Tag Archives: Sight & Sound

Lulu links and reviews: more on Pandora’s Box

  • While we’re on, I want to say that lots of people have been kind enough to write thoughtful and positive reviews of the book on Amazon UK and on Goodreads so far – thank you to everyone who did that! And if you want to join them, please be my guest.

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  • Sight & Sound also ran a very nice review of the book in its February 2018 issue: check it out! David Thompson wrote the piece and here are some of the things he said about the book:

highly sympathetic and well researched book … a welcome and long overdue addition to the BFI Film Classics series … particularly valuable in detailing the origins of the film, how it came to be made at all and the striking personalities involved …

Hutchinson takes us through this narrative in unerring detail, underlining Pabst’s significant departures from the original and demonstrating how Wedekind’s palindromic structure is compressed but also heightened through the film’s imagery …

As Hutchinson adroitly points out, it pictures “female sexuality not as moral weakness but as an eruption of pleasure”. She notes that everything turns constantly on how much men’s desire for Lulu is transformed into hate, and how far money potentially poisons all the relationships throughout …

As this book makes very clear, rarely has the blurring of a screen role and real life been so fruitful for a creator and so tantalising for the audience.

“Unerring detail”, eh? Don’t let that put you off. Stick out the “unerring detail” and soon enough you’ll get to that “eruption of pleasure”, I promise.

Thanks for reading!

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Man With a Movie Camera: the greatest documentary of all time?

Two years ago, Dziga Vertov’s landmark art film Man With a Movie Camera crashlanded into the top 10 of the Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll. Today, I can jubilantly announce that this year Movie Camera tops another Sight & Sound poll – the hunt for the Greatest Documentary of all time. There’s another silent in the top 10 too – the wondrous, beautiful, and controversial Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1922).

1. Man with a Movie Camera, dir. Dziga Vertov (USSR 1929)

2. Shoah, dir. Claude Lanzmann (France 1985)

3. Sans soleil, dir. Chris Marker (France 1982)

4. Night and Fog, dir. Alain Resnais (France 1955)

5. The Thin Blue Line, dir. Errol Morris (USA 1989)

6. Chronicle of a Summer, dir. Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin (France 1961)

7. Nanook of the North, dir. Robert Flaherty (USA 1922)

8. The Gleaners and I, dir. Agnès Varda (France 2000)

9. Dont Look Back, dir. D.A. Pennebaker (USA 1967)

10. Grey Gardens, dirs. Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer (USA 1975)

Both of these films deserve endless discussion and analysis, it’s true – as do the others in the list, from Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985) to Don’t Look Back (DA Pennebaker, 1967), but I want to linger on Vertov’s film for now. I think it’s rather special – but I am intrigued by its success in this poll. For me Man With a Movie Camera is really an art film, not a documentary, because it foregrounds technique and display above truth-telling and information-imparting. Not that it doesn’t do that too, but in the world of documentary film-making, City Symphonies have every right to push form over content, and Man With a Movie Camera is the most invigorating of all City Symphonies. This is a movie about the sheer joy and madness of film-making – stopmotion, superimposition, freeze-frame, split-screens, rewinds, acute angles and all. It exalts in the possibilities of photography and motion. From the opening scene in which the cinema seats slam down one by one, onwards, we are sure that this will be a movie about the movies, and all the more enjoyable for that. It’s as addictive as popcorn, as edifying as high art.

Is it worthy of comment that Man With a Movie Camera is in the ascendancy at a time when there is little good news coming out of Ukraine? I’m not sure – for most viewers, I suspect this film is lumped in with the less-specific categories labelled “Soviet”, “Silent” and “Arthouse”. But it always does us good to remember that far-away parts of the world are synonymous with more than the bad news that hits the headlines. This poll result reminds us that Ukrainian cinema, as showcased at last year’s Pordenone Silent Film Festival, shines in our global film heritage. There are, you’ll note, no British films in the top 10.

Continue reading Man With a Movie Camera: the greatest documentary of all time?

Sight & Sound’s Greatest Films of All Time Poll – a silent resurgence

Sunrise (1927)
Sunrise (1927)

In 1952, Sight & Sound‘s critics picked seven silent films in their top 10 great Films Film of All Time selection. Today, they chose just three, but that’s one more than in 2002, 1992 and 1982. They’re much-loved films too: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, The Man With a Movie Camera and Dreyer’s towering The Passion of Joan of Arc. I am surprised that Battleship Potemkin fell out of the top 10, and would have expected The General or Greed, say, to nudge ahead of Movie Camera, but that’s a good, interesting spread of late silent cinema.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

When we see the top 100, I expect to see more silents overall – revivals and restorations of Metropolis, Napoléon and a general greater awareness and love for early cinema should see to that. And I would love to see some earlier films. I know I voted for one. But then, one more vote would have kept Potemkin in the top 10, and I didn’t nominate it, so perhaps I should keep quiet about my list…  The full poll details will shortly be online, so we can look forward  to lots more number-crunching. I can tell you that the top 10 silents voted for overall were: Sunrise, Man With a Movie Camera, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Battleship Potemkin, The General, Metropolis, City Lights, Sherlock Jr, Greed, Un Chien Andalou and Intolerance.

The Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
The Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Yes, some people will tell you that the lead story here is the toppling of Citizen Kane by Hitchcock’s Vertigo – or the fact that there is nothing here more recent than Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s probably true, and you can read more about the list here, from the very wise Tim Robey. In fact, here’s the top 10 in full. What do you think?

  1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
  2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
  3. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
  4. La Règle du jeu (Renoir, 1939)
  5. Sunrise: a Song for Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)
  6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
  7. The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
  8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
  9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1927)
  10. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)