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TitleSavage Junctures: Sergei Eisenstein and the Shape of Thinking (KINO - The Russian Cinema)
ISBN 139781417521937
CategoryArts - Film
Author
LanguageEnglish
File Size4.6 MB
Total Pages273
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Savage Junctures

Page 136

123

To describe this horizontal contiguity that seemed so uniquely

Mexican, Eisenstein (and his sources before him) resorted to a number

of images that could be enlisted to stand both for ‘Mexico’ and for

the film that Eisenstein wanted to make about Mexico, the film that

would in a certain sense not only represent but be Mexico. Mexico

was like a ‘serape’, wrote Eisenstein to Upton Sinclair in English:

Do you know what a ‘Serape’ is? A Serape is the striped blanket that the
Mexican indio, the Mexican charro – every Mexican wears. And the
Serape could be the symbol of Mexico. So striped and violently
contrasting are the cultures in Mexico running next to each other and at
the same time being centuries away. No plot, no whole story, could run
through this Serape without being false or artificial. And we took the
contrasting independence of its violent colors as the motif for
construction of our film; six episodes following each other – different in
character, different in people, different in animals, trees and flowers. And
still held together by the unity of the weave – a rhythmic and musical
construction and an unrolling of the Mexican spirit and character.18

Anita Brenner, whose book Eisenstein perhaps enjoyed so greatly

because, amply illustrated and including chapters dedicated to

many of the major Mexican ar tists, i t was just as resolutely

‘pictorial’ as Eisenstein himself , adds some other images to

Eisenstein’s ‘woven blanket’:

Without the need for translation or a story sequence, Mexico resolves
itself harmoniously and powerfully as a great symphony or a great
mural painting, consistent with itself, not as a nation in progress, but
as a picture, with certain dominant themes, certain endlessly repeated
forms and values in constantly different relationships and always in
the present, like the Aztec history-scrolls that were also calendars and
books of creed.19

Brenner’s point, made not only here but throughout her book, is

that in Mexico life is art (just as history and calendars become a

picture). As it was for almost every cultural tourist to Mexico in

the 1920s and 1930s, the epicenter of ar t-oriented Mexico for

Brenner and Eisenstein was the work of the great muralists: Diego

Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco. In later years

Eisenstein would, in describing his ideas for Que Viva Mexico!, claim

that each segment of the movie would have been dedicated to a

different muralist or artist. Like many of Eisenstein’s claims, this

statement says, perhaps, more about the grand intentions Eisenstein

always had for every idea than it does about the actual mechanics

of designing Que Viva Mexico!. The movie (like the country it por-

trayed) was indeed inspired by preexisting images and in particular

Savage Thinking

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124 Savage Junctures

by murals, but if Brenner could depict Mexico as a single great

mural, Eisenstein’s inspiration was a whole series of them, unrolling

on an architecturally sophisticated two-dimensional surface (as if

one were to construct a museum on a Moebius strip, that famous

geometric construction – most often represented by a paper loop

with a half twist – with only one side). The specific model for this

surface was, I believe, the Ministry of Education in Mexico City, a

building decorated with a whole series of murals largely by Diego

Rivera. When Diego Rivera had visited Moscow in 1927, he had

shown Eisenstein photos of these murals, the painting of which had

started in 1923. When Eisenstein, Alexandrov and Tisse arrived in

Mexico, they did some very thorough sightseeing of the art scene

and the Ministry of Education was one of the places they visited.20

As a new kind of museum, the Ministry of Education changes

the patterns of, say, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Instead of

potentially poisonous relics of the past (see Chapter 3), the Ministry

of Education looks, by its very nature, to the future and it wears its

lessons on its sleeves, in the form of the murals that cover the walls,

not hidden inside a series of nested treasure boxes (such had been

the structure of the Hermitage in October, the emphasis there being

the obscene deflowering of privy chambers). Though not ‘flat’ in

the ordinary sense, the Ministry of Education’s Moebian surfaces

permit a rethinking of architecture as something that can also be

splendidly two-dimensional, all surface.

The Ministry of Education provided Eisenstein with a map of

Mexico. Like Eisenstein’s Mexico, every time and place coexisted

there on a flowing, architectural, two-dimensional surface. The

Mexico that Diego Rivera put on the walls of the Ministry of

Education was the Mexico that Eisenstein set out to ‘discover’ and

to capture on film. Both objects, Ministry and film, have as their

ambition to be Mexico and in many instances Eisenstein’s images

reflect directly the murals in the Ministry of Education (not just in

the segment, ‘Maguey’, that Eisenstein suggested later was supposed

to be dedicated to Rivera).

The film was to be structured as follows.21 A ‘Prologue’ would

depict the Yucatan and the timeless monumental art of the ancient

Mayas: ‘In the realms of death, where the past still prevails over

the present, there the starting-point of our film is laid.’22 The first

major section of the film was to be set in ‘tropical Tehuantepec’,

where ‘time runs slowly under the dreamy weaving of palms and

costumes and customs do not change for years and years’ (Mexico,

p. 53). To the tune of a sensual Oaxacan song in waltz-time

Page 272

259Index

ecstasy 102, 138–139, 165, 180, 188, 192,
201–202, 211, 214

Eikhenbaum, Boris 7
Enough Simplicity for Every Wise Man

(Eisenstein/Tret’iakov) 13–14, 196–198,
211, 213

Ernst, Max 126

fetus 141–145, 184, 201, 206
Flatland (Abbott) 62–63, 72, 127
fourth dimension 56–64, 116, 121
Freud, Sigmund 13, 15, 51, 69, 85–86, 102,

