Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Munekata kyodai / The Munekata Sisters

Kinuyo Tanaka, Hideko Takamine
宗方姉妹 / Munekata shimai / [Munekatan sisarukset]. JP 1950. PC: Toho / Shintoho. P: Hiroshi Higo, Eisei Koe, Hideo Koi. D: Yasujiro Ozu. SC: Yasujiro Ozu, Kogo Noda – based on a serial novel by Jiro Osaragi. DP: Joji Ohara. PD: Seiya Kajima. AD: Tomoo Shimogawara. M: Ichiro Saito. Masakazu Kamiya. Enrico Toselli: Serenata ("Rimpianto"). ED: Toshio Goto. C: Kinuyo Tanaka (Setsuko Munekata), Hideko Takamine (Mariko Munekata), Ken Uehara (Hiroshi Tashiro), So Yamamura (Ryosuke Mimura, Setsuko's husband), Chishu Ryu (Tadachika Munekata), Sanae Takasugi (Yoriko Mashita), Tatsuo Saito (Professor Uchida). The film was not released in Finland. 3080 m / 112 min
    From Japan Foundation a 35 mm print with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Yasujiro Ozu), 22 April 2014
    Probably the first screening of this film in Finland.

Yasujiro Ozu, Shochiku's house director, on an excursion in a company called Shintoho. Shintoho provided a strong budget and a wonderful cast, but Ozu had no say on the story and the cast.

There's a variety of interesting locations, the plot is more complex than usually, and there are new faces and situations in Ozu's world.

In theory, this film should be more exciting than a typical Ozu film of the 1950s, but in reality somehow there is not the same urgent intensity as in Ozu's best work.

So I watch this without the compelling engagement that grips me in Ozu's best films, feeling more distanced, more like an observer, yet appreciating many fine Ozu shots and moments.

The film is based on the modern / traditional dichotomy of the Munekata sisters, interpreted by Kinuyo Tanaka (the traditional Setsuko) and Hideko Takamine (the modern Mariko). But the most unusual modern character is that of Yoriko (Sanae Takasugi), Hiroshi's Platonic lady friend, a successful stock broker from Osaka. "She's arrogant. She smells of secrecy", says Mariko. Yoriko leaves Hiroshi: "It's goodbye. I won't see you again. I'm temperamental. I'm true to myself when I swing this way and that".

Interesting aspects include: - Locations such as Kyoto's Saiho-ji Temple ("Moss Temple"), the Yakushiji Temple, and the mountain villa in Hakone. - Memories from Manchuria shared by several characters. - The interest in Hideko Takamine's feminine hips, unusual with Ozu. - The passivity of the men. - Ryosuke Mimura drinks himself to death as an act of revenge. "Mimura's death was intentional. He cast a dark shadow on my heart. I can't marry with that shadow on me. The shadow I'm carrying would ruin you." - "I'm true to myself. The most important thing is not to lie to myself".

The 35 mm print has sometimes a slightly duped look, and for a brief moment there are marks of water or nitrate damage, but on the whole this is a pleasant film experience.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Nagaya shinshiroku / Record of a Tenement Gentleman

Hohi Aoki, Choko Iida
長屋紳士録 / [Tarina vuokrakorttelista] / [A Who's Who of the Backstreets]. JP 1947. PC: Shochiku Ofuna studio. P: Mitsuzo Kubo. D: Yasujiro Ozu. SC: Yasujiro Ozu, Tadao Ikeda. DP: Yuharu Atsuta – lighting: Haruo Isono. AD: Tatsuo Hamada. Cost: Taizo Saito. Hair: Iyono Masubuchi. M: Ichiro Saito. S: Yoshisaburo Senoo. ED: Yoshi Sugihara. C: Choko Iida (Otane), Hohi Aoki (Kohei), Eitaro Ozawa (father), Mitsuko Yoshikawa (Kikuko), Sokichi Kawamura (Tamekichi), Hideko Mimura (Ukiko), Chishu Ryu (Tashiro), Takeshi Sakamoto (Kihachi), Eiko Takamatsu (Tome). The film was not released in Finland. 1973 m / 72 min
    Wikipedia: "The accepted English title of the film is based on a misreading of the Japanese title Nagaya shinshiroku (長屋紳士録). A nagaya (長屋) is a row of houses with shared dividing walls but separate entrances – what would be called ‘terraced houses’ in the UK. Shinshiroku ( 紳士録: literally, ‘gentleman’s record’) means Who’s Who. A better translation of the title would be A Who’s Who of the Backstreets. - The standard dictionary Kōjien (広辞苑)defines nagaya and shinshiroku as follows: Nagaya: A number of dwellings constructed in a continuous row as a single building. That is, where several households live alongside one another in a single building. (長屋:数戸の家を一棟に建てつらねた家。すなわち、各戸が同じ一棟の中に隣り合って住むもの。) Shinshiroku: A reference book which lists the names, addresses, career histories, professions, etc, of persons of social standing.(紳士録:社会的地位のある人々の氏名・住所・経歴・職業などをしるした名簿。"
    A suggestion for a title: The Story of a Surrogate Mother.
    From Japan Foundation, a 16 mm print with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Yasujiro Ozu), 20 April 2014

Yasujiro Ozu directed Record of a Tenement Gentleman after a five year wartime break. His previous film had been Chichi ariki / There Was a Father (1942), one of his most popular and acclaimed works.

The continuity with previous masterpieces such as I Was Born, But..., and The Only Son, is direct: the same screenwriter, the same milieux, the same actors, the same focus on children. After the war there is a heightened sense of urgency in the focus on children. So many are orphans now. And the familiar neighbourhoods are now in ruins.

There is a mini-tradition of film dramas and comedies about an abandoned / orphaned / lost child coming to the care of reluctant grown-ups - the many film adaptations of The Three Godfathers, Charles Chaplin's The Kid, and Coline Serreau's Trois hommes et un couffin with its remakes and sequels. In those stories the irresponsible grown-ups are always male, and they are stories about how the baby makes the immature men grow up.

The twist in Record of a Tenement Gentleman is that the reluctant protagonist is a widow who does her best to resist a lost boy who has been consigned to her care. This is tragic and comical story. Done very fast, it feels authentic.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman belongs to the international wave of films of reconstruction after the war, contemporary to Italian neorealism. It could be a part of a retrospective of lost children together with Sciuscià, Valahol Europaban, Unszere Kinder, The Search, and Here Comes the Groom. In Finland Edvin Laine filmed a cycle of minor films of a similar kind, starring Veli-Matti Kaitala.

The people have lost everything but not their sense of community, and there is an affectionate sequence of a communal sing-along with Chishu Ryu singing a traditional song about how "it happened in Tokyo with the General's daughter". They all beat time with their chopsticks, and even the little boy participates. Externally, things look desperate, but the spirit has not been broken.

There are memorable scenes such as the one on the dunes where the little boy gets at last to run freely, and the reluctant surrogate mother tries to run as fast to the opposite direction to abandon the unwanted child.

