SIFF Dispatch 4 – ‘Alexander Nevsky’

My fourth report from the screening rooms of SIFF is now up on GreenCine.

There are various world premieres and the dozens of guests arriving for screenings and audience Q&As, but the highlight event will surely be the screenings of Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky at Benaroya Hall, with Sergei Prokofiev’s score performed live by the Seattle Symphony and Chorale with mezzo-soprano Kathryn Weld.

The film is undeniably a classic, and just as undeniably a bald piece of nationalist propaganda that celebrates the salt-of-the-earth heroism of Russian citizens who rise up to defeat the invading German Teutonic Knights (backed by the blessing of the Catholic Church), not just to defend their homeland but to bring glory to their national honor. It’s largely pageant until the famous battle on the ice, which is a thrilling work of cinema and illustrates just what a magnificent action painter Eiseinstein was. The epic scenes of the Teutonic Knights on horseback (looking like some unholy combination of Viking invader, aristocrat soldier and Klu Klux Klan grandmaster) overwhelmed by the onrushing armies of Russian peasant foot soldiers is as evocative a portrait of action cinema as you’ll see.

The other exciting development for the last weekend will be the three days of screenings at The Cinerama, the crown jewel of Seattle cinemas. Not that it’s necessarily showing the big screen spectaculars that should have been reserved for this venue, but it should be a kick to see the Hong Kong collaboration Triangle and the French war movie Female Agents thrown across the Cinerama’s huge screen.

Read the full piece here.

A final note: I wrote this before embarking on a day of interviews followed by screenings at the Cinerama. And I can attest that it was indeed a kick to see the full widescreen Triangle, a highly entertaining tangle of a movie, and the “Dirty Dozen”-inspired Female Agents, which delivers neither more nor less than an otherwise conventional war thriller done up with style, romanticized sacrifice and stoic heroism in the face of brutal torture, was indeed a kick. And also note that, appearances aside, the nasty Nazi tortures, which include near-drowning of prisoners, inflicted upon their French and British prisoners is nothing like the patriotic interrogation methods that the U.S. humanely applies to the prisoners held in out bases (which include the near drowning of prisoners). To even suggest otherwise would be downright unpatriotic, for as we know, the right to speak out against the injustices of our government is a principle to defended to the death, but never actually acted upon.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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