Screening The City

Overview

The city has long been an important location for film-makers. Visually compelling and always “modern,” it is the perfect metaphor for man’s place in the contemporary world.

In this provocative collection of essays, a diverse range of films are examined in terms of the relationship between cinema and paradigmatic urban experience in Europe and North America since the early twentieth century. Moscow, Leningrad, Berlin, Prague and Warsaw—sites of dramatic upheaval in the ...

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Overview

The city has long been an important location for film-makers. Visually compelling and always “modern,” it is the perfect metaphor for man’s place in the contemporary world.

In this provocative collection of essays, a diverse range of films are examined in terms of the relationship between cinema and paradigmatic urban experience in Europe and North America since the early twentieth century. Moscow, Leningrad, Berlin, Prague and Warsaw—sites of dramatic upheaval in the 1920s-1930s, and again in the 1970s-1980s—feature strongly in the first part of the book. In the cinematic representation of these cities, modernist experimentation combined with social and political change to produce such memorable films as The Man with the Movie Camera, Berlin: The Symphony of a Great City, Berlin Alexanderplatz and, more recently, the work of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jan Švankmajer and the Brothers Quay. The different but comparable space of the North American city since World War Two provides the primary focus for the second part of the book. Here, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Toronto provide the settings for an investigation of the relationship between cinema and race, and cinema and postmodern global capitalism, in a comprehensive range of films from Point Blank, Medium Cool, Network and Annie Hall in the 1960s and 1970s, to Boyz N the Hood, Falling Down, Pulp Fiction, [Safe], Crash and The End of Violence in the 1990s.

Throughout the book, the cinema’s artistic encounter with the city always intersects with a social and political engagement in which urgent issues of class, race, sexuality, the environment, liberty, capital, and totalitarianism are everywhere at stake.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A wonderfully kaleidoscopic examination of the strange alchemy between celluloid and asphalt.”—Mike Davis
Publishers Weekly
This anthology of academic essays from England and the U.S. addresses the changing conception of the "city" in the history of cinema, and vice versa, through the filter of ongoing debates about the definitions of postmodernism. In the opening essay, German and Russian studies professor Carsten Strathausen layers interpretations of Adorno, de Certeau and other critics of the Enlightenment onto the work of 1920s filmmakers DzigaVertov and Walter Ruttman, to arrive at the fairly bland conclusion that "the city, much like the cinema, presents an inherently ambivalent picture of modern life which cannot be rendered fully present in its entirety." Matthew Gandy situates Todd Haynes's Safe in its peculiarly suburban, Los Angeleno topos, the "tessellated landscapes of...its vast semi-arid hinterland," and explains the film's critique of New Age self help discourses through a detailed recapitulation of the plot. Other writers address the brothers Quay, "New Jack Cinema," and Annie Hall, using such theoretical heavyweights as Gilles Deleuze, Edward Soja, and Mike Davis for backup. Overall, the book's stylish, if greatly over-theorized premise, that popular cinema shapes and reflects the larger psychopathologies of Western culture, and the other way around, finds happy verification among its contributors. Using the inherent sex appeal of film studies to spice up such otherwise musty fields as geography, sociology and social theory, this collection's uneven and un-urgent arguments preach eloquently to the converted. (Apr. 24) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859844762
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 3/17/2003
  • Pages: 322
  • Product dimensions: 5.53 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Tony Fitzmaurice is College Lecturer in Film Studies at the Centre for Film Studies/UCD School of Film, University College Dublin.

Mark Shiel is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College, London.

Matthew Gandy teaches geography at University College London and has published widely on urban and environmental issues.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. I The Modern City: Central and Eastern Europe
1 Uncanny Spaces: The City in Ruttmann and Vertov 15
2 Ruttmann's Berlin: Filming in a "Hollow Space" 41
3 The City Vanishes: Piel Jutzi's Berlin Alexanderplatz 58
4 "Cut out from last year's moldering newspapers": Bruno Schulz and the Brothers Quay on The Street of Crocodiles 80
5 Architorture: Jan Svankmajer and Surrealist Film 100
6 Kieslowski's Dekalog, Everyday Life, and the Art of Solidarity 113
Pt. II The Postmodern City: North America
7 After the Sixties: Changing Paradigms in the Representation of Urban Space 137
8 A Nostalgia for Modernity: New York, Los Angeles, and American Cinema in the 1970s 160
9 The Affective City: Urban Black Bodies and Milieu in Menace II Society and Pulp Fiction 180
10 City Spaces and City Times: Bakhtin's Chronotope and Recent African-American Film 200
11 Against the Los Angeles Symbolic: Unpacking the Racialized Discourse of the Automobile in 1980s and 1990s Cinema 216
12 Allergy and Allegory in Todd Haynes' [Safe] 239
13 The Deleuzean Experience of Cronenberg's Crash and Wenders' The End of Violence 262
Coda: The City Reborn: Cinema at the Turn of the Century 284
List of Contributors 299
Index 303
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