It's rare these days that we can introduce a new name from the past to our sophisticated film audiences, but here is one to know: Teuvo Tulio, the wild and willful director of Finnish melodramas from the 1930s and 1940s. Aki Kaurismäki touted Tulio as an incomparable master of melodrama, and you can see his influence on the contemporary director in much the same way we know the Mexican melodrama tradition influenced Buñuel and Ripstein, and Douglas Sirk influenced Fassbinder.
Tulio (1912–2000), born Theodor Tugal in Latvia, moved to Finland when young. He acted in silent films, becoming known as “Finland's Valentino”; when he turned to directing in the late thirties, he poured an erotic passion worthy of Valentino into the act of filmmaking itself. In his early “haystack dramas,” Tulio paid homage to the spectacular nature cinematography of Scandinavian silents and retold classic coming-of-age stories, embellishing these with outrageous use of orchestral music and editing to rival Eisenstein (he produced and edited all his films of this era). As war approached, his themes and imagery became considerably darker, more urban and expressionistic.
The thread that runs through all these films is the sexual frankness that overturns the very conventions Tulio so consciously resurrects. Surely if every woman who innocently engaged in premarital sex went down the road Tulio maps, prostitution would have accounted for half of Finland's GDP, but Tulio uses this Trojan warhorse over and over again to effect a bold statement about class, sexual inequality, and female objectification. This is the moral of his moral tales; if a director has an alter ego in every film, Tulio's is a woman.
We are pleased to present four Teuvo Tulio classics, restored and preserved by the National Audiovisual Archive (former Finnish Film Archive).