Lisbon Story

Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2009

Man With a Movie Camera, Berlin Symphony of a Great City, Paris Je T'Aime, Lisbon Story

man with the movie camera

Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Your answer should be around 400 words. Longer answers are more than welcome. The questions are all graded individually so extra effort in preparing your answer is rewarded.

Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it. Please only send to my sympatico address as I use this for the film course so that I run less of a risk of misplacing your answers.

In this first set of questions we are going to explore the general interpretation of MANIPULATED REALITIES as reflected in the four urban centered films that we will have seen to date.

Feel free to include internet reference links in your answers.

The answers are due in my Inbox on the day that they are presented in class.

updated 02-Jan-2010 10:31 PM


0. Ashley Wood

Question: The title of the film, Berlin Symphony of a Great City, is quite a descriptive set of words, carefully chosen to reflect the position taken by the director of the film in the way he has chosen to portray the city.

Considering the title "Berlin Symphony of a Great City", speculate on a similarly formatted title for another city, and the film that you would create about that city. (ie. name of city, type of music, of a , descriptor, city type). Your title should infer your intended manipulation of the urban realities of your city film.

Describe the type of film that you would make. Colour. Black and white? Sounds? Music? Sequencing? etc. Describe the creation of your film in a way that can help us to visualize your film. Speak about the film in cinematic terms. What types of angles. What sorts of scenes. What part of the city would you specifically include/exclude to manipulate your audience. Would it be a spectator film like Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin, or would it be more narrative like Paris Je T'Aime and Lisbon Story.

Oaxaca flavor of colours

Oaxaca, flavor of colours, translates, through a narrative the current and historical psyche of the city. This understanding will be conveyed through several stories of characters who are involved within the city.

Two street performer, a woodblock artist and a family who own and run a traditional chocolate shop are to illustrate the coloured and flavored elements of the city. The character within these illustrations would develop, through captions of their lives the modern vibrancy, national psyche, vivacious culture and sensorial experiences of this artistic Mexican town. 

The documentary style film would utilise a crossing over of sequences, both location and time to unify the three stories. These stories would all come together in the Zacalo, the main plaza of the town. 

The Zocalo is known as the heart of the city and is where the people of Oaxaca meet to socialise. Daily the Zacalo is filled with people of all ages who become infused in the atmospheric tastes of performers, musicians, food and any number of other social activities.

Close up and Medium shots would be used to utilise aspect of the characters lives. Close up shots would reveal personal details, inner monologues and thoughts. Medium shots would reveal facts about the characters relationship to their environment, information about their chosen profession and cultural history within it.

These two styles of cinematic presentation would envelope the viewer in both historical, personal and environmental aspects of the city and city’s authors, the people. 

Atmosphere would be created within the film through the use of a course grained colour film. The understanding of a course grain would demon straight to the viewer the contrast and quality of light, shade and shadow which is Mexican light and it people. The gain could also be interpreted as showing the noise and emotive qualities of the city.

An emphasis would be placed on two or three types of musical genres, abstracted traditional Oaxacan music, sung through the characters and current english and mexican popular culture, exhibited through radio, club and main stream venues. These types of genres would help to make sense, for the viewer of the current states and connection these play within the framework of current culture. This would allow the viewer to become ingrained in understanding the current relationship and characters relationship to both traditional music and the music in the popular culture.

The film would aim to include only the relevant parts of the city which the characters inhabit and which exhibit the greatest understanding of their lives. These spaces, for example, the Zocalo, are seen as the heath where all character unify in the warmth of the city square.

In using all these techniques, the proposed film aims to convey the cities psyche, vivacious culture and sensorial experiences of this artistic town.


1. Matthew Barbesin

Question: The title of the film, Berlin Symphony of a Great City, is quite a descriptive set of words, carefully chosen to reflect the position taken by the director of the film in the way he has chosen to portray the city.

Considering the title "Berlin Symphony of a Great City", speculate on a similarly formatted title for another city, and the film that you would create about that city. (ie. name of city, type of music, of a , descriptor, city type). Your title should infer your intended manipulation of the urban realities of your city film.

Describe the type of film that you would make. Colour. Black and white? Sounds? Music? Sequencing? etc. Describe the creation of your film in a way that can help us to visualize your film. Speak about the film in cinematic terms. What types of angles. What sorts of scenes. What part of the city would you specifically include/exclude to manipulate your audience. Would it be a spectator film like Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin, or would it be more narrative like Paris Je T'Aime and Lisbon Story.

Los Angeles: A City of Lost Intentions

I would choose to create a film about Los Angeles becauase of the many different city types and individual scenerios that it would produce. Although many films have done this, and many films have been made about LA, I feel that most of them have been character or story driven, and have not really focused on the city as the main theme or character. even though it has been well documented and filmed more than any other ciy on the planet, it is precisely why theres this sense of distorted reality, because everything is seen in the movies. I would like to document various neigbourhoods and districts that are in the greater Los Angeles area and observe the different types of cultural and social aspects. I foresee dividing the film into chapters that reflect a partcular neighbourhood, and observe the different characters each one has. Each scene will have its own theme and location: its own set of characters with their own different social dilenmas and perspectives. Because of this, the movie will take on a stucture similar to Paris Je T’Aime, but portraying the life of the city, mainly through visual impressions in a semi-documentary style, much like Berlin. However, without the narrative content of Paris Je T’aime and Lisbon Story. though the sequencing of events can imply a kind of “narrative” of the city’s daily life. With that, the movie will capture specific aspects of the city like Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera. I envision the camera work being more of a series of snap shots, capturing the landscape of the city in long still shots that framework the city as it is. The filming will be in colour, but with a dimmed filter, much like the movie Traffic. This is done to mimic the constant smog of Los Angeles and also symbolize the distorted view that this particular society has on itself.

Neighbourhoods and Themes
hollywood - plastic
malibu - resort destination
newport - materialism
los angeles - distorted reality of the outside world
riverside - slumps
inglewood - hip-hop
beverly hills -
oasadena - suburb
compton - gangs


2. Stephanie Boutari

Question: The title of the film, Berlin Symphony of a Great City, is quite a descriptive set of words, carefully chosen to reflect the position taken by the director of the film in the way he has chosen to portray the city.

Considering the title "Berlin Symphony of a Great City", speculate on a similarly formatted title for another city, and the film that you would create about that city. (ie. name of city, type of music, of a , descriptor, city type). Your title should infer your intended manipulation of the urban realities of your city film.

Describe the type of film that you would make. Colour. Black and white? Sounds? Music? Sequencing? etc. Describe the creation of your film in a way that can help us to visualize your film. Speak about the film in cinematic terms. What types of angles. What sorts of scenes. What part of the city would you specifically include/exclude to manipulate your audience. Would it be a spectator film like Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin, or would it be more narrative like Paris Je T'Aime and Lisbon Story.

Symphonies are very carefully structured and sequenced musical compositions, typically with four phases or 'movements', and each with different characteristics. The film 'Berlin: Symphony of a Great City' is similarly structured as it depicts various activities, objects, people, buildings and infrastructure as a sequential series, dividing them into separate acts according to the time of day and its associated routines.        

For example, one of the acts begins by showing a clock at noon, and then the film takes the viewer through scenes of various working citizens taking their lunch breaks, moving on to showing the entire food industry - going behind the scenes of different restaurant types and showing the cooking and cleaning just as much as the eating. These busy scenes are accompanied with a more melodic phase of the symphony. In contrast, during the first act the music is much slower paced, for the city has not yet risen and only a few people wander the streets. Another distinct transition occurs when the film focusses on machines at work, depicting massive assembly lines, turning wheels, sawing, sanding and burning. As these movements are exemplified the music gets more rhythmic and dramatic.

A similarly formatted title for another city could be 'New York: Techno-Rave of a Sleepless City'. Using techno-rave would speak about the dynamic, chaotic and constantly active lifestyle of the typical New Yorker. There is so much to see and do it can be overwhelming, life is fast paced and time just seems to fly by. In order to convey these concepts I would definitely use colour, and possibly manipulate it as the film progresses to further emphasize the chaos and information overload. For example, the signage colours and moving lights in Time's Square could be edited in the film to start flashing different colours or moving at different paces. As a huge proportion of the street traffic in New York are taxi cabs, a scene showing this could exaggerate it by filtering out every colour except the yellow of the cabs.        

