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Movies: City as Symphony

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 28, 2008 3:00PM

Several decades before the eye-popping wizardry of Koyaanisqatsi, the "City Symphony" genre, whose golden age lasted until perhaps the early 40's, was equal parts travelogue and razzle dazzle. The movies of this genre aimed to capture not only the atmosphere of the city in question but also showcase the latest in filmmaking technology. Canted camera angles, flash-cut editing and film that was sped up, slowed down, frozen, superimposed or otherwise manipulated were tools skillfully (and playfully) used to create a sense of wonderment about the modern world.

2008_1citysymphonies.jpg Seen today they're probably even more enjoyable, offering glimpses of vanished cityscapes and urban dwellers. Chicago Cinema Forum has put together a remarkable program of city symphonies spanning 1924-1940, running for one night only tomorrow at Sonotheque. Many of the films are silents (including Rene Clair's Paris Asleep and Walter Ruttman's Berlin--Symphony of a Great City), so CCF has assembled a fascinating array of musicians and sound performers to provide accompaniment. Marc Hellner, harpist Chanel Pease, electronica artist Josh Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv, and experimental/ambient group Estesombelo are among those featured. It's going to be quite an evening.

The doors open at 7:30 and cover is only $10. Sonotheque is at 1444 W. Chicago.