Saturday, February 06, 2016


Selma. Please click to enlarge.

Selma / Selma. GB/US 2014. PC: Cloud Eight Films, Celador Films, Harpo Films, Pathé, Plan B Entertainment. EX: Nick Bower, Ava DuVernay, Cameron McCracken, Diarmuid McKeown, Nan Morales, Brad Pitt. P: Christian Colson, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Oprah Winfrey. D: Ava DuVernay. SC: Paul Webb. ED: Spencer Averick. DP: Bradford Young. SFX: Scott Willis. PD: Mark Friedberg. AD: Kim  Jennings. Set dec: Elizabeth Keenan. Cost: Ruth E. Carter. Make-up: Melissa Forney. M: Jason Moran. C: David Oyelowo (Martin Luther King, Jr.), Tom Wilkinson (Lyndon B. Johnson), Tim Roth (George Wallace), Common (James Bevel), Carmen Ejogo (Coretta Scott King), Lorraine Toussaint (Amelia Boynton Robinson), Oprah Winfrey (Anne Lee Cooper), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Fred Gray), Niecy Nash (Richie Jean Jackson), Colman Domingo (Ralph Abernathy), Giovanni Ribisi (Lee C. White), Alessandro Nivola (John Doar), Keith Stanfield (Jimmi Lee Jackson), Andre Holland (Andrew Young), Tessa Thompson (Diane Nash), Wendell Price (Hosea Williams), Nigel Thatch (Malcom X), Dylan Baker (J. Edgar Hoover), Ledisi (Mahalia Jackson), Omar Dorsey (James Orange). 128 min
    Blu-ray from Walt Disney Nordic with Finnish subtitles by Arja Meski.
    Introduced by the U.S. Ambassador Charles C. Adams, Jr., Stephen Lee, and Anna Möttölä.
    Cinema Orion, Helsinki, together with U.S. Embassy and Walt Disney Nordic (Black History Month), 6 Feb 2016

Reportedly the first film on Martin Luther King, Selma is an engrossing dramatization of an essential part of American history of the 1960s. It is a fighting film, a film about peaceful demonstration and resistance in the spirit of Tolstoy and Gandhi. It is a key story about changing the world, and I am grateful for Ava DuVernay and her team and cast for that.

There is the daunting challenge of having actors play world historical figures that even a schoolboy in distant Finland had some idea about. David Oyelowo is great in the leading role, and as a non-American I can accept the others, as well, although they are British. There has also been the special difficulty about not getting the access to King's actual speeches, or Mahalia Jackson's actual voice. But challenges are made to be overcome.

The main drive of the film is powerful. There is in the beginning a vignette of the four little girls, also documented in a masterful film by Spike Lee. My favourite scenes include the debate in the car between King and an activist after the murder of a white clergyman ("we are too far to turn back now") and King's great speech in the finale. I understand that the account of LBJ has been criticized, and I am out of my depth to comment on that. Anyway, among the high points of the film is also the eye-to-eye debate of LBJ and Wallace at White House.

A remarkable film worth revisiting. Conventional but powerful. The third march has a real epic feeling of history. We can change the world if we are united.

In our collaborations with the U.S. Embassy we have repeatedly noticed that it has often been difficult to access in theatrical formats even high profile films relevant to U.S. black experience. This time we were not able to access a DCP of Selma, and as the best alternative projected a blu-ray by arrangement with Walt Disney Nordic, free of charge. A film as great as Selma was not theatrically released in Finland.


Friday, February 05, 2016

Rodin (exhibition at Ateneum, Helsinki)

Auguste Rodin: Danaid, 1885, this marble 1889. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Mäkinen
Rodin, exhibition 5.2.-8.5.2016 in collaboration with the Stockholm Nationalmuseum, Ateneum Art Museum, Musée Rodin in Paris and its former Chief Curator Antoinette Le Normand-Romain. Curators: Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, Linda Hinners, and Timo Huusko.

Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery, Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki.

The catalogue:
Rodin. Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) ja Pohjola. [Rodin. Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and the North]. Editor-in-chief: Linda Hinners. Editor of the Finnish edition: Timo Huusko. Helsinki: Ateneumin taidemuseo / Suomen kansallisgalleria. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. 188 p.
    Swedish edition for Nationalmuseum, 1.10.2015-10.1.2016.
    Finnish edition for Ateneum, 5.2.-8.5.2016.
    Three language editions: Swedish, Finnish, and English.

From the press release: "Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), who lived and worked in Paris, brought a whole new character to sculpture with his robust expressiveness, emphasising physicality. The exhibition also features works by Rodin’s Finnish students, Sigrid af Forselles and Hilda Flodin. This exhibition is the most extensive one of Rodin’s work ever seen in Finland: previously Rodin’s works were on display more than 50 years ago, in 1965."

"The rugged and textured works were considered too risqué and unfinished by his contemporaries."

"Rodin was an exceptional artist who revolutionised the art of sculpture. Several of the works are classics: for example, of The Kiss and The Thinker, innumerable copies exist. As late as the late 19th century, the works still divided opinion. They were deemed either too risqué or realistic, or they were thought to be unfinished and lacking in substance."

"Rodin may be regarded as one of the last classical sculptors, while also representing a vibrant and spontaneous idiom that was completely new and progressive. What generally was considered unfinished was in Rodin’s view complete and ready. The human body is at the core of Rodin’s work: he had the ability to capture in one figure the realistic form of the human body and powerful, emotional expression."

"The exhibition covers Rodin’s entire career from the early works to some of his later creations. It gives an overview of his work and his experimental approach to sculpture, and paints a picture of this prolific worker and his fascinating life."

"Sigrid af Forselles (1860–1935) and Hilda Flodin (1877–1958) were Rodin’s students and served as his atelier assistants in Paris. The exhibition sheds light on Rodin’s relationship with his Finnish students and reveals new information about Rodin’s contacts with Finland. Af Forselles assisted Rodin in the creation of The Burghers of Calais and the most significant one of her own was the five-part relief History of the Human Soul. Flodin served as Rodin’s assistant from 1903 until 1906. After her return to Finland on 1906, Flodin concentrated mainly on drawing, because sculpture was considered at that time an unsuitable profession for a woman."

"The exhibition is spread through four halls on the 1st and 3rd floors of the museum. Of the 70 works on show, 51 are by Rodin. The exhibition is produced as a collaboration by Stockholm Nationalmuseum, Ateneum Art Museum, Musée Rodin in Paris and its former Chief Curator Antoinette Le Normand-Romain. Many museums and private collectors have given their works on loan for the exhibition."

Allan Österlind: Rodin In His Atelier, 1889. Watercolour on paper, glued on canvas. 73x51,50. Ateneum Art Museum / H. F. Antell testament collection.  Photo: National Gallery / Jouko Könönen. Presumably the only contemporary painting on Rodin taken from the model was made by his Swedish painter friend.

"Dans l'art, il n'y a pas d'immoralité.
L'art est toujours sacré."

"There is no immorality in art.
Art is always sacred."

-Auguste Rodin

In L'œil écoute, his collection of essays about painting, Paul Claudel wrote about "spiritualized flesh" when discussing Spanish painting. That would be also a fitting title for the work of Auguste Rodin whose close companion, colleague and lover Paul's sister Camille Claudel became.

After 50 years, Rodin's work is on display in Helsinki again. Stone, metal, and plaster come alive in forms that seem vibrant with life while acknowledging the inorganic character of the material.

This Nordic touring show based on the Musée Rodin collection has a Nordic flavour. Rodin had Nordic patrons and colleagues. In Finland there was H. F. Antell whose donation is the basis of Ateneum's valuable Rodin collection.

Auguste Rodin: Shadow, 1880, this cast 1964. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Kirsi Halkola

In the North Rodin was recognized as a modern Michelangelo. Like Michelangelo in Pietà Rodin understood the power of the non finito. That is an approach that brings us to the threshold of comprehension. There are things that are beyond understanding. Yet an artist can bring us to the path of an insight of even such matters.

Auguste Rodin: Je suis belle, plaster 1882, this bronze cast before 1887. Ateneum Art Museum, coll. Antell. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Karjalainen

Je suis belle, ô mortels! comme un rêve de pierre,
Et mon sein, où chacun s'est meurtri tour à tour,
Est fait pour inspirer au poète un amour
Eternel et muet ainsi que la matière
- Charles Baudelaire: Les Fleurs du mal

In this sculpture Rodin immortalized his love and passion with Camille Claudel.

Auguste Rodin: The Thinker, c 1880, this cast 1889. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen. Please click to enlarge the images.
The mise-en-scène of a giant version of The Thinker (original 1882, this version 1903, 1909, Waldemarsudde, Stockholm) is a coup of conceptual art.

The Thinker has been placed in a room facing the Railway Square. On the opposite side is the Finnish National Theatre. Over The Thinker's shoulder we can see the monument of Aleksis Kivi, the Finnish national writer, our counterpart to Hugo and Balzac, also immortalized in stone by Rodin. Wäinö Aaltonen always ignored claims of having been influenced by Rodin. Now everybody can make up his own mind.

At Ateneum there are sections devoted to Rodin's Finnish pupils Sigrid af Forselles and Hilda Flodin. Among the contemporary Finnish influences one may also count Ville Vallgren whose Havis Amanda sculpture is the Aphrodite of Finland.

Simultaneously with the Rodin opening there is also a new display of the installation artist Kaarina Kaikkonen transforming the museum's inner courtyard and nearby park with her myriad flying shirts.

The catalogue for the exhibition is a Rodin collector's item with a complete record of the Rodin works on display, special essays on Rodin's Nordic connections in Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, and a bibliography of Rodin's Nordic correspondence.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Sans soleil (the 2013 Argos-Films digital restoration)

Sans soleil [U.S. title for the Criterion release] / Sunless / Vailla aurinkoa. FR © 1982, year of release: 1983. PC: Argos-Films. P: Anatole Dauman. D+conception+ED: Chris Marker / Chris. Marker. DP: Chris Marker - camera: Beaulieu R16 - negative: 16 mm - colour and b&w - 1,66:1 - released on 35 mm. Archival footage: Sana Na N’hada ("Bissau Carnival"), Jean-Michel Humeau ("Graduation Ceremony"), Mario Marret & Eugenio Bentivoglio ("Guerrilla in Bissau"), Danièle Tessier ("Death of a Giraffe"), Haroun Tazieff ("Iceland 1970"). Stills: Martin Boschet, Roger Grange. Music: Hayao Yamaneko. M selections: Modest Musorgski, Jean Sibelius: "Valse triste". M arrangements: Isao Tomita. Singer: Arielle Dombasle. Electronic sounds: Michel Krasna = Chris Marker. S mixing: Antoine Bonfanti, Paul Bertault. Assistant camera / friends and advisors: Kazuko Kawakita, Hayao Shibata, Ichiro Hagiwara, Kazue Kobata, Keiko Murata, Yugo Fukusaki (Tokyo); Tom Luddy, Anthony Reveaux, Manuela Adelman (San Francisco); Pierre Lhomme, Jimmy Glasberg, Ghislain Cloquet (Paris). Reader of Sandor Krasna's letters in the English version: Alexandra Stewart. Assistants: Eric Dumage, Dominque Gentil, Arthur Cloquet. Still photography: Martin Boschet, Roger Grange. Loc: Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Okinawa, San Francisco, Tokyo. 100 min, Criterion: 103 min
    Official language versions include the French version (read by Florence Delay) and the English version (Alexandra Stewart).
    The 2013 Argos-Films 2K DCP (distributed by Tamasa Films), a digitally restored version from 16 mm, complete with the restoration credits: 108 min
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (The Top Documentaries / DocPoint: choice of the Director Ulla Simonen), English version with the Alexandra Stewart commentary, 4 Feb 2016

The Criterion (2007) synopsis: "Chris Marker, filmmaker, poet, novelist, photographer, editor, and now videographer and digital multimedia artist, has been challenging moviegoers, philosophers, and himself for years with his complex queries about time, memory, and the rapid advancement of life on this planet. Sans soleil is his mind-bending free-form travelogue that journeys from Africa to Japan."

AA: For more than a decade, in 2003-2015, we had a running series called Dokumentin ytimessä / In the Core of the Documentary curated by Ilkka Kippola and Jari Sedergren, with 82 different programs covering the entire scope of the Finnish documentary film.

With Sans soleil we launched a new project designed to cover the all time best international documentary films, partly inspired by the Sight & Sound documentary poll a couple of years ago.

I now saw the 2013 Argos-Films / Tamasa restoration of Sans soleil for the first time. I was a little concerned in advance because of the quality of some digital versions of Chris Marker films that I have seen. Here there is no reason to, although the digital form requires some adjusting to. At first it looks strange, then it starts to look good. The digital restoration is brilliant, and the joy of colour feels right. There is just the general issue that digital is psychologically and perceptually something different than film. They are different media.

And Sans soleil is a highly dense psychological journey. It is externally a playful globetrotting quest. It kind of provides a definition of "an essay". It brings us a wealth of global observation, all tied together just by being essential to a central consciousness, Chris Marker himself, hiding behind multiple masks and aliases.

It is a mosaic of images, often with rapid montage sequences, and the commentary, the letters of "Sandor Krasna" (= C. M.) to the female recipient, is almost non stop. Marker was always ahead of his time. His work feels contemporary in cyberworld, with its electronic inserts and electronic arrangements of compositions by Musorgsky and Sibelius ("Valse triste").

Somehow it all adds up. Bums as traffic cops. Car graveyards. The horror of the Khmer Rouge. The giant phalluses of Japanese shinto worship. Portuguese ex-colonies after the carnation revolution. The slaughter of a giraffe. A Vertigo tour in San Francisco. Children at play in Iceland. The last magical ceremony at Okinawa. The La Jetée bar in Ginza. Part of this material might belong to a mondo documentary, but here it grows into a meaningful web of poetic associations.


Tim Hagans: Faces under the Influence (panel discussion inspired by jazz and Cassavetes)

Faces under the Influence, concert at Helsinki Music Center, 4 Feb 2016. Tim Hagans (composer, band leader, trumpet), Sibis Alumni Big Band, Jukka Perko (sax), Jim Beard (piano), Raoul Björkenheim (electric gtr), Random Doctors (visualization). Photo stolen from, Jazzpossu,
Kirmo Lintinen had invited me to a panel discussion at the Helsinki Music Center in the context of  Tim Hagans's jazz suite Faces under the Influence inspired by the cinema of John Cassavetes.

I was not able to visit the concert itself but I had the great pleasure to listen to the suite a few times in advance. I am looking forward to a future album release.

The other members of the panel were music experts: three distinguished composers (Tim Hagans, Timo Hietala, and the chairman Kirmo Lintinen), and an expert scholar, Anu Juva, who has written her excellent dissertation on film music. I was there to speak about Cassavetes and give a few remarks about jazz in the cinema.

The composers all agreed that, with exceptions, music is not central in the films of John Cassavetes, and would, indeed, be distracting or even disruptive in them. The psychological tension of them is so absolute. (The exceptions being Shadows and Too Late Blues, with jazz, and A Child Is Waiting and Gloria, with Hollywood scores by Ernest Gold and Bill Conti).

My remarks focused on the insight of Emu Lehtinen (Digelius Music Store) of 1957 as the annus mirabilis of jazz. It was also the year when John Cassavetes started to make his improvisational debut film Shadows (two versions: the unreleased 1957 version and the official 1959 version), with music by Shafi Hadi and Charles Mingus. It was a dawn of new waves around the world. Cassavetes became a model for U.S. independent cinema. In France, Louis Malle made his solo debut film The Elevator to the Gallows with a score by Miles Davis, and Roger Vadim filmed Sait-on jamais with music by John Lewis & Modern Jazz Quartet. There are experts who find The Sound of Jazz, made in 1957, the best visual record of jazz of all times.

Expanding a little from the year 1957, next year, Roman Polanski would start his collaboration with Krzysztof Komeda (Two Men and a Wardrobe). In the U.S. Otto Preminger had turned independent and shot two years ago The Man with the Golden Arm with a jazz score by Elmer Bernstein, and two years later he had Duke Ellington compose Anatomy of a Murder.

Everywhere the studio system was crumbling, and independent film-making was on the rise. Jazz was at its peak, and its improvisational approach was a good match to new wave cinemas around the world. Also in England, when Joseph Losey reinvented himself to some of his best work, he worked with the jazz orchestra of John Dankworth (The Criminal, The Servant) who was also popular with the young generation of British cinema (We Are the Lambeth Boys, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Darling).

John Cassavetes's films were born in the spirit of jazz although he did not use music so much.

John Cassavetes made jazz films without music, and now Tim Hagans has made a John Cassavetes film without images.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. Please click to enlarge.
    Director: Alex Gibney
    Country: USA
    Year: 2015
    Length: 129 min
    Rating: K12
    Format: DCP
    Cinematography: Yutaka Yamazaki, Sam Painter
    Editing: Michael J. Palmer
    Audio: Michael Jones, Marshall Potter
    Music: Will Bates
    Production: Viva Van Look, Alex Gibney, Magnolia Pictures
Language: English
No subtitles
    DocPoint, Helsinki.
    © 2015 Cable News Network
     Savoy Theatre: Wednesday 27.1. at 20:15. Viewed at Kinopalatsi 1: Sunday 31.1. at 16:45

Festival catalogue and website: "Steve Jobs: The Man In the Machine, by the award-winning director Alex Gibney, reveals the things that are not mentioned at the Apple product announcement meetings, often reminiscent of religious gatherings. Steve Jobs managed to create an ideology where technology is part of us: it is both lovable and humane. Jobs was like a godfather for a new generation. He did everything in his power to keep the Apple family together. He also treated people badly, threatened his employees, and broke the law. Apple’s factories cause enormous environmental destruction, and the suicide rates of the Chinese factory employees who are tasked with the manufacturing of Apple products are high. But, for the love for Apple, we tend to ignore these facts."

"Steve was so dedicated to his work that it strained his personal relationships. The machines were his children. At a product release event, one of the computers was programmed to say, “Hi, dad,” and when Steve’s daughter’s name, Lisa, was chosen, he was excited because the name was fitting also for a new computer. This documentary raises awareness of important issues, but also depicts a touching account of a lonely, rootless genius, who, until the very last day, believed that he was changing the world.
" - Ilona Tolmunen / Translation: Sanna Parikka

AA: An excellent, intelligent and essential documentary on Steve Jobs. Alex Gibney focuses on the big picture of the contradictory genius. In the beginning the world is mourning his death. The question: why? We follow the trajectory of Steve Jobs from a teenage computer wizard of the 1960s to the CEO of Apple, the world's largest information technology company.

Gibney has conducted interviews with key personalities of the grand story such as Bob Belleville, Chrisann Brennan, Andy Grignon, Daniel Kottke, Fred Anderson, Michael S. Malone, Regis McKenna, Michael Moritz, Joe Nocera, Jon Rubinstein, Avie Tevanian, and Sherry Turkle. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak appear in archival footage.

The film covers an important part of the story of the personal computer and the mobile revolution. It is also an attempt to examine the mystery of the genius of Steve Jobs. His fascination with Bob Dylan. His attempts to find inspiration from Eastern spirituality: first Hinduism, then Japanese Buddhism. In Japan he found a way to focus on simplicity.

Paradoxes are not evaded. The neglect of his first daughter whom he initially tried to disown. His awful conduct towards colleagues and workers. The David who turned into a Goliath. Instances of gross fraud in business conduct, including the practice of backdating. The tax dodging. The violent harassment of workers in China.

The genius of Steve Jobs was that he realized a dream that people had. New devices of information technology became dream machines, extensions of the self. Steve Jobs was a visionary.

Alex Gibney gives a balanced and meaningful structure to his topic and combines deftly talking heads, vintage news footage, commercials, and new animation commissioned for this film. It is a story of big business as well as a human story of a deeply wounded genius.

In the finale Alex Gibney stares at the black screen of his iPhone and starts to see in it his own reflection, replaced by the ghost of Steve Jobs.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Atomin paluu / Return of the Atom

Return of the Atom. Please do click to enlarge the image.
    Directors: Mika Taanila, Jussi Eerola
    Country: Finland, Germany
    Year: 2015
    Length: 110 min
    Rating: S
    Format: DCP
    Cinematography: Jussi Eerola
    Editing: Mika Taanila
    Audio: Olli Huhtanen
    Music: Pan Sonic
    Production: Cilla Werning/Kinotar Oy, Meike Martens/Blinker Filmproduktion GmbH
Languages: Finnish, Polish, German, Russian, French, English
Subtitles: English by Jaana Wiik.
    DocPoint, Helsinki, screener link viewed.
    © 2015 Kinotar / Blinker / ZDF
    Films: Three-Two-One-Zero (US 1954), Zdravstvui, atom (SU 1965), Gammera the Invincible (US 1966) / Gamera (JP 1965), Die Söhne der grossen Bärin (DD 1966).
    Korjaamo / Kulmasali: Saturday 30.1. at 20:00

Catalog and website: "Mika Taanila’s and Jussi Eerola’s documentary Return of the Atom was eventually completed well before its main subject, the third nuclear facility in Olkiluoto that has been under construction for over 10 years now. Eerola’s cinematography reveals both the brigh and the dark side of ”the most electrified county in Finland”. Taanila’s editing is farcical, whereas Pan Sonic’s score reminds of horror films. The film voices the thoughts of both the French ringmasters holding the strings and the workers who have had to suffer all the mishaps and negligence on the construction site. Also a prominent character is a tireless local advocate of nuclear energy."

