This is my entry for “M” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “M” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Mad Hot Ballroom, Man on Wire, Maradona ’86, March of the Penguins, Mathematically Alive, Miss Sharon Jones!, Mysteries of the Rimet Trophy, The Myth of Garrincha and possibly My Winnipeg.
Title: Man with a Movie Camera
Release Date: January 8, 1929
Director: Dziga Vertov
Production Company: VUFKU
In Man with a Movie Camera, the viewer see scenes from every day life spliced together with furious sequences of cuts, multiple exposures, slow motion, fast motion, freeze frames, Dutch angles, extreme closeups, tracking shots, and reverse motion. Accompanied by a bombastic score by English composer Michael Nyman, Man with a Movie Camera for all the world resembles a music video. The stunning thing about this movie is that is was released in 1929. The many cinematic effects on display in the movie were just not common in 1920s filmmaking, and some were invented for this movie.
Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov had strong opinions about cinema and felt that the vestiges of theater – stories, actors, scripts – should be abandoned in order to explore the possibilities of film. Man with a Movie Camera is his statement on what he called a “An Experimentation in the Cinematic Communication.” The film depicts a typical day in the life of the Soviet Union, but isn’t strictly a documentary. Instead it’s more of an avant-garde or experimental film. We see people at work and play, scenes of nature and urban streetscapes, and machinery at work. Some parts are obviously staged, such as scenes of a woman waking and dressing, or men mashing up the pieces on a chessboard, played in reverse motion.
The “Man with a Movie Camera” is a recurring character in the film as we see him carrying his camera and setting it up in various places for the shots we will see. Sometimes he is comically superimposed on top of a larger camera or within a mug of beer. The effects are fun and exhilirating for a contemporary viewer, and must have been completely shocking for filmgoers in the 1920s.
What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:
Filmed just a decade after the Russian Revolution, Vertov shot the movie over three years in four different cities. The film offers a glimpse of everyday life in the Soviet Union, as well as instruction in how a film is shot and edited. It also appears that Soviet Union was a lot less prudish about the exposure of women’s bodies than the United States at the same time. Women at the beach even wear two-piece swimsuits, not yet called bikinis. The Man with a Camera is also a bit of perv as he likes to zoom in on women’s legs and posteriors.
If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:
Watch Un Chien Andalou, a surrealist film also released in 1929, by Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. Un Chien Andalou is a fictional (and plotless) film, but is stylistically similar to Man with a Movie Camera (although no eyeballs were harmed in the making of the Soviet documentary).
019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
L: The Last Waltz
If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:
- 2016: A journey through my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston.
- 2017: A spontaneous photograph each day.
- 2018: Watched and reviewed documentary movies.
And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:
- Book Reviews
- Movie Reviews
- Beer Reviews
- Music Reviews and Writing
- City Stories, expository writing about my experiences in various cities
And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.