Note that many of the most classic films (e.g. Out of the Past, Dark Passage) are owned by corporations that no longer allow their film trailers to play in pop-up windows (something I discovered in upgrading the site in 2019). You will have to follow the YouTube link to watch the trailer for the film they are discouraging you from watching and/or paying money to watch. Because of this, and my own interest in noir and gender, I have put Katt Shea's contribution to "Trailers from Hell" at the top of this SF noir-fest. I have been forced to remove trailers for The Maltese Falcon and The Lady from Shanghai because they don't even include links to the videos anymore. Sadly, the cool and neglected SF noir, No Escape, is no longer available even in trailer form (though it is now streaming on one of the behemoth services). More detailed information on noirs shot in SF is available in the extra credit module in iLearn.
Katt Shea on Where Danger Lives
John Farrow (USA/1950) (This is the trailer only, with commentary.
You'll Have to Find the Film on Your Own)
Dark Passage (USA/1947)
Delmer Daves ($2.99 on YouTube)
Out of the Past (USA/1947)
Jaques Tourner ($2.99 on YouTube)
Born to KIll (USA/1947)
Robert Wise ($2.99 on YouTube)
Rudolph Maté (free on YouTube)
Experiment in Terror (USA/1962)
Blake Edwards ($2.99 on YouTube)
House on Telegraph Hill (USA/1951)
Robert Wise ($2.99 on YouTube)
Woman on the Run (USA/1950)
Norman Foster (Free on YouTube)
Chinatown at Midnight (USA/1949)
Seymour Friedman (Free on YouTube)
Portrait in Black (USA/1960)
Michael Gordon (Free on YouTube, with Spanish subtitles)
This color film features many of those associated with the work of Douglas Sirk.
It is also the last film by Chinese American actress Anna May Wong
The past decade has been be a productive one for independent music in San Francisco. There are several small labels in SF which have supported and nurtured the bourgeoning scene. Among them is, Secret Seven Records, which issued the wonderful compilation album In a Cloud: New Music from San Francisco. Some of the artists featured on the compilation include The Sandwitches, Fresh and Only’s, Ty Segall, Kelley Stoltz, and Tim Olson. Endless Nest is the collective behind Empty Cellar Records, which has issued work by many of the above mentioned artists. Their blog is worth checking out.
Sonny Smith’s 100 Records Project is an interesting work that features visual art, music, and records for 100 fake bands and 100 record covers, including Earth Girl Helen Brown (featuring members of the Sandwitches).
Image: The Sandwitches @ SXSW 2011 by the author
Update: Since this blog post was written, many of these artists (e.g. members of the Sandwitches, who have since broken up, and Ty Segall) have moved to Southern California, pushed out by the increasing gentrification and homogenization of SF.
dérive A mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences. The term also designates a specific uninterrupted period of dériving
psychogeography The study of the specific effects of the geographical environment (whether consciously organized or not) on the emotions and behavior of individuals.
spectacle the substitution of an image, or the re-presentation of an image, of experience for experience itself (with the provision that "experience" cannot be anything other than something made, something produced). The spectacle is theorized as a mode of governing—through diverse forms of separation and exclusion—linked to the proliferation of the image in modern consumer societies. Spectacular societies are modern societies.
Rob Thomas, Ph.D. On the S.I. Concept of Spectacle
Ever since I started teaching this course in 2003, I’ve wanted to incorporate the work of the Situationist International in ways more explicit than my brief lectures on spectacle and modernity. This is the first semester (note: this post is from 2011 and I am not currently assigning any S.I. texts) that I am actually assigning a few short texts by the S.I. on psychogeography, dérive, and critiques of urban planning. (Who knows, I may give you an experimental assignment on the dérive and the City. Note: I have actually done this in the past and it was a cool and fun assignment. Who knows? I may bring it back someday!) The work of the S.I. continues to have a tremendous influence on our thinking today, most obviously with regard to the Occupy movement.
The header image is a psychogeographical map of Paris. As Burridge writes in “We are Bored in the City,” the segments of the map are intended to represent the ‘unities of atmosphere’ found in Paris, whilst the distances between them represent not geographical distance but “distances relating to influences, connections, similarities and dissimilarities.”
Guy Debord's film, Society of the Spectacle (1973)
Commissioned by the Association for the Adornment of San Francisco in 1904, D.H. Burnham’s Plan for San Francisco (1905) sought to modify SF’s grid-system with a series of diagonal boulevards, parks, parkways, arcades, and grandiose replicas of classical architecture. The plan is notable to any study of SF modernism for its utopian elements, its foundation in the “City Beautiful Movement” (1/3 of the city would be devoted to public parks), and the effort to model (read “order”) the city on a peculiarly Modern Paris (with its Hausmannian Boulevards serving as forms of social control). Burnham was the planner of the hugely successful Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World’s Fair, which directly inspired SF’s Midwinter Fair). He parlayed this experience planning the World’s Fair into the basis for planning actual cities. While his plans were not adopted in SF (though 19th Avenue was widened as he suggested), his plans for Chicago, Cleveland, Washington D.C., and Manila were partially adopted, leading to lasting effects on those cities’ landscapes. Burnhman, himself, referred to his SF plan as a peculiarly modern blending of “order” and beauty for the then still “civilizing” city.
