Some links in the hope of free wifi!

We will reflect upon our presentation after today’s city walk, so this is just a quick plan update:

Cinetone presentation:

  1. Introduction to the Studios by Christopher
  2. Introduction to Hollands Hollywood clip by Ali – context – watch clip
  3. Explanation of content/lyrics/city country contrast by Robyn
  4. Potential for ‘concept city’ using built environment of studio – Ali – ‘Cinecitta’ and ‘Tativille’ compared – Cinetone production context of Jordaan films introduced. Compared to ‘real” Jordaan
  5. Examples: De Jantjes Feb 1934, Bleeke Bet Sept 1934
  6. Contextualised with literature – simulacrum – Robyn

LINKS:

Photographs of Cinetone Studio interiors/facilities: http://beeldbank.amsterdam.nl/beeldbank/indeling/grid?q_searchfield=cinetone

De Jantjes clip and plot overview: http://www.filminnederland.nl/film/de-jantjes

Bleeke Bet clip and plot overview: http://www.filminnederland.nl/film/bleeke-bet

Sources used for presentation:

Overview of film studios: http://www.filminnederland.nl/en/dutch-film-history/film-studios

Emergence of Dutch Sound Film: http://www.filminnederland.nl/en/dutch-film-history/emergence-sound-film

Jordaan film genre : http://www.filminnederland.nl/en/dutch-film-history/%E2%80%98jordaan%E2%80%99-film

Info on Jordaan area. A few pics also on this site of the state of unrest in the 30’s : http://www.annefrank.org/en/Subsites/Annes-Amsterdam/Timeline/Before-the-war/1934/1934/Unrest-in-the-Jordaan-and-other-areas-of-Amsterdam/#!/en/Subsites/Annes-Amsterdam/Timeline/Before-the-war/1934/1934/Unrest-in-the-Jordaan-and-other-areas-of-Amsterdam/

Bleeke Bet/De Jantjes Film shots provided by Ivo from Eye Film Library
Powerpoint slides from Ivo’s class lecture

Presentation Reflection Week One

RC: Upon reflection, I feel our presentation at Tuschinski was relatively successful, we covered most points that we set out to, our only limitation was timing. Unfortunately the space was not available to us for very long – retrospectively, we could have investigated this before we arrived – so we were unable to explore the location further, which would have been nice, as well as unable to visit the toilets which are portrayed in Loft. Another issue we experienced was the inability to show clips which were not on the ipad – since there was only 1 on there that we found useful. Christopher overcame this by bringing along his laptop and a DVD but there were a few YouTube clips that I certainly would have liked to have shown and examined, particularly to further my idea on the space blurring the boundaries between fiction (representation) and non-fiction (reality).

With Ivo requesting we take this more to an interpretative, visionary and contextualised level, I do think we could have drawn on some of the literature we have examined in class. Whilst exploring Jacques Tati’s work, Penz introduces the concept of ‘spatial ambiguity’, doubting the function of a space as a result of uniformity. I think this is interesting with regards to the clip shown from Loft where Tuschinksi is used as a location but is assumed to be another building. Although this is not a result of uniformity persay, I think it is interesting to reflect upon the role of editing to create spatial ambiguity, and how it has the potential to join multiple spaces as if they were only one location. This ambiguity can then also refer to the blurring of non-fiction and fiction or as Ali explains, the location’s function as an intermedial space. As a result of this, Tuschinski has the potential to offer the individual visitor/spectator an entirely different experience on each visit, which is certainly unique.

For our next presentation then, we will endeavour to contextualise more of the literature and theory we have come across in class. I also would like to perform a closer reading of the clips we present, particularly with regards to the development of Dutch cinema. Plus, to ensure we have enough time, we have booked a table at the Cafe which now resides at the Cineone location!

Finally, for the final presentation, I have been thinking about examining both the representation of Paris and the importance of architecture in Inception. At the moment, I’m still reading back through the literature to decide on a angle to approach the subject from, however, I think there are a lot of very interesting aspects to explore.

