Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tom of Finland

Tom of Finland. The revelation. Touko's (Pekka Strang) greatest supporter has been all his life his sister Kaija (Jessica Grabowsky), but she has had no idea of his career as Tom of Finland. Please click on the image to enlarge it.

FI 2017 © Helsinki-Filmi. PC: Helsinki-Filmi. With: Anagram Väst (Sweden), Fridthjof Film (Denmark), and Neutrinos Productions (Germany). P: Aleksi Bardy, Miia Haavisto, Annika Sucksdorff. D: Dome Karukoski. SC: Aleksi Bardy ‒ based on a story by Aleksi Bardy and Dome Karukoski. Cin: Lasse Frank Johannessen. PD: Christian Olander. AD: Lotta Bergman, Ricardo Molina, Astrid Poeschke, Riina Sipiläinen. Set dec: Christoph Merg. Cost: Anna Vilppunen. M: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Lasse Enersen. "Suomen laulu" (Fredrik Pacius, Emil von Qvanten, Taavi Hahl, Aleksanteri Rahkonen). Claude Debussy: "Préludes: Premier livre: 8: La fille aux cheveux de lin". S: Niclas Merits. ED: Harri Ylönen.
    Art: Tom of Finland.
    C: Pekka Strang (Touko / Tom), Lauri Tilkanen (Veli / Nipa), Jessica Grabowsky (Kaija), Taisto Oksanen (Alijoki), Seumas Sargent (Doug), Niklas Hogner (Kake), Jakob Oftebro (Jack), Kari Hietalahti (Sahlin).
    Loc: Finland, Sweden, Germany, Spain, and Los Angeles. Language: Finnish and English and some German. 116 min
    The film is a part of the Finland 100 jubileum program.
    2K DCP with Finnish / Swedish subtitles (n.c.) released by Finnkino Oy. Premiere: 24 Feb 2017.
    Viewed at Tennispalatsi Scape, sound system Dolby Atmos, Helsinki, 25 Feb 2017.

Tom of Finland is the first Finnish fiction feature film on love between men. (There has been a film on love between women, Tuija-Maija Niskanen's Avskedet / Jäähyväiset / The Farewell [1982], a Swedish-Finnish co-production of a Finnish story). Tom of Finland is a fascinating story on the gay history of Finland. The trajectory from repression to liberation within a lifetime has universal significance. Even more generally, Tom of Finland is an engrossing tale about the courage and pride of "this above all: thine own self be true".

Touko Laaksonen (1920‒1991) was a graphic artist and cartoonist whose homoerotic visions influenced gay culture worldwide, including gay clubs and bars, Village People and Freddie Mercury. He was an inventor in gay pornographic imagery often featuring policemen, firemen, bikers, soldiers, and lumberjacks. His images radiated self-confidence and a sense of humour.

I stumbled upon the art of Tom of Finland for the first time as a student in West Berlin in the early 1980s. I did not even know whether Tom was really Finnish, nor did hardly anybody in Finland. Tom's secret was revealed in Finland first in 1990 in the Image magazine, a year before his death.

When we mounted Finland's first gay and lesbian film retrospective at Cinema Orion in 1989 we were concerned about the reception and expected it to be a flop, but it became our all-time most successful retrospective. The retrospective stretched over months, there were queues on the street, and the cinema was packed. Soon after several gay bars emerged at Eerikinkatu and in the neighbourhood, and even a short-lived gay bookstore popped up. Even then we were not aware of Tom's Finnish identity.

The first Tom movie, Ilppo Pohjola's Daddy and the Muscle Academy (1991), made in collaboration with Touko Laaksonen himself, had its premiere at the Cinema theatre in the same month when Laaksonen died. I'll never forget the teams of young girls coming to Cinema... perhaps to admire the giant tools of Tom's bikers and lumberjacks, abundantly on display in the film. Which reminds us that Tom never ignored hyperbole as a basic principle of pornographic fiction.

Tom of Finland the movie gives new insights to the man and the phenomenon.

Touko's war trauma is powerfully conveyed. (In WWII Finland fought the USSR in two wars, 1939‒1940 and 1941‒1944, and Germany in 1944‒1945). Touko fights valiantly as an officer and is decorated in the 1941-1944 war but after the war he gets psychotic. He suffers from insomnia and nightmares, and bangs at his piano at night. His sister Kaija does her best to help him.

During the war Tom admired Nazi uniforms although he, being gay, was radically and fundamentally anti-Nazi. Tom's nightmare memory of having stabbed to death a Soviet paratrooper transforms into a vision of masculinity inspired by the dead soldier's face that he can never forget.

The film provides a lively account of the hidden gay life in Finland when homosexuality was illegal (until 1971) and classified as an illness (until 1981). I do not remember seeing accounts of Finnish gay parties from the period before. There were informers and police raids. Touko's diplomat friend Alijoki (Taisto Oksanen) is caught and sent to the Lapinlahti mental hospital where he decides to "reform".

In Finland Touko lives a double life but in California he receives a hero's welcome. Gay men thank him for the pride of their very existence as homosexuals. He has become a worldwide inspiration for a generation of gay men. "You made these different boys feel special".

Touko's partner all his life is Nipa (Lauri Tilkanen) who dies of lung cancer. The deathbed farewell is moving and humoristic with a white rabbit smuggled in to give company to Nipa.

Touko's most important helper all his life is his sister Kaija (Jessica Grabowsky), but she has had no idea of her brother's double life. First after Nipa's death Touko reveals her his secret life as Tom of Finland (see image above). "They appreciate me out there". Examining her brother's drawings Kaija is endlessly shocked and repelled at "the filthy pictures" in one of the strongest scenes of the movie.

When the AIDS epidemic breaks out in 1981 Touko takes full responsibility. "I caused all that". He blames himself for having inspired men to something that has turned lethal. The war trauma and the AIDS trauma are the two biggest crises of Touko's life. Touko stops drawing but starts again ‒ now at first focusing on safe sex and condom use. In his last years he is finally publicly acclaimed as an artist for the general audience and his art is displayed in respectable galleries such as Amos Anderson in Helsinki.

Pekka Strang gives a strong performance in the starring role. He incarnates the different ages of Touko Laaksonen believably. He carries the crucial crises and turning-points with conviction.

Overall the movie would have deserved a Viagra shot. Perhaps the fact that a 12-rated film was made of a 18-rated subject has discouraged the film-makers somewhat. Meanwhile the Tom phenomenon has become domesticated. From Tom's taboo status in the 1980s he has changed into a national pet featured in postage stamps and Finlayson bedsheets and towels. Tom's men have even been compared with Moomin trolls.

