Eames: The Architect and The Painter (2011) - 7/10
A straight up doc, about complicated people. Charles and Ray Eames are the architect and painter in the title, but to nail them down to those titles alone is reductionary. That’s the point of this doc, to shine a light on the wealth of creativity in these minds. It goes without saying that if you’ve a thing for design, this is very inspirational. The talking heads from colleagues are all wonderful at putting context to the story, but it’s the masses of archive material that blows you away. Narrated by James Franco, we’re guided through the story of that first chair, its limitations, the couples meeting, the opportunity brought by war and a lot of work. Trial and experimentation I’ve often thought are the best ways to learn and understand. That’s how the Eames studio worked, with an emphasis on play. To create as much as they did though, there was a large team also inputting. This is where the tension in the story comes. The focus is Charles and as the era keeps Ray in the shadows. The woman behind the man. So too does some stubbornness keep other colleagues in the shadows as well. There’s no doubt Charles was a visionary, but putting him above Ray seems a ridiculous suggestion now. Theirs was a partnership. Yet for too long the plaudits all go to Charles. I’m not sure it’s his fault, that’s what we’re lead to believe here anyway, but still we’re not really shown him trying to address this much. All that colour, all the organisation and control, all Ray. Still this isn’t a provocative piece, there’s plenty of focus on the art. It’s just trying and succeeding to tell a rounded story. Charles was difficult. He struggled to put things into words. He wasn’t a fan of words. Images, visuals, be it functional or evocative is where Charles was comfortable. Furniture, film, architecture… ideas. It’s staggering really to see the scope of output crushed into 90 minutes. It’s incredible to see how well they worked within the corporate America structure too, whilst never losing their integrity. Whether you know anything about Eames or not, this is insightful and entertaining, but when you think of Eames, don’t just think of Charles. He’s only half of the story.