Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2015

The gates of heaven will be opened once more on June 27th. If you don't know about Bologna's Il Cinema Ritrovato, then maybe you're looking for the gate in the wrong place.
The festival of international cinephilia, film history and preservation, a year after losing the irreplaceable Peter von Bagh, is more or less following Peter's guidelines and the road map he drew before his passing in September 2014. (See my homage to Peter here.)

According to the festival's official newsletter, the XXIX edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato will take place from June 27th to July 4th:

"About 360 films from 1895 till today (all with English subtitles), 5 theatres from dawn till dusk, as well as open air evening screenings in Bologna’s wonderful main square, Piazza Maggiore, and in Cineteca’s courtyard, Piazzetta Pasolini. 8 fulfilling and memorable days to dive into the pleasure of unique screenings, to discover the best prints and digital restorations from the most important film archives and institutions all over the world, to meet the main exponents of film history as well as current cinema."

The major strands in the festival, loosely categorized in three parts, are announced, and I'm glad to say that the jazz section (called Jazz Goes to the Movies) is curated by me and Jonathan Rosenbaum in which some newly restored jazz films, as well as standard classics will be screened.

So for now, this is what seems like a full week's plan in Bologna:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Notes on Peter Kubelka

تجربه‌هايي با آن‌چه تماشاگر نمي‌بيند
سينماي مِتريكِ پيتر كوبِلكا

در وسط سالني پررفت و آمد مثل يكي از ستون‌هاي خاكستري آن بي‌حركت و منتظر دوستي ايستاده‌ام. مقابل من پيرمردي با صورت گردِ همينگوي‌وار، مو و ريش سفيد و كوتاه و لباس سياه احتمالاً در موقعيت مشابه من قرار دارد. او هم منتظر كسي يا چيزي است. براي يك لحظه، مثل صحنه دوئلي در يكي از وسترن‌هاي لئونه، اين‌بار از فاصله‌اي نزديك، نگاهمان در هم تلاقي پيدا مي‌كند. او مثل مرد بي‌اعتناي شمال از شمال غربي، در آن طرف جاده دوباره به افكار خودش فرو مي‌رود و من كه تصور مي‌كنم چهرۀ آشنايي ديده‌ام، در حالي كه حافظه كوچك‌ترين دستِ ياري‌اي نمي‌رساند، مثل راجر تورنهيل با اصرار بيش‌تر، و با كمي شرم، دوباره خيره مي‌شوم. اما همۀ اين تلاش با سر رسيدن همراهاني كه باعث توقف و انتظار ما در آن نقطه شده‌اند متوقف مي‌شود و هركسي به راه خودش مي رود. چند دقيقه بعد در خيابان تصوير صورت پيرمرد، اين بار با نامش، به ذهنم برمي‌گردد: پيتر كوبلكا!
اين برخورد بسيار كوتاه و تصادفي با يكي از غول‌هاي سينماي تجربي در روزهاي فستيوال فيلم لندن درست مثل خواب بود، يا دقيق‌تر، درست مثل صحنه‌اي از يكي از فيلم‌هاي اين فيلم‌ساز 78 ساله اتريشي كه هم فيلم‌ را مي‌بينيد و هم نمي‌بينيد. ديدنتان به نديدن تبديل مي‌شود و ندينتان فعلِ ديدن را گواهي مي‌كند. اجازه بدهيد برخلاف سينماي صدردصد آبستره كوبلكا، ما كمي از زبان آبستره فاصله بگيريم تا معلوم شود فيلم‌هاي او چطور هم ديده مي‌شوند و هم نمي‌شوند.

Friday, February 20, 2015

British Cinema in Iran: A Brief History

Many histories of contemporary Iran are left unwritten. Many stories about Iranians and their struggles throughout the 20th and 21th centuries, powerful and dramatic ones, are yet to be filmed. Foreign films in Iran, their reception and their impact on film culture is one of them.

I have contributed a chapter to a new book on Iran-UK cultural relations published by the British Council. Didgah: New Perspectives on UK-Iran Relations is a study of affinities shared between the two nations through history, art, and language.

In my chapter, called British Cinema in Iran: A Brief History, I've explored the continuing presence of British films in Iran, whether in form of theatrical screening or popular prime time TV series. It delves into various types of history, such as the history of Iran in 20th century, its film culture and even my personal history and a very special relationship I developed as a teenager with British films on TV.

It is a history which spans the promotional films of the British Council, in the 1940s to TV series such as The Sweeney, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, and Edge of Darkness in 1990s. Sporadically, but often enthusiastically, British cinema and television productions have been highly appreciated in Iran and the UK’s identity has been on display in many and various ways.

