Men With Movie Cameras.

by Eric Kohn
January 5, 2011 12:48 AM
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Idiot With A Tripod from Gothamist on Vimeo.

There have been many posts over the past week or so about Jamie Stuart's experimental video "Idiot With a Tripod," a playful homage to Dziga Vertov's "Man With a Movie Camera" assembled out of footage from the blizzard that struck New York at the end of the month. The biggest praise came from Roger Ebert, whose enthusiastic claim that the short deserved an Oscar set the bar a bit too high; there's nothing particularly advanced about Stuart's use of montage that owes much a debt to Vertov rather than other montage pioneers from the silent era. (If anything, it's Eisensteinian.) The final bit that cuts between the dog trapped in the snow offers plenty of quaint charm, but Vertov's grandiose use of montage for ideological purposes and its commentary on the multiple levels of spectatorship enabled by the camera have fallen by the wayside here in favor of cutesiness. Which is fine, because it has enough going on for the brief time Stuart apparently invested in it. As someone trapped in Seattle and unable to return home to NYC during the snowstorm, "Idiot With a Tripod" brought me closer to the action while making me glad I didn't have to go there myself.

But I think it's worth noting that the video only really deserves the attention it has received because Stuart has been churning out oddly intriguing D.I.Y. shorts for a several years and could use the publicity. I first encountered his work, which usually puts a surreal twist on press conferences and other New York film media events, through S.T. Vanairsdale's now-extinct NYC movie news site The Reeler. Later, as the editor of the short-lived new media publication Stream, I hired Stuart to write a popular technology column about his unorthodox, homegrown method of production. So good for Jamie!

But so long as "Idiot With a Tripod" has legs, it's worth noting that the Vertov classic has been studied by other contemporary filmmakers as well. One of my former grad school classmates, Ed Kowalis, sends along two of them: Guy Madden's delightful short "The Heart of the World" and a detailed "Global Remake" of the Vertov original. Enjoy:

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