Writer Malcolm Harris has a new book out called Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World. It’s as sweeping as the title suggests: a lively biography of the author’s hometown that covers nearly two centuries. Harris’s book traces the connections between the settling of California and the advent of the railroad, the establishment of Stanford University, the technological boom of the long 20th century, and own data-driven present. 

What you may not expect is that the book is also, in many ways, a history of the cinema: as Malcolm details, Eadweard Muybridge developed his pioneering equine motion studies under the patronage of railroad baron Leland Stanford, who wanted to figure out how to raise better race horses. So on today’s episode, Film Comment Editors Devika Girish and Clinton Krute invited Malcolm to join them for a conversation about his new book and California’s decades-spanning nexus of technology, capital, and the moving image. From Muybridge, they moved to several other movies that Malcolm cites in the book, including Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow, Wayne Wang’s Chan Is Missing, the dot-com era thriller Antitrust, and more.

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