Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Suomi-animaatio 100 vuotta 5: Nuket hämärän rajamailla / Centenary of Finnish Animation 5: Puppets in the Twilight Zone

Uralin perhonen. Anastasia Mannerheim. Click to enlarge.
International Animation Day – 28th October
October 28th is proclaimed International Animation Day, commemorating the first public performance of Emile Reynaud’s Theatre Optique at the Grevin Museum in Paris in 1892.

Curated by Tuula Leinonen. Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Centenary of Finnish Animation), 28 Oct 2014.
    All on 2K DCP except Uralin perhonen on 35 mm
    Total duration 114 min

Programme note by Tuula Leinonen: "Nukke-elokuvissa animaation taianomaisuus tiivistyy. Animaattori herättää hahmon eloon, ja me katsojat samaistumme sen tunteisiin; epätoivoon, rakastumiseen, pelkoon ja iloon. Näytöksen palkitut animaatiot myös murtavat todellisuuden rajoja. Ne nostavat mielikuvituksen hämäristä esiin maisemia ja antavat niille oivaltavan muodon.  Näytöksen alussa esitetään kimara vanhoja mainosanimaatioita."

Mainoskimara 5 / A commercial mix
Hjamar Löfving: Leijona. - AA: Tobacco commercial. Animation by drawing. Vihtori or Jiggs from Jiggs and Maggie (Bringing Up Father / Vihtori ja Klaara), "I smoke the Leijona" = the Lion tobacco brand.
Antti Peränne: Barnet-kampa (1961, Studio A). - AA: A comb commercial. The Barnet comb is even good enough for a music instrument. Ten year guarantee.
Heikki Tiiainen: Valio piimä herätyskello (Filmitalo). - AA: A sour milk commercial for Valio. In colour. "Drink sour milk when tired."
FA-animaatio: Setterit "Vahingonilo". - AA: A sock commercial. Regular socks roll down. The Setteri socks stay up. Dancing socks.
Yövuoro
Yövuoro
Nightshift. FI 2004. PC: Turun ammattikorkeakoulu / Taideakatemia, Yleisradio Oy. D+SC+AN: Simo Koivunen, Sara Wahl, Samppa Kukkonen. S: Sara Wahl. DP: Lotta Suistoranta. ED: Samppa Kukkonen. VET A-50003 – S – colour – 6 min
    Lintujen ja lepakon erilainen elämäntahti koettelee pesäpuun naapurisopua. Jameson-lyhytelokuvapalkinto Tampere 2005.
    AA: A bold, fine colour world. A funny story about the bat who gathers a lot to eat for the little birds at the nearby nest in order to be able to sleep at daytime.

Varjoja margariinissa
Skuggor i margarin / Shadows in the Margarine. FI 1996. PC: Turun taiteen ja viestinnän oppilaitos TuTVO. P: Eija Saarinen. D+SC+DP+AN+ED: Leena Jääskeläinen, Pekka Korhonen, Kaisa Penttilä. M+S: Timo Muurinen. VET A-27639 – S – 16 mm, colour – 164 m/ 6 min
    Marketta on joutunut vankilaan ja ikävöi Frankia. Rakkaustarinan käänne yllättää. Nuorisoraadin palkinto Tampere 1996.
    AA: The DCP for the screening was mastered from a Beta SP. A macabre margarin tale with the ultimate message from beyond the prison walls. There is a Tim Burton affinity in the tender horror atmosphere.
Pizza Passionata
Pizza Passionata
Nightshift. FI 2001. PC: Kinoproduction Oy. P: Petteri Pasanen. D+AD+puppets: Kari Juusonen. SC: Kari Juusonen, Leo Viirret. DP: Jussi Eerola. S design: Kirka Sainio. M: Markus Lahtinen. ED: Riitta Poikselkä – colour – 14 min 
    Arka lähiömies Toivo kohtaa sattuman oikusta naapurinsa Britan, ja romanttiset tunteet viriävät. Prix du Jury, Cannes 2001.
    AA: A love story between two extremely timid ones, in suburbia and in the tundra. Elements of the story: a pizza delivered at the wrong door, solo ping pong, the roaring of the bear.
Eläköön markkinatalous
Eläköön markkinatalous
The Last Supper. FI 2001. PC: LR Film Productions Oy. D+SC+DP+AN: Christian Lindblad. S design, S recording: Risto Iisalo. M: B. B. Lindström. The voice of Kete: Ville Virtanen – colour – 5 min
    Työttömyys ja tukien varassa sinnittely ovat nakertaneet Keten elämänuskon. Viimeisenä viestinään hän lähettää päättäjille terveisiä. Kettu-palkinto 2001, Kotimaisen kilpailun pääpalkinto (alle 30 min) Tampere, 2002.
    AA: The suicide video testament of the terminally unemployed Kete. His suicide fails. Let's go to the bar. An excellent monologue performance by Ville Virtanen.
Benigni
Benigni
FI 2009. PC: Turun ammattikorkeakoulu / Taideakatemia. D+SC: Elli Vuorinen, Pinja Partanen, Jasmiini Ottelin – colour – 8 min
    Mies löytää kainalostaan kasvaimen ja saa siitä itselleen ystävän. Kansainvälisiä palkintoja mm. vuoden 2010 yleisöpalkinto Rio de Janeiro ja Berliini, paras opiskelijaelokuva Fredrikstad sekä paras animaatio Budapest ja Pietari.
    AA: The strange tumour emerging from the man's armpit becomes his best friend. They even play Batman and Robin. 
Nenäliinoja myytävänä
Nenäliinoja myytävänä
Handkerchiefs for Sale. FI 2003. PC: Indie Films Oy. P: Tomi Riionheimo. D+SC+ED: Jan Andersson. DP: Jan Andersson, Anna Cadia, Tero Tolvanen, Christer Lindström. AN: Jan Andersson. Kim Helminen, Christer Lindström, Tero Tolvanen. S: Pirkko Tiitinen, Anne Tolkkinen. ED: Jan Andersson, Ykä Järvinen. VET A-29340 – S – colour – 17 min
    Paavo kaupittelee nenäliinoja, kun masentunut isä köllöttää kotona. Poika hahmottelee iloisempia aikoja piirroksissaan. Nuhainen mummokolmikko tarjoaa maksuksi väriliidut, mutta isä suuttuu. Jameson-lyhytelokuvapalkinto, Tampere 2004.
    AA: Music by Cleaning Women. An original imagery of urban decay. A poor boy sells handkerchiefs. The camera is subjective. Ancient creatures emerge. With his colour crayons the boy cconjures sunlight. A visually rich achievement.
Katja Kettu and Jan Andersson at work: Mankeli
Mankeli
The Mangel. FI 2011. D+SC: Jan Andersson, Katja Kettu - based on a poem by Katja Kettu. AN: Jan Andersson, Katja Kettu, Risto Jankkila, Mikko Torvinen. DP: Antti Takkunen. S design, S recording: Pirkko Tiitinen. M: Eero Turkka, Mamo Ensemble. Voice talent: Hannu Nurmio – colour – 11 min
    Rakkaustarina yhdistää taivaan ja maan, kun mankeli eli miespuolinen enkeli menettää siipensä, putoaa maahan ja rakastuu puuhun. Grand Prix Fredrikstad Animation Festival, Norja 2011.
    AA: I have written about this film twice before: Mankeli at Tampere Film Festival and Mankeli as the short screened before Saunavieras. There is Tibetan sounding throat singing on the music track. There is a sense of the primordial in the landscape. The story of the angel without wings.
Many Happy Returns
Many Happy Returns
Onnea merkkipäivän johdosta. GB 1996. PC: Tricky Films Ltd. D+SC+AN: Marjut Rimminen. DP: Timo Dan Arnall. S: Nigel Heath. ED: Tony Fish – colour – 8 min
    Lapsuuden käsittelemätön trauma varjostaa elämää. Marjut Rimminen yhdistää nukkeanimaatiota live-kuvaan ja kerrostaa ajan ja mielen tasoja runollisiksi näyiksi. Pääpalkinto mm. Tampere, Los Angeles, Krakova. Krok, Baden 1997.
    AA: The original format is 35 mm but we had to screen this from a DCP from a dvd. Music: Erik Satie. A subtle, powerful, multi-layered meditation on a childhood trauma, combining puppet animation with live acted narrative. Deeply felt, with a high artistic quality.
Katariina Lillqvist: Uralin perhonen. The battle of Tampere in the Finnish Civil War in 1918.
Uralin perhonen
Far Away from Ural [the title of this print] / The Butterfly from Ural / Le Papillon de l’Oural. FI 2008. PC: Osuuskunta Camera Cagliostro. P: Jyrki Kaipainen. D: Katariina Lillqvist. SC: Katariina Lillqvist, Hannu Salama - based on their radioplay (2004). DP: Miloslav Spála. AN: Alfons Mensdorf-Pouilly. ED: Katariina Lillqvist, Tatu Pohjavirta. S design: Tero Malmberg. M: Hannu Kella, Alik Kopyt – colour – 27 min
    Käsikirjoittajat kuulivat legendan Mannerheimin ja kirgiisipalvelijan rakkaussuhteesta alun perin Tampereen Pispalassa. Paras animaatioelokuva, Tampere 2008.
    AA: We screened the English language version in 35 mm. Inspired by a folk tale heard in the Pispala neighbourhood in Tampere, Uralin perhonen was seen by some a piece of slander on the national hero Mannerheim, depicted as a submissive fairy. Maybe it is slanderous for someone, but anyone who is by this offended is easily offended, with weak confidence in the respect enjoyed by the Marshal of Finland. Anyway, Uralin perhonen transcends such narrow concerns, and there is a great deal of empathy both for the kirghiz valet and Mannerheim, as well as for Anastasia Mannerheim, the frustrated wife. Among other things, Uralin perhonen is a tragedy of repression. A hauntingly poetic work of art that refuses easy classification even as a satire.

Programme notes in italics by Tuula Leinonen, 28.10.2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Alice Guy and the French Pioneers. Treasures from Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet

Alice Guy
"All of the world's audiovisual heritage is endangered." UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage 2014.

Alice Guy and the French Pioneers. Treasures from Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet. Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (History of the Cinema), 27 Oct 2014.
    All made in France, all in 35 mm. Piano: Joonas Raninen. Total duration: 95 min

Alice Guy / ten of her films included in the collection Sieurins franska bilder, total 392 m /18 fps/ 19 min * colour
    AA: All toned beautifully in sepia except the last one multi-coloured, hand-coloured. All in plan-séquence, all in long take and long shot. A beautiful la belle époque compilation.
Entrée et sortie de la mine (1899). - AA: Non-fiction. Miners about to enter the mine.
Paris: Exposition universelle – Panorama de la Seine (1900). - AA: Non-fiction, city view. A phantom boat ride panoramic take.
L'Hiver: Danse de la neige (Cabaretnummer, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Non-fiction, a recorded performance of a snow dance, complete with theatre snow flakes.
Au cabaret (1899). - AA: Fiction. "Vins, liqueurs". An outdoor table of the bar. Card players share drinks and engage in a fight.
Paris: Exposition universelle (1900). - AA: Non-fiction, city view. A 360° panoramic shot.
Chez le maréchal-ferrand (En hovslagare, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Non-fiction. A pleasant composition. In the foreground, a horse is being shoed. In the background, a horse-shoe is being forged against the anvil.
Avenue de l'Opéra (Framför Operan i Paris, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Non-fiction, a city view with a twist: the film is being played backwards. (Or was it just our projection?)
La bonne absinthe (Den härliga absinten, Alice Guy, 1899). - AA: Fiction, comedy. An absent-minded customer at the outdoor table of a café, immersed in his reading, drinks from the wrong glass.
L'Aveugle fin de siècle (En stackars blind man, Alice Guy, 1898). - AA: Fiction, comedy. The blind beggar has a good eyesight, but the policeman exposes him. The scoundrel plays a trick to an innocent passer-by happening to sit on his bench, framing him to be the fake blind beggar.
10  Panorama circulaire sur le pont d'Iéna (1900). - AA: Non-fiction, city view. A long panoramic shot over the Seine.
11  Chapellerie et charcuterie mécaniques (Hattfabrik, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Fiction, comedy, trick film. The miracle machine can produce both hats and sausages.
12  La Fée au choux, ou la naissance des enfants (Blomkålsfest, Alice Guy, 1896). - AA: Fiction, féerie. A motherly fairy in the garden produces babies from cabbages.
13  Pédiluve (1899). - AA: Non-fiction. Horses' feet are bathed.
14  La Concierge (Ett upttåg, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Fiction, comedy. The stern female concierge is harassed by mischievous children. When she revenges, the target is an innocent man.
15  Chez le photographe (Hos fotografen, Alice Guy, 1900). - AA: Fiction, comedy. The impossible customer with his mad ways of posing at the photographer's. *
16  Expo 1900: le vieux Paris (1900). - AA: Fiction, city view. Another phantom boat ride.
17  Charge à la baïonette d'un régiment de ligne (1899). - AA: Non-fiction, a record of military manoeuvres. The infantry charges straight towards us, and they come real close.
18  Dans les mines: Entrée des bennes dans la mine (1899). - AA: Non-fiction, the circle closing from the first film of this show. The miners emerge from the mine. There is a change of shift.
19  Danse serpentine (1900). - AA: Non-fiction, a record of a dance performance. A fine sample of the popular subgenre of the serpentine dance. In splendid colour.

Les Frères Lumière: Scènes de la vie * acquired by SFI from La Cinémathèque française (1965) –  total 125 m /18 fps/ 6 min * [no titles]
L'Arroseur arrosé (1895)
Le Repas de Bébé (1895)
La Sortie des usines (1895)
Partie d'écarté (1895)
Débarquement des congressistes à Neuville-sur-Saône (1895). - AA: They greet us.
Barque sortant du port (1895). - AA: The might of the sea. Quite good visual quality.
Arrivée d'un train à La Ciotat (1895). - AA: Quite good visual quality.
Démolition d'un mur (1896). - AA: Another view of working men, now not in their Sunday best. Ok visual quality.
    AA: Non-fiction. A delightful compilation of some of the most legendary films ever made. A duped quality and slightly low contrast especially in the first five. Never mind. These are among the primal images of the cinema.

Le Coucher de la mariée (Joly-Normandin, 1896) 36 m /16 fps/ 2 min * hand-coloured * [no titles].
    AA: Fiction, comedy, erotic. Last year I wrote about the Pordenone Joly-Normandin screening with two prints of Le Coucher de la mariée. This time I was thinking about the complete - and completely innocent - strip-tease of Gypsy Rose Lee in Stage Door Canteen. Here Louise Willy takes everything off - while re-dressing into a nightgown.

Georges Méliès
Le Chaudron infernal (1903) 38 m /18 fps/ 2 min * acquired by SFI from: Les amis de Georges Méliès (1976) * hand-coloured. - AA: A fragment.
Le Voyage à travers l'impossible (1904) 370 m /18 fps/ 18 min * acquired by SFI from: Prague (1958) * hand-coloured * [French intertitles]
La Fée carabosse (1906) 234 m /18 fps/ 11 min * acquired by SFI from: Prague (1959) * hand-coloured
Les quatre cents farces du Diable (1906) 317 m /18 fps/ 15 min * acquired by SFI from: La Cinémathèque française (1966) * b&w
Le Locataire diabolique (1910) 143 m /18 fps/ 7 min * acquired by SFI from: Les amis de Georges Méliès (1976) * hand-coloured
     AA: Fiction, féeries. Another set of legendary films, now from the master of magic, the first film artist, Georges Méliès. These prints are dupes of original hand-coloured prints except Les quatre cents farces du Diable which is in black and white. There is as a rule one bright red climax, an explosion or something similar, in the films.

Le Spectre rouge (Segundo de Chomón, 1907) 180 m /18 fps/ 9 min * hand-coloured.
    AA: Fiction, féerie. In this film Segundo de Chomón still clearly imitates Méliès. The Devil, introduced as a living skeleton, inflicts a wild and crazy series of metamorphoses: will-o'-the-wisps, levitations, conflagrations, shrinking, disappearing, switching, apparitions, thunderstorms. But finally the gentle fairy overcomes the Devil.

Le Serment d'un prince / Prins De Lacerda (Max Linder, 1910) 104 m /16 fps/ 6 min * Desmet colour * [French intertitles]
    Restored by SFI in 2008.
    AA: Fiction, drama. The poor girlfriend of the wealthy prince gives birth to their baby out of wedlock. Max and the girl are thrown out of the house by the callous parents of Max. "Pour gagner sa vie": Max starts as a clown in utterly humble circumstances. Three years later: "une grande vedette de music hall". His muscles are prominent in a dangerous act. The parents appear, there is a reunion, and a happy end. - It is interesting to see Max Linder in a non-comic role. The main theme is dignity: Max does not abandon his sweetheart. Instead, he abandons his own safe world.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Marika Mäkelä (exhibition at Sara Hildén Art Museum)

Verhoutuneena yön kobolttiin / Clad in the Cobalt of the Night (1993). Öljy ja pigmentti kankaalle / Oil and pigment on canvas, 160 x 285 cm. Pyynikinlinnan kokoelma © Jussi Koivunen. Click to enlarge.
Marika Mäkelä 20.9.2014 - 25.1.2015. Sara Hildén Art Museum, Laiturikatu 13, Särkänniemi, Tampere. www.tampere.fi/sarahilden
    Visited on Saturday, 25 October 2014

The book to the exhibition:
    Marika Mäkelä. Tampere: Sara Hildén Art Museum, 2014. Articles written by Timo Valjakka and Hanna Johansson. Introduction by the museum director Päivi Loimaala, Marika Mäkelä interviewed by the intendent Sarianne Soikkonen, biography by Timo Valjakka and Tomi Moisio. Bilingual in Finnish and English. Fully illustrated. 256 p. 40 €. 

The official introduction:

"Marika Mäkelä is one of the foremost Finnish painters of her generation. Primary characteristic of her richly colourful, multilayered oil and acrylic paintings are their sensuality and decorativeness. She paints a humanity that is mirrored in nature, but equally frequently the work can spring from a feeling of perfect happiness, or even from a difficult stage in life. The retrospective exhibition in the Sara Hildén Art Museum presents works from the late 1970s to 2014."

"Marika Mäkelä (born 1947 in Oulu, Finland) studied fine arts in the Liminka Folk School and in the School of Fine Arts Academy in Finland in Helsinki. She graduated in 1973 and started her professional painting career in the early 1970s. She lives and works in Helsinki and Pernaja. In this retrospective exhibition the earliest works are from the 1970s and the most recent ones from 2014. Marika Mäkelä is one of the artists represented in the Sara Hildén Foundation's collection."


"Ornament plays a principal role in Marika Mäkelä's art. Her painting is mostly abstract. The figurative elements in her works involve ornaments, cultural symbols, and human-like figures. Impressions of nature and the representation of light have always been important to her. Her works display a tangible sense of the material achieved by thick layers of paint and carved wooden surfaces."

"Early in her career Marika Mäkelä was an abstract colorist, and went then through a red period. In her breakthrough exhibition in 1983 she introduced works in an earthy and subdued palette. Paintings from this period, for example All Is Quiet, the Night Approaches (1982) are abstract only tokenly, with obvious allusions to natural elements such as caves, rain, and lichen. In the mid-1980s Mäkelä started using gold leaf. Dark Light (1984) is a prime example of the new dimension that gold leaf brought to her studies of light. She also began to paint on wooden boards. The theme of mother and child, based on a symbolic image used by the African Yoruba people, was her central motif in several works in the 1990s. Inspired by the sculptor Tapani Kokko, Mäkelä started to carve wooden boards and create works that look like reliefs, for example The Officer's Daughter (2006). Co-operation between the two artists continues to this day. Her latest works, the The Secret Garden series (2014), Mäkelä refers to as constructed paintings."

"Marika Mäkelä was awarded the Finnish State Prize for visual arts in 1974 an 1984. She was shortlisted for the Ars Fennica Award in 1992. In 1994 The Finnish Cultural Foundation awarded her a prize for outstanding cultural achievements, and in 2006 she received the Pro Finlandia Medal."

"Mäkelä was shortlisted for the Carnegie Art Award 2014 with three works: Eastern Flowers, Tibetan Bridal Saddle, and Three Times Warm." (Official introduction)

AA: Marika Mäkelä is a key Finnish abstract painter and artist since forty years, still going strong and progressing to new discoveries as is evident in her The Secret Garden series (2014), with influences and affinities with late Matisse, yet quite original.

Marika Mäkelä is not afraid of the ornamental and the decorative - she embraces those qualities, conscious of the fact that the realistic impulse and the abstract impulse are equally fundamental and primordial in the human art urge. Her works have references to ancient signs of old cultures and traditions all over the world.

