This documentary, the first film to be made about Charles and Ray Eames since their deaths, runs at the Curzon Mayfair in London from 3 August and subsequently goes on tour. Interviewing family members and Eames Office designers, and drawing on much previously unseen archival material, the film scrutinises the couple’s creative and emotional partnership.
In Charles and Ray Eames’ film ‘Powers of Ten’, when we have reached a distance of 10 million light years from the man lying on the picnic blanket, the narrator says ‘This lonely scene, the galaxies like dust, is what most of space looks like. This emptiness is normal. The richness of our own neighbourhood is the exception.’ ‘Eames – the Architect and the Painter’ displays the couple’s creative abundance, from their 1942 US army splints – a breakthrough in the manufacture of moulded plywood designs – to chairs, photography, films and the solar-powered ‘Do Nothing’ machine.
The sophistication of Eames designs was reached via a rigorous curiosity – ‘learn to let the design flow from the learning’ – and a breadth of inspiration. As lived in, the Eames house was astonishingly cluttered, its surfaces scattered with diverse objects natural and man-made, talismanic and folksy. Kevin Roche recalls his disgust at being served a ‘visual dessert‘ of flowers at one of their dinner parties. Through the testimony of colleagues we gain more understanding of Ray’s contribution to the partnership, her artistic and colour sensibility, her nest-like office as stuffed with artefacts as a Wunderkammer, her dirndl skirts concealing deep storage pockets, while Roche speaks of Charles’ oral inarticulacy as ‘this incredible ability to surround every subject with a little cloud of words’. Charles and Ray are described as being very close emotionally, but it was handsome, charismatic Charles who took top or solo billing, and whom everyone, especially women, wanted.
Between 1950 and 1982 Charles and Ray made more than 100 short films or visual essays. Among them, and one of those beautifully scored by Elmer Bernstein, the 1969 ‘Tops’ films a great number of spinning tops from different ages and countries, that were collected or lent for the film. Of many materials, patterns and colours, and set into motion, the tops, like the work of the Eames Office, encapsulate an eclectic approach and beautiful, functioning design.
For more information, please visit the Curzon website. Other confirmed venues are:
10 August: QFT Belfast; Greenwich Picturehouse; Exeter Picturehouse.
17 August: Barn, Darlington; ICA, London; Brighton DOY; The Lexi Cinema, Kilburn
24 August: Edinburgh Filmhouse
31 August: Dundee Arts Centre
7 September: Tyneside Picturehouse
14 September: MAC Birmingham; Babington House
21st September: Ludlow Assembly Room; Leeds Hyde Park; Shortwave, London
28th September: Chapter Cardiff; The Poly, Falmouth.
The DVD will be released online and in retail stores on 24 September.