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. 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: Industrial Light and Magic, BaseFX, Rodeo FX. M: Kathryn Kluge, Kim Allen 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 found 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 to 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.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Němá barikáda / Silent Barricade

Nema barikada. A surprise on a captured Nazi train: concentration camp survivors.

Nema barikada. Resistance is organized.

Nema barikada. Halina the Auschwitz survivor (Barbara Drapińska) bids farewell to the fatally wounded resistance veteran (Robert Vrchota) whose legs are broken.

Mykkä barrikaadi / Den stumma barrikaden. CS 1949. Year of production: 1948 (data on print). PC: Československý Státní Film. P: Frantisek Milic. D: Otakar Vávra. SC: Jan Drda, Otakar Vávra – based on a story by Jan Drda. CIN: Václav Huňka. AD: Jan Zázvorka. M: Jiří Srnka. Orchestra: Filmový Symfonický Orchestr, conductor: Milivoj Uzelac. S: Emil Poledník. ED: Antonín Zelenka.
    C: Jaroslav Průcha (locksmith Hošek), Barbara Drapińska (Halina, Auschwitz survivor), Jaroslav Marvan (strážník / policeman Brůček), Vladimír Šmeral (Kroupa), Marie Vášová (Nedvědová), Jiří Plachý st. (uhlíř / collier), Robert Vrchota (četař / sergeant), Jaromír Spal (průvodčí / guard), Jaroslav Zrotal (idič tramvaje / tram driver), Eva Karelová (tramvajačka / tram conductor), Jaroslava Panenková (Hošková), Jaroslav Mareš (Jarda Nedvěd), Antonín Šůra (Pepík Hošek), Vítězslav Boček (barikádník Kouba), J. O. Martin, Běla Jurdová, Miroslav Homola (záškodník / saboteur Walter), Marie Rýdlová (stará Němka, Waltrova matka / old German woman, Walter's mother), Václav Švorc (mladík / young boy Bengál), Josef Bek (poručík / lieutenant Československé armády), Štěpán Bulejko, Vladimír Hlavatý, Ljuba Skořepová (pekařova žena / baker's wife, baker woman), Karel Pech, Vladimír Řepa, Libuše Freslová, Miloš Nedbal (major Československé armády), Vlasta Vlasáková, Vladimír Ráž, Radovan Lukavský (německý voják / German soldier), Zdeněk Kryzánek, Emil Kavan, Karel Pavlík, Oldřich Lukeš, Viktor Očásek, Věra Kalendová, Josef Chvalina, Emil Bolek, Ella Nollová, František Marek, Rudolf Široký, Jaroslav Seník, Zdeněk Řehoř, Marie Blažková, Ladislav Hájek, Anna Kadeřábková, Jan Brandýs.
    Loc: Prague. Studio: Atelier Hostivar (Prague).
    VET 33543 – 95 min, 113 min, 128 min
    A 35 mm print from Národni filmový archiv (Prague) with English subtitles, duration 118 min, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (a tribute to Jiří Menzel – Otakar Vavra was his teacher at FAMU), 11 Feb 2017

An engrossing war and resistance epic about the Prague Uprising, 5–8 May, 1945. Czechoslovakia is still occupied by Germany. Partisans have been conducting a battle on the rails. There is also a battle for the Czech radio. By the morning of 6 May, over 1000 barricades are erected by the resistance movement. The Waffen-SS launches heavy tank fire on the city, and there are Luftwaffe air raids. The German Surrender Act is signed on 8 May. The Red Army arrives on 9 May.

There is a newsreel prologue. Berlin has fallen, but remnants of Field Marshal Schörner's army still keep fighting, proceeding from the East towards Prague. Czechoslovakia is the last stronghold of of armed Nazism. Prague is to be destroyed. The Czech underground resistance movement fights to save Prague from the advancing troops and destruction.

Silent Barricade is an impressive contribution to the cinema of resistance and liberation. The opening montages of the last days of WWII and Czech resistance are striking. There is a long tracking shot of Czechs removing German signs from the streets of Prague. There are also humoristic vignettes of turncoats who keep changing the badges on their lapels.

There is a general feeling of joy, but fighting goes on, and as a tram is proceeding towards the Troja Bridge several civilians are shot by advancing Germans. A woman dies in her lover's arms. The tram is overturned, and it becomes the starting point for a barricade on the bridge. The locksmith Hošek opens a cache of rifles under his floor.

Otakar Vavra has a solid grip on the action sequences. They seem real and feel exciting. There is a resistance sequence at the railway yard. The engine driver deserts a Nazi train with his engine. The resistance fighters take possession of the arsenal on the train, but in further cars they also discover concentration camp survivors in their striped clothes (see image above).

