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45 Cards in this Set

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Hyperstimulus (1910)

A term coined by Michael Davis, a social reformer, to describe modernity and the new metropolitan environment as well as the sensationalism amusements it cultivated

The hyperstimulus in relation to film

Collisionofpre-modern with modern such as a horse drawn carriage colliding with anelectric trolley fueledideas of fear and anxiety .

Infilm, perception as a form of shocks was established as a formal principle. Thethrill was central. It was distractingyet relatable- plausible.


markedand defined by an obsession with 'evidence'," visual culture, and personalvisibilityA6}

Examples of Modernity

Increasedstate of dehumanization, dehumanity,unionization, aspeople becameembittered about the negative turn of events which sprouted a growing fear.peoplebecome victims of the underlining circumstancespresented by the modern worldincreasedcompetitiveness amongst people inthe society (survival of the fittest) as the jungle rule sets in

Modernity and City

Urban reconstruction in the mid-19th century such as the planned metropolisof Paris turned the city into an emblem of modernity

The growth of cinema is intimatelytied to the growth of the city

TheTrain EffectAlsocalled the “Founding Myth of Cinema”
OnDecember 28, 1895, cinema begins in the basement of the Grand Café, Boulevarddes Capucines, Paris,” proclaims Vicky Lebeau that the Lumiere brothers showed the first film
Atthe Intersection of City and Cinema
Urban markers such as the street, the skyline,the bar become important symbols and metaphors in early cinemaForinstance, the street is important recurring setting defining the urban spacewhile simultaneously negotiating characters’ relationship to it- may be codedas a place of danger, etc.
At the Intersection of City and Cinema (Cnt'd)
Rise of a metropolitan urban culture leadingto new forms of entertainment and leisure activityRecognition ofa mass public, crowd,or audience
Whywere early films often set in cities?(andhowdoes this relate to the films we reviewed in the second half of the semester?):
- Filmsoffereda shared experience of the difficulties of the modern, urban experience.

- They commented onour fears and anxieties.

-Wesaw our lives on screen reflected back at us. Most people were living in cities– or trying to.

- Therewere more possibilities for distractions andthrills in urban spaces than in rural spaces given its rapid pace andcontinuous evolution

Los Angeles
The lifestyle of Los Angeles residents relies on the automobile, idealizes the single-family dwelling, and favors informality. With notable exceptions, the skyline is primarily horizontal rather than vertical. Los Angeles is a place of extraordinary ethnic and racial diversity, owing largely to immigration, and, like other world cities, it reflects a growing gap between rich and poor.


Auniversal metaphor for ambition, success, glamor, industry, dreamsPutsone close to the “stars”

Hortense PowederMaker: The Dream Factory

- Although LA is large geographical area,it’s dominated by Hollywood.

- Hollywoodis more a “state of mind”

- Myth of easy money

-Peopleare property, constant jockeying for power/control, relationships can bemanipulative (often seen in few stable partnerships- shifting from film to film

- “you’re only as good as your lastpicture.” No one stays on top forever.

TheCity in Film Noir

- mean, nasty, grimy, dirty


-sex: strip clubs, bar, sultry people

-shot on location in cities, night timeshooting was common to get that really dark look

Characteristics of Film Noir:

Fog:Fog obscures, makes unclear andunknown.Fate, mystery, future .

Water:What lies under the water?Rarely can the audience see below thesurface of water.Sometimes choppy and tumultuous

Lighting in Film Noir

Darkness represents two ideas: Darknessofsetting and darknessofhumanity

FilmNoirgenerally uses “hard lights” – the hardness or softness of a light is the typeof shadows it creates. Hard lights leave sharpedged shadows

Darkness of Humanity

It’s aworld of paranoia and entrapmentMaleprotagonist feels trapped and overwhelmed by a situationChanceplays a larger role than fateHeavyuse of mise-en-scene toshow entrapment:Bars or lines in front or behindcharacterTight framingCanted shotsOdd anglesSlow tracking shotsBackward tracking shots

Femme Fatale

A “dangerous woman” who traps or pulls the male protagonist(usually a common, everyday Joe) into a world of crime and danger.She is sexy, dangerous, often filled with“madlove,”greed, or jealousy.Often, one or the other, maybe both, willdie.

