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Overall Rating
4.18

Awesome: 36.36%
Worth A Look54.55%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 9.09%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 5 user ratings



Man with the Movie Camera, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Like watching cinematography being invented"
4 stars

"The Man with a Movie Camera" is exciting to watch, even seventy-five years later. It is, at once, a document of Soviet Russia in the late 1920s and a dizzying work of cinematic artistry years ahead of its time. It is, for people who love film as a medium, absolutely essential viewing.

It's curious to see what a relatively even-handed look it gives the young Soviet Union. Shortly after screening this film, the Harvard Film Archive ran Aelita, Queen of Mars, which has no compunctions about wearing its ideology on its sleeve. Man with a Movie Camera does often seem to attempt to portray the USSR in its best light: The Moscow streets are bustling, filled with cars and excited people. The trips out to the countryside also show a busy people, building the country's industrial base. And yet, we see a fair amount of poverty, too, workers wearing old, beat-up clothes and people waiting in the lines that would come to define the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

More than the location, though, what makes it so essential is the thing that makes its title something of a misnomer - director Dziga Vertov is, through much of this movie, a man with two movie cameras, one shooting everyday scenes in and around Moscow and another filming him shooting everyday scenes in and around Moscow. It's kind of an audacious trick - imagine a stage magician showing you how an illusion is created before doing each trick. That's what Vertov does here, and while it's fascinating to process junkies like me, it's also fascinating to those with less curiosity as to how things are made: Our cameraman is climbing to great heights and bolting cameras to cars driven at high speed; there's a thrill of danger and respect for someone dedicated enough to their craft put themselves in harm's way to get a bit of film.

Indeed, this film shows us moviemaking from start to finish, as some shots show us Vertov setting up a movie theater in an empty hall, actually putting chairs in line, hanging a screen, and setting up a projector, with curious people lining up to see what may be their first movie (and looking bewildered by what they see in this non-linear documentary, actually). I actually found myself thinking of Goodbye Dragon Inn during these segments - where that film at times seemed like a eulogy, mourning the death of people going to film, Man with a Movie Camera is being present at its birth as the subjects gawk at the camera, Vertov figures out how to use it, and people come to see the result for the first time.

The editing is also noteworthy; the film cuts between locations and perspectives almost randomly, and yet the film comes together as a seamless whole. It's avant-garde, for sure, but not in an aloof way. "The Man with a Movie Camera" is required viewing to be familiar with the history of film, but also an entrancing experience in its own right.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13782&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/15/06 02:36:21
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User Comments

2/28/14 Miguel Gomez Fantastic. One of the most fully realized artistic accomplishments of the 20th century. 5 stars
6/01/09 PAUL SHORTT A GLORIOUS TRIBUTE TO EVERYTHING THAT FILMMAKING CAN BE 5 stars
4/17/09 brian I don't care how inventive it is if it's boring. 2 stars
1/29/08 proper amateur film critic One of the most amazing, beautiful and groundbreaking films ever made 5 stars
1/15/06 Perry Mason Great camera work and cutting. Excellent soundtrack. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  12-May-1929
  DVD: 26-Feb-2002

UK
  N/A

Australia
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Directed by
  Dziga Vertov

Written by
  Dziga Vertov

Cast
  N/A



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