Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sayonara (2015)

Director: Kôji Fukada
Country: Japan, France
Year: 2015
Duration: 1.52
Languages: ja, en, fr
Category: In the Heart of Darkness, Master Class
Fukushima II: When the Human Beings Are Gone
    Introduced by Mika Taanila and Olaf Möller.
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    DCP with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, 18 June 2017.

Olaf Möller (MSFF): "After a disaster that looks suspiciously like the burning of an atomic power plant, death invisible is all around. Masses of people get evacuated, albeit not always fast enough. Others don’t feel like leaving. One of them is a young woman seemingly of South African extraction while fluent in Japanese (and other tongues as well). Her main companion in life is an android: her nanny/maidservant/lady-in-waiting. A boyfriend visits but doesn’t stay. Other people move on as well. After a while, she’s alone, sick with radiation disease, slowly wilting away while the android looks on uncaringly. Or did the machine over the years manage to learn from its mistress the essence of emotions? Will the android become the new human and appreciate the ethereal splendour of a flower in bloom? The at first moodily Rohmer’esque then serenely Sokurov’ian Sayonara marks the highpoint in Fukada Kōji’s collaboration with stage writer-director Hirata Oriza who in many of his productions used androids. Theirs is an art haunted, defined by the way the uncanny can seep into the fabric of life itself. With them, the alien is always among us – while the familiar becomes: strange. A standout piece of film art, even among the masses of major achievements and masterpieces Japan produces year in year out." (OM) MSFF

AA: A haunting and original post-apocalyptic movie, different from On the Beach, When the Wind Blows, Stalker, and Innocent Saturday. There is not a lot of action as we mostly watch Tanya (Bryerly Long) slowly fade away.

A unique feature is that the second lead is played by a robot: Geminoid F created by Hiroshi Ishiguro, the figure to the left on the poster above. James Hadfield has called Sayonara "the first movie to feature an android performing opposite a human actor".

I missed the beginning because I had to rearrange my accommodation for the night.


Monica Z / Waltz for Monica

Director: Per Fly
Country: Sweden
Year: 2013
Duration: 1.51
Languages: sv, en
Category: Per Fly
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    DCP with English subtitles viewed at The School, 18 June 2017 

Harri-Ilmari Moilanen (MSFF): "For Sweden, jazz singer Monica Zetterlund is an iconic figure beyond measure. The biopic Monica Z (2013) is starred by Edda Magnusson who not only looks a lot like Monica Zetterlund herself but also plays the part of the protagonist exceedingly well. The result is a portrait that likely, for the most part, does justice to the idol. In the film, the character of Zetterlund is an equal combination of determination, sensibility and vulnerability. By default, director Per Fly values multifaceted methods of acting."

"Setting the focus of the events to a five year period between the 1950’s and 1960’s is a smart and practical solution: it offers enough dramatics both in the music and in Zetterlund’s personal life. “The Singer’s Road of Ordeal” would be an apt subheading for the movie."

"It includes events such as Z joining the orchestra of Arne Domnerus, breaking through with the song Sakta vi gå genom stan, the catastrophic Eurovision song contest of 1963 as well as the famous recording session with pianist Bill Evans."

"Furthermore, the broken personal life of Zetterlund is also illustrated; the problematic relationship with her father, various romantic relationships, her motherhood as well as her drinking problem."

"Bassist Sture Åkerberg (Sverrir Gudnason) is portrayed as the great love of Zetterlund and perhaps this was really the case. However, in the context of the aforementioned troubles, a romantic ending is too gentle a way to finish a film that otherwise works so well within the framework of its genre." (HIM) MSFF

AA: I saw for the first time Monica Z, the acclaimed Monica Zetterlund biopic with a fantastic performance by Edda Magnason in the leading role. A popular and critical success, it was the most prized Swedish film of the year. In this jazz musical biopic the quality of the music performances is high. Most amazingly Edda Magnason's interpretations of Monica Zetterlund's hits are worthy of the legendary originals. The production is good-looking, and the 1960s period feeling is convincing.

Monica Z is a well made mainstream entertainment film and a feelgood film. As a musical biopic it follows established conventions. There is a rise and fall scenario, but the film ends on an upbeat note as the matured Zetterlund enters a new stage in her life and career.

Memorable aspects:
    Monica Zetterlund's first New York engagement in the early 1960s is interrupted since it is not possible for a male black jazz band to have a white female singer.
    Zetterlund sings "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" privately to Ella Fitzgerald. Ella's comment: "When Billie sang it she meant it". Soon Zetterlund decides to switch to the Swedish language in her songs. She realizes that she does not know what it means to miss New Orleans. Instead she knows what it is to walk slowly in Stockholm ("Sakta vi gå genom stan").
    The most important relationship is between father and daughter. Monica's father is a frustrated artist who never believes that Monica will become anything. First in the conclusion, after Monica has sung with Bill Evans, father accepts her as an artist. Fine and well, but there is a bit of an one-note approach in this current of the narrative.
    This basic theme has an affinity with what is known in the Nordic countries as "the Law of Jante". It stems from the novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks (1933) by the Danish-Norwegian writer Aksel Sandemose. There are ten rules in the law, all to the tune of "do not think that you are anything special".
    Funny caricatures of famous artists such as Vilgot Sjöman, Beppe Wolgers, Hans Alfredson and Tage Danielsson.
    Losing in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1963.
    The marriage inferno with an insult contest between Monica and Vilgot.
    Finally Monica stands up to father. "I must try new things all the time. You didn't even dare to try".

The digital projection was good-looking.


Leffaraati / Movie Jury

The Sodankylä Movie Jury hosted by Ville Virtanen with Elina Knihtilä, Tuomas Rantanen, Ida Simes, and Neil Hardwick as the jurors. Photo: Sanni Saarelainen (MSFF).

Host: Ville Virtanen.
Jurors: Elina Knihtilä, Tuomas Rantanen, Ida Simes, and Neil Hardwick.
    Programmed by Petteri Kalliomäki, all in 35 mm.
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    The School, 18 June 2017.

MSFF: "YÖTTÖMÄN yön festivaalin moniin spesialiteetteihin kuuluu Ville Virtasen luotsaama, erinomaisen virtaviivainen Leffaraati, jonka alkuperäisenä esikuvana on englantilaisen Juke Box Juryn inspiroima, Jukka Virtasen 1980–1997 juontama Levyraati. Vuosina 1961–1997 ja 2002–2005 pyörinyt, uudemman musiikin sävelteoksille risuja ja ruusuja rakentavassa hengessä jaellut show oli ensimmäinen suomalaisen television formaattiohjelmista – ja edelleen myös niistä ylivertaisesti pitkäikäisin!"

"Pohjoisessa musiikin paikan ottavat luonnollisesti elokuvat, mutta kuten kuvioon kuuluu, täsmällisempi sisältö – samoin kuin ainoan festivaalimme puitteissa toimivan virallisen juryn jäsenten henkilöllisyys – pidetään salassa viime metreille saakka. Hankkiudu siis ajoissa paikalle ennen kuin sarrislaiset pyramidit valahtavat tuhkaksi, kaelilaiset kaanonit kalkitaan kuoppaan, vanhat pantheonit parkitaan pois pelistä ja lopulliset tuomiot jaetaan…" MSFF

1. Maluch / [Toddler] / [Taapero] / Maluch the Little Car (Lucjan Dembiński, PL 1965), colour, 8 min. Wordless puppet animation, object animation, about a baby car's first ride, made with the Polish flair for graphic art.

Dušan Vukotić and the Academy Award for Surogat.

2. Surogat / Ersatz / The Substitute (Dušan Vukotić, HR/YU 1961), colour, 10 min. A wordless drawn and painted animation in a limited style from the Zagreb Film animation studio about a man who can inflate anything from portable geometrical bits, including a woman companion. Finally he realizes that he is an inflatable figure himself.

3. 100 (D: Walter Heynowski, P: Walter Heynowski & Peter Scheumann, DD 1971), Totalvision scope, Orwocolor, 6 min. One hundred push-ups in the U.S. Marine drill exercise where we are indoctrinated to see the Vietnamese as dogs, pigs, and monkeys in the East German agit documentary.

