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This article is taken from PN Review 142, Volume 28 Number 2, November - December 2001.

From the Diary of a Movie Buff Ben Sonnenberg

In Memory of Vincent Canby (1922-2000)


Man With the Movie Camera, by Dziga Vertov, produced for DVD and VHS by David Shepard, presented by arrangement with George Eastman House, 1929. Musical accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra. B&W, silent, 68 minutes. Distributed by Image Entertainment.

Paris, April 1953. Flirted with a pretty French girl outside the Cinémathèque. Twenty or maybe twenty-one, three or four years older than me. Grey eyes, black brows, short skirt, good legs. She said, 'Aimez-vous Dziga Vertov?' I answered truthfully, 'Vertov? Connais pas.' Exit pretty French girl. Drat. Should have said, 'Vertov? Je l'adore!'

Taconic, Connecticut, June 1973. An impromptu film society in Norfolk showed Dziga Vertov's silent Man With the Movie Camera (1929) in a 16 mm print rented from the Museum of Modern Art. A recording of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat played along with the film. 'Vertov was a Ukrainian Jew,' I confidently told the woman sitting next to me. The man on the other side said to her, 'Vertov was born in Bialystock, Poland, at the end of the nineteenth century. His original name was Kaufman. Denys Kaufman, in fact. Man With the Movie Camera, or Chelovek s'kinoapparatom, is his masterpiece.' Man turned smoothly to me and said, 'People sometimes think he was Ukrainian because dziga means spinning in that language, just as vertov means top in Russian.' Ever more smoothly man went on, 'Dziga vaguely recalls the Yiddish word dredle, the top given ...


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