Monday, March 21, 2011

Battleship Potemkin

Over the weekend the Castro Theatre screened Eisenstein's famous Battleship Potemkin, in a new restoration by Kino International. I'd never seen the movie before, even though I recognized its parody in Naked Gun. In the opening scene high waves crash against a pier, symbolizing the revolution sweeping Russia. Eerily, this image combined the tsunami that hit Japan with the uprisings in the Arab world.

Though the story is very simple, the atmosphere is tense & expectant. The shots of crowds lined up in Odessa impressed me, & I liked the many close-ups of ordinary-looking people. The graphic brutality of the Odessa Steps sequence does not feel like it belongs to an historic past. The movie has a strange shape, though, since the last act spends a lot of time building up suspense without culminating in any spectacle.

The soundtrack was the original orchestral score by Edmund Meisel. It matches the movie's atmosphere, sounding militant & Russian. The tempo & dynamics ratchet up step by step in the final act, building tension simply. La Marseillaise pops up throughout, though I expected the Internationale instead. This was the 1st time in a while that I've seen a silent movie without live musical accompaniment, & I wished for a live orchestra.

§ Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Dir. Sergei Eisenstein

Castro Theatre

No comments: