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.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: RSO HANDBILL MATERIAL AND SAMPLES OF THE LYRICS:

Kihlaus / Betrothal (1922)


Kihlaus / Betrothal (1922). For Eeva (Annie Mörk) it's the last straw when Aapeli (Martti Tuukka) breaks her sugar bowl. In the background the tailor's apprentice (Uuno Kantanen). Photo: KAVI. Please click to enlarge the images.

We screened the unassembled workprint of Kihlaus (1922) at our "Aleksis Kivi and the Moving Image" seminar at Cinema Orion, the 35 minute video study material transferred to DCP. There is a lot of good footage, probably enough for the complete original 50 minute duration if screened at the right speed and equipped with intertitles. No manuscript survives, and there are just a few intertitle samples towards the end of the workprint. There are also beautiful passages of toned footage.

Produced by Erkki Karu for Suomi-Filmi, directed by Teuvo Puro, and photographed and edited by Kurt Jäger, it was an early prestige production for the ambitious company, worthy of restoration. Kihlaus is the earliest surviving Aleksis Kivi film adaptation and the first film shot by the master cinematographer Kurt Jäger. The screening was also a part of our celebration of Finnish cinematography and centenary of Finnish independence.

Kihlaus is a comedy in which Eeva agrees to an engagement via correspondence with her childhood friend, the tailor Aapeli, but having met Aapeli she backs away.

Seitsemän veljestä / Seven Brothers (1989). In chronological order: Kai Lehtinen (Juhani), Jarmo Mäkinen (Tuomas), Martti Suosalo (Aapo), Jari Pehkonen (Simeon), Taisto Reimaluoto (Timo), Pertti Koivula (Lauri), Tero Jartti (Eero). Image: Yle / Antero Tenhunen.

In memory of Jouko Turkka (1942–2016) we screened episode XI of his tv series adaptation of Aleksis Kivi's Seven Brothers. The actors, now well-known, were unknown then (see the caption above). Turkka broke every rule and convention interpreting the epic, literate, humoristic novel in ultra-naturalistic style, preferring extreme close-ups, all done with something like a primal scream therapy approach. I was thinking about the punk rock band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät. When I telephoned Turkka in 2006 to ask for permission for our previous screening he told me that his inspiration for the extreme close-ups came from The Bold and the Beautiful. A provocation, shock therapy, an affront to common decency.

Seminaari: Aleksis Kivi ja elävä kuva

Perjantaina 13.10.2017
Elokuvateatteri Orion, Eerikinkatu 15, Helsinki

Yhteistyössä: Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen instituutti, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura SKS, Aleksis Kiven Seura, Helsingin yliopisto: Elokuva- ja televisiotutkimus, Teatterimuseo

12.30 Alkusanat Antti Alanen ja museonjohtaja Raija-Liisa Seilo
Elokuva: Teuvo Puro, Kihlaus (1922) • 2K DCP * 35 min • piano Joonas Raninen

13.15 FT Sakari Katajamäki (SKS, Aleksis Kiven Seura): Tekstiäkin pitää restauroida: Aleksis Kivi kriittisinä editioina

13.45 FT Kimmo Laine (Oulun yliopisto): Aleksis Kivi -filmatisoinnit

14.15 Kahvitauko • aulassa pullakahvit

14.45 Professori, TaT Riitta Nelimarkka: Seitsemän veljestä (haastattelu)

15.15 FT Anneli Lehtisalo: Aleksis Kiven elämä valkokankaalla

15.45 Päätössanat Professori, FT Henry Bacon

Elokuva: Jouko Turkka, Seitsemän veljestä XI: Paluu korvesta suureen sovintojuhlaan (1989) • 50 min • 2K DCP (from Yle Export)


BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: ILKKA KIPPOLA'S PROGRAM NOTE ON JOUKO TURKKA'S SEITSEMÄN VELJESTÄ:

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tuntematon sotilas / Unknown Soldier (2017)


Tuntematon sotilas (2017). Max Ovaska as Määttä carrying a machine gun stand.

The Unknown Soldier (2017). Eero Aho as Rokka and Jussi Vatanen as Koskela.

FI 2017. PC: Elokuvaosakeyhtiö Suomi 2017. P: Aku Louhimies, Mikko Tenhunen, Miia Haavisto. D: Aku Louhimies SC: Aku Louhimies, Jari Olavi Rantala – based on the novel (1954) and the earlier Sotaromaani edition (written in 1954, published in 2000) by Väinö Linna. DP: Mika Orasmaa. AD: Petri Neuvonen, Mikko Kuivasto. Cost: Marjatta Nissinen. Make-up: Salla Yli-Luopa. SFX: Duncan Capp. Digital FX: Troll. M: Lasse Enersen. S: Kirka Sainio. ED: Benjamin Mercer.
    CAST:
Jussi Vatanen … Koskela
Aku Hirviniemi … Hietanen
Eero Aho … Rokka
Andrei Alén … Rahikainen
Joonas Saartamo … Lahtinen
Hannes Suominen … Vanhala
Johannes Holopainen … Kariluoto
Arttu Kapulainen … Susi
Juho Milonoff … Honkajoki
Paula Vesala … Lyyti
Severi Saarinen … Lehto
Samuli Vauramo … Lammio
Matti Ristinen … Sarastie
Eino Heiskanen … Riitaoja
Max Ovaska … Määttä
Elias Gould … Ukkola
Akseli Kouki … Salo
Hemmo Karja … Mielonen
Jarkko Lahti … Viirilä
Emil Hallberg … Kaukonen
Eemeli Louhimies … Asumaniemi
Leo Honkonen … Jalovaara
Robin Packalen … Hauhia
    Released by SF Studios on 4K DCP. Rated 16. 180 min
    Red Carpet with Kaartin soittokunta (The Guards Band) playing in front of the cinema.
    In the presence of the cast and the crew.
    Premiere 27 Oct 2017.
    Tennispalatsi 5, Helsinki, 12 Oct 2017.

