You Are Forgiven

My Architect: A Son’s Journey

Near the end of Nathaniel Kahn’s engaging and illuminating documentary My Architect: A Son’s Journey, one of his interview subjects suggests that some people with greatness in them must be excused for being boorish, emotionally absent, or simply insufferable as human beings. They should be forgiven because they have a higher calling: God’s work.

Louis Kahn was an asshole, a man whose three children (all by different women, all while he was married to the mother of his eldest) barely knew him. He is also, according to the movie, one of the 20th Century’s great architects. And when he died in a train station, it took the authorities much longer than usual to locate his relatives, because he’d crossed out the address in his passport.

The movie is unfortunately artless, a function of a conscious choice by the narrator/director to structure his film to resemble his journey. It’s a fundamentally lazy decision, although I’m not allowed to bitch too much, having used a similar conceit myself. Yet it gives the material space to breathe, leaving it open to discovery. And with something this smart about culture — encompassing individual relationships, families, and the structures we build, live in, and work in — it’s an easy enough flaw to pardon. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

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