Manhatta (1921)

Manhatta is the result of a collaboration between painter Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand (neither of the two had previous filmmaking experience and no connections to the film industry). It is a cinematic prose poem exalting the energetic and modern pulse of New York City.
This film is a rhythmic series of images, interspersed with verse excerpted from Whitman, fashioning an expression of the city over the course of a day. Their urban portrait begins at dawn as scores of people arrive in the city for a day of work. The ten 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 consists of 65 shots sequenced in a loose narrative in which the primary objective is to explore the relationship between photography and film.

Its many brief shots and dramatic camera angles emphasize New York's photographic nature. Strand and Sheeler exhibited Manhatta as both projected film as well as prints made from the film strips that were used like photographic negatives. They created a sense of life.
Manhatta can be viewed as a representation of New York City through the eyes of a still photographer (Sheeler) : camera movement is kept to a minimum, as is incidental motion within each shot. Each frame provides a view of the city that has been carefully arranged into abstract compositions. For the most part, the camera stays stationary to capture the images of the extraordinary cityscape. Sheeler and Strand aimed their camera from great heights in the city’s office towers. The city’s architecture repeatedly minimizes its inhabitants. Even the construction of these mighty edifices is not a celebration of human greatness. Manhatta is an abstract and often disturbing glimpse across a city that seems too large for its people.

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