SERGEI EISENSTEIN

A LIFE IN CONFLICT

This biography limns a man driven by ideas but thwarted by oppression from all fronts—family, business, and government. Using material recently made public by the Russian government, South African-born film scholar Bergan (Jean Renoir: Projections of Paradise, 1994) effectively dispels perceptions of the Soviet director as a “calculating, didactic theorist whose films ‘lack humanity.’ “ Bergan provides a reflective yet chatty portrait of Eisenstein as a gifted iconoclast who escaped his domineering, bourgeois father to embrace the new Soviet state and the “Eighth Art” of film only to confront greater tacticians in Hollywood types and censure by Josef Stalin. Paramount terminated Eisenstein’s contract early, and David O. Selznick rejected his screenplay adaptation of An American Tragedy as potentially a “most miserable two hours to millions of happy-minded young Americans.” Stalinist censors rejected his now-lost film Bezhin Meadow (which Bergan believes may have been his greatest achievement) and forced Eisenstein to —confess— its political groundlessness and anti-artistic tendencies. Bergan’s erudite, jargon- free film analyses complement the personal history and reveal Eisenstein as a humanist and early maker of movie illusion. Long before George Lucas added sound to outer space in Star Wars, Eisenstein fabricated the bloodbath on the Odessa Steps in The Battleship Potemkin. True to the power of the film image, it stands as an icon of the 1905 revolution. As for the image of Eisenstein, this biography views him not as an underappreciated film pioneer who must be revisited but as a cinema genius of lost potential. Like Orson Welles, Eisenstein won an early place in the cinema pantheon and followed it with decades of fits and starts, notably the aforementioned Bezhin Meadow and the truncated, John Dos Passos-financed QuÇ Viva MÇxico! An accessible, smart chronicle of a creative genius attempting to follow art and country. (36 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 27, 1999

ISBN: 0-87951-924-X

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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