The Frank Gehry Show

johnson The Frank Gehry Show
Sydney Pollack and the late Philip Johnson.

Last night, roughly 100 people attended the unofficial Tribeca Film Festival screening of Sketches of Frank Gehry, director Sydney Pollack‘s documentary on the famous architect (who also happens to be his friend, too).

Every seat was taken in the DOLBY screening room (formerly the MGM room). But a handful of invited guests snagged director’s chairs that were placed along the sides of the small theater.

Regis Philbin, Ken Burns, and Morley Safer were amongst the notable names in the crowd–which was comprised mostly of film industry types.

Mr. Pollack addressed the audience prior to the start of the 82-minute film by saying, “one thing I’ve never learned is how to introduce a film.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Pollack began by discussing his first visit to Guggenheim Bilbao several years ago. Unfortunately, it occurred under less than ideal circumstances.

“I was in Madrid doing press for a film that was flopping,” said Mr. Pollack.

But then Mr. Pollack received an invitation from his old friend Frank to come and take a look at the architect’s new project.

“Does he really think that people will go to Bilbao to see a building,” remembered Mr. Pollack?

But Mr. Pollack was “so depressed” by his flopping film (which he wouldn’t reveal by name), that he decided to take the trip. Admittedly, Mr. Pollack was very moved by the museum, but remained uncertain about directing a documentary on Mr. Gehry– considering that he “didn’t know anything about documentaries or architecture.”

However, Mr. Gehry convinced him that because of this lack of knowledge, he was the right person for the job. The result is an intimate look at the architect’s creative process, shot with both 16 mm film and digital video. Mr. Pollack appears throughout the film with hand-held camera, following Mr. Gehry everywhere–whether at home, the studio, or on the site of a current development. (One ongoing project, Mr. Gehry’s Brooklyn arena design, is never mentioned).

In the film, Barry Diller talks about initial ideas for the IAC Center (something to do with sailing up the Hudson); Michael Eisner discusses the development of Mr. Gehry’s projects for Disney; and Michael Ovitz compares the architect to a Cubist painter. Princeton professor Hal Foster knocks down Mr. Gehry’s oeuvre, while Herbert Muschamp provides the opposite critical position. However, the most laughs came from Julian Schnabel’s several appearances, where the artist was interviewed in a bathrobe, with sunglasses on, with drink in hand.

After the film, the crowd moved en masse down to Osteria del Circo for dinner. Although he missed the screening. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly met up with the gang at the restaurant, just in time for the main course.

Sketches of Frank Gehry screens again at Tribeca, and will be shown on American Masters this fall.

- Michael Calderone