Monday, January 31, 2005

Une histoire d'eau

FR 1958. PC: Les Films de la Pléiade. P: Pierre Braunberger. D: Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard. DP: Truffaut, completed by Godard. SC+ED+narration: Godard. Starring Caroline Dim and Jean-Claude Brialy. 13 min. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 30 Jan 2005. Initiated by Truffaut who shot the big Paris floods with the actors, but brought to the finish by Godard, this is a droll short which manages to combine the spirit of both young film-makers. ****

The Day I Met Caruso


The Day I Met Caruso. Sandy Descher (Elizabeth), Lofti Mansieri (Enrico Caruso.

US © 1956 Hal Roach Studios. P: Willis Goldbeck. D: Frank Borzage. SC: Zoe Akins – based on a short story by Elizabeth Bacon Rodewald.
    Starring Lofti Mansieri (Enrico Caruso), Sandy Descher (Elizabeth). 25 min.
    Viewed at SEA, Orion, 30 Jan 2005.

A little Quaker girl sees Caruso on train and reproaches the star for his fancy ways: "Be worthy of thy gift!". Caruso spends the trip playing cards with the girl and singing. "O soave fanciulla" (Puccini: La Bohème), "Recitar!... vesti la giubba" (Leoncavallo: Pagliacci), "La donna è mobile" (Verdi: Rigoletto), "La Fleur que tu m'avais jetée" (Bizet: Carmen), "O sole mio", "Over There" (to WWI soldiers going to the front). The girl realizes that by cultivating the voice of his Caruso might be worthy of his gift. ****

Der Untergang

Perikato / Undergången / The Downfall. DE (c) 2004 Constantin Film. P+SC: Bernd Eichinger - based on books by Joachim Fest and Traudl Junge & Melissa Müller. D: Oliver Hirschbiegel. Starring Bruno Ganz (Adolf Hitler), Juliane Köhler (Eva Braun / Hitler), Alexandra Maria Lara (Traudl Junge), Ulrich Mattes (Joseph Goebbels), Corinna Harfouch (Magda Goebbels). DP: Rainer Klausmann. PD: Bernd Lepel. 150 min. Released by Sandrew, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Paula Kaurismäki / Patrik Edman. Viewed in Kinopalatsi 1, Helsinki, 30 Jan 2005. On Hitler's and Nazi Germany's last days in Berlin, this is a strong entry in the history of the war film, the historical film, and the biopic. It's powerful but nuanced. It shows the monsters as human beings yet does not apologize them. It helps understand how it happened. The actors are excellent. The production values are very good. I saw the film on its premiere weekend, and quite evidently it is starting to grip a large audience in our country. ***

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Aviator

Lentäjä / Aviator. US (c) 2004 IMF. A Miramax release. D: Martin Scorsese. SC: John Logan. DP: Robert Richardson. PD: Dante Ferretti. Songs: "Howard Hughes" by Leadbelly, etc. ED: Thelma Schoonmaker. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Howard Hughes), Cate Blanchett (Katharine Hepburn), Kate Beckinsale (Ava Gardner). 170 min. Digital look. Released by CTSN, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Saliven Gustavson. Viewed at Bristol, Helsinki, 29 Jan 2005. An enjoyable biopic for a film buff. It really starts with Hughes's ambitious struggle to produce Hell's Angels at the dawn of sound film. Among other things, Hughes was a fascinating maverick film producer. We are also shown entertainingly his efforts in aviation. The climax is the Senate hearings of 1947. DiCaprio was the dynamo of this big project, and in the climax he is at his best. Cate Blanchett gives a Katharine Hepburn imitation (having just seen several Cukor / Hepburn films I'm not convinced, though). Kate Beckinsale does not have the Ava Gardner aura, but the characters of both Katharine and Ava are strongly written. Hughes's life was more interesting than I had expected. A great entertainment. I did not like the digital look of the film, nor do I think Scorsese's ambitious idea to follow various historical colour designs from Cinecolor and two-strip Technicolor to fuller colour designs works well in digital. There is something more that's missing than full colour. ***

