Sunday, January 15, 2017

Der Stier von Olivera / The Bull from Olivera

Der Stier von Olivera poster featuring Hanna Ralph. Central Saint Martins Museum and Study Collection. Design: Strehl, Paul Helwig. Chromolithograph
Der Stier von Olivera poster featuring Hanna Ralph. Central Saint Martins Museum and Study Collection. Design: Paul Helwig.

Der Stier von Olivera, KAVI frame enlargement. Napoleon and Emil Jannings.

Der Stier von Olivera, KAVI frame enlargement. Acting with his back: Emil Jannings.

Der Stier von Olivera, KAVI frame enlargement. Napoleon and Emil Jannings.

Der Stier von Olivera, KAVI frame enlargement. Emil Jannings.

Der Stier von Olivera, KAVI frame enlargement. Hanna Ralph, Emil Jannings.

Oliveran härkä / Oliveralainen sonni / Tjuren från Olivera. Saksa 1921. PC: Messter-Film GmbH. Im Auftrag von: Universum-Film AG (Ufa). D: Erich Schönfelder. SC: Erich Schönfelder, Ludwig Tell, Dimitri Buchowetzki – based on the libretto by Richard Batka to the opera (1918) by Eugen d’Albert – based on the play (1910) by Heinrich Lilienfein. CIN: Willibald Gaebel. AD: Kurt Richter. M for cinema orchestra: M. Ter-Tatevosjan. Cost: Ernö Metzner.
    C: Emil Jannings (General François Guillaume), Hanna Ralph (Donna Juana), Hans Sturm (Marques de Barrios), Fritz Schultz (Don Manuel), Carl Ebert (Don Perez, Juana's fiancé), Carl Rückert (Bishop of Olivera), Ferninand von Alten (Priest Antonius), Heinrich Zahdor (Emperor Napoleon), Magnus Stifter (Knightmaster Marchand), Albert Paulig (Corporal Poussin), Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur (Ltn. Herbaut), Karl Platen (Lopez, De Barrios's servant), Grete Lönsson (Aminta, Juanita's maid), Max Zilzer, Harry Nestor.
    Studio: Ufa-Messter-Atelier (Berlin-Tempelhof).
    Uraufführung: 26.1.1921 Ufa-Palast am Zoo (Berlin) – 1714 m (1694 m).
    Helsinki premiere: 6.6.1921 Civis, released by Maxim – classification 11224 – K16
    Preserved by KAVI on 4K from a vintage toned, tinted and black and white nitrate print with Swedish / Finnish intertitles only. 77 min
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Finnish Film Archive 60th Anniversary), with Ilari Hannula at the piano, 15 Jan 2017.

Der Stier von Olivera was produced in the peak year of German film industry. In 1921, 646 feature films were released in Germany. Astoundingly, many of these films had lavish production values, as did Der Stier von Olivera. It is a historical tragedy from Napoleon's Spanish campaign. The brutal French general François Guillaume (Emil Jannings) falls in love with the Spanish noblewoman Donna Juana, played by Hanna Ralph, at the time Jannings's wife.

Der Stier von Olivera is not a masterpiece of Weimar cinema, but there is a passion, a drive, and a sweep in the historical vision. It is yet another perfect Emil Jannings vehicle – another tale of the mighty man who perishes completely. There is a wild, compelling force in his performance. We see his amazing grimaces. And again he is at his most eloquent when "acting with his back". He is almost a monster, a war invalid with only one eye, and badly deranged, too.

Cinematographically the film is rich, ranging from epic general views to illuminating special close-ups. Visual means of expression include masks and vignettes. There is an authentic realistic feeling in the scenes of military campaign. The toning is rich and pleasant, and there are wild red tinted passages for scenes of conflagration.

This is a war film, in which the woman, Donna Juana, is the main victim, separated from her fiancé, wed and raped by the general. When Napoleon separates Guillaume from Donna Juana, Guillaume deserts, and the action proceeds to a full-blown tragic finale.

Preserved by us, under the curatorship of Juha Kindberg, from a battered vintage print with nitrate / water damage stretches, it is possible to follow the entire narrative. The print itself is a battleground, a document of the film work's combat with the ravages of time. Somehow the damages become an extra special effect in synchrony with the tragic story.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Κινέττα. GR 2005. PC: Haos Film, Baby Films, Modiano, Top Cut, Stefi Productions. P: Athina Rachel Tsangari. D: Yorgos Lanthimos. SC: Yorgos Lanthimos, Yorgos Kakanakis. CIN: Thymios Batakakis – 35 mm – 1:1.66. PD: Anna Georgiadou. Cost: Caroline Koener. Make-up: Sissiy Petripulou. ED: Yorgos Mavropsarides. S: Stefanos Efthymiou. C: Evangelia Randou, Aris Servetalis, Kostas Xikominos, Youlika Skafida (victim), Ektoras Kaloudis. 95 min
    2K DCP of 98 min from Haos Film with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (New Greek Film), 12 Jan 2017

IMDb synopsis: "At a Greek hotel in the off-season, a chambermaid, a man obsessed with BMW cars, and a photo-store clerk attempt to film and photograph various badly re-enacted struggles between a man and a woman."

I fail to relate to this film.

The meta approach, the people avoiding to live their own lives.

The low budget quality used as a means of expression.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Lobster

The Lobster. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.

GR/IE/NL/GB/FR 2015. PC: Film4, Irish Film Board, Eurimages, The Netherlands Film Fund, Greek Film Center, British Film Institute (BFI). EX: Fiona Morham. P: Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos, Lee Magiday. D: Yorgos Lanthimos. SC: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou. CIN: Thimios Bakatakis. AD: Jacqueline Abrahams. Cost: Sarah Blenkinsop. Make-Up: Lucy Browne, Sharon Doyle. ED: Yorgos Mavropsaridis. S: Johnnie Burn.
    C: Colin Farrell (David), Rachel Weisz (Shortsighted Woman), Léa Seydoux (Loner Leader), John C. Reilly (Lisping Man), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Doctor), Jessica Barden (Nosebleed Woman), Olivia Colman (Hotel Manager), Ashley Jensen (Biscuit Woman), Ariane Labed (the Maid), Angeliki Papoulia (Heartless Woman), Michael Smiley (Loner Swimmer), Ben Whishaw (Limping Man), Ewen Macintosh (Hotel Guard).
    Finnish premiere: 19 Aug 2016, released by Cinema Mondo – K12 – 118 min
    2K DCP with Finnish subtitles only viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (New Greek Cinema), 11 Jan 2017

VARIETY: "Yorgos Lanthimos' first English-language feature is a wickedly funny, unexpectedly moving satire of couple-fixated society."

