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Strike

Proletkult’s Towards the Dictatorship, No. 1. An amusing group of players enact the stages of discontent, reaction and annihilation.

Original sin and ritual sacrifice are expressed in the two most striking images, Yakov Strongen’s suicide after the accusation of thievery, and the slaughter of a bull intercut with the army assault on the strikers.

This would appear to give rise analytically to Ken Russell’s image of a sacrificial bull in Dance of the Seven Veils, also Coppola’s in Apocalypse Now.

A version by David Shepard and Kino and Film Preservation Associates, with an unnecessary score by the Alloy Orchestra, is so choppy as to render the editing useless.

 

 

The Battleship Potemkin

Mosfilm’s English print for foreign distribution comes with a note apologizing for Tisse’s cinematography, in view of Eisenstein’s editing. But Tisse’s pictures are magnificent, in a superlative tale of maggot-infested meat.

 

October

The rise and fall of the Kerensky government.

Critical difficulties will be largely obviated by a print screened at the correct speed. Eisenstein’s superb sense of humor carries all before it at a tenor comparable to Carlyle. Political satire is its forte, and depiction rather than analysis, “the time has passed for words” is the key objective phrase in the send-up.

“God and Country” have been reduced to haphazard idols and heaped-up medals, this is the sort of symbolism that, projected at 24 fps as even in the 1967 restoration with Shostakovich’s music, the critics have found “hard to watch”.

October is the one film at which it is impossible not to imagine young Hitchcock rolling in the aisle.

 

Romance Sentimentale

This is the major precursor of Bergman’s rooms and clocks and nature views, by all appearances.

A storm of ocean waves gradually resolving into still autumn, a lady in her parlor sings at the piano a Russian lament, ecstatic Rodin figures leap into cloudy heavens, the song resumes as before.

Then it is spring, the lady is outside again singing, amid flowering trees.

 

¡Qué Viva México!

It is so evidently a masterpiece, whatever the rescension, that the only possible commentary is by Emilio Fernandez in all of his works.

 

Alexander Nevsky

It comes to us from the thirteenth century, Tisse’s images have gone beyond the fine and famous pictures of The Battleship Potemkin.

A “plodding nationalist epic,” says the Wall Street Journal, probably because the moneymen of Novgorod think they can buy the Germans off.

Hitler signed with Stalin, Stalin banned the film.

Frank S. Nugent was inspired to glories of prose in the New York Times and still fell short, as Variety did, on the lack of detail in a vision across seven centuries.

Two special studies, Olivier’s Henry V and Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain, really constitute the whole approach to criticism, a matter of design and construction on the working end.

Eisenstein would have had it very different, that is the last thing on his mind, and so Fellini-satyricon probably conveys best his approach to the natural past.

 

Ivan the Terrible, Part One

The division of war immediately sets in, Prince Kurbsky’s violence against captive Tatars falls short of the Tsar’s conception, and then Kurbsky fails against the Germans, he becomes an ally of Sigismund.

The remarkable style is a vindication of silent film, essentially musical and unboundedly expressive, painstaking as it is.

The inattention of the boyars is answered by the parable of the absent wedding guests.

 

Ivan the Terrible, Part Two

The hideous preparation and solid construction, amply prepared in itself, sets off a brief flurry out of Alexander Nevsky just for breathing room. Like Sandburg’s Lincoln, Eisenstein has “a calabash on either side of his mule”, Lang’s Nibelungen and the Kabuki theater.

And he’s all set for the boyars’ revolt (cut off at the shoulders), the religious gravamen of Ivan’s childhood friend, a disinterested monk courted by tradition for a boyar coup against Nebuchadnezzar.

It must have come as a relief and a blessing, one imagines, to have color film stock for the dance sequence of an assassin in a female mask, while cousin Vladimir in his cups confesses the plot to place himself on the throne, ever helpful.

A good tsar, wise and historically sensible as Henry VIII, could not be represented in the Soviet cinema, Stalin would not permit it.