Bird's-eye view of cities flits over questions
Urbanized takes a look at urban planning on five continents.
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Exempt from classification (82 minutes)
GARY Hustwit's documentary on urban planning has a very clean look: lots of high-angle shots of streets and highways, with distant cars and pedestrians moving back and forth.
This kind of abstraction comes with the territory: planning a city involves mapping out a scheme and then seeing how it works on the ground, something filmmakers do as well.
Billed as the culmination of Hustwit's ''design trilogy'', Urbanized is an ambitious production, filmed on five continents (though Australia is barely glimpsed).
The featured cities range from near-deserted Detroit, where the camera is mounted on a monorail snaking between empty skyscrapers, to congested Bogota, where the former mayor Enrique Penalosa, a very smooth operator, talks about the need to restrict car use while turning cycling into a high-status activity.
Thinking about cities, it's quickly apparent, is a way of thinking about everything: politics, aesthetics, the environment, the hopes and dreams of nations, businesses and individuals.
Inevitably Hustwit raises more questions than he can follow up: issues of surveillance and privacy are hardly touched upon, for instance, though we do get a chilling image of a high-tech Rio ''control centre'' where bureaucrats monitor every aspect of the city.
This really should have been a 13-part TV series, enabling Hustwit to spend more time talking not just to architects and civic leaders but to regular citizens; as things stand, the film struggles to visualise that elusive abstraction known as ''the public''.
But as a conversation-starter Urbanized is well worth checking out.