CENTREPIECE / Red rushes for me

Ryan Gilbey
Saturday 22 October 2011 22:43

As if you didn't know, 1995 marks the Centenary of Cinema (see pp16-17), an occasion which the ICA is using to usher in its celebration of rare Soviet cinema. Featured directors include Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera, which boasts a cornuc opia of techniques which must have inspired the path Oliver Stone stumbled down for Natural Born Killers.

The outstanding common factor of most of the programme is its sheer innovation, epitomised by Sergei Eisenstein, whose silent classics Battleship Potemkin and October (right) are taught in film studies classes as a text-book lesson in the power of editing. It was here that Eisenstein perfected his "montage of attractions" technique, using images like bombs dropped in quick succession to stun the viewer.

In his lifetime, Eisenstein was a controversial figure. Like Bunuel, who would be similarly spurned by his mother country, Eisenstein never found (or sought, for that matter) government approval.

He was, by all accounts, an aloof, distant figure. When Bunuel met him at Charlie Chaplin's house at the end of the 1920s, he barely gave the Spaniard a second glance. The Russian despised Bunuel's work - he believed it revealed "the disintegration of bourgeois consciousness". Such a pity he was so smitten with tennis; a collaboration between the two would have been laced with the precise kind of creative tension that Eisenstein thrived on - politics versus aesthetics.

The Soviet Classics season runs from 4-29 Jan at the ICA, The Mall, SW1 (071-930 3647)

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