"At its core, Return of the Atom is a film about rhetoric: how to sell a nuclear facility to the townsfolk; how lobbyists begin to fumble in their pitches; how the safety of nuclear energy turns out to be matter of faith. The Polish construction workers have even brought a spiritual guide of their own with them. The world and the climate of opinion outside Olkiluoto have long ago moved on, but the reactor remains unfinished.
" Tytti Rantanen / Translation: Tapio Reinekoski

AA: Mika Taanila and Jussi Eerola's Return of the Atom has been many years in the making, and during the long gestation period Taanila has created other works on the subject.

This feature film itself is an epic documentary on the first European nuclear power plant being built since Chernobyl: the Olkiluoto 5 on the West coast of Finland. The construction was launched in 2005 and was supposed to be finished by 2009. The project was continued despite Fukushima and the fact that meanwhile Germany has made the decision to shut down all its nuclear power plants.

The huge Olkiluoto construction site is covered via spectacular cinematography, including fascinating time lapse sequences.

We see the official story and the story of the doubters. One of the opponents tells she was harassed and forced to move. Another one, a lone protester, gets fired.

The theme is deadly serious but there are droll inserts including vintage pro-nuclear propaganda films from the US and the USSR.

The approach is neutral and deadpan. A lot of serious questions are raised, including issues of security, safety, health, and nature. There is also the fundamental question of planning that is so badly botched so many times. It seems incredible when dealing with something as precarious as nuclear power. Not a laughing matter.

The soundscape is original and fascinating and the cinematography is of high quality.

No Home Movie

No Home Movie. Please do click to enlarge the image.
    Director: Chantal Akerman
    Country: Belgium
    Year: 2015
    Length: 115­ min
    Rating: S
    Format: DCP
    Cinematography: Chantal Akerman
    Editing: Claire Atherton
    Audio: Chantal Akerman
    Production: Chantal Akerman / Paradise Films, Patrick Quinet & Serge Zeitoun/Liaison Cinématographique
    Languages: French, Hebrew, Spanish
    Subtitles: English by Anne-Marie Collins
    Cinematography conducted via low resolution DV, Skype, and Blackberry.
    © 2015 Paradise films - Liaison Cinématographique
     DocPoint, Helsinki, screener link viewed.
     Andorra: Saturday 30.1. at 12:30

Catalog and website: "Branches sway in the wind. Cars stand waiting in the red lights. It is sunny in the park. Someone is walking a dog. In Brussels, Chantal’s mother is sitting by the kitchen table. There’s no need for words, not in the beginning anyway. When Chantal skypes to her mother from USA, words are finally needed and used."

"Chantal Akerman is a pioneer of the experimental feminist film. No Home Movie is Akerman’s personal journey to her mother’s life and back to her own roots. It is a film about times and places, a collage of moments important for Akerman herself. The film is loosely patterned by conversations held and recorded over the last few weeks before her mother’s death. Mother and daughter talk about childhood, mother’s survival from Auschwitz and everything that followed it, and about life in Belgium. Occasionally the camera stops to film the scenery from the car window. We are challenged to interpret and experience what only Akerman herself could have felt and experienced."

"Akerman became an acknowledged film maker at the age of 24, when she directed her masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), a film following the life of a widower who earns her living as a sex worker. In 2012 critics from the Sight & Sound magazine voted the over three hour long film as one of the best 100 movies of all time. Akerman filmed both fiction, documentaries and short films. No Home Movie was her last film. She died in October 2015 at the age of 65. Media has claimed her death to be a suicide.
" - Suvi Nousiainen / Translation: Tuomo Karvonen

AA: The screen is dark. There is a voice in the darkness: "C'est Chantal!".

I was thinking about Visita, Manoel de Oliveira's testament film, while watching Chantal Akerman's No Home Movie, her final film. Both are films about a space. Manoel de Oliveira filmed his beloved house in Oporto which he had to abandon. Chantal Akerman films the final period of her mother at her elegant home in Brussels.

But the title of this film is No Home Movie. It resembles a home movie, but Chantal had no home. She was a nomad, a wandering Jewess, nowhere at home.

A title that also occurred to me was The Waste Land. There are a lot of views of empty spaces and arid landscapes in this film which is largely shot in long shot in long takes, by the film-maker herself, often intentionally with low definition quality including Skype and Blackberry. But there are also shots of exquisite composition and brilliant light which bring to mind Oliveira's beautiful film.

Mostly the focus is in the dialogue between mother and daughter. They talk about everything: the Polish background, the family arriving as refugees to Belgium, the Nazi occupation, the Orthodox Jewish traditions still observed by the father who respected his own parents. From some reports on this film one might imagine that Auschwitz would be among the topics, but it is the absence of a discussion of Auschwitz that is central to this film. The Auschwitz experience was something that mother Natalia (Nelly) never discussed.

The warmth and love between mother and daughter is genuine and touching. On the other hand, there is a profound sense of desolation and alienation. Mother Natalia was the center of Chantal's cinematic universe. Soon after the filming she was gone, and soon after the festival premieres of No Home Movie Chantal Akerman died.

This film moves me for several reasons. My own mother died a year ago. I was born five years later than Chantal. Both of our mothers belonged to a generation that had experienced war. My mother was not in Auschwitz, but she always told that her childhood ended on the last day of November 1939 when a Red Army bomber flew at such a near distance that she could see the pilot in the eye. She was twice evaquated as a child to generous and neutral Sweden.

I remember the presence of Chantal Akerman in Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä. There was an atmosphere of profound solitude around her. I hope she knew how much her work was admired and respected.

Colour Liberated. Finnish Art Reformers 1908-1914 (a Didrichsen 50th anniversary exhibition)

Verner Thomé: Bathing Boys. 1910. Oil on canvas, 108,5 x 130. Hoving Collection / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen. Please click to enlarge the images.
Väri vapautuu. Suomen taiteen uudistajia 1908-1914. Aalto - Cawén - Ekelund - Enckell - Finch - Lönnberg - Mäkelä - Oinonen. Exhibition 14.8.2015 - 31.1.2016
    Exhibition committee: Jarno Peltonen, Otto Selén.
    Didrichsen Art Museum, Kuusilahdenkuja 1, 00340 Helsinki.

Väri vapautuu / Färgernas frihet / Colour Liberated. 144 p. Helsinki: Didrichsen, 2015.
    Introductions by Peter Didrichsen and Risto Ruohonen. Main essay "Painting Shattered by Colour, Light and Brush" by Marja-Terttu Kivirinta.
    Includes complete colour illustrations of the artworks, ordered by the artist, each with a page of introduction.
    Trilingual: Finnish / Swedish / English.

Official introduction: "The Didrichsen Art Museum's 50th anniversary exhibition presents paintings based on pure colours, a new expression of which emerged in Finland in 1908-1914. The comprehensive exhibition shows works by 16 artists, on loan from leading Finnish art museums as well as from the Didrichsen Art Museum's own collections".

"The more than 50 works in the exhibition show examples of motifs from Hogland by Verner Thomé, A. W. Finch, and Magnus Enckell, strong expressionist works by Mäkelä who was influenced by Edward Munch, as well as colourist paintings by Tyko Sallinen."

AA: In autumn 2015 several prominent exhibitions were opened celebrating the revelation of pure colour in Finnish art in the period of early Modernism: the Sigurd Frosterus collection at Amos Anderson Art Museum, the Bäcksbacka collection at Helsinki Art Museum, the Alvar & Ragni Cawén exhibition at Tampere Art Museum - and the Colour Liberated exhibition at Didrichsen. All share many of the same artists from the same period. There is room for everybody, and these four exhibitions complement each other in an exciting way. The Frosterus exhibition is based on the selections of an individual collector and colour theorist. The Bäcksbacka collection is based on artists favoured by a great gallerist and patron. The Cawén exhibition covers two entire careers, in which colour is but one yet essential dimension.

Didrichen's Colour Liberated is a succinct yet richly gratifying and versatile survey into a definite period. It is based on a wide knowledge of the entire scene, displaying well-known masterpieces with less-known but equally fascinating discoveries. The joy of colour can also be seen as an early Modernist reflection of the last decade of la Belle Époque until the beginning of the First World War.

In the process of the liberation of colour the first Finnish artists' groups (Septem and November) were established. Verner Thomé, painter of the Bathing Boys on top, was one of the most talented members of the groups. They also mounted the first group exhibition in Finnish art at Ateneum in 1912.

Magnus Enckell: The Awakening Faun. 1914. Oil. 65,5 x 81. The Hoving Collection, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Tuominen.

Magnus Enckell was the leader and the pathbreaker. He had been influenced by Symbolism, and his friends included Sergei Diaghilev and Sigurd Frosterus. While still favouring ideas from ancient mythology he now let pure colours explode. This illustration does not do justice to the bright colour of the painting; in the catalogue the colour is more faithful. Some of Enckell's painting may also be expressions of "secret love".

Magnus Enckell: A Park View from San Remo. 1913. Oil. Turku Art Museum.
Film critics have noticed a trend of the digital age of grading the colours of Hollywood blockbusters to orange and teal. Teal is a greenish blue, not far from cyan. Those were the very colours also favoured by Finnish colourist painters before the First World War.

A. W. Finch: Cliffs at Porto Venere. 1908. Oil. 33 x 44. Collection Nils Dahlström / Turku Art Museum. Photo: Turku Art Museum Archive.
A. W. Finch was a prominent designer and artist inspired by Cézanne, Gauguin, and van Gogh, and, admiring Seurat and Signat, he also became the most important Finnish Pointillist. Born in Belgium he moved to Finland on the invitation of Count Louis Sparre to manage his Iris factory.

Jalmari Ruokokoski: A Girl. 1911. Oil. 64,5 x 54,5. Bequest Ludvig & Aija Wennervirta / Hämeenlinna Art Museum.
The decisive influence for Jalmari Ruokokoski was Edvard Munch. This reproduction is again more subdued than the painting itself, and other paintings of Ruokokoski on display are more stark and colourful, with delicious reds and oranges and Fauvist affinities.

Tyko Sallinen: In the Sauna. 1914. Oil. 64 x 86. Collection Nils Dahlström / Turku Art Museum. 
Tyko Sallinen, also influenced by Fauvism, was a true original, a terrible guy who painted in "agony and ecstasy". There are seven works by Sallinen on display, and it is an interesting and unusual selection of my favourite Finnish artist. Here again I do not think the colour reproduction is faithful. The dominant colour is actually more "teal" or "cyan" than pure blue.

Ellen Thesleff: A Landscape from Murole. 1912. Oil. 44 x 47 cm. Didrichsen Art Museum. Photo: Jussi Pakkala.
Ellen Thesleff was one of the most refined masters of the period. Women artists were not fairly treated at the time, but their oeuvre is their lasting legacy. In this reproduction the reflection should be red and brighter.

