Thursday, 21 May 2015

EISENSTEIN IN GUANAJUATO: 25th Anniversary Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival 2015 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Greenaway dallies with biopic like some Ken Russell wannabe.

Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015)
Dir. Peter Greenaway
Starring: Elmer Bäck, Luis Alberti

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This cellar-dwelling Ken Russell wannabe biopic of Sergei Eisenstein, the famed Soviet filmmaking genius and chief cinematic propagandist for Communist and Stalinist totalitarianism is replete with a wide variety of stunning visuals, but really does nothing to cast a light upon either its subject's work, career and sexuality.

How much of this dull, overwrought Greenaway nonsense you can take will mostly be determined by just how much Peter Greenaway you can hack. All others can stay at home and rent some Ken Russell movies instead.

No matter how outrageously rife with historical deviations (and nutty visuals) Russell's biopics were, I always loved how he plunged to the very roots of his subjects' artistry and not only captured the spirit of the work, but did so by presenting how the said work inspired him. Russell's films were as personal as they were cheekily respectful, not as oxymoronic as you might think, since his delightfully perverse sense of humour added the necessary frissons to reinterpret and/or re-imagine the artists' work.

It was a delicate balance and one Russell didn't always successfully achieve, but his best films were genuinely insightful, thought-provoking and yes, outrageous. For example, I always loved Russell's interpretation of Gustav Mahler's conversion from Judaism to Christianity in Mahler when he created the astonishing set piece of the title character leaping through flaming hoops adorned with the Star of David as Cosima Wagner in pseudo Nazi regalia, complete with what appear to be chrome hot pants, cracks a circus whip like some Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Valkyrie.

A close second to this pantheon of Russell's loving insanity is, for me, the sequence in The Music Lovers when Richard (Dr. Kildare) Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky, explodes the heads off everyone in his life with cannon balls with the 1812 Overture raging on the soundtrack.

I will accept all this heartily.

Alas, Greenaway delivers the equivalent of a few wet farts in this tradition.

Nothing so inspired occurs in Eisenstein in Guanajuato. Greenaway chooses to focus on the time Eisenstein spent in Mexico and essentially squandered his opportunity to make an epic feature film which Stalin himself gave his blessings to. Most of the film is devoted to Elmer Bäck's mildly entertaining nutty performance as he spouts endless bits of florid dialogue, discovers the joys of shoeshines, the heavenly experience of showering (as he cocks his buttocks saucily and swings his dinky about with abandon) and, of course, sodomy.

Yes, Greenaway does not disappoint here. Sergei's anal deflowering is genuinely worth the price of admission. Alas this delicious set piece is buffeted by far too much flouncing about, presented with triple-paned homages to both Eisenstein and Abel Gance until our mad hero is tossed out of Mexico, but not before donning a death masque and racing into the infinite behind the wheel of a roadster.

Heavy, man.

I'm not sure what I was supposed to take away from any of this movie in terms of what made Eisenstein tick nor, frankly, what Greenaway himself admires about one of the true masters of film art. All I really know is that Greenaway continues to make "purty pitchers" and has it in him to craft one lollapalooza of a sodomy scene.

Well, maybe that's enough.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ** 2 Stars for the movie, **** for the sodomy

Eisenstein in Guanajuato is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.