Kuleshov, Lev Vladimirovich

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(18991970), film director and theorist.

Along with Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Dziga Vertov, Lev Kuleshov revolutionized the art of filmmaking in the 1920s. One of the few Young Turks to have had significant prerevolutionary experience in cinema, Kuleshov was employed by the Khanzhonkov studio as an art director in 1916 and worked with the great Russian director Yevgeny Bauer until Bauer's death in 1917. Kuleshov's first movie as a director was Engineer Prite's Project (1918). During the Russian Civil War he organized newsreel production at the front.

In 1919 he founded a filmmaking workshop in Moscow that came to be known as the Kuleshov collective. Because of the shortage of film stock during the civil war, the collective shot "films without film," which is to say that they staged rehearsals. Several important directors and actors emerged from the collective, including Boris Barnet, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Alexandra Khokhlova, Sergei Komarov, and Vladimir Fogel.

Kuleshov also became known as the leading experimentalist and theorist among the Soviet Union's future cinema artists, and published his ideas extensively. His most famous was known as the "Kuleshov effect." By juxtaposing different images with the same shot of the actor Ivan Mozzhukhin, Kuleshov demonstrated the relationship between editing and the spectator's perception. Although there is some debate about the validity of the experiment in the early twenty-first century, at the time it was widely reported that viewers insisted that Mozzhukhin's expression changed according to the montage. His published his film theories in 1929 as The Art of the Cinema.

Kuleshov made a series of brilliant but highly criticized movies in the 1920s, most important among them The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924) and By the Law (1926). Even before the Cultural Revolution (19281931), Kuleshov had been attacked as a "formalist," and his career as a director essentially ended in 1933 with The Great Consoler. In 1939 Kuleshov joined the faculty of the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography and taught directing to a new generation of Soviet filmmakers.

See also: bauer, yevgeny frantsevich; cultural revolution; eisenstein, sergei mikhailovich; motion pictures


Kuleshov, Lev.(1974). Kuleshov on Film: Writings. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Youngblood, Denise J. (1991). Soviet Cinema in the Silent Era, 19181935. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Denise J. Youngblood