Found this today:
"The montage-film is a film assembled of separate images which is not immediately related to a single thing or event, but which, when joined into sequences, becomes a unit organized in a definite rhythm."
This is exactly what I needed to give my city film project momentum. It reminded me what first interested me in this project; I had thought the term "city symphony" and the comparisons between Berlin and The Man with a Movie Camera ignored the formal and ideological complexities of Vertov's film, and that the two were, at their philosophical cores, radically opposed.
I have spent the past week searching through books for critical studies of "city symphonies," but all I had found were casual treatments in various histories (of documentary, of the avant-garde, of individual filmmakers, etc.). I have yet to find a comparative analysis or rigorous definition of the genre. Everyone takes it for granted. Why has nobody given much thought to these films as a whole? (Especially suspicious considering the term "city symphony" evokes a close connection between film and music and should so provide the ideal formal comparison between the two arts.)
Potamkin wrote about montage-films in 1930. He understood the genre better than any of our modern scholars. I'll use the term "montage-film" to overthrow this "city symphony" notion. It is the tool needed to unlock the heart of my thesis, that city films share different interests in the broader contemporary avant-garde.