Blu-ray Review: Battleship Potemkin (1925)

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In addition to its status as a mandatory part of any reputable Introduction to Film classroom around the country and being famous to Generation X as the movie that inspired Brian De Palma's thrilling staircase sequence in The Untouchables, Battleship Potemkin is also arguably the most famously influential film of all time in terms of the field of editing.

And despite the fact that Sergei Eisenstein stated that he wanted the potent musical score rewritten every twenty years to keep the movie up to date in its revolutionary message, the high definition bow of Eisenstein's powerful 1925 masterwork of emotional propaganda and inventive montage proves that the original score still carries the same punch it always did as it comes thundering through your media room speakers in DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound.

The most faithful release of Potemkin to date finds Eisenstein's 1,374 shots fully restored to its original presentation – managing to give us the thorough picture on a film that, having been banned, greatly censored, cut and carelessly tossed around the public domain in some countries, has often played to audiences in a way that doesn't represent the director's original vision.

Restoring all of the text card inserts so that the 146 shots of words (newly translated to English) now perfectly balance out the action and sync up rhythmically the way it was intended back in 1925, the way the film unfolds in a primal fashion still manages to stir audience members a full eighty-five years after release, as few silent films can.

Part of Eisenstein's “The Year 1905 Series,” Potemkin chronicles the mutinous revolt of a mistreated Odessa crew as they overthrow their Czar Cossack tormentors and later inspire a communist revolution.

Intriguingly, it's a cinematic contradiction in the way that it appears to be so purely simplistic to the point that Pauline Kael labled it cartoonish yet at the same time its epic sequences such as the drama on deck section seem as though they've forever informed the way we look at action on film whether we were familiar with Potemkin or the many films it's inspired.

Surprisingly, it's still violent even by today's standards as you may not recall just how propagandist and in-your-face Eisenstein's Odessa Steps montage is in contrast to De Palma's version.

Furthermore, the painstakingly preserved work from Kino is a staple for anyone who considers themselves a film devotee and it's one that proves that it's still Untouchable in inciting a cinematic revolution as you'll notice that you view films with a more critically fixed eye on juxtaposition for at least a full week each time you take in this foreign classic.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.