x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Movie glamour does not a des res make

Houses the feature in films may catch the attention but would you really want to live in one?

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is rightly regarded as one of the iconic 1980s teen movies. A coming-of-age comedy from the much-missed John Hughes, it stars a startlingly fresh-faced Matthew Broderick - wonderful as Ferris - who attempts to persuade his school friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) that life is for living. Its most memorable scene is set in a glassy modernist woodland retreat: Cameron stamps on the bonnet of his dad's shiny Ferrari, setting off a chain of events that ends with the expensive sports car crashing through one of the building's glass walls and plunging into the forest below.

Twenty-five years on, anyone who fancies re-enacting such a classic moment now can - as long as they've got enough money (and not just to clean up the mess). For the luxury home, designed in 1953 by architects A James Speyer and David Haid, is up for sale at a knock-down price of $1.65 million (Dh6.06m). Knock-down because it was first placed on the market in 2009 for a staggering $2.3m - rather cheeky for a building that's essentially a glass box with a cool garage.

But perhaps the vendors shouldn't have been too surprised at the lack of takers. Because however impressive such houses might appear in films, selling them is a different matter altogether. Take the beautiful mid-20th-century home of Colin Firth's George Falconer character in the 2009 film A Single Man. It looked gorgeous: a stylish combination of natural wood, concrete and glass that was also impeccably furnished - as it should have been. The film's director, after all, was fashion designer Tom Ford.

Even its location was unique. Any man of a certain age would love to live there - and indeed, almost as soon as the film was released, they could. The estate agent details boast: "Hidden in a wooded valley at the foot of the Verdugo Mountains, the redwood, concrete and glass residence opens to the oak forest that influenced the form and orientation of the design... in nature and apart, yet just 15 minutes to downtown Los Angeles."

And yet this John Lautner- designed dream home remains on the market two years later, for $1.495m.

Meanwhile, the celebrated American architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House, which featured in House on Haunted Hill and Blade Runner, is also for sale at a mere $7.5m. It's a typically esoteric structure referencing Mayan civilisation. But two years ago, it was placed on the market by the charitable trust that owns it for double that amount. So why aren't these cinematic constructions selling?

Blaming the credit crunch is a little too easy. Obviously, these buildings have a premium placed on them because of their notable history, and anyone wanting to buy into such fame has to pay for it. But the problem may be that the films they starred in made these homes look too good. By the time prospective buyers walk through the door, the film-crews, set designers and sympathetic lighting have gone. No matter how stylish it might have appeared, a house can never look as good in the flesh as it did using all the tricks of High Definition film stock. Or it might not look the same at all.

The famous address of 280 Westbourne Park Road, London, is a prime example. The flat was the home of Hugh Grant's character in the smash hit rom-com Notting Hill. It's currently up for sale, which might entice a few cineastes to ask for the particulars. If the disappearance of its familiar blue door might initially disappoint (it was auctioned off for charity), that's nothing compared with what lies behind. There's actually no flat at all, but a chapel converted into one home. Nice, but not quite the same.

Similarly, most of the interior shots of "Ennis House" have been created over the years in studio. Good job, too: despite an extensive renovation (these experimental homes weren't always built to last), the reason it was put on the market in the first place was it proved incredibly expensive to maintain.

It's all very well to boast to your friends that this was "The Mansion" in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But they might not be so impressed if the concrete in the guest rooms is crumbling.

Of course, that's not to say the houses made famous by Ferris Bueller and A Single Man are similarly structurally unsound. But such buildings do come with a final, slightly irritating problem: obsessive film fans. Which, in the case of the Ferris Bueller glass house, could be a problem if privacy is a concern.

Still, charge such enthusiasts $5 a time to stand in the famous glass garage for 10 minutes and that $1.65m will seem like money well spent.