This story of a machine gun company in WWII in 1941–1944 is based on the novel by Väinö Linna. As an account of war the novel is a Finnish counterpart to Roland Dorgelès's Les Croix de bois (1919) and Erich Maria Remarque's Im Westen nichts Neues (1929).

Väinö Linna has been as fortunate as Dorgelès and Remarque with film adaptations. Edvin Laine's film adaptation (1955) is one of the greatest war films of all time (and my favourite war film besides Roberto Rossellini's Paisà).

Rauni Mollberg in his 1985 adaptation did everything differently. The film was shot in colour with handheld cameras, using available light. The structure was less conventional in dramatic build-up, there was little humour, and the characters were not as sharply sketched. The vision of war was more wild, brutal, and devastating. The most extreme characters, the maniac officer Karjula and the scabrous private Viirilä were included, as was lotta Kotilainen.

Aku Louhimies does not emphasize bloody carnage more than Mollberg. Like in Laine's film we get acquainted with the characters so much that what happens to them grips us deeply without having to rely on gory detail.

This time the cinematography is digital, and the cinematographer is Mika Orasmaa. There is not as much obtrusive handheld footage, and the look is not as studio-lit as in Laine's film nor as shadowy as in Mollberg's. There are Olympic general views of moving armies, intensive shots of close combat, and even underwater shots. Following a convention of the digital age the colour is drained. There is a steely blue gray hue, and for instance in the summer attack of 1941 there is little sense of summer colour.

The characters of the novel are household figures in Finland, not only thanks to the novel and the films but also numerous theatre adaptations. The anticipation is high: how does a new generation fill these boots?

The casting is unconventional in the leading roles. I was not worrying about the fact that Louhimies cast two of the most beloved comedians in key roles. A good comedian can handle anything, but a great tragedian may not be able to handle comedy.

Jussi Vatanen as Koskela gives a deeply moving performance. Koskela is perhaps the most highly respected character in Finnish fiction, a platoon leader with quiet authority. In the devastating summer retreat of 1944 he faces the impossible mission of dealing with his deranged superior Karjula. There is gravity in Vatanen's presence.

Aku Hirviniemi as Hietanen gets to act in the most shocking sequence. During the retreat Hietanen is blinded, and when the ambulance taking him is hit and catches fire the blind Hietanen focuses on rescuing others. There is an extra charge in this sequence because we have learned to know Hietanen as an exceptionally jovial and sympathetic guy.

Another coup of casting against type is having Eero Aho as Rokka, the farmer and family man from Karelia, the best soldier of all, cold-blooded and focused in combat, disregarding formal discipline, sharp-witted, and good-humoured. In the films of Aku Louhimies Eero Aho has played callous sadists and psychopaths. Now Louhimies has made Rokka the most important character of the story (it begins and ends with him). And yes, Eero Aho manages even this, but he is so different from convention that one needs time to get used to him.

A favourite Rokka detail of mine is his ability to fall into sleep immediately when he lays down, and his ability to sleep deeply on the front may be a key to his extraordinary focus in combat. This and other familiar details are missing, but others have been added.

The character of corporal Lahtinen, played by Joonas Saartamo, has been revised. In all adaptations he is an outspoken Communist, yet one of the bravest fighters. Here he is no longer a figure of fun but a tragic incarnation of the contradictions of the age.

Aku Louhimies is the first film director with access to the Sotaromaani version of Väinö Linna's novel, the unedited version that was published in 2000. Its two main new contributions in my opinion are the inner monologues of Koskela and Captain Kariluoto during the 1944 summer retreat. Their disillusionment in the mad command of their superiors gets so overwhelming that there is a suicidal undercurrent in their fates.

Some of the period atmosphere has been achieved via six contemporary newsreel excerpts in diegetic situtations: our characters see them screened. I was happy to register the good visual quality (a common cliché is to show vintage footage intentionally downgraded). This device, a novelty compared with the previous adaptations, works successfully and adds documentary reality to the narrative, documenting also something of the propaganda atmosphere of the period.

To sum up: a worthy, powerful and moving experience that defies convention and offers fresh interpretations. It is interesting to observe how different the three film adaptations are.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: PRESS KIT INFORMATION:

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Film concert The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg, score by Carl Davis, played by Orchestra San Marco, conducted by Mark Fitz-Gerald


The Student Prince (1927). Ramon Novarro, Norma Shearer. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Student Prince (1927). Ernst Lubitsch, Marion Davies, Ramon Novarro, Mary Pickford, ?, Bebe Daniels, Jean Hersholt on set. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Student Prince (1927). Ernst Lubitsch directs Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Student Prince (1927). The film set. Photo: Photoplay Productions, London.

