Thursday, October 30, 1997
Fête à Henriette, La / Henrietten juhlat. PC: Regina Filmsonor. D: Julien Duvivier. SC: Henri Jeanson, JD. DP: Roger Hubert. M: Georges Auric, theme ”Sous le pavé de Paris”. CAST: Dany Robin (Henriette), Michel Roux, Hildegarde Neff. 108’. B&w. Swedish subtitles. A beautiful print from Cinemateket / Svenska Filminstitutet. Viewed in Helsinki, SEA, Cinema Orion, Thursday 30 October 1997. *** The Bastille Day is also the calendar day for Henriette. The film takes place during the 24 hours of le Quatorze Juillet. It is a meta-film, based on the argument of two screenwriters who develop two alternative storylines which we see happening on screen. Too tricky for its own good, and too much in love with words. Less would be more. But the photography and the music are beautiful, Dany Robin is charming as the innocent Henriette and Hildegarde Neff plays her role as the seductress with style and sense of humour worthy of Dietrich.
How Green Was My Valley / Vihreä oli laaksoni. PC: 20th Century-Fox. P: Darryl F. Zanuck. D: John Ford. Based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn. DP: Arthur Miller. CAST: Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall. 119’. B&w. MPAA Production Code Seal of Approval 7480. A beautiful NFTVA print. Viewed in Helsinki, SEA, Cinema Orion, Thursday 30 October 1997. **** I knew the film previously only from TV. I had had trouble with the idealization and sentimentalism, and was now able to look through them for the first time. The idyll now seems like a sugar coating to the bitter story. The conditions in the mine are harsh, causing death and suffering. The central romance remains unrequited as the bride marries money. Because of his humble origins the boy-protagonist is brutally harassed at school both by the teacher and by his classmates. All this is acknowledged, and still the film is a praise to the triumph of the spirit, about never giving up. The climax is the final sermon of the preacher portrayed by Walter Pidgeon. It is a highlight in the whole Ford oeuvre. Among the joys of the film: the faces are wonderful down to the smallest parts. They all live the drama.
Tuesday, October 28, 1997
Daavid - tarinoita kunniasta ja häpeästä / David - Tales of Honour and Shame. PC: For Real Productions. D+SC: Taru Mäkelä. Narration and theme song performed by Seela Sella. ”Gefilte fish”, ”Liturgical Song”, ”S’dremlen voiglen”. Featuring: Scholem Bolotowsky, Leo Jakobsson, Leo Skurnik, Ben Zyskowicz. 94’. English subtitles by Outi Kainulainen. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, Tuesday, 28 October 1997. ****
”In the history of the Shoah there is but one exception: Finland”. In the twists of history, Finland found itself fighting with Hitler against Stalin during the very years of the Final Solution. In spite of this, not a single Finnish Jew was harassed, and Finland managed to save a few hundred Jewish refugees from Central Europe. The moral dilemma now is: could more have been done? Seven refugees perished in Auschwitz because Finland returned them. The film tells the tales of Finnish Jews and the refugees who survived here: three were awarded the Iron Cross by the Wehrmacht - who did not realize at first they were Jewish. The only field synagogues on this side of the front were in Finland. There are several prominent public figures amongst the interviewees. Ben Zyskowicz is a major figure in the Finnish Parliament. In the final scene he tells that his father was the only survivor of his family. All others were murdered. The film is made with an austere style without effects of any kind. It does not need any.
Monday, October 27, 1997
Eurodisc Playlist For 11.39.09 / Musiikkikooste 11-39-09. PC: Pioneer Video Manufacturing. DIST: Ulkokaupat. Laserdisc. Viewed on big screen projection in Helsinki, VET, Monday 27 October 1997.
Backstreet Boys: Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) **
Will Smith: Men In Black **
Boyzone: Picture Of You **
Hanson: Where’s The Love **
Bellini: Samba De Janeiro **
Texas: Black Eyed Boy **
U2: Last Night On Earth ***
R. Kelly: Gotham City **
The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony **
Mark Owen: I Am What I Am **
German Natdisc Playlist For 18.01.09 / Musiikkikooste 18-01-09. PC: Pioneer Video Manufacturing. DIST: Ulkokaupat. Laserdisc. Viewed on big screen projection in Helsinki, VET, Monday 27 October 1997.
Dr. Motte & Westbam: Sunshine *
Tic Tac Toe: Mr Wichtig *
Rammstein: Du hast *
Garcia: Bamboleo *
Nena: Let It Rain *
DJ Sammy & Carisma: Prince Of Love *
Masterboy: La Ola Hand In Hand *
No Mercy: Kiss You All Over *
Strike: I Have Peace *
Age Of Love: The Age Of Love *
Four Feathers, The / Neljä sulkaa. PC: London Film Productions. P: Alexander Korda. D: Zoltan Korda. PD: Vincent Korda. CAST: John Clements (Harry Faversham), Ralph Richardson (Capt. John Durrance), Jack Allen (Ltn. Willoughby), Donald Gray (Peter Burroughs). 114’. MPAA Production Code Seal of Approval 2457. Viewed as a VHS PAL video cassette big screen projection in Helsinki, VET, Monday 27 October 1997. **** Good old-fashioned war adventure on loyalty and honour in the African territories of the British Empire. Breathtaking photography by Georges Perinal, Osmond Borradaile, and Jack Cardiff. A lean, dynamic screenplay by R.C. Sherriff, Lajos Biro, and Arthur Wimperis. A producer’s dream, its Rolls Royce parts seamlessly fitted together in the factory of Alexander Korda.
Sunday, October 19, 1997
Travailleurs de la mer, Les. PC: S.C.A.G.L. D+SC: Antoine - based on the novel by Victor Hugo. DP: Paul Castanci, René Guichard. CAST: Romuald Joubé, Andrée Brabant, Armand Tallier. Restored tinted from La Cinémathèque Fran(aise. 1854 m /18 fps/ 90’. Rehearsed Finnish earphone translation by Leena Talvio. Synthetizator accompaniment by Johannes Raumonen. Viewed in Helsinki, SEA, Orion, Sunday 19 October 1997. *** Good solid drama made vigorous by real location shooting by the wild ocean. The photography is exquisite, and the film archives made a good job in rescuing the film that was on the border of extinction.