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Pakasteet

Frozen Goods. FI 1969. PC: Filminor / Paulig. D: Risto Jarva. M: Erkki Kurenniemi. Starring Jukka Sipilä, Erik Helenius, Tarja Markus. 15 min. Viewed at SEA, Orion, 28 Jan 2005, as a part of the Film and Design lecture. The promotion film celebrating 25 years of Paulig's frozen foods became a meta-filmic comedy and a comic setpiece of 1960s design. Jarva's inspiration in Tati and Tashlin is in evidence. ***

Powers of Ten

US 1977. PC: IBM / Charles & Ray Eames. Directed by Charles Eames and Ray Eames. M: Elmer Bernstein. FX: Alex Funke. 9 min. A print with Finnish commentary. Viewed at SEA, Orion, 28 Jan 2005, as part of the Film and Design lectures. Charles Eames and Ray Eames, the great designers, the husband-and-wife team, were also creative film-makers. The concept of this one is simple and magnificent: by powers of ten, we zoom out to the universe from a couple having a picnic in Chicago. Then we journey back again, and by negative powers, deep into the nuclear world. ****

Friday, January 28, 2005

Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta

Sången om den eldröda blomman / Das Lied von der feuerroten Blume / The Song of the Scarlet Flower. FI 1938. PC+D: Teuvo Tulio. Based on the novel by Johannes Linnankoski. Starring Kaarlo Oksanen (Olavi), Rakel Linnanheimo (Kyllikki), Mirjami Kuosmanen (Annikki), Nora Mäkinen (Elli), Birgit Nuotio (The Dark Girl). 110 min. English subtitles. Viewed in Filmmuseum Potsdam, 27 Jan 2005. The first Finnish film adaptation of the novel about the "Don Juan of the North", which had been filmed in Sweden twice before. It is a beautiful Nordic Bildungsroman about a man's romantic / erotic quest. There is more burning visual passion in Tulio than in the previous adaptations, and many of the actors are excellent. Stiller's version is the masterpiece, but all the others, save the last one by Niskanen, are worth seeing. Tulio's film is still one of the most popular Finnish films of all times. The director himself prevented his films being shown, and first since his death in 2000 they are being made available again. In Filmmuseum Potsdam, it's a part of a tribute including a beautiful photo exhibition. ***

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

7th Heaven (1927) (Movietone)


7th Heaven. Janet Gaynor (Diane), Charles Farrell (Chico)

Seitsemäs taivas / Sjunde himmeln. US © 1927 Fox. D: Frank Borzage. SC: Benjamin Glazer, Frances Marion – based on the play by Austin Strong. DP: Ernest Palmer. Songs: "Diane" (Ernö Rapée, Lew Pollack), "Seventh Heaven" (William Perry, Ronn Carroll).
    Starring: Janet Gaynor (Diane), Charles Farrell (Chico). Movietone 120 min.
    Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki 25 Jan 2005.

Borzage's first grand poem of love set in a stylized studio Paris where the lovers rise literally from the sewers towards heaven, the attic apartment where they are near the sky. WWI breaks out, and Chico is believed dead, but he comes back blind, yet "My eyes are still filled with you". This celebration of l'amour fou is moving because of Borzage's total sincerity. There is an interesting parallel to this in Un long dimanche de fiancailles. ****

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Coffee and Cigarettes

Kahvia ja tupakkaa / Kaffe och cigaretter. US (c) 2003 Smokescreen, Inc. D+SC: Jim Jarmusch. DP (b&w): Tom DiCillo, Frederick Elmes, Ellen Kuras, Robby Müller. M: "Louie Louie" perf. by (1) Richard Berry & The Pharaohs (2) Tom Waits. "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" (Gustav Mahler) perf. by Janet Baker. Starring Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Joie Lee, Cinqué Lee, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Isaach De Bankolé, Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, GZA, RZA, Bill Murray, William Rice, Taylor Mead. 93 min. Released by Cinema Mondo, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Mökkönen / Ditte Kronström. Viewed in Tennispalatsi 14, Helsinki, 24 Jan 2005. 11 vignettes, 17 years in the making, in the original minimalist Jarmusch style, and in his episodic style as in Night on Earth. There, the pretext was the taxi. Now, it's coffee and cigarettes. Seemingly a random collection, yet there are structures and themes. The vignettes are based on pairs, often opposites (Cate Blanchett's double role), there is the familiar Jarmusch comedy theme of the apparently cool meeting the apparently uncool, and there is his satirical motif of how fame can mess your personality. The audience obviously liked the film. ***

Monday, January 24, 2005

Man's Castle


Man's Castle. Loretta Young (Trina), Spencer Tracy (Bill). Please click to enlarge the image.

