Wednesday 26 December 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 22 November 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 22 September 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 11 August 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؟»

Now I'll Tell (Edwin J. Burke, 1934)

USA, 1934
Director: Edwin J. Burke

Alternative title.: When New York Sleeps. Story.: Mrs. Arnold Rothstein. Script.: Edwin J. Burke. DP.: Ernest Palmer. Edit.: Harold D. Schuster. Art director.: Jack Otterson. Music.: Arthur Lange.
Cast: Spencer Tracy (Murray Golden), Helen Twelvetrees (Virginia Golden), Alice Faye (Peggy Warren), Robert Gleckler (Al Mossiter), Henry O'Neill (Tommy Doran), Hobart Cavanaugh (Freddie), Shirley Temple (Mary Doran), Leon Ames (Max), G. P. Huntley (Hart), Ray Cooke (Eddie Traylor). Production: Fox Film Corporation

The story of the ‘biggest gambler in New York’, charting his rise and fall between 1909 and 1928. A tale of affairs, gambling addiction and gang rivalry, Now I’ll Tell is based on the life of Arnold Rothstein, a notorious and well-connected gangster who was also the inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby. The film is more closely connected with real events, being written by ‘Mrs. Arnold Rothstein’, a pseudonym of Carolyn Greene (later Carolyn Rothstein Behar), the gangster’s widow.

Friday 6 July 2018

Holy Matrimony (John Stahl, 1943)

USA, 1943 Dir: John M. Stahl

Italian title.: Una moglie in più. Story.: Buried Alive by Arnold Bennett. Script.: Nunnally Johnson. Director of photography.: Lucien Ballard. Editing.: James B. Clark. Art directors.: James Basevi, J. Russell Spencer. Musis.: Cyril J. Mockridge.
Cast.: Monty Woolley (Priam Farll), Gracie Fields (Alice Chalice), Laird Cregar (Clive Oxford), Una O'Connor (Sarah Leek), Alan Mowbray (Mr. Pennington), Franklin Pangborn (Duncan Farll), George Zucco (Mr. Crepitude), Eric Blore (Henry Leek).
Prod.: 20th Century Fox

In 1905, Priam Farll, a nationally celebrated English painter who has been living in seclusion on a remote tropical island, is drawn back to civilisation having received notice from the king of England that he is to be honoured with a knighthood. Upon his arrival in London, Farll's loyal valet Leek unexpectedly dies. By a curious mix of honest mistake and mischief, Farll swaps his identity for the dead valet’s, which leads to chaos, confusion and trickery. All attempts to correct are ineffective: people believe what they want to believe.

Monday 18 June 2018

Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXII: All the films or anything that can be projected onto a screen

Il Cinema Ritrovato kicks off on June 23. Here is (a nearly complete) list of the 500 titles to be shown during the 8-day feast, organised in both chronological and alphabetical orders.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Underline#3: The English Edition


This issue of Underline, focusing on Iranian female artists of the past half-century, could be our most urgent work to date. There is no exaggeration in the cover title (picture above): the positive role of women in shaping the history of modern Iran has been staggering. While Underline’s inclination towards the arts necessarily leaves out of the picture the significant contributions made by women in the fields of education, science, politics and the economy, I am confident that this fact will be confirmed to anybody reading the articles featured here.

In the main, our celebration of women’s creativity favours the interview format. We have had the honour and pleasure of speaking with some of the most remarkable Iranian artists, who have narrated their life histories and revealed key ideas behind some of their finest work for our readers. You can find more interviews on our website, to complement the theme of this issue.

Before we get to the interviews, we feature eight articles on the careers of numerous artists. The approach taken by our contributors is varied, with new canons of major figures in theatre and film as well as in-depth criticism of developments in the work of individual artists, or in a particular medium. The seven interviews that follow expand on some of the ideas in those articles, and occasionally contradict the readings offered.

