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Man with a Movie Camera

Man With a Movie Camera

Ok, i cheated and watched a musically-supplemented version of this silent, story-less Russian film from 1929 (the Ninja Tunes label added a good, if not always suitable, jazz-funk-"orchestra" soundtrack - which at least keeps the A.D.D. generation happy eh? )

Basically, this film contains marvellous naturalism of subject matter combined with "state-of-the-art" 30s camera trickery. It's a bizarre mixture. One minute the filmmakers are transporting you with their finely crafted shots, the next they're showing you a cameraman amongst the scene. One minute they're creating a hypnotic tempo with their editing, the next they're showing you the editor at work, splicing the shots.

And the playfulness and contrasts continue....We are reminded of the "magical" abilities of the camera (by slowing events down to single shots, playing with time, entrancing the viewer in various ways)...only for this miraculous output to be used to extol the magical abilities/effects of modern tools around us, as the editor is compared to a woman using an industrial sewing set-up etc.

From dancing stop-motion cameras to crowd montages, the ingenuity brings to mind the experimental masterpiece Metropolis. Altho these guys are trying to tell a different tale. They're mainly observing. Couples getting married. Babies being born. A bruised and broken man being put into an ambulance. There's something refreshing about seeing real scenes amongst their sheeny mastery of the filmmakers tools. And indeed, they remind us, with the reflection/transposition of an eye onto a camera's lense, hungrily staring at all the scenes, that as much as the camera can disect, it can also bend and distend.

I think they really just wanted to extol Russia and Russian filmmaking. I think they did a good job of that, and ended up exploring the nature of people, perception and film in general too.