Although Halina (Barbara Drapińska), one of the survivors, is exhausted, she joins the fight immediately, killing a Nazi with a hand grenade and confiscating his machine gun. Having gotten shelter at Hošek's home she cries in her sleep. The family notices the tattoed number on her arm. Having rested she dresses in overalls and becomes one of the leading fighters.

There is a lively sequence at an air raid shelter. The resistance movement engages everybody to contribute to the fight. Even the owner of the apartment block joins, reluctantly at first, but with growing enthusiasm. The account of unanimité, solidarity, what we in Finland call talkoot (a working bee) is engaging.

A new perspective on things is provided by the sniper sequence. A hidden sniper is killing people from an apartment block that is supposedly vacated. Halina rises onto the rooftop of the house, and we get a panoramic view of the fighting city. The sniper Walter is found by Halina hiding in an old woman's closet. Walter is her son.

German tanks are approaching. Hošek has forbidden his 15-year old son Pepik to join the fight, but Pepik sneaks into a group crossing the Vltava river to the other side of the bridge to stop the tanks. Two Panzerfaust strikes fail, but Pepik succeeds in destroying the tank with his Panzerfaust – and gets to feel its mighty recoil.

After a reconnaissance visit and a mendacious promise of cease-fire the Nazis start seriously to destroy Prague with their artillery. There is an exciting human shield sequence at the bridge. Just when it seems that everything is lost the people of the human shield desert to their own side and join the fight against the Nazis.

London is dancing on V Day but Czechs are still fighting Nazis with their last bullets. Finally Germans retreat. Halina observes lilacs blossoming in Prague. The next day the Red Army arrives in Prague and is celebrated with a liberators' welcome.

Silent Barricade is a Stalin era film with the resulting emphases. From the complexity of events the contribution of the anti-communist Russian Liberation Army is eliminated. The film needs to be analyzed critically. But there is an undeniable authentic spirit in the film which seems to include documentary inserts. Silent Barricade has been made with a similar feeling of inspiration as the classics of Italian neorealism. It is impossible to notice the seam between fiction and non-fiction. It would be interesting to study a text critical analysis of different versions of Silent Barricade. The print we saw was not one of the shortest, but the official duration is ten minutes longer.

The affinity to Menzel might be seen in Vavra's sense of humour and his never losing a human perspective. It is also interesting to observe than in this epic film without a conventional identification structure the person who comes closest to being the main protagonist is a woman: Halina the Polish Auschwitz survivor who turns into a liberation fighter. The actress Barbara Drapińska had recently played a main role in Wanda Jakubowska's The Last Stage. The keynote to her performance is survivor instinct. Halina's spirit has not been crushed, and she seems to belong to the special class of war veterans who have developed a sixth sense about danger.

The print is good enough and very watchable.



Moonlight: Trevante Rhodes as the grown-up Chiron. Please do click on the images to enlarge them.

Moonlight: Naomie Harris as Paula, Chiron's mother.

Moonlight / Moonlight. US © 2016 Dos Hermanas, LLC. A Plan B / Pastel Production. An A24 and Plan B Entertainment Presentation  EX: Brad Pitt, Sarah Esberg, Tarell Alvin McCraney. P: Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner. D+SC: Barry Jenkins – based on a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney. CIN: James Laxton – colour – 2,35:1 – camera: Arri Alexa CT Plus – camera format: SxS ProRes 4:4:4 (2K) – source format: Hawk Scope (anamorphic) – master format: digital intermediate 2K – release format: D-Cinema. PD: Hannah Beachler. Cost: Caroline Eselin-Schaefer. M: Nicholas Britell. M supervisor: Maggie Phillips. M selections include: "One Step Ahead" (Charles Singleton, Eddie Snyder) perf. Aretha Franklin (1966), "Cucurrucucú paloma" (Tomás Méndez Sosa) perf. Caetano Veloso, "Hello Stranger" (Barbara Lewis) perf. Barbara Lewis (1963).  S: Joshua Adeniji. ED: Nat Sanders, Joi McMillon.
C from Wikipedia: Chiron, the film's protagonist
        Trevante Rhodes as Adult Chiron / "Black"
        Ashton Sanders as Teen Chiron
        Alex Hibbert as Child Chiron / "Little"
Kevin, Chiron's closest friend
        André Holland as Adult Kevin
        Jharrel Jerome as Teen Kevin
        Jaden Piner as Child Kevin
Janelle Monáe as Teresa
Naomie Harris as Paula
Mahershala Ali as Juan
Patrick Decile as Terrel
    Loc: Miami, Florida.
    111 min
    Released in Finland by Cinema Mondo on 2K DCP with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Maria Amberg / Frej Grönholm / BTI Studios, Finnish premiere 10 Feb 2017.
    2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 5, Helsinki, 11 Feb 2017

I have now seen for the first time a film by Barry Jenkins, a serious talent to be reckoned with.

