The city unseen: iconography, specificity and mise­ en­ scène in the cinematic representation of Melbourne’s urban space, 1896­-1966

Passi, F 2017, The city unseen: iconography, specificity and mise­ en­ scène in the cinematic representation of Melbourne’s urban space, 1896­-1966, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title The city unseen: iconography, specificity and mise­ en­ scène in the cinematic representation of Melbourne’s urban space, 1896­-1966
Author(s) Passi, F
Year 2017
Abstract This thesis explores the iconography of ‘place’ in the cinematic representation of Melbourne’s urban space from 1896 until 1966. The literature on the pictorial representation of Melbourne has often lamented the lack of specificity and the ‘anti­urbanism’ of images of the city. By looking precisely at the cinematic staging of the public urban space this dissertation intends to verify to what extent the cinematic image of the city can be defined as lacking specificity. To achieve this goal the analysis will look at specific scenes in cinematic representations of Melbourne in which the lived public urban space of the city is introduced and defined. By ‘public urban space’ I am specifically referring to cityscapes, views of streets and, with few exceptions, to publicly available city spaces. Each selected filmic representation of the civic space will be analysed in depth through compositional, stylistic, and historical analysis, attempting to verify the capacity of the ‘image’ to record a specific cinematic place and point of view of the city in that given moment. The analysis will look at the correlations between the cinematic staging of the city space and the characteristics of that space and the goals of the films as international promotional material, or local self­representations. Films representing Melbourne often mimic and adapt popular international cinematic points of view when framing buildings and people within the public urban space.

The thesis will investigate the pre­cinematic representations of the city and the arrival of film in Melbourne through the screening of the first foreign­filmed city­views. It will account for the initial appearances of the public city space on film within event­based news features such as the Lumières’ Melbourne Cup (1896). It will look at the style of travelogue films such as Moving Melbourne (Tait brothers 1906), Marvellous Melbourne, Queen City of the South (Spencer 1910) and Melbourne Today (Thring 1931). It will also review the representation of urban space in local community films such as Living Hawthorn (Johnson and Gibson 1906) and A Thriving and Prosperous Suburb. Bird’s Eye View of Footscray (Pathé 1910), which propose a less theatrical staging of the city space. The second part of the thesis will verify the continuation of earlier trends in post­war productions (1945­1966). The iconography of promotional films portraying Melbourne's urban space is compared with that of local planning and public housing films. Finally, these cinematic images are compared with local films by Peter McIntyre and Robin Boyd, Gil Brealey, Giorgio Mangiamele, with the lack of extant representation of the city streets in local feature films and the foreign American perspective on urban space offered by Stanley Kramer in On the Beach.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Subjects History and Theory of the Built Environment (excl. Architecture)
Visual Cultures
Cinema Studies
Keyword(s) Theatricality
Architectural representation
City­ views
Mise en scène
City representation
Melbourne in Film
Cinematic uban space
Film and city
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Created: Wed, 13 Dec 2017, 08:21:08 EST by Denise Paciocco
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