Sketches of Frank Gehry

A jolly little Jewish man

"No person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect. If he is not a sculptor or painter, he can only be a builder." John Ruskin

There are times when I can't begin writing until I've tidied up or made phone calls, generally wasting time until it's so running out I must run to write. On a much grander scale, architect Frank Gehry describes similar blocks to his creative process; then he releases his demons and creates buildings such as Guggenheim Balboa, perhaps the most celebrated museum architecture of modern times.

The Sketches of Frank Gehry documentary is filled with the humanity of a jolly little Jewish man who became a premier architect, perhaps outperforming Johnson and Pei. The documentary is directed by Sydney Pollack (Tootsie), who knows nothing of architecture and therefore is perfect for the job, according to Gehry. The doc's singular weakness is Pollack's regular intrusions, even having another camera recording him while he is recording Gehry.

I like most about this doc the moments when Gehry lets us into his creative process, for instance by constructing a new building model of flexibly-placed pieces of cardboard that he changes before our eyes with his reasons. When he shows how he took a Hieronymous Bosch painting and created a building out of its composition, I was a happy human listening to a god's creation.

Pollack's eye for the curving shapes and moments of balance as well as clash is unfailing; Gehry's post-modern cubism almost shimmers when you look at it with the sun. Indeed Gehry builds with light foremost in his mind.

Unlike My Architect (2003), which spends too much time as Nathaniel Khan tries to deal with his errant architect father Louis, Sketches is about only the loveable genius, whom we get to know better than Nathaniel does his father.

After all the sons and directors, however, what lasts are the buildings that spring from the mind of a nice little guy with a very big talent. Enjoy!