Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Feb 5 1997
The Man With the Movie Camera
Presenting Dziga Vertov's silent 1929 The Man With the Movie Camera with the big, live sound of the tiny (three-man) Alloy Orchestra is an extraordinary aesthetic salvage act. Dziga Vertov was born Denis Kaufman; according to Ephraim Katz's Film Encyclopedia, Dziga means "spinning top" (in Ukrainian) and Vertov means "the act of turning" (in Russian). His masterpiece is a jazz symphony of the streets: What it's got instead of narrative is centrifugal force and charismatic optimism. In this film, when the director's eye lingers on a bum, it isn't to underline the plight of the homeless, but to savor the man's languorous freedom and stubbornness; when a skilled female laborer swiftly puts together cigarette packs, she isn't being exploited -- she's showing off her expertise. Vertov's shoot-the-works photographic style and witty, suggestive editing spark a delight that's simultaneously sensual and cerebral.

Under the guidance of Vertov's own recently unearthed notes, the astonishing "junk metal musicians" of the Alloy Orchestra have devised sounds from their synthesizers, bottles, and handmade drums and instruments that release the film's soaring Machine Age gallantry and humor. The main motif has a spacious imminence reminiscent of Jerome Moross' opening theme to William Wyler's The Big Country -- you sense momentous things are about to happen. But the rippling clangs and sly interpolations of jazz and wedding music give their work a cosmopolitan cheekiness. Seeing The Man With the Movie Camera at the Castro with the Alloy Orchestra is a genuine eureka experience.

-- Michael Sragow

The Man With the Movie Camera screens Friday, Feb. 7, at 9:30 p.m. at the Castro, Castro & Market. The Alloy Orchestra also accompanies Paul Fejos' Lonesome at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 per film, $25 for both. The S.F. Film Society is presenting the show; there are discounts for members. Call 621-6120 or 931-3456.

About The Author

Michael Sragow


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"