Hiroshi Teshigahara is chiefly remembered for his 1964 art-house favorite, Woman in the Dunes, a sandy existential allegory that is still a staple of college film societies. But the Japanese director, who died in 2001, was also an inspired maker of unconventional documentaries; Antonio Gaud (which opens a three-week retrospective of Teshigahara’s films at BAMcinmatek) is his tribute to the Catalan architect, whose fantastical buildings give Barcelona its distinctive flair. For anyone who associates the documentary form with the droning of talking heads or Michael Moore--style shock tactics, this film will be nothing short of a revelation—a masterpiece of visual poetry and aesthetic rumination.
It helps that no one ever made buildings like Gaud (1852--1926) did. Drawing inspiration from nature, as well as from the vital artistic traditions of Catalonia, his work—especially his undulating apartment blocks, the whimsical Park Gell and the magnificent Sagrada Familia church—seems drawn from the pages of a surrealist fairy tale. But in a film virtually bereft of narration, you’ll learn few names, facts or dates. It hardly matters. Teshigahara simply allows his camera to roam through Gaud’s architectural wonders, accompanied by Toru Takemitsu’s vibrant score, calmly observing materials, shapes and colors, and highlighting subtle visual connections. It’s like wandering through an art museum without any identifying placards; you’ve been entrusted to receive the work with your own eye and instincts. The experience is exhilarating. (Opens Fri; BAMcinmatek.)—Tom Beer