WBEZ | Jonathan Miller http://www.wbez.org/tags/jonathan-miller Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Documentary explores the future of urban space design http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-03/documentary-explores-future-urban-space-design-93726 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-03/urbanized.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Municipal laws greatly impact how people interact in urban settings; but the physical layout and design of cities also affects that interaction. A new documentary examines the design of cities across the world. <a href="http://urbanizedfilm.com/" target="_blank"><em>Urbanized</em></a> begins its run Friday at the <a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/" target="_blank">Gene Siskel Film Center</a> in Chicago. WBEZ's Jonathan Miller gave<em> Eight Forty-Eight</em> his review.</p></p> Thu, 03 Nov 2011 15:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-03/documentary-explores-future-urban-space-design-93726 'Landscape as Archive' explores impact of physical environment on the screen http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-04/landscape-archive-explores-impact-physical-environment-screen-92805 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-04/cate_landscape.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/cate" target="_blank"><em>Landscape as Archive</em></a> is a program of three short films exploring the way an actual landscape can be a repository for history – or even ideas. It plays at the <a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/" target="_blank">Gene Siskel Film Center</a> on <a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/cate" target="_blank">Thursday, Oct. 6</a> as part of the <em><a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/cate" target="_blank">Conversations at the Edge</a></em> series. Film critic Jonathan Miller offered <em>Eight Forty-Eight </em>his take on the program.<br> <br> We often conceive of landscape as something that presents itself to the eye. Whether a compelling vista, or an artfully composed painting of an outdoor scene, landscapes are something we s<em>ee</em>. But, that definition has significant limitations: it limits us to the surface and to the present. Past events, stories, and legends, also shape a landscape’s identity.&nbsp; And what is underground, be it literally or figuratively, gives a landscape its character. The films screening in the <em>Landscape as Archive</em> program show vividly that landscape is a complex, multi-faceted, historical entity.</p><p><em>Mountain State</em>, made by Bill Brown in 2003, takes us on a ramble across West Virginia,.&nbsp; Brown films the historical markers that summarise the significance of a place, while his off-screen voice guides us. He lets his camera roll, so the viewer’s eye can wander through the scene, soaking in the details.&nbsp;</p><p>In one of the first shots of the film, Brown runs through the woods, dematerialized by camera trickery into a ghostly figure in an orange poncho passing through the trees.&nbsp; Yesterday’s stories haunt the mute places of today.&nbsp; Borders, war, massacres, and archaeological relics coalesce with highways, power lines, and rubbish into a hybrid geography. Brown’s compilation of historical markers shows that the historical dimension of our environment has diminished. An important site may hardly hold our attention as much as an adjacent fast food restaurant.</p><p>The earth at times literally is an archive, a place where accumulated artifacts are stored.&nbsp; Lee Lynch and Lee Anne Schmitt’s film <em>Bowers Cave</em> takes us to a spot in California where one such repository was once located. In Southern California in the 1880’s, a boy discovered a cave containing an impressive trove of Native American artifacts. Stephen Bower, an amateur archaeologist, promptly purchased the lot, which he then sold for profit.&nbsp; Many of the artifacts disappeared into private collections, a portion of them now reside in Harvard’s Peabody Museum.&nbsp;</p><p>The cache of artifacts appears to have been placed in the cave by a group of Indians in revolt against the influence of Spanish Colonial missionaries.&nbsp; While describing this attempt to preserve their heritage and identity, the filmmakers show us what the place has since become.&nbsp; The cave sits next to Chiquita Canyon landfill, where garbage from nearby Los Angeles is processed.&nbsp; Over images of this ongoing burial, the filmmakers run text from Chumash Indian lore. They also show us images of plastic figurines of Native Americans and Spanish Missionaries.&nbsp;&nbsp; The toys speak of how manifest cultural heritage masks a pervasive historical amnesia. They are a negative image of the artifacts the cave once contained.&nbsp; Bowers cave, it turns out, is part of a restless landscape where cultural imperialism has left behind an enormous void.</p><p><em>Dear Bill Gates</em>, a film by Sarah J. Christman, starts with the filmmaker composing an email to Gates. Christman uses her one-sided correspondence with Gates as a starting point for an essay linking the effects of mining on the landscape to the existence of a massive underground storage facility in a former mine.&nbsp; That facility now houses the Corbis archive, the image licensing service owned by Gates containing more than 100 million images.&nbsp; As Christman explains, images don’t endure, and very often our desire to see something exposes it to forces that promote its deterioration. Burying an archive in a temperature controlled vault serves to preserve it, at the same time, the archive is entombed, made inaccessible and a step closer to oblivion.</p><p>Musing on the mortality of images, Christman points to landscape’s instability as a repository for memory.&nbsp; Imbuing a landscape with our personal memories creates a casual and ephemeral relation, whereas burying in a landscape the records of our cultural heritage makes evident assumptions of stability and permanence.</p><p>The digital technology Christman uses to craft her film challenges such assumptions. Although her email to Gates will be archived somewhere, and so remain nominally accessible, it is obviously a momentary and impermanent communication. The agility of her argument says much about the status of contemporary landscape: a cascade of dislocations and shifting interfaces, abrupt jumps from the virtual to the actual, sudden translations from screen to screen.&nbsp;</p><p>The films in the <em>Landscape as Archive</em> program attest to the profound voice our environment has, a voice that speaks volubly about our identity.&nbsp; These artists understand that a landscape is neither simple vista, nor pretty picture.&nbsp; Rather they tell us that a landscape contains the accumulated residue and resonance of our selves.</p><p>Music Button: This Will Destroy You, "The World Is Our __", from the album Young Mountain, (Magic Bullet)</p></p> Tue, 04 Oct 2011 14:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-04/landscape-archive-explores-impact-physical-environment-screen-92805 'Roll Out, Cowboy' roams and raps across the Midwest http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-21/roll-out-cowboy-roams-and-raps-across-midwest-89464 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-21/rolloutcowboy2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chris “Sandman” Sand is a 39-year-old cowboy from North Dakota. But when it comes to music, he doesn’t dig country tunes; he creates rap music. The documentary<em><a href="http://www.rolloutcowboy.com/" target="_blank"> Roll Out, Cowboy</a> </em>follows Sand and his friends on tour across the Midwest. The film kicks off its 10-day run at <a href="http://www.facets.org/pages/cinematheque/cinematheque.php" target="_blank">Facets Cinematheque</a> in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood Friday, July 22. Jonathan Miller brought <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> a review.</p><p>To see the Sandman off the screen in and in the flesh, head to Facets Cinematheque this weekend. He and director Elizabeth Lawrence will be there for post-screening Q &amp; A sessions.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 21 Jul 2011 15:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-21/roll-out-cowboy-roams-and-raps-across-midwest-89464 Review: Zeina Durra's 'The Imperialists Are Still Alive!' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-01/review-zeina-durras-imperialists-are-still-alive-88626 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-01/Imperialists.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1884759/" target="_blank">Zeina Durra</a>’s parents wanted her to leave New York City after 9/11. But the London-born director of Middle Eastern and Bosnian decent decided to stay. Many of Durra’s experiences living in post-9/11 New York City are reflected in her first feature-length film, <a href="http://www.theimperialistsarestillalive.com/" target="_blank"><em>The Imperialists Are Still Alive!</em></a>&nbsp;<br> <br> The film screens Friday-Thursday at <a href="http://www.facets.org/pages/cinematheque/films/july2011/imperialists.php" target="_blank">Facets Cinémathèque</a>. Film critic Jonathan Miller had this review of the film.</p></p> Fri, 01 Jul 2011 14:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-01/review-zeina-durras-imperialists-are-still-alive-88626 Onion City gives experimental film and video the spotlight http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-23/onion-city-gives-experimental-film-and-video-spotlight-88236 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-23/onioncity.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The 23<sup>rd</sup> Annual <a href="http://www.chicagofilmmakers.org/onion_fest/" target="_blank">Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival</a> opens Thursday in Chicago. The four-day fest features an array of experimental works from around the world. For WBEZ, Film Critic Jonathan Miller provided a preview of the opening program.<br> <br> The American twin-brother filmmakers, the <a href="http://www.egs.edu/faculty/stephen-timothy-quay/biography">Brothers Quay</a> are master animators. They have a long career using stop motion puppetry techniques. In their newest film, <em>Mask</em>, they have incorporated digital effects. <em>Mask</em> is an adaptation of a novel by Stanislaw Lem. It’s a retro-futuristic intrigue set in a feudal royal court. The story commences with a character named Duenna who tells of finding herself come to life. She’s been created for a purpose, but one that unfolds for her as both mystery and destiny. The Quay’s hallmark creepy decadent ambience imbues the tale with a compelling emotional tone that artfully meshes with the philosophical threads weaving through Lem’s narrative.<br> <br> Like Duenna, experimental artists are constantly questioning — inquiring into what the media they work with can do. Now in the waning decades of photochemical methods, experimental filmmakers can invent unique hybrids that work the overlaps and interstices of digital and analog. <a href="http://www.filmalchemist.de/">Jurgen Reble’s</a> <em>Zagreb Tram Station</em> is an example. In this film, cinematographic imagery of moving vehicles and commuters stretch and shift in slow motion, as the frames of film morph one into another. The effect is mesmerizing and disorienting; an everyday slice of life unfolds with a combination of restless ephemerality and stately timelessness.</p><p>Reble’s commuters are on-screen kin to the creatures in <em>Toads</em>, a film whose title aptly sums up its subject. Filmmaker Milena Gierke turned the lens of her super8 camera on the amphibians living in the rippling shallow waters of a river. The water’s flow creates optical distortions that endow the toads with extraordinary elasticity as they move about in their sub-aquatic habitat.&nbsp; The toads oscillate between blending in with their environment and standing out from it. Blowing up her original super8 footage to 35mm makes this less of a zoological document than an essay in pattern recognition. Rocks, toads and moving water create a rapidly shifting visual field.&nbsp; But that’s not the whole of it: Gierke’s film brings us the pure crystalline pleasure of looking, exactly as we might have indulged when gazing in fascination at water’s edge at something moving that, surprisingly, turned out to be a humble toad.</p><p>We don’t often attend to the more humble side of our world, as filmmaker Thom Andersen makes evident in his new film.&nbsp; A few years ago, Andersen presented the urban epic <em>Los Angeles Plays Itself</em>. That film detailed the way city has been represented in the cinema.&nbsp; Anderson has now made his own city film about film city, entitled <em>Get out of the Car</em>. Shot on 16-millimeter film, it focuses on the signage, facades and details of the city. Andersen guides us on a tour of the overlooked textures and corners of the Los Angeles. He directs our attention to the peeling, fading signs, the billboards, murals and mashed-up urbanscapes that create the locale’s distinctive identity.&nbsp; He also gives us the sounds of the city, including some of its musical history, with trips to spots where the action was, but is no more. There’s an understated emotional current flowing through the film — not quite nostalgic, not quite haunted, but ripe with riffs of poetry from the dusty romantic margin and gusts of hot Southern California breezes from a lost world.</p><p>In a suite of films that provide such qualities — the pure pleasure of looking, cutting-edge technique, enigmatic narrative and emotional subtlety — the <a href="http://www.chicagofilmmakers.org/onion_fest/">Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival</a> once again clears the eye, refreshes the mind, and sets summer reeling off the beaten path.</p></p> Thu, 23 Jun 2011 14:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-23/onion-city-gives-experimental-film-and-video-spotlight-88236 Malick's 'Tree of Life' plants seed with viewers http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-03/malicks-tree-life-plants-seed-viewers-87384 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-03/Tree of Life.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>At its core, <em>The Tree of Life</em> concerns a family, the O’Briens, who live in a town in Texas. The film’s episodes unfold through the 1950s, while some of its scenes are set in the present in a large city.</p><p>Tragedy befalls the family, precipitating an examination of its history. Malick wrenches our hearts with a melodramatic overture and then rewinds the clock.&nbsp;</p><p>Malick boldly puts the beginning “in the beginning”, to tell the story of <em><u>a</u></em> life in proper detail requires telling the story of <em>all</em> life.&nbsp; Malick’s camera takes us on a cosmic voyage: to witness the formation of stars and planets, the birth of life on earth and the age of the dinosaurs.&nbsp; In these eye-popping sequences, <em>The Tree of Life</em> verges on being a big-budget experimental art film.</p><p>Unmistakably, Malick’s film has an ambitious scope. The drama in <em>The Tree of Life</em> may be low-key — a boy’s life, his relations to his parents and siblings, the impact on the family of loss — but the tale that Malick tells has much larger implications. Correlating the fine texture of family history with the grand sweep of the cosmos means that, as an artist, Malick is indeed reaching for the stars. He wants to remind us what we all already know: that “the universe” will always be the last line of every street address. The strategy elevates melodrama into philosophical epic.&nbsp;</p><p>From intergalactic grandeur to baby’s first steps: Jack is the O’Brien’s first son. Time passes, Jack grows, the family grows — Jack has one brother, then two.&nbsp; Mr. O’Brien, played by Brad Pitt, is stern and authoritarian, yet loving, as a father. Mrs. O’Brien, played by newcomer Jessica Chastain, is supportive, nurturing and deferential to her husband. Their distinct styles of “parenting” clearly align with opposing cosmic principles. Mother stands on the side of grace, acceptance, and adaptability; father embodies striving, restless nature. Jack develops between the pull of these two forces. In a pictorial sequence exploring the terrestrial environment, Malick shows a magnificent deep canyon carved by erosion through the rocks of the American west — a time-image that exhibits the effect of the fluid upon the solid, further expounding the interaction of these principles.</p><p>Jack binds the present to the past. We follow Jack as an adult, played by Sean Penn, as he goes about his business as an architect. He moves through an alienating megalopolis of contemporary glass and steel skyscrapers, wading through the overloaded world of electronic communication in which so little that is meaningful is ever said. Questioning the world he navigates, Jack wrestles with his identity, the legacy of his upbringing, and his faith. Beyond the loss suffered by one family, Malick describes a larger loss, a world gone to the dogs.</p><p>It’s no small matter to build a film around the questions that Malick explores in <em>The Tree of Life</em>. He turns his attention to the unyielding mystery of why we exist and how to live in the absence of certainty. His aim is no less than to craft a cinematic treatise on being and non-being.</p><p>Over the years, in a handful of films, Malick has conducted a consistent inquiry. Anyone who has paid attention to his work won’t be surprised to find his camera angling up at the sun streaming through the crown of a tree or plunging underwater, as a voice-over raises a suite of questions. Malick’s palette of imagery corresponds to a spectrum of being; and the tree is his ideal motif: bound to earth by roots, stretching into the sky to drink in the light of a star.</p><p>The culmination of Malick’s investigation takes place in a curious abstract landscape where the living and the dead, present and past, mingle. In this mysterious realm, Malick reconciles the worldly and the spiritual.&nbsp; As a grown man, Jack hugs his younger self and his young adult parents.</p><p>Even if ultimate answers exceed our grasp, if the why of existence defies comprehension, it is within our power to define a way to live that has meaning: love is the key component. As the voice of grace explains, without it, life whizzes past, a blur.</p><p>Whether a viewer finds Malick’s film exalting and intriguing, or uninvolving and bewildering, it is hard to miss that this is a movie with a message. Urging us to transcend guilt and shame, Terrence Malick uses his tree to plant a seed in our heads, in hopes that it will sprout into the ability to see existence, fleeting and fragile though it is, as truly sublime and awe inspiring, constantly moving and mysterious.</p></p> Fri, 03 Jun 2011 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-03/malicks-tree-life-plants-seed-viewers-87384 Jonathan Miller reviews 'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-14/jonathan-miller-reviews-uncle-boonmee-who-can-recall-his-past-lives-8517 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-14/Uncle Boonmee kickthemachine.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Filmmaker <a href="http://www.kickthemachine.com/staffs/joe.htm" target="_blank">Apichatpong Weerasethakul</a> was born in Thailand but his formative film education came about in the Windy City. He earned his MFA in experimental film at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His latest film <a href="http://www.kickthemachine.com/works/Uncle%20Boonmee.html" target="_blank"><em>Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives</em></a> has won a number of major awards, including the Palme d’Or at the 2010 <a href="http://www.festival-cannes.com/" target="_blank">Cannes Film Festival</a>. The film has a run in Chicago beginning on Friday.<em> Eight Forty-Eight</em> asked Jonathan Miller to take a closer look at the film.<br> <br> <br> Boonmee, a farmer in rural Thailand, faces death. His kidneys are failing.&nbsp; His sister-in-law Jen comes to spend time with him. She is accompanied by Tong, a young man who can help care for Boonmee.</p><p>Boonmee’s proximity to death draws the world of spirits closer.&nbsp; The night Jen arrives, Boonmee’s wife, Huay, appears at the dinner table. She has been dead for 19 years.&nbsp; Then Boonmee’s lost son, Boonsong, emerges from the shadows of the night jungle as a monkey ghost. Boonsong explains that he became fascinated by an image of a monkey ghost that showed up in one of his photographs. He began to stalk them, and eventually found one to be his wife.&nbsp;</p><p>The monkey ghosts stare at the human world from behind the dense jungle foliage, laser bright red eyes surrounded by long dense black fur. Weerasthakul’s finds the source for these striking creatures in popular Thai films he watched when he was young. They are at once familiar kitschy and unearthly profound.</p><p>The up-country landscape is lush, eerie and brimming with spirits, alive and dead.&nbsp; There’s a quasi-animistic quality to the world that Weerasthakul depicts — the wheel of karma can be felt spinning in every action.&nbsp; Killing mosquitos with an electronic zapper leads to profound consequences.&nbsp; Boonmee invites Jen to taste the honey right from one of the hives on his bee farm. The honey, with flavors of tamarind and corn, is bitter and sweet, the distilled essence of life.</p><p>Boonmee confesses a belief that his illness is the result of his karmic debt. He is burdened by deaths that he has caused, from insects to humans. His thoughts on these actions point to a subtle political subtext. Part of the history of the area where Weerasthakul sets the film involves clashes between the government and farmers turned communists.&nbsp;</p><p>Appearances in this film are deceptive — the world of the living and the world of the dead, dreams and the future, all interpenetrate. In the opening moments of the film, a buffalo slips its tether and runs off into the woods; it may be Boonmee’s memory of a past life. A princess, woebegone because of her flawed appearance, stops by a waterfall in the woods, where a talking catfish convinces her of her beauty and seduces her. Boonmee’s long-dead wife tends to his medical needs at his bedside and they embrace.</p><p>Boonmee stands for a world that is passing into extinction, an ongoing process in which the present engulfs its origins. The tale weaves its way toward its peak moment as Boonmee Jen and Tong descend into a cave.&nbsp; The explicitly womblike quality of the location provides a platform for the blurring passage between birth, death, and rebirth. Boonmee senses a previous incarnation as he moves deeper into the cave, a primordial undifferentiated birth, maybe human, perhaps animal, at the least, alive.&nbsp; Perhaps it began among a handful of fish swimming in a pool in the caves far from the light of day. Here, in the depths of the earth, the fission of spirit and matter occurs and completes another turn in the cycle of existence and extinction.</p><p>Even the living may separate from themselves to exist in two places at once. Perhaps because of the deadening qualities of modern life: at complacent moments, lulled by distraction, or lies, blinded by ideology, it may be that we die a bit, at which moment our spirits have to go forward seeking fulfillment.</p><p>Weerasthakul’s gentle and subtle film moves with unhurried fluidity. The pace of everyday rural life meshes with overarching cosmic rhythms. Few filmmakers would ever try to show us how we can, to paraphrase William Blake, “Hold Infinity in the palm of our hand
. And Eternity in an hour.” Weerasthakul demonstrates most deftly that a brightly-lit, colorful restaurant with a karaoke soundtrack can be the purest paradise.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives</em> opens in Chicago on Friday at the <a href="http://www.musicboxtheatre.com/features/uncle-boonmee-who-can-recall-his-past-lives/" target="_blank">Music Box Theatre</a>.</p></p> Thu, 14 Apr 2011 13:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-14/jonathan-miller-reviews-uncle-boonmee-who-can-recall-his-past-lives-8517 'Koolhaas Houselife': A new film about architect's home http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/%5Bfield_program_ref-title-raw%5D/koolhaas-houselife-new-film-about-architects-home <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//koolhaas houselife pic.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/people/faculty/koolhaas/" target="_blank">Rem Koolhaas</a> is the architect behind some of modern design&rsquo;s most acclaimed buildings. Chicago is home to one &ndash; <a href="http://www.arcspace.com/architects/koolhaas/McCormick-Tribune/" target="_blank">The Student Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology</a>. But it&rsquo;s a Koolhaus house in Bordeaux, France, that&rsquo;s the focus of a documentary screening locally, <a href="http://www.koolhaashouselife.com/html/the_film.html" target="_blank"><em>Koolhaas Houselife</em></a>.