This is my third post for the Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge 2016.

I really wanted to like The Group (Finnish translation Ryhmä). It’s a story of eight young women who graduate from Vassar in 1933. It is the time of the Great Depression but these women are not really the ones to suffer because of it. They have time to worry about other things such as extramarital sex, birth control, miscarriages, cheating husbands, violent dates, sexism in the work place, mental health issues and lesbianism. Controversial subjects in the 1930s and also in 1963 when the book was published. These days not so much. I am sad to say but I found both the book and the film (directed by Sidney Lumet in 1966) tedious and dated. I didn’t care for any of the characters and I didn’t understand why they were friends in the first place. Also, eight main characters is just too much. Trying to get to know all of them is difficult. The movie is 150 minutes long and in desperate need of editing. The cast is pretty great with Candice Bergen, Shirley Knight and Richard Mulligan to name a few. And kudos to the costume department, the look and style are impeccable. Apparently The Group was an inspiration to Candace Bushnell when she wrote Sex and the City. However, SATC hasn’t yet lost its attraction unlike The Group.

 

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Cover of Ryhmä 

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DVD Cover

 

This is my second post for the Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge 2016.

Åke Lindman (1928-2009) was a Swedo-Finnish actor, director and football player. He started his film career in Teuvo Tulio’s The Rapid’s of Hell (1949) as the evil Artturi Yli-Koskela. After that he was often cast as a villain in Finnish movies. His days as the regular movie villain were done when one evening in 1955 he was walking down the street he passed two teenage girls who were completely frightened and disgusted to see him and cried out “Ew, it’s Åke Lindman!” After that he didn’t take any villain roles 😀

In real life Lindman was a respected and well-liked man and pretty much a national treasure because of his contribution to Finnish film industry. Lindman’s memoir Åke ja hänen maailmansa (published in 1992) is an easy and fast read. Lindman recounts many meaningful and funny chapters in his life with humor and candor. You can almost hear his voice while reading. There are about thirty black and whites photos included in the book which I appreciate. A memoir without any pictures would be incomplete.

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Lindman worked in many Hollywood productions as a liaison. He looked for filming locations in Finland and arranged accommodation and permits and anything that was needed. He worked with Warren Beatty (Reds, 1981), Ken Russell, Michael Caine (Billion Dollar Brain, 1969) and John Huston (The Kremlin Letter, 1970). Lindman has nothing but nice things to say about these stars even though beforehand he was warned that Hollywood stars would be difficult  to work with. I never realized that Lindman was also cast in Jerry Lewis’ infamous film The Day the Clown Cried (which no one has seen to this day). Lindman found Lewis to be a very pleasant man but a fickle director.

Åke Lindman made films his whole life. His last film was released in 2007. He died two years after that. Since his memoir was published already in 1992 I might have to read a more recent biography Åke ja minä (2015).

 

See photos of Lindman here.


Trailer of The Rapid’s of Hell (Swedish version)

 

Gunfighters, cowboys and vampires, oh my! There is a strange disease spreading in a small western town. Young girls are withering and slowly dying and the local medicine man, Dr. Carter,  has no cure. When Dr. Carter is found dead in his buggy it is the vicious and greedy neighbour Buffer who is blamed for the murder. And the doctor’s daughter Dolores is out to get him. Unfortunately, there is greater evil lurking on the prairie, a gunfighter named Drake Robey and he doesn’t mind a little bloodshed since he is also a vampire.

It sounds silly. The idea to combine a western and a vampire horror film is quite unusual. But this B movie pulls it of. I liked the references to Hammer’s Dracula and the traditional horror soundtrack. And then there were the classic old west gunfights and land disputes not forgetting a stand-up sheriff. And an independent and brave heroine who also plays the role of damsel in distress. Maybe it’s campy but good entertainment nonetheless.

