Aleksandr Dovzhenko – Zemlya AKA Earth (1930)

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Quote:
Dovzhenko was commissioned to make what was intended to be a minor propaganda film to encourage the establishment of farming collectives. Under Dovzhenko’s lyrical montage and photography what emerged far exceeded propaganda; Earth has repeatedly made every international top ten film list. Continue reading

Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg – S.V.D. – Soyuz velikogo dela AKA Union of the Great Cause (1927)

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Summary:
The film tells about the Decembrists’ revolt in the south of Russia.

(imdb)
A failed Russian Revolution succeeded magnificently on screen., 3 June 1999
Author: Theodore J. van Houten from Haamstede, 4328 ZG 1 Netherlands

S.V.D. was released in August 1927. A beautiful costume drama, it is on the other hand a somewhat expressionistic, poetical fantasy. Its photography and images are more important than its desired political contents. The script, written by the inspiring historian Yuri Tinyanov (director Leonid Trauberg [1901-1990]could speak about Tinyanov for hours) supplied a failed love story, a political intrigue involving two czars, and a traveling circus background. The picture glorifies the 1825 ‘Decembrists’ uprisal: officers in the imperial Russian army are fed up with the new czar’s autocracy. The main character is a traitor, the Scotsman Maddocks (Medoks). He has won a ring gambling. It carries the initials S.V.D. – the secret union of the ‘Big Deed’ (overthrowing the czar). Maddocks expects the ring to protect him. He is desparate to enter the circles of political power in St. Petersburg hoping a former lover (Sofia Magaril) will introduce him there. A wounded revolutionary officer is on the run, finding refuge in a circus. This setting enabled cinematographer Andrei Moskvin to film a sequence on a galloping horse ‘holding only the camera’. One of the most imaginative scenes takes place on the skating rink. The picture suddenly turns into an ice crystal created by using mirrors. The skater now waltzes his rounds all over the picture. S.V.D. introduces several pessimistic symbols: night clouds, a turtle suggesting how slowly the wounded revolutionary can move, etc. It is an extremely beautiful film, its narrative less important than its image qualities. An un-Russian revolution that failed but turned out a success on screen. It is clear that Kozintsev & Trauberg were ready for their next costume drama THE NEW BABYLON, now considered their great masterpiece. S.V.D. was restored by the German TV-station ZDF ca. 1980. For this version German composer Hamel wrote a new electronic music score, not very fitting apart from the skating rink waltz. Continue reading

Various – Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s & 1930s [Disc 2] (2005)

Quote:
The 24 avant garde shorts of the 1920s and ’30s chosen for this Kino set from the collection of curator Raymond Rohauer span the gamut of movements and styles—dada, surrealism, city symphony, environmental terrarium, direct exposure. The diversity already makes the proposition of plowing through the pair of discs from start to finish not only daunting but perhaps ill-advised. Especially when lurking among the unassailable landmarks of silent avant garde cinema like Joris Ivens’s Regen (an evocative socio-environmental replication of the civic reaction to a rainy downpour on city streets) and Fernand Léger’s Ballet Méchanique (a rhythmic Parisian melange that’s kaleidoscopic in both its prismatic cinematography and its undulating circles of repetition) are at least two (possibly three) works that aim to take the piss out of the concept of non-narrative art cinema. The Hearts of Age, Orson Welles’s fraternal collaboration with William Vance (made when Welles was a mere 19 years of age), is a backyard farce that Welles later admitted to Peter Bogdanovich was made in benign mockery of the Buñuel/Dali collaborations that were inescapable in the day, though it scarcely owes any tangible debt to the style of Un Chien Andalou. Continue reading

Various – Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s & 1930s [Disc 1] (2005)

Quote:
The 24 avant garde shorts of the 1920s and ’30s chosen for this Kino set from the collection of curator Raymond Rohauer span the gamut of movements and styles—dada, surrealism, city symphony, environmental terrarium, direct exposure. The diversity already makes the proposition of plowing through the pair of discs from start to finish not only daunting but perhaps ill-advised. Especially when lurking among the unassailable landmarks of silent avant garde cinema like Joris Ivens’s Regen (an evocative socio-environmental replication of the civic reaction to a rainy downpour on city streets) and Fernand Léger’s Ballet Méchanique (a rhythmic Parisian melange that’s kaleidoscopic in both its prismatic cinematography and its undulating circles of repetition) are at least two (possibly three) works that aim to take the piss out of the concept of non-narrative art cinema. The Hearts of Age, Orson Welles’s fraternal collaboration with William Vance (made when Welles was a mere 19 years of age), is a backyard farce that Welles later admitted to Peter Bogdanovich was made in benign mockery of the Buñuel/Dali collaborations that were inescapable in the day, though it scarcely owes any tangible debt to the style of Un Chien Andalou. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – Murder! (1930)

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An actress in a travelling theatre group is murdered and Diana Baring, another member of the group is found suffering from amnesia standing by the body. Diana is tried and convicted of the murder, but Sir John Menier a famous actor on the jury is convinced of her innocence. Sir John sets out to find the real murderer before Diana’s death sentence is carried out. Continue reading

Sergei M. Eisenstein – Stachka AKA Strike (1925)

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Russia, 1912. Sick of the conditions under which they have to toil for a meagre salary, the workers at a factory are on the brink of rebellion. The flashpoint comes when one of their number hangs himself after having been unjustly accused of stealing a tool by his foreman. The workers walk out on mass, refusing to return until their managers have agreed to their terms. The factory owners, fat industrialists with a taste for luxury, are infuriated by this illegal revolt and resolve to bring the workers to heel – by any means possible… Continue reading

René Clair & Francis Picabia – Entr’acte (1924)

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Experimental and avant-garde offering from director René Clair that was produced by the French dance company Les Ballets Suis, and features the members mourning the loss of their star dancer, Borlin. Outrageously surreal and silly, it offers such sights as a funeral procession with the hearse being pulled by a camel and the dead occupant giving a final performance. Eric Satie (who is uncredited) composed the music and makes an appearance towards the end. Continue reading