4. Contrasting original movement with stills

The reverse of the quotation of movement, the connotation here is a break from the futurist/constructivist valuing of motion.

Scene 16, shot 293—contrast between Vertov’s moving train and color still image of moving subway by Lisa Looye of Iowa City.


Scene 3, shot 50—statue of trumpeter juxtaposed with Vertov’s live musician by Neil Allen of Iowa City.


5. Text

For Vertov, one of the announced objectives of The Man With the Movie Camera was to do away with the text of silent film intertitles (as announced in one of the many intertitles seem in the opening credits). However, the film makes some use of street signs and other diegetic print. Moreover, Vertov’s earlier film, Sixth Part of the Earth, had deliberately edited intertitles into the montage while as early as Kinopravda he had used animated titles. The use and contrasting of text in the remake then would seem to point to this concern with text in Vertov’s work as a whole.

Opening Credits - In her juxtaposition to Vertov’s opening titles Phyllis Baldino of New York juxtaposes a collection of shots—including pans and zooms - that appear to be taken from a building above Columbus Circle. The result is a Vertovian cityscape expressed in a language of cinema that, as claimed in Vertov’s original intertitles, works on a purely visual, cinematic basis.




At the end of the Global Remake, the Russian word for “The End” is juxtaposed by “Vertov et al Fim” by Regina Pinto of Rio de Janerio. In this case, text is an appropriation announced by a translation and addition of an end credit. Pinto adds the jerky motion of film going through—or perhaps falling out of—a projector.


6. Expository metaphor

These relatively rare contributions make explicit a metaphor implied by Vertov’s original shot.

Scene 3, shot 63—Vertov’s shot of lighting the projector arc lamp is juxtaposed with a shot of the burning sun by Erika Suderberg of the US.


Scene 14, shot 276—Vertov’s shot of a nipple-like fountain juxtaposed with a breast floating under water as uploaded by Larisa Bulatova of Yekaterinburg.


Scene 24, shot 441—Shot of the eye, juxtaposed by Beijing contributor Chen Hongpei (untranslated ideograms) with shot of puckering lips and tongue. This particular elicited the largest number of uploads: 20 as of June, 2010.


7. Contemporary commentary

These are shots that use Vertov’s original as a jumping off point for commentary, making use of the chronological distantiation to critique or identify the contributor’s concerns with their contemporary world.

Scene 14, shot 274—Vertov’s busy street juxtaposed to a closed street as uploaded by Katharina Gsöllpointner of Vienna.


Scene 15, shot 279—Vertov’s mannequin with sewing machine contrasted to a painted statue holding scales (of justice?) by Zena el Khailil and Ghayan Al Amine of Beirut.


Scene 21, shot 386—Vertov’s shot of a couple applying for a divorce certificate to a shot of two women getting a marriage license. (Kevin Brown of Morgantown, United States).


Scene 21, shot 393. The man arguing for a divorce is parodied by John from “montreal, Cambodia.”


8. Facebooking

These are shots that call attention to their makers at the expense of Vertov’s film. The parallel to The Man With the Movie Camera is the original film’s inclusion of its own cameraman shooting the film (Vertov’s film is subtitled, “From the Diary of a Film Cameraman.”) Nevertheless, what is quoted is neither the original film nor its cameraman but rather their contemporary replacements.

Scene 23, 423 and others: Doron Golan of Tel Aviv faces us with back projection of Vertov’s trolley scenes behind him.


9. Silence

Finally, there are those many shots in which nothing has been uploaded. There doesn’t appear to be a common denominator for them, much less a statement to be found in a deliberate non-participation. Certainly, the most difficult shots of the original Man With the Movie Camera have been attempted by uploaders, including much seemingly dangerous play among trains and trolleys. There are avatars for Svilova, the editor, and Mikhail Kaufman, the cameraman. Nor do uploaders seem to be dissuaded by those shots lasting for just a few frames.

Part of the reason for the blank space next to Vertov’s original shots may simply be technical. Vertov used the same shots in different ways throughout the film. In individual sequences, a given shot may have been interspersed with other shots, each cut lasting for only a few frames. Using the current software, the uploader can replace only one shot—or fraction of a shot—at a time. This is to say that Bard’s remake would be more densely packed if contributors could, with one click, replace all repetitions or fragments of the single shot they have recreated.