In the Tennispalatsi Scape screening the visual look seemed needlessly bleak.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Un carnet de bal (2011 digital restoration by Gaumont at 130 min)

Tanssiaiskortti / Efter balen / Spiel der Erinnerung. FR 1937. PC: Productions Sigma. Original distributor: Les Films Vog. EX: Jean Lévy-Strauss. P: Jean-Pierre Frogerais. D: Julien Duvivier. Ass D: Charles Dorat. SC: Julien Duvivier, Henri Jeanson, Yves Mirande, Jean Sarment, Pierre Wolff, Bernard Zimmer. CIN: Philippe Agostini, Michel Kelber, Pierre Levent. PD: Jean Douarinou. Set dec: Paul Colin, Serge Piménoff. SFX: Paul Minine, Nicolas Wilcké. M: Maurice Jaubert. Theme tune: "Valse grise" (Maurice Jaubert). "O magnum mysterium" (a Gregorian hymn from the Middle Ages). S: Jacques Carrère, Roger Rampillon. ED: André Versein.
    C: Marie Bell (Christine de Guérande devenue Christine Surgère), Maurice Bénard (Brémond, ami fidèle de Christine), Françoise Rosay (Marguerite Audié, the insane mother, mother of Georges Audié), Louis Jouvet (Pierre Verdier, dit Jo, night club owner), Harry Baur (Alain Regnault, devenu le père Dominique), Pierre-Richard Willm (Eric Irvin, alpine guide and ski coach), Raimu (François Patusset, mayor), Pierre Blanchar (Thierry Raynal, the dubious doctor), Fernandel (Fabien Coutissol, hairdresser for ladies), Robert Lynen (Jacques Dambreval, the son of Gérard Dambreval), Milly Mathis (Cécile Galtéry, Patusset's fiancée, his former maid), Sylvie (Gaby, Thierry's lover), Andrex (Paul, Patusset's adopted mauvais fils), Jeanne Fusier-Gir (magazine seller in Marseilles), La Manécanterie des Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois / The Little Singers of Paris (the child singers), Pierre Alcover (Teddy), Roger Legris (Mélanco), Alfred Adam (Fred), Peggy Bonny (nightclub hostess), Simone Gauthier (a young woman in her first ball), Marguerite Ducouret (the mother of the young woman).
    Helsinki premiere: 14.1.1938 at the Capitol, distributed by Kosmos-Filmi Oy – telecast 24.4.1976 TV2, 4.10.1988 TV1 – classification: 21282 – K16 – 3300 m / 120 min
    2K DCP from Gaumont (2011 digital restoration supported by the CNC, 130 min).
    Viewed with e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Julien Duvivier), 23 Feb 2017

Catalogue des films françaises, IMDb, Wikipedia  144 min
Variety  135 min
Tulard  132 min
Time Out and Gaumont DCP+dvd 130 min
Sadoul 125 min
Lourcelles  123 min
Gaumont 2016 blu-ray  120 min
British Film Institute National Archive 112 min
Motion Picture Guide  109 min
KAVI nitrate print  105 min
Desrichard: Julien Duvivier  2800 m = 102 min

IMDb synopsis: "Christine, newly widowed and consumed by the memory of a ball she attended age 16, decides to track down the men she danced with that night and discover their fates."

A ghostly waltz by Maurice Jaubert carries Julien Duvivier's multi-character study Un carnet de bal which at the time was lauded by some as the best film of all times and in any case with Pépé le Moko represented a double whammy of an international breakthrough for Duvivier. Un carnet de bal inspired a revival of the episode / multi-character format in the cinema, and Duvivier himself returned to the concept in Hollywood in Lydia, Manhattan, and Flesh and Fantasy. Of more recent affinities I would quote Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers but I have no idea whether Jarmusch even knows Duvivier's film.

Today Un carnet de bal seldom appears even on a shortlist of Duviviers's major films, and I wonder why. In Finland it has always been revered, not least thanks to Peter von Bagh who valued it highly as one of the cinema's great journeys into memory. "The past lives in the present", a watchword in Un carnet du bal, comes deep into Peter's territory. Duvivier in Un carnet de bal has an assured approach in the dream mode, the very life current of the cinema. The film is compelling, bitter, funny, and profoundly ironic. ("Toute la vie, toute la vie" said the dancing partners to Christine betweeen waltzes.)

On her journey into the past Christine meets the men who had loved her before she got married and sees what has happened to their dreams. Her journey is an actual trip all across France, including the Alps and the port of Marseilles. Having discovered her teenage dance card she is equipped by her good friend with an up-to-date list of addresses based on which she can plan a trajectory for a train journey.

But on her search of the men in her life she is also really in search of herself. As a young girl she was a beautiful illusion to the men who loved her. The years have changed Christine, too. The first ball of hers took place in 1919, and now we live in 1937. "I had no youth. There was no love. Solitude is the same everywhere".

The years have passed in solitude, and the men of Christine's youth are now shadows of their former selves.
    Georges Audié has killed himself, and his mother (Françoise Rosay) still lives in the past of 1919.
    Pierre Verdier (Louis Jouvet) has become a crooked night club owner.
    Alain Regnault (Harry Baur) is now Father Dominique, in charge of a boys' choir.
    Eric Irvin (Pierre-Richard Willm) is an alpine guide devoted to the mountains.
    François Patusset (Raimu) who had dreamed of becoming President of France is now the mayor of his village, about to marry his maid.
    Thierry Raynal (Pierre Blanchar) has become an illegal abortion doctor, also seemingly a heroine addict (he seems to get the cold turkey); he shoots his harridan lover.
    Fabien Coutissol (Fernandel) has become a hairdresser for ladies and a happy family father. Fabien is the only man who could truly dance, and he is the only one who invites Christine to a ball now, but during the dance they irrevokably realize that nothing is the same anymore.
    One name was missing from Christine's trajectory: Gérard Dambreval. In the finale even his address is found. He turns out to reside at the other side of the Italian lake where Christine has lived all these years. Alas, Gérard has recently died. Christine decides to take care of Jacques Dambreval, Gérard's orphan son. In the final ball Christine meets a young woman of 16...

The synopsis may sound gloomy, but humoristic and life-affirming episodes are included: those of Father Dominique and his prank-loving boys, Eric Irvin and his love of the outdoors, Raimu's comical marriage sequence, and Fernandel's gentle episode at the hairdresser's and at the ball.

The sequences had different screenwriters and cinematographers. Each episode has a distinctive visual world. The most extreme is the Thierry Raynal sequence with its skewed angles and framings.

The story is implausible from a viewpoint of realistic psychology. It is a subjective vision in which the lives of all the men in Christine's life's have been ruined in some way. Some are dead, some are living dead, and others seem to be on the run from themselves. Un carnet de bal is a film about ambition and reality, and even more profoundly it is a haunting poetic vision on the might of memory.

The men's responses to the 16 year old Christine's rejection have ranged from suicide (Georges) and suicide attempt (François) to a salvation in religion (Alain) or in the mountains (Eric). I do not find the solutions of François or Alain as escapist. The evolution of François to Father Dominique is truly moving. "When I was lost, God was good to me", and now Father Dominique is good to others. The sublime of the mountains is also a reality to Eric who is glowing with passion in his lifestyle which, however, excludes family life equally firmly as the way of Father Dominique.

