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Battleship Potemkin

Bronenosets Potemkin

Potemkin’s legendary reputation has always tended to loom larger than the actual film, which was largely improvised by Sergei Eisenstein and his team on location in Odessa. Junking much of a scenario intended to commemorate the failed 1905 Russian revolution, they realised the potential of both the ship itself and the town’s architecture. The film became a virtual laboratory in which Eisenstein experimented with orchestrating the cinematic effects he had already discovered while making Strike. From the growing tension of the early shipboard scenes, with mutiny simmering, to the first climax of revolt, followed by a moving elegy to its martyrs, the film is deeply musical in its rhythms. When the Tsarist oppression literally crushes innocence underfoot in the great Odessa Steps sequence, modern viewers are still as gripped by this inexorable visual crescendo as were the audiences of the 1920s, when Potemkin swept the world and seemed, quite simply, the greatest film ever made. Bacon admired Eisenstein’s use of vivid imagery, using a shot from Potemkin’s Odessa steps sequence in a number of his paintings.
U.S.S.R, 1925. English subtitles. Black and white. 74 mins.

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