• Battleship Potemkin (1925) - Sergei M. Eisenstein

    THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN … is one of the fundamental landmarks of cinema. Its famous massacre on the Odessa Steps has been quoted so many times in other films … that it’s likely many viewers will have seen the parody before they see the original … That there was, in fact, no czarist massacre on the Odessa Steps scarcely diminishes the power of the scene.

    conceived as class-conscious revolutionary propaganda … Eisenstein deliberately avoids creating any three-dimensional individuals … Instead, masses of men move in unison … The dialogue (in title cards) is limited mostly to outrage and exhortation. There is no personal drama to counterbalance the larger political drama.” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times)

     potemkin5“Governments actually believed [this film] could incite audiences to action. A revolutionary film in form, in political purpose and in subject matter, Eisenstein’s 1925 Soviet classic focuses on a naval mutiny in the Black Sea during the abortive 1905 revolution. This great 20th-century icon is up there with Guernica, the work of another communist maverick who put his art at the service of the revolution, though unlike Eisenstein Picasso was never disciplined by anyone resembling Stalin and his philistine cultural commissars.

    … The film’s 75 minute duration is composed of 1,400 takes and is the precise model of its innovatory director’s theory of montage. Potemkin is a vital viewing experience that transcends its landmark/milestone status. Its virtuoso technique remains dazzling and is at the service of a revolutionary fervour we can still experience.” (Philip French, The Guardian).

    Vadim Rizov outlines seven different filmmaker salutes to Eisenstein’s scene on the Odessa Steps (Vadim Rizov, IFC):

    odessa_stairs_Ukraine-battleship_potemkine_(1) Brian DePalma’s THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987) – the big shoot out scene in Union Station.

    (2) Terry Gillian’s BRAZIL (1985) – the scene with a vacuum cleaner taking the place of the baby carriage.

    (3) Bernardo Bertolucci’s PARTNER (1968) – the scene with theater students putting an explosive in a baby carriage and pushing it down some stairs.

    (4) Charles Kaufman’s WHEN NATURE CALLS (1985) – the scene with a small car, standing in for Eisenstein’s baby carriage, going down some stairs.

    (5) Al Jean and Mike Reiss’s THE CRITIC (1994-95) – the art school film includes a parody of the baby carriage.

    (6) Jean Luc Godard’s UNE CATASTROPHE (2008) – the opening inferno montage.

    (7) Peter Segal’s NAKED GUN 33 1/3: THE FINAL INSULT (1994) – the scene with OJ Simpson doing a touchdown dance with a baby.

     

    -kw

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