Nachrichten über Eisenstein - gefunden mit Google Alerts
Strike: Remastered Edition
Describing Sergei Eisenstein's 1924 debut feature, Strike, as the "story" of a factory strike that actually took place in 1903, in pre-revolutionary Tsarist Russia, would be like describing his best-known work, The Battleship Potemkin(made the following year) as being about the mutiny of a ship's crew: an accurate description as far as it goes, which is not very far at all, since the experience of viewing an Eisenstein film is much less about the story it is telling than the way the story is being told. For Eisenstein, the style is the substance. Any filmmaker in the ensuing decades who has exploited montage for all of its associative/dissociative properties, its ability to produce a visual rhythm, or just for its sheer dynamism--from Welles to Godard to Kubrick to Tarantino--have been turning pages in a playbook first opened by the great Russian master.
In the Soviet Union of 1924, a filmmaker could not avoid seeing themselves as painting on the vast canvas of history, and in true revolutionary spirit, the hero and main "character" in Strike is not a worker, but The Worker as a class, and Eisenstein approaches this collective "protagonist" not as individuals with distinctive personalities or character attributes, but as a literal mass movement; his ability to capture large groups in motion as they march militantly forward or flee the forces of oppression is impressive, and even one-shots of the workers in action are cut together in such a way that they suggest unity and a common goal. Individuation is reserved for the film's most active villains, a group of two-faced (sometimes literally) spies and minions who hover around the workers' circles and report back to the managers and capitalists on the clandestine organization of a long-overdue strike for higher wages, an eight-hour workday, regulation of minors' working conditions, etc. Through the ingenuity, dedication, and most of all organization of the workers, the strike is initiated regardless of the attempted subterfuge. The bosses' predictably arrogant, bad-faith refusal of the workers' demands results in the strike's indefinite extension and the now-unpaid workers sinking into the scarcity and misery of having no income and no foreseeable prospect of one. Finally, made impatient by the flow of orders they cannot fill, the capitalists join forces with the authorities to infiltrate, discredit, and crush the workers' movement any way they can, culminating in a violent, murderous suppression of the strike that illustrates the inhumanity of human being towards human being when profits are being threatened or obstructed.
Eisenstein and his several screenwriting collaborators divide the film into six sections, each focusing on one phase of the strike, from its first stirrings of organization to its final, tragic defeat. Within each of these discrete sequences, Eisenstein is busy at the editing table, constructing delirious, incredibly advanced and creative bits of exposition and action. The aforementioned group of villains, for example, is introduced to us first as a sheet of photographic portraits that comes alive (Amélie may be apolitical, but it knew what to borrow from Eisenstein!), and then one by one; each has an animal-based code name ("The Fox," "The Owl," etc.), and Eisenstein uses a sort of pre-morphing superimposition technique to match footage of each animal with its namesake. At the film's powerful climax, the metaphorical butchery of the workers by the Tsarist authorities is staccato-cut with images of actual butchers at work (a conceit later ripped off in both Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout and Coppola's Apocalypse Now). Strike is packed to bursting with such inventiveness; each new turn of the film's events leaves us breathlessly waiting for whatever ingenious, astonishing way in which Eisenstein will unfold it for us.
At the ideological level, Strike is, of course, pure Bolshevik propaganda. Are the maniacally decadent, fat, greedy, cigar-smoking factory owners given any shading of character whatsoever? You had better believe they are not. The film's broadness in this respect, however, is due partly to the exaggeration endemic to silent cinema, and partly to the propagandistic function and mission clearly inseparable from any Soviet conception of cinema circa 1924, in those heady, victorious post-revolutionary, pre-Stalinist days. The bluntness of the film's message may seem crude, but it is adequately compensated for both by our knowledge that it was made to be accessible to and galvanize an impoverished, illiterate population (in this and in many other ways, the film is more "about" 1924 than 1903, the story's time period notwithstanding) and, most of all, from the high-voltage inspiration that, however emphatically telegraphed the film's messages are, sets the current of Eisenstein's filmmaking fever--an obsessive passion for the seemingly limitless possibilities of a medium still in its youth--coursing palpably through every frame.
