‘Radiant City’


Named for a destructive idea in community planning by modernist architect Le Corbusier, this enlightening and disturbingly funny critique of North American suburban sprawl might’ve been dry or dull as a straightforward doc. But in the hands of Canadian co-directors Gary Burns (waydowntown) and journalist Jim Brown, a forceful buckshot of damning animated statistics and talking-head rants from urban theorists (including iconoclastic author James Howard Kunstler) energizes a satirical day-in-the-life narrative mock-doc starring the fictitious, newly suburbanized Moss family. Mom tells the camera how upset she is whenever Dad works on the car, as it inevitably ends up in the shop, and now how will the kids make it to soccer practice and karate? Meanwhile, the young’uns, far from parks and playgrounds in this car-dependent environment, shoot paintballs in the post-apocalyptic quiet of new developments and look for Dad’s loaded gun out of boredom. In the land of shopping centers and office parks, where space has been poorly utilized since just after WWII, energy scarcity is a real concern, homogenized communities are oxymoronically built with isolation in mind (a running joke is that no one knows their neighbors), and cultural progress is stagnant. And what better way to scrutinize this 20th-century “cartoonification” than with a rockin’ soundtrack by the Pixies’ Joey Santiago?

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