The Man With the Movie Camera | Chicago Reader

The Man With the Movie Camera

Dziga Vertov's 1929 Russian film amounts to a catalog of all the tricks the movies can perform. As a newsreel cameraman travels through a city (actually an amalgam of Moscow and Odessa), Vertov transforms the images captured by his camera through a kaleidoscope of slow motion, superimposition, animation, and wild montage effects. Vertov's motives were impeccably Marxist-Leninist—he wanted to expose the materialism behind an illusionist medium—but his film set off a storm of debate among his colleagues, who accused him of the bourgeois crime of "impressionism." The film's real influence didn't emerge for another 40 years, when it was taken up by American structuralist filmmakers on one side of the Atlantic and by French neoleftists on the other. The film remains a fascinating souvenir, though its flourishes are now fairly familiar.

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