Review of Cinefest 2020

•November 24, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Cover of the catalog

Last Sunday we finished our cinefest Kino, Krieg und Tulpen. Deutsch-niederländische Filmbeziehungen(13-22 November), as well as our three-day (20-22 November) – intense but very gratifying – Zoom conference.

It’s almost a miracle we’ve managed to realize it all, despite corona. A few weeks ago, when Germany closed down all cinemas including the Hamburg Metropolis Kino, and international travel basically became impossible, we had to change overnight to an alternative version. As digitization at the EYE Filmmuseum is ahead of the German archives, and a group of 1930s Dutch films mostly made with collaboration of German migrant directors and crew members was available to be put online without rights problems, we were saved by the bell – apart from all the extra labor on speedy translations in English or German added to the films. See e.g. films with English subtitles such as Pygmalion (1937) by Ludwig Berger, Boefje (1939) by Douglas Sirk, or Dood Water (1934) by Gerard Rutten, or with German subtitles, De Kribbebijter (1935) by Henry Koster. We also filmed ourselves for short introductions, now available on the Cinefest website. And the good news is that most of these films will remain online, on EYE’s playlist on YouTube. In addition, EYE has also put online a nice selection of rare early German fiction and nonfiction films from EYE’s Desmet Collection, including exiting pursuits by Joseph Delmont for the company Eiko: either at the wastelands of Berlin [my guess], or through the streets, alleys, and canals of Rotterdam [which before the war was a canal town like Amsterdam]. Also memorable is Delmont’s trip to the archaic, picturesque village of Marken for his film Auf einsamer Insel (1913), for which even a local boat was bought and burned.

The Dutch 17th century according to the DEFA: Zar und Zimmermann (Hans Müller, 1956)

At the conference I gave a keynote on a panoramic overview of our conference program on the one hand, and a historiographic overview of research and publications on German-Dutch film relationships since the 1980s, with the 1982 manifestation and volume Berlin-Amsterdam 1920-1940 as key reference point. I was therefore most obliged the thriving force behind manifestation and book, Kathinka Dittrich, was present herself. All in all, we were in good company with avant-garde experts such as Thomas Tode and Anke Steinborn, film music expert Timur Sijaric, resistance films expert Tobias Temming, scholars bridging (aesthetic and gender) theory and history when researching Dutch documentary, we had socio-economic approaches of Dutch UFA-cinemas and German newsreels depicting the Netherlands, biographical portraits of actors, directors and producers, and so on. Among our attendees were respected scholars such as Tim Bergfelder, Jan-Christopher Horak, and Christian Rogowski, while panel leaders were e.g. Hans-Michael Bock, Andreas Thein, and last but not least Jan Distelmeyer, whose students had made the wonderful teaser and trailer for the festival and who were present too.

The wonderful, lavishly illustrated and well informed catalog can still be obtained for little money (see Cinefest website). It gives a hint about the original program we hope to show next Spring onsite at the Metropolis Kino in Hamburg.

Cover of the – voluminous – volume accompanying the manifestation
Berlin-Amsterdam 1920-1940 (1982).

Magnum opus on the history of German documentary now online

•September 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Poster for Die Nibelungen, Part I. Siegfried (Fritz Lang, 1924). Collection EYE Filmmuseum.

The three-part volume Geschichte des dokumentarischen Films in Deutschland 1895-1945 (Reclam Verlag, 2005), edited by Kay Hoffmann a.o., can now be consulted online on the site of the University of Marburg. It will also be available on the digital platforms http://www.dokumentarfilmgeschichte.de and http://www.dokumentarfilmforschung.de. Part 1 of the volume, edited by Martin Loiperdinger and Uli Jung, includes my article on espionage and propaganda in the Netherlands during the First World War: Exkurs: Spionage und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg. Das Beispiel Niederlande. For the research for this article I owe a big thank you to Martin Loiperdinger. If you want to know what dragon slayer Siegfried has to do with a volume on documentary, please read my text. During WWI, German Intelligence predicted that Dutch audiences were rather susceptible to this kind of German imagery than to blunt nonfiction. Lang’s film would indeed be a huge Dutch success.

L’Innocente on Blu-ray

•July 14, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Innocente 01

L’innocente. The confrontation of the rivals, scene shot at Palazzo Colonna, Rome.                          Photo by Mario Tursi. Print from my own collection.

Film Movement Classics has recently released the first American Blu-ray of Luchino Visconti’s film L’innocente/ The Innocent (1976), starring Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli, and Jennifer O’Neill. One of the bonuses is a video essay with my voice over, based on my book Reframing Luchino Visconti: Film and Art (2018). If you want to know more about my book, see the book trailer, the publisher’s site, my earlier post on the Open Access version of the book, a blogpost I wrote for my department, and the general page on my Visconti research on this site.

Call for Papers: Conference on German-Dutch Film Relations (Nov. 2020)

•April 17, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Call for papers for our conference in November on Dutch-German film relationships: Cinema, War, and Tulips: German-Dutch Film Relations. 33rd International Film Historical Conference, 18 – 21 November 2020, Hamburg

https://www.cinefest.de/dat…/2020/CFP_cf20-Kongress_engl.pdf

See also https://www.cinefest.de/d/festival.php

Truus van Aalten als Volendamer Frau

Now online: Early Italian Comedy in International Perspective, and Where Can I Find Italian Silent Cinema?

•January 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Two of my articles can now be found online at my website: ‘All the Same or Strategies of Difference: Early Italian Comedy in International Perspective’, in: Giorgio Bertellini ed., Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader (New Barnet: John Libbey, 2013), pp. 171-184, and ‘Where Can I Find Italian Silent Cinema?’, in: Giorgio Bertellini ed., Italian Silent Cinema. A Reader (New Barnet: John Libbey, 2013), pp. 317-323. The first article, a reworked version of an earlier article, goes into the characterizations of and differences between a few typical comedians of early Italian cinema (Cretinetti, Polidor, Kri-Kri and Robinet), but also delves into the differences between slapstick and situational comedy (such as the Morano-Rodolfi comedies by Ambrosio), into (self-)reflexivity in Italian silent comedy, and into cross-national convergences and divergences, comparing Italian silent comedy with French and American counterparts (e.g. at Pathé, Gaumont and Vitagraph.  The second article gives a state of the art of the availability of Italian silent cinema either online, on disk (DVD etc.), or within the various film archives in and outside of Italy. It marks the growing international access online, even if much is still out of reach or can only be consulted ‘in situ’. The article well matches Luca Mazzei’s article in the same volume on the availability of paper sources. My online articles can also be found on academia.edu.

The online offer of my two articles perfectly matches EYE’s generous recent upload to its YouTube channel, From the Collection of EYE, of a large share of Italian silent comedy, mostly but note exclusively from the Desmet Collection. Such as Robinet, chauffeur miope (Ambrosio 1914), starring Marcel Fabre/ Marcel Pérez/Dandy:

‘Dal vero’ in Cluj. New presentation & research coming up

•October 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Santa Lucia

On Saturday 26 October, I will give a paper on the picturesque in Italian early travel films or ‘dal vero’ and their pedigree and historiography, within a panel on the Italian non-fiction film and the picturesque together with Luca Mazzei and Sila Berruti, and this again within the framework of the conference THE PICTURESQUE: Visual Pleasure and Intermediality in-between Contemporary Cinema, Art and Digital Culture, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 25-25 October. Last Summer I was fortunate to finally find the time to watch most of the 61 films on the very rich and thorough DVD Grand Tour Italiano by Andrea Meneghelli for the Cineteca di Bologna as well as early travel films online on various archival and public sites, plus some additional DVDs. I was also able to read Jennifer Peterson’s article in the volume Uncharted Territory (1997) and parts of her monograph Education in the School of Dreams (2013), as well as articles from the special issue (2014) on Italian early nonfiction of the journal Immagine. All this helped, me to get a better grip on Italian early nonfiction, after my own earlier – at times also cited – articles in the 1990s, such as one in the volume A Nuova Luce. The presentation in Cluj builds on a duo presentation I did with Luca Mazzei last December at the workshop A Dive into the Collections of the EYE Filmmuseum, co-organised by myself with Elif Rongen and Céline Gailleurd, and undertaken within the framework of the Franco-Dutch-Italian research project Le cinéma muet italien à la croisée des arts, I am looking forward to the debate with my panel and attendants to the panel in Cluj. Eventually, my research on Italian early travel film will turn into an article, as part of my future monograph on Italian early cinema and its transmedial relationships with the arts and popular culture.

Visconti in Open Access

•August 30, 2019 • 1 Comment

As of today, 30 August 2019, I offer the digital version of my book Reframing Luchino Visconti: Film and Art (Sidestone Press, 2018) in Open Access. You can download the pdf of the book here or order the paper version on the editor’s website.

