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Eisenstein in Mexico

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29 MAY 2015

Eisenstein in Mexico


Sergej Eisenstein during his last days spent in Guanajuato, seen from the point of view of the director who, above all others, has fused theater, painting and art into visual imagery: Peter Greenaway. 

The mere mixing of these elements can do no less than entice the viewer who will be able to devour and, at the same time, be devoured by “Eisenstein in Mexico”.

In 1931, the Russian director decides to leave his Stalinist homeland to dedicate himself to filming “Que Viva Mexico”, a film that was financed by the American client Upton Sinclair, and was his celebration of the “most important people’s revolution of the century” that took place in 1911. Intoxicated by close encounters with personalities of the caliber of Frida Kahlo and Walt Disney, he arrives in Guanajuato. After having shot about 8000 meters of film, his relationship with the production studio wavers and the relation with Soviet authorities become more tense, as the project is seen as too risqué for the regime, and he is forced to return to the motherland. He is not allowed to edit the scenes filmed, and the materials are passed from the American producers onto other authors.

Greenaway’s enthusiasm for the Russian director grew year after year, and his feelings are apparent in all frames, which, much like a prism, multiply the protagonist’s persona.

They unravel him and put him back together under different forms, juxtaposing the triumphant figure of the great filmmaker with that of a man literally laid bare, to do justice to his multifaceted ingenuity. 

It is easily deducible that Eisenstein was a reference point for Peter Greenaway: the unstoppable flow of images, typical of the Russian maestro, has always influenced the style of the Welsh director, but with this film, enthusiastically acclaimed at the Berlin festival, Eisenstein is legitimized as the cinematic anti-hero. During his last few days in Guanajuato, his voracious curiosity brings him to indulge in the innate quest to understand human nature, moving the needs of the director and of the project to the background. Sergej, thanks to his interaction with Palomino Canedo, his guide in Mexico, which started as intellectual and then became erotic and spiritual, discovers and uncovers himself, he falls in love and allows himself to be hurt by the series of events of which he is intermittently both a spectator and a protagonist. 

Greenaway depicts a never before seen image, one that is far from those existing in the public’s collective imagination. An image of Sergej in the shower, on the phone with his secretary, surrendering and confiding his most private thoughts, finally free of the overly rigid modesty (including sexual modesty) imposed by his homeland. 

Eisenstein embarks in a labyrinth of emotional revolutions. Like a child who wakes from the lethargy of sleep and gets out of bed, feels the frigid floor under the tips of his toes, but then discovers that on that same floor he can also slip, fall and get up as well as sliding from one side to the other of this unexplored land.

Mexico, a land that mixes revolution with sensuality and eros with thanatos, is celebrated with all its contrasts and exalted by images that are full of color. 

Greenaway yet again reaffirms his pictorial mannerism by pursuing a visual style that knowledgeably directs the light in such a way to give plasticity and emphasis to each single image. The Welsh director celebrates Eisenstein with a movie that admittedly romanticizes his story, avoiding any similarities to a documentary, perhaps coming closer to the reality of the revolution that, during those 10 days, took place within him instead of on stage.

Content    Clara Gipponi

Content Editor    Annie Markitanis

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