Harbour Cities

28 November, 2013 - 20:30
KASKcinema, Ghent
screening
A film programme with a quartet of city films from the 1920s, representing four port cities in manifold manners.

In the interwar period the city symphony was a highly popular film form. By combining experimental, documentary and narrative techniques, these films took the city as protagonist. Urban images were organized according to musical guidelines as visual symphonies. By this, the films internalised the pulse of the modern city and translated it into the language of cinema. The most famous example is Walther Ruttmann’s film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt (1927). However, there are numerous other city symphonies from the 1920s and 1930s that are anything but less interesting and to this day possess an enormous visual power. In this context, the number of films about port cities is striking, covering cities as diverse as New York, Tokyo, Rotterdam, Porto or Ostend.

Under the topic of the city symphony and the port city, four films will be screened (on 16mm and 35mm) that represent both the metropolis (Manhatta, Paul Strand & Charles Sheeler, 1921) and smaller, mid-size cities (Images d’Ostende, Henri Storck, 1929/30; De Stad die Nooit Rust, Friedrich von Maydell & Andor von Barsy, 1928; Impressionen vom alten Marseiller Hafen (Vieux Port), Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1929). De Stad die Nooit Rust about Rotterdam has recently been reconstructed by EYE Film Institute Netherlands in its original premiere version that had been lost for eighty years.

Musician Johan Derycke will accompany the films. A short introduction will be given by film historian and moving image archivist Eva Hielscher, who is doing research for her PhD within the project ‘City Symphonies: Urban Modernity, Film, and Avant-Garde (1920-1940)’ at Ghent University.

A film programme by Eva Hielscher and Steven Jacobs, Art History Department, Ghent University. In cooperation with Courtisane.

De stad die nooit rust

Andor von Barsy
,
NL
,
1928
,
35mm
,
b&w
,
57'

The City that Never Rests was actually directed by Friedrich von Maydell, but is known as a film by Andor von Barsy, who was a very popular cameraman in the Dutch film world in the 1920s and 1930s. This industrial film was made to attract investors. With his dynamic camerawork, Von Barsy portrayed Rotterdam as an industrious city where life concentrated around the port.

Images d’Ostende

Henri Storck
,
BE
,
1929
,
16mm
,
b&w
,
15'

Henri Storck (Ostend 1907 - Brussels 1999) lived through the whole history of cinema, passing from silent to sound, and from experimental to commercial films. He is recognised as a pioneer of Belgian cinema and a key figure in documentary. An eyewitness of his times, he made socially engaged films, but also poetic and experimental short films, films on art and a fiction feature. His body of work consists of 70 films, including a series of accounts on his native city of Ostend of which he was the chronicler and which remained, for him, the Queen of beaches.

Impressionen vom alten Marseiller Hafen

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
,
DE, FR
,
1929
,
16mm
,
b&w
,
9'

The film’s title: Impressions of the old Marseille Harbor accurately conveys Moholy-Nagy’s intent in capturing the steady hum of commerce, people, and neighborhoods of one of France’s largest and most populous port cities.

Manhatta

Paul Strand & Charles Sheeler
,
US
,
1921
,
16mm
,
b&w
,
9'

The painter Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) joined forces with the photographer Paul Strand (1890-1976) for Manhatta, a work that – despite its Romantic idealisation – is considered to be the first American avant-garde film. Partly inspired by Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman’s collection of poems about New York whose ‘organic’ structure was revolutionary at the time, this film records one day in Lower Manhattan. The makers emphasize the expressive, picturesque skyline of skyscrapers and the dynamism of the city – the hustle and bustle of the harbour, the economic activity – by positioning the camera very dramatically and its fluid editing of brief shots.