girardot et Michel Galabru incarnent un irrésistible couple de pachydermes râleurs."

"Déployant des trésors d’humour et de tendresse, La Prophétie des grenouilles est une fable sur la tolérance, l’écologie et la difficulté de vivre ensemble." (Festival Lumière)

AA: There was an atmosphere of joy as the cinema was filled by Lyonnese schoolchildren who had come to visit a special event of animation. The director of La Prophétie des grenouilles, Jacques-Rémy Girerd, was present, and another introduction was given by Jean-Paul Commin on the occasion of the publishing of the book Kirikou et après, about 20 years of modern French animation; both moderated by Thierry Frémaux.

I sampled the beginning of the feature film, La Prophétie des grenouilles which I have not seen before: an excellent animation based on imagery created by Iouri Tcherenkov. Yesterday I watched Annie Girardot in the love tragedy Mourir d'aimer; today I listened to her as the voice of the elephant.

Thematically, La Prophétie des grenouilles (2003) belongs to a mini-genre of films relevant to the theme of Noah and the Flood, also including Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). And the deluge saga of course also belongs to a bigger phenomenon of films about the ecocatastrophe.

I was not able to stay in the screening as there was a festival lunch at Le Passage, in the company of Tilda Swinton, Marisa Paredes, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Jerry Schatzberg, among others, hosted by Thierry Frémaux.

Le dernier des six / The Last One of the Six (2017 restoration 2K by Gaumont)

Viimeinen kuudesta / Den siste av de sex
France, 1941, 1h 37, noir et blanc, format 1.37
Réalisation : Georges Lacombe
Scénario & dialogues : Henri-Georges Clouzot, d’après le roman Six hommes morts de S. A. Steeman
Photo : Robert Lefebvre
Musique : Jean Alfaro
Décors : Andrej Andrejew
Production : Alfred Greven, Continental Films
    Interprètes : Pierre Fresnay (l’inspecteur Wens), Michèle Alfa (Lolita), Suzy Delair (Mila-Malou), Jean Tissier (Tignol), André Luguet (Senterre), Jean Chevrier (Perlonjour), Lucien Nat (Gernicot), Georges Rollin (Gribbe), Raymond Segard (Namotte)
    Sortie en France : 16 septembre 1941
    Remerciements à Gaumont Distribution
    Numérisation et restauration 2K effectuées à partir du contretype.
    Festival Lumière, Lyon: Clouzot scénariste.
    Institut Lumière (1ère salle), 16 Oct 2017

Festival Lumière: "Six amis (Jean Tissier, André Luguet, Jean Chevrier, Lucien Nat, Georges Rollin, Raymond Segard) sont liés par un serment. Avec l’argent gagné au jeu par l’un d’eux, ils décident de parcourir le monde séparément, afin de faire fortune. Ils se retrouveront cinq ans plus tard et partageront la somme amassée. La date approche, mais l’un des six décède mystérieusement. L'inspecteur Wens (Pierre Fresnay) est chargé de l’enquête, bientôt aidé par sa maîtresse Mila-Malou (Suzy Delair)…"

"Adaptant le roman du Belge Stanislas-André Steeman, Henri-Georges Clouzot est ici scénariste et dialoguiste pour le compte de la Continental Films. Pour la réalisation du film, il propose le cinéaste Georges Lacombe, ancien assistant de René Clair."

"Qui sera le dernier des six ? L’assassin ou une victime ? L’assassin est-il un des leurs ? Le Dernier des six est un modèle du genre whodunit. Dans un Paris un peu canaille, les hommes liés par le pacte tombent comme des mouches."

"Le Dernier des six est une fantaisie policière qui ne prend guère la mort au sérieux. Le jeu de piste est parsemé d’humour et d’ironie (le personnage de Pierre Fresnay y est pour beaucoup), mais pas encore teinté de l’univers sombre qui sera celui de Clouzot. Le futur réalisateur de L’assassin habite au 21 (autre adaptation de Steeman) fait quelques ajouts à l’œuvre originale et crée le personnage de Mila-Malou, la maîtresse haute en couleurs de Wens, pour sa compagne, l’actrice Suzy Delair."

"Le journal Paris-Soir (17 septembre 1941) ne tarit pas d’éloges sur le film : «  Il est toujours difficile de faire un bon film policier. Or, celui-ci disons-le, est excellent. L’action est habilement conduite, les effets sont dosés avec un sens aigu de la progression dramatique et le plus perspicace d’entre nous sera incapable de deviner avant l’épilogue lequel est le coupable. Voilà, en vérité, du travail bien fait ! » Et François Vinneuil de conclure dans Le Petit Parisien (19 septembre 1941): « J’ai déjà dit que le dialogue était de Georges Clouzot. Voilà un nom à retenir. Son texte est un modèle de naturel, d’aisance, ce qui ne l’empêche pas d’être spirituel et acéré. »" (Festival Lumière)

AA:  During my all too brief trip to Lyon I entered for the first time through the gates of the Lumière factory immortalized in the first movies, the Sortie de l'usine cycle of films by the Lumière brothers 122 years ago. Today the factory houses the Institut Lumière. Film heritage is in excellent hands here.

Today's first movie is Henri-Georges Clouzot's breakthrough film. Although he was not yet the director, he is the screenwriter, and this is his first thriller based on a novel by S. A. Steeman (to be followed by L'Assassin habite au 21 and Quai des Orfèvres which Clouzot did direct).

The Last One of the Six is a serial killer story. Five years ago six men have made a pact to share their fortunes, but when the moment approaches, they get shot one by one by an expert sharpshooter.

Much of the story takes place on rainy streets, in dark shadows of the night, and in a muddy underground labyrinth. This is a story of nervous anticipation and trust betrayed. One traitor is enough to make a wonderful plan collapse. A finger is put on the globe, a face emerges from the shadow. Le dernier des six is also a chase story with false suspects and surprise culprits.

France had been occupied by the Nazis since 22 June 1940. There is in this movie a continuation to the fatalistic current of 1930s French cinema, but new overtones feel relevant to the topical circumstances. Perhaps even the emphasis on the humiliations in the audition sequence.

Much of the action takes places in a sumptuous restaurant. Its floor shows resemble extravagant musical production numbers. There are breathtaking acrobatic numbers, rows of beautiful ladies in a state of almost complete nudity, and an amazing sharpshooter, Lolita (Michèle Alfa) able to shoot precisely via a mirror. Her presence reverses the "woman as spectacle" approach. There is also a shooting trick which I had never seen before, involving reflections emerging in patrons' wine glasses. When one of the six is shot during the show Lolita is naturally a prime suspect.

But inspector Wens (Pierre Fresnay) is not easily fooled, and he is getting great help from his girlfriend, the cabaret singer Mila-Malou (Suzy Delair). Suzy Delair was not a newcomer to the film industry, but in this movie her companion Clouzot helped her to stardom; she starred together with Fresnay also in L'Assassin habite au 21, and her final Clouzot role was in Quai des Orfèvres. Suzy Delair, born in 1917, is still with us: best regards from us cinéphiles!

There is a lot of witty dialogue judging by the waves of laughter in the audience. With my limited knowledge of French I miss most of the fun.

A very nice restoration of a film that is challenging due to a lot of nighttime footage. Occasionally there is an obviously duped feeling stemming from the status of the source material.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Valkoinen peura / The White Reindeer (2016 restoration 4K by KAVI) at Festival Lumière

Valkoinen peura / The White Reindeer (1952). White magic: Mirjami Kuosmanen as Pirita.

