The City (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #326 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This classic New Deal public service film of the 30s contrasts city slums with “planned communities” such as Green Belt, Maryland. It does this in a very arty fashion, with skillfully edited montages of urban problems backed with a glaring, yet compelling, soundtrack by Aaron Copeland. Ultimately, it doesn’t really make its point very well, because it ignores the economic, social, and political problems that result in urban slums, attributing them entirely to planning failures. But it is a fascinating, historically valuable montage of life in the 30s, covering urban life, automation, roadside woes, and even fast food. My favorite scene is a bizarre montage of automated diner equipment and people eating at a frenetic pace. This is the sort of film that is ripe for mining for footage for a video project.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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