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Kino-Eye: The Revolutionary Cinema of Dziga Vertov

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Kino-Eye: The Revolutionary Cinema of Dziga Vertov

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
7:00 p.m. Stride, Soviet! (The Moscow Soviet in the Present, Past, and Future)
Dziga Vertov (U.S.S.R., 1926)

Live music/Judith Rosenberg on Piano


(Shagai, Sovet!). As head of Kultkino, Goskino’s documentary section, Vertov was commissioned to make an election-year campaign film on behalf of the sitting Mossovet (Moscow Municipal Soviet). Never one to follow orders, he failed to include any images of Mossovet officials at work, or any evidence of their achievements, and the film was thus denounced by the Presidium Committee of the Moscow Soviet and largely boycotted by movie theaters. Their loss is our gain, however, because we can see Vertov’s 1922 manifesto “WE” put into practice: “For his inability to control his movements,” Vertov wrote, “WE temporarily exclude man as a subject for film. Our path leads through a poetry of machines, from the bungling citizen to the perfect electric man.” Automobiles, engines, factory tools are literally brought to life—“the hearts of the machines are beating”—and operate in perfect synchronicity toward the advancement of the New Russia.

• Written by Vertov. Photographed by Ivan Beliakov. (65 mins, 20 fps, Silent with Russian intertitles and live English translation, B&W, 35mm, From the Austrian Film Museum)

Followed by:
In Spring
(Mikhail Kaufman, U.S.S.R., 1929)

(Vesnoi). Kaufman’s breathtakingly beautiful portrait of man and nature—shot in Ukraine during the springtime floods of 1929—was a metaphor for Russia’s rebirth after revolution. The film was made shortly after Kaufman photographed Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, a time when artistic differences and political pressures were widening the rift between the two brothers. Esfir Shub wrote that Kaufman had captured “exceptionally beautiful nature, urban and industrial surroundings, the Kolkhozs and Sovkhozs, snow and rain, frost and wind: Unsurpassed, however, is the way in which he filmed the people.” Filmmaker Joris Ivens was no less admiring, writing that Kaufman “combines the acid rigorousness of Vertov with the humanistic approach of Cavalcanti.”

• Photographed by Mikhail Kaufman. (67 mins, 20 fps, Silent with Dutch and Danish intertitles and live English translation, B&W, 35mm, Preserved by the Eye Film Institute Netherlands)

*Total running time: 132 mins