Schindler’s Houses at the Toronto International Film Festival

The latest feature film by Heinz Emigholz, Schindler’s Houses is the twelfth work in this leading German avant-garde filmmaker’s ongoing and critically lauded Photography and Beyond series. This film screens at the Toronto International Film Festival at 9:45pm on Sunday, September 9, 2007 at the Varsity 1 Cinema.

Begun in 1984, this singular series, which will ultimately amount to 25 films on art and design, has garnered Emigholz a solid place among the world’s greatest aesthetes. Emigholz employs the tools of filmmaking to meditate on the physical beauty of man-made works of art, namely buildings. Employing a taxonomic approach to an architectural body of work – “architecture as autobiography,” as Emigholz calls it – Schindler’s Houses presents us with just that: 40 houses built in and around Los Angeles by Austro-American architect Rudolf M. Schindler between 1921 and 1952.

Following an esteemed (and precarious) tutelage with Frank Lloyd Wright, Schindler went on to become one of the key figures in 20th-century American Modernist architecture, using California as his muse and developing a personal artistic vocabulary which embraced heterogeneity. Introducing each Schindler dwelling with a title card and the date on which it was filmed (all in May 2006), the film embodies structural precision. Emigholz’s camera is as resolutely still as his eye is exacting, serving up one gorgeous image after the next. The sound is rich with life, even in its silences. As Schindler’s buildings are presented in their current states, an underlying theme of urban decay lends a prescient tone to the film, making it one of the most contemporary and compelling portraits of Los Angeles yet seen.

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