Saturday, February 21, 2004

My Architect: A Son's Journey (IMDB) (Netflix)
As chaplain during my fraternity days, I had to precede each dinner with a short quote, one of which was "I asked a brick what it wanted to be, and it said 'make me an arch.'" That came from Louis Kahn, the architect. Kahn never really got professional traction until his 50's, didn't build very many buildings, died bankrupt in a men's room at Penn Station, and had three kids by three different women, all while being married to one of them. His son, one of the love children, was Nathaniel, only eleven when his dad died, and who has used this film as an attempt at understanding and possibly reconciling with the man who only occasionally came to dinner.

Lou Kahn is a great subject, all the more so because his compartmentalized life—no one really had the whole picture. And his fellow architects make for great interviews because, lets face it, they're such great bullshit artists (I would have loved to be in the room when I.M. Pei sold the French on that pyramid in front of the Louvre). The film focuses on Kahn and the people who knew their fractions of him, and wisely avoids the critics, who would have turned this into an intellectual exercise. It's the nature of fathers that we often really don't know them until they're gone, when we see them through the stories from their friends, and Nathaniel captures this process with quiet eloquence.