“”: A look at the striking subgenre from The Guardian‘s Pamela Hutchinson.
“In the 1920s, the ‘city symphony’ transformed the raw material of actualities into something more musical, modern and unexpected. The genre was born with Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler’s ‘Manhatta’ (1921), which places lines from a Walt Whitman poem (‘Mannahatta’) between unforgettable images of New York City’s architecture, towering over its residents. You can see the complete version of ‘Manhatta’ at the Paul Strand exhibition currently at the Victoria and Albert Museum, along with one of his most famous photographs, which inspired the look of the film: 1915’s Wall Street. City symphonies are a distinct cinematic subgenre, more lyrical than a documentary, and rooted in one urban location. The most famous example is Walter Ruttman’s ‘Berlin: Symphony of a Great City’ (1927) from which the classification takes its name. Ruttman was an animator who had previously made abstract works but wanted to create ‘a symphonic film out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city.’ It’s a brilliantly exciting movie, spinning from one corner of Berlin to the next, by turns dramatising the thrills of the big city and criticising its anonymity and cruelty. City symphonies represent the meeting point of two tracks of modernism: the development of the cinema and the growth of urbanisation. Avant-gardists, excited by both, created cinematic portraits of these new, glamorous and dangerous places to live. The films often take a deliberately musical, or symphonic, structure, arranged into movements, ebbing and flowing dynamically. They often follow the course of a single day. So ‘Manhatta’ begins with a scene of commuters disembarking a ferry en masse, and ends with a spectacular sunset. ‘Berlin: Symphony of a Great City’ opens with the morning trains rushing into the capital and closes late at night, with scenes of its notorious nightlife, and fireworks in the black sky.”
“‘Framing is its Own Dark Art’: Karyn Kusama on ‘The Invitation'”: In conversation with Filmmaker Magazine‘s Jim Hemphill.
“We had a two-day rehearsal process in our prep. In indie film terms, that’s a huge amount of time. And in terms of achieving what we needed to achieve in our 20-day shoot, it was absolutely the most valuable part of the process. We had all of the actors in the house we were shooting in, and we were able to choreograph the whole movement of the narrative. We worked through every scene of the script, and found an emotional and physical logic for every character through the night, down to every moment that someone gets up to refill a drink. It helped us to understand the unfolding of the night, and in those two days if there were actors who were meeting for the first time they certainly had bonded by the end of rehearsal. It was such a great experience. I also had a big dinner party the Saturday before we started shooting, and everyone was able to attend. It felt like we could really get to know each other as people before diving into this depiction of a realistic nightmare (and now that the cast has all seen the film there are a lot of jokes about how no one wants to come to my house for a dinner party again!). From the beginning there was a sense of shared endeavor among the actors. Everyone in the cast is a serious and thoughtful person. And every actor had a distinctive creative path to arrive at their characters — some of them are classically trained, some of them started in comedy, some of them started in music — but we all worked as a cohesive team. We were like a modern-day theater troupe. In terms of casting order, it was perhaps paradoxical. We always knew we wanted John Carroll Lynch for Pruitt and Lindsay Burdge for Sadie — and maybe because they’re the outsiders of the narrative it could work to cast them first. But the rest of the cast officially came together after I met with Logan Marshall-Green. I felt an immediate rapport with him, and I knew he would be sympathetic but also bring a latent danger to the role. Once he was on board we could build the relationships around him, particularly with Tammy Blanchard, who plays Eden, and Emayatzy Corinealdi, who plays Kira. Both of those women were actors I knew I wanted to work with even before I met with Logan.”
Image of the Day
Susanne Suffredin and Arthur Agee, the post-production supervisor and subject (respectively) of Steve James’s 1994 landmark documentary, “Hoop Dreams,” will be on hand for talkbacks following a screening of the film as well as other short films curated by Chicago’s Oracle Productions and Rebuild Foundation’s Black Cinema House. Click here for more info on the screenings, scheduled from Thursday, March 31st, through Sunday, April 3rd.
Video of the Day
Slate‘s Aisha Harris shares The Nerdwriter’s fascinating analysis of “How Hitchcock Blocks a Scene” in his 1958 masterwork, “Vertigo.”