This DVD edition of Strike presents, at the correct 1.33:1 aspect ratio, a new, HD-mastered print of the film that, despite the inevitable instances of noticeable print wear and the technical limitations (flicker, etc.) of a film of this vintage, is strikingly clear and crisp, with all the brilliant cinematographic/montage effects and the rich contrasts of the film's black and white compositions (by a team of cinematographers including Vasili Khvatov, Vladimir Popov, and Eduard Tisse) readily discernible. It is safe to say that the remastering and transfer of Strike for this DVD is an important act of film preservation that has been executed with an admirable degree of conscientiousness and care.Sound:
Kino has included a traditional Russian music-based score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra as sonic accompaniment forStrike. Presented in Dolby 2.0 digital stereo, the sound is rich and forceful, with every instrument and frequency, from the highest to the lowest, coming through as fully, if not more so, than on any classical music CD I have ever heard.Extras:
--Gulov's Diary, a surreal comic short from 1923 and Eisenstein's first film, created for use in Eisenstein's multimedia stage production of Alexander Ostrovsky's play Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man. This film, long thought to be lost, would probably make more "sense" in its intended context, but it certainly amuses even if taken just as a series of beautifully staged, shot, and edited bits of clownery.
--Eisenstein and the Revolutionary Spirit, an informative half-hour French documentary in which clips from Soviet cinema and an interview with Russian film expert Natacha Laurent evoke the artistic and historical contexts out of which Strike emerged.FINAL THOUGHTS:
Impassioned dedication to a cinema rendered dynamic and exuberant through editing and outside-the-box, insouciant creativity is a tradition we may associate with the more immediate reference points of early Godard, Scorsese, and Tarantino than with the silent era, but Strike reminds us (even as it thrills and wows us) that Eisenstein was chartering that lively territory very early on. The film's bluntness and lack of propagandistic sophistication may strike us as transparent as we look back on it, but its understandable adherence to some of the exigencies of its political context and its standard silent-film penchant for exaggeration are easy to look past as Eisenstein's evident joy in the medium makes anything that might have seemed prosaic or facile about the message or story come effectively, urgently alive.
Strike demonstrates once again the almost jarring modernity of Eisenstein's cinema, which even a near-century has not diminished. For any member of that unfortunately large group of people who are intimidated by silent film and/or have never actually seen one, Eisenstein in general, and Strike in particular, would be an excellent way to dip one's toes into the water. It is a virtual catalog of pioneering cinematic techniques, but there is nothing academic about it; this is cinema in the process of discovering new ways to give immediate, visceral pleasure, and in this film's case, it is a pleasure that proves absolutely timeless. Highly Recommended.
A filmmaker's distorted reflections. BY WARREN CLEMENTS
Many years ago, I was lucky enough to take a course from Jay Leyda, a film historian and author who had studied under Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. Every week, Leyda would show his students a movie, often with a trick up his sleeve.
One memorable week, he presented David Holzman’s Diary, a black-and-white 1967 documentary that opens as Holzman, a young man living on the Upper West Side of New York City, is filming himself in a mirror. “This is July 14, 1967,” he says. “This is serious.”
Holzman has lost his job. The draft board has told him he may be sent to fight in Vietnam. Quoting French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard (“Film is truth, 24 times a second”), Holzman resolves to record everything that happens to him in the belief that reviewing the footage will help him understand his life.
And that’s the gist of the film. In the same way that U.S. columnist Bob Greene once wrote that he had “lost the ability to live my life if it’s not going to end up on paper,” so Holzman keeps filming even at the risk of alienating his girlfriend Penny, a model who tells him to shut off the camera if he wants her to stay. (He does, but only temporarily.) He films his friends. He films strangers on the street. He films neighbours through their apartment windows.
It becomes clear that Holzman is not a particularly nice person. He tells the camera his girlfriend is vain and sloppy. He muses about a neighbour whom he knows only from seeing her through a window and learning from her mailbox that her first initial is S. “I call her Sandra, because she reminds me of Visconti’s Sandra, being opaque like that.”
And so it goes – until the film ends, 73 minutes later, with a title card telling us that Holzman was played by L.M. Kit Carson, that the other characters were also actors, and that this stimulating film was made by Jim McBride, who directed, edited and, with Carson’s help, wrote it. One of the cameramen was Mike “Wadley,” who as Michael “Wadleigh” would soon direct the music documentary Woodstock.