4. Welcome Kirk / Kirk Douglas (Feridun Erol, Marek Piwowski, PL 1966), b&w, 10 min. A delightful documentary on Kirk Douglas's visit to the State Film School at Łodz in Poland. Our tribute to Kirk Douglas who turned a hundred years in December.

5. Lend / Полёт / Polyot / Poljot / Lento / [Flight] (Rein Raamat, EE/SU 1973), colour, 9 min. Estonian drawn and painted animation, a lyrical flight of fancy about flying, with a dazzling chain of associations, sometimes bringing to mind psychedelia and Miyazaki.

A battle of wits ensued from Petteri Kalliomäki's selection of five sharp shorts all made within a period of 12 years in Eastern Europe before the fall of the wall. These films remain timeless and open to a range of interpretations.

Eija Pokkinen and Per Fly morning discussions

Eija Pokkinen in discussion with Timo Malmi. Photo: Sanni Saarelainen (MSFF).

Per Fly in discussion with Liselott Forsman. Photo: Sanni Saarelainen (MSFF).

Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
Eija Pokkinen in discussion with Timo Malmi.
Per Fly in discussion with Liselott Forsman in English.
The School, Sunday, 18 June 2017.

MSFF: Festivaalin viimeisiin aamukeskusteluihin osallistuivat elokuvakääntäjä ja näyttelijä Eija Pokkinen sekä tanskalainen ohjaaja Per Fly.


Eija Pokkinen kertoi tutustuneensa elokuviin vasta lukioiässä, sillä pikkukaupungissa maalla ei 50-luvulla ollut sen paremmin elokuvateattereita kuin televisiotakaan.

Sota oli läsnä Pokkisen ensimmäiset elinvuodet. Perhe lähti evakkomatkalle kun Pokkinen oli vain muutaman kuukauden ikäinen. Nyt hän arvelee, että hänen kielitaipumuksensa liittyvät pakenemiseen: kielet olivat tie toisiin maailmoihin. Opintojen ja kielimatkojen kautta hän päätyi lopulta malliksi Pariisiin, mikä puolestaan oli eräänlainen portti näyttelemiseen.

60-luvun toisella puoliskolla hän esiintyi Filminorin elokuvissa Onnenpeli ja Vihreä leski, jotka nähtiin tämän vuoden ohjelmistossa. Risto Jarvan kanssa työskentelyä Pokkinen muisteli lämmöllä. ”Työskentely oli yhteisöllistä, yhdessä keskusteleminen ja tekeminen oli hänelle tärkeää. Hän oli hyvin rauhallinen ja sydämellinen, en nähnyt hänen koskaan suuttuvan.”

Vihreä leski -elokuvassa Pokkinen näytteli pääosan. Turhautuneen tapiolalaisen kotirouvan elämästä kertovaan elokuvaan liittyi yhteiskunnallisia kysymyksiä, mutta Pokkinen kertoi nähneensä elokuvan ennen kaikkea yksinäisyyden ja rakkaudettoman avioliiton kuvauksena. Pokkinen kertoi ehdottaneensa itse elokuvan nimeksi Vihreää leskeä ja saaneensa siitä palkkioksi korin kaljaa.


Per Fly halusi alun perin muusikoksi, mutta joutui lopulta myöntämään, etteivät hänen taitonsa riittäneet tarpeeksi pitkälle. Lopulta hänen silloinen tyttöystävänsä, nykyinen vaimonsa, näyttelijätär Charlotte Fich kehotti häntä hakemaan elokuvakouluun. Fly oli tehnyt bändinsä julisteet ja videot, joten elokuvien tekeminen tuntuikin heti luontevalta suunnalta. Edelleen hän aloittaa elokuvan syventymällä sen musiikkiin ja äänimaailmaan. Musiikki on Flyn mukaan hyvä tapa ilmaista komplekseja psykologisia ilmiöitä ja hahmon asemaa.

”I’m not a cineaste, I’m a consumer of film. I knew very little about film when I got into film school. Everyone was talking about a girl called Dolly, and in the end I had to ask, Who is Dolly? Of course, they were talking about a camera dolly”, Fly naureskeli.

Flyn ensimmäisen pitkän elokuvan syntyminen otti aikansa. Lopulta hän päätti lähteä kaduille hakemaan inspiraatiota, ja elokuva Penkki syntyikin nimenomaan katujen ihmisten seuraamisesta. Sittemmin hän teki elokuvat myös tanskalaisesta keski- ja yläluokasta. ”I go where my curiosity takes me, not where I stand politically”, hän tiivistää filosofiansa.

Flyn edellinen pitkä elokuva Monica Z kahmi Ruotsin Jusseja eli Guldbaggeja. Fly ylisti erityisesti pääosanesittäjä Edda Magnasonia, joka elokuvamaailman ulkopuolelta tulevana ei osannut kaikkia elokuvan tekemisen sääntöjä ja toi siten teokseen rehellisyyttä. (MSFF)

AA additions

First film: East of Eden (James Dean)
Desert island: Zerkalo (Tarkovsky)

First film: The Three Musketeers (Lester)
Desert island: Berlin Alexanderplatz (Fassbinder)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lerd / A Man of Integrity

Lerd. Reza Akhlaghirad (Reza), Soudabeh Beizaee (Hadis).

Director: Mohammad Rasoulof
Country: Iran
Year: 2017
Duration: 1.57
Languages: fa
Category: Gems of New Cinema
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    DCP with English subtitles at Cinema Lapinsuu, 17 June 2017

MSFF: "A Man of Integrity tells the story of Teheran-based Reza, a university professor who gets fired from his job after having complained about the food at work after which he, his wife and his young son move to Northern Iran to raise goldfish. The corporation next door wants a piece of Reza’s land and the company’s collaborator Abbas uses some dirty tricks in order to destroy the gold fish hatchery and, eventually, Reza and his family. Reza’s wife Hadis, the local school’s headmaster, tries to blackmail Abbas through his daughter who Hadis teaches, revealing some devious aspects of Abbas – and Reza, too. The entire subregion seems to be under the thumb of the giant corporation. Corruption thrives everywhere, even throughout the highest body of officials. Left with little choice, Reza attempts to keep his head high, not giving in to the corruption despite what Hadis says. “The pride of men creates problems that need to be solved by the intelligence of women”, Hadis says at some point."

"The film is a societal moral story that resembles the famous Russian movie from three years ago; Andrej Zvjagintsev’s Leviathan (2014). Finally, The Man of Integrity questions Reza’s morale too. At the end of the film he turns his back toward the viewer." (VpM)

"MOHAMMAD RASOULOF (born 1973) belongs to the generation of Iranian filmmakers influenced by Abbas Kiarostami (1940–2016) who Rasoulof has (along with Jafar Panahi) considered as a role model. What these two directors have in common is a method of observing the world from a mundane perspective while revealing societal grievances. This has led them both to a permanent state of conflict with the Iranian authorities. In the case of Panahi, it resulted in a prohibition on making movies, which he has continuously disobeyed by working underground and smuggling his films to the international market in memory sticks."

"Rasoulof, in turn, has not been able to screen any of his six films in his home country and at times has been sent to jail for breaking his prohibition on making movies. Once, both Panahi and Rasoulof were arrested on set while they were shooting a joint film. At Cannes film festival in 2011 his film Goodbye received the Un certain regard award which he was unable to collect due to his prohibition on leaving Iran.
" (MSFF)

IMDb: "A drama about the corruption and injustice in the Iranian society. You are the suppressed, or you have to join the suppressor to survive!"

Reza Akhlaghirad (Reza)
Soudabeh Beizaee (Hadis)

AA: I missed the beginning of A Man of Integrity as I was introducing a parallel screening. This is the first film by Mohammad Rasoulof that I have seen, and he seems to belong to the great contemporary Iranian ones along with Panahi and Farhadi.

An engrossing story of a little man against a mafia-like power structure in the North Iranian countryside. The indefatigable Reza seems to be on the path to martyrdom fighting against the odds. Until there is a stunning volte-face.

The tragic quandary reminds me of The Big Heat.
Fighting the mob you risk becoming like one of them... here: even one of them.

"Bei den Erdbeben, die kommen werden, werde ich hoffentlich
Meine Virginia nicht ausgehen lassen durch Bitterkeit
("In the earthquakes that are to come I shall not, I hope,
Let my cigar go out because of bitterness")
wrote Bertolt Brecht. But it does not look good for Reza.

