Art Direction by Antonio Gaudi

La Sagrada Familia, the iconic masterpiece by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, is still a work in progress after more than a century.

Anyone who has seen a few movies filmed in Barcelona, Spain, has undoubtedly caught a glimpse or maybe even a close-up of one of the architectural wonders created by Antoni (aka Antonio) Gaudi or one of his contemporaries such as Lluis Domenech I Montaner or Josep Puig I Cadafalch in the “Modernisme” movement of 1888-1911. This brief period resulted in awe-inspiring buildings and structures with designs based on organic forms or taken directly from nature – beehives, mushrooms, stalactites – that broke away from conventional design and accented curves and rich ornamentation (broken pieces of colorful ceramic tile worked into wall mosaics). This unique architectural style is an art director’s dream and a natural for the screen, which is why it has been the co-star in countless movies filmed in Barcelona such as Susan Seidelman’s Gaudi Afternoon (2001) and L’Auberge espagnole (2002), in which Gaudi’s still-in-progress La Sagrada Familia (it was started in 1883) is prominently featured.

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Identity Disintegration

A wealthy chemist who was disfigured in an explosion undergoes plastic surgery in the 1966 Japanese film, The Face of Another.

What would happen if you lost the face you recognize as your own and had to replace it with a new one? Would you have an identity crisis or simply become a different person? Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara ponders this unusual dilemma in The Face of Another (1966, Japanese title: Tanin no kao). Continue reading

The Age of Assassins (1967)

A paranoid conspiracy thriller delivered in a droll tongue-in-cheek style with generous helpings of black comedy and anti-establishment satire doesn’t really fit neatly into any genre and Kihachi Okamoto’s The Age of Assassins (1967 aka Epoch of Murder Madness; Japanese title: Satsujin Kyojidai) was generally dismissed by critics and avoided by audiences when it was first released in the late sixties. Like many of Okamoto’s films, it didn’t receive theatrical distribution outside of its own country and that’s a shame because the film has the essential goods to become a bona fide cult classic on the order of Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill (1967) or Kinji Fukasaku’s Black Lizard (1968). The Age of Assassins arrived at the tail end of the secret agent craze but it is not really a James Bond parody. Think of it instead as a crazy quilt journey through an off-kilter, pop culture universe where no one is who they appear to be.   Continue reading