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  • A magical, one-of-a-kind movie--a near-wordless 1984 tribute by the late Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara to the 19th-century Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi, whose ingenious, sensual designs grace the city of Barcelona. To call Gaudi's designs unique is to belittle them: His buildings borrow organic shapes from nature--the whorl of a seashell, the gnarled rigidity of a tree trunk--to create free-flowing forms of almost surreal beauty. Teshigahara's camera prowls the streets of Barcelona seeking the buildings, then lavishing attention on their alien curves, vaulted ceilings, and bizarre portals. The movie sounds dry, but the buildings are so fanciful and voluptuous that you can scarcely believe your eyes: They erupt from the city like weeds through a sidewalk, and their entropic strangeness becomes hypnotic. The director delights in watching people interact with these forms, as when a little girl roller-skates placidly through a forest of vertical columns. In his WOMAN IN THE DUNES, Teshigahara made moonscapes of sand and glistening crystals, immersing us in their texture; here he shows a similar fascination with everyday forms made shockingly unfamiliar. And his frequent collaborator, the great composer Toru Takemitsu, fashioned Catalan folk tunes into a haunting score that's at once ancient and futuristic, just like Gaudi's designs. A must-see for architects, for anyone intrigued by the possibilities of public art--and for anyone who wants to be transported to another world for an hour.
  • When I go to thrift stores and buy a bunch of obscure VHSs this is exactly the kind of gem I am hoping to find, particularly since I may not find it any other way. Antonio Gaudi is an artist who I was familiar with and enjoyed before finding this but had not extensively studied. Now I feel like I understand the life and work of the artist whose name gave birth to the adjective meaning ornate and over-the-top. This film is a gorgeous and mind blowing gallery of videos and stills taken of the interiors and exteriors of the Spanish architect's incredible and pioneering buildings as well as sketches, blueprints and some history of Spanish architecture. There are some brief segments of scholars talking about the artist, but mostly it is silent film backed by haunting and unique soundscapes that I felt truly enhanced the visuals. The films main focus (Gaudi and his work) is truly deserving of such a deep and quiet examination, and the buildings are still incredibly ahead of their time, each one a timeless work of art that could be explored for days or years. Simply put, this was the most breathtaking film I have watched in recent memory and highly recommend for lovers of art and experimental films, art nouveau, medieval architecture, and Wendy Carlos-esqe musical scores. Before it was even halfway through it was already in my list of favorite films!
  • Though an actor and musician by trade, I have been an architecture enthusiast my entire life. I suppose Antonio Gaudi's style would be lumped into the category of "whimsical" by architectural scholars, but for a man to have had the imagination to design such magnificent buildings a century ago is to me a sign of sheer genius.

    Until seeing TCM's airing of this film I'd only seen photos of the Cathedral of the Holy Family. The beautifully photographed walking tour through so many of his designs was a visual feast and the absence of speech was not only a blessing, but entirely appropriate. After all, what could one say that the images hadn't already said? I sat there dumbfounded and agape.
  • I just watched this film in a very nice DVD edition, and found it fascinating. It's a documentary by Hiroshi Teshigahara showcasing the works of the Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926). In Chicago, where I live, the city has always taken pride in its heritage of great architecture. These works by Gaudi, however, make the familiar architecture of this city, and most other American cities, look aesthetically bland and timid in comparison. Gaudi's designs were apparently tested for their stability before being built, but on seeing them, I could barely believe my eyes. They remind me very much of buildings depicted in the illustrations to Dr. Seuss stories. They seem to bulge, twist and writhe like living things, and Gaudi did indeed base his designs on organic models such as trees and plants, as well as natural geographic formations like caves. It must be fascinating to see them for real, and I imagine the people who live and work in and around them feel fortunate.

    The cinematography of this documentary is beautiful, and shows us the buildings from afar, and up close in exquisite detail. Mercifully, the film is almost entirely free of taking-head commentary, and there is no narration to distract the viewer from the bizarre and beautiful subject matter. The interiors are as fantastic and surreal-looking as the exteriors. They must be seen to be believed. A haunting musical score by Takemitsu nicely compliments the eerie beauty of the buildings.

