19 October, 2012

Review: "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?" (***1/2)

The Millau Viaduct as featured in "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?"

One look at the dizzying heights and sharp angles of the Millau Viaduct will have anyone convinced of Norman Foster's genius. Really, one look at any of the icon's accomplishments should leave even the most clinched of jaws powerless to keep from dropping. This film, directed by Carlos Carcas and Norberto López Amado, is as curious as the question posed in the title. Stunning photography of some of the modern era's most innovative architecture carries this film into must-see territory.

Spectacles of design and engineering, such as Foster's, would still look grand even through the lens of a poor photographer. All the more rewarding then, that cinematographer Valentín Álvarez puts forward some of the best footage any architecture documentary has ever produced. Breathtaking views of Chesa Futura, the Millau Viaduct, 30 St Mary Axe, the Hearst Tower and the HSBC Main Building make the film required viewing for any modern architecture fan. The film's non-linear structure helps to showcase the versatility in Foster's designs.

It would seem that keeping the focus on Foster's mind and influences would make the film more personal than if it had simply focused on his work and designs. However, the narration seems fixed on rounding out each subject with a robust amount of praise for Foster. While Mr. Foster is worthy of a great deal of acclaim for his ingenuity, I couldn't help but feel that I was drowning in it. Combined with the narrator's somewhat sleepy presence, there is a disconnect between the film's striking visuals and oblique storytelling.

Without a doubt, Norman Foster is one of the most influential architects of our time and, as this film goes to show, a multi-faceted and dynamic individual. It is a treat to hear what Bono, Anish Kapoor and Buckminster Fuller have to say about the man. His famed works are photographed with a great deal of respect and admiration. While the narrative lacks critical depth, "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?" is remarkable eye candy.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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