French Postcards 1979 - Villa Savoye

©Hans H. Münchhalfen/ARTUR IMAGES
©Hans H. Münchhalfen/ARTUR IMAGES

Swiss born Le Corbusier became a French institution following his immigration in 1930, and the Villa Savoye on the outskirts of Paris, stands as a testament to his pioneering architectural thinking. The first modernist building to be given historical listing in France (and interestingly the first while the original architect was still alive), the house is a beautiful example of the International style, of which the French are understandably proud custodians. All the more effective then that when the house appeared in the 1979 release French Postcards, it was filled with American kitch.

©  Paramount Pictures
© Paramount Pictures

French Postcards has the house owned by a language school director who teaches her exchange students about French culture and encourages them to forget their coarse American perspective however she herself holds a secret love of all Americana. The more we get to know her, the more obvious her hypocrisy becomes and the glimpse into her private world and its' décor is the most revealing. Her public façade is of a polished Parisian intellectual - composed and self-possessed and yet we know she dances around in Levis when she thinks no one is around. The same applies to her house. From a distance it is a sleek, elegant lesson in restraint – a white unadorned box sitting on slim supports. The interior however is all cowhide and shagpile. There is a bit of a twist for modern audiences though - the furniture chosen to fitout the house is intended to be cheezy and represent the tastes of a past generation (one of her students comments that the style reminds him of his parents house) but the scheme includes some classic American mid century design pieces –

Harry Bertoia’s wire backed diamond chairs, Milo Baughman’s curved ply office furniture and a Herman Miller coat stand. Well before Mid Century Modern had a name, the Director calls it “Eisenhower style”. 


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