22 June 2016
San Francesco - Via della Quarquonia 1 (Classroom 1 )
Sergei M. Eisensteinâ€™s visit to Paris between November 1929 and May 1930. In that period, both the intellectual and the personal vicissitudes of Eisenstein intertwine with the group of anthropologists behind the journal Documents. One clearly identifies the methodological ground, a conflictual dialectic of concrete forms, shared by Eisenstein and the heterodox surrealists. Eisensteinâ€™s idea of conflictual montage was formulated in three essays of 1929, while an equally radical principle of â€œconflictual montage of texts and images is also foregrounded on the pages of Documents in 1929-1930. However, the crucial feature of the comparison focalized in this paper concerns Eisensteinâ€™s ethnographic inclination in the 1930s vis-Ã -vis the surrealist ethnography permeating Documents in this same period. To demonstrate this relationship I consider both the books acquired by Eisenstein during his Parisian stayâ€“â€“for instance, LÃ©vy-Bruhlâ€™s Primitive Mentality (1922) that became influential in his American journey, especially during the shooting of Que viva Mexico! (1931-1932)â€“â€“, and the correspondence with Jean PainlevÃ©, kept at the Jean PainlevÃ© archives (Les Documents cinÃ©matographiques, Paris). The meeting between the two directors dates back to Eisensteinâ€™s visit to Paris between 1929 and 1930. Shortly after their meeting, Eisenstein and PainlevÃ© form a friendship, as evidenced by correspondence that they maintain during all of Eisensteinâ€™s travels throughout the United States, then Mexico (1930-32), until the return of the latter to the Soviet Union. This correspondence allows us to grasp, on the one hand, the influence of PainlevÃ©â€™s scientific documentaries on the anthropological thinking of Eisenstein during the 1930â€™s, and on the other hand, to rethink Eisensteinâ€™s trip to Paris and his exchanges with prominent figures in â€œheterodoxâ€ Surrealism who were close to Bataille (PainlevÃ© included), as a decisive moment in the intellectual and biographical trajectory of the Soviet director. One could, in fact, advance the hypothesis that some of PainlevÃ©â€™s scientific filmsâ€“â€“like the documentary entitled Mouvement du protoplasme dâ€™elodea canadensis (1928)â€“â€“have been the inspiration for Eisensteinâ€™s â€œprotoplasmâ€ theory, based on the idea that primordial organisms, which had not yet achieved a stable form, were in such a state that permitted them to assume all possible forms through a continuous series of transformations and metamorphoses. That idea, which is the focus of Eisensteinâ€™s essay on Walt Disney, edited on several occasions during the 1940â€™s, becomes part of his reflections contained in Metod, a fundamental work which remained unpublished until 2002, and is today in the process of being translated into German and Italian.