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Review: 'Human Scale' sleepwalks through pro-pedestrian cities topic

Andreas M. Dalsgaard's documentary 'The Human Scale' is a low-key approach to success stories about cities becoming pedestrian-friendly.

October 31, 2013|By Gary Goldstein
  • A scene from "The Human Scale."
A scene from "The Human Scale." (Handout )

The documentary "The Human Scale" explores and celebrates the successful pedestrianization of various cities around the globe, particularly those that have been modified under the visionary eye of Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl. However, writer-director Andreas M. Dalsgaard takes such a low-key approach to presenting the film's vital, potentially involving topic that viewers may find themselves more inspired to take a snooze than a stroll.

Dalsgaard, who also provides the movie's quiet, clipped-voiced narration, travels to such far-flung spots as Chongqing, China; Siena, Italy; Melbourne, Australia; Christchurch, New Zealand; Dhaka, Bangladesh (the world's fastest-growing city) and standard bearer Copenhagen; as well as to New York and Los Angeles, spotlighting the kinds of people-friendly (i.e. noncar-centric) street and building designs that are revitalizing so many urban areas.

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Notable facts and figures (50% of the world's population lives in cities), a number of strong, you-are-there visuals plus input from a clutch of architects (including Gehl), city planners, authors and activists combine to paint an intriguing picture of burgeoning urban progress amid a host of social, political, environmental and financial concerns.

Unfortunately, although the film is divided into five distinctly labeled chapters, it plays more like an array of random snapshots and examples than as a clear and thorough treatise. But it's Dalsgaard's logy, spark-free filmmaking style that most needed a creative redesign.


"The Human Scale."

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.


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