BOOKS: Filmmaker and curator Pamela Cohn knows all about the medium’s gallant struggle for a cinematic language that is new, immediate, and accessible to the viewer.
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John Hawkins
John Kendall Hawkins is an American freelance journalist currently residing in Australia. His poetry, commentary and reviews have appeared in publications in Australia, Europe and America. He is a former columnist for the Prague Post. He is currently a regular contributor to Counterpunch magazine. He has a BA in philosophy and English literature, and masters degrees in education, linguistics, and creative writing. He's currently working on a play, a book of poetry, and a novel.
Published date: May 26, 2020

Recently, I re-watched the classic experimental film, Man With A Camera (1929), written and directed by Russian Dziga Vertov (and marvelously edited by his wife, Elizaveta Svilova). Voted the number one documentary of all time by the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound magazine, it’s a gem of a flick, the vibrancy of an early industrialized city on full display (actually, four cities spliced together: Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow, and Odessa) and flaunting every known (and, until then, unknown) cinematic technique in the book — fades, reverse angles, crane shots, train shots, trick photography, panoramics, close-ups, nudity, births, deaths, marriages, divorces. And leitmotifs of self-referentiality: cameras filming cameramen at work (clambering, risking), or slyly turned on the audience, as if winking at us, camera to camera.

It is not only full of the visual surprises its editing brings but has subtle humor and suggestive juxtapositions. The cameraman setting up in the beer mug is an amusing sequence. But there’s even anticipation of horrid things to come, such as when we see a woman shooting at a target — «Uncle …


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