OTB#48: Man with a Movie Camera

Man With A Movie Camera. Dziga Vertov. 1929. ⚅

I think… when English translators are translating from certain languages… they always end up with “scenario” being “SCENARIO” instead of “script”, which is what it means… At least that’s my impression after reading a book about movies translated from French to English the other month. And this just reinforces that impression.


This is an experimental silent movie from 1929 (when the silent era is almost over), and as usual with silent movies of this era, I loathe the music. The music does underscore the action (as it is), but it’s just not very good.

There aren’t a lot of experimental movies in this “best of” list. I think it Un chien andalou? And this? Which intrigues me, because this was voted the 8th best film ever by the critics.

And it is, of course, a subject beloved of people in movies: It’s about film, really. But it’s also about everything else… I mean, everything. It’s not a narrative movie exactly, but we get to see scenes from everybody’s lives, and things sorta interconnect. Slightly.

The thing that surprised me was that they hadn’t slowed the movie down. Everything happens 10% faster than natural, which I imagined was an artefact of how they used to transfer old movies. But they’d certainly fixed that for the 2K version of Potemkin I watched the other month. Here everybody’s moving around way too fast. I find it hard to believe that it was originally shown at this speed. But perhaps it was? It’s all about the bustle of modern life.

OK, I had to get rid of the music on the bluray, and I’m now listening to Boris in concert instead. That makes a whole lot more sense for this movie.

Right; I get it now. It’s just an exuberant, meta, nerdy movie enthusiast thing: Every shot is either funny or charming. Or both. There’s trick photography; there’s backwards photography; there’s moving-the-camera-around-a-lot photography (I’m sure there’s a term for that), there’s slo-mo athlete photography (“thirsty”, I think the technical term is)…

It’s just inexplicably fun. At least it is when you get rid of the annoying violins.

Ooops! There’s a teensy teensy hint at they end that the music’s by Michael Nyman! Well, OK. I’m not a fan of his, but I had no idea that he’d made something this bad ever.

This blog post is part of the Officially The Best series.

Leave a Reply