CSH#22 Stahl House, photograph by Julius Shulman © J. Paul Getty Trust
A micro review of the film-documentary
The award-winning film, Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman celebrates the career of this master photographer, and the architecture he photographed. Nearly 50 years after creating his iconic image of the Stahl House, Julius Shulman returned to Case Study House #22 with a very different camera, that of renowned cinematographer Dante Spinotti, whose Oscar Nomination for L.A. Confidential in 1997 eminently qualified him to capture the ethereal magic of Los Angeles at the golden hour. But Spinotti also captures the magic of Julius Shulman himself. Despite his advanced years, he still packs a punch, and his presence lights up every sequence he appears in. This is a unique coming together of outstanding locations and their fascinating owners with the great man himself, as he re-visits the sites of his most important photographs. Julius Shulman affably reminisces with Buck and Carlotta Stahl about the dramatic turn in all their lives that was brought about by the creation of ‘that’ image one evening in 1960, in which two figures are pictured within a glass and steel structure of that appears suspended over Los Angeles, that of Case Study House #22. It records Julius Shulman, sharp as ever, revealing his technical secrets to Spinotti out by the pool with the city as backdrop. Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Director/Producer Eric Bricker’s documentary has Julius Shulman – the animated and controversial photographer, environmentalist and architectural activist – at its centre, weaving the different locations together with a mix of hypnotically beautiful animations and contemporary interviews. The film also explores other great works of Modernist architecture, seen through Shulman’s keen-sighted eyes, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York to Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Completed shortly before Julius Shulman’s death in 2009, the film is a testament both to the evolution of modern architecture and to a charismatic individual who brought images of an idyllic Californian lifestyle and radical domestic design to a covetous international audience.
Useful links and information
Click here to buy or download Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, or check out this trailer For more on the making of Visual Acoustics read our interview with Will Paice, and there’s a full article on the Case Study Program in MidCentury issue 04