</p><p><em>Koolhaas Houselife</em> is screening at the <a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/" target="_blank">Gene Siskel Film Center</a> Sunday at 4:00 p.m. and Wednesday at 6:15 p.m.<br /><br /><em>Eight Forty-Eight's </em>film critic Jonathan Miller provided a review:</p><p>A house in Bordeaux, France designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and completed in 1998, is the focus of the documentary.</p><p>In habitations, there is a hierarchy. A staggering number of people have either no home or only the most rudimentary shelter. A large percentage of us live in houses or apartments that possess no distinctive qualities. A few, by dint of privilege or success, have the opportunity to inhabit &quot;dream homes&quot; &mdash; architecture specifically designed to accommodate the personalities, habits and desires of its inhabitants.</p><p>Rem Koolhaas&rsquo;s House in Bordeaux qualifies as one of the dreamiest of dream houses. The home belongs to a couple in Bordeaux who found their construction plans changed decisively when the husband was disabled in a car accident.</p><p>On a hill overlooking the town of Bordeaux, Koolhaas designed a house on three levels around a central elevator platform, roughly 9 feet square. On the platform, the client was able to move up and down between floors, to arrive at the different functional spaces in the house. The lower level blurs the separation between outside and inside through the use of glass and spaces open to the exterior without barrier. The levels seem to float upon one another, suspended without immediately evident structural support.</p><p>Koolhaas&rsquo;s project was quickly acknowledged for its brilliance and ingenuity. It has been accorded landmark status by the French government, a remarkably rapid acknowledgement of the quality of the architecture so soon after its completion.</p><p>The ultimate customized work of dwelling art, the house is the destination of cultural tours. But for this tour, visitors must remove their shoes.</p><p>Enter Guadalupe Acevedo. She is responsible for cleaning the house. The documentary follows her through the different complex tasks entailed in maintaining the idiosyncratic structure, from cleaning tourist footprints to devising ways to manage persistent leaks.</p><p>Guadalupe is a matter-of-fact, salt of the earth, indefatigable Spaniard. She knows the house intimately, its flaws and its beauties. The filmmaker&rsquo;s camera follows her through her routines, complex choreographies of ascents and descents with buckets, mops, vacuum cleaners and so forth. As the cleaning ritual unfolds, a rich and detailed portrayal of the house takes shape, as the filmmakers transform us into voyeurs of subtle traces. The traces outline a story of a cultivated, sensually rich and vital existence, but also of pain, adaptation, and loss. The man for whom the house was designed has died and, as Guadalupe recounts, she hears less laughter than she used to.</p><p>Moreover, following her on her many tasks, the film goes beyond mapping the house&rsquo;s spaces and their functions; it generates a deep appreciation of the quality of experience that Koolhaas&rsquo;s architecture engenders. As tour guide to the house, Guadalupe Acevedo has no equal.</p><p>Nonetheless, it is not Guadalupe&rsquo;s dream house. As she says, she doesn&rsquo;t know quite what she&rsquo;d do if she had the money, but it wouldn&rsquo;t be this. She points out the design elements that don&rsquo;t work for her, and arguably, simply don&rsquo;t work. Furthermore, the house, judging by the constant circulation of contractors and technicians, requires non-stop maintenance and re-engineering. Here, form fathers failure and one might conclude that there&rsquo;s a correlation between the most creative and idiosyncratic forms and their attendant drawbacks. A search for the source of an invisible leak that leads to an interior inundation shows how this equation works.</p><p>That this modest and humorous documentary allows us to understand Koolhaas&rsquo;s House in Bordeaux both in terms of the challenges it presents as well as the sublimities of experience it offers makes it one of the most honest and successful films about architecture ever made. It gives us a chance to amble around one of the world&rsquo;s most remarkable private homes &ndash; without making any messy footprints.</p></p> Fri, 28 Jan 2011 16:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/%5Bfield_program_ref-title-raw%5D/koolhaas-houselife-new-film-about-architects-home Jonathan Miller Reviews 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/jonathan-miller-reviews-bridge-river-kwai <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//Alec-Guinness---Bridge-on-the-River-Kwai.