There are those who see a distinct break in Yasujiro Ozu's career starting with Banshun / Late Spring (1949), and those, notably Donald Richie, who see constant continuity and development in Ozu's work but no radical break. I have always felt that there is such a break and that Ozu's pre-Banshun films are more direct, easier to approach, and more directly compelling. Starting with Banshun Ozu found himself more profoundly and completely as a man of the cinema; there is a more mature, assured and refined philosophy and mise-en-scène, and everything is organically linked in a unique and personal fashion. Having now seen within a short period of time I Was Born, But..., The Only Son, and Record of a Tenement Gentleman this feeling of mine has been reinforced. They are great films in a more raw, blunt, and direct way than the later films of Ozu. Of course they are also films about have-nots whereas late Ozu deals with the well-to-do.

There is a luminous quality in the cinematography of Yuharu Atsuta. The close-ups of the characters experiencing great hardship are soulful. The superficially somewhat battered but fundamentally good 16 mm film conveys the visual quality satisfyingly. I would prefer this vibrant photochemical print to a more polished but possibly lifeless presentation.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hitori musuko / The Only Son

Choko Iida, Shinichi Himori
ひとり息子 / [Ainoa poika] / Le Fils unique. JP 1936. PC: Shochiku Eiga. Studio: Shochiku, Kamata. D: Yasujirô Ozu. SC: Tadao Ikeda, Masao Arata - based on a story by James Maki (= Yasujirô Ozu). DP: Shojiro Sugimoto. PD: Tatsuo Hamada. Set dec: Tatsuo Hamada, Yoshiatsu Hino. Cost: Taizo Saito. Hair: Yu Kishimura. M: Senji Itô. Tune in the beginning and the end: "Old Black Joe" (Stephen Foster, 1853). Film excerpt: from Leise flehen meine Lieder (Willi Forst, AT/DE 1933, starring Martha Eggerth, Hans Jaray). S: Eiichi Hasegawa, Hideo Shigehara - Mohara System Talkie. ED: Eiichi Hasegawa, Hideo Mohara. C: Shin'ichi Himori (Ryosuke Nonomiya), Chôko Iida (O-Tsune, mother Tsune Nonomiya), Masao Hayama (Ryosuke as a boy) Yoshiko Tsubouchi (Sugiko, the wife of Ryosuke), Mitsuko Yoshikawa (O-Taka), Chishu Ryu (Professor Ookubo), Tomoko Naniwa (Ookubo's wife), Kiyoshi Aono (Matsumura, old man), Jun Yokoyama (= Bakudankozo) (Okubo's son), Eiko Takamatsu (Jokou), Seiichi Kato (Kinjo no ko), Kazuo Kojima (Kimiko), Tomio Aoki = Tokkankozo = Tokkan Kozou (Tomibo). The film was not released in Finland. 2387 m / 87 min
    A 16 mm print with English subtitles by/from Kokusai Koryo Kikin from Japan Foundation viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Yasujiro Ozu), 18 April 2014

IMDb synopsis: "In 1923, in the province of Shinshu, the widow and simple worker of a silk factory Tsune Nonomiya (O-Tsune) decides to send her only son to Tokyo for having a better education. Thirteen years later, she visits her son Ryosuke Nonomiya (Shinichi Himori), and finds that he is a poor and frustrated night-school teacher with a wife, Sugiko (Yoshiko Tsubouchi), and a baby boy." - Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil." 

Motto of the film: "The first act of the tragedy of life begins with a parent and a child." - Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Revisited Yasujiro Ozu's first talkie. It made a strong impression on me when I saw it for the first time 33 years ago. Now the impression was even stronger. The Only Son is a blunt, direct, and stark movie. There is a special intensity in it. It could also very well be used as a study film in psychoanalytic training.

This time I paid attention to the following features:
    1. The blunt realism of the silk factory scenes. "(...) these glimpses of the mill's interior are absolutely unique in my viewing of Japanese fiction films of the 1930s", notes David Bordwell.
    2. The teacher trusts in the son, but when Ryosuke says he wants to go to high school, mom slaps him in the face. But when she gives in, she goes all the way, toils in the silk mill and sells everything she has, staying herself in the factory dormitory. "You are all I have now".
    3. 13 years later when mother comes to Tokyo the son is in dire straits with his little family of which he has failed to inform his mother. "I did not want her to come. I did not want her to see us like this".
    4. But once mother is there they sacrifice everything, pawn their belongings and borrow money from everybody in order to give mother a good time in Tokyo.
    5. The climactic conversation takes place as mother and son sit on the ground, facing a huge incinerator of the junkyard. "I am not satisfied with what I am now. I should not have caused you hardship. But maybe I have reached the end of a small life. Maybe I should have stayed with you". The motif of regression, a return back home (which does not even exist anymore since mom has sold everything) culminates in the shot with the son fondling a baby bottle.
    6. Mother is not disappointed with the son's failure to achieve success but with his lack of spirit. "You are too young to give up like this". The son seems to be resigned but in the conclusion he decides to study more.
    7. Mom gets to see a glimpse of the son's character when there is an dangerous accident next door with a horse who kicks the neighbour's little son. Without hesitation the son gives all the money he has to help the poor family. "I'm proud to have you as my son. This is the best souvenir I can take home". We also get to witness the tenderness in the son's family, their genuine affection, in scenes such as both son and daughter-in-law giving the mother a back massage.
    8. The Only Son is a devastating story about disappointment in life. It would be easy to imagine an Anton Chekhov tale about these characters. The Only Son is startlingly honest but not pessimistic. Like I Was Born, But... it is also a celebration of the vitality, the life force of the protagonists.
    9. The Only Son is also a humoristic story. When the son invites his mother to the cinema, the film they see is Willi Forst's Schubert biopic Leise flehen meine Lieder. (The female star is Marta Eggerth, 1912-2013. The film is screened in the original German without subtitles.) The son is smiling, the mother is quiet, and while Marta and Schubert are frolicking in the cornfield she falls asleep.
    10. There are unforgettable images of solitude and reflexion here. The son looking quietly at the classroom wall. The final loneliness of the expressionless mother staring at the void in the backyard of the factory which has become her prison for lifetime.

The image is nice for a used 16 mm print from a source which has perhaps endured some water damage or nitrate decomposition. There is a quality of pleasant soft liveliness. The soundtrack in the source has been more badly damaged, and there is an obtrusive rumble all through the picture. Despite these limitations, this was a deeply moving experience of The Only Son.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Floorwalker (KAVI restoration 2014)

Charlie tavaratalossa / Kolme konnaa samoilla markkinoilla / Tarkastaja / Chaplin osastopäällikkönä / Butikschefen / På varuhuset. US 1916. PC: Mutual. P+D+SC+ED: Charles Chaplin. DP: Roland Totheroh, William C. Foster, Frank D. Williams. Scenic artist (presumably): E. T. Mazy. Studio: Lone Star Studios, Hollywood. C: Charles Chaplin (the penniless customer > the new floorwalker), Eric Campbell (store manager), Edna Purviance (his secretary), Lloyd Bacon (the floorwalker), Albert Austin (a clerk), Leo White (a sophisticated customer, perhaps a French count), Charlotte Mineau (the beautiful detective), James T. Kelley (the ageing lift boy). Henry Bergman (old man), Frank J. Coleman (janitor), Tom Nelson (detective), John Rand (policeman), Wesley Ruggles (policeman). Premiere: 15.5.1916. 529 m /18 fps/ 26 min. (Chaplin opus 52)
    KAVI print restored by Juha Kindberg from a full silent frame nitrate source with vintage Finnish / Swedish intertitles only, piano: Marko Hilpo, introduced by Juha Kindberg, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (a bonus from Mutual in a Keystone programme of prints restored in Bologna from our nitrate sources), 16 April 2014

For Charles Chaplin, making twelve Mutual shorts was the happiest time in his life, but The Floorwalker, the first of them, was a throwback to slapstick. There is no romantic feeling nor irony. But in his shorts Chaplin also always enjoyed the possibilities of pure ballet-like physical comedy. The timing and the choreography of the gags and the chases here are magical. Chaplin borrowed from Max Linder a wonderful "mirror scene" where the tramp meets his "double", the crooked floorwalker (Lloyd Bacon). He also made a major invention in staging a running staircase in the center of the action, and he milked a lot of comedy from it.

The setting is a department store, and although The Floorwalker is no social satire in any deep sense, one may see the store as a metaphor for society, in the distorting mirror of farce. The human condition is in a sorry state, as theft seems to be the main or sole occupation of most of the dramatis personae. Hardly anybody is buying anything from this "immense accumulation of commodities". Instead, things disappear fast into bags, coats, and pockets, but the penniless Tramp seems only be interesting in trying out things. Simultaneously the store manager and the floorwalker are about to do a vanishing act with the contents of the safety deposit box with them. Things get complicated since The Tramp is almost a double of the floorwalker, although not a dead ringer. (An even more serious complication ensues from the fact that the manager and the floorwalker are also busy cheating each other.) And the store detectives (including a beautiful female one) and the police are already watching the embezzlers closely.

This is a film in which one can admire Chaplin's sense of rhythm and movement, his mercurial transformations and balletic virtuosity. Chaplin lives in the pure present, seemingly without any plan for the next future. The running staircase and the pater noster elevator are constant reminders of the mechanical world against which Charlie is struggling. Funny gags include Charlie introducing Eric Campbell to a mannequin lay figure, Chaplin assisting as a sales clerk without any knowhow about the wares on display, his entrance into the shoe department with the sole intention of flirting with a beautiful lady customer (but there is a mix-up with the leg of a gentleman customer), and his watering artificial flowers in ladies' hats.

One of the miracles of Chaplin's Mutual series is his great ensemble of comedians. The hulking Eric Campbell makes his screen debut here, immediately a perfect foe for The Tramp - they played David and Goliath in all the Mutual films except One A.M. The most brilliant moments of The Floorwalker are those of Charlie versus Campbell. Also the perennially lethargic Albert Austin has his screen debut here; he appeared in each Mutual film (even in One A.M. which is basically a Chaplin solo) and continued also after that with Chaplin. (Eric Campbell died prematurely after the Mutual cycle was finished). Edna Purviance had become Chaplin's leading lady at Essanay, starting with the first film Chaplin shot for Essanay in Niles. Here Edna's role is small but important. She is a point of sanity in the eye of the lunatic maelstrom of kleptomania. Her amused reactions bring us momentarily back to the real world.

This was the first screening of the viewing print of the KAVI restoration based on a vintage nitrate source in full silent frame (almost all surviving Chaplin shorts are cropped for sonorization). The source has Finnish / Swedish intertitles only, and it bears the Adams Filmi logo (the company was founded in 1912). It was deposited from the Harry Alopaeus second hand store to The Finnish Film Archive in 1977. It was identified first after the Chaplin Association Helsinki inventory of 1989 (conducted by Bo Berglund). The title frame is missing. The restoration was conducted photochemically at Finnlab.

The source is a used print with shots missing; also the conclusion is missing. The definition of light has been conducted carefully to avoid high contrast and to preserve maximum fine texture. I felt that there may have been black levels missing, but on the other hand I saw refined detail.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fucking Åmål / Show Me Love

Fucking Åmål. SE © 1998 Memfis Film. Production partners: Zentropa Productions, Film i Väst, SVT Drama Göteborg. Production support: Svenska Filminstitutet, Det Danske Filminstitutet, Europeiska Unionen / Europeiska Gemenskapens Strukturfonder. P: Lars Jönsson. P partner: Peter Aalbæk Jensen. Associate P: Anna Anthony. D+SC: Lukas Moodysson. DP: Ulf Brantås – colour – shot on Super 16 mm reversal stock - blown up to 35 mm - 1,85:1. AD: Lina Strand, Heidi Saikkonen. Cost+makeup: Maria Swenson.
    Soundtrack: ”Drifter” (De La Cour, Boklund, Lindh, Lindh, Nilsson) perf. Yvonne. ”Whirlwind” and ”I’ll Be Gone” (Berggren, Broder Daniel) perf. Broder Daniel. ”No dinero no amor” (Hallgren, Sagrén) perf. Betty n’ Boop. ”Blue Sky Black” and ”Funny Bunny Boy” (Lindgren, From) perf. Evelyn. ”När vi två blir en” (Per Gessle) perf. Gyllene Tider. ”U Drive Me Crazy” (Hogblad, Lehtonen) perf. Waldo’s People. ”Fantasy Dream World” (Stigsson, Rickstrand, Budak) perf. Combayah. ”Fantasi för elorgel No 34” (Björkman, Moodysson) perf. Karl-Heinz Glockmann. ”Adagio per flauto: Archi e organo” (attributed to Albinoni, actually comp. Remo Giazotto, 1958) arr. Giazotto, perf. Gunilla von Bahr, Stockholms Kammarensemble. ”I Want To Know What Love Is” (Jones) perf. Foreigner. ”Lasse Kronér” perf. Hjalle & Heavy. ”Danny’s Dream” perf. Lars Gullin. ”Simplicity” perf. Nordlund, Danielsson, Karlsson, Andersson, Souls. ”Underground” perf. Broder Daniel. ”Show Me Love” (Carlsson, Martin) perf. Robyn.
    ED: Michal Leszczylowski, Bernhard Winkler. S: Nils Nilsson. S mixing: Morten Holm. Dolby Stereo. Graphic design: Susanne Lund
    C: Alexandra Dahlström (Elin), Rebecca Liljeberg (Agnes Ahlberg), Mathias Rust (Johan Hult), Erica Carlson (Jessica), Stefan Hörberg (Markus), Josefin Nyberg (Viktoria), Ralph Carlsson (Olof, father of Agnes), Maria Hedborg (Karin, mother of Agnes), Axel Widegren (Oskar, brother of Agnes), Jill Ung (Birgitta, mother of Elin), Lisa Skagerstam (Camilla).
    Helsinki premiere: 23.4.1999 Tennispalatsi 3, KinoPalatsi 3 – distributor: Warner Bros. Finland. Vhs and dvd: 1999 Sandrew Metronome Distribution Finland - VET 101170 – K12 - 8032 ft / 2449 m / 89 min
    In the dialogue in which the title appears the Finnish translation is "vitun Åmål".
    KAVI print deposited by Warner Bros. Finland with Finnish subtitles by Arto Paljakka viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (History of the Cinema), 12 April 2014.

IMDb synopsis: "Two teenage girls in small-town Sweden. Elin is beautiful, popular, and bored with life. Agnes is friendless, sad, and secretly in love with Elin."

My capsule introduction in MMM Elokuvaopas (2005): "The mini budget movie which challenged Titanic at the Swedish box office. Liese Spencer sums up: the cast of mostly amateurs evokes true teenage purgatory: childhood has ended, life has not yet truly began. The milieu is a town so little that raves never arrived there. In the most surprising encounter the lonely Agnes meets Elin, the "Miss Sweden" of the class. In the book Bergman's 20th century Ingmar Bergman concluded his personal history of Swedish cinema with Fucking Åmål: "The first masterpiece of the young director. We focus on him expectations which will hopefully not become discouraging." Shooting on grainy film was a lamentable trend of the period."

Revisited Lukas Moodysson's modern masterpiece, which is ageing well. Memorable this time:
    1. This is already a teenage movie in which computers and mobile phones are vital devices of contemporary life. The movie starts with the sound of a computer keyboard as the depressed Agnes is writing an entry in her computer diary.
    2. The parents are nice and try to understand but they are hopelessly far removed from their teenage children. Agnes's father tells about his class reunion of schoolmates of 25 years ago. "Those who have it easy will have a boring life". - "25 years. I cannot even imagine that." Agnes's mother spies on her daughter's digital diary.
    3. Agnes's birthday party is one of the most heartbreaking in the history of the cinema, inviting comparison with Gold Rush.
    4. There is no mirror left at Elin's home, so she resorts to the mirror in the elevator.
    5. "Everything that is 'in' is 'out' by the time it reaches us."
    6. Agnes's teenage agony leads to a suicide attempt. "I want to die. I have no friends, not a single  one". She plays Albinoni's adagio as background music and reads Edith Södergran's poems.
    7. The invalid girl, the only one who arrived at the party, is brutally offended by Agnes. Although Agnes apologizes, the girl becomes Agnes's most fearsome enemy, not shying from lying, distortion, and defamation. Among other things, Show Me Love is an important study on school bullying and discrimination.
    8. Nevertheless Agnes gains a new self-confidence, even despite Elin's confusion. First, Elin was the one who dared, then, it is Agnes.
    9. Meanwhile the confused Elin, whom everybody imagines has experienced it with everybody, finally experiences her "first time" with the persistent Johan. The disappointment of sex: "Did it hurt"? It was over when it had hardly started. "Five seconds". "He stopped right when it started to feel good". "Phfft". "Det bara är så".
    10. The conclusion is grand. (I guess Fucking Åmål obeys the classical narrative structure.) Elin and Agnes achieve together what they could not do separately: they transcend the atmosphere of prejudice, discrimination, and bullying, and emerge triumphantly from the closet, smiling radiantly. "Show Me Love" is playing.

Although I was not previously enthusiastic about the grainy 16 mm look of the film, now I liked it. The vibrant, vital quality of photochemical film is sometimes paradoxically amplified in narrow gauge footage. The blow-up is nice. The colour is beautiful. For the viewer (but maybe not for the projectionist), the technical image quality of this heavily used print is still fine.

Creature from the Black Lagoon (3D) (Universal's digitally remastered version, 2012)

Mustan laguunin hirviö / Odjuret i den svarta lagunen. US © 1954 Universal Pictures Company, Inc. PC: William Alland. D: Jack Arnold. [D of underwater sequences: James Curtis Havens]. SC: Harry Essex, Arthur A. Ross – from a story by Maurice Zimm. DP: William E. Snyder – b&w – 3-D. Special photography: Scotty Welbourne / Charles S. Welbourne. SFX: Charles Baker, Fred Knoth, Tim Baar. AD: Hilyard M. Brown, Bernard Herzbrun. Set dec: Russell A. Gausman, Ray Jeffers. Cost: Rosemary Odell. Makeup: Bud Westmore. Gill man special creature makeup: Bud Westmore, Jack Kevan. [Creature designer: Milicent Patrick, n.c.]. Hair: Joan St. Oegger. [M according to IMDb: Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, Herman Stein, n.c.]. MD: Joseph Gershenson. ED: Ted J. Kent. C: Richard Carlson (David Reed), Julie Adams / Julia Adams (Kay Lawrence), Richard Denning (Mark Williams), Antonio Moreno (Carl Maia), Nestor Paiva (Lucas), Whit Bissell (Dr. Edwin Thompson), Bernie Gozier (Zee), Rodd Redwing (Louis), Henry A. Escalante (Chico), Julio Lopez (Thomas), Ricou Browning (the gill man in water), Ben Chapman (the gill man on land), Tom Hennessy (the gill man in stunt scenes), Sydney Mason (Dr. Matos), Rodd Redwing (Louis, expedition foreman). - Stunt double for Julie Adams: Polly Burson. Underwater stunt double: Ginger Stanley. Helsinki premiere: 10.12.1954 Metropol, distributor: Bio-Kuva Oy – telecast: 4.7.1993 MTV3 – VET 41043 – K12 – 79 min
    Sequels: Hirviön kosto (Revenge of the Creature, 1955, D: Jack Arnold), Hirviö keskuudessamme (The Creature Walks Among Us, 1956, D: John Sherwood)
    Universal Studios 2K DCP 3D of the 2012 digitally mastered version viewed in XpanD at Cinema Orion (3D), 12 April 2014

Revisited Jack Arnold's fondly remembered scifi / horror film, called "a demoniac pastoral" by Carlos Clarens, the first film that Stephen King saw as a kid (he then realized that death is when the creature comes to get you), and Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe's date movie in Seven Year Itch ("I just felt so sorry for the creature... I think it just craved a little affection" is The Girl's remark during the skirt ventilation scene over the subway). Despite its cardboard characters and lurid aspects Creature from the Black Lagoon has aged well.

Strengths of the film include:
    1. Jack Arnold has a small budget but his concerns are big.
    2. As in all good horror / scifi tales, Jack Arnold treats his subject with respect.
    3. Even for those viewers who find the film ridiculous such a deadpan approach is best.
    4. The film starts with Genesis, the birth of the Earth and life, when everything was without form and void, and the newly born miracle of life developed in infinite variety. This sense of the sublime is never lost.
    5. The beautiful underwater sequences are the artistic core of the film.
    6. The poetic vision is enchanting, and perhaps the nearest point of comparison might be King Kong. There is the lagoon "at the end of a dead end". The scientists venture "to the unexplored territory with a woman".
    7. Like King Kong, Creature from the Black Lagoon is a "Beauty and the Beast" tale. There is a strange Romantic charm in the scenes where the Creature swims backstrokes underwater as the Beauty does Australian crawl above. Nominally, the Creature is threatening to the Beauty, but there is something puzzling as we don't really sense that the creature would do any harm to her (unlike to all men who are threatening him). There is a Tarzan-like innocent sexual delight in the swimming scenes.
    8. Creature from the Black Lagoon belongs to the immortal interpretations of Paradise, of the Garden of Eden.
    9. It is an ecological film, a fairy-tale about the destruction of the Amazon ecosystem. We, and most of the members of the expedition, feel uneasy when the greedy financier urges them to lavish poison in the depths of the lagoon, to force the creature to the surface dead or alive. We start to feel that the humans are worse than the creature who would be happy to be left alone.
    10. The conclusion reminds me of a poem by Eino Leino: "rotkoni rauhaan kuin peto kuoleva hiivin" / ["I retire into the safety of my abyss like a dying beast"].

