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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Digitisations, Restorations & Revivals (20) - Capra, ANATAHAN, Berlinale, MULTIPLE MANIACS

Associate Editor (Restorations and Revivals) Simon Taaffe has come across the following screenings and other information. Click on the links for times, more detail etc where indicated.

Frank Capra
Capra at the NFSA
Out of the blue we learn that the National Film & Sound Archive has restored an American film Three Days to Live (Tom Gibson, USA, 1924) which is described on the NFSA website as having a connection to the career of Frank Capra thus: Following a year long restoration project, we bring you the Australian premiere of a film once thought lost to Hollywood mythology. In Three Days to Live Capra is credited as Editor and Titles, two very creative roles. It is also thought, according to biographer Jim McBride, that Capra was assistant director.

“Lost to Hollywood mythology….” Hmmm.

A screening of the film with live musical accompaniment will take place in Canberra as part of a season of Frank Capra films. Details click here

Joseph von Sternberg
Sternberg’s The Saga of Anatahan restored
At the newly established Metrograph in New York, screenings to accompany the DVD release of Joseph von Sternberg’s The Saga of Anatahan a film many regard as one of the director’s finest achievements. The Metrograph web page says: Visionary Josef von Sternberg had once been a feared and revered presence on the Paramount Studios lot, but after one too many clashes over his obsessive perfectionism he went independent, directing, writing, shooting, and narrating this sublime film about a dozen Japanese seamen stranded on a Pacific Island with one woman—unaware that World War II has ended, and with a little war of their own in the making.

2K restoration performed by Kino Lorber, in association with the Library of Congress and Lobster Films, working from the original camera negative and other 35mm elements provided by the Estate of Josef von Sternberg and the Cinémathèque Française.

If you can get there book tickets here

Classics at the Berlinale 2017
Restorations announced already include

Avanti Popolo
By Rafi Bukai, Israel 1986
International premiere of the digitally restored version

By Felipe Cazals, Mexico 1976
World premiere of the digitally restored version

Helmut Käutner
Schwarzer Kies (Black Gravel)
By Helmut Käutner, West Germany 1961
World premiere of the digital version

Details click here

John Waters
John Waters early film Multiple Maniacs  at the BFI.
No details about the restoration but screening details are here. The website says A queer cavalcade of delirious bad taste and delicious moral depravity, John Waters’ little-seen sophomore feature tells the despicable tale of Lady Divine and her travelling sideshow of murderous reprobates. The film has been digitally restored (but without losing any of its filthy charm), so the time has finally come to witness the pope of trash at his anarchic and inflammatory best.

Details click here

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Future Cinema - COLONEL PANICS - An exotic Australian/Japanese co-production gets ready for its Asian premiere.

One of the more intriguing titles to premiere in 2017 may well turn out to be Colonel Panics, a Japanese/Australian co-production directed by Korean-born, Australian-raised Cho Jinseok. Shot entirely in Japan with production completed in 2016, the film has its world premiere in competition at the 27th Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival to be held between 2-6 March, 2017. The film will also screen as part of the Forbidden Zone program in the festival.The Fantastic Off-Theater Competition is for young directors and seven Asian films will compete for the cash prize.
Colonel Panics is an Australian-Japanese coproduction between Big Panic, Tokyo Media International and Arthit.
I do declare an interest in the film to the extent that its young director, a contributor to this blog under the name Ben Cho, is a friend. (You can read his most recent contribution, a Defending Cinephilia piece for 2016, if you click here.)

But having seen Colonel Panics and discussed it with another viewer whose opinion I value, I think I can say it is a film that warrants some serious attention. Its storyline is listed on the Screen Australia website as about “The destinies of two men, one from the future and one from the past, become entwined as a malevolent virus spreads throughout a digital gaming experience that blurs dreams and reality. “  But its subject is the continuing presence, indeed national burden, of Japanese militarism and the growth of a modern fascist Japanese state. The film rakes over the coals of the past, most notably via its references to Korean comfort women, but looks into a future where worship of the Emperor and vile deeds done in his name, are still the norm for many. 

The film has a website which contains trailer and teaser preview material.

The next step is for screenings in Australia. The film will be submitted to the direction of the next Sydney Film Festival in June 2017 and to the managers of the New Zealand Film Festival which begins in July.

Adapting SATANTANGO - Peter Hourigan heroically reads the book and re-views Bela Tarr's film

Bela Tarr
In 1994, Béla Tarr’s 7 hour film Sátángó made its first appearances at Film Festivals. Obviously, at that length its running time often became the first thing commented on, and articles about it sometimes had a self-congratulatory air that the writer had sat through it ALL.  My first (and so far only) exposure to it had been about ten years later when a set of three DVDs appeared and I watched that in one day with several friends.  I confess that after a few years, I really had no recall of the film from that one viewing – apart from a vivid recollection of the atmosphere of rain, decay and desolation.
Although the novel by László Krasznahorkai was first published in Hungary in 1985, it didn’t appear in an English translation until 2012. My curiosity led me to buy it, to realise that being able to say you’d read it was almost as self-congratulatory as saying you’d watched the film straight through, as I only made it to about page 80 on a first attempt last summer.  But I can make that claim now, having had a second go a week or two back.

László Krasznahorkai
Krasznahorkai is one of those maddeningly frustrating writers who persists with alienating idiosyncratic elements or ignoring the writing conventions that evolved to help readers maintain their  concentration or keep track of what’s going on, in other words to communicate.  He does not use paragraphs, and some sentences go on for half a page or more, a writhing mesh of clauses, parentheses, internal digressions and more!

With Sátántangó you also note his quirky way of numbering his chapters – Part 1 has Chapters I, II, III, IV, V and VI.  Part 2 goes in reverse,  Chapters VI, V, IV, III, II, I.  Actually this is not irrelevant, as one idea he is developing is a sense of the circle of life, of everything having its beginning in its ending in its beginning...   The last two pages of the book, until it fades out in ...”at which point...” are exactly the first two pages of the book – an invitation to go back to the beginning and read it all again, until you’re able to break out of the story.

Béla Tarr’s film is very faithful to the book, including being divided into the same chapters as the book, with the same names (allowing for the different translations in English. For example Chapter 1 is “News of Their Coming” in the published book, and “The News is They’re Coming” on the DVD release.)

The long, long sentences in Kraznahorkai’s prose find a corollary in Tarr’s trademark long, long takes, the camera frequently sitting there, observing an area waiting for someone to appear, or from which people have already left. But the black-and-white photography is immensely powerful, observing this crumbling, bleak landscape and the crumbling, bleak people left in it. It is the atmosphere that is one of the strongest elements in the film, and I can imagine it was close to overbearing on a big screen in a large cinema.

But like the book, it is not an easy film to watch, or to get into, because it is (they are) not ordinary narratives, but fragments, mosaics that build a picture of a community that has evaporated, or been destroyed. The general interpretation is that it is a representation of the Communist State in Hungary in the last stages of its demise, the almost desolate, ruined collective farm being a clear corollary for the whole nation.

Each chapter (book and film) focuses on a different character or characters. Several basically have only one character, which is a challenge to our expectations of drama as the interaction between two or more people.  In the novel, there are clearer insights into the character’s feelings, motivations, thoughts, but the steady gaze of the camera takes us into the people in different ways.

The novel’s sense of circularity has somewhat of a presence in the film, but more in some different ways.  The opening lines of the book were used as voice-over early in the film, and do re-appear at the end of the film, but I’m not sure I’d have realised this if I hadn’t read the book several days before. Also, they’re not the exact opening of the film. That is a stunning, long single take, tracking with a herd of cattle coming out of their barn, into the muddy yard, making their way to muddy fields, one bull mounting a cow, a dog  barking, rain drenching an already saturated area. So this doesn’t quite capture the same sense of the story starting all over again. Perhaps the film’s translator sensed this – the book’s last chapter is “The Circle Closes”, in the film “No Way Out.”  The same meaning, and yet not the same.

The film instead has a number of moments that I can’t remember in the novel where you see an event several times in different characters’ chapters.  The centrepiece is the impromptu dancing in the bar, the Sátántangó of the titles.  At one time we are inside the bar with several of the characters in the dance. At another we are with the retarded girl outside in the rain looking into the warm bar.
Mentioning the retarded girl raises another point. Her situation is probably able to be appreciated more substantially in the book where we learn more of her back story. Her chapter features one of the most confronting scenes in a film, where she tries to explore if she can have power over another living creature, and force feeds rat poison to her cat. In a long, long take we watch the cat lap the milk, try to struggle, collapse, die. There are no cuts where you can imagine a dummy being substituted for the live cat. I had to search the Internet before being able to watch the next chapter. Tarr is quoted as saying that the cat was his family’s pet, that a veterinarian was on set all the time, and the cat lived a long life after the film. But it all looks distressingly real!
Was it worth slogging through the book, sitting through 7 hours of the film in one day?  Concentrating on the film, it was good to revisit it, especially as I had really lost most of it from my mind. Tarr is a powerful film maker, with a flair for setting a camera where it observes a wealth of human nature.  His control of the soundtrack adds to this. It is the atmosphere that most endures. The actual thematic importance is perhaps limited outside Hungary, especially as time moves the collapse of communism further into the past.  It’s not an analysis of the causes of that collapse, a sociological look at its impact, or a traditional character study.  And do you need 7 hours of atmosphere?

Anyway, at the very least I suppose I can make a big note of the fact that I did get through the book. And now, I’ve actually watched the film twice. Anyway again, yesterday when I watched it, it was far too hot to do anything outside, so at least I stayed cool.  And I finished with time for another episode of Horace and Pete.  Ah, now that’s a pleasure!