Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.
Rakewell is interested to note that not only is Keanu Reeves confirmed to star in his first leading role in a television series, but that he will be playing an architect. And not just a fictional architect, of which there are many examples in cinema. For The Devil in the White City, Reeves has been cast as Daniel H. Burnham, who, as the co-designer of the world’s first building with an all-steel frame, was a pioneer of skyscraper architecture and who, as head architect of the World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago, had a hand in making the city what it is today.
Chicago, you say? But hasn’t Keanu played an architect in the Windy City before? He certainly has, although your roving correspondent with something of a thing for ridiculous films wouldn’t call it the most authentic depiction of the profession on screen. But if you like lakes and houses, baffling time-travel scenarios, and Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves starring in the same film but not stuck on a bus, then The Lake House (2006) is unmissable, mystifying fun. The premise is that Keanu’s architect and Sandra Bullock’s doctor live in the same North Shore lakeside house on stilts – only they are in the property two years apart, in 2004 and 2006, respectively. With the help of a magic mailbox, the determined couple send each other letters, fall in love and wonder how they can beat the pesky time-space continuum that is keeping them apart. Reeves’s character is working on suburban condominiums instead of starting a firm with the unpromising name of ‘Visionary Vanguard’ with his younger brother, also an architect. Both are cowed by their rather more visionary father who is – you’ve guessed it – another architect, played by Christopher Plummer (hooray!) as a charismatic cross between Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier. As the one decent architect in the family, it is he who designed the titular house. Rakewell can’t quite remember if the ending makes any sense, but Chicago comes out of the picture with great credit.
The Devil in the White City, on the other hand, is an adaptation of Erik Larson’s true-crime thriller of 2003, which also deals with the murderous exploits of the serial killer H.H. Holmes, who despatched his victims during the World’s Fair. Although the book is just as preoccupied by Burnham’s masterminding of the event, Rakewell wonders how much screen time Keanu Reeves is really going to share with a slide rule. Still, it has to be an improvement on Knock Knock (2015), in which the actor again played an architect. This time, he is a married man left in the house on his own; a married man who unwisely opens the door to two attractive passing strangers. Let’s just say that sexy times lead to harrowing times – and let us hope for more, both for Keanu and for ourselves, from the real-life tribulations of Daniel H. Burnham.
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