Screening the past : an international, refereed, electronic journal of screen history
La Trobe University
Place of publication
In the introduction to his history of the relationship between the body and the city in Western civilisation, Richard Sennett includes an anecdote about attending a cinema in New York. Sennett uses the story of watching film as a way of commenting on the place of the body and senses within urban settings and is concerned to document 'physical sensations in urban space' as a way of addressing what he sees as the 'tactile sterility which afflicts the urban environment.' While Sennett's work performs an important task by drawing attention to various historical conditions implicated in urban and metropolitan experience, it is possible to rework the categories he deploys - bodies, the city, and film - into a very different argument concerning representations of the city. Indeed the three categories coalesce in the so-called city film - works which include the 'city symphony' of the 1920s and subsequent documentary representations of urban spaces, among them the New York City films of the 1940s and 1950s, and films of non-Western cities produced in the decades from the 1960s to the present - within which the city is realised through a focus on people.
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