EISENSTEIN IN GUANAJUATO
(director/writer: Peter Greenaway; cinematographer: Reinier van Brummelen; editor: Elmer Leupe; cast: Elmer Bäck (Sergei Eisenstein), Luis Alberti (Palomino Canedo), Maya Zapata (Concepción Cañedo), Rasmus Slatis (Grisha Alexandro), Jakob Ohrman (Eduard Tisse), Lisa Owen (Mary Craig Sinclair), Stelio Savante (Hunter S. Kimbrough); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Bruno Felix/San Fu Maltha /Femke Wolting/Cristina Velasco; Strand Releasing; 2015-Netherlands/Mexico/Finland/Belgium-in English and Spanish)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The maverick satirist 72-year-old Brit filmmaker Peter Greenaway (“The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover“/”Drowning by Numbers”) goes all out with his usual provocative trademark arty mannerisms in this messy but quite amusing portrait of the internationally celebrated Russian silent filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (Elmer Bäck, Finnish actor). He was 33 at the time, who after living for two years in Hollywood is rejected by them despite his three masterpieces-Strike/Battleship Potemkin/Ten Days that Shook the World. So he travels by car from L. A., in 1931, to Guanajuato, Mexico to make the film Que Viva Mexico (which was ultimately doomed, as he’s ordered by Stalin to return home and leave the footage he shot behind) about Mexico’s revolution that came just before Russia’s.
The unfinished film is privately funded by American pro-Communist sympathizers, led by the American muckraking writer Upton Sinclair. Though under pressure by Stalin to return home, Sergei is chaperoned around Mexico by his smoothie married Mexican guide Palomino Canedo (Luis Alberti), who lures him into letting loose and losing his virginity in a graphic gay affair.
We are led to believe, in this unconventional and lewd biopic, that Eisenstein’s sensual experiences in Mexico significantly changed his life for the better. Relieved to be away from his homophobic and uptight Russia, he’s also thrilled getting it up his bloody ass–which appears to have made more of a ballsy man out of him.
Greenaway’s screen is filled with zany monologues of Sergei addressing his penis, wide-angle peculiar looking camera shots and facial closeups lit from below. If you can handle Greenaway’s excesses you can handle this fantasy film and the bizarre joyous way the filmmaker imagines the creative genius.
REVIEWED ON 3/20/2017 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/