Thursday, July 20, 2017

Persuasion (1995)

Viisasteleva sydän / Övertalning. GB 1995. PC: BBC Films – distributed by Sony. P: Fiona Finway. D: Roger Michell. SC: Nick Dear – based on the novel (1817) by Jane Austen (translated into Finnish by Kristiina Kivivuori, 1951). CIN: John Daly – negative: 35 mm (Eastman Kodak) – color –1,85:1. PD: William Dudley. AD: Linda Ward. VFX: Colin Gorry. Cost: Alexandra Byrne. Makeup: Jean Speak. M: Jeremy Sams. S: Terry Elms. ED: Kate Evans.
    C: Amanda Root (Anne Elliot), Ciarán Hinds (Captain Frederick Wentworth), Susan Fleetwood (Lady Russell), Corin Redgrave (Sir Walter Elliot), Fiona Shaw (Mrs. Croft), John Woodwine (Admiral Croft), Phoebe Nicholls (Elizabeth Elliot), Samuel West (Mr. Elliot), Sophie Thompson (Mary Musgrove), Simon Russell Beale (Charles Musgrove), Felicity Dean (Mrs. Clay), Robert Glenister (Capt. Harville), Richard McCabe (Capt. Benwick), Victoria Hamilton (Henrietta Musgrove), Emma Roberts (Louisa Musgrove), Roger Hammond (Mr. Musgrove), Helen Schlesinger (Mrs. Smith).
    Loc: Bath, Lyme Regis (Dorset), Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire.
    A television film first telecast on 16 April 1995 on BBC Two and first released theatrically on 27 Sep 1995 in the U.S.
    Helsinki premiere: 3.5.1996 Nordia 1 distributed by Warner Bros. Finland Oy with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Anna-Lisa Holmqvist – telecast 3.11.2000 ja 4.1.2002 YLE TV1 – VET 99733 – S – 2940 m / 108 min
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Jane Austen [Bicentennial of Death]), 20 July 2017.

A BBC prestige production, a film of quality, a period drama, a heritage film, an illustrated classic, a film belonging to the mid-1990s cycle of six Jane Austen film adaptations, Roger Michell's debut as a (tv) film director. For the theatre and television actress Amanda Root Persuasion became a screen debut when the film was released theatrically.

While watching the film I'm in the middle of reading Austen's novel and critical comments on it, including those of Tuomas Anhava ("Sydän ja klassikko" ["The Heart and a Classic"], which inspire me in these remarks.

"She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequence of an unnatural beginning."

This is an exceptional characterization of an unusual protagonist. Persuasion was written during a period of romanticism, but Jane Austen was always a writer of the enlightenment, and this double vision – viewing romance with the eyes of a realist – is her hallmark. In this essential feature the film adaptation is faithful to Austen.

An attractive detail in the story is the prominence of the romantic poems of Scott and Byron.

Persuasion, the last novel Austen finished for publication before her death, is exceptional since it is about love. The focus of her other main novels focus is on marriage, not exactly the same thing. Persuasion is also exceptional because there are not many grand scenes and dialogues. It is more an interior story, a masterpiece of fine psychological observation. Consequently, it is also the work of the most immediate warmth and sympathy among Austen's novels. In Persuasion Austen is more inspired by nature, including landscapes and the seasons, than in her other novels.

Roger Michell's film adaptation takes full advantage of the prominence of the landscape and the seasons in expressive scenes shot in Gloucestershire (Kellynch Hall), Lyme, and Bath. The land and the sea are the twin milieus important in the novel and the film. The colours of the seasons have great psychological and symbolical significance.

The film picks up in intensity towards the end, balancing tact and passion. The all-important concert and letter-writing scenes are powerfully interpreted by Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds.

But perhaps no film adaptation can do justice to Jane Austen's masterpiece. The subtle interiority of the novel, the full psychological insight with shades of a self-portrait cannot be translated into a drama or a movie. Persuasion was Austen's most mature novel, the one where her sense of humour was at its most refined. That experience only the novel itself can convey.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis. Carey Mulligan (Jean Berkey), Justin Timberlake (Jim Berkey). Please click on the images to enlarge them.

Inside Llewyn Davis / Inside Llewyn Davis. US / FR © 2013 Long Trip LLC. PC: StudioCanal / Scott Rudin Productions / Mike Zoss Productions. P: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. D: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. SC: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen. CIN: Bruno Delbonnel – shot on 35 mm – DI: Technicolor Postworks. PD: Jess Gonchor. AD: Deborah Jensen. Set dec: Susan Bode. Cost: Mary Zophres. Makeup: Nicki Ledermann. Hair: Michael Kriston. Executive M producer: T Bone Burnett. Songs: see beyond the jump break. S: Skip Lievsay. ED: Roderick Jaynes [Ethan Coen, Joel Coen]. Casting: Ellen Chenoweth.
    C: Oscar Isaac (Llewyn Davis), Carey Mulligan (Jean Berkey), John Goodman (Roland Turner), Justin Timberlake (Jim Berkey), Adam Driver (Al Cody), F. Murray Abraham (Bud Grossman), Garrett Hedlund (Johnny Five), Stark Sands (Troy Nelson), Ethan Phillips (Mitch Gorfein), Alex Karpovsky (Marty Green), Max Casella (Pappi Corsicato), Sylvia Kauders (Ginny), Benjamin Pike (Bob).
    Loc: New York City.
    Helsinki premiere: 28.2.2014 Kinopalatsi, distributor: Future Film – dvd: 2015 Future Film – 104 min
    2K DCP with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Pyhähuhta / Heidi Nyblom Kuorikoski viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Coen Brothers), 19 July 2017

One of the best films of the Coen Brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis is set in Greenwich Village in the year 1961, in a period when folk music was still being performed just for the love of it, before it became a big commercial phenomenon.

The trouble with the fictional folk singer Llewyn Davis is not that he is a loser in the commercial sense. He is not interested in being commercial. The trouble is that he is a loser in life. His human credit is great to begin with: his family, friends, network, community, audience, and professional contacts.

