Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Architecture of Railroad Stations in Film

Put this under the categories of "Classic - Necessary, (archetype): Melodrama/Romance/British/Postwar/Realistic/Women's/Tearjerker/Extra-Marital/Middle-Aged/Bittersweet: Trains Stations
"Brief Encounter" 1946

The definitive example of the Railroad Romance, by which I mean the many, usually doomed, romantic dramas that feature the train as a vehicle of separation, which I italicize without irony, of one good and likable character from another. As the local train is such a comprehensive representative symbol of the lives of the British bourgeoisie, with businessmen going into town once a day, housewives going once a week, standing, waiting, having tea, buying a newspaper, all the typical private/public behaviours have as their backdrop the train and its station.

The music, what would have been "popular" music at the time, is Rachmaninoff's Concerto No 2; very romantic. (This happens to be one of the pieces that first attracted me to start paying attention to the classical music I'd been regaled with all my life in the playing of my father in the living room.)
http://www.amazon.com/Tchaikovsky-Concerto-No-Rachmaninoff-2/dp/B000003EUG (scroll down to the Listen To Concerto #2). But what suits the movie so well is that in 1946, the people in the theatre watching this, as well as the characters in the film, would have enjoyed this piece on the radio after dinner. I think there is a scene in which the husband actually turns down the soundtrack as he adjusts his living room radio). This is the piece that Eric Carmen stole outright in his very popular 1976 hit "All By Myself".

Watch the scene where the woman tries, offhand, to reveal to her unsuspecting husband her own sense of guilt - and fails. (She tries to sound suspicious in conversation while he reads the paper). Also the funny scene where the girlfriend on the phone, staring into the mirror, is failing to listen to what the heroine is saying to her).

Though it's full of routines and habits unfamiliar to us, they are shot in such a way as to render them universal - and so very familiar, and thus all the more sympathetic.

The 1984 "Falling in Love" with Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro is a lame near-remake.

Directed by David Lean (of the epic Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Bridge Over River KwaiWritten by Noel Frickin' Coward

Monday, October 09, 2006

Architectur of Chanel
This TV commercial from 1979 makes my heart beat faster, it's so sexy. The plane's shadow and the lanky man, both making their ways between the woman's legs, are hardly subtle. But in an age when most TV ads featured talking heads and product shots, this short film does nothing but evoke a mood of luxury and desire - a quick visual poem on aspiration. A novel and, ultimately, very influential approach. Directed by none other than Ridley Scott (Alien, Bladerunner). 
Check out the ad HERE
Architecture of The Powers of Ten

This classic 9 minutes film by Charles and Ray Eames shows not just the powers of the satellite and the microscope in their exponentially detailed views of our world, but the power of a short film to seduce, amuse and inform us.

The Eameses pretty much invented what we now call the "industrial film" and though they were interested in making information entertaining, they never stooped to mesmerizing tricks to keep our attention or using condescending language or set-ups to make us feel "smart".

This film has the all the force of architecture: the power to teach us a new way of seeing.


Architecture on Film: Maison de Verre

Pour yourself a drink and turn your speakers up a bit. This is a 24 minute film, with sound,(the confidently clipped British inflected narration). The topic is the masterwork of architect Pierre Châreau. It's just an amazing building and this is a lovely explication of why. Just keep remembering: this was the year 1928!

For those of you who worry about modern architecture lacking texture or discreet spaces or the warmth of natural materials, take a look.

We may not wish to build this now, but what a big fat lesson this is about how you might go about building AT ALL! no matter what it is: it's thoroughly considered, loving in detail and devoted to the visceral and human over the abstract and ideological.

Then, if you are inclined to the motifs of modernism - a conscious embrace of the machine, in service and in symbol, the acceptance of complex rather than comfortable settings to better reflect the difficult realities of modern life, and the paradox of a restrained ornament requiring more effort and planning to achieve than a more boisterous ornament does, this house is for you.

Even if you're just folding laundry, put this on and enjoy a worthy 24 minutes. (look at the recreations the film makers made of people walking up and down, all in period costume and hairstyles, even if you may not notice) .

click here, busters: