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A Cine-Fist to the Solar Plexus

David Trotter: Eisenstein, 2 August 2018

Beyond the Stars, Vol.1: The Boy from Riga 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by William Powell.
Seagull, 558 pp., £16.99, June 2018, 978 0 85742 488 4
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On the Detective Story 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 229 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 490 7
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On Disney 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 208 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 491 4
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The Short-Fiction Scenario 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 115 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 489 1
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Movement, Action, Image, Montage: Sergei Eisenstein and the Cinema in Crisis 
by Luka Arsenjuk.
Minnesota, 249 pp., £19.99, February 2018, 978 1 5179 0320 6
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... But​ where does the Potemkin go?’ That, according to Sergei Eisenstein, was what the people who had just seen his most famous film really wanted to know. At the climax of the film, the battleship’s mutinous crew, having got rid of all its officers and intervened decisively in the first stirrings of revolt in the Black Sea town of Odessa, head out of harbour to confront the rest of the imperial fleet, which has assembled to block their escape ...

Train Loads of Ammunition

Philip Horne, 1 August 1985

Immoral Memories 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Herbert Marshall.
Peter Owen, 292 pp., £20, June 1985, 0 7206 0650 0
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A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema: 1930-1980 
by Robert Ray.
Princeton, 409 pp., £48.50, June 1985, 0 691 04727 8
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by David Thomson.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 436 52014 1
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Cahiers du Cinéma. Vol. I: The 1950s. Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge with the British Film Institute, 312 pp., £16.95, March 1985, 0 7100 9620 8
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... In his own words ‘a queer fish’, Sergei Eisenstein declares at one point in this 1946 memoir that he worked amphibiously, by extremes. ‘I create an arbitrary and capricious flood in my films. Then I endeavour to divide this flood with the dry beats of a metronome, according to its conformity with certain principles ...

Reel after Seemingly Needless Reel

Tony Wood: Eisenstein in Mexico, 3 December 2009

In Excess: Sergei Eisenstein’s Mexico 
by Masha Salazkina.
Chicago, 221 pp., £27.50, April 2009, 978 0 226 73414 9
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... Writing his memoirs in 1946, two years before his death, Sergei Eisenstein declared that he had ‘been fascinated by bones and skeletons since childhood’. His first experience of film involved watching a flying skeleton horse pull a bewitched carriage across the sky, in Georges Méliès’s Les 400 Farces du diable ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Battleship Potemkin’, 28 April 2011

Battleship Potemkin 
directed by Sergei Eisenstein.
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... make them look rich and friendly – but that was certainly my response to two recent viewings of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), to be screened again at the BFI Southbank from 29 April. Of course the words that look poor here are quite particular: the weakly loaded phrases of the screenplay; the large abstractions of propaganda; the miniature ...

Donald Duck gets a cuffing

J. Hoberman: Disney, Benjamin, Adorno, 24 July 2003

Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde 
by Esther Leslie.
Verso, 344 pp., £20, August 2002, 1 85984 612 2
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... and fake-perspective structures’.) Disney’s last and most loyal intellectual champion was Sergei Eisenstein, then regarded by many as the world’s foremost film-maker and, certainly, its leading film intellectual. Eisenstein, too, had fallen under the spell of the early Disney cartoons, whose use of ...

What the Yarrow Stalks Foretell

Brian Rotman, 9 February 1995

The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi 
translated by Richard Lynn.
Columbia, 602 pp., £15.50, November 1994, 0 231 08294 0
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... juxtaposing two film images to produce a meaning or effect not present in either so electrified Sergei Eisenstein. The fact that Eisenstein claims to have discovered the principle of montage after studying the workings of Chinese ideograms would have gladdened Wang Bi’s heart. As for me, a long-time enthusiast of ...


Hal Foster: Diego Rivera, 26 January 2012

... was advanced by Aleksandr Rodchenko, El Lissitzky and Gustav Klutsis, as well as his friend Sergei Eisenstein), he effectively triangulated the two groups, and the murals he made on his return to Mexico in 1928 combine photographic effects such as cropped figures and massed groups with Socialist Realist motifs like bright flags and cheery ...

