XL Popcorn – Man with a Movie Camera

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 932/1009Title: Chelovek s kino-apparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)
Director: Dziga Vertov
Year: 1929
Country: USSR

There a lot of things we take for granted in modern movies. Certain shots, cutting methods and speeds. These are things that slowly filtered through cinema history with different film movements or landmarks acting as turning points. Then you get Man with a Movie Camera, which did so many of our modern tricks and, like Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis released a few years earlier that did similar things, was pretty much written off.

Watching this now, having recently watched The Bitter Tea of General Yen (which, remember, is only 4 years younger) there is a world of difference. Where General Yen is very much of it’s time and has a lot of hallmarks which make it feel like it still has a few toes in the silent movie pool, Man with a Movie Camera has more in common with the experimental movies of the 1960s and is better than most of them.

As the titles say at the beginning, this is a film without story or intertitles. The film shows life in a number of Ukrainian cities, represented in an idealised manner with the use of many different cuts and camera techniques. It almost follows a day cycle, but is more presented in themes of awakening, working and recreation. There was an interesting scene in the final section showing a woman training with a rifle by shooting a man labelled ‘Uncle Fascism’. What can I say, this is a time capsule of its era.

At just over an hour long, Man with a Movie Camera knows when to call it a day – although some critics of the time complained of over-stimulation due to the high shot count. To a modern audience, this works like an elongated music video when presented with the right soundtrack. I ended up watching it with scoring by The Cinematic Orchestra and it made for a really cool experience.

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