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The Cities That Surround Us Essay

1307 words - 6 pages

Once more, the article “The Incorporation of America” reveals the theme of capitalism and consumption. This thematic idea shares a common perspective with the directors of both The Crowd and In Modern Times. The idea of capitalism and consumption is furthermore explained in this article when it states that: “The great city was a marketplace, a site of trade and consumption.” (108). Additionally, it states that: “If the advertisement aimed to make consumption of a particular product habitual, it also aimed to make habitual the identification of products with something else, with ideas, feelings, and status. Advertising arose as a functional institution…” (Trachtenberg, 135). These statements can make reference to the views the director of The Crowd has of the built environment of a city. King Vidor portrays through the use of cinematic techniques these same ideas of consumption in his film. From the beginning of the film until the end of it, the city of New York is seen as a city where people go in search of their dreams. They want to excel in what they do and overcome people; competition amongst individuals is massive. This constant competition represents that people are struggling in order to see who becomes wealthier and can therefore afford the most goods. There is a quote in the film which states that: “You got to be good in that town to beat the crowd.” This can be seen through the high angle shot at the beginning of the film when Johnny Sims is at the top of the stairs and the rest of the crowd looks weaker because of this high angle shot. Additionally, the fact that the city was a marketplace where there was trade and consumption can be seen in an insert shot of the clock inside the workplace, which represents how everybody is in a constant rush of working in that marketplace. Another cinematic technique that draws the attention of the audience is the full shot of the letter that talks about the $500 price in which Johnny Sims seems very interested in. Likewise, the film In Modern Times also portrays the thematic ideas of capitalism and consumption in a much more detailed approach. The theme of capitalism and consumption talks about how there is a lot of conspicuous consumption, which means that people consume to show-off, in other words, to declare their social status. This is evident through the use of cinematic techniques portrayed by Charles Chaplin. Chaplin utilizes a long, profile, four shot, at the beginning of the film in the scene where three men come to the office of the manager of the factory to introduce the “feeding machine”. This shot shows how the three salesmen are urging to try to sell their new and innovative product. This shot allows for us to see the thematic idea of consumption, and of how people are working to buy other people’s labor as well as how they are very dependent on buying and selling. The urban life which Charles Chaplin describes with shots such as this one, reveal how he views the built environment of...

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