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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stachka (aka Strike) (1925)

In pre-revolutionary Russia, after a factory worker hangs himself after being unjustly accused of theft, the workers go on strike in protest while demanding better wages and hours. The director and shareholders of the factory turn a deaf ear to the demands. Violence and bloodshed ensues. This first feature film by the great Sergei Eisenstein is most noteworthy for the superb cinematography and editing, images that are as powerful and striking today as they were in 1925. Unfortunately, the story itself is a rather heavy handed affair lacking all subtlety and with very primitive acting. Apparently not trusting the audience to comprehend the weight of what we are watching, Eisenstein crosses over into obvious and crude imagery. For example, when the state police begin massacring the workers, Eisenstein intercuts with the brutal imagery of a cow being slaughtered and gutted. Or when the police raid a strikers' march, it's intercut with one of the shareholders squeezing a lemon. We get it, Sergei, we get it! Eisenstein also treats us to the sight of the police tossing babies off of three story landings. Ah well, who said propaganda was subtle. Still, this is one of the most audacious film debuts in movie history. Eisenstein springs forth in full bloom and his next film BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN would cement his reputation as one of the great film directors.

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