Outfest 2015: Eisenstein in Guanajuato
¡Que viva México! is the title of a Mexican film by the venerated Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, a film that was reeled in by Hollywood executives in 1931 and never completed in-line with the prodigy’s own vision. Peter Greenaway, a contemporary and comparable director of artistic powers, charts the ups and downs of this epoch in film history, choosing to focus on Eisenstein’s sexuality and his search for cultural identity amidst the maligning of Communism in the West.
Elmer Bäck plays Eisenstein in full caricature, with bountiful expressions serving the eclectic life and work of the Russian eccentric. They also serve the work of Greenaway, who gives his films a life of their own by not wasting a single frame on mundane realities; every encircling camera movement or piece of exquisite art direction leads to an experience highlighting the freedom of cinematic expression. There is a dangerously high voltage felt throughout, transmitted by a profound irrationality and other traits of genius that Bäck and Greenaway perform with interminable virtuosity.
Scored with the ballets and symphonies of Russian musical cohort Sergei Prokofiev and complete with a vast heritage of classical Mexican architecture, this film is a feast on everything sight and sound. I even thought the image was going to pop out of the screen at one point; one shot is specifically skewed for such an effect, while others provide an estranged vantage point as if profiling an illustrous museum exhibit. Greenaway is never afraid to exploit such cinematic devices, and, in this case, rather than causing a distraction, they actually provide the viewer with an exciting history lesson.