The Cinematic City

The Cinematic City

The Cinematic City

The Cinematic City


Cities possess a cinematic quality instilled with character ranging from bustling excitement to shadowy romance. What makes the city such a magnetic place and how has cinema shaped our view of the city?

Offering thought-provoking insight into the connections between screen- and cityscape, The Cinematic City exploring genres, historical periods, and urban locales, to link the key dimensions of film and urban theory. From early cinema to today's politics of place, to forms of identity surrounding films by black directors, the contributors draw on the theoretical insights of Baudrillard, Foucault, Lacan, and others to show how the city has been undeniably shaped by the cinematic form, and how cinema owes much of its nature to the historical development of urban space.


David B. Clarke

Where is the cinema? It is all around you outside, all over the city, that marvellous, continuous performance of films and scenarios.



Looking back to the European city from the heart of America, Baudrillard (1988:56) writes of the 'feeling you get when you step out of an Italian or a Dutch gallery into a city that seems the very reflection of the paintings you have just seen, as if the city had come out of the paintings and not the other way around.' In precisely the same way, he notes, The American city seems to have stepped right out of the movies' (ibid.). He adds, crucially: To grasp its secret, you should not, then, begin with the city and move inwards towards the screen; you should begin with the screen and move outwards towards the city' (ibid.); a conceptualization of the cityscape as screenscape. Yet despite the immediately perceptible cinematic qualities that cities frequently seem to possess, and despite the uncredited role played by the city in so many films, relatively little theoretical attention has been directed towards understanding the relationship between urban and cinematic space (cf. Aitken and Zonn, 1994; Clarke, 1994). Indeed, whilst the histories of film and the city are imbricated to such an extent that it is unthinkable that the cinema could have developed without the city, and whilst the city has been unmistakably shaped by the cinematic form, neither film nor urban studies has paid the warranted attention to their connection.

The city has certainly been understated in film theory. So central is the city to film that, paradoxically, the widespread implicit acceptance of its importance has mitigated against an explicit consideration of its actual significance. Indeed, those film theorists who have sought to place the city in the foreground have been widely regarded as making an innovative argument (Bruno, 1993; Friedberg,

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.