Sergei Eisenstein was born in 1898 and died, at the age of 50, 63 years ago last week. By the age of 30 he was world-renowned for his theory of montage, as applied to his youthful masterpieces Strike, Battleship Potemkin, and October (Ten Days That Shook the World). These films found heroics in collectives (among workers, sailors, or, in the case of his 1929 Old and New, farmers) and in stick-figure commemoration of the Bolshevik Revolutionaries. In 1930, he was invited to come to Hollywood by Paramount Pictures, and during his time there he pursued several aborted projects, including a film version of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy (which was finally made in 1931 by Josef von Sternberg, vacationing from Marlene Dietrich). To delay returning to Russia, Eisenstein persuaded Upton Sinclair and his wife to finance the intended epic Que Viva Mexico! Read more
Posts tagged ‘Soviet cinema’
The triumvirate of great silent Soviet narrative directors is completed by Alexander Dovzhenko (1894–1956). Unlike the other two, Sergei Eisenstein and V. I. Pudovkin, Dovzhenko was Ukrainian and worked mostly in Odessa and Kiev, which allowed him a bit more freedom as he wasn’t constantly under Stalin’s nose in Moscow. Like his esteemed contemporaries, he left behind extensive writings on the cinema. His concern for peasants, a group to which his illiterate father belonged, led him away from urban settings and promoted a lyrical and poetic depiction of Nature. His great rural trilogy (Arsenal in 1929, Zemlya [Earth] in 1930, and Ivan in 1932) seems to move beyond the immediate political concerns of the Revolution into a personal and emotional realm; feeling triumphs over agitprop. Read more
These notes accompany the Dziga Vertov program, screening April 21, 22, and 23 in Theater 3.
Dziga Vertov (1896–1954) presents some unusual problems with regard to his inclusion in this series. If we define an “auteur” as a filmmaker with a vision who places the stamp of his personality on his work, that presumes that there is a discernible personality or way of looking at the world. While no one could possibly miss the fact that from a technical standpoint, Vertov was a great innovator and expander of the medium (a rival to D. W. Griffith, F. W. Murnau, Sergei Eisenstein, or Alfred Hitchcock), there is reason to question who this guy really was. We do know he was born Denis Arkadievitch Kaufman in what is now Poland (then part of the Czarist empire) and was the elder brother to two other distinguished filmmakers, Mikhail (cameraman on several Vertov films and later a director) and Boris Kaufman (cinematographer for Jean Vigo, Abel Gance, Elia Kazan, and Sidney Lumet). Read more