Dziga Vertov: The Man with the Movie Camera and Other Newly-Restored Works

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« Io sono un occhio. Un occhio meccanico e sono in costante movimento! » (Dziga Vertov)

Siamo arrivati nella nuova fascia nel campo del restauro cinematografico, toccando una delle vette più alte dell’eccellenza tecnica. Su questo film sono stati stesi fiumi di articoli interamente dedicati sul lavoro realizzato dal gruppo, fondato nel 1924, dei Kinoglaz (“Cine-occhi”) seguendo il famoso manifesto che teorizzò l’importanza della macchina da presa come strumento in grado di registrare, riprodurre e analizzare la realtà quotidiana, rinnovando radicalmente il genere del cinegiornale – il tutto cominciato nella serie chiamata Kinopravda (“Cine-verità”), realizzata nell’arco di tre anni fra il 1921 e il 1924 (della quale sopravvivono tutti gli episodi tranne uno, anche se a volte in copie frammentarie – esiste una parte della serie su YouTube) – capitanata da Dziga Vertov, diede vita a un’idea di cinema – per molti versi irripetibile  – che si realizzò completamente nel suo capolavoro Человек с киноаппаратом (“L’uomo con la macchina da presa“), presentato per la prima volta l’8 Gennaio 1929.

Il tutto senza dimenticare i principi base del manifesto, che vengono spiegati al pubblico durante l’inizio del film grazie agli unici intertitoli presenti nel film.

“ALL’ATTENZIONE DEGLI SPETTATORI: IL FILM CHE STATE PER VEDERE è UNA SPERIMENTAZIONE NELLA COMUNICAZIONE CINEMATOGRAFICA
Di fenomeni visivi

SENZA L’USO DI DIDASCALIE
(un film senza didascalie)

SENZA L’AUSILIO DI UNA SCENEGGIATURA
(un film senza uno scenario)

SENZA L’AIUTO DI UN TEATRO DI POSA
(un film senza attori, senza set, etc.)

“Questo nuovo lavoro di sperimentazione è diretto verso la creazione di un linguaggio cinematografico assoluto e universale completamente libero dal linguaggio del teatro e della letteratura”.

In 1775 riprese, stupendamente montate dalla moglie di Vertov, Yelizaveta Svilova – una dei pochi “protagonisti” del film assieme al cognato Mikhail Kaufman e la sua indimenticabile Debrie Parvo che nel suo utilizzo non è più un semplico strumento di ripresa, ma un vero e proprio personaggio che si concede un primo piano iniziale (in foto a sinistra) e addirittura un piccolo balletto con la messa in scena delle sue componenti. L’uomo con la macchina da presa è un film davvero rivoluzionario: scompagina la grammatica sino ad allora utilizzata (basti pensare che non sono usate didascalie, fondamentali nell’epoca del muto) e in uno sfolgorio di trovate tecnico-stilistiche ci mostra una macchina da presa che da oggetto di osservazione ne diventa il soggetto principale del film.

Il tutto grazie alle stupende ed eccezionali musiche composte dalla Alloy Orchestra, presentate per la volta durante il festival Le Giornate del Cinema Muto del 1995. Dal catalogo leggiamo sulla musica del film:

