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Encyclopedia > The Man with a Movie Camera

Man with the Movie Camera (Chelovek s Kinoapparatom) is an experimental 1929 silent documentary film by Russian director Dziga Vertov. The film follows a cameraman around various cities, intercutting his footage with footage of him filming and footage of a woman editing, and includes a number of cinematic techniques such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme closeups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, and a self-reflexive storyline (at one point it features a split screen tracking shot; the sides have opposite Dutch angles).

The film has an unabashedly art film bent and emphasizes that film can go anywhere, for instance superimposing a shot of a cameraman setting up his camera atop a second, mountainous camera; or superimposing a cameraman inside a beer glass; or filming a woman getting out of bed and getting dressed; or even filming a different woman giving birth, the baby being taken away to be bathed.

Vertov's message about the prevalence and unobtrusiveness of filming was not yet true--cameras might have been able to go anywhere, but not without being noticed; they were too large to be hidden easily, and too noisy to remain hidden anyway. To get footage using a hidden camera, Vertov and his brother Mikhail Kaufman had to distract the subject with something else even louder than the camera filming them.

The film also features a few obvious stagings such as the scene of the woman getting out of bed and getting dressed (cameras at the time were fairly bulky and loud, and not surreptitious) and the shot of the chess pieces being swept to the center of the board (a shot which was spliced in backwards, causing the pieces to expand outward and stand into position). The film was criticized for both the stagings and its stark experimentation, possibly as a result of its director's frequent assailing of fiction film as a new "opiate of the masses."

The film, originally released in 1929, was silent, and accompanied in theaters with live music. It has since been released a number of times with different soundtracks: One release, in 1996, had a new soundtrack performed by the Alloy Orchestra, based on notes left by Vertov. It incorporated sound effects such as sirens, babies crying, crowd noise, etc.

In 2002, a version was released with a soundtrack performed by the British jazz and electronic outfit The Cinematic Orchestra. In the same year, a DVD edition by the British Film Institute had a score by Michael Nyman.

  Results from FactBites:
::::::::::::www.25hrs.org<<<<<<<< (4808 words)
I argue that the very title of the film, The Man with a Movie Camera, is misleading: the film itself demonstrates that cinema is not about capturing truth but creating a mediated reality that is not least made in the generative processes of editing and viewing.
While The Man with a Movie Camera accords the business of film making a special place in society, that integration is made smooth and invisible by the very process of gendering the film's two protagonists, the cinematographer and the editor, according to entirely conventional social patterns.
The kino-eye is the principle underlying all of The Man with a Movie Camera, both by reference to Vertov's various manifestos in which he used the term to differentiate his cinematographic methods from conventional techniques and visually, as an image that fuses the recording glance of the camera with the eye of the spectator.
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