Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The End Of St. Petersburg (1927)

Yes, he's that intense.

Genre: Silent War Drama (Soviet Union)

Starring: V. Obolensky, Aleksandr Chistyakov (The Deserter)

Directed By: Vsevolod Pudovkin (Storm Over Asia, Mother)

Overview: In this revolutionary tale, we follow a man as he seeks work in the city, only to end up having a village friend arrested for instigating a labour strike. He does what he can to help rectify the situation.

Acting: Heavy, expressive, up-close and in your face. There's the silent drama pantomime that you see where women swoon and moustachioed men snarl evilly, then there's this, where it's equally dramatic and equally over the top in its intensity, but rather than being inhumanly ridiculous, it's overly human. Perhaps this sort of acting is more believable when it's about people starving and fighting to get paid for an honest day's work. Such an awesome intensity, it's like looking at their revolution-inspired statues, it's just so BIG.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: I've never included casting in the cinematography. That's because people aren't a visual thing that enhances a film like a camera panning through the desolate defeated Winter Palace for example, or watching the careful use of rule of thirds while montages explode left and right along with the cannons. There's a thing about the characters here though, the way their faces show lines of strife, the way the black and white film makes their wrinkles an artistic piece of chiaroscuro, the way their freckles add contrast to help us understand the suffering these people are going through. This guy's a genius.
Rating: 9

Script: It's nice that we see the original Russian intertitles as they aid in putting us in the Soviet action, even the way they sometimes jump at us from a small font to quickly zooming to the size of the whole screen. I was surprised to see such an effect used, but there were too many scene where it was just understood what was going on, because we were Russians and we all remembered what it was like to overthrow St. Petersburg, and if we were too young, well it was certainly taught to us in school. That's a bit of a downer, but the words were inspiring enough.
Rating: 6

Plot: The story is so much like that of Judas selling out Christ, I wonder if that was what was intended. If not, kudos to me for Passion of the Bolshevik. This film was commissioned by the communists along with Eisenstein's October to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Revolution. Where Eisenstein's film was about the masses, this is about the singular man, the character that provided the reason for revolt. I'll tell you though, I haven't studies the Russian Revolution of 1917, and though I know the basics, there were a couple scenes that just should have been better explained.

Rating: 7

Mood: As it was with October, the subtitles added to translate the originals were jagged, out of place, bright yellow words that constantly reminded me of the present, a bit of a mood killer. The music was nice, the intensity was certainly there, but so was the propaganda. You know what, if capitalists were this heartless, you'd expect the starving masses to overthrow their plush-seated asses, you really would. Overall though there was something missing, perhaps it was my mindset, but this didn't keep me focused the way Pudovkin's last masterpiece did.
Rating: 8

Imagine running into this angry proletariate in a back alley...

Overall Rating: 78% (The Pravda Is Out)

Aftertaste: As I watched, I yelled "Baby! I'm influenced!". Yeah, definitely moved by the style of editing here, and if ever I became a cinematographer, I'd do the best job possible to come up with montages that make the scene like this one did, for sure.