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Of Dreams and Cities - Architecture and Film at the BFI


To mark the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the BFI will in November 2009 present Of Dreams and Cities - Architecture and Film at BFI Southbank and in the BFI Mediatheques at BFI Southbank, QUAD in Derby and the new Cambridge Central Library.

Essentially, this is cinema where the architecture is as key as the stars, including gems like The Fountainhead (1948), Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), Manhattan (1921), Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967) and the classic Citizen Kane (1941), along with lesser-known works and TV documentaries from the BFI National Archive.

Want the full season? See over the page.


From Chartres to Xanadu (via Citizen Kane)
Throughout his illustrious career, Orson Welles made highly imaginative use of buildings and sets as a means of enriching not only the moods but the meanings of his films. As part of our ‘Of Dreams and Cities…’ season, and tying in with our re-release of Citizen Kane, Geoff Andrew, Head of Film Programme at BFI Southbank, will give an illustrated talk that explores Welles’ use of architecture as a fertile source of cinematic metaphor in all his work, but with special reference to Citizen Kane.
Mon 2 Nov 18:30 NFT3 Tickets £5

A Convenient Truth followed by RIBA Panel Discussion
USA 2006. Giovanni Baz del Bello. 52min. EST
For 40 years the city of Curitiba has transformed problems into solutions. This inspirational documentary shares ideas for cost effective environmental changes in cities worldwide based on the
Curitiba model that has transformed the city into one of the world’s most liveable urban spaces. Following the screening we welcome Jaime Lerner, urban planner and three-times mayor of Curitiba and (hopefully) the film’s makers into a discussion hosted by Peter Jenkinson OBE of CrunchLab.
Wed 4 Nov 18:30 NFT1

RIBA Building Futures ‘This House Believes We Have Lost Sight of the Future.’
Directors have the art of visualising the future nailed. Film can instantly make the utopian tangible, but why has the popular future become such an unobtainable place? Architects once aligned themselves with the future, fusing their visions to political ideals and ambitions for a bolder tomorrow, but where is our contemporary vision coming from? RIBA Building Futures with WIRED magazine host a multidisciplinary evening fusing film, architecture and debate to reveal our ambitions for tomorrow.
Tue 17 Nov 18:30 NFT1 Tickets £5


Los Angeles Plays Itself
USA 2003. Dir Thom Andersen. 169min.Video
A riveting and hugely enjoyable documentary created from scores of clips from fictional films shot and set in Los Angeles, from which Anderson hopes to find and resurrect the real city. Anderson’s own rueful voiceover guides us through this cinematic archaeology in two parts: The City as Background and the City as Subject. Sections on the lost Bunker Hill neighbourhood resonate with contemporary regeneration schemes.
Fri 6 Nov 19:50 Studio, Sat 7 Nov 15:00 Studio, Sun 8 Nov 14:50 Studio

A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil
USA 2006. Giovanni Vaz del Bello. 52min.EST
For 40 years the city of Curitiba has demonstrated how to transform problems into solutions. This inspirational documentary shares ideas for cost-effective environmental changes in cities worldwide based on Curitiba’s model, and the transformation of the city into one of the world’s most liveable urban spaces.
Twelve Views of Kensal House
UK 1984 Peter Wyeth. 55min
Biography of West London’s 1936 model estate, echoing the work of Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus in Europe.
Sun 8 Nov 20:30 NFT2

My Winnipeg
Canada 2008. Dir Guy Maddin. With Ann C Savage, Louis Negin, Amy Stewart, Darcy Fehr, Brendan Cade. 80min.12A
Memories and reflections mingle with regret in Maddin’s “docu-fantasia” about his Canadian prairie hometown. What spell does a hometown cast over the grown-up child? Maddin mixes animation,
archive footage and recreated scenes of childhood trauma in his usual neo-Soviet style in an attempt to break free.
The Fugitive Futurist: A Q-Riosity by “Q”
1924. Dir Gaston Quiribet. 10min
Futuristic London by way of a ‘magic’ camera that can see beyond the limits of ordinary life.
Fri 30 Oct 18:40 NFT3, Sat 31 Oct 16:30 NFT2

Italy 1962. Dir Michelangelo Antonioni. With Alain Delon, Monica Vitti, Francisco Rabal, Lilla Brignone. 123min. EST. PG
Using magnificent shots of Rome and its 1950s suburbs initially developed for the Esposizione Universale di Roma (EUR) as a backdrop for a couple’s doomed affair, L’eclisse completes Michelangelo Antonioni’s film trilogy (started with L’avventura and La Notte) reaching the apotheosis of his modernist style, returning to his favourite themes: individual and societal alienation and the difficulty of finding connections in an increasingly mechanized world.
Thu 12 Nov 18:00 NFT2, Sun 15 Nov 20:30 NFT3

Sketches of Frank Gehry
USA 2005. Dir Sidney Pollack. 84min. 12A
This examination of the life and career of architect Frank Gehry engenders an emotional narrative in conversations between Gehry and Pollack, and provides an insight into the world of the architect through the rediscovery of early experiences, the potential of new technologies, experimenting on his own home, and bringing an artist and sculptor’s sensibility to architecture.
USA 1921. Dir Paul Strand. 7min
The poetry of everyday life in New York City of 1921.
Sat 14 Nov 18:10 NFT2, Tue 17 Nov 14:00 NFT2*, Sat 21 Nov 20:45 NFT. *Seniors’ Matinee

