Soviet filmmaker Eisenstein, new film about him

This video says about itself:

Eisenstein In Guanajuato – Official Trailer

8 February 2015

A film by Peter Greenaway, 2015, Netherlands/Mexico/Finland/Belgium, 105′

On 27 July 2015, I went to see the film Eisenstein In Guanajuato.

In this film, movie director Peter Greenaway reconstructs the stay of his famous Soviet colleague Sergei Eisenstein in Mexico in 1931. Eisenstein then made recordings, intended for a film on Mexico and the Mexican revolution, entitled ¡Que viva México!

In his reconstruction, Greenaway had to consider that some of the facts in this part of Eisenstein’s life are known. Some others are not certain, but maybe, with some fantasy (Greenaway made a feature film, not a documentary), might be deduced from known facts. And many other things about Eisenstein’s Mexican episode are completely unknown.

Greenaway’s film ‘plays fast, loose and salaciously with the facts’, according to film critic David Robinson.

Robinson points out, inter alia, that Eisenstein was a workaholic, while Greenaway depicts him as hardly ever leaving his hotel bedroom. Eisenstein did not drink alcohol, while Greenaway depicts him as drunk.

The central theme in Greenaway’s film is that Eisenstein was a virgin, until his initiation into gay sex in Guanajuato at 33 years of age. Very improbable, according to Robinson.

Was Eisenstein gay? Maybe, we don’t know for sure.

However, there are so many and such obvious inaccuracies in Eisenstein In Guanajuato that, rather than being results of Greenaway’s supposed ignorance or sloppiness, one may suspect that Greenaway included them on purpose to indicate the film is not about the historical Eisenstein, but about an Eisenstein of his own post-modernist imagination.

In post-modernism there is no historical truth.

Eisenstein as a film role in Greenaway’s work speaks about lots of famous filmmakers and other artists he supposedly had met. A list so long that it looks a bit incredible. Is this not really a list of Peter Greenaway’s favourites in film history and art history?

One can see that Eisenstein In Guanajuato is by someone who was originally a visual artist, and an admirer of the imagery of Eisenstein’s films. Greenaway’s imagery in this film is good. So is the acting. However, Greenaway undeservedly makes the issues in Eisenstein’s films, Russian revolution and society, Mexican revolution and society, etc. play a very second fiddle to aesthetics.

At least one review of this film has a historical inaccuracy of its own: Variety magazine in the USA writes that Lenin underwrote Eisenstein’s expenses while in Mexico. Lenin had died in 1924. While the Variety article also spells ‘Guadajuato’ which should have been Guanajuato.

A notable collection of early Soviet films, The New Man—Awakening and Everyday Life in Revolutionary Russia (Der neue Mensch—Aufbruch und Alltag im revolutionären Russland), has been released on DVD in Germany to coincide with the centenary of the October Revolution: here.

9 thoughts on “Soviet filmmaker Eisenstein, new film about him

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  3. Eisenstein in Guanajuato (15)
    Directed by Peter Greenaway
    SOVIET director Sergei Eisenstein earned his place as a true cinema giant with three 1920s classics — Strike, The Battleship Potemkin and October.
    Invited to Hollywood, but failing to get a film off the ground after two years, Eisenstein left California for Guadajuato to make Que Viva Mexico!, privately funded by US pro-Soviet sympathisers including American writer Upton Sinclair.
    Interestingly, Eisenstein is an admirer of Mexico — “You had a successful revolution five years before we did” — but, regrettably, it doesn’t take long for writer-director Peter Greenaway to wallow in self-indulgent film-making at the considerable expense of his subject.
    Thus we see Eisenstein, in his thirties, losing his virginity to a Mexican in a quasi-porno gay sex sequence.
    Finnish actor Elmer Back, reduced by Greenaway to resembling — and playing — Eisenstein like Curly from The Three Stooges, deserves praise for his hard work.
    Yet Greenaway appears to delight in denigrating his subject even though in terms of film-making, rather than content, there’s no denying his considerable technical talents.
    He makes the most of vivid split-screen sequences, clever camera movements and vivid visuals. Yet Eisenstein and those unfamiliar with his great work definitely deserve considerably better.

    Review by Alan Frank


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  5. Thursday 7th September 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Arts

    JOHN GREEN previews an unmissable film season

    THE RUSSIAN Revolution brought not only a transformation in people’s daily lives but also an explosion of creativity in the fields of art and culture.

    Films made during the tumultuous early years following the overthrow of tsarism changed the face of cinema from what had been viewed as light entertainment into a powerful political and artistic phenomenon.