Presentation reflection/plan for Cinetone

AP:

On reflection I feel that our presentation conveyed that the most important element of the Tuschinski is the atmosphere provided by the grand, luxurious style of the interior and exterior space. The element of the creation of an immersive experience was important to Tuschinski, the ‘real’ and’ fictional’ spaces becoming one. Robyn’s clip is an interesting display of how intermedial the space still is – performance, cinema and dance combine to create an immersive experience for the audience, where they are not sure what is real and what is not, involving them in the fictional world of the movie before they even enter the auditorium space.

I am surprised that there are not more movies filmed at this location, as it provides such a grand and colourful backdrop and would be very useful to period dramas/any movie set in the 20’s/30’s. The film clip from Als Twee Druppels Water (1963) demonstrates how the cinema space can be used effectively in crime/espionage thrillers, as the dark, anonymous space of the auditorium can provide a great set for sneaky, underhand dealings, or hiding from unwanted pursuers. This has certainly been echoed in other crime, thriller and horror films. In the darkness, the auditorium becomes the perfect place to hide – you are faceless – one of the crowd. In this wartime movie, (mistaken) identity is a core theme due to the doppelganger that drags Ducker into the efforts of the Dutch resistance being revealed as non-existent. The transformation of his character was not due to the parachutist, but within Ducker all along. The scene at the Tuschinski could have been filmed in any cinema, however this building provides connotations of opulence and drama, plus the over riding layer of being the most desirable, enjoyable and important cinema space in Amsterdam. The art deco style was established in the 20’s and elements retained through the 30’s and early 40’s in terms of decor and architecture, coinciding with the boom in the crime and film noir genres, thus the dimly lit, warm yellow glow and gothic undertones of this space will always be desirable to match those connotations.

There is little to comment on the transformation of the building over time, as it has been meticulously restored to ensure it retains its style in both interior and exterior. This demonstrates that the importance of this building to remain a monument representational of this era has been recognised by the authorities. This over the top, showy style has proven popular throughout the ages, considering the demise in the contrasting Cineac theater opposite, which posits the distinct opposition in stylistic quality and is no longer used as a theater space. The nostalgic popularity of the art deco style is timeless and retains the links to theater that are inherent in cinematic exhibition, unlike the Cineac’s functionlist style, which appears dated and non transferable to continued cinematic experience.

I would have liked to make closer comparison of the clip and the entryway of the cinema, but this was unfortunately forgotten in the rush to use the interior space for our presentation. It also does not reveal that much, except for minor changes in the barriers of the entryway – the ticket window is still there. When we were outside we had moved on to the other clips. I am glad that Christopher argued our way inside, as it provided a nice space to deliver the presentation away from the distractions of the busy street outside and was easier to show the style of the building to those who had not been inside (although I think most people had). We are planning to contact the Cinetone Cafe in order to reserve a space to deliver next week’s presentation as we are presenting the (now closed) Cinetone Studios.

In order to improve upon our presentation this week, we are planning to pay closer attention to the clips – the one provided on the ipad (Hollands Hollywood (1933)- the cinematic tribute to the newly opened Cinetone Studios) will be explained and contextualised with the history of the studios opening and the ‘state’ of Dutch film making/production processes of the time. We will also link this to Theater De Le Mar which was opened in tribute to the glamourous star – Fien De La Mar, and is still open today. This theatre clearly aims towards luxury in its interior design and grand staircases, but cannot match the Tuschinksi for dark and gloomy glamour! This clip from the Open Beelden website shows footage from 1947 of the opening:
http://www.openbeelden.nl/media/52569/Opening_Theater_De_la_Mar
It is difficult to discuss clips that we cannot show due to lack of internet access on the ipads, but we will endeavour to provide other materials. Ivo has kindly given us some photographic copies of ‘behind the scenes’ shots of films made at the studios, so we will research these films also and the practical requirements of literally ‘building’ the city of Amsterdam.

Whole host of behind the scene and studio shots from Cinetone Studios on the Stadsarchief archive – to be selected as per film research before next week:

http://beeldbank.amsterdam.nl/beeldbank/indeling/grid?q_searchfield=cinetone

Review on our presentation

CSG – When I look back at our presentation, and especially my part of it, I’m not sure whether I’m pleased about it or not. Every presentation was very different from the others and it is therefore hard to compare them with each other. I think ours was accessible, not too pretentious and, hopefully, a little entertaining.

What I am less happy about, is that I felt quite rushed, due to the fact that the main hall of the Tuschinski theatre was closed at the moment, because of a wedding that had just taken place. I think the clip from Loft, that was filmed in the basement of Tuschinski, was interesting because the architecture and the interior of Tuschinski are so distinctive that they really stand out. The interior gives away that the implied unity of space is actually a fake. The party scene turns out to be shot in two different locations, but that’s not clear to all viewers. You really have to know Tuschinski, and its typical ambiance, to uncover the discontinuity in setting.

I am afraid that I haven’t been fully able to make my point on location. I hope I will do a better job at the Cinetone studios next week.

 

How To Fall In Love With A New City

RC

Thought Catalog

Arrive. Feel incredibly inadequate all of a sudden — one never realizes how much of their confidence is based on familiarity with their surroundings until they are thrust into a place where they recognize nothing. Everyone seems to dress better, to talk faster, and to make you feel as though you are a child who has suddenly been allowed entrance to the grown-up table at Thanksgiving. Everything you do seems to be a faux pas, a way of revealing yourself as the new kid in town, the tourist. You discreetly check maps and ask for help, not wanting to seem as lost as you are.

And everything is foreign. The signs don’t make sense, the public transportation seems designed to throw you off, and no one is friendly. The locals seem to have this calculated cool, a certain kind of immunity to the frenetic pace of their city, to the…

View original post 663 more words

Initial Research: Cinetone studios

AP: Cinetone Studios in 1933

http://www.filmwoordenboek.nl/woorden/cinetone_studio/

And now…

Cinetone Grand Cafe now on site. Available ascafe, events venue, wedding venue and recordinglcoation for TV and advertising. http://www.grandcafe-cinetone.nl/

Brothers Isaac and Jules Biedermann were the first to open well outfitted film studios that provided for the increasing demand for Dutch sound films. In 1930, they started up Cinetone, a company that originally intended to produce short sound films. 
 
“In 1933 they bought an old factory building on the Duivendrechtsekade on the south side of Amsterdam, where they set up their sound film studio. Using the name Cinetone Studio’s, the complex would develop into the most important film studio in the Netherlands. Their first films were made in 1933. The very first of these, a Belgian feature titled Meisjes in vrijheid/Filles en liberté was never released, but their second film, De Jantjes, became an unprecedented success and established a name for Cinetone. In the 1930s, more than 20 features were recorded at Cinetone and the studio was nicknamed ‘Holland’s Hollywood’.”

Death blow
During WWII,  Cinetone was renamed UFA Filmstadt Amsterdam and Filmstad became UFA Filmstadt Den Haag. In the period from May 1941 to March 1944, there were 18 German feature films recorded in both studios. At the end of the war, the complex in Wassenaar was bombed by the Allies and Cinetone was plundered by the Germans. This was the final death blow for Wassenaar as a film town. Cinetone Studios made a restart after the war. 

http://www.filminnederland.nl/en/dutch-film-history/film-studios 

WIKI notes (translated. check accuracy.): 1938 Brothers went bankrupt and sold Cinetone to Mr Wolff from The Hague

Films listed as recorded there: Fien de la Mar, Soldier of Orange, Character and Ciske the Rat
Investors bought the premises on reputation and turned it into Amsterdam Studios Hollywood, predominantly making commercials for TV and Cinema. One recent feature – Enigma.

Ipad clips to compare:

Fientje De La Mar

Operation Amsterdam (1959) appeared to have potential here as it combines studio sets with on location footage in Amsterdam – however this is a British film thus the studio shots were filmed at Pinewood Studios in London.

FILMED AT CINETONE
The Last Blitzkrieg 1959
But Not in Vain 1948 (also includes location shots and actuality Dutch resistance footage)

List from imdb.com

  1. Iris (1987) … Post Production
  2. De ratelrat (1987) … Post-production Facilities
  3. Het bittere kruid (1985) … Sound Recording
  4. Brandende liefde (1983) … Post-production Facilities
  5. De lift (1983) … Lighting Equipment, Sound Recording
  6. A Time to Die (1982) … Production Facilities
  7. Spetters (1980) … Dubbing
  8. Dokter Vlimmen (1977) … Camera And Lighting
  9. De dwaze Lotgevallen van Sherlock Jones (1975) … Sound Post-production
  10. Heb medelij, Jet! (1975) … Sound Recording
  11. Help, de dokter verzuipt! (1974) … Sound Post Production
  12. Geen paniek (1973) … Studio Facilities
  13. 10.32 (1966) … Post-production Facilities
  14. Alleman (1964) … Post-production Facilities
  15. De vergeten medeminnaar (1963) … Post-production Facilities
  16. De zaak M.P. (1960) … Post-production Facilities
  17. Fanfare (1958) … Sound Laboratory

http://www.imdb.com/company/co0234642/

Blurring Boundaries of Fiction and Non-Fiction at Tuschinski

RC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqEwB03MAnA

When researching non-fiction footage of the Tuschinski theatre, I found a huge amount of promotional clips presenting the building as a location for both social and cultural events from movie premiere’s to Royal visits.
The following clip is from the premiere night of Burlesque (2010), and I will explain in tomorrows presentation how I see this as in fact a blurring of fiction and non-fiction footage and why this concept interests me.

Reflections on literature and class discussion

RC: From reading Penz, Schwarzer and De Certeau and partaking in the discussions that followed in class, one of the main conflicts I noted was this constant return to the tension between romantic, free, idyllic perceptions of the city and the restrictions of the planned, built, modern city. Jacques Tati and De Certeau, in particular, favoured a nostalgic and poetic view of the city, excited by it’s potential for exploration and uncovering of new, narrative layers. Yet for both, this ideal was shattered by the introduction of the modern, post-war city and the limitations they felt it imposed. In our group discussion, we were able to relate this discomfort and suspicion of modern architecture to Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’ and his ideas on panopticism and it’s ability to establish control in the city through the assertion of fear of visibility. I used to live in Paris and when I first arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a safe place the city always felt to me. After a trip up L’arc De Triomphe (the panopticon of Paris) looking down on the city, I realised that part of the reason I felt so safe was that there are no alleyways in Paris, no dark little side streets, everything is straight and wide and open. Fear of visibility, in my eyes, therefore not only exerts a sense of control but also of comfort and security for city inhabitants. Thus, the planned city may not be as all offensive as Tati and De Certeau maintain. To develop Foucault’s ideas further I briefly thought about the relevance of panopticism in contemporary society and the (post?)modern city. Particularly in the UK, city surveillance – in the form of CCTV cameras – is an ongoing social and political issue. Do those in power have the right to be observing the actions of city inhabitants at all times through street CCTV cameras? Also does the awareness of potentially being observed affect the way we live our lives in the city? For example, when a shop installs CCTV security cameras there is often a very clear, visible sign stating that customers actions will be recorded on camera. Therefore, the purpose of the camera is not so much to catch customers out but again to create this fear of observation, how we act when we know we are being watched. Does it take the spontaneity and excitement out of the city experience?

However, the tension this panopticism creates between the idyllic city and controlled city is one I think cinema has the power to abolish. In his fifth chapter, Schwarzer notes when discussing establishing shots, that films are not restricted to entering spaces through doors, film-goers can become aerial voyagers, they are offered a voyeuristic transgression of walls and boundaries. Thus removing the element of control and convention the modern city usually enforces. Schwarzer also highlights that film can reveal architecture existing only in the mind, memory and imagination. Film can freely manipulate the city with no limitations, ideologically as well as physically. This immediately made me think of Inception (2010) when the streets of Paris literally fold up and crumble before the spectators eyes. The importance of the dream architect in the film is another thing which stands out to me, when a location or setting is ‘built’ with a mistake, the dreamer becomes aware of his dream state, highlighting the sheer significance of one’s surroundings and how we may unconsciously observe them on a daily basis.

A final way I thought about this tension between the two conflicting views of the city is by looking back at David Bass’ text on Insiders and Outsiders. Is the nostalgic and romantic view of the city reserved for the outsider whilst the insider knows the planned, panoptic verision of the city? Continuing with the filmic location of Paris, I thought it would be interesting to explore this idea with Paris Je T’aime (2006) and the representations of the city portrayed from different perspectives, both inside and out.

Als twee druppels water/ The Spitting Image (Fons Rademakers 1963): 54.35-57.30 Tuschinski Theater

AP:

Translation – Like Two Drops of Water, Also titled The Spitting Image, or The Dark Room of Damacles as it was an adaptation from the 1958 novel of the same title by Willem Frederik Hermans.

Plot from imdb.com

The fainthearted cigar trader Ducker keeps himself quiet during World War II. That changes when parachutist Dorbeck lands in his backyard. It turns out the parachutist bears a remarkable resemblance to Ducker. Ducker follows Dorbeck blindly, becomes involved in the Dutch resistance and soon starts killing people. When he escapes through German lines to the freed South Netherlands, no one has ever heard of Dorbeck.Written by Arnoud Tiele (imdb@tiele.nl)

Info about the film/context

Overview:

“Transformation under duress is at the nexus of this excellent wartime drama by noted Dutch filmmaker Fons Rademakers. The setting is Holland under German occupation and young Ducker (Lex Schoorel) is surviving the war and an unhappy marriage the best he can. Then one dark night, a mysterious secret agent who looks remarkably like Ducker except for his black hair, parachutes into the young man’s back yard. The secret agent, Dorbeck, enlists Ducker’s help in his missions against the Germans, and before much time has elapsed, Ducker has joined the resistance fighters and is actively engaged in the anti-German, underground war effort. He becomes daring, confident, imaginative — all the qualities missing in his earlier life. But then the war ends and brings an ironic twist to Ducker’s career as a brave patriot. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_spitting_image

WIKIPEDIA NOTES:

Like Two Drops of Water (DutchAls twee druppels water) is a 1963 Dutch drama filmdirected by Fons Rademakers. It is an adaptation of the 1958 novel The Darkroom of Damocles by Willem Frederik Hermans.[1] It was entered into the 1963 Cannes Film Festival[2] and was selected as the Dutch entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the36th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[3]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Like_Two_Drops_of_Water

  • Documentary flourished in The Netherlands in the 1950’s due to lack of funding post war for the higher costs of fiction films.

“In 1956, the NBB and the government founded the Production Fund in order to stimulate feature film production. Fons Rademakers (b. 1920) made his debut with Village on the River (1958), a playful series of stories about a country doctor, which received an Oscar ® nomination; eventually, Rademakers won an Academy Award ® for The Assault . In Als twee druppels water The Spitting Image , 1963), he demythologized the role of “resistance heroes” during World War II, and in Max Havelaar (1976) he treated another national trauma: the colonial past. With these tasteful literary adaptations Dutch fiction film came to maturity.”

This site also has contextual information – an overview of Dutch cinema peaks and troughs from the 50s-90s.

Read more: http://www.filmreference.com/encyclopedia/Independent-Film-Road-Movies/Netherlands-POSTWAR-CINEMA.html#ixzz2SEUMkdqp

“Withdrawn for 40 years following its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963,The Spitting Image is a psychologically acute story of a mild-mannered young man drawn deeper and deeper into the Dutch resistance against the Nazi occupation. (Fons Rademakers, 1963; 120 mins.)”
http://wexarts.org/film-video/spitting-image-silent-raid

“A mild-mannered Dutch tobacconist’s dull life during the Nazi occupation is suddenly enlivened when a spy who looks eerily like him parachutes into the backyard. Following the spy’s strange orders, the tobacconist finds himself tangled up in assassinations, cryptic secret meetings, and incomprehensible double crosses. By turns giddy and frightening, this 1963 oddity is rather like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty as imagined by Kafka. Half the fun is trying to figure out what it means: is it an oblique parody of spy films? A philosophical parable about our dual natures? The gorgeous, crisp black-and-white cinematography is by Raoul Coutard (BreathlessLolaJules and Jim); Fons Rademakers directed. In Dutch with subtitles. 1963, 121 min.By Hank Sartin

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-spitting-image/Film?oid=1150187

Dutch Filmmaker At Festival

By John Hartl

Fons Rademakers was showered with prizes four years ago for his World War II classic, “The Assault,” which won the Golden Space Needle award for best picture and director at the 1986 Seattle International Film Festival. It then went on to collect that year’s Golden Globe and Academy Award for best foreign film.

The 69-year-old Dutch filmmaker is back this weekend to show two more movies at the festival, which introduced his work to local audiences with the American premiere of “Max Havelaar” 13 years ago.

“The Spitting Image,” which plays at 2:30 this afternoon at the Egyptian, is a wide-screen 1963 psychological thriller about a man coerced by his “double” to collaborate with the Nazis. (I was unable to attend an impromptu press screening earlier this week, but free-lance film reviewer Michael Upchurch saw it and calls it one of the best things in the festival.)

“The Rose Garden,” which is Rademakers’ first completed film since “The Assault,” plays at 9:30 tonight at the Egyptian. It, too, deals with the long-range impact of a World War II incident: the hanging of 20 Jewish children in Hamburg on April 20, 1945, just as British troops approached the city.

“But the only thing the two films have in common is the wartime background,” Rademakers said yesterday. “While `The Spitting Image’ is a psychological story about human behavior, `The Rose Garden’ is more in the form of a statement, a document, a way of saying `Isn’t it a shame this exists?’ ”

Although “The Spitting Image” was photographed by the French New Wave legend Raoul Coutard, and was a success in Europe in the 1960s, it was never sold to the United States for distribution. It made its American debut in January, as part of a New York archival series, “Netherlandscapes: 85 Years of Dutch Filmmaking”; The Village Voice’s Gary Giddins called it “a lost classic.”

It’s one of Rademakers’ few wide-screen movies and he’s particularly proud of how it looks. He said it’s his favorite kind of picture because it blends ideas with a strong, complex narrative.

Rademakers’ first English-language film to be released in the United States, “The Rose Garden” was begun by Cannon Films, which didn’t have the money to promote it properly when it opened in Los Angeles last December. It has barely been seen elsewhere in the country, although Liv Ullmann earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as a defense attorney, and the cast includes Peter Fonda as Ullmann’s ex-husband and Maximilian Schell as the only survivor of the group hanging.

Fictionalized as a contemporary courtroom drama, the script was inspired by the fact that parents of the murdered children tried and failed to get the ex-Nazi who ordered the hangings into court three years ago.

Since winning his Oscar, Rademakers has been trying to arrange financing for “An Instant in the Wind,” a historical drama about an affair between a bourgeois white woman and a poor black man in 18th-century South Africa. Two Oscar-winning actors have said they would play the leading roles (he calls it “the ultimate story about racism”), but financing still hasn’t come through.”

