First Run Features // 2011 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // January 14th, 2012
"They were introducing people to look at the world differently."
Chances are, you know the story of Charles Eames, his wife Ray Eames, and their most famous offspring, the Eames Chair. Did you ever stop to think that they might have been just plain interesting people, even if they'd never gotten into the furniture business?
That's the tack Eames: The Architect and the Painter takes with its biography of Charles and Ray Eames. It tells the story of the chair that Charles Eames and his various partners couldn't quite perfect -- until after their success with a World War II splint. It's quite possible that, at least in this rare case, the story of a chair might have been worth 90 minutes of your time.
However, Eames is about the Eameses, and the other stuff they did. Mostly, that's films -- experimental, educational, and promotional -- and you'll see clips from a lot of those. They also created a work environment that those in it compared to a "circus" (and just to make sure, Eames sent his team down to the actual circus, apparently for comparison), a Bicentennial exhibit that bombed, and a rather nice -- and slightly odd -- house. You'll also hear how Charles mesmerized the ladies -- something that annoyed Ray -- and how Ray was a scary driver because she noticed everything on the road.
If you have a particular interest in life in the '50s and '60s, the clips from films the Eameses did to promote America to the Soviets, "humanize" the computer, and showcase Alcoa's "solar-powered do-nothing machine" will be irresistable. Actually, if you just have any appreciation for lives that aren't exactly cookie cutter, the story of the Eameses could strike your fancy.
Picture quality is reasonably good, although the variety of original material that makes its way into Eames means that pristine images are out of the question. Seven pieces of excess material made it into the extras, including bits on their house, the school they attended in Michigan, and the story of how Charles once made a film by tossing out the script. There's nothing dull here.
I will point out that American Masters on PBS is listed as one of the co-producers, so if you're patient and keep an eye on the listings, you could catch Eames for free. Since it's a great tribute to creativity, it would be a great purchase for classrooms.
While the Eameses had an influence on the postwar era, I'd suggest going into Eames just looking to hear about an interesting couple. Even if they'd never nailed the chair, they'd still be worth a documentary.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes