Category Archives: D – VIEWING

FILMS – March 2014

(Win­ner 1972) Death Wish
(Rush­ton 2013) Time Team: Ep.271 ― Spe­cial: Twenty Years of Time Team
(Dis­ney & Iwerks 1928) The Gal­lopin’ Gau­cho [Mickey Mouse #2]
(St. Clair & Tut­tle 1929) The Canary Mur­der Case
(Nichols 1913) Fatty Joins the Force
(Cas­tle 1959) The Tin­gler Read more »

FILMS – February 2014

(Ray 1991) Agan­tuk [আগন্তুক; Agontuk; The Stranger]
(Thomas 1962) Carry On Cruis­ing
(Branagh 2011) Thor
(Johansen & Nielsen 1975) La’ os være [Leave Us Alone]
(Méri­enne & Wilner 2010) La Bre­tagne au coeur [Des racines et des ailes series]
(Mega­hey 1993) Hour of the Pig [aka The Advo­cate] Read more »

FILMS – January 2014

(Hitch­cock 1942) Sabo­teur
(Becker 1988) Star Trek, the Next Gen­er­a­tion: Ep.30 ― The Out­ra­geous Okona
(Landin & Sigfús­son 2010) Ice­land Vol­cano: The After­math
(Hughes & Duguid 1985) Chocky’s Chil­dren, Part 1 Read more »

FILMSDECEMBER 2013

(Parker 2013) South Park: Ep.240 — World War Zim­mer­man
(Stan­ton 2012) John Carter
(Pink 1962) Jour­ney To The Sev­enth Planet
(Clark 1979) Angels’ Revenge [aka Angels’ Brigade] [Mys­tery Sci­ence The­atre ver­sion]
(Sil­ber­ston 1998) Mid­Somer Mur­ders: Ep.2 — Writ­ten In Blood
(Clax­ton 1979) Night of the Lepus
(Hawks 1949) I Was a Male War Bride Read more »

FILMSNOVEMBER 2013

(Gor­don 1955) It Came From Beneath the Sea
(Der­tano 1951) Racket Girls [Mys­tery Sci­ence The­atre ver­sion]
(Madern & Chap­lin 1914) Twenty Min­utes of Love
(Sen­nett 1914) The Fatal Mal­let
(Stevens 1956) Alfred Hitch­cock Presents: Ep.39 — Momen­tum
(Rawl­ins 1942) Sher­lock Holmes and the Voice of Ter­ror Read more »

(Barker 1914) The Wrath of the Gods

The Wrath of the Gods (1914)While he is best known for his role as the Japan­ese camp com­man­der in The Bridge on the River Kwai, and other films of the 1950s, Ses­sue Hayakawa was a super­star in the silent era. Among Hollywood’s high­est payed stars, he was in the same league with Fair­banks, Chap­lin and Valentino. He founded his own pro­duc­tion com­pany because he resented the mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Asians in Hol­ly­wood films. A metic­u­lous actor, he was highly influ­en­tial in trans­form­ing film act­ing meth­ods from the broad ges­tures inher­ited from stage act­ing to the more restrained tech­niques appro­pri­ate to film. This film, the sec­ond one in which he appeared, was a story with a Japan­ese set­ting. A cast­away sailor courts a young girl who has been for­bid­den to marry by a tem­ple prophecy. Hayakawa was a young man, hav­ing just dropped out of the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago, where he stud­ied eco­nom­ics, but he appears in heavy makeup as the heroine’s elderly father. The film dis­plays the older, melo­dra­matic style of act­ing that Hayakawa was soon to change. The lead­ing female role was played by Tsuru Aoki, whom Hayakawa fell in love with and mar­ried dur­ing the pro­duc­tion. Despite the dated act­ing tech­niques, the film holds up well, with some excit­ing action scenes at sea, and some mov­ing moments.

Hayakawa in 1918, four years after this film was made.

