Eisenstein lacks considerable brio for a film about one of cinema’s directorial giants. Renny Bartlett’s Cliff Notes account of Sergei Eisenstein’s rise from theater whore to Stalin’s prodigal son gets the job done though it could have been made by anyone with a passing understanding of the director’s life. Simon McBurney is terrific as Eisenstein, doing wonders with the character’s egregious self-commentary (“I like to frighten them into not being afraid!”) and nelly behavior. History is remiss when it comes to Eisenstein’s sexuality, therefore Bartlett’s Eisenstein is as softcore as queens come—Eisenstein and Grisha’s trip to Mexico gives way to a lover’s dispute and the director’s infamous penis-cacti pose. Eisenstein readily discloses his montage theory before tackling Battleship Potemkin. The visual signifiers are winking and cute—walking down the Odessa steps, Eisenstein helps a woman with a baby carriage—but the film’s visual palette rarely crackles. Eisenstein’s Mexican freedom is cut short and it’s only a matter of time before the uppity politico gives it to Stalin—fascism (Alexander Nevsky) gives way to humanism and Ivan the Terrible I and its sequel are born. No, we didn’t expect Strike but a few stunning, if not wholly beleaguered overhead shots just don’t cut it. Eisenstein‘s politics are strangely lackadaisical for a film about the propagandistic father of montage. Bartlett’s efficient and concise but his Eisenstein is lifeless; this isn’t the man who edited the blood, guts and glory of October.
- 96 min
- Renny Bartlett
- Renny Bartlett
- Simon McBurney, Raymond Coulthard, Jacqueline McKenzie, Jonathan Hyde, Barnaby Kay, Leni Parker, Sonya Walger, Andrea Mason, Tim McMullan, Ian Bartholomew, Bernard Hill
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