‘Home’ Is a Satirical Look at A Road to Nowhere

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John Glover as Erich Hochmann in "Home." Film courtesy of Jonathan Levine

Last month, Hudson Yards officially opened its gates, drawing out thousands of people — including host Anderson Cooper, various politicians and even Sesame Street’s Big Bird — to gawk at the first stage of the $25-billion project, one 12 years in the making and not yet complete.

When finished, the 28-acre complex co-developed by Related Companies and Oxford — home to towering office buildings, eight-figure apartments, a 720,000-square-foot shopping mall, an arts center and an assortment of celebrity chef-run restaurants — will not only be larger than the United Nations, but also exceed the footprint in size, population and investment than any other private development nationwide.

And in nearly 5,800 words, New York magazine writer Justin Davidson notoriously ripped Hudson Yards, and Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross, down and apart.

“There are not many opportunities to erect such a grotesque monument to a rich man’s vanity,” he writes in the article, “I Have a Feeling We’re Not in New York Anymore.”

At the heart of Hudson Yards is Thomas Heatherwick’s climbable sculpture, known as “New York’s Staircase” or “Vessel,” designed to be the development’s signature piece of public art — and the centerpiece of its 5-acre public park. The beehive-like, copper-clad work stretches 150 feet tall, weaving 2,500 steps throughout its structure.

“The Vessel embodies the aesthetic of hucksterism: It’s a staircase that takes you nowhere, clad in fake copper that never gets old, taking over a public space that’s actually private,” Davidson writes.

That line jumped off the page in Sandy Perlbinder’s hands — considering her satirical short film, “Home,” which follows a tyrannical starchitect who imposes his absurd vision on an unsuspecting couple building their first home, she explores a similar concept.

Except she filmed “Home” 30 years ago.

“It’s the staircase that goes nowhere!” she said with a laugh during a recent telephone interview. “He describes it just like the client in my movie describes the staircase in his house. It never does change, the things that are pushed down our throats, or things that we think we want, and then we either hate them or we learn to live with them, and love them and respect them.”

Building on its circuit at the Sundance Film Festival and around the European festivals, the circa-1989 short will expand its audience on Friday night when it screens at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, followed by a discussion between Ms. Perlbinder, architecture critic Paul Goldberger, psychoanalyst Robby Stein and architect James Merrell.

“It’s funny that the film is 30 years old, but it relates to so much. It’s not out-of-date in any way, because it’s not really about architecture,” Merrell said. “It’s about the relationship between the architect and the client, and all the complexities of art and commodity. I’m coming in from the perspective of an architect, but also as a student of the architect who was the inspiration of the film. It’s overtly about larger issues, but triggered by this particular architect 30 years ago.”

The genesis of the film was yet another New Yorkmagazine article, and this time the subject was architect Peter Eisenman, best known for designing Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial, but also a writer, teacher and deconstructivist, though he famously shuns the label.

Much of his work is a continued attempt to liberate form from all meaning — a notion that is difficult to accept, and filmmaking gold for Perlbinder, she said.

“The article was a story about Peter Eisenman’s life up until then, and I was looking for something that was like a shaggy-dog story with an ironic ending — you set up the whole thing and then the ending is an irony. And this particular real-life story presented itself,” she said. “All the dialogue that is in the film is straight quotes from him. He talks like this and it sounds so ridiculous, and if you think about it, so does deconstructivism. The article was perfect.”

With the help of writer Bruce Feirstein and his wife, Madeline Warren, they put together a screenplay and a cast, led by John Glover, and shot the movie on 35-millimeter film in one week.

“The architect in the film, he’s a composite of different architects I experienced in my life, from Howard Roark in ‘The Fountainhead’ to Norman Jaffe, and I dressed him to look more like Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s the architect as archetype,” Perlbinder explained.

“My daughter had gone to architecture school and she interned in Peter Eisenman’s office,” she continued. “So I would also get all these stories about what goes on, so this was all my collective conscious. And I know Peter Eisenman saw it, and he didn’t fire my daughter or anything. Maybe he liked it.”

The satirical short film “Home,” by Sandy Perlbinder, will screen on Friday, April 5, at 6 p.m. at the Parrish Art Museum, located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. A panel with Ms. Perlbinder, architecture critic Paul Goldberger, architect James Merrell and psychoanalyst Robby Stein, moderated by Parrish Director Terrie Sultan, will follow. Admission is $12, or free for members, children and students. For more information, call (631) 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.

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