Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The man with the movie camera goes to Rome

I had never heard of MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, a 1929 Russian silent movie by Dziga Vertov - but there it was at number 8 in the recent "Sight & Sound" list of the greatest films ever made (the list they do every 10 years, see Magazines label). Then luckily it was screened on television here over the weekend by the enterprising Sky Arts channel.

"Sight & Sound" say: Is Dziga Vertov’s cine-city symphony a film whose time has finally come? Ranked only no. 27 in our last critics’ poll, it now displaces Eisenstein’s erstwhile perennial Battleship Potemkin as the Constructivist Soviet silent of choice. Like Eisenstein’s warhorse, it’s an agit-experiment that sees montage as the means to a revolutionary consciousness; but rather than proceeding through fable and illusion, it’s explicitly engaged both with recording the modern urban everyday (which makes it the top documentary in our poll) and with its representation back to its participant-subjects (thus the top meta-movie.

Phew. It certainly shows how inventive silent cinema was, it is an astounding portrait of a city (it could be any city really, until one sees the picture of Lenin) over the course of a day, the trams, the people at work and at play - was life that different 83 years ago?, not really it seems - the astonishing editing and that pounding score ... which, as per end titles, was composed in 1996 by Michael Nyman! - I thought it perfectly of its period and so Russian. I had never heard of this film before the Sight & Sound poll - so thanks for that. It is absolutely fascinating to watch now - the rapid editing, the mix of music and image, factory production lines, all getting quicker and quicker until the fantastic climax. This is one to return to. It must have been stunning at the time (well, it still is now - viewers would have seen nothing like it, as that editing was so much quicker than usual).

Another man with a movie camera: Woody goes to Rome. We all loved MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, but it looks like a drubbing all round for his next one: TO ROME WITH LOVE - as per most of the reviews. While one has to applaud the director in his late 70s still making a film a year,  but it may be to diminishing results. One reviewer says: "TO ROME WITH LOVE isn't one of Woody Allen's worst films, it is four of them" (it being in 4 segments). It seems here that his vision of the Eternal City is about as authentic as ham and pineapple pizza. I loved his last London one YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (mainly for the cast: Gemma Jones, Pauline Collins etc) and of course his last foray to Paris (his first being WHATS NEW PUSSYCAT all those years ago..) but I will wait for the dvd on this one. If though he is doing a valentine to Rome why not find a role for some of those Italian greats like Loren or Cardinale? - and why import a Spanish actress (even if she is Penelope Cruz) to play Italian? - and yes Roberto Benigni - one of those comedians in the Jerry Lewis/Danny Kaye mould (ie you either love or hate him). The best thing about the Barcelona film was the music, so presumably we will like the soundtrack here too. 
I keep meaning to re-visit the Woody of MANHATTAN, INTERIORS, STARDUST MEMORIES or those middle-period dramas like ANOTHER WOMAN or SEPTEMBER. BROADWAY DANNY ROSE is in the schedules again next week - that's a start!  

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