Underline#3: The Farsi Edition

این شماره شاید ضروری‌ترین شمارۀ دورۀ جدید آندرلاین باشد. در پروندۀ ویژۀ این شماره تمرکز بر زنان هنرآفرین در ایران نیم قرن گذشته است. در عنوان روی
جلد هیچ اغراقی در کار نیست: نقش زنان در ایران دورۀ مدرن خیره‌کننده بوده و تازه به خاطر گرایش ویژۀ ما به هنر، نقش زنان در آموزش، علم، صنعت، سیاست و تجارت در نظر گرفته نشده است.
این شماره هم‌چنین تا حد زیادی متکی بر شنیدن صدای خود زنان هنرمند است و مصاحبه، فرم غالب متون پیش روی شما خواهد بود. این فرصت و افتخار را داشته‌ایم تا با چند نسل از زنان هنرمند در حوزه‌های مختلف به گفت‌وگو بنشینیم. در وبسایت ما گفت‌وگوهای بیشتری در تکمیل موضوع این شماره پیدا خواهید کرد.
هشت مقاله اول دیدگاه‌های کلی یا جزیی نویسندگانش از حضور و تأثیر زنان فعال در معماری، سینما، تئاتر و هنرهای تجسمی هستند. هفت متنی که در پی آن می‌آیند، مصاحبه‌هایی در تکمیل یا گسترش و چه بسا در تعارض با تئوری‌های بخش اول است. در این بخش از اولین رهبر ارکستر زن در ایران تا چند نفر از شناخته شده‌ترین نویسندگان، فیلمسازان و هنرمندان تجسمی با آندرلاین گفت‌وگو کرده‌اند. مضمون این شماره به کنار، بیشتر همکاران و نویسندگان و مترجمانی که در تهیه این شماره با ما کار کرده‌اند زنان هستند و من بسیار از دقت نظر و حرفه‌ای‌گری آن‌ها بهره برده‌ام.

Monday 14 May 2018

A Hollywooder in the Land of Persia: Remembering Esmail Koushan (by Nima Hassani-Nasab)

Originally written by my friend Nima Hassani-Nasab for Underline -- the magazine I edit for the British Council -- I'm reposting it here with the intention of adding more images and posters of the notoriously prolific filmmaker Esmail Koushan. - EK

Was Esmail Koushan ‘the father of Iranian cinema’? Did he father a monstrosity? Several decades after the career of this noted figure ended, these questions still have no clear answer.

History accords to Dr Koushan an indisputably important role in the development of the Iranian film industry. An appreciation of this fact, and of Koushan’s considerable efforts as pioneer and influence within the industry, has meant that his renown has endured regardless of the quality and value of his works from an aesthetic perspective. He deserves credit for his stubborn and combative efforts to ensure the development of a professional production process in every area of the industry; from this point of view, Koushan certainly has the right to be considered the father of Iranian cinema.

Monday 7 May 2018

Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXII: The Cinema of John M Stahl

Programme curated by Ehsan Khoshbakht

Concealed identities, troubled yet enduring love affairs, tragic destinies assuaged by altruism and sacrifice... The films of John M Stahl treat familiar subjects and themes with a striking sense of fluency and directness. Favouring a certain bareness and modernity in both feeling and style, Stahl's work has proved to have a lasting emotional power despite earlier critical neglect.

In collaboration with The Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Il Cinema Ritrovato revisits the work of this master of melodrama, and one of American cinema's unsung auteurs. The silent The Woman Under Oath (1919) will be screened in Bologna as a warm-up to a larger retrospective in Pordenone, which will include the majority of Stahl's surviving silents (1917-27). Our overview of Stahl's career during the sound years, noted for its 'audacity' by critic Andrew Sarris, covers both his features made for Universal Pictures, as well as lesser known but equally captivating films made for 20th Century Fox. In both cases one discovers many shades in the work of a single artist, from bright and comic to dark and fatalistic.

Monday 23 April 2018

Interview with Masoud Kimiai

Originally published in 2014 on Keyframe in conjunction with Edinburgh International Film Festival's retrospective on Iranian New Wave. -- EK

Masoud Kimiai (born 1941)

In his home country, he is the most popular filmmaker of his generation. Elsewhere, his ultra-masculine dramas of camaraderie, revenge and male bonds are rarely seen, and if seen, hardly appreciated. He's never been an international film festival darling.

He contributed to the birth if a "different cinema" in Iran by making the rape/revenge thriller Qeysar (1969). His other key film, The Deer (1974), keeps appearing triumphantly in Iranian polls, often winning the title of "the best film in the history of Iranian cinema."

