Film Stills

In the Land of Gods and Monsters: Lynch and Ruscha, Los Angeles


[ED: repost; originally posted December 2, 2012]

What a fine thing it would be, Harvey thought, to build a place like this. To drive its foundations deep into the earth; to lay its floors and hoist its walls; to say: Where there was nothing, I raised a house. That would be a very fine thing.
The Thief of Always, Clive Barker

I.

"Although one or two pictures suggest some recognition of the criteria of art-photography, or even architectural photography, the majority seem to take pleasure in rigorous display of generic lapses: improper relation of lenses to subject distances, insensitivity to time of day and quality of light, excessively functional cropping, with abrupt excisions of peripheral objects, lack of attention to the specific character of the moment bing depicted—all in all a hilarious performance, an almost sinister mimicry of the way “people” make images of the dwellings with which they are involved. Ruscha’s impersonation of such an Everyperson obviously draws attention to the alienated relationships people have with their built environment." [2]

"In 1965 Edward Ruscha published Some Los Angeles Apartments, the third in his ongoing series of photographic books, and completed a group of ten related drawings that depict variations on the ubiquitous Southern California apartment building.

Ruscha’s apartment book chronicles the artist’s fascination with Los Angeles and its unique characteristics. Having moved there from Oklahoma in 1956, Ruscha was immediately excited by his new environment and stimulated by its fast and mobile landscape. The car, in fact, is central to the development of Ruscha’s work. His love of driving around Los Angeles, exploring the city and absorbing its character, coupled with frequent trips along Route 66 to visit Oklahoma, gave him a visual perspective defined by the windshield, driver’s window, and curbside. He found gasoline stations, apartments, vacant lots, and palm trees during drives around Los Angeles and photographed them from where he stood beside his parked car." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "1029 S. Union," from   Some Los Angeles Apartments  , 1965

Edward Ruscha, "1029 S. Union," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"Although it was not Ruscha’s intent, Some Los Angeles Apartments also documents an aberrant chapter in a fifty-year history of distinguished architectural achievement in Southern California. A combination of factors contributed to the growth of a distinct and adventurous architecture during the first half of the twentieth century. The open, horizontal space and temperate climate promoted outdoor living and the proliferation of single-family houses and apartments with patios and gardens. Los Angeles also developed—by plan and circumstance—as a decentralized city with many commercial centers joined by an efficient and complex system of freeways that established the private car as the primary means of transportation. The mobility afforded by the automobile contributed greatly to the overall dispersal of low-density residential buildings, usually only one or two stories high. In addition, by the 1930s, a strong economy coupled with an atmosphere of optimism and experimentation encouraged a talented group of young architects to design an imaginative California Modern style of house and apartment." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "6565 Fountain Ave.," from   Some Los Angeles Apartments  , 1965

Edward Ruscha, "6565 Fountain Ave.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"The earliest suggestion of a modern architecture appears in the work of Irving Gill. His Horatio West Court (1919) displays a modernized version of the then dominant Mission Revival style. During the teens and twenties, this common form of residential architecture—derived from the Spanish missions built in California in the eighteenth century—was typically wood framed, sheathed with white stucco, and oriented around a garden space. The solid massing and plain surfaces of Mission Revival architecture related to current abstract architecture being done by Adolf Loos and Walter Gropius in Austria and Germany. Gill further pared away detail, emphasizing broad white surfaces with deep recesses, arches, and horizontal bands of windows meeting at the corner, offering abundant light, ventilation, and ocean views. Gill’s synthesis of the Mission style, with its stress on simplicity, geometry, light, and shade, was well suited to the California Climate.

The rapid growth of the Los Angeles population and residential and public development through the 1930s led to the proliferation of bungalows, ranch houses, and tract housing, all clad in various period styles—Regency, Colonial, Tudor, Spanish, and Streamline Moderne. However, the most distinguished contribution was made by a few architects, most notably R.M. Schindler and Richard Neutra, who arrived in LA in the 1920s. Both were born and trained in Vienna, had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, and were deeply committed to the International Style. Their aesthetic, which demanded that materials, details, and form symbolically and functionally relate to a rational machine precisionism, was easily adaptable to the requirements of the Southern California environment. Neutra’s Landfair Apartments and Strathmore Apartments (both 1938) are pure International Style. Simple, direct, and rational, they are one- and two-storybuildings with a small number of apartments, suggesting single-family residences. Their clean planes of white stucco, generous bands of horizontal windows, and flat roofs with gardens were compatible with a simplified, modern, outdoor-oriented life-style. Schindler’s structures reveal more complex compositions, emphasizing spatial and volumetric forms that are both functional and aesthetic. On the façade of Schindler’s Mackey Duplex Apartments (1939), the internal vertical and horizontal spaces project to external volumes that are integral to the composition rather than merely decorative. Schindler’s De Stijl forms exerted a strong influence on the development of Los Angeles architecture, offering innovation and adaptability in apartment design." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "2014 S. Beverly Glen Blvd.," from   Some Los Angeles Apartments  , 1965

Edward Ruscha, "2014 S. Beverly Glen Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

Edward Ruscha, "15120 Victory Blvd.," from   Some Los Angeles Apartments  , 1965

Edward Ruscha, "15120 Victory Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"Other variations on International Style apartments using a court or garden plan were provided by Gregory Ain and J.R. Davidson, two architects influenced by Neutra and Schindler. Ain’s Dunsmuir Flats Apartments (1937) is a severely geometricized International Style building staggered back on a deep lot. A long, narrow outside entrance on one side allows garden areas on the opposite side of the building. Each apartment is two stories, with the ground floor opening onto a private patio, and all rooms are illuminated on three sides by narrow strip windows. The front elevation is dominated by a row of enclosed garages, completing a plan that is consistent in layout, structure, and materials with convenience, privacy, outdoors, an the automobile. Davidson’s Gretna Green Apartments (1940) displays the same concern with patio gardens, well-lit living spaces, and convenient car accommodations in a simple, well-organized, and substantial white stucco structure. Like Neutra and Schindler, Davidson’s training in a European Modern aesthetic is comfortably adapted to the new California Modern style. A variation on apartment structures is seen in William Foster’s Shangri-La Apartments and Hotel (1941)—a massive Streamline Moderne structure displaying curved corners, decorative glass bricks, and fanciful lettering on the entrance canopy. The desirable corner location, affording sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, encouraged a high-rise building, with balconies on the upper floors, that offered both private apartments and hotel rooms.

The increasing population density and continuing growth of commercial centers in West Los Angeles and along the Wilshire Boulevard corridor in the 1950s generated more high-rise apartments, but these were on the model of New York residential buildings. Victor Gruen’s Wilshire Terrace Apartments (1959) is a massive rectangular box with pattern and texture dominating all four sides. The interior circulation, double-loaded corridors, necessity for elevators, and lack of access to outdoor areas marks a distinct departure from the California Modern Architecture of the previous two decades, which emphasized the advantages of the Los Angeles environment." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "1018 S. Atlantic Blvd.," from   Some Los Angeles Apartments  , 1965

Edward Ruscha, "1018 S. Atlantic Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"By the time Ruscha photographed contemporary apartments in 1965, the distinctions between architectural styles and life-styles and been blurred and even disregarded. The spread of freeways crisscrossing the Los Angeles basin and the subsequent development of properties at interchanges and off-ramps, along with a population density too high to allow spacious single-family residences and garden apartments, spawned the appearance of the Los Angeles ‘dingbat’ apartment. Dingbat—a word of unknown origin traditionally used to describe a typographical symbol or ornament that calls attention to an opening sentence or break between paragraphs—is an appropriate word to describe architecture that displays superficial ornamentation and signage to call attention to itself in order to distinguish it from a similarly plain apartment building next door. Dingbats, which predominate in Some Los Angeles Apartments, are typically two-story walk-up structures with a side-loaded exterior corridor and exterior circulation. Usually a boxy rectangle of wood construction with stuccoed exterior walls, these 1960s apartments display an eccentric, embellished, cheap, and often ridiculous version of the pure Modern style exemplified by Neutra and Schindler. Designed to be cost-effective, they were built to fill the entire lot from the sidewalk property line to the back, with parking efficiently tucked under the living areas in carports. They retain none of the privacy, cross lighting and ventilation, flowering gardens, or architectural originality that they hope to announce by their decorated facades. However, they were of great interest, not necessarily to the people who lived in them, but to Ruscha, precisely because they expressed the freedom, diversity, newness, and irony of the visual experience of Los Angeles." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "2206 Echo Park Ave.," from   Some Los Angeles Apartments  , 1965

Edward Ruscha, "2206 Echo Park Ave.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

II.

The older the house, the more have likely died inside. This house is old.
— Brooks Sterritt, "A Face is Made of Fourteen Bones"
Man, the ‘interior designer,’ is... an active engineer of atmosphere... Everything has to intercommunicate, everything has to be functional—no more secrets, no more mysteries, everything is organized, therefore everything is clear... modern man, the cybernetician, [is] a mental hypochondriac, as someone obsessed with the perfect circulation of messages.
— Jean Baudrillard, "The System of Objects"

"In 1997, while promoting his new project, Lost Highway, Lynch granted his first interview to a design journal, the Swiss publication form. Question: ‘Do you ever dream of furniture?’ Answer: ‘I day-dream of furniture, yes.’ The stuff of fantasy, furniture is also a long-standing hobby for Lynch and became a minor business venture for him in the 1990s, after the critical and commercial failure of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and during a period when Lynch struggled to get another film off the ground. In the interview, Lynch explains that he had been making furniture ever since art school and sold his first piece at Skank World, a small Beverly Hills shop specializing in mid-century design. In April 1997 several of Lynch’s pieces, including the Club Tables featured in the photograph of the interior of the Beverly Johnson House, were displayed at Milan’s Salone del Mobile, one of the world’s more prestigious furniture exhibitions. Lynch sold the line—including the Steel Block Table, the Floating Beam Tale, and the Espresso Table—exclusively through the Swiss design company Casanostra, with the small constructions of wood an steel priced between fifteen hundred and two thousand dollars. On Casanostra’s website the last piece is sold with the tag, 'Coffee in an asymmetrical world.'" [3]

"Similarly, the October Films press kit for the picture promoted it as the work of a visionary auteur who conceives of film as an inherently intermedial endeavor, combining music and art direction, painting and photography in a symphony of design:

The design within the house also corresponds to Lynch’s overall vision. ‘I always like to have the people stand out, so the furnishings have got to be as minimal as possible so you can see the people.’ Lynch adds, ‘There were many things that had to be built for the story to work,’ and since Lynch has lately expanded his activities to include the design of furniture, he actually built some pieces for this set himself, most notably the case that contains the Madison’s ominous VCR.

Lost Highway’s furniture, it seems, is transparent, opening onto views of Lynch’s eccentric genius. The romantic idea of the auteur, developed most famously in the 1950s in the pages of the French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, was bound to a related notion of the expressive mise-en-scène, of a controlled cinematic décor bearing the traces of a presiding aesthetic personality. Style, for the discerning “Hitchcocko-Hawksiens” at Cahiers, would have a soul, humanizing the industrial products of Hollywood’s dream factory. And it is hard not to think of Lynch’s furniture as a kind of artistic cameo, the equivalent in the realm of objects of the cheeky appearances of his beloved Hitchcock, always popping up in his own films and turning them into ever more reflexive and ironic gizmos in the process. What’s more, the furniture—and the domestic drama of Fred (Bill Pullman) and Renee (Patricia Arquette) that occupies roughly the first half of the film’s disjointed narrative—is staged in an über-modern home that is Lynch’s real property, one of three houses (including Lloyd Wright Jr.’s Beverly Johnson House) owned by the director in the same canyon outside of Hollywood. The feature article on Lost Highway in Rolling Stone, explains how Lynch remodeled the house inside and out for the film, adding the tiny, narrow slot windows to the exterior and building a ‘tunnellike hallway’ on the inside, into which Fred Madison will repeatedly be made to disappear." [3]

"The press kit also insists on the centrality of the home’s design to unlocking the film’s secrets or producing more of them:

The house inhabited by Fred and Renee is similarly integral to the film’s scheme, combining stylistic elements of yesterday, today and tomorrow, just as the narrative does. In fact, the house’s peculiar design could almost serve as a metaphor for the entire film: when seen from the front, there are a few small windows, providing limited opportunities to see inside. But when it is approached from other angles, one realizes that there are many ways to observe the interior.

