(From Listen to me Marlon.)
Fascinating documentaries about filmmakers are traditionally part of the Midnight Sun Film Festival experience. In 2016, MSFF also brings forth some films with some of the most memorable soundtracks in history of cinema.
Steven Riley’s Listen to Me Marlon is a unique actor portrait, based on hundreds of hours of audio Marlon Brando recorded to tell his life story. Brando also takes the lead in Bernando Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, one of the great emotional experiences of our time, not to forget the harrowing score by Gato Barbier.
Documentary conversation film Hitchcock/Truffaut by Kent Jones, a distinguished critic, documentary filmmaker and festival director, is accompanied by Hitchcock’s Psycho (music by Bernard Herrmann). Meanwhile, Flowers of Taipei: Taiwan New Cinema by Chin-Lin Hsieh gives a reason to present The Assassin by Hou Hsiao-hsien, vouted by last year’s best premiere by international experts in Sight & Sound.
1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin by Yves Montmayeur is a particularly successful filmmaker portrait in the spirit of celebrated Canadian director Guy Maddin. Portuguese “motion machine” Manoel de Oliveira is honoured with his posthumous Memories and Confessions. Another former Sodankylä guest, Italian Mario Monicelli is remembered with his “deserted island film” The Dead (directed by John Huston).
In the long list of brilliant film scores are included Jacques Demy’s Lola (music by Michel Legrand), Giuliano Montaldo’s Sacco & Vanzetti (Ennio Morricone), Lina Wertmüller’s Love and Anarchy (Nino Rota), David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (Angelo Badalamenti) and Martin Scorsese’s Mean Street, known for its outstanding rock score.
(Chevalier by Athina Rachel Tsangari. Picture: Haos Film.)
Some of the most remarkable new international films of present day will be screened among the annual “Gems of new cinema” assemblage of Midnight Sun Film Festival. Films by directors from countries such as Italy, Greece, Russia, China and Thailand are included.
Nanni Moretti’s Mia madre, voted as the best film of 2015 by legendary French language film magazine Cahiers du Cinema, tells a story of a middle-aged female director in the middle of an existential crisis.
Lost and Beautiful, a wiry, beautiful vision of contemporary Italy in the spirit of neorealism and Pasolini, is the newest film by Pietro Marcello, another Italian film director and former Midnight Sun Film Festival guest.
An essential name of Greek new wave, Athina Rachel Tshangari – former Midnight Sun Film Festival guest as well – is represented with Chevalier, an absurdly humorous study of male gestures, habits and inclinations on a sailing trip. All of A Sudden, an elegant thriller drama by German Turkish Asli Özge, has been compared to Chabrol’s portrayals of the bourgeoisie.
Andrei Konchalovsky, one of the international guests of MSFF 2008, paints a picture of rural Russia in the midst of turmoil in The Postman’s White Nights. Belgian Guillaume Senez tells a gentle story of two teens in the wake of an unexpected pregnancy.
Greta Gerwich stars in Mistress America, the new college comedy by Noach Baumbach. Gerwich accompanies Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore in Rebecca Miller’s cunning love triangle drama Maggie’s Plan.
Michael Fassbender takes centre stage in Slow West, a strange, surrealistic comedy western by British John Maclean. Haiti’s number one director, Raoul Peck, portrays his homeland in post-earthquake times in political film Murder in Pacot. Hedi by Tunisian Mohamed Ben Attia, winner of the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin Film Festival, is one of the most remarkable films about Arab Spring.
A drama film Mountains May Depart by Jia Zhangke, the leading director of China, tells an ambitious story about friendship in three parts, from the dawn of Chinese capitalism until near future. Cemetery of Splendour, the most personal film by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, combines fantasy and the surreal in the experiences of hospitalized soldiers.
In the annual master class screenings, top international film experts provide their insight to some of the cinema’s finest classics.
OLAF MÖLLER, a true “honorary friend” of Midnight Sun Film Festival, focuses on late-1950s film from his native country of Germany. Möller provides deep insight into films starring Romy Schneider, Maria Schell, Hardy Krüger and Daliah Lavi, some of them directed by the famed Helmut Käutner.
