Sketches of Frank Gehry

Regardless of interest or knowledge in the field of architecture, Sydney Pollack’s documentary of world renowned architect Frank Gehry is a breathtaking experience, examining the creative process that takes ideas from two-dimensional scribble to the beautiful structure fixated in the world’s landscape.


Architect Philip Johnson expresses to Pollack the impossibility of hoping to capture the power of Gehry’s work through a two dimensional medium; however, the passion that Gehry and his admirers express and the visual exploration of his structures is enough to transmit the beauty of these massive works of art despite the constraints of the medium.  The film conveys the excitement surrounding Gehry’s pieces, an enthusiasm that has been lost in much of the field due to the notion that “good” architecture follows a particular format, an inconspicuous construction and gentle reduction into the cityscape where it is built.

Pollack opens the documentary with the story of how Gehry, a long time friend, approached him about making this film.  Pollack illustrates the reservations he had, feeling he knew nothing about architecture.  This quality, Gehry assured him, made him perfect to undertake this piece.  Their established friendship coupled with Pollack’s inability to approach this documentary solely as a film about architecture creates a highly personal, and more powerful, piece.  The dialogue Pollack and Gehry engage in is so natural, as it is simply two friends sharing aspirations and disappointments, making Gehry and his work very accessible for the distant spectator.  Pollack even interviews Gehry’s psychiatrist, facilitating a more personal understanding of this master architect.

Of course the film has a great deal of interviewees praising Gehry for his achievements; however, Pollack balances this nicely by interjecting several interviews that suggest this architecture as overrated or blatantly denouncing Gehry’s work.  Of course these statements are lost amidst the substantial portion of the film glorifying the buildings and the man behind them, and even situate the naysayer as ignorant after illuminating how beautiful these pieces are.  Regardless, Pollack’s inclusion of this oppositional point-of-view is admirable and creates a richer piece.

While the film can be enjoyed solely for its beautiful depiction of these structures, there is a great deal of insight being offered.  The most poignant being the discourse Pollack and Gehry engage in over the commercialism of both their industries.  The repulsion they approach this pitfall of both of their crafts with is not only reflected in their conversations but extends to their work as well, an enormous breath of fresh air amidst industries that are centered intrinsically on financial gain.  Sketches of Frank Gehry is a beautiful film, inspiring at its peaks and humane in its personal touch, with implications for any spectator that has ever aspired to contribute to the arts or is just an admirer.