The movie Columbus has opened; here’s what being said about the film and our city

The movie Columbus opened this past weekend in New York and Los Angeles. Reviewers are giving it a big thumbs up. Here’s a sampling of reviews and interviews:

Rolling Stone: Unique and unforgettable. It’s pure cinema

Peter Travers writes: It sounds overly arty, even a tad precious … and during a few rare moments, it is. But for most of the running time, we’re held in thrall thanks to the poet’s eye its creator brings to a tale too delicate to trade in cheesy sentiment. In this short time, Jin and Casey take only baby steps toward a relationship, in a manner that recalls Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. Delicate business is being transacted in Columbus, a whisper-soft debut from Kogonada that nonetheless results in something unique and unforgettable. It’s pure cinema.

Los Angeles Times: Meth and modernism

Christopher Hawthorne writes: The film offers a subtle critique of globalization and a timely portrait of Donald Trump’s America. It’s a reminder that the sense among longtime red-state residents that they’re underestimated or overlooked by big-city elites is a layered and complex grudge, sometimes flowing from ignorance or at least provincialism and sometimes from genuine pride of place.

New York Times: The movie leaves quite a bit to the eye of the beholder, but it’s always worth looking at

Ben Kenigsberg writes: The existence of a debut as confident and allusive as “Columbus”  is almost as improbable as the existence of Columbus, Ind., where the movie is set. Columbus’s claim to fame — other than being Vice President Mike Pence’s hometown  — is that it’s an unlikely haven for modernist architecture.

Los Angeles Times: A serenely intelligent first feature

Justin Chang writes: What’s remarkable about this wondrously assured debut is that technique never overwhelms feeling.

GQ: “I feel like I waited my whole life for this movie,” John Cho says

The movie introduces us to these incredible works of architecture in a way that feels connected to who the characters are, where they’re going.
John Cho: It was a real privilege to film at these sites—it was an education for me. My favorite was the North Christian Church, built by Eero Saarinen. I grew up in churches, and they’d say, “The church is the people, not the building.” The North Christian Church is in the round, and the speaker is set below the congregants—so when you look around, you’re looking into people’s faces, and it’s obvious the church is the people in that space. Each space we filmed at was like a stage, a set, and gave a lot of personality to the scene.

A.V. Club: It makes for some of the most tranquilly gorgeous imagery of the year: a smitten sightseer’s view of the city

A.A. Dowd writes: Spired churches, oddly shaped conference centers, skyways stretching photogenically against actual skies: Buildings dominate this movie. Even when the people are the main focus of a shot, there’s usually some marvel of glass and steel looming behind them or poking into the frame. And even when the camera plops down indoors, it captures a kind of architecture: the library bookshelves shot to look like rows of apartment complexes, or the designer chairs that would fit snugly into a futuristic skyline.

SFGate: Surprising sense of humanity

David Lewis writes: The quietly stirring, exquisitely photographed “Columbus” is an art-house gem that beautifully illuminates not only the architecture of a small Indiana town, but also the characters that inhabit it. This is a film with a wavelength all of its own, but thanks to excellent directing and acting, that wavelength always remains accessible.

The Architect’s Newspaper: “Can architecture heal?”

Olivia Martin writes: Other questions are grappled with, as well: “Can architecture heal?” “Do the buildings we grow up around inform our views of the world?” “What makes modernism important?” They are good questions and ones that the architectural, art, and design communities debate often, but in Columbus they are opened up to the layperson and architecture aficionado alike.

NPR: And as a story, this – race exists very naturally, John Cho says

John Cho: One of the things that I liked about the script was – it’s very confident in its identity. And what I mean by that is, you know, race and ethnicity are such a – you know, we obsess about it in America so much. And everything is either playing to a type or playing against the type. And they’re really just two sides of the same coin. You’re still ensnared by the trap of race.

And as a story, this – race exists very naturally. It’s simply a component of this person’s identity, and it doesn’t drive the narrative. But neither is it ignored. And it’s – I think it’s a very difficult balance to achieve, and it requires a deft touch. I am enchanted by that city; I wrestle with it. The film’s not trying to disparage that city at all, Kogonada says

Do you feel like you’re free to go back to Columbus whenever?

Director Kogonada [Laughs.] Do I have, like, a key [to the city]? You know what, most of the people have not seen the film, so it will be interesting. But the mayor and the people who helped us make it, a lot of them have seen it, they came to Sundance. There were a few people who were at Sundance who were not a part of the film, they don’t live in Columbus anymore, but they grew up in Columbus. It’s a promotional piece for the city. I am enchanted by that city; I wrestle with it. The film’s not trying to disparage that city at all. I’m actually working on a supplement for the release. I’ve always wanted to do a kind of doc, a small visual thing, I’m actually working on that right now, and it’s bringing me back into the city.

Inverse Entertaiment: The first person we connected to in Columbus self-identified with Casey. Her name was Erin Hawkins, Kogonada says

What sort of attention did you get from the local townspeople? It’s not every day a movie is shot there.

Kogonada: The first person we connected to in Columbus self-identified with Casey. Her name was Erin Hawkins. She grew up in Columbus, she started loving architecture, and it’s true there are people who see it and it’s invisible, they don’t care. She was one of those who saw it and then she came back and was in a position to champion it. She got everyone involved, she made everyone in that town [realize] that this was worth our time. It was a welcome reception. The mayor threw a dinner and came to Sundance.

Letterboxed: I drove 80 minutes to the one and only theater in all of Southern California just to see this movie….and I fell in love with it.

Gabe writes: Columbus, in my opinion, is a masterpiece. It’s a slow burning, quiet, poetically subdued and tenderly poignant film that is masterfully directed and beautifully acted. It’s heartbreaking and awe inspiring at the same time. I truly loved this movie and it’s absolutely high on my list of favorites of 2017.