In his latest opus, veteran oddball filmmaker Peter Greenaway brings his ornate, grotesque, and visually immaculate style to bear on a particular and peculiar chapter in the life of Soviet ur-auteur Sergei Eisenstein. As its title suggests, Eiseinstein in Guanajuato follows the iconic filmmaker during an extended stay in Mexico. In the early 1930s, Eisenstein arrived in Guanajuato seeking to create an epic film chronicling Mexican history and politics, sponsored financially by left-wing muckraking American novelist Upton Sinclair. The project never quite came together, but not before Eisenstein blew through his budget shooting dozens of miles of film—all while allegedly undergoing a sexual awakening thanks to an affair with Jorge Palomino y Cañedo, a young academic who had been appointed his guide to Mexico.
Wednesday, April 13, 4:30 pm
Sunday, April 17, 7:10pm
Director: Peter Greenaway
Producers: Bruno Felix, San Fu Maltha, Cristina Velasco, Femke Wolting
Writer: Peter Greenaway
Cinematographer: Reinier van Brummelen
Editor: Elmer Leupen
Cast: Elmer Bäck, Luis Alberti, Maya Zapata
It’s this relationship that forms the core of Greenaway’s outrageous, ribald, and heavily fictionalized retelling of this period of Eisenstein’s life. A meandering and ludicrously over-the-top meditation on sexuality, identity, art, and commerce, Greenaway’s film feels disorderly, its narrative formless, yet it’s also unmistakably a lushly orchestrated visual creation, in keeping with the rest of the filmmaker’s oeuvre.
Some critics and historians have taken aim at Greenaway’s portrayal of Eisenstein for its wild embellishments and inaccuracies, and that’s fair enough—don’t come in expecting a historically faithful account. In fact, nothing could seem further from Greenaway’s aim—salacious and Rabelaisian, Eisenstein in Guanajuato is less a biopic than an X-rated fairytale whose narrator keeps forgetting the moral of the story, to bewildering and occasionally fascinating effect.