Beyond the Stars : The Memoirs of Sergei Eisenstein

Edited by Richard Taylor. Translated by William Powell, Seagull, 1995, xxi, 889 p, ISBN : 8170460573, $66.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

"Sergei Mikhailovitch Eisenstein (1898-1948) was one of the world's greatest filmmakers, theorists and teachers of cinema. He will always be remembered as the auteur of some of cinema's seminal classics--Battleship Potemkin, Ivan the Terrible, October, to mention just a few.

"Beyond the Stars is the first-ever complete, unabridged edition in English of Eisenstein's memoirs, freshly translated from the newly established, definitive Russian text.

"Eisenstein, writing about his memoirs, says, 'Now that I am approaching fifty, an acute, tormenting desire wells up inside me to seize he time I have lost, to keep hold of it as it slides into the past.' What better way to do this than to capture memories before they disappear? As he begins his reminiscences he says, 'I have spent my entire creative life writing dissertations: I have proved, explained and taught. Here, I want to stroll through my past, as I loved strolling through flea markets and the secondhand shops of Petersburg's Alexandrovsky Market, or along the bookstalls on the Paris embankments, or through Hamburg or Marseilles, at night, and through museum galleries and halls with waxworks.

"Like the galleries and markets he loved, this volume is crammed with memorabalia, with anecdotes and images and gems of insight. Although Eisenstein, explaining the choice of title, says Beyond the Stars' meant.... film stars, meaning by this that the book dealt with problems of cinema--everything, apart from the stars....' this is, nonetheless, a star-studded book. Luminaries like George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin, Ernst Lubitsch, King Vidor, Theodore Dreiser, Dos Passos, Stefan Zweig, Stanislavsky, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Jean Cocteau, Paul Eluard, are only some of the personalities who stroll in and out of these pages.

"Apart from personalities, the book is rich in ideas, in discussions of cinema, and above all, in insights into the complex creative process of the evolution of a filmmaker. As Eisenstein reports, he once asked some students what lectures they wanted him to give during a course. One of them replied, 'Don't talk about montage, or pictures, or directing. Tell us how to become an Eisenstein.' He goes on to say, 'Here is precisely how I became what I am.' And for anyone who finds the result interesting, this book is a compulsory read." (jacket)

[Richard Taylor is Senior Lecturer in Politics and Russian Studies at University College, Swansea. His books include Eisenstein Rediscovered and Inside the Film Factory.]

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