Very well made. Coming too late to the sold-out screening I failed to take notes.

Good visual quality in the digital projection.

In Finnish: "Tulevissa maanjäristyksissä toivon, että sikarini hehku ei sammu katkeruuteen".

Discussion with Finnish film-makers

Discussion: Janne Hyytiäinen, Neil Hardwick, Sinikka Sokka (invisible), Ville Virtanen (invisible), Jouko Aaltonen, Liselott Forsman (standing), Visa Koiso-Kanttila, Paula Vesala (invisible), Selma Vilhunen, Eija Pokkinen (back of head), Simon Al-Bazoon (back), Nuppu Koivu (back). Photo: Anna Björklund (MSFF).

Discussion: Sinikka Sokka, Ville Virtanen. Photo: Anna Björklund (MSFF).

Discussion: Liselott Forsman (back), Visa Koiso-Kanttila, Paula Vesala, Selma Vilhunen, Eija Pokkinen, Simon Al-Bazoon, Nuppu Koivu. Photo: Anna Björklund (MSFF).

Discussion: Ville Virtanen, Eija Pokkinen, Simon Al-Bazoon, Nuppu Koivu. Photo: Anna Björklund (MSFF).

Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä
The Little Top, 17 June 2017

Moderator: Liselott Forsman

Janne Hyytiäinen (Toivon tuolla puolen)
Neil Hardwick (Jos rakastat)
Sinikka Sokka (Lauluja utopiasta)
Ville Virtanen (Armoton maa)
Jouko Aaltonen (Lauluja utopiasta)
Visa Koiso-Kanttila (Kaiken se kestää)
Paula Vesala (Tyttö nimeltä Varpu, Keppihevosten vallankumous)
Selma Vilhunen (Tyttö nimeltä Varpu, Keppihevosten vallankumous)
Eija Pokkinen (Onnenpeli, Vihreä leski)
Simon Al-Bazoon (Toivon tuolla puolen)
Nuppu Koivu (Toivon tuolla puolen)

A wonderful atmosphere in the meeting of Finnish film-makers of many generations and disparate approaches.

Carlos Saura morning discussion in Sodankylä

Carlos Saura indulging in witty repartee with his interpreter Suvi Autio, 17 June 2017. Photo: Midnight Sun Film Festival.

From the Midnight Sun Film Festival website

Saturday’s morning discussion at the Kitisenranta School featured Spanish director Carlos Saura who talked about his long and varied career with interviewer Timo Malmi. Saura often deals with themes of memory and past and said that his father used to entertain the children with a memory board where he collected news clippings, drawings and pictures. The family used to look at the board together and reminisce about the past.

Saura spent his youth moving from city to city following his father’s job. The Spanish Civil War broke out when Saura was four years old. It was a huge upheaval that changed the whole era and Saura thinks that the horrors of war affect all his films, consciously or unconsciously. Like many of his contemporaries, Saura wanted to resist war and militarism with his films.

Saura mentioned that his economic way of making films also developed due to the war. He tries to avoid unnecessary takes and experimentation during the shooting. He prefers to rehearse with the actors beforehand and starts shooting only after everything feels clear. He also prefers to shoot in chronological order to see how the actors develop in their roles.

Saura also reminisced on his father-in-law Charlie Chaplin as well as on his friendship with fellow director Luis Bunuel. Bunuel had said to Saura that after Bunuel’s death he is the only director who could continue the work Bunuel had started. Saura was married to actress Geraldine Chaplin, for whom father Charles was writing his final script. The film was never made but Geraldine and Charlie read parts of the script playing different characters to Saura, who did not know English.

Saura is an enthusiast of many different artforms and filmmaking combines many of his loves, such as storytelling, set design, music, dance and photography. Saura especially considers photography to be the red line running through his diverse career. Recently Saura went through the negatives of his photographs from the 1950’s in preparation for a book. He was surprised by how much Spain has changed during the years. In some photos Spain’s small villages looked almost medieval to modern eyes.

Saura said that he believes in fate and the the influence of luck on life. He advised the audience to sometimes let things roll on their own weight. He considers it hard to control his own existence and likes filmmaking because he can control the end result. For Saura, reality does not consist of only that which is visible – the memories and future possibilities we carry with us are also part of everything. He has also tried to convey this philosophy in his films.

At the end of the interview Saura warned the audience that memories have a life of their own. For example, the photographs of our childhood shape the way we thinks of those times. Because our conception of the past changes constantly, memories can not be trusted.

When asked the traditional final question about his desert island film, Saura explained that everyone carries with them their own film which they see when they close their eyes. He thinks that watching that film is a good practice for anyone – even if they are not stranded on a desert island. (MSFF)

AA: Carlos Saura, at 85, was in high spirits and full of plans for his next three films.

His answer to the ritual first question "What was the first film you saw": Three Little Pigs by Walt Disney.

And to the ritual last question "Which film would you take to the desert island": no film but the complete works of J. S. Bach.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lauluja utopiasta / Songs from Utopia (world premiere in the presence of Jouko Aaltonen and Sinikka Sokka)

Directors: Peter von Bagh, Jouko Aaltonen
Country: Suomi/Finland
Year: 2017
Duration: 0.57
Languages: fi
Category: Music
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    In the presence of Sinikka Sokka and Jouko Aaltonen introduced by Timo Malmi.
    DCP with English subtitles by Tiina Kinnunen at the Big Top, 16 June 2017.

Before the film started Sinikka Sokka sang magnificently:
    "Jos rakastat" (Matti Rossi, Kaj Chydenius)
    "Ei puolikasta" / "Нет, мне ни в чем не надо половины!" (Yevgeni Yevtushenko, Kaj Chydenius) – in memory of Yevtushenko (1932–2017)
    "Oppimisen ylistys" / "Lob des Lernens" (Bertolt Brecht, Eero Ojanen)

Liina Härkönen (MSFF): "Before Peter von Bagh passed away in September of 2014, he had, up to his last days, several irons in the fire. One of his unfinished projects was a documentary about the group Agit-Prop, the brightest star of the Finnish Communist song movement. Now, von Bagh’s work has finally been completed by director Jouko Aaltonen, whose 2006 documentary, Revolution, depicted the same left-wing song movement in Finland from a wider perspective."

"Utilizing interviews conducted by von Bagh in the summer of 2014 as well as extensive archival and concert footage, the documentary takes us through Agit-Prop’s career, from its 1960’s folk roots to the politically hectic and internationally active 1970’s, the tragedies of which cast a special kind of emotional intensity to the group’s musical renditions. Later, in the 1980’s, political awareness seemed to be wasting away until being revived by the economical depression of the early 1990’s, which also spawned a whole new generation of AgitProp fans. It is almost lamentable how the songs of the ever-active group still resonate with the social issues of today."

AA: In the summer 2014 Peter von Bagh conducted the interviews that form the core of this new film about Agit-Prop, one of the finest groups in the history of the socially committed song movement. Peter was always a champion of theirs.

After Peter's death on 17 September 2014 Jouko Aaltonen, who has himself directed a documentary on the Finnish political song movement, took charge of the Agit-Prop film. He tried various alternatives and ended up editing it chronologically: the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and the revival in the 2010s. The result is a straight linear account, different from the multi-layered memory montages of Peter's late, mature period.

We start with events such as the Helsinki Folk Festival in 1966, and hootenanny tours. The radicalization in the 1970s is covered. The Agit-Prop became an international phenomenon in the East Berlin youth festivals. Vietnam and Chile were among the key topics. In Germany, the Agit-Prop became known as "the Communist ABBA".

The world has changed but the music of the Agit-Prop remains timeless. Justifiedly one may remark that while oppression in Chile and Vietnam was condemned, nothing was said in their songs about circumstances in the USSR and East Germany.

More than 25 years have passed since the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Eastern Bloc. Perhaps a time will come when it is possible to assess soberly a song such as Bertolt Brecht's "In Praise of Dialectics" (1931). It is an anthem of a fight against oppression, about never giving up the fight. Such songs never legitimated any oppressive government. And songs such as "In Praise of Learning" were against any monolithic agitation and propaganda.

There is a classic Hanns Eisler composition to "In Praise of Dialectics", but the Agit-Prop sing the superior composition by Kaj Chydenius. Amazingly, there are also lines in Brita Polttila's Finnish translation that are wittier than the Brecht original.

Agit-Prop will be worth re-discovering for a long time to come.

In the Q&A after the screening Sinikka Sokka commented that she never liked the name of the band but learned to adapt. The 1970s for her were a period of a young person's "ehdoton sekavuus", "categorical confusion".

This screening, in memory of Peter von Bagh, was the most deeply emotional of the festival.

"Was du nicht selber weißt
Weißt du nicht.

"What you don't know yourself
You don't know."

– Bertolt Brecht: Lob des Lernens (1931)

Bertolt Brecht: Lob der Dialektik (a poem)

Das Unrecht geht heute einher mit sicherem Schritt.
Die Unterdrücker richten sich ein auf zehntausend Jahre.
Die Gewalt versichert: So, wie es ist, bleibt es.
Keine Stimme ertönt außer der Stimme der Herrschenden.
Und auf den Märkten sagt die Ausbeutung laut:
Jetzt beginne ich erst.
Aber von den Unterdrückten sagen viele jetzt:
Was wir wollen, geht niemals.

Wer noch lebt, sage nicht: niemals!
Das Sichere ist nicht sicher.
So, wie es ist, bleibt es nicht.
Wenn die Herrschenden gesprochen haben,
Werden die Beherrschten sprechen.
Wer wagt zu sagen: niemals?
An wem liegt es, wenn die Unterdrückung bleibt? An uns.
An wem liegt es, wenn sie zerbrochen wird?
Ebenfalls an uns.
Wer niedergeschlagen wird, der erhebe sich!
Wer verloren ist, kämpfe!
Wer seine Lage erkannt hat, wie soll der aufzuhalten sein?
Denn die Besiegten von heute sind die Sieger von morgen,
Und aus Niemals wird: Heute noch!

Bertolt Brecht (1931)


Vääryys etenee tänään varmoin askelin.
Sortajat asettuvat taloksi hallitakseen kymmenen tuhatta vuotta.
Väkivalta vakuuttaa: mikä on, se pysyy.
Ääntäkään ei kuulu, paitsi hallitsevien ääni
ja markkinoilla sanoo riisto ääneen: tämä on vasta alkua.
Mutta sorretuista sanovat monet nyt:
se mihin pyrimme ei koskaan onnistu.

Se joka vielä on hengissä, älköön sanoko: ei koskaan!
Varma ei ole varmaa.
Mikä on, ei pysy.
Kun hallitsevat ovat puhuneet
tulevat hallitut puhumaan
Kuka rohkenee sanoa: ei koskaan?
Kenestä riippuu sortovallan jatkuminen? Meistä.
Kenestä riippuu sortovallan murskaaminen? Myös meistä.
Joka lyödään maahan, nouskoon!
Joka on hukassa, taistelkoon!
Mikä voi pidättää sitä, joka on oivaltanut asemansa?
Sillä tämän päivän voitetut ovat huomispäivän voittajat,
ja ei koskaan on: vielä tänään!

Suomennos: Brita Polttila

Nocturama (in the presence of Bertrand Bonello)

Director: Bertrand Bonello
Country: France, Germany, Belgium
Year: 2016
Duration: 2.10
Languages: fr
Category: Bertrand Bonello    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    In the presence of Bertrand Bonello, introduced by Satu Kyösola.
    DCP with English subtitles at Cinema Lapinsuu, 16 June 2017

Timo Malmi (MSFF): "The newest work of Bertrand Bonello is a real display of skill, a tour-de-force direction that depicts 130 minutes of a terror strike committed by Parisian youth. It flows rapidly without any dead spaces; pure cinema that works without too much dialogue. This cinematographic feast reminds of Holy Motors by Leos Carax, partially set in the same milieu, and Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine."

"Set in two parts and a “break”, Nocturama opens by moving hypnotically in the subway corridors, streets and public buildings of Paris. Youth of various ages and backgrounds commit acts that prove to be terror strikes – and congregate in a consumerist paradise of a luxurious department store (filmed in the famous art deco building of La Samaritaine). In the puzzling finale, these memorable main characters spend their time among the wonders of culinary pleasures, consumer electronics and high fashion."

"” It had to happen. We knew it would.” says the cycling girl in the film´s slower part. Bonello rejects all explanations, moralizations and suggestions of motive in a provocative but admirable manner. He just shows the great plague of our times in a tangible and realistic way. The triller-like form as well as his composition and choice of music (“My Way”!) serve the whole admirably."

AA: A disturbing and original thriller about a terrorist attack against key institutions of the establishment. The attack has nothing to do with ISIS or any other ideology. Bertrand Bonello's story brings to mind Dostoevsky's Demons, Conrad's The Secret Agent (filmed by Hitchcock as Sabotage), and Godard's La Chinoise, among others.

The young people of the film are rebels without a cause. We witness them carry out an ingenious and dangerous plan of sabotage with great success. They hide at night at an empty department store and regress to childhood. Gradually it turns out that there is no substance in the campaign.

No explanation or motivation is given, but there are histories of frustration, unemployment, and alienation behind the young people. An impressive society has been built by previous generations, but these young people feel left outside. They come from all walks of life: from the elite to the marginalized.

The long section in the deserted department store has been inspired by George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, among others. And perhaps even by The Big Store by the Marx Brothers. It is a bizarre vision of the "immense accumulation of commodities" in our consumer society.

Key musical themes refer to the 1970s. The Sid Vicious music video of "My Way", also included in The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle (his way: the one of destruction). "Call Me", the theme of American Gigolo (1 February, 1980, a film with an emphasis on consumerism). And John Barry's theme for The Persuaders which to Bertrand Bonello is a theme of fate, of imminent death, as he explained in the Q&A.

Nocturama is Bonello's first film shot digitally. The cold, hard look befits the subject.


Bertrand Bonello morning discussion in Sodankylä

Bertrand Bonello in discussion with Olaf Möller, 16 June 2017. Photo: Midnight Sun Film Festival.

From the Midnight Sun Film Festival website:

Friday’s morning discussion at the Kitisenranta School featured Bertrand Bonello, one of the directors responsible for expanding the limits of modern French cinema. He was interviewed by Olaf Möller, who asked about the first film Bonello remembers seeing. The director grew up on the countryside near Nice and there were not really any possibilities to see films in a film theatre. However, there are two films that had an impact on him: the Roger Moore starring James Bond film Moonraker (1979) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Bonello’s parents did not allow him to actually see Psycho as a kid, but the incident left an impression on him.

Bonello said that when he was young he and his friends were enthusiasts of horror and porn films. He was introduced via VHS tapes to such major horror directors as George A. Romero, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and David Cronenberg. Bonello admits to still liking many of their films and they have also been an influence on his own films.

However, it was not self-evident that he would become a filmmaker. At the age of sixteen he still had in mind a career as a musician. He had studied piano playing since he was five years old, but eventually grew tired with the music business.

It was not until after seeing Jim Jarmusch’s Strangers in Paradise (1984) that cinemania truly got a hold of Bonello. After reading interviews with Jarmusch and studying the works of several prominent Italian film directors, Bonello decided to try his luck as a filmmaker. He made his first – partly self-financed – short film in Poland in the 1990’s. His breakthrough came with Le Pornographe (2001), which combined drama with porn. The film was lauded at the Cannes Film Festival.

Bonello’s music studies have not gone to waste, as he also composes the music for his films. He says that he starts the composing already at script stage. Bonello compared music to textures and colours. He finds it is easy to convey with music the atmosphere he is after for a film to the other members of the film crew.

Concerning his working methods, Bonello also revealed that he is fascinated with details. For example, when it comes to costumes, it is not only important what the clothes look like, but also the way they feel. In Bonello’s films the characters often touch objects and other things.

As to directing actors, the most important thing is to have proper discussions before going to the filming location. On location, Bonello only demonstrates how the actors should move in front of the camera: ”Basically I try not to talk too much to the actors. Sometimes the more you talk to them, the more they are lost.”

Bonello does not regard digital film warmly and for him digital cinema screenings are similar to watching films on a giant plasma screen television. The director also lamented that it is getting more and more expensive to shoot on film. He finds that film captures textures and details better than the sharp but flat image achieved with digital cameras.

