Friday, February 13, 2004

I just saw My Architect: A Son’s Journey, a documentary by Nathaniel Kahn on his quest to learn about his father, the master architect Louis Kahn.

The movie goes back and forth between Kahn’s mysterious personal life and his public greatness. After becoming arguably the nation’s most influential architect of the 20th century, Louis Kahn died bankrupt and alone in a bathroom stall at Penn Station in 1973, his body not identified for three days. During the latter part of his life he spent his time between his three families — Nathaniel was his “illegitimate” son. The women in Kahn’s life seemed to excuse his lack of decency for his genius. Nathaniel’s mother, who met Kahn after taking a job in his office, holds no grudges. She continued to believe Lou was going to leave his wife and move in until the day he died. His other mistress interviewed in the film, Harriet, also held a reverence for Kahn that blinded any ill-feelings she might have for him.

The black turtlenecks in the audience tripped over each other to whisper the name of each famous architect being interviewed before his name and title appeared on screen, to prove their architecture-smarts. The interviews with the testaments of architecture were great, especially with Philip Johnson at his Glass House. “Corbusier was a jerk, Mies… you just couldn’t talk to him, but Kahn was just a nice guy.”

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Woody Allen's Manhattan

Yesterday Dave Reidy of the Coudal Partners wrote:

With a new Woody Allen film on its way, thoughts turn to his signature typeface, and the fact that none of us know what the hell it is. We think it’s this one. If you know differently, let us know.

I’d guessed that it was this one instead, at least for some of his late 70’s/early 80’s films. But since I’m such a big fan of his movies, I decided to take a closer look. I took all ten of the Woody Allen DVDs that I own and captured the title screens. As often as I’ve watched them, I was surprised to learn that his signature Windsor wasn’t used until Annie Hall then abandoned for two films, and that no titles were used whatsoever in Manhattan — just scenes of New York over his magnificent opening monologue. Seeing the titles side by side shows the nuances of using different studios and designers throughout the years, even if the base font family remained unchanged for 20+ years. Take a look at Ten Woody Allen Title Screens

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Just as the Seattle International Film Festival announces their roster of films for the 2003 festival (oooo), I have catalogued my entire 16mm Film Collection so we can start viewings at CS HQ.

My prizes, of course, are the feature length films, of which I have seven beautiful classic prints (ok, one’s a hokey western, but cooly kitch). That, and a few odd Woody Allen TV appearances and some great ’70s television commercials. Also an early documentary (which was often staged, and extremely condescending) by Luis Buñuel, copies of the first motion pictures ever by Louis Lumière. More local to the northwest, I have movies about the explosion and aftermath of Mt. St. Helens, including one 16mm home movie recording of an ascent of the volcano as it was bulging, days before it exploded. And dozens of documentaries and educational films.

The best things about 16mm
  1. I love 16mm because it’s clunky and beautiful. The actual light passing through celluloid, projected on a screen.. there’s no digital presentation that comes close to that kind of sensational image.
  2. The colors.
  3. You’re watching a real movie.
  4. It’s low-tech. You can get a projector for < $25 on ebay.
  5. Blockbuster has nothing like it.

The worst things about 16mm
  1. You can’t fall asleep on the couch while watching movies (you have to get up to change reels every 45 minutes, and it’s a rude awakening when you let the film run to the end of the reel).
  2. They eventually wear out, fade, turn to vinegar.
  3. Of course there’s the noise. The constanst ch-ch-ch-ch of the frames chattering by is nauseating without a soundbox (which I have none), but you eventually learn to love it.
  4. You can’t get much after the early 1980’s.
  5. As my good friend CV says, “It’s extremely addictive. Worse than heroin.”

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Saw the new Fellini documentary this weekend, Fellini: I’m a Born Liar. The film didn’t adequately celebrate the maestro’s life or work. Nor did it offer any juicy details about Fellini’s personal life that lovers of his films would be superficially interested in, since he was very much about the eclectic and the façade. Instead we’re exposed to Fellini through clips of a 1993 interview and from the films we already know. If his films stand on their own, why create a documentary at all? Give us the peeps.

Liar is nothing more than a series of interview clips and film clips, fluctuating back and forth for two hours without any real investigation. Interesting bits included juxtaposed quotes of Fellini contradicting others, like when he says he got along great with the actors, then cuts to Donald Sutherland claiming he was a tyrant with the actors. Misquoting Fellini, “The actors don’t mind being puppets as long as they have a good puppeteer.”

Another amusing clip was Terence Stamp talking about the shooting of Spirits of the Dead (which, after seeing the clips, is next on my Netflix list), on his first day in Rome, his first day on the set, his first scene in front of the camera, he got up there and demanded some direction from Fellini. Fellini took him aside and said something close to: “Imagine you were at a party last night where you had whiskey, marijuana, cocaina, whiskey, and you had a whorgy, fucking everyone—it was a whorgy. A black man comes and caresses your hair and you fuck him. You did this all night and right as you get here, someone puts a tab of LSD on your tongue, and then you walk on stage.” They roll the clip, and that was it, exactly.

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Watched UNDER THE SAND tonight, a French film that would have never been made in the US because it portrays the romantic life of a 50 year old woman.. a subject that no US studio would touch (bet you can’t name one movie where the leading role is a 50-something woman). Women’s roles (despite the actual age of the actor) in US movies either have to be under 40 and “still” sexy or over 60 and grandmotherly.

The movie stars Charlotte Rampling, who played a vividly schizophrenic woman in Woody Allen’s STARDUST MEMORIES.



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