The city of the future is a utopian confection of luxurious modernist skyscrapers, except when it's a hidden nightmare of exploited subterranean workers, a comedy of anonymous office spaces, or a collection of geodesic domes orbiting Saturn.
Throughout the 20th century, filmmakers have explored the ever-quickening pace of technological development through visionary images of both social and architectural space. Beginning Tuesday, Dec. 6, and running through Thursday, Dec. 8, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will present three iconic films as part of its Cities of the Future Film Series.
Held in conjunction with the exhibition Tomás Saraceno: Cloud-Specific, the film festival will screen Fritz Lang's 1927 Metropolis (Dec. 6), Jacques Tati's 1967 Playtime (Dec. 7), and Douglas Trumbull's 1971 Silent Running (Dec. 8).
All three screenings are free and open to the public and begin at 7p at the Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd.
Tomás Saraceno: Cloud-Specific highlights recent projects by the internationally acclaimed experimental artist. Inspired by clouds, bubbles, spider webs and other natural structures, Saraceno's utopian projects investigate connections between social, ecological, and technological systems, while raising pointed questions about the future of our own relationship with an increasingly fragile natural world.
Tuesday, December 6, 7p
Directed by Fritz Lang
Set in the year 2026, this early science fiction classic depicts a dystopian future in which oppressed workers are forced to live underground while wealthy capitalists enjoy the splendid, towering city above. The story centers on Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), son of the city's master, who is oblivious to the workers' plight until encountering Maria (Brigitte Helm), a subterranean dweller who preaches a gospel of universal brotherhood. The screening will showcase a newly restored version of the film, which includes 25 minutes of previously lost footage.
Wednesday, December 7, 7p
Directed by Jacques Tati
Playtime presents a farcical vision of Paris in the near future, with badly designed modernistic skyscrapers and housing projects. Tati plays Monsieur Hulot, a Parisian who is befuddled by the influences of modern architecture and modern technology on his city, which has grown increasingly crowded with tourists. As Hulot roams the uncomfortably modern Paris, he gets easily lost amidst an abundance of too-similar circulation spaces and glass-enclosed waiting rooms. This comedic film reflects a general disenchantment with 1950s and '60s architectural modernism.
Thursday, December 8, 7p
Silent Running (1971)
Directed by Douglas Trumbull
Silent Running is an eco-science fiction film that depicts a ruined future in which all plant life on Earth has become extinct. Huge, orbiting spaceships with large greenhouse-like geodesic domes preserve the last remaining trees in the hopes of an eventual return to Earth and the reforestation of the planet. When resident botanist and ecologist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) receives an order to destroy the domes with nuclear charges, he refuses, with disastrous result for himself and his crew members.