He has no money, no home, no car, nor a winter coat, but the biggest problem is "inside Llewyn Davis" himself as we can witness seeing him ruin his life step by step. He offends friends and hosts, arranges serial abortions for ex-girlfriends ("you should wear a double condom" says his ex Jean), insults colleagues and patrons at folk cafés, and botches chances with managers at his folk café, his record label and the Gate of Horn music club in Chicago. He loses his best friends' cat. He lands outside locked doors or inside a car without keys. He even spoils his chance at returning to the merchant marine. He is "not current, not on the roster", he learns at the harbour.

As an account of adversity Inside Llewyn Davis has an affinity with the Book of Job as did A Serious Man. The two films share a distinction of representing the purest essence of the Coen brothers. Inside Llewyn Davis is moving away from potential mannerisms, deliberate quirkiness, and shock value. The Coens are growing out of them.

In this essence there is also an affinity with Kafka. And perhaps Gogol (I think about this because I have just finished reading Nabokov's book on Gogol). Characters, story and style are important, but finally it is about something beyond all that.

It is an achievement of the Coens to make such a story compelling. We share the narrative solely with the eyes of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac). We certainly do not identify with a character whom Jean calls "king Midas's idiot brother" in whose hands everything turns into the opposite of gold, but we connect with the missed potential in this schlemiel or schlimazel. In this Inside Llewyn Davis brings to mind Tim Burton's Ed Wood and Ingmar Bergman's In the Presence of a Clown, both about artists who miss their moment. The difference between a genius and a joker can be minimal.

The Coens present us Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham in a memorable performance), the manager of the Gate of Horn, as a character of brutal honesty. Llewyn Davis has had his breakthrough in a duo with Mike Timlin who has committed suicide, and now he is pursuing a solo career, but Grossman advises him to keep singing in a group, and actually invites him to join a trio he is developing. Davis rejects the offer. (Albert Grossman, the manager of the Gate of Horn in reality, was about to launch Peter, Paul and Mary).

Among the series of setbacks and shocks experienced by Llewyn there is even a literal beating. The husband of a lady folk singer whom Llewyn has insulted retaliates violently in the back alley of the folk café. There are many wrong turns in Llewyn's life and one puzzling crossing on a freeway: the exit to Akron, a city in which, as Llewyn has accidentally learned, he may have a two-year old child of whom he has never heard before.

Llewyn's relationships are profoundly disturbed, but his reaction at the Akron crossing reveals that there is something cooking inside. The lost cat becomes Llewyn's conduit in the narrative, even a kind of an identification figure in this odyssey (the cat is even called Ulysses). During his midnight drive Llewyn may have hit a cat. It is a moment of self-revelation for him, about being on a collision course with life. Roland Turner (John Goodman), the heroin-addicted jazz man, threatens to put the voodoo curse of santeria on Llewyn, and as has been observed, the joke is that the curse is already on him.

As a music film Inside Llewyn Davis is excellent. It is a sequel in their œuvre to O Brother, Where Art Thou? The executive music producer is again T Bone Burnett. The songs are authentic to the period, they are sung and played by the actors themselves, and they are heard in the movie in extenso.

Llewyn's catchphrase in his performances is "If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song." The songs are memorable, including the traditional "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" that starts the film, "The Death of Queen Jane", Llewyn's promo song for Grossman, and Ewan MacColl's "Shoals of Herring" which Llewyn sings to his demented father, a retired merchant marine.

The atmosphere has been recreated with loving care, but Greenwich Village veterans remind us that the Coens' gloomy approach does not do justice to the fun and vitality of the scene and not at all to Dave Van Ronk's character whose Inside Dave Van Ronk was the key inspiration to this movie's music.

That scene has always been a target for parodies, and the Coens offer some of their own, but they distance themselves from clichés while presenting us original figures such as a taciturn Beat poet Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund) and the heroin-addicted jazzman mentioned above.

More importantly, the Coens present us a scene in which music matters and in which a devoted audience focuses on the lyrics. That may not be an accurate account of all folk clubs, but it is compatible with classic documentaries of the scene such as Sunday (1961) and Festival (1967).

The last of Llewyn's missed moments takes place when he departs to the back alley while a young curlyhead enters the stage in silhouette, and we hear on the soundtrack Bob Dylan's "Farewell" in a previously unreleased take. Album art for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan provided the visual inspiration for the Coens' wintry cinematography. The DP was Bruno Delbonnel as the Coens' regular cinematographer Roger Deakins was occupied with the latest James Bond movie.

The film was shot on 35 mm film apparently with a soft filter, emphasizing brown hues, and the digital intermediate has been conducted with good taste.


Saturday, July 01, 2017

Blow-Up (2017 restoration in 4K by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce – Cinecittà and Criterion)

Blow-Up. David Hemmings (Thomas), Veruschka.

Blow-Up - Erään suudelman jälkeen / Blow-Up - förstoringen / Blowup / Blow Up.
    Director: Michelangelo Antonioni. Year: 1966. Country: Gran Bretagna.
    Section: Recovered & Restored.
    Sog.: dal racconto Las babas del diablo di Julio Cortázar. Scen.: Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra. F.: Carlo Di Palma. M.: Frank Clarke. Scgf.: Assheton Gorton. Mus.: Herbie Hancock.
    Int.: David Hemmings (Thomas), Vanessa Redgrave (Jane), Sarah Miles (Patricia), Veruschka (se stessa), Peter Bowles (Ron), Jill Kennington, Peggy Moffit, Rosaleen Murray, Ann Norman, Melanine Hampshire (modelle), Jane Birkin, Gillian Hills (aspiranti modelle).
    Prod.: Carlo Ponti per Metro Goldwyn Mayer. DCP 4K. D.: 112’. Col.
    From: Warner Bros. Pictures.
    Courtesy of Park Circus.
    Restored in 2017 by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce – Cinecittà and Criterion, in collaboration with Warner Bros. and Park Circus at Criterion and L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratories, under the supervision of the cinematographer Luca Bigazzi.
    Introduce Gian Luca Farinelli.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
    Screened with e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti at Cinema Arlecchino, 1 July 2017.

Peter von Bagh (Rikoksen hehku, 1997, quoted at Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Thomas is a photographer who after a night spent taking pictures in a doss house proceeds to shoot fashion models. During an idle moment he goes to an empty park, with his ubiquitous camera, and shoots a scene in which ‘nothing happens’. Only after having developed his photos does Thomas start to pay attention to its details. He may have photographed a murder."

"There is something objectionable about everything Thomas does. Poverty for him is merely a spectacle. A fashion shoot with the gorgeous Veruschka is a simulated act of intercourse, mechanical, yet perhaps it contributes to bringing into focus a secret truth of photography. Its peculiar emotion belongs, as perhaps all emotions do, to a fragile meta-reality. Even the murder is just routine for other people."

"The mystery of life and cinema is heightened in the enlargement sequence. To what degree has Thomas himself renounced the most important thing, life itself? The woman of the park scene comes to meet him but in the flesh she is somehow less real than in the dense time fragments that emerge on the developed photographs. The blow-ups grow into ever more extreme close-ups of a moment that has disappeared but occupies Thomas’s interest completely. Soon the ‘only’ truth of the woman is in these images. The man – ‘the murderer’ – is never concretized to this extent. Only a couple of photographs of him exist. Soon he moves beyond recollection into the realm of images, the ‘zone’ of Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus."

"The series of images, close-ups and long shots are an adventure in time. A photograph is always an enigma, an astonishing relationship between precise definition and imagination. The camera reaches the zenith of objectivity: it is the sole witness to a crime and thus the only link to the world as it really exists. At the same time, photography offers an ironic miniature of a world governed by ambivalence, precariousness and an almost derisory sense of alienation. This is the paradox and the ‘narrative’ into which the photographer himself, played by David Hemmings, enters." Peter von Bagh (Rikoksen hehku [The Heat of Crime], 1997) edited by Antti Alanen (for Il Cinema Ritrovato)

AA: I may not have seen a good print of Blow-Up since 1970 when I saw it for the first time. It was then still in regular commercial circulation in Finland, but not for many years longer, and it became impossible for film societies to access.

Not even in touring Michelangelo Antonioni retrospectives were the prints of Blow-Up any good, in contrast to brilliant prints of his other works. We even tried to buy a print in 2005, but rejected the print sent to us after a check viewing. It was ironic that of a film called Blow-Up prints were circulating that were lacking in depth and detail. Colour is all-important in this second colour film of Antonioni's, but the lush "evergreen" summer colour of the Maryon Park sequence had turned into autumn colours.

Congratulations to the restorers of this digital interpretation of Blow-Up. This is a film about seeing, about perception, like Alfred Hitchcock's films as analyzed by the Finnish philosopher Heikki Nyman. Blow-Up is a quest about the limits of perception, and it is essential to see a copy such as this, both sharp and refined.

Blow-Up is also a film about the limits of freedom, set in the legendary Swinging London of 1966. It is about the threat of freedom turning into solipsism, a portrait of a self-centered fashion photographer who has an endless number of affairs but no profound human relationships.

Blow-Up shows us the glorious attraction of freedom as well as the void that emerges in a life without commitment.

It has also documentary value in portraying figures such as the model Veruschka (see above) or The Yardbirds (Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Keith Relf, Chris Dreja powerfully at "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" with new lyrics here with the title "Stroll On" due to copyright issues).

Peter von Bagh's remarks on Blow-Up were excerpted in the Bologna catalogue. An image similar to the one above was on the cover of Peter's first book, the anthology Uuteen elokuvaan [Towards New Cinema, 1967] which he edited.

Blow-Up is gaining all kinds of new meanings in our current age when photography is exploding to a previously unimaginable extent. We are photographing instead of seeing and drowning in a stream of photographs. Today everybody is a potential Thomas.

A brilliant digital edition of a classic film.

Schwarzer Kies / Black Gravel

Schwarzer Kies. Heinrich Trimbur (Eric Moeller), Anita Höfer (Elli), Wolfgang Büttner (Otto Krahne)

Asfalto nero. Director: Helmut Käutner. Year: 1961. Country: Germania.
    Section: Watchful Dreamer: The Subversive Melancholia of Helmut Käutner.
    Scen.: Helmut Käutner, Walter Ulbrich. F.: Heinz Pehlke. M.: Klaus Dudenhöfer. Scgf.: Gabriel Pellon. Mus.: Bernhard Eichhorn.
    Int.: Helmut Wildt (Robert Neidhardt), Ingmar Zeisberg (Inge Gaines), Hans Cossy (John Gaines), Wolfgang Büttner (Otto Krahne), Anita Höfer (Elli), Heinrich Trimbur (Eric Moeller), Edeltraut Elsner (Anni Peel), Peter Nestler (Bill Rodgers).
    Prod.: Walter Ulbrich per Universum-Film AG. 35mm. D.: 111’. Bn.
    [Not released in Finland].
    From: DIF Deutsches Filminstitut (Frankfurt).
    Introduce Olaf Möller.
    Screened with e-subtitles in Italian and English by Sub-Ti at Sala Scorsese, 1 July 2017.

Olaf Möller (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Among the lowest moments of FRG film culture ranks an award handed out in 1962 by a group of journalists who conceived of themselves as Young Critics, the new makers and shapers of movie manners. Said assignation recognized the “worst film by an established director” and went ex aequo to Schwarzer Kies and Der Traum von Lieschen Müller (The Dream of Lieschen Mueller), both masterpieces by Helmut Käutner (had they known that during the same period Käutner also shot parts of Radványi Géza’s Es muß nicht immer Kaviar sein and Diesmal muß es Kaviar sein as well as his wife Erica Balqué’s lone directorial effort, Zu jung für die Liebe?, they might have included those as well…)."

"One can only say: here, insult was added to injury as Schwarzer Kies had already been the subject of a (dubiously motivated) scandal. After the film’s premiere, the Central Council of Jews in Germany’s secretary general, Hendrik van Dam, judged it anti-Semitic due to a scene in which a bordello owner with a concentration camp number tattooed on his forearm is called Saujud (Jewish swine) by an all too ordinary elderly guy who just wants to listen to a march on the jukebox. Some black US soldiers and the hookers stare at the offender, aghast and disgusted. Van Dam’s problem was the idea that a Holocaust survivor could own a brothel – a notion the Central Council’s other members apparently didn’t share at all. Later, van Dam admitted that he had over-done things, maybe even a bit gratuitously – but by then, the affair had gotten out of hand and the film altered severely."

"That only recently Schwarzer Kies was celebrated as a major re-discovery and is now discussed as a key work of the era feels hollow – for there is something especially bitter about this kind of belated praise… After a comparable run-in with the new critical establishment over Die Rote (Redhead, 1962), Käutner focused his creative energies on television (aside from three serenely mellow, self-consciously old-fashioned big-screen excursions).
" Olaf Möller (Il Cinema Ritrovato)

AA: The contrast could hardly be sharper between the ultra-theatrical A Glass of Water and Helmut Käutner's next movie, the almost naturalistic Black Gravel.

There is nothing deliberate or demonstrative in the naturalism of Black Gravel. The grim black-and-white vision is as adequate to this story as the bright, mannered and stagy colour world for A Glass of Water.

Black Gravel is an impressive companion piece to the Sky Without Stars. Both are honest and controversial dramas of contemporary German life after WWII.

Black Gravel is a blunt vision of a Germany living with a foreign military presence. It is a story of abuse and prostitution. An American military base with an airfield for jets is being built. Big money is involved. There is a trickle-down effect, also a black market for stolen special gravel.

The female protagonist Inge Gaines (Ingmar Zeisberg) is married to an American officer, John Gaines (Hans Cossy). John is a sober and decent man, also a sincerely religious church-goer.

Shadows from the past come to haunt Inge in the form of ex-lover Robert Neidhardt (Helmut Wildt), a truck driver bringing gravel to the construction site, also dealing in black gravel. In the past Inge has been a prostitute, and Robert is still actively involved in the girl market.

There is tragedy when Inge cannot help herself and starts to see Robert again.

The milieu is sordid but Käutner's focus in not on the tawdry detail. Even in purgatorial circumstances he focuses on the human qualities of his protagonists.

Writing about Das Mädchen Rosemarie I observed a special German matter-of-fact attitude towards prostitution, also shared by Käutner in Black Gravel. Prostitution is accepted as a fact of life, not idealized nor demonized. Prostitution in itself is not seen as sinful or scandalous, but crime and corruption inevitably follow, and for women who want to move ahead in life it remains a shadow of the past.

Käutner's films were usually released in Finland but Black Gravel was not. There was a lot of newspaper commentary in our land on the alleged anti-semitism of the movie which might have been a factor in it's not being released. Of course, as Olaf states above, Käutner's attitude was always against anti-semitism in the first place, but the remark in question was cut and did not appear in the version screened in Bologna.

I missed the last ten minutes due to an overlap with the restored Blow-Up but friends updated me with the conclusion of the film.


1897. Cinema anno due [13]: Revealing Lumière Vue N° 308 – Bâle: Pont sur le Rhin [Basel: A Bridge over the Rhine]. A video lecture by Hansmartin Sigrist on an Interdisciplinary Study. / 1897. Year Two of Cinemathography [13]: Revealing Lumière 308 – Bâle: Pont sur le Rhin. A video lecture by Hansmartin Sigrist on an Interdisciplinary Study.

Pont sur le Rhin. Lumière Vue N° 308. Circulation des piétons et des véhicules sur le pont. Opérateur: [Constant Girel according to Catalogue Lumière, possibly Emile Lavanchy according to Roland Cosandey]. Date: [21 septembre 1896] - [29 septembre 1896]. Lieu: Suisse, Bâle, Mittlere Rheinbrücke. Projections: Programmée le 15 novembre 1896 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Bâle. Pont sur le Rhin (Lyon républicain, 15 novembre 1896). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 2 copies Lumière. Pays: Suisse. Ville: ville-18. Lieu: pont, ville. Genre: villes et paysages. Objet: voiture hippomobile. Séries: Constant Girel en Suisse (1896).

1897. Cinema anno due [13]: Revealing Lumière 308 Bâle: Pont sur le Rhin. A video lecture by Hansmartin Sigrist on an Interdisciplinary Study.
1897. Year Two of Cinemathography [13]: Revealing Lumière 308 Bâle: Pont sur le Rhin [Basel: A Bridge over the Rhine]. A video lecture by Hansmartin Sigrist on an Interdisciplinary Study.

Video presentazione di Hansmartin Siegrist (Università di Basilea).
Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
Sala Mastroianni, 1 July 2017

Hansmartin Sigrist (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Lumière 308 – Bâle: Pont sur le Rhin provides a glimpse of Basel at its fin-de-siècle apogee. The film had not met with great scholarly interest for a long time until we managed to involve some fifty archives and institutions in a comprehensive study. After three years of focussing on these forty-seven seconds of footage, intensive research has led to a multitude of surprising new results – beyond the exact dating of the film and the reconstruction of the circumstances of Henri Lavanchy-Clarke’s production.

The discovery of new documents illuminates this flamboyant organiser’s privileged position within Lumière’s first distribution system for their Cinématographe. Our renewed examination of Lavanchy’s earliest Swiss films (produced in association with the 1896 Geneva National Exhibition) led to the identification of illustrious members of his artistic, philanthropic, industrial and missionary networks. It also helped to put his 1897 films into a new context, correcting some errors."

