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"My Architect: A Son's Journey"

Directed by Nathaniel Kahn.
Written by Nathaniel Kahn.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  2/9/04 


As I continue my quest to see films that are up for Oscar consideration, I tricked Mike “Yac” Iacovone into seeing “My Architect” last week with me, and while I’m glad I saw it, I’m glad I don’t have to sit through it ever again.

This is that kind of Matinee, really—an interesting film about an architect named Louis Kahn who also happens to be a bastard; the bastard son of this bastard, named Nathaniel, decided 25 years after last seeing his father that he would try to make a documentary about the career of his father, as well as uncover the details behind the three women that Louis fathered children with and what everyone is up to today.

The worst kind of Port City Playboy, another in a lost list of names I have come up with to describe the lifestyle of the man that likes to have his fuckbuddies spread out in different places, Louis is much worse because he had three women in the same city and he actually made this work, by cheating on his wife, neglecting one lover in the workplace and never acknowledging his third lover to his friends.  He’s kind of like Shawn Kemp...oh, except that all of Louis’s work friends seem to think that this behavior is okay for the hard-working genius, which Louis apparently was until his death in a subway station in the mid-70s.  Maybe the most stunning thing about “My Architect” is that the film’s subject is possibly the most influential American architect of the 20th century...and Yac and I had never heard of him.

Nathaniel’s search for truth is clumsy at times, and in covering the physical works of his father, Nathaniel spends too much time with the camera showing us the buildings that Louis has designed.  Also, for a film like this, it runs on for almost two hours; Yac checked his watch so many times I thought he was gonna just leave the theater altogether.  Nathaniel did find a lot of footage featuring his father teaching classes, meeting with contacts, or doting on his many, uh, ladyfriends and children.  There are also a number of interesting interviews with other architects from the US and elsewhere, and a couple of the buildings that Louis designed are truly stunning, timeless works that are done proper justice in this context.  A funny segment featuring the former city planner for Philadelphia sheds some light on what the downtown cityscape would have looked like had the city allowed Louis to design it; NOW I know why Philly is such a shithole!

Well, of the four films nominated for Best Feature Documentary that I have seen, “Capturing the Friedmans” should have this thing locked up.  But, “My Architect” does have some interesting information and shots that could make it more worthwhile for someone that has a background in architecture...or, an interest in cheating on their wife.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09