Review – World Film Locations (books and [ipad] app)

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I finally had time to check out the World Film Locations publishing project I’ve been meaning to explore for a while, actually I started by downloading the ‘World Film Locations’ app for the ipad, which is free, and which allowed me free access to view the ‘World Film Locations: Madrid’ – the other titles are available for purchase. (disclosure: published by Intellect, who is the publisher for the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies: more on that soon).

It was a bit different than I anticipated – which I think is a good thing – that is, I thought these would be standard academic articles, but it is much more of a visual catalog of film scenes featuring specific parts of the city (there are WFLocations volumes for a number of other cities: Berlin, Vienna, Las Vegas, Reykjavik, Melbourne, Istanbul, New York, London, of course Paris…).

There are brief readable descriptions/introductions with specific titles that sound like traditional academic articles on film (‘Iván Zulueta: Films of Madrid’s Underground’ by Steven Marsh, ‘Embracing Normalcy: Madrid Gay Cinema at the Turn of the New Millennium’ by Helio San Miguel, ‘Beyond the Cliché: Madrid in Twenty-first Century American Thrillers’ by John D. Sanderson, ‘Bright Young Things: Neo-existentialism in Madrid Cinema of the 1990s’ by Rafael Gómez Alonso), which cite interviews with film directors (Carlos Saura) and get further into film traditions, actors, directors, culture (La Movida) – but, importantly, with English translations (by Marsh for one, who is a name Hispanists will recognize; the editor of the volume is Lorenzo J. Torres Hortelano (of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid), who has in addition assembled a team of former-student photographers to help complement the volume visually).

They concise vignettes are framed with a general map/plano of the city itself as an organizing principle showing where in the city each scene takes place, and still shots of the films under discussion. I have to say I was impressed with the range of films chosen and the depth of the discussion given the spatial limitations (the volume, in this case an e-book is a visually stunning 128 pages).

While reading through this one, it occurred to me that the book would serve as quite an advantageous model for teaching in particular, I might have (film-/Spanish-) students compose their own similar volume. Here is some praise from the series site:

Praise for World Film Locations: New York: ‘An elegant tribute to the films and locations that have given New York its private real estate in our minds. The contributors are so immediately readable and movie-savvy.’ – Roger Ebert

Praise for World Film Locations: Paris: ‘A superbly edited collection explores the most important movie city in the world’ – David Sterritt

Praise for World Film Locations: London: ‘A superb book, indispensable for any cinephile interested in London’s psychogeography. I could pore over it for hours.’ – Peter Bradshaw

Urbanized – view entire documentary online here

I’m currently about 30 minutes (out of approx. 86 minutes) through Urbanized which I am watching here, I see it is the third documentary in a series by Gary Hustwit who also did Helvetica (a documentary on what is aptly called there something along the lines of the ‘font of gentrification’ – watch it when you get a chance).

The images and composition are incredible, and I can imagine using this as a first assignment in an Introduction to Urban Studies course or equivalent…

Many basics and themes that could be expanded upon in subsequent discussions – Haussmann, Garden Cities, public transportation and democracy Robert Moses vs. Jane Jacobs – specific locations featured so far include Santiago Chile, Mumbai, Bogota, Brasilia, Copenhagen, un-cumbersome interviews with a variety of architects, nyc city planner, etc. so far seeming to be very inclusive geographically.

Encountering Urbanization

An estimated 65 Million apartments sit empty in Chinese cities while millions of China’s urban residents live in overcrowded, rented apartments.  The scale of  China’s housing overstock is like nothing ever seen before.

Many stories and reports have emerged in the past few weeks about China’s scary housing bubble after Moody’s downgraded China’s property sector from ‘stable’ to ‘negative.’  Although it is difficult to understand the scale of how empty parts of urban China really are without traveling there, I found this Australian documentary by Dateline to be particularly illuminating.  It provides an accurate idea of the scale of this massive development overstock by walking through a few ghost cities, malls and highrises. Boing Boing describes it below:

It’s symptomatic of the growing divide between China’s rich and poor, which has left many Chinese without adequate housing. Unlike the US bubble, the Chinese property bubble isn’t founded on cheap credit…

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Includes link to entire book content free of charge.

Readings of the City

This book is an accessible introduction to the subject of psychogeography, which put simply, is a mix of the two disciplines of geography and psychology. Instead of looking at the physical environment in an empirical, cartographic sense, psychogeography attempts to understand space through the more subjective manner in which affects the individual.

Coverley’s prose and structure  is clear; the book is chronologically laid out. The main medium through which the ‘discipline’ is expressed is through through literary works. Starting with the earliest examples Coverley discusses 17th & 18th century interpretations of London through Defoe, Blake and de Quincy and argues these figures paved the way for the critical ‘urban wondered’ which later, through Walter Benjman developed into the flâneur. The chapter in the Situationist International is a particularly useful in providing an overview, but read as a whole the SI can be seen in a broad, historical context. Coverley demonstrates…

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“Cities, like dreams, are made of hopes and fears”
—Italo Calvino, The invisible Cities.

When talking about representation we can’t avoid thinking also on literature, as both are ways of expression and communication, some times related as it is possible to see in the history of architecture. From architects working on the publishing industry, creating little-magazines or writing blogs to other architects that write poetry as means of representation, such as Raimund Abraham or Hans Hollein, among many others; the common link is the need to communicate their thoughts and ideas, their feelings and sensibilities.

In some conversations previous to the publication of the article From Line to Hyperreality, Cruz and Nathalie from WAI Think Tank pointed that by exploring the potential of tools of representation used in other intellectual disciplines, like literature, art, music, is possible to provide new ways of expanding the limits of architectural language…

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A little late on this reblog, but looks interesting nevertheless…


* * * Spatial Perspectives Final Conference Schedule * * *

We are pleased to announce the final conference schedule for the Spatial Perspectives: Literature and Architecture, 1850-Present conference, to be held at the University of Oxford on Friday 22 June 2012.

Please click here for the FINAL CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Registration is open until Monday 11 June 2012.  

Please register here:

Registration is £35 and includes tea and coffee, lunch and wine reception.

The conference is organised by Terri Mullholland and Nicole Sierra from the University of Oxford.

If you have any queries, please contact us at:

This event is supported by the Faculty of English Language and Literature, University of Oxford and Jesus College, University of Oxford.

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cosmopolitan scum

This short film essay looks at how man has built and talked about elemental architecture forms since the Tower of Babel. It takes the viewer inside the ArcelorMittal Orbit for the first time as well as placing it in historical context. I made it with Simona Piantieri, who I first worked with on her film about the Shard. Less about the merits of the structure itself, I like to think that it asks important questions about how we judge architecture and art in a modern society.

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