Friday, February 27, 2009
Antonio Gaudí (1984) A Film by Hiroshi Teshigahara
In the late 1950's, Hiroshi Teshigahara took his first trip away from his Japanese homeland with his father Sofu, visiting Europe and the United States. In Spain, he witnessed the architecture of Antonio Gaudí and was awestruck. Twenty-five years later he revisited the sites of Gaudí's work, substantially updated his footage, and completed one of his finest late career documentaries, Antonio Gaudí. The film is a rousing, predominantly visual smorgasbord of Gaudí's breathtaking structures, married mellifluously to long-time collaborator Tôru Takemitsu's ambient score which alternates between peaceful organ music and eerie chugs and whistles. It's a wonderful opportunity to see one great artist paying tribute to another, the late Catalan architect from the same region of Spain as Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.
Teshigahara treats his camera as a newcomer, first scanning the community and capturing the spirit of the Barcelona streets, then closing in on Gaudí's several accomplishments. He takes us from a bizarre apartment complex to a magisterial building to a bustling outdoor park and eventually to the Templo de La Sagrada Familia, a towering church Gaudí was unable to finish before his death. The work completed by Gaudí in his lifetime is truly astounding; each organically curvaceous wall contains microscopic detail, whether shards of colored ceramics or sculpted symbols. His designs are primarily naturalistic, incorporating numerous motifs of the Earth such as seashells or trees. At the same time, his architecture touches upon Medieval, Victorian, and Modern elements simultaneously.
Teshigahara lovingly embraces every inch of it in dazzling color cinematography, recording through close-ups, obtuse angles, and a mobile camera the fantastical interiors and exteriors. Eventually, the film achieves a wonderful rhythm, until a momentary narration intrudes towards the end for a minute or two. It doesn't seem necessary given that the architecture speaks for itself, and the narrated information is rather dull - nothing that one couldn't have known from scanning the back cover of the Criterion DVD. Nonetheless, Antonio Gaudí is the ultimate tourist video, a gorgeous combination of sights and sounds that will have one checking the rates for a vacation to Spain.