As this is my birthday, this is my birthday present to the world. Enjoy!

cover Reframing jpg

 

Piero Tosi (1927-2019)

•August 10, 2019 • Leave a Comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today, I read the news that Piero Tosi had died at the high age of 92 years. With his passing, an epoch disappears, I’d say. Others will surely write about Tosi’s paramount importance for film costume design, and I would fully agree. But Tosi also had an important part in my own life. When I started my MA thesis research on Luchino Visconti and visual arts decades ago, in 1983, Caterina D’Amico, daughter of Visconti’s regular screenwriter Suso Cecchi D’Amico but also the organizer of many exhibitions and publications on Visconti, told me I absolutely needed to see Tosi, in addition to Umberto Tirelli, Mario Chiari, Mario Garbuglia, Vera Marzot, Giuseppe Rotunno, Caterina’s mother, and others. So, when in 1984 I came to Rome to do my research, I met him, at the famous Caffé Greco. The interview was very important to me, as it showed how important the talent and expertise of Visconti’s collaborators had been, and how closely knit they contributed to Visconti’s films, of which we can say they were true Gesamtkunstwerke. After I had finished my Ph.D. in 2000 and published the commercial edition in 2003, I went back to my Visconti research, intended to renew, expand and reframe it. So in 2004, I was back in Rome, back at the Royal Dutch Institute (my temporary home for so many years of research). Apart from spitting through the Fondo Visconti at the Istituto Gramsci, I renewed my interviews, including ones with Rotunno, Garbuglia, Vera Marzot (Tosi’s assistant for e.g. Il Gattopardo), and with Tosi himself. This time we met at his elegant little apartment in Via Monte Brianzo, not far from Piazza Navona and filled with painting. Apart from deepening our discussion on Visconti’s films and visual art,  we also talked about the importance of photography, of Visconti’s professional rigor, Tosi’s own training, the Italian divas and Duse, and the preparation of the Proust Project. Afterward, we sometimes had telephone conversations on details. I learned Tosi was a goldmine of recollections, even if I also learned they were not always true.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In 2006 I had the good fortune of having Piero Tosi and Caterina D’Amico as speakers at my symposium Visconti e le arti visive, held at the ballroom of Palazzo Visconti in Milan and co-organised with Federica Olivares. Tosi, who wasn’t a big traveler and simply refused flying, did a big effort to travel to Milan and attend the symposium, followed by a screening of Senso. He whispered me he was so excited to see Palazzo Visconti, as during the collaborations with Visconti he had never been there. He was also very happy with a booklet on the Italian divas, written by Angela Dalle Vache and produced by Olivares Edizioni. The morning after, in our hotel, we had a relaxing and humorous conversation, about his work, his background in Florence, but also about being a gay man in Rome back in the 1950s-1960s. From 2007, when I lived six months in Rome thanks to an award of the Dutch institute and worked on my book while also teaching a course on Rome in film, I met Tosi at times at the film academy of the Centro Sperimentale. Here he was teaching for decades, enjoying to be surrounded by bright young people and free of the stress of film production. One summer, we had an appointment after his teachings, but it was terribly hot. He still had taken the metro to Subaugusta to teach at the film academy, but he understandably had to shower first before talking. Afterward, we enjoyed the gelati I had brought.

The production of my book took many years, including rewrites, endless waiting for peer reviewers and editors, and finally changing publisher. In the meantime, on September 2017, I had in London a great conversation with costume designer Janty Yates, on occasion of the Alma-Tadema exhibition at the Leighton House in which I was involved and of her involvement in Ridley Scott’s epic Gladiator. Yates and I proved to have the same big admiration for Tosi’s work, so our talk went on for a long time. Also, by 2017 I knew that my book would be dedicated to Garbuglia, Rotunno, and Piero Tosi. On 20 March 2018, I had the first presentation of my book, of course in Rome and at the Royal Dutch Institute. Here Caterina D’Amico was officially handed the book, preceded by a round table with distinguished Roman scholars, and – despite stormy weather – with selected guests such as Mario Garbuglia’s daughter and family, Nicoletta Mannino (Visconti’s niece), Antonella Montesi (coordinator of the bibliovisconti project), Prof. Giovanni Spagnoletti, and others. The next day, I brought my book to Piero Tosi, accompanied by a giant bunch of tulips. Tosi by that time was getting blind and feeble, so we had a nice little chat and caffè. He was really impressed by the book but was sore his eyes were starting to abandon him. Typically Italian, he would call me by my last name: Caro Blom, he said when I left, come up and see me when you’re around in Rome if I am still there then. I haven’t been to Rome sinch March 2018, alas, so it was our last meeting. I also missed the exhibition on Tosi’s years at the Centro Sperimentale, Fall/Winter 2018 at the Palazzo Delle Esposizioni, but thanks to Caterina D’Amico I could enjoy the special issue of Bianco & Nero dedicated to Tosi.

