Various – Animated Soviet Propaganda (1924 – 1984)

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BLACK AND WHITE (1933) Whenever the collection criticizes American racism, its credibility goes way up. We start with this shocking, graphic exaggeration (?) of America as a land where slavery still rules.

MISTER TWISTER (1963) This poem-based tale uses cute animation to tell the story of a racist American who rejects a St. Petersburg hotel room because a black man is in the next room. This is a fine film, except for the fact that racism can be found in any country. I don’t see why Russia should call herself an exception. Read More »

Sergei M. Eisenstein – Ivan Groznyy II: Boyarsky zagovor (Иван Грозный. Боярский заговор) AKA Ivan the Terrible Part 2 (1958)


His wife dead from poisoning and his chief warrior, Kurbsky, defected to the Poles, Ivan is lonely as he pursues a unified Russia with no foreign occupiers. Needing friendship, he brings to court Kolychev, now Philip the monk, and makes him metropolitan bishop of Moscow. Philip, however, takes his cues from the boyars and tries to bend Ivan to the will of the church. Ivan faces down Philip and lets loose his private force, the Oprichniks, on the boyars. Led by the Tsar’s aunt, Euphrosyne, the boyers plot to assassinate Ivan and enthrone her son, Vladimir. At a banquet, Ivan mockingly crowns Vladimir and sends him in royal robes into the cathedral where the assassin awaits Read More »

Sergei M. Eisenstein – Bezhin lug AKA Bezhin Meadow (1937)


This short film is only still-image restoration of an unfinished film.

What is one to make of Bezhin Meadow? What is one to make of Sergei Eisenstein? The questions are in many ways the same as this film maudit and its maker are in much the same boat these days – lost to history both artistic and political. Filmed between 1936 and 1937 Bezhin Meadow was to signal Eisenstein’s return to the Soviet fold after his sojourn in America and the debacle of Que Viva Mexico. What resulted was an even greater debacle in that no sooner had the film neared completion than it was attacked and banned from view – with Eisenstein contributing to the banning by penning an essay in which he ‘confessed’ to the ‘mistakes’ of Bezhin Meadow. Finally adding injury to insult, the sole surviving print of Bezhin Meadow was destroyed – supposedly in a bombing raid during World War II, but just as likely burned outright. Then around 1968 a ‘reconstruction’ of the film was engineered when splices from the editing table, saved by Eisenstein’s wife, Pera Attasheva, were discovered. Cobbled together with a track of Prokoviev music, intertitles fashioned from the original script and cutting continuity and a brief spoken introduction, it exists today as a 35-minute silent film-cum-slide show. Of obvious interest to film scholars, and doubtless pleasing to those who share Roland Barthes’ preference for still images over moving ones, Bezhin Meadow once again begs the question of Eisenstein’s actual value – once the myth of the Great-Individual-Artist-Suffering-at-the-Hands-of-Stalin is scraped away. For all the ups and downs of his career Eisenstein was always Stalin’s favorite filmmaker, never meeting the fate of his teacher Vsevolod Meyerhold. Internationally celebrated, a linchpin of Soviet propaganda, photographed more than any other director in the history of the cinema, Eisenstein was a Movie Star – first, last and always. Read More »

Sergei M. Eisenstein – Sergei Eisenstein and Montage ()

14 pages about Sergei Eisenstein and Montage.
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Sergei M. Eisenstein – The psychology of composition (1988)

‘Watson and Scotland Yard always work along the line of direct
logic, Sherlock Holmes works not by logic, but by dialectics’. This
dialectics, in its turn, draws on ‘the whole fund of prelogical,
sensuous thought’ that ‘serves as a fund of the language of form’ that
Eisenstein defines as ‘readable expressiveness’. Eisenstein’s
elaborate study of a method of art rooted in ‘the twilight stage of
primitive thought’ moves from folk tales to Shakespeare, Balzac,
Gogol, Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, and Mayakovsky, to come eventually to
the detective story, ‘the most effective genre of literature’ and ‘the
most naked expression of bourgeois society’s fundamental ideas on
property’, as it is told by Poe, Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Ellery
Queen, and Hitchcock in Spellbound.
Writing while he was making Ivan, Eisenstein opens up, in his
characteristic manner, a whole area of thinking on ‘the psychology
of composition’. Published in English for the first time, these lectures
and lecture notes have been assembled and translated by Jay Leyda
and Alan Upchurch. Read More »

Mikhail Kalatozov – Soy Cuba aka I am Cuba [+Extras] (1964)


Synopsis (From IMDB)
Four vignettes in Batista’s Cuba dramatize the need for revolution; long, mobile shots tell almost wordless stories. In Havana, Maria faces shame when a man who fancies her discovers how she earns her living. Pedro, an aging peasant, is summarily told that the land he farms has been sold to United Fruit. A university student faces down a crowd of swaggering U.S. sailors and then watches friends shot by police when they try to distribute a pro-Castro leaflet. The war arrives on the doorstep of peasants Mariano, Amelia, and their four children when Batista’s forces bomb the hills. Mariano wants peace, so he seeks out the guerrillas to join the fight. Read More »

Mikhail Kalatozov – Vernie Druz’ya AKA True Friends (1954)


Like many Russian films of the mid-1950s, True Friends sings the praises of collectivism. V. Merkuryev stars as Nestratov, who while rising to success as an architect becomes an insufferable boor — and even worse, an individualist. Two of his old friends, one a surgeon and the other a horse trainer for the state, show Nestratov the folly of his ways. In the end, our hero is more than happy to embrace the edicts of working together for the common good. Saving True Friends from wallowing in its own propagandas are the engaging performances of its cast and the sprightly direction by Mikhail Kalatozov. Read More »