Podcast – Men, Maggots and Mutiny

Segei Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin is often hailed as one of the best films ever made. It tells the story (based on a real-life incident) of the crew of a Russian battleship mutinying in 1905, leading to a bloody confrontation in the streets of Odessa. CinePunked gather to assess its value to a modern audience and pick apart the propaganda from the truth. Sleeve notes are below. With Robert JE Simpson, Neil Sedgewick and Ben ‘Blademan’ Simpson. Download/stream below, or subscribe via your preferred podcast supplier. You can leave your thoughts on the episode via the comments below, or on any of our social media channels, or leave a review on iTunes.
Episode URL: https://player.whooshkaa.com/episode?id=976793 Subscribe on Amazon Music Subscribe on Deezer Subscribe on Google Podcasts Subscribe on iTunes Subscribe on PodBean Subscribe on Spotify SLEEVE NOTES
CinePunked podcast s05e13: Men, Maggots and Mutiny
As a first year film student I was made to watch several films by Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, including Battleship Potemkin (1925). At the time it left me cold, but over the last few weeks as the Russian war with Ukraine played out I kept hearing the name ‘Odessa’ which instantly conjured up images of the massacre on the Odessa steps which forms the most brutal part of Eisenstein’s film. Across the decades the film was reawakened in my consciousness, and its messages of revolution gave me hope that there might be an end to the bloodshed possible. Not long before we recorded our podcast, I heard the story about the Ukrainian soldier based in Odessa who told an invading Russian battleship where to go. Battleship Potemkin might have been made in 1925, reimagining events that took place in 1905, but in 2022 the echoes are still relevant. Rachael firmly opted to stay away from this recording – vocally disliking the film, and refusing to rewatch it for the pod. And so, with me the only one who had seen it before, I’m joined by Neil and Ben, neither of whom have a film studies background. I was nonetheless interested in seeing how they’d respond to it – both have surprised me before (Ben with his affection for Chaplin’s The Kid, Neil’s affinity with Cocteau in our recent recordings). While I found rewatching it this time, I got a lot more out of the film, Neil and Ben sided with Rachael in the ‘no’ camp. And so, we figured the record would probably be a fairly short one. In spite of so much resistance, we all surprised ourselves with a lengthy conversation that touches on why film students are made to look at the film at all, and the importance of Eisenstein’s theories of montage and the impact felt through to modern filmmaking. It also gave us a chance to discuss the power of propaganda – something that was evidently very felt in the 1920s when the film was universally banned, not so much for its depictions of violence, but political messaging. The point is rather brilliantly illustrated by the use of a hand-painted red flag hoisted in the original premier print. That in itself also leads to a conversation about the availability of restorations of silent films and the variable quality many of them exist in. Potemkin is a difficult watch to many modern eyes. It is stylistically unusual, with a lot of repetition and extreme close-ups. But it is a film cited on many lists for its importance with regards editing, and at around 70 mins in most available versions, I reckon its worth seeing at least once. Incidentally, Ben mentions a film project of our own on the recording – a short film that me, Rachael and Ben made as an experiment a while back. At some point we plan on putting this out. The CinePunked theme music is ‘Riding the Synth‘ – © 2020, Ben Blademan Simpson. Used with permission. Episode recorded in Newtownards, Comber and Dundonald, Northern Ireland on 29 March 2022. Engineered and edited by Robert JE Simpson. First published on 30 March 2022. – Robert
Watch Battleship Potemkin on YouTube. If the link is broken, please explore YouTube – the film is available in various versions.

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