Cities and Cinema

Cities and Cinema Films about cities abound. They provide fantasies for those who recognize their city and those for whom the city is a faraway dream or nightmare. How does cinema rework city planners’ hopes and city dwellers’ fears of modern urbanism? Can an analysis of city films answer some of the questions posed in urban studies? What kinds of vision for the future and images of the past do city films offer? What are the changes that city films have undergone? Cities and Cinema puts urban theory and cinema studies in dialogue. The book’s first section analyzes three important genres of city films that follow in historical sequence, each associated with a particular city, moving from the city film of the Weimar Republic to the film noir associated with Los Angeles and the image of Paris in the cinema of the French New Wave. The second section discusses socio-historical themes of urban studies, beginning with the relationship of film industries and individual cities, continuing with the portrayal of war-torn and divided cities, and ending with the cinematic expression of utopia and dystopia in urban science fiction. The last section negotiates the question of identity and place in a global world, moving from the portrayal of ghettos and barrios to the city as a setting for gay and lesbian desire, to end with the representation of the global city in transnational cinematic practices. The book suggests that modernity links urbanism and cinema. It accounts for the significant changes that city film has undergone through processes of globalization, during which the city has developed from an icon in national cinema to a privileged site for transnational cinematic practices. It is a key text for students and researchers of Film Studies, Urban Studies, and Cultural Studies. Barbara Mennel is an Assistant Professor of German Studies and Cinema Studies in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies and in the Film and Media Studies Program in the English Department at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She is author of The Representation of Masochism and Queer Desire in Film and Literature (2007). Routledge critical introductions to urbanism and the city Edited by Malcolm Miles, University of Plymouth, UK and John Rennie Short, University of Maryland, USA International Advisory Board: Franco Bianchini Jane Rendell Kim Dovey Saskia Sassen Stephen Graham David Sibley Tim Hall Erik Swyngedouw Phil Hubbard Elizabeth Wilson Peter Marcuse The series is designed to allow undergraduate readers to make sense of, and find a critical way into, urbanism. It will: ● cover a broad range of themes ● introduce key ideas and sources ● allow the author to articulate her/his own position ● introduce complex arguments clearly and accessibly ● bridge disciplines, and theory and practice ● be affordable and well designed. The series covers social, political, economic, cultural and spatial concerns. It will appeal to students in architecture, cultural studies, geography, popular culture, sociology, urban studies, urban planning. It will be trans-disciplinary. Firmly situated in the present, it also introduces material from the cities of modernity and post-modernity. Published: Cities and Consumption – Mark Jayne Cities and Cultures – Malcolm Miles Cities and Nature – Lisa Benton-Short and John Rennie Short Cities and Economies – Yeong-Hyun Kim and John Rennie Short Cities and Cinema – Barbara Mennel Forthcoming: Cities, Politics and Power – Simon Parker Children, Youth and the City – Kathrin Hörshelmann and Lorraine van Blerk Cities and Gender – Helen Jarvis, Jonathan Cloke and Paula Kantor Cities and Cinema By Barbara Mennel First published 2008 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2008. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.” Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2008 Barbara Mennel All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Mennel, Barbara Caroline. Cities and cinema / by Barbara Mennel. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Cities and towns in motion pictures. 2. City and town life in motion pictures. I. Title. PN1995.9.C513M46 2008 791.43′621732—dc22 2007037747 ISBN 0-203-01560-6 Master e-book ISBN ISBN10: 0–415–36445–0 (hbk) ISBN10: 0–415–36446–9 (pbk) ISBN10: 0–203–01560–6 (ebk) ISBN13: 978–0–415–36445–4 (hbk) ISBN13: 978–0–415–36446–1 (pbk) ISBN13: 978–0–203–01560–5 (ebk) Contents List of figures vii Acknowledgments ix Introduction: the founding myth of cinema, or the “train effect” 1 Introduction to Section I 19 1 Modernity and the city film: Berlin 21 2 The dark city and film noir: Los Angeles 46 3 The city of love: Paris 61 Introduction to Section II 81 4 City film industry: Hong Kong 83 5 The city in ruins and the divided city: Berlin, Belfast, and Beirut 103 6 Utopia and dystopia: fantastic and virtual cities 130 Introduction to Section III 151 7 Ghettos and barrios 153 8 The city as queer playground 176 9 The global city and cities in globalization 195 Conclusion: from the “train effect” to the “favela effect” – how to do further research 210 vi • Contents Notes 218 