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Friday, September 19, 2008

¡Qué viva México!

1929: Sergei Eisenstein, Grigori Aleksandrov and Eduard Tisse headed West in search for contracts. A short documentary (unfinished) for a German client, then in France their first sound movie (Romance Sentimentale). Nevertheless the target was Hollywood, where Eisenstein would not succeed to find a contract (neither would Leni Riefenstahl, a couple of years later).

After one year, in 1930, Upton Sinclair sponsored the Soviet team for a movie about Mexico. The movie couldn't be finished: lack of more money, lack of more time. The guys went back to Moscow and the filmed material remained at Upton Sinclair.

There are several contradictory versions about what happened and why it happened; anyway, the footage arrived eventually at Moscow, in the seventies. Eisenstein and Tisse were dead by that time. Aleksandrov was alive. He restored the material and asked Sergei Bondarchuk to be the narrator: the result was да здравствует Мексика! (¡Qué viva México!).

The movie has six episodes: a prologue (Tisse moving slowly the camera over pyramids, Aztec sculptures, motionless people along carved deities, a country that's extremely diverse, where all ages of history coexist, timelessly and motionlessly - a country living in Eternity) - a wedding (in a place where the society is still living in matriarchate) - a religious procession (superb images again: three youngsters carrying the cross, toward three priests like Aztec masks, facing three skulls) - a corrida - a story with three young peasants killed by a landlord and buried alive (Tisse gave here a very shocking image, while one of the most powerful cinematic scenes I have ever seen) - the epilogue (a joyful festival for the All Souls Day, a fabulous celebration of the Dead). A seventh episode was no more shot, Soldaderas, Eisenstein had in mind to focus it on women, the female Revolution soldiers.

The restitution made by Aleksandrov seemed to me very honest - he didn't add anything, and, very important, he didn't edit the film - I'm sure Eisenstein would have put the episodes in parallel like in Griffith's Intolerance; Aleksandrov let them sequential, which was fortunate - one needs the genius of Griffith or Eisenstein to not fail. Only a titan has that power to tell four or five stories in the same time, following their rhythm.

Un video fenomenal! Autorul lui (zynsk) reuseste sa ne dea o idee despre respiratia unui film care nu a apucat sa respire, pentru ca nu a apucat sa fie terminat.

Dar hai sa luam istoria filmului de la capat. Suntem in 1929: Eisenstein, Aleksandrov si Tisse pleaca in Occident in cautare de noi contracte. Un scurt metraj neterminat pentru un client german, apoi un esec de mare rafinament in Franta (Romance Sentimentale, primul lor film sonor - e un esec, dar trebuie neaparat vazut - incercarea lor de a sincroniza imagini sincopate pe o muzica sincopata). Tinta este insa Hollywood, unde Eisenstein nu reuseste timp de un an sa primeasca o comanda ca sa inceapa un film (nu va reusi nici Leni Riefenstahl de altfel, doar cativa ani mai tarziu)

In 1930 Upton Sinclair ii finanteaza un film pe care sa il faca despre Mexic. Banii se termina fara sa fie terminat filmul, cei trei trebuie sa se intoarca la Moscova, materialul filmat ramane la Upton Sinclair.

De aici incolo versiunile difera - cert este ca de abia in anii '70 materialul filmat in Mexic ajunge la Moscova. Numai Aleksandrov mai traia.

Si Grigori Aleksandrov a reconstituit materialul filmat si l-a denumit ¡Qué viva México! (pentru rafinati, да здравствует Мексика!).

Filmul reconstituit are sase episoade: un prolog (intr-o succesiune superba de imagini este prezentata chintesenta spiritului mexican, o tara diversa in care comuna primitiva coexista cu feudalismul si cu epoca moderna: Tisse isi plimba lent aparatul peste piramide, sculpturi aztece, oameni incremeniti langa capete de zei) - o nunta (intr-o regiune care traieste inca in matriarhat) - o procesiune religioasa (iarasi imagini superbe, trei tineri care poarta in spinare crucea, trei preoti, parca ar fi trei masti aztece, trei cranii in fata) - o corrida - o poveste cu trei tarani ucisi de un mosier si ingropati de vii (Tisse filmeaza superb scena in care cei trei legati urmeaza a fi ingropati de vii, cu capetele deasupra: imagine de cosmar, dar una din cele mai puternice scene de film pe care le-am vazut) - epilogul (un festival vesel de Ziua Mortilor, absolut fabulos). Un al saptelea episod a ramas nefilmat, Soldaderas - Eisenstein avea in gand un episod despre revolutiile mexicane, in care sa centreze povestea pe femeile soldate ale revolutiei).

Reconstituirea facuta de Aleksandrov mi s-a parut foarte onesta - omul nu a adaugat nimic si mai ales nu a facut montajul - este sigur ca Eisenstein ar fi montat scenele in paralel, in stilul Intolerantei lui Griffith - dar Aleksandrov le-a lasat in secventa.

