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.

åke

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)

 

Film scholar Sakari Toiviainen’s book about the legendary Finnish film director Nyrki Tapiovaara is short and (bitter)sweet. Nyrki Tapiovaara (1911-1940) was the hope of Finnish cinema. He started his career as a film critic and theatre director. In 1937 he made his film debut with Juha (based on the novel by Juhani Aho). After that Tapiovaara directed four more films. He was killed in action in the last days of Winter War. Tapiovaara didn’t get to finish his last film Miehen tie and it was completed by his colleagues Erik Blomberg, Mirjami Kuosmanen and Hugo Hytönen.

Toiviainen’s book isn’t really a biography as it is a thorough analysis of all five films. Of course Toiviainen recounts Tapiovaara’s main life events but doesn’t go into much detail about his private life. Toiviainen’s book is a story of an extremely talented and creative individual who had a unique vision and who found his outlet in film. Tapiovaara was born into a bourgeois family but became a left-wing artist who socialized with members of the legendary literary group Tulenkantajat (The Flame Bearers). He was very interested in international cinema (especially French and Soviet films) and was active in a film club called Projektio. In his films Tapiovaara experimented with new filmmaking ideas and techniques and mixed genres in a way that had never been seen in Finnish cinema. Toiviainen analyzes Tapiovaara’s films with great knowledge. He has done much research and found interesting quotes about the director, for example director/cinematographer Erik Blomberg (who is not without merit himself!) is quoted saying that in all his years in the business, he never met anyone as talented as Nyrki Tapiovaara. Tapiovaara’s letter excerpts from the front reveal how the ideology of a young man had changed, how he had become a grown-up, ready to serve his country and happy to do so. The one thing that I really appreciate about this book is that it is a perfect example of all the information and photographs that are not available on the internet. How many times have I heard that books are obsolete, everything is on the internet. Well that simply isn’t true!

Tapiovaara’s reputation as the most talented Finnish director is not unfounded although not many get to witness it these days. His films are seldom seen on television and have never been released on dvd. His fourth film Herra Lahtinen lähtee lipettiin was partly lost and destroyed, only about 40 minutes survived. I have only seen Tapiovaara’s historical thriller Varastettu kuolema at the National Film Archive and it was a pretty special occasion. The film hasn’t aged like so many it’s contemporaries. Reading Toiviainen’s book made me melancholy. If only Tapiovaara had survived the war.

tapiovaara

Sweet As Can Be

01.08.2013

One of my favourite Finnish film stars is Tarja Nurmi. Actually, she was a model and a beauty queen, Miss Finland two years in a row (1959-60). She made a few films in the early sixties but never truly pursued a career in cinema. She left the show business to work in retail as a buyer for Kestilän Pukimo (clothing store). After she got married she became a housewife. Her characters in those few films were so sweet and/or innocent that sometimes, dare I say it,  she reminds me a little bit of my beloved Doris. I like her even though in an interview in 1969 Ms. Nurmi was quoted saying “Man is the crown of creation” in reference to whether women should stay at home or to pursue a career… Oh well, those were the times. I wish she had stayed in show business, she could have been a true star of the silver screen. Below is an article about Ms. Nurmi. Unfortunately, I have completely lost the source where I got it, it might be Elokuva-Aitta magazine circa 1964.

tarjanurmi01 (1) tarjanurmi02 (1)

Another new one for Movie Monday Challenge #94: Maunu Kurkvaara was a true auteur in the spirit of the French New Wave. He pretty much wrote, directed and edited (among other things) all of his own films. Between 1955 and 1986 he directed about twenty feature films. These films have never been released on dvd, only a couple of them were released on vhs way back when, and they are hardly ever seen on Finnish television not to mention cinemas. Fortunately, I was able to get a vhs copy of Kurkvaara’s 1969 film Punatukka (Redhead) and to get some kind of idea what Kurkvaara’s films are all about. Punatukka tells the story of a young working class girl called Tutu (Tarja Markus) who lives in Helsinki and works in a factory. Work is dreary but luckily Tutu has a friend at the work place and all the women in the factory seem to form a close-knit community. Tutu wants to live, have fun and be free but she also dreams of a boyfriend. Tutu’s life is turned upside down when her roommate commits suicide without any explanation. This makes Tutu question and ponder her own life and what it’s all about.

The film is understated and realistic. There is not a hint of melodrama. However, the point of the film is quite underlined in the end. Tutu learns something crucial about herself and possibly finds meaning in her life. The most interesting part of the film, at least for me, is the period when it was filmed. The streets of Helsinki and especially Kallio neighbourhood looked so different and yet so familiar over forty years ago. Women’s sexual liberation had by then reached even Northern Europe which is also evident from the film. On the whole, it’s the feel of the sixties that makes this a pleasant and beautiful film.

Challenge #15 :  What is the movie that you love but everyone else seems to hate?

I can’t name just one. I guess I’d have to say old Finnish films in general. Most people don’t seem to have a lot of love for the products of  “The Golden Age of Finnish Film”. Surely, there are many films that are badly done, childish, amateurish, ridiculous, pompous and just over the top in every way possible. Like Tuhottu Nuoruus (1947), now there’s a film that should have never been made, even Helena Kara can’t save that mess. But there are real gems to be found in Finnish film history. Like the drama Ihmiset suviyössä (1948) based on F.E. Sillanpää’s novel, directed by Valentin Vaala. The beauty of summer, the intensity of human emotions, I think no one has captured it better on film before or since. And how about comedies? One of the funniest Finnish films must be Hilman päivät (1954) based on Agapetus’ play, directed by Matti Kassila. The film depicts (mostly) a day in the life of miscellaneous characters in a very small town somewhere in the Finnish countryside. The cast is filled with top actors such as Matti Ranin, Tauno Palo and Aino Mantsas.

Unfortunately, when I talk about my love for the old Finnish film, I get a lot of frowns. But you can’t judge old films by contemporary standards which is what many people seem to do. You have to accept a certain amount of flaws even in the best of films. Once you get pass the occasional poor sound quality or shaky camera work and give the story a chance, you can actually enjoy the film.

There have been several glorious female movie stars in the history of Finnish cinema but no one can hold a candle to Lea Joutseno (1910-1977). She appeared in fifteen films only but made her mark in film history. She starred in three film adaptations of Hilja Valtonen’s novels. The protagonists in these films are sassy, witty, independent and funny. A proper feminist idol I would say! Ms. Joutseno also worked on film scripts with her trusted director Valentin Vaala.

  

A couple of Lea Joutseno’s films are available on region 2 dvd. Unfortunately, Finnkino hasn’t invested in the releases at all. There are no subtitles, no remastering, no extras etc. At the very least there should be English subtitles so film lovers outside Finland could enjoy the talent of Ms. Joutseno.

The cover of Dynamiittityttö (Dynamite Girl) (1944)