US © 1933 Columbia. P+D: Frank Borzage. SC: Jo Swerling. DP: Joseph August. Starring Spencer Tracy (Bill), Loretta Young (Trina), Glenda Farrell (Fay La Rue). 79 min.
    Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 23 Jan 2005.

The always surprising intimate romantic masterpiece by Borzage from the depths of the Great Depression. Never forgetting the grim conditions of reality, Borzage celebrates the power of transcendence. A major example of Hollywood before the code: after 1934, it was usually distributed in cut and changed versions. ****

Ray

Ray / Ray. US (c) 2004 Unchain My Heart. Released by Universal. D: Taylor Hackford. SC: James L. White. DP: Pawel Edelman. M: Ray Charles. Starring Jamie Foxx (Ray Charles), Kerry Washington (Della Bea Robinson), Regina King (Margie Hendricks). Curtis Armstrong (Ahmet Ertegun), Richard Schiff (Jerry Wexler). (Director's cut 178 min). 152 min. Digital look. Released by Buena Vista. Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Staffans. Viewed at Tennispalatsi 12, 23 Jan 2005. The fine biopic boasts excellent interpretations from the actors and handles three delicate subjects. Race: how Ray Charles emerges from a poor single-mother home in the South and fights his way to the top as a black entertainer. Blindness: how he learns to live by the ear. Drugs: his struggle with heroine addiction. The music is wonderful, and the career from the Southern circuit to Seattle and from Atlantic to ABC/Paramount is very interestingly told. "I've Got A Woman", "What'd I Say", "Unchain My Heart", etc. are movingly integrated in the storytelling. Ray Charles is a major figure in the birth of soul. For lovers of soul and the Atlantic sound this is a must. At least ***

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Un long dimanche de fiancailles

A Very Long Engagement / Pitkät kihlajaiset / En långvarig förlovning. FR / US (c) 2004 by 2003 Productions / Warner Bros. France / Tapioca / TF1. D: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Based on the novel by Sébastien Japrisot. DP: Bruno Delbonnel. M: Angelo Badalamenti. PD: Aline Bonetto. FX: Jean-Baptiste Bonetto. Starring Audrey Tautou (Mathilde), Gaspard Ulliel (Manech). 134 min. Elaborate digital look. Released by Sandrews, French version with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Ditte Kronström, acknowledging the book translation by Annikki Suni. Viewed at Maxim 1, Helsinki, 22 Jan 2005. A dazzling film adaptation of Japrisot's novel is full of original visual invention. Jeunet's artistic world expands in this historical journey into WWI. I found myself admiring the effects, never forgetting the digital artifice. This is a quality film, but both the love and the war could be portrayed more movingly.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Lucky Star (silent version) (1990 NFM restoration) presented by Hervé Dumont


Lucky Star. Charles Farrell (Tim), Janet Gaynor (Mary). Please do click to enlarge the image.

Päivänsäde / Solstrålen. US © 1929 Fox. D: Frank Borzage. DP: Chester Lyons, William Cooper Smith. Starring Charles Farrell (Tim), Janet Gaynor (Mary).
    Originally released as a silent and in Movietone /24 fps/ 97 min.
    The film long believed lost was restored by Nederlands Filmmuseum 1990 as the silent version /24 fps/ 87 min.
    Presented by Hervé Dumont.
    Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 21 Jan 2005.

Borzage's final silent is a dream-like love poem in the Massachusetts countryside. In the tender friendship of Tim, the young Mary discovers her womanhood. Tim has returned from war confined into the wheelchair. He has turned his place into an enchanted cottage where he can fix most anything. Visually, the film is realized mostly in an atmosphere of grayness, until the finale takes place in dazzling snow. A noble spiritual journey in a world of poverty, even squalor, yet beyond realism. ****

Friday, January 21, 2005

The River (1929) (1993 La Cinémathèque Suisse / La Cinémathèque francaise reconstruction by Hervé Dumont) introduced by Hervé Dumont


The River (1929). Charles Farrell (Allen John), Mary Duncan (Rosalee).