Un carnet de bal has been called a pessimistic film, but I beg to differ. It is true that the dark current in the film is strong. The presumably idyllic memory of the first ball looks from the beginning ghostly, shadowy, and petrified. It does actually look and sound like a dance of death. Maurice Jaubert's legendary "Valse grise" has an affinity with Jean Sibelius's "Valse triste". During the time lapse passages of the remembered ball I am thinking about Alain Resnais (L'Année dernière à Marienbad) and the illustrations of time dilatation in Jacob Bronowski's television series The Ascent of Man. The figures of the ball seem to have been lost in some inaccessible corner of the time-space continuum like time travellers in science fiction movies such as Star Trek.

Even stronger than the "dance of death" current, though, is the panache and joie de vivre in Un carnet de bal, starting from the very feeling and atmosphere of the film, the gusto of the cast and the crew. The best actors of the country are at their best here, performing in a special mode which is not realistic but stylized in an engaging way. They relish their melancholy and pessimistic characters, and overcome and transcend them. We can sense here the French affection and reverence of the "holy monsters" of the stage. The theatrical approach is consistent, assured and intentional. The paradoxical character of the performances is at its most pointed in the "hell on earth" sequence with Pierre Blanchar as Thierry Raynal and its affinities with Céline's Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932).

While some characters have been lost to a morbid yearning for a lost love of youth, others have healthily overcome it. François and Fabien are able to discuss the painful memories of loss with a sense of humour. François even jokes about his youthful suicide attempt by drowning, and recommends that every young man should try it.

Most importantly, children emerge as important characters. 18 years have gone from the fatal ball, and while Christine has remained childless, other protagonists now have children of their own, Fabien even a little daughter named Christine. Father Dominique has become a good father to the orphan boys in his choir, a good protector, as is Eric the mountain guide in his own field of work. François has a stepson who brings him only misery with his criminal predisposition. We remember Duvivier as an excellent director of children, including problem children, from his two versions of Poil de Carotte. In the final sequence Christine, in search of the final partner of her dance catalogue, finds he is dead but that he has left an orphan son, Jacques, whom Christine now will adopt, making her a mother after all.

There are 11 different versions of Un carnet de bal, and I made a superficial attempt to find an expert to comment on them but did not find any. At Gaumont they announced us a duration of 105 minutes but when the DCP arrived it was 130 min, apparently the longest available version. 14 minutes are still missing.

The cinematography by Philippe Agostini, Michel Kelber, and Pierre Levent is masterful. The breathtaking Italian lake landscape in the beginning immediately strikes a note of transcendence. The journey takes us into milieux that are different in the extreme: the profane and the holy, the mountains and the sea, Paris and the countryside. Un carnet de bal is a film about escapism but it also satisfies a certain appetite for escapism. No wonder it was a blockbuster.

A brilliant digital restoration completed in 2011 of the 130 minutes version.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Katrina poster from Svensk Filmdatabas.

Katrina poster from Nordic Film Posters.

Katriina. SE 1943. PC: AB Svensk Filmindustri (Stockholm). P: Harald Molander. D: Gustaf Edgren. SC: Gustaf Edgren, Oscar Rydqvist – based on the novel (1936) by Sally Salminen (Katriina in Finnish). CIN: J. Julius [Julius Jaenzon]. AD: Arne Åkermark. Makeup: Arne Lundh, Börje Lundh. M: Gunnar Johansson. Soundtrack listing: see beyond the jump break. S: Sven Hansen. ED: Oscar Rosander.
    C: Märta Ekström (Katrina Johansson), Frank Sundström (Johan Johansson, a sailor, her husband), Erik ”Hampe” Faustman (Einar Johansson, the eldest son of Katrina and Johan as a grown-up), George Fant (Gustaf Johansson, a son of Katrina and Johan as a grown-up), Birgit Tengroth (Saga Svensson, sales clerk / Mrs. Ekvall / finally Mrs. Johansson, Einar's wife), Erik ”Bullen” Berglund (Captain Zakarias Nordkvist), Henrik Schildt (Captain August Ekvall, shipowner), Kotti Chave (Einar's friend), Carl Deurell (Katrina's father), Linnéa Hillberg (Katrina's mother), Hugo Björne (a priest at the pier), Greta Berthels (Beda, an old maid at Nordkvist's), Torsten Hillberg (banker), Anna-Lisa Bruce (Serafia).
    Shooting: 18.7.–11.9.1942. Location: Torö, Nynäshamn (Stockholm's southern archipelago). Studio: Filmstaden (Råsunda).
    Helsinki premiere: 10.10.1943 Maxim, distributor: Elokuvateatteri Maxim 1–2 – classification: 24845 – K16 – 2805 m / 103 min
    A SFI Filmarkivet print, courtesy SF Studios, with e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Sain roolin johon en mahdu / [I Was Cast in a Role I Had Outgrown] / Finland 100: Great Finnish Female Writers), 22 Feb 2017

Sally Salminen (1906–1976) was a Finnish writer who won the Nordic novel prize with her Swedish-language novel Katrina which takes places on the Åland islands. While Finland is bilingual, Åland is monolingual: Swedish is the only official language. There are a thousand islands on the Åland archipelago of which 60 are inhabited. Katrina takes place on Vårdö (called Torsö in the film) which belongs to the dozen or so main entities of Åland.

Katrina the novel was a big hit in Finland and Sweden, and it was translated into 20 other languages. More than that, it launched a genre of "women of the storm cliff" literature, another famous representative of which is Anni Blomqvist from Vårdö with her series of novels about Stormskärs-Maja / Myrskyluodon Maija / [Maja from the Storm Cliff].

Katrina has been filmed only once, in Sweden, directed by Gustaf Edgren, fondly remembered as a master of rural subjects such as Driver dagg, faller regn / Rain Follows the Dew. Katrina was shot in 1942, during WWII, when Finland was at war with the USSR, and filming on Åland was impossible. Thus Katrina was shot in the Stockholm archipelago.

However, Katrina retained its identity as a Finnish story, unlike Swedish adaptations of The Song of the Scarlet Flower. Even the language selection of speaking only Swedish is correct since the protagonist comes from the land of Ostrobothnia / Pohjanmaa / Österbotten on the west coast of Finland where Swedish is often dominant. The city of Brahestad / Raahe is a traditional seaport, and in the 19th century the shipowners of the city had the biggest sailing fleet of Finland. It is a plausible that Johan and Katrina meet at a dance in that area. No precise dates are given, but the children of the Johansson family are born in the 1890s.

Katrina is an independent spirit and the daughter of the richest farm in the neighbourhood but love is crazy and blind and so she follows the poor orphan sailor Johan to Åland despite the warnings and infinite disappointment of her parents. She is expecting to find a beautiful manor with an appleyard but instead discovers a poor shack where Johan has lived alone ever since his mother died when he was 6. This is too much for Katrina and she at once decides to leave, but a priest at the pier advises her to think it over.

Johan has to leave to the sea in the morning, and Katrina starts to face a life of hard work, cleaning the house which has never been cleaned, and working long hours at the turnip field of Captain Ekvall. Immediately there is a clash of spirits between Katrina and Captain Ekvall, Johan's boss. "People from Pohjanmaa cannot be bossed around like serfs". When Captain Ekvall raises his voice Katrina shows him the door. But the "greatest danger to women" is Captain Nordkvist. Both immediately learn that Katrina will not become their plaything. "Swine!" is her comment to their advances. (Johan is an illegitimate son of the Ekvalls, presumably of the previous generation).

Much of the narrative proceeds in montages and vignettes. There are work montages and montages of the growth of the family. Little Sandra dies in infancy. The youngest son Erik dies as a jungman in a shipwreck in the service of the Ekvall fleet, in a ship of questionable seaworthiness. The Johansson family is furious of the injustice under the Ekvall rule.

Johan is not in good health, and when he and Katrina sail to Mariehamn to a doctor they land into a storm, their boat topples, and this blow to Johan's health is fatal. The son Gustaf is in love with Saga, but Gustaf is enlisted to Australia by Captain Ekvall who during Gustaf's absence betroths Saga himself and soon weds her. Gustaf takes this very hard and disappears forever; we later hear that he is dead. But three months after the wedding Captain Ekvall dies, too. On his last night in Torsö-Vårdö Gustaf had slept with the local girl Serafia who 9 months later dies of childbirth; Katrina and Saga then take care of Gustaf's baby Greta.

Einar, Katrina's eldest son, is an earnest and and hard studying man, different from his fun-loving father and brother. He has sworn revenge to the Ekvalls; he is about to ruin them forever. But seeing the reconciliation of Katrina and Saga over Greta he resigns from his plan. "This is your greatest victory" states Katrina who has been ill at ease with her most successful son. Finally Einar marries Saga whom he has loved from the start, with the feeling reciprocated, but Einar had been too focused on his studies and too slow to act compared with the rivals.

When old Katrina visits Greta's student celebration in the finale she is a stranger to the party and soon draws off. We see a sunset, a ship sailing towards us, and Katrina falling into the big sleep.

Katrina the film is a solid matter-of-fact account of a remarkable life story, a life during a time of social change, and a change in the woman's role. Katrina belongs to the great Nordic tales of matriarchy. Men are officially in charge, but women like Katrina carry the continuity and responsibility of life.

The performances of the actors are very good. Märta Ekström as Katrina the woman from Ostrobothnia who can weather any hardship. Frank Sundström as the happy-go-lucky sailor who loses his spirit when his health fails. George Fant as his fun-loving son Gustaf who falls for the first time seriously in love and breaks his heart. Hampe Faustman as the unsmiling and determined Einar. Birgit Tengroth as Saga, the wonder woman of Åland. It is entirely plausible that all men fall for her.

I love the soundtrack of this film (see detailed notes beyond the jump break). This is still the time when people were singing, before the breakthrough of music based on mechanical reproduction. There is even a silent cinema sequence with live piano music: in a newsreel we see the proud young captain Einar Johansson who has been in charge of a successful rescue mission.

The cinematographer is none other than Julius Jaenzon, the wizard of Sjöström and Stiller, on the last leg of an unforgettable career, still at it beautifully, facing the elements, shooting on location, capturing the magic of the sea, the sky, and the land. The footage of the tall sailing ships may be stock footage.

The brilliant print looks like it might have been struck from the original negative.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Nadira as Princess Rajshree at the royal torture chamber.

Aan: Nadira as Princess Rajshree, abducted by Jai Tilak (Dilip Kumar).

Aan: Nadira as Princess Rajshree learns to sow.

आन / آن / [Proud] / Salaperäinen Intia / Mangala – flickan från Indien [title in Sweden, title on print] / Det hemligsfulla Indien [title in announcements] / The Savage Princess / Mangala, fille des Indes / Mangala – indische Liebe und Leidenschaft. IN 1952. PC: Mehboob Productions. EX: V. J. Shah, M. A. Qureshi. P+D: Mehboob Khan. Ass D: Chimankant Gandhi, S. A. Master, Mehrish, S. M. Sarkar, Ahmed Sheikh. SC: R. S. Choudhury, S. Ali Raza (dialogue). CIN: Faredoon A. Irani – negative: 16 mm Gevacolor – released as a 35 mm blow-up in Technicolor. AD: M. R. Achrekar. Art department: D. R. Jadhav. Cost: Fazal Din, Alla Ditta, Chagan Juvan. Makeup: Abdul Kader, Gafoor Miya. Hair: Tony Tehan. M: Naushad. Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni. CH: Surya Kumar. S: J. P. Kaushi. ED: Shamsudin Kadri.
    C: Dilip Kumar (Jai Tilak), Nadira (Princess Rajshree), Nimmi (Mangala), Premnath (Prince Shamsher Singh), Murad (Maharadja), Mukri (Chandan, Jai's friend), Amir Banu (Jai's mother), Cuckoo (guest performance as a dancer), Sheela Naik, Maya, Abdul, Nilambai, Aca Mahraj.
    Studio: Central Studios, Tardeo (Mumbai).
    In Urdu, songs in Hindi. 4435 m / 161 min. International release versions: 88 min, 101 min, 105 min.
    Helsinki premiere: 23.4.1954 Adlon, distributed by: Filmi-Leijona Oy, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Bror Labart – VET 40167 – K16 – 2855 m / 104 min
    A vintage 104 min print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (History of the Cinema), 21 Feb 2017

Plot from Wikipedia: "A royal Indian family consists of the Emperor Maharaj (Murad), his brother Shamsher Singh (Premnath) and sister Rajshree (Nadira). A local village leader named Jai Tilak (Dilip Kumar) enters a contest to tame Princess Rajshree's horse and after he is successful Shamsher challenges him to a game of fencing. Jai is declared the winner of the fight after much dispute and Shamsher is enraged at losing to a poor villager. Jai then falls in love with Rajshree and tries numerous times to woo her but the princess's arrogance prevents her from revealing her true feelings."

"Shamsher becomes even more enraged when the Emperor Maharaj reveals that Shamsher is not the heir to his throne after his death and that he plans to free India from monarchy and turn to democracy."

"Shamsher then plans to gain control of the kingdom by killing the Maharajah on the night before he is due to travel to England for a medical procedure. However he is unsuccessful after the Maharajah escapes an attempt on his life by Shamsher's henchmen and disguises himself as a servant in his own palace."

