Friday, 3 June 2011

Movie classics roll into the digital era

The British Film Institute (BFI) is showing an unprecedented retrospective of Russian and Soviet films featuring classic and contemporary movies spanning more than a century of cinema.

Billed as КiиО (the half-Russian name given to the project is pronounced Kino, meaning cinema in Russian), the six-month event is big and bold, say the organisers, and brings the best of the past and present to British screens.

“Kino is huge and epic in its scope, and it covers the whole spectrum, from classic icons of Russian heritage right the way through to contemporary films,” said the BFI’s director, Amanda Nevill.

In a three-year project, the organisers of КiиО have collected, restored and brought back to life not only the gems of Russian cinematography but also the best original versions of the pictures, from the classics of early silent movies to notable works from the age of the auteur.

The flagship of the project is one of the all-time classics - Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), which has particular resonance for its British fans: praised in Europe after its release , it was banned in Britain until 1954. “It seems the whole British Army would crumble like a house of cards just from the single word ‘Potemkin’,” critics wrote in the Twenties as they ridiculed the government’s decision to ban Eisenstein’s masterpiece.

The restored and digitalised version of the film has been released in eight British cinemas and art centres and is accompanied by the music Edmund Meisel played at its world premiere in Berlin in 1925. “It’s what we love doing here: we like to put things together that you couldn’t get anywhere else,” the BFI director enthused.

In 2005, the Berlin Film Festival premiered the film’s restored version, which featured lost footage and captions, in particular the censored words of Leon Trotsky in the prologue and out-takes from the scene on the Potemkin Steps in Odessa, one of the most iconic in film history. ...

Russia Beyond The Headlines

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