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5 Films that Critique Modern Architecture

5 Films that Critique Modern Architecture

Of all arts, there is one that is truly capable of embracing architecture, and that is the cinema. The ability to represent spaces, moving in the course of time, brings cinema closer to architecture in a way that goes beyond the limitations of painting, sculpture, music - for a long time considered to be the art closest to ours - and even of dance. Both in cinema and in architecture space is a key subject, and although they deal with it in different ways, they converge by providing a bodily - and not only visual - experience of the built environment.

One of the many links between these two fields lies in the critique of the space provided by the cinema. Namely, the critique of architecture. A variety of film productions, released since the Lumière, deal with representations of the city and architecture through the screen, and, many of them are dedicated to doing so in a critical manner, by casting a disbelieving or provocative look at the current architectural production.

Perhaps due to the fact that film has emerged contemporaneously to modern architecture, it has become an instrument of critique. Indeed, many cinematographic productions have become - although unintended - memorable examples of criticism of modern architecture and society. Here are a few:

Critique of the Modern Habitat: My Uncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)

Via film screenshot
Via film screenshot

While visiting his sister's family, Monsieur Hulot is welcomed into an extremely cutting-edge home, equipped for the needs of modern life. Rational spaces, automation, and a variety of technological appliances and devices integrate this new context. The ironically disoriented figure of Hulot tries in vain to adapt to the new reality which promises ease and comfort, yet only brings him obstacles and resistance.

Watch the trailer here.

Critique of Housing Politics: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (Chad Freidrichs, 2011)

Via film screenshot
Via film screenshot

A documentary about the Pruitt Igoe housing complex, designed by Minoru Yamasaki and built on the outskirts of the American city of St. Louis. Gathering testimonials from former residents of the complex, the film reveals the motivations that led to the construction of the huge housing complex, and the contradictions that led to its implosion in 1972, a historical occasion that some critics (emblematically) define as the end of modern architecture.

Watch the trailer here.

Critique of the Modern City: Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)

Via film screenshot
Via film screenshot

The austerity of life in the modern city is portrayed once again in contrast to the nostalgic figure of Monsieur Hulot. Through the comical discomfort of the main character, the film addresses the issue of one's identity when confronted with an increasingly mechanized reality provided by the modern city - which was depicted in the movie with a gigantic scenery that included buildings on wheels, literally.

Watch the trailer here.

Critique of Consumption: 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)

Via film screenshot
Via film screenshot

Godard uses images of the urban transformations that took place on the outskirts of Paris in the 1960s as metaphors for the characters' lives. The everyday lives of the women portrayed in the film are narrated in relation to the daily life in the city - consumerism, capitalism, and globalization appear as main subjects in the story, whether regarding the city or the women.

Watch the trailer here.

Critique of Control: Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)

Via film screenshot
Via film screenshot

Alphaville is a hostile, dark and inhumane city located in an imprecise future. In this city, all social actions are controlled by a central system, a computer called Alpha 60 that determines and commands the fate of all its inhabitants. This dystopian society, dominated by technology, seems to bear a lot more resemblance to our reality than we wished - and the consonances increase when we recall the Alphaville developments that emerged years later, promoting a model that is at least questionable in terms of urbanity.

Watch the trailer here.

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Cite: Baratto, Romullo. "5 Films that Critique Modern Architecture" [Da casa à cidade: 5 filmes para entender a crítica da arquitetura moderna] 09 Jun 2019. ArchDaily. (Trans. Duduch, Tarsila) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/918018/5-films-that-critique-modern-architecture/> ISSN 0719-8884
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Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967). Via film screenshot

5部批判现代建筑的电影合集

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