Sunday, October 08, 2017

Columbus 2017

At first I thought this little gem of a movie might be about Christopher Columbus or Columbus Ohio where I lived for 3 months in 1983 when I was a visiting artist at OSU, but it turns out to be set in Columbus Indiana and is about this place as much as it is about it’s characters. This was the birthplace of the horrible Mike Pence but we won’t dwell on that fact. It is also a hub of great Modernist architecture so much so that there are tours built around the buildings and the town and a cottage industry is born.

This is not a documentary although we get to see plenty of these great buildings designed by the likes of Deborah Berke, Saarinen, Pei, Meier, Venturi and Stern to mention just a few but a fictional film about a resident of the city and an unexpected visitor.
The film has two parallel stories that converge when a young Korean translator comes to the town to visit and kind of take care of his ailing father who is a visiting Korean architectural scholar and is in town to give a lecture. At the opening of the film we see him in the great Miller house where he collapses from what looks like a stroke and is saved by his colleague played by the great Parker Posey who comes running to his aid. His son Jin played beautifully by the attractive Korean actor John Cho has mixed feelings about his father and no interest in architecture so conflicts are in the forefront from the past and the present and he is prodded by Posey to show more concern about his dad. There is also a deep affection between the two that goes back to his youth.
One day Jin meets the lovely Casey played with rare open faced beauty by a new actress Haley Lu Richardson who should have a marvelous career (she’s playing Louise Brooks as a young girl in the anticipated film “The Chaperone) and who recently popped up in two recent films I saw the charming coming of age film “The Edge Of Seventeen” and the horrible horror film “Split”.
Casey works in a splendid library designed by I.M. Pei and has a sometimes combative but affectionate relationship with her co-worker played by Rory Culkin and she is a complete nut for architecture thus the opposite of Jin. She also has parent trouble having a recovering drug addict for her mother acted beautifully by the wonderful Michelle Forbes who works two jobs both of them in modernistic buildings and is pretty much being taken care of by Casey who longs to go to college but is fearful of leaving her mother.
In fact she has an invitation to attend Harvard under the recommendation and guidance of Deborah Berke who met Casey on a visit and became impressed with her. Not hard to understand. Jin and Casey strike up a friendship and we wonder what is in store for the two, love, sex, or just tours of the many great buildings of Columbus. They wander and talk about what they see and this is the thrust of the movie and it is set off and highlighted by the director Kogonada’s strong visual sense.
This is his first film and he frames scenes in unorthodox ways, sometimes set up like architectural spaces both wide and partial, interior and exteriors that mirror what the two characters are feeling and are sometimes seen reflected in mirrors, inside rooms or from far distances and in cropped compositions. This might be the truly first film that stars architecture in a leading performance with nods to Antonioni and Fritz Lang. Kogonada is no stranger to classic films having worked on documentaries and special features for Criterion and he knows his film history. The film opened in the summer for a one-week engagement at the IFC in the village, but demand has been so great that it is still playing in one of the very small theatres, which is perfect for this film. I loved this movie and will see it again when it comes out on dvd. One of the best films of the year.


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