Another reason for the lack of contributions may just be audience attention span. Bard notes that the beginning of the film filled up faster than the end.

At the same time, the medium in which the work is framed—as well as the habits it has encouraged in its habitual users—continue to power Bard’s remake. As she has said:

“I’m struggling to understand why this piece which was almost a whim at the start and then 2 plus years hard labor is doing so well and I think it has more to do with the world of web 2.0 than anything else. It works because there is a structure in place that makes it legible to almost any audience (old film new film) and people can figure that much out even if they’ve never heard of Vertov. But more importantly the world of film (and television is shifting)—in ’98 I was part of a test audience in the UK where they were talking about interactive tv—YouTube has taken over the next generation, film as we know it may be like 78s to music, how many kids have seen a 78?”


Again, this is a far from complete morphology, much less a complete understanding of what Bard has accomplished and continues to accomplish as the project grows. In fact, in the manner of Perry Bard—and Vertov—I would invite this morphology to generate others. And it goes without saying that in aid of the project, I would also invite others to contribute shots either as alternates to those already uploaded or as reflections upon the shots that have so far escaped reflection.

Yet whatever the continued expansion or longevity of the project, it is yet another indication that Vertov is wrongly placed among the modernist avantgarde artists of his age. It is nothing new to say that one of the fundamental tenants of modernism is the idea of reframing, the notion of making strange via recontextualization. Hanging a urinal on an art gallery wall is a two part exercise, equally dependent upon the urinal and the well established function of the art gallery wall. It is an essentially oedipal struggle, destroying the father’s rules and hence power.

Vertov always had a more oceanic intention. In proposing a cinema “made by all” he necessarily abandons the challenge to the frame by abandoning the frame. He is not making strange so much as finding it and in so doing asserting that it is not so strange at all.

In this way, the parallel between what Bard is doing and what Vertov envisioned in his Kinoglaz writings—a nation of collective filmmakers and film viewers—reaches across the modernist/postmodernist divide. Vertov’s cinema works by eradicating the categories upon which modernism depends—conventional vision vs. an attack on those conventions; creator/spectator; ultimately humans and machines.

Further, the engine of Vertov’s generative power is a creative dialectic between his two central ideas—Life Caught Unawares (that is the dedication to an unmediated recording of reality) and the Kino-eye (an equally emphatic commitment to presenting the world through the enhanced vision of machines). It has taken us from his time to ours to appreciate that our actual world has much to do with its mechanical representation. We are then caught in an irresolvable and unending dialogue around the questions of whether the actual produces its representation or representation produces the actual: Baudrilard on one hand and Errol Morris on the other, glad to be living in Cambridge because Baudrillard isn’t in the phone book.

Bard’s work illustrates this by opening The Man With the Movie Camera to the world made possible by instantaneous and instantaneously accessible, interactive global communication.

Secondly, Bard’s work could only be appreciated within our own time’s appreciation of the spectrum stretching from quotation and re-enactment to simulation. (This of course also includes the anti-quotation/simulation movement actively pursued by intellectual property lawyers). Postmodernism values this spectrum of replication as a means of countering the idea of progress, that is to say that the present and the future are bothmade of the past. The result is a set of behaviours in relation to the past—somewhat reflected in the morphology above—one or all or which may be active in the understanding of Vertov’s creative act.

And what does this say about documentary? A remake is the foregrounding of documentary desire—a desire to avoid the transformation of image into iconography. Documentary asks how an image avoids becoming archetypal and hence “fictional” in the sense of functioning as something with an irrelevant original (hence Morris’s hostility toward Baudrillard).

And this, in the end, is what both Vertov and Bard are about. Documentary is the external world mediated. Their joint venture is to see much of that world and how many forms of mediation can be included within what remains a coherent structure. It really is the Big Bang. For we know that our ultimate reality is an ever expanding universe and an ever more diverse set of tools for perceiving it.

Go to Notes

To topPrint versionJC 52 Jump Cut home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.