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Que Viva Mexico

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Hollywood's loss was Mexico's gain, as this glorious documentary will attest. Having failed to realize several projects in Hollywood, Russian film pioneer Sergei Eisenstein trekked to Mexico with producer Grigory Alexandrov and cameraman Eduard Tisse, and the famous writer Upton Sinclair as beneficiary. Their budget quickly ran out, and the film was never properly completed, but Alexandrov carefully assembled this version of Que Viva Mexico! in 1979, and the result is one of the most beautiful documentaries ever made. Although it was later criticized for presenting a fantasized view of Mexican culture, this remains a stunning example of Eisenstein's ability to meld people, politics, and ritual into a richly cinematic experience. Celebratory, socially alert, and at times even surreal, the film displays all of Eisenstein's revolutionary techniques while proving that his narrative style could have flourished in Hollywood. Instead, this marvelous film stands as a testament to what might have been.

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Hollywood's loss was Mexico's gain, as this glorious documentary will attest. Having failed to realize several projects in Hollywood, Russian film pioneer Sergei Eisenstein trekked to Mexico with producer Grigory Alexandrov and cameraman Eduard Tisse, and the famous writer Upton Sinclair as beneficiary. Their budget quickly ran out, and the film was never properly completed, but Alexandrov carefully assembled this version of Que Viva Mexico! in 1979, and the result is one of the most beautiful documentaries ever made. Although it was later criticized for presenting a fantasized view of Mexican culture, this remains a stunning example of Eisenstein's ability to meld people, politics, and ritual into a richly cinematic experience. Celebratory, socially alert, and at times even surreal, the film displays all of Eisenstein's revolutionary techniques while proving that his narrative style could have flourished in Hollywood. Instead, this marvelous film stands as a testament to what might have been. --Jeff Shannon

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Special Features

  • Also includes Romance Sentimentale (1930) and excerpt from Misery and Fortune of Woman (1929)
  • A sampling of texts pertaining to the production and release of Que Viva Mexico!

Product Details

  • Actors: Sergey Bondarchuk, Grigori Aleksandrov, Mara Griy
  • Directors: Grigori Aleksandrov, Sergei M. Eisenstein
  • Writers: Grigori Aleksandrov, Sergei M. Eisenstein
  • Producers: Hunter S. Kimbrough, Kate Crane Gartz, Léonard Rosenthal, Mary Craig Sinclair, Otto Kahn
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dubbed, NTSC, Silent, Subtitled
  • Language: Russian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Kino Lorber films
  • DVD Release Date: April 3, 2001
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005A05K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,469 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Que Viva Mexico" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By ixta_coyotl on August 12, 2004
Format: DVD
Sergei Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico is a film that captures the majesty, awe, and tragedy of Mexico better than any other I have ever seen. And it does so not with dialogue or plot, but rather thru "a sequence of short novellas" (Eisenstein's words) which each develop and play convincingly into the next. Each of these vignettes to me display a celebration of real Mexican culture and a subtle depreciation of those things which came from Spain. They evoke the heart of true Mexican patriotism as if it were struck directly from a Rivera mural. For anyone interested in Mexico or Mexican cinema, Que Viva Mexico is an absolute must.

Que Viva Mexico is certainly one of the most famous "unfinished" films in history, with a tragic star-laced history about which whole books have been published. In a few words, Sergei Eisenstein went to Hollywood but was almost immediately ostracized by the old studio moguls. Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin led him to the famed moralist, communist, and novelist Upton Sinclair, who agreed to finance a south-of-the border film. The budget was $25k and shooting was to take four months. Sinclair's brother-in-law was to tag along and supervise. A couple of Eisenstein's Russians comrades would handle the cinematography and equipment.

Exactly what happened after that is a matter of some dispute, including countless cross and counter accusations of extremely lewd behavior and fabulous revelry. What is certain is that after 11 months in Mexico the film was still missing its final section and Sinclair pulled the plug on the whole operation. Furious, he then managed to block Eisenstein's return to America and convince Stalin he had been a poor communist. Sinclair kept all the footage and Eisenstein was sent back to Russia in shame.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Lewis T. Pace, Jr. on June 29, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
I was introduced to Eisenstein in college (Radio/TV/Film), but saw the film (Russian soundtrack -- Spanish subtitles) while living in Mexico.
Eisenstein's gift to us is two-fold. First, the sheer artistry of his images. Second, and even more important to me, the images themselves were drawn from a Mexico that no longer exists. Maguey plants so tall that a man can "STAND" on a leaf more than 20 feet above the ground to get a better shot at his enemy! Young girls preparing for a wedding in the Yucatan -- wearing only grass skirts as they paddle dugout canoes from hut to hut built on stilts above the water.
The people are timeless. The rural Mexican is an Aztec who politely condescends to speak Spanish. You see that in every face on which the camera rests.
The film was assembled by the original cameraman, working with the master's original shooting script (with editing instructions in Eisenstein's own handwriting in the margins).
Obviously "pieced" together as a compendium of what was meant to be several films, these vignettes are truly a classic treasure!
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Fredric G. Posner on February 7, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Eisenstein's film crew pieced together this incomplete opus of the histroy and spirit of Mexico years after the great director's death. The result is a mixture of documentary and docu-drama that reflects the great Soviet filmmaker's unique sensibilities and dramatic stylings. The story of the film's genesis is the subject of several books on the art of Eisenstein's cinema. The film is presented in a collage of segments that delve under the masks and into the layers of the mysterious Mexican soul. The film is a must if you are a Mexicophile or just a film buff.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 7, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Eisenstein's film crew pieced together this incomplete opus of the histroy and spirit of Mexico years after the great director's death. The result is a mixture of documentary and docu-drama that reflects the great Soviet filmmaker's unique sensibilities and dramatic stylings. The story of the film's genesis is the subject of several books on the art of Eisenstein's cinema. The film is presented in a collage of segments that delve under the masks and into the layers of the mysterious Mexican soul. The film is a must if you are a Mexicophile or just a film buff.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Hill on June 28, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
In 1930, at the urging of American author Upton Sinclair, and after disagreements with Hollywood, Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein traveled to Mexico to film a movie about the country. Fascinated by what they saw, Eisenstein and his associates envisioned a pseudo-documentary/art film which expressed the deep contradictions and gaps between Hispanic and Indigenous Mexico. The film is visually stunning with characteristic Eisensteinian shots and mise-en-scene. Its powerful vision of Mexico would influence artists and filmmakers in Mexico for many decades after its filming, even despite the fact that the film was not edited and produced commercially until the 1970s. However, despite the stunning photography, social commentary, and mildly entertaining music, this film represents the petrification of Mexican cultural identity in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Fixated by the highly stylized images he produced, Mexican filmmakers and politicians would repeat the discourse his movie presents much to the detriment of indigenous Mexicans. It would be many years until Mexicans would challenge this identity and shake free of the monolithic identity Eisenstein's film inspired. However, regardless of the political ramifications of "Que Viva Mexico", its priceless images and unforgettable style make it a classic of Soviet and Mexican cinema, and as a cultural document of its time provides a compelling vision of how Mexico looked to foreign eyes in the 1930s.
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