|Sergei Eisenstein: ¡Que viva México!|
2K DCP from B-Plan/Bufo with Finnish/Swedish subtitles viewed at Espoo Ciné Closing Gala, with Peter Greenaway, Elmer Bäck, Liisa Penttilä and many crew members at Tapiolasali, Espoon Kulttuurikeskus, 30 Aug 2015
Peter Greenaway is still un enfant terrible of the cinema.
This time he is with Sergei Eisenstein on a rampage in Mexico. Eisenstein is in ecstasy in Mexico. He is intoxicated by the nature, the history, the atavistic rites, and the Day of the Dead, and he loses his virginity with his male guide. These are "the ten days that shook Eisenstein".
I confess I have always loved all the compilations made of Sergei Eisenstein's ¡Que viva México! footage. There are dozens of unforgettable images in them. Greenaway does not show any. He presents his own personal vision of Eisenstein's journey, often in three-way split screen, inspired by Abel Gance's Polyvision. He uses liberally excerpts from Eisenstein's first three features (The Strike, Battleship Potyomkin, and October).
¡Que viva México! belongs in my opinion with The General Line / The Old and the New. In both, Eisenstein went deeper into nature, the countryside, the atavistic life force, fertility, and sexuality. He created unforgettable images of primitive vitality and mortality. He was obsessed with death, as a natural flipside to life. He also went deeper into the origins of religious rites and cults, excited by pantheism.
I cannot relate to Greenaway's vision of Eisenstein. (Many previous Greenaway films I admire, including his experimental work pre-The Draughtsman's Contract.) But I recommend warmly Greenaway's fantastic pressbook introduction to his Eisenstein project (copied onto my previous blog entry).
The visual quality of the DCP was the usual immaculate and polished one. A good instance for a comparison between digital and film would be Eisenstein in Guanajuato and any of the ¡Que viva México! reconstructions in a decent film print. Not forgetting the Garden of Eden sequence with Eisenstein's most joyfully erotic and sexual images. For those interested in Eros in the cinema Greenaway provides prankful explicit full frontal scenes of gay love.
I had the great pleasure to co-host Greenaway in Espoo and Helsinki during three days and my respect towards him grew by the hour. His enthusiasm was indefatigable, his patience and energy undiminished during long gruelling days full of interviews and presentations. With fans and admirers he was exemplary. At dinnertime he often forgot to eat, so passionate he was in discussions. I look forward to future projects from him.
OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY JARI SEDERGREN BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: