Yesterday I was saddened to see that Sydney Pollack had passed away. For those of you not familiar with his work (who obviously live in a cave) he directed such classics as Jeremiah Johnson, Three Days of the Condor, Absence of Malice (1981) (one of my favorites of all time if for no other reason than a great Wilford Brimley performance totally unrelated to oatmeal or diabetic supplies). His 1985 film Out of Africa won him Academy Awards for directing and producing; he was also nominated for Best Director Oscars for They Shoot Horses, Don''t They? and Tootsie, the latter of which he also starred in. Later films included Havana (1990), The Firm (1993), Sabrina (1995) and The Interpreter (2005). In addition to producing and directing, he appeared only as an actor in many projects, like Will''s father on Will & Grace. He also did a great documentary about commercial aviation (one of my loves), One Six Right, where he appeared as himself, describing his joy of owning and piloting his Citation X jet aircraft. Rumor also had it that he was an Israeli Intelligence Asset that used his work and piloting to transport agents and gather information.
While I loved his work, my favorite of all time has to be Sketches of Frank Gehry by Sydney Pollack, a marvelous DVD. This was a really special film as Frank and Sydney were great friends. The shots of Gehry''s work process and studio were fascinating, but the best parts were the one on one interviews, some while they were driving around in a car together, that were the kind of conversations you'd hear in a bar rather than a movie set or formal interview. One of my favorite scenes is when Frank was describing a moment early in his career. He had designed a shopping mall (a rather run of the mill one, used as the exterior mall shots in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and had invited the client to dinner at his house. The client looked around and asked Frank if he really liked this style (Frank had basically cocooned a really unremarkable old house in a shell of the materials he loves to work with). He replied that he did, and the client replied that he must have really hated what he asked him to create, and advised him never to do that again. I love it when you get a glimpse into the corners that someone has turned in their life that were so pivotal to where they ended up. Thank you Sydney, for letting us see all the things you have shown us. You will be missed.