Soviet Interlude…

After discussing the ‘Leningrad’ Symphony and mentioning Alexander Nevsky the other day, I found I had a tune running through my mind that I couldn’t quite identify: dum-dum-de-de-dum-dee-dum… de-de-de-de-dum-de-de-dum…

potemkin2It plainly wasn’t Prokofiev or Shostakovich; but it was definitely Russian. So who was it by, and where had I got it from…? It was something with pictures attached. A film. Black and white. Boats. Sails. Sailing boats. Yachts. Fast yachts. People everywhere. A white umbrella…

And suddenly I had it: it was from one of the several versions of Eisenstein’s 1925 film Bronenosets Potemkin (‘Battleship Potemkin’) that I’ve seen over the years — though I wasn’t able to remember which version, or who the music was credited to.

But I went and looked about online — and after about two hours I still hadn’t found it. All the versions I tried — and, trust me, there were quite a few different ones! — had other music entirely for that scene. But I kept looking … until I found one that was actually titled in French (‘Le Cuirassé Potemkine’) — and there it was.

The composer of this score, it turns out, was Nikolai Kryukov (1908-61), and the version concerned was one released by the Soviets in 1950. I coded it up so everyone could watch just the scene concerned —

— and, as you can see, it didn’t work, thanks to a clever computer-coded block placed on it by the copyright holders, who happen to be the modern inheritors of the old Soviet ‘Mosfilm’ name and archive. Yes, in the brave new world of late capitalist avarice and exploitation, a bowdlerised print of a 90-year-old film with a 64-year-old soundtrack is still a commodity whose use and distribution is subject to restriction, even though everyone who ever worked on it has been bones in a box for half a century, and the work itself already circulates freely on YouTube…

potemkin 3So, while I try and find a way round this code block, you have to use your mouse to find the scene I’m talking about. If you click on the link below, it should take you to the YouTube version; if you then mouse along the bottom of the panel so that you find your way to 39’44” before pressing ‘play’, you’ll be at an appropriate point just a little before the start of the scene I mean.

If you want to watch the next — and very famous!  — scene (which starts a little before 44’00”), be advised that this version has been censored to hell — with lengths of footage cut, stretched, duplicated, moved to other places, and God knows what else besides. No, I’m not a film expert; but I watch things carefully, and I remember them — especially when they obviously look like they’re meant to make vastly more sense than they do. To see the scene in anything like the form Eisenstein released or re-released, you’ll need a modern restoration — at least one of which I’ve definitely seen, though I don’t know who did it. What I do know is that it didn’t have this score — which I actually think is pretty lovely in this boating scene, and worth hearing elsewhere in the film as well. Maybe we’ll come back to it!

Before you click, let me just explain that at this point in the plot, the abused and brutalised crew of the Czar’s battleship have mutinied against their officers, and the population of Odessa — moved by the sight of the slain sailor Vakulinchuk, taken ashore and laid out by his shipmates — turns out in its entirety to cheer the revolutionaries and take provisions to the ship…

Here’s the link to Le Cuirassé Potemkine. As I said, mouse along to 39’44” to go into a scene that lasts until almost 44’00”.


MOcoverforblogIf you enjoyed this posting, remember that I am a regular contributor and columnist for the UK magazine Musical Opinion. The magazine’s website can be found here; to see its Twitter feed, click here; to see its Facebook page, click here. To subscribe to Musical Opinion, click here.

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