The hanging and the lighting are beautiful. Some of the paintings are covered by reflecting glass. Downstairs there is the opportunity to put things into perspective with two refined exhibitions from Didrichsen's own collections: a Pre-Columbian exhibition and an Oriental exhibition. Plus a non-stop video about Viljo Revell, the architect of the Modernist building. In the sculpture park and inside there are samples for instance of Didrichsen's Henry Moore collection. The catalogue is a gratifying companion and a valuable keepsake with complete illustrations of the entire exhibition. The colours in the catalogue are more faithful to the originals, but on the internet the reproductions fail to convey the brightness, warmth, and glow of the paintings.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Miss Sharon Jones!

    Director: Barbara Kopple
    Country: USA
    Year: 2015
    Length: 94­ min
    Age limit: S
    Format: DCP
    Cinematography: Gary Griffin, Tony Hardmon, Kyle Kibbe
    Editing: Jean Tsien, Anne Fratto
    Audio: Jonathan Jackson, David Cassidy, Michael Jones
    Music: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
    Production: Barbara Kopple & David Cassidy/Cabin Creek Films
Language: English
No subtitles
    DocPoint, Helsinki, screener link viewed.
     © 2015 Bling Productions
    Savoy Theatre: Friday 29.1. at 17:00. Kinopalatsi 1: Sunday 31.1. at 14:30

Catalog and website: "When Sharon Jones was young, she was told that she was too short and too dark-skinned to become a successful singer. These days, though, she dances wildly on stage and has been dubbed the ”female James Brown” for her energetic performances."

"When Jones was 57 years old, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In this documentary, the award-winning documentarist Barbara Kopple follows the American artist on her emotional journey through chemotherapy and her ultimate return on the stage in her hometown of New York City. We also get to see how Jones completes the album Give the People What They Want together with her orchestra, The Dap-Kings, and how their music impacts people in an immensely positive way."

"The camera follows Jones to the hospital, to her home, and to the studio. This charismatic woman possesses a great sense of humor and instantly wins over the heart of every person she meets. Jones, who has also performed in Finland, is sheer female energy, all the way from her bald head to her golden toe nails."

"Director Barbara Kopple has won two Academy Awards for her documentaries Harlan County, USA (1976) and American Dream (1990). She has also previously filmed singers in her documentary Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing (2006).
"  Elisa Helenius / Translation: Sanna Parikka

AA: "Soul Survivor" was the Village Voice headline on Sharon Jones, the great soul & funk singer who tours and records with her band Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. She beat a vicious cancer and has since released records and made a world tour to celebrate her survival. She is a force of life, full of anima vitae.

Barbara Kopple the master documentarist has made a documentary portrait of this Cantarice chauve - bald singer: Sharon Jones refused to wear a wig having lost her hair in the context of chemotherapy. The dramatic arc is based on the fall and rise in the battle against cancer (which, however, will never be fully overcome).

The film is constructed as a journey to important locations in Sharon Jones's life: the hospital, the Daptone Studio, the "home away from home" of her best friend, the landscape of her childhood, tv shows such as Ellen (DeGeneres), and the world tour. We meet the members of the Dap-Kings band, "the Dapettes" singers, the manager, and the studio professionals. It's like a big family. Their specialty is a reliance on traditional methods of recording and publishing.

The songs and the performances have high intensity, and there is also footage from music videos, even an animated one for "Retreat". The anthology piece of the film is Sharon Jones singing gospel at a church with such power that she is completely exhausted afterwards.

The passionate performances and the narrative about a fight between life and death are balanced by Barbara Kopple with a relaxed approach in the general flow of the movie.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Philip Hoffman III: Experimental Processes

P(l)ain Truth. Please click to enlarge.
Philip Hoffman III: Experimental Processes
DocPoint, Helsinki
Total duration of the screening: 69 min.

Introduced by Sami van Ingen, presented by Philip Hoffman.
After the show there was a discussion with Seppo Renvall, Marjatta Oja, Denise Ziegler, Mikko Maasalo, Philip Hoffman, and Sami van Ingen.
Cinema Orion, 28 Jan 2016

Vapautemme hinta / [The Price of Our Freedom]
Finland / 1990 / 10 min / 16 mm, silent
Director: Seppo Renvall
Production: Helsingin elokuvapaja
National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI)
Catalogue: The faces of Finland's casualties of war stare back at the living, in rapid succession, to reveal "one" tragic image. - AA: The book Vapautemme hinta [The Price of Our Freedom] lists all the casualties of Finland's Winter War 1939-1940. Renvall creates a minimalist monument shooting the images frame by frame, achieving a disturbing fusion of the deceased.

Finland / 1992 / 4 min / digital
Director: Juha van Ingen
Distribution: AV-arkki
Catalogue: A fragment of a 1950's feature film [The Fly] is copied as many times as possible displaying eventually the seams of the media. - AA: Two lines of dialogue from The Fly about teletransportation ("yes, but this time it's different") are repeated ad infinitum or at least 17 times, each copy fading more and more until there is only static.

Kalvo XI (Membrane XI)
Finland / 1990 / 7 min / digital
Director: Marjatta Oja
Distribution: AV-arkki
Catalogue: Someone is taking pictures behind a plane of glass. One by one the pictures are placed on the glass and slowly develop before our eyes to reveal the subject of the picture taking. - AA: How Polaroid images emerge beyond an armored glass. Finally there is a set-up of six Polaroids filling the screen.