Vanha Heidelberg / Gamla Heidelberg / Old Heidelberg / GB: The Student Prince / Il principe studente. US 1927. D: Ernst Lubitsch, exec prod: Irving Thalberg, scen: Hans Kraly [Hanns Kräly], photog: John Mescall, des: Cedric Gibbons, Richard Day, [+ Hans Dreier?], cost: Ali Hubert, Eric Locke, ed: Andrew Marton, titles: Marian Ainslee, Ruth Cummings, asst dir: George Hippard, script clerks: Andrew Marton, Joseph Newman, cast: Ramon Novarro (Prince Karl Heinrich), Norma Shearer (Kathi), Jean Hersholt (Dr. Juttner), Gustav von Seyffertitz (King Karl VII), Philippe de Lacy (young Karl Heinrich), Edgar Norton (Lutz), Bobby Mack (Kellerman), Edward Connelly (Marshal of the Court), Otis Harlan (Old Ruder), John S. Peters, George K. Arthur (students), Edythe Chapman, Lionel Belmore, Lincoln Steadman, Ruby Lafayette, prod: M-G-M, 35 mm, 9299 ft, 105 min (23–24 fps; brief sections 22 fps), tinted – 2 sections only; titles: ENG, source: Photoplay Productions, London.
    Score: Carl Davis (Thames Television; Faber Music Ltd.)
    Performed live by: Orchestra San Marco, Pordenone. Some 50 players.
    Conductor: Mark Fitz-Gerald.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Closing Gala.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Kevin Brownlow, Caroline M. Buck (GCM 2017): "Even when the Great War was over, anti-German films like The Four Horsemen and Mare Nostrum were banned both by Germany and Austria. The Central European market had to be won back. In showing sympathetic characters in German uniforms, The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg followed the path set by Flesh and the Devil a year earlier."

"The source novel, Karl Heinrich, about the impossible love between a crown prince and an innkeeper’s daughter, was written in 1899 by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster, who made it into a play in 1901, Alt-Heidelberg, which opened in New York in 1903 as Old Heidelberg. In 1915, John Emerson filmed the novel with Wallace Reid and Dorothy Gish, the role of Lutz the valet being played by Erich von Stroheim. (Since Emerson used the title of the play, a lawsuit promptly ensued.) In Germany in 1923, Hans Behrendt adapted the play for the screen, starring Paul Hartmann and Eva May. An operetta, The Student Prince, by Dorothy Donnelly and composer Sigmund Romberg, opened in New York in 1924 and ran for several years."

"At M-G-M, William Wellman was promised the film as a reward for doing retakes on a Sternberg picture. Then he was fired, made Wings for Paramount, and became a star director. The Student Prince was offered to Erich von Stroheim. But his memories of being fired by Irving Thalberg on the 1925 Merry Widow were still painful. So Stroheim went away and made The Wedding March: a film about the impossible love between a prince and a shopkeeper’s daughter."

"In 1926, still under contract to Warner Bros., Ernst Lubitsch was negotiating with Paramount. M-G-M hoped to borrow him, then win him away for good. Warners offered to raise his salary, but Lubitsch signed with Paramount. (And thus missed making a film he had had his eye on, The Jazz Singer.) A compromise was reached. Both Paramount and M-G-M would pay compensation to Warners. Lubitsch would make Old Heidelberg for M-G-M, then join Paramount."

"Lavish sets and large crowd scenes made his new project M-G-M’s second most expensive silent film after Ben-Hur (it cost $1.2 million). But while the story department had reportedly been in touch with Meyer-Förster in 1925, it seems they ended up buying the rights to the operetta, and had to change the title of their film, first announced as Old Heidelberg (the title on this print)."

"Having secured Hans Kraly, Lubitsch’s scenarist, M-G-M – apparently against the wishes of the director – chose two of their best-known stars for the principal roles. For the Crown Prince, Ramon Novarro, who had played the lead in Ben-Hur. For the role of Kathi, May McAvoy, Marceline Day, and Fay Wray had been considered (Fay Wray did The Wedding March instead). Norma Shearer got the part, but proved troublesome, even though she was the fiancée of Irving Thalberg."

"According to Sam Marx, story editor at M-G-M, Lubitsch felt she was playing the waitress in too grand a manner. Lubitsch, usually mild-mannered, lost his patience. “‘Mein Gott!’ he shouted. ‘I can get a waitress from the commissary who will do better than you.’” Shearer asked for Thalberg to be brought to the set. “Lubitsch sat down calmly in his director’s chair, pulling on his unlit cigar, while everyone within earshot waited to see what would happen. What happened was that Thalberg listened to his bride, kissed her lightly, and said, ‘Darling, I’m sure we can all learn a lot from Mr. Lubitsch.’”"

"“The vast backlot at Culver City now resembles a corner of romantic Germany,” wrote Arnold Höllriegel, a German journalist visiting the set. To achieve authenticity, 32 trunkloads of uniforms and equipment had been brought over by Lubitsch’s costumier. Editor Andrew Marton said they used the biggest stage at M-G-M, with Heidelberg Castle as a false-perspective set. Outdoor scenes were shot in Laurel Canyon, whose oak trees were reminiscent of Heidelberg. Winter was simulated by having cast and crew pick off the leaves."

"Still Lubitsch was dissatisfied. During a trip to Europe he filmed exteriors of Heidelberg Castle. By the time the German footage arrived the picture was practically finished, and none of it was used. With M-G-M notorious for its retakes, contemporary sources have John M. Stahl reshooting a crucial love scene during Lubitsch’s absence. Not according to Marton, Lubitsch’s editor, and, as script clerk, present on the set: he has Lubitsch, unhappy with the scene (the flowers in particular seem to have incurred his displeasure), reshooting it himself."

