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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 SergeiEisenstein, 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 ...
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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Suspects 
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’, SergeiEisenstein 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 ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Battleship Potemkin’

28 April 2011
Battleship Potemkin 
directed by Sergei Eisenstein.
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... I’m not much given to feeling that images make words look poor – often they 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 ...

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, SergeiEisenstein 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 ...

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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... that The Three Caballeros anticipates ‘the world of Disneyland simulacra to come, full of props and fake-perspective structures’.) Disney’s last and most loyal intellectual champion was SergeiEisenstein, 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 ...
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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... from such a clash is not foolish, though it might once have surprised us: it was not very long ago that juxtaposing two film images to produce a meaning or effect not present in either so electrified SergeiEisenstein. 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 ...

At MoMA

Hal Foster: Diego Rivera

26 January 2012
... modes of art for proletarian propaganda. Although Rivera was more sympathetic to the former position (which was advanced by Aleksandr Rodchenko, El Lissitzky and Gustav Klutsis, as well as his friend SergeiEisenstein), 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 ...

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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... battle scenes had never been so vivid; and the past had never been represented with such immediacy. At the time, The Birth of a Nation appeared to epitomise modernity. But to understand Griffith, SergeiEisenstein 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 ...

Building with Wood

Gilberto Perez: Time and Tarkovsky

26 February 2009
Tarkovsky 
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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... Revolution, the Socialist Realism dominant under Stalin, and the new wave that emerged at the time of Khrushchev, which is where he came in. He took issue with the most celebrated Soviet filmmaker, SergeiEisenstein. 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 ...

Diary

Peter Pomerantsev: Iammmmyookkraaanian

19 February 2015
... seemed like the Russian Revolution and the 1960s rolled into one, the people taking power from elites 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 ...
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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... with Edna Ferber or Dashiell Hammett – worthy enough artificers, but not engaged in mature art 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 ...
28 November 2002
Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia 
by Orlando Figes.
Allen Lane, 729 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 7139 9517 3
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... however, soon found artistic expression in the Ballets Russes. The workshops of Abramtsevo had already combined Russian folk arts and crafts with Art Nouveau stylisations, and a group of young men (Sergei Diaghilev, Alexander Benois, Leon Bakst) now began to see peasant art as falling in line with the new European taste for the exotic and the primitive. The Ballets Russes, arising from an attempt to ...

Sideswipes

Stephen Walsh: Prokofiev

25 September 2003
Prokofiev: From Russia to the West 1891-1935 
by David Nice.
Yale, 390 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09914 2
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... in 1926 ‘with unwavering and great success’, the orchestra reported; that same year, The Love for Three Oranges (first staged in Chicago in 1921) was given a brilliant Meyerholdian production by Sergei Radlov at the Maryinsky; and when Prokofiev himself returned in January 1927, his first Moscow concert included most of the long concert suite from the Diaghilev ballet Chout, while his solo recitals ...

Outfox them!

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Stalin v Emigrés

8 March 2012
Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union 1921-41 
by Michael David-Fox.
Oxford, 396 pp., £35, January 2012, 978 0 19 979457 7
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Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-41 
by Katerina Clark.
Harvard, 420 pp., £25.95, November 2011, 978 0 674 05787 6
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Being Soviet: Identity, Rumour and Everyday Life under Stalin 
by Timothy Johnston.
Oxford, 240 pp., £55, August 2011, 978 0 19 960403 6
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Stalin’s Last Generation: Soviet Postwar Youth and the Emergence of Mature Socialism 
by Juliane Fürst.
Oxford, 391 pp., £63, September 2010, 978 0 19 957506 0
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All This Is Your World: Soviet Tourism at Home and Abroad after Stalin 
by Anne Gorsuch.
Oxford, 222 pp., £60, August 2011, 978 0 19 960994 9
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... in social engineering that the foreign intellectuals and artists came to observe, but also the international cutting edge in theatre and the cinema (as represented, for example, by Meyerhold and Eisenstein) and in the theory of education (Makarenko). For all the complaints about VOKS’s over-controlling and bureaucratic approach, that was basically what VOKS wanted to show them.David-Fox argues that ...

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