When asked about his desert island film, Bonello grew silent. After a long moment of introspection he picked Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). – The Midnight Sun Film Festival website.

AA additions:

The discussion was conducted in English.

Bertrand Bonello's cinematographer before Nocturama was always Josée Deshaies, his wife. Before Nocturama, Bonello shot all his films on 35 mm. "I find cinema very sensuous. Texture, also in voice, in music, is important. I remember texture. Digital is very cold of course. Quality is going down. 35 mm for me is very light, digital is complicated with screens everywhere. Everybody is watching the screens, nobody watches the actors. In Nocturama I didn't want the warm filter of 35 mm."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Viraali / Virality (world premiere in the presence of Thomas Laine and Peter Laine)

Viraali festival premiere. Jereon Sebrechts, Mika Melender, Thomas Laine, Peter Laine. Photo: Anna Björklund (MSFF).

Director: Thomas Laine
Country: Suomi/Finland
Year: 2017
Duration: 1.50
Languages: fi
Category: New Finnish Cinema
    PC: Runoelma Works.
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    World premiere in the presence of Thomas Laine and Peter Laine and members of the cast and the production team.
    DCP with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, 15 June 2017

LH (MSFF): "In the digitally infused environment of today, social media can either make or break a person’s career. This is one of the key issues depicted in this independent crime film written and directed by Thomas Laine and shot by his brother Peter. In Viral, the world made out of bytes weaves together various fates of people leading seemingly separate lives in Helsinki."

"Kari is an intellectual policeman, who is targeted by the press after a bystander releases an ambiguous video about a shooting incident. Janne is a young rap artist, who is desperate for his career to take off. Mika is a deceitful smartphone salesman, who targets a banker, Harry, with his nefarious scheme."

"The virtual world presents itself as a Pandora’s Box, with the female characters being on hand to keep the men anchored to reality. The most meaningful moments indeed seem to present themselves, when one manages to put down the smartphone and look further ahead." (LH)

AA: An exciting Finnish debut film. Thomas Laine and Peter Laine are independents who have developed this film (and a short film before it) outside the established production and financing structures. They have also grown into film-makers outside the film school system. But their grip in the complex narrative is professional and confident.

The theme is the cyberworld, and the approach is intelligent and original. There are three stories. A misleading video of a police incident becomes viral and almost destroys the career of Kari (Frans Isotalo). The young rap singer Janne (Vili Korteniemi) can become eligible to a contract with a label only if his music video gets enough hits in the social media. The crooked smartphone salesman Mika (Visa Sarparanta) plans an ingenious bitcoin bank robbery. A tormented banker, Harry (Mika Melender), is bullied to become complicit in the scheme.

There is also a love story. Due to the viral video Kari the policeman is laid off and finds himself with a lot of free time in his hands. Which he uses to date Saana who works at a café while studying the double bass at the Sibelius Academy. Her talent is being recognized, and she has great promise for an international career. Saana is played charismatically by Saga Sarkola, impressive also in Saattokeikka.

As a narrative this multi-character study belongs to the Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson school. Alejandro González Iñárritu was particularly quoted by Thomas Laine as an influence in the Q&A. The intersections are plausible, the plotting is intelligent, and the thematic vision is not lost behind the well handled action.

Visual distinctions include aerial drone views of nocturnal Helsinki and the rap music video world relevant to Janne's story: there is a "making of" on his music video Eper: "Näläs" ["Hungry"] being produced.

Most I like in this film the talent for observation of contemporary life. We visit many walks and stages of life. Among the characters is Harry's ex-wife Maarit (Anne Polvi) at her deathbed at the cancer ward at Meilahti Hospital. In Maarit' story the term "viral" returns to its original sense. She is being treated with experimental virotherapy.

Music is all-important in the stories of the rapper Janne and the bassist Saana. In the finale we visit a symphony orchestra concert with Saana at the Helsinki Music Center, and during the end credits we see Janne's finished rap video.

I look forward to more from the Laine brothers.


V subbotu / Innocent Saturday

В субботу
Director: Aleksandr Mindadze
Country: Venäjä/Russia, Saksa/Germany, Ukraina/Ukraine
Year: 2011
Duration: 1.39
Languages: ru
Original name: V subbotu
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä (In the Heart of Darkness: Nuclear Power in the Cinema)
    Introduced by Mika Taanila and Olaf Möller 
    DCP (or some other computer file?) with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, 15 June 2017

Velipekka Makkonen (MSFF): "The Chernobyl nuclear disaster is said to be among the reasons causing the collapse of the Soviet Union. The bitterness of the tragedy has been increased by the large-scale cover-up involved. Movies about it have been made very sparingly, perhaps because the tragedy has been too great for that. Mindadze has created one method of approaching it, personal responsibility in as an opposite to ignorance."

"A young worker at Chernobyl, Vasya, stumbles into a room where the fire that has started in the power plant is being discussed about. He realizes the frightening severity of the situation, dashes to pick up his girlfriend and tries to flee as far away from the radiation pollution as possible. After minor mishaps they end up in a rock club where Vasya used to play. His former band mates demand he sits on the drummer’s seat, when their usual drummer has turned out to be incapable of playing. Thus he is stuck at the club, unable to tell about the horrifying accident. The gleam of the fire is visible in the horizon, firemen fight desperately against the spreading of the disaster. At the club people rock and drink, have drunk fights as apocalypse draws closer. They rather look away, keep silent instead of taking responsibility. In this process of wondering, in seeing the chain of evading responsibility, lies the moral comment of the director, but he does not say it out loud." (VpM)

AA: There is a feeling of raw immediacy in Aleksandr Mindadze's reconstruction of 26 April 1986, the day of the Chernobyl disaster when the fourth reactor of the nuclear power plant was destroyed.

We see everything from the level of the individual consciousness as the young Vasya tries to save his girlfriend Vera but due to her broken heel they miss the train.

They land at a wedding party with Vasya's former band mates. The bride detects a metallic taste in the kiss.

There is a lot of running.

It has all been recorded with a handheld camera, often in close-up. Very good, but might the film be even better if it were more tightly edited.

Hanna Schygulla morning discussion at Sodankylä

Anne Imbert and Hanna Schygulla, 15 June 2017, under the enigmatic look of Brigitte Helm in Die wunderbare Lüge der Nina Petrowna in this year's festival poster. Photo: Midnight Sun Film Festival.

From the Midnight Sun Film Festival website:

This year’s first morning discussion at The Midnight Sun Film Festival was with the German actress Hanna Schygulla. Anne Imbert’s documentary Hanna Schygulla: Whatever the Dream Is (2012) was screened before the actual discussion to introduce the audience to the actress’ career. Imbert was present at the discussion and Schygulla introduced her to the audience as a friend of hers.

Schygulla was first asked about her childhood lived in the middle of The Second World War. After her father was captured by the Americans and sent to an Italian prison camp, Schygulla and her mother escaped to Munich.  “Inside the train was dark and outside was light. I went up and down and up and down. That is my first image. That helped me to understand life, it goes up and down and up and down. I take it more easily because I know that.” According to Schygulla, her father never recovered from his experiences during the war and was never really able to spend time with his only child. That is why the family had a hard life.

The first films Schygulla saw were Bambi and a ballet movie that was not named during the discussion. The film featured a dancer who finishes her performance despite a nail having been put inside her shoe. ”For me suffering was a part of life and art is pain, so maybe that image about the shoe was forming my impression of art from the beginning.”

Schygulla left for Paris to study languages, but was lured by a friend into an acting club where she met Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It was only later that she found out that Fassbinder had already back then written in his notes that Schygulla was sure to become a star.

Schygulla did end up starring in many of Fassbinder’s films, such as The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) and Lili Marleen (1989), which are both screened at this year’s festival. Her ending up as an actress is one reason why coincidence is an important topic for Schygulla: “Coincidence is so strange when it happens. It brings things together.” She describes her relationship with Fassbinder as a close one, yet it remained strictly professional. They rarely touched each other, or even exchanged words: “There was no verbal communication between us. I was the preferred one, which I liked, but sometimes he mistreated all of us”. Schygulla suspects that the director’s behaviour stemmed from himself having been treated badly in his youth. Schygulla says that she does not want to defend Fassbinder and his behaviour, but laughs immediately afterwards that maybe she does after all.

