Review by John Bush [-]
It was just a matter of time before the Cinematic Orchestra received a commission for a film score, but this 2003 release actually dates from 1999. The genesis of Man With a Movie Camera lies in the selection committee of a Portuguese film festival, which asked Cinematic Orchestra to score their re-airing of Dziga Vertov's 1929 film of the same name, a silent Soviet documentary focused on a day in the life of an average worker. Performed live by the orchestra, Man With a Movie Camera doesn't allow J Swinscoe to indulge in his usual post-production magic, but it is a surprisingly adept score, with occasional bursts of on-the-one jazz-funk wailing to break it up. (Pity the poor comrade who's soundtracked 70 years later with a hyper-speed Pretty Purdie-type drum solo and some old-school-rap samples in the background.) Scattered moments of brilliance abound, and at one point, someone on sax comes up with a brilliant foghorn recreation. The cinematic material lies in '70s astral jazz, with evocative, tremulous work from soprano sax and violin. Just two caveats: several of these performances were later echoed in tracks appearing on the Cinematic Orchestra's 2002 release Every Day, and some passages have a baffling, you-had-to-be-there quality. Apparently it was a hit at the festival, though only the DVD release of Man With a Movie Camera has the film itself, along with a Cinematic Orchestra performance live in the studio, plus a Channel 4 documentary on the making of the record.