Join 3,372 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Interpreting Vertov
July 18, 2007 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Interpreting Vertov - an open invitation to reimagine the early Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov's 1929 'Man with a Movie Camera".
posted by Burhanistan (30 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Let's see how many entrants "catch life unawares" compared with how many submit video of themselves editing. Some of Vertov's techniques have more caché to an online sample of filmmakers than others.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:13 PM on July 18, 2007


What a cool idea. I will have to take a crack at it. Gracias, Burhanistan!
posted by SaintCynr at 1:30 PM on July 18, 2007


Oh my sweet lord this is a cool idea. The original is so damn rad, I'd love to see what happens.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:33 PM on July 18, 2007


I hope that when the final video is presented they set it to the score written by Michael Nyman that you can hear on the Kino Video release. It's so damn good it'll make any assortment of images seem inventive, exciting, and meaningful.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 2:37 PM on July 18, 2007


This is a very cool idea. I'm really hoping the execution lives up to the premise's promise. I might even have to take a crack at shooting some material..
posted by Alterscape at 4:31 PM on July 18, 2007


and do so using one of these virtual soundtracks:

Steve Jansen / Claudio Cianura - Kinoapparatom

Biosphere - Substrata (disc2)

both stunning works of art.


(and yes; hence the name)
posted by Substrata at 4:40 PM on July 18, 2007


The Cinematic Orchestra's version is among my favourite albums ever.
posted by biochemicle at 6:42 PM on July 18, 2007


Oh, if one actually *turns on one's speakers* one can hear the soundtrack I was referring to. Duh
posted by biochemicle at 6:50 PM on July 18, 2007



Genius.
posted by bukharin at 9:21 PM on July 18, 2007


I was speechless the first time I saw it. Years later, I still list it in my top three. Thanks for the post. I'll have to give it a try.
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 10:41 PM on July 18, 2007


I like the Cinematic Orchestra soundtrack, but the times I've tried watching the film with the soundtrack played over it, it just seemed like a music video. I feel like adding all that contemporary music takes something away from the original intent of the film.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:37 AM on July 19, 2007


...the times I've tried watching the film with the soundtrack played over it, it just seemed like a music video. I feel like adding all that contemporary music takes something away from the original intent of the film.

Y'know, I agree with you in a lot of ways. The first time I watched the film (the Kino video edition I mentioned earlier), I spent the first twenty minutes trying to figure out what amazing visionary was writing music like that in the 20s. I'm a little slow sometimes...

Still, I've always been fascinated by how the right music can impart a narrative to a series of images. Do you think that "without the aid of theater” includes music? Surely the film would have been accompanied by an orchestra when it was presented. I would think so though I can't say for sure. I don't know what Vertov thought of musical scores. If he didn't approve of them, well, then he and I would disagree.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 10:44 AM on July 19, 2007


Vertov would likely find reliance on music to bolster narrative bourgeois. Depending on when you asked him.

I find no interest in the audio track, myself. It seems like a way to make this a more accessible piece. Man Ray's work, Eisenstein's, Esfir Shub's, and even some of Joseph Cornell's would certainly benefit in reaching a wider audience from being reinterpreted by a composer, but it's so irrelevant to their actual art. Vertov isn't really meant to be entertainment in that way, in my opinion. It's meant to be informative, and if not that, informative of his artistic moment.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:38 AM on July 19, 2007


It seems like a way to make this a more accessible piece.

Yeah, that's sort of what I was getting at. If you're really in the groove and just chilling out on the soundtrack, yeah, it's kind of ill to see some dudes riding in an open-top truck or whatever, it's like they're rollin on 22's on BET. Not the point of the film.
posted by rxrfrx at 3:02 PM on July 19, 2007


Vertov would likely find reliance on music to bolster narrative bourgeois. Depending on when you asked him.

I never meant to suggest that the score was the best thing about the film or that it relied on the music though I see now that my comments probably seem to imply that. I certainly don't think of the film as just a glorified music video.