Man_with_a_movie_camera“L’uomo con la macchina da presa è il monumento del cinema costruttivista sovietico, un vorticoso mosaico sull’utopia dell’uomo-macchina e di un mondo nuovo. Nonostante la sua indiscussa reputazione, questo classico del cinema muto non è mai stato mostrato con la musica che lo stesso Vertov aveva immaginato per il film, e che fu eseguita soltanto alla sua prima uscita. I nostri agenti di Mosca hanno scovato il manoscritto negli Archivi di Stato; dopo averlo letto, abbiamo pensato che la Alloy Orchestra (già vista all’opera con Sylvester al Festival di Telluride e, lo scorso anno, con Lonesome) fosse l’approdo ideale per il visionario progetto di Vertov. Il risultato è un’abbagliante, distorta sinfonia di musica concreta, trasmissioni radio e danze popolari, un’esperienza sonora esplosiva per un film destinato a celebrare la bellezza del caos. Il suono nell’Uomo con la macchina da presa è ben più di un’illustrazione alle immagini. Nella visione futuribile di Vertov, il cinema si sarebbe fuso con la radio allo scopo di mettere in contatto i proletari di tutto il mondo, infrangendo così le frontiere e annullando le distanze: “L’uomo con la macchina da presa, scrisse lo stesso Vertov nel 1929, costituisce il passaggio dal cine-occhio al radio-occhio”. In effetti, il film diviene una sorta di radio-occhio grazie a una serie di immagini sonore durante la sequenza dedicata a un dopolavoro del futuro, con visioni sovrapposte a un altoparlante in primo piano”.

Il film finalmente esce per la prima volta in alta definizione, grazie al prestigioso cofanetto BluRay (Region Free!) dal titolo Dziga Vertov: The Man with the Movie Camera and Other Newly-Restored Works, distribuito in USA dalla casa editrice Flicker Alley, che contiene al suo interno i seguenti film:

  • The Man with the Movie Camera (1929) – Named the best documentary film of all time by Sight and Sound, it is presented here in its entirety for the first time since its original premiere. Discovered and restored at EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam—with extensive digital treatment by Lobster Films—the 35mm print from which this edition is, in part, sourced is the only known complete version of the film.
  • Kino-Eye (1924) – A cinematographic poem in which Vertov lays the foundation of his Kino-Eye principles, the film shows the incredible force of his theories, but also the beauty and energy of a society fresh from revolution, ready to face the challenges of a difficult future.
  • Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbass (1931) – One of the first Soviet sound films, it deals with the Five Year Plan of the late 1920s, and represents Vertov’s radical attempt to link economic progress with the introduction of sound in cinema.
  • Three Songs About Lenin (1934) – Arguably Vertov’s most personal work, the triptych celebrates the Soviet leader 10 years after his death as seen through the eyes of the people.

Rispetto agli altri titoli presenti nel BluRay, L’uomo con la macchina da presa di Vertov viene presentato in una perfetta versione restaurata, frutto di un eccellente lavoro di restauro 2K, frutto dalla collaborazione delle cineteche Lobster Films, La Cinémathèque de Toulouse e l’EYE Film Institute: la copia è incredibilmente eccellente nell’immagine, per la prima volta full frame (le precedenti edizioni offrivano un’immagine ritagliata nella parte sinistra del fotogramma per via dell’aggiunta della colonna sonora) e presentata nell’originale versione integrale originale uscita nel 1929 – esattamente come la Svilova lo montò all’epoca.

Per maggiori informazioni  vi includiamo la versione integrale (e in inglese) del saggio scritto da parte di Mark-Paul Meyer dell’EYE Film Institute, riguardo al nuovo restauro 2K del film.

vlcsnap-2015-07-17-01h13m05s688“The Man with the Movie Camera is one best known works of film history and generally regarded as one of the great masterpieces of the classical Soviet avant-garde. Every person who has ever shown the slightest interest in the history of cinema has heard about this film and probably seen it at some point. But what has this person actually seen? Of course this is a question that often occurs when you see film presentations or video releases of films: how do you know what version you are looking at and how does it relate to other prints or copies of the same film? It is well known that many films exist in variant versions. Sometimes these are intentionally created by the director or the producer, as with multi-language versions, or films that were made with multiple cameras to produce additional negatives as was common practice in the era of silent films. But mostly film prints have suffered from wear and tear, from cuts by projectionists or censors, or as a result of inferior duplication and reproduction. When you see a film from 1929, like TMWMC, you must always be aware of the fact that you may be watching just “a” print of the film, not necessarily exactly as it was intended by the film maker or as it was shown on its opening night.

