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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
An Interesting, Unusual Experiment That Has Held Up Very Well
When "Man With a Movie Camera" had just been made, it must have been one of the most distinctive movies of its time, and it is at least as interesting now. In itself, it was a highly successful experiment: the variety of creative camera techniques and the fast-paced progression of images create an effective portrait of the city of Moscow as a typical day goes by. Now, several decades later, it remains distinctive in its style and content, and is even more interesting in that it also allows us a glimpse of daily life in an unfamiliar place and time.
Starting with a look around the city in the morning before things start to happen, it then moves through the day, often coming back to the same site or individual at different times. The incidents shown range from routine daily activities to recreation to emergencies, with everything in between. The sense of realism is such that, despite the rather short clips of specific individuals, you can sometimes feel almost a part of what the persons on-screen are experiencing. At other times, it's just intriguing to have this kind of look at a different era.
The thorough-going experimentation, especially with the unusual camera methods, could easily have led to an unwatchable mess if not done with care. Even experienced film-makers, especially at the present time, too often over-indulge in such techniques to the point where the substance of their films becomes secondary to mere artifice. But here, Dziga Vertov achieved a skillful fit between technique and material, creating a film that has held up very well over the years.
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