There are only so many times you can watch a movie before its details start to disappear, so thank you for watching it on your own. I’ve used this movie in the film seminar many times because it’s such a perfect “textbook” movie. It’s an introduction to Wenders’ work, an easy way to understand the essence of Ozu, a great example of how you can make a portrait of a city in a film that is about the urban in all its colors, sounds and habits, and not just about the physical infrastructure.
At an Openhouse last fall a prospective student asked the kind of question that is so obvious we all forget to ask it. What is the difference between urban design and architecture, he wanted to know. He was most likely asking for the practical reason of knowing which box to check in his application, but what an interesting question once you think about it, particularly for us seasoned architecture folk. I bet that if any of us sat down with a willing conversant and followed the thinking through we would conclude that what is urban and what is architecture are two not-contradictory ways of looking at the same thing; that they are less a demarcation of territory and more the lenses through which we see.
Had I been able to introduce some sort of time warp, some pocket of time between the last question and the first food platter, I would have taken said prospective student into a screening room and spent some time with Wenders’ oeuvre–there’s a context for some deep thinking about the urban (and the architecture).
Here is a quick roadmap to the work of this director-as-essayist: the poem to Berlin that is Wings of Desire; Lisbon Story, also in part an example of a “road movie;” The End of Violence, set in Los Angeles, CA (keep your panopticon/Foucault readings handy for this one); Notebooks on Cities and Clothes, on Tokyo, Paris, and Yamamoto (and made in “West Germany”); Paris, Texas, on Houston, Los Angeles, and the Texan desert; Pina, ostensibly about the dance and dancers of Pina Bausch, but also, inevitable, about the troupe’s hometown of Wuppertal, Germany.
For this coming Wednesday, February 1st, on the real/imaginary theme, see what you can of the following: David Lynch, Italian Neorealism (e.g. The Bicycle Thief, 1948, dir. Vittorio de Sica), Julie Taymor, Todd Solondz, Sally Potter, and Jean-Luc Godard.