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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Frank Lloyd Wright's Home & Studio
Frank Lloyd Wright's Home & Studio
Other // Unrated // August 1, 2008
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted March 25, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Movie:
Note: Two DVD releases centered around Frank Lloyd Wright have just been sent to me for review. The two share some similar content, if slightly different focuses. Some non-content specific information is therefore repeated in both of my reviews.

Frank Lloyd Wright stands alone and apart from even the most distinctive American creators in any artform. Stubbornly singular, brilliantly inventive, and able to craft gasp-inducing beauty seemingly at will, Wright nonetheless weathered storm after storm in his personal life, something that tended to make him be branded, at least temporarily, as a charlatan and opportunist. And yet his contributions to the art and science of architecture are so overwhelming that very few if any have ascended to the world-renowned heights he enjoyed for most of his adult life, and which has only grown in the many decades since his death.

Anyone who muddled through Ayn Rand's epochal The Fountainhead could have little doubt that her iconic architect hero Howard Roark was at least partially modeled on Frank Lloyd Wright. If Wright was less Gary Cooper and more Gary Moore, countenance wise, anyway, his intellect and fierce individuality was certainly Randian, if not Objectivist. Looking at the Greek influenced architecture that made up a lot of late 19th century Americana, something which Rand wasn't alone in decrying, and then seeing Wright's brisk modernist touch virtually sweep it all away in a few years is nothing short of amazing.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio studies the master's first self-designed residence in Oak Park, Illinois, which he lived in for many years, beginning with his stormy collaboration with famed Chicago architect Louis Sullivan. The home underwent many Wright-designed renovations and remodels through the years, and this excellent piece looks at all of them in some detail. What is most fascinating about this particular documentary, however, is its neat analysis of Wright's home and studio as a microcosm of the man himself, his artistic ambitions, and his at times fractured family life.

The house itself seems to traverse an at times anachronistic middle ground between the Prairie Style that defined the first part of Wright's storied career, and the more modernist, innovative pieces like Falling Water that came decades later. As such, it shows the evolution of Wright from a workaday draughtsman to one of the most critical and inventive thinkers that architecture has ever known. As Wright's family grew, along with his business, the house transmogrified from a quiet, if somewhat out of place, residence with a studio space, into a vast panoply that housed Wright, his wife and six children, as well as provided office space for his burgeoning design work. Featuring a host of compelling interview segments, including with some of Wright's children, Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio provides some unique insight into not only the working life of the man, but also his home life. The two, as this piece makes clear, were often inseparable.

Though this particular documentary concentrates a little less on Wright's personal peccadilloes and other tribulations, and stays largely focused on the structure itself, the two ultimately are inextricable. Wright's aims for an "organic architecture" seem to reach into the interior worlds of the psyche itself at times, and this cobbled together piece may well serve as an apt metaphor for a man who adapted to life's turbulence in varying ways, at times bending like a sapling in a fierce wind, and at others standing defiantly like a mighty oak. The Oak Park home and studio is an enlightening personal journey that Wright himself took over the course of decades, and which now stands as one of the most unique pieces in what may be the most single most unique architectural oeuvre in history.

The DVD

Video:
Offered in a generally crisp enhanced 1.78:1 transfer, Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio is occasionally on the soft side, and is also hampered by some fairly omnipresent aliasing, line shimmer and moire patterns on various architectural forms it explores. That said, there's a wealth of beautiful imagery here, of both the sylvan Wisconsin countryside where Wright began his life, to the exterior and interior of the subject facility. Colors, contrast and detail are all acceptable, if not exemplary.

Sound:
The standard stereo soundtrack is fine, offering a nice clear narration, good talking head segments, and a Ken Burns-esque acoustic guitar underscore. There's no real separation to speak of, but there doesn't need to be. No subtitles are available.

Extras:
The DVD itself offers about a half an hour of extended interview segments and a great photo gallery stuffed with glorious color photos. The coolest extra is the bonus CD-ROM which offers an incredible, totally immersive 360 degree tour of the home and studio, full of supporting documentation like floorplans.

Final Thoughts:
Of the two Frank Lloyd Wright DVD releases I'm reviewing, this is probably the better one, for reasons I discuss more thoroughly in the other review (Taliesin West). Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio offers a penetrating look at Wright's own personal environment and draws some cogent conclusions about the man himself from it. Highly recommended.

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"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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