Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kristiina Halkola and Käpy selän alla (1966)

Kristiina Halkola: 'Laulu rakastamisen vaikeudesta' ("A song about the difficulty of loving"; off Käpyn selän alla, 1966)

Creatures: 'Where Can She Be' (off Käpy selän alla, 1966)

After a typically rainy summer season, everything seems still quiet on Finnish electronic dance music front, so pHinnWeb goes on its nostalgia trip of yesteryear's domestic popular culture. Enjoy, or at least, bear with me.

Käpy selän alla, directed by Mikko Niskanen in 1966 created a sensation in Finland. (The title literally translates as "A pinecone under one's back", though the official English film title for some reason is Skin, Skin, also known as Under Your Skin, probably trying to cash off the boom of "erotic" European art films of the time, though by today's standards eroticism here seems extremely tame.) A simple, slightly comical story about two young couples' camping trip to countryside (climaxing in a drunken sojourn to see the Creatures playing at a forest dancehall) and reflecting the typical problems of baby-boomer generation, the film (largely improvised from the original script of Marja-Leena Mikkola) was a huge success and was widely received as a new beginning for Finnish cinema, forgetting the old conventions of traditional theatrical "Suomi-Filmi" style and representing a new generation of Finnish film-makers, with Niskanen's contemporaries such as Risto Jarva; taking its cues from influences such as French New Wave and international auteurs like Ingmar Bergman. Starring Kristiina Halkola, Kirsti Wallasvaara, Pekka Autiovuori and Eero Melasniemi, who were at the time of the film still fresh-faced and unknown actor students but would subsequently become household names familiar from TV and film.

Mikko Niskanen (1929 - 1990) was a film director and actor, who had studied film-making in the Soviet Union, debuting in 1962 with Pojat ("Boys"), a film both comical and tragic about the relations of young boys, their elders and German soldiers during Finnish Continuation War of the early 40s, starring young Vesa-Matti Loiri in his memorable first role. With his late-60s films Käpy selän alla, Lapualaismorsian and Asfalttilampaat Niskanen took on the urbane themes of young baby-boomer adults, though nowadays it's the naturalistic rural tragedy Kahdeksan surmanluotia ("Eight Deadly Shots") of 1972, which is considered his most lasting masterpiece.

The singing actress Kristiina Halkola (b. 1945), with her beautiful dark looks and memorable pout, would also be seen in many other films of this era, such as Niskanen's Lapualaismorsian and Jörn Donner's Mustaa valkoisella (she would later sue Donner, who had infamously used a body double for her in the film's erotic scenes) and participate in Finnish leftist political song movement (in the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill cabaret song tradition, with such lyricist-vocalists as Aulikki Oksanen, singing groups called with names such as Agit Prop or heavily wailing chanteuses like Kaisa Korhonen and her then-husband Kaj Chydenius, perhaps the movement's best known composer), recording for Love Records an album Täytyy uskaltaa ("One has to dare") in 1971. Halkola's singing performances for the late-60s TV shows in the style of the political Orvokki-Kabaree stirred controversy, with then-provocative songs concerning such subjects as mocking the twenty richest families of Finland or interpreting an old church hymn as a go-go version. Kristiina Halkola also participated in leftist politics as a member of Finnish Communist Party and its later incarnation Demokraattinen Vaihtoehto. Her children with Eero Melasniemi have continued as actors and musicians. Nowadays Kristiina Halkola is considered an icon of the heavily politicized "Taistolaisuus" era of the late 1960s and 1970s. The politics may not have stood the test of time but the best songs created through it well have; like their more capitalist contemporaries, Finnhits iskelmäs, enjoying a huge nostalgia movement in the 21st century Finland.

Mikko Niskanen in Finnish:

  • Kahdeksan surmanluotia clips @ Yle Elävä Arkisto
  • Wikipedia

    Mikko Niskanen in English:

  • Skin, Skin @ Siffblog
  • Eight Deadly Shots @ Siffblog

    More video clips of songs by Kristiina Halkola:

  • 'Ei puolikasta' (audio only)
  • 'Jos rakastat' (audio only)
  • 'Kätten työtä' (audio only)
  • 'Laulu 20 perheestä' (1969)
  • 'Laulu siirtotyöläisestä' (audio only)
  • 'Sinun lapsesi'
  • 'Suomalainen tulee toimeen omillaan' (1969, with Vesa-Matti Loiri)
  • 'Tartu hetkeesi' (audio only)
  • 'Virsi 639' (1968, with Liisa-Maija Laaksonen)

    Käpy selän alla links:

  • IMDB
  • Suomalaisen elokuvan festivaali (in Finnish)
  • Pajakkakino (in Finnish)
  • Elonet (in Finnish)

    Aulikki Oksanen, Kirsti Wallasvaara and Kristiina Halkola back then
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