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QUE VIVA MEXICO!

USSR, 1979 (MIFF 1980, Programme 69)

Director: Sergei Eisenstein

"Sergei Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico! (1930-32) occasioned one of the 1930's messiest artistic brawls. Following Eisenstein's fruitless Hollywood trip, novelist Upton Sinclair raised funds to allow the director to film a Mexican 'travelogue'. Eisenstein overran his modest budget, Sinclair seized the unfinished film and hired a producer of Tarzan movies to make a narrative of it. The unhappy result, Thunder Over Mexico, precipitated a torrent of ink, international defense committees for the protection of Eisenstein's concept, and picket lines around the Rialto. Sinclair never recovered his reputation, nor Eisenstein his film. Some 30 years after the director's death, what was left of the footage made its way back to Moscow. Now, Grigory Aleksandrov, Eisenstein's longtime associate, has edited the material the way they had planned...

"Despite the logistical hassles, Eisenstein enjoyed a tremendous surge of creative energy. He returned to drawing for the first time since adolescence, filling cartons with his sketches. Sinclair was later shocked to stumble upon a cache of satirically blasphemous and homoerotic cartoons. Eisenstein fabricated a dream of Mexico out of what he found, lavishing miles of footage on rituals and fiestas, with an eye for the most baroque costumes and grotesque masks. He posed naked boys amid the ruins of Chichen Itza and draped barebreasted Indian madonnas across sun-dappled hammocks. Everything was sexualized - a peasant revolt triggered by the rape of a peon's bride. Mexico became a sensual, death-obsessed hallucination. Children feasting on sugar-candy skulls, lines of pilgrims crawling towards the shrine of Guadalupe on their knees."

Extracts from an article by J Hoberman in The Village Voice.

Although it is possible to quibble with the organisation of the material, it still bears the majestic hallmarks of an Eisenstein film and its re-release is a cultural event of the greatest importance.

See also...

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TIME IN THE SUN

Mexico/USA, 1940
In 1931 after an abortive attempt to work at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Eisenstein went to Mexico where he planned to make “a living history” of the country and native Indian people. ... The… More »

IVAN THE TERRIBLE, PART II

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In 1941 Eisenstein, the giant of Russian cinema, began a biographical trilogy of the sixteenth century Tsar. Ivan IV, who united the autonomous principalities and became the first ruler of the Russia… More »

A WOMAN OF PARIS

USA, 1923
A Woman of Paris, the first serious drama by Charlie Chaplin, has not been available for general audiences since the late 1920s. The film was made in 1923, written and directed by Chaplin, and quickl… More »

EISENSTEIN: THE MASTER'S HOUSE

Germany, 1998
Eisenstein: The Master's House is a highly accessible and exhaustively thorough overview of the life and work of Sergei Eisenstein, one of the most significant fiimmakers in motion picture history. E… More »

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