Man With a Movie Camera, the silent Soviet documentary from director Dziga Vertov, has an incredible reputation. Not only did the prestigious British publication Sight and Sound proclaim it the greatest documentary ever made in a poll of filmmakers and critics, but in the last of their once-a-decade polls to select the out and out greatest films of all time, it appeared at number 8. I’ve seen it before and have it on DVD, but when Eureka announced it as the latest addition to their Masters of Cinema series on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD, packaged with four other films by Vertov, I felt it was time to revisit it.
The films included with the set alongside Man With a Movie Camera are Kino-Eye (1924), Kino-Pravda #21 (1925), Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbass (1931) and Three Songs About Lenin (1934). Below are my thoughts on the individual films.
Man With a Movie Camera
Director: Dziga Vertov Screenplay: Dziga Vertov Starring: Mikhail Kaufman Country: Soviet Union Running Time: 68 min Year: 1929
I actually watched the films in the set in chronological order, but thought I’d start my review by looking at the tentpole title. After busily producing at least 45 short and feature length documentaries from 1918 (according to the IMDB), Vertov’s final silent film, Man With a Movie Camera, took many of the techniques and ideas he’d been developing for over ten years and put them into a boldly experimental look at a ‘day-in-the-life’ of four cities in the Soviet Union. Also looking at the role of the camera at the time, the film is a showcase of cinematic techniques as well as a celebration of city life.
Well, I imagine some of you are thinking, ‘an experimental silent Soviet documentary from the 20’s? No thanks, I’ll stick with the latest Marvel release. I’ll maybe whack it on if I fancy a nap on the sofa’. I can appreciate this opinion. On paper, Man With a Movie Camera sounds incredibly dull. However, it’s one of the most thrilling films you’ll ever see. Vertov pulls out all the stops to bombard us with a multitude of camera and post-production tricks, from super-imposing a man setting up a camera on top of a seemingly huge second camera in the film’s opening shot, to the wildly fast-cutting crescendo of visuals that draws it all to a close. Most of the effects haven’t dated much either. Yes, the superimposition is obvious compared to modern standards, but it’s not that bad and effects such as some slow motion footage of sportsmen are as smooth as any modern techniques. There’s even some stop motion animation used to great effect.
For the foreseeable future it might seem like Andrew is a little drunk right at the beginning of the show; usually that happens at the end. But the truth is he has just woken up at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. So the graveyard shift is affecting speech patterns and logic, but it hasn’t kept us from the theater. In various capacity between the two of us, we were able to catch Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition, Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some and Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special. So yeah, this one is kind of a love fest all around. In the Watch List we have some great 80s trash, a Richard Gere marathon, some great kid-friendly fare, Kim Jong-un and Robert DeNiro tries not to shit the bed. All this and much much more in the Kurt and Andrew Sunday conversation.
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
Director: David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer Starring: Edith Bouvier Beale, Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale, Brooks Hyers, Jerry Torre Country: USA Running Time: 94 min Year: 1975 BBFC Certificate: 12
Well, I’m gleefully happy to be able to say this and I never thought I’d see the day (particularly now that physical media is struggling to stay relevant), but the world renowned home entertainment distributors The Criterion Collection are going to be releasing titles in the UK. The first wave is upon us this April and I have been offered the initial releases up for review. The eclectic titles to become available over the next couple of weeks are Grey Gardens (1975), Macbeth (1971), It Happened One Night (1934), Speedy (1928), Tootsie (1982) and Only Angels Have Wings (1939). Now I was very tempted to review every single one of them, but family and other review commitments forced me to take just one, so I went for the highly acclaimed Maysles brothers documentary Grey Gardens, as it’s a classic title I’ve never seen and I do love a good documentary, as regular readers will know.
Anyway, enough gushing over the exciting news and on to the film at hand.
Grey Gardens is a ‘fly on the wall’ look at the lives of mother and daughter Big and Little Edie Beale, two former members of high society and cousins of Jackie Onassis, who at the time of filming were living in relative poverty in the remains of their derelict mansion in East Hampton, New York. We observe their empty lives as they shuffle around, endlessly bickering and reminiscing about the days when they had wealth and their lives showed promise.
from 2,000 screenplays, Broken Down by Gender and Age
Lately, Hollywood has been taking so much shit for rampant sexism and racism. The prevailing theme: white men dominate movie roles.
But it’s all rhetoric and no data, which gets us nowhere in terms of having an informed discussion. How many movies are actually about men? What changes by genre, era, or box-office revenue? What circumstances generate more diversity?
To begin answering these questions, we Googled our way to 8,000 screenplays and matched each character’s lines to an actor. From there, we compiled the number of lines for male and female characters across roughly 2,000 films, arguably the largest undertaking of script analysis, ever.
Director: Ilya Naishuller Writer: Ilya Naishuller Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Ekaterina Kononenko, Ilya Naishuller Starring: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Tim Roth MPAA Rating: R Running time: 96 min.
My original posting of this review can be found at Film Pulse
A few years ago the internet was taken by storm with a music video from Russian punk band Biting Elbows for their song Bad Motherfucker, in which frontman Ilya Naishuller directed an entirely first-person action story reminiscent of a first-person shooter game. After a sequel of sorts was released for their song The Stampede, it seemed like only a matter of time before this technique was lengthened into a feature film, and now we’re blessed with the violent onslaught that is Hardcore Henry.
The film’s loose plot, if you want to call it that, revolves around we, the viewers, taking on the role of Henry, a man who wakes up in a lab having with no memory and who is being fitted with robotic limbs after some apparent horrific event. A woman in a lab coat tells Henry that she’s his wife, and suddenly there’s a group of mercenaries here to kill him. Naishuller’s action then begins and never lets up for the remaining 90 minutes.
After escaping the clutches of a strange, albino-looking telekinetic man, Henry meets Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), a man who says he can help him figure things out. Unfortunately, Jimmy is quickly shot in the head, only to be replaced a bit later by yet another Jimmy who helps him get a bit further before he’s also killed, and the cycle repeats until Henry finds the truth – sort of.
If you will forgive the over-used Clint Mansell score from Requiem for a Dream and focus on the incredibly, brutally precise centre-point perspective framing of the work of Stanley Kubrick, you will not be disappointed with this wordless, perfectly edited super-cut. This is well worth 2 minutes of your time.
Text is a powerful tool in the poster design arsenal. As I mentioned with last weeks poster, so is a single iconic token. Here we have Colin Firth’s tortoise-shell glasses, missing a lens, and text implying that the sequel to the sleeper spy movie of 2014, The Kingsmen will indeed feature Firth back in some role. The text serves the role to remind folks exactly what when down in the last film regarding the biggest British star in the cast.
If you want the flip side of care or creativity, look no further than the posters for Gus Van Sant’s still unreleased Sea of Trees, which is just a few bordered stills of the actors (concerned, bored?) faces overlayed on vaguely coloured or sepia toned backgrounds. Ouch, this is walmart sales-rack bad. If you must: Here, here and here. I would still very much like to see the film, which is set in Japan’s ‘forest of sadness,’ and got booed at Cannes a couple years ago (this is usually a good sign for me), but man, the marketing campaign is doing the film no favours.
Welcome, almost, to the weekend! Your last day at the office. What can you do to avoid as much work as possible and still make the time go faster? How about put this puzzle together. Each Friday RowThree will have a themed puzzle to coincide with the weekend’s cinematic releases.
Use your mouse to move the pieces (scroll wheel or arrow keys to rotate) and create the image you see below. Then discuss. Please note that the bottom third of the play space should be blank for placing loose pieces.
The rapturous arrival of the ROGUE ONE trailer gives us an opportunity to circle back on BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, and tie together all our thoughts on what audiences actually want from these stories, and why we respond to aspirational heroes. Listen in!