In the year 1960, the late Portuguese architect Fernando Távora traveled the world for six months, leaving behind a "travel journal" of notes, drawings and impressions made while heading West, taking in the sights and sounds of cities and monuments. 50 years later, Portuguese director Rodrigo Areias "illustrates" fancifully that journal using newly-shot super-8 footage of those very same places, superimposed to actor Marcos Barbosa's readings of excerpts from Mr. Távora's writings.
1960 is a peculiar work, halfway between the freeform essay film and the more traditional art documentary, commissioned by the European Cultural Capital Guimarães 2012, as the architect was the responsible for the city's urban planning redesign in the late 1970s/early 1980s. And it's also a smart, buoyant one, as Mr. Areias and his editor Tomás Baltazar assemble a jumble of newly-shot images that transport the grain and texture of found period footage (and are interspersed with a few actual period shots), while creating a combination illustration and commentary of Mr. Távora's writings. When he complains about the crass commercialisation and tourist traps of the Mayan ruins in Mexico or the Egyptian pyramids, or when he waxes lyrical about the perfection of Frank Lloyd Wright's Wisconsin estate Taliesin, there's a strong sense that these 50-year-old opinions about the power of architecture to affect human experience speak of our own days, as if nothing had changed in the years that have gone since. What's really essential about Mr. Areias' film, though, is the will to communicate how important thinking about one's environment, asking questions and not settling for the obvious is.
1960's specificity may mean it's hardly a general-interest item, and there can be a sense that this is a slight item whose short, hour-long length can be more oriented for subject-specific festivals or television slots, but its technically impeccable presentation - both visually and aurally - and the colloquially engaging writing of Mr. Távora keep you constantly interested and entertained.
Director, screenwriter, cinematographer Rodrigo Areias (colour); based on the travel journals of Fernando Távora; editor Tomás Baltazar; sound design Pedro Ribeiro and Pedro Marinho; production Fundação Cidade de Guimarães and Bando à Parte
Screened May 11th 2014 (DVD, Lisbon)