TamTam Books News

Tuesday, January 28, 2003:

ARCHITECTURE AND FILM by Jim Lamster (Editor) Princeton Architectural Press ISBN: 1568982070

I didn't really notice cinema's similarity to architecture until I read Architecture and Film, edited by Mark Lamster, the senior editor at Princeton Architectural Press. What we have here is a collection of essays by film fanatics who also happen to be architectural critics or architects. There is not one film-studies scholar among the contributors; that alone is unusual for a collection of film essays.

The other big surprise is that the writers don't focus on architecturally striking films in the vein of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner or Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Instead they write about more obscure films, such as the hysterical Cary Grant film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Robert Quine's Strangers When We Meet, and the campy film version of Ayn Rand's arguably campy novel The Fountainhead. All three films feature either an architect as a main character or the nature of architecture in a commercial world as a principle theme. The Fountainhead in particular is probably one of the most ridiculous films ever made about art and commerce. Such ideas aren't bad in and of themselves, but the fascistic and sexual overtones in Rand's book and film are so over the top that both come off as soft-porn pieces. But I like this film, as it brings up the question of architecture as an art form: Does it only serve its purpose as a structure of necessity?

The most unusual segment in the book is the essay by Eric Rosenberg: "Architecture and the films of the Beatles." In this short essay, Rosenberg comments on the nature of space and structures in keeping the Beatles isolated from the external world, with consideration to their fans. Other subjects covered include set directors, such as the great Ken Adam, who worked on all the early James Bond films, designed the fantastic war room in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, and also worked on Barry Lyndon. I found the essay on Adam particularly interesting because I am a big fan of his work. Adam talks about his disappointment in Barry Lyndon because a lot of the shots were based on paintings of that period; Adam preferred to use his own imagination for his set designs. In Dr. Strangelove, for example, he essentially used his mind's eye in building the war room. But fiction can greatly intrude upon fact -- when the newly elected President Ronald Reagan asked to see the government's war room, he was disappointed that it wasn't like the one used in Dr. Strangelove. As you see, films are better than real life. And so is the architecture in films

Tosh // 10:53 PM

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