Saturday, October 18, 1997
Jazz Singer, The / Jazzlaulaja. PC: Warner Bros. EX: Jack Warner. D: Alan Crosland. Based on the play by Samson Raphaelson and his short story ”Day of Atonement”. Music performed by the Vitaphone Orchestra. CAST: Al Jolson (Jakob Rabinowitz / Jack Robin), Eugenie Besserer (Mammy - Sara Rabinowitz), Warner Oland (Cantor Rabinowitz), May McAvoy (Mary Dale), Cantor Josef Rosenblatt. 89’. 1,2. Originally a silent film with sound on disc. The Israeli Film Archive print screened had sound on film. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Saturday 18 October 1997. *** 70th Anniversary Celebration. Bad direction, bad acting, and bad camerawork. Even Al Jolson does not help. Pop dinosaurs don’t project in films even now in the age of Madonna, and that curse started with Jolson: charisma magnetic to a huge live audience does not transfer automatically to a great film performance. I don’t even like Jolson’s songs, although I’d love to see a feature-length concert documentary of him. He is perhaps even after Elvis and The Beatles the most legendary performer of the century. To sum up, here is a rare instance where a magnificent screenplay shines through a clumsy mise-en-scene. The story is strong and simple. It is the story of popular culture: the reconciliation of the sacred and the profane. ”In show business we have our own religion, too”. The calling of show business can also be holy. Jack says that performing is now more important to him than anything else. The Jazz Singer is one of the most blatant Oedipal stories of the screen. Challenging his father, disowned by him, but never forgotten by mother, Jakob / Jack wanders through the world searching for his soul. Jakie’s first song is dedicated to ”Mother Divine”. ”He is not my boy anymore. He belongs to the whole world now”, says the mother crying in the audience. The father falls on his deathbed, and on Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, Jack takes his place singing the ”Kol Nidre”. The father’s ghost blesses the son and vanishes. The scene is one of the most electrifying in film history. Musically, it’s Jolson’s best in the film. The other religious performances are great, as well, especially that of Cantor Josef Rosenblatt.
/ / US / 1909 / Griffith, D.W. / / drama
Corner In Wheat, A. PC: Biograph. D: D.W. Griffith. CAST: James Kirkwood, Linda Arvidson, Frank Powell. 292 m /15 fps/ 17’. Münchner Filmmuseum print. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, on Saturday, 18 October 1997. **** The title means wheat monopoly. As I knew previously only a 16mm paper print transfer of the film, the discovery was startling. Firstly, in contrast to the clumsy and pedestrian Griffiths of only a year earlier. Secondly, in comparison to any modern filmmaking. The laconic force, the immediacy, the boldness of the idea. Lastly, there is the theme of exploitation: the power of the grain speculators versus the suffering of the have-nots.
Pabst wieder sehen / Revoir Pabst. PC: ZDF. D: Wolfgang Jacobsen, Martin Koerber, René Perraudin. ARTE Betacam PAL big screen projection 60’. Deutsche Fassung. Pordenone, Ridotto del Verdi, Saturday 18 October 1997. **** A first rate documentary on the elusive and erratic genius. Lots of exciting new footage from recently discovered materials and the latest restorations of Münchner Filmmuseum.
Friday, October 17, 1997
Brilliant prints from Bundesarchiv Berlin. 18 fps. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Friday, 17 October 1997.
Pierrot auf dem Eise! (1920)
Feindlichen Brüder, Die (1920)
Faun und Mädchen. Ein Schattenspiel von Julius Pinschewer (1920)
Ahnenbild, Das (1920)
Tanz der Flaschen II (1912)
Sekt-Zauber (1920) DP: Guido Seeber.
John Tester Queen Victoria’s State Visit To Ireland. GB 1900
Panoramic View On The Thames. GB 1900. Cecil Hepworth
Panoramic View Of the Paris Exhibition. GB 1900. Cecil Hepworth
London Prepared To Make the Coronation of Edward VII a Wonderful Spectacle. GB 1901
Edward VII’s Delhi Durbar. GB 1902.
Memorial To Indian Prince At Bexhill. GB 1910. Gaumont Graphic
St. Martin-De-Ré. A Convoy of Convicts Departs For a French Penal Settlement. GB 1912. Pathé War Of the Five Nations, The. GB 1912. Pathé’s Animated Gazette
State Visit Of Their Majesties To Berlin For the Wedding Of the Kaiser’s Daughter. GB 1910. Gaumont Graphic
French Train Disaster At Melun. GB 1913. Gaumont Graphic
London Wants a Dreadnought. The Great Demonstration In Trafalgar Square. GB 1913. Gaumont Graphic
Trip To The White Sea Fisheries, A. GB 1909. Rosie Films. D: Joe Rosenthal
Weisse Teufel, Der / The White Devil / Valkoinen paholainen. PC: Ufa. P: Noé Bloch, Gregor Rabinovich. D: Alexandre Volkoff. Based on the story Hadzhi Murat by Leo Tolstoy. DP: Curt Courant, Nikolai Toporkoff. M performed by Ufaton-Orchester. CAST: Ivan Mozzhuhin (Hadzhi Murat), Betty Amann (Saira), Lil Dagover (Nelidova). B&w silent with music track. Sonorized SDK print 96’. In the presence of Kenneth Rive, who plays Hadzhi Murat’s son. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Friday 17 October 1997. **** Another forgotten masterpiece from the last years of the silent era. Marvellous production has great dramatic force and an excellent performance by the great Mozzhuhin… in his best role? I have seen some 10-15 of his films, from his early Russian farces to Casanova, from Father Sergius to Michael Strogoff, and this beats them all. This is also one of the best Tolstoy film adaptations.
Abwege / Harhateillä. PC: Erda-Film. D: G.W. Pabst. DP: Theodor Sparkuhl. CAST: Brigitte Helm, Gustav Diessl, Hertha von Walther. Silent b&w. Münchner Filmmuseum print /20 fps/ 96’. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Friday 17 October 1997. *** A discovery: a forgotten Pabst film that was 25 years ahead of its time, charting the same areas of alienated relationships as Rossellini and Antonioni in the 1950s. Brigitte Helm ”in her best performance”? Maybe.
There It Is. PC: Educational Pictures. D: Charles R. Bowers. CAST: Charles R. Bowers. GEH print /22 fps/ 20’. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Friday 17 October 1997. **** Weird comedy featuring Scotland Yard and Daffydil Sanitarium.
Thursday, October 16, 1997
At The Villa Rose. PC: Stoll Film. D: Maurice Elvey. Based on the novel by A.E.W. Mason. CAST: Manora Thew, Langhorne Burton, Norman Page. 1877 m /18 fps/ 91’. Silent, tinted + toned by Harold Brown. NFTVA print presented by Clyde Jeavons. Piano by Edward von Past. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Thursday, 16 October, 1997. ** Dull detective mystery.
High Treason / Sodan uhka vuonna 1940. PC: Gaumont British. D: Maurice Elvey. CAST: Jameson Thomas, Benita Hume, Basil Gill. 2056 m /24 fps/ 75’. Silent version. NFTVA. Piano by Neil Brand. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Thursday 16 October 1997. * Utterly boring.
Nathan der Weise / Die Erstürmung Jerusalems. PC: Filmhaus Bavaria. D: Manfred Noa. Based on the play by Lessing. CAST: Werner Krauss (Nathan), Carl de Vogt, Max Schreck. 2675 m /18 fps/ 128’. Münchner Filmmuseum / Gosfilmofond. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Thursday 16 October 1997. *** Epic adaptation of Lessing’s play made during the Golden Era of German cinema presents exciting mass scenes and a striking mise-en-scène based on symmetry and graphic forms, including masks and vignettes. The film is faithful to the concept of the play - the tragedy of the ”Holy War” of Jerusalem. The staging of the tale of the three rings is impressive. Each of the sons (symbolising Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is given ”the only true ring” by the father. ”He who has the true ring will be revealed by his love of humanity”. It is a tale no less relevant today than when it was written. The film’s release in Munich led to the earliest anti-semitic riots of the Nazi Party.
Hyde Park, London. Vertical 65mm transferred to 35mm. 1’.
King’s Road, Chelsea, London. 60mm transferred to 35mm. 1’.
Stereoscopic Film: Hyde Park. 155mm transferred to 35mm. 1’. The greatest treasures of the Will Day collection: the Friese-Greene fragments probably represent ”the world’s first films on celluloid, the first perforated films, and the first films shot on outside locations” (DR). They look beautiful today transferred to the standard film format.
/ / FR / 1896 / Demenÿ, Georges / non-fiction PC: Gaumont-Demenÿ, Comptoir Générale de Photographie. 58mm transferred to 35mm.
Station Ménilmontant, chemin de fer de ceinture
Dancing Girl No. 2
Débarcadère du bateau à vapeur Wilhelm Tell
Dispute espagnole / / US / 1897 / Mutoscope and Biograph / non-fiction PC: Mutoscope and Biograph Company. 68mm transferred to 35mm
[Halle au vin, No 1]
[Halle au vin, No 2]
[Cachette, La] / / GB / 1898 / Biokam camera / / non-fiction Short movies filmed on Biokam camera. 17,5mm transferred to 35mm.
Bain de mer No 1
Bain de mer No 2
Rival Clothiers, The / / GB / 1903 / Jumeaux & Davidson / non-fiction
Trichrome Experimental Film. Colour system by Benjamin Jumeaux and William Norman Lascelles Davidson. / / GB / 1912 / Friese-Greene, William / non-fiction
Posters On Hoarding. Colour system by William Friese-Greene, produced by Lascelles Davidson. / / GB / 1896 / Paul, Robert William / non-fiction
Engineer’s Shop At Nelson Dock
Blackfriars Bridge / / GB / 1896 / Collings, Esme / / non-fiction
Children Paddling / / GB / 1899 / Bennett-Stanford, John / non-fiction
Troops Passing Over Mooder River / / GB / 1899 / Hepworth, Cecil / non-fiction
Arrival of Train-Load of Visitors at Henley Station
How To Stop a Motor Car. GB 1902. PC: Hepworth Manufacturing. 3’. A wild trick film.
Village Fire Brigade, The. GB 1907. PC: Williamson Kinematograph. 6’
That Fatal Sneeze. GB 1907. PC: Hepworth Manufacturing. 5’. Apocalyptic sneezes.
Why Girls Leave Home. US 1908. PC: Edison. 7’. A parody of melodrama histrionics.
If We Only Knew. US 1913. PC: Biograph. D: Anthony Sullivan. CAST: Blanche Sweet, Henry B. Walthall, Harry Carey. 13’. Visually beautiful short in the Griffith style. Interesting to see Carey’s signature gesture here.
Will Day shows off his collection: Le Thaumatrope, Anorthoscope, Phenakistiscope, Zootrope, Praxinoscope, Praxinoscope Theatre, The Kinora, Animatograph, Méliès Projector, Cinématographe Lumière, Matagraph 1897.
Inventor of the Kinematography, The. GB 1921. PC: Gaumont Graphic. 4’. Film obituary of William Friese-Greene including funeral footage: the bouquet is in the form of a projector and screen bearing the words ”The End”.
Whitewashing the Ceiling. GB 1914. P: Will Day. D: Joe Rosenthal. 13’ excerpt. Adaptation of a famous music hall sketch by Will Evans.
Will Day Home Movies. GB 1913. 2’
Wednesday, October 15, 1997
Agadati: Screen of an Artist. PC: Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive. D+SC: Hillel Tryster. Betacam PAL big screen projection. 37’. Pordenone, Ridotto del Verdi, Wednesday, 15 October 1997. Portrait of Baruch Agadati (1895-1976), versatile pioneer filmmaker of Israel. An exciting melange of many kinds of rare old film footage.
Enrico Caruso: Lucia Di Lammermoor. P: George Mendel. Gaetano Donizetti. CAST: Enrico Caruso. Print: Lobster Film. B&w with synchronized sound. 4’. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Wednesday, 15 October 1997. **** "Chi mi frena in tal momento". A sensational opera discovery: the grande finale of the second act of Lucia Di Lammermoor performed by six opera singers - among them Enrico Caruso as Edgardo. The primitive recording conveys the timbre of Caruso’s voice. Its conquering power is well-known from Caruso records. Here we get to witness his noble carriage and commanding presence, as well. - Comment 2008: the synchronization has been made afterwards, but it is faithful to the original sound and image of the era.
Tuesday, October 14, 1997
/ / FR / 1927 / Cavalcanti / / drama
Yvette. PC: Néo-Films. P: Pierre Braunberger. D: Cavalcanti. Based on the short story by Guy de Maupassant. CAST: Catherine Hessling, Ica de Lenkeffy, Blanche Bernis. /22 fps/ ca 90’. Beautiful print from La Cinémathèque Francaise. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Tuesday 14 October 1997. * Cavalcanti’s riposte to Renoir’s Nana. Print beautiful, film boring.
What a Whooper. PC: Hal Roach Studios. P: Hal Roach. CAST: Harry ”Snub” Pollard. Lobster Film. /18 fps/ 13’. French titles. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Tuesday, 14 October 1997. **** Harry returns from the bar telling his wife he was fishing. His friend tells his spouse he was hunting. Unfortunately, the fish and the duck have traded places.
/ / FR / 1928 / Jayet, René / / drama
Femme a passé, Une. D: René Jayet. CAST: Suzanne Talba, Camille Bardou, Gilbert Perigneaux. /24 fps/ 54’. Silent, toned. Brilliant print from Lobster Film. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Tuesday 14 October 1997. *** A visually charming French barge story in the lines of L’Hirondelle et la Mesange and L’Atalante. Fickle woman ruins lives of men and leaves them all. Suzanne Talbe: ”tous les désirs, toute la volupté résumés dans un sourire”.
Leonard-Cushing Fight (US 1894). PC: Edison. D: W.K.L. Dickson. /30 fps/ 1’ excerpt. The first boxing and sporting film ever made, filmed in the Black Maria, featuring Mike Leonard and Jack Cushing. One of the six rounds filmed.
Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight, The (US 1897). PC: Veriscope. 63mm transferred to 35mm 1,75. /24 fps/ 7’ excerpt.
Gentleman Jim Corbett meets Bob Fitzsimmons. The world’s first feature film lasted over 90’.
Great Boxing Contest, The (GB 1907). PC: Charles Urban Trading Company. /18 fps/ 5’.
English heavyweights Gunner Moir vs. Tiger Smith.
Sights and Scenes from the Johnson-Jeffries Fight (US 1910). PC: J.&J. Company. D: J. Stuart Blackton. Short GB version /18 fps/ 16’. The black champion Jack Johnson and the ”white hope” Jim Jeffries. Fear of racial unrest caused an interstate anti-fight film law to be passed that remained in force until the 1930s.
Bill’s Day Out (FR 1911). PC: Lux. Patouillard (Bill in English-speaking countries) visits a fairground boxing booth featuring two black boxers - Bob Scanton and P. Warren.