"Longevity and lifelong fertility are among the reasons why a human may wish to become the eponymous creature, explains Colin Farrell’s protagonist at the outset of “The Lobster.” The tasty crustacean’s rich associations with the Surrealist movement appear to have slipped his mind, but not that of Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos, whose supremely singular fifth feature — his first in English — takes his ongoing fascination with artificially constructed community to its dizziest, most Bunuelian extreme to date. A wickedly funny protest against societal preference for nuclear coupledom that escalates, by its own sly logic, into a love story of profound tenderness and originality, this ingenious lo-fi fantasy will delight those who already thrilled to Lanthimos’ vision in “Alps” and the Oscar-nominated “Dogtooth,” while a starry international cast should draw as-yet-unconverted arthouse auds into his wondrously warped world."

"As usual, Lanthimos eschews an original score in favor of existing classical and pop compositions, which aggressively punctuate an otherwise quietly thrumming soundscape with brute impact. Beethoven, Shostakovich and Stravinsky all put in prominent appearances, but the most evocative selection here may well be Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue’s morbid country-Gothic ballad “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” with its plaintive plea for unrestrained love: “Do you know where the wild roses grow, so sweet and scarlet and free?” Perversely romantic almost in spite of itself, “The Lobster” doesn’t offer the answer, but it suggests we keep looking.
" - Guy Lodge/ Variety (from the distributors pr material)

Τι είν' αυτό που το λένε αγάπη
τι είν' αυτό, τι είν΄αυτό
που κρυφά τις καρδιές οδηγεί
κι όποιος το 'νιωσε το νοσταλγεί

Τι είν' αυτό που το λένε αγάπη
τι είν' αυτό, τι είν΄αυτό
γέλιο, δάκρυ, λιακάδα, βροχή
της ζωής μας, και τέλος κι αρχή

Ποτέ, ποτέ κανένα στόμα
δεν το 'βρε και δεν το 'πε ακόμα

Τι είν' αυτό που το λένε αγάπη
τι είν' αυτό, τι είν΄αυτό
που σε κάνει να λες το σκοπό
σ' αγαπώ, σ' αγαπώ, σ' αγαπώ

Τι είν' αυτό που το λένε αγάπη
τι είν' αυτό, τι είν΄αυτό
στο λεπτό που σου δίνει φτερά
κι είναι λύπη μαζί και χαρά

Τι είν' αυτό που το λένε αγάπη
τι είν' αυτό, τι είν΄αυτό
γέλιο, δάκρυ, λιακάδα, βροχή
της ζωής μας, και τέλος κι αρχή

Ποτέ, ποτέ κανένα στόμα
δεν το 'βρε και δεν το 'πε ακόμα

Τι είν' αυτό που το λένε αγάπη
τι είν' αυτό, τι είν΄αυτό
που σε κάνει να λες το σκοπό
σ' αγαπώ, σ' αγαπώ, σ' αγαπώ 

- the song during the end credits

AA: I fail to relate to this film.

I like the compilation soundtrack (see full list copied from the IMDb beyond the jump break). During the end credits we hear the beautiful and haunting theme song from Boy on a Dolphin, "Ti ein' afto pouto lene agapi" / "Tι΄ναι αυτό που το λένε αγάπη" / "What Is This Thing They Call Love?", the duet sung by Tonis Maroudas and lip-synched by Sophia Loren to the voice of Marni Nixon, one of the greatest movie tunes of all times.

The digital cinematography is needle sharp like in the realm of death.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pépé le Moko

Pépé le Moko. Tiré d'un roman d'Ashelbé. FR 1937. PC: Paris-Film. P: Raymond Hakim, Robert Hakim. D: Julien Duvivier. SC: Julien Duvivier, Détective Ashelbé – adaptation: Jacques Constant – dialogues: Henri Jeanson – based on the novel by Ashelbé [Henri La Barthe]. DP: Jules Kruger, Marc Fossard. AD: Jacques Krauss. M: Vincent Scotto, Mohamed Ygerbuchen. Song: "Où est-il donc?" (paroles André Decaye / Lucien Carol, musique Vincent Scotto), sung by Fréhel. Song: "Pour être heureux" (paroles Géo Roger, musique Vincent Scotto), sung by Jean Gabin. ED: Marguerite Beaugé.
    C: Jean Gabin (Pépé le Moko), Mireille Balin (Gaby Gould, la belle Parisienne), Gabriel Gabrio (Carlos, un homme de la bande), Lucas Gridoux (Slimane, l'inspecteur algérien), Dalio (L’Arbi, un mouchard), Saturnin Fabre (Le Grand Père), Fernand Charpin (Régis, l'indicateur), Line Noro (Ines), Gilbert Gil (Pierrot, le jeune ami de Pépé), Charles Granval (Maxime Kleep, protecteur de Gaby), Gaston Modot (Jimmy, un homme de la bande), René Bergeron (l'inspecteur Meunier), Paul Escoffier (Chef inspecteur Louvain), Roger Legris (Max, un homme de la bande), Jean Témerson (Gravèr), Robert Ozanne (Gendron), Georges Péclet (Barsac), Line Noro (Inès, la maîtresse de Pépé), Fréhel (Tania), Olga Lord (Aïcha), Renée Carl (la mère Tarte), Philippe Richard (l'inspecteur Janvier), Franck Maurice (un inspecteur), Antoine Mayor (un figurant dans le bled).
    Helsinki premiere 3.10.1937 Rea – classification 20948 – K12 – 94 min
    Lieux de tournage: Casbah d'Alger, Sète, Marseille. Studios: Pathé Cinéma.
    "Moko est un mot d'argot désignant un marin de la Marine nationale naviguant en Méditerranée, dont le port d'attache est Toulon. S'écrit plus généralement moco." (Wikipédia).
    An Institut Français print with English subtitles by Lenny Borger viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Julien Duvivier), 10 Jan 2017

Revisited a classic of French cinema, the gangster film, and poetic realism, a key influence for film noir, the great breakthrough for Julien Duvivier and Jean Gabin, remade and parodied several times, and an important influence for other films including Casablanca. Popular cinema at its best, featuring an all star cast, mixing thrilling action with romance, and even key music numbers.

