The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924)

21 01 2010

As the long title somewhat suggests, this is a fairly flimsy and fun effort, albeit one that has become historical relevant for, at least in my opinion, the fact that Lev Kuleshov’s name was attached to it. I don’t want to sound too critical, but I don’t get an impression of something truly groundbreaking here, mostly just some light, enjoyable humor. Perhaps it was a stepping stone towards some of the more remarkable achievements of Russian filmmakers.

This is a pretty obvious satire on American culture. Mr. West, an American native, stumbles into countless little dramas that his naive, simple American mind can’t quite comprehend. I will give Kuleshov some credit for showing shades of American cinema while taking his playful stabs at the mindless tourists. It should be noted that there are very heavy shades of westerns, which is particularly striking if one takes into account the fact that westerns didn’t become an easily recognizable cultural landmark of American cinema until John Ford’s Stagecoach in 1939. Still, the serial westerns were relevant but they were definitely less recognizable around the world. They were absolutely low-culture, so it does show some keen western perspective from writers Vsevolod Pudovkin, who would go on to become one of Russia’s greatest directors, and Nikolai Aseyev, the man responsible for the original intertitles of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.

Kuleshov does has his fair share of magical cinematic moments, but I think this film is best enjoyed as a minor distraction. That sounds like a dubious claim, when one considers the “importance” of this culturally speaking. Honestly, though, I am more likely to remember this film for having a performance from two great directors to-be, Boris Barnet and one of the film’s writers, Vsevolod Pudovkin. I’m not going to give up with Kuleshov, as I can already see the beginning of something special early in his career here, but I don’t think this is going to be much more than a historical curiosity. Recommended viewing, but not an absolutely essential one.