Unexpected Eisenstein – an exhibition

I found myself unexpectedly at a loose end for a couple of hours in London the other day, and BBC Radio 4 yet again came to the rescue with a feature I’d heard recently on Front Row.


GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design currently has an exhibition called Unexpected Eisenstein, which “sheds new light on the life and achievements of pioneering Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein”.
There are a number of sketches that Eisenstein created throughout his life, some featuring costume designs, some more like storyboards, and others from his childhood which are incredibly detailed given their size.

My exploration of this part of the exhibition was ruined somewhat by a very loud conversation taking place in the middle of the space by what appeared to be someone connected with the gallery, and some of his acquaintances who were visiting. I have to admit as the only other person in the gallery at the time I found it very difficult to concentrate, and so eventually gave up. Shame.

However, my main reason for visiting the exhibition was to see the (small) section on how Eisenstein’s film had influenced a number of filmmakers. While it’s easy to say that we all *know* that Eisenstein was a pioneer in this field, it’s quite another thing to actually see it right before your own eyes.

For example, there are obvious visual connections between Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (1944) and Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938) – and this link provides images to this end.

And the video examples below enchanted me – lavishness and intrigue at the courts of Ivan the Terrible (1944)  – start around 14:22 – and Sally Potter’s Orlando (1992) – start around 1 minute in. Have fun – I’m going to watch Battleship Potemkin again!

Christopher Doyle – Cinematographer and Artist

A complete stroke of fate meant that I was listening to BBC Radio 4’s Film Programme last week in a hotel room on a short work visit to London.

One of the items was a feature on one of my favourite cinematographers Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, Rabbit-Proof Fence, 2046) – not his film work, however, but an exhibition of collages and other art work which was at a private gallery in Mayfair for just a month. And I had a couple of hours to kill the next day before my train home.

Doyle has a kind of alter-ego in Du Ke Feng, his ‘Chinese’ side, with whom he is in constant internal discussion about art of many kinds. And this perhaps shows up in the items on display: whereas his films are often a saturation of colour, the collages are generally light, white and sparse. You can see them here. There are also some interesting pieces in which communist-style imagery has been ‘defaced’ with other images.

Then there are installations featuring beautiful lotus flowers, which are best seen in the video on this page.

But my favourites were the video installations, where the images appeared and disappeared like wisps of smoke before your eyes. You can see an example in the same link.

It was very beautiful, often ethereal work, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it.

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