I was home in Madison this week, more on that in a later post, and went see Beginners with my parents on Saturday morning. (It’s a lovely movie by the way.) But I particularly enjoyed the sets – the house lived in my the main character’s father really grabbed me. I came home intending to post about it and what a neat design it was. I looked it up online to find some screenshots etc and found that it’s not just a design. It’s a Design. Specifically, it’s the Lovell house designed by Richard Neutra in 1929 and is a signature piece of International Modern Architecture.
I’m glad I can appreciate good design when I see it.
Incidentally, the building has been used in a movie before; it starred in L.A. Confidential along side Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger in 1997. Here’s how the living room looked in that movie:
The contrast between those two shots above and the same room from Beginners shown at the top of the post are really striking to me. The sense of the house is lived in and comfortable – more 60’s than 20’s and very warm. They used only a few carefully selected exterior angles and tended to shoot all the interiors very close into the corners to mask the size and architectural grandeur of the actual building. Writer and director, Mike Mills, did this very intentionally:
“I made sure not to shoot the super-signature Lovell House things,” says Mills. “Instead I stuck to the smaller parts of the house, so a lot of the Topper family’s stuff is in there. The clutter in the kitchen is their clutter.”
It works wonderfully. In fact I like the house that appears in the movie far better than the one I’ve seen on the archi-internet postings about it. I particularly loved the kitchen and living room, both of which are lined in windows in a way that just screams “California.” You simply can’t build that way in the midwest; it requires a milder climate. Part of the appeal is the unattainability of the design, I suppose. Here’s some more great screen captures to enjoy!