Movie review: 'Visual Acoustics'

( Unrated ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Documentary captures the lifework of Julius Shulman, the celebrated photographer of modernist architecture.

It's an obvious but overlooked fact: Most of our knowledge of modern architecture comes not firsthand but from photos. Eric Bricker's documentary "Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman" chronicles the career of the most important of architecture photographers, who died in July at age 98 but was extensively interviewed for the film. Bricker doesn't have much filmic pizazz, but Shulman's photos encompass the entire history of modernist architecture, especially in southern California, including such names as Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, and Pierre Koenig, whose glassed-in Hollywood Hills home – officially known as Case Study House No. 22 – is iconic. (It seems to extend into thin air.) Shulman was around so long that he even got to weigh in on Frank Gehry's Disney Hall. He was skeptical once but came to love it. Grade: B+

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