Trainings for the Great Boxing Contest (GB 1911). /18 fps/ 2’ excerpt. Newsreel footage of two great black heavyweight boxers: Sam McVey and Sam Langford.
Man To Beat Jack Johnson, The (GB 1910). PC: Walter Tyler. /18 fps/ 3’. Four-year old Willie Saunders as a boxing monster. On the strength of this film he became a child star in Eclair’s Willy comedy series.
Jack Johnson Paying a Visit to the Manchester Docks (GB 1916). /18 fps/ 2’. Newsreel footage on Johnson when he was a fugitive from American justice, having been convicted on a ”white slavery” charge.
Battle of the Century, The (US 1921). PC: Fred C. Quimby. /18 fps/ 35’. **** America’s world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey meets France’s Georges Carpentier. One of the all-time great boxing documentaries, standing up to comparison with When We Were Kings.
The Peach Girl. PC: Lianhua Film Company. D: Richard Poh. DP: Huang Shaofen. CAST: Ruan Lingyu, Jin Yan. Print from Zhongguo Dianying Ziliaoguan. /20 fps/ 100’. Silent b&w. Piano: Philip C. Carli. Chinese and English titles. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Tuesday, 14 October 1997. *** Melodrama about love across the tracks is full of exciting detail on the everyday life. The cinematography is first rate, and Ruan Lingyu is charismatic as the peach blossom girl. The peach tree is withered as we reach the end but the spineless son of the opium-addicted landlady-mother receives the dying heroine’s baby: ”I shall live for her sake”. ”Like teardrops petals from the peach blossoms fall upon her grave”.
Monday, October 13, 1997
/ / DE / 1912-1930 / Pinschewer, Julius / commercial
Showcase of the pioneering producer of experimental commercials. Brilliant prints from Bundesarchiv Berlin. 18 fps. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Monday, 13 October, 1997.
Nähkasten, Der (1912) Prym push-buttons. A living sewing-kit.
Tanz der Flaschen I (1912) Maggi sauce. Dance of Maggi bottles.
”Dort wo der Rhein…” (1927) AN: Walther Ruttmann. Hand-coloured. Kölnische Zeitung. Newsworld montage.
Am Nil (1921) Excelsior tyres. Even crocodile’s teeth fail to damage them.
Wunder, Das. Ein Film in Farben (1922) AN: Walther Ruttmann. Hand-coloured. Kantorowicz liquor. Two faces. *
Wiedergefundene Paradies, Das (1925) AN: Walther Ruttmann. Hand-coloured. Florists. ”Lasst Blumen sprechen”.
Aufstieg, Der (1925) AN: Walther Ruttmann, Lore Leudesdorff. Hand-coloured. GESOLEI exposition. Bauhaus.
Spiel der Wellen (1926) AN: Walther Ruttmann, Lore Leudesdorff. Hand-coloured. AEG. Radio waves.
KIPHO (1925) FX: Guido Seeber. Kino-Photo-Ausstellung. A vision of the cinema.
Im Filmatelier (1927) AN: Hedwig Otto, Gerda Otto. Bayer’s Aspirin. Puppet animation.
Kirmes in Hollywood. Ein Puppenspiel (1930) AN: Hedwig Otto, Gerda Otto. Nestlé’s chocolate. Keaton vs. Jannings.
Barcarole, Die (1924) AN: Lotte Reiniger. Mauxion chocolate. Romeo and Juliet as silhouettes.
Chinesische Nachtigall, Die (1929) Tri-Ergon disks of Tonbild-Syndikat. 42mm transfer to 16mm. *
En rade. Un rêve irréalisé - un drame sans dénouement. PC: Néo-Films. P: Pierre Braunberger. D: Cavalcanti. SC: Claude Heyman. CAST: Catherine Hessling (la servante), Nathalie Lissenko (la blanchisseuse). Ca 80’. Silent b&w. La Cinémathèque Francaise. Piano: Neil Brand. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Monday, 13 October 1997. ** Melancholy, dreamy scenes at a port. A fragile film in the tradition of Fièvre might work better with careful musical accompaniment. Hessling is not a versatile actress.
Howard Hawks: American Artist. PC: BFI. D: Kevin McDonald. Consultant: Todd McCarthy. Narrator: Stephen Frears. Featuring: Lauren Bacall, Angie Dickinson, James Caan, Harry Carey, Jr., Peter Bogdanovich, William Friedkin. Archival footage of Howard Hawks and his films. VHS PAL big screen projection. 60’. Pordenone, Ridotto del Verdi, Monday, 13 October 1997. **** A good lean documentary mixing the familiar and the unfamiliar. No new revelations for readers of the biography by Todd McCarthy. But a perfect joy all the same. - Comment 2008: the Hawks women realize they were saying the same lines from one decade to another. They also realize they resemble Hawks, himself.
Vengeance du Gâte-Sauce, La. PC: Star-Film. P+D: Georges Méliès. 17 m /16 fps/ 53”. Silent b&w. GEH/Vevey. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Monday 13 October 1997. Loose flying heads. - Georges Méliès: The 1997 Discoveries
Repas fantastique, Le. PC: Star-Film. P+D: Georges Méliès. 28 m /16 fps/ 1’32”. Silent b&w. GEH/Vevey. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Monday 13 October 1997. The dinner table and other furniture rebel against men. - Georges Méliès: The 1997 Discoveries
Spiritisme abracadabrant. PC: Star-Film. P+D: Georges Méliès. 21 m /16 fps/ 1’08”. Silent b&w. GEH/Vevey. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Monday 13 October 1997. The unsuccessful attempt to remove one’s hat. - Georges Méliès: The 1997 Discoveries
Sunday, October 12, 1997
/ / US / 1890-1900 / Edison, Thomas A. / non-fiction
PC: The Edison Manufacturing Company. Print source: Library of Congress.
World premiere in Pordenone of restored 35mm film prints copied from 35mm paper prints. Speed varies. The early ones were to be viewed at 20-40 fps. Until 1895 the films were meant for Kinetoscope viewing. Since 1896 they were manufactured to be projected. The duration was typically one minute. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, piano accompaniment, 12-18 October 1997.
The viewing prints based on the paper prints do no do justice to the photographic quality of the originals. Of the 936 films, 539 survive. I saw close to a hundred of them. The films are non-fiction if not otherwise indicated.
Edison was the only motion picture producer in the world before 1895 and the leading American producer and distributor of 35mm films through 1900. He built the world’s first motion picture studio, Black Maria, for his productions.
The Pordenone retrospective was mounted to accompany the publication of Charles Musser’s seminal book - Edison Motion Pictures, 1890-1990. An Annotated Filmography (1997).
Mr. Edison At Work In His Chemical Laboratory (1897) - Edison # 344
Giant Coal Dumper (1897) - Edison # 353
Corner Madison and State Streets, Chicago (1897) - Edison # 354
Armour’s Electric Trolley (1897) - Edison # 355
Sheep Run, Chicago Stockyards (1897) - Edison # 356
Cattle Driven To Slaughter (1897) - Edison # 357
Racing At Sheepshead Bay (1897) - Edison # 358
Free-For-All Race At Charter Oak Park (1897) - Edison # 360
Philadelphia Express, Jersey Central Railway (1897) - Edison # 361
Admiral Cigarette (1897) - Edison # 362. Commercial: ”We all smoke”.
Overland Express Arriving At Helena, Montana (1897) - Edison # 363
Coaches Arriving At Mammoth Hot Springs (1897) - Edison # 365
Tourists Going Round Yellowstone Park (1897) - Edison # 366
Lower Falls, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone (1897) - Edison # 371
S.S. Queen Loading (1897) - Edison # 373
Loading Baggage For Klondike, No. 5 (1897) - Edison # 374
S.S. Queen Leaving Dock (1897) - Edison # 375
Horses Loading For Klondike, No. 9 (1897) - Edison # 376
Loading Baggage For Klondike (1897) - Edison # 376.1
S.S. Williamette Leaving For Klondike (1897) - Edison # 377
First Avenue, Seattle, Washington (1897) - Edison # 378
Fast Mail, Norther Pacific Railroad (1897) - Edison # 379
Dancing Darkey Boy (1897) - Edison # 385 - dance
Fisherman’s Luck (1897) - Edison # 386 - comedy
Bowery Waltz (1897) - Edison # 387- dance
Charity Ball (1897) - Edison # 388 - dance
Leander Sisters (1897) - Edison # 390 - dance
Cupid And Psyche (1897) - Edison # 391 - dance
Sutro Baths No. 1 (1897) - Edison # 392
Sutro Baths No. 2 (1897) - Edison # 393
Lurline Baths (1897) - Edison # 394
Fisherman’s Wharf (1897) - Edison # 395
Fishing Smacks (1897) - Edison # 396
Arrest In Chinatown, San Francisco (1897) - Edison # 397
S.S. Coptic At Dock (1897) - Edison # 398
S.S. Coptic Sailing Away (1897) - Edison # 399
S.S. Coptic In The Harbor (1897) - Edison # 400
Stanford University , California (1897) - Edison # 401
Hotel Vendome, San Jose, Cal. (1897) - Edison # 402
Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, Cal. (1897) - Edison # 403
Surf At Monterey (1897) - Edison # 404
Hotel Del Monte (1897) - Edison # 405
Launch Of Life Boat (1897) - Edison # 410
Capsize Of Lifeboat (1897) - Edison # 411
Return Of Lifeboat (1897) - Edison # 414
Chrissie Sheridan (1897) - Edison # 427 - dance
What Demoralized The Barber Shop (1897) - Edison # 443? - comedy: women’s feet
Wash Day In Mexico (1897) - Edison # 450?
South Spring Street, Los Angeles (1898) - Edison # 470
Going Through The Tunnel (1898) - Edison # 477
Sunset Limited, Southern Pacific Railway (1898) - Edison # 478
Freight Train (1898) - Edison # 479
Launch of Japanese Man-Of-War Chitose (1898) - Edison # 480
Launching, No. 2 (1898) - Edison # 481
After Launching (1898) - Edison # 482
Union Iron Works (1898) - Edison # 483
Feeding Sea Gulls (1898) - Edison # 484
Procession Of Floats (1898) - Edison # 485
Native Daughters (1898) - Edison # 486
Parade of Chinese (1898) - Edison # 487
Mount Tamalpais R.R., No. 1 (1898) - Edison # 488
Mount Tamalpais R.R., No. 2 (1898) - Edison # 489
Mount Taw, R.R., No. 3 (1898) - Edison # 490
Hockey Match On Ice (1898) - Edison # 495
Burial Of The ”Maine” Victims (1898) - Edison # 533
N.Y. Journal Despatch Yacht ”Buccaneer” (1898) - Edison # 535
Wreck Of The Battleship ”Maine” (1898) - Edison # 536
U.S. Battleship ”Indiana” (1898) - Edison # 540
Street Arab, A (1898) - Edison # 551 - breakdance
Cuban Refugees Waiting For Rations (1898) - Edison # 563
Troops Embarking At San Francisco (1898) - Edison # 576
Troop Ships For The Philippines (1898) - Edison # 577
Roosevelt’s Rough Riders Embarking For Santiago (1898) - Edison # 590
Cuban Volunteers Embarking (1898) - Edison # 591
U.S. Troop Landing At Daiquiri, Cuba (1898) - Edison # 595
Pack Mules With Ammunition On The Santiago Trail (1898) - Edison # 599
U.S. Cruiser ”Olympia” Leading Naval Parade (1899) - Edison # 735
Admiral Dewey Leading Land Parade, No. 1 (1899) - Edison # 741
Columbia Winning The Cup (1899) - Edison # 761
2nd Special Service Battalion, Canadian Infantry, Parade (1899) - Edison # 763
2nd Special Service Battalion, Canadian Infantry, Embarking For South Africa (1899) - Edison # 764
Automobile Parade (1899) - Edison # 767
Dick Croker Leaving Tammany Hall (1899) - Edison # 769
Why Jones Discharged His Clerks (1899) - Edison # 776 - comedy
Why Mrs. Jones Got A Divorce (1899) - Edison # 777 - comedy
Dull Razor, A (1900) - Edison # 784 - comedy
Animated Luncheon, An (1900) - Edison # 785 - magic
Faust and Marguerite (1900) - Edison # 786 - magic
Magician, The (1900) - Edison # 787 - magic
Ching Ling Foo Outdone (1900) - Edison # 788 - magic
Kiss, The (1900) - Edison # 789 - remake of the May Irwin Kiss
Artist’s Dream, An (1900) - Edison # 795 - magic
Mystic Swing, The (1900) - Edison # 796 - magic
Uncle Josh In A Spooky Hotel (1900) - Edison # 797 - magic
015270 / 16 / GB / 1926 / Elvey, Maurice / / war
Flag Lieutenant, The / Lippuluutnantti. PC: Astra-National. D: Maurice Elvey. CAST: Henry Edwards, Dorothy Seacombe, Fred Raynham. 1950 m /20 fps/ 76’. Silent b&w. Somnambulistic piano accompaniment by Edward von Past. NFTVA print. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Sunday, 12 October 1997. * Pedestrian tale of noble sacrifice in military service.
Within Our Gates. PC: Micheaux Book and Film Co. D: Oscar Micheaux. CAST: Evelyn Preer, Charles D. Lucas, Jack Chenault. 1809 m /16 fps/ 98’. Silent. LOC reconstruction based on Spanish print. Piano by Donald Sosin. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Sunday, 12 October 1997. * Important example of militant African-American filmmaking, screened as an antidote to Birth of a Nation. Clumsy film contains harrowing scenes of racial violence.
Lost World, The / Kadonnut maailma. PC: First National. D: Harry O. Hoyt. Based on the story by Arthur Conan Doyle. AN: Willis O’Brien. CAST: Bessie Love, Wallace Beery, Bull Montana. 2075 m /19 fps/ 95’. Silent. Tinted. GEH work print, ”still wet”, presented by Paolo Cherchi Usai. Piano by Philip C. Carli. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Sunday, 12 October 1997. ** I was familiar with the one-hour version of this one. Now half an hour longer than the versions available during the last decades, the film is still mainly of academic and specialist interest. An important step in the animation of prehistoric monsters. But King Kong was the first great one in this tradition.
Menschen am Sonntag. Ein Film ohne Schauspieler. PC: Filmstudio 1929. D: Robert Siodmak. Contributions by Edgar G. Ulmer, Rochus Gliese, Curt Siodmak, Billy Wilder, and Fred Zinnemann. DP: Eugen Schüfftan. Original length 2014 m /20 fps/ 88’. Münchner Filmmuseum reconstruction in progress 1744 m /20 fps/ 76’. Presented by Jan-Christopher Horak. Piano by Antonio Coppola. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Sunday 12 October, 1997. **** The version known in Finland is a 16mm print which runs some 55’. I had seen this Munich restoration before. Now it struck with heightened force. The little things grow in importance; the film gets better with each viewing. The beauty of immediate experience.
Rien que les heures. Une suite des impressions. PC: Néo-Films. P: Pierre Braunberger. D: Cavalcanti. 924 m /20 fps/ 40’. Silent b&w. La Cinémathèque Francaise. Piano: Antonio Coppola. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Sunday, 12 October 1997. *** ”Aucune ville”. ”Mais seule une succession d’images peut nous restituer la vie”. ”Immobiliser un moment dans le temps”. ”L’espace et le temps s’échappent tous les deux”.
P’tite Lilie, La / Pikku Lilie. PC: Néo-Films. P: Pierre Braunberger. D: Cavalcanti. CAST: Catherine Hessling, Jean Renoir. 400 m /22 fps/ 15’. Silent b&w. La Cinémathèque Francaise. Piano: Antonio Coppola. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Sunday, 12 October 1997. A music short presented without its music makes little sense.
Film Of Her, The. P+D+SC: Bill Morrison. 12’. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Sunday, 12 October 1997. **** In search of lost time: a beautiful vignette about film archival work based on the treasures at the Library of Congress.
Face the Camera. PC: Hal Roach Studios. P: Hal Roach. D: Jay A. Hove. CAST: Paul Parrott, Jobyna Ralston. GEH. 176 m /20 fps/ 8’. Silent b&w. Piano: Antonio Coppola. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Sunday, 12 October 1997. *** The rookie cameraman’s only previous work experience was that of an organ grinder. That could have fatal results during the nitrate era. Having wreaking havoc all over the city the hero finally causes his studio to explode.
Saturday, October 11, 1997
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto - The Festival of Silent Cinema - was mounted for the 16th time in Pordenone, Italy, an hour’s train journey north of Venice. An invaluable annual event for those seriously interested in film history, it is the only opportunity anywhere to see comprehensive screenings of films from the first 40 years of the history of cinema - from the years 1890 till 1930, when films did not have soundtracks. Professionals of film history from all around the globe - from Beijing to Washington, from New Zealand to Helsinki meet there each year. The prints screened represent the state of the art of archival preservation and restoration. The prints may be brilliant, or border on the unwatchable. All screenings have music. The Birth of a Nation with live symphony orchestra accompaniment was unforgettable, and The Jazz Singer and Der weisse Teufel had memorable soundtracks. Other screenings had piano accompaniment.
This year’s offerings included:
* the first films of William Friese-Greene from 1890 - not seen in generations
* the first films of Thomas Alva Edison from 1890 till 1900 - a retrospective with hundreds of titles
* the first 94 films of D.W. Griffith, from the years 1907-1908
The participants had the luxury of experiencing some of the founding artefacts of the Seventh Art - from the birth pangs to the violent growth of the Gargantuan baby.
The fest was capped with two specials:
* The Birth of a Nation (1915) with full symphony orchestra accompaniment, and
* The Jazz Singer (1927) - 70th anniversary screening
011659 / 16 / US / 1915 / Griffith, D.W. / / historical drama
Birth of a Nation, The / Kansakunnan synty. PC: David W. Griffith Corporation. P+D+SC: D.W. Griffith. M: Joseph Carl Breil. CAST: Henry B. Walthall, Robert Harron, Lillian Gish, Miriam Cooper, Mae Marsh. Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, Saturday 11 October 1997. Restored print based on the 1921 re-release by Photoplay Productions (David Gill, Kevin Brownlow, Patrick Stanbury). 3454 m /16 fps/ 187’. Tinted print. Live music based on the original score arranged and conducted by John Lanchbery, performed by Ljubljana Camerata Labacensis Orchestra. Screening dedicated to David Gill (1928 - 1997). **** ??!! The most ambivalent and embarrassing of the film classics has lost none of its power to move or to offend. I was previously familiar only with the 3280 m version of the film’s last Finnish re-release of 1964 which at sound speed ran one hour faster than this screening. To be cherished: the wonderful fluidity, the perfect blend of sound and vision, music marvellously restored and amended by John Lanchbery. It still probably is the highest grossing film of all time, if the value of the dollar is adjusted. And the most influential, besides Citizen Kane: participation in it changed the lives of John Ford, Raoul Walsh, and Erich von Stroheim, among others. For the first time I could really appreciate the majesty of the first part dedicated to the Civil War. The second part focusing on the Ku Klux Klan became more serious, too, because of the high standards of the presentation. Previously, in the Finnish release version, I found the racism merely stupid. Now I found the blood-thirsty aggressiveness as vicious as anything from Nazi Germany. I refused to applaud. No wonder The Birth of a Nation has not been exhibited in public since the 1940s in Anglo-Saxon countries. It may only be shown on special occasions in an anti-racist context.
The first ever complete D.W. Griffith retrospective was launched in Pordenone in 1997 and is likely to take ten years to be finished. The majority of Griffith’s over 500 films survive, but many have not been generally available since their release. Most of his Biograph shorts are preserved at the Library of Congress’ paper print collection. The paper print versions are often pre-release material, and shown in 16mm film transfer prints do not do justice to the photographic quality of the originals. Sometimes the scenes were deposited in camera negative order, making the plot impossible to follow.
It was an invaluable privilege to see these films of apprenticeship - ”Griffith before Griffith”. If he would have died having made only these films, he would be forgotten today. Seeing these films was like witnessing a baby’s first steps. The sketches and vignettes cover a wide range. There is hardly any sense of film form, storytelling, or cinematic performance. Instead, we have condensed melodramatic plots performed at breakneck speed, and telegraphed by high histrionics. In the rare 35mm prints, there is true photogenic beauty. Interestingly, the very first film directed by DWG, The Adventures of Dollie, is one of the most charming of the whole, since a beautiful print is available. It is fittingly symbolic that it is the story of a little child. Other most memorable films include Edgar Allan Poe: a clumsy but deeply felt vignette. And The Guerrilla, a visually memorable Civil War scene. DWG’s comedies are far from the masters.
Main actors in the films viewed include Linda Arvidson, Florence Lawrence, D.W. Griffith, and Mack Sennett.