As Berlin symphony tells a story of life in Berlin in a chronological manner it implies a regular routine of a busy, efficient city. For New York however I would not choose to portray the city over the course of a day, but skew the audience's perception of time. I also envision that the camera angle would shift in a manner that mimics the viewers eyes as they walk through the city, rather than flying from above. Having the camera level at eye level whilst distorting the view may begin to express the idea that the viewer is an outsider exploring the city, surrounded by mad hustling and bustling. In this sense I see it being more of a spectator film than a narrative, but it could be interesting to show multiple abstracted narratives at a time, for this would still render the viewer a curious spectator, observing these scenes from afar without committing to one in particular.


3. Laura Fenwick

Question: The title of the film, Berlin Symphony of a Great City, is quite a descriptive set of words, carefully chosen to reflect the position taken by the director of the film in the way he has chosen to portray the city.

Considering the title "Berlin Symphony of a Great City", speculate on a similarly formatted title for another city, and the film that you would create about that city. (ie. name of city, type of music, of a , descriptor, city type). Your title should infer your intended manipulation of the urban realities of your city film.

Describe the type of film that you would make. Colour. Black and white? Sounds? Music? Sequencing? etc. Describe the creation of your film in a way that can help us to visualize your film. Speak about the film in cinematic terms. What types of angles. What sorts of scenes. What part of the city would you specifically include/exclude to manipulate your audience. Would it be a spectator film like Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin, or would it be more narrative like Paris Je T'Aime and Lisbon Story.

A film similar in title to ‘Berlin Symphony of a Great City’ would be filmed in Barcelona. Barcelona is a vibrant city in which evidence of its culture can be seen in every aspect. From Antoni Gaudi’s unique buildings to the paella restaurants and Spanish art vendors on the street, it is evident everywhere that the city has an intense passion for its way of life. A Spanish tradition, flamenco is both a type of music and dance that is a passionate and seductive art form music with its rapid intricate passages, appropriately representing the city of Barcelona. Fervent is a word that describes passion and sincere enthusiasm. Hence, a similar title for a film about Barcelona would be, ‘Barcelona Flamenco of a Fervent City’.

The film would be similar in filming style to Berlin Symphony of a Great City – a spectator film. Although to appropriately address the passionate emotion of the film it would be in colour and to manipulate the urban realities of this film the colour could be intensified in post-production – to highlight the reds/oranges/yellows – passionate colours.

The filming of the spectator film would begin with a helicopter shot over Barcelona in order to pull the audience in effectively establishing the subject of the film – the city of Barcelona. The flamenco guitar music with its slow and rapid passages would be reiterated by the filming speed effectively building up the emotion. At a slow point in the music the opening shot will move into a high-angle shot in which a street scene is filmed from above and the camera points down to the initial scene this will make the subject small in contrast to the expanse of Barcelona City. Hence, the audience will be always be aware that the street scenes are in Barcelona. The pan with then zoom in on the first scene of the film effectively creating the establishing shot of the film.

The film will then follow the life of Barcelona streets much the same way as ‘Berlin Symphony of a Great City’ is filmed, showing the same passion along with the same beat of the music and comparing it to the overall pan of Barcelona initially. The film will follow Barcelona from day to night, from the normal happenings of the city till the night festivities. The filming will build to a climax, as the flamenco music does to build up the emotion of the film. The film will then end up in the same street as the establishing scene, zoom out to a high angle shot and then up to a helicopter shot. Establishing somewhat of an anti-climax showing that this is just a typical day in Barcelona.


4. Li Ting (Nora) Guan

Question: The title of the film, Berlin Symphony of a Great City, is quite a descriptive set of words, carefully chosen to reflect the position taken by the director of the film in the way he has chosen to portray the city.

Considering the title "Berlin Symphony of a Great City", speculate on a similarly formatted title for another city, and the film that you would create about that city. (ie. name of city, type of music, of a , descriptor, city type). Your title should infer your intended manipulation of the urban realities of your city film.

Describe the type of film that you would make. Colour. Black and white? Sounds? Music? Sequencing? etc. Describe the creation of your film in a way that can help us to visualize your film. Speak about the film in cinematic terms. What types of angles. What sorts of scenes. What part of the city would you specifically include/exclude to manipulate your audience. Would it be a spectator film like Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin, or would it be more narrative like Paris Je T'Aime and Lisbon Story.

Toronto, life of the cosmopolitan city

In Berlin symphony of the great city, the director Walter Ruttmann captured varieties of urban experience and architecture by mixing documentary and combining sound with images to present the life and living in Berlin in the late 20s. It offers us a dynamic expression of the city in motion, the interaction of its parts as they make up the whole that is Berlin.

Toronto, life of the cosmopolitan city is a coloured semi-documenting film about the city of Toronto on its unique cultural diversity. Different from Berlin, where the majorities are Germanic who share the same culture, language and history, Toronto is one of the world’s most diverse cities by race, religion and lifestyle. Approximately half of the population were born outside of Canada. The film is divided into five different stories with a narrative content like Paris Je T'Aime. It is about five individuals or families who are the first or second generation immigrant. Each story captures the moments in their everyday life, such as their moments of sorrow and happiness, separations and reunions. The blending as well as unification of different culture are emphasized through the camera. Exterior shots of architecture and the city display the unification of diverse culture. It can be a few long shots of different kinds of neighborhoods, buildings, cultural activities, etc. The interior and human interactions are filmed to reveal a multicultural city. Interior decoration, personal dialogues, daily routine of each character can be so different from each other. Each story is accompanied by a specific background music that relates to the characters’ original culture. Different languages are spoken in the film. Stories are followed by one another with a transition in between. A transition scene is used to connect the stories smoothly. For example, there will be two characters existing at the same location and camera pans from one to another.

In the beginning of some story, there will be a bird’s eye view with long shots to give a general impression of where the story takes place in the city. Eye level angle with long and medium shots are used for most of the time to give it a sense of “life” size. Since the audiences already know where the story happens, the camera focuses more on dialogue and character interaction. Few close-up shots are used to read the mind of a character, and then give audiences a sense of intimacy. From the film, audiences will experience a very multicultural city and witness the celebration of the union of different culture around the world.


5. Matt Hartney

Question: How do the types of sequences in Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera reflect cultural preoccupations of the 1920s? If you were to reshoot these films today, in the same cinematic manner, what might be the focus of the footage?

The twenties was a period of great growth and prosperity in many parts of Europe and America, and both Berlin, Symphony of a Great City and The Man With the Movie Camera illustrate the industrial forces responsible for this prosperity and the impact they have on life in the metropolis. The rapid editing employed throughout the films helps to underscore the vitality and power of 1920’s, where man has become just one part of the machine of progress.  The role that the individual plays is never minimized in these films, and each shows fast paced sequences of men and women operating complex devices or telephone relay stations, their movements sped up to emphasize the necessity of the operator. The fascination with new stimuli and greater technologies is made apparent in scenes that reveal intricate workings of machines that produce the necessities for life at rates beyond the reach of any human, machines which seem to breath and pulse with a life of their own.  At the same time, contrasting sequences of dining, bathing, and dressing humanize the films and firmly place man as the recipient of these new wonders.
If shot today, these films would feature similar types of sequences, and indeed films such as Manufactured Landscapes and Koyaanisqatsi have poignantly illustrated the massively inflated mechanisms of production at work in the late twentieth century, though the sense of marvel found in the early films would likely be lacking. Today we may focus not on what technology has done to enrich our lives and provide us with ever changing forms of entertainment, but rather on the legacy of such an adherence to the industrialized lifestyle. While the image of telephone operators frantically connecting and disconnecting calls at a manual switchboard underscores the confluence of man and technology, today’s film would replace that dramatic union with a static image of a hub of circuitry and computers, performing even greater tasks with no visible effort. We may also see not the milk bottling plant, but perhaps the high density dairy farm, or the adjacent polluted stream. We do still wake, bathe, walk to work (sometimes), take lunch, see a show, but today man is more of a spectator than ever, viewing events from what seems to be an increasing distance and spending greater periods of time engaged with the screen of a television, computer, or some other mediator, which would form the bulk of any film purporting to reflect our ‘cultural preoccupations’. Berlin and The Man With the Movie Camera show the promise of what can be achieved through innovation and determination, while today, despite having achieved greater conquests than dreamed of in 1920, a lack of purpose pervades and any film that were to honestly reveal the cultural realities of our age would no doubt address this.