There is at first glance a distancing effect in that ornamental and formal quality, with finishes in gold leaf and glitter. This year I have been reflecting on the death drive aspect in Andy Warhol (in the memorable previous exhibition at Sara Hildén Art Museum) and in the pop art exhibition curated by Timo Valjakka in Mänttä - in both the King Midas touch seemed to be at first sight a celebration of wealth, at second thought a chilling reminder of the lethal impact ot that touch.

The deeper impact of Marika Mäkelä's art is different. Beyond the chilly glitter and ornament surfaces, and, in this exhibition, often cold or at least broken colours they are a celebration of the life force. Their very surface is often very physical, rugged, alive. With multiple viewings the numerous giant abstract oil canvases in broken colours look different every time. They start to evoke the mysterious interior of an old, rainy forest in the autumn, the leaves no longer green, the sun starting to fade. They also evoke the underground, the underneath: what lies beneath the surface of a forest or a meadow. Although they do not convey the sense of blossoming life, they convey a sense of fertility, of a latent potential to growth.

There is an earthy dimension in many of these paintings, a feeling of nature conveyed via abstraction. There is also a subtle element of sexuality in several of the artworks: in the egg forms, ovular forms, spiral forms, flower forms and other inspirations from plants (like in the pioneer of abstract art, Hilma af Klint), yoni symbols, womb forms, and the theme of the mother and child, all abstract, yet with subtle figurative references. Many of the paintings are explorations into and reflections on the physical interior of the woman.

The colour blue introduces to such earthy forms an element of intelligent meditation, of sublimation, perhaps a little like in the art of tantra, in which the primal sexual force is elevated to the entire sphere of being. In fact, Marika Mäkelä has created sculpted works that evoke the various chakras.

The titles of the paintings are often inspired by poems or film titles, such as À bout de souffle, a huge gold-leaf creation with no obvious connection to Jean-Luc Godard's film, yet with a backstory essential to the painter herself, who was highly impressed by both the film and the location of the finale of the film in Montparnasse which she happened to visit.

The book to the exhibition is excellent and worth reading from cover to cover. The colour of the reproductions is superb. Studying the book it struck me how different many of the works and series of them looked although the colour reproductions are faithful. Part of the exhibition is not fully lit, and some works remain in shadow. But the more fundamental revelation is that Marika Mäkelä's works do look different depending on the way they are hung and on the environment they are in.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tuula Leinonen: 100 vuotta suomalaista animaatiota / [100 Years of Finnish Animation] (a book)

Tuula Leinonen: 100 vuotta suomalaista animaatiota / [100 Years of Finnish Animation]. A book. Helsinki: Aalto-yliopisto / Aalto ARTS Books, 2014. Graphic design: Camilla Pentti, Jani Pulkka. Editor of illustrations: Kyösti Mankamo. Hard cover, 245 x 215, almost a thousand illustrations, 510 pages.
    Link to Aalto ARTS Books web store

The supreme highlight and a lasting achievement of the centenary of Finnish animation, Tuula Leinonen's book 100 Years of Finnish Animation, was published today by Aalto ARTS Books at Restaurant Adams at Erottaja in Helsinki.

Dozens of key animation artists and producers from several generations were celebrating, many of them appearing as major players in the book for which Tuula Leinonen conducted about a hundred extended interviews. The book is based on first hand research. 30 years ago Juho Gartz and Lauri Tykkyläinen conducted indispensable groundwork on the pioneers, some of whom they managed to get on record in the nick of time for their priceless documentaries. Tuula Leinonen has now brought the history up to date.

The chapters: - 1: The early development - 2: Commercials - 3: Cut-out animation - 4: Puppet and wax animation - 5: The living drawing - 6: Animation on the tube - 7: Experimental animation - 8: Sound in animation - 9: Professional education at animation schools - 10: The conquest of the computers - Keywords - Register of persons - Glossary.

Tuula Leinonen's book on Finnish animation is as large as the best general histories of world animation. It is in Finnish but thanks to the almost one thousand wonderful illustrations it makes sense also to a non-Finnish reader. The visual quality of the book is high, the colour register is refined, the book itself is a work of art. It can be recommended to film and art schools everywhere.

This year I have been learning a lot of new things from the rich heritage of Finnish animation. From this book I realize that there is still much more that I need to see.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Suomi-animaatio 100 vuotta 4: Tietokoneanimaation alku / Centenary of Finnish Animation 4: The Dawn of Computer Animation

Heikki Paakkanen: 19084 (1985)
Curated by Tuula Leinonen. Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Centenary of Finnish Animation), 15 Oct 2014.
Total duration 75 min.

Programme note by Tuula Leinonen: "Näytös valaisee tietokoneanimaation alkutaipaletta Suomessa. Usein animaationtekijät ovat olleet keksijöitä, jotka ovat myös soveltaneet uutta teknologiaa nopeasti tuotantoihinsa. Mediakulttuurin pioneeri Erkki Kurenniemi loi jo 1960-luvulla analogista tietokonegrafiikkaa elokuvaan Spindrift (1966, Mika Taanilan rekonstruktio 2013). Kun teollisuuspiireissä ryhdyttiin käyttämään 3D-mallinnusohjelmia piirtimineen, helsinkiläinen Tööt-Filmi kehitti laitteiston pohjalta valopiirturin animoinnin avuksi. Pieni taiteilijakollektiivi nousi tietokoneanimaation kehityksen kärkeen 1980-luvun alussa jopa maailmanlaajuisesti arvioituna. Juho Gartzin ja Lauri Tykkyläisen dokumenttisarjan viimeinen osa esittelee näiden tietokoneanimaation pioneerien lisäksi parisenkymmentä animaatiotaiteilijaa sekä runsaan kirjon esine-, pala-, piirros-, siluetti- ja nukkeanimaatiota. Näytöksen alussa pyöräytetään värikäs kimara lyhyitä mainosanimaatioita."

Mainoskimara / A commercial mix
Antti Peränne: Nokia Musta Retu, FA-animaatio: "Potkulauta" Setterit, Onni Rivakka: Esso kesätie cartoon, FA-animaatio: Fazer-Ikäneito.

Vielä pikkuisen piirrettyä elokuvaa
Still More Animated Film
FI 1983. PC: Työryhmä Juho Gartz & Lauri Tykkyläinen. P+SC+D: Juho Gartz, Lauri Tykkyläinen. DP: Kari Kekkonen, colour / b&w. S, animation reconstructions: Erkki Salmela. ED: Juho Gartz. FX: Eero Jaakkola, Antero Honkanen. Sound mixing: Tuomo Kattilakoski. Narrator: Lauri Tykkyläinen. VET 24867 – S – 1020 m / 37 min
    Juho Gartzin ja Lauri Tykkyläisen sarjan viimeisessä osassa suomalainen animaatio näyttäytyy monipuolisempana kuin koskaan aiemmin. Riitta Nelimarkka ja Jaakko Seeck valmistivat ensimmäisen täyspitkän ani-maatioelokuvan Seitsemän veljestä (87’, 1979) palatekniikalla. Yleisradio tuotti nukke-elokuvia omassa studiossaan, ja sen lastenohjelmissa nähtiin liperiläisen Ateljé Seppo Putkisen mittavia kalvoanimaatiosarjoja. Heikki Prepula ahkeroi tahollaan mm. Kössi Kengurun parissa. Dokumenttisarja on ansiokkaasti tavoittanut sittemmin pitkän uran tehneet taiteilijat heidän kultaisina nuoruusvuosinaan.
    AA: Screened in 2K DCP. A delightful, masterful documentary survey of the then latest period of Finnish animation. Interviews with Marja Seilola, Riitta Nelimarkka, Jaakko Seeck, Riikka Tuomari, Camilla Mickwitz, Elina Katainen, Marjut Rimminen, Reino Niiniranta, Seppo Putkinen, Mirja Skarp, Hannu Virtanen, Tarmo Koivisto, Jan-Eric Nyström, Jukka Ruohomäki, and Antti Kari, among others. Its value keeps growing. Full, warm colour.

Mennyt manner
The Lost Land / The Lost World / Le Continent perdu / Izgubljeni svijet
FI 1982. PC: Tööt-Filmi Oy, Helkavirsi-työryhmä. D: Antti Kari, Jukka Ruohomäki. SC: Harri Kaasinen, Antti Kari, Kyösti Mankamo, Heikki Paakkanen, Jukka Ruohomäki - based on the epic poem "Mennyt manner" in Helkavirsiä: Toinen sarja (1916) by Eino Leino. DP: Antti Kari, Kyösti Mankamo, Ville Mäkela, colour. AN: Harri Kaasinen. Antti Kari. Heikki Paakkanen. Jukka Ruohomäki. M: Jukka Ruohomäki. Reader: Harri Manner. Trick photography: Antti Lahtinen. VET 24368 – K8 – 345 m / 13 min
     Helkavirsityöryhmä toteutti Eino Leinon runojen pohjalta kokeellisen elokuvatrilogian Orjan poika (1979), Mennyt manner (1982) ja Ukonlintu ja virvaliekki (1982). Tekijöitä kiehtoi runojen kaksijakoisuus: ”Kerronnallisen loistokkuuden lävitse pureudutaan johonkin syvään, pimeään ja kiellettyyn johon runoilija kehottaa totuudenetsijää astumaan." Elokuva yhdistelee animaatiota, still-kuvaa ja tietokonegrafiikkaa. Linnasalikohtauksen kamera-ajo teki vaikutuksen yleisöön. Mennyt manner voitti tietokoneanimaatiosarjan (elokuvat yli 12 min) Zagrebissa 1983.
    AA: Screened in 16 mm. A poem cycle from Eino Leino's Kalevala-inspired magnum opus, the epic poem Helkavirsiä is read aloud, giving inspiration to dark imagery, also using computer graphics. A used print with colour slightly fading.

19084
FI 1985. PC: Tööt-Filmi Oy. D: Heikki Paakkanen. SC: Harri Kaasinen, Heikki Paakkanen. DP: Pekka Aine, Antti Kari, colour. AN: Harri Kaasinen, Kari Paakkanen, Jukka Ruohomäki - computer graphics: Antti Kari, Jukka Ruohomäki. ED: Antti Kari. M: Jukka Ruohomäki. Actor: Tommi Kitti. VET 25233 – S – 16 mm, colour – 200 m / 9 min
    Heikki Paakkasen abstrakti tieteiselokuva sisälsi tajunta-avaruuden maisemia, jotka haastoivat Tööt-Filmin työryhmän. He yhdistelivät kekseliäästi perinteistä selluloiditekniikkaa ja savianimaatioita kuvamanipulaatioihin. Tietokonegrafiikka valopiirtimineen otettiin myös käyttöön, mutta graafikot Kaasinen ja Paakkanen jäljittelivät myös käsin tietokonemaista viivaa. Syntyi painajaisunen kaltainen kuva miesnäkökulmasta, pakoyritys psyykkisestä kahlevankeudesta. 19084 sai Tampereen elokuvajuhlilla sekä Risto Jarva -palkinnon että Kotimaisen kilpailun erikoispalkinnon 1985.
    AA: Screened in 35 mm. An adventure in consciousness, expressed in abstract and figurative imagery - light dots, light contours, grids, an actor model. The music is persuasive. Print ok.