"Most of all, Lumière 308 has turned out to be a missing link between Lyon and Basel as sister cities in the silk-dyeing industry: The film is carefully staged by a prominent local silk dyer – as a dynastic parade combined with his guild’s folkloristic procession. At the same time, it appears as a re-enactment of a huge patriotic pageant which had enthralled Basel four years earlier."

"Last but not least: It is more than likely that Abbé Joye, this earliest amateur collector of films (which he used as a tool for proselytizing a staunchly protestant city), makes a prominent appearance in this clip."
Hansmartin Siegrist (Il Cinema Ritrovato)

Pont sur le Rhin / [A Bridge Over the Rhine]. Director: Constant Girel. Year: 1896. Country: Svizzera. 308.

AA: A fascinating case study and close reading of a single Lumière view of 47 seconds.

The Old Mittlere Rheinbrücke in Basel was built in the 13th century and stood there until 1903 when the current bridge was built. There are many visual representations of the famous bridge, and this film has a place of honour among them. Hansmartin Sigrist praised it as an exemplary case of how to film a bridge: by placing the focus on the people.

Swiss research has established Henri Lavanchy-Clarke as the producer of the Swiss Lumière views. Lavanchy-Clarke was also a pioneer of product placement in the movies, including in this view. In his detective project Sigrist has managed to identify the people in the film and discovered that there is nothing accidental in the movie. Amazingly, we probably see an appearance of Abbé Joye.

An excellent and exemplary bonus presentation.


1897. Cinema anno due [12] - Cinématographe Lumière: Constant Girel au Japon / 1897. Year Two of Cinemathography [12] - Cinématographe Lumière: Constant Girel in Japan

Un pont à Kyoto. Lumière Vue N° 737. Circulation de piétons et de pousse-pousse. Titre issu du Catalogue des vues - Cinquième Liste. Graphie originelle du titre: Un pont à Kioto. Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: 9 janvier 1897 - [26 décembre 1897]. Lieu: Japon, Kyoto, pont Shijo Kobashi, Honshu. Projections: Programmée le 18 septembre 1898 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Japon: un pont à Kyoto (Lyon républicain, 18 septembre 1898). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 copie Lumière. Pays: Japon. Ville: Kyoto. Lieu: pont, ville. Genre: villes et paysages. Objet: pousse-pousse et chaise à porteur. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897).

1897. Cinema anno due [12] - Cinématographe Lumière: Constant Girel au Japon
1897. Year Two of Cinemathography [12] - Cinématographe Lumière: Constant Girel in Japan

35 mm. No intertitles.
From: Institut Lumière.
Grand piano: Mie Yamashita
Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
Sala Mastroianni, 1 July 2017

Mariann Lewinsky (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "In 1896, Inabata Katsutaro, a textile industrialist from Western Japan, visited Lyon. He had studied at the renowned technical high school La Martinière where one of his fellow schoolmates was Auguste Lumière. Now they met again; and when Inabata returned to his country in early 1897, he brought back three Lumière cinématographes, the Lumière license for Japan, enough films to do screenings and a technician to do the screenings, Constant Girel. Girel had the additional job of filming vues in Japan."

"Mr. Inabata saw his mission as introducing advanced Western technologies to his country and not as being associated with popular entertainment; he handed things over to Yokota Einosuke, a show manager. Only a few days after the first screenings of the Cinématographe Lumière in Osaka (February 15, 1897), Kyoto (March 1) and Tokyo (March 8) the Japanese could also see Vitascope shows. Cinema was a success, and in late 1897 the first domestic films were made."

"The Catalogue Lumière lists eighteen views shot by Girel in Japan in 1897. Why not more? Why come back to Europe with so little, after more than ten months in Japan? Maybe there is a reason known to the entire world except me. Maybe Girel was simply too busy training people and organizing electricity for the screenings, maybe negative stock was scarce, maybe he had exposed hundreds of films and botched them all up? There is nothing wrong, however, with those we have: Kyoto, the old capital, a charming “Goûter du bébé Inabata”, Ainu dancers and a famous Kabuki actor (Ichikawa Sadanji) striking a mie pose in nondescript surroundings, with the camera as his only audience."
Mariann Lewinsky (Il Cinema Ritrovato)

Un pont à Kyoto / [A Bridge in Kyoto]. Director: Constant Girel, Shijo Kobashi. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone. 737.
    AA: Traffic on a bridge in Kyoto: pedestrians and rickshaws on their way to many directions at the lively crossroads. Print quality: used, mediocre.

Une rue à Tokyo. Lumière Vue N° 738. Circulation de piétons et de pousse-pousse dans une rue. Graphie originelle du titre: Une rue à Tokio. Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: 9 janvier 1897 - [26 décembre 1897]. Lieu: Japon, Tokyo, quartier de Nihombashi-Ginza, Honshu. Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 copie Edison. Pays: Japon. Ville: Tokyo. Lieu: rue, ville. Genre: villes et paysages. Objet: pousse-pousse et chaise à porteur. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897).

Une rue à Tokyo / [A Street in Tokyo]. Director: Constant Girel, Nihonbashi Ginza. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone.
    AA: Traffic on a street crossing in Tokyo: pedestrians and rickshaws. Curious looks at us. Low contrast.

Repas en famille. Lumière Vue N° 734. Une famille japonaise prend le thé. Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: 9 janvier 1897 - [26 décembre 1897]. Lieu: Japon, Kyoto, maison Inabata, Honshu. Personnes: De gauche à droite: une domestique, Natsu (la nièce de Katsutaro Inabata) tenant dans ses bras Noriko Inabata, puis Kikuko Inabata à côté de son père Katsutaro Inabata. Projections: Programmée le 9 janvier 1898 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Un repas en famille au Japon (Lyon républicain, 9 janvier 1898). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 copie Lumière - 1 copie Edison. Pays: Japon. Ville: Kyoto. Lieu: domicile. Personnes identifiées: identi-420, identi-430, identi-440. Genre: coutumes, famille. Sujet: enfant. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897).

