"Rem Koolhaas" constructs a portrait of the architect
The busy, captivating "Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect" takes a documentary approach to the creations of the Dutch architect who designed the downtown Seattle Public Library. The film, which is the centerpiece of Northwest Film Forum's By Design series, runs through March 12.
Special to The Seattle Times
"Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect," a documentary directed by Markus Heidingsfelder and Min Tesch. 97 minutes. Not rated; includes profanity. In English and German, with English subtitles. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.
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The centerpiece of the latest edition of Northwest Film Forum's annual By Design series, "Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect," begins a weeklong run tonight.
While other entries in the series focus on filmmaking collectives, Dada-influenced shorts and experimental music videos, the busy, captivating "Rem Koolhaas" takes a documentary approach to the creations of the Dutch architect who designed the downtown Seattle Public Library.
The movie is partly a biography of Koolhaas, who grew up in the postwar ruins of Rotterdam, then moved to Indonesia in the early 1950s. Like his father, he became a prominent author in the Netherlands, but then his career took a detour to film criticism and directing.
He helped launch an attack on French theories about auteurism and befriended such budding filmmakers as Jan de Bont and Robby Muller. He also co-directed "The White Slave," which in 1969 was the most expensive film ever shot in the Netherlands. Remembered as "a movie about the end of Europe," it was also so arty that it lasted only a couple of weeks in theaters.
Architecture came later. Through a series of interviews with colleagues, friends, an art critic and Koolhaas himself, the movie explores the development of his style and its influence on other architects. It also taps into his disappointment with several aborted American projects and his enthusiasm for a Beijing building.
To keep the talking heads from taking over, the filmmakers juice up the visuals with sharp split-screen work and a barrage of eye-popping collages. These sometimes zoom by at a dizzying pace.
But they do help to clarify the abstract nature of much of the testimony. Covering such concepts as "the covered city," or the paradoxical outcome of putting up a wall, or the anti-nostalgic nature of Koolhaas' work, the talkers can use the nonverbal aids.
Some of the early work on display seems to anticipate the Seattle landmark, which is celebrating its fifth year and is shown to be quite similar to another Koolhaas building in Porto, Portugal. It's one of the rare instances in which he seems to be competing with himself.
At one point, Koolhaas compares architecture to script writing. Both, he says, require a plot, a series of episodes and a montage that pulls them together and makes them interesting. While it may not be precisely clear what he means, it's food for thought.
John Hartl: email@example.com
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