Film and the City
250 pages, 5 1/5 x 9 2/5
15 images
Release Date:01 Apr 2014

Film and the City

The Urban Imaginary in Canadian Cinema

Athabasca University Press, AU Press

For many years, Canadian cinema was dominated by the documentary
tradition of the National Film Board, which tended to promote what film
scholar Jim Leach has called the “nationalist-realist
project”—films that privileged Canada’s natural
landscape and sought to conjure a unified sense of Canadian identity
from images of empty, untrammelled wilderness and bucolic farmlands.
Over the past several decades, however, the hegemony of this
fundamentally colonial, Anglo-centric vision has been challenged by
francophone and First Nations perspectives and by the growth of cities,
where most Canadians now reside, as economic and technological centres.
In opposition to the mythic “Canada” shaped through the
lens of rural nostalgia, Canadian urban identity asserts itself as
polyphonic, diverse, constructed through multiple discourses and
mediums, as an ongoing negotiation rather than a monolithic
orientation. Taking the urban as setting and subject, filmmakers are
ideally poised to capture this multiplicity, creating their own,
idiosyncratic portraits of the Canadian urban landscape and of the
people who inhabit it.

Examining fourteen Canadian films produced from the late 1980s
onward, including Denys Arcand’s Jésus de Montréal
(1989), Mina Shum’s Double Happiness (1994), and Guy
Maddin’s My Winnipeg (2007), Film and the City
is the first comprehensive study of Canadian film and
“urbanity”—the totality of urban culture and life as
refracted through the filmmaker’s prism. Drawing on insights from
both film and urban studies and building upon issues of identity
formation long debated in Canadian studies, Melnyk considers how
filmmakers interpret and employ the spatiality, visuality, and orality
of urban space and how audiences read the films that result. In this
way, Film and the City argues that Canadian narrative film of
the postmodern period has contributed to the articulation of a new,
multifaceted understanding of national identity.


RELATED TOPICS: Canadian Film, Film Theory, Sociology
Film and the City puts forth a new paradigm for the consideration of Canadian identity in cinema. Contending that earlier models were dependent on a largely rural representation of the nation. Melnyk shows how recent urban films facilitate and showcase a new mode of identity formation and articulation ... Through examining specific films and filmmakers with an eye to their locality, and by folding them into a composite constellation that illustrates new ideas of Canadian identity, this text will surely provide a new marker for discussions of this evergreen topic. William Beard, University of Alberta
George Melnyk is associate professor in the
Department of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary.
He is the author of One Hundred Years of Canadian Cinema
(2004), as well as the editor of The Young, the Restless, and the
Dead: Interviews with Canadian Filmmakers (2008) and, with Brenda
Austin-Smith, of The Gendered Screen: Canadian Women
Filmmakers (2010).

Introduction: The Urban Imaginary in Canadian Cinema

The City of Faith: Navigating Piety in Arcand’s Jésus
de Montréal (1989)

The City of Dreams: The Sexual Self in Lauzon’s Léolo

The Gendered City: Feminism in Rozema’s Desperanto
(1991), Pool’s Rispondetemi (1991), and
Villeneuve’s Maelstrom (2000)

The City Made Flesh: The Embodied Other in Lepage’s Le
Confessional (1995) and Egoyan’s Exotica (1994)

The Diasporic City: Postcolonialism, Hybridity, and Transnationality
in Virgo’s Rude (1995) and Mehta’s
Bollywood/Hollywood (2001)

The City of Transgressive Desires: Melodramatic Absurdity in
Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World (2003) and
My Winnipeg (2006)

The City of Eternal Youth: Capitalism, Consumerism, and Generation
in Burns’s waydowntown (2000) and Radiant City

The City of Dysfunction: Race and Relations in Vancouver from
Shum’s Double Happiness (1994) to Sweeney’s
Last Wedding (2001) and McDonald’s The Love Crimes
of Gillian Guess (2004)

Conclusion: National Identity and the Urban Imagination




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