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Sydney Pollock - Frank Gehry

Sydney Pollock     Because of her banner work for Errol Morris (The Fog of War, etc.), Boston's Karen Schmeer was hired by Hollywood filmmaker Sydney Pollock (They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Tootsie) to edit Pollock's first documentary, Sketches of Frank Gehry. The post-production was done in an unusual way: Schmeer cut the footage in New York, Pollock would fly in from the coast and check things out, then fly back. Curiously, Schmeer has never met Frank Gehry to this day. She knows him only by living intimately with his video image.

    Did the collaboration work? "We got a great editor, we got lucky having Karen Schmeer," Pollock graciously acknowledged her contribution, when he discussed the film in April at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.

    How did Pollock's first non-fiction feature evolve? "I was in Europe opening a film which was a big flop," Pollock said. "I was licking my wounds in Madrid, and Frank had sent me an invitation for the opening of the Guggenheim in Bilboa." Pollock flew over in his private plane. "I turned a corner and looked at This Vision. I never felt that way about a building: it's like Don Quixote got stoned. He lifted a lance and a building came out! I looked in a window, and there was shlubby Frank. He sees me, brings me inside." And they got talking over dinner about doing a film together.

    Pollock: "I felt compelled to keep saying to Frank, 'I'm totally illiterate about architecture. I didn't study documentary.' I wasn't being coy. I was telling the truth. But I ended up doing it two or three weekends a month for five years. I brought to this doc whatever I know from features. I'm a victim of my own history, looking for a beginning, middle, end."

    Among those interviewed in the film about Gehry's buildings are show-off painter Julian Schnabel and the now-deceased architect Philip Johnson. Pollock: "Schnabel's great, crazy like a fox. It was his idea to be theatrical, so he asked,'What do you think if I was to wear a bathrobe and have a snifter of brandy?' I said, 'Ok, go for it.' My talk with Johnson was his last interview. He was terribly sweet, very, very, old, and a huge fan of Frank's. I wish you could hear better when he's talking about Bilboa. I brought the camera in close, and he says, 'Oh boy, oh boy!'"

Boston Phoenix, May 2006


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