86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

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jsteffe
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#51 Post by jsteffe » Fri Mar 05, 2010 2:30 pm

Matango wrote:Yes it has. RCA Victor/BMG put out the Alexander Nevsky laserdisc in 1994, with the original Prokofiev score reconstructed and re-recorded in stereo by the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and some Russian choirs. I think they also put out a CD at the same time, so if you could get hold of that, it would sort of solve the problem if you could synch them up properly. The laserdisc came with a free Alexander Nevsky baseball cap, too. Quite what the target market was for that, I cannot easily imagine.
For the curious, you can still get that laserdisc on Ebay. The new recording of the score is very good--too bad they never released it on DVD. Just don't confuse that laserdisc with the Image Entertainment laserdisc, which is the same transfer as the Image/Corinth DVD I mentioned.

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zedz
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#52 Post by zedz » Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:22 pm

Matango wrote:The laserdisc came with a free Alexander Nevsky baseball cap, too. Quite what the target market was for that, I cannot easily imagine.
Well, it looks pretty fucking cool with my Meshes of the Afternoon fanny pack.

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whaleallright
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#53 Post by whaleallright » Fri Mar 05, 2010 11:36 pm

If only it came with the hat seen on the right:

Image

Bennie
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#54 Post by Bennie » Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:33 pm

I just want to say many thanks to everyone who advised me regarding this set. I got it recently and am very happy I did! I have only seen 'Nevsky' so far, and while the sound isn't perfect, it isn't anywhere near as much of an issue as I thought it would be. And the picture is such a VAST improvement over any versions I've seen previously! Great, GREAT set! Thank you all so much for recommending it.

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Mr Sausage
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Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein, 1944, 1958)

#55 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Oct 27, 2014 6:58 am

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martin
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#56 Post by martin » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:21 pm

Cinemateket, Copenhagen, have just announced they will screen Mosfilm's newly restored version in December 2014. It'll be a world premiere according to their magazine and their webpage (Danish text). I'm going.

Weird how this was announced exactly when Ivan the Terrible was chosen for discussion in the Criterion Film Club.

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Drucker
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#57 Post by Drucker » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:28 pm

I guess we need to discuss Rublev next.

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Bando
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#58 Post by Bando » Tue Oct 28, 2014 7:59 pm

I would pretty much do anything for a blu upgrade of this set, it's my favorite Criterion release by far for purely academic and sentimental reasons. I could watch Nevsky ten times a day. Though I wonder just how much more truly meaningful supplementary material is out there...

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Drucker
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Re: Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein, 1944, 1958)

#59 Post by Drucker » Tue Nov 11, 2014 12:45 pm

I'll kick things off by saying that visually this film is stunning. Even though I had the pleasure of enjoying these films on old Image DVDs that Netflix sent me, the film starts and continues in an absolutely stunning way. In the first scene, with Ivan's coronation, we see the visual and editing rhythm that made his silent films so effective. I've only seen Battleship Potemkin, but the power of this opening sequence really draws the viewer in.

And the film continues spectacularly. Throughout part 1, it feels like every shot is beautiful. And while the editing and the rhythm of the film is central to the film, Eisenstein doesn't rush anything. Scenes and dramatic shots are given the attention they deserve. The film comes off dramatic and theatrical, but the epic backdrop of its subject matter allows the film not to see ridiculous or schmaltzy today. The final shot, especially, of Ivan waiting until his follower's beckon him...with him in the foreground and the people marching towards him, is incredibly powerful.

The second part didn't move me as much as the first part did. I think I got lost in plot points here and there, and while I understood what happened by the end, I got thrown off at points. I felt the whole dancing/party sequence in color didn't quite build up the dramatic tension for me the way I figure it was meant to.

I have to ask, is there anything like these films in Russian cinema? Was Eisenstein really such a visionary that his films continue to stand alone? Or in the 30s-40s, was there anything like these being produced?

How historically accurate was this tale? Can anyone chime in?

I hate to cop out without much more to say. But the films, especially the first part, moved me emotionally and, to be lazy, were just the kinds of films where it's tempting to say: it's just an obviously beautiful film as you watch it. Not much else to say!

