Monday, October 03, 2016

São Paulo, a symphonia da metrópole / [São Paulo, Symphony of a Metropolis]

SÃO PAULO, A SYMPHONIA DA METRÓPOLE [San Paolo, sinfonia di una metropoli / São Paulo, Symphony of a Metropolis] (BR 1929). P+D: Adalberto Kemeny, Rudolpho Rex Lustig. Titles: Niraldo Ambra. PC: Rex Film. Dist: Paramount. Rel: 6.9.1929 (première: Paramount Movie Theatre, São Paulo). 35 mm, 1765 m, 90' (16 fps); titles: PRT. Source: Cinemateca Brasileira, São Paulo.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: Sinfonie delle città.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti, grand piano: Günter A. Buchwald, 3 Oct 2016.

Eva Hielscher (the GCM catalog and website): "The city symphony was a truly international and intercontinental phenomenon, reaching far beyond Europe and North America. As an example of a South American city symphony – yet with European roots, since its filmmakers were émigrés from Hungary – São Paulo, a Symphonia da Metrópole depicts the Brazilian metropolis as a young, vivid, modern, progressive city, underscoring that both the film and the city are not lagging behind their European counterparts. The film was released in Brazil by Paramount , which had a branch there; their press releases describe it as depicting the “thundering rhythms of progress” of the “brain-city of Brazil”."

"São Paulo, a Symphonia da Metrópole is clearly inspired by Ruttmann’s Berlin (1927) and Cavalcanti’s Rien que les heures (1926). Especially in its first part , it quite literally follows European examples in its temporal structure and portrayal of the awakening of the city and the start of the workday, until its climax in urban acceleration just before noon, beautifully represented by a montage of “kaleidoscopic” shots, in which the screen is split into multiple parts, not unlike Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (1929). However, in contrast to Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera, here the filmmakers conceptualize the modern metropolis in both images and text – São Paulo includes numerous intertitles, introducing the succeeding shots and reflecting on modern urban life. Another difference from Ruttmann’s canonical example is the lack of the arriving-in-the - city-by-train trope. From the very beginning, the filmmakers locate the spectator as a city dweller in urban São Paulo. This is also emphasized in one of the first intertitles, in which they dedicate their city symphony to the inhabitants of the Brazilian metropolis."

"Nevertheless, in the middle of the film, after the lunch break , with its panoramic shots taken from a loudspeaker above the city, there is an arrival by train, which marks a sudden change in style. At this point the film turns from being a city symphony into a more traditional tourist travelogue, combined with a mini-educational film on the making of snake and spider antitoxins in the Butantam-Institut, a short documentary about the state prison and its unique prisoners’ rehabilitation programme, and a historical short about the 1822 events surrounding Brazilian independence. After this touristic intervention, the film resumes its city-symphony form, with urban impressions, high-rise buildings, and the rhythm of factory work and machines in the city’s industrial areas, and concludes with a vision of the São Paulo of the future, resembling the futuristic city of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927)."

"Kemeney and Lustig, who began their careers at the Pathé laboratories in Budapest and at Ufa in Berlin before emigrating to Brazil in the mid-1920s, worked 14 months on their São Paulo film symphony. Besides their focus on the architecture and geography of the city and their attention to radio broadcasting, the press, trade, the city’s financial sector, the coffee business, and university faculties, the filmmakers also introduce a certain social critique by means of a sequence with a god-like hand hovering above the city panorama, giving a penny to the poor and piles of banknotes to the rich. In the 1930s and 1940s Kemeney and Lustig continued their cinema work in Brazil with the production of newsreels and short films.
" – Eva Hielscher

AA: Revisited Adalberto Kemeny and Rudolpho Rex Lustig's magnificent São Paulo, a symphonia da metrópole, comprehensively covered by Eva Hielscher in her program note above. The Walther Ruttmann formula works very well in São Paulo, and the film looks very different since São Paulo is different.

Again, as usual in the beginning of city symphonies, we are are on silent streets at night, in the early morning hours. There is the odd streetcar and random wanderers, paperboys and ice deliverers. Soon there is a rush. The streets are wet after cleaning. There are timecards, factories, industries, foundries. A big crowd, a huge square, snapshots of life, the market, transport, wooden crates, banks open, kindergartens and schools start, children are playing and eating, big town cars of the best families are on the move. We observe the coffee trade, the radio, the high masts, and a visual impression of the radio is created via montage. There is a vertigo of modern civilization. The montage accelerates to Vertovian dimensions. There is a cubistic approach and a kaleidoscopic impression of traffic.

The lunch hour. Extreme high angles dramatize construction sites. We see some of the united colours of Brazil. Universities are old. Postal distribution is working. There is a montage of clocks. The press observes the world with its eagle eyes 24 hours a day. Split screens dramatize the concept of the media. Printing presses are at work. The communications association spreads to trains: "iron nerves cut the state in all directions".

A special dossier is dedicated to the Instituto Butantam where venomous snakes and spiders are examined for use in medicine. Another special dossier is dedicated to rehabilitation programs at the penitentiary system. Work disciplines goodness. A further special dossier focuses on the history of Brazil. The proclamation of independence is seen in a historical re-enactment.

Municipal works, skyscraper building, steel industry and road construction sites are on display. The montage escalates to abstract animated flicker. Spiral and caleidoscopic forms emerge. There is an aspect of a Vertovian symphony of industry.

From industry we switch to the beauty of nature and leisure, a montage of animals, sport culture, spleen of the city, and horseback riding. Long shadows are falling on the city when evening comes. The sun sets. Airplanes, a zeppelin, and a telescope are seen.

São Paulo, a symphonia da metrópole received the biggest laughter of the festival. After a perfect finale there came another finale, and another, and another, and another, each one of the added ones in a provincial-nationalistic tone out of tune with the film proper, apparently added by various authorities. Finally there is an hourglass, a revolving globe, and the Brazilian seal with the catchword Ordem e Progresso. FIM.

Art titles, a mobile camera, and exciting angles make this a lively experience. I think this was the best viewing I have had of this film; the visual quality is often good, and sometimes in low contrast.

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