From her experiences of working with Jean-Luc Godard Schygulla especially remembers the director’s peculiar working methods: “Godard is a laboratory, he is always experimenting”. Godard’s way of concentrating on the actor’s physical movements was new to Schygulla. “Strangely those very mechanical things gave a very good outcome, because you didn’t try to be too expressional.”

There was no time for further reminiscing, although Schygulla would surely have had a plethora of stories to tell. Large roles are mainly a thing of the past for her. “Directors don’t fantasize about aging women”, she stated and enticed a wave of laughter from the audience. Nowadays Schygulla enjoys filming her own films – she says that she loves taking up new activities: “I felt an exceptional creative ecstasy: me alone with the camera and no one to tell me what to do”. When asked about her desert island film, Schygulla says that she would choose a film that she still dreams of making. When asked the same question again, she laughs and says that she is sticking to her answer. (Midnight Sun Film Festival website)

AA: The ballet film mentioned by Schygulla is Der schweigende Engel (1954) directed by Harald Reinl.

Hanna Schygulla: Quel que soit le songe / Whatever the Dream Is (a documentary viewed in the presence of Hanna Schygulla and Anne Imbert)

Générique (Festival International du Film de La Rochelle):
France • documentaire • 2012 • 1h 05 • couleur
Hanna Schygulla, quel que soit le songe
Réalisation, scénario: Anne Imbert
Image: Pukyo Ruiz de Somocurio
Musique: Jean-Claude Carrière, Jean-Marie Sénia
Montage: Samuel Fleury
Son: Christophe Lizot
Production: Fas Production, Ciné+, Cinaps TV
Source: Fas Production
    In French.
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    A copy with English subtitles screened at the Hanna Schygulla morning discussion at the School, 15 June 2017.

La Rochelle: Résumé:

"Portrait-rencontre avec la grande comédienne allemande, Hanna Schygulla."

"Dans un climat d’intimité, où se succèdent des lieux évocateurs, Hanna Schygulla dévoile son univers, ses passions et révèle la nature et la puissance de ses échanges avec des cinéastes comme Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Marco Ferreri, Alexandre Sokourov, Andrzej Wajda, Ettore Scola ou Volker Schlöndorff. Le récit s’enrichit des échanges et témoignages de ses proches, comme Jean-Claude Carrière, Alicia Bustamante, Anselm Kiefer, Jean-Marie Sénia ou Fatih Akin. De Paris à Berlin, en répétitions au théâtre ou sur le tournage de ses propres courts métrages, cette vidéaste est dans une constante dynamique de travail."

"Accompagné d’extraits de ses films et d’archives personnelles, le documentaire aborde une personnalité passionnante qui nous livre, pudiquement, les secrets cachés derrière ses songes." (La Rochelle)

AA: Hanna Schygulla introduced her morning discussion with an hour long poetic documentary portrait directed by Anne Imbert.

It is a deeply felt personal story of Hanna Schygulla filmed in 2012 at a moment when she was moving back to Germany, to Berlin, having lived for twenty years in France. Schygulla states that she had had to flee since "the historical legacy of Germany was too heavy to carry". The film is mostly in French, but there are key poems by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Paul Celan in German.

The theme song of the film "Quel que soit le songe" has been written by Jean-Claude Carrière, a close friend with whom Schygulla had a long term relationship. The film is a meditation of art as coming to terms with dream and reality. "A place to represent me would be a bridge: a bridge between dream and reality". "Fire needs darkness".

Marco Ferreri became Schygulla's key director after Fassbinder, and Storia di Piera (1983) would be a key film. Other important directors and films discussed here include Aleksandr Sokurov (Faust), Margarethe von Trotta (Heller Wahn), Andrzej Wajda (Eine Liebe in Deutschland), Volker Schlöndorff (Die Fälschung), Ettore Scola (La Nuit de Varennes), Jean-Luc Godard (Passion), and Fatih Akin (Auf der anderen Seite).

We are introduced to Schygulla's long-term companion, the Cuban actress Alicia Bustamente. Other memorable encounters include ones with Veruschka and Anselm Kiefer.

It all started of course with Fassbinder. We hear how they met at the Action-Theater in 1967, the shy boy who was a rebel. The passion for Goethe and Kleist. The explosive energy that in 13 years produced 50 films, 12 plays, poems... "Hast du Feuer?" is German for "Do you have a light?" but literally it means "Do you have fire?"

Paul Celan: Todesfuge (a poem)

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abends
wir trinken sie mittags und morgens wir trinken sie nachts
wir trinken und trinken
wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt
der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
er schreibt es und tritt vor das Haus und es blitzen die Sterne er pfeift seine Rüden herbei
er pfeift seine Juden hervor läßt schaufeln ein Grab in der Erde
er befiehlt uns spielt auf nun zum Tanz

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich morgens und mittags wir trinken dich abends
wir trinken und trinken
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt
der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
Dein aschenes Haar Sulamith wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng

Er ruft stecht tiefer ins Erdreich ihr einen ihr andern singet und spielt
er greift nach dem Eisen im Gurt er schwingts seine Augen sind blau
stecht tiefer die Spaten ihr einen ihr andern spielt weiter zum Tanz auf

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich mittags und morgens wir trinken dich abends
wir trinken und trinken
ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith er spielt mit den Schlangen
Er ruft spielt süßer den Tod der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
er ruft streicht dunkler die Geigen dann steigt ihr als Rauch in die Luft
dann habt ihr ein Grab in den Wolken da liegt man nicht eng

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich mittags der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
wir trinken dich abends und morgens wir trinken und trinken
der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland sein Auge ist blau
er trifft dich mit bleierner Kugel er trifft dich genau
ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete
er hetzt seine Rüden auf uns er schenkt uns ein Grab in der Luft
er spielt mit den Schlangen und träumet der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland

dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith

1944-1945, translated into Romanian 1947, published in the collections Der Sand aus den Urnen (1948) and Mohn und Gedächtnis (1952)
recited by Hanna Schygulla in Anne Imbert's film (2012)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Certain Women

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 2016
Duration: 1.47
Languages: en
Original name: Certain Women
Category: Gems of New Cinema
    Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä.
    DCP viewed at the School, 14 June 2017

MSFF: "The predominant female director of the American independent filmmaking Kelly Reichardt has by chance become our festival’s darling; this year we will be screening the fifth in a row from her six feature films. And what a film! Placed in the Mid-West Montana this melancholic winter tale has the familiar minimalism, however the stories of three women are in its triptych style completely different from her previous films. If possible, Reichardt is stronger than before."

"The film is loosely based on the short stories by Maile Meloy, who was born and raised in Montana. It is such a pleasure to see in the leading roles, different aged actors at their best, the pros Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart (who is also starring in another of our festival films; Personal Shopper) and newcomer Lily Gladstone."

"In the first episode lawyer Laura (Dern) has to deal with (no doubt it is because of her gender) her challenging client’s hostage situation. In another episode Laura’s lover’s wife Gina (Williams) tries to make her housebuilding dream happen in the middle of marital problems. In the third episode a woman; Lily (Gladstone), working in a horse ranch, falls for a young law professor (Stewart) teaching at the adult education centre. The film portrays quiet everyday life with a realistic and psychologically nuanced way, in the background exquisitely captured plains and mountain ranges of the small town of Montana." (TM)

"After being a film assistant for Hal Hartley’s and Todd Haynes’ films KELLY REICHARDT attracted attention with her debut feature film River of Grass (1995); a comical road-movie that busted the genre myths. Awarded in Rotterdam, the film Old Joy (in Sodankylä 2007) is a relaxed, minimalistic elegy of the friendship of two pals. The film continued Reichardt’s original, almost avant-garde, indie-production reflecting the same way as did the on-the-road film Wendy & Lucy (in Sodankylä 2009) of the traumas of Bush’s America."

