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October 7 – October 15

Cinema That Shook the World

“Of all the arts, for us cinema is the most important.”—V.I. Lenin

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 changed the history of the world and of the 20th century in monumental ways that are the subject of no less than three exhibits at Harvard University this fall. The HFA pays tribute to the ways that the USSR has been portrayed on screen by presenting three screenings in conjunction with these exhibits.  We will be featuring two-thirds of Vsevolod Pudovkin’s so-called “Bolshevik” trilogy: Mother and Storm Over Asia. (The third film, The End of St. Petersburg, will be presented digitally by the Davis Center; see details below.) And in honor of Harvard’s most famous alum to witness the revolution directly, we present Hollywood’s John Reed biopic Reds.

Houghton Library will be presenting The Russian Revolution: Actors and Witnesses in Harvard Library Collections September 6 – December 21 in the Lowell Room, Houghton Library. From September 7 – October 20, Romance and Reality: Posters from the Russian Revolution will be on display at the Harvard Ed Portal (224 Western Avenue, Allston). John Reed: Reporting the Russian Revolution, on exhibit at the Fisher Family Commons October 2-November 13, 2017, presents a selection of material from Houghton Library), including photographs and personal items, that showcase his passion and dedication as a writer and political activist. 

The exhibit The Russian Revolution: Actors and Witnesses in Harvard Library Collections will be open for a special viewing on Monday, October 23 from 5:45 to 6:45 in Houghton Library.

This program is presented in collaboration with Houghton Library and the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and the Slavic Division at Widener Library, Harvard.

Film descriptions by David Pendleton and Carson Lund.

Tsai Auditorium (CGIS South, Room S010, 1730 Cambridge St.)
Thursday September 21 at 7pm

October: Ten Days that Shook the World (Oktyabr)

Directed by Sergei Eisenstein
USSR 1927, digital video, b/w, silent, 100 min. Russian intertitles with English subtitles

 

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Live Musical Accompaniment
Saturday October 7 at 7pm

Mother (Mat)

Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin. With Vera Baranovskaya, Nicolai Batalov, A.P. Chistiakov
USSR 1926, 35mm, b/w, silent, 90 min. Russian intertitles with English subtitles

In the wake of the unsuccessful 1905 revolution in Russia, Maxim Gorky wrote the novel The Mother, detailing the radicalization of a proletariat woman as her son becomes politically active. This adaptation of that novel is the first film in Pudovkin’s “Bolshevik trilogy,” and it became the second Soviet film, after Potemkin, to receive international acclaim. Pudovkin realized the importance of editing for making meaning in cinema as surely as Eisenstein did. But since he was also intensely interested in acting, Pudovkin tailors his editing to bring out the nuances of the performances of his actors. Mother remains a powerful example of melodrama yoked to ideological didacticism.

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Live Musical Accompaniment
Monday October 9 at 7pm

Storm Over Asia, aka The Heir of Genghis Khan (Potomok Chingis-khana)

Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin. With Valerie Inkizhinov, A.P. Chistiakov, A. Dedintzyev
USSR 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 120 min. Russian intertitles with English subtitles

After The End of St. Petersburg, Storm Over Asia is the third and final part of Pudovkin’s loose “Bolshevik trilogy,” the films on which his reputation as one of the leading Soviet filmmakers rests. The character of the film’s Russian title, the “heir of Genghis Khan,” is a Mongolian fur trapper and trader who rises from obscurity to claim the status of a hero of the Revolution due to his resistance to British troops occupying Mongolia during the Russian civil war that followed. Like Dziga Vertov’s A Sixth Part of the World,Pudovkin’s Storm Over Asia is a celebration of the Soviet Union as a multicultural nation. If the political thrust of Vertov’s film is a critique of capitalism, Pudovkin’s target is colonialism. And if much of Mother plays like a melodrama, Storm Over Asia remains an exemplary anti-colonial adventure film.

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Tsai Auditorium (CGIS South, Room S010, 1730 Cambridge St.)
Thursday October 12 at 7pm

The End of St. Petersburg (Konets Sankt-Peterburga)

Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin and Mikhail Doller
USSR 1927, digital video, b/w, silent, 87 min. Russian intertitles with English subtitles

 

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Introduction by Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library and Director, Houghton Library
Monday October 23 at 7pm

Reds

Directed by Warren Beatty. With Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Edward Herrmann
US 1981, 35mm, color, 195 min. English, Russian, German, French, Finnish & Italian with English subtitles

Popular Hollywood conservative Ronald Reagan was elected as president of the United States in November of 1980, and Warren Beatty’s big-budget epic of the Russian Revolution, which offers a sympathetic face for communist idealism in the form of the director-star’s American journalist John Reed, was released only a year later. That such an entertainment emerged amidst widespread anti-Soviet Union sentiment in America is a near-radical feat; that it’s proudly old-fashioned in style and structure only augments the unique place it holds within its era. Swerving between a handsomely mounted romantic saga of John Reed and his progressive-minded girlfriend Louise Bryant and a talking-head documentary showcasing actual participants in 1917’s upheavals, Reds offers a heady Wellesian mix of real testimony and fiction, with the Hollywood recreation dramatizing the words of the witnesses and the witnesses complicating the Hollywood recreation. Photographed by Vittorio Storaro in rich shades of sepia and amber and lent an overwhelming sweep by Stephen Sondheim’s score, the film is a commanding act of resistance against the political tide of its time.

The exhibit The Russian Revolution: Actors and Witnesses in Harvard Library Collections will be open for a special viewing on Monday, October 23 from 5:45 to 6:45 in Houghton Library.

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Tsai Auditorium (CGIS South, Room S010, 1730 Cambridge St.)
Wednesday November 1 at 7pm

A Slave of Love (Raba Lyubvi)

Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov
USSR 1976, digital video, color, 94 min. Russian with English subtitles

 

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