High Museum of Art: Films

Architects on Screen: Eleanor’s Picks by hmablogmaster
December 8, 2009, 10:34 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Eleanor Ringel Cater picks:

The Belly of an Architect

The Belly of an Architect

The Belly of an Architect

This is Peter Greenaway’s (The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover) disquieting examination of tummies, tumors and artistic turmoil. An American architect, played by Brian Dennehy is invited to Rome to organize an exhibit in honor of an obscure French architect. Once there, this self-deluded, arrogant man is taught a lesson or two straight from the Book of Job. Some may find the movie both hard to stomach and hard to fathom — it’s a haughtily oblique art film, preying on our fears of mortality and decay while at the same time giving us a connoisseur’s architectural tour of Rome. Luckily Dennehy is on hand. His risky, opulent performance gives a crucial emotional core to Greenaway’s cold vision of death among the ruins. Watching him go belly up is what anchors this demanding, uncompromising film.

The Towering Inferno

This time the architect is a very sexy Paul Newman, but guess what he’s designed? That’s right: a towering inferno, aka, a very big but very badly-built office center.  Before you can rattle off the name stars, ranging from Steve McQueen to Faye Dunaway to Fred Astaire to William Holden to Jennifer Jones to O.J. Simpson, the damn thing’s on fire. This was sort of a gold standard for disaster films in the ‘70s. The Poseidon Adventure may have opened first, but how can Shelly Winters compare to Fred Astaire?

Interestingly, McQueen was originally offered the role of the architect but after reading the script, he decided the fire chief had more heroic possibilities. He also counted each character’s number of lines of dialogue and, upon finding that Newman had a few more, demanded the amount be made equal. It was.

Dead of Night

Martin Scorsese recently named this one of the 11 (yes…eleven) scariest movies of all time. Made in England in 1945, it’s an anthology horror movie, with five spooky stories all revolving around an architect’s recurring dream. Unfortunately for him (and the rest of the cast) it re-occurs while he’s visiting an isolated country house. As they say, déjà vu all over again. Some segments are better than others, the most celebrated one starring Sir Michael Rennie as a ventriloquist who starts having trouble with his dummy. Real trouble. Chucky trouble…

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