City Symphonies

January 11th 2019 - March 10th 2019

Series site

This sprawling film series casts a wide net in order to bring together an enormous assortment of films that qualify as – or that in some way or other evoke – the genre of the City Symphony. The development of the City Symphony was closely intertwined with the dizzying pace of technological advancement and change that marked the advent of the 20th century, and the increased speed, cacophony, and sense of fragmentation that this new era brought with it. The genre took shape during the 1920s, and became a particularly codified and dominant cinematic form into the following decade, a period in which dozens of variations on the genre were produced, including still-revered classics such as MANHATTA (1921), RIEN QUE LES HEURES (1926), BERLIN, SYMPHONY OF A CITY (1927), MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (1929), and many others. Emerging from the silent period and persisting into the first years of the sound era, these short and feature length works embodied the capabilities of the cinema at its most lyrical and dynamic. They combined the potential of the medium both as a tool for documenting cities, city-dwellers, and their changing environments, and as a more expressive, formally experimental means to capture the sensation of living in the city.

This series will showcase the seminal City Symphonies of the 1920s and 30s – the classics but also a generous selection of relatively obscure works – as well as those films produced up until today, and made throughout the world, that have continued the tradition of the City Symphony or that have found distinct ways of documenting and depicting cities and the experiences of those who inhabit them. For the purposes of the series, we’re adopting a broad definition of the genre, to include films that – whatever their formal approach – strive not to convey the experience of a particular group of individuals within the city but to render the city a protagonist in and of itself.

“City Symphonies” is presented in conjunction with the publication of “The City Symphony Phenomenon: Cinema, Art, and Urban Modernity Between the Wars” (Routledge), edited by Steven Jacobs, Anthony Kinik, and Eva Hielscher. Anthony Kinik will be here in person for selected screenings. For more info regarding the book, visit: www.routledge.com.

Special thanks to Steven Jacobs, Alice Apley (Documentary Educational Resources), Fanny Baars & Marleen Labijt (EYE Filmmuseum), Keith Beattie (Screening the Past), Brian Belovarac (Janus Films), Antonella Bonfanti (Canyon Cinema), Kitty Cleary (MoMA), Paolo Davanzo & Lisa Marr (Echo Park Film Center), Jurga Dikciuviene, Aleksandar Erdeljanović (Archive of Jugoslovenska Kinoteka), Johan Ericsson (Swedish Film Institute), Kateřina Fojtová (National Film Archive, Prague), Paul Gordon & Tina Harvey (Library & Archives Canada), Carlos Gutiérrez (Cinema Tropical), Anke Hahn (Deutsche Kinemathek), Ruth Hodgins (Walker Art Center), Karen Jennings, Peter Kelly (Cinema Guild), Lorelai Lin (Taiwan Film Institute), Fereidoun Mahboubi (CNC), Sara Moreira (Cinemateca Portuguesa), Tomonari Nishikawa, Tiffanie Pascal (William Klein Studio), Hannah Prouse (BFI), Oona Saari (Illume Ltd), MM Serra (Film-Makers’ Coop), Claudia Siefen (Austrian Film Museum), Chizuru Usui (National Film Center, Tokyo), and Todd Wiener & Steven Hill (UCLA Film & Television Archive).

All three of this calendar’s “Show & Tell” programs are related to the “City Symphonies” series; click here for more details.

Past Screenings