Cinema Features

Someday a Real Snow Will Come

{mosimage}The movie is based on the 12-episode TV series Fragments (Irtiottoja) shown in Finland during the autumn of 2003 in which the taxi driver Veli-Matti was one of the main characters. At the same time as the series were filmed, the same crew did the shooting of Frozen City. “It was planned this way from the very beginning and both were done at the same time”, explains Louhimies, before the premiere of the film. “In addition to the series, we wanted to create something for the international viewers and the festivals”.

As a matter of fact, Frozen City has premiered in many festivals across the world during 2006. Recently, Aku Louhimies received the Robert Wise Award for Best Director at Flanders International Festival in Ghent, Belgium. “I’m really happy and surprised about the reception of the film”. It does not matter that the film is much attached to Helsinki, because “the theme and the story are universal”.

Veli-Matti’s drama drags him into the most painful situations of the human life. In the words of the actor Janne Virtanen, “a man who loves his children is willing to go all the way to get to keep them. To me Vellu is a positive, empathic and well mannered man. I wanted him to believe to the end that things are going to get better. This way I was able to react to every bad episode with astonishment and disbelief. That helped me make Vellu a bit slower and, if you will, not so bright (but not stupid either).”

Equally complex is the character of Veli-Matti’s ex-wife, Hanna, played by Susanna Anteroinen. The actress admits that “acting was sometimes hard because Hanna was so tired of everything, particularly her husband. She was depressed and she thought that getting divorced was only way to continue her life.“

Helsinki plays an important role as the scenario for the drama. The city is presented in a pessimistic way. “It is seen as a dirty city where unhappy people are living”, explains Susanna Anteroinen. “{quotes}The taxi driver Vellu hopes that the snow will come and cover everything that is sad and bad.{/quotes} He doesn’t belong to the city and he should live somewhere else with his family. Living in the city is not good for everyone”. Janne Virtanen agrees with this perspective of Helsinki, but he thinks “it is not probably the real Helsinki. Aku wanted to show international viewers his own version of the city. It is not that hopeless to live here”.

The film had a very low budget. These limitations allowed a wide creative freedom for the director. “It would have been difficult, otherwise”, Louhimies explains. “Finland is a very small country and it is not always possible to shoot these kinds of stories”. Even non-professional actors participated in the film, such as policemen and guards who appeared in the film performing their real duties.

Albums Music

Tom Waits – Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards

{mosimage}Orphans is divided into three parts, arranged by title and theme. The first disc, Brawlers, is the rock and blues album with the artist traveling across the darkest places of American music, from the demented rockabilly Lie to Me to a cover of the Ramones’ The Return of Jackie and Judy, and to the political song Road to Peace that narrates a suicide-bomber’s attack and its aftermath, based on a news article from the New York Times.

The second disc, Bawlers, includes the heartbroken ballads. It is a bar-room moment of sweet solitude as the piano is drinking and does the talking. There are some tunes from movie soundtracks and again the Ramones appear in a reinvented cover of Danny Says, which is one of the most desperate moments of the 20-song collection.

Finally, Bastards is the weirdness, the cabaret and carnival music. Musical experiments accompany twisted stories and the words of Charles Bukowski, Bretch &Weill. Tom Waits also delivers several of his specialties on stage: spoken-word performances, like the funny The Pontiac, which seems to have been recorded in a diner from a Jim Jarmusch movie.

The usual top-class guest musicians (Larry Taylor, Les Claypool, Marc Ribot and Charlie Musselwhite, among others) help Tom Waits, but the most outstanding instrument is the voice. The howls, the groans, the beat-box rhythms and the whispers of a broken voice define the world described by Orphans.

The first intention of this set might have been to create a compilation, but the results are certainly strange and messy. However, whatever else it may be, it definitely represents the multiple facets of the most unique and changing songwriter of the last 30 years.

Interviews Music

Expressionism Painted with a Jazz Guitar

{mosimage}Raoul was born in Los Angeles when his mother, the Finnish actress Taina Elg, worked for Metro Goldwyn Mayer in Hollywood. However, he was raised in New York, where he started to get interested in music. “There was so much to hear: the Art Emsemble, the Sam Rivers trio, Dave Holland… I got a lot of energy from that music”. As many other jazz musicians from New York have said, Björkenheim admits that the scene there is not as good at the moment: “You might make more money playing in the streets than in a jazz club”.

Although he’s educated in jazz music, Jimi Hendrix is still one of Björkenheim’s heroes. “If anybody asks me who the best jazz guitar player is, I always say Hendrix. The best guitar solo is Machine Gun”. But there is another great influence in Raoul’s playing and that does not come from any guitarist: “I like saxophone players more and John Coltrane is still the most expressive. I don’t try to copy him, but the spirit is something that I try to emulate”. With this influence, Raoul’s guitar-playing showcases textures and sounds that could get a definition similar to expressionism. Sometimes, like with the project Scorch Trio, the approach is close to violence when doing some improvisation. “But it’s in the sense of expressionism, not just to make noise and play loud. {quotes}Maybe we play too loud. Do we?{/quotes}”

Finland was always part of Raoul’s background. In the eighties he moved back to Helsinki and became very active in the jazz scene at the time. For eight years he worked at the jazz department of the Sibelius Academy. “I was the crazy man of the village”, he says. “We did a lot of free improvisation stuff. There I got to meet a lot of young guitar players that now are big names, like Jarno Saari and Kalle Kalima.”

In December, Raoul Björkenheim will premiere a new piece for full symphony orchestra with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra. “There will be echoes of African and Javanese music in this concerto for orchestra, with the percussion section playing an important role and each instrumental section having important solos to contribute.”

Photo © Maarit Kytöharju

Features Music

Ourvision, (Y)our Music!

OurVision, Caisa’s new enterprise and its biggest production to date, is a song contest for all the artists coming from the continents ‘left out’ of Eurovision.

It was Caisa’s director Johanna Maula who first considered the possibility of organizing a musical contest that would offer artists from non-European countries the chance to perform live.

The host of the contest will be California-born TV star and model -and member of OurVision steering committee- Aria Arai, who’s been living in Finland for 12 years. She explains that the catchy name of the competition, OurVision, indicates that musical talents from every corner of the globe are invited, and suggests a wider and less sterotyped musical scenario.

The deadline for submitting entries to the competition is December the 11th, while OurVision will start on the 19th of January. The participants, who don't necessarily need to have previous experiences in the field, will go through a series of trials and semifinals, organized according to their area of provenance: musicians from Latin America, Arab countries, Asia and Africa will perform in the LatinVision, ArabVision, AfroVision and AsiaVision trials and semifinals.

The winners will be declared on the 5th of May during a final gala evening, held at Caisa, just like the trials and the semifinals. Red carpet and VIPs and cameras flashes, just like a fancy music award gala!

While the possibility of a CD release, either a studio compilation or a live record, is still being discussed, it’s official that the May the 5th final will be aired by Lähiradio.

“We’ve already received a huge number of entries and we think that the AfricanVision might turn out to be the most crowded trial”, says Martta Louekari, Caisa’s information officer. “We look forward to great musical variety, as the group or soloist taking part in the competition can perform either in their own or in any other language, and they can choose to perform covers or their own compositions.”

The artists taking part in OurVision can count on a top-quality jury.

{quotes}The grand old man of the jury is the legendary Finnish jazz musician and composer Heikki Sarmanto{/quotes}. A different perspective is granted by the presence of Tidjan, leading vocalist of the Finnish supergroup Kwan. Other members of the jury will mirror the different musical ‘flavours’ of the competition.

Winners of OurVision will certainly get to be famous in Finland, but who knows if the next Youssou N’ Dour lives in Helsinki or the next Cheb Khaled in Tampere…

Entries for OurVision will be accepted up to the 11th of December.

Books Features

Helsinki Book Fair

The fair became a paradise for book lovers. The biggest names of the industry placed huge stands where you could find all the newly-released books, but there was also plenty of time to visit smaller stands where attendees could chat in a relaxed way, or even go inside a library bus where information about the city library network could be found.

Altogether there were more than 850 authors and speakers telling about their work, from big consolidated names as Arto Paasilinna to younger authors with big success like Riikka Pulkkinen. The readers had a chance to get a book signed by their favourite author and exchange some words, because the companies always try to create a good climate of communication between the visitors and the writers.

There was also place for big international names as the Swedish Mikael Niemi, or exotic authors like the Chinese Jung Chang and his controversial biography of Mao.

If reading is one of your passions, do not miss the fair next year!

Cover story Misc

Uncovering the Underground

{mosimage}Conrad, born in 1940, was in charge of the opening concert at the Kiasma Theatre. In the early sixties he was a seminal figure in the art scene in New York, being part of the legendary Theatre of Eternal Music with John Cale and La Monte Young, among others. Projecting his shadow on a white sheet while playing, he offered an hour-long nonstop piece of improvisation with an electronic violin. His compositions are based on what is known as minimalistic music.

Before the musical performance, the festival showed two of most acclaimed films by Tony Conrad, who graciously chatted about them with the audience. The “structural” short film Articulation of Boolean Algrebra for Film Opticals (1975) is a hypnotic succession of six patterns of alternating black and white stripes imposed upon the full surface of the film strip. In Conrad’s words, the film “literally unifies the optical and sound tracks. Both are the result of a design that follows an algorithmic system of stripes. The scale of the six stripes on the film strip positions them in relation to screen design, flicker, tone, rhythm, and meter, all with octave relationships”. On the other hand, the amusing Cycles of 3’s and 7’s is a sort of musical performance in which the harmonic intervals that would ordinarily be performed by a musical instrument are represented through the computation of their arithmetic relationships or frequency ratios.

{quotes}The festival’s programme was also devoted to rescuing the history of experimental Finnish films and video art.{/quotes} Several screenings were organized all over the weekend to show an array of underground Finnish films since the 1960s. This series of screenings was presented under the name of Sähkömetsä (Electric Forest), which is also the title of an upcoming book from the Finnish National Gallery which aims to document this forgotten story of Finnish filmmaking. Special emphasis was placed on the work of Pasi Myllymäki who showed his experimental works during the 1970s and 1980s in the original Super 8 format.

