|Index||10 reviews in total|
18 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Very Well-Crafted, & A Fine Companion to Eisenstein's "October", 17 December 2004
Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
This Pudovkin classic and Eisenstein's "October" were both commissioned
to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 1917 revolution. The two
movies work very well as companions for one another, since Eisenstein
concentrated on the major historical events of the revolution, while
"The End of St. Petersburg" looks at the era through a story involving
some everyday characters. Eisenstein's movie is deservedly well-known,
and it is probably the better of the two, but Pudovkin's well-crafted
film is a fully worthy companion, and it deserves to be better
The story is well-conceived and, at least given the perspective from which it was made, it works well. The main character is a young man from the country who heads to the great city of St. Petersburg to find work, and who instead learns a series of unexpected and not always pleasant lessons. As the young man, Ivan Chuvelyov does not have a lot of screen presence, but he does convey sincerity and honesty.
The other two major characters are a proletarian agitator played by Aleksandr Chistyakov, and his strong-willed wife, played by Vera Baranovskaya. Both of them have good presence, and make their characters stand out. The roles are not really all that complex, but they are used well in the story.
It's understood that it is often necessary to set aside political perspectives in order to appreciate Soviet-era Russian movies. There are a few somewhat heavy-handed details here, mostly in the portrayal of capitalists, and occasionally in the titles. But you could easily find techniques used in today's Hollywood movies that are much more labored or manipulative. Further, movies like "The End of St. Petersburg" go a long ways towards explaining how and why Russia turned to Leninism and communism with such determination.
Perhaps movies like this will now be of interest only to those with an enthusiasm for history, but for those who do take such an interest, it should not be a disappointment.
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
No matter what your own politics or interpretation of history, you can't help admire the sheer joy Pudovkin takes in filmmaking., 15 November 2010
Author: I B from Mars
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Trained in physics and chemistry, Vsevolod Pudovkin joined Lev Kuleshov's film workshop soon after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. He systemized the master's methods in the pamphlet Film Technique (1926), which ennobled editing as the alpha and omega of film art. Pudovkin also insisted that the filmmaker had to make every scene vivid through facial expression and those details of setting he called 'plastic material'. Although critics judged Sergei Eisenstein the deeper theorist, Pudovkin's doctrines became canonical for aspiring filmmakers everywhere. By treating filmmaking as a matter of strict calculation, Pudovkin may have led critics to overlook his forceful storytelling and poetic imagination. The End Of St. Petersburg remains a powerful portrayal of the 1917 Revolution, seen from the bottom. Pudovkin follows D.W. Griffith in contriving to balance historical sweep with personal drama in a way that The Battleship Potemkin (1925) never attempts. In the most famous sequence, Pudovkin cross-cuts the battlefield with the stock exchange not only to illustrate how war yields profits but also to stir our anger at the obvious contrast between frenziedly bidding brokers and dead soldiers frozen in the mud. Throughout, the political lessons arise from emotional details. Once considered Eisenstein's peer, Pudovkin has wandered into the shadows. Mother (1926), a striking adaptation of Maxim Gorky's novel, has largely been remembered for its textbook montage. Adventurous experiments like Storm Over Asia (1928), A Simple Case (1932) and Deserter (1933) have largely been forgotten.
6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Startling early Russian silent, 14 April 2007
Author: tbyrne4 from United States
Wow!! I wasn't expecting something like this. Quite frankly, silent
Russian directors make American directors of the same era look anemic
Nearly every shot in this film is poetry - beautifully composed, lit, not over-acted (like so many silents), simple, and brutally powerfully. The faces, the atmosphere. Vsevolod had an AMAZING eye for composition. The close-ups are gorgeous and intense and fiery and the wide shots are breathtaking in the way they emphasize man's fragile diminutive size.
Of course, this is a propaganda film, so the upper class are portrayed as fat, hysterical beast-people and the lower-class are all rough-hewn and beautiful, but WHO CARES when the movie is this good! And this is during the age of Eisenstein so the quick-cut editing comes into play during the end with the big overthrow of St. Petersburg with great edits that are nearly subliminal.
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The singing, collective eye, 24 August 2011
Author: chaos-rampant from Greece
Pudovkin, it is said, would visit Eisenstein late at night to discuss
theories of montage. They were both key figures of the movement, but
polar opposites; so one can imagine how heatedly - how excitedly, at
the prospect of discovery - the ideas must have been debated back and
forth, and is montage the means of collision between images that scream
or the scaffold that builds into song?
But whereas Eisenstein was grounded into Freud, Joyce, Banshun and Japanese poetry, Pudovkin - as a British journalist puts it - argued theory like a schoolteacher. So, it makes some sense that he hasn't endured in critical thought like his more famous counterpart, or like Vertov and Dovzhenko. But having read some of Pudovkin's writings, he was indeed one of the great engineers of cinema, at the time when cinema was truly engineered; his theory of human perception as a series of edits, thus how the objective world is arranged movie-like into the mind into a narrative, has far-reaching imports. It implies a way out of the editing mind, and back into the eye.
It's something that I have been looking for in my meditation - how to extinguish these lapses, edits, of mind narrative so that only the silence behind the forms echoes. This is a literal thing btw, I'm not talking about a fancy metaphor. In meditation, you become tangibly aware of intruding thoughts as narratives, lapses during which the surrounding reality is dimmed into a haze. Back into Pudovkin though.
But with the advent of sound, he petered out; the last significant experiment we find is in his first talkie, Deserter, and it is about subjective sound. Here though, he still mattered. The two friends and theoretical rivals were commissioned by the Soviet state to make films that commemorated the ten years since the Revolution. Eisenstein turned out a film on the grand scale, Pudovkin on the other hand something more intricate.
Oh, eventually there is battle and revolutionary spirit rippling through a society of oppressed, exploited proles. Flags are waved from balconies, the streets festively rained with paper as the Reds turn the tide against both Germans and White Russians. By the end, the enemies of the people are shown to have been really few, a handful of pathetic officers scattered in a field. St. Petersburg turns eventually, joyously for the film, into the City of Lenin.
But there is stuff that matters before we get into the simple paean, all pertaining to the mechanisms that control the eye.
I don't know what you will be looking to get out of these films, but to me they matter because these people, erudite engineers of film, were hard at work devising ways by which to unfetter the eye from narrative. Oh, the perception they enabled was the farthest thing from true, but we can discard the politics and focus on the actual engineering; how to make film in a way that seeing and what is seen become one, unmediated by any thought between them?
Look, for example, how Pudovkin edits the scene with the young man at the police headquarters, arguing the release of a man from the same village as he; individually the images may not make perfect sense, the intertitle seems to be a disembodied voice that belongs to no one in particular, but it precisely this scaffold rigged for the eye that makes it resonate. It is only upon seeing, and seeing only, that it translates.
Painterly beauty elsewhere, fields of hay rolling in the distance, the shots of windmills and overcast skies that predate later poetics of Soviet cinema. Or, once in the city, the stark desolation in empty cityscapes that could only be so purely expressed by a film tradition, rooted in Marxist politics, that rejoiced at the sight of masses and crowds.
It is fine, fine stuff. As with other Soviet films of the era, I recommend that you see as 'films', not as 'agitprop' from where we, enlightened viewers of the West, are called to salvage a few cinematic notions of historic importance. Oh yes, the imports of good and evil are simple-minded, but were they any more intricate with the expressionists in Germany or contemporary Hollywood?
7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
They don't make 'em like they used to, 14 December 1999
Author: John Seal from Oakland CA
The End of St Petersburg was another landmark of Soviet realist cinema, as good as if not better than Battleship Potemkin, Strike, or Storm Over Asia. It's incredibly powerful, with many absolutely stunning montage sequences that make today's quick cut edits look like like child's play in comparison. The language of cinema was invented in Russia and Germany by artists like Pudovkin, Eisenstein, Murnau, and Lang. Anyone interested in cinema history needs to see films like this one to appreciate how weak our current crop of auteurs truly are.
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Those Darn Capitalists!, 12 October 2009
Author: Hitchcoc from United States
I have to say that I was quite captivated by this film, and, of course, I found myself rooting for those poor Soviets. The symbol of the boiled potato which at first barely fed two people, finally being shared by the communists is quite striking. The film is visually wonderful. Both Poduvkin and Eisenstein have this thing for wonderful faces, with character and pain. Of course, everything is exaggerated. Those guys at the stock market, feasting on the spoils of the country while the proletariat slaved in the factories is brought to us with an incredible heavy-handedness. These must have been used extensively for propaganda purposes and must have had people up in arms. There are good performances and all the communist symbolism one could hope for. Unfortunately, not everything panned out quite so well a few years later, with the oppressed back under the heel of those who abuse power. See this film, however, and consider the plight of the poor of Russia, stuck under the Tsar and the fat cats.