"43"
FI 1997. PC: Taideteollinen korkeakoulu / Medialaboratorio, Taideteollinen korkeakoulu / Elokuvataiteen ja Lavastustaiteen osasto ETO. D+SC+DP+AN+ED: Kai Lappalainen. M, sound rec: Kepa Lehtinen. Colour, sound – 2 min 
    Kai Lappalaisen ”43” on ensimmäisiä 3D-tietokoneanimaatioita Suomessa. Tekniikkaa oli käytetty jo mainoksissa ja ohjelmatunnuksissakin. Lappalaisen pariminuuttisessa animaatiossa Jänis kokeilee painonostoa. Se sai kunniamaininnan Tampereen elokuvajuhlien kotimaisessa kilpailussa 1998.
    AA: Screened in 2K DCP (from a Beta cassette from Kai Lappalainen, for the moment as good as it gets). A pioneering Finnish 3D computer animation; the technique had already been in use in commercials and tv channel idents. A rabbit, a soulmate of Bugs Bunny, weightlifting.

Spindrift
FI/SE 1966. PC: SVT (Sweden). P+D+S+M: Jan Bark. AN: Erkki Kurenniemi. DP: Måns Reuterswärd, Wulf Meseke. ED: Thomas Öhrström. Sound technology: Bengt Nyqvist. Musicians: Bengt Berger (tabla), Jan Bark, Bengt Ernryd (tambura).
    Reconstruction and editing: Mika Taanila 2013. PC: Kiasma. Coordination: Perttu Rastas. Sound mastering: Petri Kuljuntausta. 16 mm, b&w – 14 min
    Analogiset tietokoneet olivat digitaalisten laitteiden rinnalla toinen ja oma kehityslinjansa, joka usein unohtuu tietokoneanimaatiosta puhuttaessa. Analogitekniikalla toteutettu Spindrift on Suomen ja todennäköisesti Pohjoismaiden varhaisin tietokoneanimaatio. Erkki Kurenniemi ohjelmoi animaatiot, jotka on kuvattu suoraan tietokoneen monitorilta 16 mm:n mustavalkofilmille. Osa animaatiosta päätyi elokuvaan sellaisenaan, osa käsiteltiin rasterimaiseksi tekstuuriksi optisella printterillä. Säveltäjä Jan Bark tähtäsi teoksessaan musiikin ja liikkuvan kuvan tasavertaiseen liittoon. Alkuperäinen esityskopio on tuhoutunut, mutta rekonstruktio pyrkii olemaan sille mahdollisimman uskollinen.
    AA: Screened in 35 mm. See my Spindrift blog remarks of 2013. It keeps getting better. This time I thought about the tension between the computer-generated quality of the movie and the organic feeling it still manages to convey. There is a cosmic and oceanic feeling, of natural forms of eggs, jellyfish and spiders. There is a psychedelic affinity. There is also an undercurrent of feminine sexuality: the oceanic, opening, swelling, pulsating, vibrating, gyrating, and contracting quality, like in intercourse or childbirth.
    After the show at Corona Bar Mika Taanila pointed out the friction between the image and the music which is intentional: the music is not accompanying the image but creating a tension, too. There is an epic grandeur in the score.
    There is no full black. Mika told me that this was the original visual concept as the film was photographed from a computer monitor and the concern was to sustain the grayscale.
    An early assured accomplishment in the international development of computer animation.

Programme notes in italics by Tuula Leinonen 15.10.2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Film concert City Lights (the Charles Chaplin score conducted by Günter A. Buchwald, played by Orchestra San Marco di Pordenone)

City Lights © Roy Export S.A.S
Serata finale / Closing Event

Kaupungin valot (Luci della città) (Charles Chaplin Productions/United Artists - US 1931) D, P SC, M: Charles Chaplin; DP: Roland Totheroh; cam. op: Mark Marlatt, Gordon Pollock; ED: Charles Chaplin, Willard Nico; ass D: Harry Crocker, Henry Bergman, Albert Austin; AD: Charles D. Hall; M arr: Arthur Johnston; M dir: Alfred Newman; additional musical themes: “The Star Spangled Banner” (John Stafford Smith), “Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here” (Arthur Sullivan), “Dixie” (Daniel Decatur Emmett), “I Hear You Calling Me” (Charles Marshall), “Home, Sweet Home” (Henry Bishop), “La Violetera” (José Padilla), “Swanee River [Old Folks at Home]” (Stephen Foster), “How Dry I Am”, “St. Louis Blues” (W. C. Handy); C: Charlie Chaplin (A Tramp), Virginia Cherrill (A Blind Girl), Florence Lee (Her Grandmother), Harry Myers (An Eccentric Millionaire), Allan Garcia (His Butler), Hank Mann (A Prizefighter), Henry Bergman (mayor; janitor), Albert Austin (street sweeper; burglar), Joe Van Meter (burglar), John Rand (tramp), Spike Robinson (man who throws away cigar), Tiny Ward (man on lift in front of art shop), Mrs. Hyams (flower shop assistant), James Donnelly (foreman), Harry Ayers (cop), Eddie Baker (referee), Tom Dempsey (boxer), Eddie McAuliffe (boxer who leaves in a hurry), Willie Keeler (boxer), Victor Alexander (knocked-out boxer), Tony Stabeman (victorious boxer, later knocked out), Emmett Wagner (boxing second), Joe Herrick, A.B. Lane, Cy Slocum, Ad Herman, Jack Alexander (extras in boxing scene), T.S. Alexander (doctor), Stanhope Wheatcroft (man in café), Jean Harlow (extra in restaurant scene), Mrs. Pope [Jean Harlow’s mother] (extra in restaurant scene), Florence Wicks (woman who sits on cigar), Mark Strong (man in restaurant), Mrs. Garcia (woman at left of table in restaurant); 35 mm, 8093 ft, 90' (24 fps); titles: ENG; print source: Association Chaplin, Paris.
    Original score performed live by: Orchestra San Marco di Pordenone; conductor: Günter A. Buchwald. Music for City Lights © Roy Export Company Establishment and Bourne Co. except “La Violetera” © José Padilla.
    With e-subtitles in Italian, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 11 Oct 2014

David Robinson (GCM Catalogue and website): "In many respects City Lights stands as Chaplin’s archetypal and most perfectly realized work. Yet no film ever cost him more labour and anxiety. The production extended over 683 days, or 113 6-day working weeks. Shooting occupied 179 of these days; the remaining 504 are recorded on the production sheets as “idle”, which they were certainly not, since they included preparation of sets and costumes, rehearsing, cutting, work on the music, illness (Chaplin’s), and the conception and plotting of scenes – as with all Chaplin’s silent films, there was no script: the film was progressively created in independent sections that were styled “factions”, a curious verbal misusage shared by other comedy studios. For Chaplin a great deal of time and energy was eaten up by anxiety, changes of mind, sudden splits with colleagues and cast. Many years later Chaplin told his interviewer Richard Meryman, “I had worked my way into a neurotic state of wanting perfection.”"

"The neurosis had more complex causes. Work began in May 1928, almost two years after the launch of sound films. By the time City Lights was released the silent film was extinct. For Chaplin this was a dual challenge: he had won a world-wide audience with the universal language of silent mime; if he now talked, that audience would shrink to the English-speaking world. The further risk was that in giving his character a voice, he could disillusion a public every one of whom over the past decade and a half had formed his own imagining of how the Tramp’s voice might sound. His bold decision to resist speech in his films remained for almost a decade, until The Great Dictator in 1940."

"In the past Chaplin was beset by the peril of falling in love with his leading ladies. Virginia Cherrill was a definite exception. Half a century later she would say, “I never liked Charlie and he never liked me.” A 20-year-old Chicago socialite and divorcee, she first appealed to Chaplin by her looks and her ability to “look blind without being offensive, repulsive – the others all turned their eyes up to show the whites” (Chaplin advised her to look at him but “to look inwardly and not to see me”). She was, finally, effective on screen, but her inexperience and amateur’s lack of real commitment gave Chaplin headaches. No scene ever occupied him for so long as the brief sequence of their first meeting, at her pavement flower-stand – a scene which Chaplin saw as a “dance”. He did retake after retake to get the rhythm and the right “intonation” for the line, “Flower, sir?” (which would never, of course, be heard). Only after many painful days, spread over three shooting periods, did the scene, in the words of Alistair Cooke, finally flow as easily as water over pebbles."

"Before this, though, Chaplin had fired Virginia after she interrupted his creative enthusiasm with a request for time off to go to the hairdresser. He tried Georgia Hale, his heroine in The Gold Rush, but then recalled Virginia, who took the opportunity to demand that he double her $75-a-week salary. Hers was not the only sacking. Chaplin had taken a liking to the Australian glamour artist Henry Clive (1880-1962), but when, being bronchial, Clive declined to fall into a pool until the sun had warmed it, he had to go, permanently out of favour. Harry Crocker, a friend and associate for many years who had worked with Chaplin on early story ideas for City Lights, was dismissed without warning or explanation. Chaplin’s state of mind was not improved when a road-widening scheme required the rebuilding of part of the studio."

"Compared with Cherrill’s dramatic scenes, the extended comedy sequences – the supremely ironic “Peace and Prosperity” opening, the restaurant, the party devastated by a dog-whistle – were filmed without notable problems. The boxing sequence – which Chaplin himself always treasured as the peak of his choreographic comedy – was achieved with six days’ rehearsal and four of shooting."