    The film ends with Gaudi's monumental last work, the Templo de La Sagrada Familia (a huge cathedral), which was still under construction when this film was made in 1984, almost 60 years after Gaudi's death. I seem to recall that its completion was finally announced just a few years ago. This is a beautiful film about a great artist.
  • Be warned that this is not your typical documentary. There is very little dialogue. If you are one of little patience like me, I recommend watching this movie on your laptop browser while simultaneously trying to get some work done, or while chatting with a friend and sharing a bottle of wine. But be warned: without any notice, your work will go mysteriously uncompleted, and the conversation with your friend will inexplicably go quiet as you are sucked into the screen.

    I visited Barcelona over a year ago and saw many of Gaudi's works and projects for myself, and can definitively say that this film truly captures the sensation of being awed by something that cannot be described by words alone-- a sensation that one feels when encountering a work of Gaudi completely by surprise, after the layers of the city are peeled away. Gaudi's works are shown in the context of scenes of the hustle and bustle of Barcelona life, the haunting medieval churches, the Catalonian countryside, and the amazing forms in nature which impacted Gaudi's art. Occasionally, old black-and-white photographs of the city streets and people are presented, showing scenes of the Barcelona Gaudi lived and worked in. The wonderful, trippy music captures the shift in mood as the camera moves through a noisy, colorful crowd enjoying Parc Guell and then slowly zooming in onto the unsettling, hallucinatory giant sculptural forms that miraculously coexist with this everyday world.

    I am not saying that watching this movie will be an adequate replacement for seeing the city of Barcelona and Gaudi's structures for yourself. But as someone who visited Barcelona but was discouraged from venturing into Gaudi's buildings by skyrocketing ticket prices and endless lines, I greatly appreciated this movie, which allowed me to glimpse the miraculous city and architecture through Teshigahara's eyes. Now go to Barcelona and make it your own.
  • Do you wanna see some REALLY cool architechture? Rent this movie. The structures and buildings on display are unlike anything else on Earth. Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) was a believer in naturalism, and his structures utilized a lot of organic principles. The buildings showcased, (and their subsequent interiors), are almost otherworldly, and they often look like something from Tolkien or Giger. (Think Middle Earth). Almost all of the film is devoted to showcasing Gaudi's work, which included apartments, homes, offices, outdoor structures, and fantastic cathedrals. Hiroshi Teshigahara, himself a student of art and ikebana (i.e. Japanese flower arrangement), was a highly visual film director, and his treatment of Gaudi's work is brilliant. There is essentially no narration, but the film's ambient score and breathtaking visuals work to reinforce the true genius of Gaudi's architechture. I was awestruck by the magnitude of this stuff, and the film takes you very close to the work of this incredible genius. Gaudi and Teshigahara are both on high display here, and the result is an entrancing, memorable experience. Highly recommended.
  • rps-222 December 2012
    This is a puzzling film. It's magnificently shot. But there is next to no information. If you did not know who Gaudi was, you would be lost. Turns out I was in Barcelona a couple of years ago and read up on Gaudi. The photography is stunning but I still want to know more. I saw a lot of Gaudi's buildings in Barcelona but had no idea there were this many. The movie tells nothing about the man. For example, his crypt. I think that's what it was. They never said. What was the story behind it. (Gaudi died after being hit by a streetcar.) His work was unique. Oddly enough, although he was famous, no one ever picked up and built on his style as they did with, say, Frank Lloyd Wright. If I was shooting a movie about an alien planet, his buildings would be the perfect set. They have a Ray Bradbury quality. You wonder what he may have been smoking when he designed them. Having said that, this probably would be right behind Rocky Horror Picture Show as an ideal film for toking up. It's well worth watching if only for the brilliant camera work.
  • Is this a documentary ?

    Of course it is not, since there are no voice-overs, obtrusive commentaries and no polemics.

    Yes, sure it is, because it gives a lot of background and insight to a unique artist, who, although legend has it, did not came out of the blue. Nature provided him with a lot of inspiration, and the movie shows some architects of the same epoque and generation, who try to go the same way Gaudi did.

