Battleship Potemkin

Battleship Potemkin Odessa

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they try to understand why Sergei Eisenstein‘s Battleship Potemkin has slipped in popularity. Is it because it’s hard for Western audiences to get behind? Is it because countless homages have reduced it to its Odessa Steps sequence? Or does Peter Berg’s latest blockbusting disappointment have something to do with it? Probably not that last one, huh?

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Legendary Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein is one of the most influential creative minds in the history of the medium. A philosopher of cinema, Eisenstein did not invent montage, but certainly explored the vast parameters of its possibilities without precedent. Thus, a high definition release of one of his central works is understandably something of an event, and the good people at Kino have packaged a pristine new reissue of Eisenstein’s debut feature film Strike (1925) from its restoration by Cinematheque de Toulouse. Strike is essential viewing for anybody who is seriously invested in the evolution, history and potential aesthetic and political power of cinema, and this new DVD and Blu-ray version is likely the best viewing experience available.

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Culture Warrior

Ideology is inescapable from cinema. I’ve yet to encounter the situation in which Paul Narboni and Jean-Luc Comolli’s thesis from their essay “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” in which they assert “all cinema is political,” isn’t true. Movies are products of various industries, are situated within a  culture, and emerge with assumptions intact surrounding the values intrinsic to that culture, and thus movies are inevitably, in some way or another, products of ideology. How this ideology functions in cinema can be explicit or implicit, didactically deliberate or simply a rarely acknowledged and often expected trope, but ideology persists in cinema nonetheless. Whether it’s an argument made by an advocate documentarian in an independent production or the story of a superhero whose heroism venerates individual accomplishment in big studio tentpole filmmaking, ideology is articulated through movies. But while ideology is always present in cinema, individual films should never be reduced to ideology. I’m certainly not saying that cinema and ideology should be evaluated separately, or should not examined as mutually determining of one another, but we should acknowledge that when we examine cinema and ideology, we are in many ways examining two things which are not separate, but are different in many ways. The reason this particular topic has come of interest to me this week is, not surprisingly, because of the release and subsequent reactions to Paul Johansson’s adaptation of Ayn Rand’s controversial magnum opus Atlas Shrugged. I’m not interested in talking about the film nor necessarily the reaction to it specifically (in full […]

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