Gilded Rot Recut

Video, Performance, and Essay
With Danny Snelson

Presented at:

Bruce High Quality Foundation University
In the course, “The Only War that Matters is the War Against the Imagination”
Co-taught by Ana Božičević & Sophia Le Fraga
October 9, 2014

AUX Performance Space:
Second Saturdays Series
Curated by Kelsey Halliday Johnson
June 8, 2013

“Snippets, Splinters, Shreds, Shards:
The Fragment in Russian Culture”
Slavics Without Borders Conference
University of Pennsylvania
March 22, 2013

The original “Gilded Rot” represents a re-edited Soviet version of Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse.” It was produced in 1924 by Esfir Shub with her apprentice, a young Sergei Eisenstein. The project was completed at the Goskino Montage Bureau, the Soviet leader in re-montaging. At Goskino, Shub recut imported Western films, sanitized their narratives, and rewrote their intertitles to make them ideologically suitable for Soviet redistribution. After landing on Shub and Eisenstein’s editing table, “Dr. Mabuse” was summarily rewritten into an allegory of Western depravity. The intertitles wholly transform the original film, and construct a vision of the West populated by “seekers of vulgar amusements,” “speculators,” “coquettes,” and “connoisseurs of decadent art.”

One Soviet critic describes the product of Shub and Eisenstein’s re-edit as follows: “The technically masterful example of German filmmaking, ‘Dr. Mabuse,’ has undergone the cruelest surgery and…quietly died.”

Neither a full nor partial print of the Shub/Eisenstein recut survives. The Russian intertitles, however, were preserved in the RGALI archives. Gilded Rot Recut translates these intertitles into colloquial English, and used them as a departure point for generating a speculative reimagining of Shub and Eisenstein’s film.