IMG_3402 (1)

As an homage, after my last visit to Tosi on 21 March 2018, I went back to Caffé Greco, where it all began that 21 September 1984: “Signor Blom?” The circle was round.

 

Cinema Ritrovato in retrospect

•July 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Richard Lund in Herr Arnes pengar0001

My collection

It was embarras de choix again at Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, and this year even more so than before. Of course, for the silent cinema lovers, there were the programs with films from 100 and 120 years ago, so 1899 and 1919 this year, including the 1899 Biograph films in the Dutch and British collections and home movies of the French aristocracy, and well-known and hardly known titles for 1919, such as Anders als die Anderen, Back to God’s Country, and Sir Arne’s Treasure (Herr Arne’s Pengar).

I missed the Musidora’s and Buster Keaton’s – you have to make choices. Also, I missed the immediate post-war German films (1945-1948), which was a pity as I will co-curate a program on Dutch and German cinema next year myself, at the 2020 Cinefest in Hamburg. Instead, I was glad to have a seen a few of the lesser known films with French tough guy Jean Gabin, such as Litvak’s underworld and prostitution film Coeur de lilas (with songs by Gabin, Fréhel and Fernandel), René Clément’s Au-delà des grilles/Le mura di Malapaga (with the postwar ruins of Genoa as setting, and with Italian actress Isa Miranda as the independent, single mother), and En cas de malheur (with a young Brigitte Bardot, who doesn’t want to choose between wealthy, adulterous lawyer Gabin and poor, hot-headed Franco Interlenghi). I planned to see a few of the Eduardo de Filippo films, but in the end, I only saw Napoli milionaria, with Totò in an important supporting part. From the film noir films by Felix Feist, a director unknown to me, I only saw one, but it was an interesting one: The Man Who Cheated Himself, with a slightly overacting John Dall discovering his elder brother Lee J. Cobb isn’t such a role model at all.

Within the Technicolor program, the scheming and sharp-tongued social climber Miriam Hopkins in Becky Sharp was one of my favorites, though I enjoyed Under Capricorn as well because of its actors and mise-en-scene (such as the eerie manor and the impressive and expressive costumes), and despite the political incorrectness of the film. Margaret Leighton’s evil housekeeper gave the plot the thriller element, but basically, this was a love triangle and class conflict, which critics despised at the time but was no problem to me. The Hitchcock film was a challenge though,  as the Arlecchino cinema was packed to the rim, imitating the Australian heath on the screen. At times, the often packed cinema had hampering airconditioning, so later in the week, little fans were even distributed. With outside temperatures going to 41 Celsius on Thursday and Friday, we were happy to stay inside in the ‘cool’ cinemas.

While I loved Henry King’s silent film The Winning of Barbara Worth, with the excellent actors Ronald Colman, Vilma Banky and a dashing and jealous young Gary Cooper, good sidekicks, and astounding special effects creating a flood in the desert, I later saw a 1950s Henry King movie because we couldn’t get in at the Piazza’s screening of Keaton’s The Cameraman (not even 30 minutes in advance was  enough). But Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie, evolving in smalltown life in a village near Chicago, was a provincial, conservative drama with quite an unimpressive actor in the lead. Moreover, the main character, supposedly sympathetic, was such a jerk and cheat you could well understand why his wife left him. Within the Fox program, a masterpiece was John Ford’s Three Bad Men, in which not only the leads were interesting (tough and witty George O’Brien looking very dandy in his chaps and bad guy Lou Tellegen presented as the only man who shaves in the West), but also the three horse thieves and persistent alcoholists (Tom Santschi, J. Farrell McDonald, Frank Campeau) who help the damsel in distress and select possible husbands for Olive Borden were great fun to watch. Of course, as usual, the scenery was tops with Ford.

