Man with a Movie Camera

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Last night, I had the absolute pleasure and privilege to screen the 1929 experimental Soviet silent documentary film, Man with a Movie Camera. I’d been aware of the film for some time but had never made it a point to view the picture. Directed by Dziga Vertov and edited by his wife Elizaveta Svilova, the film presents urban life in various metropolitan cities including Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow, and Odessa. The film was novel in concept in that it has no characters and no direct plot. Instead, it is a cinematic portrait of A Day in the Life of the Soviet citizen. And interestingly, many parallels can be drawn between the visuals of the movie and the musique concrete qualities of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”.

The film is universally acclaimed for its impressive use of a wide range of camera techniques invented and explored by Vertov, including double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop-motion animations and self-reflexive visuals. In 2012 film critics participating in The British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound poll voted it the eighth greatest film ever made and the best documentary of all time.

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The film is utterly captivating. There is a very natural energy to the picture which builds from the serene silence of dawn to the furious and industrious bustle of machinery and men. The film is partitioned into segments of thematic focus, from home life to business to sports and recreation, and with a brilliant fluidity of transition. It’s a fantastic snapshot of an entire world of culture in 1929, expertly framed by the titular man with a movie camera who appears throughout the film, equipment in hand. It is simultaneously engaging both emotionally and intellectually for the incredible vivacity and spirit of the imagery and the astonishing technological proficiency of the director’s presentation of cinéma vérité.

But the delightful surprise that really enhanced my experience was that the version I viewed was synced with a score written and performed by The Cinematic Orchestra, one of my favorite ensembles. I’d already owned a copy of their album, Man With a Movie Camera, but was completely blind to the fact that the album was constructed as an actual score, supporting and playfully interacting with all the exciting visuals of the film. This realization added a rich new dimension to the album and helped me see incredible beauty in its composition that I had not beheld in my previous listenings.

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To date, there have been twenty-three soundtracks composed for the film. But the most noteworthy are the ones by Cinematic Orchestra and the Alloy Orchestra of Cambridge. I’m also eager to sample additional scores composed by  Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere), minimalist composer Michael Nyman, and particularly Pierre Henry’s L’Homme À La Caméra.

Many of the scores have been synced with the film and uploaded in their entirety to YouTube and are widely available via BitTorrent with multiple audio channels to select the score of your choice. I highly recommend the Cinematic Orchestra version (below) for your next movie night!

Best Soundtrack to the Worst Movie of All Time!

ATTENTION fellow MSTies! The moment I learned that this existed, I tracked down the tiny record label and snatched up a copy for myself!

Here’s the cover art for the red and black swirl vinyl limited edition soundtrack to the worst film ever made – MANOS: The Hands of Fate!

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Produced from the original 35mm soundtrack negative, restored to all its craptastic glory by Steve Addabbo at Shelter Island Sound in New York City; this is the definitive audio edition of MANOS!

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Only $18 from a crazy tiny label called ShiptoShore PhonoCo in Brooklyn, the MANOS soundtrack LP is the ultimate cult keepsake for any vinyl collector who grew up with MST3K.  Order your copy here!

It’s so wonderful to see the great care taken to restore and re-release this bizarre 1966 cult film, written, directed by, and starring a fertilizer salesman from El Paso, Texas.

The film remained largely unknown for nearly 30 years until it was featured on what became one of the most beloved episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 in 1993. And after the original 16 mm work print was discovered in California in 2011, a Kickstarter project led to the production of a vastly superior Blu-Ray edition and this terrible soundtrack!

BUT WAIT — THERE’S MORE!

The HD restored Soundtrack of Fate is available in its entirety in multiple formats on Bandcamp for any price you like via a Creative Commons license! The site accepts donations to the restoration project, and in addition to the soundtrack offers special edition posters and t-shirts as well as the restored Blu-Ray release of this bafflingly awful film!

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Visit their official Bandcamp page and name your price for the score to this stinking cinematic suppository.

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“The Master will approve!”