Sketches of Frank Gehry Sydney Pollack

Most widely known as the architect behind the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Frank Gehry is a bit of a rebel in a field that really has none to speak of. His process is chaotic and his vaguely Dr. Seuss-esque buildings look like they defy all laws of physics.

Since he refuses to fuss with computers or typical line drawings, each of Gehry’s buildings evolves from seemingly formless scribbles on sheets of white paper. These glorified doodles demand respect when compared to the finished structures, as they look identical in some abstract way, a testament to how ridiculously huge his brain must be.

Sketches of Frank Gehry is Sydney Pollack’s first feature length doc and though he admits early in the narration that he knows nothing about architecture (or documentaries, for that matter), he was chosen for the project because of his longstanding friendship with Gehry. Thanks to this fact, Pollack gets some great candid stuff out of the typically shy and altogether elusive Gehry.

While all the footage of the buildings is shot in 16mm and looks stunning, Pollack uses a Mini DV cam for his interviews with the man himself in order to be as unobtrusive as possible. This mixed media approach can be distracting, at times, but it makes enough sense in the context of the film to overlook it.

As a straight-up documentary though, Sketches leaves much to be desired — balance, for instance. As one of the most famous modern architects, and one whose buildings do anything but blend into their surroundings, Gehry has truckloads of loud and venomous detractors. Unfortunately, Pollack refuses to include all but one in this giant ego-stroke.

It’s also questionable how much this film might appeal to someone with no interest in the subject matter. That said, the buildings sure look pretty. (Mongrel Media)