A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.
To the modern eye, of course the film is also a fascinating document of 1920s Russia: or at least Russia as she wished herself to be portrayed. History books are full of plots and counter-plots, coups and massacres and ideals, but they tell us nothing of motor-buses trundling down streets, of the sun slanting through blinds, of everyday detail that was worth no-one's while to censor or to preserve. (Ironically, the decidedly graphic sequence of a woman giving birth would probably be censored for modern sensibilities!) Like any silent film, this one relies on 'found titles' -- the text on a shop window, the caption on a form -- and I suspect that a basic knowledge of Russian/Cyrillic probably helps to render the picture both more interesting and easier to follow. It helps if one can at least manage the Russian for 'bus' or 'beer': knowledge which the original audience naturally took for granted.
At its best, the film reminded me of the city sequences in "Sunrise", as a dazzling symphony of images, beauty in the ordinary and a kaleidoscope of everyday perception. There is no conscious plot-line, just the gradually perceived shift of time in the quality of the sunlight and the rituals of the day. The intermittent presence of the camera, whether made manifest in trick shots as an animated creature, brought to our attention in split shots or sudden freeze-frames, or interspersed in 'candid' sequences showing the filming going on, keeps the deliberately artificial nature of the whole enterprise to the forefront: this is Art, not a documentary. But oddly enough, those glimpses of the cameraman at work -- very ordinary, perceived and accepted by the people around him -- also seem to humanise what could have been a sterile experiment and give us the sense that we are indeed seeing what he is seeing; perceiving the world through his camera's eye.
- Igenlode Wordsmith
- Mar 3, 2007