Archive for the ‘Film Reviews / Previews’ Category

Christopher Frayling + Ken Adam

June 2, 2009

Kultureflash #235, 5th March 2008

We know Ken Adam as a prolific movie set designer, most memorably for the Bond films (Moonraker — worst movie, best sets). Yet you could argue that Adam was as much an “unbuilt architect” as he was a set designer; there were great architects of the 20th century whose projects remained mainly on paper, but not so many whose projects lived entirely on screen. Like early modernist architects Erich Mendelsohn, or Hans Poelzig, he was a German Jew (born Klaus Adam) who emigrated in the early 1930s to escape fascism. The two worlds overlapped; these pioneers were no knew their set design (Poelzig for one was responsible for the expressionist sets of The Golem) and Adam actually trained as an architect at the Bartlett. A certain Norman Foster has cited him as an influence more than once (which makes a lot of sense: compare and contrast). Christopher Frayling, author of Ken Adam: The Art Of Production Design, is no stranger to interviewing our man; most recently in conjunction with a screening of Kubrick‘s classic Dr Strangelove, where the set of the war room is a virtual part of the cast. Frayling and Adam make an obvious, but excellent, choice as part of the RCA’s Double Take lecture series.

NB: Also of note is the Lacaton & Vassal lecture at the Bartlett on 12/03 (6:30pm).

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Ken Adam & Christopher Frayling: Dr Strangelove

June 2, 2009

Kultureflash #135, 19 Sept 2005

It’s never a bad time to catch a big-screen showing of Kubrick classic Dr Strangelove, but this one’s particularly special. Why? Because the film’s followed by a live interview with set design legend Ken Adam. We don’t use the term lightly; Norman Foster quotes him as an inspiration for some of the firm’s grander projects, most notably Canary Wharf tube station — it’s not hard to see the connection. His Bond movie sets are instantly recognisable (we all know that’s what the inside of Fort Knox should really look like). The film itself? Many regard it as Kubrick‘s best, and it certainly has the final word as the satire on Cold War politics, with Peter Sellers in a triple-role tour de force. The Adam sets are hard to forget, most famously the war room (it’s traditional at this point to quote the probably-urban-myth that Reagan expected to see the same room when he was first elected — he was disappointed). Christopher Frayling is on interview duties, by way of a tie-in to his new biography of Adam.

Giveaway: we have three copies of Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design (Faber & Faber) to give away. They’ll go to three randomly picked Flashers who can tell us for which two films did Ken Adam receive an Oscar.

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Finisterre & The London Nobody Knows

June 2, 2009

Kultureflash #68, 3 Dec 2004

Responding to popular demand, the Barbican is offering a second, third and fourth chance to see this intriguing film double bill. Finisterre, a film to accompany Saint Etienne’s last album (Mantra) of the same name, was inspired by the ’67 documentary The London Nobody Knows, which features a bemused and (sometimes unintentionally) amusing James Mason touring the now lost world of late sixties London. The film, in turn inspired by Geoffrey Fletcher‘s book, scours the lesser known and down-at-heel parts of the capital — a grimy Shoreditch, unrecognisable as the gentrified art-bar terrain it’s now become; and Camden Town as a Victorian slum (no change there, come to think of it). Meanwhile Saint Etienne, a band so synonymous with London that they should have their own tube stop, have collaborated with director Kieron Evans and filmmaker Paul Kelly to create a kind of music video meets “a day in the life” documentary of London. Surprisingly, this sits well with the earlier film and is a sort of modern day sequel, with the group’s distinctive sound adding a fitting backdrop.

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My Architect – Louis Kahn

June 2, 2009

Kultureflash #99, 5 August 2004

Were this film just a deeply personal documentary by, and about, a secret illegitimate son who goes in search of the traces of his long-dead father, it would be very watchable. Now add the not insignificant fact that this father was Louis I. Kahn, one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, and it becomes a fascinating tale of a man who reached perfection in architecture, but was something less than perfect in his personal life. Kahn’s beautifully filmed works, from the Salk Institute (California) to his Parliament Building (Bangladesh), form the background to a film that’s very much more than the sum of its parts.

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