John Hoffmann is a graduate student in the Department of English at Johns Hopkins University. His research interests include German and Anglophone modernism, and his work has been supported by grants from the Modernist Studies Association, the Max Kade Center for Modern German Thought, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst.
How would a film look if Walter Benjamin had been behind the movie camera? Miriam Hansen entertains this possibility in Cinema and Experience (2012) when she speculates about an “imaginary city film” made according to Benjamin’s aesthetic principles. Such a film, Hansen writes, would include a variety of avant-garde techniques “from French Impressionism to Soviet experimental cinema, in particular montage (that is, discontinuous and rhythmic editing), nonconventional and expressive framing, and camera movement.” Yet Hansen’s version of a Benjaminian film practice is inferred almost entirely from Benjamin’s film theory, while his descriptive essays on European cities—“Naples,” “Marseilles,” and the focus of this article, “Moscow” (1927)—are missing from her authoritative survey of Benjamin’s thought.