A Nos Amours joins forces with Kino Klassika Foundation to present
Eisenstein in Mexico: thinking about birth, death and rebirth of film works
Three versions made by three different people out of the 20 hours or more shot by Eisenstein in Mexico. If Eisenstein had been able to finish his most cherished project, what would it have been? What are we to make of this cinematic ruin?
And what of the ruin of cinema now that photochemical is fast becoming a museum format, and restoration seeks ideally to eliminate signs of age? Was cinema ever really modern, with nostalgia woven into its DNA?
Regent Street Cinema at 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW Map
Sunday, 24th April 2016 from 15:00 to 22:00
3pm Ian Christie
3.20 film: Marie Seton version Time in the Sun (1939, 55 mins, 35mm)
4.15 short break
4.25 Laura Mulvey
4.45 film: Grigori Alexandrov version ¡Que viva México! (1979, 90mins, 35mm)
6.45 round table discussion (Fiennes, Hatherley, Balsom, Christie & audience)
8.00pm film: Oleg Kovalov version Mexican Fantasy (1998, 98 mins, digital)
9.50-10.30 bar open for drinks
NOTE: free ticketed entry but donations are invited of £10 (ideally more!) with gift aid to meet costs and go towards organising more events like this. Generosity is very much appreciated!
Cinephilia wants us to resuscitate older works, keep them alive somehow. But what kind of life can be breathed into an old work? Is restoration much more than a perverse form of taxidermy, preserving the appearance of life, but in fact only parodying life? What about the status of special editions, out-takes, and director cuts? And how can films live when not much seen, at best items ticked off on lists of great films, admired but visible only on a small screen competing with pop up ads?
Eisenstein shot 50 hours of footage on location in Mexico in 1931 and 32, but was not able to finish the film. Despite luminous, astonishing images that leap from the screen, the film became mired in proprietorial scuffles. The project is one of cinema’s most beguiling objects; what would it have been had master finished work?
This event will screen three hypothetical versions of Eisenstein’s film – as prepared by Marie Seton (Time in the Sun, 1939), by Grigori Alexandrovich Alexandrov (¡Que viva México! 1979) and by Oleg Kovalev (Mexican Fantasy, 1998). The three versions offer wildly different approaches to what the film might have been. They range in run time between 90 and 50 minutes. They are structured differently. They built from different shot selections. And yet, we want to say that they stand for one imaginary film.
These screenings will hopefully provide a springboard to discussion of what exactly restoration can and should be, and what sort of thing we are looking at when we look at an old film, to a critique of the notion of authenticity, and to a consideration of nostalgia and the persistence of cinephilia despite the odds.
Dr Erika Balsom is Lecturer in Film Studies and in Liberal Arts at King’s College London, who is working on the implications of the new forms of image distribution and circulation made possible by digitization, particularly as they have been both adopted and reflected upon in artists’ moving image. Her book Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (2013) includes chapters on ‘filmic ruins’ and film remakes.
Ian Christie is Professor of Film at Birkbeck College, a film scholar and curator, often writing in Sight & Sound. He has curate dthe current GRAD Gallery Unexpected Eisenstein exhibition. Among his several publications are studies of Powell and Pressburger, and of Martin Scorsese.
Sophie Fiennes is a film-maker whose collaboration with Slavoj Žižek has resulted in two films, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema and , The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. She has also made the film Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow (2010) exploring Anselm Kiefers’ sculpture project at Barjac, a vast complex of ruination and forlorn folly. Her film about Grace Jones is eagerly anticipated.
Owen Hatherley is a writer and journalist who writes on architecture, politics and culture. His book Militant Modernism was published in 2009. It has been described as an attempt to excavate utopia from the ruins of modernism, and by Jonathan Meades as the work of a “velvet-gloved provocateur nostalgic… for a world made before he was born, a distant, preposterously optimistic world which…has had its meaning erased, its possibilities defiled".
Laura Mulvey is the celebrated theorist and writer whose "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1973) is required reading for anyone interested in the moving image. She is also a film-maker whose Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) has recently been restored and rereleased by the BFI. She is Professor of Film and Media Studies at Birkbeck College.
Time in the Sun and ¡Que viva México! will screen from rare 35mm prints.
Kino Klassika Foundation raises funds to educate audiences about film and film materials from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
With thanks to Regent Street Cinema without whom this event would not be possible.
We are delighted also that Film London are supporting this event, and we offer thanks to them and to Carina Vokes in particular. Film London have supported a numbre of our events, including the Chantal Akerman retrospective.
Thanks to Contemporary Films and to BFI.