...This movie consists of the musings of two old friends.             

 

SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


               Two friends who seem always to have felt like outsiders show us the reasons why.  Frank Gehry, who scribbles his visions on paper, and Sydney Pollack, who captures his on film, offer a rare glimpse into the creative process.  Gehry, whose designs now create excitement wherever they are built, could bask in the acceptance bestowed by the architects who once laughed at him, but still he feels at home only in a circle of artists.  Of himself, Pollack says, “I always felt I was pretending to be a director.”  These are not Establishment men; they are immensely creative men, and this movie consists of the musings of two old friends. 

                Discussing how the world revolves around us when we are small and how we expand into the bigger world as we grow, Pollack says, “I hear music and it creates “shots” (camera shots).  Gehry replies that he sees paintings as a composition, that the painting becomes architecture.   When the Guggenheim mounted an exhibit of Ghery’s drawings a few years ago – a long walk up the winding ramp through his architectural models from early to recent - visitors couldn’t miss the fact that Gehry is primarily an artist.  They followed the method as well as the chronology from doodles on a pad to cardboard models.  At that point he asks his assistants to computerize the designs to see if they are structurally sound.              

                At an early time in his career, an observer said to him, “If you like this, you can’t like that,” referring to the difference between a rather uninspired Gehry building and the Disney Center.  “I have to pay the bills,” he replied but added that he then “jumped off the cliff,” into the sheer inventiveness of buildings like Bilbao.  “Everything has been done before; the only thing that changes is technology.”  This is an artist who believes architecture is about materials – about chain link, metals, and scraps.   Technology encourages his imagination and allows him to realize it.  When talking about his favorite buildings – Maggie’s Place in Scotland, Disney Hall, Bilbao – his art is inevitably linked to his belief that democracy is the ultimate chaotic expression.  Frank Gehry is indeed a “contemporary cubist” who thinks and works in shapes and forms. 

                Gehry’s therapist of thirty years says “People come to me and want to make their lives better; artists come to me and want to change the world.”  Gehry and Pollack talk about the “accidental discovery of what will be meaningful in your life.”  This movie is a roaming rather than a story.  Pollack’s directing hand here is not firm.  He clearly wants a leisurely, unforced dialogue, not a study of his friend.  Using his camera to explore Gehry’s expressions and his buildings, Pollack’s technique speaks for itself:  his friend, he is certain, is brilliant.  As they explore the sources of creativity, the film gains strength from the comfort level of the conversation between the director and his subject.


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