Bibliography 220 Filmography 230 Index 236 Figures I F. W. Murnau. The Last Laugh (1924): Modern traffic 5 1.1 The Last Laugh: The city at night 22 1.2 The Last Laugh: A typical Berlin working-class tenement court yard 24 1.3 Advertisement for Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927) 31 1.4 G. W. Pabst. Joyless Street (1925) 33 1.5 The shooting of Joyless Street 34 1.6 The empty street as setting in Fritz Lang’s M (1931) 35 1.7 The shadow of the mass murderer meeting his next victim 36 1.8 Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927): Traffic 39 1.9 Creating the set for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) 40 1.10 Mies van der Rohe’s modernist vision of architecture 42 1.11 Metropolis: The spectacle of the modern cityscape 43 3.1 Agnès Varda. Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962): Production still with Agnès Varda in the mirror 73 3.2 Cléo from 5 to 7: Art students approaching the cab 74 3.3 Jean-Luc Godard. Breathless (1960): Michel and Patricia on the Champs Elisées 77 5.1 René Clément. Is Paris Burning? (1966): The empty city shot from below 107 5.2 Is Paris Burning?: The city comes alive 108 5.3 Wolfgang Staudte. The Murderers Are among Us (1946): Walking through the landscape of ruins 114 5.4 Carol Reed. The Third Man (1949): The hunt for Harry Lime 124 5.5 The Third Man: Skewed angles 125 5.6 The Third Man: Holly Martins on a pile of rubbish 126 5.7 The Third Man: The return of expressionism 127 6.1 Ridley Scott. Blade Runner (1982): The postmodern, dark city 147 viii • List of figures 7.1 Charles Burnett. Killer of Sheep (1977): The aesthetics of the everyday 165 7.2 Pier Paolo Pasolini. Accattone (1961): Walking through the construction sites in Rome’s outskirts 167 7.3 Perry Henzell. The Harder They Come (1972): Running through shacks 173 8.1 John Schlesinger. Midnight Cowboy (1969): Dustin Hoffmann (“Ratso” Rizzo) and Jon Voight (Joe Buck) on the set 181 Acknowledgments First and foremost I have to thank John Rennie Short with whom I had the pleasure of teaching a course on “Cinema and the City” for the Humanities Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, out of which this volume emerged. I not only learned from his lectures but also cherished our regular meals accompanied by animated conversations about our respective fields. And I am deeply indebted to Amy Abugo Ongiri, without whom this book could not have been written. Long ago she introduced me to Blaxploitation and Hong Kong action film, and during the writing of the book she generously shared her extensive collection of materials with me. She also read drafts of a couple of chapters in a pinch – thanks. More importantly, however, this book is deeply influenced by her thinking about film and popular culture. Ingeborg Majer O’Sickey provided a lake-view in upstate New York for a joint writing–retreat and was a passionate and insightful sounding-board for the project. Her intention to turn the book into a course provided me with an imaginary audience. I am also indebted to Jeffrey Schneider and Jaimey Fisher who both took time out of their busy schedules to read and make incisive comments on sections of the manuscript that left their imprints on concepts integral to the book’s argument. During the fall of 2006 I was nourished and sustained by the students in two courses I was privileged to teach at the University of Florida, Gainesville, a graduate course, “Theories of Globalization and the Cinema,” and an under- graduate course, “Literature, Film, and the Arts of Berlin.” Graduate students Hendrik Aulbach, Jonathan Barnes, Heather Bigley, Jo Carlisle, Matthew Feltman, Claudia Hoffmann, Dominik Jaschke, Yun Jo, James Liner, Peter Mersch, Fayola Neely, James Phillips, Kay Sender, and Rabia Shah offered original and thought- provoking approaches to some of the films discussed in this volume, pushed my thinking on theories of globalization and, most importantly, created community around our shared intellectual pursuit. Equally sharp and committed, under- graduates Arace Assadoghli, Daryl Baginski, Rachael Counce, Benjamin Dorvel, Leah Greenblum, Heather Harr, Delia Hernandez, Jonathan Hill, Joshua x • Acknowledgments McClellan, Natalie Prager, Chelsea Rhodes, Margot Salinardi, Lila Stone, Haneke van de Esschert, Sarah Wichterman, and Steven Wylie engaged deeply with the culture of Berlin, sharing contagious excitement accompanied by thorough research and analysis. Among my colleagues at the University of Florida, Susan Hegeman provided substantive feedback and references for early drafts of the first three chapters during a one-semester leave generously provided by my then chairs, Dragan Kujundzic and John Leavey. Andrew M. Gordon kindly discussed science fiction and urban space with me and pointed me in the direction of seminal films and literature, while Sylvie Blum-Reid read and commented on Chapter 3 on Paris with map in hand. Ewa Wampuszyc and Holly Raynard read Chapter 5 and offered important comparative perspectives on war and the city in relationship to Warsaw and Prague respectively, part of their on-going witty comparative European