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).

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXXV

Download the guide to Il Cinema Ritrovato 2021 in pdf format.

The full line-up and titles in each strand will be announced later.

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2021

A few days ago we reopened Cineteca’s cinemas and all the screenings are seeing an extraordinary presence of audiences. It’s been a wonderful start!

The 35th edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato will take place in person in the theatres and open-air venues of Bologna between July 20 to 27, 2021.

The programme is fantastically rich and full of discoveries from across the world, an invitation to start experiencing again the thrill of being part of an audience, watching and sharing cinema masterpieces.

Also this year, for all those who will not be able to attend in person, a selection of films from the festival will be made available through the MYmovies streaming platform.

Monday 10 May 2021

The Glass Key (Frank Tuttle, 1935)

The Glass Key (1935)
Written in spring 2020 for the catalogue of Il Cinema Ritrovato. EK

Based on a celebrated novel by Dashiell Hammett, The Glass Key focuses on the relationship between a crooked businessman and his loyal associate, whose plans for the upcoming election are blown apart by a murder. The story first appeared in “Black Mask” magazine in 1930. Paramount bought the movie rights for $25,000 before the hardcover edition was even published in 1931. Though Gary Cooper was announced as the leading actor, the film was not made until 1935, possibly due to a fear of failure (the crime cycle of the early 1930s was quickly falling out of fashion). 

However, Tuttle’s take was very different, shaping the characters in a more psychologically nuanced way. Ed Beaumont (played by George Raft in one of the better roles of his career) is a rye-drinking, sharp-dressed gambler who protects businessman Paul Madvig (Edward Arnold) against rival gangs and is smart enough to tell him what to wear too. Madvig is backing a local senator in his electoral campaign, and also plans to marry his daughter; meanwhile Madvig’s own daughter, Opal, is in a relationship with the senator’s troubled son. Ed stays cool-headed, balancing these conflicting interests, which are increasingly open to exploitation by a rival gang. When the senator’s son (Ray Milland) is killed, the rival gang mobilise their newspapers to accuse Madvig of the crime. 

Monday 3 May 2021

The Crown Jewels of Iran (Ebrahim Golestan, 1965) | Notes on the film and its restoration

Ebrahim Golestan's 1965 short documentary, Ganjineha-ye Gohar [in English: The Crown Jewels of Iran], will be screened at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2021. This will mark the world premiere of the restored version and a new beginning for a film very difficult or even impossible to screen in a cinema for almost 55 years. Like its title, The Crown Jewels of Iran is a true jewel of Iranian cinema, though so far a buried one. 

Made for the Central Bank of Iran to celebrate the collection of precious jewels kept in the treasury, this film remains filmmaker Ebrahim Golestan's most visually dazzling work, embellished with terrific camera movements. 

Some of the most iconic landscape photography in the history of Iranian cinema can be found within a minute after the opening credits, in which peasants of various ethnicities and tribes are quickly reviewed, all posed in a graceful manner, like kings without being kings. Like a work of musical composition, a simple act of ploughing is spread across shots of various size and angle, creating an intimate visual symphony. And then appears one of Golestan's allegorical match-cuts: a farmer seen on the horizon before a cut to a diamond on a dark background – the farmer is the jewel.