The films viewed in class this week all dealt with urban settings and the way the filmmakers portrayed such environments. The films displayed cities as diverse as Odessa in Russia, Montreal in Canada, and New York in the United States. Each film served as a kind of postcard to these locations and the feelings they brought to the director.
Man With a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov (1929)
Man with a Movie Camera is a symphony of the Russian cities of Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa. An important element of the film is the use of editing and how it creates not only the rhythm and pace of the film, but also how it creates the film's self reflection. The fast pace cuts in between scenes serves to capture and transmit the high energy life of the city. The film seems to constantly be moving, whether it is through the image itself or the editing. The scenes that compared film editing to women in a beauty parlor and using sewing machines were some of the best edited scenes. It flawlessly combines the production of a film with other commercial goods and the movement of the city showing how the creation of films can be incorporated into the flow of society. Vertov is showing at the power of cinema in transforming images into meaning as the filmmaker's job compared to all the other working people seen throughout the film.
Silvercup, Jim Jennings (1998)
This film was of a slow ode to a city than a symphony. It is a drastic change in pace from the first film because of its slow moving pace and quiet. The cuts of the film are quick, but there is slowness in subject matter that makes the movie feel almost languid. Jennings mixes urban and natural scenes to create a multifaceted picture of a city; he works to show not just the busy life, but also the slower moments.
Confederation Park, Bill Brown (1999)
This was probably my favorite film of the week because it truly was about one man's love for numerous cities and how they have come to affect his personality. While Man With a Movie Camera could be called a symphony of a city, Confederation Park is more of a love song to Canada. The voice-over narration plays an integral role in the film because Brown is proving his own narration to the landscapes that seem so important to him. The language is very beautiful and has a very poem-like quality to it. Most of the time the image could be of any city, the important thing are the memories he has and how he attaches them to the location. The pace of this film is much slower and gives more time to appreciate the natural beauty of the environment.
Castro Street, Bruce Baillie (1966)
This portrait of a city was much different than that of the first two films. There was a semi-narrative flow that went along with both two earlier films as well as sounds that played an important role in the viewing experience. Castro Street is a more abstract, silent appreciation of a city. The close-up, overlapping images make it hard to always tell what is being depicted. The fact that the pictures are not as clear makes the idea of a specific city hard to see at all times. There are a few times when monuments like the Chrysler Building can be seen through the slots in the bridge, but at the same time most of these images could be of any industrial area of any city.
The last two films had to deal less with specific cities and more with urban settings in general. They also made use of voice-over narration, similar to Confederation Park.The Girl Chewing Gum, John Smith (1976)
In this film, Smith uses the technique of voice-over narration to display his power as a director over the action that occurs in his film. Almost humorously the narrator of the film comments on and directs the movement of the individuals and the camera. In doing so, it seems that the narrator is the director himself. As a director he is showing his complete control over all elements in the film. Small things, like the image not matching up perfectly with the sound or the directing of birds to fly in certain directions makes the viewer aware that the sound was recorded after the fact. The playing around with sound and image makes this film playful and at the same time makes the viewer aware of the fact that we are watching a film and the affect that sound has on the way we interpret images.
The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, Matt McCormick (2002)
This was another one of my favorite films this week. I loved the approach and subject of the film, having recently seen Exit Through the Gift Shop. The voice-over narration served a very different purpose in this film worked differently than in the previous films. Here, the narration was used to add an "authenticity" to the documentary like style of film. Through the style and type of narration, the film was taken by some as a documentary critiquing graffiti. However, I believe that the piece actually works to satirize the bureaucracy that goes into removing art by calling the removal process art itself. It is a pro-graffiti film because it considers it a form of art. The film works to get its point across about a serious subject through the use of a playful tone.