Arts Reviews

VQFF 2015: Eisenstein in Guanajuato

I went to find a washroom before the Vancouver Queer Film Festival Opening Gala began, and on the way I saw a sign taped to a door that said, “GENDER PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT #7: Gender is a spectrum. Get in touch with your inner gender,” and I was so touched that I took a photo of it. I was less touched when I realized that the Vancouver Playhouse didn’t actually offer gender neutral washrooms, which made the sign have a pretty practical application: Some people identify outside the gender binary. Get ready to see them in one of two washrooms for either men or women. But, I appreciate the thought, and you can’t win ‘em all.

I saw Eisenstein in Guanajuato (directed by Peter Greenaway) with no existing knowledge about Sergei Eisenstein, Soviet Russian film director, and knowing nothing about the film itself except that it was the VQFF Opening Gala film, which meant that I had better go.

It turns out, Eisenstein in Guanajuato is a rendition of Eisenstein’s real 1931 trip to Mexico to shoot a film that was never finished, and it reads like a love letter to Mexico—or a drunken, over-exuberant phone call to Mexico at three in the morning, which is to say a little uncomfortable but extremely hearfelt and candid. I have never heard an audience laugh so hard at a sex scene, and that alone made the film worth seeing. It’s about Mexico and Russia and sex and cinematography, but more than that, it celebrates the most simultaneously disgusting and visceral bits of the human experience—bodily functions, sodomy and death—and gives a knowing nod to how appalling it can be to be yourself. Eisenstein uses a phone while sitting on the floor of a shower, steals forks from several restaurants, throws up (a lot), cries, ditches his body guards, talks to and about his penis, learns how to nap properly and loses his virginity.

The field of view distorts and divides often, creating almost sickening kaleidoscopic imagery out of architecture, patterns and space, and intersperses historical photographs and footage from actual Eisenstein films to give historical context to Eisenstein’s work without being dry. The film was beautiful, gross and funny, and if you’re in Vancouver you can catch a second screening on Saturday, August 22 at International Village.



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