The City Symphony Phenomenon : Cinema, Art, and Urban Modernity Between the Wars book cover
1st Edition

The City Symphony Phenomenon
Cinema, Art, and Urban Modernity Between the Wars

ISBN 9780367459475
Published March 31, 2021 by Routledge
360 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of the city symphony, an experimental film form that presented the city as protagonist instead of mere decor. Combining experimental, documentary, and narrative practices, these films were marked by a high level of abstraction reminiscent of high-modernist experiments in painting and photography. Moreover, interwar city symphonies presented a highly fragmented, oftentimes kaleidoscopic sense of modern life, and they organized their urban-industrial images through rhythmic and associative montage that evoke musical structures. In this comprehensive volume, contributors consider the full 80 film corpus, from Manhatta and Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt to lesser-known cinematic explorations.

Table of Contents


Part I:

Introduction: The City Symphony Phenomenon 1920-1940

Steven Jacobs, Anthony Kinik, and Eva Hielscher

Part II:

1. László MoholyNagy and the City (Symphony)

Malte Hagener

2. Productive City: Ruttmann’s Düsseldorf: Kleiner Film einer großen Stadt

Michael Cowan

3. Minor Paris City Symphonies

Christa Blümlinger

4. Kaufman and Kopalin’s Moscow

Malcolm Turvey

5. A Parisian in Manhattan: Florey’s Skyscraper Symphony

Merrill Schleier

6. D’Errico’s Stramilano

John David Rhodes

7. Belgian Variations on the City Symphony Theme

Steven Jacobs

8. Koelinga’s De Steeg: Palimpsest and Parallax Historiography

Ivo Blom

9. Schuitema’s De Maasbruggen: City and Film as a Process

Floris Paalman

10. Von Barsy and Von Maydell’s The City that Never Rests: A Port City Symphony

Eva Hielscher

11. Hauser’s Weltstadt in Flegeljahren: An Americanist City Symphony

Eva Hielscher

12. Oneway Street: Conrad’s Halsted Street

Tom Gunning

13. Leyda’s A Bronx Morning

JanChristopher Horak

14. Kemeny and Lustig’s Sao Paolo, a Symphonia da Metropole

Cristina Menguello

15. Sparling’s Canadian City Symphonies

Anthony Kinik

16. Steiner and Van Dyke’s The City

Anthony Kinik

Part III:

17. A Survey of City Symphonies 19201940

Eva Hielscher, Steven Jacobs, and Anthony Kinik

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Steven Jacobs is an art historian who specializes in the relation between film and the visual arts. His publications include The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock; Framing Pictures: Film and the Visual Arts; and The Dark Galleries: A Museum Guide to Painted Portraits in Film Noir. He teaches at Ghent University and the University of Antwerp.

Anthony Kinik’s work spans documentary, experimental, avant-garde, and industrial practices, and his principal focus in recent years has been on the cinematic depiction of the urban environment, including the city symphonies cycle of the interwar period and Montreal as a “cinematic city” in the 1960s. He is an Assistant Professor of Film Studies with the Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario.

Eva Hielscher is a film scholar, curator, and moving image archivist. She holds an MA degree in “Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image” from the University of Amsterdam and has worked as a PhD researcher at Ghent University.


"The City Symphony Phenomenon: Cinema, Art, and Urban Modernity between the Wars, a product of scholarly sleuthing and obsession, is a fascinating and valuable achievement."

- Charles Musser, Yale University