Last week, I blogged for The 6th Floor, which is the behind-the-scenes jawn of The New York Times Magazine. As a spin-out from their recent Key section on outdoor living (see it here, I talked to landscape designers and architects about movies that had inspired them. You can read my entry here.
Prone as I am to over-reporting, I talked to many more people than could ever be squeezed into a post, and heard about such a cinematic range that I realized it’s as much about who’s looking as it is about what’s being looked at.
Among the additional films people listed, there were the usual suspects, including “anything by Merchant Ivory” (as London-based Charlotte Rowe quipped). Indeed, I stumbled over such extensive Internet absorption with Howard’s End, I found a discussion thread on the variety of euphorbia planted at the entryway of the film’s country cottage. And in Asheville, NC, designer Terri Long went to see It’s Complicated, at the urging of a client who was drawn to the movie by Meryl Streep, but was thrilled by the pristine and bountiful potager presided over by Steep’s character. Neither Long nor her client was interested in an exact duplicate (impossible anyway, given that set designers had juxtaposed different-season plants and wired hothouse tomatoes to the vines) but the pleasing geometries and vertical hardscaping served as a useful reference point and general inspiration.
I talked with UK “rock star” landscape designer Dan Pearson, a lovely and thoughtful fellow who cited the “nearly plotless” 1953 experimental short, Eaux d’artifice, in which an elegantly bedecked woman hurries through the 500-year-old fountains of Tivoli’s Villa D’Este gardens. Pearson had become interested in trying to record time—so central to the garden experience—and this film, with its immersive, purposeful action, pointed towards that human-landscape interaction.
Finally, L.A. artist and garden designer Laura Cooper paired two seemingly antithetical films: a 1993 remake of The Secret Garden, based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Garden, a mash up of naturism, queer politics, and sadism involving chocolate and feathers from the late avant-garde British director Derek Jarman. “Both movies are about growth and transformation,” points out Cooper, “They’re perfect bookends in that they’re about life, but they literally feed on decay.”