I recently watched the documentary film Sketches of Frank Gehry, directed by Sydney Pollack, and released in 2006. Pollack (who died in May 2008) was a good friend of the acclaimed architect, and the two of them have many on-screen conversations about their respective creative processes, finding common ground between film and architecture along the way. During the course of the film, they visit the sites of several of his creations, some of which were under construction, with cinematography that beautifully captures the bold curves and lines that have become Gehry’s hallmark. Pollack also interviews various friends, associates, and critics of Gehry’s, including his lifelong therapist. It received favorable reviews when it debuted.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Before watching it, I was not very familiar with the work of Gehry, but was drawn to the film because it seemed like it would delve into the many facets of the creative process, which indeed it does. Their conversations are very laid back and introspective, and filmed in a nonintrusive way, as though you were sitting in a cafe listening in on an engaging discussion from the table next to you. One thing that resonated with me is the sense that Gehry is just a regular person, self-doubting and struggling at times to find inspiration. That aspect reminded me of the documentary Comedian, which follows a modest and self-doubting Jerry Seinfeld as he struggles to relaunch his standup act in a post-Seinfeld world. Another thing I liked was that it showed him working with his two proteges in the studio, brainstorming and building prototypes, starting with very crude hand crafted paper models that inspire detailed CAD and rapid prototyping models, leading eventually to the full-scale construction.