Strike/Stachka (1925)

THE SCOOP
Director: Sergei Eisenstein
Plot: In Russia's factory region during Czarist rule, there's restlessness and strike planning among workers.

Genre: Drama
Awards: -
Runtime: 95min
Rating: PG for some mature themes and disturbing scenes.

IN RETROSPECT
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Strike ranks as arguably the most remarkable cinematic debut of all-time alongside Citizen Kane by Orsen Welles. Written and directed by the great Sergei Eisenstein, the film is one of the best examples of a filmmaker who had completely mastered the art of his medium. Eisenstein made only seven feature-length films in his lifetime. Every single one was a masterpiece, though his most well-known was Battleship Potemkin, only his second film which was released in the same year as Strike.

Strike was conceived at a time when the Soviet Union was under the stranglehold of a brutal communist government. It was a forceful statement against capitalism, political greed, and the harsh treatment of labor, which were some of the major concerns of the 1920s. In his films, Charles Chaplin made statements on social issues with visual slapstick humor and created The Tramp, an iconic figure in classic cinema, who was an observer and often victim of societies' problems. For Eisenstein, he used stark images which with some clever editing and music accompaniment resulted in long, extended montage sequences.

Strike and, to a larger extent, his later works showcased Eisenstein as a leading practitioner of the 'shock cutting' technique - a type of figurative film editing that is visually powerful yet few filmmakers use it and is best described through two famous examples from Strike:

*Knowledge of these examples will not in any way diminish your cinematic experience.

1. A government official uses a squeezer to squash a lemon to collect its juice. The next cut shows policemen on horses rounding up a large group of laborers on strike.
2. A worker with a long, sharp knife cuts along the body of a cow in a slaughterhouse forcing blood and guts out. The next cut shows the laborers on strike being shot to death.
Eisenstein's Strike has one of the best music scores for a black-and-white picture. The digitally remastered version on DVD features a strong driving, rhythmic and mostly percussive themes performed by the Alloy Orchestra. After more than eighty years, Strike is still arguably one of the finest films to emerge from the early half of the twentieth century. Eisenstein couldn't have possibly announced his arrival as a filmmaking maestro in a more resounding way. Strongly recommended!
GRADE: A+
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