I have proved. I have explained. I have taught. Here I simply wish to browse through my own past. . ."" So wrote...


IMMORAL MEMORIES: An Autobiography

I have proved. I have explained. I have taught. Here I simply wish to browse through my own past. . ."" So wrote film-pioneer Eisenstein when beginning these free-associative musings in 1946, after a serious heart attack, two years before his death. And, indeed, Eisenstein browses so freely--with allusions to history, literature, and esthetics as well as autobiography--that only scholars and aficionados will fully appreciate the rich, provocative play-of-mind in these 50 short chapters. There are glimpses of boyhood in Riga, with emphasis on his autocratic, idealized father. (""What is now most interesting for me is how this whole host of interrelationships with Papa's authority, in analysis atavistic, merges in me inevitably with evolutionary ideas. . ."") There are early influences--literary, visual (1890s photo-illustrations as a source of montage), parallel studies in drawing and dance. More unexpectedly, there's the influence of his 1915 education in military engineering (the art of mise en scene ""in its initial and simplest stage""). And then, after connecting Alexander Nevsky's prologue imagery to the horror of 1917 battlefields, Eisenstein jumps ahead to his post-Potemkin years: controversial stays in Paris, meeting Abel Gance, Colette, Cocteau (he ""greets me with his usual collection of affectations""), Yvette Guilbert; visits to ""anti-Soviet"" 1930s America, encountering cigar-chomping execs and a few directors (""Snobbism cannot conceal Steruberg's trauma about his own inferiority""); oblique references to artistic sufferings under Stalin. Plus: scattered ruminations on such matters as color photography, the close-up (at age three, via a lilac bough, he ""became exposed to the enchantment of the foreground composition""), Joyce, George Arliss, museums, calligraphy, bookstores, Stefan Zweig, religion and politics. (""I notice with astonishment that today's student, freed from the study of religious instruction, reveals the same hostility to the study of dialectics. And I believe this is because, in the process of teaching this almighty shining miraculous method of cognition, the heavy hands of our sophists, catechists, plisses, and perekhvalskys, are too often laid on it."") Hardly an autobiography, then, but a curious, often-eloquent intellectual scrapbook from a still-enigmatic giant.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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