by Michael Alan Goldberg

Cinematic Orchestra

Tues June 17

B Complex

So first a bit of cinematic history: Back in early 20th century Russia, there was a guy by the name of Dziga Vertov who was a big fan of Vladimir Lenin, and he fell into the movie business by happily making newsreels for the newly formed Soviet government. That subsequently led to the development of his own filmmaking aesthetic, passionately set forth in the ever-popular manifesto form, which fully rejected the dramatic conventions and cliches of the day's prevalent escapist-fiction films in favor of stark reality and unflinching truths--a precursor to the French cinema verité movement.

In 1929, Vertov created the silent film Man With a Movie Camera, a day-in-the-life, pseudo-documentary of the average Soviet worker that celebrates, Bolshevik propaganda-style, the blissful joys of mechanized labor. By virtue of its revolutionary camera and editing techniques, the flick wowed audiences and earned Vertov quite a bit of notoriety. That is, until Stalin came along a few years later, inexplicably declared his work detrimental to State ideology, and banished him forever to the near-forgotten fringes of Russian cinema (hey, it beats Siberia).

Fast-forward 70 years. Jason Swinscoe, the Ninja Tune denizen behind the mega-accomplished British electro-jazz outfit Cinematic Orchestra, is asked to write and perform a score for a one-time showing of MWAMC at the 1999 Porto Film Festival. The event goes over so well that he and his seven-piece band uses much of that material to fuel their second album, 2002's stellar Every Day.

Now, in 2003, Cinematic Orchestra has revisited and rearranged that original score and released it as the Man With a Movie Camera "soundtrack." And a commanding piece of work it is. Swinscoe and company decided, for the most part, not to mimic the film's kinetic pacing, preferring instead to color the visuals with a moody and hypnotic combination of ambient electronics, Coltrane-like saxophone passages, teary strings, live drums, and the odd sample or scratch. Unfortunately, the group isn't bringing the film along with them, but the evening's festivities should be quite beguiling nonetheless--certainly a unity of men and machines that would make Vertov exceptionally proud.