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Critics reviews
Eisenstein in Guanajuato
Peter Greenaway Netherlands, 2015
It comes across as an immaculately researched and stirringly mounted biopic which breathes new life into a tired mould. But there’s never a point where you feel like Eisenstein is anything more than a fanciful creation, the product of an artist’s mind rather than a credible creation. Perhaps complaining that the film lacks for humanity is missing the point, but if you happen to like your cinema retooled as a scattershot history lesson intoned by a randy academic, then you could do a lot worse.
April 15, 2016
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In uncovering montage as something more than the cut, Greenaway transforms a crucial aspect of film theory. Eros and Thanatos — homosexual Fucking and Death — release Eisenstein from the great montage “cover up.” But as things happen, one cover up leads to another. Eisenstein invariably puts on a new mask. Nonetheless, it will be difficult to return to theories of montage as nothing more than the straight cut. With Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato, Eisensteinian montage is made to bleed.
April 15, 2016
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For the better part of two hours we lumber through something that isn’t really a film at all, but a look book, a pastiche of images relating to Eisenstein, like the research for a film yet to be made.
April 01, 2016
The film marvelously contorts our expectations, using rear projection and expanded depth of field to play visual tricks aplenty while filling each frame with pristine texture. Greenaway’s hyper-style matches his lead actor’s insanely unhinged performance, creating an artificial version of reality that somehow feels closer to the truth than any historical account.
March 15, 2016
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The high points involve Elmer Bäck, as the closeted 33-year-old artist, and Luis Alberti, as the married professor who deflowers him, exchanging epigrammatic observations on sex and death. But melodic lines don’t add up to a satisfying whole, and Greenaway gets lost in his own panache, allowing the narrative to unravel.
February 18, 2016
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The question of accuracy pales beside the whole conceit’s essential triteness… [Visiting Mexico] had a liberating impact on [Eisenstein] creatively, both on his drawing and his filmmaking. But Greenaway, in reducing that breakthrough to a single, silly roll in the hay, falls back on the stalest of clichés. We get very little sense of Mexico or of Eisenstein’s creative growth during the lengthy, doomed shooting of "Que Viva Mexico!
February 05, 2016
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Eisenstein once famously called Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front “a good Ph.D. thesis”—and at least one critic has invoked the line in reference to Greenaway’s own soberly academic tendencies. Eisenstein in Guanajuato doesn’t come across as rigorously as a Ph.D. thesis. It’s more like the kind of waywardly expansive text that scholars sometimes produce when they spin off into the realms of lawlessly free-associative Discourse, with a capital D.
February 04, 2016
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Quick-cut, with shots sometimes triplicated across split-screens, Eisenstein In Guanajuato is typical of later Greenaway in that it piles the screen with visual ideas that all look like garbage: amateurish digital lens flares straight out of a graduation video; actors green-screened into hyper-saturated photos; a scene that visualizes Eisenstein’s thoughts of lunch by flashing images of burritos and chimichangas that look like they were taken from the laminated menu of a corner taqueria.
February 04, 2016
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Some films are ruined by their directors’ desire to make them stylish and visually interesting every single minute. British director Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajauto is one of them. This is the kind of over-the-top anti-biopic at which Derek Jarman and Ken Russell excelled, although even they didn’t always get it right. While the results aren’t worthless (for one thing, they show a welcome openness to male nudity), they often look like a demo for editing software.
February 03, 2016
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The film has all the incessant showiness that can make Greenaway irksome: split screens, CGI, deliberately alienating performances. But the man loves a beautiful shot and a witty line; those are the things that carry the film.
February 03, 2016
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[Greenaway] occasionally quotes Eisenstein aesthetically (and directly through clips) but otherwise offers his trademark barrage of raucous postmodernism: image overlays, colors desaturating before our eyes, split-screen triptychs, hyper-realized symbolism, green-screened backdrops, and other grandiose CGI effects — as well as, naturally, montage. Rigorous and outrageous, Greenaway’s defiant approach to narrative only offers insight into his character, not Eisenstein’s.
February 02, 2016
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With Eisenstein in Guanajuato, Greenaway offers a study of one of the world’s greatest and most influential filmmakers and in the process made one of his most personal works that through flights of fictional fancy takes aim at the truth about Sergei Eisenstein during the making (and unmaking) of a project he felt about most deeply, and slipped from his grasp most precipitously: ¡Que viva México!.
February 01, 2016
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Greenaway’s habit of repeating old tics and playing around with virtuosic form for the sake of it might give off the impression of a director bored with his material, but what comes through clearly by the end of the film is the act of one artist’s eccentric generosity breathing new awareness into the life of another.
February 01, 2016
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Part homage and part queer revisionist history, his film puts Eisenstein’s alleged homosexuality front and center, surely motivating many of Greenaway’s exuberant stylistic flourishes, which feel like sensuous refractions of the groundbreaking techniques in Battleship Potemkin and Strike.
October 26, 2015
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Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato had its own sense of drive and outrage. The veteran director does seem to have regained some of his old showman’s sparkle from the days of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. And yet it’s arguable that Eisenstein is the least Greenaway-like film he has yet made.
February 15, 2015
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While the completely bonkers ‘biopic’ that is Eisenstein in Guanajuato is unlikely to fare all that much better with distributors, the long-heartbroken fans that do manage to see it will rejoice to find Greenaway deliver his most enjoyable film in nearly thirty years.
February 13, 2015
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Greenaway threatens to overload the screen with too many digital doodads and it looks as if subpar acting is going to be given a pass. But then Greenaway loosens his tight grip just a bit and allows his story to take off.
February 11, 2015
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