"Beyond the witty, sophisticated style for which he was renowned, Lubitsch brings a darker tone to this film. (Though Marton notes that all allusions to Heidelberg’s “fencing fraternities” had been eliminated as alien.) The love story of a Prince and a peasant girl becomes something more universal than simply sacrifice in the face of duty: a reminder that past rapture can rarely be recaptured. A trade paper forecast that the picture would become “one of America’s greatest peacetime diplomats, soothing the cruel hurts inflicted by the World War”. When the film was released in England in 1929 (as The Student Prince) it was voted the best picture of the year."

"There’s one more thing: a rumour that during World War II, the USAAF general in command of the relevant sector so loved the film that he prevented Heidelberg being bombed. It’s as well no one told him that not a frame of the final print was actually shot there.
" Kevin Brownlow, Caroline M. Buck

AA: Revisited a high profile Ernst Lubitsch production which does not stand out in a retrospective but benefits enormously screened as a single special event. For certain guests The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg was the favourite film of the festival.

It is one of Lubitsch's most purely romantic films, a story of young love, at the same time an impossible love. It has not the same quota of "Lubitsch touches" as almost all of his other 1920s films. Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer are a bit distant in their roles as the Prince and Käthi. The unique Lubitsch mixture of irony and tenderness is milder than usually.

"It must be wonderful to be a prince" is the film's ironic refrain. Yes, it is, but a prince's life is also one of sadness and solitude, a life of etiquette, obligation, duty and formality.

The funniest moment is when the Prince chases Käthi at night, and the camera is tracking them on the other side of pillars. Until they no longer emerge from behind a pillar. A dog walking towards it does an abrupt U turn.

The bliss of love is condensed in a shot of Käthi and the Prince on a field of flowers in the Biergarten at night. It is a magic night with a shooting star. But they both know and understand.

The Prince is called back to take over as the King is falling ill. In the autumn he returns, but all is changed. "I may never see you again but I'll never forget". We cut to Karl Heinrich's wedding carriage. We never see the queen's face. "It must be wonderful to be a king".

I heard for the first time Carl Davis's exhilarating score to this film. Davis does not use Sigmund Romberg's operetta score, and neither did Lubitsch in the 1920s.

A brilliant Photoplay print.

Le Rosier miraculeux / The Wonderful Rose Tree (2017 restoration by Lobster Films)


Le Rosier miraculeux. FR 1904. Georges Méliès. Lobster Films, Paris.

FR 1904, D: Georges Méliès, prod: Star Films (Catalogue no. 634636), DCP (from 35 mm, orig. 52.30 m), 2'31", (transferred at 18 fps); no main title or intertitles. Source: The Brinton Collection – University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City; Library of Congress Packard Center for Audio-Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA; Lobster Films, Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone.
    Grand piano: Stephen Horne.
    Teatro Verdi, no titles, 7 Oct 2017.

Serge Bromberg (GCM 2017): "A new Méliès discovery, presented for the first time in Pordenone. The Brahmin, Iftikar, who enjoys a great reputation in India, has determined to create something miraculous which will place the seal upon his renown. He sows some seeds upon a carpet, prostrates himself, and in the course of his invocations, in less than an instant, the grains germinate. A small rosebush grows and produces beautiful roses. Aided by his servant, the Brahmin makes of them a magnificent bouquet, which is changed into a single enormous rose. The flower spreads out its petals and from its centre there darts forth a lovely young woman, whom the Brahmin strives to embrace. But she eludes him and dances a fascinating serpentine dance. She disappears, and the rosebush takes her place. Iftikar destroys the rosebush, and he confesses himself vanquished, for he has been able to create, but not to preserve."

"In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Brinton Entertainment Company of Washington, Iowa, would travel throughout the Midwest bringing films, magic lantern slides, and other forms of entertainment to people who, in many cases, had never before seen such sights. Frank Brinton’s film collection – indeed, his entire life history – was on the verge of ending up in a dumpster in 1981. But local historian Michael Zahs stepped in and helped ensure its survival. Thanks to the American Film Institute, the Brinton prints were sent to the Library of Congress for preservation, where they survive today. These films include Pathé, Lumière, Edison, and many other productions, including a few unidentified titles. Two of these were lost films by Georges Méliès, Le Bouquet d’illusions (which was shown at the Bologna Cinema Ritrovato in 2016) and this one, Le Rosier miraculeux, or The Wonderful Rose Tree. The original print has long decomposed, and though the end is slightly incomplete, the film’s discovery is a miracle!"

"Frank Brinton and Michael Zahs are the stars of a new documentary dedicated to this treasure trove, Saving Brinton, directed by Tommy Haines and Andrew Sherburne.
" Serge Bromberg

AA: There is nothing to add to Serge Bromberg's account above. A perfect Georges Méliès féerie, a film of magic transformations and fantastic metamorphoses, even including a serpentine dance. A film about the pursuit of beauty and happiness, even about the elusive meaning of life perhaps.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (1959 print DFI)


Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København. Please click to enlarge the images.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). The triangle. Swein (Sigurd Langberg), Thora (Karina Bell), and Vasil (Emanuel Gregers). Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). Swein (Sigurd Langberg) and his father Gudmund (Charles Wilken). Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). Thora (Karina Bell) and Vasil (Emanuel Gregers). Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). The finale: Thora (Karina Bell) plays the fatal tune. Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.

