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Eisenstein In Guanajuato [Blu-ray]
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In 1931, at the height of his artistic powers, Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein travels to Mexico to shoot a new film. Freshly rejected by Hollywood and under increasing pressure to return to Stalinist Russia, Eisenstein arrives at the city of Guanajuato.
Chaperoned by his guide Palomino Cañedo, he vulnerably experiences the ties between Eros and Thanatos, sex and death, happy to create their effects in cinema, troubled to suffer them in life.
Awarded Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema at the 2014 BAFTAs, writer/director Peter Greenaway (Nightwatching, Goltzius & The Pelican Company) explores the mind of one of the greatest masters of Cinema through ten passionate days that helped shape the rest of his career.
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Where Goltzius And The Pelican Company (2012) had the estimable veteran F. Murray Abraham providing necessary gravitas at the heart of its convoluted narrative, so Eisenstein In Guanajuato (2015) has the excellent Finnish actor Elmer Back driving things forward with a memorable energetic performance in the title role. At times, Back's boundless physicality is reminiscent of Tom Hulce's boisterous take on Mozart in Amadeus (1984). But there the similarities end. While Mozart is possibly the best-known classical composer of them all, and a towering cultural icon, Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein is little-known to the wider public. His silent films are rarely seen outside specialist theatres and mostly talked about by students of film history. For Greenaway, Eisenstein is a hero of innovative film-making. Eisenstein's editing techniques (his quick-fire montage) as well as footage from his masterworks Strike (1925), Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1928) are frequently woven into the rich fabric of Greenaway's eclectic biopic. Greenaway also uses split screen effects in a homage to Abel Gance, another pioneering figure from the Silent era. Although all this eye-catching stylistic wizardry demands our close attention, the film also successfully manages to focus on Eisenstein's emotional development and liberation, in particular his homosexual awakening. Luis Alberti gives a splendid nuanced performance as Palomino Canedo, Eisenstein's guide in matters cultural and sexual while he resides in Mexico on a film-making project. Back's ebullient performance is nicely counterbalanced by Alberti's thankfully much calmer performance. Together they movingly convey a heartfelt relationship that is doomed to be short-lived. For Sergei must return to Russia and Palomino to his extraordinarily understanding wife.
As you would expect from Peter Greenaway, this is a busy film - busy with ideas about cinematic form, busy with references to other films (the arrangement of cutlery on a tablecloth is supposed to remind us of Last Year At Marienbad, says Greenaway in the supplied interview), and most of all busy with an avalanche of scripted words that sometimes sounds like a bad case of verbal diarrhoea... But that's Mr Greenaway for you. As irritating sometimes as he is brazenly stimulating and inventive.
YOU NEED TO BE IN THE RIGHT FRAME OF MIND TO VIEW IT, but then it is simply amazing.
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