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19900602&slug=1074999

Notes from ipad clip:

Hard to establish changes in colour to the decor as this film is in black and white, the Tuschinski Theer features in this clip close to its current appearance. The couple enter the front entrance, which only looks different in the barriers that stand outside the ticket desk. The doors and interior remain relatively unchanged, as the Tuschinski received funding to refurbish the interior (keeping the original design). The foyer look almost identical to now. The popcorn machines are undoubtedly modernised now however 🙂
The male character – I assume Ducker? passes a gun to his female companion whilst the film is screening (is this the Grote Zaal? if so they did not make use of the grand interior as the scene remains in the dark.
Back in the foyer, he throws his pursuer down onto the carpet ( something to compare….this carpet changed 20 years later in 1984 – being redone using the original thread in Morocco. The patterns were lost despite efforts to use the identical colours and thread. -info from http://www.amsterdam.info/cinema/tuschinski/ see more details below).

In this scene you can see the decor and warm yellow lamps that characterise the Tuschinski’s art deco interior to this day.

Recent years
The old cinema needed renovation. First in 1984, the whole cinema carpet has been redone using the original thread in Morocco. Somehow, despite having the identical colours and the original thread, the carpet’s patterns have been lost. Still the effort was enormous. The carpet for the main foyer was 50m long and had to flown in one piece to Amsterdam by a KLM plane. KLM covered the cost of this cargo (more than $ 100.000). In 1998-2002 Tuschinski has been thoroughly rebuilt with the aim to restore it as a historical monument. The old original mural has been discovered and the painstaking restoration of the interiors performed. At the back of the old cinema, a modern annex has added with three more screens. The technical equipment of the cinema has been modernized. http://www.amsterdam.info/cinema/tuschinski/

Reflections on the City: wk 3 literature/discussion

AP: Text’s read:De Certeau, Clarke and Sanders.
De Certeau’s text is concerned with the personal and subjective experience of the city, which lies in contrast to the the panoramic view and god-like perspective presented by the heightened architecture and ‘airport arrivals’ of the modern city. This offers man the city as a ‘whole’, but De Certeau argues that on the ground, another layer of the city appears – the metaphorical city – that is experienced by the ‘city walker’. De Certeau compares the experience of walking in the city at ground level with language, considering that the construction of an experience and a person’s connection with a cityscape can be likened to forming or learning a new language. ‘Pedestrian speech acts’ comprise the spatial act of walking through the city, where a turn in the path echoes a turn of phrase. De Certeau does not explain this in the most straightforward fashion, but the poetic nature of his explanations reflect his preoccupation with language and the poetry of walking.

For De Certeau, walking in the city is a subjective experience that draws upon dream, myth, legend and memory. It is a personal journey that is not necessarily governed by the rational, formal structure of the city. The walker can subvert practices, form new pathways and attribute new meanings to places and spaces. The symbolic naming of places for example is interesting and notes a phenomenon that changes over time and is subjective to each person. Famous landmarks and icons have pre-existing meanings that we bring with us from our collective memories, but these are then moulded via direct experience. Here this can be likened to the city identities that are projected by cinematic representations, as discussed in class. Cinema and the city have an interdependent developmental relationship (as explained in Clarke’s introduction), thus representations formed by cinema affect the city, and the city affects cinema’s representations. One would not exist in its current form without the other. Clarke tracks the more theoretical side of city and cultural theory, referencing figures such as Baudrillard and Benjamin, exploring how the modern city and cinema developed alongside each other, with certain parallels and crossovers. In cinema he identifies figures that appear as coping mechanisms for the modern city, with its formal grids, lack of community and general alienation. The city stroller, stranger and flaneur are explained, however these still demonstrate a lack – the city represents desires that are appealing, but can not be met.

