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Entries in The Furniture (73)


The Furniture: Breaking House in Colossal

"The Furniture," by Daniel Walber, is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

Colossal is a movie built upon one very, very big metaphor. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) are highly destructive people, each at a different stage of addiction and personal crisis. They also have kaiju-sized avatars that tromp across Seoul every time they drunkenly stumble through a playground at 8:05am, the result of a bizarre electro-magical accident. It’s quite the premise.

But it works because director Nacho Vigalondo doesn’t rely exclusively on CGI monsters to get his point across. After all, they are only exaggerated versions of Gloria and Oscar, stomping through their lives. It matters not whether their feet land on a playground or through the first floor of an office building.


Or, as the case may be, their homes...

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The Furniture: The Night of the Hunter's American Expressionism

"The Furniture," by Daniel Walber, is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

Charles Laughton’s
The Night of the Hunter is an American classic. But it is also a clear descendant of a movement from across the Atlantic: German Expressionism. This comes through most clearly in the breathtaking work of cinematographer Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Ambersons).

Yet while The Night of the Hunter’s visual language is clearly indebted to the German films of the 1920s, its sets are far cry from the angular nightmares of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and its siblings. Instead, the work of art director Hilyard M. Brown and set decorator Alfred E. Spencer is grounded in iconic American architecture. Through the intimate collaboration of production design and cinematographer, an Expressionist battle between good and evil unfolds through the aesthetic material of American life...

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The Furniture Index

Can we have a random break for applause for Daniel Walber's The Furniture column. It was Daniel's birthday this weekend so he has the day off. He's already 69 episodes in to this incredible series which has been filled with sharp insights, a keen eye, and rich Hollywood anecdotes. Here's everything he's covered thus far. Please show your love in the comments if you look forward to these each Monday.

The Forties and Fifties
Hold Back the Dawn (1941) Bored at the border
How Green Was My Valley (1941) Designing dignity
That Hamilton Woman (1941) High ceilings
Captain of the Clouds (1942) A Canadian air show
The Magnificent Andersons (1942) Victorian Palace / Manifest Destiny
My Gal Sal (1942) Nonsense Gay Nineties
The Shanghai Gesture (1942) Appropriating Chinese design
Black Narcissus (1947) Mad for matte paintings
• David and Bathsheba (1951) A humble palace of moral struggle
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Decorative madness
My Cousin Rachel (1952) Ghosts of property
Lust for Life (1956) Van Gogh's inspiration

The Sixties and Seventies
How the West Was Won (1962) Saloon kitsch
Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) weird wonders
Come Blow Your Horn (1963) Comedy by design
Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) Your house is listening
Fantastic Voyage (1966) Absurd anatomy
The Oscar (1966) Celebrate the tackiness!
Is Paris Burning? (1967) Is patriotism subtle? Not very
The Taming of the Shrew (1967) A scenery buffet for the Battling Burtons
Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) Extravagant concentrated nostalgia
The Exorcist (1973) A possessed bedroom
Tom Sawyer (1973) Stovepipe and steamboat nostalgia
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Supertanker
All that Jazz (1979) The creative erotics of scaffolding

The Eighties and Nineties
Querelle (1982) explicit architecture
Amadeus (1984) Paper opulence
Beaches (1988) Color schemes
Batman (1989) Nightmare at the museum
Orlando (1992) Otherworldy pageantry
Addam's Family Values (1993) Setting fire to Thanksgiving
The Madness of King George (1994) Cluttered musty madness
Sleepy Hollow (1999) Historical realism meets nightmarish fantasy
• Best of Absolutely Fabulous - Special Report

21st Century
Dreamgirls (2006) Fame flattens your dream(girls), boys
Pan's Labyrinth (2006) Feasts of flesh
The Skin I Live In (2011) Decorating obsession
Brooklyn (2015) and Carol (2015) Dramatically different department stores
Joy (2015) Emerald city of home shopping
Lady in the Van (2015) Crime scene home
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) The Forest

