Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2023 by dcairns

IN SPRING — Mikhail Kaufman’s Ukrainian city symphony — is sort of like brother Dziga Vertov’s MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (the third brother, Boris Kaufman, went to Hollywood and shot films for Kazan). It’s my Hippfest highlight this year thus far, though THE MAN WHO LAUGHS on a big screen with Meg Morley and Frank Bockius accompanying was epic and Run-Tin-Tin’s WHERE THE NORTH BEGINS was heaps of fun. This year’s dog theme was evidenced by Rinty in a blizzard, Zimba the dog as Homo the wolf, and scores of Ukrainian hounds — dogs on boats, dogs on balconies. I expect those dogs are quite old now, some of them.

Kaufman’s film is more people-centric than his brothers. The shots are consistently inventive and poetic, as are the connections linking them. The only disadvantage it has over MWAMC is that Vertov divides his film into chapters and tells you how many there will be, which helps when your film has no plot or characters. The audience can chart its progress and knows roughly how far in it is at any given time. But IN SPRING is so frenetic (but with beautiful modulations of pace) and is under an hour, so boredom is never an option.

Action is grouped by theme — snow, flooding, flowers in bloom — and sub-theme — dogs in the snow, babies. The sporting action might well have influenced Rienfenstahl’s OLYMPIAD, and it’s madder and better. The live score by Roksana Smirnova (piano)
& Misha Kalinin (guitar) swept things along, perfectly complimenting the rhythmic montage and spirit of optimism.

IN SPRING stars Kiev.

What Happened?

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2023 by dcairns

What happened is this — I hauled myself back to Bo’ness on Friday and saw Dreyer’s MASTER OF THE HOUSE (exquisitely played dry comedy) with John Sweeney on piano (also exquisitely played) and Reginald Denny in WHAT HAPPENED TO JONES, directed by William Seiter and accompanied (98 years later) by Neil Brand (piano) and Frank Bockius (percussion) which was a riot.

Young woman behind me started the show emitting occasional polite little laughs, purely social: as if she was aware the film was humorous and she wanted to show the right spirit. Half an hour in she was helpless with hysteria, trying to HOLD IT IN, for fear that she might be laughing more than the proper amount.

And then there was a party, with the result that, taking into account the difficulties of getting to and from Bo’ness at just the hour one would like, we’re missing a Charley Chase double bill this morning because it’s simply impossible, but we’ll be soaking up multiple shows today.

After thirteen years of Hippfest, Bo’ness has actually gotten even harder to get to. Nearby Linlithgow is dead easy to reach by train, but the buses from there are extremely intermittent and stop in the early evening, so without the festival’s marvelous shuttle bus, there’d be no way for the carless to escape at all. Still, this FORCED me to stay for the party.

WHAT HAPPENED TO JONES is available to buy in one of Masters of Cinema’s Early Universal sets.

Today’s treats include Rin Tin Tin in WHERE THE NORTH BEGINS and Conrad Veidt (and Homo the wolf) in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

Opening Gala

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , on March 24, 2023 by dcairns

Hippfest got officially up and running with Maurice Tourneur’s THE BLUE BIRD, accompanied by the weird and charming burbling, tooting and mumbling of ensemble Sonic Bothy, who, as Fiona noted, seemed to be scoring the film damage as well as the film, a cheeky approach which could have been distracting but was delightful.

The film really shone, in all its tattered glory — I’ve always found it gorgeous, but Maeterlinck’s allegory, like a lot of allegory, seemed heavy. What became clearer on the big screen, with a crowd and an artful soundtrack, was that every damn thing in that movie is both beautiful and creepy. Maeterlinck’s fantasy world is most disturbing when it’s trying to be sweet — the ancient dead grandparents waking from afterlife coma because their descendants have thought of them (for the first time in months); the parade of happy dead children descending the stairs; the disgusting palace of luxuries; the zone of unborn children waiting around in veiled heaps for a boat to take them to their respective wombs (apparently they just SIT — for YEARS — and as in the sequels, mysteriously they’re all white). The spooky Palace of Night is actually less unsettling than the purportedly sweet bits. This makes it sound like we didn’t enjoy the film but we LOVED it. For its peculiarity rather than its moral depth or its story.

We learned that the platonic ideal of a cat is a dude dressed in a cat costume, and is STILL an asshole.