Milestone Lecture 2017            TH Women 40 logo

Saturday 4 November at 3.00pm

Trinity Hall Lecture Theatre

Ways of Seeing a City: The Rooftops of Paris in Cinema

By Dr Isabelle McNeill, Trinity Hall Philomathia Fellow in French.


This year's Milestone Lecture addresses questions of seeing and looking, visibility and opacity that are raised when cinema depicts urban space, with the rooftops of Paris as a particular and revealing example. Emerging in the 19th century, a discourse of ‘charm’ has developed in relation to the rooftops of Paris that finds its natural expression in the cinema. High angle perspectives; mobile cameras or editing that transports us through windows; narratives of creative or erotic emancipation in the garret: all serve to confirm and perpetuate ideology arising from the social history of Parisian architecture. Yet cinema also offers ways of making visible the hidden forms still shaping (albeit in new configurations) the contemporary city.

As an example, the lecture will focus on Hiner Saleem’s Beneath the Rooftops of Paris (2006), analysing the film in relation to a historical understanding of the urban architecture of Paris and its representation in cinema. Saleem’s film invokes clichés associated with rooftop living, only then to call them into question and offers a critical perspective on the cultural memory that develops and sustains a touristic ideal of the rooftops.

Dr Isabelle McNeill is the Philomathia Fellow in French at Trinity Hall, where she has taught film studies and French literature since 2005. As a lecturer and researcher, she specialises in French and France-based cinema, with a particular interest in questions of memory and place. Isabelle is the author of Memory and the Moving Image: French Film in the Digital Era (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) and her writing on cinema addresses questions of cultural memory, urban space, belonging and technology. She is currently writing a book on the cinematic rooftops of Paris, which engages with questions of perspective, urban space and cultural history in relation to cinema. She also participates in the wider promotion of film culture in the United Kingdom through her work with the Cambridge Film Trust, which she co-founded. The Cambridge Film Trust is a charity that runs the Cambridge Film Festival, along with other events in the UK.


The Milestone Lecture is free to all those who would like to come along and bookings will be taken on a first come-first served basis until we reach capacity. You are welcome to bring up to 3 guests with you. Following the lecture, tea and cake will be available at a cost of £5.50 per person. If you would like to show your support for teaching and research at Trinity Hall, please consider making a donation, which you can do as part of the booking process.

To book a place online, please click here, or email to register your interest.

Bookings will be taken until Monday 30 October. If you need to cancel your place at the lecture, please let us know so we can reallocate your place. Refunds for the tea and cake will not be possible after Monday 30 October.