Bright Lights Film Journal

EISENSTEIN LIVES!


Owen Hatherley has a nice tidbit in the online version of The New Humanist about Sergei Eisenstein, that Russian director who made BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, which is being re-released on DVD in a nicely packaged new edition (though is that sailor really making a kissy face?) by Kino this month.

Hatherley does some nice work placing Eisenstein’s film in their historical context vis a vis the Russian Revolution and the exciting and hopeful moments that occurred before murderous drunkard Stalin took the reigns over intellectual kind-hearted Mr. Lenin. Hatherley talks about one of the films, THE GENERAL LINE, showing ‘a Marxist-humanist vision of benign technology, collective solidarity, mass education, and an ecstasy and joy that do not need religion as their justification – all of which we could do with more of today.” Amen, Mr. Hatherley.

As a freelance video editor, I tell everyone I study POTEMKIN as if it were a bible, so I am mighty glad it’s out with a cover attractive enough that I can finally but it for myself instead of borrowing the library’s icky, yellowed scotch-tape covered copy. If you are a video editor for $$ or just want to make a brilliant wedding video, this is a training manual finer than any you can find in real books. When it comes to editing there’s two masters to study by the feet of: Griffith and Eisenstein. Griffith invented cross-cutting as a means to illustrate injustice–i.e. cutting between starving peasants and gluttonous Parisian royalty in ORPHANS OF THE STORM–and to heighten suspense. Eisenstein invented the montage – wherein a succession of statues, hands, guns, eyes, maggoty meat, etc. all melds together to create associative signifiers and social outrage, a call to social action! You want to grab a pitchfork and start baling hay for freedom, Sergei taps whole veins of humanity you didn’t even know you had in you. Nowadays of course, that sort of sensory manipulation is used not to sow the seeds of comradeship and revolution, but to sell Coke and cars. Ah well, we’ll always have POTEMKIN and maybe one day one of us will make the next one, and people will be inspired to rise up and reclaim the throne from dem neo-con evildoers.