Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

I really enjoyed The Man with the Movie Camera for its lack of almost everything conventional. It almost read like an early “guidebook to movie editing techniques”. There was such a large number of experimentation’s, split screen, speed up film, awkward angles, complicated shots, long shots, etc, that at first it almost seemed like he was just seeing how many things he could fit into one film. I think that while the ‘story’ was of the city and its people, unity through Marxism and the beauty of everyday life and people the editing and all its changes was reflective of the diversity of life and the city. I really liked his close up on people who were not actors, acting natural, especially the woman making cigarette boxes. The cuts to her face were sometimes fractions of a second but every time she was doing something different. I also like the scene in the movie theater and the viewer’s reactions to parts of the same film essentially. It was like watching ourselves see the film. We could relate to the viewers because we were one too and appreciate their joy in the interesting editing techniques they were seeing. The entire film was true to our voyeuristic nature, with the eye in lens, him letting us see the camera man shooting, satisfying our curiosity about how shots were being made and scenes like the theater. It seemed the entire film was basically the people watching the people as art homage.

I have been totally in love with Battleship Potemkin for a long while now and the stairs scene is one of my favorite scenes ever. I make even “too impatient for old films” people watch that scene if I can. It was really interesting to see it portrayed in different films, especially the De Palma scene. There was definitely a different mood to the scenes, Potemkin was brutal and shocking, fast cuts and close-ups of the same few people making dramatic expressions of fear, shock or agony. In the Untouchables there was some effective slow motion and use of cutting to each character and where they were looking or going. De Palma also used time very effectively making the cuts quick to heighten suspense and dram. I made my roommate watch the scene from Untouchables and Potemkin as well and he pointed out the sailors in Untouchables maybe being related to the uniformed men in Potemkin. The one who dove to stop the pram the bit of humanity you waited to see in the faces or actions of the gunmen in Odessa. The sailor got shot trying to stop the pram in Untouchables but ultimately it was a happy ending for the baby, unlike what can be assumed about the Odessa baby, a symbol of why the revolution had to happen I think. There were many great shots in both scenes. One major difference in the scenes was in Potemkin you hardly saw the faces of the shooters where in Untouchables it was important for us to see them I think. Not seeing them in Potemkin showed what horrible faceless, heartless men they must have been. My favorite shot that emphasizes that is when the woman with the child walks towards the soldiers and their shadows grow and loom over her like death- a really awesome and effective shot. There was some use of shadows in the Untouchables but not so dramatic. When Costner’s partner heard the shots in the dark hallway it became an unseen suspenseful moment, will he make it in time to help? Of course when he did arrive they truly became untouchable. De Palma replaced the innocent people in Potemkin with men with guns who could fight the undiscriminating evil.

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