GYÖRGY HORVÁTH, the director of Titanic Film Festival of Budapest as well as teacher in film history and -analysis, introduces some of the top post-1960s Hungarian films. Miniseries includes, among other films, Sinbad by Zoltán Huszárik and Little Valentino by András Jeles, both voted among “12 Best Hungarian Films” by Hungarian filmmakers and critics in 2000.
Film producer and Gothenburg Film Festival programme manager FREDDY OLSSON presents Stellan Olsson’s 1976 jazz film Sven Klang Quintet – based on the Olsson-produced play by October theatre only two years earlier.
(From Closely Watched Trains by Jiří Menzel)
French film director and screenwriter MIA HANSEN-LØVE (b. 1981) was recently awarded with the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear for Best Director for Things to Come, premiered in MSFF 2016. Brilliant Isabelle Huppert stars as a philosophy teacher experiencing major setbacks in her family life and work. Hansen-Løve has also worked as an actress (starting her career at 18 under the direction of her future spouse Olivier Assayas) and as a critic for famed Cahiers du Cinema magazine. Hansen-Løve’s direction works are usually based on hers or her fellowmen’s personal experiences. Some fine examples are The Father of my Children (2009) about a film director struggling with suicidal despair, Goodbye First Love (2011), an examination of the meaning of first love, and Eden (2014), a story of a DJ in 90’s house music scene.
Within last ten years, CHARLES GILLIBERT (b. 1977) has risen to the ranks of most prominent French film producers. He has produced France’s recent Oscar nominee Mustang as well as works by some of the top directors in the world such as Abbas Kiarostami, Xavier Dolan and Abdellatic Kechiche – not to forget Hansen-Løve and Assayas. Another Gillibert productions, Assayas’s Personal Shopper, is also included in this year’s Cannes competition.
Icelander DAGUR KÁRI (b. 1973) won the Nordic Council Film Prize last year with his thrilling loser portrayal Virgin Mountain (2015). Kári, educated as both film director and a musician, works as the head of director’s programme at the National Film School of Denmark. His breakthrough film Nói Albinói (2003) as well as a “Jarmuschian”, Copenhagen-filmed drama comedy about marginalized young adults, Dark Horse (2008), will be screened from this master of melancholical, Kaurismäki-esque humour and minimalized expression.
Italian GIANFRANCO ROSI (b. 1964) won the Golden Bear of Berlin Film Festival this February with his documentary film Fire at Sea (2016), which wields the most burning topic of our times: European refugee question. “It is urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking”, praised Meryl Streep, chair of the Berlin jury. Another Rosi film screened in MSFF 2016 is the first documentary film ever awarded with the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival: Sacro GRA (2013) a depiction of life along the Grande Raccordo Anulare, the ring-road highway that circles Rome.
Englishman DAVID FARR (b. 1969) comes to Sodankylä as the writer-producer of a stylish psychological thriller The Ones Below (2015), starring Finnish Laura Birn. Previously, Farr has worked as scriptwriter of action thriller Hanna (2011), which was partially shot in Finland. Farr has also adapted applauded John le Carré series The Night Manager for television.
Actress MALIN BUSKA (b. 1984) from Swedish Lapland arrives to Sodankylä as the leading actress of Mika Kaurismäki’s The Girl King (2015). In 2011, Buska was awarded with “Rising Star”-award of Stockholm International Film Festival for her performance in Björn Runge’s Happy End. Buska stars as the second female lead in Jussi Hiltunen’s upcoming debut film Armoton maa, which will be shot in Lapland.
(Wellman's Beggars of Life is one of the accompanied silent films in MSFF 2016.)
British skiffle band The Dodge Brothers, reinforced with pianist/composer Neil Brand, will accompany William A. Wellman’s silent film classic Beggars of Life (1928) at the 31st Midnight Sun Film Festival (June 15th-19th 2016). Louise Brooks, the beauty with the bob, takes centre stage in her most beloved American role.
With his piano Neil Brand will also accompany a parade of short films by Hal Roach. In this screening, festival audience can laugh at the antics of Charlie Chase, Laurel and Hardy and the dynamic duo of Marion Byron and Anita Garvin.