moma_shapingvisions2012_vertov-webUnfortunately TMWMC is mostly known in prints that are defective. For decades the film was widely seen only in prints that were printed with a sound aperture. TMWMC was shot in the period of silent cinema with silent camera aperture. This means that the filmed image used the full area between perforations on both sides that were necessary for the transport of the film. In later years, when sound was introduced, part of the image width was used for the optical sound track. This reduced the horizontal size of the image ; then both top and bottom of the silent image were also cropped to maintain the customary screen shape. The consequence of this practice was that the cinema apparatus, both in cinemas and in film laboratories, was soon no longer set up for the silent frame ratio. In a nutshell, most prints of TMWMC, even in archives, have this part of the image cut-off. They are full length – all the shots are there – but suffer severe mutilation so far as the photographic composition is concerned.

vlcsnap-2015-07-17-01h14m38s337The most important feature of the restored film print represented here is that the full frame image is preserved. This is because the print that served as the source is from the first years of its release and preserved in the archives of the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. This print was brought to Amsterdam by Vertov himself when he travelled through Western Europe in 1931 and showed the film on different occasions. In the Netherlands this print was presented by the Filmliga, an active film club that promoted film as visual art. The film was shown in the presence of Dziga Vertov, and when Vertov returned to the Soviet Union, the print was acquired by the Filmliga. The Filmliga continued to occasionally show the film in the Netherlands and after the war the film became part of the collection of the then Nederlands Filmmuseum.

vlcsnap-2015-07-17-01h15m04s170This vintage nitrate print is full frame and has superb photographic quality, due to the fact that it is directly printed from the original negative on good quality positive film stock. This doesn’t mean that the film is perfect. For many reasons this prints has also its deficiencies. The main reason is that the print was regularly used for presentations in the years that inflammable nitrate prints were still shown. Subsequently the print was screened in the Filmmuseum itself as well as in other film museums and archives that requested the film print from Amsterdam. When in the 1960s a duplicate was made on non-flammable film stock, the film was already missing several elements that that will be described below. The ongoing use of the film created problems that can be summarized as wear and tear through continuously changing reel ends, the disappearance of credits and chapter numbers, and even a cut that might be a censor cut or a cut that made by a projectionist or programmer.

One short but essential sequence was removed from the Amsterdam print. It is obvious from the film print that something was cut out, because a splice can be found, but there is no documentation on who or exactly why it was cut out. This sequence showed the birth of a baby very closely from the lap of the mother and was possibly considered as too explicit and shocking. These 39 frames – less than two seconds – were restored from a film reel that the Austrian Filmmuseum acquired in 2004 from The Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive at Krasnagorsk.

It is not clear whether the film print was presented with starting credits or not. Obviously, the credits are missing and all other existing prints have title cards that are not original from 1929. However, existing documents make it very likely that title cards were intended and that the text of the title cards sketched the artistic intentions of the film. The credits were recreated from the notes for the film, as was done before in the 1950s. Because the film is without intertitles, the titles at the beginning are important to direct the attention of the spectator in a specific way. To avoid subtitling it was decided to create new titles in English, to facilitate an international audience.

vlcsnap-2015-07-17-01h13m23s838As is clearly stated in the beginning credits of the film, the MWMC is a film in six chapters. These six chapters are no longer clearly distinguishable in the known existing prints. Also the print from the EYE Filmmuseum did not have clear indications anymore where the chapters started and where they ended. TMWMC was released in single reels of slightly less than a thousand feet each. Beginnings and endings of these reels were subject to damage when it was still common practice to show the shorter reels. Also, there were more reels than chapters, therefore the numbers seemed illogical if considered merely as indications for the reel order. It was common practice that every reel had a head leader and a tail leader, clearly indicating the number of the reel, but in this case the numeration was not in accordance with the division in reels and could therefore easily be considered as confusing or mistaken and that therefore complete removal was preferred. Moreover, when it became practice to mount the shorter reels to reels of 2000 feet or even larger, the beginning and endings were taken off to enable a film presentation without undesired interruptions. When these larger reels were dismounted again, the reel ends were sometimes discarded or put in the wrong places. This is all speculation, but it is a fact that the numbers have disappeared, both from the Amsterdam print and from the prints that were available elsewhere. However, during the restoration process it became clear that the film originally contained numbers that clearly indicated the different chapters, all intended as integral parts of the film, meant to be seen by the spectator. Oddly, the number 1 is still to be found in most prints, probably because it is somewhere in the middle of reel 1 and therefore never considered as a leader strip that could easily be taken off. It also clearly indicates the beginning of the film after a short introduction. The film consisted therefore of a prologue and six chapters. After the prologue the number 1 rises and the first chapter starts.

