Nyman With A Movie Camera is a unique visual experiment that radically resamples Dziga Vertov’s fly-on-the-wall snapshot of life in Russia in 1929, and provides a glimpse into the preoccupation with human existence that drives one of our greatest living avant-garde composers. Taking Vertov’s original masterpiece, Man With A Movie Camera, as the basis for his film, Nyman has frame-by-frame replaced the original images with footage from his own extensive film archive, which has been shot all over the world. Although almost a century separates the two artists, both share an interest in shooting ordinary people unawares in the hope of capturing some kind of truth, and there are stunning parallels in both their process and results. Today we preview an exclusive clip and speak to Nyman about his experiences remixing Vertov’s classic film.
Michael Nyman: “Vertov’s principle of shooting life caught unawares is something I subconsciously reproduce in my own work. What I generally do is have the camera watch someone for a few minutes in a kind of unbroken sequence, such as a drunken man trying to tie his tie on a train at seven in the morning, but the situation with Nyman With a Movie Camera is that I parallel and replace each and every image in Vertov’s s film in the same sequence that he does – I follow his editing rhythm. The interesting thing is that in the original film there is a kind of narrative, and obviously the scenes have been mostly shot in one or two places at more or less the same time. The purpose of my film is not to present the same kind of coherent narrative that the original does – my stuff has been shot all over the world – so it does actually tend to fracture. In my archive, I found parallels with Vertov’s film but I set myself a rule that I wouldn’t set up a shoot just to find the equivalent. I do have little windows of the original just to show the incredible parallels between something I happened to shoot and something he shot. It’s a strange attempt at coherence though, because although in many respects the film is contained by the parameters of Man with A Movie Camera, the result is a kind of incoherence. It’s interesting that since I started composing music, I have always sampled and remixed the work of other composers, which in art is what the Chapmans did with Goya, and what Picasso did with Velázquez. This film is me doing that in a much larger sense visually, and with much more thrilling material.”
Nyman With A Movie Camera Is Touring Film Festivals All Over The World. Preview available here: http://www.anothermag.com/current/view/571/Michael_Nyman
Michael Nyman’s career was built for this.
The British composer and filmmaker brings his Michael Nyman Band to Toronto this weekend for performances of the soundtrack he set to Dziga Vertov’s seminal 1929 film Man With a Movie Camera. On Saturday, the band plays Nyman’s score for Vertov’s film; and on Sunday, they’ll perform it again to Nyman’s own scene-by-scene remake of the film, NYman With a Movie Camera, which Nyman created using images from his own archive.
One evening but two very different aspects: the world premiere of NYman With A Movie Camera, Michael Nyman’s shot-by-shot update of Dziga Vertov’s groundbreaking 1929 mash-up film, Man With A Movie Camera, with Nyman’s score — composed for both films — played live by the 66-year-old and his 11-strong mini-orchestra. Nyman’s film said little but the aural-visual experience was senses-stretching.
Before that, Nyman and band were joined by singer David McAlmont to perform their inspired The Glare album, where McAlmont wrote and sang lyrics based on news stories, with existing Nyman pieces as backdrops. Magically sung, impeccably played, the collaboration was as absorbing on the thunderous throb of Friendly Fire as both the slower, wounded In Laos and the peek into Susan Boyle’s inner hell that is The Glare itself.
But this was a missed opportunity. Nyman was an island, silent and playing piano with his back to the audience throughout.
Worse, for all his charismatic delivery and the utter joy of A Great Day In Kathmandu, McAlmont was also mute between songs, leaving only awkward poses and no hint of what crime the Somali seemingly being extradited to the United States in Going To America had purportedly committed or what the apparent refugee in Fever Sticks And Bones was fleeing from and why. Surely I wasn’t the only one whose curiosity had been aroused…
The composer Michael Nyman explains the thinking behind his latest film, and reminisces about the parties held by a Frieze founder’s dad.
Michael Nyman is a composer of minimalist music as well as a film-maker and photographer. His work includes the score for Jane Campion’s film “The Piano”, Peter Greenaway’s films “The Draughtsman’s Contract” and “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, And Her Lover”, and the operas “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” and “Facing Goya”. He formed the Michael Nyman Band in 1976.
Michael Nyman's dynamic jump into filmmaking
Composer Michael Nyman’s dynamic jump into filmmaking, “NYman With a Movie Camera,” is as much a celebration of the world as its inspiration, Dziga Vertov’s silent masterpiece, “Man With a Movie Camera,” celebrates Soviet society. Having written a thrilling 2002 score accompanying screenings of Vertov’s monumental film, as well as the British Film Institute’s DVD release, Nyman exploits his considerable acquaintance with the work to create a similarly giddy montage with editor Max Pugh, this time shot on vid over the past two decades. Fests, specialty exhibs and classy vid play beckon.
Unlike Vertov’s, Nyman’s camera travels the globe, visiting more than a dozen countries (including considerable footage lensed in Iran and Mexico, the director’s primary residence). However, like Vertov, a celebratory tone is created through montage (with visual tricks exactly duplicated) as well as by a sense that the viewer belongs to a family of humans. Paralleling Vertov’s antic cameraman, Nyman observes a Mexican lenser operating a camera jib as a constant reference point and “character.” Nyman’s score, performed by his powerful band, alternates between andante and allegro, the latter exploding with his signature locomotive propulsion.
Camera (DV), Nyman; editor, Max Pugh; music, Nyman. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Future Projections), Sept. 12, 2010. Running time: 67 MIN.