6. Michael Hasey

Question: Compare the arrival sequence in Berlin to the arrival sequence of Philip in Lisbon Story. How is each appropriate to setting the stage for the cultural preoccupations of the time in which they are set?

The arrival sequence in Berlin: Symphony of a Great City establishes an atmosphere of progress and renewal in a country just recently torn apart by war.  The film begins with a view from a moving train as it travels towards Berlin, passing by farmland, and outlying towns and villages. Upon entering the city, vast networks of communication, architecture, transportation, and various other infrastructure networks become visible, giving the audience a sense of vibrant power and progress in motion.  Such progress is visually elaborated in the following scene, where great industrial machines begin to rouse and churn out power and life to a waking city.  Such scenes of advancement in infrastructure, architecture, and industry in the city are appropriate as they reflect the cultural state Germany was experiencing at the time.  The Germany of the 1920’s was a golden age of cultural rejuvenation and progression.  After a four year period of cultural depression during the first world war, Germany experienced an explosion of culture in the fields of architecture, literature, music, film, painting, fashion and so on and so forth.  By introducing the city as a sudden explosion of movement and progression out of the surrounding neutral fields, this sudden, golden age of culture is wonderfully staged.  In the film Lisbon Story, the arrival sequence takes place over a larger expanse.  Rather than focusing on the city, the opening scenes are shot from the point of view of the protagonist, Philip, and centers on continental Europe.  As Philip travels towards Lisbon from Germany, he both witnesses and expresses an international cultural unity that took place at that time.  As a result of the United Nations coming to power, trade agreements being expanded, and borders relaxing, people throughout the continent embraced a new European identity.  Unlike past cultural separation due to war and conflict, this new identity brought about a sudden European distinction that was never felt before. This transition, like in Berlin: Symphony of a Great City was demonstrated through a progression towards a destination, in this case, from Germany to Lisbon.  Although each country, and every other in between, had its own unique language, current news, and past history, the arrival sequence in Lisbon Story was crafted to visually connect one country to the next through land and environment.  The result was a blurring effect between each one, making this unification clearly in focus and present.  Philip refines this connection by stating, “Europe has no borders”, “I realize that Europe is becoming a single nation”, and finally, “This (Europe) is my homeland!”



7. Richard Kim

Question: Both Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin seem preoccupied with referencing the time of day in the film. Paris and Lisbon are not. Why do you think that the representation of the morning to night timeframe is important in the older films but not so in the newer ones?

As the sun rises, the city is illuminated with life. In both films, Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin, the representation of the time frame is critical in its stylistic approach.

In Paris JeT’aime, and Lisbon Story, narratives of a particular set of events between selected individuals tell the story of the city. Unlike them, Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera showcases the city itself, with all the life within it, as the actor and the stage.  Day and night are the condition, the conflict and the setting that governs the story line.

The progression of the day to night, shown through each movement of the symphony, dynamic life of the city is apparent -- louder and softer according to the time of the day. Production, markets, transportation, meals, entertainment, to silence of motion, the activities of the people change accordingly, from midnight to dawn. This crescendo and decrescendo of pace of life is depicted visually and with the varying tempo of music, yet the passage of time remains constant.

Similarly, while the two movies convey the manipulation of truth through the curated perspectives, the progression of the day remains as the datum of truth. 

This manipulation of truth, guided by the constant tempo of time passage, selects collective tactile experiential qualities of the city. Though it takes place in the city shown, it is universal at the same time--- in the cities similar in its function, use and organization. Paris JeT’aime, and Lisbon Story assemble a sequence or a collection of ephemeral memories that constitutes a ‘genius locus’. In this case, the personal experiences are not aligned with the daily passage of time but with the series of events that happens over a longer period of time.


8. Clayton Lent

Question: In the set of four films that we have watched, two purposefully let us see the movie camera and filming, and two do not. How does the presence of the camera as part of the action of the film alter our perception of the city that is being filmed?

Exposing to act of composition in The Man with the Movie Camera invites the viewer to consider the setting of the film, as well as the method of filming. The film becomes self-reflexive and, in doing so, involves the viewer in the conception of the film. The city is viewed as one who would cut, crop, frame and illuminate specifics of the setting. Similarly, Berlin: Symphony of a Great City captures the life of an environment. The city is viewed as a living thing with rituals and patterns to be recognized and studied. It is an independently functioning set of phenomena to be observed. The primary difference is that in the first film we are invited to question the particular angles chosen.

Paris Je T’Aime constructs an elaborate narrative in which the city of Paris, while essential, serves as the backdrop to the actions of the characters. The setting of the film is as essential as the characters, but the characters take narrative precedence.  “...and I knew Paris loved me back.”, at points the city is given romantic character, but largely it serves as a beautiful, convivial, and sometimes challenging setting for human interaction. Whereas, In Lisbon Story the act of producing a film guides the narrative. The film follows the wanderings of a sound technician in search of an appropriate score to match an already created set of images. In doing so the city of Lisbon serves as the environment that will support his endeavor. The city is seen as a great panoply of event sounds to be curated and used. We see the city through the scrutinizing eyes of the collector. The presence of the movie camera, or movie production equipment, alters one’s perception in such a way that the setting, or city, is brought to question. In The Man with the Movie Camera and Lisbon Story the cities themselves become prominent guiding elements of the narrative.



9. Kevin Lisoy

Question: In Lisbon Story, Wim Wenders is making direct reference to Man with a Movie Camera on many levels. Yet the presentation of the cities in the two films, as well as the day to day life of the inhabitants, is quite different. Is the connection successful? Why? Why not? How does this support/not support the narrative.

Wim Wenders makes direct reference to Man with a Movie Camera on many levels.  The main goal of both films is to capture the everyday events of the city.  This is established in The Man with the Movie Camera through a careful orchestration of chronological events in order to recreate the day’s events in a smaller amount of time.  Through Vertov’s use of silent film, he structures the events in an intentional manner that portrays the city as a machine that moves people.  Lisbon story is made of two parts that capture and interpret the city “as it happens”.  Fredirich Munro’s role is to provide content.  What’s visual is what he feels.  He captures this as he meanders through the city; as events pass.  Winter’s role is to interpret the city in another manner.  With the use of his directional microphone, he is able to study the city’s events on a micro level and conclude something else from the same location in the city.  The result of this synthesis of separate but accommodating visual and audible interpretation of a lively city.  This is very interesting because just the visual/audio content is very simple, but together they provide parallel presentation of the city and the people.  The link is established, but Munro still has to discover what the new audio/visual interpretation can do to interpret the city “as it happens”.

Every event has equal importance throughout Munro’s film, captured with a “visual notepad” unlike the events filmed by Vertov.  Vertov structures the film so that the content puts together an exact interpretation of the city’s daily movement.  The people do not exist in his film.  To Munro, Pointing a camera is just like pointing a weapon, depriving things of life,  like “Alice in Wonderland”.  He hoped that Winter’s sound would help to revive the video, but was frustrated when his random shots and Winter’s soundtrack were on different levels. Munro delaminates the city from the lives of people in attempts to bring the film to life.  His link to Vertov’s film is direct, but his attempt to recreate the city’s beat is completely different.

After Munro’s realization that he could achieve a true interpretation of the city by an intentional synthesis of sound and content, the end scene enters with a cameraman shooting on celluloid completes the acknowledgment to Man with a Movie Camera.



