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Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Chelovek s kino-apparatom (original title)
Not Rated | | Documentary, Music | 12 May 1929 (USA)
A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Mikhail Kaufman ...
The cameraman
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Storyline

This playful film is at once a documentary of a day in the life of the Soviet Union, a documentary of the filming of said documentary, and a depiction of an audience watching the film. Even the editing of the film is documented. We often see the cameraman who is purportedly making the film, but we rarely, if ever, see any of the footage he seems to be in the act of shooting! Written by George S. Davis

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Documentary | Music

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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12 May 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Living Russia, or The Man with a Camera  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included in the Toronto International Film Festival's Essential 100, movies every cinephile should see. See more »

Crazy Credits

At the beginning there is a long explanation of what this film is about and that it is of experimental origin. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Right Way (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Little Perspective, Please
16 August 2004 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Given the effusion over CHELOVEK S KINOAPPARATOM in the commentary section of the IMDb, I expect this will be a tad out of place, but I feel that this is a very good, although not groundbreaking movie.

First, what we have here is a portrait of a city -- Moscow, I believe, on the lines of MANHATTA and the more famous BERLIN: DIE SINFONIE DER GROSSTADT. It is an excellent example of the genre, with some beautiful camera-work but in no wise groundbreaking.

The distinction, if any, lies in the use of the eponymous Man With a Movie Camera as a character in the film. People stop to gawk at movie cameras in operation at first sight, and Vertov must have been frustrated at some of the excellent footage he would have to throw away. Then it probably occurred to him that if he made the camera itself a character, the gawking could be explained. To Americans this might be strange, but silent European films often had the camera clearly comment on the action of the film -- check out Feuillade's serials, such as LES VAMPIRES for examples.

This leaves open, of course, the issue of why, in several of the crowd scenes, in which we see the actor/cameraman from the rear, people are looking at the movie camera actually in use to take the shot. Could it be it is not the man with the movie camera they are looking at, but the operating camera?

This being Soviet cinema, we are also supposed to gawk over the editing technique, which the Soviets invented -- or actually, reported on, as they had been in use for up to thirty years by the time. The Soviet academicians got their stuff into print first -- elsewhere, people learned by experimentation or going to work for someone who knew what he was doing.

Finally, although Soviet film in this period is vibrant and interesting and does have a lot of editing techniques that were influential, they were making good films in Russia before the Revolution. I urge anyone who is interested in Russian films to look up the works of Yevgeny Bauer or Starewicz.

And take a look at this movie, by all means. It's very good. I apologize if anyone thinks I am complaining, but I worry that other commenters may have oversold it. Why not see it and make up your own mind?


11 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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