52 Films Challenge: Film 1
On a suggestion from Jason A. Miller and inspired further by Drew Meyer, I’ve joined a little social challenge to watch 52 movies in 2023, at least one per week. I may or may not binge a few during relaxed periods like this one in case I can’t fulfill a given week’s goal. I’ll try to avoid any “spoilers” in my comments on them, and try instead to persuade people to look up (or avoid) the film.
First up: Battleship Potemkin (1925) by a 27-year-old (!) Sergei Eisenstein.
Although very basic and propagandistic by today’s standards, this is a masterpiece of early Russian cinema and brought the now-familiar technique of “montages” into the vocabulary of silent film, a way to show a number of shots as a summation of what was going on. Oddly, I had not actually seen the entire film previously.
It is based on the true story of the ship, which in 1905 helped kick off a revolution against the authoritarian Tsar’s government and military after a mutiny caused by the Tsarist officers’ cruelty and indifference to the suffering of the crew. The film is also noted for being among the very few that portrayed graphic violence and some gore on-screen (rather than cutting away or minimizing it) at the time.
Modern viewers may find its points laboured and the editing disruptive at times, but as a piece of military history and for the remarkable “Odessa Steps” sequence that represents the cruelty and tyranny of the Tsar’s forces, it remains an interesting look at some of the events that shaped Russia for generations. At less than 1h20m, it’s a pretty easy watch if you enjoy long-form silent movies (the score on the version I saw featured lots of Shostakovich).