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A REVOLUTION IN FILM: THE CINEMA OF DZIGA VERTOV

On April 15, a comprehensive retrospective of the films of DZIGA VERTOV opens at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the pages that follow, film scholar JOHN MACKAY assesses the continuing impact of Soviet cinema’s—perhaps simply cinema’s greatest innovator of nonfiction film form.

Dziga Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera, 1929, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 68 minutes.

BEST KNOWN AS THE MAKER of the endlessly astonishing documentary Man with a Movie Camera (1929)—and also as the eponym and inspiration for a group of radical Left Bank filmmakers in the late 1960s headed by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin—Dziga Vertov (1896–1954) is widely acknowledged to be one of the seventh art’s preeminent practitioners. And yet if one were to formulate a rigorously Vertovian response to the question of his historical stature, it would have to be that his work falls outside the history of cinema altogether. After all, according to Vertov (born David Abelevich

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