10. Anne Ma

Question: Speak to the difference in the presentation of the city of the films that are restricted to the use of music vs. those that have a choice of music, sound effects and voice. Would Berlin or Man with a Movie Camera have been more or less successful had they had benefit of modern sound technology?

Berlin, Symphony of a Great City and Man with a Movie Camera choose to present the city through a broader sense by compiling a series of documentary visuals on daily life in the city. On the other hand, Paris Je T’aime and Lisbon Story characterize the city through the stories of particular individuals and their respective lives in the city. The first two films are accompanied by a single musical score composed for the film while the latter two are accompanied by a range of specially selected existing music, sound effects and scripting.

The musical scores that complement Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera work with the film footage to guide the viewer through a progression of a day in the life of a typical inhabitant of the city. Despite being restricted to a specifically composed score, the films are able to flow easily along with the music as the broad framework for the film’s ‘narrative’ consists of temporal sequences of scenes throughout a single day. On the contrary, Paris Je T’aime and Lisbon Story consist of multiple changes amidst multiple days as related to the stories of the specific individuals and so the use of multiple musical selections and voices help bring out these contrasts. The different nature of each setting is divided by the drastic changes in musical style and mood and helps colour each scene as it follows the narrative of each respective film.

While it would seem that having modern sound technology would be beneficial for old silent films like Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera, it is actually quite the opposite. Both films would have been less successful had they had the option for selecting from a wide range of music, sound effects and voice over. First of all, the change in mood is related to the film by the change in time throughout the day and the use of a symphony composed of a certain style harmonizes with the silent film better than if a range of music and styles were chosen for each change in mood. As the films were meant as a representation of the city in its entirety and not on any particular person of interest, use of script and voice to tell the narrative would have taken away from both film’s intentions. In addition, the musical score provides enough distinction between the scenes from morning until evening so modern sound effects technology would have overemphasized an already brilliantly decorated assortment of musical accompaniment.



11. Xin (Emma) Ma

Question: Of the four films, only Paris Je T'Aime uses actors with which you might be familiar. How does this affect your interpretation of the city? Would the film and the reading of the city of Paris be the same if they had used nameless actors. How does the generic nature of the actors in Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera support the intended interpretation of those city films?

The introduction of distinguishable characters immediately shifts the focus of the movie from the setting of the city (which was the centre of attention in Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera) to the plot and the development of human relations. There is less deliberation in displaying the City of Paris in Paris, je t’aime, than any other film, including The Lisbon Story, where the protagonist goes through the action of walking through the streets as an observer to the acts of daily life.

In Paris, je t’aime, the role of the city is exemplified to different degrees depending on the director of the individual sequences. For example, the setting is obscure in Vincenzo Natali’s Quartier de la Madeleine with Elijah Wood, though the plot and atmosphere hold a distinctive Parisian flair. In Alfonso Cuaron’s Parc Monceau with Nick Nolte, the long continuous shot highlights the storefronts of a single street. In this case, the city is viewed as a backdrop, in front of which human interaction occurs. Finally, in the shorts of Wes Crave’s Père-Lachaise with Tufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer, and Sylvain Chomet’s Tour Eiffel, the identity of the city is unmistakably told through well-known monuments of Oscar Wilde’s grave in the former, and the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe in the latter. In this sense, Paris, je t’aime describes the possibilities of events in the setting rather than the city itself.

For (North-) American viewers, many identifiable actors are of the Hollywood genre. The audience’s knowledge of their origins alienates the characters from the foreign setting of the film; in fact many protagonists in the shorts are visitors to the city of love. This engages the viewer on an experiential level, as one may relate to being a tourist in a strange country, but find difficulty in sympathizing with the obsolete “actors” in Berlin, where the only role allowed for the audience is that of the observer. The latter movie holds the city as its subject, and is focused more on the rhythmic movement of a society rather than the inner workings of the life of any individual. There are smaller inflections of intensity of activity in Berlin than (in many cases) the classic rise and fall of climatic action found in Paris, which follows the suit of the machine-like aesthetic of the film.

The familiar faces of Hollywood actors intermingled with well and lesser known French actors emphasizes the juxtaposition of cultural affairs in the film. The bilingualism and difference in habit provokes the “they are just like us” sentiments in the audience of the American characters, and forces the acknowledgement of the obstacles and advantages of cross-ethnic circumstances. The viewers would find less contrast between unknown American and Parisian actors, and the interweaving scheme of the film would be diminished.

It is also important to note that Paris, je t’aime was released in 2006 (compared to the late twenties of Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera) into a society that is hyper-sensitive to media. The aim of the film prioritizes the element of entertainment compared to the emphasis on documentation of the two earlier recordings.

References: Lecture Films, IMDB, and Wikipedia


12. Christopher Mosiadz

Question: The two earlier films make pervasive use of the best in special effects of their time in the creation of the sequences in the film. The two later films seem to attempt to present the city as normally as possible (ie. without f/x). Why do you think this is? What do the f/x in the older films tell us about their cities and the culture of film of the time?

Both Walter Ruttmann (Berlin: Symphony of a Great City) and Dziga Vertov (The Man with the Movie Camera) started making movies in the early twenties. The film Industry was just beginning to blossom at this time. With technology still being in a very primitive state, we begin to understand why the two directors had such a tremendous preoccupation with special effects; to exploit all resources and establish themselves on the cutting edge of the film industry.

Similarly, back in the day when PowerPoint was new to all of us, everyone began exploiting the functions - adding unnecessary sounds, a multiplicity of transitions, using elaborate theme templates – all with the sole intention of unpacking the potential of the software. And let us not forget, it was also considered ‘cool’ at the time.

When Lisbon Story and Paris, je t'aime were shot more than six decades later, they had a solid understanding of what works and how to achieve it by looking at almost a century of film history that preceded them. Compared to the special effects that were available to them at the time, they chose to present the city as normally and naturally as possible because they knew that this was the most effective way to stay honest with the viewer in representing Lisbon and Paris, respectively.



13. Tyler Murray

Question: Compare the techniques that are used to illustrate the passage of time in the four films, noting that the methods in the older films are less subtle. How do these techniques impact your viewing of the city in the film?

The 4 films play as quite different movies.  The two older films "Man with a Movie Camera" and "Berlin Symphony of a Great City" Attempt to avoid a narrative in the sense that there is no apparent protagonist, only the city as an entity unto itself.  These movies have a very apparent timeline, one that begins in the morning and views different parts of the city throughout the day ending late into the night. This transition is led by the general tempo of and pace of the activities that occur within in the city during these different time frames but is also aided by the filming pace and musical score in the morning vs. the crescendo that occurs during the work day. Time is also divided up by scenes which inform you that a change is taking place. This dependence on music to inform the narrative of the city allows the audience to appreciate the pace and see where the city is busiest.  The audience of this movie would determine, based on this division of time and its accompanying filming techniques, that both these movies put a particular importance on the work day and see this as the most active part of the city. In both movies a general overview of the city is seen throughout the course of a single typical day.

The two newer films are easier to distinguish between.  This again falls back to the way in which the narrative is told.  In "Lisbon Story" you are following a single protagonist learning about the city as he discovers different parts of it.  Time is no longer confined to the single typical day but is stretched into what could be months.  There are certain key things which reveal the passage of time.  One is the change of lighting this begins to differentiate between day and night.  Another is sleeping and awakening or interior rooms with lights on.  The way the scenes are edited however you are not certain that the days are exactly chronological.  The give away that a substantial amount of time has passed is that the protagonist who is introduced with a foot in a cast is healed and able to walk unhindered by the end of the movie.  Lighting and editing are the key elements for telling time in this movie. 

“Paris Je T'Aime" is not a clear narrative on the whole but there is most definitely a protagonist to each scene and so the viewer gains insight into the city through the perspective of many different individuals in many different situations throughout the city.  These scenes appear to occur in different scales of time and in fact it begins to hark back to the older films in that by playing with the scale of time and the numerous protagonists the city gains an identity removed from its individual stories.  Within the individual scenes lighting is critical for determining the passage of time and so are the activities being preformed.  On a larger scale however between scenes overviews of the city at different times gives a transition between scenes suggesting that all events are not occuring within the same day but in fact the city is experiencing time outside of the individuals living within it.


14. Brian Muthaliff

Question: Both Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera might be considered potentially as positive advertisements and even propoganda about their respective cities, in the way that the aspects of their respective cities are presented in a positive light. The title of Paris Je T'Aime might lead you to think the same. How do you feel that the presentation of Paris in the film relates to the title's perception as a positive film? Could this film also be considered as an advertisement for Paris in the same way? Why? Why not?

The film Paris Je t’Aime describes a series of love stories that take place in various parts of Paris. All of the stories are centered around different evolutions in a relationship, however they all unravel with a sense of closure and comfort as the love in the relationship heals the situation. Therefore Paris Je t’aime leaves the viewer with a positive impression of the City and falling in love in it.

Each story reveals its’ setting differently and although the stories themselves are far from connected, collectively they describe a culture that can be found in the city. The setting of each short film is directly related to and in some moments becomes a catalyst for the story to unfold. In this sense Paris offers numerous opportunities for finding happiness and love in some part of the city. Thus, Paris can be said to be a place where a culture of loving is cultivated and loved.


15. Adam Schwartzentruber

Question: Both Paris and Lisbon feature key actors who are visitors to the city. Describe the way that seeing through the eyes of the visitor, rather than the native, manipulates the way that the city is presented to the viewer. In Paris, please select a particular short to support your answer.

Seeing the city through the eyes of a visitor creates a view of the city which is abject to it, in a way it allows a separation from the city which places an emphasis on individual moments. To a visitor, everything in a city is foreign and so individual detail is presented in a more singular way much in the way a visitor recalls an experience as a collection of memories. In Paris J’taime, this is particularly evident through the American tourist, who mispronounces French words, and generally contrasts from her surroundings.

When the city is presented through her eyes, it puts an emphasis on what we see and hear as a description of the city itself rather than a setting for action. The action then, begins to describe the setting in a running dialogue of interaction with her surroundings, and through this she paints a picture of the city for the audience to grasp, which goes beyond imagery. Seeing through the eyes of a visitor manipulates the reality of the city, in this case putting a strong emphasis on contrast and difference between cultures, rather than seeing similarities, which would be much more evident had we seen the city through the eyes and ears of a native.


16. Sam Sutherland

Question: Paris Je T'Aime is a set of shorts that eventually feed into the whole to make a complete script. In Lisbon Story we are presented with a complete story. How do these two methods alter our perception of the cities of Paris and Lisbon as they are presented. Speculate on your answer by reversing the cities in the two films.

In Paris Je T’Aime (abbr. PJT), we perceive Paris, or the life of Paris, through the eyes of a cross-section of the inhabitants of Paris, whereas in Lisbon Story, we experience Lisbon through the eyes of a single individual who moves throughout the city. The two experiences are very similar because in PJT it is almost as if the viewer has taken the place of the sound recording artist or the film maker in Lisbon Story. The perception of the city in Lisbon Story is perhaps more personal and relatable because we see why we are being treated to a cross section of the city. The main character of the film is moving throughout the city in search of his friend the film maker. PJT could perhaps have captured this greater degree of warmth and internalization if there had been a character in the film who was present to some degree in each of the shorts. However, with imagination, it is not too difficult to imply the presence of this “tying-together” individual in PJT, and the way we perceive the two cities in the two films is virtually identical.

The perception of the city we gain from Lisbon Story is more coherent than the perception we gain from PJT because we understand what drives the sound recording artist from one part of the city to the other. We are prepared beforehand for each experience, so to speak, because we see a part of the film maker’s movie and then the sound recording artist goes there to collect sound and oral interviews. We also begin to gain an understanding of the spatial relationship between each part of the city because we see the sound recording artist walking and traveling from one quarter to another and back home again. In PJT, however, even by the end of the film, we have not become remotely aware of how each quarter is situated in relation to each other, except for a few fleeting scenes at the end where a few different characters from the shorts run into each other. Our understanding of the atmosphere of each part of the city in Lisbon Story is accelerated because we see exactly how the sound recording artist responds to the city, its people, and what its people tell him about the city.



17. Joon Yang

Question: Did any of the four films "drag" for you? Describe the reasons that this might have happened. You need to be specific as the intention is to learn how NOT to have this happen in a film. Was it a way of filming? Repetition? Music? The Narrative? Lack of narrative? etc.

Man with a Movie Camera feels a little bit dragging, mostly due to older film technologies and shooting styles. Primitive technologies in 1920’s allowed movies only in black and white, which takes away visual attractions provided by coloured objects. While black and white has its own beauties, it is limited in portraying lighting and colour descriptions. For example, for the scene where a few ladies are travelling on a carriage, it was difficult to tell if the weather was sunny or cloudy, (other than the fact the ladies were frowning due to sunlight) if the horses were black or brown, or if the ladies’ dresses were bright yellow, or subtle beige tone. Also the fact this movie has no dialogues and was controversial for being the first movie without ‘intertitles’ may have been a shocking change at the time, but looking at it now makes it relatively stale. So these limitations eliminates visual/audio attractions that modern films can offer.

The shooting style /music chosen by the director also made it a little bit dragging. There were certain shots that came up repeatedly, such as shots of horse legs when they’re galloping, or a close-up shot of a machinery at work with different parts rotating. At first it was clear that the director wanted to emphasize these shots and close-up shots of different parts at work were interesting, but it gradually lost its positive impact and became slow as these scenes come up repeatedly through out the movie. The rhythm of the music was synched with some of the shots, such as horse galloping scene, which also lost its initial effect and came off as too much repetition later on in the film.

Lack of clear plot also made it harder to maintain interest into the movie. In Lisbon Story, the main character encounters serious of events, people and incidents as he looks for his movie director, and Paris Je T’aime features a series of extremely compelling plots tied with themes of love, which come together into one scene at the end. Man with a Movie Camera lacks such attention-drawing plot. It shows a series of phenomena, or events that are seemingly unrelated from each other. Scenes such as an incoming train, a woman getting dressed, and workers in factories comes together as a broad theme, the ordinary life of soviet union, but it doesn’t offer a plot with a beginning, rising action, climax and ending.


18. Ryan Yeung

Question: Did any of the four films "drag" for you? Describe the reasons that this might have happened. You need to be specific as the intention is to learn how NOT to have this happen in a film. Was it a way of filming? Repetition? Music? The Narrative? Lack of narrative? etc.

The level of enjoyment and interest of the first four films were related directly to the era of their production. The most recent film, Paris Je T’Aime (2006) was the film that best captured my attention, whereas the ancient 1920’s films, Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin Symphony of a Great City were dull. This is due to the large time gap between these movies where advancement has been made in not only technology, but in cinematography, narrative, and perhaps even the purpose of a movie.

To be more specific, Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin Symphony of a Great City lacked a narrative, which I find an important factor in engaging an audience. The lack of narrative is fueled by the lack of any audio except for the musical accompaniments made for the film. In essence they become hour-long “motion pictures”. The fact of the matter is that the difference in eras makes these films unbearable to watch. Movies in the present are vibrant, active, and refined. Though for their time they were most likely technically brilliant, the 1920’s films become a tediously repetitive sequence using a camera with a substantial frame rate. This speed up the movements of the individuals portrayed in the films or creates this indefinable mask over their faces making their portrayal seem unnatural or inhuman.

Though, Man with a Movie Camera makes you wonder how they were able to superimpose moving images, such as the man inside a glass of beer, or superimposed at a larger scale over the mountains, in the end they feel disconnected. Obviously the director tries to create a linear progression, trying to tell a narrative between each scene, as seen in Berlin where each act shows a different part of the day chronologically, but in the end, it feels like there needs to be a catalyst, or some element that tells you that the movie is progressing such as voice, or a better narrative. Paris Je T’Aime, which is a collection of 18 short films, are disconnected (although relating to the grand picture of Paris) but is engaging because of this narrative that flows through each short film with a definable start and end. Berlin separates into 5 Acts, but in the end, it feels like each Act is showing the same thing. It seems stagnant.

In the end, it is the layer of depth in the film that determines whether the film drags or not. I do not mean a metaphorical layer of depth, as in whether the film has any deep meaning (although that sometimes helps). I am referring to the level of detail taken in every aspect of the film. The audio and visual of Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin seemed one-dimensional: a set of moving images with a single soundtrack. Paris Je T’Aime in comparison felt explosive and overwhelming in terms of audio and visual, with several layers of sound (from music, to voice, to crowds, to noises) and vibrant colourful representations of the different areas of Paris. Through these layers it already captures an essence of Paris.


19. Giovanni Comi

Question: In Lisbon Story, Friedrich puts the camera on his back as a way of removing the responsibility of the filming from himself. Do you feel that this sort of camera position manipulates the way in which we see the action of the city?

Lisbon Story is a movie on cinema, about the 100th anniversary of cinema, with tributes to portuguese soul, Fernando Pessoa and Manuel de Oliveira (born in 1908), but especially is a free gift to Federico Fellini, died a year before. As a matter of fact at the beginning and at the end we can read the same italian write: Ciao Federico. First time his picture is on a newspaper, Wochenpost, under an italian wrote headline, while during the credits the same write appears and disappears on the Winter's room wall.

But it is also a movie about the crisis. The same creative crisisi lived and then told by the italian director in his movie 8 ½. That emotion of hopeless and useless a directorfeels during his life, then followed by the ability to understand that the only way to overcome it is telling a story about that.

The movie shot by Wim Wenders is a mix of that and a road movie; very beautiful the visive-radio collage during the trip from Berlin till Lisbon.

In my opinion, although the intention of Monroe is to shoot the city of Lisbon “[...] as it is, and not as a I want it to be” like he tells to Winter showing him his Library of unseen images ii, the decision to put the camera on his back is always a manipulation of reality.

As a matter of fact the director can't think to be just a witness of what happens. He always chooses, and so selects a specific part of things. The only possibility is not an image unseen, completely pure from any eye contamination, waiting for an utopistic future; but it is not shoot anymore, leaving things happen. However, following Monroe Utopia would be a denial of present and future.

We can think about the monologue of Manuel Pessoa on God, Universe and man. God created Universe for man, so the question is if Universe can exist whitout human beings. In the same way we can ask ourselves if everything has just been shot, painted or composed, if there is nothing more to create iii, can exist a man without art?

Originally the movie was commisioned by the city of Lisbon to be a pure promotional documentary. While shooting, Wenders changed his mind and decided to change it in a movie. Anyway a documentary is a document and so it's never totally innocent, I mean, it is always a witness of a well selected reality. 

However, finally, Winter pragmatism will help Monroe to free from the oppression of new technologies, teaching him to accept things as happen, redescovering the flaneur and finding a new behaviour full of curiosity for reality. The behaviour he needs to complete his movie. 
Wim Wenders found a poise between teoric reflection and images; he shows that images haven't eaten the world yet, or rather that they can catch its beauty.

This is a kind of cinema made with nothing, at the same time naif and intellectual, but without overconfidence and with a humor totally new for the director. Indeed, Manuel de Oliveira appears as guest star with Chaplin style mustache, after a monologue about God and umanity.

This movie is a careful consideration about relationship between image and sound, picture and video, truth and lie. It's a consideration about the opposition between american cinema, of stories, and european cinema, of look on reality.

To conclude, I think that an important consideration should be done about character played by Rudiger Vogler, Philip Winter, the man with the microphone, as Dziga Vertov would say.

He's a sound technician. He's the real manipulator of reality. As a matter of fact, when he meets Zé, a young child always filming with a movie camera he says:

Zé: “there are no sounds [ the luggages]”
Winter: “...but these things make sounds”

On the other side, as soon as he arrrives in Lisbon he's obsessed by noises (an alarm clock, a fly in the room while he's sleeping, and children playing with his instruments found in his luggages) that he can't control. We can say that he's obsessed by real life sounds, both in a positive and negative sense.

i To tell or not to tell a story, we could say in a Shakespeare way.

ii According to Monroe: “We can't trust images anymore, in the past they were telling stories, nowadays they're just selling stories and things […] as in a big discount”, and “[...] pointing a camera is like pointing a gun”. I can add that in both ways we're always shooting. Everything has the same importance, the only possibility is to show reality without any climax. The only possibility is an image unseen, which can't sell and select anything, completely pure from any eye contamination. If it' is not seen the image and the object it represents belong together.

iii “[…] pretending that all history of cinema hadn't happend, and then I could just start from scratch, one hundred years later, but it didn't work [...]”, Monroe tells to Winter.



20. Miklos Csonti

Question: In Lisbon Story we are shown two methods of capturing sound for a film. One as manipulated effects and the other the purposeful collection of sounds from the city. How do you think this part of the narrative of the film story changes our perception of the city that is being portrayed?

The juxtaposition of the scenes portraying two very different methods of capturing sound for a film presents us with the underlying theme that a city is a collective entity.  It cannot be captured or recorded in fragments.  Any attempt to do so with sound bites or film scenes is futile, as it can only be experienced as a whole.

The idea is first presented to us by the narration of Friedrich, which was recorded during one of the scenes from his latest project.  He claims that one cannot capture the essence of the city with film for the simple reason that all scenes have to be assigned a beginning and an end.  By cutting out anything that happens before or after an event is in itself a manipulation of reality.

This idea is paralleled by the obvious differences inherent in the nature of capturing sound through manipulated effects versus the recording of ambient sounds of the city.  During the scene where Philip is in the studio recording sounds with the aid of makeshift props, it becomes very clear that each one of the recordings is an isolated event that couldn’t be any further removed from reality. Philip himself is degraded to take on primitive-like behaviour as he uses one of the props to relieve an itch under his cast as he moans with pleasure. The message is clear; the artist that tries to imitate God by ‘creating’, is exposed to be crude and animalistic.

In contrast, the scene in which Philip goes out into the city to capture ambient sounds is heavily romanticized.  With closed eyes he listens intently and recalls quotes such as “I listen without looking, so I see”.  It seems as though when he takes on this purely experiential role (rather than a creative one) he is portrayed to be more humble and becomes intimately embraced by the city.  The sounds he hears are amplified and so naturally we the audience are somewhat sucked in to the experience as well.

It is in the comparison of these two scenes that the ideas narrated by Friedrich can be realized within the realm of sound.  The city can only be experienced as a whole.  Isolated sounds produced in the studio are only that; sounds. But the ambient sounds accumulated by infinite sources from the city emerge to become a collective voice for the city; A voice that can communicate the presence of an identity.



21. Joel DiGiacomo

Question: Do you think "Lisbon Story" is an appropriate title for the film? Either from your idea of the film before seeing it, or after viewing the film. Explain your position.

Yes. The title is appropriate. Before seeing the film, I imagined that it would be a film with a story, either in the city of Lisbon, or of the city of Lisbon. Turns out it is both. Interestingly enough, though, the film is also even more about the story itself than the city, or, more specifically, it is about how to tell a story about a city in a post-modern world.

The earlier films we watched, Man With a Movie Camera and Berlin Symphony of a Great City, both of which were products of early cinema and modernist thought, could be described as forward–looking and optimistic, each portraying its city as a modern, progressive, energetic place. In Lisbon story, there is no such optimism. At the time the film was made, unlike in early cinema, history is dreadful, with a future even less clear, and holding no solace. Europe is “an old continent filled with war and peace”, and film–makers “don’t even know how to show anything anymore.” Winter’s car breaking down is perhaps analogous to the failure of technology to improve lives, and his cast is perhaps a metaphor of the fresh, heavy, crippling, healing wounds of recent european mistakes. Lisbon is, I suppose, a stand–in for all old european urban environments.

Lisbon Story is, in typical post–modern fashion, extremely self–conscious. It is a film about film–making, a story about story–telling, and a means of exploring both. Both Friedrich and Winter are seeking new ways to tell a story, beyond tired, traditional visual means.

