was the master and for ten years Le Corbusier was his employee. A pioneer in reinforced concrete
construction, the influence of Auguste Perret and his brother Gustave on the
Bauhaus movement are unmistakable. Yet,
the French architects’ modernist style was far more distinctive. Their buildings on two continents are
explored sans commentary in Heinz Emigholz’s Perret in France and Algeria (clip here), which screens as
part of the 2013 Documentary Fortnight at MoMA.
Perrets’ firm is best known for their post-war reconstruction and
reorganization of the French port city Le Havre, now officially recognized as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not
surprisingly, they completed projects throughout France, but were also quite
prolific builders in Algeria. Emigholz
takes his cameras around (and when possible through) dozens of their buildings
in both countries. There will be no
talking heads or voiceovers to distract viewers. Instead, PIFA
is all about the architecture.
even a soft background score, Emigholz records the ambient noise, conveying a
sense of how the buildings relate to their environments. However, since he usually film during periods
of low internal traffic, it is harder to get a sense of how the people relate
to the buildings. It would also be
interesting to get some kind of background on many of the projects,
particularly how they came to build so many government offices and hospitals in
Algeria, but that research is left up to the individual viewer.
many of the buildings are incredibly photogenic, such as the Cathedral d’Oran
and Salle Cortot music school. Indeed,
anyone visiting Paris after watching Emigholz’s documentary will want to attend
a performance in the latter’s concert hall.
Synthesizing Art-Deco, Neoclassical, and early Modernist elements, the
Perret style is often quite striking. However,
there are a number of private residences included that look comparatively
Director-cinematographer Emigholz and his camera
crew have assembled a lovely looking film.
Yet, it is hard to shake the notion that it is the film festival
equivalent of those European-cities-as-seen-from-the-air programs PBS stations
often play on weekend afternoons. Of
course, considering MoMA’s commitment to exhibiting both film and architecture,
this is the perfect place to screen it.
Recommended largely for those fascinated by early modernist architecture
that are not inclined to visit Algeria anytime soon, Perret in France and Algeria screens Friday (2/15) and Saturday
(2/16) as part of this year’s Documentary Fortnight at MoMA.
Labels: Auguste Perret, DF '13, Documentary