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Eames: the movie

Anyone who likes midcentury design, and browses it on eBay, will be familiar with the ubiquitous phrase "Eames era". In that context, of course, it has become quite meaningless...

...suggesting only a vague 1950s or 60s aesthetic (and hopes for higher bids) rather than any genuine connection to Charles and Ray Eames, the brilliant and pioneering American post-war husband-and-wife design team who started the real Eames era. 

So what was the genuine Eames era like? ("Disneyland," says one former employee); where did the duo come from? (California via Michigan); how did they meet? (while he was married to someone else); were they just about chairs? (far from it).

As revealed in a fantastic new documentary, Eames: The Architect & The Painter, hitting UK cinemas August 3.

The film's name references the fact that Charles was an "architecture school drop-out who never got his licence" and Ray was "a painter who never painted". These skills, however, shaped the way they saw the world – in which they took the sharp, grey edges off Modernism, made multi-media exhibits with political intent, toys, military splints and, of course, reinvented the chair.

The Eames' House.

The film begins with the story of the classic moulded plywood chair, above. And how – co-designed by Charles and his friend, Eero Saarinen, and a problematic contraption they called "the kazam machine", operated with a bicycle pump – the revolutionary design very nearly failed, as the pair couldn't crack how to mould the plywood without it cracking. Manufacturing 150,000 moulded plywood splints for US forces taught the Eames there was a better way...

The couple's relationship remained behind closed doors while they were alive, but the film digs out love letters and interviews relatives and former employees at their Venice Beach studio which, according to one, was "like walking into a circus".

The documentary, made by Emmy-winning filmmaker, Bill Jersey, is narrated by James Franco, who states that Charles and Ray Eames "gave shape to the American 20th century".

Check out the trailer...

1 comment :

  1. Saw it a couple of days ago.... truly magnificent and a MUST for any designer or lover of midcentury!!!