Rakkauden virta / Hennes frestelse / La Femme au corbeau. US © 1929 Fox. D: Frank Borzage. DP: Ernest Palmer. M: Maurice Baron, Hugo Riesenfeld, Ernö Rapée. Starring Charles Farrell (Allen John), Mary Duncan (Rosalee).
    Original Movietone version was 72 min
    Fragmentary material survives in 16 mm only.
    The Hervé Dumont reconstruction with film footage, stills, and explanatory titles based on the script (La Cinémathèque Suisse / La Cinémathèque francaise 1993: 16 mm Movietone 55 min. Presented by Hervé Dumont.
    Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 20 Jan 2005.

Two strangers meet in the winter solitude of an abandoned sawmill: the innocent man and the woman who has seen it all. Borzage's version of the Garden of Eden has a mythical quality. It is extremely spare, but fully conscious of the elements: the river, the snow, the fire, the earth. There is primordial simplicity and directness in the Borzage touch. As Dumont says, this is a tale of desire, and the development of the mutual attraction is followed in enchanting scenes, as where the woman finds the naked man in the river, where the woman presses her body to the man to compare heights, where the man feels the woman's heartbeat, where the woman throws herself on the checkerboard that the man wants to suggest as the evening's entertainment, and where the woman rescues the man from freezing to death with the heat of her own body. The reconstruction makes sense of the whole. ****

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Niskavuoren Heta

Heta from Niskavuori / Heta från Niskavuori. FI 1952. PC: Suomen Filmiteollisuus. P: T.J. Särkkä. D: Edvin Laine. SC: Hella Wuolijoki, Paula Talaskivi - based on the play by Wuolijoki (1950). DP: Pentti Unho. Starring: Rauni Luoma (Heta), Kaarlo Halttunen (Akusti), Mirjam Novero (Siipirikko), Martti Katajisto (Jaakko), Leo Lähteenmäki (Santeri). 93 min. Introduced by Anu Koivunen. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 19 Jan 2005. The first masterpiece by Laine, already a veteran of the Finnish theatre and cinema. He had directed and carried the male leads of most of Hella Wuolijoki plays, but this first HW film of his is a very cinematic epic, with long purely visual sequences. Heta, the last to get married from the great Niskavuori manor, weds a farmhand, and they start to build their life from scratch. Heta's whole life is built on pride, to transcend the humiliation of being rejected by the man she loved ("Once I had a heart, but it froze in your hands"). Heta and Akusti build a new manor, even bigger than Niskavuori. But the real feat happens with humble Akusti who grows to be a wise and just leading figure of the municipality, to the end ignored by Heta. This epic of Finnish society from the 1890s to the 1920s even tackles the taboo subject of the 1918 Civil War quite strongly. It anticipates the concerns of Laine's films based on Linna (the unknown soldiers, the North Star cycle). ****

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

79 primaveras

79 Springs / 79 kevättä. CU 1969. PC: ICAIC. D: Santiago Alvarez. Poems by Ho Chi Minh and José Marti. 35mm, 25 min. The film has no spoken sound. The intertitles are in Spanish. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 18 Jan 2005. E-subtitles in Finnish by Mari Halonen. The official Cubanese obituary of Ho Chi Minh was created by Alvarez as a poem. The theme of death is conveyed via transitions from positive to negative. There is an inspired use of slow motion, surrealistic juxtapositions (screaming flowers opening, bombs exploding). The musical montage from Silvio Rodriguez, the passionate Cubanese song, and Iron Butterfly is effective. Alvarez plays film like Hendrix played the guitar. The finale is a cinematic explosion where the film itself is exposed as material with sprocket holes, scratches, and it's torn and burned. A high point of experimental film and visual music. This film was very popular among Finnish film aficionados of the time, and it has stood the test of time. It is one-sided, yet ****

Du Kích Cu Chi

The Cuchi Guerrillas. VN 1967. PC: Xuong Phim Giai Phong (The Military Film Office). D: Tái Liên. 21 min. 35mm, b&w. This veritable guide to guerrilla warfare helps understand how the US juggernaut was defeated. This military film is fascinating because of its matter-of-fact observations on everyday life under total war. Quite cinematic, with charming music.