intellectual exchange. Interim chair and historian Jeffrey S. Adler balanced the universe for one academic year when much of the writing took place, and through his sheer presence reminded me of the importance of history (and dogs). Research in the Film Archive of the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, the British Film Institute in London, and the Bibliothèque du Film in Paris was supported by a Humanities Enhancement Grant and a Research Travel Grant from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida and the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, under chair Will Hasty. I thank the Photo Archive of the Deutsche Kinemathek, especially Peter Latta, and the British Film Institute for permissions to reprint the stills in this volume. Working with the partially anonymous reviewers was the kind of positive academic experience I wish on any scholarly writer. Their feedback was, while some- times critical, always deeply engaging, constructive, and pushed me beyond the horizon of the already written text. I particularly appreciated David B. Clarke – whose work I respect deeply – for lending his name to the project from the outset. I was equally impressed by the reviewer who remained anonymous and who claimed to be “blunt to be helpful,” but who was also generous, smart, funny, conscientious, and knowledgeable. Time is one of the things we never have enough of, and to give time to work that appears under the name of others represents an act of particular intellectual generosity. While I may not have fulfilled all their expectations, I hope to have approximated them. Mary Fahnestock-Thomas has helped me navigate writing in English with kindness, generosity, and force. At Routledge, the dream-team of Andrew Mould, Jennifer Page, and Daniel Wadsworth made everything possible. This book is dedicated to my sister Susan Ursula Mennel. It took me many years to understand that if I am the city mouse, she is the country mouse, even though the deep mud on her boots could have tipped me off much earlier. Introduction: The founding myth of cinema, or the “train effect” The cinematograph reigns in the city, reigns over the earth . . . More than the preachings of wise men, the cinematograph has demonstrated to everyone what reality is. Andrei Bely (1908) Learning objectives ● Comprehend the early history of cinema ● Conceptualize the role of cities in that history ● Grasp the terms modernity and postmodernity, and national cinema and transnational cinematic practices ● Understand approaches to analyzing cities and films Paris is the site of the often-reproduced founding myth of cinema: “On December 28, 1895, cinema begins in the basement of the Grand Café, Boulevard des Capucines, Paris,” proclaims Vicky Lebeau (1). She refers, of course, to the mythical first public demonstration of the Cinématographe by the brothers Lumière who dazzled their audience by projecting moving pictures onto a screen. The city is integral to this story of how cinema began. Lebeau records that at the time, journalists described the experience as “excitement bordering on terror,” and on occasion, she concludes, “the terror became panic” (1). According to Lebeau, this was particularly the case at the showing of the Lumières’ 50 sec- onds long, silent short film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat station (1895), which “is supposed to have had spectators rearing away from the screen, the dread of colliding with the rush of that enormous machine too much for those who succumbed to the hallucination of the image.” By conjoining icons of 2 • The founding myth of cinema modernity – urbanity, speed, cinema, and the city – in one seminal moment, the often-cited myth reproduces the story that cinema tells of itself: when the lights go off, an illusion appears and seems so real that we forget we are watching moving pictures. Yuri Tsivian labeled the reaction of panic to an approaching train on the early screen the “train effect” (Bottomore 178). Scholars have demonstrated, however, that the portrayal of entire audiences panicking in terror from seemingly approach- ing trains exaggerated exceptional individual occurrences of such reactions (see Bottomore; Christie; Clarke and Doel). Reflected in cartoons, literature, and self- reflexively in film itself, the play on representation and reality associated with celluloid train rides had already become a cliché at the turn of the century. Nicholas Hiley believes that the idea of the panicking audience arose in the 1920s and 1930s, two decades after such stories began to circulate in public (Bottomore 184). These narrative revisions serve to inscribe the later audience as more sophisticated readers of the new medium of film. Stephen Bottomore has concluded from historical film programs that short films depicting train rides were considered more spectacular than other short films of the period and crowned the end of early film showings “as a kind of sensation” (179). Theater-owners exploited and sensationalized extreme physical and emotional responses. At Tony Pastor’s theatre in New York an ambulance was on hand for the showing of James H. White’s one-minute The Black Diamond Express (1896), which was accompanied by train sound effects, after it was reported that two female audience members had “screamed and fainted” at an earlier showing – though it later turned out they had only “nearly fainted” (Bottomore 181). Clearly, viewers at the time had to learn to negotiate the new medium cognitively, to find a balance between believing and not believing in its realness, which is the precondition for the pleasure of watching film. The many references to panic and terror that circulated in the print media, both in serious articles and in advertisements, also indicate the beginning of advertising and its reliance on sensationalism and thrill. Scholars therefore mine the founding myth of cinema for what it says about modernity, which includes changing perceptions of time and space and the creation of a modern audience coded as urban and sophisticated. By the time the famed 1895 screening at the Grand Café took place, the history of film was already under way. Early film history While Russian artist Andrei Bely celebrates the Lumière brothers’ invention of the cinematograph as unprecedented and radically world-changing, Luis Lumière The founding myth of cinema • 3 himself believed that it was “an invention without future” (Christie 95). David B. Clarke and Marcus A. Doel posit that it was only “editing” that saved film from making a brief appearance at the turn of the century and being subsequently forgotten (52). Scholars emphasize the doubts of the early pioneers in film regarding the medium they had invented and advanced in order to counter the “dangers of imputing a teleology to cinema,” which would imply looking back at the history of film from our vantage point and presuming a linear development from its inception to the prevalence of visual culture in contemporary society (42). The early history of cinema is more complex and contradictory than its founding myth suggests and cannot be reduced to a singular moment, a linear development, or even a single place, such as the city of Paris. Audiences had long enjoyed the projection of images onto the screen at private gatherings and public fairs for entertainment and education, for example by means of the magic lantern, which was invented in the seventeenth century and lasted throughout the nineteenth century, until photography was integrated into its use (Monaco 73). The diorama was also a still and flat projection, but lighting and a translucent canvas made it possible to change the picture, for example from day to night. There were other presentations of moving images that captured audiences. Throughout the nineteenth century, the mechanical organization of still pho- tographs in different pre-filmic cinematic attractions created the illusion of movement. The zoetrope, for example, evoked the perception of motion when photos of consecutive movements were pasted inside a wheel and spun around. The panorama, which surrounded the spectator with projected images, developed into the padorama, the moving panorama. For example, in 1834 a padorama enabled spectators seated in carriages to visually enjoy parts of the Manchester–Liverpool railway, experiencing the pleasure of the simulated train ride long before film was invented. Clarke and Doel believe that by the end of the 1880s “animated photography was not only widely anticipated, but effectively accomplished” (51). The invention and consumption of still and moving images was accompanied by an interest in the technological reproduction of sound. Thomas Edison invented the kinetograph to accompany the phonograph he had constructed in 1877, one year after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Yet it was not until 1927 that sound-film was invented. Before that, films were accompanied by a pianist who improvised a score according to different themes, such as a chase or a romantic scene. In the grand film palaces that were built in cities in the period 1910–30, designers created space for an orchestra, and films were accompanied by an original score. In 1895 the Lumière brothers patented the cinematograph, which importantly combined camera and projector, and demonstrated it to professional colleagues 4 • The founding myth of cinema prior to the aforementioned public screening in the Grand Café. As Bottomore points out, “the cinema in these times was often seen as something bordering on the magical” (179). These turn-of-the-century films, which were very short by today’s standards, were shown in amusement parks and at traveling variety shows in combination with magic-lantern projections of still pictures or other pre-filmic attractions like the zoetrope or the kinetoscope. They were shot with a static camera and were not edited. They captured moving objects and created entertaining vignettes, endowing dignitaries and current events with historic importance. The often-repeated story of the “train effect” does justice neither to early audiences, nor to the creativity and inventiveness of the film pioneers and the diversity of early film. The very first short pieces by the Lumière brothers were meant to demonstrate the new medium of film and showed innocuous slices of reality that demonstrated movement. Their titles reflect their documentary nature: Exiting the Factory (1895), Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, and Launching of a Boat (1900). Not until a few years later did films set out to capture more dramatic movement. For example, Explosion of a Motor Car (1900) and How It Feels to Be Run Over (1900), by Britain’s Cecil Hepworth, and The Paris–Monte Carlo Run in Two Hours (1905), by France’s Georges Méliès were short narratives about motor vehicles involved in races, accidents, and explosions. At the same time there was a move from realism to the fantastic, as in Robert William Paul’s animated film The ? Motorist (1906), in England, in which a car runs over a policeman, then up the side of a building, and finally takes off into space (see Christie 22). These developments reflected film’s ability to depict speed and movement and captured the concurrent phenomenon of traffic, which made it necessary to adjust one’s behavior and cognitive reactions in the city. Jeffrey S. Adler describes how in the city of Chicago the number of cars and fatal automobile accidents rose expo- nentially in the early twentieth century, making the streets of the city dangerous places for drivers and pedestrians alike, and leading the Chicago Tribune to warn people of the threat of “auto slaughter” (205; see also 205–17). This new sense of danger was cinematically reworked in comedic and dramatic form in the many short films about automobiles as killing machines. While many early films about cars, trains, and other moving objects reflected a modern theme, others were more closely related to existing literary genres such as travelogues, comedies, and literary adaptations. Paul’s A Tour through Spain and Portugal (n.d.), Come Along, Do! (1898), and The Last Days of Pompeii (1897) are representative examples respectively (see Christie 24). Early animated films such as Paul’s The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901) captured the magical possi- bilities of film, while in America the “‘visual newspaper’ style” developed, as in Edwin S. Porter’s 1901 films Kansas Saloon Smashers, about women prohibi- tionists, and Terrible Teddy, The Grizzly King, about Roosevelt (Christie 30). In The founding myth of cinema • 5 Figure I F. W. Murnau. The Last Laugh (1924): Modern traffic Italy, Luigi Maggi’s The Count of Montecristo (1908) was an example of a fiction narrative (Christie 42). This remarkable international and thematic diversity was paradoxically enabled by the lack of established conventions and economic structures. Scholars of the genre film – “familiar stories with familiar characters in familiar situations” – see its beginnings during the same period (Grant xv). They emphasize the American Western, beginning with Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903), and the gangster film, beginning with D. W. Griffith’s The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) (Grant xv–xvi). Turn-of-the-century film emerged out of the dynamics of two fields: popular entertainment and technological invention. The Lumière brothers were sons of a successful French photographic manufacturer; Robert William Paul was a maker of scientific instruments in England; and Oskar Messter was the son of an optical manufacturer in Germany. Cecil Hepworth, on the other hand, came from the entertainment business, notably from magic-lantern shows, and toured with a mixed slide-and-film presentation before he created a film laboratory and a studio in 1896. Charles Pathé was a “traveling showman” before coming to control “nearly a quarter of the world’s film trade” with the French company Pathé Frères (Christie 6 • The founding myth of cinema 94). Ferdinand Zecca, the director of Pathé Frères, came from the “Paris ‘singing café’” tradition, while the Russian Evgeni Bauer was a graduate of the Moscow Art College (Christie 37). Alice Guy Blanché entered the industry on yet a third path, joining the French company Gaumont as a secretary before she began to direct and supervise the production of films. During this phase there was no professional differentiation between director, producer, projector, and distributor. Paul, for instance, was exhibitor, supplier, and producer; the Lumière brothers acted as directors, producers, and distributors; and Blanché was secretary and production supervisor, and later founded a production company in the United States (Christie 24). American Charles Urban worked as an international distributor and film producer, but in the early 1920s directed science fiction (Christie 103). Even though figures from this period later became known as specialists, it is important to remember that they often did not start out as such. Even D.W. Griffith, though known primarily for directing films most of his life, began as an actor and writer (Christie 125). Despite these important innovations, cinema did not follow a straight path to success. Many of the early film pioneers dropped out or failed after roughly a decade of forcefully and successfully advancing the new medium. The Lumière company stopped production in 1903, Edison left the film business in 1918, Paul returned to instrument-making in 1919, Blanché stopped working as a director after returning from emigration to the United States in 1922, and Hepworth was declared bankrupt in 1924 (Christie 67, 24, 78, and 29). Early film in cities and cities in early film Contrary to the founding myth of cinema, Paris was not the only city important in the development of film around the turn of the century. Artistic and technological exchange also took place between London, Berlin, Moscow, and New York, and all of them nourished the early development of film. Thus, the growth of cinema was intimately tied to the growth of cities, and the cities were also associated with the development of movie theaters as urban sites of entertainment and distraction. Films alternated with live performances in music halls and vaudeville theaters, and there were “touring film shows” called “peep-shows,” before movie theaters became stationary (Christie 51). But capital for production was to be found in cities, and more profit could be made by locating movie houses there because the urban population had ever more expendable income and leisure time. Cinema influenced the façades and topography of cities. So-called arcade “par- lours” were one venue for regular film screenings; they carried “peep-show machines,” which were viewed individually, and which offered a different viewing The founding myth of cinema • 7 experience from the collective one of projected films (Christie 51). It was the projected pictures that necessitated buildings designed specifically for showing films, which started around 1905. Called “Nickelodeons,” they had fewer than 200 seats to avoid theater taxes and were aimed at the lower classes and immigrants (Christie 51). Some years later cinema sought to appeal to the middle class by changing the content of films and constructing lavish theaters. In Paris, Moscow, and Berlin such theaters, which included orchestras and extravagant interior and exterior designs, became the new palaces of modern entertainment for the urban leisure class. As we will see in Chapter 1 using the example of Berlin, these movie palaces became the subject of sociological and philosophical debates during the 1910s and 1920s. Even though Paris was not the only city associated with the early development of film, it was practically and symbolically an important site. Urban reconstruction turned Paris into an emblem of modernity when it was reconceptualized and redeveloped under the auspices of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who famously transformed the city from an organically grown town to a planned metropolis in the mid-nineteenth century. This new Paris took account of modern technology, such as railroads and gas lamps, and enabled the traffic to flow on grand avenues that were linked to the train stations. The buildings and straight, planned streets were characterized by a uniformity that had not been seen before. The kind of cityscape that Haussmann envisioned and executed characterizes Paris even today, including that signifier of modernity, the Eiffel Tower, which represents the world city par excellence. Even films of the French New Wave, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, use the Haussmannian cityscape to capture an authentic expe- rience of Parisian urbanity. Haussmann created a vertically organized city, in which the underground world of sewer systems and later subways embodied a hidden modernity which found its way into films about cities. This vertical organization took on symbolic and metaphoric significance for films beyond those set in Paris, as we will see in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), and Richard Donner’s Superman (1978), which map ideological values and/or class structure onto the urban structure of upper and lower worlds. Urban sites – such as the street, the skyline, the bar – were important markers of cities in early cinema. The city street was a particularly privileged setting for action in early cinema. Many city films integrated shots of city streets as a recurring motif without advancing the narrative. Again, such scenes connect diverse films from different periods and national cinemas, including Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927), François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959), Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Accatone (1961), John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969), Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come (1972), Ali Özgentürk’s The Horse (1982), 8 • The founding myth of cinema Wong Kar-wei’s Happy Together (1997), and R’anan Alexandrowicz’s James’ Journey to Jerusalem (2003). All of these films from Germany, France, the United States, Jamaica, Turkey, Taiwan, and Israel are characterized by repeated shots of city streets – in Berlin, Paris, New York, Kingston, Istanbul, Tel Aviv – and in each one the street becomes an important site to circumscribe urban space and to negotiate characters’ subjectivity. In Chapter 1 we will