Taivaan kosto / Himmelens hämnd / [La morena] / [The Moraine]. DK 1924. D: A. W. Sandberg, scen: Laurids Skands, photog: Louis Larsen, Chresten Jørgensen, des: Carlo Jacobsen, cast: Peter Nielsen (Thor Brekanæs, high sheriff), Karen Caspersen (Gunhild, his wife), Emanuel Gregers (Vasil Brekanæs), Peter Malberg (Aslak Brekanæs), Karina Bell (Thora, Thor’s god-daughter), Charles Wilken (Gudmund, tenant farmer), Sigurd Langberg (Swein Gudmundsson, his son), prod: Nordisk Films Kompagni, rel: 25.2.1924, 35 mm, 2346 m, 103 min (20 fps); titles: DAN, source: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: The Swedish Challenge.
    Music: Stephen Horne, Elizabeth-Jane Baldry.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Magnus Rosborn, Casper Tybjerg (GCM 2017): "In a dark and desolate part of northern Norway, the all-powerful local magnate is the harsh and unforgiving Thor Brekanæs. In a prologue, he learns that his wife has sought solace in the arms of another and that her son Vasil is not his, unlike the child she now bears. As soon as this child is born, he throws her out and urges her to kill herself, which she does. Twenty-five years later, Brekanæs still broods over his shame. The second son, Aslak, is an imbecile, cared for by Brekanæs’s young god-daughter Thora. Brekanæs has ordered her engagement to his protégé Swein, the son of a poor tenant farmer whom he has taken under his wing."

"Vasil returns, having dropped out of law school to become a poet. He and Thora have long been attracted to each other, and Vasil calls off the engagement. Brekanæs is enraged at the defiance of the bastard he has never accepted or cared for, but before he can act against Vasil, the old man is murdered, his head crushed with a rock in the desolate moraine valley where he goes to scream his rage. Vasil is immediately suspected of having slain the unforgiving patriarch."

"Among the films made in the early 1920s by the Nordisk company in Denmark, only a small number emphasized their “Nordicness”. The wild, mountainous setting of Morænen (British title: The House of Shadows) makes it an important exception, but it is of course set in northern Norway, not Denmark, and thus lacks the national frame found in films from the other Nordic countries. Although it deals with inheritance and intergenerational conflict, a common theme of Nordic rural dramas, it is also different because it does not have any literary prestige attached; it is an original screenplay, written by the prolific Laurids Skands (1885
1934), who was a professional writer of film scripts rather than an established novelist or playwright. Skands had collaborated with the director A. W. Sandberg (18871938) on a number of films, including the first three of Nordisk’s four Dickens films. Sandberg was very proud of his work on Morænen, which was hailed by the Danish press as one of the pinnacles of Danish film art (an estimation which now seems excessive), but the director’s promotion of his own efforts appears to have been the cause of a permanent rupture with Skands, his long-time collaborator."

"Comparable films from the neighbouring countries, where the Nordic landscape plays an important role, tend to present it with pride – infused with grandeur, vitality, and national character; but Morænen presents it as a bleak, dismal wasteland that oppresses the souls of its inhabitants. Only in “the lands of the sun” – Italy, presumably – can love, art, and the human spirit flourish. The intertitles repeatedly invoke the joyless and stony character of the sunless northern lands where the film is set, and the mise-en-scène supports this. Although Sandberg and his crew travelled to Norway to shoot the exteriors on location, much of the film takes place indoors, the dark timbers and small, often off-screen windows contributing to the claustrophobic atmosphere. Contemporary publicity claimed that the Brekanæs home was based on a real Norwegian house, carefully measured and copied by Nordisk’s brilliant set designer Carlo Jacobsen; but the house we see in the film, particularly the large central hall with its grand, steep staircase rising into the gloom, seems remarkably gothic in comparison with the low-ceilinged dwellings in other Nordic films. With its patriarchal oppression and murder-mystery plot, Morænen has a strongly melodramatic feel to it, and a piece of music does play a central role: it calms a madman, brings back redemptive memories of a long-lost mother, and resolves the plot. The piece is not specified in the film, but a list of the musical selections accompanying the film at the première survives, and it is likely that the piece used was the “Berceuse” (1904) of the Finnish composer Armas Järnefelt, who wrote the original score for Mauritz Stiller’s masterpiece Sången om den eldröda blomman / Song of the Scarlet Flower (1919)."

"The print was made by the Danish Film Museum in 1959 from the original negative, with new titles following the original title lists from Nordisk.
" Magnus Rosborn, Casper Tybjerg

AA: A dark and gloomy tragedy about a magnificent house in the far north of Norway where summers are short and winters are long.

In the prologue Gunhild gives birth to Aslak while her husband Thor is unforgiven and raging because he is not the father of their first son Vasil. Gunhild's only consolation is music, playing her beloved harp. After the birth of Aslak Gunhild commits suicide by throwing herself to the river.

25 years later it turns out that Aslak is mentally retarded and the bright Vasil is giving up his law studies, instead seeking a career as a writer, to his father's endless disappointment. In both sons, Thor sees Gunhild's posthumous revenge. Thor has also adopted a daughter, Thora, and taken into his protection Swein, the son of a poor tenant farmer. Thor wants to see Thora married to Swein before he dies. But Thora rejects Swein's abrupt proposal. "I'll never love you".

Vasil returns home although his father is not willing to meet him. "Such a flower in a place like this" says Vasil to Thora. "No one has ever spoken to me like that". Vasil confronts Swein about Thora. "I won't allow Thora to be buried alive with you". The engagement ring falls to the ground.