Gotcha, said our professor. David Holzman’s Diary was both a character study and a put-on, a commentary on cinema verité and the degree to which the camera in a documentary influences the material it captures.
In a 1970 interview excerpted in Leyda’s 1977 book Voices of Film Experience, McBride says the idea for the film came to him as an obsessive image “of a guy with a camera on his shoulder filming himself in a mirror. And that image seemed terribly profound to me. I’m not sure I could explain why.”
McBride went on to be a mainstream filmmaker, sometimes successful (The Big Easy) and sometimes not (a pointless remake of Godard’sBreathless). He also made three films about his own life, and they are included on this week’s Kino DVD and Blu-ray of David Holzman’s Diary.
My Girlfriend’s Wedding (1969) is a 61-minute movie about a British woman who is living with McBride but marries another man so she can stay in the United States. It seems like fiction, but isn’t. The 45-minute Pictures from Life’s Other Side (1971) records a cross-country car trip that McBride and a pregnant Clarissa (the woman from the first film) took with her son.
Those films are sometimes fuzzily shot and sometimes dull the way home movies can be, but the third film, the eight-minute My Son’s Wedding to My Sister-in-Law (2008), brings everything into focus. It not only clarifies the meaning of the first two movies but humorously explains the complex connections within McBride’s extended family, where figures such as Kenneth Tynan and Robert Mapplethorpe are just part of the mix.
And yes, somewhere along the line McBride films himself in a mirror.
The Technological Evolution of Filmmaking and its Relation to Quality in Cinema
The development of motion picture complexity has been driven by a continuing technological evolution, ignited and manipulated by human initiative and inventiveness, which has afforded filmmakers the opportunity to practice a more complex craft to tell more complex stories. In concert with societal attitudes and proximity, this evolution has driven the development of distinct styles, movements, and methods that would have been impossible without increasingly advanced apparatus. However, while this technological progression has been linear, it has not necessarily coincided with a similar evolution of quality; the skill of a filmmaker should not be judged by the technological complexity of the production, but by the ability of the filmmaker to wield the technology of the time and of his or her choosing to effectively and clearly convey a narrative, evoke an emotion, or make an impression. Although the linear technological evolution of filmmaking has empowered filmmakers by offering a more diverse catalogue of tools and techniques, it is the filmmaker’s ability to effectively and discerningly utilize this technology within a temporal and societal context that truly drives cinematic quality, of which there has been no clear linear progression.
As film history has progressed, so too has the sophistication of filmmaking technology, from cameras, to sound recording, to editing. Technological advancements in these areas expand the creative potential of the filmmaker. However, just because technology is more advanced does not mean that it is necessarily superior in each given application. Rather, advanced technology is advantageous in that it broadens the toolset available to the filmmaker from which he or she can discern which equipment and techniques are best suited to a given production. French film theorist Louis Delluc would call these filmmaking techniques and methods cinematic formal elements, or those elements unique to film as an art form, such as editing and camera movement (Jaramillo). As the evolution of film has progressed, the catalogue of cinematic formal elements has grown, enabling filmmakers to, at their discretion, make more complex films. Even restricted to the confines of what Tom Gunning calls “cinema of attractions,” the dominant paradigm before 1908 (73), this is evident.
Gunning worries that adopting an evolutionary view of cinema will categorize pre-WWI film and cinema of attractions, as he puts it, “as [a] primitive […] early stage in which later potentials are sketched out but imperfectly realized” (71). However, Gunning’s definition of cinema of attractions frees it from this imperfect characterization:
By its reference to the curiosity-arousing devices of the fairground, the term denoted early cinema’s fascination with novelty and its foregrounding of the new act of display. Viewed from this perspective, early cinema did not simply seek to neutrally record previously existing acts or events. Rather, even the seemingly stylistically neutral film consisting of a single shot without camera tricks involved a cinematic gesture of presenting for view, of displaying. (73)
On this view, the early films of cinema’s pioneers would not have been improved by the advanced technology of later generations, for their displays did not call for it. Further they cannot be seen as solely preparatory, for, like later narrative films, they presented a subject for view in a uniquely cinematic way. The early films of Edison and Dickson were simple, short glimpses of “well-known sports figures, excerpts from noted vaudeville acts, or performances by dancers or acrobats” (Thompson & Bordwell 7). While it is true that primitive technology did limit these small-scale productions, which, according to Thompson and Bordwell, “lasted only twenty seconds or so – the longest run of film that the Kinetoscope could hold” (7), advanced technology would not necessarily have improved them, for their simplistic nature did not call for it. Regardless, filmmaking technology evolved with the Lumiere Brothers’ Cinématographe which freed filmmakers from the confines of the studio and allowed for on location shooting (Thompson & Bordwell 8-9). This, however, did not lead tobetter films, but only augmented the possibilities for future films such as Workers Leaving the Factory(Lumiere 1895) and Arrival of a Train (Lumiere1896), the production of which would have been impossible within a studio. With this advancement, the global toolset of filmmakers grew; from Edison and Dickson, filmmakers got the option to shoot in a light controlled studio and from the Lumiere brothers the ability to shoot on location. Neither of these options is universally better, but only particularly more suited to a given production and would, in themselves, evolve over time.
Single shot display films eventually gave way to films such as George Melies’ Trip to the Moon (1902), composed of several single shot scenes, and later films like Cecil B. DeMille’s The Cheat (1915), which employed analytical editing, using multiple shots from varied distances in the same scene to show detail and emotion (Thompson & Bordwell). The continuation of this technological editing evolution is most evident in the Constructivist-influenced, state-sponsored Soviet montage movement of the 1920s. According to Thompson and Bordwell, Montage films “have a greater number of shots than does any other type of filmmaking of their era […and] frequently broke individual actions down into two or more shots” (117). However, the more complex editing techniques were not, in themselves, what drove the quality of montage films, but instead the “more specific strategies of editing, involving temporal, spatial, and graphic tensions” (Thompson & Bordwell 117). Thompson and Bordwell write that Montage filmmaker Dziga Vertov, for instance, “emphasized that the filmmaker should calculate the differences between shots – light verses dark, slow motion versus fast motion, and so on.
These differences, or ‘intervals,’ would be the basis of the film’s effect on the audience” (115). The influence of Marxist dialecticism led Sergei Eisenstein, another Montage filmmaker, to theorize that shots should clash with one another to create a new idea in the mind of the viewer (Thompson & Bordwell 116). This practice is employed multiple times in Eisenstein’s film October (1928), such as in the juxtaposition of Kerensky with a shot of Napoleon (Thompson & Bordwell 120). With Vertov and Eisenstein as exemplars, it is clear that the Montage filmmakers achieved success not solely because of the technological evolution, but because they purposefully utilized the cinematic formal elements, in this case editing, born from that evolution to create a distinct style. Their inventiveness catered the technology to their goals and resulted in quality.
While Soviet Montage filmmakers focused on editing, they recognized the importance of a striking composition within each individual shot (Thompson & Bordwell 121). So too did the French Impressionists and German expressionists who used other of the cinematic formal elements, such as camera work and mise-en-scene, respectively, to externalize characters’ inner states (Thompson & Bordwell). For French Impressionists, such as Louis Delluc, filmmaking was about photogénie, “that quality that distinguishes a film shot from the original object photographed” (Thompson & Bordwell 77). According to Thompson and Bordwell, photogénie “is created by the properties of the camera: framing isolates objects from their environment, black-and-white film stock transforms their appearance, special optical effects further change them, and so on” (77). This emphasis led the Impressionists to develop innovative camera techniques to externalize characters’ subjectivity. They manipulated the components of the presented technology, in this case the camera, to purposefully elicit a desired effect. Thompson and Bordwell detail Impressionist uses of the camera’s optical devices:
Superimpositions may convey a character’s thoughts or memories. A filter placed over the lens may function to suggest subjectivity. […] Throwing the lens out of focus could also convey subjectivity, whether we see the characters or through their eyes. […] Impressionist films also feature camera movements that convey subjectivity and enhance photogénie. (78-80)
The innovative use of these uniquely cinematic tools, not the tools themselves, enabled greater narrative clarity and character relatability. This reflects a clear evolutionary step, driven by human faculty, in the ability of the camera to tell a story. While the Impressionists used camerawork to achieve this effect, the German Expressionists utilized mise-en-scene, what Thompson and Bordwell define as “all the elements placed in front of the camera to be photographed: the settings and props, lighting, costumes and makeup, and figure behavior” (733). The goal of Expressionist film was to fuse these elements into a singular and distorted composition expressing the inner state of the subject, most famously seen in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene 1920). Technologically, lighting is of the most interest in this practice. Thompson and Bordwell write, “For the most part, Expressionist films used simple lighting from the front and sides, illuminating the scene flatly and evenly to stress the links between the figures and the décor” (94). Expressionism then exemplifies that technological simplicity aimed at a certain goal is more effective than complexity. When they did use more complex lighting, it was purposefully to create shadows augmenting the overall distortion of the frame (Thompson & Bordwell 94). Once again, however, a filmmaker’s ability to appropriately and discerningly employ tools and techniques, such as lighting, not the arbitrary use of them, correlates with quality. This becomes clear in the evolution of technologies such as sound and color.
The advent of synchronized sound, first seen in The Jazz Singer (Crosland 1927), in the late twenties and early thirties was met with apprehension from “some critics and directors [who] feared that extensive dialogue scenes in adapted plays would eliminate the flexible camera movements and editing of the silent era” (Thompson & Bordwell 177). The adoption of sound was a major step forward in the technological evolution of film, but in order for it to be gainfully applied, the practice in itself had to go through a self-contained evolution. Sound in its early stages did not necessarily equate to better films; for instance, according to Thompson and Bordwell, “The microphones initially were insensitive, and hence studios often insisted that actors take diction lessons and speak slowly and distinctly. Many early talkies move at a slow pace and the performance seem stilted to modern ears” (182). Improvements in microphones, multiple-track sound recording, and syncing methods gradually enabled filmmakers to employ the once clumsy tool effectively (Thompson & Bordwell 201). Thompson & Bordwell note that “most filmmakers soon realized [...] that sound, used imaginatively, offered a valuable new stylistic resource” (177). The combination of improved sync-sound with picture opened up new avenues of storytelling not previously possible. Fritz Lange’s M (1931), for instance, takes advantage of the new possibility of audible dialogue. Importantly, though, Lange doesn’t rely solely on dialogue to move the story forward, but retains the strong visual storytelling methods of the silent era, reserving dialogue to relate information that can’t be explained visually.
Additionally, M is also an early example of sound as a motif in film; the murderer at the center of the story whistles a haunting tune that is used at crucial plot points to drive the narrative forward. However,M’s use of sound in itself is not what led to the film’s quality, but rather the filmmaker’s ability to discerningly and skillfully use it. Additionally, the use of sound alone is not enough to declare that it is better than films of the silent era. For comparison, the narrative of The Cheat was clearly and convincingly conveyed visually and its story was not muddled by the absence of synchronized sound. The makers of both films managed to successfully tell their story by using the technology at hand. However, while The Cheat would not necessarily have benefited from sound, M, as it is, would have been a difficult if not impossible story to tell without it. This highlights the function of the technological evolution in allowing, but not mandating, filmmakers to do what was not possible with more primitive technology.
Color in film went through a self-contained evolution much like sound. Many films of the silent era, for instance, used processes such as tinting and toning to give an overall color to the frame (Thomspon & Bordwell 34). Thompson and Bordwell comment on the process that “color could provide information about the narrative situation and hence make the story clearer to the spectator” (34), much like the use of photogénie and mise-en-scene by the Impressionists and Expressionists. Other films, such as The Great Train Robbery, employed stenciling to hand color portions of the frame after photography. Color began its mainstream assent when Technicolor introduced their three-strip coloring process in the 1930s (Thompson & Bordwell 203). However, not every filmmaker immediately began producing color films, and those that did, did so with reason. While this was greatly due to the fact that shooting in color increased budgets by as much as thirty percent, Thompson and Bordwell reflect, “Today we regard color as a realistic element in films, but in the 1930s and 1940s, it was often associated with fantasy and spectacle. It could be used for exotic adventures like The Garden of Allah (1936), swashbucklers like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939), or musicals like Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)” (203). However, despite this new technology, a film did not have to use color in order to be considered of quality. Orson Welles’ 1941 Citizen Kane, for instance, was shot in black and white, despite the advent of color film in the previous decade. While it is possible this decision was made for budgetary reasons, the use of black and white dramatically accentuated the shadowy, mysterious tone of the film. In this case, the decision not to use a tool born from the technological evolution actually enhanced the end result. However, other technologies were meticulously chosen and skillfully implemented to produce the complex film. Thompson and Bordwell write:
Stylistically, Kane was flamboyant, drawing extensively on RKO’s resources. For some scenes, Welles used quiet, lengthy takes. Other passages, notably the newsreel and several montage sequences, used quick cutting and abrupt changes in sound volume. To emphasize the vast spaces of some of the sets, cinematographer Gregg Toland worked at achieving deep focus shots, placing some elements close to the camera, others at a distance. (209)
Despite that Citizen Kane did not utilize Technicolor, it is clear that the film is still very much a child of the technological evolution. The rhythmic use of editing and sound, for instance, is reminiscent of the Soviet Montage movement. Even the tenets of this movement, specifically Eisenstein’s dialectical montage, evolved with technology such as synchronized sound. In a scene from Citizen Kane, for instance, a non-diagetic scream is heard after Kane strikes his wife. This clashes with the diagetic sound to create a new idea in the mind of the viewer. It can also be seen as a subjective tool, similar to those of French Impressionism and German Expressionism. In the light of this convergence of styles and technical tools, Citizen Kane is a prime example of the possibilities enabled by the technological evolution. However, it is most important to remember that human inventiveness is responsible for the realization of these technologies in the successful manner seen in Citizen Kane.