Vietnam

SU 1969. PC: Tsentralnaja studija dokumentalnyh filmov. D: Roman Karmen. 30 min excerpt from the end of a 90 min film. 16mm, colour, Finnish commentary. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 18 Jan 2005. The history of the Vietnam war as seen by daredevil Karmen.

Ho Chi Minh

VN 1970. First 21 min part from a three-part 60 min film. 35mm colour. In Vietnamese without subtitles. Viewed at SEA, Orion, Helsinki, 18 Jan 2005. The official Vietnamese film obituary of Ho Chi Minh. Fascinating early Vietnamese footage from 1911 and later.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Emma & Daniel - mötet

Emma ja Daniel - kohtaaminen. SE (c) 2003 Omega Film. D: Ingela Magner. Based on the novel by Mats Wahl. DP: Mats Olofsson - Super 16mm>digital post>35mm. LOC: Vuoggatgålme, Kvikkjokk. Starring Maria Gidlöf (Emma), Staffe Soulis (Daniel), Marie Richardson (Sara), Örjan Landström (Anders), Göran Schauman (Isak). Family viewing. Released by Kinoscreen. Finnish subtitles by Pirkko Lahti. Viewed in Kinopalatsi 3, Helsinki, 17 Jan 2005 (premiere week). A pleasant sample from the strong Swedish tradition of cinema about the young. It's also a part of a recent exciting multi-national cycle of films about the Far North (The Invisible Elina, The Cuckoo). Two single parents have a date in Lapland. Their 12-year-old children hate each other at first sight. Emma, the girl of Lapland lives in a trekking area outside the reach of electricity and even mobile phones. Daniel is the Stockholm nerd seemingly tied with an umbilical cord to his Lifebook. Guess who have the date next year.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Kuuban valloittajat

The Conquistadors of Cuba. FI 2005. PC: Art Films Produktion. P+D+SC: Arto Halonen. M: Tuomas Kantelinen. Digibeta>35 mm. In Spanish, with English subtitles. Viewed at DocPoint closing gala, Bio Rex, Helsinki, 16 Jan 2005. The story of Cuba via the luxury Cadillacs, Chevrolets and Lincolns of Batista, Meyer Lansky, and Che Guevara, still maintained by experts.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Varis

(The Crow). FI 2004. D: Esa Nissi. ED: Mika Ronkainen, Rostislav Aalto. Betacam SP. 36 min. Documentary. Viewed at DocPoint, Kiasma, Helsinki, 16 Jan 2005. A visually arresting essay on the crow's encounter with human civilization.

Meän kesä

Our Summer. FI 2004. D: Mika Ronkainen. Betacam SP. 57 min. English subtitles. Documentary. Viewed at DocPoint, Kiasma, Helsinki, 16 Jan 2005. Deeply felt intimate documentary of a Northern Finnish family where a woman, the mother of five, takes her father who has Alzheimer's disease, to spend the summer in her childhood home.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Fata Morgana

FI 2004. D: Markku Lehmuskallio, Anastasia Lapsui. DP: Johannes Lehmuskallio. AN: Katariina Lillqvist. 35mm archival footage +35mm animation + Super16mm new live footage > digital intermediate > 35mm. 59 min. Documentary. Viewed at DocPoint, Kiasma, Helsinki 15 Jan 2005. Lehmuskallio and Lapsui at their best in a powerful study on the Chukchi culture by the Bering Strait. They combine creatively archival footage, interviews and even animation for mythology.

Krooli

The Crawl. FI 2004. P: Marko Röhr. D+ED: PV Lehtinen. DP: Pasi Pauni. Digibeta>35mm scope. 26 min. Viewed at DocPoint, Kiasma, Helsinki, 15 Jan 2005. A beautiful essay on the world of female swimming champions. A poem about the encounter of the swimmer and the waterworld.

Darwin's Nightmare

AT/BG/FR 2004. D: Hubert Sauper. Video>35mm. 107 min. Viewed at DocPoint, Forum 1, Helsinki, 15 Jan 2005. Documentary. A nightmare on the Victoria Lake, where the Nile Perch, introduced by man, has totally upset the ecosystem of the lake and the society around it. A deeply worrying look into a case of globalization. (I viewed the first half only as I got tired on the heavy video look on the big screen.)

