Review | Kino Presents Two Soviet Classics
Released in 1925, right before his masterpiece, Battleship Potemkin made its debut, Strike is a fevered and impassioned tale of a group of factory workers revolting against their oppressive bosses. Set off by the suicide of a worker falsely accused of stealing who can't bear being labeled a thief, the workers take over the factory, and make a series of demands of their employers - including an eight hour workday (six for minors), a 30% wage increase, and fair treatment by their managers.
|A scene from Sergei Eisenstein's STRIKE.
The conflict continues to escalate before the police are finally called in, leading to a massacre of the workers that stands as one of the finest sequences Eisenstein ever directed. Intercut with symbolic images of a bull being slaughtered (a technique of drawing parallels between two unrelated images through editing pioneered by Eisenstein's contemporary, Lev Kuleshov, for whom it was named), the final massacre is a wrenching cinematic set-piece, ending the film with a simple yet powerful admonishment by Eisenstein - "Proletarians...remember."
|A scene from Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky's THE CIGARETTE GIRL OF MOSSELPROM.
While hardly groundbreaking or revolutionary, The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom is a real charmer, but perhaps most important for cinephiles, it offers a rare glance behind the scenes of Russia's Mezhrabpom-Rus Studios, before turning into an oddly self-reflexive meta movie within a movie that feels like a very early precursor to the work of Charlie Kaufman. The DVD is completely devoid of extras, but films like this are lucky to be on DVD at all, and are honestly a special feature unto themselves. And while these two films could not be more different, they offer a window into early Soviet life that is both fascinating and compelling. Mosselprom is an interesting time capsule, but Strike is essential viewing for cinephiles, and Kino's presentation here is terrific and should not be missed.
STRIKE - ★★★★ (out of four)
THE CIGARETTE GIRL OF MOSSELPROM - ★★★ (out of four)
Strike will be released on DVD and blu-ray on August 30.
The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom will be released on DVD only on August 30.