Following the tradition of tape music concerts, sound reproduction equipment took the stage on Saturday to play original works of Jim O’Rourke, who was a member of Sonic Youth and is responsible for Wilco’s latest sound and success. The festival commissioned and premiered works of O’Rourke and German composer Ralf Wehowsky.

Art Exhibitions

Photographs In The Green

{mosimage} Things Do Not Change
, a photographic exhibition by Carla Schubert, a Finnish-Austrian artist, comprises a series of black and white photographs portraying shapes and details of woods, trees, roots… The beauty of the undated and untitled photographs is underlined by their being associated with quotes from the book Walden written in 1854 by Henry David Thoreau.

Schubert, a psychologist by training and profession, has been active in the art world since 1992 with video, installations and photography, and has had her work on display in Austria several times, the last in Autumn 2005. Photographing is in the family: “My mother, a photographer, used to develop her own pictures, and I sort of grew up in the darkroom. Art for me is a very selfish exercise, it's all about oneself and one’s (the artist’s) views of the world. Working with other people is different; I can be of use to them, I can help them with their problems.”

“Walden has been one of my favourite books when I was a teenager. The times we live in now have brought it back to my mind. The things he says about the world’s restlessness and people often forgetting what's truly important, I think they fit perfectly into our lives as we live now. Everybody is just busy and stressed, nervous to achieve something,” says Schubert.

{quotes}Schubert’s photographs, and their Walden captions, suggest to us that from time to time it would be good to move away from our everyday hassle, and rest our eyes on a scene that doesn’t change as often as we change mobile phones.{/quotes} They are a reminder that maybe the way we live nowadays is neither the only or the best possible way to spend our lives.

The Winter Garden offers a luxuriant background with all kind of agaves and cactuses to the black and white pictures of Schubert. “The head gardener was very happy to have them there,” says the artist, whose next exhibition will be held in the spring, at the Zebra Gallery, Karjaa.

Helsinki winter garden, Hammarskjöldintie 1, 00250 Helsinki.

Opening hours: Mon closed Tue 09.00–15.00 Wed–Fri 12.00–15.00 Sat–Sun

Cover story Misc

Playing Dress-Up

Embroidered panties on top of jeans. Treasures from great-grandmothers’ trunks. Japanese fashion designers. Fox collars. Lacy parasols. Glam rock hairdos and tight, tight jeans.

The Hel Looks exhibition is an off-shoot of a street fashion site that Liisa Jokinen and Sampo Karjalainen created in 2005. The mission of their project is to portray stylish, original and individual dressers from Helsinki. Currently the site features 400 photographs.

Jokinen says the idea for Hel Looks developed during her bike rides to work in the spring of 2005. The first photographs were taken in July, after a trip to Stockholm. “We realised that street fashion in Helsinki is actually much more diverse and interesting than in Sweden. {quotes}Stockholmians are fashionable, but in Helsinki people look more original{/quotes},” she says.

But why traipse around Helsinki streets and clubs, take hundreds of photographs and post them online? On their website, Jokinen and Karjalainen say that they want to encourage people to dress individually and create their own styles, and to promote emerging Finnish designers. However, the main reason is that Helsinki-dwellers look great, they say.

{mosimage}The staff at Jugendsali say that craft teachers particularly have taken to the exhibition. Not a day goes by without a group of school children visiting. Expect a new generation of stylish dressers! The Hel Looks exhibition is a source of craft inspiration indeed. Jokinen and Karjalainen’s subjects refuse to make do with what chain stores and fashion magazines offer them. They create their own styles with second-hand and vintage clothing, and have no fear of modifying and customising.

In her portrait, Anni, 14, shows off her revamped shoes. “I bought my shoes from a shop and decorated them with pearls. When you make clothes yourself or customize them, you get exactly the clothes you want,” she says. And who says boys don’t sew? “I bought a jeans jacket for 50 cents from the recycling center, cut off the sleeves, dyed it, added the patches and made this vest out of it. My mother bought the jeans for me and I took the seams in to make them smaller. I don't go to shops,” says 15-year old Heikki.

In the age of big clothing chains with even bigger logistics operations, you can buy the same dress or shirt in almost any major city in the world. However, you don’t have to, and Hel Looks showcases people who don’t. Small labels spring up from basement workshops and self-taught seamstresses create unique designs. Fashion is no longer created only in Paris. Tokyo attracts Jokinen more, however. In fact, Hel Looks was initially modelled after Fruits, a Japanese street fashion magazine by Shoichi Aoki. “You have to admire the sense of style of the Japanese, but both Japanese and Finns have their own styles and that is good – it isn’t obvious anymore, as mainstream fashion becomes more and more uniform,” Jokinen says.

At its best, dressing up brings a bit of art and whimsy into every morning. “Dressing up is entertainment for me. I never take it too seriously even if I can spend hours thinking about clothes. It is a hobby and lifestyle that I couldn't live without,” says Minna, 25. Jokinen agrees: “Dressing up means having fun, being creative and playing. I don’t want to take fashion deathly seriously. Lots of things can be fashionable right now, in their own way.”