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Overall Rating
3.41

Awesome: 11.76%
Worth A Look41.18%
Average: 35.29%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 11.76%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings


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My Architect: A Son's Journey
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by EricDSnider

"Narrowly focused and of narrow appeal."
3 stars

There's something a little too self-indulgent, maybe too personal, about "My Architect: A Son's Journey." It is partly a documentary about the architect Louis I. Kahn, who died in 1974, but it is mostly about his son Nathaniel's attempts, 25 years later, to learn about the father he barely knew.

With both scenarios Nathaniel has a strong "So what?" factor to overcome. Kahn was a well-respected but relatively minor architect who didn't get going until he was in his 50s and whose finished buildings are few. His son takes a camera around the world, literally, to interview people who knew him, and we get a sense of what a charming man he was -- even a quarter-century after his death, people he wronged refuse to say anything negative about him -- but it never feels like anything other than one specific man's specific quest, as opposed to something with universal application.

Still, Louis Kahn seems to have been an interesting character. Despite bearing scars from a childhood accident and being a rather plain-looking fellow anyway, he managed to woo three women almost simultaneously. He and his wife Esther had a daughter, but he also produced a daughter with one Anne Tyng, and a son, Nathaniel, with Harriet Pattison. Neither of his lovers ever married anyone -- an indication of the tremendous power, however unintentional, that he wielded over people. Anne didn't know about Harriet, either, and Esther probably knew about neither of them.

Nathaniel saw his father occasionally his early childhood, but never truly knew the man. He is astonished to learn facts he'd never imagined from Louis' associates, and he has an entertaining run-in with Dad's old nemesis Ed Bacon, a Philadelphia city planner who kept Kahn from taking part in the redesign of that city's downtown in the '50s and '60s. There is also a rather sweet reunion with the captain of a boat Kahn designed.

Devotees of 20th-century architecture may be interested to see interviews with I.M. Pei, Frank O. Gehry and Philip Johnson, among others, but the film's narrow, personal focus prevents it from being something for all sons (or daughters) to appreciate. I suspect Nathaniel got a lot out of it, and good for him, but it did little for me.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8321&reviewer=247
originally posted: 08/18/05 15:48:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/21/08 PAUL SHORTT NOT ONLY REPEATS THE NOW FAMILIAR APPROACH, BUT DOES SO IN A CLEAR, UNINSPIRING MANNER 1 stars
10/12/04 rachael amazing...you can't make this stuff up 5 stars
9/21/04 Ian Patrick AIAS The Most Inspiring Movie I've Ever Seen 5 stars
9/16/04 Jalal El-ali bad narrative of a personal life of an architect 1 stars
7/24/04 buddy garrett despite myself I found myself engrossed in this character 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  12-Nov-2003

UK
  N/A

Australia
  14-Oct-2004


Directed by
  Nathaniel Kahn

Written by
  (documentary)

Cast
  Louis I. Kahn
  Edmund Bacon
  Frank Gehry
  Philip Johnson
  Esther Kahn
  Nathaniel Kahn



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