One of the most internationally known Finnish pianists, Iiro Rantala, has composed a new score of Aki Kaurismäki’s masterly silent film Juha (1999). Rantala will perform his version of Kaurismäki’s tour de force at Sodankylä’s international premiere.
Film music matinee on Wednesday
Festival begins with film music matinee on Wednesday, 15th of June from 10AM to 3.30PM.
Neil Brand, one of the leading experts of silent film music, conducts the international part of the matinee by highlighting some well-known samples from film music history and leading the conversation with the audience.
Brand is also known for presenting BBC documentary film Sound of Cinema: The Music That Made the Movies (2013), which celebrates the art of cinema soundtrack from early ages to present day.
In the domestic part of the matinee, composer-musician Anssi Tikanmäki and director Mika Kaurismäki take part in a discussion about cinema music, their collaborated works and Tikanmäki’s career as composer.
Cinema music classics, metal music and karaoke
Films featuring music by some of the top film composers in the world, e.g. Bernard Herrmann, Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, Angelo Badalamenti and Ryuichi Sakamoto, can be seen in Sodankylä this summer. Film classics such as Psycho, Blue Velvet and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, a David Bowie homage, are part of the programme.
In Wacken 3D (2014), 25th anniversary film of the biggest heavy metal music festival in the world, mythical Motörhead figure Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins and the members of Deep Purple and Rammstein discuss the meaning of Wacken in between of live music samples.
Meanwhile, Jaco (2014), is a documentary film about Jaco Pastorius, the “Jimi Hendrix of bass guitar”. Among those reminiscing the late bass guitar wizard are Sting, Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana and Herbie Hancock.
And as always, MSFF presents a comprehensive setting of film karaoke treats in the spirit of last year’s ecstatic Purple Rain sing-along. The first confirmed karaoke screening is The Saimaa Gesture (1981), a 35-year old cult classic by the Kaurismäki brothers. More karaoke screenings will be confirmed later on.
The line-up of the international festival guests of MSFF 2016 will be published next week and the rest of the programme later in May and early June.
Midnight Sun Film Festival has been acknowledged with the first EFFE Award as "one of the twelve trend-setting festivals in Europe". The prize was handed in the award ceremony held in Paris on the 27th of September. It was the first time the umbrella organization of 760 festivals from 31 countries awarded year's finest cultural events. The uniqueness of the award was emphasized by the fact that the Midnight Sun Film Festival was the only film festival among the winners.
Criteria for the EFFE Award (Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe) said: “The Midnight Sun Film Festival boasts one of the most unusual atmospheres of any festival in the world: top directors, up-and-coming talent, an international audience and the common person on the street come together under the midnight sun. Created by leading artists in the field (acclaimed filmmakers the Kaurismäki brothers), this is a distinctive and surprising film festival”.
Mandated by the Midnight Sun Film Festival the award was received in the Paris ceremony by the Finland Festivals executive Kai Amberla. Midnight Sun Film Festival wants to dedicate the prize to its founders Anssi Mänttäri, Aki and Mika Kaurismäki, as well as the first artistic director of the festival Peter von Bagh, who passed away last year.
Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo was one of the 70 mm classics screened at Sodankylä. Picture: Santeri Happonen
The 30th edition of the Midnight Sun Film Festival (June 10-14 2015) broke several audience records of the traditional festival. According to Sunday morning’s estimate, there were more than 30 000 visitors who bought tickets to festival screening, held in four venues around the clock. The visitor numbers were up approximately 15 per cent from last year.
This year there were filmmakers from more than ten countries coming to show their films to the cultivated audiences beyond the Arctic Circle. Mike Leigh from the UK was this year’s main guest, joined by Christian Petzold (Germany), Whit Stillman (USA), Nils Malmros (Denmark), Malgorzata Szumowska (Poland), Miguel Gomes (Portugal) and Auberi Edler (France), among others.
The festival was launched with a head start on Wednesday morning at Cinema Lapinsuu with a matinee dedicated to the life and deeds of Peter von Bagh. The matinee screened short films and featured expert guests from Jouko Aaltonen to Bernard Eisenschitz. The presence of the late von Bagh was vividly present at the festival, in the form of his own films as well as screenings of his personal favourites. Especially The Count, von Bagh’s singular feature-length fiction film, made the audience go wild.