    As part of this year’s celebrations around the centenary of the revolution, the Marx Memorial Library and the Russian Revolution Centenary Committee, supported by the London Socialist Film Co-op, are showing cinema classics of the period in two of London’s renowned independent cinemas, the Phoenix and the Rio.

    Spark: A Festival of Revolutionary Film, which takes its name from the Russian revolutionary newspaper Iskra, is showing some of the most memorable of those films, made in the crucible of revolution.

    Screened on consecutive Sundays, they’re a must-see, not least because the Russian Revolution has become so overlaid and encrusted with distortion, falsehood and confusion that it is difficult to imagine what an earth-shattering experience it was and what hope it gave to millions throughout the world.

    These films convey the passion, provide the background and explain the reasons why the Russian people rose up and overthrew an oppressive system and were not afraid to take on the building of utopia.

    The festival will feature the great classics — Vsevolod Pudovkin’s Mother and The End of St Petersburg, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, October and Strike, Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera and Esfir Shub’s The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty.

    It will also include Warren Beatty’s Hollywood-made 1981 film Reds, based on John Reed’s classic Ten Days That Shook the World, a courageous work made at the height of the cold war and Ronald Reagan’s crusade against communism.

    The film showings will be followed on November 4 by a whole-day conference at the TUC in London on the revolution, including a workshop on Soviet film led by Professor David Lane.

    Mother (1926, Vsevolod Pudovkin) 1pm, September 24 Phoenix Cinema

    Set against the backdrop of the 1905 Russian revolution Mother — based on Maxim Gorky’s novel — portrays the political awakening of a mother whose son is imprisoned for leading a strike at a local factory. After unwittingly betraying her son to the police, she takes up his cause and joins the workers demonstrating against the tsarist authorities.

    The End of St Petersburg (1927, Vsevolod Pudovkin) 2pm, October 1, Rio Cinema

    Pudovkin’s film tells the story of a peasant who migrates to St Petersburg immediately before WWI to escape rural poverty. Desperate for work, he becomes a strikebreaker and inadvertently causes a fellow worker from his village to be arrested. Ashamed, he pleads for the man’s release and is imprisoned. He is then sent to fight for “Mother Russia” in the trenches. Politicised by the experience of war, he leads a mutiny and returns to St Petersburg a revolutionary.

    Reds (1981, Warren Beatty) 1.30pm, October 8 Phoenix Cinema

    In his epic about the life and times of US left-wing journalist John Reed, Warren Beatty plays Reed, who travelled to Russia to chronicle the October revolution, famously recording his experiences in the book Ten Days That Shook the World and the film stands alone as a bold and sympathetic Hollywood portrayal of revolutionaries.

    Battleship Potemkin (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) 2pm, October 15, Rio Cinema

    Eisenstein’s drama is based on a historical Black Sea mutiny in 1905, accompanied by a popular uprising in Odessa, where the crew sailed after seizing control of the battleship Potemkin. Now considered one of the greatest films of all time, with the “Odessa steps” sequence ranking as one of the finest moments in cinema, it was censored in Britain at the time of its release.

    October (1928, Sergei Eisenstein) 1.15pm, October 22 Phoenix Cinema

    Eisenstein’s epic dramatises the historical sequence of 1917, from the February revolution that toppled the tsar to the October revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power. Focusing primarily on ordinary people, the cast includes many who had participated in the events of October 1917, with re-enacted scenes such as the storming of the Winter Palace becoming iconic images of the revolution.

    The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927, Esfir Shub) 2pm, October 29, Rio Cinema

    Shub’s documentary, compiled from exhaustive archival research, charts the course of the revolution from the pre-war years through the carnage of the trenches to the fall of the tsar and the climactic events of October 1917. Her study is a vivid record of Russian politics and society before 1917, as well as the year that would see the old order swept away forever.

    Man With a Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov) 1pm, November 5 Phoenix Cinema

    In this visual study of everyday life in a Soviet city, the cameraman Kaufma records what is happening around him and also appears on screen as a protagonist. Filmed in Moscow, Kiev and Odessa, Vertov’s film presents the Soviet Union of the 1920s as a modern, industrious and creative society with everyday life transformed by technical innovation.

    Strike (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) 2pm, November 12 Rio Cinema

    Eisenstein’s film portrays a strike in tsarist Russia where, in the harsh and secretive pre-revolutionary world, Bolsheviks agitate among the workers while police spies infiltrate their ranks as agents provocateurs. The strike is triggered by the suicide of a factory worker, falsely accused of theft by the manager. Actors from the Proletkult Theatre perform alongside real-life Moscow factory workers in what’s regarded as a cinema milestone, with Eisenstein’s pioneering montage theory put into practice for the first time.

    Box office: Phoneix Cinema and Rio Cinema


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