Man With A Movie Blog

So here’s the deal: I watched Man With A Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929) and I hate what I’m about to say.

This movie made me think.

There, I said it.  I wouldn’t consider myself a person who seeks out mainstream film per se (Horrible Bosses made me laugh, I’m not ashamed) but the avant-garde  style has never been one to peak my interest very much, with a few exceptions.  Had I been flipping through the channels and chosen to watch this movie, I probably wouldn’t have considered it a documentary because it could be about absolutely anything. Or possibly nothing, depending how you view the world.

Is that the point?

Some scenes had a surreal feel, like the opening shot on top of the camera and the chairs folding themselves back and forth while many other shots were just observing people, many even waving to the camera.  The movie was made in editing.  Why a man climbing a tower is preceded trains parking may have some significant specific meaning to the editor, or maybe not.  They seem randomly assembled.  Many argue that it depicts everyday life.  I am not so sure.  It does SHOW a lot of people going about their everyday lives, but it is up to ME while I watch it to determine their relation.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the Kuleshov experiment and how the order of shots creates a different story or meaning.

I don’t know what Man With A Movie Camera means, but it made me think. I can’t buy into it just being a documentary that depicts every day life.  Not yet, at least.

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Harlen County INC.

Whew.  Tough stuff working in the mines, isn’t it?

This movie is incredible.  The first shot blew my mind (there was a guy and he pushed a switch that blew open a mine) There were times where I felt a bit claustrophobic sitting with these workers in the dark.  But it isn’t just about what they do, it’s what they strive for, and the film masterfully covers these people’s struggles in life so well.

It is a bit hard to follow, I won’t pretend otherwise.  But the strike and how violent it got is such a captivating subject.  The voice of God narration is fairly common among documentaries, but not when the voice is a women’s.  But all that being said, which is me loving it as a movie, there is a clear bias.  The film crew is on the side of the miners (fair enough, I can’t blame them) and it makes me think about political documentaries, which I am not a fan of.  The agenda is noticeable.

However, it is driven by the shots they were able to capture, the stories and interviews told by these very relatable characters and that oh so damn catchy music added to it.  How could you not hum along?!

Hoop Aspirations

Sweet mother of all that is good, that movie was so long.

I understand that there are a lot of people to talk to for interviews, and I absolutely was confused for a while trying to keep track of who is who and how everyone is related, but if me or anyone else doesn’t get it in THREE HOURS… Ok, back up.

The movie Hoop Dreams is definitely moving, and a very important film to documentary as a genre and film as a whole for its commentary on American life.  America was built on ideas discussed in our founding documents including “a pursuit of happiness” and the American dream.  Movies made in the past thirty or so years that comment on the American dream are usually… commenting on the lack of it or the failure of it.  Granted, these are the obstacles the two young athletes in the film (and all over the country in the same situations) have to overcome, and without that there is no movie.

I liked the interviews in the movie.  I just thought it was so long.  The fact that the filmmakers had to follow these people around for 4 to 5 years is astounding.  I thought the same thing when watching American Movie,  it made me think about the commitment it takes to make some documentaries.  Without breaching ethics, you are pretty much shooting the film and waiting… There is only so much you can take from just interviews.  I think that is part of the reason this film is so admired: it is impossible to watch without feeling the hard work or time put into it, even at a subconscious level.

Gimme Shelter from Biker Gangs

Seriously. Lots of shit went down.

When the Maysles brothers made a deal with the Rolling Stones to follow them around and film them on tour there was no way of knowing what would go down at Altamount and the free concert held there.  The film is vey observatory: they just stand behind the cameras and tape what goes on.  Interaction? Nah, but you can tell they had to change what they set out to do.  The film is half Rolling Stones concert footage, and the other half is types of interviews, press conferences, phone discussions, etc.  It is not edited in order: the only way to know where they are in time is by listening to the actual conversations being had.

This fascinates me because these guys just wanted to follow the band around and gather footage.  Biker Gang violence wasn’t in the contract, but how can they not take advantage of that. They were a part of history.  Very early in the film we get a blip of the Hell’s Angel phone conference and for the longest time this is the only reference we get, because aside from performance footage the next half of the movie’s press all takes place BEFORE the event.  Halfway through we arrive at the venue and start to follow a more A to B way of “plotting.”

I think the film Gimme Shelter really shows what documentary filmmakers have to work with depending on the form of their film, in this case observational.  The purpose changes for them, yet the audience doesn’t know what the initial purpose may have been so it doesn’t matter.