Thursday, 8 July 2021

The More the Merrier (George Stevens, 1943)

The More the Merrier

Restored in 4K in 2019 by Sony Pictures Entertainment at Cineric, Roundabout West and Prasad laboratories, from the nitrate original negative and the nitrate dupe negative preserved at Library of Congress and BFI National Archive. Playing at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna on July 24 & 27 and at Cinema Rediscovered in Bristol on July 31.

In this, George Stevens’s most sophisticated comedy, the wartime housing (and male species) shortage in Washington DC is the main excuse for the mischievous Charles Coburn – sharing a tiny flat with Jean Arthur – to sublet his half of the living space to Joel McCrea, deliberately pushing the two younger flatmates into a shared bed. The credit for the script should go to the uncredited Garson Kanin who wrote it for, and was paid by, the scrupulous Arthur, in search of a script that she could like (she was temporarily suspended from Columbia for rejecting too many). When the script finally reached Stevens’s hands in June 1942, it had a different ending in which the three characters continue to share the flat – typically of Stevens, he altered it.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

All the Films of Il Cinema Ritrovato 2021

Bologna getting ready for Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXV

All the titles programmed for Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXV, listed by the year of production:

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Nattlek (Mai Zetterling, 1966)


Nattlek will play at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2021 on July 24 (9:15) and 26 (16:20). This note is written for the festival catalogue.

Nattlek [Night Games] (Mai Zetterling, 1966)

Actors: Keve Hjelm, Ingrid Thulin, Jörgen Lindström, Naima Wifstrand, Lena Brundin

In this compelling work of cinematic rigour, a man returns to his childhood country home, accompanied by his fiancée. In flashbacks, we learn of his troubled relationship with his mother, who is also the object of his sexual fantasies. Living a sybaritic life, the mother hosts one party after another, the guests resembling characters from a nightmare or circus, completed by a jazz band (the ensemble featuring well-known Swedish musicians Jan Johansson and Georg Riedel). The present is woven into these scenes from the past which, rather than offering simple reminiscences, provide explanations for the behavioural traits of the leading character.

This second feature by actor-turned-director Mai Zetterling, after the remarkably accomplished, if highly scandalous Loving Couples, is arguably even more controversial. Described by some as "pornographic" (accusers included the former child star Shirley Temple), it is in fact one of the most intelligent and sincere studies of the agonies of puberty; the story of a young boy surrounded and troubled by women.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Cinemas in Antonioni's Films

Cine Romolo in La signora senza camelie (1954)
Walden Cinema (?) in Saffron, UK, in I Vinti (1953)

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Cuadecuc Vampir (Pere Portabella, 1970)

Cuadecuc Vampir

This note was written on the occasion of the screening of Cuadecuc Vampir at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020 where Mr. Portabella's scheduled and much-anticipated attendance was cancelled due to the Covid crises. Fortunately, he managed to participate via Zoom and Esteve Riambau engaged in a conversation with him which you can view over here. — EK

Duke Ellington disliked the term jazz, instead preferring "beyond category" when referring to any type of musical accomplishment. This mesmerising tour de force of audio-visual etching by Catalan filmmaker Portabella, which plays with but shrewdly eschews experimental filmmaking, underground cinema, documentary film, behind-the-scenes film and even fiction, is strictly Dukish in being "beyond category".

The Spanish genre director Jesús Franco was churning out one of his more expensive horror flicks (El conde Drácula), starring Christopher Lee, when Portabella, who was present on the set, made his own film based on the events. Cuadecuc Vampir is a film about images being constructed (with fake fog and cobwebs), and about Bram Stoker's Dracula. It is far more eerie and haunting than not only Franco's film, but anything since Dreyer's Vampyr. It is also a film of political metaphors, the kind one would expect being made under Franco's dictatorship.

Monday, 31 May 2021

Cinemadoosti: Iranian Cinephile Documentaries

Poster for VHS Diaries

A programme curated for DocuNight, currently streaming on their platform. Although I have discussed Jerry and Me here, the rights couldn't be acquired by DocuNight, so this one is not being streamed as planned. — EK

In Memory of Negahdar Jamali

This programme celebrates the intense passion for film and its possibilities that persists among Iranians, in a series of documentaries that reflect 'cinemadoosti' – the Persian word for cinephilia. These are films about daydreaming and the high price one pays for it, the story of marginalised and estranged people whose passion for cinema becomes their raison d'être.

The image of an Iranian cinephile asserts certain clichés which are not entirely unfounded: often a lonely male who collects filmic memorabilia and devours the content of film magazines; a figure occasionally facile and portentous yet burnt by an unbounded love for the movies. A name-dropper and date-of-production memoriser who likes to be seen as a walking film history, a 'cinemadoost' (cinephile) living in a parallel universe.

Friday, 28 May 2021

The Glass Key (Stuart Heisler, 1942)

After the successful Hollywood adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, Paramount joined the race to find another story by the author to bring to the screen. When an initial attempt to make a film based on Red Harvest (with Alan Ladd as the lead) fell through, the studio dusted off one of its older properties, The Glass Key, previously filmed by Frank Tuttle in 1935. 

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

The Forgotten Revolution: Iranian Cinema Before 1979 (A Retrospective at Sinema Transtopia, Berlin, September 2021)

Downpour (1972)

The Revolution of 1978-79 changed both the fate and face of Iran. Like most revolutions, it also suppressed the past and its images – and with it one of the most innovative cinemas of its time. This programme aims to show some of the key films from the more progressive cinematic revolution, which was discontinued by a social one for which the country eventually became known. Films banned, lost or simply forgotten are revived in this overview of Iranian cinema before 1979, which features German premieres of newly restored Iranian New Wave masterpieces. Starting and moving forward from the 1962 Oberhausen prize-winner The House Is Black, directed by poet Forough Farrokhzad, the programme traces the course of the blazing years before the Revolution. — Ehsan Khoshbakht

This selection of Iranian pre-revolutionary films plays at Bi'Bak's Sinema Transtopia (Berlin) in September 2021. For further information on the screenings and tickets visit Transtopia's website here.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Ahmad Shah Qajar Being Filmed for Fox Newsreel

The last Qajar king being filmed

Ahmad Shah Qajar, the last shah of the Qajar dynasty (1789-1925), being filmed in Paris by Frédéric Fesneau for the Fox Newsreel in either 1925 or 1926 (a year after he was stripped of his title, so no longer the Shah of Iran).