Man with a Movie Camera (Animated movie camera)

General description of the situation
Brief description: 

Towards the end of the movie (about 59:30 minutes in), we return to the movie theatre from the start of the movie, seeing the audience from above. The camera tripod steps onto the stage, moving without human assistance (stop motion animation), its three legs awkwardly walking to position itself in front of a bench. A case slides along the bench and the tripd adjusts its height down as the case opens and the movie camera comes out of the case and positions itself on the tripod.

The audience is still at first, looking seriously at the tripod, but they start to smile as the camera positions itself on the tripod, and laugh and talk as the camera spins around, spinning all its handles and dials in a little dance. The camera and tripod then "walk" off the stage, followed by the case, which slides off camera on the bench. 

The movie camera's dance is obviously done using stop-motion animation, but it is also implicitly compared to magic, through the parallel to an earlier scene in the movie where children watch a magician, and the cutting between the children's laughter and delight and the magic tricks (partly shown by an actual magician, and partly using stop motion animation) is very similar to the cutting between the animated movie camera and the adult audience. (This similarity is noted by Malcolm Turvey in his paper "Can the Camera See? Mimesis in Man with a Movie Camera, October 89, Summer 1999). The scene also comes immediately after another scene where people watch a performance of somebody playing music on spoons and hands on a piano keyboard. In this previous performance, there is no magic, but there are a lot of film tricks, as the spoons and piano keyboard merge in and out of each other in double exposures, and shots of the audience are intercut with the performance faster and faster. The cuts between the dancing camera and its audience are quite sedate in comparison - but both feature humans delighted by something automated or semi-automated.

Up until this point of the movie, the movie camera is always shown with a human operator. Often the human carries the camera, placing it in new positions. In this animated sequence, the camera moves by itself, although even here, there is a puppet-like quality to its dance, suggesting that somewhere, out of sight, a human operator is still there. This idea is strengthened by the parallel to the magic tricks earlier in the movie. And yet, we do see the movie camera moving, by itself. Not filming, not seeing, but dancing.

Multimedia: 

Man with a Movie Camera (1929) movie

Aesthetics and Interface
Colours: 
Aesthetic characteristics: 
Machine P.O.V: 
Not machine P.O.V.
Last modified: 
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - 11:31