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Bright Ideas: More Films on Architecture and Light

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Take inspiration for your Light Shots entry with these classic film shorts which explore light and the city.

Alain Resnais, Last Year in Marienbad, 1961

Alain Resnais’ dream-like film won the Gold Lion at the 1961 Venice Film Festival. He wanted to the film to have the visual appearance of “a certain style of silent cinema.”  Sacha Viemy’s cinematography is characterised by inky blacks and flaring whites. In the famous garden scene, the walking couples cast long shadows whilst the trees do not.


John Whitney, Matrix III, 1972

An early pioneer of computer animation and motion graphics, Whitney created kaleidoscopic hallucinations, geometric patterns and psychedelic forms in his films.  In order to make what appear to be computer animations, he crafted multiple design templates and placed them on different layers of rotating tables where images were photographed by cameras on a rotating axis. 

Walter Ruttmann, Berlin die Symphonie der Grossstadt, 1927

Ruttmann’s film is a portrait of a city and an example of the ‘city symphony’ genre, in which an orchestral musical score accompanies a silent film. In the opening scene, light falls on calm, lapping water and then merges into graphic pulsing beams of light, recalling sunrise or the view from a fast moving vehicle. A train suddenly emerges to take us into the waking city.


Godfrey Reggio, Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, 1982

Godfrey Reggio’s seminal Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, is composed mainly of slow motion and time lapse footage. Clouds and their shadows pass over the cities and natural landscapes of the United States whilst light pours from TV screens and cars streaming along highways.


Peter Tscherkassky, Outer Space, 1999

Tscherkassky’s films are made using analogue film-editing tecniques involving contact printing and variable exposure to transfer found film into unexposed film stock, then manipulated and processed to create the final works. He creates a haunted, visceral world of of interplayed images, rhythms, impulses and associative cognition.


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