    With a handful of explaining subtitles and one interview director/producer/editor Hiroshi Teshigahara (don't miss his incredible WOMAN IN THE DUNES) shows it all in a wonderful way in this 'documentary or is it a feature', in which the music of Toru Takemitsu is never on the foreground but inescapable present.

    Watching this picture will give the viewer the shortest 73 minutes of his or hers live. Is there nothing wrong then... Well, every now and then there are too many dark corners, but to paraphrase Cinematographer Nestor Almendros: Darkness stimulates the viewers mind, and maybe even his imagination. And camera-movements are neat but a bit crude. But of course, truely gifted camera-operators like Alessandro Bolognesi & Erwin Steen were too young in '84 to help the Japanese Maestro out.

    Thank you Antoni Gaudi; thank you Catalunia. Thank You Teshigahara and Takemitsu.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Spoilers herein.

    This DVD held supreme promise. Gaudi is the singular visionary in exploring the outposts of dimensional abstraction and leaving us some maps. Just as Shakespeare used words to invent what it means to be human, Gaudi did so with space. Just as one cannot have a meaningful relationship with language without exposure to Shakespeare, so too no one can really live in the built world without knowing Gaudi.

    But not everyone can visit these places. Ordinary photographs cannot even remotely convey the dynamics of how the dimensional energy of these spaces subliminally permeates the mind. And in any case, most photos are on the celebrated exteriors, and that's not the element that's magical: it is the interiors that are truly architectural genius. The exteriors (except with the chapel) are merely sculptural. So one expects film to do a better job, getting closer to being there, even exceeding it in some ways. After all, the problem of architecture and film is a well-studied problem after Welles.

    And what better filmmaker than Teshigahara? I saw his `Woman in Dunes' in 1965 and it changed my life -- because it was a masterful synthesis of the organic and abstract, and because it was so centrally visual in narrative. You should know that Barcelonians destroyed much of Gaudi's work, and generally ignored the rest until world interest was focused by the Japanese, prominent among them the Teshigahara family. Only then did Gaudi-inspired tourism explode, work on the Temple resume and the city become visually progressive at the taxpayer level.

    The Teshigahara family in fact reinvented ikeban, the art of Japanese flower arrangement in as radical a way, and in the same direction as Gaudi's vision. And for the same reason: and in part to the same effect -- giving a culture a way to meaningfully define themselves. Do a search on the web for the Sogetsu school to see what I mean.

    Both men have a notion of visual metaphoric grammar as fluid, organic flow. So I was expecting a lot. Any exposure to Gaudi is worthwhile, but I must say that this film disappoints -- not so much because it is bad but because we might have gotten that rare thing: a genius seen by a genius: deep works of beauty transformed into a different beauty and depth.


    -- The architecture is set in the context of everyday Barcelonians. Surely that is true from the perspective of energy flowing into the everyday soul. But it is hardly the other way. Gaudi was influenced by a highly abstract notion of place and religion which was and still is beyond the reach of the person in the street. Adding them is just wrong -- it distracts and misinforms. Better to have shown people in Morocco.

    -- We still have a fixation on postcard exteriors. Teshigahara knows better.

    -- The interiors are photographed with natural light and from eye height as a real viewer would experience. The camera pans slowly. Where it dwells, it does so on the striking details, much as a viewer would. But this is not what the situation requires: the camera is never an adequate surrogate for the eye alone. It must be somewhat god-like as well. No art can be found here in lighting these wonderful spaces, no art in providing registering perspectives for eidetic contemplation, no art in editing the way our mind would direct the eye if it were as unconstrained as Teshigahara's vision. Often, the eye dwells on something completely irrelevant and unrelated to Gaudi or the spatial effect, for instance the Madonna in the Chapel's Crypt.

    -- The score is welcome as an alternative to babbling scholars. But it is so inapt it grates. Gaudi's vision is deeply seated in the natural world. The music in his mind would have been exclusively vocal, mostly female, probably percussive. We would have heard discontinuous syncopations with probably Arab threads weaving an unperceived tapestry. A shame, really, what we have instead.

