Tuesday 2 March 2010

"This could change your child and change you"

poster for Man with a Movie CameraIf you love cinema and you haven't seen Man with a Movie Camera I just have to urge you to go and see it. Not only because it's a classic silent film playing  with introduction and piano accompaniment by perennial Borderlines favourite, Paul Shallcross. Made by pioneer soviet film-maker and poet Dziga Vertov (real name: Denis Kaufman 'Dziga' from the noise the crank of a mechanical camera makes) it's an exuberant and stimulating city symphony, full of tricks and surprises.

Perhaps the most persuasive way of getting across why everyone, young and old, should see it is to quote one of the best writers on cinema, David Thomson:
 You may very well not know the history: how Dziga Vertov (also known as Denis Kaufman) was an inspiring spirit  and innovator in the field of newsreel in the Bolshevik era. You may not know or be excited by the Soviet urge that film could show the new country to itself as a mechanical marvel. Most important, let's say that you have young children who are monopolized by the screens that convey television, the Internet, and video games. You want to show them something that says "movie" and you have come to realize that "movie" is not really of your child's world. It's not quite like madrigals or belles lettres. But it's changed. Try The Man with a Movie Camera.
You will find that the child's lack of contet or narrative guilt accepts easily Vertov's conceit of the cameraman as everyman - the proletarian hero who has the powere and the camera knowledge to show us not just ourselves , but visibility itself. Of course, the film is full of tricks and editing but they are all as candid and innocent as someone warning you that he's going to cheat you. I have never found a child who was not sad whe the film ended , who did not have hundreds of questions about the world being filmed and a new exhilaration with the whole process.
I will go further. This is only a very partial record of Russia in the 1920s, so filled with hope and beauty as to be out of its mind with poetry. In being out of its mind, the camera makes a first step towards story.  In truth, this film is a utopian vision - it never was or will be as free from friction and other problems. Like I am Cuba, looking at Cuba in 1964, it is far less about the real place that the profound desire to sing or shout out.

This could change your child and change you. With The Passion of Joan of Arc it is, I believer, the only silent film that needs no qualification or apology. It is perfect. It is new still. And it makes you love the world...
from David Thomson 'Have You Seen ...?'

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