Kimiai makes no bone about his love for classical Hollywood and genre cinema. He grew up going to Tehran's second run cinemas which were mostly playing westerns and crime films. A decade later and before tuning director, he assisted a visiting Hollywood pro, Jean Negulesco, during the shoot of a co-production (The Invincible Six). In a sense, Kimiai's cinema since the 1960s has been a persistent and relentless reinterpretation of the American films he has loved in his youth and trying to marry that, sometimes with stunning results, to a politically-conscious cinema.

He answered my questions on a piece of paper. He loves real, physical things: papers, wrist watches, and hats. The answers are not necessarily responding to the questions but then they might be even more interesting.

Sunday 4 March 2018

The Night It Rained (Kamran Shirdel, 1967)

From my Iranian New Wave programme notes, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2015. The world premiere of the restored version (2K). -- EK

PS: Playing in London on March 16, 2018. [+]

Iran, 1967 Regia: Kamran Shirdel
T. int.: The Night It Rained or the Epic of the Gorgan Village Boy. Scen.: Esmaeel Noori Ala, Kamran Shirdel. F.: Naghi Maasoumi. M.: Fatemeh Dorostian. Int.: Nosratollah Karimi (narrator/interviewer). Prod.: The Ministry of Culture.

Shirdel and cameraman Naghi Maasoumi on the set
This satirical documentary film offers a crash course in 1960s Iran. A newspaper story of a heroic village boy who prevented a train disaster appears and spreads quickly. The incident, reported on and challenged by local officials and journalists, is soon doubted and leads ultimately to confusion, with nobody knowing exactly who has saved whom.

Friday 2 March 2018

Interview with Kamran Shirdel

Kamran Shirdel (right) on the set of The Night It Rained

Kamran Shirdel (born 1939)

One of the giants of Iranian modern cinema, Shirdel is mostly remembered for his clandestine documentaries about poverty and injustice as well as his Rashomonesque The Night It Rained (1967) which became an instrumental film in the birth of New Wave. It’s been hardly noted that he was also responsible for remaking À bout de souffle under the title The Morning of the Fourth Day (1972).

Shirdel today

  • How conscious were you about the New Wave while making your “new” film?

In 1965, after finishing my film school in Rome (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia), I returned back home mostly for a family visit when I encountered the unbelievable and ridiculous socio-economico-political situation in Iran. No Iranian school of filmmaking existed and there were very few [educated] film directors – mostly graduated from foreign film schools trying to do their best at the only place existing for documentary filmmaking in Iran which was The Ministry of Culture and Art. And the filmmakers’ job was to satisfy The Ministry with their commissioned orders. Under these circumstances I had the rare chance to be called – quite accidentally - to make a series of so called propaganda films for the Iranian Women Organization (headed by Ashraf, the twin sister of the Shah!) The subject of the films opened the tightly closed doors of hidden worlds of, respectively, Women’s Prison and Tehran’s red light district (in Farsi, Shahre No) which I showed in Women's Quarter, as well as other poor slums of southern Tehran. I got hold of this rare chance and benefitted from this unexpected situation by relying on my zero experience in the field of documentary filmmaking which was balanced by my love to approach the socio-political problems. I directed them one after another and in a very short time.

Monday 5 February 2018

Underline#2, The English Edition


Underline's second issue is about journeys, real and imagined. As with Issue#1, several of the stories reveal more of the rich cultural interactions between the UK and Iran historically. Such interactions are often achieved by that old method of learning: hitting the road.

The chosen theme for this issue also touches on the conditions of the magazine's production. Many of the wonderful team who have made this issue happen are travellers; visitors or residents in another country, sharing their observations both in close-up and long shot.

The stories in close-up are focused on two British poets (Basil Bunting and Dylan Thomas) and an American art collector (Abby Weed Grey), each of whom were drawn fortuitously to Iran. Thomas’s journey remains a personal favourite: he sees both heaven and hell, leaving the country bruised, enlightened, shocked and awakened. No romanticism of ‘Persia’ here.

Filmmaker and writer Mark Cousins, who drove his campervan through Iran shortly after 9/11, provides us with one long shot. Some three decades before he set out on his journey, other campervans had crossed the country for a different reason: fulfilling the hippy dream of reaching those eastern destinations associated with self-discovery – and good hash. Rory MacLean has written a best-seller on the subject, Magic Bus, about which we've interviewed him.