I have narrated it, after an introduction, in three parts as following:

  • First golden period: the documentary movement
  • Second golden period: British art house cinema vs. Norman Wisdom 
  • After the revolution: Norman (again), Nazis and beyond
Like any narrated history, there is a conclusion too.

The book can be download in its entirety here or viewed online, below.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Berlin: A Cinetopographic Guide

"Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison world asunder."  —Walter Benjamin

The topographical Berlin, which one can journey to by train or plane, was born in the 12th century. The celluloid Berlin, which one also buys a ticket for but takes a different kind of trip to, materialized much later, towards the end of the 19th century. The silver screen immediately became a site of living memory for the city, as well as a means by which to project into future.

The “birth” of the celluloid Berlin took place on a rooftop above the Schönhauser Allee, when the inventors of German cinema, the Skladanowski brothers, captured Berlin’s skyline. Only a few of those frames remain, ghostly and fading. Provoked by these images, we will explore some of the best examples of Berlin on film.

Encounters at the End of the World: The Departed, 2014

A visual homage to some of the key figures in film who passed away in 2014. A cine comic strip by Ehsan Khoshbakht and Naiel Ibarrol.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Like One of Truffaut's Dreams [Il Cinema Ritrovato, 2014]

فانتوماس - Fantômas
گزارش بيست و هشتمين جشنوارۀ Il Cinema Ritrovato، بولونيا، ايتاليا، 7 تا 14 تير 1393
مثل يكي از خواب‌هاي تروفو
احسان خوش‌بخت

شبحِ صدساله و جوان هانري
پياتزتا پازوليني. حياطي در محاصره سالن‌هاي سينما، موزه، كتابخانه و ستاد فرماندهي سينه‌فيلياي امروز، چينه‌تِكا بولونيا در دل شهري كه پير پائولو پازوليني در آن به دنيا آمد. هنوز هم روي ديوارهاي شهر به جاي چه گوارا يا باب مارلي صورت مكعب-مستطيلي پازوليني را مثل كد رمزي از دنياي زيرزميني نقاشي مي‌كنند. فكر اين كه كساني در نيمه‌هاي شب، دور از چشم پليس و رهگذران، اين پازوليني‌هايِ شابلونيِ سياه و سفيد را روي ديوارهاي قهوه‌اي و نارنجي شهر قرون وسطايي حك مي‌كنند خودش به رويايي سينمايي مي‌ماند، مثل يكي از آن خواب‌هاي فرانسوا تروفو.
 در گوشه‌اي از حياط پازوليني، ژان دوشه، يكي از آخرين تفنگداران نسل اول «كايه دو سينما» زير سايه چتري نشسته است. عكسي از او را كه در تهران دهۀ چهل شمسي در دفتر مجلۀ «هنر و سينما» گرفته شده به دوشه نشان مي‌دهم. چشمانِ گردش گردتر مي‌شود. «آآآآآآ». يك «آ»ي خيلي طولاني از سر تعجب و به خاطرآوردن سرعت گذر زمان كه سريع‌تر از يك كمدي باستر كيتن است. دوشه از دو مرد جوان ديگر حاضر در عكس پركنتراست مي‌پرسد. به او مي‌گويم يكي پرويز نوري است و آن يكي كيومرث وجداني و هر دو هنوز فعالند. دوشه به احترام دوندگان استقامت لبخند مي‌زند. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Celluloid London: A Dandy in Aspic

A Dandy in Aspic (1968), a cold war spy thriller set in the UK and Germany, was Anthony Mann's last film. He suffered a fatal heart attack while filming in West Berlin and the film was completed by its star Laurence Harvey.

The first half of the film, after the opening and closing sequences shot in possibly Surrey, is entirely set in London and demonstrates a cleverly mapped series of movements in the city which I have pinpointed here:

Unlike many other London films of the period, Anthony Mann's move in London is geographically rational. By that I mean eschewing the urban inaccuracies of films such as Victim, in which when the car turns around a street, we face an impossible jump to a location miles away.

What Mann does is keeping every transportation within the logic of city space, hence drawing a map on audience's mind which increases the relation between the drama and the place.

Even the Berlin part, a city which I barely know, benefits from the same intensity and accuracy of cinetopographical mapping. I believe it is the same consistency which gives an authentic feeling to Mann's even older, studio-built films such as Side Street (1950).

The exterior movement of A Dandy in Aspic, as you see marked on the map in order of their introduction in the film, develops like this: