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CINEMA AND THE CITY

Faculty: Ranjani Mazumdar


Mphil. Seminar, Winter Semester, 2016
Course Number: SAA 654
Class Timings: Monday 11– 1, 2 - 5p.m
Office Hours: By appointment
Email: ranjani.mazumdar@gmail.com

Course Description

This M.phil seminar looks at the representation of the city in cinema. We will explore the links
between urban and cinematic space across a range of thematic, historical and cultural concerns.
The imagined city of cinema is born at the intersection of mental, physical and social space. In
this imagined city we get access to the fleeting, the ephemeral and the transient that shapes the
rhythm and movement of contemporary city life. Through readings on the city and screenings of
a range of films from across the world, the course will conceptually and historically journey
through the traffic of signs that move between the physical spaces of the city and its cinematic
production. Cinema will be situated as an innovative and powerful archive of urban life.

Requirements

a) Readings and class participation in discussions. This will count for 25% of the final grade
b) One presentation in class based on specific readings and films to be submitted as a 10 page
short paper. This paper is due the week after your presentation in class. The class presentation
and the paper will count for 25 % of the final grade.
c) One presentation of at least three curated clips that will go into your final paper. This
presentation should have a clear cut argument and a methodological plan based on a sustained
engagement with a set of readings and a selection of films. This will count for 20% of the final
grade.
d) A 12-15 page final written paper based on the last presentation of curated clips. This will
count for 30% of the final grade. The final paper is due on the 5th of May 2016.

Grade Plan – a + b = 50% or 2 credits and c + d = 50 % or 2 credits. Total Credits includes,


a+b+c+d = 4

Note: Both written papers should follow a standard academic format complete with
bibliography, citations and footnotes.

Week 1. Friday January 15

Introduction to course structure, readings and responsibilities

Week 2, Monday, January 18

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READING THE CINEMATIC CITY

Opening Lecture to Introduce the Idea of the Cinematic City

James Donald “Light in Dark Spaces: Cinema and City” chapter 3 from Imagining the Modern
City, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999, 63-92

Ben Singer “Modernity, Hyperstimulus, and the Rise of Popular Sensationalism” in Leo Charney
& Vanessa R. Schwartz ed. Cinema & the Invention of Modern Life Berkeley, Los Angeles,
London: University of California Press, 1995, 72-99

Tom Gunning “Now You See it and Now You Don’t: The Temporality of the Cinema of
Attractions” in Lee Grieveson and Peter Kramer ed. The Silent Cinema Reader London and New
York: Routledge, 2004, 41-50

Guilliana Bruno “Site Seeing the Cine City” chapter from her Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art
Architecture and Film New York, NY: Verso, 2002, 15-53

Screening – Amores Perros (Dir:Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2000)

Week 3, Monday, January 25

READING THE CITY

Walter Benjamin “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century: Expose of 1939” chapter in The
Arcades Project: Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard
University Press, 1999, 3-13

Michel de Certeau “Walking the City” from his book The Practice of Everyday Life Berkeley,
Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1988, 91-110

Henri Lefevre The Production of Space extract in Neil Leach ed. Rethinking Architecture: A
Reader in Cultural Theory London & New York: Routledge, 1997, 138-146

David Frisby “The Flaneur in Social Theory” in Keith Tester ed. The Flaneur London & New
York: Routledge, 1994, 81-110

Susan Buck-Morss “The City as Dreamworld and Catastrophe” in October vol.73, summer 1995,
3-26

Siegfried Kracauer “The Mass Ornament” chapter from The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays
Cambridge, Massachusetts, London & England: Harvard University Press, 1995, 75-86

Screening - Berlin Symphony of a Big City (Dir: Walter Ruttman: 1927)


Week 4, Monday, February 1

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THE MODERN CITY OF HYPERSTIMULUS

Martin Gaughan “Ruttman’s Berlin: Filming in a Hollow Space” in Mark Shiel & Tony
Fitzmaurice ed. Screening the City London & New York: Verso, 2003, 41-57

Sabine Hake “Urban Spectacle in Walter Ruttman’s Symphony of a Big City” in Thomas B.
Kniesche & Stephen Brockman ed. Dancing on the Volcano: Essays on the Culture of the
Weimar Republic Camden House, 1994, 125-139

Anke Gleber “Female Flanerie & the Symphony of the City” in Katharina Von Ankum ed.
Women in the Metropolis: Gender & Modernity in Weimar Culture Berkeley, Los Angeles,
London: University of California Press, 1997, 67-88

Carsten Strathausen “Uncanny Spaces: The City in Ruttman and Vertov” in Mark Shiel & Tony
Fitzmaurice ed. Screening the City Verso, 2003, 15-40

Screening - M (Dir: Fritz Lang: 1931)

Week 5, Monday, February 8

THE EXPRESSIONIST CITY

Anton Kaes “Sites of Desire: The Weimar Street Film” in Dietrich Neumann ed. Film
Architecture: From Metropolis to Blade Runner Munich, London, New York: Prestel, 1999, 26-
32

Janet Ward “The Display Window: Designs and Desires of Weimar Consumerism” chapter 4 in
Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920’s Germany Berkeley, Los Angeles, London:
University of California Press, 2001, 191-240

Edward Dimendberg “From Berlin to Bunker Hill: Urban Space, Late Modernity, and Film Noir
in Fritz Lang’s and Joseph Losey’s M” Wide Angle Vol.19:4, October, 1997, 62-93

Screening – Criss Cross (Robert Siodmak, 1949)

Week 6, Monday, February 15

THE NOIR CITY

Georg Simmel “The Metropolis & Mental Life” chapter 20 in Georg Simmel: On Individuality
and Social Forms: Selected Writings Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1971,
324-339

Nicholas Christopher “Night and the City” chapter two from his book Somewhere in the Night:
Film Noir and the American City New York: Henry Holt and Co, 1997, 33-66

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Edward Dimendberg “Centripetal Space” chapter from his Film Noir and the Spaces of
Modernity Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard University Press, 2004,
86-118

Frank Krutnik, “Something More than Night: Tales of the Noir City” in David B. Clarke ed. The
Cinematic City London and New York: Routledge, 1997, 83-109

Screening – The Battle of Algiers (Dir: Gilo Pontecorvo, 1966)

Week 7, Monday, February 29

THE POSTCOLONIAL CITY

Irene Bignardi “The Making of "The Battle of Algiers" Cinéaste Vol. 25, No. 2 (2000), 14-22

Zeynep Celik “Le Corbusier, Orientalism, Colonialism” Assemblage No.7, April, 1992, 58-77

Henry S. Grabar “Reclaiming the city: changing urban meaning in Algiers after 1962” in
Cultural Geographies 2014, Vol. 21(3) 389–409

Frantz Fanon “Algeria Unveiled” chapter one from his book A Dying Colonialism Penguin
Books, 1959

Screening - Blade Runner (Dir: Ridley Scott: 1982)

Week 8, Monday, March 7

THE DYSTOPIC FUTURE CITY

Georg Simmel “The Stranger” chapter 10 in Georg Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms:
Selected Writings Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1971, 143-149

Georg Simmel “Fashion” chapter 19 in Georg Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms:
Selected Writings Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1971, 294-323

Jean Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations” chapter seven from Mark Poster ed. Jean
Baudrillard: Selected Writings Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1988, 166-184

Guilliana Bruno “Ramble City: Postmodernism & Blade Runner” in Annette Kuhn Ed. Alien
Zone London & New York: Verso, 1990, 183-195

Elissa Marder “Blade Runners Moving Still” Camera Obscura, Vol. 27, 1991, 89-107

Screening - Chungking Express (Dir: Wong Kar-Wai: 1994)

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Week 9, Monday, March 15

THE CITY OF POSTMODERN SENSORIUM

Anthony Vidler “Spaces of Passage: The Architecture of Estrangement: Simmel, Kracauer,


Benjamin” chapter from Warped Space: Art, Architecture & Anxiety in Modern Culture by
Cambridge Massachusetts, London England: MIT Press, 2001, 65 – 97(check page numbers)

Ackbar Abbas “Introduction: Culture in a Space of Disappearance”, “Wong Kar-wai: Hongkong


Filmmaker” & “Building on Disappearance: Hong Kong Architecture & Colonial Space”
chapters 1,3 & 4 from Hong Kong: Culture & the Politics of Disappearance Minneapolis,
London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997, 1-15 & 48-90

Stephen Teo “Space-Time Tango: Chungking Express (1994)” chapter from his book Wong Kar-
Wai World Director Series BFI Publishing, 2005,

Wendy Gan “Affectivity and Urban Space in Chungking Express” Scope: An Online Journal of
Film Studies November, 2003

Screening - Seven (Dir: David Fincher: 1995)

Week 10, Monday, March 21

THE UNCANNY CITY

Anthony Vidler “The Explosion of Space: Architecture & the Filmic Imaginary” in Dietrich
Neumann ed. Film Architecture: From Metropolis to Blade Runner Munich, London, New York:
Prestel, 1999, 13-25

Georg Simmel “The Adventurer” chapter 13 in Georg Simmel: On Individuality and Social
Forms: Selected Writings Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1971, 187-198

Zygmunt Bauman “A Catalogue of Postmodern Fears” & “The Stranger Revisited – and
Revisiting” chapters from Life in Fragments: Essays in Postmodern Morality Oxford U.K &
Cambridge, U.S.A: Blackwell, 1995, 105-138

Anthony Vidler “Agoraphobia: Psychopathologies of Urban Space” chapter from Warped Space:
Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture MIT Press, 2001, 25-63

Screening – The 400 Blows (Dir: Francois Truffaut: 1959)

Week 11, Monday March 28

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CHILDHOOD & THE CITY

Walter Benjamin “A Berlin Chronicle” chapter in One Way Street & Other Writings Verso,
1992, 293-346

Graeme Gilloch “Urban Memories: Labyrinth and Childhood” extract from Myth & Metropolis:
Walter Benjamin & the City Polity Press, 1996, 55-92

Screening – Court (Dir: (Chatanya Tamhane: 2014)

Week 12, Monday April 18

VIOLENCE AND THE EVERYDAY

Sandeep Pendse “Toil, Sweat & the City” in Sujata Patel & Alice Thorner ed. Bombay:
Metaphor for Modern India Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras: Oxford University Press, 1996, 3-
25

Rahul Mehrotra “Bazaar City: A Metaphor for South Asian Urbanism” in Kapital & Karma:
Recent Positions in Indian Art: Hatje Cantz., 95-108

Thomas Blom Hansen “Urban Charisma: On Everyday Mythologies in the City” Critique of
Anthropology 29:5, 2009

Screening: TBA

Week 13, Friday April 22

NEW MOBILITIES AND THE CITY

Scott McQuire “Performing Public Space” and “The Digital Home” from his book The Media
City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space (Published in association with Theory, Culture &
Society) Sage Publications 2008, 130-158 and 181-202

Stephen Graham “Super-tall and ultra-deep: The cultural politics of the elevator” in Theory
Culture and Society Volume: 31 Issue: 7-8, 2014, 239-265

Ravi Sundaram Post Post-Colonial Sensory Infrastructures E-Flux, Number 64, April 2015
http://www.e-flux.com/journal/post-postcolonial-sensory-infrastructure/

Afternoon session on curated clips and paper topics

All final papers to be emailed to me by May 3rd, 2016

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