The Belly of an Architect
UK 1987. Dir Peter Greenaway. With Brian Dennehy, Chloe Webb, Lamber Wilson, Sergio Fantoni. 118min. 15
American architect Stourley Kracklite arrives in Italy to supervise an exhibition for a French architect, Boullée. Over nine months he becomes obsessed with his belly, suffers stomach pains, and loses his wife, exhibition, his unborn child and his own life. Through metaphors of pregnancy and architecture, Greenaway constructs a poetic visual narrative of Rome that contrasts with the physical and mental
decay of the creative individual.
Sun 15 Nov 18:10 NFT3, Wed 18 Nov 20:40 NFT2*. *Introduced by Ruth Reed, President, RIBA

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
USA 1927. Dir FW Murnau. With George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing. 94min. U
The seductive city, represented by a murderous vamp, nearly destroys the idyll of two rural innocents. Murnau’s first Hollywood film pairs breathtaking studio artifice with the naturalism of an unbearably touching and luminous Janet Gaynor. Working with the best on the Fox lot (Edward Ulmer, Charles
Rosher, Karl Struss) Murnau offered up a gorgeous, groundbreaking masterpiece of visual, thematic and moral contrasts.
Wed 11 Nov 18:30 NFT, Sun 15 Nov 15:50 NFT2

The Fountainhead
USA 1949. Dir King Vidor. With Gary Cooper, Raymond Massey, Patricia Neal, Kent Smith. 112min. U
Based on Ayn Rand’s 1943 novel expounding her “individualism” philosophy, The Fountainhead uses
architecture as a stage for the struggle between modernity and tradition, with the ambition of humankind winning over doubt and convention. Howard Roark is an idealistic architect who
struggles in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. The film follows his battle to practise modern architecture despite an establishment focused on the worship of tradition.
 Tue 17 Nov 20:30 NFT3, Sat 21 Nov 15:40 NFT2

Model Shop
France-USA 1968. Dir Jacques Demy. With Anouk Aimee, Gary Lockwood, Alexandra Hay, Carol Cole, Tome Fielding. 95min.
Filming in English for Columbia, Demy brings a sadder but no wiser Lola to a Los Angeles not usually depicted on screen: drab, enervating, industrial. A ravishing though tired Anouk Aimee works in a tawdry pay-to-photo “model shop” where she meets ’Nam-bound burn out architect Gary Lockwood.
Distances and barriers abound: an alienatingly spread-out Los Angeles, emotional and geographical distance, the model shop cameras. Cult band Spirit play themselves.
Sun 22 Nov 15:50 NFT3, Tue 24 Nov 20:40 NFT2

Of Time and the City
UK 2008. Dir Terence Davies. 72min. Digital. 12A.
The golden moments pass, and leave no trace. Chekhov, Mahler and Peggy Lee underpin a melancholy eulogy for the people and places of a vanished Liverpool by way of a journey into Davies’ past. Davies’ rich narration links archival images with his homosexual self-actualisation, the terrors of Catholicism, his loathing of the Fab Four, the Betty Windsor show, and the heartlessness of post-war planning policy.

France 1967.Dir Jacques Tati. with Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Rita Maiden, France Rumilly. 124min. U
The familiar sites of Paris have been replaced by a grey Miesian steel and glass nightmare (not that it bothers Tati’s American tourists). Hulot bumbles through the unfamiliar city, meeting the tourists, and getting caught in a melee at a club. Tati built a giant cityscape set (Tativille) to illustrate the soullessness of modern architecture and modern French life. Playtime bankrupted Tati and effectively ended his career.
Fri 27 Nov 20:30 NFT3, Sun 29 Nov 15:00 NFT1
Proud City: A Plan for London
UK 1946. Dir Ralph Keene. 26min. Video
The original LCC project for the replanning and building of London explained by two architects responsible for the plan, Sir Patrick Abercrombie and JH Forshaw.
Thu 19 Nov 14:30 NFT2, Fri 20 Nov 20:50 Studio, Sat 21 Nov 18:40 Studio, Sun 22 Nov 16:20, 18:40 Studio, Tue 24 Nov 20:50 Studio, Wed 25 Nov 20:50 Studio, Thu 26 Nov 20:50 Studio

Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House
USA 1948. Dir HC Potter. Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Reginald Denny, Sharyn Moffat. 93min. U
Advertising executive Cary Grant dreams of escaping the cramped city with Myrna Loy and the kids. Led up the garden path by architects, engineers and builders, the titular dream house in the suburbs turns out to be an insanely troublesome money pit. Recently remade with Ice Cube, which proves that the American suburban dream continues to flim flam and trip up the unwary.
Architectural Millinery
1954. Dir Sidney Petersen. 10min
Wed 25 Nov 18:00 NFT1, Sat 28 Nov 15:20 NFT1

BFI website


Sandra Shevey

Sandra Shevey has been running a walking tour around London since 1999 that evaluates director Alfred Hitchcock`s `designer` use of film location. The walk is 3 hours and runs every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 11am year-round incl Xmas and the New Year.

Sandra is mounting an exhibition in March 2010 acknowledging the director`s use of London as `location art`. The exhibition will display some original storyboards, set stills etc. Sandra will discuss `Alfred Hitchcock and Food` and `Alfred Hitchcock and Location Art`.

The walk segues into its 12th year.

Contact: [email protected]

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