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Sarasota Film Festival 2007

#"/Online Dailies Coverage of the 9th annual Sarasota Film Festival, April 13-22, 2007.


The Shape Of Things To Come

Tuesday, April 17---While Sarasota may be noted for its beautiful sunsets, pristine beaches and cultural offerings, it is also an important city of architectural interest. In the years after the second World War, a number of architects, influenced by modernism and the Bauhaus movement, built a number of intriguing public and private buildings, which constitute an architectural legacy of some renown. Whether this legacy is properly prized by local authorities is another issue. As Sarasota grows in population and its buildings become taller (and arguably, more anonymous), the Sarasota Film Festival is taking up the discourse of what is meaningful preservation of architectural heritage and reasoned urban planning via an intriguing sidebar program.

The Shape of things To Come: Architecture, Development and Design On Film assembles a group of diverse dramatic features and documentaries that examine the ways that architecture can reflect urban renewal and vitality, while also being subject to the pressures of government, private enterprise and civic grandstanding. A modernist architect who almost singlehandedly invented the "Sarasota style"  was Paul Rudolph, who had studied with the great Walter Gropius (the founder of Germany's Bauhaus movement) at Harvard in the 1940s. In a series of private buildings and public commissions, Rudolph was one of the few architects who used building elements indigenous to Florida, while also building structures that fit into the landscape and provided for access to both air ventilation (for the days before air conditioning) and open views to capture Florida's brilliant sunshine and abundant light. As detailed in the short documentary SPACES: THE ARCHITECTURE OF PAUL RUDOLPH, many of Rudolph's most legendary buildings were not preserved, including his groundbreaking Riverview High School project of the late 1940s. With Sarasota in the grips of a building boom, the questions surrounding the preservation of its architectural heritage are even more relevant. The documentary film was screened along with a group of other architect profiles, including PHILIP JOHNSON: DIARY OF AN ECCENTRIC ARCHITECT, a profile of the famous architect and theoretician, and IN SEARCH OF CLARITY: THE ARCHITECTURE OF GWAMTHEY SIEGEL, a chronicle of the wildly successful architectural firm.

A series of classic films are included in the program. HANDS OVER THE CITY (1963) by Italian director Francesco Rosi, stars (a dubbed) Rod Steiger as a corrupt building inspector whose desire to clear away the slums of Naples is more about his personal greed than any sense of public responsibility. In this Janus Films classic (which deserves a renaissance release), the Neapolitan beaureaucrats use their influence to shape public opinion and to quell any outcry from the press while lining their pockets with graft and paybacks. The film, which is spectacularly shot in expressive black and white, features a great musical score reminiscent of Ennio Morricone, in a tale of the conflict between progress and preservation.

Jacques Tati, the great French filmmaker, was widely criticized and misunderstood when his masterpiece PLAYTIME (1967) was first released. The film, set in a soulless modern suburb, is a satire of the supposed benefits of modernism. Through his signature character of Monsieur Hulot, Tati himself plays the hapless hero, a man adrift in an architectural landscape that might as well be on the moon. In Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigara's documentary ANTONIO GAUDI (1984) is a visually stunning appreciation of the modernist's influence on his beloved landscape, the city of Barcelona. Focusing on such public monuments as the Sagrada Familia cathedral (still unfinished) and the crazy quilt Park Guell, Gaudi's singular vision went from being vastly ridiculed in its time to becoming one of Spain's most vaulted treasures (and a symbol for the city of Barcelona itself).

Visionary architects continue to leave their mark, particularly in the explosive growth economies of Asia. In MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES by Canadian director Jennifer Baichwal, natural landscapes in the Chinese countryside are being transformed by an explosion of building, particularly of seemingly mundance industrial parks, factories, quarries, dams and mines. seen through the lage-scale photographs of famous artist Edward Burtynsky, the harsh beauty of many of these pragmatic building projects are both repellent and strangely beautiful. The film allows us to mediatate on our impat on our surroundings and on the planet itself, for both good and bad. In fact, it is not unthinkable that these newly built structures that lack all pretense of beauty or ornamentation may become the "classic" buildings that a future generation will fight to preserve. Such is the cycle of architectural innovation.....

Sandy Mandelberger, Sarasota FF Online Dailies Editor

Comments (1)

There have been some

There have been some memorable constructions done in the last 60 years but the most impressive ones are not the tallest or the grandest but the houses designed for living. There's a contest financed by Sears Parts for young architects to design the best living house. I hope they have some great ideas.

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About Sarasota Film Festival 2007

Online Dailies Coverage of the 9th annual Sarasota Film Festival, April 13-22, 2007.

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