Sunday, September 09, 2007

Painlevé and Eisenstein

"Painlevé would often champion the work of others, paying particular attention to films that faced government censorship. One such film was Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, which chronicled the unsuccessful 1905 revolution against the Russian tsar. Viewed as Communist propaganda, the film was deemed "subversive" by European officials and censored. Thus, when Painlevé and his friend, the documentary filmmaker Joris Ivens, screened it in Amsterdam, they posted sentries at the theater door to watch for police. When the police did arrive, Painlevé and Ivens quickly stopped the projection, grabbed the film reels, and with the audience in tow, scurried to another theater. There, too, the screening was interrupted by police. So the group moved again. In the course of one evening, the group moved six times, but in the end Battleship Potemkin was shown in its entirety.

When Eisenstein himself came to Paris in 1930, Painlevé asked his father for help with with the officials. Paul Painlevé ordered the head of the French police to leave the filmmaker alone. During the visit, Painleve took Eisenstein on a grand tour of Paris: to Palais Royal square, to a café where poet Alfred de Musset reputedly sipped absinthe, to the Comédie-Française to ogle at the lavishly dressed crowd. "He enjoyed this classic bourgeouis scene," Painlevé would later recall. "I also took him to the Cigale theater to see an exceptional American film Red Christmas. Afterward, we wandered around the Clichy fairgrounds... and had our photo taken in a mock airplane." Painlevé also arranged for Eisenstein to travel secretly to Switzerland: "I had him hidden in a van of dirty laundry. He wanted to see Valeska Gert, a Swiss actress he adored." When Eisenstein left Europe for the United States and Mexico, he wrote a series of postcards to Painlevé in which he chronicled his travels."

- an anecdote or two, from Science is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé (eds: Bellows and McDougall), an excellent text to accompany while viewing Painlevé's films.


Blogger celinejulie said...

This is an interesting piece of information. I hope you don't mind that I copied a part of it to post it on my blog. :-) I regret that I haven't seen any films by Painleve and Joris Ivens yet, though some DVDs of Ivens are available in Bangkok.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Hi Jit, good to know you found the quote useful. Several of Painleve's short films are available on DVD now as you mention in your new post, and there's also a huge upcoming box-set of Ivens films that I'm very excited about. You can read more here.

7:22 AM  

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