Home Movies at Tribeca

East, East Coast
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
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Susan Morris sends along her recommendations for the Tribeca Film fest, which ends Sunday, including her favorite, My Queen Karo, above.

For those interested in films that include architecture, a number of entries in the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival may be of perplexing interest. Striking, in particular, is the number of films where homes are the sights of hothouse mayhem. Here’s my guide to who did what to whom and, above all, where.

It’s moving day in the wry Academy Award-winning short The New Tenants (directed by Joachim Back) for a bickering yet loving gay couple who move into a drab apartment in an outer borough. Unbeknownst to them, a murder has taken place there, and, one-by-one, the oddball characters who reveal the apartment’s grizzly history are the un-welcome wagon that disrupts their lives.

Dream Home (directed by Pang Ho-cheung) with the tag line is “What would you do, if someone blocked your view?” takes the greedy building bubble of high-rise apartment blocks in Hong Kong to an extreme. Purportedly based on a true story, a woman whose life has been shaped by the teardowns that destroyed her childhood neighborhood and replaced it with massive high-rises (and where gangs assist the government in ejecting tenants). Her compulsive aspiration is to acquire an apartment in the building that replaced her childhood home with a view of Victoria Harbour. This desire leads to a calculated murderous rampage. The director said she’s “killing astronomical property prices….[in a] bloody protest against the property developers who continuously inflate Hong Kong’s housing market,” only to be thwarted by the subprime mortgage crisis once she acquires her flat. Even the opening title sequence is laced with blueprints in three languages.

Open House (directed by Andrew Paquin) begins with a realtor touting the spatial flow of a cold, sterile house to prospective buyers. The house soon becomes a prison for the owner after a psychopathic house hunter hides in the basement during the open house event, and entraps her in the crawl space while he plays house with his girlfriend. The director wanted to explore impulses “even darker than the physical horror of home invasion.”

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (directed by J Blakeson) is a DIY guide for converting an abandoned apartment into a soundproof, secure kidnapping lair. Inspiration came from David Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER where lovers borrow a friend’s apartment for a tryst that in turn inspired Billy Wilder’s more cynical THE APARTMENT where a striver lends out his place for multiple flings and films in general, said the director, that are “based around one location – Repulsion, Shallow Grave, The Shining and so on. That sense of growing unease you get from The Shining really inspired me.”

My pick is My Queen Karo (directed by Dorothée van den Berghe) that sensitively mines the director’s own experiences growing up in a utopian squat in 1970s Amsterdam. Parents Raven and Dalia with their 10-year old daughter Karo leave Belgium for Holland to start a commune based on shared money, shared ideals, shared sex, and a commitment to a redistribution of realty by ending property ownership. Inside the loft they commandeer, even the space is shared; it is only demarcated, at Karo’s request, by a taped-off outline on the floor delineating her “room.” The squat veers from being a shelter to theater set to fortress.

In addition, there’s Please Give (directed by Nicole Holofcener) with its almost mainstream cast including Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt. Kate (Keener) and Alex (Platt) have purchased the next-door apartment in their Lower Fifth Avenue building, which is still inhabited by the crotchety, elderly Andra. While they await the moment they can enlarge their home, the couple work in their 10th Avenue store specializing in mid-century modern furniture purchased from “the children of dead people” who sell off their deceased parents’ possessions.

In Every Day (directed by Richard Levine), a television writer who works at the Steiner Studios in the Brookyn Navy Yard, enjoys her lucrative recompense in a penthouse apartment atop the Hotel on Rivington.

Short films of interest include Walkway (by Ken Jacobs), an expressionistic rendering of a wooden walkway that throws out the notion of terra firma; Collision of Parts (by Mark Street) a kaleidoscope of New York City and other urban streetscapes with facades set in motion while walking, running and driving; and Berlin (by Martin Laporte), comprised of B&W and color stills of the city depicting symbols of workers on building facades, transportation structures (train and metro stations), graffiti covered doorways, statuary, and spontaneous public art.

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