Julien Duvivier was the director who groomed Jean Gabin to mythical stardom in five films, culminating in Pépé le Moko. After Duvivier, Jean Renoir and Marcel Carné gave him further signature roles. But already here fundamental elements were at place: the full scope from a jovial and genial friend and lover to a callous and brutal gangster with fearsome fits of rage. And a fatal self-destructiveness, culminating in suicide.

The sense of place is essential: the casbah, also mythical, a city jungle which protects its predators, a jumble, full of dark chasms. It is a refuge for Pépé - and also a prison outside of which he has no place to hide. "You are already under arrest", comments Inès to Pépé. Police informers are sneaking everywhere. Only Gaby, a fatal woman from the outside world can lure Pépé out of his hideaway.

As often in Duvivier, there are illuminating song sequences. When Pépé is at his happiest, in love with Gaby, he sings "Pour être heureux", a sunny rhumba from Gabin's music hall days. At the other extreme we hear Fréhel giving a harrowing interpretation of "Où est-il donc?", as dark as a blues by Bessie Smith.

The finale is devastatingly pessimistic. There is no way out, and the handcuffed Pépé, watching the parting ship from behind the harbour grille, kills himself with a knife. Not since the Russian cinema before the Revolution had popular cinema been as obsessed with tragic endings.

The print seems like a painstaking reconstruction from disparate elements. There are stretches of good visual quality, and others that seem to have been preserved from second rate sources.

Khaneh-ye dust kojast? / Where Is the Friend's Home?

خانه دوست کجاست / Khane-ye doust kodjast? / Missä on ystävän talo? / Ystävä hädässä (tv) / Var är min väns hus? / Hvor er min vens hus? IR 1987. PC: Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. D+SC: Abbas Kiarostami. CIN: Farhad Saba. ED: Abbas Kiarostami. C: Babak Ahmadpour (Ahmad), Ahmad Ahmadpour (Mohamad-Reza Nematzadeh), Khodabakhsh Defaie (teacher), Iram Otari (mother). 83 min
    A 35 mm print, dansk tekst by P. Pouramed and L. Jensen, e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Abbas Kiarostami in memoriam), 10 Jan 2017

Revisited a masterpiece by Abbas Kiarostami (1940–2016). I confess I was not in the right wavelength when I saw Where Is the Friend's Home for the first time, and my Kiarostami conversion took place with the more conventionally accessible Close-Up. This time I did not feel at all this to be "slow cinema". Instead, I felt a high intensity, even suspense, which is finally released in the very last shots of the movie.

This film is a soul battle in the hearts of little children in a poor village. An authoritarian teacher threatens his pupils with expulsion if they fail. When Ahmad accidentally takes his mate Mohamad-Reza's school exercise book, he puts him in great danger, and his is a desperate journey to save him.

Kiarostami's approach is direct and laconic. The performances of the children are astonishingly poignant and unaffected. One might call this a slight narrative, if there were not such gravity at play. A sense of a wider resonance is omnipresent. This quest grows into a cross-section of society. There is also a metaphysical dimension which is not incompatible with a sacred interpretation.

We see the severity in the world of the grown-ups and the generosity in the world of the children. Ahmad's big adventure is a lesson in solidarity.

The cinematography by Farhad Saba is stark and refined. The composition is devout, sometimes enigmatic (the wind in the sheets).

The print is brilliant and looks like it has been struck directly from the original negative. The colour is perfect.

Tyttö nimeltä Varpu / Little Wing

FI © 2016 Making Movies Oy, Final Cut for Real. P: Kai Nordberg, Kaarle Aho. D+SC: Selma Vilhunen. CIN: Tuomo Hutri - ARRI Alexa. ED: Samu Heikkilä. PD: Sattva-Hanna Toiviainen. M: Paula Vesala, Jori Sjöroos. Songs: ”Auringon lapsi”, by Pekka Streng, perf. Paula Vesala. ”Älä droppaa mun tunnelmaa”, comp. Paula Vesala, Matti Mikkola, Joonas Angeria, lyr. Paula Vesala, perf. Paula Vesala. ”Animals (Varpu version)”, comp. Jori Sjöroos, lyr. Ringa Manner, Caroline Taucher, Jori Sjöroos, perf. ROOXX.  S: Tuomas Klaavo. Cost: Tiina Kaukanen, Hanna Kainulainen. Makeup: Pia Mikkonen. Ilmari's paintings: Mikko Ilmari Hannikainen. C: Linnea Skog (Varpu), Paula Vesala (Varpu's mother Siru), Lauri Maijala (Varpu's father), Antti Luusuaniemi (the namesake of Varpu's father), Santtu Karvonen (Bo, Siru's boyfriend). Helsinki premiere: 23.9.2016 Kinopalatsi 1 – MEKU: K12 – 100 min
    The English name of the film is a reference to "Little Wing" by Jimi Hendrix, the favourite song of Varpu's parents.
    In the presence of Linnea Skog and Lauri Maijala hosted by Jari Sedergren.
    2K DCP with English subtitles by Aretta Vähälä from SELO viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (SELO), 10 Jan 2017

There is an affinity between The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki and Little Wing, two offbeat Finnish films of 2016, both about a crucial contest in which the protagonist fails while winning something bigger in life.

Little Wing, the feature film debut of Selma Vilhunen, is the saga of the 12 year old Varpu in search of her father.

Her favourite occupation is riding her pony Svante. All through the film she is preparing for the final pony riding contest. There is a sense of tenderness in the pony sequences of the film.

Her mother Siru fails the driving school repeatedly, while the underage Varpu has little trouble in driving whenever she has a chance. First in the finale we see Siru proudly driving her own car.

There is a sense of humour in the account of Siru's dating efforts and Varpu's scorn at the result: Bo the kind-hearted boyfriend.

When Father's Day is approaching Varpu gets interested in getting in touch with her father, an effort discouraged by her mother. She finds tender drawings by her father, finds out that his name is Ilmari Hukkanen and that he lives in Oulu

One night she just starts driving from Helsinki to Oulu (600 km to the north) and appears at the door of Ilmari Hukkanen. It is a day of embarrassments at the home and the office of Ilmari, a big boss whose wife is excepting a baby any day. He is callous, but his wife comforts Varpu.

Siru arrives at Oulu to fetch Varpu and confirms that she has met a wrong Ilmari Hukkanen. They meet the real one, a bohemian and marginalized painter who never leaves Oulu and possesses no electronic means of communication.

He gives a promise to attend to Varpu's pony riding contest, a promise believed neither by Siru nor Varpu. But Ilmari does drive to Helsinki and spoils everything by smoking, acting paranoidly with the omnipresent pads and mobile phone cameras, and making a big scene which distracts Varpu so that she must interrupt her participation.

Varpu has been bullied by her pony riding friends because of her tales of her father. Now Varpu faces them with the facts of her father's schitzophrenia. The girlfriends actually start to respect her.

There are many strong assets in this offbeat saga. The account of the teenager gangs is fresh and original. Varpu's survival with her dysfunctional parents has a fairy-tale quality: the tables are turned so entirely that Varpu is the most grown-up of the three. The performances of the actors are subtle and convincing. The sound world is tender and impressive. Overall I liked the assurance in the intensity and tempo of the storytelling.

The visual quality is good, with a sense of fine soft detail preserved in the digital presentation.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Kuudes kerta

Sex gånger. FI © 2017 Huh Huh -Filmi Oy. P+D+SC: Maarit Lalli. Line P: Baba Lybeck, Minna Haapkylä. CIN: Teppo Högman – post production: James Post Oy – release format [2K] DCP. PD: Maarit Lalli, Otso Linnalaakso. Cost: Maarit Lalli, Niina Pasanen. M: Kepa Lehtinen. S: Pasi Peni. ED: Harri Ylönen.
    C: Pihla Viitala (Annika), Antti Luusuaniemi (Ricky), Dick Idman (Ulf, Annika's godfather), Arja Saijonmaa (Brita, Ulf's wife), Anna-Maija Tuokko (Lotta, Ricky's wife), Esko Salminen (Matteus, Ricky's father), Sebastian Rejman (Esko, Annika's husband), Minna Haapkylä (Kaisa, Annika's friend), Paavo Kinnunen (Jape, Annika and Kaisa's friend), Stig Rästa (Kristian, real estate agent), Aksa Korttila (Sanna, real estate agent), Pirkka-Pekka Petelisu (Pekka, real estate agent), Ona Kamu (Monna, real estate agent), Kaarina Hazard (receptionist), Kai Mäkinen (client), Lauri Tuppurainen (Annika's son), Luna Luusuaniemi (Ricky's daughter), Ira-Sofia Stewart (Ricky's daughter), Marius Stewart (Ricky's son), Juha Hippi (car rental agent), Reino Nordin (policeman), Terhi Panula (saleswoman at clothesstore), Kimi Nurmi (cashier), Vesa Tulkki (Suunto sales agent), Niina Nurminen (Tiina Järvinen), Lotta Lindroos (Rickyn hoito = sex date), Kaisla Viitala (Brita's goddaughter), Christel Holmberg (Mikkis), Maarit Lalli (nursery teacher), Henrik Mäki-Tanila (taxi driver), Vessi Pohjolainen (a drunken man), Enna Jokela (cashier at the bath), Mika Äijälä (serviceman), Pihla Pohjolainen (waiter at the wine bar), Mia Erlin (singer / dog trainer), Mats Laitinen (coiffeur), Antonio Flores (coiffeur), Vesa Asp (hunter), Antti Hurme (hunter), Mika Lahtinen (hunter), Markku Laulumaa (hunter), Terese Eriksson (hotel receptionist), Josefine Virranvuo (hotel receptionist), Sirkka Siiskonen (customer at property presentation), Toni Immonen (customer at property presentation). 109 min
    Finnish premiere: 6 Jan 2017, distributor: Oy Nordisk Film Ab, with Swedish subtitles by Fres Grönholm.
    Viewed at Tennispalatsi 6, Helsinki, 7 Jan 2017.

Don Juan stories have always been popular, and also in Finland there is an original tradition starting with Lemminkäinen, sometimes translated as Loverboy, in our mythological epic Kalevala, also with many cinematic incarnations since Olavi the lumberjack in The Song of the Scarlet Flower, which has been filmed five times in Sweden and Finland.

No less prominent in fiction are incarnations of Astarte – Isis – Aphrodite – and Venus. But in Finnish films there have not been many heroines with multiple lovers. Levottomat 3 – kun mikään ei riitä [The Restless 3 – When Nothing Is Enough] is one of the exceptions.

Levottomat 3 was about sex addiction, a medical condition, an unhappy situation in which therapy is necessary.

Maarit Lalli's interesting first feature film Kohta 18 [Almost 18] was a multi-character study of five teenager boys, all except one from broken homes. Kuudes kerta [The Sixth Time] is about two parents from such homes.

Ricky turns out to be a pathological sex addict and liar; addiction is often accompanied with lying.  In his performance Antti Luusuaniemi is as compelling as Michael Fassbender in Shame.

But also Annika (Pihla Viitala) is after sex only, notorious for her rule of "six times only" (with the same man). Even she is aghast at the voracity of Ricky's appetite, the volume of his harem and his nerve in lying.

When these Venus and Adonis meet it's ecstasy for a moment, and a mess afterwards. This movie is not much about the joy of sex, although there are some beautiful erotic scenes in it, and some elegant and innocent nudity at the women's shift at the Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall.

Kuudes kerta is an intriguing and attractive film which I look forward to seeing again. However, in the screenplay there is a sense of indetermination. The characters are drawn like in a romantic comedy: they are stereotypes (Ricky is a cocky real estate agent and Annika a goofy private detective) struggling to come alive as individuals as interpreted by the talented and charismatic actors. There is also a real dimension of tragedy in the account of the destructive addiction which breaks homes and threatens sanity. From this material it might also be plausible to develop a melodrama, with the full passion and excess which the subject-matter deserves. A fourth alternative would be to create a purely personal work, refusing genre conventions. But no clear decision has been made about the basic approach.

I was touched to observe that the movie has been expressively shot on location in my very neighbourhood of Ullanlinna in Helsinki, and also my regular bath, the Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall. In fact, I had just been there before entering the cinema.

Random observations: – Comical music in lovemaking scenes (compare with Fellini Casanova). – "Ausus. Truudus" ("Honesty. Fidelity" in Estonian). – Towards the end: Annika outside looking into her lost home life (a key image in the melodramas of Douglas Sirk). – Ricky avoids mentioning a woman's name because there are so many that he might mix them. – Through Ricky we get a glimpse at the Finnish-Swedish community in Helsinki and Åland. – Final mottoes:

"He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass,
and he hath set darkness in my paths.
He hath stripped me of my glory,
and taken the crown from my head.
He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone:
and mine hope hath he removed like a tree.
- The Book of Job (King James translation)

"That he is not you.
That she is not me.

With an endless series of lovers one risks losing one's identity and personality. These final mottoes indicate a profound quest by Maarit Lalli, a work that would explore the obsession with an anonymous, uncommitted sex affair in the tradition of Antonioni, Bertolucci, and others. She has talent for a genre affair or more personal serious work.

The attention of the audience was intense in this premiere weekend screening.

Shot by Teppo Högman, Kuudes kerta is distinguished with eloquent location shooting which includes an impressive sequence on the island of Åland. There is a liberal use of the autumn colours of Helsinki, and a display of good taste in the erotic scenes. Digital keeps getting better.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Amedeo Modigliani (an exhibition at Ateneum)

Amedeo Modigliani: Head of a Woman (1911). Musée National d’Art Moderne / Centre de création industrielle – Centre Pompidou, Paris. © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Philippe Migeat. – Please do click on the images to enlarge them!

Amedeo Modigliani: Reclining Nude with Loose Hair (1917). Osaka City Museum of Modern Art, Japan. Photo: Osaka City Museum of Modern Art.

Amedeo Modigliani: Portrait of the Artist Léopold Survage (1918). Finnish National Gallery/Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

Amedeo Modigliani: Maternity (1919). Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle, deposited in LaM, Lille métropole musée d’art moderne, d’art contemporain et d’art brut, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Donation of Geneviève and Jean Masurel in 1979. Photo: Philip Bernard.
Man Ray: Amedeo Modigliani's death mask (1929). Musée National d’Art Moderne / Centre de création industrielle – Centre Pompidou, Paris. © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Guy Carrard. © Man Ray Trust / Kuvasto 2016

Amedeo Modigliani. An exhibition at Ateneum / Finnish National Gallery, 28 Oct 2016–5 Feb 2017
    The Helsinki leg of a touring exhibition previously seen in Lille and Budapest.
    The international book to the touring exhibition:
    Amedeo Modigliani: The Inner Eye. [Editors n.c.]. Contributors: Damien Castelain, Sophie Lévy, Jeanne-Bathilde Lacourt, Marie-Amélie Senot, Kenneth Wayne, Marc Décimo, Sophie Krebs, Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, Stéphanie Verdavaine. Printed in Belgium on the presses of Geers Offset, Ghent. Paris: Editions Gallimard / LaM [Lille Métropole d'Art Moderne, d'Art Contemporain et d'Art Brut], 2016.
    The Finnish book to the exhibition:
    Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff (ed.): Amedeo Modigliani. Contibutors: Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, Timo Huusko. Ateneumin julkaisut n:o 85. Printed at Premedia Helsinki. Published in two editions: Finnish and Swedish. Helsinki: Kansallisgalleria / Ateneumin taidemuseo, 2016.
    Visited on 5 Nov 2016 and 17 Dec 2016.

From the official press introduction: "An exhibition of the work of the painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) opens at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland, on Friday 28 October 2016. The exhibition, which was on display in Lille and Budapest prior to Helsinki, will present the multifaceted life and work of the Italian artist. Modigliani, who died on the verge of fame at the early age of 35, is one of the most interesting artists in modern art today. The works on display constitute the largest Modigliani retrospective in the Nordic countries to date."

"The Ateneum collection includes what is presumably the only Finnish-owned Modigliani oil painting, Portrait of the Artist Léopold Survage (1918). When the Modigliani exhibition was being put together, a letter sent by Léopold Survage to the Ateneum in 1956 was discovered in the museum archives, in which he describes the circumstances around the painting's creation and its provenance. The correspondence was related to the acquisition of the Modigliani piece and its inclusion in the Ateneum collection in 1955. The letter presents new information on Modigliani for international research. Léopold Survage (1879–1968) was one of Modigliani's closest artist friends."

"Amedeo Modigliani is known particularly for his sensuous portrayals of women. This top international exhibition will provide an opportunity to explore Modigliani's diverse work, and his life in the Montparnasse district, which was the centre of artistic life in Paris in the early part of the 20th century. Modigliani wanted to use his sculptures and paintings to create a new kind of aesthetic that would bring together art from different eras and continents. His fascinating portraits, mystical sculptures, and sensuous nudes present a picture of an international, ambitious and educated artist."

