Antonio Gaudi (1984)
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
No other crew listed.
by Jon Cvack
Antonio Gaudi is the fourth and last film available from Netflix from Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara, best known for his Criterion trilogy of Pitfall (1962), Woman in the Dunes (1964), and Face of Another (1966). He’s the kind of director I want to love but only like, as the trilogy’s individual concepts exceed the execution by just a hair (though Woman in the Dunes remains my favorite). They’re close to fascinating films, but abstraction prevents it.
My fiance’s mom bought us an Antonio Gaudi book a couple Christmases ago and it was the first time I’ve seen the artist. Combined with a director who’s only made cerebral sci-fi/supernatural narratives, I was left hoping for the The Last Waltz (1978) of artist documentaries. Instead, it’s mostly a silent film showing off the extensive pieces Gaudi created throughout Barcelona. For those unfamiliar, he was primarily an architect, utilizing a style that feels influenced by fairy tales, with flowing molds up and down and around the structures, often with detailed tile work that strangely looks both improvised and deliberate.
It’s reading his Wikipedia that I realize how little I know about architecture (not that I know much of anything), as I struggle to understand even a fraction of the influences Gaudi has taken from other movements. With such a superficial understanding, I was left only with my immediate experience with the work. Given that most of it was confined to Barcelona, the first thing you grasp is the sheer ubiquity of his creations. At nearly 80 minutes long and rarely spending more than five minutes on any given piece and often only half that, to think that all of these magnificent pieces exist within the same city which enhances their allure. His cathedrals are by far the most impressive, as similar to the problems of explaining how I reacted to a given song, it’s only by seeing the structures and the way Teshigahara filmed them, that you can understand the vast amount of detail that went into these pieces, and how the fact that there’s even more than just a few is an accomplishment.
The film ends as crews build his latest cathedral, which includes the fantastically shaped winding spires that extend far into the sky and above the city; scene for miles in any direction. We hear that he was thrilled to know he’d have to pass on his design to others, knowing that they would do their best to honor his vision while also adding their style. While building either this piece or another church, he was so moved by the experience, that like Jesus, he fasted to wash himself of his sins; going over thirty days before his friends and family had to step in to save his life. The movie is a great introduction to an artist’s unique vision, but it leaves you wanting to know more about the man and how his style came to be and what he was attempting to do. Then again, for anyone who’s fully versed in Gaudi and art history, this gentle meditation might be the perfect film to put on; impeded by novice knowledge.*
*It was digging into the Criterion Collection page for the film that I see that sure enough the second disc contains a documentary on Gaudi and his life’s work; though I’m not entirely sure why this required two discs.
BELOW: A CBS short on the architect
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