Manhatta - #2 - SD restored 2001, music 2005 - Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand

Rental Format(s): Digital File

Alternate title: "New York the Magnificent", "Fumée de New York"
Co-makers: Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand
Original format: 35mm silent film 1.33:1
New music 2005: Donald Sosin
Courtesy: British Film Institute National Archive
Techncial note: The 35mm print digitized here is several generations downstream from the only vintage 35mm print known to survive. In 1949, the British Film Institute rediscovered a single 35mm nitrate projection print, heavily used and of questionable provenance. An exact preservation duplicate of the 1927 London Film Society show print would serve as the source for additional 16mm prints circulated. As of the 2001, the 35mm print presented here as part of the "Unseen Cinema" became the best copy to be screened in the U.S. since the late 1930s.

Strand and Sheeler's only film collaboration was the first consciously produced avant-garde U.S. film and a model for subsequent city films, though it was released as a New York "scenic" of lower Manhattan. A modernist work, the film demonstrates a romantic subtext in its Whitmanesque inter-titles and narrative construction. -Jan-Christopher Horak

Artists/photographers Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand created one of the earliest achievements of 20th century film modernism. This expressive film resonates a dynamic passion for New York City and visualizes selected passages of Walt Whitman's poetic text from "Leaves of Grass". One of the absolute pleasures of viewing the 35mm motion picture film print of Manhatta arises from being able to not only clearly see details but to discover that the images are symmetrically composed. An individual shot, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, is a stunning evocation of compositional perspective where space is delineated by the spread of wires radiating outward from a centrally located point in the picture. The symmetry resonates pure visual energy.
-Bruce Posner

Born into wealth, Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) became an artist in the 1910s, creating "Precisionist" paintings that looked like photographs and sharply realist photographs that won numerous prizes. Apart from several attempts at filmmaking, Manhatta was his only film work, but Church Street El (1920) among other paintings and photographs are renditions from the film. -Jan-Christopher Horak

One of America's most famous art photographers, Paul Strand's (1890-1976) career spanned 60 years; his Wall Street (1915) and "Mexican Portfolio" (1930s) are considered masterpieces. Strand also worked as a documentary filmmaker, especially in the 1930s for various left-wing organizations, producing Redes (1934) and Native Land (1937-41), among others. -Jan-Christopher Horak

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