"Shamsher then sets his eyes on Mangala (Nimmi) who is a village girl and childhood friend of Jai but her love is not reciprocated as he is only in love with princess Rajshree. After Mangala is kidnapped by Shamsher Singh who plans to keep her prisoner in his palace and molest her, Mangala takes a bottle of poison and dies. Jai kills Shamsher in revenge and provokes Princess Rajshree to launch an attack on his village to avenge her brother's death. Jai manages to kidnap Rajshree and sets out to gain her love by taking her into his village and forcing her to live as a peasant girl. Just when Rajshree begins to realise her feelings for Jai, Shamsher Singh who was presumed dead returns to get his revenge against Jai." – Plot from Wikipedia (edited from IMDb,

AA: Aan is a Mumbai blockbuster from the golden decade of Indian popular cinema. It is a fairy-tale, a musical, and a message movie about social justice featuring some of the country's biggest stars. It was one of the first Indian films to have a worldwide release, and it was released also in Finland in the international release version which is almost an hour shorter than the Indian original version. The international version still makes sense plotwise. Perhaps some of the musical production numbers were cut, but there are still at least eight of them in the international version.

Aan is a naive film in the full sense of the word, made in a period in a newly independent country when real naivete – not naivism – was still possible. The fairy-tale has affinities with A Thousand and One Nights and The Thief of Bagdad, and also with the adventures of Robin Hood and Zorro. Its visual influences range from the Hollywood musical (especially the bucolic ones produced by Twentieth Century Fox) to the Pyriev-Alexandrov school of the Soviet kolkhoz musical. The message of the film: "power to the people".

Mangala (Nimmi) commits suicide when she is kidnapped by the evil prince Shamsher (Premnath), and Mangala's best friend Jai Tilak (Dilip Kumar) kidnaps Princess Rajshree (Nadira). Mangala loved Jai but her love remained unreciprocated. Mangala and Rajshree are untamed heroines. Their spirit is strong and independent.

The main love story is about Jai and Rajshree. In the beginning Jai tames Rajshree's wild, dangerous, and crochety horse. When Rai has abducted Rajshree she has to work for the first time in her life: grind corn, and put a thread into a needle (see image above). She hates it but she loves Jai. When Shamsher conquers Rai and Rajshree insists in defending him he orders his sister to be burned at the stake. There is an enormous bonfire in front of which Rai and Shamsher fight a final duel to death. In a last minute rescue Rai saves Rajshree, and they fall into a passionate embrace.

The physical production is impressive, the crowd scenes and the epic sequences are magnificent. With its abundant passages of wild nature scenery Aan satisfies a travelogue appetite. The fairy-tale approach is balanced by moments of realism, starting with the credit sequence's footage of earth being plowed. There is a kind of a balance between earthy physicality and a fairy-tale dream-world; there is even a long dream sequence set up as a musical production number. The action adventure includes thrilling rides on horseback, duels, teasing heroines by letting them hang above a deep well or chasm, and having a horde of camels attack the royal army.

The performances of the actors are stylized and exaggerated with wide open stares and gleaming white-toothed grins. There is little room for psychology. There is a lot of farcical comedy, starting with the pranks between Rai and the blacksmith who should forge a sword for him.

The music by Naushad is excellent and compelling. Indian and Pakistani friends who visited our screening confirmed that these songs with lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni are still beloved across generations.

A high point in the film is the "festival of colours" like in Bharat mata / Mother India, and indeed the entire film, the first full Indian Technicolor feature, can be called a "festival of colours". The use of Technicolor is uninhibited. Ardent and blazing warm colours rule.

Although the vintage print has predictably a look that betrays the 16 mm origins of the cinematography, the full Technicolor impact remains, unlike in the screening of Bharat mata I visited in Bologna three years ago. Aan is a film of passion – for love and justice – and the glowing, burning, flaming colour conveys the message gloriously.


Saturday, February 18, 2017


Silence. The crucifixion of Tomogi villagers (actors including the great Yoshi Oida as Ichizo, and the director of the Tetsuo films, Shinya Tsukamoto, as Mokichi). Please click to enlarge the images.

Silence. Yoshi Oida as Ichizo.

Silence. Shinya Tsukamoto as Mokichi.

US/TW/MX © 2016 FM Films, LLC. PC: Cappa Defina Productions / CatchPlay / Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films) / Fábrica de Cine / SharpSword Films / Sikelia Productions / Verdi Productions / Waypoint Entertainment. P: Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Barbara De Fina, Randall Emmett, David Lee, Gastón Pavlovich, Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Irwin Winkler. D: Martin Scorsese. SC: Jay Cocks, Martin Scorsese ‒ based on the novel Chinmoku (1966) by Shusaku Endo ‒ translated from Japanese into Finnish as Vaitiolo by Vappu Kataja / SLEY-Kirjat (1980). CIN: Rodrigo Prieto ‒ negative: 35 mm, Codex ARRIRAW 2,8K ‒ source format: Master Scope (anamorphic) ‒ master format: Digital Intermediate 4K ‒ lab: EFilm (digital intermediate) ‒ Fujicolor ‒ scope 2,35. PD+cost: Dante Ferretti. AD: Wen-Ying Huang. Set dec: Francesca Lo Schiavo. Makeup: Noriko Watanabe. SFX: R. Bruce Steinheimer. VFX+AN: Industrial Light and Magic. Additional VFX: BaseFX, Rodeo FX, Post Mango. M consultants: Kim Allen Kluge, Kathryn Kluge (see soundtrack listing beyond the jump break). S: Philip Stockton.
ED: Thelma Schoonmaker. Casting: Ellen Lewis.
C from Wikipedia:
    Andrew Garfield as Sebastião Rodrigues
    Adam Driver as Francisco Garupe
    Liam Neeson as Father Cristóvão Ferreira
    Tadanobu Asano as The Interpreter
    Ciarán Hinds as Father Alessandro Valignano
    Issey Ogata as Inoue Masashige
    Shinya Tsukamoto as Mokichi
    Yoshi Oida as Ichizo
    Yōsuke Kubozuka as Kichijiro
    Nana Komatsu as Mónica (Haru)
    Ryo Kase as João (Chokichi)
    Béla Baptiste as Dieter Albrecht
El Greco painting: from La Verónica (1582).
    Loc: Taiwan, Macau. Studio: CMPC Studio (Taipei City). Languages: English, Japanese, Latin. 161 min
    2K DCP released in Finland by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Pyhähuhta / Heidi Nyblom Kuorikoski (Saga Vera Oy), day of Finnish premiere 17 Feb 2017.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 18 Feb 2017.

Synopsis from Wikipedia: "At St. Paul's College, Macau, an Italian Jesuit priest, Alessandro Valignano receives news that Father Cristóvão Ferreira, a Portuguese Jesuit in Japan, renounced his faith after being tortured. Ferreira's young pupils, also Portuguese, Fathers Sebastião Rodrigues and Francisco Garupe, set off in disbelief to find him. Kichijiro, an alcoholic fisherman who fled Japan (later revealed to be a Christian who renounced his faith to save himself), agrees to guide them. At the Japanese village of Tomogi, the priests are surprised to find local Christian populations driven underground. They eagerly welcome the priests, who administer long-awaited sacraments to them. A samurai searching for suspected Christians, whom the villagers refer to as "the inquisitor", straps some of the villagers to wooden crosses on the beach and places them in the ocean, where the tide eventually kills them. The bodies are then cremated on a funeral pyre so that they cannot be given a Christian burial."

