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Columbus (2017) REVIEW

Architecture plays a key role in Kogonada's feature film debut.

Columbus may have been Kogonada’s first directorial feature film but it shows so much promise in what the director will be offering us during the years to come.

Written and directed by Kogonada, Columbus stars John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Rory Culkin, Michelle Forbes, and Parker Posey.

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Jin (Cho) finds himself in Columbus when his father ends up in a coma. The city is known for its architecture given the modernist buildings. While he’s not a fan, he starts up a friendship with Casey (Richardson), who is working at the library and avoiding college like the plague. She gives him a tour of the city so to speak. They both have their own issues: Jin’s relationship with his dad is estranged while Casey doesn’t want to leave her mom, who’s a former drug addict.

Architecture plays a huge role in Columbus. My sister-in-law, an architect herself, was one of the first people I thought of while I admired the architecture on screen. In so many ways, the architecture presents itself as another character in the film in as much as the same way a city like New York or Los Angeles does on occasion.

“I think architecture for Casey is an entrance to a way of seeing,” the director says. “It also gives her air to breathe at a critical moment in her life. I’m not sure if she’ll become an architect, but she has become more aesthetically aware. I think this is true for any of us who has been moved by an art form. It often begets sensitivities to other art forms and also to humanity. In this way, it’s progressive. Casey’s encounter with architecture is reflective of my own encounter with cinema at a critical moment. And the unassuming building that first moves Casey is similar to the kind of cinema that altered me.”

Meanwhile, giving Cho a leading role is seen as a huge ordeal since it’s not something you see often for Asian-Americans when dealing with casting. The director, Kogonada, himself admitted to never seeing Cho in such a lead role before. Other than the Harold and Kumar series, the argument is there but there’s also this: Hollywood studios don’t traditionally cast Asian-American men in leading roles.

There’s an interesting style that Kogonada brings with the directing of this film, which was shot entirely on location in Columbus, Indiana. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that appealed to me so much it’s just so enjoyable. Even as Lucky won the Audience Award at the Chicago Critics Film Festival in May, there’s no doubt that Columbus was high on the list.

The distribution is unique for Columbus. It’s being distributed as a part of a Sundance fellowship. Even with the New York and Los Angeles release on August 4, 2017, the slow rollout has taken a long time to reach a market such as Chicago, where it will played at the historic Music Box Theatre starting on September 8, 2017 with with director in attendance for Q&A sessions.

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