October (1928)

I’ve been methodically going through the cinema of the Soviet Union in the 1920s and have come to the conclusion that it’s never been surpassed, that Hollywood’s ultimate victory (even the French make American style blockbusters these days) was the ultimate artistic tragedy.

I’ve seen October three times now, once as a college junior in a political science class, a second time in the Winter of 2014 (after which I wrote this review), and just last night (to prepare for a review of Pudovkin’s The End of St. Petersburg). Each time I come away even more astonished at Eisenstein’s greatness. This is what cinema is all about.

Writers Without Money

One of most celebrated scenes from Eisenstein’s October.

The career of Russian film maker Sergei Eisenstein, who lived from 1898 to 1948, can roughly be divided into three phases. In his mid-20s, he made Strike, October, and the iconic Battleship Potemkin. He spent most of his 30s in the wilderness, first in Hollywood, and then in Mexico, where most of his work ended up either incomplete or destroyed. He ended his life as the court film maker for Joseph Stalin’s peculiar amalgam of communism and Russian nationalism, giving us Alexander Nevsky in 1938, Ivan the Terrible: Part I in 1944, and Ivan the Terrible Part II in 1947, which, although suppressed during his lifetime, is arguably is greatest film.

October, sometimes known as Ten Days That Shook the World and made for the 10th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, is an ambitious yet ultimately unsatisfying film. The Soviet government gave…

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