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Magnificent Obsession: Frank Lloyd Wright's Buildings and Legacy in Japan
Magnificent Obsession Frank Lloyd Wright's Buildings and Legacy in Japan
Director: Karen Severns/Koichi Mori
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Educational
NR     2007     2hr 6min

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, was deeply indebted to Japan for its aesthetic inspiration. This is the story of how he repaid that debt. Wright sought refuge in Japan when he faced ...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: Karen Severns/Koichi Mori
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Educational
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Educational
Studio: Facets
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 09/25/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 6min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

See this film
Steve J. Sikora | Minneapolis, MN USA | 10/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Magnificent Obsession

There is a vast amount of Frank Lloyd Wright material out there, much of it covering the same tired biographical territory. Fact.

Then along came Magnificent Obsession (no not the one with Rock Hudson). Magnificent Obsession, Frank Lloyd Wright's Buildings and Legacy in Japan is unparallel in regards to its subject matter. Although any Wrightophile can tell you that Frank Lloyd Wright was enraptured and secretly influenced by Japan, there is a gaping hole in the literature detailing the years he spent visiting and working in Japan.

One would expect to see rare footage of Wright in Japan as well as visuals of the Imperial Hotel and the private residences he built there. You won't be disappointed. What you may not expect to learn is the degree of influence Wright had on the country that he himself took so much inspiration from, the long-standing relationships that were formed and the Japanese iteration of the Wright's nature-based organic architecture. The film is well researched and is rich in detail regarding the architects who worked with Wright such are Arata Endo, his chief draftsman on the Imperial Hotel as well as modern day architects who discuss how Wright's pervasive influence is still a powerful force today.

I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in Frank Lloyd Wright, modern architecture or Japan.

Fantastic Architectural Documentary
Douglas Anders | Toledo, Ohio | 10/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There's a lot to like about this movie, and not much to complain about. A quick pace, great images and a good cubic mile of stuff you didn't already know. I gained new perspective on Frank Lloyd Wright's work -- all of it, not just the buildings in Japan. And, an added bonus, you'll meet Arata Endo, possibly the most likable, engaging character you'll ever meet in a historical documentary.

Obviously, the whole point of Magnificent Obsession is the visuals. The movie delivers just what a Wright fan wants: lots of drawings, historic photos and architectural models. Though it doesn't lack for scene-setting cityscapes or photos of the main actors, architectural images occupy the majority of the screen time

This historical documentary puts architecture before biography. Details of Frank Lloyd Wright's life aren't ignored, but focus of the film is true to the subtitle: Frank Lloyd Wright's Buildings and Legacy in Japan -- the filmmakers aren't concerned with Wright's character flaws or scandals beyond how they affect his work and life in Japan (in fact, there's a story of a bit of surprising post-war generosity on Wright's part that contradicts the popular image of a spoiled spendthrift). There is no sugarcoating of Wright, but the film is focused on Wright and Japan.

The film doesn't end when Wright leaves Japan. He served as a mentor to a number of young Japanese architects, and their work reflected his influence, through, and after World War II. The film follows their work, and the fate of Wright's buildings through to the present day (be warned, the footage of wrecking balls taking down the Imperial Hotel is agonizing to watch -- there's no V-chip for architectural desecration).

What I like best about the film -- what makes it stand out as a valuable documentary -- is the context it wraps around Wright's work in Japan. We see Japan begin to emulate European styles (and we get a glimpse of just how grotesquely out of place they were); we see Wright arrive with new ideas, new techniques, and an enthusiasm that fires a generation of young architects; those same architects develop Wright's ideas and create their own remarkable buildings and, eventually, play a role in preserving Wright's own additions to Japan's built environment.

So, simply, the film is great; it's beautiful, polished and thrillingly educational. It isn't meant only for Wright groupies, architecture fanboys or building nerds; it's an actual, honest-to-goodness great documentary: quickly paced, lots of character and full of interesting sights and ideas. So even your non-fanatical housemate/spouse/copanion will enjoy it.

The webiste for the film has some great background information, a trailer and a guide to further reading (if you've already seen the movie, note that the website has information on the musicians who contributed)
The film has its own legacy -- The Wrightian Architectural Archives Japan, a non-profit dedicated to preserving Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings and legacy in Japan and a site worth exploring."
Frank Lloyd Wright
Matthew L. Reed | Staunton,In | 10/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"An informative account of the history behind Frank Lloyd Wright Japanese Buildings although if one is seeking to understand the specific influences that Japanese art, culture, philosophy and architecture had on Wright you will be is rather sparse. Never-the-less one is provided with much information. I have discovered that no one source about Wright provides a well-rounded, informative discourse. This video will suppliment other Wright on Japan sources."
View Wright from a rich, new angle
M. Chiu | Durham, NH | 09/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was fortunate to see this informative and visually arresting film when it debuted in Chicago at a sell-out showing in Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple. I didn't know much about Wright beyond the usual, general knowledge surrounding his life and major works. But because I lived in Japan for a couple of years, I became curious about his own years in Japan and what this film might make of crosscultural influences.

The film was richly textured and extremely informative, far more so than the usual PBS or A&E documentaries. I didn't realize that Wright worked on so many projects in Japan, or that he had such an enduring impact on Japanese architecture. If you're interested in Wright or architecture, you'll thoroughly enjoy the visual appeal of and informative narrative in this DVD.