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“Sketches of Frank Gehry” to premier at The Smith

“Sketches of Frank Gehry” opens with architect Frank Gehry talking to Sydney Pollack (“Out Of Africa”), his friend and the documentary’s director, about the frightening terror of beginning a new project. As we listen to Gehry, the camera cuts from some of his freeform pencil sketches of who knows what to the crown jewel of Gehry’s architectural masterpieces, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Although all of his gravity-defying buildings are unique, his Bilbao design features some of his signature touches, which are walls that look like huge clashing waves or large billowing sails.This fascinating film, which premieres in Geneva at the Smith Opera House on Friday as part of the “Hot Docs 06” documentary film series, takes us into the head of Gehry, who freely admits that he has an “Ah, shucks” kind of exterior, while internally he is extremely competitive. His development process is both a throwback to pre-computer methods and technologically innovative. Never using computers himself, he and his design partners build everything with paper and cardboard models, which they “finish,” only to tear down and rebuild even better. Watching these guys at work is rather like observing kindergartners at play. The computers are used to digitize the models in order to determine what is physically feasible and, more importantly, to ensure that what is designed is exactly what is built. Too often, innovative and radical designs are severely compromised in their construction, Gehry explains. But his detailed computer specifications ensure that his visions are fully realized.And what gorgeous and compelling visions they are. The film interviews many artists who explain that they see Gehry as one of them. He doesn’t build big boxes but works of art.Gehry is a warm-hearted and gregarious guy who relishes self-criticism. “This is so stupid looking; it’s great!” he proclaims towards the end of one of his design iterations.Pollack, who proves he isn’t camera shy, placing himself in many of the shots, does a masterful job of blending his conversations with Gehry and other artists with plenty of clips of Gehry’s works. Even if you know nothing of Gehry’s designs before seeing the movie, you’ll be immediately and completely engrossed in the story and the images.As part of the “Hot Docs” series, Geneva architect Daniel Long, will lead a “town hall”-style discussion following the Saturday night screening.“Sketches of Frank Gehry” will be screened November 3-7 at 7 p.m., 2 p.m. on Sunday. It runs a fast one hour and 23 minutes. It is rated PG-13 for “brief strong language” and would be acceptable for all ages. Tickets are $5 general admission and $3 for students and senior citizens. Call 315-781-LIVE (5483) or toll-free 866-355-LIVE (5483) for details or to order tickets. Tickets may also be purchased on-line at www.TheSmith.org.

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