Criterion Sunday 86: Eisenstein: The Sound Years

This box set brings together Eisenstein’s surviving sound films Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1944/1958), as well as fragments from his lost Bezhin Meadow (1937). I’d count those surviving ones as two films, except that Ivan pioneers the now standard industry practice of splitting a single epic story into two films, the second of which was so disliked by Stalin that it didn’t see a release until after his death. The director’s reputation was made by a series of silent films (not released by Criterion, presumably for rights reasons), but there’s still plenty of interest to this set. Indeed, the images in both films are so striking and singular that one can only hope for a Blu-ray remastering. Nevertheless, this is still essential cinema.

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