Monday, May 11, 2009

The End of St. Petersburg (Vsevolod Pudovkin) **

Director: Vsevelod Pudovkin

Cast: Aleksandr Gromov, Vera Baranovskaya, Sergei Komarov

Background: Pudovkin had just finished Mother, where he gained fame with his montage style. The End of St. Petersburg was to be his follow up and was made to commemorate the the 10th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Story: A peasant and the labor leader he helped get arrested find themselves on the same side in the Russian Revolution.

Thoughts: Certainly an admirable attempt to make an important film, but this is really a rambling, incoherent mess for the most part. Now Pudovkin certainly has some visual flair and that is certainly evident in some of the huge crowd scenes but the story gets lost amongst all the overwrought camerawork. We never really connect with any of the characters and thus it feels more like a history lesson than a movie. The narrative here could have been constructed much better than what we got and if that was done, it could have made this a very powerful film as Pudovkin's sweeping shots and multiple montages would have had a more compelling impact. I don't deny his skill as a technical director, but he lacks the skill of a storyteller in this film.

Postscript: Pudovkin would follow this up with another highly regarded film about the revolution, Storm Over Asia. However, his forays into the world of sound cinema were not nearly as successful as his earlier works, although he did keep working until 1952.

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