Classical Film Theory

Classical Film Theory

FTVM 272
Faculty Member: Matthew Solomon (Film, Television, and Media)

On view: FALL 2022

Overlall yellow, orange and black. There are various women, one large eyeball in the center, trains, buses and buildings in the background. There are large rays of orange and yellow.

The Man with the Movie Camera, N. Chelovsky, 1926, lithograph on buff wove paper, laid down on canvas, 44 1/2 x 32 x 2 1/2 in. (113.03 x 81.28 x 6.35 cm), Gift of James T. Van Loo

Soviet filmmaker Sergei M. Eisenstein (1898–1948) is famous for his pioneering use of montage–the editing together of short visual sequences in order to condense experience and meaning.

During the early 1930s, Eisenstein became increasingly fascinated with revolutionary Mexico and the artwork of the Mexican Muralist Movement, which combined modernist experimentation with a unique visual vocabulary that drew on Mexico’s indigenous and occupied colonial history. He experienced the movement firsthand during a trip in December of that year. Students in Matthew Solomon’s Classical Film Theory class study an unfinished 1930s film by Eisenstein and consider how Eisenstein’s exposure to Mexican culture and art both consolidated and transformed his filmmaking techniques.

This exhibition for Curriculum / Collection takes Soviet film posters, created by equally pioneering artists who forged new graphic design techniques to convey the montage experiences of films, and presents them next to prints by artists associated with the Mexican Muralist movement, exploring how their aesthetics come together in ¡Que Viva México!

Why Soviet Art Now?

Thanks for asking. We recognize that featuring posters and film from the Soviet Union at this time might remind visitors of the Russian offensive against Ukraine. All manner of Russian cultural performances and displays are being canceled right now because anything Russian is seen as an endorsement of the present regime and its actions. But, to be clear, the USSR as depicted in the posters and artworks displayed here, collapsed during the early 1990s, and bears only a tenuous relation to current geopolitical formations and current nation-states.

We are choosing to go ahead with this exhibition because these groundbreaking films and posters from the early Soviet period and prints of the Mexican Muralist movement do not endorse the Russian present. Ultimately, the artworks featured here were made at the time to convey the experiences and stories of people overcoming oppression and out of concern for the plight of others, regardless of where they are.

Symphony of the City (Symphony of a Great City), Georgy Stenberg; Vladimir Stenberg, Russian (culture or style), 1928, lithograph on buff wove paper, laid down on canvas, 41 in x 27 in x (104.14 cm x 68.58 cm x ), Gift of James T. Van Loo

Works included in this collection

Curriculum / Collection

Explore the infinite value of art in shaping our understanding of...well, everything.

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