The evolution of film technology remains unpunctuated. New technologies are readily invented, tested, and perfected. In recent years, the rise of digital cinema equipment and techniques has begun encroaching on the arena once dominated solely by photographic film (Thompson & Bordwell 713). As was true in previous evolutionary iterations, however, this technology only serves as another option for filmmakers to choose and not a precondition of modern quality. This is reflected by enthusiasm from some directors, such as George Lucas and Robert Rodriguez, about digital technology, and apprehension from others. Thompson and Bordwell write, “Many cinematographers, directors, designers, and other professionals were upset at the prospect of the death of photographic film, as were many movie fans, but the rise of digital cinema seemed inevitable” (713). This trend and the attitudes surrounding it harmonize with the patterns that have characterized cinema history. However, fans of cinema need not fret, for neither adoption nor disregard of this new technology can bring an end to cinematic quality. The power to do so lies solely in the hands of the filmmaker, the quality of whose projects will ultimately depend upon his or her ability to effectively wield the cinematic formal elements, whatever they may be in the coming years, to clearly convey a story, emotion, impression, or idea.
- Thompson, Kristin and David Bordwell. (2010). Film History: An Introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
- Gunning, Tom. "Now You See It, Now You Don't": The Temporality of the Cinema of Attractions. In R. Abel, Silent Film (pp. 71-84). New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
- Jaramillo, Deborah. (2010, October 4). History of Cinema. Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States.
Jersey Marina to host movie showing
Jersey Marina to host movie showing
International Finance Centre
The classic Sergei Eisenstein film, Battleship Potemkin is regarded as one of the most influential movies of all time and was rated among the top ten films ...
The Tea Party and...
The Tea Party and 'Tucker's Law'
One observation that always sticks in my mind is watching Sergei Eisenstein's Ten Days that Shook the World, the 1928 movie made for Lenin that dramatized ...
Jersey hosts movies and music
Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin is being screened on a tug boat with a score by French electro duo Zombie Zombie, and former Gorky's Zygotic Mynci ...
11 earth-shaking docs
11 earth-shaking documentaries
... a deliberate allusion to Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's classic drama, October: Ten Days That Shook The World, about the 1917 Russian Revolution. ...
Antonina Pirozhkova, Engineer and Widow of Isaac Babel, Dies at 101
Antonina Pirozhkova, who as the widow of the renowned short-story writer Isaac Babel campaigned for more than half a century to keep his literary legacy alive after his execution by Stalin's K.G.B., and who wrote a memoir about the last seven years of his life, died on Sept. 12 at her home in Sarasota, Fla. She was 101.
The death was confirmed by her grandson, Andrei Malaev Babel.
Ms. Pirozhkova, a rising young engineer, met her future husband shortly after she began working at the State Institute for Metallurgical Design in Moscow in 1932. She was 23. He was 38 and separated from his first wife, Yevgenia Gronfein.
The two began living together in 1934, and in 1937 she gave birth to a daughter, Lidiya.
After her husband's arrest in 1939, Ms. Pirozhkova (pronounced peer-ush-KOVE-uh) was advised by a K.G.B. interrogator to forget the matter. "Regulate your life," she was told. Instead she spent the next 15 years trying to discover her husband's fate.
In 1954 she received his death certificate. It bore the false date of March 17, 1941, implying that he had died during World War II. Ms. Pirozhkova then successfully lobbied for Babel's official rehabilitation, which was granted later in 1954.
Not until the mid-1990s did accurate information emerge about Babel's date of execution, Jan. 27, 1940, and about the 20-minute trial that took place the day before he was shot. He had been charged with belonging to an anti-Soviet Trotskyite organization and with spying for France and Austria.
During and after her life with Babel, Ms. Porizhkova continued her engineering career. At the Metroproekt Institute, which she joined in 1934 and where she rose to chief designer, she helped plan the crown jewels of the Moscow subway system: the Mayakovsky, Pavelets, Kiev, Arbat and Revolutionary Square stations.
For many years she was the only woman employed as a subway engineer in the Soviet Union.
After retiring in 1965, she devoted her life to reclaiming her husband's legacy, fighting with the authorities for permission to publish his works, organizing public memorials and commemorations of his birth and helping scholars do research in her personal archives, stored in her apartment in Moscow.
She was particularly concerned with securing the return of unpublished manuscripts seized by the K.G.B. Their fate remains unknown. In 1972 she compiled and published, in Russian, "I. Babel Recalled by His Contemporaries," a collection of firsthand biographical material. Babel's "1920 Diary," which she transcribed, presented the raw material that the author drew on for "Red Cavalry," his most celebrated work. The diary was published in the United States by Yale University Press in 1995.
The two-volume collection of Babel's works that Ms. Pirozhkova compiled and edited remains the most complete edition in Russian. It was published in 1990.
Her memoir, "At His Side: The Last Years of Isaac Babel," was published in the United States by Steerforth Press in 1996 and in 2001 appeared in a Russian edition.
Sharply written and full of insights about Babel's character and life under Stalin, the book was well received. "Babel would have enjoyed Ms. Pirozhkova's book, concise and full of bright incident," Richard Lourie wrote in The New York Times Book Review.
Ms. Pirozhkova recalled Babel's dismay at her haphazard reading habits, which he tried to correct by drawing up a list of the "hundred books that every educated person needs to read." It included a volume titled "The Instincts and Morals of Insects." She recounted evenings spent with Soviet cultural giants like the film director Sergei M. Eisenstein and visits by foreign luminaries like André Gide and André Malraux.
But her most telling lines concerned Babel, portrayed as generous, shrewdly observant, subversively witty and, despite the shadow of the executioner's ax, coolly fascinated by the secret police.
She recalled riding to the Lubyanka, the K.G.B. headquarters, in a car with two K.G.B. thugs on the night of Babel's arrest. "I could not say a single word," she wrote. "Babel asked the secret policeman sitting next to him, 'So, I guess you don't get much sleep, do you?' And he even laughed."
Antonina Nikolaevna Pirozhkova was born on July 1, 1909, in Krasny Yar, a village in Siberia. Her father died when she was 14, and she supported the family by tutoring students in math.
Her high school diploma noted her "outstanding abilities" in mathematics, physics and literature, and in 1926 she entered Tomsk Technological Institute, where she studied construction and engineering.
After graduating with an advanced degree in engineering in 1930, she was assigned to one of the Soviet Union's prize industrial projects: Kuznetskstroi, a large metallurgical plant being built near Novokuznetsk.
After working on the Moscow subway, she was assigned to the Moscow Institute of Transportation Engineers, where, as a teacher in the Bridges and Tunnels Department, she trained subway designers and wrote two sections for the standard textbook "Tunnels and Subways." In 1996 she moved with her daughter to the Washington suburbs to be near her grandson and his wife. In addition to her daughter, of Sarasota, she is survived by her grandson and a great-grandson.
When Ms. Porizhkova arrived with Babel at the Lubyanka, she and her husband kissed. He told her, "Someday we'll see each other," and walked into the building without looking back.
"I turned to stone, and I could not even cry," Ms. Porizhkova wrote. "For some reason I kept thinking, 'Will they at least give him a glass of hot tea? He can't start the day without it.' "
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10266/1089790-82.stm#ixzz10aEsQZDl