The Madison’s home, we are assured, is like the broader style of the film’s décor, both ‘blazingly modern and absolutely retro in look and feel.’ Dropping references to expressionism, the surrealism of André Breton, psychoanalysis, and film noir, Lost Highway’s marketing announces David Lynch’s return to form through his modernity, and his modernity through an unlikely equation between the modern, minimalist house and modernist narrative complexity. Less is more." [3]

"Aesthetic modernism is part of the film’s status as stylistic pastiche, but also part of its real narrative aspirations and claims to aesthetic legitimacy and power. Lost Highway poaches the design lessons of high modernist architecture—utopian rationalism and functionalism, chiefly—and ironizes them in the service of modernist narrative in the mode of art cinema, blurring art and pornography, visionary idealism and mass-market materialism. In Lost Highway, transparency and rationalism fail in precisely the location where so many postwar architects imagined the future of the modernist impulse—the happy, newly pleasurable open-plan design of the mid-century domestic interior, whose dream of more permeable boundaries between inside and outside becomes another nightmare. The film’s relentlessly pornographic imagination is part of its own meditation on auteur self-fashioning as furniture. This befits an artist who, on the heels of two commercial flops, has become well acquainted with the vagaries of mass taste and finds himself embroiled in another campaign to sell himself. In the process, the auteur’s romantic soul is hollowed out, hardening into a merely functional thing. The Lynchian signature becomes a design icon, a fetishized commodity, an ironic advertisement for its own hidden mysteries whose views are forever deferred: furniture porn." [3]

"In Lost Highway these ironic objects—furniture, bodies, and the souls of authors—are set loose in a strikingly dehumanized and unsentimental film. Instead, Lynch positions his furniture in a dark, highly reflexive meditation on the enigma of personality itself—on the very idea of human interiority or other, obscene secrets on the insides of things. The Madison’s modern home allows Lynch to pose the question of the interior in several ways: through the troubled status of bourgeois domesticity and privacy, here again contaminated y theatricality; through the etiology of Fred’s psychological distress, which Lynch again gives harrowing architectural form and here drives the narrative fragmentation; and through the enigma of Renee/Alice, whose mysterious sexuality is asked to speak its truth, in the fashion of pornography." [3]

"The Madison’s living room, with its wooden auteurist prosthesis, draws on the romantic soul of wood—its integrity, warmth, and temporal stability—to protect against the violation of domestic intimacy by technology and psychic malaise. The VCR case’s compensory quality is immediately noticeable because of its functionality and superfluity. There is already a capacious horizontal niche for the VCR carved into the half wall of light wood, which makes the additional wooden sleeve around the VCR an unnecessary design flourish. The case’s evident lack of functionality is all the more flagrant within a semitransparent partition designed, in mid-century fashion, for multifunctionality: it is at once media console, storage space, and room divider, separating the living room from the stairway behind it. But the console offers scant consolation, because its design elements are echoes or repetitions of the house’s exterior: the row of snake plants that frame the console are also arranged in a line outside the Madison’s front door, stretching across the front of the house. The plants call our attention to other graphic repetitions: the nested horizontals of the wooden media console and VCR case are echoed in the horizontal vents in the house’s façade as well as the vertical encasement of the home’s narrow windows—fortress-like slits—and the front door’s own rectangular shell. In these ways the inside is always an outside; this modern house wears its heart—the living room—on its sleeve." [3]

TEXT [1] TAKEN FROM THE EXHIBITION TEXT OF "EDWARD RUSCHA: LOS ANGELES APARTMENTS 1965" BY RICHARD MARSHALL, WHITNEY MUSEUM OF ART, 1990; ALL RUSCHA PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN FROM THE SAME; TEXT [2] TAKEN FROM "ART OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY," EDITED BY JASON GAIGER AND PAUL WOOD, 2003; TEXT [3] TAKEN FROM "DAVID LYNCH" BY JUSTUS NIELAND, 2012; ALL OTHER QUOTES CITED IN TEXT; ALL OTHER IMAGES TAKEN FROM "LOST HIGHWAY," DIR. DAVID LYNCH, PRODUCTION DESIGN BY PATRICIA NORRIS, 1997

