1929 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1929.

1. Man with a Camera, directed by Dziga Vertov (10/10)

This is far and away the most innovative silent film I’ve seen. It’s a little short on everything else beyond camera tricks, but who cares? The only problem I have with it is the ridiculously pretentious opening credits, which make you want to hate the movie before it’s even started. However, it’s so crazy, I couldn’t stay mad at it for very long. Wowza.

2. Arsenal, directed by Aleksander Dovshenko (9/10)

This a daring, bold and inventive Soviet propaganda film that somehow manages to rise above it’s nature to become one of the earliest anti-war films, as well as a commemoration/celebration of the layman’s part in history. Dovshenko uses (totally insane) jump cuts, tableaux, few characters – and those aren’t even present for the whole film – lighting tricks and pretty much everything else at his command to create a nuanced and affecting portrait of war.

Yes, there are obvious elements of Soviet propaganda, but these are remarkably moderate given that this film was produced by the Party to commemorate an event in the Revolution, and, moreover, because the film was made for people who knew the events, the modern viewer misses much of the propaganda because we don’t have context. Instead, we get a clear anti-war message and lots of insane film technique.

The one thing that keeps me from giving full marks is this very lack of context. It’s kind of hard to figure out what’s going on a lot of the time. (This criticism was made at the time, too.)

3. The Box of Pandora, directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst (8/10)

I believe I watched this as part of an anthology years ago and so my thoughts aren’t so clear on it.

4. Blackmail, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (7/10)

Hitchcock hadn’t really perfected his style yet, but this is decent.