"Garupe leaves for Hirado Island, believing that their presence forces the shogunate to terrorize the village. Rodrigues goes to Gotō Island, the last place Ferreira lived, only to find it destroyed. Wandering around Gotō, he struggles over whether it is self-centered and unmerciful to refuse to recant when doing so will end others' suffering. He eventually reunites with Kichijiro, who betrays him into the hands of the samurai. An old samurai, who had earlier accompanied the inquisitor to Tomogi, tells Rodrigues that other captured Christians will suffer unless he commits apostasy."

"Rodrigues is taken to Nagasaki, where he is imprisoned with the captured Christians from Gotō. At a tribunal, he is told Catholic doctrine is anathema to Japan. Rodrigues demands to see governor Inoue Masashige, who he learns to his dismay is the old samurai. Rodrigues is returned to prison, and Kichijiro arrives. He explains that court officials threatened him to give up Rodrigues, then says he is a Christian and asks to be imprisoned to be absolved of his betrayal through a confession, which Rodrigues reluctantly grants him. He later is released after agreeing again to step on a fumi-e (a crudely carved image of Christ), an act symbolizing rejection of the faith. Rodrigues is brought to witness a famished Garupe, and three other prisoners (who have apostatized) about to be drowned. Garupe refuses to apostasize, and the prisoners are drowned, with Garupe drowning trying to rescue one of the prisoners."

"Later, Rodrigues is taken to a Buddhist temple where he meets Ferreira, who now goes by the name Sawano Chūan. Ferreira says he committed apostasy while being tortured, and states that after 15 years in the country and a year in the temple, he believes Christianity is a lost cause in Japan. He now also believes humans find their original nature in Japan and that perhaps this is what is meant by finding God. Rodrigues calls him a disgrace, but Ferreira is unmoved. That night in his prison cell, Rodrigues hears five Christians being tortured. Ferreira tells him that they have already apostasized; it is his apostasy the Japanese demand to save them. As Rodrigues looks upon a fumi-e, he hears the voice of Christ giving him permission to step on it, and he does."

"A year later, Ferreira and Rodrigues sort through religious iconography gathered from suspected Christians. Watching all of this is Dutch trader Dieter Albrecht, who narrates his observations of the fallen priests. Albrecht states in his journal that Ferreira eventually died, and that a now-married Rodrigues goes by the name Okada San'emon. Kichijiro, now a servant, asks Rodrigues for forgiveness, but Rodrigues refuses, saying he is no longer a priest. Kichijiro later is caught with a religious amulet he claims to have won while gambling, but never bothered to look inside the pouch. He is taken away and never heard from again."

"Many years later, Rodrigues has died. He is placed in a large round wooden casket, and his body is cremated. In his hand is a tiny crudely-made crucifix that was given to him when he first came to Japan.
" - Synopsis from Wikipedia

AA: Silence is a labour of love for Martin Scorsese in a similar way as The Fugitive was for John Ford. The Fugitive was based on the novel The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Shusako Endo, the Japanese Christian writer of the novel on which Scorsese's film is based, was highly admired by Greene.

The novel and the film are based on a true story, and their historical background is in the arrival of Christianity into Japan from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th century. Missionaries from four countries introduced Christianity into Japan, for decades they were welcome, and by 1600, there were 200.000-300.000 Christians in Japan. They were true believers, but the countries that sent them had huge trade interests, and they were all colonial powers. Japan's Edict of Expulsion in 1614 led to a period of persecution of Christians, and the missionaries went underground, including Father Cristóvão Ferreira, who was captured and in 1633 renounced his faith and became a Buddhist. Japan's borders were closed to the West for 200 years.

Silence the film is set in the year 1643 and tells the story of two followers of Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson): Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver). It is a story of a harrowing spiritual ordeal shot in breathtaking seashore landscapes.

The physical production is impeccable and magnificent. The work by the cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and the production and wardrobe designer Dante Ferretti is marvellous. But that is all just a framework for a spiritual journey. The spiritual debates of the film are profound and engaging. For Scorsese, who has also written a foreword to an edition of Shusako Endo's book, the story is about believing and questioning. To believe or not to believe. Faith and disbelief. "From certainty to doubt to loneliness to communion".

I have not seen Chinmoku, the previous film adaptation of Shusako Endo's book, directed in Japan in 1971 by Masahiro Shinoda. But I have seen Nagisa Oshima's powerful jidai-geki epic Shiro Amakusa: The Christian Rebel (1962) about the same period (Oshima's film is set in 1637), a shattering account about the fight led by Shiro Amakusa against gross injustice and oppression. Scorsese's viewpoint is with the Portuguese missionaries, but both Oshima and Scorsese share a compassion for the exploited farmers who seek solace in Christianity and its message of love against tyranny.

Silence is essential viewing for anyone who loves Martin Scorsese or Christianity. The ethical question faced by the missionaries is extreme. Should one renounce faith in order to save human lives? For me all answers would be justified since in conditions of torture no confession is valid.

The greatest thinkers of mankind ‒ such as Socrates, Cicero, Jesus, and Seneca ‒ have sacrificed their lives by telling the truth. But it is a different matter, an impossible equation, to sacrifice lives of others.

Martin Scorsese is a versatile director, and he can be compelling in many kinds of films, including Italianamerican, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, After Hours, Life Lessons, and A Letter to Elia. His film and music historical documentaries are priceless, and I value his film historical fiction (The Aviator, Hugo). Scorsese has a special interest in gangster films and religious films, and the results are distinguished, but there is something studied in them. One thing in common to Scorsese's gangster films and Christian films is an emphasis on sadism which I find puzzling.

Like Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese is at his best in contemporary stories, and not quite as unforgettable in period tales, no matter how impeccably they are produced.

I understand the commercial coup of having Andrew Garfield star in Silence, but his performance is lacking in conviction.

Shot on 35 mm photochemical film Silence has been beautifully mastered in digital. The cinematography of Silence is worthy of the great tradition of religious visual art.