Repas en famille / [A Family at Tea]. Director: Constant Girel. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone.
    AA: A tea ceremony at the Inabata house in Kyoto. An atmosphere of culture, politeness and good manners. High contrast.

Les Aïnos à Yeso, I. Lumière Vue N° 741. Danse traditionnelle exécutée par quatre hommes. Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: octobre 1897 - 18 octobre 1897. Lieu: Japon, environ de Muroran, Yéso (aujourd'hui Hokkaidô). Projections: Programmation de Japon: danse religieuses des Aïnos le 9 janvier 1898 à Lyon (France) (Lyon républicain, 9 janvier 1898). Programmation de La danse des Aïnus, indigènes de Hokkaido le 1er juillet 1898 à Nagoya (Japon) (Shin-Aichi, 30 juin 1898). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 2 copies Edison. Pays: Japon. Événement: danse. Genre: coutumes. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897), Les Aïnos.

Les Aïnos à Yeso, I / [The Ainu of Hokkaido I]. Director: Constant Girel. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone. 741.
    AA: A traditional religious dance of four old and bearded men of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, performed in Hokkaido, formerly known as Yeso. Haunting. Visual quality not the best.

Lutteurs japonais. Lumière Vue N° 925. Deux hommes en costume traditionnel se livrent un combat au sabre. Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: octobre 1897. Lieu: Japon, Kyoto, Honshu. Projections: Programmée le 20 février 1898 à Lyon (France) sous son titre (Lyon républicain, 20 février 1898). Programmation de Le tournoi national de Kendo le 1er juillet 1898 à Nagoya (Japon) (Schin-Aichi, 30 juin 1898). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière. Pays: Japon. Ville: Kyoto. Evénement: affrontement, compétition. Genre: coutumes, sport. Objet: arme. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897), info-five-53.

Lutteurs japonais / [Japanese Fighters]. Director: Constant Girel. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone. 925.
    AA: A sabre fight of two Japanese warriors in traditional costume in Kyoto. Meditative.

Escrime au sabre japonais. Lumière Vue N° 926. Démonstration de kendo. Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: octobre 1897. Lieu: Japon, Kyoto, Honshu. Projections: Programmée le 20 mars 1898 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Japon: escrime au sabre (Le Progrès, 20 mars 1898). Programmation de Le tournoi national de Kendo le 1er juillet 1898 à Nagoya (Japon) (Schin-Aichi, 30 juin 1898). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière. Pays: Japon. Ville: Kyoto. Événement: compétition. Genre: coutumes, sport. Objet: arme. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897), info-five-53.

Escrime au sabre japonais / [Japanese Sabre Fencing]. Director: Constant Girel. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone. 926.
    AA: A kendo demonstration between six fighters in Kyoto. Wild and furious.

Dîner japonais. Lumière Vue N° 733. Un groupe de Japonais prend son repas. Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: 9 janvier 1897 - 26 décembre 1897. Lieu: Japon, Kyoto, Honshu. Projections: Programmée le 26 décembre 1897 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Japon: un dîner japonais (Lyon républicain, 26 décembre 1897). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 2 copies Edison. Pays: Japon. Ville: Kyoto. Lieu: domicile. Genre: coutumes. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897).

Dîner japonais / [Japanese Dinner]. Director: Constant Girel. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone. 733.
    AA: Interior. A Japanese dinner ceremony in Kyoto. Two women play the samisen. Two men are accompanied by nine women. A geisha house?

Danseuses japonaises. Lumière Vue N° 740. “Dans ces deux vues [cf. n° 1273 et 1274], les danseuses exécutent différents mouvements; dans le n° [1273], elles portent des ombrelles et dans le n° [1274], des éventails.” Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: 9 janvier 1897 - [26 décembre 1897]. Lieu: Japon, Kyoto, Honshu. Projections: Programmée le 6 février 1898 à Lyon (France) sous son titre (Lyon républicain, 6 février 1898). Programmée le 1er juillet 1898 à Nagoya (Japon) sous le titre La danse des parasols des geishas de Gion-Schinchi (Schin-Aichi, 30 juin 1898). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 copie Lumière. Pays: Japon. Ville: Kyoto. Lieu: édifice religieux. Événement: danse. Genre: coutumes. Objet: instrument de musique. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897).

Danseuses japonaises / [Japanese Dancers]. Director: Constant Girel. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone. 740.
    AA: Exterior. The sisters of Gion 40 years before Mizoguchi: the geishas of Kyoto play the samisen and perform different dance movements wearing parasols and fans. Four dancers and four samisen players.

Acteurs japonais: danse d’homme. Lumière Vue N° 976. Danse exécutée par un acteur japonais. Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: 9 janvier 1897 - [26 décembre 1897]. Lieu: Japon, Honshu. Projections: Programmée le 27 novembre 1899 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Acteur japonais (danse) (Le Progrès, 27 novembre 1899). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière. Pays: Japon. Événement: danse. Genre: villes et paysages. Sujet: comédien, danseur. Objet: costumes. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897).

Acteurs japonais: danse d’homme / [Japanese Actors: a Dancing Man]. Director: Constant Girel. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone. 976.
    AA: A Japanese actor performing a dance. A wonderful, dynamic solo dance view.

Acteurs japonais: bataille au sabre. Lumière Vue N° 978. Scène de combat acrobatique entre plusieurs hommes armés de lances et de sabres. Opérateur: Constant Girel. Date: 9 janvier 1897 - [26 décembre 1897]. Lieu: Japon, Honshu. Personnes: Dans la moitié droite de l'image, de profil droit, l'acteur Sadanji Ichikawa. Projections: Programmée le 1er juillet 1898 à Nagoya (Japon) sous le titre Marubashi Chuya joué par Sadanji, acteur de Tokyo (Schin-Aichi, 30 juin 1898). Programmée le 20 octobre 1900 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Théâtre japonais: drame au sabre (Le Progrès, 22 octobre 1900). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière. Pays: Japon. Personnes identifiées: identi-410. Événement: affrontement, danse. Genre: villes et paysages. Sujet: comédien, danseur. Objet: arme. Séries: Constant Girel au Japon (1897).

