Sunday, June 24, 2007

'Before I speak, I have something important to say.'


I assume a few of you are curious as to the origins of this blog's title, 'Kino-Eye'. Perhaps a few of the more clever students out there have already deciphered this cryptic phrase. If so, well done - your prize is the satisfaction of knowing that you truly are a film geek (and possibly a communist as well). For the rest of you, the answer is maybe more mundane than you might have hoped. 'Kino-Eye' is simply the name of a movie I happen to enjoy, by a director whose name I feel more sophisticated just by pronouncing, Dziga Vertov.

A friend of mine - himself a director - originally alerted me to the Soviet Dziga Vertov, specifically Vertov's film 'Man With A Movie Camera'. An amazing work, but a little too cumbersome to be the title of a blog. I opted instead for the title of one of Vertov's earlier works, 'Kino Glaz' ('Kino Eye'). It has a nice ring to it. More to the point, it allows us to imagine that we are that eye, redirecting the gaze of cinema (narcissistically, perhaps) back upon itself - in this case, the Toronto film scene.

But I think Vertov himself said it best:

"I am the eye. I am a mechanical eye. I, a machine, am showing you a world, the likes of which only I can see... My road is towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I decipher in a new way the world unknown to you."

(Many thanks to my friend Kohei for supplying me with the quote.)

I don't pretend to possess the qualifications to write at length about early avant-garde Soviet cinema, but I will say that I find it immensely fascinating that some of the most innovative films ever committed to celluloid were produced under the watch of the 'Man of Steel', Joseph Stalin. But then again, it might not be so bizarre. 'Casablanca' is nothing if not a paean to America's Free-French allies during the Second World War. And of course, there is Akira Kurosawa's first feature, 'Sanshiro Sugata', itself intended by his producers to instill in a war-time Japanese audience the correct sense of 'Yamato damashii'. Perhaps the relationship between the (totalitarian) state and art is more symbiotic than we would like to believe.

If you're curious about this Vertov fellow, or maybe are in need of some time to kill while you should be working on an essay (and if so, shame on you), then head on over to Google Video where you can watch the entirety of 'Kino Glaz' for free (along with, as I've just discovered, a slew of classic Chinese films from the Nationalist period). Too lazy to search the site yourself? All right. Here's the link. Happy?

(With many thanks to Groucho M. for supplying the title to this post.)

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