URBAN GORILLA

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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Week End.

Corinne: This isn’t a novel, this is a film. A film is life.

 

The senseless honking, yelling, absurd farm animals, and never ending traffic seemed to go on for hours.  And that was just our bus ride home from Suzhou…

After watching Week End, by Jean-Luc Godard, I can’t help but recall his traffic jam scene every time I step into the streets in Shanghai.  While it seemed like a complete mockery at the time, the ridiculousness of that scene has become my everyday reality (a slight exaggeration).  Throughout Week End, scenes such as the impressive ten minute traffic jam or the eight minute scene with the pianist made me wonder first, what is the point?  Second, why are these scenes so long?  And third, why are we watching this movie?

 

With all the jump cuts, character asides, and bold flashing text, Godard was clearly creating a surreal environment for the two main characters, Corinne and Roland.

Roland: What a rotten film. All we meet are crazy people.

Is this a commentary on our society? Or our society’s future?  The initial shock of cars aflame and bloody carcasses wore off by the middle of the movie, to the point where I was expecting to see them.  Similarly, after living in Shanghai for four weeks, I expect cab drivers to take the long route home or to be ripped off by street vendors.  I went with a friend to purchase a box cutter today, and the vendor claimed that it came with two extra blades.  We couldn’t see the blades from the exterior and assumed that she was lying just so that we would make the purchase.  After buying the knife, we were shocked to see that she was telling the truth!  Is it sad that we have come to expect deceit? Maybe we’re just realistic pessimists.

The length of these scenes, in addition to the monotonous honking and piano music, provided a perfect canvas for the mind to contemplate.  As I watched the piano scene, I realized that the camera had panned the scene with two full rotations, stopped, and then reverse panned once.   While the traffic scene is understood in a singular line, the piano scene is a more continuous loop experience.  Translated into an architectural mindset, this continuous loop experience could be the inspiration for works such as the Denmark Pavilion by BIG or the Mobius House by UN Studio.  Expanding to an urban scale, the concept of a continuous loop can transform into the ring roads that we experienced in Beijing and Shanghai.

At one point in the film, the couple gets in to a fiery car crash.  Corinne’s screams imply that she is devastated and terrified for Roland and herself.  And just when you feel a sense of humanity she cries, “My Hermes handbag!!”.  Seconds later the scene reveals the couple walking through a grassy field, discussing where their future murder weapon is located.  Simultaneously, a man is reading aloud,

‘Can the inconsistency of humanity be conceived? Can one believe that a man ordered society…in order to be happy and reasonable?  Weary of wisdom…more like nature’s wisdom… He wishes to be unhappy and witless.  I see not but constitutions steeped in gold, pride, and blood, and nowhere do I see the sweet humanity and equable moderation… which ought to be the foundation of the social treaty.’

Godard intentionally pushed the negative extremes of society in order to clearly point out what our world could become.  Can we not do the same with architecture?

~Samantha

 

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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