>urban athletic trangressions: buildering & parkour in cinema & life

>I’ve done this before and I’m doing it again. I’m blogging for my own collected thoughts and to wrap my brain around old and new.

I recently watched the Pierre Morel/Luc Besson film Banlieue 13 (2004), and it got me thinking about related and somewhat-related things – mainly things having to do with urban athletics.

First: the somewhat-related . . .

When I was a young man I became fascinated with the idea of buildering, the climbing of buildings as though they were rock cliffs. This interest was spawned by an early 1980s Outside Magazine article profiles Dan Goodwin (Spider Dan) who had illegally climbed the North tower of the World Trade Center using those suction-cup devices that glaziers use when moving large panes of glass. He did so while wearing a Spiderman suit and was arrested as soon as he reached the top. He had also climbed the Sears Tower a couple of year before.

Dan Goodwin passing the 83rd floor of the Sears Tower in 1981

Many others have followed. Here’s Alain Robert:

Buildering was first documented in the 1800s by the amazing Geoffrey Winthrop Young during his days at Cambridge in his humorous The Roof Climbers Guide to Trinity.

Others joined in, including Harry Gardiner.

Harry Gardiner climbs the Hamilton Bank Building on November 11, 1918 to celebrate Peace Day. He wears ordinary street clothes. He is the one who looks like a white lizard just passing the sixth floor.

And of course, one of the most famous images from the history of cinema is of Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock high up on a building that he has been climbing from the film Safety Last (1923).

You can see the entire Safety Last building climbing sequence
here and here.

Second: the related . . .

We’ve all seen opening chase sequence from Casino Royale (2006). I remember being rather stunned by how great a chase sequence it was.

What I did not know is that that chase was derived from an old, but new, form of urban activity known as parcours, or parkour, or free running. This style, or philosophy, of urban travel was featured in Banlieue 13, two years before Casino Royale. Here’s a clip from B13:

Recently I was watching some kind of extreme sports show on television. On that show they profile a group of young New Yorkers who were working toward establishing competitive free running in the city. I looked it up online and that brought me to B13.

Needless to say, parkour is not limited only to narrative cinema. Here’s some rather great free runners showing off:

I am, as you are, amazed and the physical capabilities of these athletes. I think of parkour as, in part, a response to the hegemonic force of urban design and dominant structures of power.

…and then sometimes parkour is just a learning experience:

2 thoughts on “>urban athletic trangressions: buildering & parkour in cinema & life

  1. >I thought you might be interested to know that the guy being chased in B13 is David Belle, the founder of Parkour.The guy being chased in Casino Royale is Sebastian Foucan, Davids childhood friend, who later started Free Runing.There is a slight difference in the purpose of the two.Parkour is all about efficiency, while Free Runing is more about pleasing the eyes.

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