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Painting was never really the medium for the modern city. It needed photographers, film makers to record its developments (and that includes demolitions; it is interesting that one of the earliest comprehensive commissioned set of city photographs was as much devoted to demolition as to building: Marville's photographs for Haussmann in the early 1860s). From the beginning of the twentieth century it was as if the city was in urgent need of that medium that could cope with it: the cinema.

In fact the nineteenth century is full of proto-cinema. As well as Girtin's Eidometropolis there were Panoramas, Dioramas, Cycloramas, Poeciloramas, Typoramas, Diaphanic Panopticons in London etc. Many of these depicted cities: "Paris by Moonlight" or: "a Balloon Voyage above a Great City"

The very earliest films were instinctively futuristic, attention paid to traffic, to trains; Fire Engines leaving the Firestation, Workers Leaving a Factory were done again and again; and why? Because the very protagonists were the ones who would pay, that very evening even, to see themselves coming out of the factory. (Has the public's relationship with film ever been more sophisticated than it was in 1900, when the audience and the actors were one and the same, and on the same day?!) The twentieth century brought city and film together in it its first year and the two have been indivisible ever since.

(My mother first went to the cinema in a Yorkshire town in 1919, at the age of six. She remembers the title still: Baby Betty, the Darling of New York. One imagines a proto-Shirley Temple, or Orphan Annie, and wobbly, vertiginous shots of radical new skyscrapers such as the Woolworth Building).

   
 

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