Nov 23, 2010

Mon Oncle [1958]

Directed by Tacques Tati
Production Design by Henri Shmitt
Set Decoration by Henri Shmitt
Cinematography by Jean Burgoin
Film Format: 35 mm Aspect Ratio 1:37:1
Alter Films

In Mon Oncle, Jacques Tati pokes fun at the tragi-comedy of bourgeois habits of conspicuous consumption. To show both the clinical emptiness of mid-century, machine-inspired design dogma, and the vanity and fetishistic adherence of the aspiring middle class people who bought into it, Tati's depicts the soullessness of the modern homemaker's environs. The kitchen performs a special role in the alienation of its users, with it's preference for novelty over familiarity, functionality over comfort, mechanistic exultation over joy. With all the comically boobytrapped devices and overwrought yet sterile furnishings, none of his criticism is as poignant as the forlorn expression of the title character's nephew, enduring the protracted execution of a boiled egg breakfast from the sterile apparatus tended by his rubber-gloved mother.

Shampoo [1975]

Directed by Hal Ashby
Production Design by Richard Sylbert
Art Direction by W. Stewart Campbell
Set Decoration by George Gaines
Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs
Film Format: 35 mm Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Columbia Pictures Corporation

To get to the kitchen in Shampoo, we first follow a long path from the driveway, to the rolling lawns in back, down to the clay tennis courts and back up to the sprawling Bel-Aire home of bored housewife Lee Grant and her spolied daughter Carrie Fisher, before finally entering. As the backdrop for Fisher to display her teenage anomie the kitchen is particularly well suited by offering all sorts of luxuries to be taken for granted. In the double-door refrigerator-freezer (the Sub-Zero of its day), already prepared cold-cuts and peeled and cut veggies are arranged and waiting on a plate under Saran Wrap. It helps to define her precociousness, affluence and sense of entitlement that she can carry on a pointed argument with her mother's lover while at the same time politely offering him a cold baked apple. If the Mr.Coffee coffee-maker (1973!), double sink and double ovens don't make us smile with sneering envy, the ever-effective (if strangely unhooded) center island stove surely will. You can just smell the clothes dryer and the central airconditioning.

The Graduate [1967]

Directed by Mike Nichols
Production Design by Richard Sylbert
Set Decoration by George RE. Nelson
Cinematography by Robert Surtees
Film Format: 35 mm   Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
Embassy Pictures Corporation
In The Graduate, ennui, of the affluent suburban variety, is embodied in the arid & antiseptic interiors of the Braddock Family kitchen(s??  Depending on the shot, there appear to be two fully exquipped rooms, visibly connected through the saloon-style doors for an instant).  With its two recessed cooktops, two built-in refrigerators (both side-by-side, and bottom-mounted freezers), the white laminated surfaces and white polished floors serve as a halcyon backdrop to the title character (Dustin Hoffman's) confused and alienated slouch toward adulthood.

1st of 2 kitchens: cooktop on small island open on three sides, hood above, side-by-side fridge. [8 pics below]

2nd of 2 kitchens: cooktop on counter top, no hood above, single door fridge. [14 pics below]

9 1/2 Weeks [1986]

Directed by Adrian Lyne
Production Design by Ken Davis
Art Direction by Linda Conaway-Parsloe
Set Decoraion Christian Kelly
Cinematography by Peter Biziou 
Film Format: 35 mm  Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

As preceeded by the gauzy warm and sunlit shots of KIm Basinger’s messy, lived-in kitchen in 9 1/2 Weeks, the cold and spare austerity of Mickey Rourke’s high-tech loft's galley kitchen is menacing by comparison.  That its owner should be so fetishistic with his sublimated epicurean inclinations, is belied by his cleaning as he cooks, as though no trace should be left to expose his secreted taste for texture.  As in dining, so in sex: hard, cold and controlled.