One of the commonly accepted standouts of the festival, as Variety magazine summed it up
[Mr.] Greenaway has wrought an outrageously unconventional and deliriously profane biopic that could take decades to be duly appreciated.’
I wholeheartedly agree. The film explores in a chopped up, out of sync and deliciously surreal way the twin topics of sex and death in the warm climate of Guanajuato in Mexico. Told through the perspective of the overtly analytical and eccentric Russian filmmaker Mr. Sergei Eisenstein.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato by Mr. Greenaway starring Mr. Elmer Back as the eponymous Mr. Eisenstein explores several months the seminal Russian director (Battleship Potemkin) spent in Mexico in the early 1930s. In Warholian fashion, the film is constantly splitting between frames, flashing from black and white to sepia to colour in a visual echo of how Mr. Eisenstein’s mind works. The film is at essence both a love story and a coming of age one, strangely, as Mr. Eisenstein is thirty three in the film (the same age as Christ when he died, which he constantly reminds us throughout the film). The love story and the loss of Mr. Eisenstein’s virginity to his charming, Mexican guide Mr. Alberti sits as the climax of the film.
The film almost entirely takes place in Eisenstein’s hotel bedroom with the odd sojourn to the local Catholic cemetery or the hotel’s restaurant, as an ominous threat of Mr. Eisenstein’s capture or assassination is a mainstay of each scene. Or at the very least overhangs like the proverbial blade.
Mr. van Brummelen, as the cinematographer, creates stunning shots and compositions from the silhouette views of Mr. Eisenstein from underneath his glass and iron chequered bedroom floor to the much noted tracking shot in the hotel restaurant cut through with monumental pillars, the scene is worth noting because it features more than one shot of the ensemble actors allowing or indicating that several outcomes of the one scene could be possible all at once.
Finally the film itself never tries to be real, its highly kitsch, in you face artifice is the whole point of the film. The slightly agitating, over the top sets to the monologue like dialogue it’s all wonderfully, celebratory fake yet brimming over with philosophical and artistic metaphors and allusions throughout to keep the audience enthralled and thinking.