Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another perspective on the stuff Ossendowski talks about: Pudovkin's film "Storm over Asia"

A fiction film made in the Soviet Union in '29. About a Mongolian guy who is first cheated out of his best fur by western occupying powers/White army people, then used by them to legitimize their power because he has a piece of paper saying he's a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. It's actually a comedy, and succeeds as one. The piece of paper, for example, wasn't his but was left by a monk who tried to steal the fur at the guy's family yurt. Trust me on the funniness of this.

While the film is somewhat anti-Buddhist it's not anti-Asian, and instead gives a sensitive portrayal of Mongolian life. Fortunately, it was probably mostly made before Stalin assumed power in '29, thereby allowing much more artistic freedom in its portrayal of things than would have been possible afterwards. Not a lot of ideology besides exploitive western fur buyers and such, but it's rendered in a way that attempts to be believable.

All in all a good film.

P.S. an interesting side note is that there appears to have been a rivalry between Sergei Eisenstein, director of "The Battleship Potemkin", and Pudovkin concerning montage technique. Pudovkin puts montage to great use here, in a way that's less formalistic than some of Eisenstein's experiments. Although Eisenstein literally wrote the book, actually two books, on montage technique, it appears that the competition between the two directors yielded fruitful results.

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