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REVIEW: Coast Modern

If you’ve ever caught yourself flipping through reruns of MTV Cribs wishing authors and designers got the same treatment, Coast Modern is likely a refreshing way to spend an hour of your life.

Filmmakers Mike Bernard and Gavin Froome don’t quite offer the fridge peek Cribs is known for, but explore the corners and expanses of renowned modernist homes from Vancouver down to Los Angeles. Interviews with author Douglas Coupland, architect Matthew Soules and urban designer Trevor Boddy give a taste of how the modernist dream neatly merged with the values and vibes of the West Coast.

Call a spandrel a spandrel: this doc is 95 percent design porn. From Le Corbusier’s signature machine on stilts to Arthur Erickson’s iconic wood-and-glass Smith House, the film’s well-paced tilts and pans read like animated pages of Wallpaper Magazine. The playful fusion of indoor and outdoor make for serene eye candy, be it a structured Portland tree fort or a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece.

Underneath the wallpaper (or distinct lack-there-of), Bernard and Froome lay out a detailed history of the modernist experiment from its beginnings to present day. The filmmakers also hazard a few guesses as to why utilitarian glass and concrete didn’t catch on in the suburbs. (Hint: our association with banks and airports may be to blame).

Coast Modern premiered at Vancouver’s DOXA documentary festival on May 8th, is showing again on May 13th and will air on the Knowledge Network in the fall. Check out the website coastmodernfilm.com this summer for extra design and interview goodies.

Originally Published May 9, 2012.

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