“In the middle of all the mess, in this fucking strip mall, there was this.”
Birthday Super Munch should be familiar at this point, but it is an opportunity for a Munch member to induct a personal favorite into the Super Munch Hall of Fame. This time we sit down with a new entry: Columbus.
I (Ben) am a sucker for intricate and warming visuals wrapped up in a character drama where the characters feel emotionally active. Perhaps, that is why I like Great Expectations as much as I do. Now, throw in a cohesive color palette, a representation of anxiety, and a storyline that dissects and interrogates the impact our parents have on us, and you have wormed your way deep into my mind in a way that I find visual media seldom does. And yet, Columbus did. It showed the beautiful architecture of Columbus, Indiana and wove into those straight lines the conversations of two strangers working through their own trauma. The juxtapositions of modernist architecture (structure) and the freeform nature of our lives lead us into the food for this film, an exploration of form and structure.
For an appetizer, we knew we needed to work with something a little more sturdy that we could turn into an architectural form. Radishes are, fortunately, a varied, bright, beautiful, and particularly dense vegetable that was perfect for our first dish. Behold, the Radish Rainbow Salad. With a nice tartness from the citrus dressing, this salad has all of the right things going for it. We would definitely suggest following the recipe and using a mandolin for the radishes, but we sacrificed texture in the name of art.
“What,” I ask you, “Is more structurally sound than a sandwich?” Beyond being a near perfect form for delivering all of the necessary nutrients in your diet, the sandwich represents the peak of modernist architecture. A good sandwich eschews the ideals of the neoclassical past, dropping all elements of flourish in honor of the purest form of construction. Naturally, we needed to take that one step further and honor the final form through the states of construction it goes through. This tasty steak sandwich had sweet peppers, New York strip steak, pepper jack cheese, and onions, piled on top of deliciously soft white bread.
The ultimate progress in our exploration of food architecture is the simplification of form. We took our learnings from the previous dishes and went one step further by forgoing the multiple food bricks and making one beautiful, personal, square Peach Cobbler Cake. While the streusel on top is somewhat chaotic for our modernist sensibilities, it did provide a nice crunch to the dessert as a whole and was a wonderful accompaniment to the marscarpone filling.
I would love to say that I had a great reason for our drink, but I have been on something of a mezcal kick for the last year, and I just wanted to drink one of my favorite drinks for my birthday post. Here is the cocktail, known somewhat comically, as Naked and Famous. A cocktail with a subtle smokiness, a nice tartness, and a color that reminds you of summer.
This isn’t really the type of film you try to drink along to, so we only had one rule:
🏢 Drink every time you are introduced to a new piece of modernist architecture.
There is a moment in Columbus that perfectly encapsulates so much of what the film has to offer. In it, our two strangers, Jin and Casey, are walking around Columbus and they come upon the Irwin Conference Center that Casey scientifically informs the audience is one of the first modernist banks in America. Banks, at one point, were large overbearing structures with tellers situated behind bars, but Eero Saarinen didn’t want this bank to be oppressive and so designed this building to have long gl… and Jin doesn’t believe that this is the reason why this building is “number 2” on Casey’s list.
Casey, somewhat casually says, “But, I am also moved by it.” A statement that feels so true while hiding her thoughts about the building because most people aren’t interested in her feelings about the modernist architecture of Columbus. Jin responds, “But, I am interested in what moves you. Particularly, about a building.”
And then we are pulled inside the building, silence permeates the scene, and we are looking out at Casey. Her shoulders release their tension. She seems to sigh and begins to truly consider and vocalize everything she has felt about this building for so long. And the audience hears none of it. It doesn’t matter. You see how her body changes, how her eyebrows raise, and you feel moved in the same way she is moved by the building. Silence.
The power in that scene reverberates throughout the rest of the film and, wordlessly, you understand more about both of the characters and how the architecture and designed spaces frame these characters and their interactions. It has brought me to tears on more than one occasion.
André: Immensely satisfying. Columbus is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever watched. Transfixed by both the works of architecture depicted in the film and the way in which the director framed them. The general vibe I got from the movie was very similar to the ennui present throughout Lost in Translation, one of my favorite movies. I’m not saying the movie was boring, but that it evoked what it feels like to be weary. Overall, I loved it. This is definitely one I’d be happy to watch again.
Leanna: This is a hidden gem of a film. The majority of the press I remember Columbus getting was Ben’s review of it back when he first watched it. When he picked it for his Birthday Super Munch, I was excited knowing how much the film had affected him. It did not disappoint in the slightest. I was so captivated the entire time. The cinematography was just a delight, but Ben’s commentary on the use of framing and the way characters exit and enter scenes added a level of depth I was glad to have to fully appreciate the artistry of the film.
Ben: 95%. You can read a lot of my thoughts above, but I didn’t know what to expect when I watched Columbus in a somewhat rundown theater, and I came away transfixed.