Very Recent Cinema
20th Century Women (2016) Unfinished house, collaborative kitchen
Arrival (2016) and Passengers (2016) Lost in space and time
Childhood of a Leader (2016) Cruel curtained childhood
• The Conjuring 2 (2016) Malevolent secret codes
Deadpool (2016) Junkyard
• Embrace of the Serpent (2015/2016) The venomous and fanatical
The Eyes of My Mother (2016) Stark contrasts and devotional objects
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) 70's sitcom styles
• Fantastic Beasts (2016) and La La Land (2016) Magic unreality
Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) Exuberant fandom
Ghostbusters (2016) Shrieking color scheme
Hail Caesar (2016) Merrily We Dance
Hell or High Water (2016) Old West descendants
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) A warm welcome
Jackie (2016) and Paterson (2016) Home décor
The Lobster (2016) Phony flowers
Love and Friendship (2016) Country charm
The Love Witch (2016) A tarot reading
The Salesman (2016/2017) Crafting his own stage
Star Trek Beyond (2016) Terrestrial fun
Toni Erdmann (2016) The dangers of corporate upholstery
Wiener-Dog (2016) Sickly green cages
The Witch (2015/2016) Design heralds doom
Art Deco Oscars - Special Report

The Now
• Frantz (2017) Decorating for a lost generation
Get Out (2017) Beige house of colonial horrors
A Quiet Passion (2017) floral punctuations
The Lost City of Z (2017) deranged ambitions and indulgent fantasies


The Furniture: Indulging Fantasy in 'The Lost City of Z'

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

by Daniel Walber 

The Lost City of Z begins with Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) in hot pursuit of a stag, risking his limbs to win the respect of his superior officers. Two things are obvious in an instant: his athletic ability and the enormous chip on his shoulder. Burdened by the memory of his alcoholic father, he throws his whole body into the quest for social redemption.

Unfortunately, this burst of exertion doesn’t pay off. He does get the stag, its lifeless head displayed prominently at the evening ball. But it’s not enough. The labyrinthine snobbery of England is presented by writer/director James Gray as an impossible obstacle, as resistant as the dense rainforests where Fawcett later seeks his fortune.

After this initial frustration, Fawcett accepts a cartographic mission to Bolivia. There, he is seduced by tantalizing stories of a lost city of gold. It becomes his obsession. In turn, the contrast between rigid England and lush Amazonia drives the film’s visual logic...

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The Furniture: A Quiet Passion's Floral Punctuations

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

by Daniel Walber 

If you know one thing about the life of Emily Dickinson, it’s probably that she was a recluse. She spent the last years of her life cooped up in her Massachusetts home. Very few of her 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime. Up until very recently, only one picture of her was known to exist.

Yet she is now recognized as the most important American poet of the 19th century. That her universally resonant voice emerged from such isolation has seemed miraculous. A Quiet Passion peers into this conundrum and finds some strikingly poetic answers.

Unsurprisingly, the key to understanding is found in her house. Cynthia Nixon gives a brilliant performance, but the difference between Terence Davies’s film and lesser biopics is that she is not left to fend for herself. The work of production designer Merijn Sep and set decorator Ilse Willocx is crucial... 

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The Furniture: The Magnificent Amberson Mansion

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

by Daniel Walber 

Much has been written about the making of The Magnificent Ambersons, the conflict between Orson Welles and RKO, Robert Wise’s studio-mandated shorter version, Bernard Herrmann’s refusal of credit, and the loss of much of the original footage. It’s a fascinating story.

However, this column isn’t about that. There remains plenty to celebrate in the version that was released to theaters, 75 years ago today. At the top of that list is the Amberson mansion, a triumph of design that should stand next to Citizen Kane’s Xanadu. It’s like a Victorian ancestor to the great palace of Charles Foster Kane, a previous iteration of wealth’s excesses. But the story of The Magnificent Ambersons is not about a meteoric rise in fortune, but what comes after.

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