Hayakawa led an inter­est­ing life. As a teenager in Japan, he attempted sep­puku after fail­ing to qual­ify for the naval career his upper class fam­ily had planned for him. He played quar­ter­back in Amer­i­can col­lege foot­ball. He stum­bled into act­ing by acci­dent while wait­ing for a ship home, rock­et­ing to star­dom with his good looks. He made for­tunes and lost them gam­bling, lived extrav­a­gantly, and became a social lion by buy­ing up a huge stock of liquor just before Pro­hi­bi­tion was enacted. He wrote sev­eral plays and a novel. He pro­duced a ver­sion of The Three Mus­ke­teers in Japan. For awhile, broke and out of work, he sup­ported him­self by paint­ing water­colours. He moved to France to make films in which he would not be racially stereo­typed — and ended up fight­ing in the French Resis­tance. As an middle-aged man, he was able to take on a crowd of young Mex­i­can toughs in a brawl and defeat them hand­ily. He retired to become a Zen mas­ter and tutor. Some of his roles won him acco­lades as a mature actor, but he was never pop­u­lar in Japan, where he was con­sid­ered “too American.”

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Asian actors in Hol­ly­wood faced com­plex chal­lenges, per­form­ing in the lime­light of a soci­ety that held bizarre and some­times dis­gust­ing atti­tudes about race and eth­nic­ity. In the 1920’s, America’s anti-miscegenation laws influ­enced all cast­ing, script-writing and per­for­mance. In the 1930’s the rise of anti-Japanese sen­ti­ments and the per­va­sive cen­sor­ship of films did fur­ther dam­age. To weave their way through these obsta­cles, Asians had to be resource­ful and strong. Their achieve­ments should not be forgotten.

FILMSOCTOBER 2013

(Klimov 1965) Wel­come, or No Tres­pass­ing [Добро пожаловать, или Посторонним
. . . вход воспрещён]
(Honda 1958) The H-Man
(Addiss 1956) Alfred Hitch­cock Presents: Ep.21 ― Safe Con­duct
(Baker 1967) Quater­mass and the Pit [Ham­mer ver­sion] Read more »

FILMSSEPTEMBER 2013

(1900) Sher­lock Holmes Baf­fled
(Kostan­ski 2011) Man­borg
(Groen­ing & San­doval 2012) Futu­rama: Ep.122 ― Fun on a Bun
(Krishna DK & Nidi­moru 2013) Go Goa Gone
(Atten­bor­ough 1977) A Bridge Too Far Read more »

FILMSAUGUST 2013

(Lawrence 1958) The Crawl­ing Eye [Mys­tery Sci­ence The­atre ver­sion]
(Lester 1980) Super­man 2
(Flo­rea 1976) The Astral Fac­tor
(Tulio 1938) The Song of the Scar­let Flower [Laulu tulipunais­esta kukasta]
(Gold­stein 2000) 2001: A Space Trav­esty Read more »

(Tulio 1938) The Song of the Scarlet Flower [Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta]

13-08-02 VIEWING Song of the Scarlet Flower 1

The Song of the Scar­let Flower

Before the process was mech­a­nized, the logs taken from the great forests of north­east­ern North Amer­ica were cut in win­ter, then dragged by horse teams to the shores of rivers. This method is still used in Nova Sco­tia to safe­guard some envi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive forests, since it is far less destruc­tive and more sus­tain­able than clear-cutting. When the spring thaw came, the logs were dri­ven down the rivers in great masses. Left to them­selves, the logs would jam, and mil­lions of board feet of lum­ber could back up for miles. So the logs had to be care­fully herded down the rivers, like cat­tle. That’s why pro­fes­sional log dri­vers were needed. No cow­boy ever worked a job as dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous as the log dri­ver. He danced across the float­ing logs on foot, bal­anc­ing him­self with his pike pole, skip­ping from bateau to rolling log, to rock, to log jam, like a bal­let dancer. The job required a sort of instinc­tive grasp of physics, mag­i­cal dex­ter­ity, and super­hu­man strength. The log dri­ver is a stan­dard char­ac­ter in Cana­dian folk­lore, cel­e­brated in murals, cur­rency, stamps, and in the clas­sic folk­song The Log Driver’s Waltz (because of his nim­ble foot­work, “a log driver’s waltz pleases girls com­pletely”). The French-Irish-Ojibway Cana­di­ans who dom­i­nated this pro­fes­sion faced lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion from any­one else. Not sur­pris­ingly, the key tech­ni­cal terms of the trade were either French or Ojib­way (e.g. “wan­ni­gan”, the float­ing sup­ply shack on a tim­ber raft, from Ojib­way wan­nikan orig­i­nally mean­ing “stor­age pit”). But one group of immi­grants to Canada did make their mark in this pro­fes­sion: the Finns. The Finns in North-western Ontario were not just bush lum­ber­jacks. They boasted log dri­vers as skill­ful as their older Cana­dian rivals on the Sague­nay and Ottawa drives.

