Director: S.M. Eisenstein
Available Oct. 23; List price $29.95
Sergei Eisenstein's silent film, in which he retold the 1905 uprising of sailors against their officers during the 1905 Russian revolution, was a worldwide sensation on its release. It instantly established the new U.S.S.R. as an eminent national cinema, proved art's power as political propaganda and used energetic editing to create a new movie language. It is also one of the great action films, notably in the Odessa Steps sequence, where rows of Cossacks march down, firing away, as the rebellious people (most of them women) stand against them in heroic protest. The sequence's most famous elements the careering baby carriage, the woman shot in the eye, the broken spectacles have inspired scenes in Foreign Correspondent, Lawrence of Arabia, Bonnie and Clyde, Brazil, The Untouchables, 28 Weeks Later and hundreds more.
Potemkin remains a film landmark, but one damaged with age and ill use. Aside from the usual war and tear, the movie suffered cuts by various governments out of sympathy with the Soviets. The two-disc Kino version, pieced together by film historian Enno Patalas for the German Film Archive, restores the movie's immediacy and grandeur. It looks great, and sounds great too, thanks to a score composed by Edmund Meisel for the film's 1926 Berlin premiere. This is an essential buy, and not just for old Bolshies or devotees of antique films. It's almost impossible to watch Potemkin and not be thrilled by its vigor, its kinetic intelligence, the sweep of history made as timely as a YouTube clip, and as timeless as the finest art.