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein, 1944, 1958)

#60 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Nov 11, 2014 3:30 pm

I'm going to rewatch these this week, but for the time being, I want to put my original responses from the 40s list in (for my own sake if nothing else):

I've just finished the first part of Ivan the Terrible, and it seems absolutely spectacular- though obviously an unfinished story. Where Alexander Nevsky sometimes seemed bogged down and lost in its own sense of pageantry and repetition, this synthesized those same elements to create an almost entirely new kind of movie, as though something springing up from an entirely different tradition and grammar of film.

There are other works I was reminded of- the set design and total lack of naturalism (and obviously some of the plot) were similar to The Scarlet Empress, and some aspects of the examination the soul of a man in power and the operaticism reminded me of The Godfather- but broadly speaking it felt entirely new. I can imagine a parallel universe in which this became the nexus for all the strategies of moviemaking for decades, the way Citizen Kane did, so powerful and otherworldly it seems. Like Kane, it's an epic built simultaneously of nothing and of monumentalism, tiny movements and enormous gestures, about a man simultaneously fascinating and repulsive- but the actual strategies used to achieve that in Ivan are totally different, and far less familiar.

After watching the second one, my impression of the overall thing is only improved- the second movie pushes nearly every aspect of the first until it explodes into madness, and the overall effect is so astonishing that it's almost impossible to imagine where a third movie could have gone. By the time we get through the color sequence, it seems Ivan is invincible and unreachable, a maleficent sorcerer at an orgy that feels equal parts Fantasia and ritual sacrifice.

It makes sense to view this Ivan as an extension of the first- it seems almost unimaginable on its own. Even as it is, it feels like something from another planet, pulling back from the first's sharper focus on Ivan to explore in greater depth a world seemingly comprised almost entirely of rot, hatred, fanaticism, and fear. When the color begins to switch off at the end- remarkably cutting back and forth between black and white and color footage- the black and white now seems almost foreign, and the Bacchanalia becomes a Passion, as the only innocent we've got to hand is sacrificed.

It also feels like half a dozen Shakespeare plays are colliding- Ivan looks like Lear and refers to Vladimir as the fool, Efronsinia's madness is reminiscent both of Lady Macbeth and Ophelia, the whole structure of plots and counterplots borne of the lust for power reminds me of Richard III, and Hamlet's sense of melancholy and doom seems to pervade the whole atmosphere. It's perhaps not surprising- I imagine any heightened, metaphorical examination of royalty of this kind would bring Shakespeare to mind- but the fact that it can have all those associations rise up and not suffer by them speaks to the power of the thing.

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Re: Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein, 1944, 1958)

#61 Post by Lemmy Caution » Fri Nov 14, 2014 1:26 am

I thought the pacing was quite interesting.
At times everything happens at once.
We have the wedding scene with minor intrigue from the elites bleed into a full-scale peasant riot, things slow down a beat as Ivan suppresses it with words, only for the Kazan ambassadors to break the alliance and issue threats, and Ivan declares war. All that in maybe 5 minutes. Other times things slow down considerably, probably the best example being Ivan sick on his presumed deathbed.

Quite a stylish film. The set design with all of the large frescoes is quite stunning. The many heads and faces and even eyes all around the palace -- it reminded me of Eisenstein's father's buildings in Riga with odd and unexpected heads and faces on the facades. Interesting in a film about a tyrannical father (of the country).
I also found the room doorways rather odd, being shorter than an average man and often seeming like enlarged mouseholes.

Much of the film feels and looks like a silent film. From the large close-ups, the shifty-eyed acting, and the general theatrical style of the film.
Only watched Part 1 so far.

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Sloper
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Re: Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein, 1944, 1958)

#62 Post by Sloper » Mon Nov 17, 2014 9:54 am

Lemmy Caution wrote:I thought the pacing was quite interesting. At times everything happens at once. We have the wedding scene with minor intrigue from the elites bleed into a full-scale peasant riot, things slow down a beat as Ivan suppresses it with words, only for the Kazan ambassadors to break the alliance and issue threats, and Ivan declares war. All that in maybe 5 minutes. Other times things slow down considerably, probably the best example being Ivan sick on his presumed deathbed.
That's very true, and it contributes to that almost otherworldly aura that matrix mentioned above: events in this film either happen impossibly quickly or are drawn out until you lose all track of time. And Drucker, I wonder if this partly explains why Part 2 lost its hold on you somewhat: in that film, the plotting and pacing are really quite amazingly eccentric, and even though I just watched it last night I don't have a very clear grasp of the overall narrative, more a sense of vivid impressions that have been seared into my brain. I watched these films many times when I was in my late-teens, and haven't re-visited them for over ten years - and while I was waiting for what felt like an eternity for the wretched things to arrive in the post (I gave away the VHSs a long time ago) I found myself remembering the films, not in terms of what happened in them, but as a series of huge, sharp, angular heads, faces and bodies widening their eyes, raising their eyebrows, adjusting their hoods, while moving in and out of light and shadow, and accompanied by Prokofiev's unforgettably creepy music (terrifying even at its most optimistic here, unlike in the often rather folksy score for Nevsky). And then when I finally watched them again, they were exactly as I remembered. For me, the literal narrative is a distraction, as are the very small number of 'exterior' scenes. This feels like a film set inside a madman's brain, and its images lodge themselves in the viewer's brain - the cavernous interiors of Ivan's palace feel like places I can visit in my head at any time. It was great to hear Yuri Tsivian, on one of the video essays, saying that the hall through which Vladimir wanders at the end of Part 2 was supposed to evoke a womb. That sequence in particular always puts me into a kind of soporific trance. But the whole film (i.e. both parts) seems to tap into some deep unconscious realm, the powerful/paranoid/pathetic Ivan in all of us, and for me that's a huge part of its power.

So is it an apology for tyrannical dictators, or a critique of them, or a bit of both? Eisenstein did indeed study Shakespeare in preparing this film (I think I read this in a David Bordwell essay somewhere), especially the history plays, and I wonder if there is something of those consummate deceptive Machiavellians, Henry IV and Henry V, in these films' portrayal of an isolated and self-pitying ruler, forced by political necessity (according to him) to be a cruel tyrant and oath-breaker, but wasted away by his increasingly inhuman behaviour.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein, 1944, 1958)

#63 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Nov 17, 2014 11:15 am

If one assumes the programmatic message Eisenstein was given was that Ivan was a monster, but the monster that he needed to be for Russia and for his people- which, from all the bonus features, was the dictate coming from Stalin- the films ultimately don't act at all to fulfill that decree. You could make a case for the first movie, but the Stalin of the second movie is a virtually satanic figure, a lord of nightmares, and someone who seems to be nine steps ahead at all times. I think the movie has a certain sympathy for Stalin, in the way the Godfather movies (which I mentioned previously) have a sympathy for Michael, but the sympathy feels more like an understanding that the man we see is conditioned by his background and his surroundings, and did not become what he is apropos of nothing- I never feel that there's any aplogism for the cruelty of the acts committed, on either side of Ivan's fight.

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martin
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#64 Post by martin » Wed Dec 17, 2014 9:32 am

A few days ago, I was at the world premiere of the new 2014 Mosfilm restoration of Ivan the Terrible in Copenhagen. It was a DCP screening and the image was beautiful. The contrast was excellent with a lot of detail in the highlight areas and also some details in the shadow areas. It seemed like the full grayscale was used. The colours were pretty good too (slightly saturated, but that could very well be the intended look). There wasn't any damage in the print, but the texture was still pretty natural and didn't reveal any excessive use of DNR. The image was a bit soft at times, but I think this was mainly due to the image being slightly out of focus (at the time of shooting).

I don't think the audio restoration was quite as good. There were some pops and clicks, and quite a lot of hiss. On the other hand, it sounded quite natural, and I definitely prefer some hiss to overuse of digital filters and noise reductions! I have mixed feelings about the way the noise shut off immediately after any dialogue or music had appeared. It sounded very artificial in the theatre when there was a lot of hiss coming from the speakers whenever there was music or someone was talking, and then a sudden change to absolute silence. But maybe this is preferable to a constant level of hiss.