Le Renne blanc
Finlande, 1952, 1h 08, noir et blanc, format 1.37
Réalisation : Erik Blomberg
Scénario : Erik Blomberg, Mirjami Kuosmanen
Photo : Erik Blomberg
Musique : Einar Englund
Montage : Erik Blomberg
Costumes : Mirjami Kuosmanen
Production : Aarne Tarkas, Junior-Filmi
    Interprètes : Mirjami Kuosmanen (Pirita), Kalervo Nissilä (Aslak), Åke Lindman (le garde forestier), Jouni Tapiola (le gardien de rennes), Arvo Lehesmaa (Tsalkku-Nilla)
    Sortie en Finlande : 25 juillet 1952
    Présentation au Festival de Cannes : avril 1953
    Remerciements à Tamasa, 4K DCP avec sous-titres français
    Restauration 4K (2016) par la Cinémathèque de Finlande à partir du négatif original.
    Festival Lumière, Lyon: Trésors et curiosités.
    En présence de Antti Alanen (Archives finlandaises)
    Lumière Fourmi, 15 Oct 2017

Festival Lumière: "Dans les neiges de Laponie, Pirita (Mirjami Kuosmanen) est une jeune épouse attristée par les trop longues absences de son mari (Kalervo Nissilä), éleveur de rennes. Délaissée, elle consulte un devin qui lui révèle sa véritable nature : elle est une sorcière. Après un sacrifice animal, la jeune femme se change en un majestueux renne blanc. C’est sous cette apparence que Pirita, à la tombée du jour, attire les hommes dans un piège fatal."

"Inspiré d’une légende same, peuple plus connu sous le nom de Lapons, Le Renne blanc est le premier long métrage du cinéaste finlandais Erik Blomberg. Mais Blomberg n’a rien d’un débutant et s’est illustré, dès les années 1930, en tant que chef opérateur du cinéaste Nyrki Tapiovara. En 1952, il passe derrière la caméra et signe, avec Le Renne blanc, une œuvre mémorable du cinéma finlandais."

"Film au budget réduit, tourné en décors naturels et dans des conditions que l’on devine extrêmes, Le Renne blanc penche d’abord du côté du documentaire. Mais derrière le folklore et le quotidien rude des éleveurs, se dessine une fable glaçante. Aux côtés de sa compagne et actrice, la dramaturge Mirjami Kuosmanen, le cinéaste puise dans la mythologie finlandaise, mais également dans une tradition universelle de métamorphoses animales, bien connues du cinéma d’épouvante."

"Usant de sa nouvelle apparence pour attirer les chasseurs de rennes, Pirita tente d’assouvir ses pulsions charnelles - la jeune femme ira jusqu'à dévorer ses proies. Érotisme, violence et poésie s’enchevêtrent dans l’œuvre de Blomberg, qui interroge le désir féminin et les rapports de domination entre les sexes. Pirita rejoint les rangs de ces héroïnes damnées, dont la malédiction n’est pas sans rappeler celle de Simone Simon dans La Féline."

"Sans effets spéciaux, le film ne fait que suggérer avec force, comme le classique de Jacques Tourneur. Blomberg distille le fantastique à travers des jeux de transparence et de lumière. Ses paysages saturés de neige et la clarté de ce froid polaire forment un écrin pour cette atmosphère onirique. Dans un noir et blanc incandescent, le cinéaste livre une œuvre à la plastique envoûtante."

"Grand spécialiste du cinéma finlandais, Peter von Bagh déclare : « Erik Blomberg avait atteint une telle maturité professionnelle, une telle perfection, que Le Renne blanc, œuvre aux accents mystiques et chamanistes et aux mille rebondissements, reste, avec Soldats inconnus, d'Edvin Laine,  le représentant le plus connu à l’étranger de la vieille génération du cinéma finlandais. » En effet, Le Renne blanc impose Blomberg sur le plan international. Le film remporte un Golden Globe et multiplie les sélections en festival. À Cannes, c’est Jean Cocteau, président du jury, qui lui décernera le Prix international du film légendaire."

AA: The White Reindeer (1952) is the most important Finnish contribution to the international genre of the cinéfantastique. It was the internationally best-known Finnish film before Aki Kaurismäki. It was created by the dynamic duo, the artist couple Erik Blomberg (1913–1996) and Mirjami Kuosmanen (1915–1963). Erik was the producer and cinematographer and Mirjami the screenwriter and star. The direction is credited to Blomberg but he himself always insisted that they did everything together and would have deserved equal credit.

