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Paul Strand
Charles Sheeler
11 min
United States

Manhatta fuses modernist painter Charles Sheeler's Precisionist emphasis on hard lines and sharp geometric forms with the immediacy and conviction of Paul Strand's "straight" photography. Throughout the 1910s, Strand had attempted to reinvigorate the American Romantic traditions of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman (the film's intertitles are taken from the "Mannahatta" section of his 1855 poem Leaves of Grass) in a new technological age. Strand saw the camera as a vehicle for a unique synthesis of empirical knowledge and intuitive understanding that would enable a fuller appreciation of reality. He restaged some of his own photographs - including his iconic 1915 image of Wall Street - for the film, but the juxtapositions possess a distinctive cinematic rhythm that anticipates the musical documentaries of Walter Ruttmann, the montage of Sergei Eisenstein, and the poetic transitions of Yasujirō Ozu.