Something’s happening on the edge of town.
There’s a desperate housewife in the parking lot, a musical chorus line mowing the lawn – and a loaded gun in the upstairs closet.
Welcome to Radiant City, an entertaining and startling new film on 21st century suburbanites.
Gary Burns, Canada’s king of surreal comedy, joins journalist Jim Brown on an outing to the burbs. Venturing into territory both familiar and foreign, they turn the documentary genre inside out, crafting a vivid account of life in The Late Suburban Age.
Sprawl is eating the planet. Across the continent the landscape is being levelled – blasted clean of distinctive features and overlaid with zombie monoculture. Politicians call it growth. Developers call it business. The Moss family call it home.
While Evan Moss zones out in commuter traffic, Ann boils over in her dream kitchen and the kids play sinister games amidst the fresh foundations of monster houses.
A chorus of cultural prophets provide insight on the spectacle. James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere, rails against the brutalizing aesthetic of strip malls. Philosopher Joseph Heath fears the soul-eating burbs but admits they offer good value for money. And urban planner Beverly Sandalack dares to ask, Why can’t we walk anywhere anymore?
The dark era of resource scarcity is looming fast, threatening to strike suburbia “off the menu of history.” But like a juggernaut, it sails intractably forward, flattening all in its path.
Burns and Brown rummage through a toybox of cultural references, from Jane Jacobs to The Sopranos, to create a provocative reflection on why we live the way we do. Riffing off sitcoms and reality TV, they play fast and loose with a range of cinematic devices to consider what happens when cities get sick and mutate.
Cinematographer Patrick McLaughlin transforms drab suburbia into great painterly cloudscapes, mesmerizing rivers of traffic and eerie tableaux of dystopia while the soundtrack features songs from Joey Santiago of The Pixies.
Something’s happening on the edge of town. They call it Radiant City. Welcome to the neighbourhood.