Thursday, June 12, 2008

Future Cities

A. O. Scott wrote an essay for The New York Times (June 8 edition) that explores film directors' efforts to depict dystopian cities of tomorrow as warnings about the world of today. Naturally, he starts with Metropolis, which depicts a hellish corporate world, one in which "the gaping maw of the factory; the literally subterranean slums where the workers live; the mansions and gardens of the ruling class -- are nightmarish and, somewhat paradoxically, beautiful."

Scott transitions from Fritz Lang's Metropolis to the duo of Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, both depicting grandly modern projects amidst (if not succumbing to) the ravages of age and dysfunction. However, to A. O. Scott, films like Alphaville and Michael Winterbottom's Code 46 are unique from Blade Runner, with its towering superstructures, because they reflect Susan Sontag's notion that "[t]he fables about the future . . . are at the same time essays about today."

These films typically borrow from contemporary structures, projecting them forward as exemplars of the future. From this vantage point, we find that we're getting precisely the future that we feared and deserved, and that we're living in it now. Thus the author concludes: "There is luxury and squalor, a mobile elite served and enriched by an army of transient workers, an architectural hodge-podge of pristine newness and ancient disorder. The kind of thing you see everywhere. The science-fiction movies of the future will be called documentaries."

Read the entire piece: Metropolis New

(Metropolis image from Skyscraper World)

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