The Film (5/5)
I first viewed Battleship Potemkin during my first week of film school in January 2003. The source was a beaten up public domain VHS tape, as the school had yet to upgrade the film to DVD (And even if they had it would probably be a PD one). I had seen silent films before that time, but it was mostly comedies in the Chaplin/Keaton/Lloyd mold, and I believe a Halloween viewing of Murnau's Nosferatu. I knew nothing about Battleship Potemkin as I sat down to watch it that first time, other than my Professor saying that it influenced all of modern cinema. As the film unfolded, I felt something I do not feel very often when I watch a film, a sense of discovery. Battleship Potemkin felt like an unearthed time capsule revealing to me the secrets of cinema's past.
Battleship Potemkin simply put is the foundation of any film lover or film makers education. The techniques director Sergei Eistenstein employed in Potemkin, have become the standards by which modern cinema is made. On top of that it is an exciting film, it has great action, and drama, and considering the era, a great deal of on screen violence. The music composed by Edmund Meisel (included here) is a great accompanment to this already fantastic film.
Battleship Potemkin was released in 1925, and was meant to be a Soviet propaganda piece. The film commemorates the 20th anniversary of the rebellion of the crew of the Battleship Potemkin against the Tsarist officers aboard the ship. The film is broken into 5 sections the most famous of which is the Odessa Steps sequence. This sequence shows the Tsarist regime massacring the people of Odessa as they mourn the fallen leader of the sailors.
As I mentioned the story documents the rebellion of the crew of the Battleship Potemkin. The conflict begins over the crew angered that they are being forced to eat spoiled maggot-ridden meat. A few of the crew decide to rebel, and are brought down, and lined up for execution. This causes mutiny amongst the crew, and sets up the conflict that will drive the narrative of the film.
Battleship Potemkin for a cinema classic has been treated quite poorly over the last 85 years. The film has been cut and censored the world over, and those that have seen it usually have seen it on a beat-up VHS tape or a public domain DVD release. Kino began to rectify that with there excellent 2007 release of the film. And they have now upped the ante, by releasing Battleship Potemkin in glorious high definition on this Blu-ray disc.
Kino has presented Battleship Potemkin in a brilliant 1:29:1 1080P AVC encoded transfer. To put it simply Battleship Potemkin has very probably NEVER looked this good, Yes, there are some scratches and moderate grain thoughout the film, but Potemkin is 85 years old, and I would not expect a 100% perfect image, however, this is pretty damn close to perfect. The level of clarity and detail throughout is simply amazing, and needs to be seen.
Battleship Potemkin premiered in Moscow with a temp track made up of pre-existing orchestral cues. For it's Berlin premiere Eisenstein hired composer Edmund Meisel to compose a score for the film, over the years Battleship Potemkin has been scored with various music (even the Pet Shop Boys took a crack at scoring it). It was Eisenstein's wish for the film to be rescored every 20 years so that it would remain contemporary, however, the Meisel track lovingly recreated here is the score that is most frequently associated with the film.
Kino has presented the Meisel's score in a brilliant sounding DTS-HD 5.1 track. The mix is intense, and practically explodes from the speakers. The intertitles are presented in both English and Russian (w/ optional English subtitles).
The extras on Kino's Blu-ray of Battleship Potemkin are pretty slim, but what we have is quite interesting. The most substantial extra is the 42 minute documentary Tracing The Battleship Potemkin. This documentary goes into the film's history, and traces it's existence throughout its 80 year history (This doc was made in 2005). It compares various versions of the film, and goes into detail about the 80th anniversary restoration process. The disc is rounded off with a photo gallery containing stills, promo materials, and behind the scenes pictures. The DVD also has an 8 page booklet with liner notes written by film critic Bruce Bennett.
Battleship Potemkin is not just a cinema classic, it is THEE cinema classic. So many modern film techniques can be traced back to this one film. Taking the film away from it's historical significance it is a simply great film. Kino in the age of high definition have become absolute masters of film restoration, and have done a fantastic job restoring this 85 year old film. The transfer is amazing, and offers detail and clarity probably not seen since it's premiere. The recreated version of Edmund Meisel's score is absolutely stunning, and explodes from the speakers. The extras are slim, but interesting. This is a must buy for true fans of great cinema.
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