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Critics reviews
Man With a Movie Camera
Dziga Vertov Soviet Union, 1929
Vertov unveiled an almost pure cinema in somewhat-documentary form, an “image-oriented journalism” that could dissect “life caught unawares” and somehow create a symphony for the eye. An opening title card for the film is reminiscent of the spirit of The Communist Manifesto, with Vertov announcing his intention to create "a truly international, absolute language of cinema based on its total separation from the language of theater and literature.
May 03, 2016
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I finally recognized that this monumental documentary is almost designed for the bewildered spectator—it’s a completely idiomatic explication of cinema theory, as readily understood by an illiterate kolkhoz dweller as a Westernized urban sophisticate… THE MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA patiently, painstakingly demonstrates cinema from bottom to top—analogizing the camera lens with the eye, comparing an editing bench to a sewing machine…
September 04, 2015
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It announces itself in the opening cards as “an experiment in the cinematic transmission of visual phenomena… without intertitles… without a script… without sets, actors, etc” – pure cinema, in other words, and Vertov isn’t just boasting. The film is a kaleidoscopic evocation of life in several cities, notably a sunlit Odessa, and to judge by the film life in the late-20s USSR seems to have been a fairly jolly affair, although it wouldn’t be once the next decade got under way.
August 02, 2015
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Vertov shows us everything you can do with a camera, creating double and triple exposures, split screen, freeze frames and slow motion. Yet he’s interested in more than formal possibilities, suggesting cinema’s capacity for social commentary (cutting from abject beggars to the frolicking bourgeoisie), education (see how these machines work) and indeed voyeurism (from boudoir jollies to seaside body count).
July 31, 2015
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film about the demiurgic power of film. Vertov understood it to be a theoretical manifesto, the pilot project for an absolute cinematography that could even do without intertitles. The rhythm of the montage and the dynamics of its interval create a new organization of movements: of bodies, objects, machines, and forms of transport in a city.
July 03, 2015
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The film lacks stars or even a scenario, deemphasizing the individual in favor of the collective, and thus the individual identity of a given city submits to the overall cooperation of the union as seen in the intermingling of location shots. The film is a documentary, albeit one that assembles surreal juxtapositions from its real footage, an interpretive approach that connects various images in an attempt to link all aspects of Soviet working life.
June 05, 2015
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Narrative storytelling, characters, and even overt meaning: The film rejects all of these principles. It wants to break free from the world of theater and literature and speak in a language of pure cinema. This movie was generations ahead of its time, and I’d say it’s still ahead of ours as well.
August 01, 2012
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With the geometric simplicity of logic and spectacle, Man with a Movie Camera is shot and edited according to the forms of images, as if what Vertov’s revealing is his own notion of their form: his camera circles circles, blinks with blinking women, pans and cuts back and forth with trams moving back and forth.
April 16, 2011
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The Man with a Movie Camera is the epitome of machine art, the grand summa of the Soviet futurist-constructivist-communist avant-garde. This kaleidoscopic city symphony—conjoining Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa into one metametropolis—may be the most densely edited movie ever made. Vertove matches the rhythms of a single day to the cycle of life, and the mechanisms of moviemaking to the logic of industrial production.
November 28, 1995
Undoubtedly the most ambitious metacinematic effort within the history of the medium. . . . Filmmaking as one form of labor among others provides the central axis of the work, and the production of this very film generates the demonstration of editing and projection processes by which, in a series of brilliant variations, the dialectic of still and moving images is proposed.
January 01, 1989