Director in Person
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Directed by Thom Andersen.
US, 2012, digital video, color, 68 min.
Copy source: filmmaker

Commissioned by the Curtas Vila do Conde Film Festival to direct a film in Northern Portugal, Andersen turned to the work of master architect Eduardo Souto de Moura (b. 1952) whose visionary ideas about structure, ruin and landscape have earned him a renown and international following that extends far beyond the Porto area where he has realized the majority of his projects. As if in response to the frustration voiced in Los Angeles Plays Itself over the inadequate and dismissive representation of architecture in popular cinema, Andersen ambitiously sought a cinematic form able to understand the full dimensionalities of singular architectural forms. For Reconversão, Andersen turned back once more, ingeniously, to Muybridge, working with cinematographer Peter Bo Rappmund to devise a stop-motion technique for shooting Souto de Moura’s architecture at a rate of one and two images per second, reanimated to ignite a quivering pulse and quality within building and landscape alike. Poised sculpturally between still and moving image, Reconversão unfolds at a contemplative rhythm as it explores seventeen built and unbuilt works accompanied by a voiceover (once again spoken by Encke King) reading passages from the architect’s own writings and punctuated by Andersen’s careful interjections. As in the work of Heinz Emigholz, Andersen’s film reaches beyond simply an appreciative meditation on the vision of a great architect to set in a motion a nimble dialogue between cinema and architecture as arts of framing and reinterpreting the existing world. This dialogue is deepened by Souto de Moura’s abiding and avowed fascinationwiththose ruins often incorporated organically into his buildings—a process not unlike the archaeological approach to found-footage cinema embodied by Andersen’s essay films. Roughly translated as “reconversion,” the Portuguese word Reconversão implies far more: a hybrid process of conversation and transformation that speaks to the complex dynamic found within the work of both architect and filmmaker.

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Thom Andersen,
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