Sketches of Frank Gehry – DVD Review

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Sydney Pollack

Frank Gehry
Sydney Pollack
Dennis Hopper
Julian Schnabel
Michael Eisner
Barry Diller

Sony Pictures Classics presents Sketches of Frank Gehry. Running time: 84 minutes. Rated PG-13. Theatrical release May 12, 2006. DVD released Aug. 22, 2006.

In the art world, there’s only one person who can make a filmmaker look like a pauper when it comes to the costs of their creations: an architect. A hot director can blow $200 million to create a summer blockbuster, but that’s peanuts to an architect. Frank Gehry’s planned budget for the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn has a price tag of $4 billion. It is entirely proper that Oscar winning director Sydney Pollack investigates his longtime pal since he’s the poor cousin in this relationship.

Gehry has designed some of the most stunning buildings around the globe including L.A.’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Experience Music Project museum in Settle and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. His iconic style has made him the 21st century Antoni Gaudi. This isn’t a cut and dry presentation of the man’s life and work. Pollack explores how his friend works from the inside out. Instead of interviewing critics who spew psycho-babble about the man, Pollack gets access to Milton Wexler, Gehry’s shrink. We hear real inside information about the architect’s mindset during his rise to icon status.

Pollack illuminates the various people in Gehry’s studio that take his odd scribbles on napkins and figure out how to translate them into the reality of steel, glass and concrete. There’s no myth building of a solitary artist going on in this film. Gehry seems very open to sharing the credit for creating these huge buildings. He doesn’t try to hide the elves working in his shoeshop.

The interviews with critics and peers aren’t overdone. The academic masturbation content that ruined Ric Burn’s Andy Warhol: A Documentary is kept to a minimum. Artist Julian Schnabel steals the show, but not for his amazing insights. It’s because he appears to be auditioning for the touring company of Big Lebowski: The Musical . He’s in full Dude attire with a his beard, white bathrobe, mixed drink and shades. I was waiting for him to announce how a little rug really ties Gehry’s designs together. He should win a costume contest this Halloween.

With the exception of The Firm, Pollack has been on a losing streak since he won the Best Director Oscar for Out of Africa in 1985. In the bonus interview, Pollack explains that this was is first attempt at a documentary. After having audiences suffer through The Interpretator, he really should think of stepping away from scripted films and stick to documentaries. He could make a flick about Dustin Hoffman or Robert Redford for the American Masters series on PBS.

The DVD:

The Video:
The picture is 1.78:1 anamorphic.

The Audio:
Audio is English in Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are only in French.

Special Features:
Q&A With Director Sydney Pollack 33:31 – Director Alexander Payne (Sideways) hosts a chat with Pollack after a screening of the film. The conversation makes up for the lack of a director’s commentary.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Sketches of Frank Gehry
(OUT OF 10)