"Meek’s Cutoff (in Sodankylä 2011) was a surprising female western, which tells in a harsh way, the reality of a settler family. Political thriller Night Moves (in Sodankylä 2013) continued crossing the genre boundaries by following the effects of an eco-terrorist act.
" (MSFF)

Directed by     Kelly Reichardt
Produced by     Neil Kopp
    Vincent Savino
    Anish Savjani
Written by     Kelly Reichardt
Based on short stories by Maile Meloy in Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It (2009)
Starring     Laura Dern
    Kristen Stewart
    Michelle Williams
    James Le Gros
    Jared Harris
    Lily Gladstone
    René Auberjonois
Music by     Jeff Grace
Cinematography     Christopher Blauvelt
Edited by     Kelly Reichardt
Production companies     Film Science
    Stage 6 Films
Distributed by     IFC Films
Release date    January 24, 2016 (Sundance Film Festival)
    October 14, 2016 (United States)
    107 minutes
Country     United States
Language     English
    Laura Dern as Laura Wells
    Kristen Stewart as Beth Travis
    Michelle Williams as Gina Lewis
    Lily Gladstone as Jamie, the rancher
    James LeGros as Ryan Lewis
    Jared Harris as William Fuller
    René Auberjonois as Albert
    Sara Rodier as Guthrie Lewis


"Certain Women explores a handful of intersecting lives across Montana."

"Lawyer Laura Wells (Laura Dern) has been dealing with a disgruntled client, Fuller (Jared Harris), for eight months. Out of work after a work place injury caused a disability he has taken to visiting Laura repeatedly at her office. As he will not listen to her advice she takes him to another lawyer who, after assessing the case, tells Fuller exactly what Laura told him; that though his company was at fault for his injuries he can no longer sue them after accepting their initial nominal settlement. On the way home from visiting the second lawyer Fuller feuds with his wife and is kicked out of their car and takes a ride back with Laura. On the way home, he tells her he wants to shoot his former employers."

"That night Laura arrives at Fuller's former place of employment where he has taken hostage a security guard. After being prepped by police Laura goes and finds Fuller who has her read the case file his company has on him and the lawsuit. Laura reads the entire file which details how Fuller was cheated out of his settlement. He decides to let the guard go and then asks Laura to stall for him by going to the front and telling the police of his demands as if he has a gun pointed at her while he slips out the back. Instead Laura immediately tells the police where Fuller is and he is arrested."

"Gina and Ryan Lewis (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) are a married couple with a teenage daughter building their own home from the ground up. Gina feels that Ryan constantly undermines her with their daughter and is annoyed by his behaviour. On their way home from the campsite of their new home, they decide to stop at the home of Albert (René Auberjonois), an elderly man they know, to try to persuade him to sell them the sandstone on his property. As they talk Gina tries to persuade Albert to sell her the sandstone, but he interrupts her repeatedly and seems only interested in talking with Ryan. Eventually Albert tentatively agrees to give the sandstone to Gina and Ryan, and Gina, who has been secretly recording the conversation, signals that they should leave. In the car on their way home she finds it ridiculous how easily she was able to obtain the sandstone."

"Sometime later Gina and Ryan arrive and load up a truck full of the sandstone. She notices Albert watching from his window and waves at him but he does not wave back."

"Jamie (Lily Gladstone) is a ranch hand living in isolation during the winter, tending to horses on a farm outside Belfry. Heading into town one night, she sees cars turning into the school and follows them. She learns she has stumbled onto a class on school law taught by a young lawyer, Beth Travis (Kristen Stewart). Jamie goes out to eat with Beth after class, and Beth explains that she lives in Livingston which is a four-hour drive away, so she must make the eight-hour round trip twice a week to make it back in time for her real job."

"Despite having no interest in education law, Jamie returns to class week after week. One week she brings one of her horses to class, and she and Beth ride the horse to the diner. The following week, she is stunned when she learns Beth has quit and a new teacher is brought in as a permanent replacement. Jamie then immediately leaves the class and drives straight to Livingston. Spending the night in her car, she spends the morning driving to law offices hoping to find Beth. On the way, she has flashbacks of the previous time she drove to the city. Locating her address, Jamie sees Beth in the parking lot and told her she drove over knowing that if she didn't she would never see her again. Beth fails to respond and so Jamie leaves abruptly. On her way home, she falls asleep at the wheel and plows into an empty field."

"Laura visits Fuller in prison where he tells her his wife left him for a man in prison and implores Laura to write to him."

"At the site of their new home Gina looks at her pile of sandstone with satisfaction."

"Back at the ranch Jamie tends to the horses, still painfully alone."

"The three stories intersect in passing: Laura is having an affair with Gina's husband Ryan, and Jamie inquires at Laura's firm while searching for Beth."

AA: Shot in Montana, Kelly Reichardt's new film Certain Women tells three stories based on Maile Meloy's book Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, featuring Laura Wells, a lawyer (Laura Dern), Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams) whose family is building a house, and Jamie the rancher (Lily Gladstone) who is attracted to the law teacher Beth Travis (Kristen Stewart).

The approach is based on a sense of place and a delicate observation of character, dismissing classical rules of drama and refusing to obey constraints of star images. There is a feeling of authenticity in the narration. Reichardt discovers unexpected angles in familiar actors, creating them spaces for regeneration.

I confess this is the first Kelly Reichardt film I have seen and I know I need to see all. I also confess that I lost focus on the last of the stories due to fatigue, having worked an ultra long day at the office yesterday, coming to Sodankylä at midnight, and having contributed from the early hours of today to the Finland 100 morning seminar. I need to revisit this gentle, anti-dramatic film.

The visual quality seems to be based on a digital interpretation of unreality, defamiliarizing nature, creating a psychological space, starting with the opening shots where a magnificent train (a recurrent motif in the movie) enters Montana in a classic Western landscape surrounded by mountains.

Powidoki / Afterimage

Director: Andrzej Wajda
Country: Poland
Year: 2017
Duration: 2.00
Original name: Powidoki
Category: Gems of New Cinema

Film fabularny
Gatunek:     dramatyczny, historyczny, biograficzny
Rok produkcji:     2016
Data premiery:    10 września 2016 (TIFF)
    13 stycznia 2017
Kraj produkcji:     Polska
Język:     polski
Reżyseria:     Andrzej Wajda
Scenariusz:     Andrzej Mularczyk
Główne role:     Bogusław Linda
Muzyka:     Andrzej Panufnik
Zdjęcia:     Paweł Edelman
Scenografia:     Marek Warszewski
Kostiumy     Katarzyna Lewińska
Montaż:     Grażyna Gradoń
Produkcja:     Michał Kwieciński
Wytwórnia:     Akson Studio
Dystrybucja:     Akson Dystrybucja
    Bogusław Linda – Władysław Strzemiński
    Zofia Wichłacz – Hania Borowska
    Bronisława Zamachowska – Nika Strzemińska
    Andrzej Konopka – personalny
    Krzysztof Pieczyński – Julian Przyboś
    Szymon Bobrowski – Włodzimierz Sokorski
    Mariusz Bonaszewski – Madejski
    Aleksander Fabisiak – Rajner
    Irena Melcer – Jadzia
    Tomasz Chodorowski – Tomek
    Filip Gurłacz – Konrad
    Mateusz Rusin – Stefan
    Mateusz Rzeźniczak – Mateusz
    Adrian Zaremba – Wojtek
    Tomasz Włosok – Roman
Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä
DCP with English subtitles viewed at the Big Top with English subtitles, 14 June 2017

MSFF: "We honour the memory of Andrzej Wajda, who died in March at the age of 90, by screening his final work, Afterimage, that ended the Polish giant´s career that spanned over sixty years and almost as many films."

"Afterimage is the most fitting work for Wajda´s testament: a poignant film that touches on Polish history and the relations of art and political power. It is about the fate of an artist and art professor in post-war Llodz, where Wajda studied film at that time."

