Film, Mobility and Urban Space

Film, Mobility and Urban Space: A Cinematic Geography of Liverpool

Les Roberts
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Film, Mobility and Urban Space
    Book Description:

    Drawing on multi-disciplinary debates surrounding the cultural production of place, space and memory in the post-industrial city, Film, Mobility and Urban Space explores the role of moving images in representations and perceptions of everyday urban landscapes. The arguments put forward in the book are based on a case study of Liverpool in the north west of England and draw from a unique spatial database of over 1700 archive films of the city from 1897 to the present day. Theoretically wide-ranging in scope, Les Roberts’s study combines critical spatial analysis, archival research and qualitative methods to navigate a city’s cinematic geographies as mapped across a broad spectrum of film genres, including amateur film, travelogues, newsreels, promotional films, documentaries and features. As the second most filmed city in the UK – and formerly second city of Empire – Liverpool boasts a rich industrial, architectural and maritime heritage that has positioned the city – which was European Capital of Culture in 2008 – at the forefront of current debates on regeneration, visuality and cultural memory. The tension between the city as spectacle and the city as archive, and the contradictions that underpin the growing ‘cinematization’ of postmodern urban space are at the core of the arguments developed throughout the book. Examining the contention that, as spatial practices, the production and consumption of urban cinematic geographies are, in their different ways, tied to shifting cultures and geographies of mobility, Film, Mobility and Urban Space maps the critical interplay between material and immaterial spaces of the city and re-evaluates the significance – and ‘place’ – of location in contemporary film practice and urban cultural theory.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-724-8
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Cinematic Geography: Mobilizing the Archive City
    (pp. 1-31)

    Pitch the words ‘Liverpool’ and ‘film’ to the casual cineaste and you will more than likely solicit a response ranging from general blankness to a list that includes perhaps half a dozen or so features shot in, or in some way associated with the city. With the notable exception of the documentaryOf Time and the City(2008), Terence Davies’ eulogy to the city in which he grew up (and, as with many in the post-war period, was destined to leave), for the most part the extent to which the city has left its cinematic imprint on the wider cultural...

  6. 2 An Incriminated Medium? The City as Urban Spectacle
    (pp. 32-63)

    Of the many ‘turns’ that have, with increasing regularity, come to define points of theoretical re-orientation in recent years, the ‘mobility turn’ has arguably been one of the most far-reaching and significant. As to what exactly ‘mobility’ refers to here I will elaborate further below. But it is important to stress at this juncture that it is within the theoretical framework of spatiality that these elaborative discursions are more specifically situated. In framing ideas of a ‘mobility turn’ in terms of the production of mobility (Cresswell 2001) my analysis is focused on the ways in which these are closely bound...

  7. 3 Cityscapes: Panoramas and the Mobile Gaze
    (pp. 64-96)

    In Max Ophüls’sLetter from an Unknown Woman(1948), virtual travel by train in one key scene establishes a panoramicmise-en-scènein which the mobile gaze of film and its moving-image precursors is doubly alluded. Seated in a simulated train compartment, the film’s two main characters, Lisa Berndle (played by Joan Fontaine) and Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan), are seated opposite each other beside a window, the curtains of which are pulled back either side of the ‘frame’ like a cinema screen. Outside the window, scenic backdrops – panoramic reproductions of Venetian and Alpine landscapes – pass by creating the impression...

  8. 4 City Limits: Crossing Boundaries of Place and Identity
    (pp. 97-127)

    In 2006 a musical comedy called ‘Brick Up the Mersey Tunnels’ was performed at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre. The plot centres around a fictitious terrorist organization called the ‘Kingsway Three’ who decide to brick up the tunnels in response to the snobbish attitudes towards Liverpool and Liverpudlians they encounter among people from the other side of the Mersey. The play was inspired by a letter in theLiverpool Echofrom a woman in the Wirral who was complaining about the Liverpool accent, despite the fact that, like many from across the river, she actually worked in the city.¹ In a...

  9. 5 Movie-mapping: Cinematographic Tourism and Place-marketing
    (pp. 128-161)

    In Luis Buñuel’s filmThe Phantom of Liberty(1974), a Python-esque series of absurdist sketches, a French bourgeois couple flick through photographs which a creepy-looking man in a park had given to their daughter (with the instruction ‘do not show to grown ups’). We initially only see the parents’ reaction to the photographs and not the images themselves, yet from their evident disgust (and arousal) we naturally assume they are looking at pornographic imagery. However, it soon becomes apparent that the images are those we might typically expect to see on tourist postcards: a sunset scene; the Madeleine Church in...

  10. 6 World in One City: Travel, Globalization and Placeless Space
    (pp. 162-189)

    In a report published in January 2009, Liverpool was cited as one of the UK cities likely to be worst hit by the global economic recession. The city was ranked as the worst performer in the Social Deprivation Index of UK cities, with the lowest employment rate, highest level of benefit claimants and third highest rates of social inequality (after Manchester and Blackpool).² With the election of the Conservative-led coalition government in May 2010, and an austerity programme of massive cuts in public expenditure that is expected to result in the worst unemployment statistics for a generation, the city’s economic...

  11. 7 Cinematic Cartography: Mapping the Archive City
    (pp. 190-218)

    Liverpool is a place and a space made up of many different cities. This is reflected both geographically in the heterotopic composition of its urban landscapes, and in the way the city has been understood conceptually. Throughout this book Liverpool has variously been conceived of as a virtual city, reel city, disappearing city, real-and-imagined city, surreal city, generic city, centripetal city, centrifugal city and archive city. While each of these reflect the specific and overlapping configurations of time and space that have left their imprint on modern Liverpool, it is the last of these – the archive city – that...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 219-222)

    In his review of the final Harry Potter film,Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2(2011),The Guardianfilm critic Peter Bradshaw comments on the use of London’s St Pancras railway station to represent nearby King’s Cross, from where, in the stories, the Hogwarts train departs. Noting that ‘millions of tourists are undoubtedly convinced that this building is, in fact, King’s Cross’, he concludes that ‘[St Pancras] may be forced simply to change its name’.¹ Whether or not this actually happens, that such an outcome is even conceivable gives some insight into the ways film and cinematographic tourism...

  13. References
    (pp. 223-239)
  14. Index
    (pp. 240-248)