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23 September 2014

I.M. Peter von Bagh (1943-2014)

Yesterday, I heard that Finnish film historian and director Peter von Bagh passed away on 17 September. He was 71. Although I never saw one of his films, I loved his work as the artistic director of Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna. Followers of this blog know that I am a fan of this festival full of recovered film treasures and try to visit and post about it every year. Peter von Bagh introduced many of the films in Bologna. With his passionate, inspiring and informative speeches, he turned every screening into a special event. As a tribute, a post with 10 programme cards of Il Cinema Rotrovate.

Blind Husbands
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2007. Photo: publicity still for Blind Husbands (Erich von Stroheim, 1919) with Erich von Stroheim.

Körkarlen
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2003. Photo: publicity still for Körkarlen/The Phantom Carriage (Victor Sjöström, 1921).

Phantom of the Opera
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2011. Photo: publicity still for Phantom of the Opera (Rupert Julian, 1925) with Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin.

More than Il Cinema Ritrovato


Since 2001 Peter von Bagh worked as the Artistic Director of Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy. The Festival specializes in 'recovered' films, previously believed lost or unknown, silent films and restored prints.

The screen annually erected in Piazza Maggiore in Bologna at the turn of June/July attracts an audience of thousands of spectators. The Festival audience is a mix of local and international cinephiles and specialists of the field.

But outside of Bologna, Von Bagh also had an impressive résumé. Kari Peter Conrad von Bagh (1943-2014) produced approximately 40 non-fiction books, mostly on cinema, and some 60 films for both cinema and television.

The connecting thought in his own films is the history of everyday Finnish life: images of details conveying something of what the life of the Finns has been like.

The films Vuosi 1952/The Year 1952 (1980), Viimeinen kesä 1944/The Last Summer 1944 (1992), and Splinters – A Century Of An Artistic Family (2011) provide a magnifying glass for peeking at history, defined by a certain moment in time, location, or an artistic family.

Shanghai Express
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2008. Photo: publicity still for Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932) with Marlene Dietrich.

La Grande Illusion
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2012. Photo: publicity still for La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937) with Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay.

The Thief of Bagdad
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2011. Photo: publicity still for The Thief of Bagdad (Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, Tim Whelan, Alexander Korda, Zoltan Korda, William Cameron Menzies, 1940) with June Deprez and Conrad Veidt.

And as always witty - very, very witty


Peter von Bagh also compiled a textbook on cinema, Salainen muisti (2009), to be used in schools. He taught and lectured at several schools and universities, e.g. as Professor of Film History at Aalto University since 2001, and he worked as the head of the Finnish Film Archive.

Other principal works of Von Bagh's production include his international breakthrough films Helsinki, Forever (2008) and Sodankylä, Forever (2010–2011).

His television series and book Song of Finland (2003/2007), the story of art in Finland during the era of independence, was awarded a Finlandia Prize for nonfiction. Another book, Aki Kaurismäki, has been translated into French, Italian, Swedish, Japanese and German.

Von Bagh was the editor-in-chief of Filmihullu magazine and in 1986, he was the co-founder of the Midnight Sun Festival in Sodankylä, with the famous Finnish filmmaking brothers Aki and Mika Kaurismäki. The festival, known for its no-VIP stance, brought directors such as Francis Ford Coppola and Terry Gilliam to Lapland for the event.

In 2004, he was a member of the jury of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. His own films were also screened at prestigious international festivals, including the Rotterdam International Film Festival and Festival Internacional de Cine Idependente in Buenos Aires in 2012, and at the Tromsø International Film Festival in 2013.

In July, I last saw and heard Peter van Bagh when he interviewed Richard Lester on the stage at the Piazza Maggoiore. It was an introduction to the screening of the final film of the festival, A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester, 1964) with The Beatles. Although he looked frail, Von Bagh was in excellent form and his interview with Lester was refreshingly compact and passionate, inspiring and informative. And as always witty - very, very witty.

Mr. van Bagh, we will miss you.

Gentlemen prefer blondes
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2011. Photo: publicity still for Gentlemen prefer blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953) with Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn and Jane Russell.

The Night of the Hunter
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2003. Photo: publicity still for The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) with Robert Mitchum.

Paths of Glory
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2005. Photo: publicity still for Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957) with George Macready, Joe Turkel and Ralph Meeker.

Il Conformista
Italian programme card for Il Cinema Ritrovata 2011. Photo: publicity still for Il Conformista (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970) with Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Source: Yle News and Wikipedia.

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