MANHATTA

by Charles SHEELER & Paul STRAND
1921 / 35mm / b&w / silent / 1S / 9' 00

“The painter Charles Sheeler picked up photography in the 1910s in order to make a living, since his new geometric paintings were not selling well. He then became increasingly interested in the expressive possibilities of the camera. He decided to make a film in collaboration with the photographer Paul Strand. Their collaboration resulted in a impressionist representation of a hymn to the city by Walt Whitman, and is characterized by a style that is more photo-secessionist than realist. It was also the beginning of the brilliant cinematic career of Paul Strand.” – William J. Sloan

“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

“In 1920, photographer Paul Strand and painter-photographer Charles Sheeler, who had acquired a French 35mm Debrie movie camera, collaborated on a short non-commercial art film, now titled M They began to shoot in lower Manhattan working without scenario or script. Many of the scenes were made from the upper floors of skyscrapers in order to emphasize the geometric character of the city's architecture and to suggest the ant-like character of its population. In their press release, Strand wrote that they had tried to ‘register directly the living forms in front of them and reduce [them] through rigid selection…to their most intensest [sic] terms of expressiveness…’ to capture the ‘elusive spirit’ of New York, without resorting to ‘artifice or photographic trickery.’” – Naomi Rosenblum

“MANHATTA is a singular, landmark accomplishment in the history of early twentieth-century modernism. A collaboration between two very different artistic temperaments, Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, MANHATTA stands at a crossroad of various ideas about what modernism was and could be in 1920. It is homage to the radically democratic vision of American poet Walt Whitman and the avant-garde urban photography of Alfred Stieglitz as well as a harbinger of the coldly detached, abstract, analytical machine aesthetic that would define the precisionist style of the 1920s. Over the course of the twentieth century much of the visual clarity and intellectual brilliance that Sheeler and Strand invested in the project was lost due to the poor handling and deteriorating condition of the film. This remarkable digital restoration has made MANHATTA visible and intelligible once again.” – Charles Brock

4 PRINTS IN DISTRIBUTION


distribution format 16mm
screen 1,37 - Standard (single screen)
speed 18 fps
sound silent
rental fee 39,00 €

distribution format Digital file on server (2K)
version restored version
duration 12' 05
notes 2K digital restoration
screen 4/3 (single screen)
sound sound
rental fee 150,00 €

distribution format Digital file on server (HD)
screen 1,37 - Standard (single screen)
speed 24 fps
sound silent
rental fee 39,00 €

distribution format Digital file on server (HD)
version restored version
duration 11' 45
notes Music by Donald Sosin. Restored in 2001 from sole surviving 35mm positive print held at BFI
screen 4/3 (single screen)
speed 24 fps
sound sound
rental fee 70,00 €