Chelovek’s kino-apparatom [Man with a Movie Camera] (1929)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Chelovek’s kino-apparatom</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">Man with a Movie Camera</strong>] (1929)

(Kanopy Streaming, October 2018) One seldom refers to a 1920s silent film as a thrill ride, but director Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera is different, especially with a semi-modern soundtrack. While the film is in the public domain and thus widely available on-line, do make an effort and pay the added price for the 1995 soundtrack as performed by The Alloy Orchestra (it’s the version available on Kanopy): it combines sound effects and pop-song-worthy musical hooks for a breathlessly exciting movie-watching experience. The score only underscores the frantic aspect of the film, which multiplies fast cuts in an expressionist representation of a day in the life of a 1920s Russian city. The one-cut-a-second style is meant to impress: The film is very playful in the way it’s executed (it starts with an audience filing into a theatre, pauses as the film’s editor takes a break, closes with the audience leaving the theatre and thus constantly winks at the audience) and not afraid to break the wall between filmmaking and film: time and time again, we see the camera (well, another camera) being set up for the audacious shots that follow. The flurry of cinematic techniques that pepper the film is just as impressive today as it was back then, jumping to split screen, optical effects and provocative editing of the Eisenstein school. By itself, it would be an impressive film—but with the right musical accompaniment, it becomes an authentic movie-watching experience. Man with a Movie Camera is one of those early classics of cinema not to be missed, and it rivals most subsequent movies ever made for sheer impact.

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