From the film Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman (Julius Shulman)
Ok, when it comes to Winnipeg's inaugural Architecture and Design Film Festival, I won't pretend to be impartial. (That would be hard, since I'm moderating an ADFF panel discussion tonight at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.)
I'm really excited to be part of a festival that focuses on the importance of architecture and design in everyday life and uses the crowd-pleasing medium of movies to connect to a wide audience.
Here's a short preview of a few films designed to inform, engage and entertain. The festival runs until April 21, with film showings at the WAG and Cinematheque.
This is the third installment in Gary Hustwit's series on design. (Helvetica, which is also showing this week, makes typeface sexy; Objectified looks at product design.) Urbanized sometimes lacks focus, but this tasty intellectual appetizer plate lets viewers sample all sorts of issues in 21st-century city planning, along with footage of cool urban centres and smart talking heads.
Enrique Pẽnalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, introduces his city's rapid transit bus line and bike route system, and, let me tell you, Bogota is miles ahead of us. Mayor Katz, we want to see you with a bike-clip on your trouser leg, like Mr. Pẽnalosa!
Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman
Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, this irresistibly happy documentary recaps the career of the late architectural photographer Julius Shulman, who snapped pictures of the groundbreaking structures of mid-century Los Angeles and later became influential across the States and worldwide. Shulman's legacy goes beyond recording historic buildings. His images helped to create a persuasive vision of postwar North America as a place of newness and wide-open possibility, all modernist ease and California cool.
Visual Acoustics is also a portrait of a lovely man:
Shulman was 93 when this footage was taken, and he's indefatigably curious, optimistic, and engaged with life.
It's hard to meet Shulman without thinking of our very own Henry Kalen, a prolific and gifted photographer who produced iconic images of many of Winnipeg's best modernist buildings. (He captured the jet-setting International Style modernism of our late, lamented 1964 airport, for example.)
This eye-opening film examines an architectural masterwork by Dutch "starchitect" Rem Koolhaas - the trick being that the house, the Maison á Bordeaux, is seen from the point of view of its cleaning lady, Guadalupe Acedo. As we follow Acedo on her daily rounds, she very gradually reveals the home's beauty -- but also its crowded junk drawers, everyday inconveniences and hard-to-vacuum corners.
We see things that don't always work. The house was built for a man who had become wheelchair-bound after a devastating accident, and it's full of hydraulic platforms and automated rotating windows - all sorts of swell technologies prone to spectacular malfunctions and minor screw-ups.
It's not until the film's very last minutes that the camera finally pulls back and gives us the standard "shelter porn" shots, in which the Maison comes across as suddenly and imposingly beautiful. By then, though, we've come to know the house in an intimate, incredibly endearing way.
I thought the film was a reality check for any homeowner. It reminds us that those intimidating images of domestic perfection - the show-home photographs, the covers of house magazines, the TV makeovers -- are just illusions. A home is never a flawless finished product: it's always a process.