Why Los Angeles?

There’s an ironic resonance in its name:“city of angels”Los Angeles appears as an imaginary citywithout history, or haunted by its historyAn environment full of nondescript modernbuildingsCity of transitory residents: alienation,lack of sense of community.

Ironic contrast between the bright, sunnyclimate and the dark corruption of the peopleGertrude Stein: “There is no therethere.”Isolated, “ideal”place with an “unreal” viewof the world

Sunset Blvd

Bill Wilder, 1950

Sunset Blvd: What is the role of the city?

Typicalof film noir is the establishing, identifiable shot or sequence of shots of LosAngeles, usually at or near the beginning of the narrative.

“Sunset Boulevard” and a tracking shotshowing us just the asphalt of the street: the famous Los Angeles street isnamed, but the glamor associated with it is completely withheld.

Moral Decay in Film Noir

Film noir associates the city withalienation, isolation , danger, moral decay, and a suppressed but very presentsexuality. The alienation of characters finds expression in their repeatedmovement alone through the urban space and their chance encounters with otherlonely characters.

Hyperstimulus to Blase

Filmnoir associates the city also with a lack of emotion, and an acting styledeveloped according to which actors delivered their lines solely by movingtheir lips. The link between the city, alienation, andemotional detachment continues Georg Simmel’s notion of the metropolitan typeresulting from “the intensification of nervous stimulation”. Thetypical character in film noir reflects Simmel’s description of the “blaséattitude,” a psychic phenomenon “unconditionally reserved to the metropolis”. Inhis explication of that type, Simmel followed a turn-of-the-century model of“nervous stimulation” that could lead to nervous collapse and was associatedwith feminization:

The Futuristic City

Often these cities are ruled by sciencenot religionThe creation of these cities reflect theaesthetics, concerns and zeitgeist of the present Informed but what looks “futuristic” tous nowCautionary tales- givesus a “glimpse” at the possibilities and the problemswarningus of the possible consequences of unfettered, immediate science and progressoftenargues an ethical position that makes you think about what kind of worlds youwant to live in


Fromthe Greek means “no place”an imaginedplace or state of things in which everything is perfect. A place, state, orcondition that is ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, andconditions


animagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically atotalitarian or environmentally degraded one. A futuristic, imagined universe in whichoppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society aremaintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, ortotalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario,make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system. orpxd

What is the job of the location manager?

Securing locationsMeeting aesthetics requirements whilescouting and filmingRemovingsignage and ATM machinesHigh-glosspolished floors Managing the spaceUnderstanding the terrain and beingresourcefulCreatively overcoming challenges – golfcourse amid the cliffs


Andrew Niccol, 1997

Characteristics of Gattaca

•Interiorsare all bare,functional spaces with smooth polished floors, bare walls, glass, vast airyinteriors which provide an overall atmosphere of modernism and minimalism. •Coldsterility of the apartment•Anonymous,regulated rows of the work stations

•Limitedinteractionswith natureor hostility of‘wild’ nature e.g the sea

•Limitedinteractions between people- workers in Gattaca do not speak or interact socially

•Thisall adds to the premise of the film – that of a society based on the principlesof ‘engineered perfection’: nature can’t be trustedtxA`

Modernity and Isolation

•Geneticfocus causes barriers for both valids and invalids•to inner peace- limits connection to ourselves•Limitsconnection to other humans•Glassand mirrors •Maybe barriers•Reflectthe distorted self-image•Barrierscomein many forms (especially to those who are not valids)•Ultimately,in Gattaca, is technology responsible forisolation? 3uxSa

Film and Architecture

Small in relationship toarchitecture. Engine of society loomslarge.Abstract concrete and steel formsColdly scientific Everything, especially people, areinsignificantDiminish the individual showing theiralienationYellow, warm and vapid emphasizing theabsence of nature

An Engineered World

It is a world where an oppressive systemhas been created, not by intention, but by the simple choices of individualsand their applications of scientific discovery. Do you agree?Highly designed and antiseptic Echoedin interior and exterior architectureHelical designEchoesthe emphasis on DNABeakers, vials and close-ups of geneticmaterialReinforcethe idea of “engineered” humanity

Vertical Organization

•Escalatorand stairs rise and descend providing visual metaphors•Upwardmobility•Divisionof the classes•Constantreminder of Eugene’s inability tomeasure up to society’s expectations – cannot access the higherfloorsB
James A. Clapp“It Was The City That Killed The Beast”
Atthe center of a utopia is the city. Filmsand novels portray dystopias rather than utopias since the latter offer lessdramatic prospects dystopia mayalsoreflect an abiding distrust of “human nature.” It is not that technologychanges our behavior, rather, it expands the range and consequences of humanbehavior. 4
WhatCommon Themes/Motifs Do Directors Use to Display Dystopian Cities?
OverdevelopedcitiesTotalitariancontrolInefficientbureaucracyCorruptgovernmentUtopiaas a manufactured fictionLackof humanityTechnologygone awryUnawarenessof massesPresentday controlled by unseen forcesDisparityin classes paralleled in architectureMan vsmachine (with man losing)Consistentuse of gray


Metropolis, 1927

Clapp on Metropolis
In Metropolis: The woman whose evangelism was supposed to save Metropolis is turned by science and technology into a monster. There is an implication that technology itself could be accommodated if the social system had not lost touch with former values. What makes Metropolis, THX 1138, and Blade Runner, social science fiction is that they are ultimately about human behavior rather than technological determinism. It is not the soaring urban structures and subterranean factories of Metropolis that determine the social structure, but human greed, prejudice, and power. -rxua

Metropolis as three cities

celluloidfilm- borrows its name from cinematiccity which is the setting, topic and structuring device of the filmandreferenced real city- inspiredboth by the Manhattan skyline, and by 1920s BerlinVtx*d

Characteristics of Metropolis

•10hour clocks- squeeze more hours from workers •Unrelentingservice to the machine•Workersare programmed automatons•Ideasof alienation and loneliness in crowded spaces•Nopersonal space•Alienationfrom products leads to alienation to others?•Integratedsociety (both need the other) yet unequal environments•Top/bottomecho the ascent/descent


1982, Ridley Scott

How is Blade Runner a dystopian city?

Butthe built environment of the city is no longer the site of modernity andtechnological innovation, but a grimy place of the present and the past thathas more in common with the city of film noir,andtherefore sometimes called “future noir,” the city in ruins, or the rundownurban ghettos and barrios.

Clapp on Blade Runner

The very essence of humanity, one’s identity, hasbecome muddled in this future world by a technology that is capable of“manufacturing” an identitysoeffectively its replicants can even be convinced of their humanity.Technological world is one in which technology first apparently hasplayed a major role in the ruination of the natural world, and now is appliedto replicating it. Notonly humanoids, but also animals are now created out of a highly advancedbio-tech science.Mxag

Mennell on Blade Runner

Portrayingan outdated and dilapidated city is part of the general dystopian vision oftechnology. Sci-fifilm is caught in a paradox: the more the advancement of technology lendsitself to narratives fed by anti-technological anxiety and conspiracy, the morethe representational strategy can rely on technological development. The cities in DarkCity, The Matrix, andBladeRunnerare dystopian sites of decay based on seeing technological advancement not asutopian fantasy but as extreme dystopian fantasy.Thecity and its reality are not important any more.


1979, Woody Allen

City of God


Charecteristics of City of GOd

•Documentaryconvention voiceover(Rocketnarrates) handheldcamera•Amateuractors, location shooting and handheld cameras convey a sense of realism•Past(shot in warm colors and edited at slower pace) and present compared•Domesticspace (once occupied by women) is now subject to criminality•Streetsincreasingly become the sites of violent encounters, and thefilm increasingly erases any meaningfuldistinction between public and private space•Violenceis shown as institutionalized: gangs,police corruption, military brutality•Outsideisvisually limited, reflecting the restrictions of the ghetto