Monday, February 18, 2019

Underline#4: The Abadan Issue (Editorial + Download link)

Without the discovery of oil in Masjed Soleyman in 1908, the city of Abadan would not have experienced the tempest of economic and cultural changes that swept through it in just two decades; a transformation unmatched by any other city in Iran.

That which made Abadan thrive, and drew crowds of western engineers, investors and exploiters, was also a source of misery. The history of this picturesque port city is also the history of colonial interests and foreign intervention.

Abadan proudly fought inequality, and the nationalisation of the oil industry in 1951 was its moment of glory. Less than three decades later, an aggressive and massively destructive Iraqi army invasion under Saddam Hussein once again pushed the city to the edge, only for it to see another Phoenix-like resurgence.

Why Abadan? Answering that question means delving deeper into the history of one of the most dynamic urban areas in Iran; one which has produced a significant number of great artists, some of whom are featured in this issue. It also brings us, inevitably, to the painful yet important matter of the presence of the British in the region. Even though our focus is chiefly on art, you will read passages that detail how the British influence contributed to a distinct cultural scene, while also introducing segregation and capitalist exploitation.

The preparation of this issue would not have been possible without the generous support of Iranian historian Abbas Baharloo, himself an Abadani. He provided us with most of the rarely seen photographs published here for the first time and contributed two fine essays. He told me once: “Abadan is my ruined hometown and I still love that ruin.” I have often heard such moving words from Abadani people, expressing a sense of love, attachment, and deep sympathy with the sufferings of a city. Abadan is a magnetic field of nostalgia, devastation, and a very unique kind of beauty.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Print the Legend: Media Manipulation in American Films

The Sound of Fury (French poster)
A revised (i.e. "censored) version of Jonathan Rosenbaum's original draft which, for comparison purposes, can be accessed here. You won't be surprised to see which parts were eliminated. This was for a programme Jonathan and I curated in Ankara, Turkey. -- EK

Print the Legend: Media Manipulation in American Films
Jonathan Rosenbaum & Ehsan Khoshbakht

Living in the age of "post-truth", "fake news" is a term one can hardly avoid. In American films of the 1950s, this meant a way of manipulating the masses by distorting facts, turning social events of grave importance into a sideshow, even mobilising mobs, from whom those manipulating the dominant narrative would benefit. Today, however, somewhat paradoxically, it can also mean something else: a denial of the lies or acts of corruption exposed by trustworthy media sources, evoking the Newspeak described in George Orwell’s dystopic novel Nineteen Eight-Four, with its famous slogans, "War is Peace" and "Ignorance is Strength".

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Henry King (1886-1982)

این مدخل برای دانشنامۀ کارگردانان بهزاد رحیمیان در سال 2009 نوشته شده و امروز با بیشتر نکاتی که دربارۀ کینگ نوشته‌ام و استنباط نصفه‌نیمه‌ام از سینمای او موافق نیستم. با این وجود، مقاله اطلاعاتی دربارۀ کینگ دارد که ممکن است هم‌چنان به درد خواننده بخورد. احسان خوش‌بخت

