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Fruit and flowers

Author: joe

Wednesday, 03 August, 2011 - 23:37

Perry Bard is the artist behind Man with a Movie Camera: The Global Remake, a participatory reproduction of Vertov's 1929 original. We are invited to upload video clips of our own which match or interpret, shot for shot, the sequence of the original. The remake allows us to therefore see one, two, three - and more, an infinite number of films called Man with a Movie Camera, the first, the original, placed next to the second, the shot-by-shot crowd-sourced substitute, creates a third film composed of the two engaged in a concurrent dialogue, side by side. The act of montage is no longer only a diachronic suture, stitching two fragments into a meaningful utterance, but also a synchronic relation of each fragment to its reinterpreted counterpart. But a further fragment is always implied: the one you wonder might be waiting on your phone or hard drive, the one you might go out and make now. This putative fragment is just the first of an endless number of presumptive shots you now know are hovering at the edges of possibility, stretching the polygenetic, tesselated sequences out through both dimensions of now and next. If meaning is created through articulation, that is, the joining of pieces, tokens, words, or images moving and still - the basic fact of montage - then the possible expressions of meaning generated by the intertextual adjacency of source, reproduction, reinterpretation and imaginary addition are endless. The myriad thinkable paths all occur somewhere, dispersed in the matrix. The most familiar occurrences are merely those that float in the shallows.

In On the Internet, nobody knows you're a constructivist: Perry Bard's The Man With the Movie Camera: The Global Remake, Seth Feldman examines the interplay between Vertov's original and the participatory remake, and notes that the first significant aspect is the generative promise which Vertov makes for his film, which promise Bard's project fulfills. Seth writes that his thesis is that "Vertov's writing and The Man With the Movie Camera in particular are less historical texts than they are generative forces or perhaps, more accurately, generative grammars for the pure language of cinema that Vertov envisioned." What is the generative grammar that Vertov envisioned? Vertov writes of it in his notebooks, published in 1984.

When The Man with a Movie Camera was made, we looked upon the project this way: in our Michurin garden we raise different kinds of fruit, different kinds of film; why don't we make a film on film-language, the first film without words, which does not require translation into other languages, an international film? And why, on the other hand, don't we try, using that language, to speak of the behaviour of the "living person", the actions, in various situations, of a man with a movie camera? We felt that in so doing we would kill two birds with one stone: we would raise the film-alphabet to the level of an international film-language and also show a person, an ordinary person, not just in snatches, but keep him on the screen throughout the entire film [...]
 
An experiment's an experiment. There are all kinds of flowers. And each new breed of flower, each newly produced fruit is the result of a series of complex experiments.
 
We felt that we had an obligation not just to make films for wide consumption but, from time to time, films that beget films as well. Films of this sort do not pass without leaving a trace, for one's self, or for others. They are as essential as a pledge of future victories. [...]
 
If, in The Man with a Movie Camera it's not the goal but the means that stand out, that is obviously because one of the film's objectives was to acquaint people with those means and not to hide them, as was usually considered mandatory in other films. If one of the film's goals was to acquaint people with the grammar of cinematic means, then to hide that grammar would have been strange.
 
Dziga Vertov, 1984, Kino-eye: the writings of Dziga Vertov, UCP: Berkeley, pp153-155

The film does not hold up a mirror to the world, but it generates the world. It begets, leaves traces, and pledges future victories. Cinema reveals its grammar to us in order that we may learn it. Fruit and flowers. "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth" (Genesis, 1:11)

Categories: dziga-vertov, perry-bard, man-with-a-movie-camera, generative, film, grammar, montage, meaning, fruit, flowers,
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The eye of the mannequin

Author: joe

Tuesday, 02 August, 2011 - 22:41

Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera is, according to the first title frame's final parenthesised subtitle, an "excerpt from a camera operator's diary". It is a re-presentation of the records of the man with his camera, an excavation of an naively created archive - authentic and unspun. The film unfolds reflexively in its very name and subtitle, its title sequence, and its opening scenes which present a cinema theatre filling with spectators, gathering to watch the moving images on the screen.

An orchestra is frozen in time, the camera cutting between individual musicians poised and waiting, in tension with their instruments. Vertov stretches the sequence in time, pausing on the horns and the fingers resting on the valves, the double-bass straightening its player through the bow, the timpani, violin and trombone holding their humans taut as they anticipate the still conductor's movement at the prompt of the rolling of the film. The elongated duration in which the inert players remain motionless, braced for the introductory notes, outlasts the sense of natural time elapsing: life is fixed fast and rigid.

The projector's shutter is shown slowly to open and to begin beaming light, whereupon the conductor brings his orchestra to life: the once motionless musicians now burst and flail over their charges. Although when released the film was accompanied by live music in theatres, and subsequent audiences have enjoyed the film with a variety of audio interpretations as its soundtrack, the film artefact itself is silent, and has an extraordinary effect when viewed without sound. In silence, the orchestra works wildly, and the projector swallows its reel of film noiselessly, before finally the cinematic vision appears: a single numeral '1' is erected into view and we begin moving through a window of a house. The eerie silence augments the distances we travel: we are watching a film-maker watching a film-show. The camera watches the audience watching what the camera has seen.

Some minutes into the film within the film, we see the eyes of a mannequin, peering from a store-window, gazing out on the world. Eyes, windows, camera. The lifeless figures in the windows and the dressed busts, the posed dummies at the sewing-machine or astride a bicycle - even a stuffed dog articulated so as to seem expectant and watchful: all look out at the world, whose alienated form reflects on the inanimate almond shaped bumps painted to look like the organs of sight in a facsimile human face. The camera sees for them: their own images, their view of the streets, the paraphernalia of commerce which surrounds them, the sleeping bodies of the otherwise absent human race.

It is a puppet show in a world of matter with a transcendent intervening cinematic machinery providing an occasionalist vision and sense. An outside force runs through the world, causing actions and events, permitting sense to be made, prompting beings into life: mediating. The world's continued existence is brought about by machinery with a roving eye.

Categories: dziga-vertov, man-with-a-movie-camera, film, time, eye, window, mediation, cinema, puppet, mannequin, occasionalism,
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