Poetics of the City Symphony

Poetics of the City Symphony

While teaching at the Bauhaus school, artist László Moholy-Nagy put forth his outline for ideal filmmaking, to “take advantage of the camera, to give it its own optical arrangement of tempo—instead of literary, theatrical action: the dynamic of the optical”. His “pure visuals” would be expressed through the city symphony film, a 1920s-30s cycle of documentary cinema which wrought poeticism out of the urban in a flurry of abstract vision, cuts, and optical effects. For this session of shorts, we track a development, from the ideal: Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927); to the introduction of an immutable human element: Jean Vigo’s À propos de Nice (1930); before making the abstraction explicitly political: Santiago Alvarez’s Ciclón (1963); and finally a poetic contained to the body, from birth to death: Stan Brakhage’s Window Water Baby Moving (1959) [pictured] and The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (1971).

Poetics of the City Symphony

  • Year: 150mins