    -- I would have expected more attention to supersaturating the colors. This would have been more like being there. The real eye can see many times more variations in color than a photograph can show. If Gaudi were there, he would have pushed the color stops as far as they would go. That would have been more `real.'

    -- The film focuses on the artifacts. This is fine, but sometimes is strays into a focus on the man. This is fine too. But the bridge between the two is never touched: the man was the last masterbuilder in the sense of a great designer who also engaged in the actual details of construction. He worked with the craftsmen in real time to design stuff as it was coming into being: thus the design was not just organic, so was the design process.

    Oh well, one weaver of life is a series of missed opportunities at greatness. But we cannot let us be distracted from appreciating the sublime when it comes close. See this. Visit Barcelona, especially the Chapel's Crypt. It should be on your list of things to do before you die, especially if you have a cinematic consciousness. I was there recently for three days and the only other visitors were three Japanese.

    Gaudi is "katachi," a Japanese concept for which there is no western translation -- it means roughly: beauty from symmetry/assymmetry and balance with a very close attunement to natural forces.
  • As an unknowing college student boozing and chasing skirt, the world of depth and understanding of art and beauty was beyond my reach. On a post-graduation trip round Europe with friends back in 1999, I stumbled upon one of Antonio Gaudí's buildings while visiting Barcelona. Rounding what I thought was your average corner, unsuspecting, there it was. I was instantly attracted to him-it was love at first sight.

    Seeing many of those same buildings in this document brought back some fond memories; but that's about all. I should add that I am a huge Teshigahara fan, and must further add that I find little that is cinematic about this experience. Everything is already there, ready made, you just have to go to Barcelona to see it. The angles and broad view with which we see some of the creations is well done, but it hardly warrants a major release. With so many great films needing re-release, I'm surprised Criterion chose this one.

    The film does have a meditative quality about it, however, and granted, this may be seen as Teshigahara's silent homage to a fellow artist, but it is so minimalist and ordinary, that I'd have to say it comes out as simply average.
  • Going into this film, I really had no idea who was Antonio Gaudi nor was I deeply familiar with his works. I knew the film was about architecture and had very little dialogue. I wanted to approach the film without knowing much about the artist. In this approach, I felt it would release my expectations. This gave me quite a journey! I am sure other films of similar structure have been made, but probably not about such an interesting individual.

    This film looks at the famous architectural works of Antonio Gaudi, a Spaniard who lived in the early 20th century. His architectural works are incredibly striking, and it may be safe to say that no other architect is quite like him! That being said, the film examines his works as though someone is wondering patiently through the streets of Barcelona. Because of the paucity of the dialogue, the film deploys odd ambiance and electronic music to somehow express Gaudi's works. The result is a very unique and fascinating experience.

    The viewer will fall into a state of awed hypnosis as the camera eye moves in a snail's pace looking at Gaudi's works. Since Gaudi's works are so different from anything else, it has the feeling of something other worldly. Once in a while, the music stops, and we are shown pictures of everyday, mundane life in Spain. But then, the music reappears again as we walk through Gaudi's architecture, as though we are being transported into another world the exists right alongside the modern-day life of Barcelona.

    At the end of the film, we are told more about Gaudi's life. I still don't know much about him, but now seeing this film, I am eager to learn more. Try to approach this film like I did; with innocent eyes, even if you know a lot of Gaudi. Without the use of very little words, and with the use of grotesque music, the movie is a great introduction into the mind of someone who might have been a genius.
  • ThurstonHunger19 September 2010
    ...but not informative, as others have said. I knew next to nothing about Gaudi coming in, and that remains so. Perhaps this was intended to be a "natural" documentary, but then why include the two snippets of dialog? I guess the second extends the idea that Gaudi was just seeing himself as a seed, and his church is still growing long after his demise.

    But the first instance?? Puzzling to me. The Takemitsu soundtrack I felt was fantastic early on, but then wore down, especially trying to take "liturgical" music and overlay it with some sort of glass harmonica high frequency anti-harmonics.