see that the street is often coded as a site of danger and sexual encounter, which in Weimar cinema was routinely embodied by the figure of the streetwalker, the female prostitute. The streets and the screens of the metropolis promised erotic possibilities that linked the city and cinema in the collective imagination. An emblematic example that prefigures the reworking and rewriting of these early motifs throughout the twentieth century is Edison’s What Happened on 23rd Street, New York City (1901), later echoed when the wind above a subway grating blows Marilyn Monroe’s skirt up to her waist in Billy Wilder’s The Seven- Year Itch (1955) (Christie 49). The erotics of the street is a recurring theme from the early Weimar street film (Chapter 1) to the sexualization of the metropolis in contemporary gay and lesbian cinema (Chapter 8). Modernity Though as we have seen the so-called train effect disavows the complex roots and inconsistent developmental trajectory of early cinema, scholars have returned to this founding myth as key to its relationship to modernity, which was experienced as a shock in the West. Tom Gunning, for example, interprets the myth, but does not take it as an accurate description of what happened: The on-rushing train did not simply produce the negative experience of fear but the particularly modern entertainment form of the thrill, embodied else- where in the recently appearing attractions of the amusement parks (such as the roller coaster), which combined sensations of acceleration and falling with a security guaranteed by modern industrial technology. (1989: 37) Gunning suggests examining the train effect for “its metaphorical significance and irrational appeal” (2006:19), because the moving train embodied the changing perception of time and space in modernity – space as urban versus rural and time as modern versus premodern. Films manipulate space and time, whereas trains collapse space and require the concept of universal time. Until the advent of railroads, time had been local, often differing from village to village, but with the invention of the train it had to become consistent across space. Christie suggests that “trains, timekeeping and moving pictures all came together at the turn of the The founding myth of cinema • 9 century to create a new image of time” (32). Time and space were becoming increasingly abstract, a feature they shared with other aspects of modernity (see Clarke and Doel), and film provided a venue for working through these concepts and their far-reaching consequences. So it is not surprising that moving trains are important in films that are emblematic of modernity, such as Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927), that mark important historical moments, as in Wolfgang Staudte’s The Murderers Are among Us (1946), and that take on an allegorical historical function, as in Lars van Trier’s Zentropa (1991). Important for film as a new medium associated with modernity was also the filmic construction of those unable to negotiate the city with its pitfalls and its pleasures. Thus, early films often featured the figure of the country bumpkin – “the rube” of American vaudeville – who enters the city and is unable to read its clues appro- priately, finally becoming the object of a crime or reacting foolishly to a film. Such stories posited an imaginary film audience that, unlike such characters, was urbane enough to negotiate cities and cinema successfully. The trope of the approaching train on celluloid became a playfully rhetorical figure, which separated the urbane, film-going public from the terrorized country bumpkin incapable of compre- hending the new medium. Christie describes a “1901 film by Robert Paul, in which a bumpkin tries to look ‘behind’ the screen on which he has seen an approaching train, and succeeds in pulling the sheet down,” contrasting this with a “British story from 1904 entitled ‘The Cinematograph Train’,” in which young Bobbie sees a train rushing towards him in a cinematograph show and steps onto the platform and into the train and rides off (13). These narrative constructions of a rural character coming to the city unable to negotiate its dangers and seductions, often embodied by a female character, continue throughout the history of film. Of course there is truth to the experience of moving from the country to the city and being overwhelmed by the onslaught of stimulation, but it is important to realize that the idea of the sophisticated urbanite, able to engage appropriately with the pleasure of film, is also a filmic construction itself, one that grew out of economic interest in assimilating masses into consumers of a product. The nation and national cinema Paradoxically, the early history of cinema was strongly anchored in national contexts, even while it was characterized by international exchange. Only now, with globalization, are films commonly funded by more than one nation and distributed around the globe. Nations played important roles in the development of very early cinema even though one could not yet call it “national cinema.”
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