The 3D vision is sometimes beautiful (the lagoon underwater), sometimes ridiculous, often somewhere in between. As for the 3D, Creature from the Black Lagoon belongs to the cinema of attractions: - the fossilized flipper sticking out of the rock - the recurrent image of the gill man's flipper sticking out - the schools of fish swimming towards us and from us - the harpoon shots - the bubbles - the bat in the creature's lair - the fog, the steam - and most importantly: - the voluptuous female forms in the swimming scenes - the prominent breasts as the Beauty swims backstrokes. We are reminded that in Hollywood this was the era of "mammary madness", to quote a chapter title in Marjorie Rosen's book Popcorn Venus.

The 3D does not make the film more realistic; instead, it feels more fantastic and dream-like.

The music is often lurid and strident.

The performances are wooden. We accept the Creature's rubber suit because of the conviction of Jack Arnold, Bud Westmore and Ricou Browning, because of their faith in the Creature. They take us to the land of poetry like Jean Cocteau did.

I have seen this film a few times, and twice in an analogue screening with the red-green filter glasses. This screening of Universal digitally restored and mastered version is now definitive for me. I enjoyed the glorious, brilliant, oneiric, black and white screening.

Production information from Wikipedia: "Producer William Alland was attending a dinner party during the filming of Citizen Kane (in which he played the reporter Thompson) in 1941 when Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa told him about the myth of a race of half-fish, half-human creatures in the Amazon river. Alland wrote story notes entitled "The Sea Monster" ten years later. His inspiration was Beauty and the Beast. In December 1952, Maurice Zimm expanded this into a treatment, which Harry Essex and Arthur Ross rewrote as The Black Lagoon. Following the success of the 3-D film House of Wax in 1953, Jack Arnold was hired to direct the film in the same format."

"The designer of the approved Gill-man was Disney animator Millicent Patrick, though her role was deliberately downplayed by makeup artist Bud Westmore, who for half a century would receive sole credit for the creature's conception. Jack Kevan, who worked on The Wizard of Oz and made prosthetics for amputees during World War II, created the bodysuit, while Chris Mueller, Jr. sculpted the head."

"Ben Chapman portrayed the Gill-man for the majority of the film shot at Universal City, California. The costume made it impossible for Chapman to sit for the 14 hours of each day that he wore it, and it overheated easily, so he stayed in the backlot's lake, often requesting to be hosed down. He also could not see very well while wearing the headpiece, which caused him to scrape Julie Adams' head against the wall when carrying her in the grotto scenes. Ricou Browning played the Gill-Man in the underwater shots, which were filmed by the second unit in Wakulla Springs, Florida. Many of the on-top of the water scenes were filmed at Rice Creek near Palatka, Florida." (Wikipedia)

Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert


FR 1976. PC: Cinéma 9, Paris Inter Productions (PIP), Albatros Films. P: François Barat, Pierre Barat. D+SC: Marguerite Duras - India Song. DP: Bruno Nuytten - negative: 35 mm - colour - first 1,33:1, then 1,66:1. M: Carlos d’Alessio. Ludwig van Beethoven: Diabelli-Variationen (33 Veränderungen über einen Walzer von Diabelli), Var. XIV Grave e maestoso. ED: Geneviève Dufour. The actors do not appear in the film, only their voices are heard. The soundtrack is that of India Song, only the very ending is new. Voice talent: Delphine Seyrig (Anne-Marie Stretter), Michel Lonsdale (M. Stretter, le vice-consul de Lahore), Nicole Hiss (une voix intemporelle), Sylvie Nuytten. Loc: Château Rothschild (Boulogne-Billancourt). The film was not released in Finland. 120 min
    A DD Films print screened with e-subtitles in Finnish by Kristina Haataja, operated by Lena Talvio, at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Marguerite Duras), 12 April 2014

The India trilogy (La Femme du Gange, India Song, Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert) has a central place in the film oeuvre of Marguerite Duras. The objective was to "destroy" her three India novels. The literary basis is strong, yet the films are arrestingly visual. The soundtrack has been severed from the visuals.

Revisited Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert, Marguerite Duras's piece of radically avantgardistic cinema, extremely reduced, discarding visible acting performances. It is an audio play with a separate image track. The action of the film: Marguerite Duras plays back the soundtrack of India Song (1975, only the very ending is different) while the cameraman wanders around and inside Château Rothschild. Slowly the soundtrack grows into mesmerizing power and intensity. Towards the end there is the only episode with visible people, almost motionless, like reflections, or zombies.

The name of the film - "Her Venetian Name in the Calcutta Desert" - refers to the desperate scream of M. Stretter: "Anne!" Equally unforgettable as "Stella!" in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Château Rothschild has been getting dilapidated since WWII, carrying scars of German occupation and terror, and Allied administration afterwards.

The traumata of history are reflected both in the audio play (India) and in the disparate visuals (the Rothschild ruins).

In India Song, Anne-Marie Stretter sleeps under the open sky and drowns in the morning into the sea whose fog reminds her of Venice and her lost youth.

At the end of Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert we leave the ruined castle. We see the sea, the sun, the empty beach. We watch the sunset in real time. The new audio starts here. Two male voices talk about the beggar woman from Savannaket at Mekong (where Anne-Marie first attempted suicide after a dying child had been left at her doorstep).

Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert is like a haunting incantation, a prose poem about solitude, despair, and desolation.

Not only the voice track but also the score composed and compiled by Carlos d'Alessio gains a new force in this "remake". There is his "India Song Blues", of course. There are the Indian chants of the beggar woman. There is a tango. There is Latin dance music. There is 1920s-style film music, reminiscent of hit songs from What Price Glory? And there is Beethoven's Diabelli variation for the piano, the "grave e maestoso".

Tytti Rantanen wrote an excellent programme note for our screening. Her sources: Laure Adler: Marguerite Duras. Paris: Gallimard, 1998. - Maurice Blanchot: "La littérature et le droit à la mort" in La Part du Feu (1949). Paris: Gallimard, 1972, p. 293–331.

The print looked fine to start with, but there appeared like a reflection on the image, and then there was no deep black left. As there seemed to be nothing wrong in the projection, and there were no problems in our other 35 mm projections, the mysterious veil seemed to be a defect of the print.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Umarete wa mita keredo / I Was Born, But...

Hideo Sugawara, Seiichi Kato, Tomio Aoki (from left). Wikipedia / Shochiku.
大人の見る絵本 生れてはみたけれど / Otona no miru ehon - Umarete wa mita keredo / [A Picture-Book for Adults: I Was Born, But...] / Synnyin, mutta... / Jag föddes men. JP 1932. PC: Shochiku Kamata Studio. D: Yasujiro Ozu. SC: Akira Fushimi - adaptation: Geibei Ibushiya - based on an idea by James Maki [= Yasujiro Ozu]. DP+ED: Hideo Shigehara - silent at 24 fps. Camera assistants: Yuharu Atsuta, Masao Irie. AD: Takejiro Kadota. Set dec: Yoshiro Kimura, Takejiro Tsunoda. Set furnishings: Shintaro Mimura, Tsunetaro Inoue. Lighting: Toshimitsu Nakajima. C: Tatsuo Saitô (Yoshii, dad, chichi), Mitsuko Yoshikawa (Yoshi's wife, mom, haha), Hideo Sugahara (Ryoichi, elder son), Tokkan-Kozo = Tomio Aoki (Keiji, younger son), Takeshi Sakamoto (Iwasaki, the executive), Teruyo Haymi (Mrs. Iwasaki), Seiichi Kato (Taro), Seiji Nishimura (teacher), Shoichi Kofujita (delivery boy), Chishu Ryu (projectionist). 9 reels, 2507 m. Original length 100 min. Print screened 91 min. A 1993 Japan Foundation print with English subtitles by Donald Richie viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Yasujiro Ozu), 11 April 2014

IMDb synopsis by Peter Renoir Nakai: "Two young brothers become the leaders of a gang of kids in their neighborhood. Their father is an office clerk who tries for advancement by playing up his boss. When the boys visit the boss' house with their father, they discover that their dad has been making a fool of himself to please his boss, who's son is an outwitted member of the boys' gang."

Revisited Yasujiro Ozu's I Was Born, But..., for Donald Richie, "the first of his great films".

It's a tale about the birth of social consciousness, a satire on class society in which the children's world and the grown-ups' world mirror each other.

After the film I read the remarks of Donald Richie and David Bordwell, always rewarding.

Richie thinks that the film is, among other things, about a loss of innocence and resignation to the order of things where the boss is the greater man. For Bordwell, from the start, the dad, Yoshii, is presented as a loser, and the epilogue "presents a veritable orgy of images of resignation".

I think, too, that on a certain level I Was Born, But... is about all that - a loss of innocence, and a resignation to the realities of social hierarchy and class distinctions.

The film had its premiere in 1932. Japan had attacked Manchuria and established the puppet state of Manchukuo on the Soviet border; many find this attack the true start of the Second World War; certainly, from the viewpoint of the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. it was so. Certain prominent Japanese directors, such as Kenji Mizoguchi, produced imperialist propaganda in 1932. Ozu always managed to avoid that, even during his service of five years in the army in the 1940s with the sole task to make propaganda films.

The key revelation of I Was Born, But... takes place in the "film within the film", boss Iwasaki's home movie evening, where we, and the sons, see dad, "the great man" reduced to a clown. It's buffoonery, it's nonsense, it's about making funny / mad faces. It was familiar territory for Ozu who started his film career in nonsense farces. The sons' reverent image of their father is crushed, and dad himself is utterly embarrassed.

The sons are embarrassed, and dad is embarrassed because his sons are. But I find that Ozu and we the viewers can see all this from a higher perspective. Ozu's favourite director was Ernst Lubitsch, and in the same year 1932 Lubitsch directed his episode The Clerk for If I Had a Million, quoted in extenso in Ozu's Tokyo no onna / A Woman of Tokyo (1933). The Lubitsch episode ends with the clerk's raspberry to his boss, and I feel that Yoshii's clownery belongs to the same category. There is a sequence in I Was Born, But... where the camera pans to reveal a whole row of yawning employees at the office, and the film continues seamlessly with a pan in the classroom showing equally bored schoolboys. This kind of satire is obviously Lubitschean, and I find the stance of both Lubitsch and Ozu far from submissive or resigned. Ozu may be a conservative and a traditionalist, but he weighs his people on scales more substantial than those of social hierarchy. Jokes were Ozu's shield also during his war service when he defied authority in defense of Kurosawa.

This looked like a clean and integral print from somewhat challenging and duped sources, image sometimes slightly cropped from the top. Not bad, not one of the best print-wise, but perhaps as good as it gets.

The Prohibition of the Image (my lecture at Cinema Orion + a panel discussion with Johan Bastubacka and Deniz Bedretdin)

Rothko Chapel
Kuvan kielto uskonnossa / The Prohibition of the Image (my lecture at Cinema Orion + panel discussion with Johan Bastubacka and Deniz Bedretdin).
    Lecture series Elokuva uskonnon peilinä / Cinema as a Mirror of Religion.
    HYY:n Elokuvaryhmä järjestää luentosarjan yhteistyössä Helsingin yliopiston uskontotieteen oppiaineen populaarikulttuurin tutkijapiirin ja KAVI:n kanssa elokuvateatteri Orionissa perjantaisin klo 14.30. / Arranged by the Film Society of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki together with the Study Group of Popular Culture at the discipline of Comparative Religion at the University of Helsinki, and KAVI (National Audiovisual Institute, Finland).
    Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Cinema as a Mirror of Religion), 11 April 2014.

My topics included:

1. The image ban, the invisible God, the birth of monotheism, the birth of the alphabet, the leap in abstraction in the human mind and culture, "the dawn of conscience" (J. H. Breasted).

2. The prohibition of the image in the Ten Commandments. Its different translations into Finnish in 1552, 1642, 1776, 1933/1938, and 1992. The Catechism. The terminology in different languages: Bilderverbot, aniconism. The Latin formulation in the Vulgata: non facies tibi sculptile neque omnem similitudinem quae est in caelo desuper et quae in terra deorsum nec eorum quae sunt in aquis sub terra. The Hebrew original: לא תעשה־לך פסל וכל־תמונה אשר בשמים ממעל ואשר בארץ מתחת ואשר במים מתחת .לארץ The keyword פסל (pesel) means a graven image. The image ban is discussed in several passages of the Torah / the Five Books of Moses and other ancient holy texts. The word for the image in Genesis is בְּצֶ֥לֶם.

3. Examples of the image ban and iconoclasm include: - The iconoclasm of the Jews during the Biblical era - The removal of the images from Kaaba, from around the Black Stone by the Muslims. - Episodes of iconoclasm in Hinduism. - In African cultures the Highest God is not represented figuratively. - The Australian aborigines have a prohibition of the image of the recently deceased during their voyage to the Dreaming. - Crusaders and missionaries have destroyed holy images everywhere around the world. - The vandalization of the giant Moai statues on Easter Island before the arrival of the Europeans in the 18th century. - The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. - The destruction of the giant Buddha statues by the Taliban in Bamiyan in 2001. - The destruction of the Sufi shrines in Timbuktu in 2012. - In a more general sense, aniconism has been linked with abstract art, minimalism, and Finnish Design.

4. The image ban can be applied to - God - anything holy - legendary and historical figures - humans - anything living - everything. --- It can be limited to the presentation of - eyes - faces - genitals, etc.

5. The image ban is a characteristic of monotheism in its rejection of polytheistic idolatry. - The eldest known monotheistic high culture, that of Akhenaten, did not ban images but promoted instead a notable turn in the art of representation. - Tacitus claimed that ancient Germans had a prohibition of images of gods; yet images of gods of ancient Germans have been found. - In Judaism, Islam, and at times and also still in certain contemporary interpretations of Christianity the image ban has been observed. - Also in the Assyrian church and in Zoroastrianism.

