A review of “Sketches of Frank Gehry” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for some language

Run Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes



Sydney Pollock is better known for his fictional work (“Tootsie”, “The Firm”, etc.) than for documentary filmmaking but he puts on a show in this ode to the man who has changed the face of contemporary architecture.      

It’s not merely the content that clicks – we’ve all seen countless documentaries chock full of stunning visuals, interviews and entertaining backstories. The success of “Gehry” lies in Pollock’s style, a clever blend of insider intelligence (the two are friends) and the elusive art of crafting dwellings from seed of imagination to concrete and steel (or in Gehry’s case titanium and glass).

Gehry is more than an architect – he’s an artist and a risk-taker, endeavoring to find expression in an aesthetic discipline that makes stringent demands on time and neuroses. Gehry himself appears to lack the pretension one associates with success, shuffling around Columbo-style with an aw-shucks demeanor and a childlike way of perceiving the world.

The whimsy is an illusion of course; Gehry is considered one of the most ambitious architects of the 20th century with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Vitra Design Museum at Weil-am-Rein, Germany among others on his resume. With meticulous care the man injects feeling into three-dimensional objects thanks to a highly refined relationship with shape and light.

Gehry has his nay-sayers, of course, and they are more than happy to speak out against this genius run amok. Talking heads – critics, collectors, celebrities and Gehry’s therapist of thirty-five years – tap into the soul of a creative enigma with wry humor and absorbing candor.

Pollock is a pro, his hand-held camera caressing brilliant interiors and exteriors set to a background of incongruous, Elfman-esque piano music. There are dry spots – Gehry free-associating on Gehry – but overall the effect is agreeably educational and delightfully illuminating.