Manhatta (from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman)

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker: ,

A proto-videopoem from the silent film era, now residing in the Internet Archive. This was a collaboration between painter Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand. Pour a drink, put on some music, and expand this to full screen.

A page at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website helps place it in historical context:

In 1920 [Charles Sheeler] worked with Paul Strand on Manhatta, a short expressive film about New York City based on portions of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” The six-minute film spans an imaginary day in the life of New York City, beginning with footage of Staten Island ferry commuters and culminating with the sun setting over the Hudson River. It has been described as the first avant-garde film made in America. Its many brief shots and dramatic camera angles emphasize New York’s photographic nature. Sheeler exhibited Manhatta as both projected film (as seen in this section) as well as prints made from the film strips that he used like photographic negatives.

(“New York’s photographic nature”? I guess they mean photogenic. Whatever. It’s a great film.)

6 Comments

  1. Reply
    Bill 16 January, 2010

    Ach! I’ve got to find a way to identify which videos are streaming before I play them. Mostly they aren’t streaming, so I pressed play and went away, thinking I’d watch it later.

    I’ve just thrown away 1/4 of our daily internet allowance! (sarc mark)

  2. Reply
    Bill 16 January, 2010

    The thing is, is that this has kind a created a negative potential. How great this movie must be, this prey that has eluded me. I’m having an esthetic moment of lack. The day is now charged a wistful longing that it hadn’t had before. I had woken up today not knowing if I wanted anything at all. Now I know that I do, so thanks!

    I love this page!

    • Reply
      Dave Bonta 18 January, 2010

      Thanks, Bill! Geez, I hope the film measures up to your expectations when you finally see it. I’ll be interested to hear your reactions.

  3. Reply
    Bill 16 January, 2010

    I’ll be thinking in ten minute spells all day long.

  4. Reply
    Charlotte 26 October, 2014

    It says “mark strand” for the filmmaker! It was most certianly Paul strand! He was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. Worth looking into if you aren’t familiar!

    • Reply
      Dave 27 October, 2014

      Oops! Total mind-fart in my case. (I even studied Paul Strand in an art history class in college.) Thanks so much for the catch.

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