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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The New Babylon, 1929

Новый Вавилон, 1929
movie poster
(source: wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

Written and directed by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, The New Babylon (Новый Вавилон) is a Soviet silent movie from 1929, dedicated to the Paris Commune. A tragic story of love (somehow calling in mind Zola's Débâcle - here in the movie the two lovers are in opposite camps) - only it's treated very quickly, as there are many other events to be presented. An out-pour of things, that happened in the Paris of 1871 - things big scale and things small scale - all dramatically important to understand what happened. There is a Revolutionary pathos in the movie, only it is created very differently from what Eisenstein and the other masters of the epoch were doing. Here in The New Babylon the artistic technique is the one used by street performers or circus jugglers. You have to watch the movie to understand this. It's the Constructivist vanguard of the 20's, however of a special flavor: the eccentrism.

Shostakovich wrote a score for this movie, a musical composition with a long history of its own, lost after the premiere and retrieved only after the composer's death in 1975. Maybe this score can be of help in understanding the artistic universe of the movie. Shostakovich was by that time an ardent partisan of eccentrism, aiming to dissolve the borders between music-hall, circus, theatre, movie, opera, and here he used motifs from Revolutionary songs (Marseillaise, Ça Ira, Carmagnole) in unexpected forms (can-can, waltz, gallop), sometimes juxtaposed contrapuntally with very different themes, to get the necessary artistic effect.

The cast includes Vsevolod Pudovkin, Sergei Gerasimov, and Tamara Makarova, among many others.


(Musica Nova)

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