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Frank Lloyd Wright

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A film by Ken Burns. Academy Video. 155 mins. £15.99

'Out of his arrogance was created something selfless,' says an old friend of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is these two facets of Wright that this biographical documentary sets out to explore: his capricious and egotistical personality and the serene beauty of his architecture, writes Eleanor Young.

The premise of the film is that Wright is the greatest of all American architects. It follows his progress and vision from the plush suburban houses of Chicago's Oak Park in the 1890s to the dramatic Fifth Avenue statement of the Guggenheim Museum in 1959. For those who know Wright's story, the ups and downs will be familiar, but the film is a reminder of the extent to which Wright suffered (the fire and murders at Taliesin), and how he made others suffer.

The treatment of his buildings is often poetic, as in the film's beautiful opening sequenc es: mist rising over water and above, Taliesin on the brow of the hill (see right). Eight of Wright's canonic works are examined in depth, the visual imagery complemented by appreciations from architectural historians and critics.

But Wright's voice never fully emerges; archive footage of interviews with him show a self-contained media man. Even anecdotes from apprentices and colleagues only partly bring him to life. Wright's grandsons give the film its most personal aspect - one remembering his rages and then recalling his death (more than 30 years ago) and still shedding a tear.

Philip Johnson admits, quite seriously, t o hating him, and explains Wright's creativity with a cliche: 'He was a genius.'

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