Sergei Eisenstein’s attack on traditional idealist aesthetics with his constructivist practice and theory of montage is well known. What is less duly acknowledged is that his most important innovations – montage of attractions, intellectual montage, typage – can be traced to the domains of the comic and laughter. Eisenstein’s constructivism is inseparable from his wide-ranging integration of the various (lower) and popular genres into his work: the genre of comedy proper, caricature, commedia dell’arte, satire, the grotesque, and the monstrous. Although these elements are usually acknowledged in the analyses of Eisenstein’s work, he is typically seen as a filmmaker of a great and serious revolutionary pathos. What is left out is that Eisenstein himself conceived of this great and serious pathos as primarily comic. For Eisenstein, laughter was both an aesthetic and a historical problem, or, rather a specific form of the relationship between the two domains. Discussing Eisenstein’s laughter in relation to a few other well-known theories of laughter (Baudelaire, Bergson), we can both describe his singularity as well as discuss the more general question about the relationship between laughter and (cinematic) ideas.
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