Thursday, February 9, 2017
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, 1925) look like a Sunday picnic. The film veers from documentary realism in the factory scenes, to gross -- or perhaps Grosz, as in George Grosz -- caricature in its portrayal of the capitalist bosses as fat cigar-smoking men in silk top hats, to a baroque expressionism in the scenes involving the spies and provocateurs who betray the workers. Eisenstein never slackens for a moment -- it's an exhausting film. Is it a great film? That's one for the debaters, a conflict between those who believe in art as a servant of truth and those who believe in art as pure form. I can admire its technical virtues and historical significance, and even admit that it plays on my political sympathies for workers over capitalist bosses, while worrying that the effect of the film is to valorize a dangerous suppression of reason, the unhinged anti-humanism that ultimately betrayed the very revolution Eisenstein supported.