Theatrical Review: Sydney Pollack
has made a life out of making enjoyable romantic comedies and political thrillers, but has never gotten around to making a documentary. Apparently, this is why he was asked by longtime pal Frank Gehry
to do a film on him and his groundbreaking work in architecture. Whatís even stranger is how this little experiment becomes the most blatant expression of Pollackís talents as a director and a strikingly sincere portrait of an artist.
Frank Gehry toils in anonymity from most of the world: Heís an architect. In the world of architecture, heís considered somewhat of a revolutionary, the equivalent of Dylan going electric. His shapes look somewhat sloppy and uncomfortable at first glance, using strange slopes and metal to create bewildering use of light. Eventually, however, his work becomes inviting and warm in a very peculiar sort of way. Article continues below
Pollack openly said that he didnít want to make Sketches a film about how great Gehry is. Successfully, if awkwardly, he explores a few critics, who consider Gehryís work obtrusive and mediocre at best. Thereís no doubt that there is a certain amount of bias here, but itís acceptable in that Gehry seems to be his own toughest critic. In one of the first scenes, we watch him and design partner Craig Webb take a part of the roof of a building design, corrugate it, and place it on the side, immediately stating that the next morning Webb and he will come in and not feel right about it.
Instinctively, Pollack stays away from Gehryís family and sticks to the man, his work, and his iconoclasm. We are given an in-depth study of his Guggenheim Museum design in Bilbao, Spain, which is considered one of the most original works in modern architecture. For the most part though, we are with Gehry and trying to understand the way he thinks. Milton Wexler, his psychologist of many years, is interviewed to allay questions of the way he constantly re-evaluates himself. With this, however, the film still has the ability to keep the mystery of artistry while still dissecting the process.
Ultimately, the film works because Gehry is what everyone wishes celebrities and artists to be: down to earth. Gehry has an ego, but it is beneficial to his work. He knows heís good and therefore, he knows he can do better. His friendship with Pollack is key to understanding him as a normal person because most of the interviews are wildly unanimous in his guile and mastery of his field. Pollack, who is often seen on screen, has the ability to just talk Gehry about work as it is to them. Both of them show true passion for what they do but at the end of the day, it's still work, and Pollack finds that tone in his conversations with him; a gentle balance of love and dexterity.