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Posted by eleanor

On old movies

The problem with watching "a masterpiece" some 80 years later is that the darned thing seems filled with over acting and cinematic clichés. It's damnably goofy.

That's the curse of the cutting edge: Endlessly imitated, the extraordinary becomes ho-hum.

The 1925 flick "Battleship Potemkin" is a mere 67 minutes long, a silent Russian revolutionary propaganda movie filled with scenes of nasty capitalist overlords murdering the people.

There's also a bunch of unintentional laughs. Like I said, goofy.

Yet overall, the movie is still stunning.

It tells of a group of sailors who, after being ordered to eat meat filled with squiggling maggots, mutiny. The ship is moored near the city of Odessa, whose citizens send food to the mariners, and are punished by Czarist troops for their empathy. The much-parodied scene of soldiers ruthlessly killing the people of Odessa on The Steps is still affecting. My giggling was followed by embarrassed silence.

Although the seamen were successful, the 1905 uprising the movie commemorates was not.

But thanks to its message, the flick was banned in England and "highly restricted in the US." ("[I]n one enticing account of a screening in the New York apartment of Gloria Swanson, it was projected onto one of Gloria's satin sheets, when the absence of an available screen threatened to disappoint the eager but select audience.")

Aside from its ideology, it was also... homoerotic. In an opening scene, the all-male crew have slung their hammocks higgledy-piggledy across a room, sleeping, shirtless, on top of each other.

In another, as they expect to die against a fleet of Czarist ships, two men briefly embrace, and another's shirt goes flying, showing of his well-muscled physique, in a moment of exhilaration and, er, gratuitous hunkiness. In any communist (or fascist) revolution, apparently, the male body beautiful is essential -- though not the right of another man to touch that body. (There are no women in here, except as Good Mothers.)

Filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) got hitched to women twice, "in response to political pressure, but his marriages were never consummated. His unexpurgated diaries, recently published as 'Immortal Memories,' are filled with accounts of his infatuations with many young men," it sez here.

"Often his infatuations... were with young heterosexual men, whom he would educate and assist in their careers. His drawings, recently exhibited during the centenary of his birth, include many illustrations of homosexual activity."

Unh hunh. Sometimes it's not just the movies -- it's our own past lives that have become clichés. In between the eye-rolling, the stories are still affecting, though.

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