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Set in the bleak aftermath and devastation of the World War I, a recently demobbed soldier, Timosh, returns to his hometown Kiev, after having survived a train wreck. His arrival coincides ... See full summary »
A five-person team of gold prospectors in the Yukon has just begun to enjoy great success when one of the members snaps, and suddenly kills two of the others. The two survivors, a husband ... See full summary »
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Rainer Werner Fassbinder,
Filmic insert to Eisenstein's modernized, free adaptation of Ostrovskiy's 19th-century Russian stage play, "The Wise Man" ("Na vsyakogo mudretsa dovolno prostoty"). The anti-hero Glumov ... See full summary »
Sergei M. Eisenstein
Sergei M. Eisenstein
Mexico seen through the (surprisingly) anthropological eye of Eisenstein
Considering that Que Viva Mexico was (mostly) made by Sergei Eisenstein, and funded by Upton Sinclair, the most happy surprise is that the film isn't overloaded with the kind of communist/socialist propaganda that would be immediately expected. It's not that this would be a bad thing in the technical sense; Eisenstein, on the front of being a pure visionary, couldn't be stopped no matter how thin he stretched himself for his means as a director who had to stay to party/country guidelines. And for Sinclair, the meatier the context the better the hyperbole. But with Que Viva Mexico! we get a view of the people and customs like out of a measured fever dream. We're given more-so the customs and the traditions, the practice of a marriage, the bullfights, some of the context of the history behind those 'Day of the Dead' parades. Only here and there are any blatant pleas seen and heard loud and clear (mostly involving the poorest of the poor in the lot).
Actually, it could be something, in a sense, comparable to Werner Herzog in attempting the documentary form. It's not quite fiction, but it's presenting documentary in a stylized manner, where things aren't simply stock footage but very much a set-up of the construction of drama in the scenes and scene-location specific shots and angles. And like Herzog, Eisenstein has a poet's eye for visions that many might only see in the most remote history books or travelogues. While the accompanying narration for Que Viva Mexico is a little on the creaky end, there's no lack of splendor for the senses as far as getting an eye full of carefully picked locals (i.e. the girl Concepcion for the marriage scenes) or for mixing real documentary footage of the bullfight with careful constructed shots of the bullfighter before and after the fact. Even the music plays a nifty role in the dramatization of events. And here and there, especially as the film rolls along in its last third, a subtle sensation of the surreal drifts into the proceedings.
Unfortunately, like It's All True for Orson Welles, Que Viva Mexico remains something of a carefully plucked fragment from a lost bit in the director's career. It's a minor marvel, and certainly more than a curiosity for the die-hard documentary or Mexican history buff, but it's stayed obscurer than Eisenstein's more infamous pieces (Potemkin, Alexander Nevksy) for a reason. Despite all the best intentions to simply reveal the cultural day-to-day workings and a little of the socio-political context of the Conquistadors' impact, it's a cool curiosity at best.
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