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Russ Meyer's City Symphony

by Kate Fortmueller

As Eric Barnouw discusses in Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film, there are a number of films from the 1920s that fall under the "city symphony" category. These films, like Manahatta (1921), Berlin: Symphony of the City (1927), and Skyscraper Symphony (1929) focus on architecture, patterns, and rhythms of modern urban life.

These techniques of filmmaking still reside in films. In this early sequence from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Russ Meyer combines images of Los Angeles architecture, streets, signs, and traffic with some of the footage from later in the film in order to underscore the utopian and dystopian visions of the city.  The pacing, dialogue, and editing all help generate a rhythm of the late 60s/70s party culture in Los Angeles.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) - Los Angeles

In this montage of Los Angeles, Kelly (Dolly Read) and her boyfriend Harris (David Gurian) debate whether Los Angeles is a city of hope where all her dreams of stardom can come true, or a den of sin and inevitable depression.

from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
Creator: Russ Meyer
Posted by Kate Fortmueller