Friedrich, the image–maker, tired of his craft and disgusted at the corruption of the film industry, decides to return to its pure, innocent beginnings in order to reinvent it. Over–thinking the problems he faces, he takes an extreme stance against narrative methods and the value–judgments they pose by shunning them completely, and ends up with the rather self–defeating and desperate solution of removing his own judgment from the process of filming and never showing the tapes to anyone, even to himself.

Winter, on the other hand, is the sound–maker, whose medium has provided cinema its latest innovations and presents it the real possibility of expanding beyond its traditional output. In other words, hope. Albeit eternally crippled by clumsiness and an aging demeanor, he is finally freed from his leg cast, and, seeing Friedrich’s folly, realizes that living the moment is the best way to carry forward in life. Unlike Friedrich, he doesn’t think much at all. He is content simply to observe, and continue working with the tools and skills he has; to tend to his garden, so to speak.


22. Alejandro Fernandez

Question: Paris Je T'Aime builds its picture of the city from a series of shorts, each filmed in or representing a section of the city. Is there one of the shorts that you feel could best represent the city by itself. Explain why you chose the short. Or if you do not feel that this is possible, explain.

The closing segment of “Paris, je t’aime”, written and directed by Alexander Payne, takes place in the fourteenth arrondissement and best captures the city of Paris.  It is more important that the short captures Paris as a container for memories and dreams than to try and offer any objective representation.  Each short in the film tells a different story that captures a slice of Paris.  What this short does, above the others, is capture what Paris is in the hearts and minds of the film’s core audience.  And, it is no coincidence that this short was chosen to end the film because the character acts as a stand in for all of us who have traveled or dreamed of traveling to the city of lights.

Carol is a letter carrier from the United States who takes an adventurous trip to Paris on her own.  In her monologue, spoken in broken French, Carol captures Paris as a romantic icon.  Paris, the romantic icon, is created by the cumulative memories that circulate in the collective unconscious.  The icon, holds the power of promise which motivates a middle-American mail carrier to take French classes and venture overseas, if only for 6 days.  Though it is not clear what is the promise that motivates Carol to make this trip, we can assume that neither does she.  As Carol walks through the city and visits the tourist sites, she experiences the popular pilgrimage of a native English speaker.  Despite her effort to speak French, when Carol asks where she can find a nice restaurant, she is answered in English.  The image of exceptional French cuisine does not align with her experience when she realizes that she rather eat a hamburger.  Even though Carol can never fit-in and experience the ‘real’ Paris, she does not become disheartened.  Her daring adventure to the unknown, where she leaves the familiarity of her job and her pets behind, is projected onto Paris.  The city becomes an emblem of spontaneity, and carries the unexplored aspects of her life. 

The popular tourist can never truly know what Paris is like as a native, they will either find contentment and satisfaction on their trip or Paris the icon can potentially break by disillusionment.  This is the critical moment we witness as Carol sits on a bench in the park, stirred by curious emotions.  The Paris that she experiences is a manipulated reality that is created by her and mirrored by the ‘real’ experiences on her trip.  Just when we think that the illusion might break, Carol expresses her love for Paris.  Thus, the film concludes with an up-beat and sentimental tone that re-assures the audience that they can leave the cinema saying: Paris, je t’aime!


23. Tania Fuizie

Question: Is the collage like filming method of Paris Je T'Aime a universally appropriate technique for representing any city? Are there some cities for which this method is absolutely not appropriate? Why?

(BTW, they are releasing the sequel in Oct, called New York I Love You)

In the movie Paris Je T’Aime, the 20 vignettes all together, represent the sense of love in the city. Loving Paris is translated to “Love IN Paris” in the movie which also gives a meaning and an overall picture from the whole city.

Often there is more than a single dimension to a metropolitan like Paris. To truly capture the essence of living in such cities in a film, one has to portray the city in all these dimensions. This film nicely narrates the course of life in Paris by representing different aspect of life in a story and the film is a collage of these stories.  

This method of collage like filming seems to be an appropriate solution in introducing a city to the viewers. Instead of troubling to write one comprehensive script for the whole city, each scene can be focused more into details of real life in the city and illustrate stories of different parts and neighbourhoods and cultures. The collage method also gives an exposed image of the city which  allows the viewers to judge and imagine the real aspects of the city instead of closing the minds into a single story that is someone else’s perspective.

I can imagine this style to be applied on every city - from the most complicated and rich cultured to simple and one-dimensional ones – if the goal of the movie is to introduce that city, since each city has so much to teach and tell and one story would not be able to cover all aspects, Unless of course, some very creative scenario-writing is involved.


24. John Lee

Question: Each of the four films makes use of "collage" as a method for presenting their interpretation of the respective city. Compare the use of collage in Man with a Movie Camera to Lisbon Story.

Wim Wenders’ Lisbon Story, although it is set seven decades after Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera, almost seems like a long-due sequel or counterpoint. Indeed, Wenders refers to Vertov directly in order to compare him to Friedrich Monroe, the tortured filmmaker in Lisbon Story.

As such, there are some important similarities. Of course, both films eschew a traditional narrative, relying instead on a ‘collage’ of individual vignettes — in Vertov’s case, hundreds, if not thousands of them. Consequently, both films blur the definition of time. For most of Lisbon Story, the passage of time is vague and unclear, emphasizing Winter’s helplessness as he works without direction on the sounds for Monroe’s film. It isn’t until Winter begins to unravel Monroe’s madness through his Handycam video-journals1, that we see evidence of time passing — Winter cuts off his cast, catches the bothersome fly, finally discovers that Ricardo, the curiously elusive boy, is an ‘agent’ of Monroe — before ultimately finding Monroe himself. In Man With A Movie Camera, Vertov loosely structures his ‘film without a script’2 as a ‘typical’ day in Moscow, but employs jarring juxtapositions — in one sequence, he shows a couple becoming married, another filing for divorce, a funeral, and a woman giving birth — to free himself from a plot.

This ambiguity of time can be attributed to the disenchantment that Monroe and Vertov share regarding the state of cinema. Because Man With A Movie Camera is, in many ways, a vehicle for Vertov to distance the art of cinema from storytelling, he eschews acts, scenes, and the arc of a storyline; instead, he explores the capabilities of film through an overwhelming array of novel techniques such as double exposures, Dutch angles, and slow- and fast-motion3. Similarly, Monroe is disgusted with the commercialization of cinema, which he believes is responsible for its loss of innocence. Disgusted by artificiality in cinema, both he and Vertov seek its ‘higher purpose’ through complete objectivity in their work.

However, while Vertov believes that cinema represents a new frontier in objectivity, Monroe, seventy years later, struggles with it. In Man With A Movie Camera, scenes such as the aforementioned birth, or the woman getting dressed, imply a potential ubiquity and a lack of boundary; the camera is not a lens, nor a stage, but rather a purely objective observer4. Yet it is clear that some of the scenes — the woman getting dressed, for instance — are staged, and that the sheer size and logistics of the camera preclude any scene involving people from being completely candid. This is at the root of Monroe’s troubles in Lisbon Story; in one of his Handycam tapes, Monroe marvels, “what I see and what I am become one”, expressing his desire for complete objectivity. As he finds the old camera incapable of objectivity, he begins to work with the modern camcorders, as they are simple, easily concealed, inexpensive, and can be operated remotely. Eventually, he does not even see, nor watch, what he is shooting, so that his footage may be completely unadulterated.

Luckily for Monroe, Lisbon Story is about the richness of experience, and how it can transform mere footage. Like Vertov in Man With A Movie Camera, Wenders prevents a clear narrative from developing through a series of whimsical, sometimes frivolous vignettes; however, in Lisbon Story, it becomes apparent that Winter is not only contributing the sound for the film, but his experiences in recording them. In one vignette, Winter interviews a middle-aged gentleman5 for the unfinished movie, who declares “the only true thing is memory” and wonders whether a moment, caught on tape, exists outside of it. He implies that because the camera only captures moments in time, a film is merely the “ghost” of a moment — not the moment itself — without memory of the experience. For instance, Monroe’s wandering protégés, Sofia and Zé, film without discretion, but they relive their experiences through the mundane footage; consider the lively argument between the two when they re-watch Sofia practicing her ballet, or their rapt smiles when watching the footage from school.

