1st Edition

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

Edited By Steven Jacobs, Eva Hielscher, Anthony Kinik Copyright 2019
    360 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    360 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.


    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


    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