In Excess: Sergei Eisenstein's Mexico (Cinema and Modernity) by Masha Salazkina

By Masha Salazkina

During the Nineteen Twenties and ’30s, Mexico attracted a global roster of artists and intellectuals—including Orson Welles, Katherine Anne Porter, and Leon Trotsky—who have been attracted to the heady tumult engendered via combating cultural ideologies in an rising heart for the avant-garde. opposed to the backdrop of this cosmopolitan milieu, In Excess reconstructs the years that the popular Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein spent within the kingdom to paintings on his debatable movie ¡Que Viva Mexico!

            Illuminating the inextricability of Eisenstein’s oeuvre from the worldwide cultures of modernity and movie, Masha Salazkina situates this unfinished undertaking in the dual contexts of postrevolutionary Mexico and the tips of such contemporaneous thinkers as Walter Benjamin. In doing so, Salazkina explains how Eisenstein’s engagement with Mexican mythology, politics, and paintings deeply inspired his principles, rather approximately sexuality. She additionally uncovers the function Eisenstein’s bisexuality performed in his artistic pondering and identifies his use of the baroque as a big flip towards extra and hybrid types. superbly illustrated with infrequent photos, In Excess offers the main entire family tree to be had of significant shifts during this glossy master’s theories and aesthetics.

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Additional info for In Excess: Sergei Eisenstein's Mexico (Cinema and Modernity)

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What happens, then, when a film itself exists only in fragments and stills? In some sense, the logic is reversed: the analysis of the film becomes a way to bring it back to life, in the sense of making it whole, a process that mimics that of the work of the director himself. In the case of ¡Que Viva México! this dialectic is thematized in the film, and in particular in its “Prologue” and “Epilogue,” through constant reversals of death and life and the emphasis on this process as continuous. This projection of the poetics of the film onto the poetics of the artistic process (and back) is particularly justified in the case of Eisenstein.

For now, a brief sketch of the development of postrevolutionary cultural ideology of Mexico will help us contextualize Eisenstein’s fascination with the indigenous culture. Turning to Mexico’s distant past in the “Prologue,” Eisenstein’s film simultaneously reflects the importance of the pre-Columbian foundations of Mexican history, and the revival of this past as part of the postrevolutionary national ideology of indigenismo,4 to which the muralist project of Rivera and Siqueiros is intimately tied.

We are, after all, breaking the most basic taboos by gazing directly at gods and at death itself. The funeral-procession sequence consists of two parts—the procession itself and a ritualistic feast that forms it. The latter is filmed in static shots composed much like the preceding sequence. The main difference, however, is that instead of one or two frontal takes from different distances (a close-up and an extreme close-up, for example), the composition of the visual planes changes to a kind of establishing shot of a half-open coffin showing the face of the dead with three men and three women positioned symmetrically on the sides of the coffin with jicaras, half-cut 44 : chapter one Figure 4.

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