Ultimately, through this self-reflexive nature, both films search for what is real. In Lisbon Story, Monroe’s project is lost until he integrates the experience of filming with the act of filming; with the help of Winter, he discovers how their experiences behind the lens can define the entire film. Likewise, by incorporating himself and his cinematographer into Man With A Movie Camera, Vertov emphasizes the documentary nature of his film. There is no stage, only real life. Therefore, while ostensibly about cities, both films actually explore the limits of cinema itself: Vertov explores the physical limitations, and Wenders, the emotional.

1 It should also be noted that by watching them, Winter has ‘exposed the film’, spoiling the innocence that Monroe becomes obsessed with.

2 Indeed, Vertov makes it very clear in the beginning of the film that he used neither intertitles, nor script, nor theatre.

3 The Wikipedia entry for Man With A Movie Camera also mentions freeze fames, jump cuts, split screens, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop-motion animation, and Vertov’s self-reflexive style.

4 Hence, the Kino-Eye.

5 As he narrates, Wenders cuts from the recording studio to the scene in Monroe’s film that he appears in, thereby connecting the two.



25. Rob Micacchi

Question: Each of the four films makes use of "collage" as a method for presenting their interpretation of the respective city. Compare the use of collage in Berlin Symphony of a Great City with Paris Je T'Aime.


26. Raja Moussaoui

Question: Both Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin Symphony of a Great City take a spectator's position when viewing the city. Paris Je T'Aime and Lisbon Story get more personal. How does this difference in the approach of filming affect the viewer's interpretation of the respective cities?

The spectator approach to filming Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov and Berlin: Symphony of a Great City by Walter Ruttmann versus the more personal approach to filming in ‘Paris Je T’aime’ and ‘Lisbon Story’ by Wim Wenders greatly affects the viewer’s interpretation of the respective cities. The main difference in how the films are interpreted has to do with the focus of the narrative in each of the films. ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ and ‘Berlin: Symphony of a Great City’ operate on the basis that the narrative of the film is the life of the city, while the latter films focus on individuals’ stories with the city used as a backdrop for their lives.

In ‘Berlin: Symphony of a Great City’, the city is the focus of the film, while the objects and people which occupy it are the smaller parts which help to make up a whole. It is possible to understand the city as a living breathing being, which has cycles, routines, successes and failures. The people in these pictures remain anonymous; their individual stories recede into the background as part of an overall tapestry or mosaic of the city’s life. Walter Ruttmann describes his work as ‘’….a symphonic film out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city."6 In this specific manipulation of reality, Berlin is the ‘life’ that we are made to consider.  

Similarly, in Man with a Movie Camera Vertov does not use actors or sets in order to relay his narrative. Instead he uses specific filming techniques to illustrate his interpretation of man’s relationship with machines and the built form. The viewer is not made to consider life in the city from the perspective of an individual’s experience, instead, city life is understood by examining the many parts and processes involved in its daily rhythm. His film celebrates the mechanicas that are involved in running the Soviet city of that time in history.

In contrast, Paris Je T’aime by multiple directors of 18 short films, shows the view fragments from the lives of individuals, each story told in a different arrondissements of Paris. Each short film has a different narrative to the next, the only consistant theme being Paris as a backdrop for the action. Although the filming illustrates certain ascepts of the city: landscapes, cultures, food, art; the viewer’s focus is directed towards the narrative of the individual life stories. Paris is understood as the necessary a framework for all of the rich, complex stories of human lives to exist within. 

Lisbon Story is similar in terms of its human narrative. The main character filmed travelling through the European landscape and living in Lisbon. He is shown exploring the city using his keen ability to sense and record sounds, however the main focus is on his interaction with the people and places around him. The narrative is also a love story; certain environments are filmed in order to ellaborate and describe the emotions felt by the main character for the singer who charms him. As in Paris Je T’aime, the city is a stage for life. In Lisbon Story the exploration and discovery of Lisbon runs parallel to the central narrative of the main character’s experiences.

Each one of these films uses techniques in order to manipulate the viewer’s impression of each of the cities presented, and illustrates a certain aspect of reality within the context of each city. While Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin: Symphony of a Great City personify the city as a living entity and the central focus of the viewer’s attention, Paris Je T’aime and Lisbon Story present stories of human life with the city as the stage for activity.

6 John Bartolo, Reviews of the Rare and Obscure



27. Holly Young

Question: Cities are somewhat difficult to translate into theatre. Which of the four films do you think would provide for more successful translation to live theatre. State your reasons. Reasons may also include comments on the difficulties associated with aspects of the other films as well as suggestions for set design.

paris je t'aime



I believe that, of the four films we have been shown, the film that would best translate into theatre is Paris Je T’aime

The first two films, Berlin: Symphony of a Great City and Man with a Movie Camera, are less suitable for theatre for several reasons.  First, they both investigate and celebrate the latest industrial technologies of their time period (the late 1920s), using quick cuts between scenes, close-up views of mechanical systems and other special effects unavailable to live theatrical productions to convey the new fast-paced lifestyle of the citizens of the modern metropolis.  Also, as each film tells a story about modern technology, it only makes sense that they use the latest technology available to storytelling to do so: the motion picture.  Second, both films take a somewhat documentary-style approach to filming.  The opening sequence of Man with a Movie Camera even goes so far as to state:

“The film Man with a Movie Camera represents
Of visual phenomena
(a film without intertitles)
(a film without script)
(a film without actors, without sets, etc.)”

The idea, then, in both films is to try and show each city in an objective manner, and although the process of creating a film is subjective in itself, the ‘objective’ image is still an important aspect of both films that would be lost in a translation to live theatre.  Lastly, dialog is typically an important part of live theatrical production, used not only to convey plot, character and emotion (as voices will carry where facial expressions cannot) but as a means to augment setting.  In fact, some plays do not make use of sets at all, instead using script to subtly express the where and when of a story’s plot (accomplished through suggestion).  In the silent film era, these two films do the opposite: employing setting to suggest plot.

The last film, Lisbon Story, would also prove difficult to translate into live theatre.  Like the previously mentioned motion pictures, this film does not put much emphasis on script.  Instead, this movie explores the beauty of Lisbon, Portugal though emotions, images and sounds.  What the movie lacks in dialog, it makes up for in the emotion the actors express.  Communicated primarily through subtle facial expressions, without close-ups, these moments would be lost in the distance between live actor and audience that is characteristic of theatrical performance.  Also, although not a documentary, the film does place importance on the objective image (even going so far as to explore the fact that no image can truly be objective), and uses it as the foundation to build an intense experience of place: an intensity that could not be achieved through the more symbolic and suggestive nature of the built sets in live theatre.  Transcending this layer of image is that of sound.  The recorded sounds of the city could be played through the speakers in a movie theatre as well as a live theatre, but without the true visual context that the film provides, I am afraid the meaning would be altered: again, becoming symbolic instead of experiential.

Finally, I believe Paris, Je T’aime would provide for the most successful transition to theatre because of its structure and script-based storyline.  Unlike the other films, Paris, Je T’aime is full of dialog, so a theatrical version could be created without long awkward pauses, keeping a viewer engaged in the story even if they don’t occupy one of the small number of seats with the best view.  The movie reads as a series of one-act plays put to film, each a separate entity with its own characters and context.  Because the idea behind this film is to experience the city not through the objective reality of sight or sound, but through the subjective experience of various forms of love, the Parisian setting reads more as a set of symbolic backgrounds for the narratives being acted out, and could therefore be achieved through theatrical set design.  For instance, miniature (and potentially stylized) versions of the monuments shown in the film could be constructed on castors and moved around between each scene to reveal where in Paris each story is taking place.  A different way to achieve the same end is to construct a giant storybook to be situated near the back of the stage, with each page painted to reveal one of the settings explored in the movie.  During the transitions between each of the scenes, the pages could be turned to reveal the next locale. 





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