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Thorough overview of the Eames - it's not about the chairs though!,
This review is from: Eames: The Architect & The Painter [Import] (DVD)I was lucky to catch this documentary on PBS as a part of The American Masters series. Having a few pieces of their furniture in my home, I have an affinity for the Eames canon, however this film introduced me to a whole other level of understanding of Charles and Ray and their brilliant collaboration.
The story starts off with their push to develop a moulded plywood chair. Having failed to perfect the process to make it a contiguous, one piece design, they capitalized on their plywood moulding expertise and embarked on a contract to supply the military with 150,000 moulded plywood splints for injured American soldiers in World War II. The narrative then takes a turn away from their well known furniture successes, and directs it's focus on the Eames film and corporate design projects. Charles was always a tinkerer in the film genre, and many fantastic examples are shown of his whimsical approach to film. Powers of Ten, a co-production of Ray and Charles for IBM, is an amazing short, zooming-out from a scene of a couple lying on a grassy Chicago field, to a view 10 times wider, and then 10 times wider, all the way out to the point of the Milky Way being a spec in space. They zoom back in, hit the original starting point, and then zoom in, ten times closer for each shot, down to the level of a nucleus. The Eames went on to make films for the New York and Seattle World's Fairs, as well as a documentary that was shown in a pavilion in the Soviet Union that was part of a joint venture between the USA the Russians to build friendship between the nations during the cold war.
Throughout the film we see clips of Charles and Ray in their offices, in their famous Santa Monica house, and in their fantastical home films. Interviews with former employees in their design firm are especially enlightening - the reality of working in an almost dictatorial shop is analyzed, as the Eames took ultimate credit for everything that was produced in their firm. Some touchstones in their personal lives are addressed, but not handled with much weight. I would have liked to see more focus on the furniture, but this documentary is clearly taking a different direction in providing an alternative, and much appreciated history of the Eames. It is rather amazing how much they have influenced not only furniture design (look in any contemporary design magazine, their lounge chair and ottoman are in there somewhere), but film, architecture and even trade show aesthetics.