First Movie in the White House

J. Hoberman: ‘Birth of a Nation’, 12 February 2009

D.W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’: A History of ‘The Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time’ 
by Melvyn Stokes.
Oxford, 414 pp., £13.99, January 2008, 978 0 19 533679 5
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... At the time, The Birth of a Nation appeared to epitomise modernity. But to understand Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein wrote, ‘one must visualise an America made up of more than visions of speeding automobiles, streamlined trains, racing ticker tape, inexorable conveyor belts. One is obliged to comprehend this second side of America as well ...

He is cubic!

Tom Stammers: Wagnerism, 4 August 2022

Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music 
by Alex Ross.
Fourth Estate, 769 pp., £14.99, September 2021, 978 0 00 842294 3
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... geometric designs for a ship’s rigging in a production of The Flying Dutchman, just as Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Meyerhold strived to translate Wagnerian aesthetic ideas onto the screen and the Mariinsky stage respectively. Siegfried’s funeral march was played at a concert marking Lenin’s death. It took Operation Barbarossa to kill ...

Stainless Steel Banana Slicer

David Trotter, 18 March 2021

Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form 
by Sianne Ngai.
Harvard, 401 pp., £28.95, June 2020, 978 0 674 98454 7
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... aesthetic. But esoterica can be blatant too: the Tingler had a distant precursor in the fireworks Sergei Eisenstein set off beneath the seats in the auditorium during one of the productions he staged for the Proletkult Theatre in Moscow in the early 1920s.Vladimir Nabokov’s transition from Russian to English-language writer involved a reappraisal of ...

Building with Wood

Gilberto Perez: Time and Tarkovsky, 26 February 2009

by Nathan Dunne.
Black Dog, 464 pp., £29.95, February 2008, 978 1 906155 04 9
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Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema 
by Robert Bird.
Reaktion, 255 pp., £15.95, April 2008, 978 1 86189 342 0
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... of Khrushchev, which is where he came in. He took issue with the most celebrated Soviet filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein. For Tarkovsky, time imprinted in the moving image is the lifeblood of cinema, and montage – quick, abrupt, assertive editing – breaks up its flow: ‘In Eisenstein’s films individual shots do not ...

Investigate the Sock

David Trotter: Garbo’s Equivocation, 24 February 2022

by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 438 pp., £32, December 2021, 978 0 374 29835 7
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... as the trusted confidante of two experimental European directors courted by Hollywood: Murnau and Sergei Eisenstein. Murnau was gay, and the often malicious gossip about him found much to feed on in the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death in 1931 from injuries sustained in a car crash. Garbo was one of only eleven mourners at his ...

Toots, they owned you

John Lahr: My Hollywood Fling, 15 June 2023

Hollywood: The Oral History 
edited by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson.
Faber, 739 pp., £25, November 2022, 978 0 571 36694 1
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... artists who gathered at her Sunday afternoon salon. Thomas Mann, Aldous Huxley, W.H. Auden, Sergei Eisenstein, Hanns Eisler, Arnold Schoenberg, Lionel Feuchtwanger, Franz Werfel and Bertolt Brecht rubbed shoulders with Peter Lorre, Charles Laughton, Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin, Harpo Marx and many others. Brecht and ...


Peter Pomerantsev: Iammmmyookkraaanian, 19 February 2015

... while celebrating the subversive effect of U2. Later, when I went to film school and discovered Eisenstein, I realised that revolution had altered the way things looked: that all those CNN and BBC montages with their close-ups of ‘ordinary’ people on the revolutionary streets of Berlin, Moscow and Bucharest, and their stirring music, could have been ...

The Schoolmen ride again

Richard Mayne, 15 May 1980

Cinema: A Critical Dictionary: The Major Film-Makers 
edited by Richard Roud.
Secker, 1120 pp., £25, February 1980, 9780436428302
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The Dream that Kicks: The Prehistory and Early Years of Cinema in Britain 
by Michael Chanan.
Routledge, 356 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7100 0319 6
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... of the kind which deepens our lives. Uneasiness grows when Roud admits to his ‘blind spots’: Eisenstein, Murnau, Mizoguchi, Rossellini and Bergman. To be fair, he prints long articles on all of them. But, as he says, ‘many names will not be found in the Dictionary’; and here his ‘covert statement’ seems to be tainted by critical fashion. Absences ...

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