Sidney Pollack admits that his documentary, Sketches of Frank Gehry, is a profile of a friend of his. Certainly this meandering piece focuses on the buildings Gehry designed, his creative process, and the people who have commissioned his work, with some comments from critics of Gehry's work. Pollack admits at the outset that he is trying out a video camera for this first time, and he knows little about architecture.
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The film shows scenes of the septuagenarian Gehry in his studio, where his main creative media are paper, a pen and scissors. Gehry and his business partner work on an initial design of a building by folding paper accordeon-style and turning into the "walls" of this prototype building. Pollack then moves into another room of the studio, where other paper prototypes and models are displayed. Gehry's creative impulses seem to come from taking sheets of paper and crumpling them, placing them on the desk and drawing them. Gehry's sketches look impossibly random and very difficult to turn into buildings. Nonetheless, as his famous design for Bilbao's Guggenheim museum attests, the planes and curves and angles of these crumpled pieces of paper can be translated into elegant, awe-inspiring buildings of metal, glass, and concrete. Gehry doesn't use computers for his designs, but others in his studio do, and we see scenes of Gehry's computer-assisted design expert turning the crumpled balls and paper prototypes into 3-D images which can then be manipulated even further.
Viewers accompany Gehry on a rambling drive, where Gehry describes his initially unencouraging experiences in architecture school, his Canadian origins, his name change, and other aspects of Gehry's biography. Inside Gehry's house, we learn that this is a house-within-a-house, and it's one of Gehry's first works. Gehry literally designed a shell built around the original, modest house. Gehry's subsequent works, such as the Bilbao Guggenheim, a German furniture museum, Los Angeles' Walt Disney concert hall, and others (all shown in the film), are typified by unexpected curves, monumental scales, lots of curved metal and glass. Commentators in the film either love the originality and audacity of Gehry's style, or they detest the cold, egotistical largeness of it all.
There is no particular narrative structure to the film wich, with its stream-of-consciousness style, opens and closes with views of Gehry's designs.
The review of this Movie prepared by Jan Arata