Thursday, February 16, 2017


Laki ja väkivalta / Våldet och lagen / L'Homme aux colts d'or. US © 1959 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. P+D: Edward Dmytryk. SC: Robert Alan Aurthur – based on the novel (1958) by Oakley Hall. DP: Joseph MacDonald – colour: DeLuxe – CinemaScope 2,35:1. AD: Herman A. Blumenthal, Lyle R. Wheeler. Set dec: Stuart A. Reiss, Walter M. Scott. Make-up: Ben Nye. Hair: Helen Turpin. M: Leigh Harline. "Beautiful Dreamer" (Stephen Foster). "Rock of Ages" (Thomas Hastings, Augustus Montague Toplady). S: Alfred Bruzlin, Harry M. Leonard – Westrex Recording System. ED: Jack W. Holmes.
    C: Henry Fonda (Clay Blaisedell), Richard Widmark (Johnny Gannon), Anthony Quinn (Tom Morgan), Dorothy Malone (Lily Dollar), Dolores Michaels (Jessie Marlow), Wallace Ford (judge Holloway), Tom Drake (Abe McQuown), Richard Arlen (Bacon), DeForest Kelley (Curley Burne), Regis Toomey (Skinner), Vaughn Taylor (Henry Richardson), Don Beddoe (Dr. Wagner). Whit Bissell (Petrix), Bartlett Robinson (Buck Slavin), Frank Gorshin (Billy Gannon), June Blair (dance hall girl), Noble "Kid" Chissell (townsman), Ann Doran (Mrs. Richardson), L. Q. Jones (Fen Jiggs).
    Loc: Moab, Utah (Dead Horse Point State Park, Professor Valley, Arches National Park, White's Ranch). Studio: 20th Century Fox Studios, Century City.
    Warlock is the name of the fictional mining town.
    Helsinki premiere: 14.8.1959 Metropol, distributor: O.Y. Fox Films A.B. – telecast 7.7.1980 MTV1; 13.11.1987 TV1, 13.5.1995 TV2 (Western of the Month) - VET 51173 – K16 – 3350 m / 122 min
    A vintage print with Swedish subtitles by Gun Östlund viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Westerns selected by Pertti Avola), 16 Feb 2017

I saw for the first time Warlock, one of Edward Dmytryk's best films. It may be his last great film. It is a late classical Western of the second golden age of the genre. Which means that it isn't in any way a meta-Western or a post-Western. Also the story is set in the classical period of the Wild West, in the 1880s. In Warlock one can also admire a Hollywood studio system production still at its best.

The starting-point of the story is familiar from the Wyatt Earp stories, but the treatment is original. There is a town bullied by a bunch of outlaws, the San Pablo gang. The official deputy sheriff is chased out of town by the rampant gang. A barber is shot because a nervous outlaw moved in his chair and got a cut in his chin. The citizen's committee decides to hire the famous gunfighter Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda) to fight the outlaws. His terms: he brings with him his partner Tom Gannon (Anthony Quinn), and they will establish a touring saloon ("French Palace") which provides girls and gambling.

The basic myth dramatized here is the birth of justice, law and order. In the beginning we have the right of the might, the rule of brute force and violence. Then comes the gunfighter, an in-between creature, a vigilante, a hired hand. But he must be followed by real law and order.

The premises are familiar but there are several distinctive features in Warlock. One is a genuine epic, dramatic, and novelistic touch. There is a convincing sense of a turbulent evolution of a society. There is also a density of detail and observation.

There is remarkable complexity in the relationships. We follow with interest the development of a surprising relationship between Blaisedell and the nurse Jessie Marlow (Dolores Michaels). No less surprising is the attraction between the new deputy sheriff Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark) and the former saloon girl Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone). Underneath there is a feeling of tremendous, suppressed emotion like in Johnny Guitar.

During the film we follow the coming of age story of Johnny Gannon who has belonged to the San Pablo gang but is distancing himself from it, at first by getting drunk and staying drunk. He supports Blaisedell to a certain limit. He surprisingly volunteers to become a deputy sheriff, and after having been brutalized by the leader of his former gang, Abe McQuown, including having his gun hand pierced with a knife, he beats the gang with his partners in a final battle without Blaisedell's help.

In a confession to Lily Johnny tells about his traumatic experience when he as a member of the San Pablo gang had participated in a massacre of 37 Mexicans in the context of a huge cattle rustling job. The outlaws' cover story was that it was the Apaches who killed the Mexicans.

Henry Fonda is at his toughest as Blaisedell. He is a master gunfighter but even more impressively he can discipline crooks with his mere authority, without having to use guns. He is a real lawman also in the way he protects the crooks from a lynch mob that is gathering around the prison. Also without having to use guns. "Lynch mob is the lowest thing". Blaisedell also realizes that his time is coming to an end. "Maybe we've run out of towns".

The most original feature of Warlock is the relationship between Blaisedell and Morgan. Morgan is also a gunfighter, apparently the better of the two, although he is lame, and he has saved Blaisedell's life countless times. Morgan also protects Blaisedell in many other ways which complicates the story considerably. Why? Blaisedell is "the only one who did not look down on me and didn't see a cripple". Morgan is profoundly shattered when he learns that Blaisedell wants to quit from his gunfighter career and settle down with Jessie. He goes into a mad rampage, forcing Blaisedell to shoot him.

The most deeply emotional passage of Warlock is that of Blaisedell's mourning over Morgan's death. Blaisedell carries Morgan's corpse to the saloon table and burns the saloon down. The Blaisedell-Morgan bond has echoes of Achilles and Patroclus, and the mythic resonance of the ritual funeral feels genuine and powerful. Warlock has been called, among other things, the strongest expression of homosexual love in the Western genre. "Maybe I'm nothing without him", is a remark of Blaisedell to Jessie.

A powerful screening experience of a vintage DeLuxe print with the expected occasional fading but also with passages of good and properly unrealistic colour.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Devyat dney odnogo goda / Nine Days in One Year

Nine Days in One Year: Aleksei Batalov (Dmitri Gusev). Please click to enlarge the images.

Nine Days in One Year: Aleksei Batalov (Dmitri Gusev), Innokenti Smoktunovsky (Ilya Kulikov), and Tatyana Lavrova (Lyolya).

Nine Days in One Year: Tatyana Lavrova (Lyolya) and Aleksei Batalov (Dmitri Gusev).

9 дней одного года / Девять дней одного года / 9 dney odnogo goda / Devjat dnei odnogo goda / Vuoden yhdeksän päivää / Årets nio dagar / Nine Days of One Year. SU 1962. Year of production: 1961. PC: Mosfilm. P: Igor Vakar. D: Mihail Romm. SC: Daniil Khrabrovitsky, Mikhail Romm. Cin: German Lavrov – b&w – Academy or widescreen. PD: Georgi Kolganov. Cost: V. Kiselyova. Make-up: V. Fetisova. M: Dzhivan / Dzhon Ter-Tatevosyan. S: Boris Volsky. ED: Yeva Ladizhenskaya. Commentary read by: Zinovi Gerdt. Scientific advisor: Igor Tamm (Nobel laureate 1958).
    C: Aleksei Batalov (Dmitri Gusev), Innokenti Smoktunovsky (Ilya Kulikov), Tatyana Lavrova (Lyolya), Nikolai Plotnikov (prof. Sintsov), Sergei Blinnikov (Pavel Butov, director of the institute), Evgeny Evstigneyev (Nikolai Ivanovich). Mikhail Kozakov (Valery), Nikolai Grabbe (Basil, physicist), Valentin Nikulin, Pavel Shpringfeld (guest physicist), Aleksandr Pelevin (guest physicist), Evgeni Teterin (prof. Pokrovsky, surgeon), Nikolai Sergeyev (Gusev's father), Ada Voitsik (Maria Tikhonovna Sintsova), Lyusyena Ovchinnikova (Nura, Gusev's sister), Andrei Smirnov (tall bearded physicist), Lev Durov (KGB officer), Nadezhda Batyryova (physicist), Alla Demidova (student).
    Helsinki premiere: 31.8.1962 Allotria, Capitol, distributor: Kosmos-Filmi Oy, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles (n.c.) – telecast 13.10.1963 – Yle TV1 – VET 62033 – S – 2970 m / 109 min
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (History of the Cinema), 15 Feb 2017

