#237- Storm Over Asia

Quick recap: A Mongolian herdsman starts a revolution because he got ripped off by a fur trader.

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To be fair, that’s a pretty nice piece of fur

Fun (?) fact: A silver fox fur coat will put you back about $5,000.

My thoughts: I’ve recently gotten into the podcast You Must Remember This, which examines the history of American cinema. This season, they are tackling the story of the Hollywood Blacklist, which fits perfectly with Storm Over Asia because it is legit Soviet propaganda, yo.

Did this movie create a bunch of Communists? Probably not. Unlike Salt of the Earth which had me legitimately questioning what I believed, Storm Over Asia only made me feel sorry for the poor foxes murdered for their fur. Not too sorry, though, because Mongolia is a very cold place and I’m sure fur was invaluable for keeping warm. The story itself, about the Mongolian joining with the Communist Partisans to fight the evil British army never really happened. Britain never invaded Mongolia, although they did occupy other places in Asia so it’s not too far fetched of an idea. Granted, I don’t know my USSR history as well as I should, but I just can’t imagine hoards of Russians rushing to movie theaters only to leave as card carrying members of the Communist Party because they were so angry about the fictional invasion of Mongolia.

Propaganda aside, the movie itself ran much longer than it should have. There are several scenes that made fun of Eastern religions, which made sense for the USSR to put in but watching 20 minutes of ritualistic dancing got old very quickly. I also didn’t really sympathize with the Mongolian herdsman, although I agree he should’ve gotten more for that pelt than what was given to him. Really, the only part I truly enjoyed was the last minute or so of the film when an actual storm blows in. At first, I wondered why someone chose to film a wind storm but then I got it- THIS is the storm over Asia! To make sure I understood the subtlety, among the wind blown objects were British Soldier hats and dead bodies, It was an exciting way to end an otherwise boring movie, although it still didn’t make me a Communist.

Final review: 1/5

Up next: La Notte

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#147- October (Ten Days that Shook the World)

Quick recap: October is a silent propaganda film chronicling the Bolshevik revolution and storming of the Winter Palace.

Fun (?) fact: The actual storming of the Winter Palace wasn’t very photogenic on account of the chaos, so scenes from October are now used as historical evidence.

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My thoughts: Propaganda films fascinate me for many reasons, but I mostly look forward to watching them because it’s fun to see if I will fall into the agenda the film pushes. Salt of the Earth is a great example of this. I anticipated watching October even more because I have little to no knowledge of Russian history and wanted to see if that would affect my thinking in any way.

A little history before my review: First, the Tsarist government was overthrown and a new government was set up of mostly aristocrats. They were then overthrown by the working class, who formed the Bolshevik party. From there, they elected their own members and the Soviet Union was born. I learned none of this from the movie, by the way. After October finished, I rushed to Wikipedia and read up on what the hell I had just watched.

So, October is not the sort of movie anyone should watch without context, like I chose to do. All I saw was two hours of people running around with guns and it was all very confusing. Add to that, the director put in artsy images to drive home his point, all of which went over my head. For example, in one scene a fat guy with really bad teeth was shown talking and looking important. Spliced in with that guy was an image of a really creepy bird that kept turning its head. Afterwards, I learned that the bird was actually a peacock, the symbolism being that the aristocrat was preening, as a peacock does.

also, this dead horse hanging from a bridge was symbolic of something

also, this dead horse hanging from a bridge was symbolic of something

October surprisingly works really well as a propaganda film. As a moviegoer in the 20s I would’ve probably been moved by the Bolsheviks’ idea of helping the working class and poor.Director Eisenstein turned everything black and white, trying to show clearly who was working for the good of the people and who wasn’t. It’s easy to get caught up in something like that, especially seeing images of people starving while bureaucrats sit in their fancy houses and dine on fine food and expensive alcohol.   Time is on my side though and I know how this story turned out and so in watching this film in 2015, I was mostly unmoved.

Final review: 2/5. It would’ve earned a 1, but watching October has spurred my interest in Russian history so that’s not a bad thing to take from this.

Up next: The Story of a Cheat