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97 Man with a Movie Camera, The 
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Post Re: 97 Man with a Movie Camera, The 1929
From Zeppelin

After Double Indemnity, I decided to go about 20 years into the past and into Russia with No. 97, Dziga Vertov's Man with the Movie Camera. Although MwtMC is often labeled a silent film, it certainly didn't feel like one to me. Thanks to a brilliantly done score by the Alloy Orchestra, a narrative of sorts which refuses to sit still, and a gaggle of cinematic techniques which still appear modern today, MwtMC manages to be a hypnotic and singular experience.

Focusing more on what can be done with a camera than bothering with what can be done with actors and plot, MwtMC forgoes a traditional narrative in favor of a general study of life, technology, and film-making, and it's all the better for it. Although many of the images are only loosely connected, Vertov seems to return to several ideas, all based in a strident optimism, time and time again. MwtMC might be one of the first films that truly believes that movies can say or show anything. With images ranging from a newly born baby and his mother's open birth canal to a pair of naked breasts (and in 1929 no less!), MwtMC makes no concessions about testing the boundaries of the film medium, including using stop-motion, reversing images, and double exposure among other techniques to create images which still confounded and amaze us. More than that though, Vertov seems fascinated by the glory which is life, in all it's form. Whether it is new life given to industry by man or the simple lives of peasants, MwtMC might be the most comprehensive study of the birth of technology, emotion, and cinema ever put on film.

If Man with the Movie Camera has a flaw, it might be that it's a little too long. It certainly felt longer than an hour, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Even in it's most repetitive moments, MwtMC is at least interesting, and that's more than can be said for most movies, especially many made today. 1929 or 2009, MwtMC is a wonderful movie no matter what year it's viewed in. It hasn't aged a lick. 9/10


Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:58 am
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