Tag Archives: Eisenstein

Battleship Potemkin on Film4 – and on the big screen

Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Battleship Potemkin (1925)

It’s always cause for celebration when there is a silent film shown on UK TV, and, to accompany Mark Cousins’s epic documentary series The Story of Film, Film 4 has treated us to two in quick succession. We saw Orphans of the Storm (1921) a couple of weeks ago and now we can look forward to Battleship Potemkin (1925).

If we tune into The Story of Film for episode Three on More4 tonight, we are promised some glimpses of German expressionism, Soviet montage, French impressionism and surrealism, plus “the glories of Chinese and Japanese films and the moving story of one of the great, now largely forgotten, movie stars, Ruan Lingyu“. How could you pick one film out of that lot? Well, you couldn’t. But clearly Cousins is clearly a huge Eisenstein fan, and you can’t argue with Potemkin’s stature as a landmark in film history.

I really hope the version of Potemkin they’re showing is the recent restored re-release with the original orchestral score, but you can find out for yourself when it is shown just after midnight on Monday 19 September and at 11am on Thursday 22 September.

However, if you really want to see Battleship Potemkin at its best, head down to the Prince Charles Cinema or the Peckham Free Film Festival on Sunday to see this masterpiece on the big screen. You can always watch it on TV as well, after all. The Odessa Steps never get old.  Enjoy, comrades!

The Old and the New and Storm Over Asia with live scores at BFI Southbank, 5 & 20 May 2011

This May, the BFI is offering a fantastic programme of silent film screenings. There’s the theatrical release of The Great White Silence and Battleship Potemkin, three German gems in a short season devoted to cinematic style and the first tranche in a monumental celebration of Russian cinema entitled Kino: Russian Film Pioneers. And this last strand announces itself with not one but two special screenings of Soviet classics with live scores.

First up on 5 May is Sergei Eisenstein’s The Old and the New, also known as The General Line (1929). This was Eisenstein’s attempt to celebrate the Soviet system of collective farming, but he broke off halfway through to make October, and the final film is more like an essay on the mechanisation of agriculture. Eisenstein’s montage editing, and somewhat suggestive imagery, elevate the film to something more exciting though. The film’s most celebrated sequence involves a cream separator – you can watch it at the top of this post. Really, there are no words. But you can see from that clip that the editing is rhythmic, almost musical.

No score was ever written for the film, but Eisenstein did write some notes, which have been lingering in the BFI archives all these years. Musicians Max De Wardener, Ed Finnis and the Elysian Quartet have constructed a score from these notes especially for this screening. This world premiere promises to be something very special – both of historical interest, and a thrilling combination of film and music too.

 

Storm Over Asia (1928)
Storm Over Asia (1928)

The second special event is on 20 May and has been curated by “live cinema” specialist Marek Pytel. It’s a screening of Vsevelod Pudovkin’s epic Storm Over Asia (1929) accompanied by Yat-Kha, a throatsinging rock band from Tuva, which is in the south of Siberia and borders Mongolia. The film, sometimes known as The Heir to Genghis Khan, tells the story of a Mongolian herdsman, Bair, who fights with the Soviets against the occupying British army. Bair is captured by the imperialists, who come to believe that is descended from Khan and try to use him for their foolish ends.

Storm Over Asia has been restored to its full length from the original negatives, and Yat-Kha’s music, described as “brooding, growling and earthy” should provide a contemporary but wholly sympathetic soundtrack.

The Old and the New accompanied by Max De Wardener, Ed Finnis and the Elysian Quartet screens at NFT1 on Thursday 5 May at 7.15pm.

Storm Over Asia accompanied by Yat-Kha screens at NFT1 on Friday 20 May at 7.15pm.

Tickets cost £13, or £9.75 for concessions, and £1.50 less for members. They will be available at the BFI website here.