The White Reindeer was the feature directing debut for Blomberg, but he had already a distinguished career as a cinematographer. His professional training for photography and cinematography started at the Finnish Air Force Academy in the early 1930s. After that he studied in London at Regent Street Polytechnic and then in Paris with Georges Saad, also working as an apprentice at Pathé Natan, Studio Cinéma, Tobis, and Paramount.

He was still only 21 years old when he was called to his first engagement as a director of photography on a feature film: VMV 6 (1934). Its star Regina Linnanheimo invited him to a circle of young cinéastes, including Teuvo Tulio and Valentin Vaala, who frequented Café Fazer next to Cinema Maxim.

This is how Blomberg became the cinematographer of the early films of Teuvo Tulio. At Alvar Aalto's film society Projektio Blomberg made further acquaintances, and he became the producer and cinematographer of the films of Nyrki Tapiovaara who died in 1940 on the frontline of the Winter War.

During WWII Blomberg served as a cinematographer in the surveillance unit of the Air Force. After the war he made documentaries for workers' parties, shot five films in Sweden and made in Finland a series of short documentaries in Lapland together with Eino Mäkinen.

Blomberg and Kuosmanen participated also in Jack Witikka's Lapland saga Aila – Daughter of the North with Michael Powell as a nominal co-producer. The result was not entirely successful, and Blomberg and Kuosmanen decided to produce a Lapland feature film of their own.

Mirjami Kuosmanen was a unique talent: independent, intelligent, passionate, and irrepressible. She told that the story of The White Reindeer emerged from her unconscious. It incorporates elements from authentic Sami lore: the shamanism, the centrality of the seita (the sacred stone), the supernatural powers. These elements are still being explored in contemporary films such as Katja Gauriloff's remarkable Kuun metsän Kaisa / Kaisa's Enchanted Forest.

At the same time the tale is connected to atavistic and universal legends of vampires and werewolves, also elements in the sagas of Oedipus and Agamemnon. There is also an affinity with Aino Kallas's ballad novel Sudenmorsian / The Wolf's Bride. The theme of irrepressible sexuality is hidden beyond the surface. The brand of witchcraft can be interpreted as a stigma inflicted by dominating males on females supercharged with pheromones. Animal imagery is central in many ways. Reindeer horn extract was popular as virility medicine before Viagra.

The White Reindeer is a highly visual movie, a cinematographer's movie, taking full advantage of the "great light" of Lapland. It is luminous, and the sense of the fantastic largely emerges from the nature itself. There are no special effects. The White Reindeer has been compared with Jacques Tourneur's Cat People / La Féline starring Simone Simon; no special effects either were needed to convey the transformations of Irena into a black panther. The Finnish film is a "white" version, and Tourneur's a "black" version of the uncanny transformation legend. It is unlikely that Blomberg and Kuosmanen knew Cat People which was not theatrically released in Finland and was seen for the first time much later at the Finnish Film Archive.

The White Reindeer boasts one of the finest scores of the Finnish cinema. The composer Einar Englund (1916–1999) wrote symphonies, concertos, chamber music and music for solo instruments. He was also a music critic. Of his film scores The White Reindeer is the most notable next to Mikko Niskanen's debut film Pojat. D. Théokary has analyzed that there are three kinds of elements in the score: folkloric-lyrical, elegic-magical, and dramatic.

At Cannes Film Festival in 1953 when Jean Cocteau was the chairman of the jury The White Reindeer received the Prix international du film légendaire.

Mourir d'aimer / To Die of Love (2017 restoration 4K DCP by LCJ Editions)

Mourir d'aimer (1971). Annie Girardot (Danièle Guénot).