Which brings me, in a round­about way, to this film. The rea­son that Finns could be com­pet­i­tive log dri­vers in Canada is that the iden­ti­cal pro­fes­sion existed in Fin­land*, and it is the sub­ject of the old­est Finnish motion pic­ture in my film col­lec­tion, Laulu tulipunais­esta kukasta (1938) [“The Song of the Scar­let Flower”]. It is not a cin­e­matic mas­ter­piece. The act­ing is melo­dra­matic, the cut­ting some­times awk­ward, and much of it feels more like a silent film of twenty years before. But it’s direc­tor, Teuvo Tulio, had great tal­ent. The film’s enthu­si­asm and sin­cer­ity make up for what it lacks in sophis­ti­ca­tion. The story is based on a novel by Johannes Lin­nankoski, and fol­lows the life of a young man who skips from girl to girl as eas­ily as he skips from log to log, until his sin­ful­ness catches up to him and forces him into spir­i­tual redemp­tion. All very pietist. A French Cana­dian ver­sion of this story wouldn’t bother with the redemp­tion part, or for that mat­ter see where there was any “sin” to redeem. I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know if it is a faith­ful adap­ta­tion, or what ele­ments are Tulio’s rather than Linnankoski’s. The book had already been filmed twice in a 1919 silent ver­sion, and in Swedish by Per-Axel Bran­ner in 1934. It would be remade yet again in 1956. I don’t think any of these ver­sions found an audi­ence out­side of Fin­land and Scandinavia. 13-08-02 VIEWING Song of the Scarlet Flower 2

As always with old films, I watch partly just to see visual details of the past and other places. The film gives no hint of the dev­as­tat­ing war that Fin­land would have thrust upon it only a year after its release. The coun­try peo­ple play a rather strange ver­sion of the game of “tag”. The inte­ri­ors of the squared log houses are spar­tan, but nev­er­the­less already dis­play the Finnish knack for fluid design. The kitchens look par­tic­u­larly nice. And, in a wild river land­scape indis­tin­guish­able from fron­tier Que­bec or Ontario, the log drive flows under one of those super-modern bridges that Finns were build­ing in the 1930’s. The effect is dis­con­cert­ing, as if some­one had crudely photo-shopped the film with a mod­ern snap.

The love scenes are far more sen­su­ous than any­thing that would have been per­mit­ted in Amer­i­can cin­ema in 1938. There is an absolutely delight­ful nude scene. But the best parts of the film are the log dri­ving scenes, which are both gen­uinely excit­ing and tech­ni­cally accu­rate. 
———
– — - *search­ing for infor­ma­tion on the sub­ject, I came across this quote from Finnish film-maker Markku Var­jola: “In the Finnish con­scious­ness the log­ger occu­pies the role of the cow­boy from the Amer­i­can her­itage. He has rep­re­sented adven­ture, free­dom and inde­pen­dence, con­stantly mov­ing true man, a van­ish­ing breed.”, a sen­ti­ment that could just as eas­ily have been writ­ten in Canada.