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Leading the Brits is Colonel Nicholson, the role played by Alec Guinness. A career officer, Nicholson radiates an aura of civilization in the British Imperial mold through his single-minded devotion to proper procedure.</p><p>The Japanese camp commander Major Saito, played by Sessue Hayakawa, intends to use the captured soldiers as labor, to construct a railway bridge over the River Kwai. Saito insists that all prisoners will work, including the British officers. Nicholson refuses on the grounds that the order contravenes the Geneva Convention. <br /><br /> (Movie clip)<br /><br /> A clash of wills follows. Saito shuts Nicholson and his officers into brutal confinement. But, Saito runs the greater risk. If he kills Nicholson, he is sure to have a camp full of enraged Brits, imperiling the goal of completing the bridge. In time, Nicholson&rsquo;s stubborn idealism exhausts Saito&rsquo;s tyrannical will, damaging Saito&rsquo;s inherent honor. <br /><br /> (Movie clip)<br /><br /> The men&rsquo;s opposing goals eventually coincide when Nicholson puts his soldiers to work to build the best possible bridge as a way to boost their morale. <br /><br /> (Movie clip)<br /><br /> The British improve the plan for the bridge, and set to work constructing it. <br /><br /> (Movie clip)<br /><br /> Saito becomes an onlooker to his own project. Nicholson&rsquo;s assumption of command over the project does galvanize his men, despite the evident aid they are providing to the enemy. The ideal of duty can be pushed to such an extreme that it turns into treason, as Major Clipton, the British doctor, warns Nicholson. <br /><br /> (Movie clip)<br /><br /> Bill Holden plays Major Shears, an American who successfully escapes from Saito&rsquo;s camp, making his way to safety in a British military enclave. Shears&rsquo; ideals extend only as far as his own skin, the saving of which is his definition of duty. Nonetheless he is coerced by the Brits to return to the jungle from which he just fled to help them blow up Nicholson&rsquo;s bridge. <br /><br /> Shears; round-trip inscribes a telling figure. The pattern of undoing what&rsquo;s been done, or the dynamic back and forth between creation and destruction, weaves through the narrative fabric of Lean&rsquo;s epic. The theme, solidly rooted in its wartime context, suggests an existential questioning of the uncertain value of human effort.<br /><br /> The bridge built, with only hours to spare before the deadline, Nicholson proudly inspects the result. In a reflective moment, he drops his guard momentarily with Saito, and expresses a morsel of self-doubt. <br /><br /> (Movie clip)<br /><br /> This scene may echo director Lean&rsquo;s own thoughts. Nearing fifty, he had worked in the British film industry for nearly 30 years and had directed 11 films. His meticulous control of his pictures may have also been mirrored in Nicholson&rsquo;s orderly supervision of the building of the bridge. Lean&rsquo;s career took a turn with The Bridge over the River Kwai. With his next films, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago, he consolidated a reputation as an international director of sweeping epics with broad appeal. <br /><br /> Never lionized by the critical establishment, Lean is usually not included in the pantheon of auteurs. His craftsmanship and professionalism have always earned him the favor and respect of filmmakers. Lean&rsquo;s control of composition, pacing and performance, coupled with sensitivity to setting and atmosphere, make his later films case studies in the kind of crowd-pleasing epic that Hollywood required in the 1960s and beyond in light of competition from other media and shrinking audiences.<br /><br /> For a war film, The Bridge on The River Kwai contains very little violent action. The film&rsquo;s core focuses on the test of wills between Saito and Nicholson as it builds to its paradoxical climax. Its last moments stand among the most memorable in the popular cinema because of the way action at a grand scale conveys philosophical premise. For an instant, creation and destruction resolve together. The question this raises &mdash; what is the purpose of human endeavor? &mdash; receives an answer in the film, from Major Clipton. <br /><br /> CLIPTON: Madness, madness!<br /><br /> But, that answer only leaves us with more to ponder as the vultures circle over the River Kwai.</p><p><br /><strong>&quot;The Bridge on the River Kwai&quot; screens Thursday at the </strong><a target="_blank" href="http://www.musicboxtheatre.com/features/the-bridge-on-the-river-kwai"><strong>Music Box Theatre</strong></a><strong> in Chicago.</strong><a target="_blank" href="http://www.musicboxtheatre.com/showtimes/"><br /></a></p></p> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 14:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/jonathan-miller-reviews-bridge-river-kwai