Tuesday, 19 April 2016

On 19.4.16 by KieronMoore in , , , ,    No comments

Avant-garde Soviet documentary may not be the most enticing movie night idea, but anyone interested in film history should know the name Dziga Vertov. The key figure in the ‘cinema-eye’ collective of filmmakers, Vertov rejected ‘staged’ cinema – actors, scripts, all that rubbish – and developed a Marxist style inspired by newsreel footage, using the camera to capture real life then editing the footage into a coherent overview of society. 

Man With A Movie Camera is about the people of Russia; the life of the city (it was filmed in Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow and Odessa) is shown in all its detail. People get up, go to work, and play sports. People get married, others get divorced. A child is born. Intricate editing places the factory machines and switchboard operators perfectly in time with the film’s music, turning the city into a symphony. Vertov’s use of film is very playful, showing us the eponymous cameraman as he sets up the shots we then see, and even making use of optical illusions, such as placing the cameraman inside a beer glass. It all comes together to create an innovative and remarkable piece of cinema that, even in 2016, is an engaging, energetic watch, as well as a fascinating historical document.

The other films on this new box set are similarly intriguing, if not as consistently watchable. Kino-Eye (1924) has a similar style, portraying the lives of children in a small village. Kino-Pravda #21 (1925) is a memorial to the recently deceased Lenin, incorporating newsreel footage of his life before showing us his funeral and reactions to his death. Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbass (1931) goes down into the mines of the Don coal basin, focusing on the miners as they work hard to fulfil the Five Year Plan. Finally, Three Songs About Lenin (1934) celebrates the achievements of the Soviet Union’s founder.


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