Peter Greenaway is to return to the legendary Russian film director Sergey Eisenstein for a second feature, The Eisenstein Handshakes, this time to be located in Switzerland, after the Mexican-set Eisenstein in Guanajato.
Greenaway was in Locarno’s neighbouring town of Ascona on Monday to make an appearance at a showcase of Soviet and Russian films presented by the state film archive Gosfilmofond.
¨During our investigations on Eisenstein [for Eisenstein In Guanajato], we discovered two extraordnary things which make it very relevant to Switzerland,¨ Greenaway explained.
¨The very first film festival in world was created in 1929 in La Sarraz, close to the French border, and it was attended by many important experimental film-makers of the time. And the most important guest was Eisenstein who came to Switzerland with his assistant Alexandrov and his wonderful cameraman Tissé.
¨But what is also extraordinary is that the very first film ever made in Switzerland was directed by Eisenstein, so we have written a script to cover this interesting cinematic, historical experience.¨
According the research by Greenaway and his team, Eisenstein made two films in Switzerland, the commercial picture Misery and Fortune of Woman (known as ¨Eisenstein’s Abortion Film¨) and supposedly an art film called The Storm Over La Sarraz.
The veteran UK director sees this new project as illustrating ¨the clash between the apparently rival cinemas of art and commerce¨ and also being ¨an opportunity to be a film about films and film-making at the end of the silent cinema era and the start of sound cinema, and consequently [it] will have a films within films within films feel about it.¨
He is aiming to make the film as a co-production between Switzerland, France and Russia
Albert Einstein to Ava Gardner
¨The title of the film is called The Eisenstein Handshakes because Battleship Potemkin was such an extraordinary success all over the world that everybody wanted to meet him. He met Einstein, Picasso, Freud, Cocteau, Marinetti, James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht. Gertrude Stein. He met Käthe Kollwitz, von Stroheim, von Sternberg, Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, Rin Tin Tin, Ava Gardner…the list goes on and on,¨ Greenaway continued.
¨We plan to make 100 short films about all of the extraordinary people he met which I think indicates how great this celebrated Russian director is.¨
The plan would be to have 50 shorts dedicated to personalities from Europe and another 50 to famous people in the USA.
Aiming for Berlin
After a screening of one of his latest projects, The Towers - Lucca Hybris, which was made for the Italian city of Lucca, Greenaway spoke about Eisenstein in Guanajato which was shot on location in Mexico over five weeks at the end of last year/beginning of this year.
¨We should be finished [with the editing] by the end of September and we hope to premiere it in the Berlin Film Festival next February,¨ he revealed after showing a short trailer. ¨There’s no guarantee, of course, but we will certainly try and do that.¨
France’s Rezo Films is handling international sales on Eisenstein in Guanajato.
In a sideswipe at the current festival in Ascona’s neighbouring town, Greenaway declared: ¨The Locarno film festival doesn’t like me very much: I’ve never, never had a film at Locarno. Several years ago, I suggested that cinema is now dead and the last incumbent director of the Locarno festival said: ‘Well, if Mr Greenaway says that cinema is dead, there is no point in us showing his films!’
He did, however, venture into the town on the shores of Lago Maggiore on Monday evening to attend the renaming of the Il Rivellino gallery as a multimedia center in his name. In addition, he made an appearance at the reception for Nyon’ Visions du Réel festival which was held in the gallery’s narrow inner courtyard with props from his Tulse Luper Suitcases suspended from above.
Second Swiss connection
The Einstein Handshakes is now the second Swiss project Greenaway has in preparation following his announcement earlier this year to make Walking To Paris, a biopic of the Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi, with Swiss producer Susann Rudlinger’s Cobra Film as a co-producer with Kees Kasander’s UK-based company Cinatura UK, France’s CDP and Romania’s Abis Studio.
Swiss funding has already come from the Zürcher Filmstiftung and an application has now been made to the Swiss national production fund administered by the Federal Office for Culture (BAK).