"Exceptionally, though the story and the characters passed through many revisions in the preparatory stages of the work, from the very beginning Chaplin never changed his plan for the end of the film – that final scene which James Agee unreservedly called “the greatest piece of acting and the highest moment in movies”. Paradoxically, after an abandoned first attempt early in production, this sequence seems to have been filmed with the minimum of problems. The close-ups were completed in 17 takes and a three-hour afternoon of shooting. Many years later, when Richard Meryman expressed the same sentiments as Agee, the octogenarian Chaplin replied simply, “Well, I knew it  was right.” If we want to define Chaplin’s genius, it is precisely that: the capacity for the infinite pains of experimenting, trying, repeating; the limitless retakes and rejections – but then the gift of knowing when he has arrived, when it has “come right”." – David Robinson

Günter A. Buchwald (GCM Catalogue and website): "The music Charles Chaplin once said that the music for his Tramp films was “conceived as a counterpoint”. This statement is surprising. If we assert that his music fits perfectly, nobody would contradict us. Indeed, we feel the music fits like a glove. But then, what is the nature of this counterpoint? Is it really counterpoint at all? I must underline that the term “counterpoint” is just a musical term. A second voice is joining a basic melody. Both voices are heard simultaneously, but each voice retains its independence. But together they form something new and polyphonic. Counterpoint in art is not something that in politics would mean a contradiction, a verbal fight, or hostile behaviour. Music designed to accompany a visual impression functions as an addition to it. In the best cases, it provides information that doesn´t appear visually. (In the worst cases, it just duplicates what we see.) We primarily perceive music as emotional information; only secondly do we interpret it as “Spanish”, “Church”, “Royal”, “English”, “16th century”. Music becomes an emotional addition to what we view – without any narration or intertitles. It immediately affects us spectators, who now process two things: what we see, and what we hear. The music lets us see colours that don´t exist in reality."

"What we see in City Lights is a ragged figure, a tramp, who at first appears to flaunt authority. But he himself displays no authority: even his finger-snapping fails when he tries to reprimand some newspaper boys. We see a Don Quixote figure, but we are listening to a very simple melody, played by the violins. The rhythmical metre reminds us of a hornpipe, kind of jazzy-folksy. The rising notes of the melody are elegant and gentle, radiating a certain optimism. And this is exactly the musical counterpoint Chaplin intended. Our view of a tramp is completed by music that announces “I am not poor; I feel fine. You see a tramp, but I am a gentleman.” The instrumentation plays its own part. We don´t hear a jazzy slapstick band, but a veritable symphony orchestra, with a sound that we would normally hear in a civic concert hall. During the film we listen to a noble Wagnerian opera sound, most notably in the idyllic love theme, which resounds in the most tender pianissimo when the flower girl touches the tramp´s hand and realizes his identity. This is great cinema, and supreme musical emotion. Their hearts, and ours, stand still. The little tramp, who has the biggest heart, becomes a symbol of global humanity. It is the power of the music which makes the tramp appear a precious member of mankind, and makes us see beyond our first optical impression of him. Of course, we also have moments of musical “mickey-mousing”, for instance, when the tramp steps down to the quay, takes his hat off to the policeman, dusts the bench, and starts to dream. But it is used sparingly."

"David Raksin, his musical assistant on Modern Times, called Chaplin the composer a thieving magpie in music. Obviously he absorbed a lot of music in his life, and he didn´t always know if the music that came to mind was his own creation, or if it was just something already stored in his head. In the case of his use of “La Violetera”, it still costs the Chaplin family a certain amount of money, since it is indeed a famous tune by the Spanish composer José Padilla. But anyone who knows the original fully appreciates the real difference between a popular melody and its masterful scoring in the film." – Günter A. Buchwald

AA: Every time the last scene feels more profound. "You can see now?" The tramp has fallen deeper, his clothes are more torn, and for the first time he is depressed. Yet he was the one who saved the millionaire from suicide, helped the girl and her granny from eviction, and helped the girl get her eyesight back. Now she sees only the bum. First when she touches him she knows him. The music is very special, and the final uplift takes place when the screen is already black. Unfortunately the audience started to applaud too early.

A heartfelt performance of Chaplin's score by the Orchestra San Marco di Pordenone conducted by Günter A. Buchwald. The original score was written for a dance orchestra of some 34 players. This was also approximately the strength of the orchestra today (or perhaps closer to 40?). There have been arrangements and performances for a much bigger symphony orchestra, producing a fuller and richer sound, but that is a deviation from Chaplin's original concept, producing intentionally a harsher, jazzier sound. There is at times even an affinity with the contemporary Brechtian-Weillian-Eislerian approach.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto was bookended by two memorable musical evenings. Beniamino Gigli's "Bella figlio dell'amore" was still ringing in my ears. As well as the final mysterious spiritual musical ascent to a new level of self-revelation in the finale of City Lights.

Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney / The Love of Jeanne Ney

Photos: Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden, Germany. Deutsches Filminstitut, Frankfurt/Main, Germany. Click to enlarge.
Vallankumouksen hornankattila / The Loves of Jeanne Ney [the title card of this print] (Il giglio delle tenebre / The Love of Jeanne Ney) (Universum-Film AG [Ufa] – DE 1927) D: G. W. Pabst; SC: Rudolf Leonhardt, Ladislaus Vajda, Ilya Ehrenburg, based on the novel by Ilya Ehrenburg (1924); DP: Walter Robert Lach, Fritz Arno Wagner; AD.: Otto Hunte, Victor Trivas; ass D: Mark Sorkin; C: Edith Jéhanne (Jeanne Ney), Uno Henning (Andreas Labov), Fritz Rasp (Chalybiew), Brigitte Helm (Gabrielle Ney), Hertha von Walther (Margot), Adolf Edgar Licho (Raymond Ney), Vladimir Sokoloff (Zacharkiewitsch); 35 mm, 2270 m, 90'29" (22 fps); titles: ENG; print source: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung, Wiesbaden.
    With e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: John Sweeney, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 11 Oct 2014

Sergei Kapterev (GCM Catalogue and website): "The Love of Jeanne Ney, which premiered in Berlin on 6 December 1927, was the first cinematic translation of a work by Ilya Ehrenburg, a prolific and cosmopolitan writer and journalist with a keen interest in cinema, who was born in Ukraine, wrote in Russian, and had belonged to European bohemia since before World War I. In 1921, after several years spent in Soviet Russia, Ehrenburg re-entered Western Europe; based in Paris, he provided an important link between the emerging Soviet culture and the culture of the West, a relationship which fluctuated between hostility, curiosity, and sympathy towards the Soviet experiment."

"A 1924 novel of intrigue and romance unfolding against the background of post-Bolshevik-revolution Europe, The Love of Jeanne Ney dealt with certain contemporary political issues in an entertaining and dynamic manner eminently suitable for cinema. In the Spring of 1924, Ehrenburg transformed his novel into a screenplay, which attracted the attention of Soviet studios. In April 1927, Georgia’s Goskinprom Studios announced that Ehrenburg’s script was to be brought to the screen by the veteran filmmaker Ivan Perestiani. However, Goskinprom was outstripped by a formidable German rival, Ufa, which decided to produce its own version of the novel amid the enthusiastic German interest in Soviet themes and Soviet cinematic forms resulting from the success of the films of Eisenstein and Pudovkin, and, more broadly, by what Ehrenburg called “the exotic lure of the Russian revolution.”"

"The Love of Jeanne Ney was shot at the Ufa studios in Neubabelsberg soon after the nearly bankrupt Ufa was purchased – and beefed up – by the financier Alfred Hugenberg) and on location in Paris under the direction of Georg Wilhelm Pabst, a filmmaker with often radical political views, who had already attracted considerable attention with the social problem melodrama The Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse, 1925) and the psychoanalytical experiment Secrets of a Soul (Geheimnisse einer Seele, 1926)."

"Pabst invited Ehrenburg to Berlin to supervise the shooting of the film, not least because the director could verify the authenticity of the film’s Russian episodes. Another important contributor to this verification was the assistant director Mark Sorkin, who hailed from Vilnius in the Russian Empire, and had been closely working with Pabst since 1924. Besides the expertise of Ehrenburg and Sorkin, Pabst consulted the Soviet embassy, and engaged the services of Berlin’s Russian émigré community: the film’s impressive White Russian orgy featured dozens of very real White Russians."

"Although initially Ehrenburg welcomed Ufa’s initiative and accepted Pabst’s participation (he liked The Joyless Street, and felt that “as an Austrian, Pabst had never been fascinated with the expressionistic piling-up of horrors”), eventually the writer became vocally dissatisfied with Ufa’s treatment of his novel, feeling that its political topicality and tragic intonations were diluted by an exaggerated melodramatic plot and the imposition of a happy ending."

"In spite of Ehrenburg’s authorial complaints, The Love of Jeanne Ney provides a profoundly filmic experience: it is simultaneously dreamy and realistic, sometimes grotesque and filled with convincing details (such as the Crimea telephone directory distinctly seen in one of the film’s opening scenes), exemplifying a narrative and tonal lucidity which is exceedingly difficult to find in cinematic works of the period."

"Paul Rotha claimed that for Jeanne Ney Pabst was asked by the producers to imitate “the American style”. Siegfried Kracauer notes that Pabst’s film “conceals rather than stresses its cuts”, allowing one to compare its editing style – devised by Pabst and Sorkin – to the best examples of American cinematic storytelling. At the same time, the visual style of Jeanne Ney includes not-so-obvious but elaborate “montage phrases” which exceed the goals of “invisible” editing, as well as liberating flashes of camera mobility."

"To add credibility and significance to the narrative of Jeanne Ney, Pabst placed it within a world of objects which, in Kracauer’s words, “take on a life of their own”: as brief socio-political commentaries (an orgiastic Brueghelian barrel and the Russian imperial crown superseded by a portrait of Lenin as markers of a vanishing social order), or as unexpected or expected generalizing symbols (a cigarette holder as a signifier for lasciviousness, flowers for innocence, and a diamond for avarice)."

"The often oppressive materiality of objects is juxtaposed in Jeanne Ney with the ethereal freshness of Parisian locations, such as the steep and relatively unfrequented Parc des Buttes-Chaumont and the vigorous morning market of Les Halles. In a similar way, the villainy of the schemer played by Fritz Rasp is juxtaposed with the romantic sentimentality of the two main characters played by Edith Jéhanne and Uno Henning (although this sentimentality is momentarily shattered by the crying eyes of an unhappy bride observed by the two lovers from the window of a drab Montparnasse hotel) and the almost abstract innocence of Jeanne’s cousin, played by Brigitte Helm."

"As The Love of Jeanne Ney shares this year’s “Canon Revisited” program with Vsevolod Pudovkin’s Storm over Asia, one is tempted to make a comparison between the two films, made at approximately the same historical moment, when the ties between the German and the Soviet cinemas were lively and productive. Both films demonstrate a striving for a profoundly narrative cinema which goes beyond mainstream techniques and expands the scope of intended meanings and sentiments." – Sergei Kapterev

AA: Again we start in Crimea, like in one of the Yakov Protazanov films seen during Le Giornate. G. W. Pabst's Neue Sachlichkeit remains on the surface level, but he is a brilliant observer of the general atmosphere of turmoil and decadence in the aftermath of the Great War.

Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney is an entertainment film in the same sense as certain works by Orson Welles. We go through the motions of the thriller story, which is basically a frame for a vivid tapestry about the state of humanity.

The male and female leads lack charisma. Brigitte Helm is more impressive in her subdued performance as the blind Gabriele. Fritz Rasp creates a grotesque caricature of the villainous Chalybiew.

Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney is a dark, disturbing fairy-tale.

The visual quality is often good, at other times not bad, occasionally with a duped feeling.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Beau Brummel (1924) (long 127 min MoMA print)

Viimeinen kavaljeeri / (Lord Brummel) (Warner Bros. – US 1924) D: Harry Beaumont; SC, ad: Dorothy Farnum, from the play Beau Brummel (1890) by Clyde Fitch, + historical data; art titles: Victor R. Vance; DP: David Abel; ED: H. [Howard] P. Bretherton; tech. dir: Lewis Geib, Esdras Hartley; electrical eff: F. [Frank] N. Murphy; ass D: Frank Strayer; C: John Barrymore (George Bryan “Beau” Brummel), Mary Astor (Lady Margery Alvanley), Willard Louis (George, Prince of Wales), Irene Rich (Frederica Charlotte, Duchess of York), Carmel Myers (Lady Hester Stanhope), Alec B. Francis (Mortimer), William Humphrey (Lord Alvanley), Richard Tucker (Lord Henry Stanhope), André de Beranger (Lord Byron), John J. Richardson (“Poodles” Byng); Claire de Lorez (Lady Manly), Michael Dark (Lord Manly), Templar Saxe (Desmond Wertham), Clarissa Selwyn [Selwynne] (Mrs. Wertham), James A. Marcus (Snodgrass, an English innkeeper), Betty Brice (sua moglie/the innkeeper’s wife), Roland Rushton (Mr. Abrahams), Carol Holloway (Kathleen, una cameriera/a maid), Kate Lester (Lady Moira), Rose Dione (Madame Bergère); filmed: 10-11.1923; © 14.3.1924; rel: 16.3.1924 (California, Los Angeles), 24.3.1924 (Lyceum, Baltimore), 30.3.1924 (Strand Theatre, New York); orig. l: 14 rl., 12 rl., 10 rl. (9,900 ft, New York, 3.1924); 35 mm, 10,473 ft, 127' (22 fps); titles: ENG; print source: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
    With e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Stephen Horne, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 10 Oct 2014
    NB. The correct spelling of the name is Brummell.

Catherine A. Surowiec (GCM Catalogue and website): "By early 1923 John Barrymore was at the zenith of his stage career. His Hamlet – legendary to this day – electrified audiences. Brilliant but erratic, he loved creating a role, but was quickly bored by repetition. On 10 February 1923, the morning after his emotional 101st performance broke Edwin Booth’s Broadway record for Hamlet, John sailed for Europe. Seven months later he returned, to start work in Hollywood."

"Signing him was a coup for the recently incorporated Warner Brothers, eager to add culture and prestige to their more popular product. Barrymore was hired for a one-picture deal, including script
and co-star approval, at a reported $100,000. His first Hollywood role would be Beau Brummel, created by the great stage star Richard Mansfield (1857-1907), in the 1890 success by Clyde Fitch (1865-1909). Warners, having bought the screen rights to the play from Mrs. Richard Mansfield, advertised it as a major production in their ambitious programme for 1923-24, promising massive sets, costly costumes, and meticulous period detail. The film would eventually cost $343,000."

"Welcomed in Los Angeles like royalty, Barrymore finally began work in the first week of October. Delays had meant that the intended director Sidney Franklin was replaced by the less gifted Harry
Beaumont. The film was shot quickly on account of John’s looming Hamlet commitments – in New York, on tour, and finally (early 1925) in London. He was a hard worker, but he was also a fast one, even though, true to form, he was at the same time having an affair with his beautiful young leading lady Mary Astor (she was 17, he 41). His insistence that she play the screen Beau’s great love, Lady Margery, ensured her future: she went on to co-star with him in Don Juan, though by that time he had met the great love of his life, Dolores Costello."

"Dorothy Farnum’s script for Brummel was crafted from the Fitch-Mansfield play and “historical data”. The real-life “Beau” Brummel (George Bryan Brummel, 1778-1840) was an English dandy whose exquisite fashions, manners, and wit won the friendship of the Prince Regent, the future George IV, and made him the social lion of London. His clothing set the fashion and promoted English tailoring. Yet living extravagantly beyond his means, and losing the royal favour thanks to his tart tongue, he eventually found himself ruined. He fled to France, was sent to a debtors’ prison, and ended in an asylum. What Brummel apparently never had – an omission corrected in both the play and film, for drama’s sake – was any kind of romance in his life, of either sex; as “the mirror of fashion” he was far too busy being self-centered. The Fitch-Mansfield play begins with the Beau already established as the darling of high society and confidant of the Prince of Wales. He is shown evading creditors by planning marriage to a young heiress, Mariana, with whom, however, he falls truly in love, only to nobly yield her to his nephew Reginald. Brummel’s consequent poverty, exile, and madness were dire, but provided a famously heartbreaking last scene of the bedraggled, crazed Beau entertaining imaginary guests."

"The film script completely discards the characters of Mariana and Reginald and introduces a new heroine, Lady Margery, whose enforced marriage to the rich Lord Alvanley breaks Brummel’s
heart and spurs him to rise to a position from which he can revenge himself upon her parents and society in general. The device of an unrequited romance motivates the Beau’s actions, stirs the audience’s emotions, and moreover elaborates the famous final “imaginary guests” scene to reunite the lovers in spirit via double exposure and superimposition. Farnum added or expanded characters and sequences: the officers’ dinner at the inn provides an effective and entertaining introduction to the Prince Regent – a scene-stealing performance by Willard Louis – as well as showing how the Beau becomes his confidant. Farnum also elaborates a scene only obliquely referred to in the play, when the Prince, now George IV, passes through Caen, where an ageing Brummel stands among the crowd. The fashions of 1923 also intervene in the film version: Carmel Myers is a self-styled “demi-vamp” as predatory Lady Hester Stanhope, in one scene sporting a harem outfit and turban, lounging on her divan in odalisque fashion."

"Farnum’s script was crafted first and foremost to showcase Barrymore as Great Lover, Great Profile, and also “America’s Greatest Living Actor”. The camera’s loving record of the famous profile and the glamour of the Beau combined with Barrymore’s nuanced acting are reflected in two unforgettable mirror sequences. In the first, Brummel in his glory examines himself in a full-length mirror and assesses his assets; in the second, years later, Brummel, shabby and ravaged by time, tries to wipe away the image of himself in a dusty glass. Archivist James Card wrote of Barrymore as “a living synthesis of Lord Byron and Dorian Gray”. As a lover of the gothic and macabre, the scene he obviously most enjoyed playing was as the old Brummel, broken, mad, in a frayed dressing gown, entertaining his imaginary guests. This is the Barrymore of Jekyll and Hyde, doubtless summoning the demons of his father’s own final years of madness; the Barrymore, too, who revelled in creating characterizations through make-up, posture, and gesture. John was fascinated by portraying man’s dual nature, and harboured elements of a dual personality himself. Handsome as he was, he perversely loved nothing better than to transform himself and “play ugly”, something continued in his next film, the Moby Dick adaptation The Sea Beast."

"The finished film was widely praised by highbrow critics for Barrymore’s artistry, the romance, the lavish sets and costumes, and the beautiful photography by David Abel. But the critics were not
unanimous. Variety described Beaumont’s direction as “not what it might have been”, and thought Barrymore’s brilliance came only in patches. The reviewer also pondered on the film’s fortunes in
America’s smaller towns, away from the great actor’s metropolitan fan base. The underlying problems – static delivery, shortage of action, too many long and medium shots, the narrative’s downbeat finale, having to imagine the repartee without Barrymore’s mellifluous vocal delivery – were further compounded by its length. According to Variety, its original 14 reels were cut down to 12, then to 10 for its presentation in New York. Barrymore strenuously protested against further reduction to 8 reels. For years the film has been known only in a 75-minute 16 mm Kodascope version. Pordenone audiences will however see the longest 35 mm version currently known, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York."

"Despite an enthusiastic preview in Los Angeles in January 1924, the film did not enjoy a gala premiere. By that time the star was back in Europe, and in New York Warners were locked into a block booking agreement with the Strand Theatre. Eventually it was released as a roadshow, without fanfare in March 1924. When it finally opened in New York, it was no longer news, and eclipsed by Lubitsch’s The Marriage Circle and Fairbanks’ The Thief of Bagdad. Nevertheless, Beau Brummel joined both films on the New York Times’ Ten Best List for 1924."

"Warners were satisfied enough to sign the maverick Barrymore to a contract for three more pictures, which would be The Sea Beast, Don Juan, and When a Man Loves. The terms were exceptionally
generous, and by April 1926, having once privately styled Hollywood as “Bridgeport with palms”, Barrymore could tell Motion Picture Classic: “The pictures are not inferior to the stage, they are
different … This mighty field is just beginning to be explored. The possibilities are limitless.” Critics who idolized his stage work accused him of selling out; but for Arthur Hopkins, who directed him in Hamlet, Hollywood’s lure for Barrymore wasn’t the money; it was the freedom from the daily grind, playing the same role night after night. Once a film performance was fixed on celluloid, the cinema projectors repeated it for you. This gave this most quixotic of the Barrymores a genuine feeling of creative freedom, to be used or abused as he chose. Had John Barrymore not gone to Hollywood, we would only be able to read about him as a great stage star of the past, and marvel at his looks in photographs. Thanks to his films, Beau Brummel included, we can still see him in action, displaying the famous profile, delving deep into his characters, electrifying with a gesture, and flashing his incandescent eyes." Catherine A. Surowiec

A longer, more detailed version of this note is available on the Giornate’s website.

AA: Beau Brummel is the most profound and moving John Barrymore vehicle I saw in the Barrymore retrospective in Pordenone. The director's touch is conventional and uninspired, but John Barrymore here finds the right voltage of projection. He seems a real and complex personality.

We can understand how an early wound turns him into the greatest dandy, cultivating his studied insolence. The mirror scene is an anthology piece. There is real wit, charm, and irony in his presence.

There is a poignant later parallel scene where the old Beau sees his reflection in a dirty mirror.

Like The Beloved Rogue, Beau Brummel is the story of "two kings", one an official monarch, the other a king of fools. Beau Brummel becomes the king of style and fashion, followed by all, including royalty.