Peste ani, un biograf al lui Eisenstein, pe numele sau Oleg Kovalov, si-a asumat riscul montajului - deci a facut din materialul ramas un film asa cum probabil l-a gandit Eisenstein. Filmul se numeste Legenda mexicana. De data aceasta scenele sunt in paralel, evolueaza deodata, pluteste un aer de nebunie - si e sigur ca Eisenstein a avut asta in cap - dar trebuie sa fii Eisenstein (sau Griffith) ca sa reusesti. Numai un titan are suflul acela extraordinar care sa il faca sa spuna cinci povesti in acelasi timp.

Sa ma intorc deci la reconstituirea lui Aleksandrov, filmul asa cum l-a lasat Eisenstein. Montajul, cum zic, nu a apucat sa fie facut. Raman imaginile lui Tisse: sunt fabuloase, nu stiu daca exista in istoria cinematografiei multe imagini care sa se poata compara cu ce a fost creat aici.

Iar din imaginile lui Tisse mai intelegem ceva, care face ca filmul acesta neterminat sa fie unic: Eisenstein a incercat sa inteleaga aici esenta spiritului mexican. A avut revelatia trairii impreuna in Mexicul de azi a intregii istorii a umanitatii, dela comuna primitiva pana la societatea moderna. O societate in care intreaga istorie coexista, impletita cu un extraordinar cult al mortii. Cult celebrat in mod paradoxal cu o vitalitate ametitoare. Pentru ca aici nu exista vocatia evolutiei, ci a eternitatii.

In stadiul in care ajunsese filmul, prologul cred ca era partea cea mai impresionanta cinematografic. Daca l-ar fi terminat, Eisenstein ar fi montat in paralel imaginile prologului cu imaginile celorlalte episoade, fiecare secventa ar fi capatat sensul dat de prolog, iar ¡Qué viva Mexico! ar fi devenit poate povestea cinematografica a eternitatii.


Am reusit sa gasesc filmul (versiunea Aleksandrov) pe youTube si il asez aici, impreuna cu comentariul producatorului (DocumentalesMexico):

Sergei Eisenstein shot ¡Qué viva México! in Mexico in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression. The courageous financiers of this project were the author Upton Sinclair, his wife Mary Craig and a small group of their friends. They had great difficulties in keeping the production going; the economic crisis forced Sinclair to call a halt to it in early 1932. Shooting was stopped with most of the work completed; only one episode could not be filmed. At the same time Josef Stalin insisted on Eisenstein's return to the Soviet Union.

Eisenstein left Mexico with Sinclair's promise in mind; that all the negatives would be send to him to enable the final editing of the film in Moscow. Sinclair tried several times in vain to transfer the film footage to Russia, but the Soviet Film Industry was instructed not to import the film. Eisenstein had been denounced both as a political renegade and as a Trotskyite, which was, in the eyes of Stalin, a serious offence. Preventing Eisenstein from finishing his Mexican film was Stalin's punishment. Consequently Eisenstein was left without film work for several years and started teaching at the State Film School. The Stalinist propaganda, which heaped all the blame on Upton Sinclair for the tragic end of ¡Qué viva México!, prevailed.

Two films utilizing Eisenstein's film footage were made with Upton Sinclair's permission: Thunder over Mexico made in 1933 by Sol Lesser and Time in the Sun, made by Mary Seton in 1939/40. Thanks to the foresight of Sinclair, who in the 1950s deposited the unedited materials of Eisenstein's film with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the subsequent work of Jay Leyda to make them accessible, all is not lost. We are sure that seventy years of archival care and investment in preserving the essence of this film will eventually result in an authentic reconstruction of this lost film.

Many film-historians are convinced that ¡Que viva México! is one of Eisenstein's greatest films. ¡Qué viva México! stood at the crossroads of Eisenstein's artistic development and at a crucial point in the evolution of the art of the cinema. This work deserves more than any other to be taken out of the archives, to be appreciated by a new generation! It is a treasure waiting to be discovered

¡Qué viva México! Part 1/9
(video by DocumentalesMexico)

¡Qué viva México! Part 2/9
(video by DocumentalesMexico)

¡Qué viva México! Part 3/9
(video by DocumentalesMexico)

¡Qué viva México! Part 4/9
(video by DocumentalesMexico)

¡Qué viva México! Part 5/9
(video by DocumentalesMexico)

¡Qué viva México! Part 6/9
(video by DocumentalesMexico)

¡Qué viva México! Part 7/9
(video by DocumentalesMexico)

¡Qué viva México! Part 8/9
(video by DocumentalesMexico)

¡Qué viva México! Part 9/9
(video by DocumentalesMexico)

(Filmele Avangardei)


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