Synopsis from Wikipedia: "Two young physicists and old friends—the possessed experimentator Dmitri Gusev and the skeptical theoretician-physicist Ilya Kulikov—conduct nuclear studies at a research institute in Siberia. Dmitri leads the research started by his teacher Sintsov who received a deadly dose of radiation in the result of an experiment. Gusev is also irradiated. Doctors warn him that further irradiation might kill him as well. Meanwhile, his friend Ilya and Lyolya, a love interest of Dmitri, have developed a romantic relationship. The enamoured couple is getting prepared for the wedding and looking for an opportunity to inform Dmitri. When they finally meet, Dmitri already suspects Lyolya and Ilya, treating them coldly. Being caught up in self-contradictions, Lyolya tries to understand Dmitri's true feelings for her, only to learn the terrible diagnosis. Realizing that she still loves Dmitri, Lyolya cancels the wedding to Kulikov to get married with Gusev."

"Despite the health warnings, Gusev continues with his experiments in fusion power. After a number of failures, he turns to Kulikov for help. Whilst carrying out of the experiment successfully, Gusev receives a new radiation dose. He ties to hide this fact from everyone, including his wife Lyolya who is misinterpreting his sudden isolation, but the truth eventually rises to the surface. The research work is continued by Kulikov. Dmitri's health getting worse, but he decides to fight his illness to the end and agrees to undergo bone marrow transplantation.
" – synopsis from Wikipedia

Revisited after 40 years a key film of the Thaw starring two of the greatest (Russian) actors, Aleksei Batalov and Innokenti Smoktunovsky.

Nine Days in One Year, a film about nuclear physicists, is based on reality. Its scientific advisor was the Nobel laureate Igor Tamm, one of the fathers of the Soviet thermonuclear bomb. Among Tamm's young colleagues was Andrei Sakharov who liked the film on release but later found it too conventional (see quote beyond the jump break). Presumably the external circumstances of the story are close to reality. Beyond that, there is a more profound dimension of authenticity in the repeated motif of patience in the scientific process. In science, everything must be put to test multiple times.

The director Mikhail Romm was a veteran of the Soviet cinema and a survivor of the Stalin era. Nine Days in One Year was the first in the final cycle of his most personal works, followed by Everyday Fascism and And Still I Believe (his film testament finished by Marlen Khutsiev and Elem Klimov). Romm was also a respected teacher at the VGIK, notably of Tarkovsky and Shukshin, but also of Finnish talents such as Mikko Niskanen and Ywe Jalander.

The screenwriter Daniil Khrabrovitsky had recently distinguished himself with an interesting screenplay to Grigori Chukhrai's Clear Skies, one of the thaw era works that confronted Stalin's Gulag system.

The basic dynamics of Nine Days in One Year has an affinity with C. P. Snow's topical book The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959). According to Snow the split into the natural sciences and the humanities is a major hindrance to solving the world's problems. In the USSR the two cultures were called "the physicists and the lyricists". In Mikhail Romm's film Kulikov (Smoktunovsky) is "a lyricist", and Gusev (Batalov) "a physicist".

Nuclear disaster is the great underlying theme. In the first of the nine episodes of the film we soon witness the consequences of an accident at a nuclear reactor. The intrepid Gusev has been exposed to a dangerous 200 röntgens, his colleague Sintsov to a lethal 800 röntgens. Mikhail Romm avoids horror and science fiction imagery. Sintsov observes that this is a peculiar death: it does not feel like anything at all. A surgeon demonstrates Gusev two dogs which have been subjected to bone marrow transplants. One has a chance to survive, the other doesn't. The surgeon compares Gusev with the hopeless case.

Kulikov speaks out. "Mankind has achieved perfection: it can destroy everything in a minute". He discusses Hiroshima. "Man has not grown wiser in 30.000 years". He discusses the tyrants of the past, the pharaohs, Ekhnaton and Nefertiti, and Chingiz Khan. For them 10.000 casualties was a trifle. Now we have had gas ovens, people reduced to lamp shades, their ashes spread on fields.

Gusev belongs to the early nuclear scientists. In 1954 when he started he was not aware how dangerously he was getting polluted. In the finale we meet him on his death bed.

Their work is extraordinary, but their everyday life is ordinary. Lyolya has had a meaningful affair with Gusev (– "What was between you and him?" – "Everything"), but she is about to get married with Kulikov now. Then the three of them meet, and Lyolya realizes she is still attracted to Gusev. There is a modernist maturity in the account of the relationships which invites comparison with Resnais and Antonioni, and Raizman and Khutsiev. Difficulty of communication, lack of confidence, confusion of the heart – Romm is very good in conveying this, and of course he has top actors to interpret shadowlands of emotional life. Smoktunovsky and Batalov are at their best, not forgetting Tatyana Lavrova in her soulful debut role. Although courted by both men, Lyolya is suffering from solitude. "Don't you need me at all?"

Nine Days in One Year is at once of an epic scope and a chamber play, like Hiroshima mon amour. Geographically we move between Moscow and Siberia. Having observed nuclear tests in one scene we witness a happy dance party in the next.

The gravity of the film keeps growing towards the end. My favourite episode is number seven where Gusev visits his home village. Everybody is happy to welcome the illustrious son back home. But at the homecoming banquet the family registers Gusev's trembling hands.

German Lavrov is the master cinematographer. He shot all three of Romm's final films, and other fascinating works such as Marlen Khutsiev's July Rain. Nine Days in one Year starts with an aerial shot. In the seventh episode there is Ophulsian-Kubrickian magic in the camera movement. The camera glides, turns elegantly and unobtrusively, and stops into striking medium shots, never with over-emphasis. The camera circles around the banquet table to register the different ways in which each notices what is happening to Gusev. From here until the end there is hardly a shot without an interesting or offbeat camera angle or observation. This is camera thinking on a profound level, even bordering on the avantgarde.

Romm's approach is meditative. The voice of the narrator emphasizes this. Hallmarks of the approach also include tact, subtlety, and a gentle smile. One of the first shots, soon after the aerial one, is a close-up of two hands touching. Nine Days in One Year is an inside story of a nuclear superpower told with sensitivity and a sense of gravity.

A good and complete print.