"The inner circle of the charismatic Modigliani included painters, sculptors, writers, poets and composers. Modigliani's lady friends – the poet Anna Akhmatova, the art critic Beatrice Hastings, and the art student Jeanne Hébuterne – also played a significant role in his art and life. The exhibition will also feature works by Modigliani's artist friends, such as Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brâncuși. A total of 83 paintings, sculptures and paper-based works will be on display."

"The exhibition coincides with the publication of a book that presents Modigliani's art and his eventful life. The work is the first Finnish-language publication on the artist in decades. The book will also be available in Swedish. An English-language exhibition catalogue, specifically produced for the touring exhibition, will also be for sale at the Ateneum."

"The exhibition has been produced by La Réunion des Musées Nationaux (RMN) / Grand Palais, and the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, in association with the Hungarian National Gallery / Museum of Fine Arts Budapest, and the Ateneum Art Museum. The chief curator of the Modigliani exhibition is Sophie Lévy, who previously worked as the director of the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art. The other curators of the exhibition are Jeanne-Bathilde Lacourt and Marie-Amélie Senot. The chief curators Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff and Timo Huusko are responsible for the exhibition at the Ateneum end.

AA: All autumn Amedeo Modigliani has been drawing big crowds to Ateneum, the Finnish National Gallery. The touring exhibition is based on the collections of the Lille Métropole d'Art Moderne; their holdings, in turn, based on a donation by Geneviève and Jean Masurel, heirs to the Roger Dutilleul collection. This is the largest Modigliani exhibition seen in the Nordic countries, and at least a half of the visitors are from abroad.

The winter solstice is drawing near – the darkest time of the year, when the sun shines for only six hours, even then crawling next to the horizon –, and Modigliani is perfect colour therapy. One of the most profound elements of his art is the Mediterranean glow of the sun. Many Modigliani paintings bathe in warm colour. I like to get next to them in the exhibition, to feel the heat. I carry the exhibition books with me and compare the colour worlds. The books fail to convey Modigliani's fire.

The selection is selective but representative, covering the range of Modigliani's quest. We see his sketches, drawings, sculptures, portraits, and nudes. His Jewish context and his influences in ancient and African art are covered. There are displays of the Parisian art milieu of his age.

The chief curator Sophie Lévy and the curators Jeanne-Bathilde Lacourt and Marie-Amélie Seno quote three aspects that have guided their selection. They want to explore how an artist with a classical heritage creates universal beauty by drawing on ancient and non-Western art. They want to question the received image of the marginalized loner in discovering Modigliani's rich cultural milieu. And they want to give a special focus on the role of Roger Dutilleul in the recognition of "Modi the Maudit".

In his art Modigliani aspired at the universal. At the same time he was proud of his Jewish identity, having grown in a loving Sephardi family and community in Livorno. Modigliani made a point of signing not only his own name but also the names of his Jewish sitters in his portraits, including those of Max Jacob, Moïse Kisling, Chaïm Soutine, Jacques Lipschitz, and Henri Epstein (who would die in Auschwitz in 1944). A special feature of the exhibition is a display of paintings of Modigliani's Jewish fellow artists such as Kisling and Soutine.

Modigliani belonged to the first significant generation of Jewish fine artists. There had been single masters such as Mark Antokolsky in Russia and Camille Pissarro in France, but never before a full generation. The true history of Jewish fine arts starts in the 19th century, and the bloom starts in the 20th. The background to such a delay is in the Biblical image ban in the Ten Commandments the First or the Second, depending on the edition. It has been argued that American Abstract Expressionism after WWII is not in conflict with the image ban since the paintings are not figurative, not representational of concrete reality.

Modigliani's art was always figurative and representational, but never in a straightforwardly realistic way. The depiction is reduced. The form is stylized. The figures are elongated. There is a sense of something broken. The affinity to ancient images is evident. Like in sculpture, eyes are often merely indicated also in paintings. The other eye may be empty: one eye is the exterior one, the other is the inner eye.

We are remembering the centenary of the First World War. On Sunday, 18 December, we have the centenary of the end of the Battle of Verdun of 1916, the second bloodiest battle in history, only surpassed by the Battle of Stalingrad. Over 700.000 died in the meaningless massacre of Verdun.

In the history of art, WWI meant the end of the Belle Époque. Modernist trends that had started in the 19th century became dominant. As an artist working in the figurative and representational continuum, Modigliani was not among the leading Modernists, but his oeuvre is relevant from viewpoints of Symbolism, Expressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. He was among the artists that were included in the Cabaret Voltaire ensemble in 1916, a hundred years ago. There is a sense of a volcanic force about to erupt in many of his works. At the same time there is a sense of the atavistic in his reverence of the bold stylization of classical and ancient art. In Modigliani's late work there is a unique synthesis of the starkly reduced form and a sensitivity to the telling individual detail. All basking in glorious, often warm, colour.

A hundred years ago Modigliani embarked on his cycle of nudes of which he painted several dozen during 19161919, commissioned by his dealer Léopold Zborowski. They brought him a certain notoriety as the police asked them to remove the nudes from the storefront of Modigliani's only solo exhibition. Although highly reduced and stylized, Modigliani's nudes often displayed pubic hair, rarely seen in classical art. Modigliani's nudes were far from obscene. Rather, Modigliani's faith was the same as Rodin's: in art, everything is sacred.

What was obscene was the skyrocketing of the market value of Modigliani as soon as he was dead. There is a true mystery in Modigliani like in Van Gogh. Both failed to receive decent financial compensation for their works during their lifetimes. The market value of both spiralled to surreal heights after their deaths.

Modigliani's idiosyncratic and reduced style is easy to imitate. Elmyr de Hory created dozens of "new Modiglianis" in the master's style, appreciated by experts until de Hory was exposed. There has also been the Christian Parisot affair. In 2015, Modigliani's Nu couché Paris 1917 was sold at Christie's US at over 170 million dollars. Sums like that make it easy to understand the temptation of Modigliani for forgers and swindlers. (Elmyr de Hory was not necessarily a forger, but he was a swindler because he did not sign his works in his own name).