Von Bagh’s role as a moderator of the festival’s morning discussions was inherited by Timo Malmi, Olaf Möller, Liselott Forsman, Otto Kylmälä, Neil McGlone and Petteri Kalliomäki, who each got the opportunity to invite a foreign festival guest to the School stage for a chat. The YLE Teema channel transmitted the festival atmosphere to Finnish homes by live-broadcasting Mike Leigh’s Saturday morning discussion and the discussion of the Finnish festival guests. The recordings are now available at the YLE Areena streaming service.
An extensive recap of the year’s Finnish films is a traditional part of the festival selection. This year actress Minna Haapkylä was present to introduce the screening of Jörn Donner’sArmi Alive!, while Armi Toivanen spoke with the audience in connection to Antti Heikki Pesonen’s Headfirst. The Finnish director guests Petri Kotwica (Absolution) Anssi Mänttäri (Black Dog on My Shoulder) and Ville Suhonen (Seamstress) received a warm welcome.
By Sunday morning, there had been 28 sold-out screenings at the festival. Cinema Lapinsuu, the “festival palace”, attracted a full house on many consecutive days, while every single screening of Malgorzata Szumowska’s films was sold out. The bigger capacity of the new Big Tent was also evident at the box office.
Rare 70mm versions of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Akira Kurosawa’sDersu Uzala hypnotized spectators at the Big Tent. The ecstasy of karaoke was experienced three times at this year’s festival, with Thursday’s Suomi-Filmi-Sing-Along and Friday’s At the Rovaniemi Fair preparing the audience for Saturday, when Sam Huber, wearing a baroque shirt, danced on top of a grand piano to the melodies of Prince’sPurple Rain. Silent films led by conductor and master pianist Antonio Coppola, Jacques Feyder’sThe New Gentlemen (accompanied by Avanti! orchestra) and Frank Borzage’sLucky Star,were also received with enthusiasm, as was expected.
The final festival day launches with two morning discussions: Malgorzata Szumowska is interviewed by Petteri Kalliomäki at 10am, while Olaf Möller interviews Christian Petzold at 11am.
The winning film of this year’s audience voting will be screened at Lapinsuu at 9.45pm. There will also be re-screenings of others of this year’s favourite films to satisfy the festival audience. Ville Suhonen’s impressive documentary, Seamstress, which was sold out on Thursday, will be re-screened at the Big Tent at 10am.
Sure to be a one of a kind experience is the photography concert by Ismo Alanko and Pekka Turunen at the Big Tent at 14.45.
Mr. Turner (2014).
Audience’s choice: Mr. Turner
Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner won this year’s audience voting, so the film will be screened once more on Sunday at 9:45 pm at Lapinsuu. The film is a carefully constructed drama on the radical painter J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851), whose role in reshaping the art of painting was only realized by future generations.
In preparation for his role as Turner, actor Timothy Spall studied painting in order make his brush strokes authentic, while the roles of other artists of the period were only cast with actors who have actually painted in real life. Dorothy Atkinson is magnificent as Turner’s faithful housekeeper. Spall deservedly won at Cannes for his masterly role.
Friday nights silent film was accompanied by Avanti! orchestra. Picture: Santeri Happonen.
The sunny festival Friday was launched with two morning discussions. The audience enjoyed listening about the making of Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights and Whit Stillman’s career path, among other things.
Friday’s first surprise was the screening of Whit Stillman’s TV pilot The Cosmopolitans, which even the director himself had not seen on a silver screen until now.
Another TV production screened on a silver screen was Aki Kaurismäki’s Dirty Hands (1989), based on a play by Jean-Paul Sartre. The capacity of the renovated Big Tent was tested by Friday night’s silent film screening. The line to the screening weaved its way all over the festival area, ending outside the gates.
Friday night’s surprise preview screening was surprising indeed: the audience had a chance to see Aleksi Salmenperä’s brand new comedy Häiriötekijä, which has its Finnish premiere this autumn. Actors Tommi Korpela and Eero Ritala were present at the screening.
Morning arrived to the festival in the company of dance and song. Despite delays and technical problems, the atmosphere was sky-high at the Big Tent’s karaoke screening.