Man with a Movie Camera (1929) - 9/10
Man with a Movie Camera is quite simply marvellous. Made in the former Soviet Union in 1929 by Dziga Vertov, it still feels exciting now. It’s an experimental doc. No sets, no script, no silent film text slates. Still it tells its story efficiently. Modernism coming to life. There’s another man though, a cameraman/actor travelling around the city. This is Mikhail Kaufman, arguably this does admit some construction, but isn’t all documentary and he’s more of a device than anything else. It’s silent, but a score has been added by The Alloy Orchestra, which it has to be said works remarkably well. It’s mechanical and theatrical. Matching the inventiveness on screen. There’s thought put into it. It’s not just a collection of shots thrown together. First of all there’s some beautiful cinematography here, along with some of the expected experimentation of the time, with exposures and in-camera tricks. The edit though is fantastic, pulling together a vast array of material into a captivating hour. Yes it’s all simple stuff by todays standards, but it’s done so well. It’s incredible to think this is nearly 100 years old. It’s shot in Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv in Ukraine, which perhaps makes watching it now all the more poignant as Russia continues to invade. Particularly as we see the emergency services spring into action. Action is what this does really well. The amount of different scenes capturing life are quite staggering and there’s lots of shots taken from moving vehicles, which are especially impressive. Granted this all looks old through a modern lens, but we’re solidly in the machine age here, with all the ferocious speed that brought. Sequences in factories, telephone exchanges, ironworks all look magnificent. There’s some shots over a sweeping river through the city with the camera on a wire that look really breathtaking. There’s even some stop-frame, slow motion and freeze frames in there. Oh and some fascist shaming. What’s not to love. If you love film. This is a must see. Exciting stuff!