Urban optics: film, phantasmagoria and the city in Benjamin and Kracauer (New Formations 61, Summer 2007)

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Publication date: August 1, 2007

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Graeme Gilloch

This article examines Siegfried Kracauer’s and Walter Benjamin’s writings on the relationship between the metropolis, the most modern human habitat, and film, the most modern cultural medium. Benjamin combines film and architecture in the notion of ‘distraction’, while Kracauer’s ‘improvisation’ formulates a radical disjuncture between them. ‘Improvisation’ is central to Kracauer’s ideas about film and the city as manifestations of the modern collective unconscious, despite his emphasis on ‘camera reality’.