This frustration is reflected in Sanders text, which explores the creation of the dystopian vision of New York city. He traces films that have been made through the 30’s crime movies, 40’s Film noir, and subsequent gangster, crime and action movies that cumulatively reiterate the negative image of the city as constructed from early film. He notes how that even in times of prosperity, New York city cannot shake its horror conventions, remaining the ultimate location for terror, crime, depravity and destruction. Even when this trait shifts to Los Angeles in the later periods, it is still New York city that heralds true danger (Independence Day is a good example – it is the iconic shots of the Empire State Building being blown up that tells the audience that all that is human and good is being destroyed. The Statue of Liberty also has this effect = one shot of this famous figure on the ground and you know you are in trouble). Although Sanders identifies that the 70’s and 80’s were the strongest period for constructing the true horror of the city, the past crime and noir constructions fed this, and the recent genre of disaster movies also reflect this – examples spring to mind such as The Day After Tomorrow and Cloverfield. The core thread of this text is to consider that the representation of the city may not be entirely accurate to the real environment of the city (Sanders notes that the homelessness, poverty and crime that was assumed to be a New York trait – was actually as acute in other American cities). Also once this dystopian vision was established, it was hard to shake and as people’s expectations of the city are shaped upon the media representations that they see – New York was branded a dangerous, fast paced, grimy, dirty metropolis. Even when the city experienced periods of prosperity, the city could not shake this perception – thus when movies focus on the aspirations of the middle classes, hopes and dreams are broken by the city. Couples that move into the city for money and success end up robbed, mugged, homeless and destitute. Most return to the safety of the suburbs. Some stay in the city, but their behaviour changes to match the crazed depravity – turning to violence or crime. You either become the city, or you leave, you cannot find your own (positive) pathway within the city gates.
Midnight Cowboy was used as a key example of showing the negative side of the prosperous city. Classy women and businessmen strut the streets of New York, busy and non communicative, barely looking from left to right. Epitomised by the location (outside Tiffany’s), John Voight stands in his cowboy attire, displaying the contrast between country and city – he the only man looking upon a man slumped on the ground, others too busy to care, stepping over their fellow man. The humanity of the city has been lost. Several other examples show differing ways in which the city has been shown to damage individuals or pose the perfect location for danger. Zombie movies and psychological dramas alike show the isolated, quarantine-able danger of Manhattan  or in films like Taxi Driver – the quiet, lonesome and damaged walker of the city – the ultimate alienated man.
To return to De Certeau, he also links the act of walking to childhood. In our discussions Pam-Roos made an interesting comparison with his passage on childhood and the pictures we were shown in class of children finding adventure and play in the bombed out buildings of the postwar street. This made me consider the experiences of the city through different eyes – depending on your past experience or visits to the city greatly governs your pathways throughout. Exploring with a local lends a different city experience than as a tourist. You are shown a version of the city, tailored to your visit and your acquaintance’s experience. Cinematic representations also show you a version of city, yet the purpose and intention is not as transparent and must be analysed considering the social, economical and political context of production.

Our discussion as a class also raised interesting questions in terms of learning the language of a city in terms of spatial exploration and ‘walking’ behaviour. Although I believe through the De Certeau text the analogy to language is strained, there were elements that had value. For example the idea that forming a path through the city is like ‘speaking’ though footfall, or even that your version of the city holds a particular narrative, or the learning of previous narratives, but ones that have no author or intended spectator.
Arriving in Amsterdam as a temporary resident you learn how to traverse its spaces. The geographical elements fall into place and through habit you condition your walking pattern to the ‘known’ areas – you condense the full span of the city to ‘your’ Amsterdam. You learn its rules. If from the UK you learn to look the other way when crossing the road (harder than it sounds). You learn not to walk in the cycle paths even though they are so appealing. In fact you learn how to experience the city in motion, from your bicycle seat rather than on foot. You learn which landmarks mean something to you, generated by the experiences you have constructed beneath them. You select the pathway you present to visitors. Is this a language? Perhaps. Is the city speaking to you? Telling you its stories by revealing its secrets and histories for you to pass on? Definitely.

This text made me think of several films by Woody Allen, something I might follow up for the class presentations. Particularly more recent films in the form of Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love, and Allen was also mentioned in one of the texts last week for his more utopian versions of New York City. In both the aforementioned films, the protagonists experiences are ‘stumbled upon’ through walking in the city, narratives revealed and constructed through the coincidental meandering of a city walker. Robyn also mentioned the interesting scenes of Inception as another field of enquiry, where the city is moulded and literally folded by designers. Could be a great example to explore elements of subjectivity and control, or the power of dreams and the imagination.