TSA Playlist l December: Architecture in Film (Part 2)
For our last TSA Playlist of 2020, we’ve brought to together some well-known films in which the built environment plays a central role as both actor and driver of the narrative. The selected features all use architecture to help support their plots filled with mystery and enigma, sometimes as leading role and other times as a critical supporting actor. From a grand Paris railway station which has been embellished with the aid of computer graphics to surreal, physically twisted cityscapes, our list is filled with both realms real and imagined.
So kick back, grab some popcorn and enjoy a movie night or two in these unique spaces! Enjoying these films? Then be sure to also check out the first part of this Playlist devoted to Architecture in Film!
2011 l 2h 9mins
Set in the early 1930s, the film looks at the life of an orphan named Hugo who lives and works in Paris’ Gare Montparnasse, a railway station dating from the mid-19th century.. Hugo embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of an automaton — a relatively self-operating machine, which can sometimes appear as if they are moving under their own power — which he inherited from his father, along with trying to find a place that he can call home. The movie is unique in the way it uses CGI and other techniques to create the train station and the city. Woven in is a story about Director Georges Meliès, a pioneer in the early days of cinema.
Winner of five Academy Awards including Best Achievement in Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. Winner of the Best Director at the Golden Globes
The Draughtsman’s Contract
1982 l 1 hr 48 mins
“What we have here is a tantalizing puzzle, wrapped in eroticism and presented with the utmost elegance. I have never seen a film quite like it…. His movie is like a crossword puzzle for the senses.” Roger Ebert
Taking place in the English countryside in the 17th century, this film’s story revolves around a wealthy lady who contracts an itinerant artist to make a series of detailed drawings of her house.. Aside from monetary compensation, the arrangement includes an intimate liaison while her estranged husband is away. As the film progresses, the viewer realizes that the steady precision of the artist’s drawings are more than the result of a tailored craft, but further act as a clue that helps unravel a mystery.
Movie Trivia — Director Peter Greenaway originally studied to be an artist and sketched the drawings on camera used in the movie. He also instructed his cinematographer to study the style of another film featured in this list, “Last Year at Marienbad”.
Last Year at Marienbad
1961 l 1hr 34mins
A single man approaches a woman. He claims they met the year before at Marienbad, where she had asked him to wait a year before deciding on a future together. The woman, however, insists they have never met. Set in an opulent Baroque palace and park that has been converted into a luxury hotel, Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad is a dream-like investigation into the mechanics of memory. The director’s camera leisurely travels along ornate, empty corridors of this Baroque building, allowing the viewer to share the perspective and experience of the hotel’s guests.
Film Trivia: French fashion designer Coco Chanel designed the costumes for this film. Last Year at Marienbad is on Roger Ebert’s Great Movies List as is the following movie.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
1919 l 1hr 20 mins
“Caligari, the most complete essay in the décor of delirium, is one of the most famous films of all time, and it was considered a radical advance in film technique” –Pauline Kael, The New Yorker
A quintessential piece of German Expressionist Cinema (which falls in line with the period of Expressionist Architecture), this silent film tells the story of a hypnotist who is controlling a somnambulist. The film’s set (mostly made out of paper), features a dark and twisted visual style, with sharp-pointed forms, oblique and curving lines, structures and landscapes that lean and twist in unusual angles, and shadows and streaks of light painted directly onto the different planes.
As German film professor Anton Kaes wrote, “The style of German Expressionism allowed the filmmakers to experiment with filmic technology and special effects and to explore the twisted realm of repressed desires, unconscious fears, and deranged fixations”
About the TSA Playlist
The TSA Playlist is a monthly curated list of free online films touching upon issues of architecture, the built environment and design. Our thematic lists do more than just entertain; they inspire us, enrich us, and challenge our perspectives helping bring the conversation of the built environment to new audiences and encourage conversation and debate.
Have a suggestion of a film or theme you would like to see featured? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Be sure to also check out the past editions of the TSA Playlist!
How to access the Playlist
Our TSA Playlist films are available free of charge for online screening through a number of streaming services in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond including Kanopy, TVO and Hoopla. Our monthly list includes viewing links on platforms available in the region. Some of these streaming services might require you to have a free library or university card to access the service. See list below for where these streaming services are available.
Kanopy is currently available through the following library systems and universities in southern Ontario: Toronto PL, Hamilton PL, Stratford PL, Newmarket PL, Whitby PL, London PL, Guelph PL, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, University of Waterloo, George Brown College, Seneca College, Centennial College and Sheridan College. If you don’t see your library listed, you can verify if your library has made Kanopy available here. Got a university card instead? You can check if your university has made Kanopy available here.
Hoopla is currently available through the following library systems and universities in southern Ontario: Barrie PL, Kingston PL, Mississauga PL, Kitchener PL, Niagara Falls PL, Peterborough PL and Orillia PL.