Antonio Gaudi (1984)

Another documentary about another Spanish (or to be more precise Catalan) artist. However, if the visual arts aren’t my strong point, I’m even weaker on architecture in general and Gaudi in particular. Regarding the latter, I knew he was considered an important figure in turn of the century modernism, but I don’t think I particularly liked the admittedly few works of his I’d seen (including the Sagrada Familia, which no less an architectural critic than George Orwell apparently called the most hideous building he’d ever seen). After watching Hiroshi Teshigahara’s documentary, I’m not sure I’m much more enlightened; mind you, that’s probably at least in part because I don’t actually have the DVD itself but the rip of it housed at Ubu, so I don’t have the many supplements Criterion have added (nor, unfortunately, subtitles to help me understand the few bits of voiceover near the film’s end). The author of this piece clearly had a more transforming encounter with the film than I did, and she says something about the “surreal, fairy-tale landscape” aspect of one of Gaudi’s park settings, which does click with something I felt myself while watching the film, i.e. the sheer strangeness of seeing these buildings which look like something out of fantasy art set against contemporary Barcelona (which, by the early 80s, was obviously more modern than Gaudi’s own “modernisme”), and—stranger still somehow—seeing actual people interacting with them, moving through their interestingly curved and angled spaces and so forth. The film itself is fine; it adopts the same non-descriptive approach of those Paradjanov shorts I watched recently so there’s nothing to tell a neophyte like me what’s actually on screen or anything like that, but it’s well made, nicely scored by Toru Takemitsu, and always good to actually look at. As for the objects actually being looked at, Gaudi’s own creations, I’m still not sure about those…

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