As a teenager Modigliani caught tuberculosis, then the leading cause of death. During his short life he was always aware of its brevity. He worked and lived like in a fever. He was an alcoholic and a drug addict or he pretended to be so to lead people's attention away from his TB. He was not a recluse. When he died there was an enormous funeral of mourners.

He pretended to be a corrupt primitive, but he was a deeply cultured man who knew by heart passages or whole works by Dante, Nietzsche, and Comte de Lautréamont, among many others. His closest friends included the poets Anna Akhmatova and Beatrice Hastings.

Film-relevant: I am fond of Jacques Becker's Montparnasse 19 / Les Amants de Montparnasse (1958) starring Gérard Philipe (Modigliani), Anouk Aimée (Jeanne Hébuterne), Lilli Palmer (Beatrice Hastings) – and Lino Ventura as the art dealer just waiting in the background for Modigliani's death, after which he knows his market value will explode. Many things may be wrong in this movie, but Becker had a strong sense of the death drive. (Max Ophuls, the original director, had just died. Philipe would die next year, and Becker the year after that. They lived the part.).

Film-relevant also: on display is also Modigliani's portrait of Gaston Modot (1918) which I last saw at Centre Pompidou two years ago; I believe it had then been recently rediscovered for the public view. Gaston Modot (1887–1970) was, among other things, an acteur-fétiche of the French cinema from 1909 until 1964, starring in Luis Buñuel's L'Age d'Or and Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu, among some 330 other films. He was a comic talent who portrayed a "stubborn kind of fellow" for those two masters.

Both books to the exhibition are worthwhile. The international book to the touring show includes illustrations of many works which are not exhibited at Ateneum. On the other hand, we see at Ateneum works that are not included among the illustrations of the international book, but illustrations of those works appear in the Finnish book. The international book is eminently readable, and a favourite chapter of mine is Marc Décimo's "Modigliani: Modern Man of Letters".

The Finnish Modigliani book is an introduction for the general audience, but it also has an article of expert interest: Timo Huusko on the portrait of Léopold Survage (1918), presumably the only Modigliani painting in a Finnish holding. The portrait dates from the same year and has the same approach as the Gaston Modot portrait, by the way. I had been under the impression that Survage was born in Finland, at Lappeenranta (Villmanstrand), during Finland's years as a part of the Russian Empire. Even on the frame of that painting there is the writing "Le peintre finlandais Survage", but it turns out that only Survage's grandfather had been born in Lappeenranta, and Survage just performed his military service there. In 1918 Modigliani also painted the portrait of a woman whom Survage would meet three years later and who would become his wife Germaine Survage. That painting is also displayed at Ateneum.

The illustrations in the book look lovely, but they literally pale in comparison with the originals. The colours in the books are dimmer or paler or both.

P.S. 30 Dec 2016. Modigliani belongs to the most recognizable artists because of his unique signature style. But not all works on display are truly great, including the big nude poster shot (see above). There is a touch of the decorative and the commecial, although, tragically, Modigliani himself never got to enjoy the financial success of his art.

Stories of Finnish Art II: Modernism (a new hanging of the permament collection of Ateneum / Finnish National Gallery)

Sam Vanni: Polydimensional Space (1961). Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen. - Sam Vanni (1908-1992) was a pioneer of Finnish abstract art. Together with his girlfriend Tove Jansson he also frequented the first Finnish film society Projektio in the mid-1930s.

Helena Pylkkänen: Giannicolo (1976). Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen. - I understand that Giannicolo is a "lovers' lane" in Rome.

Suomen taiteen tarina / Historier inom finsk konst / Stories of Finnish Art. A new display of the permanent collection of Ateneum / Finnish National Gallery. Part Two: Modernism, covering the 1950s and 1960s opened on 6 September 2016.
    The exhibition team included the museum director Susanna Pettersson, the chief curator Timo Huusko, the curator Anu Utriainen, the special researcher Erkki Anttonen, the archive and library manager Hanna-Leena Paloposki, and the director of collections management Riitta Ojanperä. The experimental exhibition design is by Marcel Schmalgemeijer, and the graphic design of the exhibition space is by Mariëlle Tolenaar, both from the Netherlands.
    The illustrations in the book to the exhibition only partly overlap with the actual exhibition: most of the works in the exhibition are missing from the book, and half of the illustrations of the book cover works not exhibited.
    Visited on 10 September, 2016, and many times afterwards.

From the Ateneum press release: "The exhibition is complemented with modern art from the post-war years, when the three halls on the first floor open to the public on Tuesday 6 September 2016. The additions include works from the Ateneum collections from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s."

"The works highlight the post-Second World War reconstruction period and the emergent media society. The exhibition features paintings, sculptures and prints by Finnish and foreign artists such as Anitra Lucander, Unto Pusa, Ulla Rantanen, Anita Snellman, Sam Vanni and Andy Warhol. Prints by foreign artists are exhibited on a regularly changing basis: the first in the series is David Hockney. The exhibition also includes Eino Ruutsalo's experimental films and commercials."

""The post-Second World War art history reflects the change that had taken place in society. It also reflects the artists' desire to find new ways of expression, even if this meant taking risks. Breaking the mould of convention was not easy, but it was necessary", says the museum director Susanna Pettersson."

"In Finland, the period from 1950 to 1970 was a time of migration from the countryside to the industrialising cities. The breakthrough of modernism meant a major transformation in art. The makers of concrete art focused on form and colour, while others explored the off-shoots of surrealism or painted the world as it appeared to them."

"The importance of international art increased. In 1961, the Ateneum Art Museum organised the first ARS exhibition, which introduced Finland to Italian, French and Spanish informalism. The influence of informalism also showed in the work of many Finnish artists."

"Newspapers, radio and television provided snapshots of political crises and wars, but they also covered underground culture, the hippie movement, and phenomena in pop culture. Art was used to make statements, and the artists' media ranged from pop art to performance art, environmental art, and conceptual art.
" - From the Ateneum press release

AA: This modern leg of the new permanent Ateneum exhibition has been dear to me during all autumn. (I am writing these remarks in December).

