SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY
A warm and observant working portrait of architect Frank Gehry showing him with trusted assistants and colleagues, painstakingly assembling models with scissors and cardboard until he finalises his ideas for new, extraordinary buildings. The film captures those moments when spontaneous ideas collide with practical concerns and shows a man who has dared to dream about buildings that transcend the rectilinear approach that defines so much of architecture, with designs such as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Review by Louise Keller:
The film is a credit to Sydney Pollack, whose warm and intelligent style infiltrates this fascinating documentary allowing us the pleasure of spending some time with an architect whose approach to design is as fundamental as to life itself. The fact that Pollack and Gehry are friends opens the door to an intimacy that we otherwise would not experience. Their conversations are intelligent, respectful and revealing. Watching Gehry crinkling paper in his hands and placing it on a scale model in the process of design is extraordinary. If he does not like the result, he will toss the paper away and try something else. Of course, designing buildings like the awe-inspiring Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao take more than a few pieces of strategically placed paper shapes on a model, yet Gehry makes the process seem as fresh and as thrilling as a child might when dreaming up an imaginary construction.
We watch Gehry sketch his design fantasies, create models and visit the finished building masterpieces. There's an insight from his therapist of 35 years, and of course from the man himself, who talks about his life, his work and passion. Technology in the form of 3D computer modelling is used extensively in the creations of his designs, yet he is the first to admit he is not au fait with the technology himself. It is his team of savvy assistants who bring the technology to him.
Sketches of Frank Gehry is an intimate portrait. It's as though we have tagged along with Pollack for a detailed tour of the creative mind of his good friend. The mutual respect between Gehry and Pollack is obvious, and their philosophical conversations go beyond the topic of architecture. We become excited about the radical concepts and designs that are synonymous with Gehry's name and feel a sense of appreciation for their striking lines and attention to capturing light. After looking at a design bearing Gehry's name, any other building can look extremely boring.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Sydney Pollack is a friend of Frank Gehry's and approaches this work on the subject's request, admitting to being in unfamiliar territory with a documentary. But he has the right instincts as he puts himself into the role of the maker, often seen holding his video camera recording the ongoing conversation with Gehry. This is not some fake naivety on Pollack's part but a genuine frankness of approach and one that I have myself used in the SBS tv series, Front Up.
The video footage is reserved for the more intimate moments, when the two men are in conversation, or when Pollack witnesses those moments of creation where Gehry conducts his assistant designers in cutting, pasting, shaping and shaving bits of modelling material into approximations of buildings that look like nothing anyone else has ever built.
It's the combination of a man's unique gift in a profession usually driven by tradition, and the tid bits of revealing personal information that makes this work at once engaging and informative.
The shots of the buildings themselves are handled by 'real' cinematographers with 35 mm cameras to capture the subtle brilliance of Gehry's work as it plays with light and perspective (a subject in which he was initially failed, driving him to go back and take it again, successfully). During the course of the film we hear from a few other architects, as well as from a short list of Hollywood characters (hardly surprising that Pollack found Gehry fans among his own peer group), like Barry Diller, Michael Eisner, Michael Ovitz and a flamboyant Julian Schnabel, who at one point talks about Gehry wrapped in a large white bathrobe, sitting in a giant, ornate armchair on a vacant lot, as if to assert his own uniqueness.
The low key, 'sketches' of the conversation are a symbolic equivalent to Gehry's love of freestyle sketching as a precursor to more formal design work. The sketches of his work are closer to art than architecture, a point that many commentators and architects make about Gehry's work itself.
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SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring Frank Gehry, Dennis Hopper, Philip Johnson, Barry Diller, Michael Eisner, Michael Ovitz, Eddie Ruscha, Julian Schnabel and Bob Geldof.
PRODUCER: Ultan Guilfoyle
DIRECTOR: Sydney Pollack
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Marcus Birsel, Ultan Guilfoyle, Sydney Pollack, Claudio Rocha, George Tiffin
MUSIC: Sorman & Nystrom
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 12, 2006