The journeys also continue in our In Review pages where the recent, auspicious trip made by British sculptor Tony Cragg to exhibit his work in Tehran has given one of our contributors the opportunity for a first-hand encounter. Travelling in the opposite direction, the works of Iranian photographer Kaveh Golestan have reached Tate Modern, prompting another fascinating review.

Underline#2, The Persian Edition

دومین شمارۀ آندرلاین دربارۀ «سفر» است، چه به شکل عینی‌اش و چه سفرهای ذهنی و مجازی. در امتداد مضمونِ شمارۀ اول، بعضی از این سفرها عمق، قدمت و تناقض‌های رابطۀ ایران و بریتانیا در یک قرن گذشته را برملا می‌کنند. اما مضمون سفر انعکاسی از وضعیت تعداد زیادی از نویسندگان این شماره هم هست که بین دو کشور در حرکت‌اند و جایی جز مبداء اصلی‌شان را برای سکونت انتخاب کرده‌اند. هر کدام از این نویسندگان، داستان‌هایی در کلوزآپ و لانگ‌شات به این شماره داده‌اند.
در کلوزآپ، داستان سفر دو شاعر بریتانیایی (بازیل بانتینگ و دیلن تاماس) و یک مجموعه‌دار آثار هنری از آمریکا (ابی وید گری) را داریم که بدون برنامه‌ریزی قبلی خودشان را در ایران می‌یابند. از بین آنها سفر تاماس طنینی گزنده دارد که در آن شاعر ولشی هم بهشت را در ایران می‌یابد و هم دوزخ را. وقتی در پایان سفر به بریتانیا برمی‌گردد، ذهنش کبود، بیدار و روشن است. کلیشه‌‌های «پرشیا»، سرزمینِ گل و بلبل در داستان سفر او جایی ندارد.
یکی از داستان‌های در لانگ‌شات این شماره را مارک کازینز، فیلم‌ساز و نویسندۀ اهل ایرلند شمالی، روایت کرده که درست بعد از یازده سپتامبر با یک فولکس واگن در ایران سفر کرد. سهچهار دهه پیش از او، همین مسیر را فولکس واگن‌های دیگری مملو از هیپی‌ها، به نیت متفاوت رسیدن به آرامش (و مواد مخدر ارزان و فراوان) در شرق، طی کرده بودند که موضوع کتاب پرفروش اتوبوس جادویی است. در این شماره با مؤلف این کتاب، روری مک‌لین، گفتگو کرده‌ایم.
سفرها در بخش گزارش و نقد ادامه پیدا می‌کنند. سفر اخیر تُنی کرگ و آثارش به موزه هنرهای معاصر تهران موضوع یک مقاله است و در سوی مخالف جاده، سفر آثار عکاسی کاوه گلستان به موزه تیت مدرن در لندن موضوع مقاله‌ای دیگر.
با دشواری‌های موجود برای سفر بین دو کشور که می‌تواند حتی قهرمان هومر، اودیسیوس، را از صرافت سفر بیندازد، امیدوارم شمارۀ دوم آندرلاین همان کاری را بکند که کتاب‌ها و فیلمهای به‌دردبه‌خور می‌کنند: شما را به جایی ببرند که قبلاً در آن نبوده‌اید.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

The Departed: the filmmakers we lost in 2017

Naiel Ibarrola and I are back in Sight & Sound for a new series of what we call cine-comic-strip, illustrating the departed filmmakers of 2017. The complete collection, composed of 13 panels, can be viewed here.

Sunday 21 January 2018

Notebook 10th Writers' Poll

In MUBI Notebook's annual poll, the contributors pair their favorite new films of the year (2017) with older films seen in the same year to create fantastic double features. Here is what I can offer as one of 2017's so many ideal and less than ideal double-bills. The first bill features the underappreciated Wajib, the third feature by Annemarie Jacir and her best work so far. -- EK

NEW: Wajib (Annemarie Jacir, Palestine)
OLD: Time Without Pity (Joseph Losey, 1957)

On the surface, simply pairing two father-son films (of which there are probably far too many out there), striking the so-called universal chord. However, here, the universality is only secondary, if not entirely irrelevant, to what binds them internally—it is in their particularities of that relationship and their ties to the place (Nazareth/London) that a decent double-bill might emerge. Both films never abandon their political agendas but somehow move to more personal territories. They, in fact, are about those "territories", personal or impersonal: characters with their vague hope traversing in hostile cities in which the place of the saved and the savior is interchanged.