CineFile – The City


The remarkable The City, which ran for two years at the 1939 World’s Fair “City of Tomorrow” exhibit, is not so much a documentary in any sense of reportorial filmmaking as much as it is an early film essay on the nature of the modern industrial city and the planned green city. It was directed by early avant garde filmmaker Ralph Steiner and social documentarian Willard Van Dyke. The original musical score is by Aaron Copeland. The narrator is Morris Carnovsky, a founder of the Group Theater and one of those named by Elia Kazan before the House Un-American Activities Committee, after which Carnovsky was blacklisted.

This second segment begins with a rush of language, which then gives way to stunningly edited black and white cinematography that draws an early picture of the frenetic, dangerous, anonymizing modern metropolis.

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