vlcsnap-2015-07-17-01h28m10s681Fortunately, there is a 16mm print in the archives of EYE which turned out to be an early duplication of the original nitrate print. In this print the numbers were all still present, except number 6. Because of the specific graphic qualities of the numbers and the animated movement – the number falling at the end of a chapter and rising to indicate the start of the next – is was clear that these number were not only meant as reference for the projectionists, but intended as integral parts of the film. Chapters started with a number rising and the a camera lens that opened its diaphragm, and at the end of the chapter the same sequence was presented in reverse order: the diaphragm closed and the number fell. It was therefore possible to restore the division in six chapters. For the restoration the numbers that were still present in the 16mm print were digitized and edited into the film. Only the number 6 was newly created.

The original nitrate print was digitized at 2K resolution by Haghefilm in Amsterdam, on its Oxberry scanner with wet gate. The superb photographic quality of the original print guaranteed good quality digital files. The restoration interventions were made on the digital data, such as inserting the missing birth scene, the titles and the numbers. No elaborate clean up was executed. For the production of a new 35mm print, the data were recorded back to a 35mm black and white negative. The print made from this negative was presented for the first time in 2010 in Amsterdam. The file for the DVD, Blu-Ray and DCP was produced directly from the 2K data and extensively cleaned and restored by Lobster films in 2014.”

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EDIZIONE BFI

Ci sono inoltre delle novità riguardanti la versione in BluRay da parte della BFI che, a differenza della versione USA della Flicker Alley, comprende la celebrata colonna sonora composta da Michael Nyman. All’interno di quest’edizione inglese fanno parte i seguenti contenuti extra:

• Audio commentary by Russian film scholar Yuri Tsivian
Kino-Pravda No. 21 (Dziga Vertov, 1925, 35 mins): Newsreel devoted to Lenin on the anniversary of his death, with a new Mordant Music score
One-Sixth of the Globe – ETV version (Dziga Vertov, 1925, 72 mins): ideologically charged documentary, presented in its specially-prepared ETV version, with a daring new soundtrack by Mordant Music
Three Songs of Lenin (Dziga Vertov, 1935, 57 mins): poetic propaganda film reciting three admiring folk songs dedicated to the revolutionary leader
• David Collard on Three Songs of Lenin and WH Auden (2009, 11 mins)
• Simon Callow reads WH Auden’s verses from Three Songs of Lenin (2009, 4 mins)
• Alternative Three Songs of Lenin subtitles incorporating WH Auden’s verses

Purtroppo questa edizione, secondo gli screenshot provenienti dal sito DVDBeaver con comprende la stessa versione restaurata: l’immagine è molto più rovinata e sembra essere ritagliata sulla parte sinistra dell’immagine. Sicuramente deve essere una ri-masterizzzione in alta definizione della versione DVD uscita qualche anno fa. Basta controllare gli screenshot (sulla sinistra quelli Flicker Alley e sulla destra BFI)

Flicker Alley - 2015
Flicker Alley – 2015
BFI - 2015
BFI – 2015

Come potete notare la copia non è full frame, comunque sempre può interessare agli appassionati di Vertov il commento audio da parte di Yuri Tsivian, i mini-documentari su Three Songs of Lenin e (non presente nell’edizione Flicker Alley) il lungometraggio di Vertov One-Sixth of the Globe.

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Autore: silentvalerio

Amo il cinema muto

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