The Griffith Project Part I covered the first 94 films in which DWG was active as a screenwriter, actor, or director. They all survive in some form. They were shot in one to three days. The duration ranges between 7-15’. I saw 68 of them. Most were screened at Ridotto del Verdi, Pordenone, all with piano accompaniment, all at 15 fps, 12-18 October, 1997.
The following films were produced by Biograph, and they were screened in Library of Congress prints, in 16mm, without titles and toning and are directed by DWG, unless otherwise indicated.
Professional Jealousy (1907) 35mm, MOMA, fine definition. D: Wallace McCutcheon. As an extra. DWG # 1
Falsely Accused! (1907) 35mm, MOMA, titles. D: Wallace McCutcheon. In a small role. DWG # 2
Rescued From An Eagle’s Nest (1908) PC: Edison. 35mm, MOMA, fine definition, titles. D: J. Searle Dawley. As male lead. DWG # 3
Cupid’s Pranks (1908) PC: Edison. 35mm, MOMA, titles. D: J. Searle Dawley. As an extra. DWG # 5
Princess In The Vase, The (1908) As male lead. D: Wallace McCutcheon. DWG # 6
Egyptian Princess, The (1908) Unreleased version of above. MOMA. Titles. DWG # 6
Her First Adventure (1908) 35mm, MOMA. D: Wallace McCutcheon. As male lead. DWG # 8
Old Isaacs, The Pawnbroker (1908) MOMA, from damaged source. D: Wallace McCutcheon. Screenwriter, actor. DWG # 10
At The Crossroads Of Life (1908) 35mm, MOMA, titles. D: Wallace McCutcheon. Screenwriter, actor. DWG # 24
Adventures Of Dollie, The (1908) 35mm, fine definition. DWG # 27 *
Fight For Freedom, The (1908) 35mm. DWG # 29
Redman and the Child, The (1908) 35mm. DWG # 30
For Love Of Gold (1908) From Jack London’s ”Just Meat”. DWG # 37
Fatal Hour, The (1908) DWG # 38
Balked At The Altar (1908). Comedy. DWG # 39
For A Wife’s Honor (1908) DWG # 40
Girl And The Outlaw, The (1908) Western. DWG # 41
Monday Morning In A Coney Island Police Court (1908) Comedy. DWG # 42
Red Girl, The (1908) Western. DWG # 43
Behind The Scenes (1908) DWG # 44
Heart of O Yama, The (1908) DWG # 45
Betrayed By A Handprint (1908) Detective story. DWG # 46.
Where The Breakers Roar (1908) DWG # 47
Smoked Husband, A (1908) Comedy. DWG # 48
Zulu’s Heart, The (1908) DWG # 49
Vaquero’s Vow, The (1908) DWG # 50
Father Gets In The Game (1908) Comedy. DWG # 51
Barbarian, Ingomar, The (1908) DWG # 52
Planter’s Wife, The (1908) Story resembles the Finnish classic Juha. DWG # 53
Devil, The (1908) From Ferenc Molnar’s The Devil. DWG # 54
Stolen Jewels, The (1908) DWG # 55
Mr. Jones At The Ball (1908) Comedy. DWG # 56
Romance Of A Jewess (1908) DWG # 57
Call Of The Wild, The (1908) Western. DWG # 58
Concealing A Burglar (1908) DWG # 59
Woman’s Way, A (1908) Scenes out of order. DWG # 60
Taming Of The Shrew, The (1908). Based on Shakespeare, Florence Lawrence as Kate. DWG # 61
After Many Years (1908). Based on Tennyson’s poem ”Enoch Arden”. DWG # 62
Pirate’s Gold, The (1908) DWG # 63
Guerrilla, The (1908) Civil War. 35 mm, from paper print. DWG # 64
Guerrilla, The (1908) Civil War. 35 mm, from film print, MOMA. Titles. DWG # 64 *
Guerrilla, The (1908) Civil War. 35 mm, German release version. German titles. DWG # 64
Song of the Shirt, The (1908) From Thomas Hood’s poem. DWG # 65
Curtain Pole, The (1908) Comedy starring Mack Sennett. DWG # 66
Mrs. Jones Entertains (1908) Comedy. DWG # 67
Ingrate, The (1908) DWG # 68
Feud and the Turkey, The (1908) Scenes out of order. DWG # 69
Valet’s Wife, The (1908) Comedy. Scenes out of order. DWG # 71
Clubman and the Tramp, The (1908). Comedy: ”tantalizing annoyance of having a double”. DWG # 72
Money Mad (1908) Based on Jack London’s ”Just Meat”. DWG # 73
One Touch of Nature (1908) Orphan child brings mother to sanity. DWG # 74
Awful Moment, An (1908) Gypsy woman’s revenge on judge. Scenes out of order. DWG # 75
Test of Friendship, The (1908). Millionaire lies having gone bankrupt. Scenes out of order. DWG # 76
Helping Hand, The (1908) At the altar a poor girl is about to be exposed as a whore. DWG # 77
Maniac Cook, The (1908) The kitchen maid goes mad and is about to roast a baby. DWG # 78
Christmas Burglars, The (1908) 35mm from paper print, unstable image. Pawnbroker with a heart of gold. DWG # 79
Wreath In Time, A (1908) Comedy starring Mack Sennett and resembling Sons of the Desert. DWG # 80
Honor of Thieves, The (1908) Pawnbroker’s daughter beguiled into eloping with smooth-talking thief. DWG # 81
Rural Elopement, A (1908) DWG # 82
Joneses Have Amateur Theatricals, The (1908) Comedy. DWG # 83
Sacrifice, The (1908) DWG # 84
Criminal Hypnotist, The (1908) DWG # 85
Edgar Allen Poe (1908). ”Allan” misspelled in title. Based on ”The Raven”. 35mm, MOMA. DWG # 86
Mr. Jones Has A Card Party (1908). Comedy. DWG # 87
Roue’s Heart, The (1908) Blind sculptress meets French roue. DWG # 88
Welcome Burglar, The (1908) Ex-husband shot as a burglar. DWG # 89
Hindoo Dagger, The (1908) DWG # 90
Tragic Love (1908) DWG # 91
Love Finds A Way (1908) Costume comedy in the court of Louis XIII. DWG # 92
Girls and Daddy, The (1908) Blatant racism. Scenes out of order. DWG # 93
Salvation Army Lass, The (1908) ”God Is My Light”. DWG # 94
Thursday, October 09, 1997
Hercules / Herkules. PC: Walt Disney Enterprises. P+D+SC: John Musker, Ron Clements. M: Alan Menken. PD: Gerald Scarfe. 92’. 1,85. MPAA 35360. Rating: G. Finnish language version supervised by Pekka Lehtosaari. Voice of Megara: Laura Voutilainen. DIST: Finnkino. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, Thursday, 9 October 1997. *** First-rate animation provides a feast for the eyes, and the design of Gerald Scarfe introduces a visual signature with an unusual edge. Alan Menken’s score is thoroughly integrated in the story, making this a true animated musical. After a century of animated cinema the problem of human characters is still to be solved. The traditional Disneyesque full-figured wonder horse Pegasus is more effective than the experimental and angular human characters. While the subject is packed with wit and invention, there are problems of feeling and rhythm. Hercules attacks on the senses so relentlessly that the viewer is put on the defense. The frenetic and monotonic pace betrays a lack of trust in the talent involved. Not having seen the original language version I appreciate in the Finnish version its technical perfection and the verve and punch of the musical numbers. Some of the voices strike me as phony, but Laura Voutilainen as Megara is excellent. I agree with those who declare that the most interesting female characters in 1990s Hollywood cinema have appeared in Walt Disney’s animated features: Belle, Pocahontas, Esmeralda - and now Megara. She is a truly ambivalent figure, a good-bad girl half-way to Hades.