Mourir d’aimer / Rakkaus on elämää / Att älska är att leva
France, Italie, 1971, 1h 50, couleurs (Eastmancolor)
Réalisation : André Cayatte
Scénario : André Cayatte, Me Albert Naud, Pierre Dumayet
Photo : Maurice Fellous
Musique : Louiguy
Montage : Borys Lewin
Décors : Robert Clavel
Costumes : Michèle Richer
Production : Roger Fellous, Lucien Massé, Franco-London-Films, Cobra International
    Interprètes : Annie Girardot (Danièle Guénot), Bruno Pradal (Gérard Leguen), François Simon (Monsieur Leguen), Monique Mélinand (Madame Leguen), Jean-Paul Moulinot (Monsieur Guénot), Claude Cerval (le juge), Jean Bouise (le juge des mineurs), Nathalie Nell (Thérèse), Marius Laurey (Monsieur Arnaud), Yves Barsacq (l'ami), Marie-Hélène Breillat (le Serpent), Édith Loria (Renée), Raymond Meunier (l'avocat de Danièle)
    Loc: Rouen, Mont-Saint-Aignan, Cluses (Haute-Savoie)
    Sortie en France : 20 janvier 1971
    Remerciements à LCJ Editions
    Restauration à partir du négatif par le laboratoire Eclair, avec le soutien du CNC dans le cadre du plan de numérisation des œuvres du Patrimoine. Scan 4K.
    Festival Lumière, Lyon: Restaurations.
    En présence de Danièle Thompson.
    Lumière Fourmi, 15 Oct 2017

Festival Lumière: "Danièle Guénot (Annie Girardot), la trentaine, divorcée, est professeur de lettres dans un lycée de Rouen. Moderne, elle est très appréciée de ses élèves et vit avec eux les événements de Mai 68. Dans cette atmosphère de liberté et de renouveau, Danièle et Gérard (Bruno Pradal), un de ses élèves, âgé de 17 ans, tombent amoureux. Les parents de Gérard portent plainte."

"« Toute ressemblance avec des personnages réels… » Si André Cayatte, réalisateur de Nous sommes tous des assassins, Justice est faite, Les Risques du métier, brouille les pistes (les noms, les lieux, les circonstances diffèrent), c’est bien de l’affaire Gabrielle Russier qu’il s’est inspiré pour Mourir d’aimer. En 1969, la relation entre l’enseignante et son élève de 17 ans avait défrayé la chronique et passionné les Français. Une histoire d’amour interdite devenue drame après le suicide de Gabrielle Russier."

"Dès l’annonce du projet de Cayatte, la polémique enfle. François Truffaut reproche au cinéaste de faire les poches des cadavres encore tièdes, demandant à Annie Girardot de refuser le rôle. Une fois en salles, le film bénéficie d’un très grand succès public, tandis que le juge d’instruction chargé de l’affaire reproche au cinéaste, dans une lettre ouverte, de vouloir faire le procès de la justice."

"En filmant normalement la relation entre Danièle (bouleversante Annie Girardot) et Gérard, couple maudit soumis aux plus abjectes pressions, André Cayatte interroge la place de la femme et du mineur dans une France tout juste sortie de Mai 68, et écorne trois piliers de la société, la famille, l’enseignement et la justice. Et il poursuit son but avec une sincérité désarmante, une réelle simplicité dans la réalisation, sans apprêt superflu."

"« Le très beau film d’André Cayatte, mené comme une interview par Pierre Dumayet, est un document accablant. Tout ce qu’il montre est vrai, a existé  ou existe encore. Cela s’est passé comme ça, on ne peut l’accuser d’aucune atteinte à la vérité. Aidé par Me Naud, il lui a fallu faire attention, éviter les écueils, car après avoir tout fait pour empêcher la réalisation de son film, les "autorités" diverses l’attendaient au tournant, guettant la moindre erreur de conduite, pour interdire ou censurer. Allez voir comment on accule au suicide, à notre époque, une jeune femme de 32 ans coupable d’aimer un garçon de 17 ans. […] Mourir d’aimer. Une histoire d’amour qui va bouleverser la France. L’indigner aussi. Du moins, je l’espère. » (Michel Duran, Le Canard enchaîné, 20 janvier 1971)"

AA: A sober study of forbidden love.

