Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 7:30pm
Helskinki, Forever

Helsinki, Forever
Peter von Bagh, 2008, 75 mins

"The first eye-popping masterpiece that I saw in 2009 in some ways remains the best...Peter von Bagh's Helsinki, Ikuisesti (Helsinki, Forever) is a lovely city symphony of found footage that is also a history of Helsinki (and incidentally, Finland, Finnish cinema, and Finnish pop music) recounted with film clips and paintings by three voices (one of them von Bagh's), each one periodically reciting different segments in the film's poetic and essayistic discourse.

The continuity is more often geographical than chronological, although there's also a lot of leaping about spatially as well as temporally. The film is an unalloyed pleasure to watch and listen to, but professional packagers hoping to fix a convenient generic label to this flood of delights might be flummoxed. At separate stages we're introduced to the best-ever Finnish camera movement and the best Finnish musical, invited to browse diverse neighborhoods and eras (and to ponder contrasts in populations and divorce rates), and finally forced to admit that a surprising amount of very striking and beautiful film footage has emerged from this country and city.

Peter von Bagh—prolific film critic, film historian, and professor, onetime director of the Finnish Film Archive and current artistic director of two unique film festivals, the Midnight Sun Film Festival (held in Sodankylä, above the Arctic Circle, during what amounts to one very long day in the summer) and the magnificent Il Cinema Ritrovato (held in Bologna)—is the man who convinced me to purchase my first multiregional VCR in the early '80s. So he has a lot to answer for, including, for instance, my DVD column in Cinema Scope. Thanks to his unwarranted modesty about his film, I don't believe he's gone public with the responses he's already received from Chris Marker ("If I read in [Walter Ruttmann's] Berlin the social commitment and the aesthetic maestria, I don't feel the personal acquaintance with the city, its history, its ghosts, that I found in yours") and Jean-Pierre Gorin ("Paean to these cities that you inhabit both, the one called Helsinki and the other called Cinema"), but he certainly should." - Jonathan Rosenbaum, Moving Image Source

Tickets - $7, available at door.