To the list of modernist structures that have become cinematic characters in their own right—Casa Malaparte in Godard’s Le Mépris, Villa Necchi Campiglio in Luca Guadagnino’s Io sono l’amore—add the libraries, office buildings, churches, banks, and private homes designed by Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, Myron Goldsmith, Deborah Berke, James Stewart Polshek, and Edward Bassett that provide sanctuary for damaged souls and stand sentry against superfluity in the new film COLUMBUS.
Written and directed by Kogonada, and set in Columbus, Indiana—a modernist Oz 230 miles south-southeast of Chicago—COLUMBUS centers on Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a recent high-school graduate in her gap year (or two, or three), attuned to her city’s masterpieces, and grateful for the sense of order imposed by her surroundings. Her new friend Jin (John Cho), a new arrival, is the son of a visiting, and recently stricken, architect. At one point, Casey mentions to Jin that a building they’re walking toward is “asymmetrical, but also still balanced.” She could be describing herself.
The film takes the form of Modernism itself: spare, mysterious, inspiring contemplation, at times deliberately elliptical—but richly rewarding for viewers willing to stop and look and listen.
COLUMBUS, September 29 through October 5.
MUSIC HALL, 9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills.
Through September 7.
PLAYHOUSE, 673 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena.
Through August 31.
LANDMARK, 10850 West Pico Boulevard, Rancho Park, Los Angeles.
MONICA FILM CENTER, 1332 2nd Street, Santa Monica.
Through August 24.
TOWN CENTER, 17200 Ventura Boulevard, Encino.
COLUMBUS, through August 10.
Kogonada will participate in a Q&A after the 5 pm and 7:30 pm shows on Sunday, August 6.
NUART THEATRE, 11272 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Los Angeles.
Also see: landmarktheatres.com/columbus-filmmaker-letter
Bottom: Miller House, Eero Saarinen, 1953. Interior design by Alexander Girard. Garden design by Dan Kiley.
Image credit: Indianapolis Museum of Art.