In anticipation of the New York Art Book Fair this weekend, we present a little gem found at Printed Matter, the daring Westside non-profit that continues to supply us with some of the choicest contemporary art books, catalogs, monographs, periodicals, and zines around. Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films is the brainchild of Yale School of Art graduate Benjamin Critton. The niche zine examines the representation of modernist architecture in popular film, specifically the association of modernist buildings with evil characters.
Printed in red and yellow ink and packed with luscious, bold typography, the zine pops like a tabloid, presenting the reader with photos, film stills and text all about villains on the silver screen and their architectural fancies. Figures like Frank Lloyd Wright, John Lautner and Richard Neutra share the stage with Bond bad guys and Twilight vampires.
Despite its lighthearted presentation, Critton’s investigation raises serious questions about the relation between cinema and architecture. With a cheeky tone, the newsprint highlights how modernism, a movement that sought to liberate the human spirit, can be easily reduced into an image colonized by mass media.
Yet film also has the ability to bring out the emotive qualities of architecture, often transforming buildings and interiors into moving, sublime backdrops. Without spoiling the zine, here are some of our favorite modernist moments in film:
Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest reveals the director’s penchant for modernism with its opening scenes showing the U.N. building and with part of the film set in a Falling Water inspired house designed for the film.
A sleek, winding staircase in Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville helps craft the image of a sci-fi computer-programmed city.
Kenzo Tange’s Hiroshima Peace Memorial becomes a hotel in Alain Resnais’s film Hiroshima Mon Amour.
The Snow Fortress in Inception (left) is almost an exact replica of the Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego, designed by William Periera in the late 1960s (right).