Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Lev Kuleshov:The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks - Необычайные приключения мистера Веста в стране Большевиков (1924)

Необычайные приключения мистера Веста в стране большевиков (1924)

Director: Lev Kuleshov
Screenplay: Nikolai Aseev
Camera: Alexei Levitskii
Set Design: Vsevolod Pudovkin
With: Porfirii Podobed, Aleksandra Khokhlova, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Boris Barnet
USSR, Goskino, 1924, 86 min., b/w

The first Russian anti-American film both arrogantly mocks American ignorance toward the Soviet Union and enviously copies American cinematic methods. Mr. West, the president of the YMCA, travels to Moscow, expecting to find savage Bolsheviks dressed in fur, as illustrated in American magazines. Even though he takes cowboy Jeddy along to protect him, Mr. West falls into the hands of a run-down count and his gang who decide to toy with him and to confirm his worst stereotypes. When the real Bolsheviks finally free Mr. West from the gang, he takes a sightseeing tour of Moscow. Proving that the Revolution has left cultural landmarks such as the university and the Bolshoi Theater untouched, the trip ends with a geometrically arranged parade of marching Bolsheviks, making the now convinced Mr. West whole-heartedly embrace Communism and even ask his wife to hang a Lenin portrait on the wall.

Mr. West was the first result of Kuleshov's famous workshop, which experimented with montage and new acting methods. While America was, ideologically, the Soviet Union's antagonist, Kuleshov and his students took the editing techniques as well as the acting style of U.S. adventure and mystical serial films as their model, testifying to the popularity of American genre cinema in Russia at the time. When, at the end of Mr. West, an intertitle mentions Russian children's fascination with cowboys, this popularity is marked as a curious interest in exoticism, thereby reversing the roles and displacing the image of the exotic "other" from the Bolsheviks onto America itself.

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