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25 May 15 This isn’t a ballet story, but it is an indicator of the current level of intervention by the Russian state in artistic matters. The prominent British filmmaker Peter Greenaway is reported to have agreed to remove references to the homosexuality of the famed Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein from a film he is making about him, following pressure from the Russian state. In January Russian film authorities denied they were demanding the changes.
Greenaway’s latest release, Eisenstein in Guanajuato, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, is said by Variety to be ‘an outrageously unconventional and deliriously profane biopic’ about Eisenstein’s discovery of gay sex on his 1931 visit to Mexico. The British director, now 73, has two more Eisenstein films in planning, the next of which concerns the Russian director’s years in Switzerland in the 1920s.
This film, The Einstein Handshakes, needs to use film archive from Russia and it seems that the Russian State Film Fund has used this as a lever to insist that Greenaway leave out any mention of homosexuality. He, apparently, has agreed.
Eisenstein is the giant of Russian cinema, and the official Russian version of his life includes nothing about his homosexuality, which he concealed behind two marriages.
This development underlines the present political campaign to play down the homosexuality of some leading artists - efforts were made by the Russian Culture Ministry to suppress mention of composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality in a film about him.
The list of world-renowned homosexual Russian artists is long, including Tchaikovsky, Eisenstein, Diaghilev, Nureyev and Nijinsky.
Greenaway ‘has modified his Eisenstein screenplay’
The British film director and screenwriter Peter Greenaway has reworked the script of a biographical film about Sergei Eisenstein at the request of the Russian State Film Fund. Shooting on the picture, currently titled The Eisenstein Handshakes, will start in the near future, and the film should reach screens at the end of 2016 or start of 2017, the head of the State Film Fund, Nikolai Borodachev, has told Izvestia.
“Greenaway agreed with our proposals and changed the script. At first we had differing artistic views, but we reached a consensus. We suggested that he should changed some details and eventually we got a positive result. Now everything is going ahead,” said Borodachev.
The film tells the story of the famous Russian director’s life in Switzerland in the 1920s.
Previously Izvestia has reported that the film’s script was returned to Peter Greenaway for revision because of references to his non-traditional sexual orientation. As Bordachev explained, had Greenaway refused to rewrite the script, the Russian end would not have taken part in the project.
According to the State Film Fund head, there is no mention in the final version of the script of the issue of Eisenstein’s non-traditional orientation.
The picture has been financed by private companies from Switzerland, Latvia and Finland. Archival material from the Russian State Film Fund is to be used in the creation of the film.
Peter Greenaway is a cult European filmmaker, the author of such films as Prospero's Books, The Draughtsman's Contract, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and The Pillow Book.
Film director Peter Greenaway (photo Vladimir Suvorov/ Izvestia
No gay Eisenstein, Russian state tells Greenaway
"The film’s script was returned to Peter Greenaway for revision because of references to his non- traditional sexual orientation"