Drink Freely: Drinking: A Love Story/ Clean & Sober


"The problem with self-transformation is that after a while, you don’t know which version of yourself to believe in, which one is true. […] For years my therapist said to me, “Sit with the feelings. What happens when you just sit still, by yourself? What happens when you just sit with the feelings?” I suppose he was trying to get at those very questions: What kind of person was I, really? What was I afraid of, angry about? Who was I when I didn’t have other people to cue into? I couldn’t answer, of course, because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sit still for ten minutes without a drink, without the anesthesia; I really couldn’t."

"One of the first things you hear in AA—one of the first things that makes core, gut-level sense—is that in some deep and important personal respects you stop growing when you start drinking alcoholically. The drink stunts you, prevents you from walking through the kinds of fearful life experiences that bring you from point A to point B on the maturity scale. When you drink in order to transform yourself, when you drink and become someone you’re not, when you do this over and over and over, your relationship to the world becomes muddied and unclear. You lose your bearings, the ground underneath you begins to feel shaky. After a while you don’t know even the most basic things about yourself—what you’re afraid of, what feels good and bad, what you need in order to feel comforted and calm—because you’ve never given yourself a chance, a clear, sober chance, to find out.

Alcohol offers protection from all that, protection from the pain of self-discovery, a wonderful, cocooning protection that’s enormously insidious because it’s utterly false but it feels so real, so real and necessary."

"The movie Clean and Sober is a somewhat simplistic look at addiction and recovery but there’s one very vivid scene, about midway through, when Michael Keaton comes home from rehab and spends his first night alone in his apartment. He scrubs the place until it gleams, light from halogen lamps glinting off the chrome furniture, and then he sits. Sits on one chair for a few minutes, then gets up and sits on another. He’s restless and edgy and you can tell from the way he keeps getting up and sitting down that he feels completely at sea, clueless about how to comfort himself, or entertain himself, or just sit there comfortably in his own skin."

"I saw the movie in 1989 when it was released, and during that scene I flashed onto the various apartments I’d lived in by myself over the years, and I squirmed. One of these days that’s going to be me, I thought, forced to figure out how to live alone, without the armor."

"The armor, of course, is protection from all the things we might actually feel, if we allowed ourselves to feel at all. Although he doesn’t quite claim that abstinence from alcohol led directly to the depression he documents in his 1990 memoir, Darkness Visible, William Styron vividly describes what happens when a drinker is suddenly left without the armor, left without the self-constructed wall that stands between the self and acute self-awareness: 'Suddenly vanished,' he writes, 'the great ally which for so long had kept my demons at bay was no longer there to prevent those demons from beginning to swarm through the subconscious, and I was emotionally naked, vulnerable as I had never been before.' Without liquor, which had 'turned' on him suddenly, Styron felt numb and enervated and fragile, subject to 'dreadful, pounding seizures of anxiety.'"

"Over the course of my last years of drinking, I lived in another studio apartment, this one in Boston’s North End, New England’s version of Little Italy. On nights when I had no plans, I’d stop on my way home at the Prince Pantry, a convenience store on the corner near my building, and pick up a bottle of white wine. The store had next to no selection—a cheap Italian Soave and a couple of overpriced California Chardonnays—but there was something about buying wine in a convenience store, as opposed to a fully fledged liquor store, that helped me feel like I wasn’t really shopping for booze, just picking up a little something on the way home, the way you’d pick up a quart of milk or a box of cereal for breakfast. The wine would be my primary staple for the evening, but during those last few years I began to understand that a single bottle wouldn’t quite suffice, wouldn’t quite do the trick, so I’d usually pick up two beers while I was there as well. Not a whole six-pack, just two lone bottles of Molson Golden, which always looked perfectly innocent sitting on the counter beside the wine when I went to pay.

As soon as I got home, I’d crack open the first beer and drink it with a deep relief. In ways, I acknowledged that my little stockpile of booze was an ally, just as Styron described it: a defense against my own subconscious, against the demons that threatened to swim up from wherever they hid inside. Sometimes I’d actually think about that scene from Clean and Sober, about the way Michael Keaton just sat there in his apartment, restless and staring. My place was modern and high tech the way his was, with halogen lamps and cool gray carpeting, and I’d understand that the beer, and the one after that and the bottle of wine after that, served a very specific purpose: it kept me from that piercing consciousness of self, kept me from the task of learning to tolerate my own company." 

"Without liquor I’d feel like a trapped animal, which is why I always had it. Without liquor I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I mean that in the most literal sense, as though my thoughts and my limbs were foreign to me and I’d missed some key set of instructions about how to use them. I used to feel that way on Sunday mornings, when I’d wake up alone in the apartment with nothing before me but unstructured time. Here I am, in my apartment. Here I am, puttering through the kitchen. Here I am, washing a dish and setting it on the rack. Here I am, in my apartment. Here I am, puttering through the kitchen. Here I am, washing a dish and setting it on the rack. Here I am . . . conscious of being alone, conscious of my own breath and my own skin and my own thoughts; here I am, waiting waiting waiting and if I keep doing this, if I don’t find some way out of my own head, I’ll die of boredom or go insane or explode at any moment."

ALL IMAGES TAKEN FROM THE FILM "CLEAN & SOBER," DIRECTED BY GLENN GORDON CARON, WRITTEN BY TOD CARROLL, 1988; ALL TEXT TAKEN FROM "DRINKING: A LOVE STORY" BY CAROLINE KNAPP, 1996

Notebook on Cities and Clothes: Yohji Yamamoto, Wim Wenders


[ED: New small post up for SHOWstudio on Yohji Yamamoto's Y's boutique in Tokyo, circa 1981. In tandem, the following images are taken from Wim Wenders 1989 documentary on Yamamoto, "Notebook on Cities and Clothes." The audio is taken from Michael Nyman's 1993 work for Yohji Yamamoto, "The Show Vol. 2"]

I exist here, now. I’m not much interested in the future. Or, more precisely put, I do not believe in the future. To exaggerate a little, I have no faith that I will still exist tomorrow or the day after. What is more, I absolutely detest retrospection. That dislike is balanced only by my desire to make my way back home as quickly as possible.
— Yohji Yamamoto, My Dear Bomb

There Is No Pilot, You Are Not Alone: Sleepless in Seattle, Erica Jong


"There were 117 psychoanalysts on the Pan Am flight to Vienna and I'd been treated by at least six of them. And married a seventh. God knows it was a tribute either to the shrinks' ineptitude or my own glorious unanalyzability that I was now, if anything, more scared of flying than when I began my analytic adventures some thirteen years earlier.

My husband grabbed my hand therapeutically at the moment of takeoff.

'Christ—it's like ice,' he said. He ought to know the symptoms by now since he's held my hand on lots of other flights. My fingers (and toes) turn to ice, my stomach leaps upward into my rib cage, the temperature in the tip of my nose drops to the same level as the temperature in my fingers, my nipples stand up and salute the inside of my bra (or in this case, dress—since I'm not wearing a bra), and for once screaming minute my heart and the engines correspond as we attempt to prove again that the laws of aerodynamics are not the flimsy superstitions which, in my heart of hearts, I know they are. Never mind the diabolical INFORMATION TO PASSENGERS, I happen to be convinced that only my own concentration (and that my mother—who always seems to expect her children to die in a plane crash) keeps this bird aloft. I congratulate myself on every successful takeoff, but not too enthusiastically because it's also part of my personal religion that the minute you grow overconfident and really relax about the flight, the plane crashes instantly. Constant vigilance, that's my motto. A mood of cautious optimism should prevail. But actually my mood is better described as cautious pessimism. OK, I tell myself, we seem to be off the ground and into the clouds but the danger isn't past. This is, in fact, the most perilous patch of air. Right here over Jamaica Bay where the plane banks and turns and the "No Smoking" Sign goes off. This may well be where we go screaming down in thousands of flaming pieces. So I keep concentrating very hard, helping the pilot (a reassuringly Midwestern voice named Donnelly) fly the 250-passenger motherfucker. Thank God for his crew cut and middle-America diction. New Yorker that I am, I would never trust a pilot with a New York accent." [1]

"De railroad bridge’s
A sad song in de air.
De railroad bridge’s
A sad song in de air.
Ever time de trains pass
I wants to go somewhere.