Some ingredients of this coming of age story seem at first familiar. A story of marginalization and bullying, a broken home, a dysfunctional mother, growing up in a lifestyle dominated by drugs, a circle of violence at school, landing in juvenile prison, which turns out to be a school of crime, a lucrative start as a drug dealer.

Also in the visual approach there are familiar elements. The relentless handheld camerawork, an intentionally pared down visual quality, a penchant for extreme close-ups and high contrast passages.

But this is just the starting-point. Moonlight is a story of personal growth against all odds. It is the story of a poor, black and gay kid of a crack addicted mother. A first turning point is the grown-up Chiron's encounter with his mother who has managed to wean herself off drugs. The true climax is Chiron's meeting with his childhood friend Kevin in the finale.

There is emotional depth and truth in these sequences which give new sense to everything that has happened before.

The cast is excellent, and the director's talent is evident in the way he succeeds in creating a compelling whole from the performances of different actors interpreting three different ages of Chiron and Kevin.

There is intensity in Nicholas Britell's score, and there is room for key vintage pre-soul selections of Aretha Franklin ("One Step Ahead") and Barbara Lewis ("Hello Stranger").

Barry Jenkins has a sure sense of rhythm as a visual storyteller. There is tenderness in his emotionally charged scenes. There is restraint in his love scenes. There is intensity in his silences.

Among the key motifs are the wind and the water – the strong wind and the mighty waters of the Atlantic Ocean. A related motif is tears. It takes courage from a man to cry and to admit having cried.

Meeting his mother as a grown-up man is a step for Chiron to break out from his drug gangster shell. "Who is you really?" asks Kevin who does not recognize Chiron at first. Chiron has transformed from a shy and skinny teenager into a body-building bully, a mirror image of his erstwhile worst enemies. "I have never really been myself. I have just been doing what is expected of me".

Moonlight is the story of man starting to discover himself after always having been a stranger to himself as well as to others.


Friday, February 10, 2017


GR © 2010 Haos Film. PC: Haos Film, Faliro House, Boo Productions, Stefi. EX: Giorgos Serdaris. P: Maria Hatzakou, Yorgos Lanthimos, Iraklis Mavroidis, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Angelos Venetis. D+SC: Athina Rachel Tsangari. DP: Thimios Bakatakis negative: Super 16 mm. PD: Dafni Kalogianni. Cost: Thanos Papastergiou, Vasileia Rozana. Makeup: Sissy Petropoulou. Hair: Daniel Babek. Soundtrack selections: Françoise Hardy: "Tous les garçons et les filles" (1962) et "Le Temps d'amour" (1962, comp. Jacques Dutronc), Suicide ("Ghost Rider", 1977,  "Be Bop Kid", 1980). S: Leandros Ntounis. ED: Sandrine Cheyrol, Matthew Johnson. C: Ariane Labed (Marina), Evangelia Randou (Bella), Vangelis Mourikis (Spyros, father), Yorgos Lanthimos (engineer). Loc: Aspra Spitia, Viotia, Greece. 95 min
    A 35 mm print from The Match Factory with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (New Greek Cinema), 11 Feb 2017

Athina Rachel Tsangaris' Attenberg is a coming of age story of the 23 year old Marina, a chauffeur at a copper mine by the sea. She looks after her father, Spyros, an architect at the mine, dying of cancer. Spyros is deeply estranged from the modern Greece he has helped create. Spyros views his death as an exit from the overrated 20th century.

Marina is an outsider who has never dated. Her sexual initiation is inspired by her girlfriend Bella, and she also meets a shy boyfriend, an engineer (the film director Yorgos Lanthimos) with whom she is on the same wavelength. "You make me feel unembarrassed".

Essential elements of communication with Bella are the BBC nature documentaries of David Attenborough ("Attenberg"). Bella and Marina have also established their own variation of "Ministry of Silly Walks" inspired by Monty Python. There is also a sing-along with Françoise Hardy's classic chanson about teenage loneliness, "Tous les garçons et les filles". Attenberg is a film full of funny gestures (see poster image above: Marina "spreading her wings" with her shoulder blades), gags, parodies, games, plays, and wordplays.

Athina Rachel Tsangari has created an original vision of alienation in the modern world. Emotions are expressed to an overwhelming degree via artefacts of culture the imitations of which remain on the level of clumsy approximations like the title of the film while original gags can be funny on their own terms. Sexuality is not spontaneous. The partners are like strangers from outer space trying to make sense of sex. Beyond the playfulness there is a profound sense of solitude and disorientation.