The Secret Life of Sergei Eisenstein (1987)

  |  Documentary, Biography


The Secret Life of Sergei Eisenstein (1987) Poster

A biographical film, in English throughout, telling the story of film director Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) from his childhood in Riga, Latvia to receiving the 'Stalin Prize' in Moscow. ... See full summary »


6.7/10
39

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Director:

Gian Carlo Bertelli

Writer:

Gian Carlo Bertelli

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31 January 2005 | desperateliving
6
| 6/10
How much value you find in this will depend on two things: the degree to which you're interested in an artist's personal life, and the degree to which you have a personal interest in Sergei Eisenstein. I'm not much of an Eisensteinian myself, even though I will gladly watch his major works -- "Battleship Potemkin," "Strike," "October," "Alexander Nevsky," "Ivan the Terrible" parts one and two -- to get a good sense of what it is he was after, and how he did it. He's a film pioneer whose films still thrill -- think of how amazing that is. Consider the person who created English grammar -- would you still want to read that? Well, Eisenstein, if we move past Chaplin, Griffith, Edison, the Lumieres, and Melies, essentially created modern film grammar, and film is a language like any other. (Your views on how to use that grammar may differ from Eisenstein, as mine do, but that doesn't change the fact that he set a solid foundation for others to work on -- or away from.)

The film is essentially a narration of Eisenstein's journals, and what's disappointing is that there's nothing very revealing about it. It's basically Eisenstein giving a brief summary of his childhood, how he got into films, what famous people he met, etc. (It's great to finally put to rest the common confusion of Einstein and Eisenstein -- he met the scientist, who gave him an autograph signed "from Einstein to Eisenstein.") And none of it is really very "secret," either: some remembrances of his films, and the briefest mention of "latent" homosexuality. (Funny that we learn Jean Cocteau was a fan, but the gay slant isn't touched upon.)

Knowing Eisenstein's satirical cartoonist past (and we get to see some of his cartoons, which are wonderfully grotesque) it's easy to see why he so revered Walt Disney; and it's not a claim that exists to be "shocking," this "propagandist" who likes animated features: he may well have been a propagandist, but he was foremost a stylist of spectacle -- the morality of what his films did or did not influence is really beside the point; he himself was reportedly surprised that in France his work was appreciated almost solely due to the socialist content; in America he was referred to as a "bandit." (And anyone who harbors notions of Eisenstein-the-evil will be glad to see a public announcement he makes against racial inequality.) For all the criticism Eisenstein gets for being too intellectual, too mechanical and technical (and it's a criticism I share), it's important to note that it was always tied to the art of the films. Perhaps the most interesting bit of information in the film is that he met James Joyce, who played him a recording of "Finnegans Wake," and how Eisenstein felt the "interior monologues" would have great use in cinema. 6/10

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Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Documentary | Biography

Details

Language

Italian


Country of Origin

Switzerland

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