7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Cinema in its finest form, 1 November 2003
Author: Vladimir from Sydney, Australia
This silent 1927 masterpiece is truly brilliant. To me it embodies
everything that cinema is meant to be; it's visual art in motion, literature
with pictures, history with emotion; all those and much more. It really is
at the peak of film-making.
I say that, but that is not to say it is a perfect film. Just that the intention in creating this bleak and powerful look at poverty in early 20th-century Russia is absolutely spot-on: It wants to tell a tale, create an image, and to breathe life into history. The intention is not simply to entertain like so many awful films of the past ten years, which is a good thing, since "The End of St. Petersberg" is great without actually being entertaining.
There are some very powerful scenes and some frankly unforgettable visual sequences - the scenes of the first world war for example, or the beginning of the workers' strike. Take it from me, Pudovkin's direction is absolutely masterful and I think it's sad that seemingly so few people have discovered him. But with all that said, by today's standards this doesn't quite have the staying power of Chaplin or Keaton.
It's quite wonderful to behold, but it can really only captivate the interest of people who are interested in details of history, or who know little of the events leading up to the Russian revolution. Unfortunately for me I'm neither very interested nor entirely ignorant and so while I'm very glad to have witnessed this grand-scale piece of master craftsmanship it couldn't completely peak my interest.
That's unimportant though in the great scheme of things, and I don't mean to say that I don't thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys film or art. ****1/2 / *****
Leave the Symbolism to Eisenstein, 23 February 2013
Author: kril10 from United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The End of St. Petersburg would have been a good dramatic account of
the two Revolutions of 1917 if Pudovkin had used less symbolism and
focused more on developing the specific characters of his film. During
the time of its production, Sergei Eisenstein was considered to be a
master of generalization and symbolism, with all of his movies lacking
many well- developed characters, while Pudovkin was associated much
more with the individual. The End of St. Petersburg seems like a failed
attempt on Pudovkin's part to be more like Eisensteincertain symbolic
actions were somewhat confusing and detracted from the coherence of the
There were several instances of such "failed symbolism." One was the image of the crying bronze statue as Russian soldiers left St. Petersburg to go fight in World War I. Although on the surface it would seem that this image represents the suffering of the city and the unnecessary loss of life, when this action is placed in the revolutionary context of the film, it is unclear what it means. The statue, possibly of Peter the Great, represented monarchist Russia, so why would it cry for the Proletarians being sent off to fight? Another problematic piece of symbolism was at the end, after the overthrow of the Winter Palace, when the mistress of the bald man passed around her potatoes to wounded revolutionaries. This is likely to demonstrate the collective ownership ideal of Communism, but why would it be a Proletarian woman to share? Why did the revolutionaries not raid the overthrown bourgeois palace for necessary supplies?
All this was also done at the expense of some confusion revolving around certain characters. For example, was the first peasant to leave the countryside the same as "the bald man," i.e. Lenin? What happened to him while he was detained and before he ended up on the front? Explicit scenes to answer these questions may have helped in solidifying the film about the revolution.
Pudovkin did a decent job in representing the revolution through the eyes of a few specific characters, like the bald man, the younger peasant, i.e., "the lad," the bald man's mistress, the leader of the factory and his stock market representative, and the chief of police, but he should have stayed in this realm, since he believed in cinema through the individual. The Eisenstein-like attempts at grand symbolism partially spoiled the film.
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Pioneering portrayal of urban poverty, 12 July 1999
Author: Andreas Stokke from Copenhagen, Denmark
Pudovkin makes use of revolutionary techniques, especially montage, as he narrates the story of the storming of the Winter Palace in Skt. Petersburg, 1917. The plot centres on two families, one rural and one urban, whose paths cross as they engage passionately in the uprising. The film is a masterpiece in silent film narration.
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
STARTLINGLY BRILLIANT!!!, 13 December 1999
Author: Scott Fuchs (email@example.com) from Hudson River Valley, New York
Arguably the magnum opus of the silent screen. It must seen to be believed! One can only wonder what the film would have been like had it been made a few later, after the advent of sound. Would appreciate any information regarding the original score. The version we saw on TCM has what seems to be a new soundtrack
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