Filmmaker: Charles Sheeler

Manhatta (from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman)

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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.)