From the vault: 1984

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 March, 2008, 12:00am

Antonio Gaudi

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara

The film: Best known for his offbeat feature films like Pitfall (1962), Woman in the Dunes (1964) and

The Face of Another (1966), Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara quit filmmaking in 1972, only to return 12 years later with this spellbinding tribute to Antonio Gaudi, the great Catalan architect.

Teshigahara's camera travels speechlessly around Barcelona and the nearby countryside, looking up, down and sideways, and gazing in much the same way a visitor would, revelling in the distinctively organic buildings, decoration and furnishings of their genius creator. But, more than being just a hats-off admiration of the religiously inspired Gaudi, this film is also a celebration of a time before accountants ruled the world, when architecture was still the work of craftsmen.

A graduate of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Teshigahara was also a painter, sculptor, stage director and the grand master of his family's Sogetsu School of Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging).

It was four years after taking up that position that he travelled to Barcelona to shoot this film, which had been on his mind since he first visited the city with his father in 1959, and which has since become something of a cult classic for its haunting imagery and music.

By the time the camera finds his great unfinished masterpiece the Sagrada Familia (above), even viewers not familiar with Gaudi tend to be entranced.

Image Entertainment brought this film to DVD in 1999, with terrible image quality and no extra features. Long out of print, it is, at time of writing, still selling secondhand on for more than US$200.

Now, for a small fraction of that price, we have this new double-disc edition from Criterion, with an immeasurably better transfer and a wealth of useful extra features.

The extras: Two documentaries are included on disc two, the first is a 15-minute BBC short film made by director Ken Russell (Altered States and Whore) in 1961, which provides an introduction to Gaudi and looks at some of his better-known buildings. The second is a more comprehensive one-hour BBC documentary made in 2003 and presented by Australian art critic Robert Hughes. Other extras include a new interview with architect and one-time Teshigahara collaborator Arata Isozaki, footage from the 1959 trip to Spain, with an appearance by Salvador Dali, and a short film on his well-known father Sofu Teshigahara's sculptures. There's also an illustrated 40-page booklet.