Sergei Eisenstein's revolutionary sophomore feature has so long stood as a textbook example of montage editing that many have forgotten what an invigoratingly cinematic experience he created. A 20th-anniversary tribute to the 1905 revolution, Eisenstein portrays the revolt in microcosm with a dramatization of the real-life mutiny aboard the battleship Potemkin. The story tells a familiar party-line message of the oppressed working class (in this case the enlisted sailors) banding together to overthrow their oppressors (the ship's officers), led by proto-revolutionary Vakulinchuk. When he dies in the shipboard struggle the crew lays his body to rest on the pier, a moody, moving scene where the citizens of Odessa slowly emerge from the fog to pay their respects. As the crowd grows Eisenstein turns the tenor from mourning a fallen comrade to celebrating the collective achievement. The government responds by sending soldiers and ships to deal with the mutinous crew and the supportive townspeople, which climaxes in the justly famous (and often imitated and parodied) Odessa Steps massacre. Eisenstein edits carefully orchestrated motions within the frame to create broad swaths of movement, shots of varying length to build the rhythm, close-ups for perspective and shock effect, and symbolic imagery for commentary, all to create one of the most cinematically exciting sequences in film history. Eisenstein's film is Marxist propaganda to be sure, but the power of this masterpiece lies not in its preaching but its poetry. --Sean Axmaker
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