Beau becomes the victim of his hubris. He treats the monarch like a servant. There is the last straw, and Beau falls out of grace.

Like certain great actors from Emil Jannings to Orson Welles, John Barrymore relishes in portraying his character at the height of his might and at the bottom of degradation, forgotten and disfigured. I am not a fan of Barrymore's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which I however perhaps should not have failed to revisit in Pordenone. But here Barrymore's double role performance is shattering as the old, ruined, ugly Brummel who meets his old friends as ghosts at the madhouse.

An at times low contrast print of a magnificent production.
John Barrymore and Mary Astor. Photos: Courtesy of the films stills collection at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Click to enlarge.

The Good Bad Man (2014 restoration) (La Cinémathèque française / San Francisco Silent Film Festival / The Film Preservation SocietyCinémathèque française, San Francisco Silent Film Festival)

THE GOOD BAD MAN (Passin’ Through) (I banditi del West) (Fine Arts Film Co. – US 1916; Tri-Stone Pictures reissue 1923) D: Allan Dwan; P: D. W. Griffith; SC: Douglas Fairbanks; DP: Victor Fleming; C: Douglas Fairbanks (“Passin’ Through”), Sam De Grasse (Bud Frazer, alias “The Wolf”), Pomeroy [Doc] Cannon (Bob Evans, U.S. Marshal), Joseph Singleton (Pap), Bessie Love (The Girl; Sarah May), Mary Alden (Nan Wilson), George Beranger (Thomas Wilson), Fred Burns (Sheriff); dist: Triangle Film Corp. (1916), Tri-Stone Pictures (1923); filmed: 2.1916; première: 21.4.1916 (Rialto Theatre, New York); rel: 7.5.1916 (orig. ver.), 19.10.1923 (reissue); orig. l: 5 rl.; 35 mm, 3592 ft, 53' (18 fps); titles: ENG; print source: Cinémathèque française, Paris, & San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
    With e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: masterclass participant David Gray, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 10 Oct 2014

Kevin Brownlow (GCM Catalogue and website): "Sixty years after the making of this film, Bessie Love recalled in her autobiography how she wanted “to jump over the moon” when she heard she had been chosen as Douglas Fairbanks’s leading lady in his first proper western. She was rushing off to thank him when she was told “Thank Mrs. Fairbanks. She’s the one who chose you.”"

"Fairbanks was of beautiful build, she remembered, as lithe as a leopard but not tall. Bessie was just five feet, and next to her, Fairbanks looked six feet. He was extremely kind and always enthusiastic about the next project, pinning his all on it. “I said I’d be afraid to do that in case it failed. ‘No! No!’ he exclaimed (he always talked in exclamation marks). ‘In that case you pin your hopes on something else!’”"

"The film was shot in eight days, on location in Mojave, California. Fairbanks had a passion for the Old West, and loved the company of cowboys. After their marriage, Mary Pickford gave him an authentic western bar which was installed at Pickfair and lined with Remington paintings."

"“Fairbanks never had the patience to sit and type a scenario,” writes Tracey Goessel in her forthcoming biography of Fairbanks (from which her notes on this film were excerpted at Cinecon 49 in 2013). “He would sketch out themes that he wanted his scenarios to contain and a screenwriter would actually write the script. The Good Bad Man is the first documented case of this method being employed by the star.”"

"“[Doug] was very creative and on-the-ball all the time,” Allan Dwan told Peter Bogdanovich in the late 1960s. “He wasn’t doing you a favor in coming to work. It was a real privilege to work with him.”"

"Attached to Griffith’s Fine Arts studio in Hollywood, the Dwan company had a house and a large yard to rehearse in. Bessie was given a revolver and a few blanks to practise with, but being the daughter of a Texas cowboy, she fired it so exuberantly that it had to be confiscated. She remembered that the Fairbanks melodramas were usually sent up, but this one is played relatively straight. The story of Passin’ Through, an outlaw who robs the rich in order to give to kids born out of wedlock, had parallels in his own life. Fairbanks was five years old when his father, Charles Ulman, deserted the family, and he and his brother Robert were brought up by their mother, who took on the name of Fairbanks. “The theme of a search for a ‘lost’ father is thus specially pertinent and we see it again and again…” (John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh, Douglas Fairbanks and the American Century, University Press of Mississippi, 2014). “We shall never know if Doug knew that his mother’s marriage was invalid,” writes Tracey Goessel, “that he was, in the technical sense, as illegitimate as the film’s hero believes himself to be. But we do know that Fairbanks spent his adult life covering up these inconvenient facts.”"

"The Good Bad Man was the opening attraction at the new Rialto Theatre near Times Square. The New York Times praised the film for being “full to the brim with Fairbanks. His expressive face, radiant toothsome smile, immense activity, and apparent disposition to romp all over the map make him a treasure to the cinema. No deserter from the spoken drama is more engaging in the new work than Douglas Fairbanks. May his shadow never grow less.”"

"When I first saw this film, at the Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna in 1998, I wrote: “Absolute cracker. Moves like the wind with glorious photography. Trouble is, it’s so badly graded [timed] we get Ufa lighting even in the great open spaces.” The Cinémathèque française generously sent over their negative to see if I could do better, and I couldn’t. It looked as though a marvellous film would be condemned to neglect through incompetent lab work, so it is a tribute to this restoration by Rob Byrne and his team that it is so outstanding, technically as well as aesthetically." – Kevin Brownlow

THE RESTORATION

Robert Byrne (GCM Catalogue and website): "On 12 January 1923, Variety reported that Harry Aitken, onetime president of Triangle Film Corporation, had taken possession of “2,000 subjects made by Mutual and Triangle” through the liquidation of his former company. Six months later, Aitken’s newly formed Tri-Stone Pictures announced plans to release 24 revised editions of Triangle’s biggest successes, including the Douglas Fairbanks picture The Good Bad Man, which was subsequently released on 19 October 1923, with revised editing and new intertitles by John Emerson and Anita Loos."

"The Good Bad Man was produced by the Fine Arts Corporation and released 7 May 1916, and received universally positive reviews in the trade press. Unfortunately, no film or script materials from the original 1916 version are known to survive. Contemporary newspaper reviews and trade press synopses confirm that the plot, story line, characters, and relationships remained consistent between the 1916 and 1923 versions, but there are obviously differences between the two. Tri-Stone promoted the fact that the film had been updated, and the revised titling may have gone further than renaming the characters (Mary Alden’s character changed from Jane Stuart to Nan Wilson, George Beranger’s from Thomas Stuart to Thomas Wilson, Bessie Love’s character Amy became “The Girl” or “Sarah May,” and Joseph Singleton’s “Pap,” uncredited in 1923, was originally named “The Weazel”), though it is impossible to ascertain to what extent. This restoration is the result of a collaborative partnership between the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the Cinémathèque française, and the Film Preservation Society, Los Angeles, and is based on a 35 mm copy of the 1923 Tri-Stone release preserved in the collection of the Cinémathèque française. Image restoration was carried out at 2K resolution, and new titles were produced based on 16 mm materials at the Cinémathèque française that included the original 1923 English flash-titles."

"Because no film prints, continuity script, or production records for the original 1916 version have survived, it should be understood that this restoration does not attempt to re-create or re-imagine how that initial release may have looked. Instead, our attempt has been to faithfully restore, to the extent possible, the version released by Harry Aitken’s Tri-Stone Pictures in the late autumn of 1923." – Robert Byrne

AA: A wonderful Douglas Fairbanks film. A delightful appendix to Le Giornate del Cinema Muto's D. W. Griffith retrospective (Griffith was the producer). And a strong entry in the oeuvre of Allan Dwan who was celebrated in Bologna.

The wit of the exposition and the development of the narrative is breathtaking. This film is swift and brisk and full of action. The density is remarkable. The rhyming intertitles by Anita Loos and John Emerson are brilliant.

Allan Dwan has an eye for the telling detail as well as for the epic long shot.

Passin' Through is a strange outlaw, his specialty: "helpin' kids born in shame". He meets Sarah May (Bessie Love), "like a white flower among poisonous weeds". Sarah May is strikingly serious. But Passin' Through can bring her to smile.

Passin' Through seems endlessly optimistic but he also projects a profound sorrow. "Never had a father". "If I ever meet Frazier I'll kill him even if he's my father". We are at the origins of a special trend in the western, that with disturbing psychological depths, including the wish of parricide. There is a continuity from The Good Bad Man to Pursued. Douglas Fairbanks brings a special sensitivity to this aspect which is in striking contrast to his eternally smiling public figure. I become aware of the personal affinity between Fairbanks, Chaplin, and Pickford: three universal entertainers, each deprived of a normal happiness of childhood.

There is a huge battle finale. The posse overcomes the wolf pack. Passin' Through: "You'll find me at the edge of the horizon". Sarah May follows her over the border. "I'll go with you always".

The visual quality: ok to good.
Photos: Cinémathèque française, San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Click to enlarge.

Panzerkreuzer Potemkin (sonorized German Nadelton version of Battleship Potemkin with the Edmund Meisel score) (2014 digital reconstruction) (2K DCP Österreichishes Filmmuseum)

Броненосец Потёмкин / Panssarilaiva Potjomkin / PANZERKREUZER POTEMKIN (Prometheus-Film – DE 1930) Sd. ver. of BRONENOSETS POTEMKIN (La corazzata Potëmkin / The Battleship Potemkin) (Goskino, Moscow – SU 1925). D, SC, ED: Sergei Eisenstein; ass D: Grigori Alexandrov; German titles (1926): Piel Jutzi; DP: Eduard Tissé; AD: Vassili Rachals; M: Edmund Meisel (1926 + 1930 sd. ver.); C: Alexander Antonov (sailor Vakulintschuk), Grigori Alexandrov (Lieutenant Giliarovski), Vladimir Barski (Commander Golikov), Mikhail Gomorov (sailor Matiuschenko), I. Bobrov (young sailor), Alexander Liovschin (officer), Zavitok (ship’s doctor Smirnov), Andrei Fajt (mess officer), Marusov (officer), Putiata (Pope), K. Feldman (student), A. Massena (old woman on pier), Protopopov (old man on pier), Brodski (journalist), Glotov (anti-Semitic provocateur at demonstration), Silberman (sailor on pier), N. Poltavzeva (teacher), A. Glauberman (Aba, boy killed on the steps), Propenko (Aba’s mother), Serenin (student), Laskaya (woman with spectacles), Korbei (cripple), Juliya Eisenstein (woman with goose), Beatrice Vitoldi (mother with baby carriage), Krause, Dagmarov, Sokolski, T. Suvorina, Repnikova (people on the harbour steps), sailors of the Black Sea fleet, inhabitants of Odessa, fishermen; filmed: 3-11.1925 (Odessa; studio: Moscow); première: 24.12.1925, Moscow (Bolshoi-Theater), 21.1.1926, Berlin (Großes Schauspielhaus); orig. l: 1740 m. (SU, 1925), 1586 m. (DE, 1926).
    Sd. ver. 1930: M, choir, M dir: Edmund Meisel; dial. coord., sd. dir., sd. eff: Alois Johannes Lippl; voices: players from the Piscator Ensemble, Friedrich Gnass; sd. system: Organon (Nadelton); rec. apparatus: Deutsche Grammophon; orig. l: 1353 m (DE 1930; sd.); première: 12.8.1930, Berlin (Marmorhaus); DCP (2K, from 35 mm), 49' (24 fps), sd.; titles, dial: GER; print source: Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Wien.
    Digitally reconstructed by Universität der Künste Berlin; in collaboration with Österreichisches Filmmuseum & Technisches Museum Wien mit Österreichischer Mediathek. Reconstruction funded by Kulturstiftung des Bundes.
    With e-subtitles in English and Italian, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 10 Oct 2014

