The Battleship Potemkin

Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 bombshell The Battleship Potemkin was cinema history’s third great game-changer, after The Birth of a Nation and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Just 27 when he directed this montage-powered expression of kino-revolutionary fervor, Eisenstein was the original film intellectual to come to power. Commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary of the failed 1905 revolution, Potemkin made history—literally. Eisenstein used his new form of agitational montage to celebrate mass action and collective heroism. Shot on location, entirely with non-actors, Potemkin was designed to look like a newsreel and function as a drama—if “drama” is the word to describe the hysteria of the movie’s key scene, a massacre set on the steps leading down to Odessa harbor. The power and violence of editing has never been better demonstrated than by this space-pulverizing, time-distending, emotionally alarming barrage of two-second shots, half of them close-ups. In some ways, the movie is a war of machines—liberated battleship versus robot Czarist army. (NR) J. HOBERMAN

May 20-26, 7 p.m., 2011

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