Pyhä yksinkertaisuus (Holy Simplicity)
Finland / 1991 / 4 min / 16 mm
Directors: Mikko Maasalo, Denise Ziegler
National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI)
Catalogue: This Lettrist film is a dazzling blend of text from Das Mondschaft, a poem by the German author Christian Morgenstern, shot from a computer screen, with a relentless looping soundtrack. - AA: A Lettrist film poem blends with the sound of a sacred religious ritual.

Finland / 1991 / 10 min / 2K DCP [KAVI 2016], silent
Director: Sami van Ingen
Distribution: Sami van Ingen
Catalogue: Childhood angst is rekindled in this dark meditation on obsession and loss. - AA: The world seen from the viewpoint of a hamster.

Canada / 1995 / 15 min / 16 mm
Director: Philip Hoffman
Editing: Philip Hoffman, Vesa Lehko
Music: Tucker Zimmerman
Sound: Philip Hoffman, Vesa Lehko
Production: Chimera Imaging
Distribution: Philip Hoffman
Catalogue: Shot in Helsinki, Leningrad, London, Cairo, Sydney and Uluru, during a time of tremendous change (1989–92), Chimera makes use of the single-frame zoom that builds a ‘splayed reality’, blends and bonds peoples, places and spaces. - AA: A collection of visions of cities. There is a powerful musical rhythm that leads the montage, sometimes building to a flicker effect. The starting-point is figurative, but the film tends towards the non-figurative, driven by blurred colour.

P(l)ain Truth
Finland / 1993 / 15 min / 35 mm
Director: Ilppo Pohjola
Editing: Arto Salo
Music: Glenn Branga
Production: Ilppo Pohjola / Crystal Eye
Distribution: Elokuvakontakti
Catalogue: Internal, psychological space is boldly reflected in P(l)ain Truth. Through an expressive musical score, and with frenetic and kinetic optical printing techniques, changes in mind and body during trans-gendering processes are revealed. - AA: Ilppo Pohjola's furious vision of sex change holds up remarkably well. A shattering but focused and purposeful view of a fundamental transformation and metamorphosis.

By the Time We Got To Expo
Canada / 2015 / 9 min, digital
Director: Philip Hoffman, Eva Kolcze
Script: Philip Hoffman, Eva Kolcze
Editing: Philip Hoffman, Eva Kolcze
Sound: Joshua Bonnetta
Production: Chimera Imaging
Distribution: Philip Hoffman
Catalogue: Re-visiting a significant moment in Canadian history, the film uses found footage imagery taken from documentaries, and re-works them using tints and photochemical techniques to create a vibrant collision of colors, textures and forms in a display of beauty and decay. - AA: New from Philip Hoffman and Eva Kolcze: recycled footage from Canada's 1967 Expo. It starts as a found footage travelogue and builds into a phantom ride in another dimension. Hoffman let the film stock decay with chemicals to show its texture that he then shot digitally.

DocPoint catalogue and website: torn formations / The Films of Philip Hoffman. "The Philip Hoffman “introretrospective” is made up of five screenings that include both Hoffman’s own films and the works of his Finnish collegues. The programme has been curated by Philip Hoffman and the Finnish film maker Sami van Ingen."

"The limits of cinematic expression have changed and expanded, and also our historical awareness has developed. Canadian experimental filmmaker Philip Hoffman has deep and solid roots in Finland. He has worked twice as a teacher in the University of Art and Design Helsinki during the 1990s , and his influence is prominent in the work of several filmmakers who started their careers back then. Highly personal subject matter and experimentation are the key concepts of Philip Hoffman’s work, which, on the other hand, is also a visual body of memory and emotions." Perttu Rastas, Senior Planning Officer, Finnish National Gallery

Experimental Processes

"The program is inspired by the relationship Hoffman had with Finnish film and video artists in the early 1990’s, which assisted in the establishment and development of the first Finnish experimental film cooperative, Elokuvapaja. With funding assistance from AVEK, workshops and screenings were held for and with Finnish film and media artists, and this activity heavily influenced Hoffman’s own work in hand processing and image manipulation. It was a fertile time of beginnings. These collaborations influenced Hoffman in the creation of the Independent Imaging Retreat or ‘Film Farm’ in Mount Forest, Canada, which has just had its 20th Anniversary. Over the years several Finnish filmmakers visited the ‘Film Farm’. As well, Hoffman curated programs of new Finnish work, at Pleasure Dome in Toronto, and at The Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film in Durham Ontario in Canada."

AA: Philip Hoffman's show was a warm family reunion. He has inspired many in Finland. Sami van Ingen, Seppo Renvall, Marjatta Oja, Denise Ziegler, Mikko Maasalo joined him after the show in front of the audience. Others, like Kiti Luostarinen, were also attending. "I came here in the late 1980s", he stated, and about the influences he claimed that "I was probably more influenced by them".

A showcase in approaches in material aesthetics, repetition, meta-film, exposing the seams of the medium, and studying the transition zone from the figurative to the non-figurative. Also in approaches in expressing transience, memory, time, and decay. And extreme mental states in a situation of a disturbing transformation.

Several films were screened in glorious 16 mm without problems. The vintage 35 mm distribution print of P(l)ain Truth betrays that it has been screened many times. Other films have been scanned to digital by AV Arkki and us. Our recent 2K DCP from Sami van Ingen's Hammu did not look bad at all.