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200 × 130 × 16 mm
224 pages
65 illustrations
01 Mar 2008
Critical Lives
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Sergei Eisenstein Mike O'Mahony

Few individuals have made as much of an impact upon a single medium as has Sergei Eisenstein upon cinema. His ground-breaking movies, such as Battleship Potemkin, October and Aleksandr Nevskii make regular appearances upon ‘all-time best movie’ lists, whilst classic sequences from these movies, such as the baby in the pram on the Odessa steps (Battleship Potemkin), and the battle on the ice (Aleksandr Nevskii), have entered the public consciousness and are referenced constantly by artists and film-makers alike, from Fellini, Hitchcock and Godard, to Martin Scorsese.

Sergei Eisenstein analyses the complex life and works of Eisenstein as film-maker, artist and writer. Drawing heavily upon Eisenstein's extensive writings, both published and unpublished, Mike O’Mahony explores the major pathways and stages within his career. Unlike previous studies the author evaluates the life and work against the context of the social and historical circumstances of the first three decades of Soviet rule. He considers the director's major film releases alongside his other works, including his uncompleted film projects and his copious writings and drawings, to bring to light the singular personality of the subject and the unique circumstances in which his work was produced and received.

A wide-ranging, deeply-researched and yet accessible account of a key figure in twentieth-century film, this book will appeal to the broad audience for film history.

‘This new study of Eisenstein is the compleat introduction to the great director and his oeuvre. Like any good creative biography, it seeks to understand the relationship between the artist and the times in which he lived . . . This small book is well illustrated and written in an engaging and highly readable style that recommends it to a broad readership . . . Highly recommended.’ — Film and History

‘Mike O'Mahoney is to be congratulated on producing an authoritative and persuasive biography of Sergei Eisenstein . . . I can offer no higher praise than to say that, had I ever got round to writing a biography of Eisenstein myself, I hope that it might have been half as good as this one!’ — Richard Taylor, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema

‘[OMahonys] judicious study synthesizes the best of the extensive Eisenstein literature in English into a lucid, if now familiar, portrait . . . O'Mahony's readings of the films are alert to telling details and provide context. A good basic bibliography tops off a compelling, accessible volume. Recommended.’ — Choice

‘Richly contextualising these peaks and troughs, O'Mahony oscillates between detailed illumination of the ever-changing socio-political mores in which Eisenstein produced his work, and close readings of these works to demonstrate the sometimes conflicting, sometimes coinciding pushes and pulls of Eisenstein's evolving artistic style and the political necessities of cultural practice in the Soviet Union. The resultant work is a taut, involving, and eminently readable 219-pages . . . a rewarding and economical shot of knowledge.’ — Media-Culture Journal

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Mike O’Mahony is Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of Bristol. He is the author of Sport in the USSR (2006), Sergei Eisenstein (2008) and Olympic Visions (2012), all published by Reaktion Books.

1    Experimentation
2    Consolidation
3    Transition
4    Hiatus
5    Reprieve
Selected Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements