out of Five
Running time: 83
This colourful documentary about one of America’s most important design teams provides an extraordinary presentation of an impressive portfolio, but when it comes to the Eames’ personal life some questions are left unanswered.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey, Eames: The Architect and The Painter explores the magnificent cultural journey of husband and wife Charles and Ray Eames, who to this day are regarded as one of America’s most important design partnerships. Most famous for their fibreglass furniture and whimsical designs, the Eames were revolutionary in the post-war era, creating everything from photography and films to interiors and games. Narrated by James Franco, this documentary takes a look at both the professional and personal lives of the Eames, featuring archival vintage footage and interviews with a selection of their former employees.
An extraordinary presentation of the duo’s varied portfolio, Eames: The Architect and the Painter is a focused look at two remarkable careers, presenting many of their most interesting works to grab viewers’ attention; most notably, the duo’s self-designed and constructed house in California (considered one of the great architectural builds of the twentieth century), which is a marvel to behold. The vintage footage, clips of the duo’s film, and candid interviews are also insightful, backed up by facts and opinions from some of the people who were lucky enough to get close to the late designers.
Suitably paced, the running time is also perfect, maintaining a grip on viewers who might not be interested in design but leaving enough time to explain the Eames’ story and depict the mark they made on American culture.
Although Charles’ infidelities and Ray’s upset as a consequence are touched on, there are a lot of unanswered questions in this documentary involving the Eames’ personal life in later years. This creates an almost biased and glorified portrait of the ‘Henry Fonda-esque’ male designer who, perhaps, Cohn and Jersey were determined to leave in a positive light. Although creating an authentic American tinge, James Franco’s recognisable, Hollywood voiceover also seems a little out of place in a documentary about interior design but thanks to the heavy presence of personal interviews, this can be overlooked.
Despite some minor flaws, Eames: The Architect and The Painter is a visual treat, providing great insights from a great line-up of interviewees. Recommended.
Eames: The Architect and the Painter (12A)