Sketches of Frank Gehry

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Dir. Sidney Pollack
2005
My friend Mr. C invited me out to see this film which he needed to review.
I haven’t been a fan of Frank Gehry, but I was willing to give the film a try. Hey, convince me, right?
But I got the distinct feeling over its 90 minutes that both supporters and detractors of Gehry, and Gehry himself, were talking a load of balls. Sidney Pollack, who directs and interviews and is one of Gehry’s longtime friends, is probably the most interesting person here, as he brings his concerns about art and filmmaking to the interviews, trying to find similarities to filmmaking.
We hear from architectural critics and artists (including Julian Schnabel looking like The Dude in a robe and sunglasses), CEOs and museum directors. But who we don’t hear from are the people who have to live and work in these buildings. Is it well designed for humans? Is it convenient? Does it leak? Is it comfortable? Does the sun refract off of the side of the building and incinerate some office drone’s head?
Basic questions like these are not only absent here, but absent from most writing on it, and one of the problems that has beset architecture since the anti-human scourge of Le Corbu and modernism.
From the film, it looks as though Gehry works in paper, glue, and crumpled plastic, then a warehouse full of designers and engineers bring his collage-like whims to reality. It looks like the easiest job in the world if you can just get away with it. As Mr. C said, you get the feeling Gehry is pulling a fast one. This is often leveled at many artists, but with a Damien Hirst you can take it or leave it. It’s not like one has to weigh the options of having a sheep in a tank of formaldehyde in the living room. But people have to live in these buildings. When critics go on about how Gehry takes risks, my initial thought was “Do I want to live in somebody else’s risk?”
With numerous shots of blank walls that come down to the curb with no public access and of teeny weeny heads seemingly lost among the metal, one has to wonder where humans have a place in Gehry’s work. If they do, you won’t know it from this film.

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