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DVD Review: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home & Studio

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The legacy surrounding Frank Lloyd Wright is simply massive. He’s been recognized as the greatest American architect of all time by the American Institute of Architects, and many of his works – notably, the Guggenheim Museum and Fallingwater – have become iconic symbols of his ingenuity. His name is synonymous with architecture not bound by conventions, but the average person isn’t likely to know much more than that.

Stepping in to provide a wealth of information about Wright are two documentaries produced by in-D Press: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home & Studio. There’s some overlap between the two, but both are extensive looks at Wright’s life and two of his most enduring designs – Taliesin West and his own home, respectively. The barrage of information is likely to overwhelm the uninformed, as fact after fact and anecdote after anecdote about Wright are relayed. Neither is particularly accessible, but for Wright fans or those serious about learning more about him as a person, these are great resources.

Despite the titles that focus on his designs, both films spend a great deal of time on biographical information, tracing Wright’s life from his birth in Wisconsin to his eventual architectural success in Chicago. Taliesin West then goes on to explore the eponymous winter home that Wright built for himself in Scottsdale, Arizona that has since gone on to become the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Home & Studio looks at Wright’s first design – the home he built for his family that was under constant renovation as he kept adding to its design.

Although both films are filled with interesting tidbits about Wright, Home & Studio is by far the more engaging of the two, because it features interviews from a number of Wright scholars, as well as his grandson, and has a good deal of voiceover narration to accompany the photographs it shows. Taliesin West, on the other hand, consists only of an interview with Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives. Pfeiffer is broadly knowledgeable, but hearing him talk almost nonstop for the entire 82-minute running time becomes monotonous quickly, making this film more of a lecture than a documentary.

Both DVDs are two-disc special editions that contain an interactive tour on a DVD-ROM as the second disc. Both PC and Mac compatible, this is an excellent extra that allows you to view floor plans of Taliesin and Wright’s home, and then select certain areas to view still images or a 360-degree panoramic view. It’s a great way to experience these two Wright designs without actually visiting them.

This pair of Wright docs is probably not for the casually interested, but fans ought to be fascinated. The best moments come when we’re offered a peek into how Wright thought about his craft – he believed architecture was the art form that had the most consistent impact on the public, because living spaces and buildings are something people must interact with on a near-constant basis. Wright’s approach to making those experiences more than ordinary has ensured his legacy as a master of his craft.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.