Certainly among the most exhilarating movies ever made, no matter that it’s nearly a hundred years old now, Dziga Vertov’s whirligig portrait of modern life as experienced in Soviet cities (Moscow, Odessa and Kyiv) uses a battery of innovative photographic and editing techniques (slow and fast motion; superimposition; freeze frames; jump cuts etc) in a way that might be compared to the cut-up techniques of cubism.
Vertov – the Ukranian nom de plume of David Kaufman, which translates as “spinning top” – composes his non-fiction film with artistic exuberance and freedom. In truth, this was a team effort. His brother Boris Kaufman (who would become a Hollywood cinematographer on films like On the Waterfront) was behind the camera (and in front of it, in the title role), and his wife Yelizaveta Svilova was the editor. Together, they created a film without a screenplay, without intertitles, without a debt to theatre or literature, a pure motion picture. In this instance, the avant-garde forges a universal language.
Man with a Movie Camera was the only silent film to crack the top ten in Sight & Sound’s poll and the highest rated silent in the Director’s poll (#30) alongside Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Sunday’s screening in our PANTHEON series will feature free refreshments and a short introduction by Ernest Mathjis, Professor in Film and Media Studies, UBC.
Also in This Series
Orson Welles's debut was the most sophisticated movie to come out of the Hollywood studio system to that time, and opened up the creative possibilities of the narrative feature film for generations. For nearly 50 years it was "the best ever made".