Marubashi Chuya joué par Sadanji Ichikawa / [Sadanji Ichikawa plays Marubashi Chuya]. Director: Constant Girel. Year: 1897. Country: Giappone. 978.
    AA: The actor Sadanji Ichikawa (in the right half of the image in straight profile) plays a sabre and lance combat scene as Marubashi Chuya in the kabuki play Keian Taiheiki (1870) by Kawatake Mokuami. Wild action.
Artist: Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900). Title: 『「俳優落語当りくらべ」より(部分) 初代市川左團次の丸橋忠弥、中村荒次郎のとり手叶平』 / Actors Ichikawa Sadanji I as Marubashi Chūya, and Nakamura Arajirō I as Police Officer (Torite) Tsujibei. Part of the series 'Actors and Comedy, Comparisons of Hits' (Haiyū rakugo atari kurabe). Date: 1873. Medium: Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper. Current location: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Credit line: William Sturgis Bigelow Collection. Source/Photographer: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, online database. Public domain. From: Wikipedia.

Transatlantic (2015 restoration in 4K by MoMA)

Transatlantic. Edmund Lowe (Monty Greer), Lois Moran (Judy Kramer), Jean Hersholt (Rudolph Kramer).

Transatlanticin salaisuus / Transatlantic-mysteriet / Transatlantico.
    Director: William K. Howard. Year: 1931. Country: USA.
    Section: William K. Howard: Rediscovering a Master Stylist.
    T. alt.: Europa. Scen.: Guy Bolton. F.: James Wong Howe. M.: Jack Murray. Scgf.: Gordon Wiles. Mus.: Carli Elinor.
    Int.: Edmund Lowe (Monty Greer), Lois Moran (Judy Kramer), John Halliday (Henry D. Graham), Greta Nissen (Sigrid Carline), Myrna Loy (Kay Graham), Jean Hersholt (Rudolph ‘Jed’ Kramer), Billy Bevan (Hodgkins).
    Prod.: Fox Film Corp. DCP 4K. D.: 75’. Bn.
    Restored in 2015 by MoMA with funding provided by The Film Foundation, The George Lucas Family Foundation and The Celeste Bartos Preservation Fund.
    From: MoMA / Park Circus / 20th Century Fox.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
    Screened with e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti at Cinema Jolly, 1 July 2017.

Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Drawing on the talents of cinematographer James Wong Howe and art director Gordon Wiles, Howard takes advantage of a closed shipboard setting to create an amazing array of deep focus effects, climaxing in a chase through the ship’s cavernous engine room."

"In Transatlantic, an ocean crossing becomes the premise for an early experiment in multiple story lines, anticipating MGM’s 1932 Grand Hotel. At the center is Edmund Lowe, as a professional thief who allows the greatest haul of his career to slip through his fingers because of an old, unspecified obligation he feels toward his intended victim’s wife (Myrna Loy)."

"If Transatlantic has not received the attention it merits, it is largely because of its shaky state of preservation: no complete copy of the American release version has survived. This new restoration from the Museum of Modern Art matches the complete English audio track to picture elements derived from the French, Italian and Spanish export versions, yielding a full sense of the film for the first time in 80 years.
" (Dave Kehr)

Mordaunt Hall: "A brilliantly produced melodrama wherein all the action occurs on board an ocean liner. William K. Howard, whose cinematic work has often attracted attention, even when the stories of his films were somewhat mediocre, is responsible for this new offering. His imaginative guidance of the fleeting glimpses is most impressive, especially when one ponders over the amount of thought that has to be given to just one minute of this production.
The sum total of the kaleidoscopic flashes awakens thoughts of Vicki Baum’s play, Grand Hotel, for the camera darts hither and tither in unfurling the drama in which a heterogeneous group finds its way before the lens. As a story it is not a little vague at times, but, nevertheless, it has its exciting junctures and possesses the further distinction of having a closing sequence in which no matrimonial prospects are held out for the principal characters. In most of the sequences the manipulation of the camera takes precedence over the dialogue and the doings of the various individuals involved in the chronicle." Mordaunt Hall, “The New York Times”, August 9, 1931 quoted by Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato)

AA: A crime drama, a multi character study, a sea adventure.

As Dave Kehr states above, Transatlantic was a film inspired by Vicki Baum's Menschen im Hotel (novel 1929, theatre adaptation 1930 Theater am Nollendorfplatz) a year before the MGM film adaptation Grand Hotel. Vicki Baum was a writer deep in the Neue Sachlichkeit. She also knew the Querschnittfilm trend which had started with Die Abenteuer eines Zehnmarkscheines (1926) directed by Berthold Viertel, the screenwriting debut of Béla Balázs, based on Leo Tolstoy's The Forged Coupon. In the cinema the multi-character study had its predecessors (such as The Bridge of San Luis Rey and portmanteau films based on Chekhov's stories, and aren't many catastrophe films multi-character studies, including Titanic films of which there already were many). Nevertheless Transatlantic and Grand Hotel were models for followers.

The Transatlantic is sailing from the U.S. to Europe. The banker Henry Graham (John Halliday) is fleeing the country with his personal securities as his bank is about to collapse. He travels with his wife Kay (Myrna Loy) and lover Sigrid Carlene (Greta Nissen).

The retired lens grinder Rudolph Kramer (Jean Hersholt) who travels with his daughter Judy (Lois Moran) has toiled all his life in order to be able to make this voyage. He has deposited all his savings in the Graham Investment Corporation.

A gang of criminals led by Handsome (Earle Foxe) is devising ingenious plans to rob Graham. The freelancing gambler and "baggage smasher" Monty Greer (Edmund Lowe) has plans of his own.

Story-wise Transatlantic may be a case of "too many crooks".