6. Closely linked with this is the prohibition to pronounce God's name. 2. Moses 3:14: "And God saith unto Moses, `I AM THAT WHICH I AM;' He saith also, `Thus dost thou say to the sons of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.'" - יהויה JHWH, אֶהְיֶה Ehje, "I Am", or אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, Ehje ašer ehje, "I Am That I Am”. - God has no image nor a name.

7. In Christianity a solution to the issue of the representation of God is Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, the second of three persons of the Divine Trinity. For centuries there have been debates about the representation of Jesus. Meanwhile Christian visual art has developed into a treasure trove of world art, and icons have become an important issue for instance in the Eastern Christian traditions. There has been a debate on the definitions of the idol and the icon. Idolatry is banned; icon worship is fostered. - From the viewpoint of Judaism and Islam, the Divine Trinity is a compromise between polytheism and monotheism, between idolatry and the image ban.

8. Since the 3. century Christian churches have started to take positions on art. The interpretations have differed in the extreme, from interpretations of an absolute image ban to flourishing cultures of religious visual art. - In 380 Constitutiones Apostolorum required painters, whores, actors, and boxers to relinquish their craft as a condition of being admitted to the church. - But there was no consistent stand on the image ban. - A major division started in the 6. century: in Byzantium, images were rejected whereas the Pope and the patriarchates of the Arab countries favoured art. Many Byzantian artists fleed to Rome.

9. There were two grave waves of iconoclasm in the Byzantium in the 8. and the 9. centuries.

10. During the Reformation there were huge waves of destruction of images in the 16. century, known as Beeldenstorm or Bildersturm. Among the Protestants, Martin Luther took a conciliatory stand and saw much good in images bringing people closer to the faith, but Huldrych Zwingli and Jean Calvin renounced all visual representation.

11. In contemporary Christianity there are prominent revival movements, such as Laestadianism in the Nordic countries, who condemn certain areas of culture, including performing arts and moving images. Anabaptists, the Amish, the Mennonites, and Brethren in Christ observe the prohibition of the image. Amish dolls have no faces.

12. In the Quran there is no image ban. Highly significant was, however, the banishment of images from Mecca, and since the 8. century there is the tradition that man-created images have been banned, since God is the sole Creator. Some schools of thought emphsize that the image is inseparable from the unity of God. In 722 during Caliph Yazid II there was an iconoclasm. But the image ban has not been absolute, and it has not been observed in secular circumstances. Mostly there have been guidelines about figurative images in mosques and about the propriety of photographs in religious connections. - Nomadic Muslims were more strict in the image ban than Muslim farmers. - The purpose was to oppose idolatry and remove instruments of magic. - The viewpoint was that God is beyond form and image. Superstition and all figurative anthropomorphism was rejected. The religion was taught by word only. - Generally there are no figurative representations of living beings in holy spaces. - False generalizations about islam's image ban appear in Western media. There is a strong tradition of figurative art in Muslim art. Tolerance has been the general approach, and art of other religions has been admitted.

13. The image ban, society and the economic system. - Sigmund Freud (in Der Mann Moses) stated that the ban of the image and the name of God was a triumph of spirituality over sensuality, an epochal step in Menschwerdung, in the process of mankind becoming truly human. - Max Weber, the author of Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist der Kapitalismus (and an extensive body of work about society and religion) argued that the image ban is an essential aspect of intellectualism and rationalism, with fundamental consequences for the development of society, such as the triumph of Capitalism. - In Finland, there is still a prominent correlation between religious fundamentalism of the Protestant revival movements and economic success.

14. Related terms: the taboo.
15. Related terms: censorship.
16. Related terms: iconoclasm, and damnatio memoriae.

17. The holy and its presentation in the cinema. Religion has been a central theme in the cinema since the beginning, and there has been a wide span of means of expression, from the excess of Indian religious musicals to the ascetic reduction of Dreyer. - In early cinema, views from the Holy Land were taken by many production companies. - One of the earliest genres of the feature film in the 1890s was the Passion Play, then often as a record of the traditional Oberammergau performance. - There were artistically valuable films already during early cinema, made by some of the best talents of French cinema, such as La Vie et la passion de Jésus Christ (1903), composed of tableaux directed by Ferdinand Zecca. Also Sidney Olcott's From the Manger to the Cross (1912), shot on the Holy Land, belongs to the important early feature films. - From the late 1920s till the late 1950s there was a tradition in Hollywood films that Christ was not shown. In the Sermon on the Mount scenes in Ben-Hur, The Robe, and The Big Fisherman Christ is not shown, only the reactions on the faces of those who have heard him speak.

18. The holy and its presentation in the cinema: asceticism - the reticence to show. Paul Schrader has examined three artists who have taken the road of showing less in his book Transcendental Style in Film: Yasujiro Ozu (a secular director with a sense of Buddhist and Shintoist cultural tradition), Robert Bresson (a Roman Catholic-Jansenist atheist), and Carl Th. Dreyer (reflecting Protestantism in La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc also Catholicism, [and in Die Gezeichneten, Jewish life]). - The great Frenchmen André Bazin, Henri Agel, and Amédée Ayfre have a comparable insight in presenting the holy in the cinema. - Divinity, the holy, is invisible. - By a devout focus on the everyday, by the way of reduction of everything inessential, the artist can lead us onto the path towards grasping better what exceeds the limits of our compehension.

19. The very opposite to the Ozu-Bresson-Dreyer approach is tonight's film The Ten Commandments (of 1956). Why this film? - The turning-point of the film is the sequence where Moses descends from Mount Sinai with the Tablets of the Law and sees his people dancing around the Golden Calf. This is a dramatization of our theme of idolatry versus the invisible God. - This is also our Easter Film, as we celebrate Easter next week. - This film is a big Hollywood spectacle, but Cecil B. DeMille had an ecumenic approach in consulting Jewish, Christian, and Muslim experts to get it right. It was shot on location in Egypt. - We may smile at the wooden performance of Charlton Heston in the title role, but the film on the whole is marvellously cast, the people are of flesh and blood, and there are many unforgettable vignettes. There is a joy of storytelling and a passion for the subject-matter, since Cecil B. DeMille was both a true believer and a master of the spectacle. He has the full command on one of the greatest myths, but although the film is full of attractions, finally it is about the triumph of the spirit.

20. A remark on Catholic film directors. In the history of art, no other religious orientation has inspired as much great visual art as Roman Catholicism (we need only remember the Renaissance trio of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raffaello). The same goes for the cinema. Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Henry King, Leo McCarey, Éric Rohmer, and Federico Fellini are all great Catholic directors, and Catholic themes and images are also essential for atheists such as Roberto Rossellini, Robert Bresson, and Luis Buñuel. The wild bird of Finnish cinema, Teuvo Tulio, was a Roman Catholic.

The panel discussion
There was an inspired panel discussion with Johan Bastubacka (a Christian) and Deniz Bedretdin (a Muslim) with many intelligent comments also from the audience. There was also the essential reminder than in the beginning of the Genesis men and women are created in the image of God.

