My Architect: A Son's Journey (USA; 116 min.)


directed by: Nathaniel Kahn
documentary
My Architect: A Son's Journey
 
Diane says: "Am I imagining that some people already wrote in about this one? I liked
MY ARCHITECT very much. The inherently compelling premise (illegitimate son wants to get to know his father better, posthumously) and the strong visual elements from the father's architectural creations provide two sturdy pedestals for a fine documentary.

"Louis Kahn's son's journey is moving, as he interacts with the people and the buildings, and we have the pleasure of hearing from a number of renowned architects. The only serious flaw is that the music is often heavy-handed. I recommend it highly. For those near Boston, it's at the Coolidge and the Kendall still, I believe."

 
Hilary says: "MY ARCHITECT is Nathaniel Kahn's exploration of his father’s life. Architect Louis I. Khan was a stranger to the son he fathered while in his 60s. He never married nor even lived with Nathaniel’s mother. When Kahn the elder died suddenly in 1974, he left behind three families: three women each with one child, although only his wife and elder daughter were recognized as his surviving relatives.

"Nathaniel takes a literal journey, visiting his father’s built work around the world and interviewing along the way. Several famous figures of the architectural world – Johnson, Pei, and Gehry among others – offer their perspectives on his father and his work, each expressing their reverence for his genius. The 'other women' in Louis’ life, architect Anne Tyng and landscape architect Harriet Pattison, are equally respectful discussing his professional life, though clearly injured by their personal relationships with him. On the negative side, as Diane mentioned in her review, the music erred on the side of melodrama, as did his treatment of Tyng, mother of Kahn’s second child. Nathaniel’s presentation of his own mother, Pattison, is naturally less reverent and detached and thus offers some balance in its apparent authenticity.

"I did fall victim to a heavy hand in a few places, though as a whole the film was genuinely moving, largely due to the quiet force of Kahn’s buildings. The footage of the final stop on Nathaniel’s global journey, the Bangladeshi Capitol Complex, was particularly powerful. The building itself is remarkable, a melding of modern and ancient traditions in a country caught between the two. One cannot help but be in awe of it, particularly upon learning that it was constructed by hand over decades of civil unrest.

"As a 'lay person' who works at an architectural firm, I am always interested to learn more about the field and its history, however incidental. The only work of Kahn’s I knew prior to the film was the library at Phillips Exeter, and it was quite effective in educating me further. I was amused to note a small detail: the font used for on-screen captions is the same one used by the Boston Society of Architects in their publications.

 
Janet says: "Beautifully shot and poignant doc by the illegitimate son of a famous architect, trying to understand the father he barely knew. This one works on nearly every level: the educational parts about architecture, the exploration of family dynamics, and the effect that each new piece of information has on the filmmaker's sense of himself. The music is intrusive in a couple of places, and one or two scenes hammer us with literalism (specifically: 'Your father was a nomad...' and then a shot of a desert nomad). But I had a great time seeing it and am still thinking about it three days later. I've got to see MY FATHER, THE GENIUS now to do my comparison. 4 cats"