Tag Archives: russia

Go West

The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924) is a mouthful of a title, but it sets just the right expectations for Lev Kuleshov’s satirical adventure, which I wrote about over at Movie Mezzanine. It’s exactly the kind of zany fantasy travelogue that the title suggests, dropping an idiot westerner (Mr. West) and his faithful cowboy pal Jeddy into the silly, slapstick-heavy city of Moscow. There, West is terrorized and subjected to a series of elaborate con games by the sinister Zhban (played by Kuleshov’s peer Vsevolod Pudovkin) and his team of back alley grotesques. It’s all very, very funny and right on target when it comes to skewering American myopia. If only all Soviet propaganda were this much fun!

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Empress Marlene

I’m not really sure if I can handle how much I love The Scarlet Empress, which I wrote about over at Movie Mezzanine. I love how the film spits venom all over Russian royalty and has so much fun doing it. I love von Sternberg’s weird visual strategies; how the director coils Marlene Dietrich’s screen image around his fingers. And most of all I love Dietrich’s performance, composed of light and translucent fabric, with a face that calcifies from a virgin’s awe into power-mad maturity. The supporting players—sexy John Lodge, shrewish Louise Dresser, daffy Sam Jaffe—all get scenes to steal, but Marlene is the star (the fetish object) here. And my, does she light up Moscow’s night sky.

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