I'm interested though in the view that the music is just a distraction or simply tacked on to make it more palatable. Is that the only reason to add a score to the film? Is the interplay of sound and image not worth considering? Or is it just because Vertov didn't have a hand in the music selection? Would it be different if he did? How different is it in a case like Koyaanisqatsi, where the director explicitly sought out Phillip Glass? Just thinking out loud...

Of course, my initial viewing of Berlin: Symphony of a City didn't make nearly as much of an impression on me the first time I saw Man with a Movie Camera and I think a fairly big part of it was the music. Maybe I just have pedestrian tastes.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 8:55 PM on July 19, 2007


Hailed as one of the most daring experiments in Soviet filmmaking, Man With a Movie Camera is one of the icons of silent cinema. Several attempts have been made at giving the dazzling masterwork the most appropriate sound accompaniment, yet few scholars knew that Dziga Vertov had written a set of music instructions, never performed after the 1929 premiere of the film; the original manuscript has now been found in the Moscow archives, and the Pordenone Silent Film Festival commissioned the highly acclaimed Alloy Orchestra to recreate its fascinating atmospheres for the first time in more than 65 years. A sparkling mixture of avant-garde, concrete, and popular music of the Twenties, Vertov's music combines innovation and tradition in a striking synthesis of noises and melodies that provide a fresh, exciting insight to this visual symphony at the edge between nonfiction and abstract cinema.
posted by Wolof at 10:39 PM on July 19, 2007


Oh nice, I guess I need to check out the Alloy Orchestra version.
posted by rxrfrx at 3:58 AM on July 20, 2007


Nice find Wolof. Metafilter comes through again!
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 5:31 AM on July 20, 2007


GalaxieFiveHundred: Of course, scoring is always a considered element in the study of a piece. I speak from a particular perspective in film study when I talk about music having little to do with Vertov's main artistic thrust, because I am by far more interested in his relationship to the means of production and his use of the nascent language of montage to produce his vision of political truth. He, Eisenstein and Shub are all three the parents of montage, in my opinion, representing three different schools of image use and directorial control. Of course, among those contemporaries, Vertov was something of a puzzle to pin down and typify, being that he changed his artistic and political ideologies a few times. I was aware of the Alloy Orchestra's performance, and I screened it for a class, in fact. It's the best option.I should have given credit where due. But I think we are now an audience that can accept a silent screening, and that Vertov's use of a score was a vestige of his background in Soviet Newsreel. That he composed it himself is wonderful, too; the highly modernist and abstract feel of his score is informative of his aims. Still, the film stands on its own, whatever music you play with it.

I could probably explain this even better with my references available, but I'm at work.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:20 AM on July 20, 2007


Still, the film stands on its own, whatever music you play with it.

That's because it is designed to be accompanied by music. As were all of Man Ray's pieces and all of Eisenstein's.

You may need to do a little more reading.
posted by Wolof at 7:36 PM on July 20, 2007


I speak from a particular perspective in film study when I talk about music having little to do with Vertov's main artistic thrust, because I am by far more interested in his relationship to the means of production and his use of the nascent language of montage to produce his vision of political truth.

That sounds interesting. I'll have to hit the library. Or maybe I won't. If you can't guess, I'm a casual fan of the film. I suppose I was a little taken aback by what I took to be your dismissive attitude towards the score.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 2:32 PM on July 22, 2007


Wolof: The parameters drawn by those filmmakers for their works is as much too broad in necessarily including a score as a feature film's is when it runs twenty minutes too long.

I may not have expressed my views about Vertov with enough transparency or context, but your assertion that I may need to "do more reading" based on my dismissal of the traditional score accompanying films of that era is presumptuous and arrogant, unless you merely meant to encourage my continued scholarship in media theory. I have arrived at this admittedly dismissive and extreme opinion of the scores of certain early avant garde films, collectively ones notable for their outstanding breaking of ground in writing the lexicon of montage, via a specific and thorough approach to film study centered on questions of technology's effect on that lexicon, so, please, stfu.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:41 PM on July 22, 2007


When did the first musical score accompany the first public film screening?