هنری کینگ (متولد: 24 ژانویه 1886، کریستین‌برگ، ویرجینیا؛ درگذشت: 29 ژوئن 1982، تولوسا لِیک، کالیفرنیا)
راهش به سینما در 1912 و به عنوان بازیگر باز شد، تجربه‌ای که پیش‌تر روی صحنۀ تئاتر به دست آورده بود. اولین فیلمش را در 1915 کارگردانی کرد. کمپانی فیلم‌سازی اینسپیریشین را با چارلز دوئل و ریچارد بارتلمس تأسیس کرد. در دوران صامت یکی از مهم‌ترین کارگردانان تاریخ سینمای آمریکا بود. در فیلم‌های صامتش مانند Tol'able David (1921)، خواهر سفیدپوش (1923)، رومولا (1925) و تصاحب باربارا وُرث (1926) تسلطی کامل بر روایت متکی به تصویر و هدایت بازیگران داشت. کمی بعد خودش را به سرعت با سینمای ناطق انطباق داد. او در دهه‌های 1930 تا  1950 یک حرفه‌ای پرکار و معتمد استودیوی فاکس بود و بیشتر فیلم‌هایش را در آن جا ساخت. یکی از بهترین نمونه‌های سینمای او در دهه 1930 نمایشگاه ایالتی (1933) است؛ فیلمی که با ملودرام‌های جان فورد در همان دوره پهلو می‌زند (و البته هر دو کارگردان تا حد زیادی متکی بر ویل راجرز هستند که شاید بزرگ‌ترین بازیگری باشد که سینما به خود دیده) و دوربین سیال، گریز از کات، فضای زنده و واقعی زندگی خانوادگی در روز مملو از سرخوشی و دیدارهای عاشقانه که به پایانی غم‌انگیز و جدایی ختم می‌شود آدم را به یاد ژان رنوار می‌اندازد. اگر هنری کینگ در دهه 1930 سنتزی است از سینمای فورد و رنوار - در آمریکایی‌ترین و خاکی‌ترین شکل شخصیت‌پردازی هم‌چنان ترجیح می‌دهد در فیلم‌ها و در جهان واقعی  پشت نقاب فیلم ساز پرکار سرگرمی آفرین و بی‌ادعا پنهان بماند. در 1944 آواز برنادت را کارگردانی کرد که تا امروز مشهورترین فیلم ناطق او باقی مانده. رئالیزم کینگ، روایت‌های ساده اما پرجزییاتی که به شکل غیرمنتظره‌ای به کنکاشی در اسطوره‌ها ختم می‌شدند مشخصات بیشتر کارهای او بودند.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Agony & Ecstasy: Visual Arts on Screen

Picasso and H. G. Clouzot in the studio during the production of  Le mystère Picasso

Agonia ed estasi: le arti sullo schermo
Curated by Ehsan Khoshbakht
Cine Lumiere, Cineteca di Bologna, January 2019
A season of films about artists at work and the process of creating art captured by a movie camera. Prelude to Artefiera 2019.


Leaving the museum, gallery or the stage of performance behind, this selection of films goes a few steps back and captures the joy and angst of the creative process in which artists build, compose, propose or occasionally destroy. These films are both about the places in which art is made and the feelings put into that creation, films filled with visions which, in the words of John Berger, make one gasp – "gasp as one does before a revelation."

The programme is consisted of a prologue, two main parts and an epilogue.

Drifting Shadows: Masterpieces of Finnish Cinema

Antti Alanen and I have put together a programme celebrating Finnish film history. Drifting Shadows -- a title borrowed from a book by Peter von Bagh to whom this programme is dedicated -- features 17 titles, short and feature length, documentary and fiction, to be screened from newly restored DCPs or vintage prints (both 16 and 35mm) at Close-Up Film Centre in London, 18-30 January 2019. A selection of six titles will be screened at Edinburgh's Filmhouse in January and February 2019.


Cinema in Finland got a flying start with a visit of the Lumière company in 1896, and in 1907 fiction film production was launched to great success, but for a long time Finnish cinema remained a treasure for domestic consumption only. Before the Kaurismäki phenomenon the best-known Finnish film was Erik Blomberg’s The White Reindeer, but there is much more to discover. This programme sheds light on one of the most overlooked Nordic national cinemas which is currently enjoying a boom in audience success, production volume, and versatility.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Tehran Noir in Noir City

My Tehran Noir essay on Samuel Khachikian is republished in issue 25 of Noir City. More about this issue below.