Hearts and Minds

US 1974. PC: BBS. P: Henry Lange, Bert Schneider. D: Peter Davis. Featuring Daniel Ellsberg, J.W. Fulbright, Walt Rostow, William C. Westmoreland, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, George S. Patton IV, Ronald Reagan, etc. 112 min. 16mm>35mm. Fine, newly restored print from Academy Film Archive. Documentary. Viewed at Docpoint, Bio Rex, Helsinki, 15 Jan 2005. First screening in Finland of the classic film. So far, I had thought The Year of the Pig is the best film on the Vietnam war, but this one certainly shares the top. Like De Antonio's film, it truly gives us the chance to listen to all sides of the bitter conflict. ****

Touching the Void

GB 2003. D: Kevin Macdonald. 106 min. HD Video>35mm. Viewed at DocPoint, Forum 1, Helsinki, 15 Jan 2005. Reconstructed true story of the 1985 trek of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates in the Siula Grand Mountain in the Peruvian Andes. More thrilling than most thrillers, a profoundly moving study on the fight for life in extreme danger. The funniest moment: at the edge of the bottomless ravine the man hears in his mind the music of Boney M ("Brown Girl In A Ring"), even though he does not even like it.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Rich and Famous


Rich and Famous. Candice Bergen, Jacqueline Bisset.

Rikas ja kuuluisa / Rik och berömd. US 1981. PC: MGM. D: George Cukor. Based on the play Old Acquaintance (1940) by John Van Druten.
    Starring Jacqueline Bisset, Candice Bergen, Meg Ryan. 116 min.
    Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marjatta Kaija / Anna-Lisa Holmqvist.
    Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 14 Jan 2005.

The final film of George Cukor ended our tribute to the master whose career lasted 50 years and 50 films. A surprise, a film worth reconsidering: Cukor still in full form with a modernized version of the popular play, the story of the love-hate relationship of two women over several decades.

Bisset is the serious and long-suffering author, Bergen the bestselling novelist. Cukor's direction of the actresses is emotionally rich. Funny dialogue, never a dull moment. Satirical and tender. Cukor, having lived through the Production Code, enjoys the post-Code freedom, also expressing epithets about "homosexuals and Jews". The final meeting of the women even charmingly opens the possibility that their relationship might be more than friendship. ***

Paha maa

Frozen Land / [The Land of Evil]. FI (c) 2005 Solar Films. D: Aku Louhimies. SC: Paavo Westerberg, Jari Rantala, Aku Louhimies - inspired by the tale of Tolstoy "The False Coupon". DP: Rauno Ronkainen. CAST: Pertti Sveholm, Jasper Pääkkönen, Mikko Leppilampi, Pamela Tola, Matleena Kuusniemi, Samuli Edelmann, Sulevi Peltola, Mikko Kouki. 130 min. Digital look. Released by Buena Vista International Finland. Viewed at sold-out Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, on the premiere date 14 Jan 2005. A grim tale of several intersecting destinies of unemployment, homelessness, greed, and alcohol. A pitch-black look into contemporary life. A false banknote sets the action on its course as in Tolstoy's tale, which also inspired important films by Berthold Viertel / Béla Balázs (Die Abenteuer eines Zehnmarkscheines) and Robert Bresson (L'Argent); but the film of Louhimies is completely original. It's kind of an antithesis to some founding films of the current modern wave of Finnish cinema (Onnen maa / The Land of Bliss, and the feature debut of Louhimies, Levottomat / The Restless Ones). Certainly a major film worth re-visiting. Maybe ****

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Olipa kerran Utopia

Once Upon a Time There Was a Utopia. FI 2004. D: Lasse Naukkarinen. 90 min. Beta SP. Viewed at DocPoint, Bio Rex, Helsinki, 12 Jan 2005 (opening gala). Documentary. The video autobiography of the director-cinematographer from the early 1960s Radicalism, through the Communist Odyssey, and to the present day. Fascinating glimpses on the protest against the Prague repression, on Vietnam and Chile activism, on a labour brigade in Cuba. This is hopefully a prologue to more film / video essays on the years of political and cultural engagement.