If Sergei Eisenstein were alive today, Marcus Nispel, Michael Bay, and every other hotshot headcase director of TV commercials would be lucky to find a job as a production assistant. Strike, the Soviet master's first feature, released in 1925, is an amazingly shot and relentlessly propulsive symphony of pure energy. Eisenstein fills the screen with men, women, and children plotting, arguing, running, and fighting as Bolshevik workers square off against the most venal capitalists imaginable during a factory strike. (Envision an action film in which the crowd, not a lone man, is the protagonist. Marx would have dug it.)
Eisenstein's images are sharp and unforgettable, while his tommy-gun editing demolishes contemporary perceptions of silent films as slow and demure. The bonus this time around (in addition to the ravishing new print) is the return of the eccentric and extraordinary Alloy Orchestra, providing live accompaniment. The Alloy's appropriately torrential and percussive score perfectly matches Eisenstein's rambunctiousness and intensity. As an unexpected treat, the trio also works in some marvelous shavings of elegance and whimsy that underscore Eisenstein's modernity. All in all, an epic, rousing experience, with a running time under an hour-and-a-half. Not bad for a message film, eh?
The Alloy Orchestra accompanies Strike on Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. The film will be followed by Metropolis at 10:15 p.m. Admission is $7; call 621-6120.