"Issue 25 may be the FNF's most eclectic and wide-ranging issue yet with its focus on International Noir. Our motto, 'It's a Bitter Little World' takes on even more significance when you realize noir is not a specifically American phenomenon. As several of the features in the new issue attest, the noir ethos found expression in cinemas around the world—either contemporaneous with the artistic movement in Hollywood, or inspired by it during the years following. As examples: our cover story, by the always insightful and eloquent Imogen Sara Smith, offers an overview of Mexican Noir; Jake Hinkson offers a terrific introduction to the films of Japanese auteur Yoshitaro Nomura; Brian Light reviews Budapest Noir and interviews the film's director  Éva Gárdos; Ray Banks provides an insightful profile of actor Patrick McGoohan. We're also proud to introduce two new contributors in this issue: Ehsan Khoshbakht, co-director of the annual Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, offers a fascinating look at the career of Iranian director Samuel Khachikian, and Lisa Lieberman provides an intriguing exploration of how Hollywood exploited 'Asian exotica,' specifically in film noir. More than 100 sensational pages, including the usual stellar array of theatrical, Blu-ray/DVD and books reviews, plus an outstanding essay by Steve Kronenberg on Roger Corman's The Intruder, and the "5 Favorites" contribution by the legendary comic book writer/artist Jim Steranko. NOIR CITY Issue 25 will really broaden your dark horizons."

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Brick and Mirror (Ebrahim Golestan, 1964)

L'Arbre, le maire et la médiathèque (Éric Rohmer, 1993)

Women of All Nations (Raoul Walsh, 1931)

Programme note written for the Fox Film Corporation retrospective (curated by Dave Kehr) at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2018. E.K.

USA, 1931
Director: Raoul Walsh

Italian title.: Sempre rivali. Story: Barry Conners. Script: Barry Conners. Photography: Lucien Andriot. Editor: Jack Dennis. Art director.: David Hall. Score: Carli Elinor.
Cast: Victor McLaglen (Captain Jim Flagg), Edmund Lowe (Sergeant Harry Quirt), Greta Nissen (Elsa), El Brendel (Olsen), Fifi D'Orsay (Fifi), Marjorie White (Margie), Jesse De Vorska (Izzy Kaplan), Marion Lessing (Gretchen), T. Roy Barnes (Captain of the Marines), Bela Lugosi (Prince Hassan). Production: Fox Film Corporation

During the closing years of the silent era, Walsh met with great success for his depiction of the rivalry between two U.S. Marine officers in What Price Glory? (1926). Nevertheless the director felt some dissatisfaction: in the absence of sound, the sharpness of the film's dialogue was lost in the intertitles. In the early 1930s, Walsh returned to the same characters, Jim Flagg and Harry Quirt, first in The Cock-Eyed World (1929) and then Women of All Nations, by which time the focus had shifted from war and military life to sex and comedy – yet the two seem to be intertwined. In the latter film Walsh frames a WWI trench and a line of bare female legs with the same type of dazzling tracking shot. Both are associated with mobility too. As the Marines are sent on missions to different countries, where they encounter women, a Swedish dancer enjoys her own freedom of movement, with her own ‘weapons’ to help her.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Three Questions

این‌ها پاسخ‌های من به سه پرسش مجلۀ 24 برای شمارۀ صدم این مجله بود.

آیا هنوز عشقِ سينما هستيد؟
این سوالی است که سال‌هاست از خودم نمی‌پرسم. سینما امروز بیشتر برایم یک ضرورت است. مطمئن نیستم که «عشق سینما» باشم به خصوص این‌که از داشتن طبع عاشق‌پیشگان محرومم - اما دیدن، نمایش دادن و نوشتن دربارۀ فیلم‌ها در هر شکل و طول و فرم و کاربردی حرفۀ اصلی من است؛ نان‌ام را از سینما درمی‌آورم و دربرگۀ مالیات‌ام حرفه‌ام سینما آمده. اگر «عشق سینما» نباشم نمی‌دانم عشق چه‌ هستم. آیا از دندان‌پزشک‌ها هم سؤال می‌کنید «هنوز عشق دندان‌پزشکی هستید؟»