Monday 5.17

Sugar City presents a free screening of Dziga Vertov’s legendary 1929 Soviet film “Man With A Movie Camera”, widely regarded as one of the most revolutionary and inventive films ever made, in a rarely-screened version featuring an original soundtrack by electronica/jazz artists The Cinematic Orchestra.

Vertov’s film features some of the most inventive camera and editing work ever seen on a movie screen, taking viewers on a surreal odyssey through a day in the life of a modern Soviet city. Its technical and stylistic innovations were nothing short of revolutionary when it was released, and it still has a deep influence more than 80 years later, as fans of everything from the metafictional films of Charlie Kaufman to epic documentaries like “Koyaanisqatsi” will see.

For audiences weaned on long, plodding silent epics, “Man With A Movie Camera” was unlike anything ever seen before. “In 1929, the year it was released,” writes Roger Ebert, “films had an average shot length (ASL) of 11.2 seconds. Man With A Movie Camera had an ASL of 2.3 seconds. The ASL of Michael Bay’s Armageddon was 2.3 seconds.” Vertov famously attached his cameras to trains, streetcars, and motorcycles, swung on ropes over waterfalls and basically went anywhere and everywhere in a modern city where a motion picture camera could fit.

Combined with these visual innovations was Vertov’s pioneering use of postmodern montage techniques. At various points we see the titular cameraman filming the scenes that we’re watching, an editor splicing together the raw footage of the film, and an audience watching the movie itself. Raw footage comes to “life”, and vice versa. The boundaries between reality and cinema become fluid as the audience travels back and forth through the screen, experiencing every level of the filmmaking process at once. In many ways, “Man With A Movie” Camera is a film about a film about a film.

Even by today’s standards Vertov’s film holds up as a spectacular experiment in pushing cinema’s boundaries to their limits, inventing an entirely new style of modern cinema, one that still dominates our films and television today. In many ways, when it comes to film as we know it, “Man With A Movie Camera” film started it all.

As always, come early for free popcorn and refreshments!