Genesis 1:26-27 (King James)
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

26 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ וְיִרְדּוּ֩ בִדְגַ֨ת הַיָּ֜ם וּבְעֹ֣וף הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּבְכָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵ֥שׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃
27 וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמֹ֔ו בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹתֹ֑ו זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃

I did not stay to see Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments this time, but I returned to watch the end: Moses hurls the tablets on the golden calf, and the sinners fall to a burning abyss. After thirty years of a punishing trek in the desert (korpivaellus in Finnish), the now frail Moses stays behind as the people of Israel finally crosses the River Jordan, to the land of freedom having escaped from the land of slavery. So it was written. So it shall be done.

Recommendations for further reading:
Paul Schrader: Transcendental Style in Film. Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1972
Mary Lea Bandy and Antonio Monda: The Hidden God. Film and Faith. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2003
Tomas Axelson och Ola Sigurdson: Film och religion. Livstolkning på vita duken. Örebro: Cordia, 2005
Jolyon Mitchell and S. Brent Plate: The Religion and Film Reader. New York and London: Routledge, 2007
John Lyden (ed.): The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film. London and New York: Routledge, 2009
Nacim Pak-Shiraz: Shi’i Islam in Iranian Cinema. Religion and Spirituality in Film. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2011
"Bilderverbot": the German Wikipedia article with excellent links.

Grand speculations on the birth of monotheism:
James Henry Breasted: The Dawn of Conscience. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933.
Thomas Mann: Joseph und seine Brüder I-IV. Frankfurt am Main (I-II), Stockholm (III-IV): S. Fischer Verlag, 1933-1943.
Sigmund Freud: Der Mann Moses und die monoteistische Religion. Amsterdam: De Lange, 1939.
Mika Waltari: Sinuhe egyptiläinen. Porvoo-Helsinki: WSOY, 1945.

The image (the word used in Genesis), put into the Google Translator:
image  בְּצֶ֥לֶם 
image תְמוּנָה, דְמוּת, תַדמִית, דְיוֹקָן, בָּבוּאָה, צֶלֶם
idol אֱלִיל, פֶּסֶל, צֶלֶם
likeness דְמוּת, דִמיוֹן, דְיוֹקָן, צֶלֶם, תְמוּנָה, דִמוּי
semblance מַראִית עַיִן, דִמיוֹן, צֶלֶם, מַרְאֶה הַחִצוֹנִי
form טוֹפֶס, צוּרָה, דְמוּת, תַבְנִית, דְפוּס, צֶלֶם

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Runoilija muuttaa / [The Poet Is Moving]

Skalden flyttar. FI 1927. PC: Suomi-Filmi. P+D+ED: Erkki Karu. DP: Frans Ekebom - camera assistant: Armas Fredman. Make-up: Hannes Kuokkanen. Compilation score for the cinema orchestra: Musette (comp. Jean Sibelius), Viens (comp. Pearcy), Valse lyrique (comp. Jean Sibelius), Vappu shimmy (comp. Sjöblom), Tonttujen tanssi (comp. Ilmari Hannikainen), Valse chevaleresque (comp. Jean Sibelius). Studio manager: Martti Tuukka. Stills: Kosti Lehtinen. C: Ossi Korhonen (Eero Heso, a poet), Glory Leppänen (Mrs. Tuisku), Uuno Laakso (Mr. Tuisku), Birgit Sergelius (Liisa, sister of Mrs. Tuisku), Heikki Välisalmi (uncle Turpeinen from Joroinen), Heljä Salomaa (a two-year-old child), Hannikainen. Helsinki premiere: 13 Nov 1937 Kino-Palatsi, distributed by Suomen Biografi Osakeyhtiö - telecast: 19 Jan 1970 MTV1 - vhs release: Suomi-Filmi.
    Finnish / Swedish intertitles. 750 m /20 fps/ 27 min
    Digitally restored by KAVA (2013). KAVI 2K DCP, piano: Joonas Raninen, screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Erkki Karu), 9 April 2014

Runoilija muuttaa was produced in a hurry as a supplement film to the feature film Vaihdokas which had proved too short. The screenplay was adapted, probably by Erkki Karu himself, from a previous Suomi-Filmi comedy called Se parhaiten nauraa, joka viimeksi nauraa [He Laughs Best Who Laughs Last]. The result was so successful that some critics found the comedy short better than the feature. There was also a plan to launch an entire series of short Suomi-Filmi comedies, but the plan was not executed.

I had previously seen only a modest vhs tape of this comedy, and first now I released how good Runoilija muuttaa is. It belongs to the top films directed by Erkki Karu, and it is better than the more famous When Dad Has Toothache. It is an important link in the development of Finnish screen comedy.

The poet is evicted due to unpaid rents, his belongings are thrown onto the street, and unannounced he moves to the home of his best friend, Mr. Tuisku, to the dismay of Mrs. Tuisku, and to the delight of her sister Liisa. The poet has financed his extravagant lifestyle by the generous support of his rich uncle whose sole inheritor he is. But the poet has been lying about the circumstances of his life, and now the uncle has just arrived into the capital from the province of Savo.

The main strength of Runoilija muuttaa is the good cast.

Glory Leppänen, daughter of the opera star Aino Achté, was then a promising young actress at the National Theatre; later she became a prominent theatre leader and director. After Erkki Karu died suddenly in 1935 she got to replace Karu as a film director and became the first woman in Finland to direct a film. She plays the formidable Mrs. Tuisku.

Uuno Laakso in his second film role, his first for Suomi-Filmi, was also a prominent theatre actor, and he became a mainstay of Finnish film comedy, especially with Suomi-Filmi. He is already quite recognizable here, but not yet mannered.

Birgit Sergelius is bright and cinematic and a harbinger of the future, the witty film comedies of Valentin Vaala. After a few Finnish silents she moved to Sweden and was picked by Gustaf Molander for the title role of Charlotte Löwensköld.

Heikki Välisalmi was a politician (also a MP), a prolific author and newspaperman - and a film actor in some ten films, usually for Erkki Karu. He is a natural as the rich uncle from Joroinen. (He also plays the leading role in our main feature today, Mr. Elanto).

Having gotten used to see often wooden Finnish film acting in this period I was pleasantly surprised by the good interplay of these four. Glory Leppänen is perhaps too good for this kind of light entertainment, but the others have a good sense of pantomime and comic timing.

Only Ossi Korhonen in the title role is a bit bland in this debut film of his, but not obtrusively so. He went on to have a long theatre career, and almost 70 film and tv roles.

The intertitles are funny.

The uncle arrives with a load of gifts, including a rocking horse for the poet's presumed baby. He also produces a giant kalakukko (fish pie baked in a huge loaf of bread), a local delicacy from Savo.

Towards the conclusion the uncle discovers that everything the poet has been telling him is lies - there is no wife, no home, and no baby. Unperturbed, he takes the situation into his own hands,  launches the arrangements that the poet will have a wife, a home, and a baby, and announces that he will stay in Helsinki until that has been achieved.

The bright Liisa, the sister of Mrs. Tuisku, has been behind the scenes arranging things and saving everybody from catastrophes.

This well-made light social comedy anticipates Valentin Vaala's efforts in the 1930s.

The digital restoration is successful. It is almost all interiors. There is a nice balance in the definition of light, the grayscale is pleasant, and it feels good to watch this in refined black and white.