Party Like It’s 1999

IMG_4379My film and architecture project involves looking at film as if it were architecture and looking at architecture as if it were film; it also relies, in part, on the work of neurobiologist Antonio Damasio. I first knew of Damasio when he spoke at Sundance in January 2000. He was wearing light colored pants, I think. In my unreliable memory they are white with crisp creases and I’m sitting front row and looking up at the raised stage where he is standing.

At the time I had been toying with this idea that we inhabit film the way we inhabit architecture, and in design studio I was treating architecture as if it always necessarily came with a narrative (a storied version of the program). I went to Sundance expecting to see some good film, maybe try skiing (again); instead I got the mother lode with Damasio. Here was a neurobiologist saying that he was interested in film’s ease with storytelling because our sense of self is formed by a kind of constantly updated autobiographical story. If a scientist looking at digital slices of the brain was finding film useful to understand how we know we are who we are, then maybe I could piggyback on his work and understand how we know where we are when we are in architecture.

Best. Lecture. Ever. Or maybe it was that post-Y2K glee from 99 turning into 00 uneventfully; there had been no world-ending debacles in our computer dependent lives.

I had started to define what I meant by “film architecture.” The nineties had brought all sorts films that I thought were both amazing and ripe with spatial peculiarities like David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997), Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66 (1998), a bunch by Wim Wenders—Until the End of the World (1991), Lisbon Story (1994), and The End of Violence (1997)— Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm (1997), Sally Potter’s Orlando (1992) and The Tango Lesson (1997), Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas (1995), the phenomenon that was Quentin Tarantino with Reservoir Dogs (1992 and out of the 1991 Sundance film lab), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Jackie Brown (1997), David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996), Robert Altman’s 90s oeuvre that included Vincent and Theo (1990), The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993), Ready to Wear (1994), Kansas City (1996), as well as his brilliantly conceived 1997 TV series Gun, Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth (1991) and Dead Man (1995), Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter (1997)—to this day I think of this film when I go through a car wash, Ethan and Joel Cohen’s Barton Fink (1991), Fargo (1996), and The Big Lebowski (1998), Abbas Kiarostami’s The Taste of Cherry (1997), Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993), Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996), Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential (1997), Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993) and Secrets and Lies (1996), Milcho Manchevski’s Before the Rain (1994), and others that are not coming to my fingertips at the moment… Steven Soderbergh in particular developed his work in the 90s— the success of Sex, Lies, and Videotape in 1989 gave him entry to try things out in Kafka (1991), King of the Hill (1993), Schizopolis (1996), and Out of Site (1998). Soderbergh’s The Limey, came out in 1999 as did many other amazing films, like some collective last hurrah to the century. I’m thinking Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich (1999), Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999), Claire Denis’ Beau Travail (1999), Pedro Almadóvar’s All About My Mother (1999), Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides (1999), Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997), Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club, David Myrick’s and Eduardo Sanchez’s The Blair Witch Project (1999), Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog, Anderson’s Magnolia (1999)… Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days was completed in 1995 but imagines a post-1999 future.

While everyone was distracted by obviousness and stylish sunglasses of The Matrix, my 1999 picks were as much about domestic space as they were about imagined futures and the eclectic mix gave me a base on which to build this film architecture idea of mine. This was also when I started teaching architecture studio: Best. Job. Ever.

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