I went down to de station,
Ma heart was in ma mouth.
Went down to de station.
Heart was in ma mouth.
Lookin’ for a box car
To roll me to de South.

Homesick blues, Lawd,
‘S a terrible thing to have.
Homesick blues is
A terrible thing to have.
To keep from cryin’
I opens ma mouth an’ laughs." [2]

TEXT [1] BY ERICA JONG, TAKEN FROM "FEAR OF FLYING;" TEXT [2], "HOMESICK BLUES" BY LANGSTON HUGHES; ALL IMAGES TAKEN FROM NORA EPHRON'S "SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE," 1993, PRODUCTION DESIGN BY JEFFREY TOWNSEND 

An Empty Death: Excess and Minimalism in Eugenio Zanetti's Flatliners


“Schumacher, whose past films have varied from the Ross Hunterish melodrama of “St. Elmo`s Fire“ to the warm comedy of “Cousins,“ here seems determined to recombine the most excessive bits of Orson Welles, Ridley Scott and Andrei Tarkovsky. Working with cinematographer Jan De Bont (Black Rain) and production designer Eugenio Zanetti, the director has composed an almost entirely artificial environment, creating the fictional Taft University and its environs out of bits and pieces of Chicago, including the Museum of Science and Industry, the Damen 'L' stop and the lower Michigan Avenue bridge. There is no manhole cover in this world that does not produce sinister clouds of steam; there is no streetlamp that does not radiate a poisonous orange glow from its grotesquely distended globe.” [1]

“Because I wasn’t born in the USA, I’ll probably have a different idea—different expectations—for the so-called artistic achievement. In general. In America, if you get an Oscar, you could think you are somewhere in your career where you have achieved 'success'. But even then, I honestly hope that the best of the creative aspects of my career are yet to come.

Let me better explain my understanding of what achievement is. First, I’m grateful for the possibilities I had. Having being born in a small town in Argentina, just the fact of having a career in the First World implies two things: one is a sense of destiny that we all should have; the other is a sense of who we are as artists. The 21st Century’s idea of the artist as some sort of tortured creature isolated in his or her creative dreams has passed, fortunately; but remnants of that thinking still impregnate our perception of art. The one aspect that I value most in an artist is the capacity to perceive—express things that are invisible to the eye. Many times those things are not necessarily what people expect.” [2]

“In the friendly battlefield that a film is, one has to choose all the time between the possible and the impossible. Ultimately, one has to sacrifice many things to be able to maintain some images one thinks are crucial to narrate the story. Many times a script has few or no description of the universes where the story takes place, so in reading it, one has to extrude the setting from the character’s dramatic arc. This is a process that is both conscious and unconscious. The conscious aspects include an understanding of the period, location and tone of the piece, as well as the budget and other practical considerations. The other is the way we connect with the material in that secret area we call ‘intuition.’ For an artist, intuition is key.” [2]

“A designer’s work is conceptual. We are storytellers; we should be. Design is poetic, visual storytelling. There is a great need when you are given material as a director or writer or painter or whatever area you work to maximize what is given to you. “Maximize” means using whatever intellectual, monetary, economic, time and space considerations available to express your concept in the best way. What counts is how well you develop your concept first. It should come from your heart, go to your mind, and come out through your experience. If there is no money, there should be ideas, and if there is not time to build, you should use the little time you have to destroy! Do whatever you need, but remember that you need to create images that will stay in people’s lives!” [2]

ALL IMAGES TAKEN FROM FLATLINERS; TEXT [1] TAKEN FROM "FLATLINERS SUCCEEDS WITH EXCESS" BY DAVE KEHR, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, AUGUST 10, 1990; TEXT [2] TAKEN FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH EUGENIO ZANETTI FOUND ON FROMTHEHEARTPRODUCTIONS.COM