“Here’s fine revolution…” (2)

Still image from ‘October’ (rel. 1928).

This blog’s regular readers — of whom there appear to be quite a few around the world (Hello, Australia!) — will probably have been surprised to see the posting from a fortnight ago which consisted of nothing besides a clip from an old Eisenstein film, without any accompanying text from me.

Since I don’t think I’ve ever done that on here before, let me quickly say a few words about why there were no words…

https://i0.wp.com/12starsmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/trash-can-300x300.jpgAs it happens, I did originally intend to have about 1,200 words of supporting text; and, in fact, I wrote at least that many over a couple of free evenings and a long spell in a motorway tail-back. But since my feelings about Sergei Eisenstein are actually rather complicated (I do not say ‘complex’), it gradually became clear that there was no way I could write sincerely about that clip without dragging the reader into a tangle of issues which, first of all, would need a half-hour lecture to be put across properly, and, secondly, really shouldn’t be anywhere near anyone’s mind unless they’ve already experienced for themselves the things I’d be criticising and evaluating. So, in the end, I simply junked the entire unfinished text and submitted the clip on its own.

I’m not ‘a critic’, you see. Because what the natural born critic does, it seems to me, is to spend his time carrying on a highly public as well as rather twisted love-affair with his own difficulties and problems: not only is he obsessed by them — to the extent that he drags them around with him, can’t stop writing about them, uses anything as an excuse to bring them up — but he also won’t leave off until he has succeeded in making them your problems as well. What’s more, in the attempt to achieve that rather nasty and damaging aim, he has no hesitation at all in lecturing you before you even know what it is he’s talking about: what he wants is for your thinking to be like his thinking, and if that means getting to you before the artist does, he’ll happily do things that way round…

So, I decided to absent myself entirely from the picture. And, as you’ll have seen if you saw the ‘Comments’ that two friends of mine posted underneath that clip, the evidence is that, in doing so, I made the right decision: both of them responded enthusiastically — and without apparent complication! — to what I’d shared. Whereas if I’d led them in by way of my own particular tangle of thoughts and reactions, they would no doubt have watched and listened in ways that were at least to a small extent conditioned or corrupted by what I’d said…

Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948)

And since I’d like to cement my identity as a ‘non-critic’ a little more firmly — while still sharing a few things that I have thought about a lot and others may not yet have encountered at all — I’m going to post some more Eisenstein clips here.

All three of them actually relate to a practise to which my friends drew attention in their ‘Comments’: the use of bits from Shostakovich symphonies as ‘film music’ in silent or semi-silent movies produced considerably earlier. But that’s all I’m saying about them for now — I’m not even going to reveal in advance why it is that I’ve juxtaposed these two particular extracts. All you have to do is take in the three clips in the order presented, and get what you get.

In fact, I’m not even going to say anything about the music being performed in my first clip — so if you’ve never heard this particular work before, you will be encountering it in the very same I way that I did, way back in the 1990s: I just took a new CD out of a box; put it in the player; and, before long…




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