What may seem like mad love is actually the sanest thing. "Vivre c'est aimer" is the motto.

As always, André Cayatte is interested in injustice executed in the name of justice. The teacher Danièle (Annie Girardot) is put to prison twice, into the company of cynical cellmates. Her student Gérard (Bruno Pradal) is committed to a mental hospital "worse than prison" and force-fed and injected with mind-altering drugs.

Many times they find a way to escape and meet in hideaways, although Gérard is being sent from his hometown first to Chamonix in the Alps, and then to Saint-Malo in Bretagne. His correspondence is monitored so that he is not able to get any messages from Danièle.

The official society has sound reasons to prevent a relationship between a teacher and a student. "Vous êtes encore mineur". But life does not always obey rules, and "love is a rebellious bird" like in Carmen's habanera. Actually Gérard is mature for his age, able to take responsibility for his decisions.

It's May 1968. The account of the revolutionary year is interesting and different, seen from the viewpoint of Rouen. Both students and teachers participate, as well as Gérard's parents who keep a bookstore.

Danièle is a beloved teacher who meets her students even in her free time. They support her no matter what. Also her neighbours support her. She is also a divorced mother of two lovely children. Her family is broken not because of the divorce or because of Gérard but because of the police. Hers is a path full of police searches, body searches, and vulturous scandal sheet photographers. Until she loses her will to live. There is a fade to black and no "The End" title card.

Another exceptional performance by Annie Girardot.

The cinematography takes us to completely different milieux, from the snowy Alps to the Atlantic Ocean.

The restoration has been conducted with good taste.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Film concert Alexander Nevsky, score by Sergei Prokofiev, Filmphilharmonic Edition conducted by Frank Strobel, played by Radio Symphony Orchestra and The Choir of the Helsinki Music Centre with mezzo-soprano Anna Danik

Film concert Aleksander Nevsky.
SU 1938. D: Sergei Eisenstein. M: Sergei Prokofiev.
Filmphilharmonic Edition
Film by courtesy of the European Filmphilharmonic Institute / Mosfilm
Music by courtesy of Sikorski Musikverlage
Arranged and conducted by Frank Strobel
Radio Symphony Orchestra: 105 players
Anna Danik, mezzo-soprano
Nils Schweckendieck, choir coach
The Choir of the Helsinki Music Centre: 80 singers
Helsinki Music Centre, 13 Oct 2017

I blogged about Alexander Nevsky the film at the Nitrate Picture Show at George Eastman Museum last May.

I had to agree that the 1938 soundtrack did not do justice to Sergei Prokofiev's music. Afterwards I listened to recordings to feel the impact more fully.

But today at last I had the chance to be truly immersed in Prokofiev's music thanks to the interpretation of Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frank Strobel who made his arrangement in 2003 based on Prokofiev's original score.

It was an engrossing experience, and also brilliantly precise. Strobel had made arrangements to reproduce Prokofiev's special distorted effects with the Teutonic horns: the special section was on an upper balcony equipped with mutes.

With loving care were also arranged the skomorokhi passages with "svireli (flutes), zhaleyki (hornpipes), rozhki (horns), bubnï (tambourines), and other folk or skomorokh instruments" (I quote the Wikipedia formulation of this aspect).

The strength of 105 players was needed to convey the epic grandeur. As was the strength of the 80 singers of the choir.

Magnificent epic passages alternate with more quiet and lyrical ones. Among them the solo aria, "The Lament of the Field of the Dead", was dignified and ravishing in the noble interpretation of the mezzo-soprano Anna Danik.

All in all, a brilliantly powerful and precise interpretation of the great ensemble of musical talents.

After the concert I met friends who had lived in the summer the third essential part of the Alexander Nevsky experience. They had visited Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Opera's Alexander Nevsky concert at the Mikkeli Music Festival in June, and they reported that the approach was very different. But of course it is a different composition: they played Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky Cantata. There is a wonderful recent record of Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Opera at the Alexander Nevsky Cantata on YouTube.