Friday, July 10, 2015

Top 5 reasons to love Eisenstein

Eisenstein and Chaplin
ham it up! No Photoshop! 
 One of the things I'm going to try this summer as I blog along with my Film History students is post different "Top 5" lists [with all apologies to both David Letterman and Chris Rock] as a way of guiding students to go deeper into a particular area of study... Batting lead-off: Sergei Eisenstein!

1. The editing. In my graduate work, we developed a class called "Production as Criticism," where each year the instructor would bring their own "problematic" to the table (e.g. police procedurals, music videos, Dogme95). I like to imagine what an editing class dedicated to playing with Soviet montage might entail. I suppose this is more "film school" than what we do at BSU. Still...

2. The writing. I vividly remember first being confronted with Eisenstein's theoretical writing about his different types of montage, of how he was trying to bring elements of kabuki theater, iconic painting, circus, and God-knows what all else into his work. Check out his book The Film Form for starters.

3. The posters. Soviet constructivism is in full effect--not only in the frame composition in shot after shot within the films, but in the promotional materials as well. Completely of-the-moment, and so, paradoxically, timeless.

4. The hair. I mean: come on! Can't you see him leaning over his Movieola, running his hands through his hair for the umpteenth time, as he tries to make the cut just so?

"So now if the baby carriage
is rolling down and to the right..."
5. The YouTube availability. Go ahead: run a search. Just about everything of his is available now for streaming for free. After Potemkin, maybe try October? Another example of the Internet as an incredibly rich archive for film historians. This kind of access is something we could only dream about 20-30 years ago. Is this the golden age of "doing film history"?

Sergei Eisenstein was born in Rīga (Latvia) during the Czarist era, and his father was a well-revered architect of the art nouveau style. Check out some of these buildings!