The hanging is attractive and sympathetic. There are thematic links (the seasons in the lobby, 1-4) and contexts of expression (form and colour in the first room, 5-23). There is room for experimentation (second room, 24-44) and reactions to the pop world of media (room three, 45-54). Although the title of the exhibition is "Stories of Finnish Art" there are also samples of international art for reflection.

Here we can visit sober still lifes with windows by Veikko Vionoja and witness the gentle surrealism of Otto Mäkilä (The Tower). The seasons are covered by Aimo Kanerva, Unto Koistinen, and Mauri Favén. I like very much the room of abstractions, how the paintings are hung. Unto Pusa's Watermill in Kuusamo, and Juhana Blomstedt's Composition (Signa) are among the treats. The colourism of Rafael Wardi is like sunlight in the room.

There are sets of prints by Pentti Kaskipuro and David Hockney; this part of the exhibition will be rotated. Giannicolo is a sensual and uninhibited sample of the bronzes of the sculptor Helena Pylkkänen. Pop art is represented by Paul Osipow, assemblage sculpture by Edward Kienholz, and conceptual art by J. O. Mallander.

Eino Ruutsalo the kinetic artist has three short films on display: Kinetic Images, The Eagle and The Jump, with jazz music by Henrik Otto Donner. The films are looped on a monitor from a data file.

Among the 55 works obvious choices alternate with discoveries. There do seem to be stories hidden in the display. The most interesting stories are internal ones, and there are special discoveries to be made in room one, the one with the abstractions.

These works speak to us and with each other.


Sunday, October 09, 2016

Rudolf Kurtz: Expressionismus und Film (a book)

Paul Leni: cover design for Rudolf Kurtz: Expressionismus und Film (1926)

An illustration in Rudolf Kurtz's book.

Rudolf Kurtz: Expressionism und Film. An art book by Verlag der Lichtbühne, Berlin 1926. With 73 reproductions, 5 colour plates and a cover illustration by Paul Leni.
    Nachdruck Zürich 2007 (Chronos), Herausgegeben und mit einem Nachwort versehen von Christian Kiening und Ulrich Johannes Beil.
    Read in the English edition:
    Rudolf Kurtz: Expressionism and Film. Edited with an afterword by Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil. Translated by: Brenda Benthien. Printed and bound in China. Distributed by: Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Published by: Herts: John Libbey Publishing Ltd., 2016.
In Pordenone at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the excellent programme catalogue, but there was also another splendid book in the guest package – a copy of Expressionism and Film by Rudolf Kurtz.

I have known since my school days the classic books on Weimar cinema by Lotte H. Eisner (L'Ecran démoniaque) and Siegfried Kracauer (From Caligari to Hitler). I think they were available at the Tampere city library, and I soon acquired copies of my own.

Eisner and Kracauer both relied on the first classic book on the topic – Rudolf Kurtz's Expressionism and Film – but I had never come to read it before now.

This book is very well written. Rudolf Kurtz was himself an insider in the German expressionist movement. We get a unique and privileged look into the birth of expressionism and the artistic atmosphere surrounding it, including trends in Picasso (Horta de Ebro, 1909) and Chagall (Naissance II, 1918) and the discovery of African art and the art of the insane. There are passages on sculpture, architecture, music, theatre, pantomime (Valeska Gert), and typography.

"Of all art forms, film seems to be the least like art and the most like nature". This condition of naturalism was challenged by the expressionists, most famously in Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, approaching the condition of painting. Kurtz studies aspects of art direction, technology, and cinematography in making this happen. "Light breathed soul into expressionistic films".

Kurtz focuses on the few key films: Caligari (the beginning which "has never been surpassed"), Von Morgens bis Mitternacht, Genuine, Das Haus zum Mond, Raskolnikow, and Das Wachsfigurenkabinett, and also gives comments on expressionist elements in film in general, including works such as Die Bergkatze, Nosferatu, Die Nibelungen, Hintertreppe, and Die Strasse.

But even more generally: "Expressionism lent a hand whenever there was a need to express a particular kind of muted energy that was poised to spring, or whenever one strove to depict the sense of a situation beyond its outward appearance. Whether the liveliness of a cosmopolitan street or the oddness of a setting was to be rendered on a deeper level of consciousness, expressionist form was called on to provide the effect". These remarks seem valid even for film, television, and cyber games today.

There is an excellent chapter on abstract art. Kurtz on Malevich: "Light and dark, direction and expansion organize the visual space into a battlefield of motion". Film-relevant names include Man Ray, Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, Fernand Léger, Walther Ruttmann, and Francis Picabia.

Kurtz analyzes the contributions of the director, the screenwriter, the actor, and the art director. He is frank about the limitations of the expressionist film, a topic to which is devoted a chapter of its own. In 1926 Kurtz saw expressionism already as a phenomenon of the past. "Expressionism as a strict art form is no longer current". "Wherever there is movement, there is change in the world; uniformity is paralysis of the soul. All paths lead toward the goal, but only a bolt of lightning can spark a flame".

The editors, Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil provide an extensive and useful apparatus of notation and a highly rewarding sixty-page afterword which helps us understand the context and impact of Rudolf Kurtz's work. They also expand the list of relevant films with titles such as Verlogene Moral, Erdgeist, and Algol, and later related works like Shinel, Geheimnisse einer Seele, and Metropolis which had not been released by the time of the publication of Kurtz's book.

Kiening and Beil document the reception history of the book. It is also fascinating to learn about Kurtz's reaction to Eisner's work: "You are missing the central premise of my book. For me, Expressionism is not an artistic genre, but the expression of a world crisis".

Read today, Kurtz's work turns out to be one of the foundation works of studying film from the perspective of art history. It is based on first-hand observations and written in a style ranging from sober commentary to inspired generalizations. With its excellent illustrations it is also itself a work of art within the expressionist movement.