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The Secret Life of Sergei Eisenstein (1987)

 -  Documentary | Biography
6.6
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 34 users  
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An autobiographical film, in English throughout, telling the story of film director Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) from his childhood in Riga, Latvia to receiving the 'Stalin Prize' in ... See full summary »

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Title: The Secret Life of Sergei Eisenstein (1987)

The Secret Life of Sergei Eisenstein (1987) on IMDb 6.6/10

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Cast

Credited cast:
Juan Antonio Gálvez ...
Narrator
Paul Vaughan ...
Narrator (english version)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
Herself - Sings Song Mon pays c'est Paris (archive footage)
...
Himself - Waves at Fans (archive footage)
...
Himself - in England, in Holland, Anti-Anti-Semitism Speech in English (archive footage)
...
Himself - Salutes Parade (archive footage)
Mikhail Kalinin ...
Himself - Handshake with Eisenstein (archive footage)
Solomon Mikhoels ...
Himself - Signs Declaration with Other Celebrities (archive footage)
Sergei Prokofiev ...
Himself - at Piano with Eisenstein (archive footage)
Eduard Tisse ...
Himself - with Eisenstein (archive footage)
August von Mackensen ...
Himself - Salutes Parade Beside Hitler (archive footage)
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An autobiographical film, in English throughout, telling the story of film director Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) from his childhood in Riga, Latvia to receiving the 'Stalin Prize' in Moscow. Based on his own writings, the film uses actual film clips of Eisenstein at various points of his life as well as photographs, illustrations and archival film of a variety of locations around the world. Eisenstein's talent as a satirical cartoonist and later an artist is particularly highlighted with many photographs of his work. Films discussed include "Strike", "Battleship Potemkin", "Oktober", "The old and the new", "Alexander Nevsky" and "Ivan the terrible". There is a detailed account of Eisenstein's world tour during which time he met and worked with other leading film-makers, writers and personalities including Einstein, James Joyce, D. W. Griffith and Walt Disney. Includes anecdote on his visit to High Table at Trinity College, Cambridge and its inspiration for a scene in 'Ivan the ... Written by Michele Wilkinson, University of Cambridge Language Centre, <mw125@cus.cam.ac.uk>

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Eisenstein - La vida es espectaculo  »

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1.33 : 1
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References Shoulder Arms (1918) See more »

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6/10
31 January 2005 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

How much value you find in this will depend on two things: the degree to which you're interested in an artist's personal life, and the degree to which you have a personal interest in Sergei Eisenstein. I'm not much of an Eisensteinian myself, even though I will gladly watch his major works -- "Battleship Potemkin," "Strike," "October," "Alexander Nevsky," "Ivan the Terrible" parts one and two -- to get a good sense of what it is he was after, and how he did it. He's a film pioneer whose films still thrill -- think of how amazing that is. Consider the person who created English grammar -- would you still want to read that? Well, Eisenstein, if we move past Chaplin, Griffith, Edison, the Lumieres, and Melies, essentially created modern film grammar, and film is a language like any other. (Your views on how to use that grammar may differ from Eisenstein, as mine do, but that doesn't change the fact that he set a solid foundation for others to work on -- or away from.)

The film is essentially a narration of Eisenstein's journals, and what's disappointing is that there's nothing very revealing about it. It's basically Eisenstein giving a brief summary of his childhood, how he got into films, what famous people he met, etc. (It's great to finally put to rest the common confusion of Einstein and Eisenstein -- he met the scientist, who gave him an autograph signed "from Einstein to Eisenstein.") And none of it is really very "secret," either: some remembrances of his films, and the briefest mention of "latent" homosexuality. (Funny that we learn Jean Cocteau was a fan, but the gay slant isn't touched upon.)

Knowing Eisenstein's satirical cartoonist past (and we get to see some of his cartoons, which are wonderfully grotesque) it's easy to see why he so revered Walt Disney; and it's not a claim that exists to be "shocking," this "propagandist" who likes animated features: he may well have been a propagandist, but he was foremost a stylist of spectacle -- the morality of what his films did or did not influence is really beside the point; he himself was reportedly surprised that in France his work was appreciated almost solely due to the socialist content; in America he was referred to as a "bandit." (And anyone who harbors notions of Eisenstein-the-evil will be glad to see a public announcement he makes against racial inequality.) For all the criticism Eisenstein gets for being too intellectual, too mechanical and technical (and it's a criticism I share), it's important to note that it was always tied to the art of the films. Perhaps the most interesting bit of information in the film is that he met James Joyce, who played him a recording of "Finnegans Wake," and how Eisenstein felt the "interior monologues" would have great use in cinema. 6/10


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