Living cinema – life in the city

THE Cabinet of Living Cinema, the group of artists and musicians who explore the early days of avant garde cinema, bring their latest work, Man With A Movie Camera to Bridport Arts Centre on Sunday 15th September at 7.30pm.

Following the sell-out performances of the Cabinet’s new scores for silent classics Nosferatu (2017) and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (2018), the group is now taking the LSO St Luke’s performance of Man With a Movie Camera on the road to Dorset, the home county of one of the Cabinet performers,  Kieron Chissik.

Man With a Movie Camera is a unique experimental Russian documentary film, made in 1929 by Dziga Vertov. Although originally dismissed by critics, it is now regarded as a masterpiece. Critics voted it the eighth greatest film ever made in the British Film Institute’s 2012 Sight & Sound poll and the work was later named the best documentary of all time in the same magazine.

Celebrating the film’s 90th anniversary, the Cabinet follows some of Vertov’s original notes to create a dazzling whirlwind of a score with weaving rhythms, soaring melodies and intricate melodies and textures on harp, clarinet, viola and voice to transport the audience back to the dynamism of daily life in the Soviet Union’s cosmopolitan cities.

Man with a Movie Camera, directed by Dziga Vertov and edited by his wife Elizaveta Svilova, was produced by the film studio VUFKU. It depicts urban life in the Soviet cities of Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow and Odessa. From dawn to dusk Soviet citizens are shown at work and at play, and interacting with the machinery of modern life. There are no actors – to the extent that it can be said to have “characters”, they are the cameramen of the title, the film editor, and the modern Soviet Union they discover.

The film is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invented, deployed or developed, such as multiple exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, match cuts, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, reversed footage, stop motion animations and self-reflexive visuals (at one point it features a split-screen tracking shot; the sides have opposite Dutch angles).

Founded in 2010, the Cabinet of Living Cinema creates living cinema events in museums, galleries, festivals, pop-up spaces, bandstands, fossil museums, libraries, derelict theatres and other site-specific spaces. Programmes of short films, “living graphic novels” or feature-length scores are thematically linked to landscapes, buildings, artists, poets and philosophers.

The Cabinet’s performers are musicians from a number of disciplines, bringing their own fields of world music (klezmer, Balkan and Turkish folk music, British folk, Indian tabla, oud) to live scores. Using loop pedals and “found object foley”, the Cabinet’s live scores stretch and redefine these genres to create wistful, rich cinematic atmospheres.