Thora would love to play Gunhild's harp, but Thor has strictly forbidden it. The curse of the Brekanæs is expressed by weird screams and groans at night at the nearby moraine. It is Thor yelling out loud there.

When Thora plays Gunhild's favourite tune Thor breaks the instrument. "As I smash this harp I will smash you". Swein is having second thoughts: "I'm not going to make her unhappy". "Is this how you thank me of dragging you of the gutter?" Thor takes off to the moraine to scream. Aslak hears Vasil saying he would wish father dead.

Soon it turns out that Thor lies murdered at the moraine. Vasil is arrested but when Swein confesses that Thor was already dead when he found him at the moraine he is himself taken to prison.

By the stream Thora hears Aslak confess: "I have sent father to sleep, just as the voices told me". Thora knows that there is one melody that makes Aslak almost normal again: "Now I can see myself for what I am. It seems mother came to me, as a dark shadow in the air", "The deep tones, they hurt me so".

A church visit is arranged for Aslak. Thora prays: "Will you speak to him through the sacred song?" Aslak relives the scene at the moraine. "Daddy, did the stone hit you? You are bleeding. Father, I have killed you". The voice from the fiord was mother's. "Father and mother smiling at me. Farewell, dear Thora. I'm so tired" says Aslak and dies.

Watching this movie I was not thinking about John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men but a little about Hans Alfredson's Den enfaldige mördaren (1980) and most importantly great Vatermord tragedies such as F. M. Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov in which all brothers have the opportunity and the motivation to kill their father. Certainly Thor is an almost mythical specimen of the atavistic, monstrous tyrant father figure against which sons must fight.

In certain ways The House of Shadows borders on horror, especially in the expressionistic use of the landscape. The house of gloom, the farm of the dark shadows is located in a valley in the middle of nowhere. The desolate moraine is a scene of anxiety, and the wild stream carries complex meanings of freedom and release: freedom of escape (for the young), but also a release from life itself (for Gunhild).

Based on a clue in the original playlist Stephen Horne (grand piano, accordeon) and Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (harp) played "Berceuse" by Armas Järnefelt (1867–1958) as the theme tune, heard during the prologue, in harp-playing sequences, and in the scene of the revelation. They did so with such passion and conviction that there was standing ovation after the screening.

This print of this dark film looks stuffy and heavily duped.

Noël de guerre / [War Christmas] (2014 restoration in 4K Gaumont Pathé Archives)


Léon Bernard (18771935). Portrait de Léon Bernard, de la Comédie Française, tableau peint par Georges A. L. Boisselier, reproduit par A. Noyer, éditeur à Paris — carte postale du salon des artistes français de 1910 à Paris. Wikipédia.

FR 1916, ?, story: Félicien Champsaur, cast: Le petit [Jean] Fleury (André), Léon Bernard (the postman), Marguerite Balza (André’s mother), Angèle Lerida (the postman’s wife), prod: Films Georges Lordier, dist: Agence Générale Cinématographique, rel: 12.1916. DCP, 15 min; titles: FRA, source: Gaumont Pathé Archives, Saint-Ouen, Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: John Sweeney.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "By the time the Battle of Verdun finally ended in December 1916, after eleven carnage-filled months, the French army had suffered more than 350,000 casualties. That’s the background to Noël de Guerre, an extraordinarily tender film released around Christmastime that year, about André, a young boy whose father is away at the front, and whose mother is struggling to get by on the meager earnings she makes with her sewing machine. A kindly postman in mourning for the death of his own young child reads the boy’s letter to Santa, asking for some toys; deeply moved, he and his wife gather their son’s playthings and give them to André."

"Although the reconstructed intertitles make it ambiguous as to whether André’s father has been killed – we’re told he’s at the front – I’d argue that audiences at the time would have assumed he was dead, not just by his mother’s melancholy air but by the presence of her sewing machine. Already by April 1916, charities were collecting money to provide sewing machines to war widows with children, so they could earn a living. “This isn’t about charity; the machine would not be donated, but sold. However, monthly payments required of the recipients would be proportional to expected gains” (Le Figaro, 22 April 1916), thereby allowing these women a sense of dignity. Soon after the War, in mid-1919, the State itself stepped in, providing sewing machines to war widows who had at least three children younger than 16. It’s estimated the war turned 700,000 French wives into widows by the time it was over."

"The astonishing quality of the direction makes it especially frustrating that we can’t identify the filmmaker. Exteriors in Paris are shot with a true sense of realism, and interiors are lit with an eye to artistically defining people and spaces in ways that enhance the film’s emotional tenor. It’s been suggested that the producer, Georges Lordier (ca 1883–1922), was also the director, though it’s impossible to be certain. Lordier was the co-founder of the film magazine L’Echo du Cinéma (merging shortly thereafter with Le Cinéma), and in the busy year of Noël de Guerre, he was president of the Syndicat de la Presse Cinématographique as well as proprietor of the Cinéma des Folies-Dramatiques on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Today he is best known for “Les Chansons filmées,” conceived in late 1917 as a way of promoting the French cause in allied and neutral countries via filmed enactments of popular French songs. By the time he died in January 1922, he had made over 300 such shorts.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: There is little to add to Jay Weissberg's remarks.

The narrative unfolds as a parallel montage on soirées de tristesse in two families. The little André is fretting about his toys which are in terrible shape while mother is sewing to make ends meet. "Nous sommes trop pauvre pour le moment". After the evening prayer mother kisses a locket with her husband's image while André writes a letter to cher petit Jésus.

At the Cimetière de Montparnasse a postman and his wife are at the grave of their child. At the post office André's letter is laughed at and thrown into the garbage bin. But the postman who has lost his child retrieves the letter and shows it to his wife. They decide to give to André the toys of their late son.

La Nuit de Noël: André expects to find his shoes filled with gifts but is deeply disappointed until the postman knocks at their door.

There is genuine tenderness in this short film, and a beautiful definition of light in the cinematography.

The digital restoration is glossy and polished.

La Femme française pendant la guerre / [The French Woman During the War]


La Femme française pendant la guerre (FR 1918). Alexandre Devarennes. The frame enlargement gives an impression of the beautiful cinematography and refined toning. Photo: © ECPAD-14.18 A 975.

FR 1918, D: Alexandre Devarennes, scen: René Jeanne, photog: Alphonse Gibory, cast: Suzanne Bianchetti, prod: Service Cinématographique de l’Armée (SCA); Service Photographique et Cinématographique de l’Armée (SPCA), 35 mm, 363 m, 19’54” (Pt. 1), 314 m., 17’10” (Pt. 2) =  677 m, 37 min (16 fps), tinted; titles: FRA, source: Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), Paris. With special thanks to Noëlle Guibert and Francine Guibert, the granddaughters of the film’s director.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: John Sweeney.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "In 1917, politician Louis Barthou delivered a much-reported lecture at the Sorbonne, “L’Effort de la femme française pendant la guerre,” published in full by Le Monde Illustré (28 April 1917) and well worth reading, especially for the way he suggests that women’s activities since 1914 helped to counter the reputation of French women as outrageous coquettes. He also details the various ways women’s work had helped the war effort – he calculates that 375,000 women were then employed in the private sector – as well as the moral support given by mothers, wives, and sisters as their men put their lives on the line."

"Whether directly inspired by the speech or simply channeling the rhetoric of the moment, director Alexandre Devarennes (1887–1971), working in collaboration with René Jeanne, then associated with the Service Cinématographique de l’Armée, made the two-part propaganda film La Femme française pendant la guerre, released in the summer of 1918 (the title could have been lifted from that of Countess Roger de Courson’s 1916 book, which was identical). An initial fictional scene with actors, including Jeanne’s wife Suzanne Bianchetti in her screen debut, directly appeals to the emotions with its brief vignette of a mother crying as her children play around her. From there, the film shifts into actuality territory, showing women in the city and country performing jobs traditionally associated with men: train station porters, tram conductors, chimney sweeps, factory workers, farmhands, etc. The second part details ways women directly help soldiers at the front, whether by knitting clothes, working as nurses and entertainers, or caring for future generations. After comparing women of the time to heroines of the past, Devarennes shows women awarded medals and, to give it a relatively up-to-date feel, hospitalized workers injured in the 30 January 1918 aerial bombardment of Paris."

"Each part’s opening intertitles consist of split screens with women engaged in various activities: plowing a field, in a factory, holding a baby. According to the magazine Les Potins de Paris (7 November 1918), La Femme française pendant la guerre was the first film to use this type of animated intertitle and ushered in a new cinema fashion, though the claim is unsubstantiated. Alphonse Gibory, whom Devarennes credited as the film’s cameraman in a 1968 interview, worked with Pathé and Éclair until joining the Service Cinématographique during the War. He collaborated with Devarennes on three films, and after the Armistice worked for the American Red Cross, for whom he filmed the 1919 International Red Cross conference in Cannes."

"Barthou significantly underestimated the number of women workers in France. In the agricultural sector alone, 3,200,000 female workers replaced the 3,000,000 farmers called up for service. By 1918, 430,000 women were working in munitions factories, 120,000 were nurses (of whom only 30,000 took a salary), 11,000 were employed in the post office, and 5,000 on the trams. When the War ended, most were quickly laid off.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: The split screen introductions to the sections are engaging. Jay Weissberg informs us above that the crying mother in the beginning is Suzanne Bianchetti in her screen debut (later to appear in some of the greatest films including Napoléon vu par Abel Gance, Casanova, and Verdun, visions d'histoire).

Mobilization volontaire des femmes: the imagery is striking of women washing railway cars, selling newspapers, taking care of transport errands in workers' dresses, working as chauffeurs, tram drivers, and conductors, and as street cleners and in other public works. They take care of industrial size kitchens and restaurants. In winters they sand streets. They sweep chimneys. They work at textile factories. They manufacture benches from wood. They also work in heavy metal industry, building electric engines and welding in what looks like a munitions factory. Ouvrières et mamans: while working they are breast-feeding.

À la campagne there is heavy toil in the fields, harnessing horses, steering ox sleds, and carrying water.

Fraternité et tendresse: the women's contribution to the general bien-être is invaluable. They take care of supply depots. They keep up hope – espérance, eg. by slipping good luck letters to helmets. Le réconfort is also provided by the cinema and toys for children. We see a big cinema audience.

Aide et consolation. In a beautiful superimposition we see a soldier sleeping and women at work. They dress all wounds: panser toutes les blessures. And serve steaming soup. A nurse helps an invalid read the papers, and to return to the recurrent theme of blindess in this edition of Le Giornate: voir pour ceux qui ne voient plus. Et préparer l'avenir: the joy of the children they meet as teachers.

Les repatriats: rediscover l'illusion du foyer perdu.

The women are compared with Sainte Geneviève, Jeanne d'Arc, and Jeanne Hachette for their devouement and héroïsme. We even observe them as victims of bombings and invalids at hospitals. The film ends with a Sainte Geneviève Day parade.

The director Alexandre Devarennes, the screenwriter René Jeanne and the cinematographer Alphonse Gibory bring a serene and tender touch to their grave subject both in urban and pastoral settings.

Although there is a duped look the beauty of the cinematography can be appreciated. I also admired the refined sepia toning and the occasional red tinting. I guess they may have been achieved via a colour internegative. Print-wise one of my fondest memories of this year's Le Giornate.

La Croix Rouge Suisse accueille des réfugiés français en gare de Bâle / [The Swiss Red Cross Welcomes French Refugees at the Basel Railway Station]


Image not from the movie. Des rapatriés à la gare du Bouveret en 1917-1918. Carte postale de la collection de Christian Schüle. NotreHistoire.ch.

CH/DE 1917, ?, photog: ?, prod: Alexander Gottfried Clavel-Respinger, 35 mm, 282 m, 17’37” (14 fps); titles: ENG (flash), source: Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: John Sweeney.
    Teatro Verdi, 7 Oct 2017

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "It’s estimated that 2 million French men and women became refugees during the Great War; among that number were approximately 500,000 civilians in German-occupied territories who were repatriated through Switzerland. In addition to these figures were the 68,000 sick and injured prisoners of war from both sides accepted by neutral Switzerland to wait out the conflict in various facilities. French prisoners even had their own weekly newspaper, the Journal des Internés Français, supported by the French Ambassador to Switzerland and published between 1916-1918, complete with advertisements such as “French internees passing through Geneva, have your meal at Restaurant Dumont. Under the management of Mme. Dumont in the absence of her husband, fighting at the front.”"

"Unsurprisingly, the Red Cross was deeply involved in the care of these men, looking after their medical needs and ensuring that food, letters, and packages were properly delivered – the Basel train station even had an “infirmary” for damaged parcels. The city’s location on the frontier with Alsace made it a crucial transition point, hosting the Commission on Civilian Hostages and Prisoners (Commission des Otages et Prisonniers civils) as well as the Office for the Repatriation Committee (Bureau du Comité des Rapatriés). Though many refugees and POWs were received with true compassion by the Swiss, not everyone was welcome; historian Gérald Arlettaz has written thoroughly on the difficulties faced by refugees whose politics or ethnicity were considered “problematic,” resulting in considerable countrywide unrest.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: Moving footage of refugees being received at the Basel railway station, including little children. Long takes. Giant transportations. Flash titles.

Après l'incendie de Salonique, août 1917 / [After the Great Fire of Thessaloniki, August 1917]


Image not from the movie. Refugees following the destruction of the Great Fire of Thessaloniki in 1917. Public domain. Wikipedia.

FR 1917, photog: Gaston Haon, prod: Service Cinématographique de l’Armée (SCA), 35 mm, 33.3 m, 2’03” (14 fps); no titles, source: Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100
    Grand piano: John Sweeney.
    Teatro Verdi, no titles, 7 Oct 2017

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "“I saw a city dying, in the triple death throes of flame, ashes and smoke.” The words belong to the otherwise unknown Captain Ibrahim Jessé-Ascher, writing in the French magazine L’Illustration, after watching Thessaloniki burn (his byline reads “Inahim,” which is surely an error). Salonica, as it was generally known then, had for centuries been a multicultural jewel under Ottoman rule, and remained so after becoming part of Greece in 1912. Though residential districts were divided by religion and ethnicity, the polyglot population (a majority of whom were Jews) was proud of its cosmopolitan reputation."

"As a major port, Thessaloniki became an important staging ground for Allied troops once Greece officially entered the War in June 1917. Then on 18 August a small kitchen fire turned into an unspeakable conflagration, reducing enormous sections of the city to cinders and leaving 79,000 people homeless. The blaze took 32 hours to control, partly because of antiquated fire-fighting equipment and narrow streets, but also because much of the water supply had been commandeered by the tens of thousands of Allied soldiers stationed there."

"Jessé-Ascher evocatively described the scene: “It was as if an invisible hand were passing the torch of divine vengeance over the city. The scourge seemed endowed with a sort of terrible intelligence, a malicious subtlety. It rose, brooded, crawled, leapt up, and upon its impact, one by one, they all collapsed – tall houses, mosques, churches, synagogues. Like black candles from some Satanic mass, the minarets tapered away, pink, or lily-white, imploring to the last, in this terrifying liturgy of the unrelenting element…. One hundred thousand poor souls, with no refuge, no means, no bread, no clothing, at the same time cursing – with the total injustice of Woe – the scourge that had ruined them.”"

"Given the large presence of Allied troops, it’s not surprising that many cameramen were in Thessaloniki to record the carnage. Après l’incendie de Salonique, août 1917 was filmed by Gaston Haon, attached to the Service Cinématographique de l’Armée. After the War, it was Haon who encouraged Julien Duvivier to become a director, and the two worked together on Duvivier’s first film (a Western), Haceldama ou Le Prix du sang (1919), and again in 1929, on Maman Colibri."

"It’s impossible to know whether Après l’incendie de Salonique, août 1917 can be connected with the 100 metres of film screened on 10 September in Paris, described by Hebdo-Film as showing “the formidable fire that just destroyed half of Salonica.”
" Jay Weissberg

AA: Devastating footage of the Great Fire of Thessaloniki, a city known since the classical antiquity, today the home of Aristotle University (Aristotle was born not far from the city). Half of the Jewish population lost their homes. Lively footage of people, bleak images of ruins. Good visual quality.