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EARTH (1930)


MissGulch
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Thank-you TCM for another rare foreign film which is truly like seeing an original painting from the walls of a world-class gallery, with a most distinguished docent, no less. And, Yoy!...oy yoy yoy...through all the dust, there is the thought that destiny always prevails, so one might as well dance and sing along the rutted road of life- vodka optional. Great film that shows the world outside of America during the 'Roaring Twenties', to know the farmers, politics aside. I'm still wondering why they gave the dying fellow an apple when "he liked pears." Difficult to watch, like the news some days, but a reality-based snapshot in time.

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I have to disagree on this one; I know that in the film school/art house world they showed us Soviet films like OKTOBER,POTEMKIN, and STRIKE and made an issue of how great they were to world cinema, but they went too far when they included EARTH into the repitoire.

It's too slow, the people are too pitiful and just plain flat out ugly, the acting is brutally primitive and the story is as subtle as a pile driver. I realised then when I saw it for the first time (in my youth),that it was probably more typical of what most of soviet cinema was like- stupefyingly obvious communist propaganda meant for the backward crowds of uneducated Russian slave-citizens. From this film and another, "STORM OVER ASIA", I was inspired to take a second look at the films of the supposedly great red directors, this time out ignoring all the worshipful filmspeak of my instructors, and I resolved that beyond the use of the rapid intercutting gimmick, they all have the ham handed acting, often repulsive appearing non-actors, and are all about the glory of communism, with an emphisis on outright lying about historical incidents as seen in POTEMKIN and OKTOBER. A certain sloppiness also obtains. The much touted "steps" scene from POTEMKIN, for instance, includes confusing angles, and shadows of the crew. The supposedly out of control baby carriage is obviously being controlled by someone carefully, slowly pushing it down the steps, with the only possible signal to us that it's supposed to be flying down the steps by itself is that the pusher is out of the tight shot of the carriage. But, like so many others of the "film school/art house films, you have to pretend to see more than is truly there.

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Actually, I didn't really say that I liked it. But, it's art and where else would I ever see it but on TCM? Ugly or not, the director put a human face on a universal struggle and the ululations of grief were profoundly accurate, culturally. But no, I didn't like it, either, and agree with much of what you say. Leonard Bernstein, Lee Strasburg, Isaac Stern and Vladimir Horowitz were all of Ukrainian descent, apparently from the other side of the mountains? But, as I said, it was tough to watch. The framing the shots has to be acknowledged for its artistry- Andrew Wyeth meets Ansel Adams meets Margaret Bourke-White...and it was definately not a fluff piece...no beaded eyelashes and ermine here.

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One thing I learn after years of exposure to film is to put things in their proper context.

 

The soviet silent films are not necessarily today as important as the "filmotheques" made us believe. All of these films were originally dismissed by contemporary audiences, even in Communist Russia.

 

The important issue with these films, however, is to realize how they achieved their status. That is something nobody writes about and deliverately try to avoid.

 

Somebody, and not me!, should restore a film like JUAN SIN ROPA (1919).

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My dear Radiotelponia,

I have found that a great deal of the soviet films were highly praised when they were new by anyone who wanted to appear cutting edge. Lots of British,American, and continental cinema writers could be counted on to always be highly impressed. "SOVKINO" exported many of the supposed masterpieces throughout the world (at a loss) for the expressed purpose of getting their message of hope through bolshevism out to the proletariat at large. For instance, the film POTEMKIN was described over and over again as THE GREATEST FILM EVER MADE. Even "TIME" thought so. In fact about 1988, an entire volume was devoted to reviews for Potemkin, no negative one could be found. The pseudo-intellectuals made great publiscists, and in the long run, myth-makers for the Soviet films, much in the way a lot of terribly boring French films have come down to us. A truly refreshing and honest review for one of the Soviet films was offered by the American Humour magazine "JUDGE": "The workers are breaking their shackles again." And you're not thinking it through if you believe that the helpless Russian audiences could be openly dissmissive about anything their brutal masters created. Public opinion was whatever they were told it was.

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The only good artistic thing that ever came from communism, so far, was Osvaldo Pugliese's music. He was doing tangos, not propaganda (although there very rare exceptions). In fact, his biggest achievement was to gather crowds to red gatherings... though never votes!

 

I remember a heated argument with one defender of these classics, he was more upset with me than with people who dismissed the films with good sense. In my defense, I repeatedly stated that he was stating cliches and that he already should understand that.

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Other music produced under that regime that are undeniably great came from their modern classical composers such as Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Khachaturian. But by and large, the rigidity of imposed stylistic norms on the arts in any totalitarian regime leaves a legacy of endless repitition, it's creators anonymous, and 20, 50 or 80 years on, their products forgotten and abandoned. The day to day cultural works on offer only for internal Iron Curtain consumption only are such products; perhaps a few are pulled up once in a while as a demonstration of how incompetant or foolish it could be, such as the countless 1000 man choral overtures to record breaking wheat crops, or the incredible rewritings of history in such utter nonsense as in the film PADENIYE BERLINA (1949) which shows Stalin flying into the ruin

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(sorry for the break in this thread)

 

-ed city of Berlin, getting out and walking amidst the wretched, but cheering mob, which includes striped costumed concentration camp survivors, all in front of the Brandenberg gate. But the soviets not only revised history, but revised revisions. A film known as LENIN IN OCTOBER (38) wildly inflates Stalin's participation in the 1917 overthrow of the provisional government as if he were Lenin's constantly wise-advice-giving right hand man. In 1956, when Stalin posthumusly followed millions of other Soviet citizens he had cast into the vast inertia of "non-person" status, the film was re-released with "Uncle Joe" cut out. The old actors were called back to make final reshoots of scenes to insure the story still made sense, and if a scene was too expensive to restage, the old footage was back projected on a screen and an actor in a sailor uniform stood in the way of the Stalin portion of the scene. So much for Soviet cinema.....

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Factotum and Radiotelefonia,

 

EARTH has more value then I gave it credit for because of your rousing conversation here this week. When I watch a new silent film I try to extract something to engage with and in this case it is your posts here. It's going to gather dust on the shelf with GREED, but I am grateful for the opportunity to have seen it and then to understand it through someone else's eyes. And then I found Khachaturian's SABRE DANCE on You-tube...thanks.

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Your'e most welcome. I don't subscribe to the theory that all film is political, but the products of totalitarian states certainly come close. The Nazis too, though there are exceptions like MUNCHAUSEN (1943) which proved to be so popular(and politically nuetral) it was still being shown on german TV into the 1980's. I can't imagine watching most of their forgotten dramas for pleasure. The samecan be said for the onetime Iron curtain nations' output.Or modern day Cuba or China. If you use Youtube there are a lot of films and clips from North Korea. The obsessive worship of their poof-haired psycho-in-chief is hilarious, and also tragic, to think of what life is like where this is the stuff of your cultural nourishment.

Merry Christmas to all.

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I myself grow up in a dictatorship. However, although some of the films produced during those days are actually no good, there are others that display some sort of resistance to the totalitarism we have to endure.

 

In fact, filmmakers got more guts in those days than they have now!

 

Some of them were actually discovered or rediscovered a few years, when there was no more dictators.

 

These include comedies to dramas and in fact one filmmaker, Adolfo Aristarain, was never able to top the success of his films from this period.

 

I am jewish... yet, Merry Christmas for all.

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