Tuesday, October 07, 1997
Violon de Rothschild, Le / Rothschildin viulu. PC: Les Films d’Ici. M: Dmitri Shostakovitsh, Benjamin Fleischmann, Modest Mussorgski (”Boris Godunov”). CAST: Sergei Makovetski (Dmitri Shostakovitsh), Dainius Kazlauskas (Benjamin Fleischmann). 100’. Letterboxed. Russian dialogue. Visa de contrôle 87801. Rating: G. Finnish subtitles by Jertta Ratia. PAL transmission of Yleisradio TV2, ”25th hour” series viewed in Helsinki, 7 October 1997. **** Masterful blend of drama, newsreel footage, and opera focuses on the Yiddish theme in Dmitri Shostakovitsh’s life. He finishes the one act opera ”Rothschild’s violin” inspired by Chekhov and composed by Dmitri’s friend Benjamin Fleischmann, who falls as a hero of the Siege of Leningrad. During Stalin’s campaign against ”rootless cosmopolitans” (= Jews) the Jewish impact in Shostakovitsh’s art grows more profound. ”The musician’s duty is to go on composing. That is the only way for us to say what we want”. ”Too many of us have been killed. Music will be my epitaph.” The montage of artists charmed by Stalin - Paul Robeson, Maxim Gorki, Bernard Shaw, Lion Feuchtwanger, Pablo Neruda, Paul Eluard - is poignant.
Last Days of Dolwyn, The. PC: London Films. A British Lion release. EX: Alexander Korda. P: Anatole de Grunwald. D+SC: Emlyn Williams. DP: Otto Heller. CAST: Edith Evans, Emlyn Williams, Richard Burton. 94’. B&w. English and Welsh gaelic dialogue. BBFC rating: U. Print: National Film and Television Archive. Presented by: Peter Stead. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 7 October 1997. ** The landmark film of Welsh cinema presents three legendary Welsh performers of three different generations - Edith Evans as the indomitable old lady, Emlyn Williams as the blackguard who wants to drown the village, and Richard Burton in his film debut as a young lover in the midst of the pastoral idyll. He is tongue-tied literally, since his mother tongue is gaelic, and he has to express his feelings in English, in the language of his sweetheart. These three actors carry the film, and Otto Heller knows where to put the camera. Weaknesses include: the factitious plot, the painted sceneries, the cardboard backgrounds, the weak pulse of the narrative, and worst of all, the lack of cinematic rhythm. Though several scenes, especially those with Edith Evans, are great, the film becomes boring. Freud would be intrigued by the final scene where Richard Burton sticks to his mother’s hand, neglecting his sweetheart’s.
She’s So Lovely / She’s So Lovely. PC: Hachette Premiere. A Miramax release. D: Nick Cassavetes. SC: John Cassavetes. CAST: Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, John Travolta. 97’. Scope. MPAA 35349. Rating R = 17. Finnish subtitles by Movision. DIST: Scanbox Finland. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, 7 October 1997. *** The ancient Greeks thought love is an illness which brings unhappiness and disaster. This film shares the same view. It’s a jazzy story about madness, alcohol and love. It wears a smile on its face, but there is stark staring madness raving underneath. The film is character-driven, and the performances are powerful.
Monday, October 06, 1997
GRIDLOCK’d / GRIDLOCK’d. PC: PolyGram. D+SC: Vondie Curtis Hall. M: Tupac Shakur, Vondie Curtis Hall, etc., performed by Critters Buggin’, Eight Mile Road, etc. CAST: Tim Roth, Tupac Shakur, Thandie Newton. 92’. 1,85. MPAA 34985. Rating R = 17. BBFC: 18. Finnish subtitles by Cinema Mondo. DIST: Cinema Mondo. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, 6 October 1997. *** Detroit. Comic verve never fails in the New Year’s Day adventure of three heroin-addicted musicians, the lady member of whom lands into hospital in coma. The two guys try desperately to get into rehabilitation. It resembles The Lost Weekend in the way the grimness of addiction is played for comedy. The duo has even touches of Laurel & Hardy. The risk of making comedy about an addiction to a lethal drug is great, but so is the payoff. The soundtrack is first rate. The leading trio of actors form the music/poetry group Eight Mile Road. GRIDLOCK’d = jammed. The dedication: For Tupac - ”One Road” - R.I.P.
Friday, October 03, 1997
Double Team / Double Team. PC: Mandalay Entertainment. A Columbia release. P: Moshe Diamant. D: Tsui Hark. DP: Pater Pau. Martial arts: Samo Hung. PD: Marek Dobrowolski. ED: Bill Pankow. CAST: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Mickey Rourke. 91’. Scope. MPAA 35076. Rating R = 17. Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Eirik Udd. DIST: Columbia TriStar Egmont Finland. Viewed at VET, Helsinki, Friday, 3 October 1997. *** Van Damme’s best movie so far is the lucky result of a genial production team. It’s the US debut of the Hong Kong wizards Tsui Hark and Samo Hung, and the screen debut of Dennis Rodman, who brings colour and humour to the screen, in perfect contrast to the single-minded Van Damme. It’s flamboyant, it’s outlandish, and it does not care about logic. It’s about magic and miracle and the joy of spectacle. The plot is forgettable and some twists objectionable (shooting innocents, risking lives of babies), but there are several funny inventions (the cybermonks in the catacombs of Rome). To be admired is also the very precise sense of using time lapse and the bold and consistent colour scheme. Hopefully Van Damme will work with these guys again.
Thursday, October 02, 1997
Casque d’or / Rakastajatar. PC: Speva Films; Paris Films. A Discina release. P: Robert Hakim, Henri Baum / André Paulvé. D+SC+ED: Jacques Becker. Music theme: ”Le Temps de cerises”. CAST: Simone Signoret (Marie, Casque d’or), Serge Reggiani (Manda), Claude Dauphin (Félix Leca). 97’. B&w. Visa de censure 8542. Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marjatta Kaija / Eirik Udd. A worn print. Presented by Claude Beylie, who commented, among other things, that ”the truth of the men in the film lies in their moustaches”. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, Thursday, 2 October 1997. **** Still grand and forceful after all these years. The love story amongst the Apaches of 1898 combines the sensuality of Renoir with the laconic power of an American thriller. It’s about love, friendship and devotion, about risking everything for what’s worth it. Everything - dialogue, acting, camerawork, music, montage - blends perfectly to produce a profound electric charge. A director’s movie, absolutely, but also a producer’s dream come true.