"Boguslaw Linda plays a coarsely charismatic Wladyslaw Strzeminski, who rose to the front row of Polish art in the 1920´s. The avant-gardist has come to a conflict with the demands of socialist realism and the bureaucrats of the communist party. His students nevertheless continue supporting their target of worship, the teacher that has been injured in the war, even though he is slowly losing everything; his job and apartment, wife, 14-year-old daughter and student-lover. Strzeminski is not a man of compromise!
" (TM)

"ANDRZEJ WAJDA´S (1926–2017) officer-father died in Katyn´s mass murder (of which the son turned into a film in 2008) and in 1942 he joined the Polish resistance movement. After the war he studied painting (his favourite was Paul Cezanne), got into Lodz film school and directed, under the wings of Aleksander Ford, his famous resistance trilogy that culminated in Ashes and Diamonds (1958). His career was productive and influential, and his topics ranged from historic to literary and from romantic to political in such films as Everything for Sale (1968), The Birch-wood (1970), The Promised Land (1974), Man of Marble (1976), Man of Iron (1981) and Danton (1983). Wajda was also a vocal participant in politics and in the Solidarity movement." (MSFF)

AA: Andzej Wajda died in March soon after the premiere of his last film Afterimage. It was a return to form for the Polish master after his previous film Wałęsa. Człowiek z nadziei (2013) which had a strong story but suffered from a leading performance which failed to convey the charisma of the popular leader. There is no such weakness in Bogusław Linda's interpretation as Władysław Strzemiński (1893-1952, name in Belorusian: Уладыслаў Страмінскі). Strzemiński was a leading figure in Polish art, also a rebel and a revolutionary since 1919, during a period when it was truly dangerous. Afterimage is the story of Strzemiński, who had lost an arm and a leg in WWI, struggling more courageously than most against Stalinist tyranny after WWII.

Wajda is at his best in this final film of his. There is a confident intensity in the film from the beginning. Not only the leading role but all the parts have been beautifully cast.

Afterimage rises to the ranks of great films about art, including Painters Painting, Sayat Nova, Andrei Rublyov, Lust for Life, Turner, Le Mystère Picasso, and the documentaries by Alain Resnais and Luciano Emmer. Not forgetting Wajda's own delightful Zaproszenie do wnętrza / Einladung zur Besichtigung / Invito a entrare / Käykää peremmälle (1978), a favourite Wajda film of mine. And also not forgetting Wajda's documentary Idę do słońca / Kuljen kohti aurinkoa / I Walk Towards the Sun (1955) which is not a great film but a still Stalinist-influenced portrait of the sculptor Xawery Dunikowski.

In the early scenes of the film we see Strzemiński slashing a poster of Stalin which obstructs the sunlight to his studio, giving a Van Gogh lecture to a class of enthusiastic students, and challenging the Minister of Culture with his views of art.

Systematic coercion against the war invalid and revolutionary veteran soon starts. He is banished from teaching to his adoring students. An exhibition of modern art and his legendary Neoplastic Room are destroyed. His membership card of the artists' society of which he is a co-founder is torn. As a result he cannot purchase paints and loses his food stamps. He is humbled to become a painter of Stalinist posters, but fired even from this occupation although he is the most highly appreciated even in this task. As an invalid he fails in a final job as a window decorator. His health broken through hunger, he dies of TB at the hospital.

His best friend is the poet Julian Przyboś who admires his integrity. Halina Olomucki does not figure in the film, instead there is the character Róża Saltzman (Maria Semotiuk), determined to rescue Strzemiński's Holocaust collage by taking it with her to Israel.

The main characters in Strzemiński's private life are his daughter Nika, his star pupil Hania Borowska, and his ex-wife, the sculptor Katarzyną Kobro, irrevokably estranged from him, present in the film only via death.

Winged words: "In art and love you can only give what you have". "An artist who cannot speak with a full voice should be silent".

Good visual quality in the DCP projection.

Personal Shopper

Director: Olivier Assayas
Country: Ranska/France, Saksa/Germany
Year: 2016
Duration: 1.45
Languages: en, fr, se
Original name: Personal Shopper
    Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä.
    MSFF, The School, DCP screened without subtitles, 16 June 2017

MSFF: "No two films are alike in the extensive oeuvre of Olivier Assayas, who visited Sodankylä a couple of years ago. A watershed moment might be seen in Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), which marked the beginning of his collaboration with Kristen Stewart, for whom Assayas wrote the eponymous role in his ghost story, Personal Shopper.

Maureen (Stewart), a young American, has settled into Paris, the hometown of her recently deceased twin brother, Lewis. Maureen’s life is stuck between the past and the present while she’s waiting for a final message from her brother in the afterlife. The wait, the promise of a death-transcending connection between the siblings, materializes in unexpected ways, bringing ever darker ripples into Maureen’s cold life as a servant for the fashion elite.

This ambiguous psychological study and intensely driven thriller is, at its purest, a celebration of discreet tracking shots. Stewart’s interpretation of the loneliness and fear of the human mind sets the pace for the story. The seamless collaboration between Assayas and the American star, grown from a tweener idol into a French director’s muse, was awarded the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival. (MM)

French director OLIVIER ASSAYAS (b. 1955), who visited our festival in 2014, started his career as a critic for Cahiers du Cinéma. His father worked as a screenwriter and an assistant to Max Ophuls. The versatile Assayas can pull off both sensitive personal drama and more action-based departures – such as the metafilm Irma Vep (1996), starring his ex-spouse Maggie Cheung. Evoking Ozu and Bergman, Summer Hours (2008) is a vision of the slow rundown of a French family during the era of globalization. In the terrorist portrait Carlos (2010), the radical ideals of youth begin to rift. Films screened at our festival also include the autobiographical Something in the Air (2012) and Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), a study of the relations between art and reality.
" (MSFF)

Directed by     Olivier Assayas
Produced by     Charles Gillibert
Written by     Olivier Assayas
Cinematography     Yorick Le Saux
Edited by     Marion Monnier
Production company: CG Cinéma
    Vortex Sutra
    Sirena Film
    Arte France Cinéma
    Arte Deutschland/WDR
Distributed by     Les Films du Losange
Release date     17 May 2016 (Cannes)
    14 December 2016 (France)
Running time     110 minutes
Country     France
Language     English
    Kristen Stewart as Maureen Cartwright
    Lars Eidinger as Ingo
    Nora von Waldstätten as Kyra
    Anders Danielsen Lie as Erwin
    Sigrid Bouaziz as Lara
    Ty Olwin as Gary
    Audrey Bonnet as Cassandre
    Pascal Rambert as Jerome
    Hammou Graia as Police Officer
    Benjamin Biolay as Victor Hugo
"Maureen is a personal shopper in Paris for Kyra, a celebrity. She travels to European capitals to shop for her, buying clothes, accessories and jewels. Her twin brother Lewis recently died from a heart attack; they shared the same genetic heart problem. They were both interested in spiritism and believed they had connections to the spirit world."

"In the opening scene, Maureen stays overnight at her late brother's mansion, hoping for a sign from him from the other side. His girlfriend, Lara, wants to sell the mansion and the buyers want Maureen to find out if the mansion is free from evil spirits. During her discussion with the potential buyers, Maureen discovers the artist Hilma af Klint whose paintings were inspired by messages from the spirit world. The film suggests that what she sees and reacts to, including a series of texts she receives with references to her personal information "Unknown", might be other-worldly. She believes she is in touch with ghosts.


"Maureen, une jeune américaine à Paris, s’occupe de la garde-robe d’une célébrité."

"C’est un travail qu’elle n’aime pas mais elle n’a pas trouvé mieux pour payer son séjour et attendre que se manifeste l’esprit de Lewis, son frère jumeau récemment disparu."

"Elle se met alors à recevoir sur son portable d’étranges messages anonymes… "

AA: I have been impressed by the mature period of Olivier Assayas, especially by L'Heure d'été / Summer Hours (2008), Carlos (2010), and Après mai / Something in the Air (2012).

The same level of confidence and sophistication is also evident in the Kristen Stewart films Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Personal Shopper (2016), but they also seem a step back from the wide social implications of the three great films that preceded them.

As in Clouds of Sils Maria Kristin Stewart also here plays an assistant to a great star. There is an air of frustration in her situation.

There is also a relentless nervous tension in the performance without a single relaxed moment. As a film of anxiety and horror Personal Shopper can be compared with Persona (Bergman) and Repulsion (Polanski). As a ghost story it belongs to the Henry James tradition; visually, it has affinities with Japanese ghost horror movies.

Intriguing cultural references include:
- Hilma af Klint, spiritist and pioneer of abstract art
- Victor Hugo as a spiritist: there is a delightful fake 1960s tv drama on him here
- Hildegard von Bingen
- "Das Hobellied" sung by Marlene Dietrich

I admire Personal Shopper as a brilliant exercise in style but find it wanting in substance.

An eloquent visual quality in the DCP projection.