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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Architecture > Buildings > Design > History > Theory > Visual Acoustics – The Modernism Of Julius Shulman (2009) + Rem Koolhaas – A Kind Of Architect (2007/Arthouse Films/New Video DVDs)

Visual Acoustics – The Modernism Of Julius Shulman (2009) + Rem Koolhaas – A Kind Of Architect (2007/Arthouse Films/New Video DVDs)


Picture: C+/C     Sound: C+     Extras: B-/C     Documentaries: B/B-



Architecture is not just about the look of buildings or even the artistic merits of the work, but about how we live and what we live in, what we live with.  Two new documentaries offer interesting looks at the subject through the eyes of two very different artists.


Visual Acoustics – The Modernism Of Julius Shulman (2009) is Director Eric Broker’s work on the amazing library of still photography taken by Shulman when the modernist style of building arrived in the 1950s and 1960s.  Often using black and white photography, Shulman began in the 1930s capturing the work of every major architect in the world and the result is one of the most key portraits of the 20th Century on still film.  Dustin Hoffman narrates this very welcome story of a man whose work was even ignored at one point when post-modern design first arrived, but it is a rich 83 minutes and worth your time.


The Markus Heidingsfelder/Min Tesch documentary Rem Koolhaas – A Kind Of Architect (2007) tells us about an architect with a difference, whose theories on the subject were applied to his work and by throwing context out the window, created some of the most surreal, stand-alone (in more ways than one) structures in the history of architecture.  The Dutch genius designed some classic buildings on his own, co-designed other key buildings through a partnership and wrote some key works on the subject, stretching the subject further and stretched his work into other arenas as well.  This 97 minutes look at his life is a little choppy and rough, but the better parts are worth tolerating the problems.  Koolhaus also speaks for himself and that can be very interesting in itself.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Acoustics is a mix of old film, old analog video and new HD and other shots, plus stills that are typical of any documentary, but look fine here.  The 1.33 X 1 image on Koolhaus is weak, often letterboxed with subtitles in the bottom black bar (ala the old days of 12” LaserDiscs) and other times full screen.  Video Black is especially weak and detail can be a problem, along with aliasing errors.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on each DVD are more on par with each other, offering simple stereo, archival mono and some location audio problems, but most of the important information is audible.


Both come with extras.   Acoustics offers feature-length audio commentary by the director, Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes and Extra Footage, while Koolhaus has a longer interview with its subject and Casa de Musica Aerial View footage.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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