SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY (U.S.-Ger / 2005)
*A 2006 U.S. Release*
"It's not just that I didn't know anything about making documentaries; I didn't even know anything about architecture." This self-effacing remark early on from veteran filmmaker Sydney Pollack not only grounds the relatively highbrow concept of Sketches of Frank Gehry, Pollacks intimate and absorbing documentary debut which portraits his good friend and Pritzker Prize winning architect, but it also serves as an invitation of sorts, especially to those viewers who might be in the same boat as him when it comes to architecture. The "sketches" Pollack has come up with after nearly a 5-year process with the 78-year-old Toronto-born, Los Angeles-based master are mostly satisfactory. While he blends in the insightful interview snippets from the curators, the collectors, and the fellow architects who admire Gehry (Mildred Friedman, Michael Ovitz, Charles Jencks, etc.) with those hes worked for and with (Michael Eisner, Edwin Chan, etc.), the focus remains on the art and, to a lesser extent, on the method to its madness. Gehrys most fascinating and ambitious work often sticks out, no matter where the "post-modern" structures are located (the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, has moved up rapidly on my list of places to visit; Im happy to say however that, among others, Ive seen the "Dancing House" in Prague). Like most great artists, he has his detractors, and Pollack didnt shy away from approaching them, even though only one agreed to appear on-camera (Professor Hal Foster asserts that Gehry's spectacles have a tendency to detract from the purpose theyre meant to serve). Sketches of Frank Gehry wouldve been "symmetrical" if Pollack had delved into the history and the politics of this underappreciated art form (which is perhaps what a more intuitive filmmaker couldve accomplished), but it serves its purpose by allowing us a glimpse of the world to which we often dont pay enough attention.
*The film premiered at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival. Now available on U.S. DVD (Sony). An Alexander Payne-moderated interview session with Pollack is provided as an extra.