Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sketches of Frank Gehry

This was the world premier of Sydney Pollack's documentary about architect Frank Gehry. Both Pollack and Gehry attended the screening and made some comments before the start of the movie, but did not do a Q&A afterwards.

Pollack and Gehry have a friendship that dates back a number of years, and this played a role in getting the film made. The film follows the usual documentary convention of talking to friends, associates, and critics, but Pollack also interjects himself into the film, engaging Gehry in conversations about his life and influences. Pollack can also be seen in the film shooting Gehry with a handheld camera.

The film shows some of the process that Gehry goes through when designing a building, and it is quite interesting, and even funny at times, to see him and his partners cutting out strips of paper and folding and bending them to make interesting shapes to attach to the sides of their scale models. In fact, the process at times is not all that different from what was shown in the episode of The Simpsons where Gehry designs Springfield's concert hall.

The documentary also makes an attempt at examining how Gehry got involved in architecture and how his style evolved, even by talking to his long-time psychotherapist. Gehry and others talk about some of the events in his life that have shaped him and directed him into his chosen profession.

While the film really celebrates Gehry, it does at least make an effort to talk to some of the criticisms of Gehry's style and personality. Mention is even made of the criticisms of Gehry's redesign of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

Comparisons could be made to another recent documentary, My Architect, about Louis Kahn, but the two films are very different. My Architect was more about a son's attempt to know and understand his father, while Sketches is more of a straightforward look at the work of a man who is very much in the public consciousness of architecture.

There was no Q&A, but both Pollack and Gehry did make a few comments before the screening:

  • Festival director Piers Handling described the film as a meeting of minds between two masters of film and architecture.
  • Pollack said that his fictional films stand on whether he can find the truth in the characters, and he felt the same about this film, his first documentary.
  • Pollack said that if the film works, it is due to Gehry's openness and honesty.
  • Gehry joked that Pollack had promised him that he'd be co-starring with Nicole Kidman.
  • Gehry said that he was glad the film was premiering in his home town.


there already exists a fascinating film on the work of frank gehry. this film, "a constrcutive madness", was presented at the melbourne international film festival in 2004. created by jeff kipnis, it is a film that looks directly at the process of architectural design, particularly in terms of contemporary trends.
gehry was not as happy with the kipnis film because it showed very directly the give and take of a singular commission and also because the project it focuses on was never constructed.

I was at that screening in Toronto as well and I really liked this documentary. I was disappointed by teh lack of a Q&A after, but the film was pretty entertaining.

My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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