Alternative empires : Soviet montage cinema, the British documentary movement & colonialism
This is a study of Soviet montage cinema and the British documentary movement of the 1930s which brings together two usually divergent methodologies: postcolonial theory and "new" film history. The first chapter develops new insights into Eisenstein's October and Vertov's The Man With the Movie Camera, The second analyses two less well-known Vertov films, One Sixth of the Earth and Three Songs of Lenin, from the perspective of postcolonial theory, The third considers Pudovkin's Storm Over Asia and traces its reception in both the Soviet Union and England. The fourth and fifth chapters expand general issues and themes raised by the first two, and pursue specific questions raised by the third. These final chapters resituate the work of the British documentary movement in relation to the culture of British imperialism. This shift of focus entails the analysis of the production and contemporary critical reception of a number of films which have been marginalised in most retrospective historical accounts of the movement. By recontextualising these two groups of films, this study attempts to demonstrate how their various representations of the non-Western world are intertwined with and necessarily involve considering other issues, such as: periodisation within film history; the "influence" of Soviet montage on the British documentary movement; the construction of authorship; the division between "high" and "low" culture; the relationship between politics and film aesthetics; the postcolonial challenge to Marxism; cinematic internationalism. The first two chapters also integrate an ongoing critique of certain trends within post-1968 film theory and criticism, which developed in close association with a retrieval and revaluation of Soviet montage cinema and Soviet avant-garde culture of the 1920s, One of the aims of this thesis is to question some of the assumptions of this work, whilst at the same time demonstrating that historical research, even as it attempts to reconstruct former contexts, need not consign its objects of study to the past, but can be used instead to raise questions relevant to the present. In this respect, the thesis tries to remain closer to the spirit of post-1968 than does much of the more recent, "new" historical research into Soviet cinema and the British documentary movement, to which it is nevertheless greatly indebted.