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Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
"Chelovek s kino-apparatom" (original title)

 -  Documentary  -  12 May 1929 (USA)
8.4
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 11,420 users  
Reviews: 95 user | 55 critic

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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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 »
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Details

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Release Date:

12 May 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Living Russia, or The Man with a Camera  »

Filming Locations:

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The original Ukrainian intertitles were lost when they were cut and replaced with Russian intertitles in the mid-1930s. 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 Rules of Attraction (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Artistic truth never rests in real life
30 September 2007 | by (Xanadu) – See all my reviews

I have always watched Chelovek s kino-apparatom with a feeling of bewilderment. It's amazing how a movie this old can have such a great deal of things to say almost eighty years after it was released. This is more than a documentary; it's a meditation on how movies are constructed and about the artificial nature of art in general. At the beginning we have a prologue in which Vertov makes explicit his claim to separate the medium of cinema from the theater and literature and give it a particular, distinctive set of features that should identify it as a medium of communication. It has to be noted that both the media of theater and literature had become significantly stale by the time of Vertov, Modernism had managed to complicate the "rules of the game" so much that a shift of perspective was definitely welcome. Focusing on cinema a few early Russian directors hoped to produce a truer account of life than was previously the case with other media. This is why Vertov went against any fictitious plot for the movie. This attitude was at the same time O.K with the Party leadership and it represented a distinctive and very personal aesthetic vision on art. By now it is common knowledge that one of the most interesting things in this movie is its self-referential nature, in that it depicts the making of the movie we are actually watching. Immediately we are bothered by a certain peculiarity of the situation, because it becomes obvious that there must be somebody offering the perspective on the man making the movie and we wonder whose perspective is that. It is evident that the idea rests on the very artificiality of art, in this case cinema with its infinite capacity of lying. Put this together with the hyper-editing involved (I don't think there is one single shot in the movie that is longer than five seconds) and you obtain something that would only be equaled (and I dare say not surpassed) by the last movie by Welles, F for Fake, also a documentary with many peculiarities. From a cinematic standpoint the movie is pure eye candy. The shots are not always directed, as it was also the case with Lumiere and Melies (to whom the movie pays a well-deserved tribute) but the shots are constructed with a perfect sense of composition and they display a wide range of cinema tricks that make the movie a synthesis of cinema up to that point. Though there is no story attached, the director manages to abstract from the images, during the editing stage a range of patterns that focus on the image as the main semantic vehicle of the movie (no inter-titles are used). The image becomes much more important than in any other movie I have seen and with the help of editing the director creates a multi-layered plot that can be given diverse interpretations making the movie a challenge at each viewing.


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