Archive for Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pollack examines life of famed architect

September 27, 2006

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Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack ("Out of Africa") presents his first documentary, "Sketches of Frank Gehry," on "American Masters" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings). Pollack, who is also an actor ("Tootsie," "Will & Grace"), appears in the film and explains how he has been friends with Gehry for years and claims to know nothing about architecture. "That's why you'd be perfect (to make this film)," explains Gehry at the beginning of their conversations and collaboration.

Gehry has emerged as one of the most acclaimed and prolific architects of our time, but only after decades of being marginalized as an "artist" among builders. Best known for his soaring Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Gehry has become famous for designing private homes, corporate headquarters and large institutional facilities as well as his use of unusual materials. The wavelike form of the Bilbao facility is covered in titanium.

We see Gehry developing ideas for new buildings in sketches and by literally playing with cardboard cutouts to see what he likes and what bothers him. He uses terms one would not associate with construction work. At one point, he looks at proposed exterior wall and says, "Let's make it crankier." We also learn how computer-aided design has been essential in translating Gehry's visions into reality.

"Sketches" presents interviews with Gehry patrons, including Dennis Hopper, who has lived in a Gehry house in Venice, Calif. We also hear from former superagent Mike Ovitz, who commissioned the architect. Rocker Bob Geldof chimes in with a memory of being struck by the poetry of a Gehry building he saw in the distance during a train ride through Germany. Geldof prefaces this rapturous recollection by saying how much he loathes modern architecture.

Much of "Sketches" is devoted to Gehry's private life, his failed marriages, defensive personality, early struggles with anti-Semitism and his three and a half decades in therapy. The man who emerges here seems almost like a character in a novel by Saul Bellow. Not bad for a first documentary.

Other highlights

¢ Jake helps the town prepare for fallout on "Jericho" (7 p.m., CBS).

¢ A vanishing corpse is found in a toxic tub on "Bones" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ A death in a theme park on "Justice" (8 p.m., Fox).

Gehry has emerged as one of the most acclaimed and prolific architects of our time, but only after decades of being marginalized as an "artist" among builders. Best known for his soaring Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Gehry has become famous for designing private homes, corporate headquarters and large institutional facilities as well as his use of unusual materials. The wavelike form of the Bilbao facility is covered in titanium.

We see Gehry developing ideas for new buildings in sketches and by literally playing with cardboard cutouts to see what he likes and what bothers him. He uses terms one would not associate with construction work. At one point, he looks at proposed exterior wall and says, "Let's make it crankier." We also learn how computer-aided design has been essential in translating Gehry's visions into reality.

"Sketches" presents interviews with Gehry patrons, including Dennis Hopper, who has lived in a Gehry house in Venice, Calif. We also hear from former superagent Mike Ovitz, who commissioned the architect. Rocker Bob Geldof chimes in with a memory of being struck by the poetry of a Gehry building he saw in the distance during a train ride through Germany. Geldof prefaces this rapturous recollection by saying how much he loathes modern architecture.

Much of "Sketches" is devoted to Gehry's private life, his failed marriages, defensive personality, early struggles with anti-Semitism and his three and a half decades in therapy. The man who emerges here seems almost like a character in a novel by Saul Bellow. Not bad for a first documentary.

Other highlights

¢ Jake helps the town prepare for fallout on "Jericho" (7 p.m., CBS).

¢ A vanishing corpse is found in a toxic tub on "Bones" (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ A death in a theme park on "Justice" (8 p.m., Fox).

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