The plan simultaneously evokes an alternative SF that never was, as well as a present that we are all continuing to live through: one profoundly shaped by the dreams and ferment of modern culture. Perhaps the most surprising elements to me are the lengthy parkways on Mission, and that all of Mission south of Civic Center is imagined as an arcade. The latter is a provocative nod to one of the defining characteristics of Parisian modernism.
Here is a link to a closer view of the Mission part of the plan. Note the long Mission Parkway that runs the length of 23rd. Mission Street itself has become an Arcade. Popular in Paris in the 19th century,the arcades or passages (as they were called) were narrow streets covered by glass and iron ceilings. Walter Benjamin famously treated the passages of Paris as a paradigm for modernity.
Closer view of the Sunset. Note the criss-cross diamond shaped avenues (I am sure people would love to have them cutting through their back yards and streets) imposed over the grid system (most of the Sunset wasn’t even developed at the time of this plan), as well as the Parkade that goes down Pacheco and Rivera and the mini-parkades at Lawton and Vicente, as well as the parkway the runs the length of the Great Highway.(Note: In the text of the actual plan, these streets are not named yet. They are referred to simply by their first letter, such as “V” or “W.”).
Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond.
Closer view of the Outer Sunset
Here’s some of the detail for Hunter’s Point Park.
The Sutro Baths, now a modern ruin, were a quintessential Victorian site of amusement, education, health, and leisure. It seems difficult to imagine the scope of Sutro’s from the remaining ruins today.
From the Wikipedia entry on the baths:
“A visitor to the baths not only had a choice of seven different swimming pools—one fresh water and six salt water baths ranging in temperatures—but could also visit a museum displaying Sutro’s large and varied personal collection of artifacts from his travels, a concert hall, seating for 8,000, and, at one time, an ice skating rink. During high tides, water would flow directly into the pools from the nearby ocean, recycling the two million US gallons (7,600 m³) of water in about an hour. During low tides, a powerful turbine water pump, built inside a cave at sea level, could be switched on from a control room and could fill the tanks at a rate of 6,000 US gallons a minute (380 L/s), recycling all the water in five hours.”
The baths were once serviced by a rail line, the Ferries and Cliff House Railroad, which ran along the cliffs of Lands End overlooking the Golden Gate. The route ran from the baths to a terminal at California Street and Central Avenue (now Presidio Avenue).
On this page are some scenes from the Victorian interiors of the Sutro Baths. Note that they recreate the peculiarly modern sensibility of looking, fetishizing, taking pleasure in, and even “playing” in, nature under glass. Victorian interiors are unique insofar as they fetishized a relation to nature that was irretrievably lost to industrialization and modernization. The very form of leisure at the baths is bound up with the practice of “looking” and “collecting” nature (including at the museum exhibits), as well as watching others play in nature (both aquatic and floral), albeit trapped, under glass and iron, indoors. Popular plants, such as ferns, and trees were also sold at Sutro’s. It is worth remembering that in the 19th century, bathing in salt water was considered healthy. The popularity of places like Sutro’s reinforced many practices of a peculiarly modern and modernizing knowledge and vision at play. This extends to the museum exhibits, many of which were purchased from the defunct Woodward’s garden, and even included a fake merman. Less discussed today by enthusiasts of the history of Sutro’s, these exhibits included dioramas of “exotocized” people as cultural “curiosities.” See the image below of the rickshaw diorama.
While the “scene” depicted may appear scientific and value-less, we should remember that race, which was “naturalized” in the 19th century, was experienced as something “real” through the pleasurable act of “looking” (at innumerable exhibits, sometimes of live human beings) at a reserve or distance, thereby constructing “whiteness.” (I believe the history of race and Sutro’s has not been properly told and is something that should be pursued in further detail in relation to SF modernism. By all means, someone needs to pursue this!)
We will watch a documentary on Sutro’s that, while featuring interesting and important footage and images of the interior of the complex, completely whitewashes these other aspects of the exhibits. This should give us plenty to talk about.
You can read and see more about the baths at the following links:
This course is an exploration of San Francisco modernism. Inspired by the work of Benjamin, Foucault, Debord, and Agamben—all of whom remain somewhere in the background in this class—this course present a unique reading of the history of the present of San Francisco.