Friday, June 23, 2006

October (1927)

And Sweet Cannons too!

Genre: Silent War Drama (Soviet Union)

Starring: Vladimir Popov, Vasili Nikandrov

Directed By: Grigori Aleksandrov, Sergei Eisenstein (Strike; Battleship Potemkin)

Overview: This film sets us in the middle of the 1917 Russian Revolution timeline between February and October, and shows us some of important moments including the final siege on the Winter Palace.

Acting: Eisentein has a way of making caricatures rather than characters. In October as well we focus more on the events of a city, ratheer than the acts of indivisuals. Yes there's a scene with Trostky and one with Lenin, but this is more about stern looks, ambassadors fleeing, female soldiers surrendering, outcry at the committee meeting, that sort of thing. Profiles and sneers, if you ask me, are editing and direction heavy, and that is Eisenstein's gift.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: This director invented the montage and made it his directorial signature. An Eisenstein movie without precise meticulous care with the lens and editing is like a Korusawa film without Japanese people. The up-close zooms on tank treads as they're being lowered juxtaposed with the up-close shots of the bridge-mechanism as it's being raised, serene statues of the bourgeoisie offset by the 11,000 extras attacking the summer palace. Machine guns fire as subliminally-paced edits show us the face of the gunman and those he is firing upon at the same time. He and Abel Gance must have been either friends or competitors. This guy. Holy God, this guy.
Rating: 10

Script: "No Peace! No Land! No Bread!"

This is one of those silent films that tells as little as possible. That is a huge flaw here, because I really don't know as much about the Russian Revolution as a Russian who lived it ten years ago, sorry. This assumes that we know too much and unfortunately the script, or lack thereof, caused me and my guest to be a little lost about the events as they happened. Not a good thing when you're looking at a documentary.
Rating: 5

Plot: Alright, admittedly there was some flubbing of the facts, but when you have a government lead by Stalin, you tend to accept the forced editing of certain scenes. It's the way it goes. So yes, this leans more on the propaganda side of history than the truth, but the revolution DID happen and this is as accurate a retelling of that event as possible. As a story, it's one full of war and strife, loss and victory, attack and counter-attack. It's exciting.
Rating: 8

Mood: The director revisited this when the era of sound came to pass, and the subtle additions of footsteps, gunshots, bomb blasts, undiscernable cheers, singing and grumbling was just beautiful. The music was also of the inspirational orcherstal type that served to enhance the film, rather that simply act as a background. What was mopst disappointing were the redone intertitles. They were simply a standard computerized font without anti-aliasing. It gave the film a too modern edge, and not even a good one, more like something out of an 80s rock video or a car dealership commercial.
Rating: 8

Look at that original poster! Can you GET any cooler?!?!

Overall Rating: 80% (Any Time!)

Aftertaste:I said, as I was watching this "I wish I could give the Cinematography an 11." I've never seen anything as stunning. How is it people don't do this anymore?! I mourned the passing of the silent era a little there, and aside from the occasional Phillip Glass film like Baraka, we really don't see visual imagery anywhere as bold anymore. Sigh. Wow, what a spectacular film to watch, even if you lose a little something in the translation.