George O'Brien, Iris, Fox

We had learned our lesson, so we were one hour in advance with Chaplin’s The Circus on the Piazza, and boy, was it a treat: both the incredibly witty film in a splendid restoration by l’Immagine Ritrovata), and the orchestra led by Timothy Brock. Other highlights for me were the two Mauritz Stiller films. Song of the Scarlet FlowerSängen um den eldröda blomman, starred Lars Hanson (aka Large Handsome, thank you Pam), performing breathtaking stunts on logs floating in the river and having a splendidly filmed confrontation with his conscience through a mirror. Also, Stiller’s classic Sir Arne’s Treasure was a feast for the eye, with the setting of snowy Scandinavia of centuries ago and a ship stuck in the ice, Mary Johnson discovers she has fallen in love with the murderers of her family and adopted sister (the ghost of the sister leading her to wisdom). But then, leading bad guy Richard Lund is such a lovable man. Sure, but wait until he uses you as a human shield. While I saw a few lesser films in the 1919 program too (one was a curious Protazanov that looked like a lesser Bauer from 1915), the Stiller was absolutely a highlight.

I saw some more modern stuff too, ranging from the first Bond film Dr. No – a guilty pleasure but a print with some problems, alas – to revisiting A Bigger Splash on David Hockney and his circle – I had just visited the Hockney-Van Gogh-exhibition a few months ago – and to Varda par Agnès, the swan song of the recently died French filmmaker, who proved to be ego-centered but also warm and endearing.  On my last day, I was less impressed than others with La maschera e il volto, an Italia Almirante vehicle about a woman declared dead who returns (rather Feydeau than Pirandello). Instead, I was heavily struck by Jean Epstein fishermen’s drama Finis terrae, with amateur actors – very well – playing themselves on the coast and islands of Brittany, with all the roughness of the climate, the scenery, and the morals, and with images reminding at times of Visconti’s La terra trema, both in subjects (e.g. the women on the rocks) and in – excellent and innovative – cinematography.

Main title designed by Maurice Binder, animation by Trevor Bond.

WSS10/Eye International Conference 2019 – Sisters

•May 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

 

Coming up soon is the EYE International Conference 2019, “Sisters”. This is the tenth edition of the Women and the Silent Screen conference, focusing on female film pioneers all over the globe. While I am not presenting a paper, I am very curious about this conference. Presently my research goes in a bit different directions, i.e. early Italian cinema and its relationships with either the arts (visual arts in the first place) or popular culture (postcards, tourism, etc.). Still, I am very aware of the importance of women in the early film industry, and not only as film actresses or stars.

Because of our Flickr site, Truus, Bob, and Jan too! (visited nowadays by some 100.000 viewers per day), and our blog European Film Star Postcards (some 1000 viewers per day), we have established biographies of many female actors who also have been directors, producers, and screenwriters. While some biographies may not have been as profoundly researched as the ones on the website of the Women Film Pioneers Project, we always compare existing biographies on Wikipedia with other sources online, such as IMDB, Filmportal, the Early German Film Database (alas, almost obsolete now), the websites of film archives such as those from Denmark and Sweden, or paper sources such as the reference books on Italian silent cinema by Bernardini and Martinelli. We have been able to trace thousands of vintage postcards of actresses who also worked as directors, producers, and screenwriters, expanding our horizons, and learning about the rises and falls of these women in their various professions.

So, for the International Women’s Day of 8 March, we launched a blog post with a selection 20 postcards of American women who both worked in front of and behind the camera, including Leah Baird, Bessie Barriscale, Grace Cunard, Marie Dressler, Gene Gauntier, Lilian Gish, Corinne Griffith, Florence Lawrence, Cleo Madison, Mae Murray, Alla Nazimova, Mabel Normand, Mary Pickford, Anita Stewart, Gloria Swanson, Constance and Norma Talmadge, Alice Terry, Pearl White, and Clara Kimball Young. All with short bio’s, and linked to the research on the Women Pioneer Project website. During the Sisters conference, we will launch on 25 May a new blog post with 20 postcards of 20 European film stars, including Sarah Bernhardt, Francesca Bertini, Carmen Cartellieri, Diana Karenne, Musidora, Aud Egede Nissen, Fabienne Fabrèges, Asta Nielsen, Rosa Porten, Anny Ondra, Rita Sacchetto, Peggy Hyland, Hella Moja, Erna Morena, Wanda Treumann, Zorka Grund, Fern Andra, Olga Tschechowa, Elena Sangro, and Elettra Raggio.

Elettra Raggio in Seduzione