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Thread: Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

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  1. #1
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    Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

    This is a great work of cinematic art.

    Dziga Vertov created a trailblazing silent film that is absolute dynamite.

    Eisenstein said that the process of editing is the one thing that separates the film medium from all other artistic endeavors, and this film has a zillion edits. The editing is in the rhythm of life itself, and it is one kinetic, pulsating non-verbal experience.
    Vertov edited it with Yelizavela Svilova and the film was photographed by Mikhail Kaufman.

    The rapid-fire edits make the film come to blinding life, which is Vertov's real talent.
    The casual viewer would probably scoff, pointing to the fairly normal stuff that is captured on film: trolley cars, pedestrians, buildings, people doing regular things like getting their hair done, going to the beach, having a baby- yes, umbilical cord and all!, locomotives, waterfalls, magic tricks performed for kids, etc etc. But man, it's the editing and the shot angles. All are endlessly interesting.
    Vertov had an eye brother. But the real element that kicks this film into the stratosphere of cinema greats: the score.

    The score is sheer genius. It was a commissioned project performed by
    THE ALLOY ORCHESTRA and it might be the best score to a film I've ever heard. They really knock it out of the park. No shit. With each new "movement" of the film the score moves with it. With dazzling, foot-stomping, bang-your-head power. I kept thinking "this movie would be so much less without the score" and how Vertov would've been very very proud of what the Orchestra did for his film. The VHS sleeve said that this movie is modern, and it is. It's better than most pieces of shit films produced today.
    It's one dynamic ride baby.
    Everything is tried here: slow motion (Riefenstahl must've seen this and got inspired for Olympia. I instantly thought of her and her 1936 Games film when I saw all of the slo-mo athlete shots), reverse playbacks (chess & checker boards), cars going full-tilt, bicycles, rooftop shots, middle of streets, on train tracks and trains, suspended buckets- check out the waterfall coverage!

    The film is about following a single cameraman with his 5-foot tripod mounted Zeiss, as he films the citizens of the Soviet Union doing whatever they do.

    I gotta buy this one on DVD because I think it would be a wild ride when blasted at home- I watched at the Ottawa U sober and was damn impressed, so at home with some vino and mass hash...Look out mama!

    The ending is Great.
    Please check it out. You'll be glad you did.
    Last edited by Johann; 12-23-2010 at 02:00 PM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  2. #2
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    I want to thank you for magnificent contributions to this Classic forum over the years. I have really enjoyed them. Your passion for cinema is so genuine and eloquent Johann. This piece is particularly sharp, dead-on as to what makes Vertov's MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA an absolute Classic. It happens to be part of the curriculum of a course I will be teaching in Fall 2011. I was wondering if it was OK to distribute your piece to my students (as well as another piece or two you have written about films pre-1940). Thanks either way!

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the kind words, Oscar. Your post has erased my Monday blah

    There are two scores for "Man With a Movie Camera", and in my opinion the only one that matters is the Alloy Orchestra's. It's just so right for this film. So watch out for the DVD you pick up- the Kino version has Michael Nyman doing the score. I love Nyman very very much but I can't ever imagine watching the movie with anyone else but the Alloy Orchestra doing the soundtrack.

    I don't know if my writing is suitable for students (too much swearing, drug references, non-academic) but if you feel it's worth something to a reader then by all means pass it out!
    :)

    I stand by everything I've written here in 8 years on FilmLeaf. There's very little that I would change. I meant it when I typed it, and
    like Tarantino and Kevin Smith, I like my own stuff. Glad that others do too from time to time...


    Vertov was a pioneer. Up there with the Lumiere bros. and all the others...
    Last edited by Johann; 07-26-2010 at 01:29 PM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  4. #4
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    Thanks. I will pass it out. It is the perfect "appetite-wetter".
    You are so right about the Alloy Orchestra score.

  5. #5
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    You saw it recently?
    It's just plain awesome as a film.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  6. #6
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    There are some films that get studied a lot in my school because they're great and important (and because the dept. head loves them). This is one of them. Other films we show a lot at UM are Lang's M, L'Atalante, Ozu's Late Spring and I was Born but..., Sunrise, Vertigo, Marnie, Marie Epstein's La Maternelle (aka Children of Monmartre), It Happened One Night, The Awful Truth, Stella Dallas, Chaplin's The Gold Rush, Renoir's Rules of the Game and his forgotten, "unfinished" Un Partie de Campagne, Yonggang Yu's The Godess, Letter from an Unknown Woman, The Magnificent Ambersons, etc. MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA belongs in this illustrious company. I see it at least once a year.

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