This thesis is an attempt to bring fresh insights to current understandings of cinematic space and the relationship between film, architecture, and the city. That attempt is situated in relation to recent work by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Saskia Sassen, and others on the importance of the city in the current global framework, along with the growing body of literature on film, architecture, and urban space. Michel De Certeau’s threefold critique of the city, set forth in The Practices of Everyday Life, structures a comparative analysis of six primary films, aired as follows, with one air for each of three chapters-Jacques Tati’s lay Time and Edward Yang’s Yi Yi, Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and Wang Xiaoshuai’s Beijing Bicycle, and Franqois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay!. Along with De Certeau’s notions of satial ractice, walking rhetorics, and the pedestrian speech act, the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze-including work from the Cinema texts and A Thousand plateaus-is developed in relation to existent film theory on movement, time, and space. The analysis operates as a kind of mediation between an active set of spatial theories-a mediation which uses traditional techniques of film analysis and critical theory to instigate a negotiation around the topic of (cinematic) space. That negotiation implies a common ground on which the film texts and theories are read against and in addition to one another, allowing each to contribute in its own right to the setting u of a series of terms-what I refer to as a “spatial grammar”-proper to both film and theory. The spatial grammar thus comprises a more abstract theoretical lane-a palimpsest on which resides a classic body of work on cinematic space (including Andre Bazin, Stephen Heath, and Kristin Thomson), and on which I layer the work of De Certeau, Deleuze, Fredric Jameson, and others.
Brian R. Jacobson is Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and History at the University of Toronto. His research spans the history and theory of moving image media, the history and philosophy of technology, environmental history, and art and architectural history.
He is the author of Studios Before the System: Architecture, Technology, and the Emergence of Cinematic Space (Columbia University Press, Film and Culture Series, 2015), a book that situates the world’s first film studios in the architectural and technological developments of urban industrial modernity and argues that cinema should be understood as a critical component of what historians of technology have termed the “human-built world.”
In 2013 he was the winner of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Dissertation Award. He has also been a Fulbright Advanced Student Fellow to France (2009-2010) and a fellow of the Social Science Research Council's International Dissertation Research Fellowship (2009-2011) and Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (Visual Culture field, 2007).
He is currently working on a series of projects about industrial and corporate media, including French industrial and agricultural films and film festivals and a monograph that focuses on cinema’s longstanding role in the politics, industrial processes, and public perception of global energy. Research for this work has been supported by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and the University of Rochester Humanities Center (where he is an external faculty fellow for 2016-2017).
His articles have appeared in journals including Film Quarterly, Framework, Film History, History and Technology, Amodern, Media Fields Journal, and Early Popular Visual Culture.
Thesis: Constructions of Cinematic Space: Spatial Practice at the Intersection of Film and Theory