Friday Film (12)

Just a short and (relatively) lighthearted posting this Friday, I think — albeit one that rather nicely picks up a thread or two from our recent Eisenstein discussion. I have six clips prepared; and all you have to do is watch them (assuming you want to).

First of all, here’s a clip from the 1975 Soviet re-release of Battleship Potemkin (1925) that I mentioned the other week — you remember: the version that had extracts from Shostakovich symphonies added as a soundtrack. I’m including it partly because people might like to hear some Shostakovich at this point in their weekend, but mainly so that everyone will be in a good position to start recognising some references to particular Eisenstein shots and sequences that are contained in the clips that follow. Yes: Eisenstein has entered the pictorial and gestural ‘vocabulary’ of film — or, at least, bits of him have — and it’s possible to find directors taking up and using elements of his movies in all kinds of ways.

Anyway, here’s the Potemkin sequence. (As you may be able to tell, this ‘anniversary’ version isn’t any kind of restoration: it is, in fact, a terribly mutilated print…)

After that, I want to jump straight to a clip from Terry Gilliam’s amazing and uncategorisable 1985 masterpiece Brazil. Gilliam alluded to that Eisenstein sequence in three different ways: see if you can spot all three…

Did you get them all? Of course you didn’t: this version of the film has been cut and re-edited by the studio in such a way that not only does the action become geographically incoherent as the scene progresses, but it also has to manage with only one (or, at the outside, one-and-a-bit) of the original three Eisenstein references.

If you can cope with a tiny amount of German dubbing, here is a fuller version — in a clip which I have coded so as to retain the same start- and end-point as the last one: see how much was cut out…?

Get counting!

So far as my own personal reactions are concerned, seeing all three of those Eisenstein references close together like that gives them a darkly comic impact — something which was completely lacking in the cut version that allowed us to see only the soldiers marching down the steps. And the reason I mention the dark comedy aspect specifically is that the following ultra-violent sequence — from a different film altogether — isn’t meant to be funny at all … yet every time I’ve ever watched it I have ended up literally weeping with laughter

The film is Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) — with music by Ennio Morricone (b. 1928) — and I see that its magic is still as potent as ever…!


Two clips remain. First, we go back to Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938) and the famous sequence where the vanquished Teutonic Knights — clad in heavy mail and armour! — attempt to retreat together across the frozen lake Peipus…

To see how this moment of screen history is reworked in Ken Russell’s 1967 film Billion Dollar Brain — in which a Texas oil billionaire attempts to mount an invasion of Soviet-controlled Latvia using his own private army — you need to start the film playing and then use your mouse to move along the video panel’s timeline as far as 1:31:46. The reason for this is that I’m electronically permitted to embed the video in this page, but not to code a start- and end-point in my usual manner. The music here, incidentally, is by the magnificently professional Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012)…

Well, that’s three pieces of filmic fall-out from two Eisenstein sequences.

— Anyone got any more…?


microdonateIf you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making an anonymised micro-donation in return! Micro-donation — 50p, 50c, whatever — is the way to sponsor the creation of quality content outsideĀ the control of corporate-owned and power-serving media structures. To micro-donate to me, with guaranteed anonymity, simply click on the button… Thanks!


2 thoughts on “Friday Film (12)

    • You’re welcome!

      I was sad when RRB died, as we’d had some good chats on the phone and by email.

      The first time I ever spoke to him was when he appeared in York some time in the mid-8os. I remember him explaining to me why he did his own film orchestrations. (It would, he said, take him more time to tell someone else how not to do it wrong than simply to do it right himself.) He also said that his ideal way of working was to do one film a year, since that would only be a few weeks’ work, but would give him the freedom to do whatever he wanted the rest of the year.

      He’s almost always recognisable in his film and TV music, even though he consciously did it as stuff that wasn’t meant to be ‘him’… I can even hear him in *this* (well, here and there…):

      There’s a lot of RRB to explore, if his film and TV stuff appeals…

      And there’s also his concert music!

      Back in, I think, 1995, I was involved as a teacher in a film-music and concert-music event featuring RRB’s work. What was funny is that all the teaching staff involved were told by the people running the event that RRB’s agent didn’t want us mentioning that he’d provided the score for ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ (1994). What on earth was that all about…?!? You know, I never quite felt able to ask him about that when we were chatting…



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s