Thomas Tode (GCM Catalogue and website): "With Sergei Eisenstein’s Bronenosets Potemkin (Battleship Potemkin) Soviet cinema carved its place in film history. The original musical score composed for the film’s German premiere by Viennese-born Edmund Meisel (1894-1930) was for many years considered lost. Fragments of the orchestral parts were rediscovered in 1970 and the existence of the complete piano reduction became known in 1983. However, modern reconstructions and re-arrangements for largescale orchestra bear little resemblance to Meisel’s original, which was praised by Adorno and Eisler for its “non-commercial” character. Only now – thanks to the rediscovery of the original soundtrack discs for the 1930 German sound re-release version – can modern audiences hear Meisel’s own arrangement of his highly aggressive soundtrack. In addition, the 1930 sound-on-disc (“Nadelton”) version of Battleship Potemkin represents one of the first instances of “dubbing” in German cinema: the Russian sailors now speak German; from the screen, they call out to us, “Brüder!” (Brothers!)."

"By his own account, Meisel had only 12 days and nights to write his score before the film’s German premiere in Berlin on 29 April 1926. Eisenstein, then on a brief visit to Berlin, was only present for the scoring of the film’s final, climactic scene. As he recalled in his 1939 essay, “The Structure of the Film”: “He [Meisel] agreed at once to forego the purely illustrative function common to musical
accompaniments at that time (and not only at that time!) and stress certain ‘effects’, particularly in the ‘music of machines’ in the last reel. This was my only categorical demand: not only to reject customary melodiousness for this sequence of ‘Meeting the Squadron’, relying entirely on a rhythmic beating of percussion, but also to give substance to this demand by establishing in the music as well as in the film at the decisive place a ‘throwing over’ into a ‘new quality’ in the sound structure.”"

"Eisenstein attested that Meisel’s composition surpassed the usual illustrative film scores, producing a “unity of fused musical and visual images”. In his opinion, both the film’s finale as well as the iconic “Odessa Steps” sequence owed their initial “crushing” power to Meisel’s music. For Meisel it became clear from their collaboration that he and Eisenstein shared the same views on the function of film music. “The film score should vigorously focus the listener’s attention on the film. Therefore, it must constantly – and repeatedly – bring out the meaning and highlight the main arguments. It must be able to excite and stir up the audience so that it feels moved to active participation.”"

"The press reviews following the Berlin premiere affirm Eisenstein and Meisel’s statements. The Licht-Bild-Bühne noted how Meisel’s thrilling, discordant musical score had the same “nerve-wracking” effect as the film’s “savage” images. “Both, however, lacked harmonic resolution and, as a result, one can describe this idiosyncratic music, in which percussion plays a leading role, as fitting.” A review in the Vossische Zeitung, meanwhile, highlighted the merits of the film’s finale. In particular, it praised Meisel for producing a musical composition that did justice to the grandeur of the images and gave life to the rhythm of the montage, born from “the droning of machines, the firing of pistons and the raging of cannons.”"

"At the dawn of the sound era, the silent Battleship Potemkin was selected by its German distributor, Prometheus-Film-Verleih und -Vertriebs-GmbH, for re-release as a sound film. As the Film-Kurier announced, on 23 June 1930, “Right now it’s ‘rush hour’ at Prometheus. Sound – to be more precise, the original musical score by Edmund Meisel – is being added to the film Battleship Potemkin. The composer is conducting the orchestra personally, heading a large group of musicians. Singing and chanting punctuate the crowd scenes.” The earliest announcements already mentioned that Meisel was expanding his original composition to include additional aural elements such as chanting, sound effects, and dialogue. The intertitles were systematically removed with the exception of the opening titles, and their texts were reworked into dialogue passages, spoken by members of Erwin Piscator’s theatre group, among others. For example, the actor Friedrich Gnaß, who had starred in the Prometheus production Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück (1929), can be clearly seen in photos taken during the recording at the studio of the Berliner Liedertafel (Berlin choral society)."

"The attempt to turn a silent film into a “talkie” in which more than 50% of the scenes include dialogue was highly unusual. “The main characteristic of A. J. Lippl’s Potemkin dialogue lies in its deviation from the conversational. The swift, rapidly changing transitions demand short and precise words, often producing a montage of speech, similar to the montage of images. To match the tremendous pace of the images, a strong rhythm, and thus a disentanglement from everyday speech, was necessary.” (Film-Kurier, 4 July 1930) The highly stylised delivery of the dialogue in a clipped, litany-like mode of speaking takes a modern audience some getting used to, but it conforms to the artistic and political notions of its time, such as the “agitprop” theatre of Piscator and Bertholt Brecht."

"Meisel experimented with sound effects in a similar manner: “The tools of the ‘noise ensemble’ are manifold, from the coffee grinder and the peas falling on sheet-metal, the stones in sieves and the thunder sheets, the empty bottles, which – when hit – sound like colliding iron, to the rattles which can imitate anything from individual gun shots to entire fusillades. … For the most part only two microphones are used. One for the music, the other for the sound effects and dialogue.” (Film-Kurier, 18 July 1930) For performances by Piscator’s theatre group, Meisel had already developed a “noise machine” and even released commercial records consisting of sound effects, sometimes produced with the aid of the orchestra. The novelty of Meisel’s recorded soundtrack for Battleship Potemkin is its consistent dramaturgical application of the sound effects to create tension. For some sequences, pre-recorded sound effects were added to the music later, and the two were mixed together using a duplication device."

"The sound version of Battleship Potemkin played for the first time to a packed house at the Marmorhaus cinema in Berlin on 12 August 1930. “The crowd rejoices. Ahead of this new version of the film lies a triumphant sweep through the cinemas. … Music creates a bridge. It achieves its greatest effect in the funeral march of the Russian revolutionaries and the now classic ‘music of machines’, inseparable from the images, and equal to them in terms of their conception.” (Film-Kurier, 13 August 1930) The Berliner Börsen-Courier (14 August 1930), in contrast, criticized the addition of dialogue: “Now the sailors talk. Voices, which don’t fit to the faces, fire out slogans. Everything shifts. Everything twists. If the editing was once expressive, now it is ruined in favour of real speech. A film document of historic value has been destroyed in favour of a spurious momentary sensation.” The Rote Fahne, the official newspaper of the German Communist party, saw its previous misgivings concerning the film alleviated by the new version: “The addition of a soundtrack can only be welcomed. Through it, Eisenstein’s wonderful, revolutionary ‘film symphony’ gains new life. Despite its shortcomings, the acoustic element enhances the impact of the ‘silent’ Potemkin film. One experiences the film as if for the first time. It will penetrate the masses – as original, elementary, new. Through the soundtrack. Through the interest shown in sound films as sound films.”" – Thomas Tode (Translated by Oliver Hanley)

AA: An exciting discovery of a vintage sonorized "talkie" version of Battleship Potemkin with Edmund Meisel himself as a conductor of his original score.

While this will not be the definitive Potemkin experience for me, it was fascinating to observe how well it works without intertitles and with post-synchronized dialogue. There is a lot of text and speech auf deutsch synchronisiert.

As a record of Edmund Meisel's own arrangement of his music this version is invaluable. There is machine music, there is elegiac oceanic music, there is rousing action music, there is music that borders on sound effects. Замучен тяжелой неволей (обр. Л. Шульгина - Г. Мачтет, 1876) / Sait kärsiä puolesta aatteen / Slavery and Suffering, the funeral march of Vakulinchuk, is here heard in a singing version.

While watching the familiar film in an unfamiliar version I was reminiscing about the music versions of Potemkin. The first one for me was the Nikolai Kryukov version from 1950; it was the standard one when I first saw Potemkin, and his is still the music that I hear as a reflex when I think Potemkin. Then in 1976 was released the first Dmitri Shostakovich compilation score. Naum Kleiman finds Shostakovich anti-Eisensteinian, but the different Shostakovich compilation arranged by Frank Strobel is better than the 1976 version. In April 1984 I heard for the first time the Edmund Meisel score at Arsenal in West Berlin where a 16 mm MoMA print at sound speed was screened; I think it was a vintage recording. It was the Meisel revelation for me. In the late 1980s I also heard a Meisel reinterpretation in a film concert at London Film Festival. The 2005 reconstruction with another Meisel reinterpretation I saw live in Bologna. In 2011 in Sodankylä there was an intrepid trio called Silva Sound Creators led by Günter Buchwald, also playing a Meisel arrangement. And now this. The trouble with all these Meisel scores being of course that the music was originally composed to a censored version of Potemkin. And the trouble with all the reinterpretations being, as Thomas Tode states above, that no complete original written score remains, and they are based on the fragments of orchestral parts and a piano reduction. This Viennese 2014 revelation for me confirms my original 1984 Berlin / MoMA revelation 30 years ago.

Every time the associations are different while watching Potemkin. This year: Ukraine and Odessa, topical in the headlines. And: Peter von Bagh, his first choice of programming at the school film society in the 1950s, to protests and objections, rejected by many. But Peter always defended the film that had just been named the greatest film of all times at the Brussels World's Fair. The Midnight Sun Film Festival was founded in 1986, during glasnost, and Potemkin was the film the Eastern European guests most loved to hate. For them, it was the symbol of tyranny and oppression. Yet it always was a film of rebellion and liberation.

An impressive restoration. At times there was no deep black in the projection.
Photos: Austrian Film Museum. Click to enlarge.