    In hindsight, maybe I would have watched this by going to the specific chapters rather than flowing through the DVD, as then the chapter names had info on where exactly the footage was from. I felt his work often took the nature of vertebrae, albeit with aching twists, while one of my twin 8 year-olds bought into it being strictly taken from nature. The other twin sort of drifted off after awhile, just didn't capture him (and the music slightly repelled him to my dismay).

    To call this an artful, well-composed home movie of travel is of course unfair, but it is not far off the mark. Still, more captivating than flipping pages through a book. I know the art should speak for itself, but I guess I would have welcomed others into the discussion.

    And sadly, how about graffiti on several of Gaudi's creations? Sigh...

  • Cosmoeticadotcom7 June 2012
    Warning: Spoilers
    Sometimes, when watching DVDs to review, the odd occurrence of extra features surpassing the featured film occurs. Such is the case with The Criterion Collection's DVD of Japanese filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara's titular 1984 documentary on the buildings of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926)- the film's title is a spelling error. The film runs a mere 72 minutes, yet it seems much longer, and this is because, despite the film's title, there is a surprisingly small focus on the actual works of the architect. Much of the film skirts over things related to the buildings, and adds in odd musical accompaniment, by Toru Takemitsu, Kurodo Mori, and Shinji Hori.

    Aside from a few spoken words, caught seemingly on the fly, there is no narration in this 'documentary,' which may make it superficially seem to be even more documentary than most documentaries. Yet, it lacks the power of similar films made by Werner Herzog, or the –Quatsi films of Godfrey Reggio because the images and the music rarely cohere. And, even when the film is showing a Gaudi work it never lingers on it in full for long, as the cinematography, by Junichi Segawa, Yoshikazu Yanagida, and Ryu Segawa, merely skims, and often shows people in the buildings, or around then, thus detracting from the 'purity' of the work. There's little doubt that Gaudi was an excellent practitioner of his craft, which often seems to prefigure the drawings of H.R. Giger in their sensual animalism. They also recall the sets used in the original 1968 The Planet Of The Apes. But one will not be able to delve into the extent of that talent via this main film, for there is no absorption into the imagery of the art. And this is quite surprising, since Teshigahara's earlier films, like Pitfall, Woman In The Dunes, and The Face Of Another, were so in synch with their subject matter. One can only guess that the gap between drama and documentary filmmaking is a divide the man, for whatever reasons, simply could not bridge. For some, the film may be a great experience, but it is not great art.
  • treywillwest23 July 2018
    Warning: Spoilers
    This is a gorgeous visual meditation on the work of the great Catalan architect. But I think it is also, more subtly, a study of Spain from a foreign (in this case Japanese) admirer, the accomplished New Wave director Hiroshi Teshigahara. The film begins with centuries old wall paintings depicting the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition. Then, magnificent shots of Guadi's work are interwoven with those of modern Barcelona and its people. The film concludes with a sequence devoted to an awesome, still unfinished cathedral that Gaudi was working on when he died. By focusing on the humanistic energy of this church's icons, Teshigahara seems to be positing Gaudi as a Christ-like figure, liberating Spain's national religious art from it's oppressive past and making religion a celebration, rather than condemnation, of humanity.
  • A strange and occasionally puzzling experience, Hiroshi Teshigahara's avant garde documentary focusing on the fascinating architecture of Antonio Gaudí is a real hidden gem. In a way, it feels almost like a film that tells a "story" entirely through shots normally used to set UP a scene, rather than shots that make up of the scene itself. Due to the film's nearly dialogue free style, we familiarize ourselves with Antonio Gaudí's own unique vision as well as that of the filmmakers as the camera glides through the architecture. Sometimes there is use of slightly uneasily hand-held camera movements, while other times the camera remains entirely still. Behind this collage of technique and structure is a haunting soundtrack that further adds to the film's meditative and hypnotic atmosphere.

    Instead of human beings, this film's characters are made up of buildings. Although it may not sound likely, the buildings themselves manage to capture enough personality to keep patient viewers entertained. Every now and then, the camera also focuses on visitors to these enigmatic structures, more voyagers to share this breathtaking experience with.