The theatre was fully packed and there was an applause after the film (quite common at Cinemateket). It's always fun to watch art films in the theatre with a big audience: There's always some laughter and chuckles during scenes where you wouldn't imagine anyone laughing!

As for the film(s): the stage sets, the props, and the costumes were amazing. The frescos and paintings shown during the film were also absolutely stunning, and an integral part of the story, it seems, like the close ups of faces and eyes (as suggested by Lemmy Caution a couple of posts earlier). The expressionistic use of shadows was particularly striking, I think.

At times, the editing style and the slightly skewed close-ups and the somewhat unusual facial expressions reminded me of graphic novels. At other times the movies played out almost like a stage play or an opera with long monologues or even with an aria (Efrosinia in part II, I think). Prokofiev's music was great. Perhaps not as inspired as Alexander Nevsky, but still excellent by most standards (and completely different). It was a great experience.

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whaleallright
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#65 Post by whaleallright » Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:15 pm

The graphic-novel comparison is apposite because Eisenstein drew on an almost unbelievably eclectic mix of influences from the graphic arts: Russian, Japanese, Chinese, American, French, South American, African; paintings, etchings, woodcuts, cartoons; etc. Indeed a new edition of Eisenstein's writings about Disney was published last year.

If I might recommend one more book: Lea Jacobs's brand-new Film Rhythm After Sound has an early chapter on Eisenstein/Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible that serves as a kind of test of a variety of new methods of studying the relation between film sound and image in terms of rhythm. It's dense and dazzling and anyone interested in the history of film style should read it.

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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#66 Post by Stefan Andersson » Tue Jul 21, 2015 5:49 am

Alexander Nevsky, restored, screens at this year´s Venice Film Festival:
http://www.screendaily.com/festivals/ve ... ntID=42422" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#67 Post by jmj713 » Thu Nov 12, 2015 2:55 pm

Could a Bluray reissue be forthcoming?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAF_KBTt4ck" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Roscoe
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#68 Post by Roscoe » Thu Nov 12, 2015 4:55 pm

Maybe Mosfilm has finally realized there's gold in them there vaults.

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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#69 Post by Robespierre » Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:52 am

Out of print according to Criterion's site. Upgrade forthcoming?

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zedz
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#70 Post by zedz » Thu Sep 27, 2018 3:34 pm

I'm surprised it was still in print after all these years. Did it still come in the big, thick box?

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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#71 Post by Robespierre » Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:05 pm

I bought it about 5 years ago and received the thick box. I'd imagine if they were upgrading it they'd whip up a sexy digipak akin to Before trilogy, Three Colours, Qatsi, etc.

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zedz
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#72 Post by zedz » Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:35 pm

If it still had that box, the likes of which Criterion hasn't produced for new product in, what, fifteen years or more (was the Dreyer box in 2001 the last set like that?), I suspect that we're just seeing the final depletion of a long, long-ago printing.

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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#73 Post by ianthemovie » Fri Sep 28, 2018 12:06 pm

That's exciting news, if it suggests a reissue. Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible both underwent restorations recently, no?

The Dreyer box was made of thinner material (like card stock) but the Eisenstein and the Cocteau boxes had the thick cardboard.

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whaleallright
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#74 Post by whaleallright » Fri Sep 28, 2018 4:43 pm

I hope they did the restorations right. I do like that many historical Gosfilmofond restorations were what you might call minimally invasive, not over-applying various tools to scrub the films to an anachronistic sheen or equalizing the anomalies of the soundtracks. I haven't seen much of their recent work, so I hope they haven't gone the way of so many other venues and overindulged the digital mucking around.

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zedz
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Re: 86-88 Eisenstein: The Sound Years

#75 Post by zedz » Sat Sep 29, 2018 12:27 am

ianthemovie wrote:That's exciting news, if it suggests a reissue. Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible both underwent restorations recently, no?

The Dreyer box was made of thinner material (like card stock) but the Eisenstein and the Cocteau boxes had the thick cardboard.
Just checked, and my Dreyer box has the same thick card construction as Eisenstein, so maybe there was more than one version. My copy had enough room for that huge catalogue they put out back then, which presumably wasn’t included with later pressings.

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