The date, please.
posted by Wolof at 2:27 AM on July 23, 2007


November 17, 1908. Though music was composed for films before then, this is accepted as the earliest verifiable date.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:24 AM on July 23, 2007


December 28th, 1895, at the Salon des Indiens would be the date you are looking for. Want a reference? If you didn't comport yourself like such a know-it-all asshole I might give you one.

Now, there are any number of decently materialist conclusions that can be drawn from the fact referenced above, but I will leave you to your lofty disdain and your stfu.
posted by Wolof at 3:00 AM on July 24, 2007


That's absurd. As I said, musical accompaniment was typical for films as early as the Lumiere exhibition you cite, (the birth of cinema as commercial enterprise, a date even I don't forget, and I am pretty rotten at dates) but one can hardly call the casual accompaniment of ten or eleven 46 second novelty attractions, soon forgotten, a score.

Between that first ticketed film screening and 1908, musical accompaniment was live, unregulated, often improvised or out of a playbook of film types, and totally in the hands of the theater house, leaving records inconsistent. It's more than likely that the Lumieres themselves played all manner of different pieces accompanying their shorts over the years. Before the usage of the word "score" was made common in reference to movie music altogether, it specifically meant written records of music. If there is no record, there can be no verification of a score.

The 1908 date is the premiere of L'Assassinat du duc de Guise, one of the first "epics," clocking in at 14 minutes if memory serves, with original music by Charles Camille de Saint-Saëns, the French composer famous for The Carnival of the Animals. This is what film academy, as I have encountered it, recognizes as the first score.

But, it seems pretty clear that reasoned approaches to film history aren't really your interest here. If you want to shut me down for fun, and call me an asshole, you can be my guest. I usually resist that kind of baiting, but in this case I speak from a place of confidence in my knowledge of film history and media theory, and the somewhat unsatisfying feeling that my views are bolstered by the academic establishment. Plus, what can I say? I'm a teacher. I like to explain myself. So, give it a rest. My opinion on Vertov's score as inconsequental stands.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:37 AM on July 24, 2007


If there is no record, there can be no verification of a score.

But there is a written record of the accompaniment to the Lumière show, which you are clearly unaware of. And thus a score.

Yadda yadda, place of authority, academic establishment, bullshit bullshit. I have an MA and a PhD in this subject. Do you really think I am unaware of the Film d'art movement?
posted by Wolof at 12:32 AM on July 25, 2007


You haven't led me to believe you have any foreknowledge of cinematic history whatsoever because your comments have been 100% predictable and obtuse. You know, the Lumieres? Please. So, go on with your bad film d'art expertise, it's not really the subject at hand. I would assume PhD's with relevant knowledge would be less combative over data points, not so dismissive of academia and not so flamboyant about citing the field of their Master's. I think you might be completely bluffing. Completely.

So dust off those illustrious degrees if you like and school me: Where is the Lumiere score, and moreover, why should I believe Vertov's score is of any consequence?

One more thing: I'm ready to retire from this terrible derail. You can have the last word.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:20 AM on July 25, 2007


You assume a great deal. This thread has amply illustrated that point.

Bluffing, am I? Email me for a copy of my PhD. You'll need to read French, though. Which I know you do not.

Your research is at the very least six years out of date. Your conception of the cinematic object is flawed and reductive. You've backfilled putative gaps in the historical record with ideologically-driven speculation. Your writing is only marginally coherent, although I will choose to interpret that as a response to anger at getting knocked off your stupid self-appointed perch. You've beaten your breast and huffed and puffed at every factual refutation provided here.

I feel a bit embarrassed for you, frankly.
posted by Wolof at 2:49 AM on July 25, 2007


Wow, this is the dumbest thing I've seen on MeFi in a long time.
posted by rxrfrx at 3:20 PM on July 25, 2007


« Older The son of industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger (...  |  Just when you thought virtual ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments