Combustible Celluloid
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Written by: n/a
Directed by: Dziga Vertov
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Silent with English intertitles
Running Time: 68
Date: 01/07/1929

Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

4 Stars (out of 4)

A Lenser Be

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This silent-era movie by Russian innovator Dziga Vertov is a perfect DVD to own because it reveals new things with each viewing. It's one of the most amazing, beautiful, complicated and ground-breaking films ever made. Vertov was deliberately trying to re-invent cinema as something cinematic, rather than just filmed plays; only a few innovative geniuses in the history of film have even attempted that feat, much less achieved it. Man with a Movie Camera has no plot, story, or characters. A man with a movie camera simply wanders around a Russian city (actually three Russian cities) filming striking images for an entire day (actually four years). The editor combines the images and makes them dance circles around each other so that the picture always has several different things going on. It's also about the process of making a movie, the shooting and editing of it, as well as watching a movie. But it's also about the rhythms of thoughts, dreams, and life.

Though the film is already avaiable on DVD via other distributors, none of which I've seen, I can vouch that Kino's 2002 transfer is superb. Composer Michael Nyman (The Piano) contributes the excellent new score. Note: In 2021, Kino Lorber released a new Blu-ray, which is the first time I've seen the film since the 2002 DVD, so I can't compare it with the many other releases out there, but I can say that I was pleased with the restoration, which includes film grain and fine contrast. The Nyman score is included, as well as a commentary track by film historian Adrian Martin and the featurettes "The Life and Times of Dziga Vertov: An Interview with Ian Christie" (46 mins.) and "Dziga Vertov: Non-Fiction Film Thing, a video essay by David Cairns" (20 mins.).

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