Man with a Movie Camera

Right from the opening credits sequence, Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera states in no uncertain terms its goals in showing the unique qualities of film.  As it’s a silent film, the selected soundtrack plays a key role in determining the texture of the film.  The version I watched was paired with the Alloy Orchestra soundtrack, which provides a brilliantly kinetic and vibrant modernist accompaniment.  My only gripe with it is that the addition of sound effects (such as car horns and the crying of a baby) feels like it co-opts the director’s role in establishing the ground rules for the film.

While the film very much acts as a primer to then groundbreaking film effects such as tracking shots and point-of-view framing, Man with a Movie Camera still works quite well as an avant-garde art film.  The rhythmic cutting, particularly towards the end of the film, feels extremely modern even when coupled with the particularly Soviet shots of unidentifiable machinery in action.

Sight and Sound recently ranked Man with a Movie Camera at #8 on it’s top films.  While I think that Man with a Movie Camera should absolutely be one of the first films a Film 101 student sees, putting it in the top ten of all time seems akin to ranking the Apple I as the best personal computer or Texaco Star Theater as a top television show.  Man with a Movie Camera is absolutely a hypnotic and timeless film, but its impact in establishing the modern filmmaking vocabulary is its greater contribution.

Arbitrary song of the day: Destroyer – The Laziest River

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