Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A trio of excellent Russian silents...

Earth (1930, Aleksandr Dovzhenko): A startling, bombastic paean to both technology and the soil, the film was amusingly referred to in one review as "tractor porn", and the near-orgasmic montage of reactions when the tractor first arrives doesn't do much to dissuade that claim. As the film states itself at the beginning, the plot is fairly wispy and secondary to the breathtaking imagery, and 'tis, a breathtaking film (plus it has more nudity than Titanic!). A- [#2 in my Four of '30]

The End of St. Petersburg (1927, Vsevolod Pudovkin): Made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Oktober Revolution, the film shows a farmer turning into a worker in a horrid factory, mindless capitalism (crazy ass stockbrockers), Russia's entrance into World War I, and then the big bang of Oktober. It's certainly not a subtle film (they announce they they're going to war fighting for the Czar and money!), but there's some exhilarating images and some spectacularly dynamic editing, and you can feel the fact that Pudovkin just loves making films. And usually, directors that exude that sheer joy, one can see it in their films, and this one shows. B+ [#10 in my Seventeen of Pre-1930]

Chess Fever (1925, Vsevolod Pudovkin): A man has become totally addicted to chess, to the point that his fiancee decides to break off their marriage. She's convinced it breaks up families, a point illustrated to ridiculous and hilarious lengths (including attempting to poison herself and finding the poison in a chess-piece-shaped bottle). I think I probably could have connected with it more had I been a chess player, but even on a base level, without a knowledge of the game, Chess Fever is a fun, brief, very funny little short. A-

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