Saturday, 18 August 2012

Dziga Vertov: The Man with a Movie Camera - Человек с киноаппаратом ( 1929)



IN BFI THE GREATEST FILMS POLL 2012 Man with a Movie Camera IS AT 8th PLACE.

An impression of city life in the Soviet Union, The Man with a Movie Camera is the best-known film of experimental documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov. “It made explicit and poetic the astonishing gift the cinema made possible, of arranging what we see, ordering it, imposing a rhythm and language on it, and transcending it.” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 2009 A decade into his career as both filmmaker and theorist, Dziga Vertov made his best-known and most widely distributed film. This narrative-free portrait of city life – three unidentified cities provided the locations – is propelled by an effervescent delight in the possibilities of film, with its unexpected angles and clashing juxtapositions. Vertov deliberately shunned what he saw as hidebound theatrical conventions such as intertitles and actors – the film’s only real protagonist is the cameraman himself. This could easily be an indulgent mess, but Vertov’s grasp of his medium is so philosophically sure-footed that it’s just as stimulating many decades later. Vertov’s film has inspired numerous imitators, from contemporary ‘city symphonies’ to the cheerful experimentalism of the various 1960s European New Waves. Many composers have written scores for it, including Michael Nyman.
68 critics voted for this film






"Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera (1929) is a stunning avant-garde, documentary meta-narrative which celebrates Soviet workers and filmmaking. The film uses radical editing techniques and cinematic pyrotechnics to portray a typical day in Moscow from dawn to dusk. But Vertov isn't just recording reality, he transforms it through the power of the camera's "kino-glaz" (cinema eye). Vertov's rich imagery transcends the earth-bound limitations of our everyday ways of seeing.

Vertov was a working-class artist who desired to link workers with machines. His film opens with a manifesto, a series of intertitles telling us that this film is an "experiment," a search for an "absolute language of cinema" that is "based on its total separation from the language of literature and theater." This manifesto echoes an earlier one that Vertov wrote in 1922, in which he disavowed the films of D. W. Griffith and others as psychological dramas--cliches, copies of copies, films overly indebted to novels and theatrical conventions. Vertov desired to create cinema that had its own "rhythm, one lifted from nowhere else, and we find it in the movements of things." For Vertov an emphasis on the psychological interfered with the worker's "desire for kinship with the machine." And as a peoples' artist, Vertov felt that the peoples' cinema must "introduce creative joy into all mechanical labor" and "foster new people."

And foster he does. The Man With a Movie Camera is divided into nine orchestral-type movements, and several of them use rapid-fire editing, wild juxtapositions (e.g. blinking eyes with shutter blinds) and multiple exposures to mesh workers with machines in a simultaneity of reverence and celebration. Levers and wheels turn and workers synchronously turn with them. Later, Vertov reveals more mechanical reality as he juxtaposes a woman getting her hair washed with another washing clothes, and then shows a barber shaving a man, and sharpening a razor's edge. The sequence ends with newspapers rifling along a printing press, and a young woman packing cigarettes, watching the machine's quick slap pressing, while smiling at her labor.
As Vertov revealed the joys of work, the rhythm of workers and machines, he also felt that filmmaking (as a largely technological medium) was also a component of that mechanical reality. In the aforementioned sequence of a cigarette worker and her machine, Vertov also splices into the mise-en-scene his wife and editor, Yelizavela Svilova. As shoes are shined and a woman gets her hair cut and fingernails polished, an edit reveals Svilova rubbing emulsion off the film strip, suggesting that polishing the beauty of cinema is synchronous with the peoples' visit to the beauty salon. More importantly, Svilova's appearance stitched into another montage (a woman sews, fabric linked with thread, while Svilova edits, film threaded through a splicer) strongly suggests that filmmaking is workmanlike, the perfect analog to the worker's life."

Grant Tracey in Images



An impression of city life in the Soviet Union, The Man with a Movie Camera is the best-known film of experimental documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov. “It made explicit and poetic the astonishing gift the cinema made possible, of arranging what we see, ordering it, imposing a rhythm and language on it, and transcending it.” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 2009 A decade into his career as both filmmaker and theorist, Dziga Vertov made his best-known and most widely distributed film. This narrative-free portrait of city life – three unidentified cities provided the locations – is propelled by an effervescent delight in the possibilities of film, with its unexpected angles and clashing juxtapositions. Vertov deliberately shunned what he saw as hidebound theatrical conventions such as intertitles and actors – the film’s only real protagonist is the cameraman himself. This could easily be an indulgent mess, but Vertov’s grasp of his medium is so philosophically sure-footed that it’s just as stimulating many decades later. Vertov’s film has inspired numerous imitators, from contemporary ‘city symphonies’ to the cheerful experimentalism of the various 1960s European New Waves. Many composers have written scores for it, including Michael Nyman.

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