A montage of the skyscrapers of Manhattan opens with a succession of stationary views of the upper portions of numerous buildings. This is followed by a wide variety of fluid shots, which ...
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Edward G. Robinson,
A montage of the skyscrapers of Manhattan opens with a succession of stationary views of the upper portions of numerous buildings. This is followed by a wide variety of fluid shots, which also begin to show more and more of the surrounding city, in addition to the skyscrapers themselves. Written by
One of the films in the 3-disk boxed DVD set called "More Treasures from American Film Archives (2004)", compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation from 5 American film archives. This film is preserved by the George Eastman House, has a running time of 9 minutes and an added music score. See more »
Robert Florey's "Skyscraper Symphony" is a creative and effective example of the distinctive 'city symphony' genre that was rather popular in the 1920s, the most familiar example being Walther Ruttman's excellent feature set in Berlin. This one is shorter and simpler, with a series of images that really is arranged in a fashion quite similar to that of a short symphony, in that it could almost be said to have three 'movements', each with its own feel and photographic style. The overall effect is interesting in establishing a distinctive tone for its study of skyscrapers.
In the first couple of minutes, all of the shots consist of stationary views, always looking up, creating a sense of cold majesty. Then, the middle part of the movie shows a sometimes jangled variety of images and camera angles, and it begins to show some other subjects in addition to the skyscrapers. The last part then aims to build a kind of synthesis between the two contrasting segments.
The effect works even better if you watch it two or three times, to allow the images to sink in a little. Whether intentional or not, the middle part in particular is effective in communicating a sense of smallness, and even a bit of anxiety, in the midst of all of the tall buildings. The angles and the irregular motion of the camera are sometimes almost enough to make you dizzy. It also shows quite a bit of creativity, in making an inherently static subject become a source of such reactions.
This is certainly the kind of movie that would be watched primarily for the sake of appreciating its technique and its imaginative approach, rather than for action or for an involved story, since it doesn't really have either of those things. But it succeeds quite well at what it aims to do, and it displays some real skill in accomplishing it.
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