DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Sketches Of Frank Gehry

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Aaron Silverman, Aug 26, 2006.

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  1. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    [​IMG]
    Sketches of Frank Gehry

    Written By: N/A
    Directed By: Sydney Pollack
    US Theatrical Premiere: May 12, 2006 (Sony Pictures Classics)
    US DVD Release: August 22, 2006
    Running Time: 1:23:43 (28 Chapter Stops)
    Rating: PG-13 (For Brief Strong Language)
    Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
    Audio: English DD5.1 (Extra Features: English DD2.0)
    Subtitles: French (Extra Features: None)
    TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None)
    Menus: Not Animated.
    Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert features cover images from other Sony Pictures Classics titles.
    MSRP: $24.96

    THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3.5/5

    Accomplished director Sydney Pollack’s first stab at a documentary feature is a fairly intimate look at his friend Frank Gehry, one of the world’s most famous and controversial architects. Although many documentarians approached Gehry with the idea of profiling him, he decided to ask Pollack due to Pollack’s lack of experience with nonfiction filmmaking and limited knowledge of architecture. His thinking was that Pollack would create a film more accessible to the layman, and the result, Sketches of Frank Gehry, doesn’t require any special architectural background to be enjoyed.

    Most of the film is structured as a dialogue between Pollack and Gehry, discussing his ideas, inspirations, and methods. Much of the time, Pollack is actually on camera, meeting with Gehry in his firm’s office and at some of his constructions. This footage is interspersed with commentary from various admirers, colleagues and critics of Gehry, as well as with shots of his buildings and his scribbly, nebulous design sketches.

    So what makes this particular architect worthy of his own film? One look at just about any of his works and it’s clear that he’s no ordinary designer. Bizarre angles and curves are the norm – one is hard-pressed to find even a part of one of his creations that resembles a normal, rectangular structure. No familiarity with the rules of architecture is necessary to understand that he’s breaking them on a regular basis.

    Gehry’s personal story is interesting, and he seems like a colorful enough character, but the buildings are the real stars of this show. Dozens of different examples are shown, reflecting an incredible variety of shapes and surfaces. However, if the film has a glaring flaw, it’s the brevity of coverage of most of the examples. Many of them are only flashed on screen for a moment, and the only structure to really be given extensive coverage is Gehry’s acknowledged masterpiece, the incredible Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain. More detail about some of these interesting buildings would have been nice; a walkthrough of at least one of them would have been ideal. As it is, the pause button comes in handy for closer examination of what views there are.


    THE WAY I SEE IT: 2.5/5

    The image, which was at least partly shot using tiny, hand-held HD cameras, is a bit inconsistent. Much of the interior interview footage and low-light scenes suffer from a lot of digital noise, but the daylight exterior shots of buildings look fine, and really, those are the important parts. Of course, the issues with the picture are almost certainly due more to the source material than to the authoring of the disc.


    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3/5

    The audio gets the job done – that job consisting pretty much of center-channel dialogue, with some music mixed into the sides and surrounds. Not much to say beyond that it works for what it is.


    THE SWAG: 1/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Q&A With Director Sidney Pollack (34:09)

    Filmmaker Alexander Payne interviews Pollack at a Film Foundation screening. The relaxed and informal conversation makes for a pretty interesting look at the making of this movie.

    Trailers

    The trailers for Who Killed The Electric Car?, The Devil And Daniel Johnston, and Why We Fight play automatically when the disc is inserted. They may be skipped.
    • Who Killed The Electric Car? (2:16) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • The Italian (1:41) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
    • Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles (1:40) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
    • Why We Fight (1:55) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • The Devil And Daniel Johnston (2:25) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • Mountain Patrol: Kekixili (1:50) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
    • The Fog Of War (2:09) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 non-anamorphic)
    • Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary (1:35) (DD2.0; 1.66:1 non-anamorphic)
    • Cirque Du Soleil on DVD (4:47) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)

    SUMMING IT ALL UP

    The Way I Feel About It: 3.5/5
    The Way I See It: 2.5/5
    The Way I Hear It: 3/5
    The Swag: 1/5


    Sketches of Frank Gehry is chock-full of interesting tidbits – it’s the sort of film where multiple viewings can reveal comments and details that might have gotten missed the last time around. It doesn’t require its audience to know anything much about architecture to appreciate its subject, but by the same token, I wonder how interesting it will be for those who are experts, as it could have gone into more detail regarding the buildings themselves. It’s focused more on the man and his process than on the work itself. That said, Gehry’s story is entertaining enough and there is sufficient coverage of his work to give an idea of why he’s an important figure in his field. The disc’s quality is good enough, with an interview that adds an extra half-hour of decent material to the feature’s relatively brief running time.
     
  2. Robert Hutchison

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    This film is scheduled to air on PBS as part of the AMERICAN MASTERS series on 9/27. You might want to check it out there before purchasing the DVD.
     
  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Thanks for that tip, Robert!

    Anyone interested in checking it out should check his or her local listings -- PBS stations generally have some leeway in scheduling (I know that my local PBS affiliates tend to show things at different times than those advertised nationally).
     
  4. Adrian_B

    Adrian_B Extra

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    I read a pretty interesting article on this film a few weeks back and damned if I can remember where. The exterior/architecture stuff was all shot on 16mm, hence the image difference.
    I'm really looking forward to seeing this, if only for the novelty of it.
    Thanks much for the review!
     
  5. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Good to know about the film stock. Thanks for mentioning it!
     

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