My Architect (awarded three stars) Film review by Marie Ullrich published in The Nashville Rage, 11/12/2003 World-class architect Louis I. Kahn died alone in New York’s Pennsylvania Station in the men’s room, apparently of a heart attack, on his way home from India, a half million dollars in debt. His obituary states that he left behind a wife and daughter but fails to mention his two illegitimate children, a son and daughter, by different women. Nathaniel Kahn, the son, saw his father one evening a week at most and, some twenty-five years after the architect’s death, seeks out Louis’ buildings and colleagues in an effort to know his father better. Awkwardly, Nathaniel points the camera at someone, announces that he is Louis’ son, and waits for reactions to come pouring forth. But it’s cold comfort to have to rely on architects for nurture; Kahn’s colleagues graciously praise the man’s work but fumble to make excuses for his moral lack, falling back on the old line about genius not knowing any better. Nathaniel is clearly stung when one of them lets slip that Kahn spent Christmas at his house. Nor do the buildings offer any solace. Elegant cinematography captures their airy, lightdrenched interiors and their imposing, monolithic exteriors, but they remain cold, distant and concrete. In one scene Nathaniel roller blades around the plaza of the Salk Research Institute in La Jolla, California, perhaps in an effort to own the work or the man who created it. Yet he never taps into his own anger, remaining as stolid as his father’s buildings, instead prodding others to emote on camera. We see him eye with envy one of the bow ties his father wore while his half-sister holds it on outstretched fingers like a fine piece of lace. We hear him challenge his mother’s decision to stay tied to the man who wouldn’t commit to her. And when Nathaniel says goodbye to his father’s shadow it’s not clear whether he found anything or whether he just gave up the search.
Published on Apr 5, 2011