TALL: THE AMERICAN SKYSCRAPER AND LOUIS SULLIVAN
Directed by: Manfred Kirchheimer
2004, 82 minutes
Purchase: $310 Classroom Rental: $125
This film tells the story of the unstoppable rise of the skyscrapers. Starting in 1869, in New York and Chicago, elevators, steel, and electricity combined to create a frenzy of tall and taller buildings.
Tall traces the experiments of the early skyscraper architects, especially Louis Sullivan, the Chicago architect (and mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright) who pioneered a new skyscraper form. His credo was that “form ever follows function.” His elegant buildings, some still standing and featured in the film, bear out his reputation as the father of the skyscraper. Fierce rivals, led by Daniel Burnham, builder of the Flatiron Building, competed with him for favor, money, and power. The progressive designs of the 1880s and 90s once again reverted to historical styles, culminating in the “Cathedral of Commerce,” the gothic Woolworth Tower of 1912.
Tall pits the struggle for artistic integrity against the demands of fashion and the client’s bottom line. It documents the showdown between Louis Sullivan and Daniel Burnham. The outcome changed the future, shaping the modern skyline throughout the world.
* Winner, Best Cinematography, RiverRun Internatioanl Film Festival, 2006
* Opening Night Selection, Wisconsin International Film Festival, 2006
* Official Selection, Environmental Film Festival, Washington, DC, 2006
“Magical... At once clear-eyed and romantic. I think it is terrific.” - Laurence Kardish, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
“Full of passion and insight! Kirchheimer makes vivid use of vintage postcards and photographs to enliven his dramatic tale of Sullivan's tragic quest for a uniquely American architecture.” – Blair Kamin (Architecture Critic), Chicago Tribune
“This stunning tribute to the American skyscraper traces the history of the architectural phenomenon from 1860 to the present day.” - Booklist
"Highly Recommended! Clever juxtaposition of moving and still images, clear presentation of information, and convincing examples of the artistic integrity these skyscrapers possess make Tall
a fine story for students of architecture, business and economics, and history to enjoy." - Educational Media Reviews Online
"Engineers will rev their engines for Manfred Kirchheimer's fascinating feature-length overview of the innate human desire to build things up in the sky. Amazing archival material, architectural aesthetics and plain old facts interface with geometry and a personal history of a great Chicago builder cruelly overthrown by arrogant modernists." – John Griffith, Montreal Gazette
“The best film on architecture I remember seeing… To watch this film, is to learn a big, important chunk of American history, all the while being royally entertained.” – Professor Robert Twombly, City College of New York, Department of History.