Architecture and the moving image
May 29, 2006 1:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for films (and documentaries) that feature architecture.

I'm more interested in unusual or an imposing/abstract use of architecture (including interiors) in film than say, films about architects.
posted by strawberryviagra to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Cube, sorta.
posted by ori at 1:17 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Do you mean little trivia bits like ... much of Gattaca was filmed in and around the Marin County Civic Center, the only public building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

And speaking of Wright, the Ennis House shows up regularly in all kinds of movies -- Blade Runner, The Rocketeer, etc.
posted by frogan at 1:24 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: I once read an amazing thesis extract in an architecture journal that posited that the interiors of Peter Greenaway's film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover represented various segments of an intestinal tract. In fact, architecture plays a prominent role in many of Greenaway's films, including the Draughtsman's Contract, in which an artist is employed to create architectural drawings of a grand estate, and of course, Belly of an Architect, with Brian Dennehy as an American architect with an obsession with the French architect, Boullée.
posted by hot soup girl at 1:35 AM on May 29, 2006

Response by poster: I'm looking for visual inspiration, principally - but symbolism is also appreciated.
posted by strawberryviagra at 1:38 AM on May 29, 2006

Oh, and there's also Andy Warhol's thrilling, edge-of-your-seat movie about the Empire State Building.
posted by hot soup girl at 1:40 AM on May 29, 2006

Response by poster: That would be a tad too inspirational - HSG, but you're winning this race nonetheless.
posted by strawberryviagra at 1:56 AM on May 29, 2006

The pyramidal building of Tyrell Corporation in Bladerunner?
posted by ori at 2:20 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Surprisingly, Dark Water features the brutalist architecture of Roosevelt Island pretty heavily. The aesthetic is very strong and stylized and it's perpetually raining!
posted by bryanboyer at 2:25 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Antonioni studied architecture before he made movies. The second half of L'Avventura, most of Blow Up, the ending of Zabriskie Point.

Last Year at Marienbad/The Shining

Thom Anderson's Los Angeles Plays Itself has a lot of stuff about LA architecture in movies.
posted by minkll at 2:43 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Oscar and Lucinda?

Life As A House?

A Month In The Country?

The Amish barn-raising in Witness?

The little tour of NYC buildings they take in Hannah and Her Sisters?

Brideshead Revisited? It's all about the architecture.

I'm just thinking aloud, can you tell?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:10 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders features inventive use of Berlin architecture.
posted by Methylviolet at 3:13 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Koyaanisqati and Powaqqatsi would be good too I think. Powaqqatsi has some amazing footage inside a mosque, shot from below, and Koyaanisquatsi has the demolition of Pruit-Igoe.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:29 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: if youre looking for a broad study of architectural elements that actively influence the cinematic composition, you should check out Film Architecture: From Metropolis to Bladerunner (amazon link). It has lots of case studies featuring conceptual art, set designs and photographs from films that explore the character of buildings and urban landscapes.
posted by indigoskynet at 5:11 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: I recently TiFauxed a BBC documentary called "I Love Carbuncles" about the Brutalist architecture of Britain. It was pretty good, if you can find it.
posted by web-goddess at 5:31 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle has some amusing sequences involving an avant-garde house.
posted by bricoleur at 5:32 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Check out My Architect, it's an amazing documentary about Louis Kahn.
posted by mattholomew at 5:40 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: The Chemosphere, built in the Hollywood Hills by architect John Lautner in 1960, has appeared in heaps of films.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:04 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: The documentary The Cruise gives some interesting insight to NY City.
posted by starman at 6:06 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: It's a film about an architect, but Sketches of Frank Gehry looks damn interesting, and potentially inspirational.
posted by amro at 6:28 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Tati's Playtime, too.
posted by dmo at 6:39 AM on May 29, 2006

a little about Playtime from Harvard film archive: ... brilliant sendup of the absurdities of modernist architecture ... Monsieur Hulot does battle with urban space ... a Paris of modern office blocks and skyscrapers ... extraordinary metropolis of glass and concrete...
posted by dmo at 6:49 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Catch Me If You Can features the Saarinen designed TWA terminal at JFK airport.
posted by lovejones at 6:53 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Lots of early Godard, particularly Two or Three Things I Know About Her, which is as much about Paris as about its protagonist.
posted by languagehat at 6:59 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Dr. Zhivago's home that becomes an ice castle.

On the dvd commentary for Die Hard, the director explains how he designed the interior of the Nakatomi Plaza to look like a Frank Lloyd Wright building.
posted by cda at 7:19 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Thirteen Ghosts: the avant-garde house is is one of the major characters.
posted by SPrintF at 8:45 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: It's not about architecture in the slightest but the scene in Manhunter where the hero runs down an endless white circular Guggenheimesque staircase is the single most powerful image for me in a very visually interesting movie.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:48 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: The movie Playing by Heart was originally going to be called "Dancing About Architecture" because of the line, "Talking about love is like dancing about architecture."
posted by the jam at 8:52 AM on May 29, 2006

Google gives me: "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture." -- Steve Martin
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:29 AM on May 29, 2006

I heard it as "writing about music...," and thought it was attributed to Lou Reed, but Google offers Frank Zappa and Elvis Costello (the latter with a citation from 1983). Frankly, I always figured a talented enough choreographer could come up with something worthwhile, just as so many music critics have at some point or another. </derail>
posted by kimota at 9:54 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Baraka has many great scenes of people interacting with everything from monasteries and churches to airports and factories (also gorgeous outdoors stuff, but that's neither here nor there).
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:44 AM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Antonio Gaudi covers the architect's work wonderfully.
posted by shinybeast at 3:22 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Montreal' s International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) lists 73 films about architecture in its archives (can't link directly to it: click on English, then type "architecture" in the search box, then "Include films' archive in the search").
posted by bru at 3:40 PM on May 29, 2006

Response by poster: As usual - merci beaucoup. There's a deluge today, so I'm off to hunt down and watch some of these.

Keep them coming, though - it may be raining all week.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:17 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: belly of an architect. not greenaway's best work, but it's ok.
posted by juv3nal at 4:18 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: Oddly enough, several umm, substandard flicks came to mind for me, perhaps because my attention wasn't focused on the characters:
- Kubrick's Barry Lyndon features a shitload of exquisite interiors from around the UK and Germany, all beautifully lit and shot
- the awesomely craptacular Q is the tail [sic] of the ol' Feathered Serpent himself, Quetzalcoatl, who eschews his usual stomping grounds at Chichén Itzá for upmarket digs atop the Chrysler Building
- Maud Adams's floating retreat in Octopussy was filmed at the Lake Palace Hotel at Udaipur (Rajasthan, India)

On the other hand, Russian Ark, filmed in one 90-minute take at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, is a multi-course visual feast.
posted by rob511 at 6:24 PM on May 29, 2006

Best answer: A Clockwork Orange: brutalist, new town, planning, stark, angular.
Brzail: surreal, "retro future"
Labyrinth: the labyrinth-city itself, but note particularly the dream sequence which takes places in a city of stairs...
The Empire Strikes Back: the enormous star destroyer space ships embody the city-in-space hulks of SF more so than the death stars of the other SW films... see also the Bespin Cloud City towards the end of the film - a city in the clouds, built on an idea seemingly detached from worldly troubles.
The Untouchables: 1920s, Chicago, glass, steel frame, skyscrapers
posted by nthdegx at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2006

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