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In the the 1920s the movies were still relatively young, and an evolving modernist aesthetic embraced all things new, sleek, fast, and urban. Not surprisingly, a common focus of the cinematic avant-garde during this era was on the power, and excitement of cities. In both Europe and the US, a small genre of films that became know as "city symphonies" attempted to capture the spirit, uniqueness, and poetry of a city by assembling images of everyday life in that city. These early films and their offsprings often utilized what film historian Bill Nichols has termed the "poetic mode" of documentary film production--an attempt to move away from the "objective" reality of a given situation or people in order to grasp at an inner "truth" that can only be conveyed by poetical manipulations of mood, tone, time, and space.
The Media Center collection includes the most significant examples of both 20s city symphonies, and latter-day examples of the mode. Check out our holdings at: