As we see our final harmless snow flurries for the season, we have our final ten movies for this series A Designer’s Winter Hibernation Film List. These special selections come from our own David Craun, and from film curator & blogger Tim Peyton. Some take place in colorful and mysterious cities and spaces, and in many cases, these cities and spaces live and breathe as actors themselves.
DAVID CRAUN, Senior Associate, Bialosky + Partners Architects
For design inspiration, I often find myself turning away from architecture and towards other artistic mediums like film that can spark my imagination and change my point of view – this, to me is the true meaning of inspiration. Oddly enough, the following five films can all be categorized under Romantic Comedy, a result that even I was surprised by when compiling the list. If you think about it, however, fusing Romance + Comedy results in a full expression of human emotions. Evoking an emotion through design, or “delight”, (as Vitruvius would say), is one of the most difficult but essential aspects of good design. Also of note are two underlying themes in the following films that were not, altogether, intentional. The first being that 3 of 5 films are foreign films and the other two are very low on dialogue – forcing the viewer to focus more on the visual and emotional aspect of the films. The second being that 4 of 5 films are indirectly about architecture, either by character or by setting, which clearly points to the fact that we architects and urbanites are truly doomed romantics.
- Moonrise Kingdom (2012) : The story of two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. (Wes Anderson’s most beautiful movie to date – a hard won title over Life Aquatic – also stunning!).
- Sidewalls (2011) – A clever romantic comedy examining with charm how the architecture of a city conditions the lives of two of its residents. (A great depiction of modern urban planning and the love/hate relationship of high density living by its residents – not to mention a subplot involving an aspiring architect finding other means for creative output).
- (500) Days of Summer (2009) : A nonlinear romantic comedy about a man who falls head over heels for a woman who doesn’t believe in love. (Also indirectly about architecture and an aspiring architect stuck in an unrelated, but creative career).
- Paris, je t’aime (2006) : Twenty acclaimed filmmakers from around the world look at love in the City of Lights in this omnibus feature. (With 18 short films in all, there is a little something for everyone – oh, and the city itself is the main character, as you might have guessed).
- Amelie (2001) : One woman decides to change the world by changing the lives of the people she knows in this charming and romantic comic fantasy from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. (Possibly my favorite film of all time – delightful, quirky and absolutely beautiful).
TIM PEYTON, Film Curator, Akron Film + Pixel and Film Blogger
- Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) : Like Mike Daviessic book ‘City of Quartz’ , Thom Anderson’s archival essay film “Los Angeles Plays Itself” is a radical look at the mesmerizing and highly misunderstood metropolis that is Los Angeles. Anderson uses hundreds of copyrighted film clips throughout the history of Hollywood and constructs a film about Los Angeles that speaks most profoundly about how the unconscious works in creating perceptions of places, thus also people and culture, and how these images can be misleading and distorting. Anderson uses the power of editing and splicing found images as agency to reclaim the city he loves and lives in. Film as political discourse in the most intimate way.
- 2 or 3 things I Know About Her (1967) : Staring into a coffee cup, Godard as narrator whispers “I have to listen more then ever, I have to look around me”. In this sprawling philosophical film that is about nearly everything under the sun we follow Julliette Jansons (played by Marina Vlady ), a Parisian housewife who decides to start prostituting herself in order to make more money. Godard whispers essay-like observations concerning his fears of consumer culture while the beautiful camera work by Raoul Coutard shows us the construction on the new banlieus ( the suburbs ) of Paris. Godard’s thesis is that buildings and environments help construct ideologies. We need to look around ourselves and listen to what they are saying.
- The Shining (1980) : This film really scared me as a child and it actually was not till a few years ago that I became re-introduced to it and then found myself obsessing over it. Everyone looks terrified in the movie, like the spectre haunting the hotel is an illness of fear. The illness’s symptoms are making Shelly Duvall bruise and decompose, while it seems like Jack Nicholson is working his way threw the incubation period of a rabies infection. It’s not the actual hotel that is the star structure of the piece but the art and set design that is the interior of the film. The red carpets and the red bathroom, this bathroom being the location of one of my favorite scenes in film history were through a series of questions and answers Nicholson comes to know that he has always been the caretaker. This is architectural horror at its scariest.
- 24 city (2008) : In this moving film that is part documentary part narrative, we meet the real workers of an airplane engine state – owned factory in Chengdu, China. In these interviews with three generations of people we learn about their time living and working at the factory that is in the process of closing to become an apartment complex also called “24 City”. The film is beautifully shot and has the unique position of having an actual living memory of a building and a time and place in this rapidly changing and continuing urban experiment that is modern day China.
- Journey to Italy (1954) : An aging couple, whose marriage is on the rocks, take a trip to Italy- a place whose very landscape is a museum of history and art. The structure of the film works in repetitive stages, we see the couple fight (Ingrid Bergmen and George Sanders) then the husband takes off to drink and flirt while we are left with his wife who travels to old religious sites and catacombs by herself. Eventually this leads up to the husband and wife’s pinnacle fight at the ruins of Pompeii where they witness the archaeological unveiling of a couple embracing who have been mummified for centuries. Because of the way the structure of the film works we experience the tension and anxiety of a couples’ quarrel and uncertain future and then we also experience, in an almost documentary style, the reflection of time, history and art while being at these magnificent locations, that like the film, is were built as an alchemic process that brings out the most that life has to offer in us.