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Usonian Man

June 2024
1min read

The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright


written and directed by Murray Grigor, Direct Cinema, 75 minutes .

It was Frank Lloyd Wright’s mother, a schoolteacher, who wanted him to be an architect, and his father, a clergyman, who taught him that “a symphony was an edifice of sound.” Wright grew up to become both our greatest architect and our most prominent articulator of the art as well. Early on, he said, “I had to choose between an honest arrogance and a hypocritical humility.” He chose the former, and this film by the Wright Foundation (narrated by his granddaughter, the actress Anne Baxter) backs him up. The film follows the evolution of Wright’s art more than of his life, the camera panning lovingly through each structure while Baxter’s cultured voice or the architect’s (from his wonderful recorded lectures) explains his discoveries.

An hour and fifteen minutes doesn’t leave room to linger on the tragedies in Wright’s life, but the film does note his failed marriages and the fires that destroyed the first two of his homes at Taliesen. An early masterwork, the 1903 glass-atriumed Larkin Office Building in Buffalo, survives only in photographs and in film taken by Wright and included here. However, from the low-slung Prairie House to the concrete origami of the Guggenheim Museum almost seven decades later, Wright’s restless life was a creatively triumphant one, as this fine documentary makes clear.

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