Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Columbus

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Reviews - Columbus


Reviewed By Stephen Pye

I have to a admit that when I first saw the title of this film I assumed it was a biopic. Maybe there will soon be one, replete with Spanish Galleons and swashbuckling endeavour, or maybe we have already had that!? I also have to admit that I have never been to the USA and could not identify on a map the state of Indiana. But therein is Columbus (about as far from the sea as possible) a town of only 44,000 souls and containing within it's limits some of the finest modern architectural buildings anywhere on the planet.

The film then, the first by the South Korean/ American auteur, video essayist and film critic Kogonada, is a paean to place and a celebration of modernism. For 1 hour 45 minutes we never leave Columbus; and those of us who know less than nothing about modern architecture are then given a sympathetic and enthralling insight into its beauty and meaning. That being said there is a good deal more to this film than cantilevered brutalism. The film has an almost Zen like stillness, as befits the influence of the Japanese  director Ozu, together with still-life scenes, another hallmark of Eastern cinematography.

The film has one wonderful performance by Hayley Lu Richardson as Casey the young, conflicted, part time librarian and aspiring architect, who loves her home town not just because of it's beautiful buildings and gardens but also because of her filial devotion to her mother. She forms an accidental acquaintance  with a young Korean Jin , carefully and deliberately played by John Cho, who finds himself hauled up in the town  because his father, an academic in the Columbus, has been rushed into intensive care. Together as they meander through the townscape their values are challenged and their unlikely friendship is confirmed, though not in the normal formulaic manner.

"Nothing happens, this is not the movies" says Cho in one telling comment. This is Kogonada's critique of much of modern cinema and a  self- affirmation of his own contemplative style. Nothing much happens in the film and yet many subjects are addressed: the nature of friendship, how we mourn,  family ties, how place defines who we are, if and how we leave. This is an assured and gentle debut by one of modern cinemas leading authorities. Amidst all the glass and concrete it made for a serene and thought provoking experience on a cold Sunday eve.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

Since then, the club has won Film Society Of The Year and awards for Best Programme four times and Best Website twice.

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