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DVD cover of the Italian release

 

 

 

Separation

04.02.2016

Separation (1967) was directed by Jack Bond and screenplay written by Jane Arden. According to the DVD booklet Separation is a forgotten gem. And why forgotten? Separation didn’t receive good reviews back in the sixties. Perhaps because it was too art-housey? Or because the protagonist Jane is a 40-year-old separated woman who has not just left her child and husband but also taken on a younger lover? The world was not ready for this sort of thing. It was not ready to see a middle aged woman having a nervous breakdown on film. I have to say I don’t understand why this film isn’t appreciated just like all the other great new wave films of the sixties. Like Blow Up or Clèo de 5 á 7 or Sedmikrásky. It has it all: Procol Harum on the soundtrack, wonderful clothing choices, a female protagonist who has the perfect facial expressions (I adore Jane Arden now), an elusive storyline and some dead-on social commentary on the role of women. What’s not to love?

Thanks again to BFI for this DVD & blu-ray release!

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Everyone who has ever studied media culture or film theory has at least heard of Laura Mulvey‘s essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975). The essay is definitely one of the major texts in feminist film theory and it is often quoted. Mulvey’s claim is basicly this: mainstream Hollywood film always positions the actress as the object of a male gaze and desire. Mulvey uses psychoanalytic theory in constructing her own theory of traditional film narrative as a manifestation of patriarchal system. One can ask is psychoanalytical theory still relevant to analyse film. I’m not really one to say. Mulvey’s point of view is interesting though.

Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) is Laura Mulvey’s and Peter Wollen’s second collaboration in filmmaking. It is an avant-garde classic and ever since I read Mulvey’s essay I’ve wanted to see this film. However, I was a bit hesitant to watch it since I don’t always appreciate avant-garde… Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The film is very political yet artistic. I quite liked the 360 degree panning shots that break the traditional narrative. The film score (by Mike Ratledge) is almost hypnotic. The film consists of chapters, most of them show protagonist Louise who struggles with society’s expectations of her as a woman and a mother. Mulvey and Wollen definitely have a  unique point of view that comes across in the film.

British Film Institute has yet again done a marvellous job by releasing this film on DVD and Blu-ray. Extras include Mulvey’s and Wollen’s first film Penthesileia and audio commentary with Mulvey.

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Old Film Magazines

18.01.2016

I bought two old Finnish film magazines from a second-hand bookshop. Filmin kasvot was published between 1945 and 1949, Elokuva-aitta between 1932 and 1968. On the cover of Elokuva-aitta (5/1948) is one of my favourite film stars, Lea Joutseno. On the cover of Filmin kasvot (3/1946) is of course Hedy Lamarr.

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These magazines are so adorable, sweet and innocent. Clearly meant for the young female film fan. There are articles about international films and Finnish films as well. And Hollywood gossip 😛 There is a column for readers to ask questions about film stars and how to send letters asking for an autograph.

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What I like the most is that there are reviews of films from non-English-speaking countries. Like in Filmin kasvot there is a short review of a Norwegian film Vi vil leve (1946) and a Danish film De røde enge (1945). These days it is quite rare in Finland to see international films in mainstream cinemas. Or to even read about them in (women’s) magazines. If I wanted to see either of these films, would it be possible? De røde enge is available on dvd in a Danish online store but… no subtitles. I might understand some Danish but hardly enough.

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I didn’t plan to read Sir Roger Moore’s memoir but the book happened to be at hand and I had some time so why not! The book is an easy read. Moore is a funny guy and he writes with humor. And he doesn’t forget self-irony. That sense of humor is actually the reason why he is my favourite James Bond even though aesthetically I prefer the 60’s Bond films. Moore brought comedy to the role.

Moore recounts his life and career and there are many interesting anecdotes. However, as a cat lover I didn’t appreciate the anecdote about the film North Sea Hijack. Apparently there are a lot of cats in the film and the cats were slightly sedated during filming so they would be easier to handle. James Mason, Moore’s co star and a cat lover as well didn’t appreciate that either 😛 The thing about reading film star biographies and memoirs is that you hardly ever have seen all the films that are mentioned in the book. While reading about unusual filming conditions and funny incidents on the set you wish you’d seen the film.

Besides his celebrated career in film and television Sir Roger Moore is also a humanitarian and works as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. It was good to read about Moore’s endeavours as a spokesman for underprivileged children.

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