TWO MOVIES:  MY ARCHITECT & TOUCHING THE VOID 

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis 


                MY ARCHITECT Ė Architect Louis I. Kahn maintained three families until he died alone of a heart attack in New Yorkís Penn Station.  Nathaniel Kahn, his son by one of two mistresses, knew his father as a mostly absent, mysterious man.  As an adult, Nathaniel struggled with the problem of how he might understand his complex father.  It would not be an easy job considering Kahnís propensity for revealing nothing of himself to anyone.  Young Kahn chose the unusually complicated challenge of writing, directing, and narrating a documentary film as his path to discovery.  The result, by any judgment, is one of the yearís best films.

                The power of this film comes from Kahnís careful intercutting of interviews with his mother, his stepsiblings, his fatherís mistresses, and colleagues with the extraordinary buildings his father designed.  Kahn searches for elusive answers through the interviews, but when he travels to the buildings, seeing most of them for the first time himself, he wisely lets them stand in silence.  The Salk Institute will leave you nearly breathless; at the sight of the capital of Bangladesh, you will quite literally stop breathing. 

                Right along with the son you will try to penetrate the mystery of one of the worldís great architects, and like him, you may well be left with more questions than when you began.  It is tough to parse genius.  Please donít miss this. 

                TOUCHING THE VOID Ė An astonishing mountain face in the Andes is the magnet that pulls Simon and Joe to Peru.  After traveling for two days from the nearest road by donkey, they leave their newfound friend Richard in charge of their one-tent base camp and head up the mountain with their rucksacks.  No time wasted on extra preparation for these two.  They are fit and capable.  Isnít that all you need to climb a mountain?

                After reaching the summit at 20,000 feet, things go wildly wrong in the descent.  Their anchors wonít hold in the blowing snow; they are descending through waist deep powder, inching down in a blizzard.  In a fall that is agonizing to watch, Joeís lower leg is driven through the knee joint. 

                Working his way bravely toward Joe, Simon realizes with deadly certainty that his partner has no hold on the mountain.  He is dangling.  Here is Simonís void.  If he does not cut the rope, both he and Joe will die.  Trapped in a death slot, Joe summons an incredible blend of resolve and ingenuity as he meets his own void, ďa slow reduction until there is nothing left of me.  I didnít want to die alone.Ē 

                The movie is a fine reenactment of a true story that has become a mountain legend.  Donít be surprised though, when you find your fists balled and your body clenched in unconscious struggle against the mountain.  If only they had dialed up AOL for the weather report beforehand.


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