I saw three ship films at Il Cinema Ritrovato this year: besides this, Epilog directed by Helmut Käutner, and Destination Unknown directed by Tay Garnett, all crime films about desperate journeys. In all the ship voyage is somehow a metaphor.

In Transatlantic (as in Menschen im Hotel / Grand Hotel) the metaphor is about the world shaken by the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Vicki Baum wrote her novel before the crash, but the play and film adaptations inevitably resonated with it.

In Transatlantic the crime theme is almost Brechtian (Die Dreigroschenoper had premiered in 1928): "What's breaking into a bank compared to founding one?" Henry Graham dies from a bullet shot by the gangster called Handsome. Crime does not pay in this story, but the question lingers about the likeliness of epic fraud in financial speculation going unpunished.

For a film about a sea voyage there is little sea sense, although a storm breaks out. The drama takes place inside the ship. All along William K. Howard displays an exciting sense of mise-en-scène, and the cinematography of James Wong Howe is an instance of "the unhinged camera". The transition from silent to sound film has been successfully completed, and the visual glory of Transatlantic can be compared with the golden years of the silent cinema. The visual sense culminates in the climactic chase when Monty, the chased chaser, is after Handsome. It is a brilliant sequence in cramped space in deep focus. Multiple layers of action are staged in the vertical dimension of the ship's staircase.

A remarkable project of restoration conducted with loving care from a variety of sources, including challenging ones, as explained in the opening restoration credits. Missing dialogue is covered via subtitles on the copy. The result does justice to the brilliant visual concept of Transatlantic.


By Candlelight (1933) (2017 Universal restoration)

By Candlelight (1933). Paul Lukas (Josef), Elissa Landi (Marie).

Kynttilän valossa / Resan till Monte Carlo / A lume di candela.
    Director: James Whale. Year: 1933. Country: USA.
    Section: Universal Pictures: the Laemmle Junior Years (Part Two).
    Sog.: dalla pièce Kleine Komödie di Siegfried Geyer. Scen.: F. Hugh Herbert, Ruth Cummings, Karen De Wolf, Hans Kraly. F.: John J. Mescall. M.: Ted Kent, David Berg. Scgf.: Charles D. Hall. Mus.: W. Franke Harling.
    Int.: Elissa Landi (Marie), Paul Lukas (Josef), Nils Asther (principe Alfred von Rommer), Esther Ralston (baronessa Louise von Ballin), Lawrence Grant (conte von Rischenheim), Dorothy Revier (contessa von Rischenheim), Warburton Gamble (barone von Ballin), Lois January (Ann).
    Prod.: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. 35mm. D.: 70’. Bn.
    From: Universal. A Comcast Company.
    Restored in 2017 by Universal from the original camera negative.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
    Screened with e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti at Cinema Jolly, 1 July 2017.

Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Based on an Austrian play that became a Broadway hit in an adaptation by P. G. Wodehouse, By Candlelight is a sly comedy of class distinctions that seems European to the core – set in Paris and Monte Carlo, starring a Hungarian (Paul Lukas), an Anglo-Italian (Elissa Landi) and a Dane (Nils Asther) and directed by an Englishman (James Whale, who replaced first-time director Robert Wyler after a few days of shooting)."

"Lukas is convincingly servile as Josef, the devoted butler of a womanizing prince (Asther), who has learned to play his supporting role in the prince’s carefully choreographed ritual of seduction – staging a power failure and rushing in with a candelabra just as the prince moves in on his lady of the evening (a parade that includes the ravishing Esther Ralston). Sent to Monte Carlo to prepare the prince’s villa for the season, Josef naturally assumes the prince’s aristocratic bearing when he meets an elegant young woman, Marie (Landi), on the train, assuming her to be a great lady just as he allows her to assume that he is a nobleman of the highest rank."

"As in his masterpiece The Kiss Before the Mirror, filmed earlier in 1933 and also featuring Lukas, Whale underlines the fateful repetition of events, as Josef prepares to seduce Marie, using the prince’s time-tested scenario. Of course, nothing goes according to Josef’s plan, as identities and social ranks begin to shift and spin with dizzying speed."
Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato)

AA: As an exercise in sophistication By Candlelight is not a dark and unsettling piece like The Kiss Before the Mirror which James Whale had directed earlier during the same year. By Candlelight is a comedy: a sophisticated comedy, a romantic comedy, a comedy of manners, a comedy of misunderstandings, a comedy of mistaken identities, an erotic comedy.

The butler Josef (Paul Lukas) posing as a prince seduces the maid Marie (Elissa Landi) posing as countess. While the prince Alfred von Rommer (Nils Asther) is away the butler adopts the prince's seduction routine but is startled when von Rommer appears posing as his butler. Later Marie is surprised to meet her countess as the lover of the prince. Beyond the masquerade Josef and Marie fall in love.

The funny turning-point is the moment when Josef starts to play the piano for Marie and von Rommer takes over the butler's role turning off the lights, letting the lovers take advantage of the darkness, and bringing a candelabra in order to let the love-making continue in a romantic lighting.

James Whale handles the comedy very well. Especially Nils Asther, Elissa Landi, and Esther Ralston seem to be enjoying themselves.

Henri Bergson (Le Rire) found the secret of comedy in imposing something mechanical on the human. By Candlelight belongs to the category of "the mechanism of seduction". In such comedies the joke is on a guidebook or patented routine which presumably guarantees success in seduction. In By Candlelight we have both a guidebook (a volume on Casanova) and a proven routine (the Prince's candlelight technique). (Amusingly, not only Josef but also Marie is introduced as a reader of Casanova).

There is even a bigger satirical angle. The story is based on pretense: pretending to be of a different social standing than one's own. We are made to laugh not only at this but also at the very concept of status and the pretense implicit in the social order.

There is even a wider implication on the human condition in a Shakespearean sense of "all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players". By Candlelight has been compared with Lubitsch. There are other witty sophisticated comedies, but because of his profound sense of humour Whale does merit the comparison with "the sultan of satire".

A brilliant print of the brand new restoration.