Kino Eye (1924) Poster


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The Edge of Avant Garde Cinema
jayraskin14 April 2011
This is a fantastic film from Dziga Vertov. It is quite personal and yet shows the intense and varied activities of numerous people in the Soviet Union of 1924. It is as artistic and creative as anything being done in the United States or Germany at the time. It was cutting edge cinematic constructivism.

It is interesting to compare this film with Vertov's "Three Songs of Lenin" ten years later. While "Kinoeye" is interested in showing the truth about life and the world, "Three Songs" is only interested in dogmatic praise of Lenin. The two films show the difference between the Soviet Union of Lenin and the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin. This film shows people drinking, smoking, taking cocaine, and joking. We see disfigured people in an insane asylum, we see a homeless boy sleeping in the streets and a man who died in the streets. In contrast to this, in "Three Songs," everybody is heroic and everybody is marching forward, there are more machines than people, and the film suggests that Lenin magically solved all the problems of the past. One can argue that the Soviet Union was facing the threat of Nazi Germany in 1934 and therefore needed heroic militaristic films to inspire their people. The same images of poverty and people just surviving day to day, that we get in "Kinoeye" would not have inspired people faced with the threat of Nazi insanity.

These things are hard to judge, but when socialist realism turned into socialist heroism and only showed the good and strong instead of showing everything, I think it took a big step away from the truth. I should like to think that Lenin would have loved "Kinoeye" and hated "Three Songs of Lenin". After all, he never flinched from looking upon and seeing the darker sides of reality.
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An Interesting & Creative Early Vertov Feature
Snow Leopard17 February 2005
This is an interesting and creative earlier effort by Dziga Vertov, and "Kino-Eye" often shows the same kind of imagination and experimentation that reached near-perfection in his later feature "Man With a Movie Camera". The distinctive style is quite recognizable, and the experimental sequences - many of them using camera tricks - are quite resourceful.

Although there isn't a story in the conventional sense, two common themes hold it together and give it substance beyond the individual sequences. In terms of content, the activities of the Young Pioneers form the connection between the numerous short sequences. The various experiments and special camera effects themselves form the other main thread, because they are much more than mere visual tricks. In every case, they represent Vertov's effort to take the obvious, literal images that are inherent in the material, and to project them to an extreme that is either perfectly logical or perfectly impossible, depending on one's point of view.

In most of Vertov's features, he is openly interested in promoting what he considered to be the virtues of the Soviet state. Yet the interesting thing about his best features, of which this is one, is that they also have a timeless quality, because - whether he realized it consciously or not - his way of looking at things sometimes goes well beneath the surface, and when it does, it can bring out themes that underlie humanity in general, without respect to political systems.

"Kino-Eye" is certainly not as polished as "Man With a Movie Camera" - in particular, it could have benefited from tighter editing and selection of material - but it is definitely worthwhile in itself. Not only can you see Vertov's technique in a stage of advanced development, but the movie also has some material and sequences that are quite interesting in themselves.
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Just enjoy the pictures (and the kids' faces)
cmischke28 September 2006
I watched this movie after being completely blown away by Vertov's "Man with a Movie Camera". No, it is not the same (not nearly as abstract), and, yes, it certainly qualifies as 1920's agit-prop. But there are many, many beautiful little moments and wonderful little scenes with children, showing innocent yet enthusiastic faces, energy and passion.

Looking past the inter-titles and the propaganda aspects, this remains thoroughly enjoyable and still an amazing piece of work given the 1924 date of the movie. It's real Vertov (his style is apparent from almost every frame), and if you like his other pieces, this will certainly be worth watching. The editing also worth noting.

The bouncy semi-pastiche soundtrack on the version I watched did not help much --- I turned it virtually all the way down.

Just amazing, here I'm sitting in South Africa, in 2006, having watched a movie from 1924 --- perhaps the greatest thing about the DVD standard!
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visually alive and sometimes complex, though not for the tiresome
Quinoa198410 July 2006
I watched this film as part of a documentary film class, and it was at least visually one of the best I had seen. It's got a real quality to it that tries to separate itself, unintentionally of course, from the more simple propaganda films. Of course, many of the images here are displayed to show the working life of the people, some of the levity, the everyday occurrences, and mostly enveloped in scenes revolving around children. Much of this is meant, for the period, to rally support for the causes of the time, as Dziga Vertov, at least from his writings, comes off as wanting immediate change through the power of the cinema.

Over time, as it is silent and- due to the staging of some of the scenes (the opening vodka blintz is amazing, if maybe not seeming all the way on-the-spot real)- doesn't inspire the greatest amount of attention to detail though. Despite some of the lesser qualities of the film, the pure cinematic abandon and confidence in this new emerging way of telling stories in a subjective lens detailing real life endures to this day. Seeing some of these scenes with the pioneers, their practices, is pretty amusing. And a little trick involving the bull going backwards on the beltway is also close to being funny (and riffing on tricks already at use in comedies. But more than anything innovations like these strike a chord within their apparent themes. Messages do abound in the film, but it's not entirely the focus here. What it really is is just a fearless (for its time), fascinating use of the silent portable camera, where shots could be possible that weren't before giving more chances to capture a truth in life not found in studios. Even as it's years after the Russian revolution and the country's cinematic aspirations change drastically, something quirky and sincerely made like this is worth a look. If nothing else as film history, like one of the first examples of what today is reality TV, or rather what's really lacking in it.
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Kino Eye (1924) d. Vertov
dkwootton10 September 2015
Dziga Vertov (1896-1954) was a film theorist who regarded his camera both as a weapon for the Socialists against the bourgeois world and as a tool to help the fallible human eye digest the "visual chaos of life." Some of his speculations included that the cameraman must: remain an unnoticed observer, understand dialectical connections between discordant moments and keep up with the tempo of everyday life using a kinetic hand-held camera. Whereas cinema at the time had been more akin to literature and theater, Vertov created a cinema comparable to poetry and music. The influence of Vertov's film theories is immediate from the start as the camera work and rapid paced editing reflect the vitality of dancing and the "rhythm" of life that the director sought to achieve. While the dancers are very much aware of the camera's presence, Vertov still successfully crafts an illusion of authenticity. Vertov does not always abide by his hand-held camera rule but when the camera is static he often chooses a dynamic angle to record the action. The film is also admirable for its playfulness, as flags and stars leap atop buildings, images layer and as we witness early stages of stop motion animation. Sequences of machinery, metal gears turning, sideways soldiers marching and the "ordinary man" performing manual labor are strangely hypnotic under the "Film-Eye's" vision. In its closing sequence, Kino Eye manages to establish a clear sense of community and collective effort as the marching band and soldiers' parade through the streets. What I am most interested in seeing as a film viewer is a film where the director is conscious of the medium being used. Seeing Vertov today is still exciting and refreshing especially considering the deluded modern day mainstream cinema that places emphasis on the narrative of the film rather than the unique properties that make cinema, cinema.
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Over-rated, but better than most propaganda pieces
fred3f30 January 2005
Back in the day, Communists had a lot of trouble with their own people. They did alright in the cities, but in the country, where they wanted to have collectives, they met great opposition. So we have this piece of propaganda to convince the people that collectivism is the best way. The Communists eventually crushed this opposition by murdering thousands, but that, is omitted from this film.

This film is better than the average propaganda film. It makes use of some of the innovative techniques that were developed in American comedies to add interest to the film. Obviously shot on a low budget, it does not have the same production values that were current with American comedies of the same era. Many have praised the film for its "innovation", however, a brief survey of the American comedy films shows that this is not true.

In this age of political correctness, it is fashionable to say that no matter how good a film may be artistically, if it is ethically flawed, then it should be shunned. This film added to and promoted an effort that murdered Millions, and set up a system of communes that didn't work even brought starvation to many. So if you decry films like "The Birth of a Nation" with its heroes, the Klu-Klux-Klan, or "The Triumph of the Will" that showed a Nazi rally as glorious and beautiful, then this is one you should also decry.

It should be noted that the Lenin and Stalin were responsible for murdering millions of their own people. They are at the top of the brutal dictators of all time - no one, not even Hiter comes close. We are talking over 60 Million lives and that is only what can be verified. Vertov is their promoter. I feel he should be held to the same standard as the people who promoted and propagandized for Hitler.

The brutal reality behind this happy little film belies its innocence. It was a tool to promote a vicious, murderous regime, and that is historical fact.
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A film espousing the new religion of the new USSR.
MartinHafer11 October 2010
This is a propaganda film...period. Its sole purpose is to sing the praises of the new USSR and idealize the new nation--this is obvious throughout. Because of this, as a film, it leaves a lot to be desired. It is clearly a government-sponsored documentary to say how wonderful the country now is through the help of the people--particularly, though not exclusively, because of the Young Pioneers. If you aren't familiar with this governmental organization, it was the prototype for the later Hitler Youth--an ultra-nationalist Boy Scout-like group that solidified the 'proper' ideals in a very repressed society. So, instead of being anti-semitic (like the Hitler Youth), the ideals in this film are hard-work and love of country--not bad ideals if the country doesn't abuse this youthful exuberance. Some abuse is evident by the anti-religious comments sprinkled into the film (as the new USSR was strictly an atheist state)--such as the woman saying that the Young Pioneers were a good replacement for the church in young people's lives and the mental patient who says he is Jesus). Unfortunately, just a few years later, Stalin changed the relatively benign Pioneers in the years following this film--when children were encouraged to spy on their own families.

However, and this is important, the film can't be completely dismissed because of its strong bias. First, for a 1920s documentary, it's pretty well made and took a lot of work. Second, despite the government strictly controlling this film, it does give an idealized view of the early years of the Soviet Union--minus, of course, such things as food shortages, purges and the like. So for film historians, it is an interesting film. But don't at all confuse this with real life--it's all carefully orchestrated. However, I WAS confused by the odd plot throughout the film--what did the mental patients and other odd portions of the final portion of the film have to do with the beginning?! I think (and I am guessing here) that perhaps these people might have been a way to describe the pre-Soviet days--sick and disturbed. However, it sure was vague and there was a lot of material in the film that just seemed to be random (such as the portions on radios). Weird.

By the way, there are a few odd things about the film. While audiences of the time must have thought the backwards portions of the film were cool, today it does appear terribly dated. Also, by today's standards, showing repeated closeups of the dead guy seemed really, really creepy. Also, while most might not think of this, most of the kids in this film were probably killed in the Great Patriotic War (WWII) and this makes it all pretty sad, as these kids would have been on the front lines during the country's invasion.
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