106, 127, 130, 198–199, 201, 207–208,
212, 214, 234n

The General Line (The Old and the New)
(Eisenstein) 15, 18, 73, 94–115, 117, 122,
150, 211, 214

The Glass House (Eisenstein) 119, 128
Gogol, Nikolai 199–200, 213
Golden Section 120, 178–179, 233n, 242n
Goncharova, Natalya 25
Gorky, Maksim 5, 158, 188

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 4, 10, 18,
76, 80, 82–83, 85–86, 88, 90–93

hieroglyph 8, 91, 94–95, 97
Hitler, Adolf 180–181

Il’f, Il’ia, and Evgenii Petrov 142, 162–165
intellectual montage 81–85, 92–93
interior monologue 128–129
Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein) 2, 17, 155, 171,

184, 185–208, 211–214
Ivanov, Viacheslav 15
Ivanov, Vsevolod 133

Kabuki 19–20, 112–113
Kant, Immanuel 135, 211, 235n
Kuleshov, Lev 24–25, 42–45

Larionov, Mikhail 25–26, 30
laughter 165–166, 187
Lavinskii, Anton 73–74
Leda and the Swan 68, 114

Lenin, Vladimir 10–11, 51, 53, 55–56, 63,
66, 72, 78–81, 85, 87, 90, 92–93, 98, 110–
111, 114, 181–182, 209–210, 216n,
226n, 229n, 242n, 248n

Lissitzky, El 46

Maklochane (Davydov) 96, 99, 102–103,
105, 110

Matiushin, Mikhail 56–58
Mayakovsky, Vladimir 78–79, 85, 87
Medusa 64, 67–73, 77, 86–67
Meyerhold, Vsevolod 19, 50, 113, 158,

191, 205
MMM (Eisenstein) 155, 169–171, 172,

212, 214
montage 6, 8–9, 11, 21–26, 34–35, 43–44,

47, 48, 54, 81–85, 88–93, 94, 96–97,
111, 114, 118, 154, 174–180, 187, 203,
213–214

museum 70, 76, 88–90, 121, 124–125, 155,
170, 184

Nikandrov, Vasilii 78–80, 87, 90, 226n
Nonindifferent Nature (Eisenstein) 120,

178–181, 210

October (Eisenstein) 15, 18, 73, 76–93, 96,
97, 110, 117, 121, 124, 130, 207, 211

Orlova, Liubov’ 164, 166, 197

pathos 6, 66, 132, 179–184
The Phenomenology of Spirit (Hegel) 4, 10,

18, 76, 80, 82–83, 85–86, 88, 90–93
philosophy 2, 4–5, 9–11, 15, 18–19, 47, 56,

63, 64, 82–83, 86, 91–92, 96, 130, 184,
207, 210, 214

Pil’niak, Boris 36–38, 134–135
Plato 5, 15, 59, 62, 207, 213
Prokofiev, Sergei 173–177, 203
Proletkult 22–23, 48, 197

Que Viva Mexico! (Eisenstein) 37, 105, 116–
155, 169–170, 179, 212, 214

Rivera, Diego 116–117, 122–126

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260 Savage Junctures

Rodchenko, Aleksandr 73–74
Rzheshevskii, A. G. 152–154

Semenov, Sergei 135
separator, cream 1, 99, 103, 105, 114
Shklovsky, Viktor 3–4, 7–8, 35–37, 40, 47,

56–57, 76–77, 89, 94, 96
Shumiatskii, Boris 153, 157, 159, 172–173,

183, 237n
Sinclair, Upton 37–40, 44, 49, 63, 72, 122–

123, 148–151, 157, 221n, 236n, 237n
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney)

2, 186–190, 192–195, 203–205, 214
Sontag, Susan 203–204
sound 19, 109, 112–113, 117–119, 159,

173–176, 202
spherical book 206–209
Stalin, Iosif 2, 18, 80–81, 96–98, 101,

107–111, 114–115, 117–118, 150,
157–159, 163, 166, 169, 171–172, 181,
191–192, 196, 205, 229n, 240n, 244n,
245n, 248n

Steinberg, Saul 210–214
Strike (Eisenstein) 14, 21–47, 48–49, 65, 66,

74, 90, 97, 108, 113, 171
surrealism 9, 11–14, 126–129, 175

Thompson, Kristin 17, 205–206
The Time Machine (Wells) 59, 63
Tisse, Eduard 96, 117–119, 122, 124, 140,

149, 158
Tolstoy, Lev 35–37, 52, 134, 136, 219n, 234n
tractors 20, 37, 96, 98, 108–111, 138, 153
Tret’iakov, Sergei 13, 117, 218n, 232n
Trotsky, Lev 80–81, 93, 98, 119
Tsivian, Yuri 88–89

Umov, N. A. 60, 63
Uspenskii [Ouspensky], Petr 56–57, 60,

223n, 224n, 225n

Vertov, Dziga 21, 30–34, 41, 45, 49, 64,
111, 221n

‘The Vixen and the Hare’ 2–3, 175–176
Vygotsky, Lev 7

Wells, H. G. 59, 61, 63
womb 16, 142, 144, 170, 197–201, 206–207,

211, 213
Women’s Misery/Women’s Fortune (Tisse/

Eisenstein) 140–141

Zagorskii, Mikhail 52–53

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