FILM INDUSTRY AND GOVERNMENTAL POLICY: A TANGLED HISTORY
The film industry of any major producing country has a complex history, of course, but the Soviet situation in the fifteen years after the Russian Revolution was particularly volatile. Many organizations disappeared soon after being formed. Government regulations attempted to make the industry both profitable and ideologically acceptable.
Several books offer detailed overviews. Jay Leyda's Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, 3rd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983) provides an anecdotal account that gives a vivid sense of the events of the period. In his The Politics of the Soviet Cinema 1917–1929 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), Richard Taylor explores the workings of the industry and government policy. Denise Youngblood's Soviet Cinema in the Silent Era, 1918–1935 (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1985) examines the kinds of criticism leveled at the Montage filmmakers, and she takes the history up to the institution of Socialist Realism as the film industry's official style. An older, but still interesting, source is Paul Babitsky and John Rimberg's The Soviet Film Industry (New York: Praeger, 1955). Many contemporary decrees and essays are translated in an anthology covering all aspects of Soviet cinema, The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents 1896–1939, ed. Richard Taylor and Ian Christie (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988).
THE KULESHOV EFFECT
Lev Kuleshov was an important theorist and teacher as well as a filmmaker. Modern historians have investigated the Kuleshov experiments and the "films without film," which the Kuleshov workshop staged in the early 1920s. Kuleshov's own accounts are available in English, in Kuleshov on Film: Writings of Lev Kuleshov, tr. and ed. Ronald Levaco (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974); and Lev Kuleshov: Fifty Years in Films, tr. Dmitri Agrachev and Nina Belenkaya (Moscow: Raduga, 1987). Vance Kepley, Jr., discusses "The Kuleshov Workshop" in Iris 4, no. 1 (1986), an issue devoted to Kuleshov (with most of the articles in French). A lengthy essay by Stephen P. Hill, "Kuleshov—Prophet without Honor?" appears in Film Culture 44 (spring 1967). On Kuleshov's experiment The Created Surface of the Earth, see Yuri Tsivian, Ekaterina Khokhlova, and Kristin Thompson, "The Rediscovery of a Kuleshov Experiment: A Dossier," Film History 8, no. 3 (1996): 357–64.
Several entries on our blog, "Observations on film art and Film Art" (davidbordwell.net/blog), discuss the importance of the Kuleshov effect and its continuing influence in modern cinema.
THE RUSSIAN FORMALISTS AND THE CINEMA
During the period from 1914 to around 1930, a group of literary critics with close ties to the Cubo-Futurist and Constructivist movements created an important theoretical school called Russian Formalism. The Russian Formalists believed that artworks obeyed different principles than did other kinds of objects and that the theorist's task was to study how artworks were constructed to create certain effects. Working in Leningrad and Moscow, which were also the two centers of Russian film production, these critics wrote film reviews, essays on film theory, and even some scenarios for both Montage and non-Montage films. (For instance, Osip Brik scripted Storm over Asia and Viktor Shklovsky cowrote Kuleshov's 1926 By the Law.) Several Soviet filmmakers, including Eisenstein, the FEKS group, and Kuleshov, had close links to Russian Formalism, which influenced their theoretical writings. Like the Montage directors, the Russian Formalists were attacked and forced after 1930 into more conventional approaches.
One volume of the Russian Formalists' film theory, The Poetics of Cinema, was published in 1927; it has been translated by Herbert Eagle as Russian Formalist Film Theory (Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications, 1981) and by Richard Taylor as The Poetics of Cinema in Russian Poetics in Translation, no. 9 (1982). Essays by both Montage directors and Russian Formalist critics have been published in Screen 12, no. 4 (winter 1971/1972) and Screen 15, no. 3 (autumn 1974). Material on the FEKS group, Russian Formalism, and eccentrism is available in Futurism, Formalism, FEKS: 'Eccentrism' and Soviet Cinema 1918–36, ed. Ian Christie and John Gillett (London: British Film Institute, n.d.). Several essays by Viktor Shklovsky appear in Taylor and Christie's The Film Factory (cited above).